Monday, September 12, 2011

Curiosity and Peculiarity

One of the many cabinets of curiosities are Bonnier de la Mosson at the Bibliotèque centrale du Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle in Paris. I want to go there someday.

In all the years since the kids and I wandered through the exhibit called "Strecker's Cabinet" at Baylor University's Mayborn Museum, I have been fascinated with cabinets of curiosity.

In fact, if you've ever been in my home, you will not be surprised to find that I decorated it inspired by this image of a cabinet of curiosity, of the natural-history variety:
Cabinets of curiosity are just collections of odd things, artfully arranged. They were popular in the Victorian period, so sometimes when you see them, they have a decidedly steampunk flavor. Which is all in vogue right now, as it turns out.
Each artifact in these wondrous collections has a tale, no doubt. Each yellowed photograph, each shrunken head, each mystifying contraption tells a story about the wonders of our world, stories that resonated with the original collector, and probably died with him as well, leaving behind even more mysteries.
Imagine a collection of strange photos of children, each shadowy image of unsmiling childhood holding a world of mystery.
Imagine a dreamy writer getting hold of a handful of these odd photographs and laying them out like a deck of cards.

Suddenly a story comes to him, full force, start to finish, replete with plot, climax and dialogue. and not just a scene but a whole story.

That's how I imagine Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children coming into being, and from what I read in the back of the book, I'm not far off from the truth.
What an imaginative story, interesting, surprising and original from the start and becoming more so the more pages you turn.

"What next?" you wonder when you finish it, and you devour every word in the author's acknowledgments, in case another tidbit of the story might be located there.

As it turns out, more tidbits are located there: that the strange photos that punctuate the narrative are real, that those photos, combined with some stories of childhood escapes from Nazi-occupied Poland have inspired this story.

This is an extraordinary first novel, which has not even gone into paperback form yet and already the movie rights have already been sold.

Let me reiterate a point I made in a previous post: if you want a good story, I suggest shopping in the Young Adult Fiction section.

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