Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace
The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady, by Kate Summerscale, Bloomsbury, 303 pages, $27.50
In 1844, 31-year-old English widow Isabella Walker married Henry Robinson. She and Mr. Robinson had two sons, but he travelled a great deal and was cold and remote when at home. Lonely and frustrated, Isabella recorded her fantasies in her diary, especially those about the married Dr. Edward Lane. For five years, she wrote passionate, sensual diary entries, but then Henry found the journal and read it. Horrified, perceiving the fantasies as infidelity, he promptly sued for divorce. The trial became a cause celebre, during which Mrs. Robinson’s diary was read in court. The diary, as explosive as Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, which had just been published in France, introduced to Victorian society what Kate Summerscale (author of the bestselling The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher) calls “a new and disturbing figure: a middle-class wife who was restless, unhappy, avid for arousal.”
All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle, Morrow, 445 pages, $17.95
Ray Bradbury may be the only writer ever to publish in both Weird Tales magazine and The New Yorker. Indeed, Bradbury has made his mark in every type of writing for more than seven decades and countless authors cite him as an influence. Sam Weller and Mort Castle have gathered the work of 26 of those writers, including such luminaries as Margaret Atwood, Dave Eggers, Neil Gaiman, Alice Hoffman, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Audrey Niffenegger and Harlan Ellison. (The title of the collection comes from Bradbury’s 1962 novel Something Wicked This Way Comes.) The common thread for all the stories is that they are inspired by Bradbury, whether in setting, characters, theme or style.
Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks and the Hidden Powers of the Mind, by Alex Stone, Bond Street Books, 296 pages, $32.95
It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that the secret of performing magic lies in the art of misdirection. New York writer Alex Stone has known this since he was 5, when his father bought him a magic kit. Immersing himself, then and now, in a world peopled with a cast of secretive eccentrics – from a blind cardsharp to a master magician such as Canadian Shawn Farquhar – Stone explores much more than the nature of magicians’ tricks, though he lets us in on a number of these (do betrayed magicians issue fatwahs?). In his tour d’horizon of the world of prestidigitation, he’s also after bigger game: how the mind perceives the world and the blurry relationship between reality and illusion.