BUSHNELL ON THE BOOKS: “Five Tuesdays in Winter” and “Winter: Notes and Numina of the Maine Woods”

FIVE TUESDAYS IN WINTER: STORIES by Lily King; Atlantic Grove, 2021; 240 pages, $27.

FIVE TUESDAYS IN WINTER: STORIES

Austrian writer Karl Kraus (1874-1936) once said, “A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer.” Anyone who’s ever read Portland author Lily King’s work knows that Kraus is right.

“Five Tuesdays in Winter” is King’s first collection of short stories, following five best-selling novels, including “Writers & Lovers” in 2019. Five stories have already been published, five are brand new, and all are thoroughly provocative.

As an award-winning and best-selling author, King does exactly what Kraus suggests with these 10 subtly complex stories, creating a riddle and an answer, but the reader will have to figure out which is which. Who is the hero, who is the villain? Who is the winner, who is the victim? And above all, why?

It’s easy to determine who’s angry and unhappy, but the real reasons can be harder to see. Topics include sexual arousal and abuse, awful family problems, infidelity, unfathomable sadness and helplessness, teenage angst and some eye-opening experiences, even a deliciously tender romance fostered by a 12-year-old girl. . The title story features a shy, divorced man who owns a bookstore, desperately in love with both a charming employee and his favorite mushroom soup.

Other stories include a bitter and blameworthy tension between mothers and daughters, a gay man’s conflicted feelings gone awry, and the antics of a teenager and his two student babysitters.

The best is “The Man at the Door,” a chilling tale about an aspiring writer confronted in her home by a strange man who harshly criticizes the book she has yet to write. Then he said to her, “I have never understood why a person who is not a genius is interested in art. What’s the point?” It’s not hard to see what comes next.

WINTER: NOTES AND NUMINA FROM THE WOODS OF MAINE by Dana Wilde; Northern Country Press, 2021; 220 pages, $17.95.

WINTER: NOTES AND NUMINA FROM THE WOODS OF MAINE

Maine is blessed with smart people who study and understand science and the natural world, but more importantly, they can actually write about it with lucidity, so people can truly understand the wonders of nature. And one of Maine’s best nature and science writers is Troy author Dana Wilde.

Wilde is an award-winning journalist and Fulbright Scholar, well known for his long-running “Backyard Naturalist” column. “Winter” is his sixth book, an intriguing collection of 51 essays on winter, the cold and dark season when the earth sleeps. Most of the essays are short, a few quite long, but all are beautifully crafted to evoke wonder, questions and answers, with a bit of philosophy and metaphysics mixed in.

Wilde focuses on the five months, from November’s gray prelude saying “winter is next”, to March’s teasing that winter might really be ending after all. He comments on the beauty of a single ray of sunlight shining on a beech leaf, wonders how trees and shrubs survive winter when they appear dead, and why winter stars change position in the night sky. light.

Other essays describe why December days are so short and dark, the antics of winter wildlife like bobcats, raccoons and porcupines, and the excitement of following bear tracks in the snow. . Several essays explain winter stars and planets like Polaris and Pluto, as well as various types of moons (the one we know and others we don’t).

It also treats readers to hilarious thoughts about shoveling snow, icy driveways, and why winter isn’t just a change of clothes. His advice to himself: Stop whining.

Also learn the curious meanings of words such as morphology, cosmography, haze and gnosis, and about six different types of ice crystals. It’s exciting, fun and educational.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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