Don’t be discouraged or deceived by the acknowledgements and thanks indicating that “This book began life as four lectures given for the Weidenfeld visiting Professorship in European Comparative Literate at St Anne’s College Oxford, in January and February 2012.”– these are no lectures. Ok, sure they feel like lectures some of the time, the chapters refer to literature, art and film and follow the headings she gives them as lectures: On time, On form, On edge, On offer and On reflection – but really the book is many metaphors, embedded and embellished. She addresses each of these topics, wandering through them, holding the hand (wait for the last chapter to understand that) of her deceased partner (husband?) – he is a presence, in the way art is an ethereal presence, more than a ghost, and he essentially serves as a metaphor for art.
As you read her words on form, you want her to return to the ghost, and she does as she sifts through his vacant office and reads his work, refers to moments in time when she had a conversation and notes how he used her ideas and took her suggestions – or was that he borrowed? The ghost lives on so many levels, as he haunts, reminds, returne, and at the end – he speaks from the grave – and the stories that melt with conversations and with the lecture on literature, packs unexpected punches along the way. Not that it is a good comparison – but Brene Brown heightens the effect of her lectures by personalizing her science with her own stories; so here, too, the presence of a lost lover, a ghost, a muse, a voice from the grave, personalizes an otherwise dry form of literary erudition.
The ghost’s lectures and papers blend and bloom via the reality of her life as an interpreter of literature creating an emotionally satisfying “talk”. The book gives the reader a one two punch of both – smart comp lit and emotionally charged story of processing love and loss – memory and knowledge become a powerful way to speak from the grave.
-Rene Meyer-Gimberg, Bookseller