Cambridge native Dan Mazur’s magic new book “Lunatic” (Ninth Art) is an elegant, moving wordless story of a woman’s ardent relationship with the moon. The illustrations move from her infancy to her adulthood, as she tilts her gaze upwards, dreamy and yearning, to see a companion peering back down at her. She devotes herself to its study at university, and launches herself towards it in more literal ways. The atmosphere of illustration shifts as time moves; Mazur, a co-founder of the Boston Comics Roundtable and the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, uses ink washes, pencil and nib pen, acrylic paints, giving each lifestage a distinct energy. The main character has a force and vitality to her, and a solitude. There is ardor in her, and melancholy, too. Mazur takes her on an otherworldly journey, and opens us to the different incarnations intimacy and life meaning can take. He also offers a behind-the-scenes look at the process and decision-making that went into the making of the book, a compelling look at artistic choices for both artists and readers alike.
Senses and sensuality
Vermont poet Elizabeth A. I. Powell elevates, complicates, and relocates, our experience of scent in her wise and bodily new collection of poems, “Atomizer” (Louisiana State University). The collection is awash in synesthesiastic revelation. “Who knew color could smell like rain and the smell of the rain was apple green?” These are poems of seduction, of attraction and disappointment and the mystery of why we’re drawn to who we’re drawn to. She moves between the lyrical — “how odor is identity’s first ardor”—to the matter-of-fact — “I have killed a rabbit.” The little girl inside her lives, and with her, the smells of the barnyard, the generations of women above her. Her approach to carnality is alternately wry and fervent, an open examination of the question, “How to find love?” There is the elegance of scent, of fancy bottles of perfume (“vetiver and candle wax and iris root”), and earthy stink: “heart notes of antiseptic and latex, street clothes and fear, blood musky, rancid and sweet, the stench of scraped cave, of uterus.” Powell’s are confident poems, ones that disrupt and magnify our relationship with one way in which we sense the world.
Twenty-eight trees fill the Concord Museum, each one featuring decorations based on beloved children’s books as part of the 25th annual Family Trees: A Celebration of Children’s literature, which runs through January 3. Some of the books that inspire the decorations are Jacqueline Woodson’s “The Day You Begin,” Kelly Barnhill’s “The Girl Who Drank the Moon,” Kwame Alexander’s “How To Read a Book,” and Kate DePalma’s “The Bread Pet.” Award-winning watercolor artist Nicole Tadgell has been selected as this year’s Honorary Chair of the program, part of a list of honorees that includes Jane Yolen, Gregory Maguire, and Tomie dePaola, among others. Because of Covid restrictions, timed tickets are being offered ($15 for adults, $10 for seniors, $6 for children 5-18) to keep occupancy levels low. For the first time, the museum is also offering videos of authors giving readings for all 28 of the books. Visit concordmuseum.org for more information.
“Pickard County Atlas” by Chris Harding Thornton (MCD)
“Animal Days” by Joshua Beckman (Wave)
“Pedro’s Theory: Reimagining the Promised Land” by Marcos Gonsalez (Melville House)
Pick of the Week
Rena J. Mosteirin at Left Bank Books in Hanover, New Hampshire, recommends “The Langston Hughes Reader” (George Braziller): “I love this book. It feels like an invitation to discover (or re-discover) the wide-ranging genius of Langston Hughes in novels, stories, plays, autobiographies, poems, songs, blues, pageant, articles, and speeches.”
Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Wake, Siren.” She can be reached at email@example.com.