Review: ‘Summer’ completes Ali Smith’s Seasons quartet, showing how beauty persist in all times | Book Reviews

SUMMER. By Ali Smith. Pantheon. 384 pages. $27.95.

Ali Smith is back with “Summer,” the final installment of her Seasons quartet. We can now see this project for what it is: a daredevil feat, with all kinds of pitfalls built in and bypassed. I don’t recall any recent literature that ties itself so ambitiously to our historical moment.

“Autumn” gave us Brexit; “Winter” gave us Trump; “Spring” gave us the refugee crisis; and now we’re here. It’s “Summer, and our own COVID-19 moment jumps off the page.

In “Autumn,” the first volume, Daniel Gluck (a character who’s back for “Summer”) tells a friend that “every history is a story,” and “whoever makes up the story, makes up the world.” So, what kind of world has Ali Smith made up for us? First, her story leans toward forgiveness. She’s a loving creator (if it’s not too sappy to say), generous with second chances. Take Art, for instance. In “Winter,” he creates a blog, “Art in Nature,” with which he intends to “cut through fake narratives with razor-edge writing. It’ll be searing, it’ll be honest.”

But, it’s neither searing nor honest. Art is a poseur who fabricates experiences and loses his girlfriend, Charlotte, in the bargain. Now, they’re back together and here to play a central part in one of the book’s acts of restitution. No one is stuck forever with the proceeds of sloppy mistakes, although Smith can be scathing when the crime demands it.

No voice here carries the day. Smith is ever aware of the wide streak between what seems to be and what is. She lets us listen in, play emotional detective and unscramble what we can of what is and what was (always crucial in a story that hopscotches across time and geography).

In her Paris Review interview, Smith says that she likes to use the “step-back motion” borrowed from Dickens. By getting a clear bead on the past, she hopes to create a space where we can see the way we live now (“the way that famous first paragraph of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ creates space by being its own opposite”). Never has she been more dedicated to the long view. And never has the long, settled view seemed more inconclusive.

Smith begins “Summer,” like the other Seasons books, with an overture, this one commemorating a dismissive vocal note, when everyone said: “So?” Smith is not a shrugger. Already, the fashion of pretending not to care seems like a lifetime ago. She begins by introducing us to a new family, the Greenlaws.

Uncover more stories from Charleston’s 350 years of history that have been long forgotten over time. Sign up for this 5-part newsletter course to learn about key historical moments that aren’t told in the story of Charleston.

Grace was once a famous actress and still has a head full of lines and scenes. Her first line nods to Dickens: “Whether I shall turn out to be the heroine of my own life

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2020 Gift Guide for Book Lovers

More favorites from 2020:

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz. A super entertaining and clever whodunit, set at an old English hotel, with clues hidden in a mystery novel whose author has passed away. Great fun.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. A brilliantly conveyed history of how skin color has been used as an arbitrary tool to build an unjust hierarchy in the U.S., comparable to India’s. An often-heartwrenching, absolutely essential book for understanding the country today.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. A mesmerizing, wildly imaginative novel set in a mind-bending fantasy world, a vast labyrinth with infinite rooms and seas that sweep into halls and up staircases with the tides.

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam. An already frightening tale is decidedly nerve-racking when considered while steeped in anxiety about the current state of the world. It features a family vacationing in Long Island when everything starts to fall apart.

Modern Comfort Food by Ina Garten. Out this fall and already a best seller, with cozy-making (though not necessarily healthy) foods like black-and-white cookies and cheesy chicken enchiladas.

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel. A poignant, romantic historical novel about French resistance during World War II, focused on a young Parisian woman who helps forge papers for Jewish children. Based on a true story.

The Awkward Black Man by Walter Mosley, the Edgar Award winner known for his Easy Rawlins mystery series, offers a tender, sad and gripping collection of 17 insightful short stories.

The Answer Is …: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek. The late host of Jeopardy!, Trebek writes frankly and with humor about his pancreatic cancer diagnosis, thoughts on fame, anecdotes from the show and more.

Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald. By the poet and author of the best seller H is for Hawk, these are beautiful, cerebral essays about wildlife and how observing the natural world can provide insight and comfort.

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi. A moving debut novel set in 1950s India focuses on a woman named Lakshmi who flees an abusive husband, earning her living as a henna painter and striving for an independent life. 

All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny. The latest Inspector Armand Gamache novel from the beloved writer is set in Paris rather than the usual wintery Quebec.

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20 holiday gift ideas for Pacific Northwest book lovers of all ages

Between intemperate weather and the pandemic, it’s a great time to be staying at home and curling up with a good book. And local authors, booksellers and publishers could use our support. Here are 20 Pacific Northwest-flavored titles great for gift-giving that can be supplied by independent bookstores in Portland and elsewhere in Oregon, and through, which supports independent bookstores.

For adults

“The Apocalypse Factory: Plutonium and the Making of the Atomic Age,” by Steve Olson ($27.95)

Decommissioned for decades, the Hanford Site in eastern Washington hardly makes news these days. Science writer Steve Olson, who grew up nearby, restores Hanford to its rightful status as the site “where people confronted for the first time all the dilemmas of power, pollution, destruction, and sustainability associated with nuclear energy.”

“As the World Burns: The New Generation of Activists and the Landmark Legal Fight Against Climate Change,” by Lee Van der Voo ($27.95)

It was a lawsuit made for headlines: In Juliana v. United States, 21 youth plaintiffs represented by a Eugene organization sued the federal government, asserting a constitutional right to a sustainable climate. As Oregon journalist Lee Van der Voo tracked the suit, which was dismissed in January, she got to know the plaintiffs, who include 11 Oregonians, and their motivations.

“The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are,” by Libby Copeland ($27 hardcover, $17 paperback)

When a Clark County woman named Alice Collins Plebluch sent off a sample of her DNA for analysis, she took the first step on a long journey that ended with a stunning revelation about her family. Plebluch’s story is the primary thread in Libby Copeland’s engrossing book about the payoffs and perils of genetic testing.

“The Night Swimmers,” by Peter Rock ($25 hardcover, $16 paperback)

Portland writer Peter Rock’s autobiographical novel flows through layers of memory, relationships and life as the narrator looks back two decades to the strange period when he and an older widow spent summer nights swimming for miles in Lake Michigan’s open waters. This is a story not so much read as steeped in.

“Pale Morning Light With Violet Swan,” by Deborah Reed ($15.99)

The latest novel from Deborah Reed begins with an earthquake rattling the Oregon coast house where Violet, an abstract painter, has lived for 75 years. The quake becomes the epicenter of more ruptures: truths admitted, secrets revealed. The biggest secret of all? The life Violet led before Oregon, a life her family knows nothing about.

“Pansies,” by Carol Barrett ($10)

In this lovely collection of literary vignettes, 2020 Oregon Book Award finalist Barrett reflects on her experiences with her daughter’s babysitter. Abigail, an Apostolic Lutheran, finds a way to weave herself into the life of the outside world with a minimum of friction amid unwavering devotion to her faith, to her community and to the child she cares for.

“Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of Their Common Fate,” by Mark Kurlansky ($30)

Pacific Northwesterners tend to think of salmon

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New Photography Book Aims To Shatter Conventional Beauty Standards For Black Children

A new photography book, GLORY:  Magical Visions of Black Beauty aims to shatter conventional standards of beauty for Black children.  


The book features over 100 photos of Black girls and boys from across the U.S., Europe and Africa, offering stunning images of natural Black hair and beauty; it also contains essays about the children.  

As St. Martin’s Press, the book’s publisher, says, “Beauty as an expression of who you are is power.  When we define our own standards or beauty, we take back that power.  GLORY encourages children around the world to feel that power and harness it.”  

Among the young female and male models are Sarah, a 15-year-old from Ghana, who plays for her school’s soccer team, helps her family harvest food on its farm and wants to be a teacher; Layla, a 13-year-old from Illinois, who has Type 1 diabetes, wears an insulin pump and hopes to become an Olympian in track and field; and Liam, a seven-year-old from Brooklyn, who is a professional model for Ralph Lauren, Target and J. Crew, an avid skater, bicyclist and swimmer, and an aspiring architect.  

The book is by Kahran and Regis Bethencourt, an Atlanta-based couple whose CreativeSoul Photography specializes in child and lifestyle photography; it grew out of an AfroArt Instagram series the couple calls “a recognition and celebration of the versatility of Black hair and its innate beauty “  As Teen Vogue said several years ago, the Bethencourts are “on a mission to broaden the faces and possibilities of child photography, one gorgeous shoot at a time.”  And, as they write in GLORY, “We didn’t just want to question traditional beauty standards—we wanted to shatter them.”        

Among those praising the book, published last month, are Jada Pinkett and Will Smith, Common and Alicia Keys. Pinkett Smith calls it “majestic,” while Common praises the “Baroque-inspired photography portraits that showcase Black girls and their natural hair,” and Keys cites the children’s “strength and vulnerability.”

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Queen Elizabeth’s Hats Show She Is ‘Indentured to Service,’ Fashion Expert Says in New Book

Here’s How the ‘HMS Bubble’ Works to Protect Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

The Queen and Prince Philip have spent quality time together ahead of the couples 73rd wedding anniversary

Even if you haven’t seen photos of Queen Elizabeth’s most recent daytime appearance, you can probably envision what she was wearing: a vibrantly-hued coat, a matching hat, black shoes and a bespoke bag.

While each piece is part of the monarch’s royal “uniform,” her hats hold a special significance.

“Very few modern women wear a hat as part of their work uniform, aside from perhaps members of the armed forces,” British historian Robert Lacey explained to fashion journalist Elizabeth Holmes for her new book, HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style.

“‘It’s a reminder that the Queen is indentured to a service, to a job,'” he said, according to the book, which published on Tuesday.

Ben Stansall – WPA Pool/Getty Queen Elizabeth

Holmes, who spent more than 10 years as a business and fashion journalist for The Wall Street Journal, gained a massive following for her Instagram series, “So Many Thoughts,” in which she explored royal fashion. After interviewing a number of fashion experts and designers, some of whom have worked intimately with the royal family, Holmes expanded her analysis of the “power” of royal fashion to create HRH, a deep dive into the branding and fashion journeys of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.

Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images The Queen

“What I find so fascinating about royal style, in particular, is the ways in which these women use their clothes. A big part of their job is to appear in public. They don’t give revealing interviews or do all that much talking” Holmes tells PEOPLE. “Their clothes are so beautiful, but they mean a lot, too… It’s proof of the power of fashion.”

In HRH, Holmes traces Queen Elizabeth’s styling choices from her childhood to her coronation in 1952, to her makeover in the late ’90s, which led to her brightly-colored coats.

“The Queen is conscious that she must be easily visible to as many people as possible when she is out and about, so I choose mainly striking colors that will be easily seen,” Angela Kelly, the Queen’s longtime dressmaker, wrote in her 2019 memoir The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, The Dresser and the Wardrobe.

Beyond the bright colors, what’s most noticeable about the Queen’s style is how little it’s changed.

“Nobody dresses like the Queen. And nobody probably ever will,” Holmes says. “It is a very singular look that she has devised, and she’s committed to it.

“I loved talking about the Queen’s style with some really wonderful fashion experts, [who explained] that it’s not her job to be trendy,” Holmes continues. “Can you imagine how unstable right now it would be to see the Queen flipping from one designer to the next, or trying

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Prince Charles Exploited Diana’s Love of Fashion to Make Her Seem ‘Frivolous,’ New Book Claims

Diana, Princess of Wales wearing a suit and tie: Georges De Keerle/Getty From left: Princess Diana and Prince Charles in 1987

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Georges De Keerle/Getty From left: Princess Diana and Prince Charles in 1987

Princess Diana delighted in fashion in a way that no royal has since. But her husband Prince Charles used her love of style to undermine her, a new book about royal fashion claims.

“The attention Diana received was surprising at first to the royal family, and then a source of resentment,” Elizabeth Holmes, author of HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style, which published on Tuesday, tells PEOPLE. “For Charles, you can tell in his public remarks, fashion is one of the things he sought to use against her. [He used Diana’s] interest in fashion, and the interest in her fashion, to paint her as shallow or frivolous.”

“What an outdated and unfortunate line of critique, especially because these women use their clothing so savvily,” she continues. “Learning that, and learning that her clothes were used against her, was really sad to me.”

Holmes, who spent more than 10 years as a business and fashion journalist for The Wall Street Journal, gained a massive following for her Instagram series, “So Many Thoughts,” in which she explored royal fashion. After interviewing a number of fashion experts and designers, some of whom have worked intimately with the royal family, Holmes expanded her analysis of the “power” of royal fashion to create HRH, a deep dive into the branding and fashion journeys of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.

Diana, Princess of Wales wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images Princess Diana and Prince Charles

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Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images Princess Diana and Prince Charles

text: queen elizabeth, megan markle, kate middleton, princess diana

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queen elizabeth, megan markle, kate middleton, princess diana

While Holmes revels in all royal fashion, she says that Diana’s outfits are some of her favorites. The Princess of Wales wasn’t afraid to embrace trends — or to put her emotions on display, Holmes explains.

“What I came to really understand and appreciate was the ways in which she delighted in fashion, and introduced emotion into the equation,” says Holmes. “She had these very distinct phases in her dressing and they track with the tumultuous personal life she was experiencing.”

Tumultuous it was. Diana was only 20 years old when she married the 32-year-old Prince of Wales in 1981. From the beginning, their relationship was fraught with tension. The young princess struggled to manage both the public scrutiny and the expectations of royal life (she suffered from an eating disorder and depression). In 1991, the royal couple, who share sons Prince William, now 38, and Prince Harry, now 36, separated. Three years later, Charles admitted he’d committed adultery during his marriage to Diana during a television interview. (Prince Charles resumed a relationship with his ex-girlfriend (and current wife) Camilla Parker-Bowles.) Their divorce was finalized in August 1996, and Diana, who was already devoting herself to humanitarian causes during their separation, honed in on her work to help lift up others. Tragically, she died just a year

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Earbuds Anyone? Bremen Book Club Distributes Gift to Help Peers

This post was contributed by a community member. The views expressed here are the author’s own.

You might remember this group from back in the spring when the pandemic was just revving up. The Circle Book Club at Bremen High School teamed up with the Midlothian Police Department to purchase and distribute sidewalk chalk to community members. Click here for the story public in the Daily Southtown.

At the beginning of this school year, Bremen Circle Book Club members once again brainstormed ideas on how to continue giving back to the school and community.

“We knew we wouldn’t be in the building every day, and we wanted our donation to be useful given what we’d learned about virtual instruction last spring. We figured pencils and pens wouldn’t hold the same value as they usually would, so we came up with the idea of earbuds,” says Book Club Sponsor Andrea Ignelzi.

Both teachers and students have discovered how handy earbuds can be with both remote learning (all students are learning from home) and blended learning (some students are in the building learning and some are learning from home). The Circle Book Club purchased close to 250 pairs of earbuds and have already provided over 140 sets.

“Circle is happy to provide a tool that may seem inconsequential but will have a big impact on success as we navigate this new blended learning territory together,” says Ignelzi.

The Book Club is currently working with teachers to distribute the remaining pairs of headphones to students. Needless to say, the gift won’t go to waste!

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Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop gift guide includes $1,995 Ouija board, vulva coloring book and lamps made of bread

Election Day may have stolen its thunder, but Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop gift guide is out.

Highlighting what it thinks will be this year’s must-have holiday gifts, the site is appealing to the pandemic-plagued shopper with ideas that will “meet the needs of today: less travel and more snacks, self-care, and booze.”

Among the intriguing and bizarre offerings from the woman who sells vagina and orgasm candles, the official 2020 gift guide features several gift categories, from “The Ridiculous but Awesome” to “The Forward-to-Your-So” guides.

What’s causing a stir, however, are the items listed under “Ridiculous but Awesome.”

One such item is the Edie Parker Ouija board, with a price-tag of $1,995 (or four interest-free payments of $498.75,) which is described as a “hand-poured, glitter-bombed acrylic” spirit board.

For those not wishing to interact with the paranormal, Goop is also selling the “Studypod,” a $13,600 portable single-person study room that could be set up anywhere — even the great outdoors. The product is equipped with a detachable desk so it can become a yoga studio or even a bedroom.

Another unique item category are lamps made from real bread, fetching for $210, which may be sumptuous for the inner foodies.

There’s also a leather custom-made watermelon bag by designer Tsuchiya Kaban, but prices vary based on the customer’s specific requests.

Not everything Goop highlighted this year will put too much of a strain on shoppers’ wallets, as it also has a “Holiday Gifts under $100” category, which boasts items such as Oregon Wine in a Can ($17 for a four-pack), a $15 vulva coloring book and, of course, the Academy Award winner’s infamous candles that retail for $75.


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This Little Book from 1917 Has a List of Every Reason Why Women Shouldn’t Vote and It’s Just as Relevant Today

There is a book that exists claiming to contain all the reasons why women shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

a laptop computer sitting on top of a wooden table: "This Little Book Contains Every Reason Why Women Should Not Vote" was published by N.W.S Pub. Co. INC., in 1917.

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“This Little Book Contains Every Reason Why Women Should Not Vote” was published by N.W.S Pub. Co. INC., in 1917.

Literally titled, This Little Book Contains Every Reason Why Women Should Not Vote, the book was published by a dubious publishing company N.W.S Pub. Co. INC., in 1917, and you wouldn’t believe what’s written on page 13: nothing, absolutely nothing.

In fact, there’s nothing written on the first page of the book or the last page or the pages in between. This Little Book Contains Every Reason Why Women Should Not Vote is actually completely blank. Probably because—even in 1917—there were no valid reasons why women should have been eligible to vote.

While the ultimate troll, the idea for the book blossomed from the need for change and was just one of the many ways New York’s National Women’s Suffrage Publishing Company elevated their agenda in advocating for women’s rights.

Along with Why Women Should Not Vote, the group published a variety of fundamental literature for spreading their message including Headquarters News Letter, an A-B-C of Organization, which served as a how-to guide for fundraising along with various other letters educating women on the Constitution and amendments that were made over the years, according to the Public Domain Review.

Many of the N.W.S.’ brochures, documents and leaflets are on display at the Virginia Commonwealth University.

Naturally, the “little book” sparked outrage from anti-women suffragists who opened it hoping to read countless

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This Kickstarter-Funded Coffee Table Book Is the Gift That Keeps on Giving

With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s hard to find time to sit down and really think about giving a meaningful gift this year. After all, you’re likely in the midst of your busiest quarter, trying to sell your products or services as gifts, as well. But, as they say, it’s the thought that counts, and there are few gifts more thoughtful than The Book of Epiq People.

This coffee table book is designed for relationship-driven adults. Successfully funded on Kickstarter, each page of The Book of Epiq People contains a set of 20 recurring and thought-provoking questions that you don’t often get around to asking the most important people in your life. Your family and friends answer them so you learn the things you never knew while you still have the chance to ask.

With The Book of Epiq People, you’ll encourage thoughtful conversation and build stronger relationships with your loved ones. As it goes along, it gets more insightful, interesting, and meaningful with each completed page. Since people will write directly in the book, it will become an especially precious gift as each page captures the true voice of those you love.

The Book of Epiq People has also raised thousands of dollars to help fight Covid-19. With each purchase, they’re donating $5 to beat the pandemic. Plus, they’ll include a special surprise gift in the package.

Give a gift that keeps on giving this year. Normally $75, you can get The Book of Epiq People for 21 percent off at just $59 today. You can also get two books for $99.

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