Thursday, August 18, 2011

Brandi Lynn Ryder

Brandi Lynn Ryder lives in the heart of Napa Valley.

In Malice, Quite Close, her first novel, is now out from Viking.

Last month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Growing up, I devoured books like candy, emerging from the library obscured behind a precarious tower of them and returning a week later for more. I still haunt bookstores like an intractable ghost, but have had to cut back on my habit (unless you count all the hours I spend reading my own work!) Still, one can always find a few books lying around the house in various stages of consumption. Oddly enough, my reading seems to follow the wedding adage of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue…”

Currently, the “old” is a volume of erotica by Anäis Nin, called Delta of Venus, which I happened upon while searching through a closet for something mundane (candles or light bulbs, potpourri or an old CD). I can’t recall now, because I opened the book and fell immediately under the spell of Nin’s voice again. It is her voice that stands out most in these stories for me— lyrical, sensuous, quintessentially feminine. Along with other great writers of the time, such as Henry Miller, Anäis was commissioned to do these stories for the private consumption of a client known simply as “Collector.” I was fascinated by this literary prostitution from my first reading and the idea is the kernel of one of my many novels in progress. The stories themselves deal with taboo subjects in original and sometimes exhaustive, even unappealing, ways— but the most interesting story lies between the lines. Anäis worked for the Collector in order to support her more personal, serious work and one can find her voice most clearly in the coy, ironic wraith that seems to play with her subject matter—and the appetites of her “client”—like a cat toying with a mouse.

The “new” is a book I purchased just a week ago: Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. While I’m struggling a bit with the passivity of the novel’s narrator, Toru Okada, Murakami is a master of dreamlike imagery and pacing, drawing me into a kind of trance with his abstract—and as yet, inexplicable—linked vignettes that possess both a floating timelessness and sharp emotional poignancy. I am struck most by his characters’ calm acceptance of their personal horrors, and will keep reading to see how they intersect, and with the hope that they may ultimately redeem and/or heal one another.

The third book is “borrowed,” or perhaps I should say shared. It is the unpublished, (not for long, I suspect!) newly-completed work of a dear friend and former professor, Rob Swigart. Called Sweet Water, it is a novel set in ancient Mesopotamia, which follows the life of a young woman at a time when women’s sexuality was celebrated. The plot mirrors the myth of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love and war. It ends with Noah’s Flood, an event recorded in many cultures, except that this time the Ark is piloted by a woman! As a visiting scholar at the Stanford Archaeology Center, Rob has forgotten more about the ancient world than most of us will ever know. He uses this knowledge to render a lost culture and dead language into vivid reality with very topical themes.

And finally, the “blue.” All good novels leave me little blue… to have reached the end. Luckily, it takes only the turn of a page— and a little precious time— to enter their world again.
Visit Brandi Lynn Ryder's website.

--Marshal Zeringue