Rarely do I receive two books from one author in the same mail, especially where one is a work of fiction and the other poetry. However, this was the case the last month, on the day before the big snowstorm, when I received copies of Djelloul Marbrook's latest releases; A Warding Circle: New York Stories and Riding Thermals to Winter Grounds. Both books were engaging and skillfully written. I was glad to be trapped inside with them while the snow melted. I thought of Marbrook, who lives in the Hudson River Valley and was probably hunkered down in the same storm over there.
A Warding Circle: New York Stories contains a novella and several short stories. The works reveal the author's intimate knowledge of New York, both the city, with its devious art world, and the state, especially the Catskills. The book is dedicated to the well-known artist I. Rice Pereira, who was Marbrook's aunt.
In the title story a young woman artist is struck by lightning during a storm in the mountains. She finds that her mind has been turned around and all the conventions that she has lived by now seem absurd. Based partly on the life of Marbrook's aunt, it describes a world where an artist's success is often determined by things other than their artistic merit.
Riding Thermals to Winter Grounds is Marbrook's fourth volume of poetry. There is a great deal of crossover here. While the stories in the fiction book are infused with poetry, these poems become rather narrative. This results in some very powerful lines, such as: "And then, near the end of my life, I become the man I wanted to be without the fuss and bother of giving a damn." Lines like this also seem to establish a leitmotif, if you will, for the book: the words of a man grown old enough to be comfortable with what he has become. And what Marbrook has become is an excellent writer. He has a background of many years writing for newspapers, which shows in the way Marbrook has mastered his craft. These are two of the most powerful books I have had the pleasure to read in some time.
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