Posts Tagged ‘Brattleboro Literary Festival’

David Blistein has a new book coming out this spring, David’s Inferno, and when he sent me an advanced reader copy for The Mindful Reader column, he also sent Waking the Dead. It’s an excerpt from his book-in-progress called Real Time. It’s beautiful.

His longtime friend Ken Burns contributed an introductory essay about his creative process as a documentary filmmaker and how it compares to Blistein’s process. Burns explains, “. . . David and I approach history in radically different ways. But we both ‘wake the dead.’ I do so by making them real again. David does it by becoming — like Billy Pilgrim, hero of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five unstuck in time . . . by allowing his characters to fully inhabit his everyday life, to hold forth in coffee houses, cemeteries, parking lots, and his own back yard, free of the trappings of their historical time and place.”

And that is exactly what happens in Waking the Dead. Blistein is present for Jezebel (the queen who marries Ahab in Israel around 900 BC), Minamoto No Yoritomo (the first shogun, who lived in 12th century Japan), Chopin (the Polish composer) and Harriet Tubman (of Underground Railroad fame). I say he’s present because that’s how this works: Blistein is ready when these people come to him, speak to him, and as Burns describes, “fully inhabit his everyday life.”

On Goodreads, Blistein writes that this limited edition was published for the Brattleboro Literary Festival in 2011 where he and Burns appeared together,  and “was inspired by conversations we have been having since we first met in college 40 years ago.”

I was looking for a short read because I finished a library book and I know I have an inter-library loan waiting for me to pick up tonight. This delightful mix of historyand philosophy, storytelling and myth, beauty and truth, wisdom tale and dream, was a terrific read.  It’s physically as well as intellectually lovely: printed on fine paper, with beautiful design incorporating maps, portraits, and signatures in each section. A delightful, genre-busting piece of book art.

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