Book Reviews: ‘The Mermaid Handbook’ and ‘A Memory of the Future’

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The Mermaid Handbook

Carolyn Turgeon (Harper Design)

The latest by this Baltimore writer is both timely and gorgeous—timely, because mermaids have been trending as of late (see: those “I’d Rather Be a Mermaid” shirts and accessories, and the popular abalone hair color); and gorgeous, with full-color drawings and photographs ensconced in gilded pages and an embossed cover. The release comes on the heels of Turgeon’s 2017 The Faerie Handbook and her five novels, all of which feel like an invitation to enter a magical world of the writer’s own creation. This new handbook adeptly covers these aquatic creatures, from the mainstream to the obscure, through lore, metaphysics, fashion, poetry, DIY projects, and even recipes like seaweed cookies. Turgeon also serves as editor-in-chief of Faerie Magazine, which has a cult following. In short, her Mermaid Handbook is a must for anyone who finds themselves lured by the age-old mysteries and enchantment of the sea.


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A Memory of the Future

Elizabeth Spires (W.W. Norton & Company)

In this new poetry collection, Spires seems to channel Rumi or Buddha or both. The poems feel like prayers, and in some cases koans—each unique but all with a timeless, spiritual quality. To say they’re Zen-like would be both literal and figurative; references to Zen Buddhism are strewn throughout Spires’ work, and her verses unfold like meditations. The Goucher College professor of English possesses the rare gift to present lovely, solemn passages with a light touch and deft use of metaphor while simultaneously feeding her readers profound and heady truths. These little nuggets of wisdom come like offerings placed on an altar, quietly, with grace and intention.

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