Known and Strange Things, the title coming from Seamus Heaney, is structured by division into four sections: Reading Things; Seeing Things; Being There; and Epilogue. Cole notes that the book contains ‘some of my most vital enthusiasms’ as well as pieces on the new, and that he was testing his knowledge and its limits. He left as much out as he included, and could have produced a second book with the excluded.
In this illuminating book the authors, who happen to be husband and wife, present a personal view of Sweden, a country most of us know very little about. They do this by way of writing several short essays – there are 29 altogether – focusing on different aspects of Sweden and Swedish life.
These essays read like meditations for the well-being of four billion people. It’s a heady goal but likely a beneficial mission suited for the world-at-large. If Poverty and War have a permanent cure the medicine will arrive by natural means. No test tube or holy touchstone can bring people closer to peace until they settle the war raging in their own hearts.
Cage wrote once that chance (the use of aleatory procedures in composition) liberated him ‘from what I had thought to be freedom and which actually was only the accretion of habits and tastes.’ He abhorred whatever was consistent and predictable, hence his difficulties with German (though not only German) organisers, alluded to here. His creative ambition was to always transcend himself, and clearly this was for Cage an existential (spiritual) aspiration too.
Subject matter for these often humorous, always provocative compositions show-case the writer’s New York City childhood, his often whimsical family, his Jewish culture, life in general and more. There is something in Phoning Home: Essays for every reader. The tales portray the writer’s inimitable voice, a merging of nostalgia and insights, mitigated through his education including degrees in ethics, law and medicine. Appel is a man who questions, learns and seeks more answers.
Lily Brett’s New York is a lighthearted, easy to read book which looks at life in New York from the perspective of an Australian who has been living in Manhatten for over ten years.