Wednesday, July 17, 2013

J. M. Sidorova

J.M. Sidorova was born in Moscow when it was the capital of the USSR, to the family of an official of the Ministry of Foreign Trade. She attended Moscow State University and the graduate school of the Russian Academy of Sciences. She moved to Seattle, Washington, in 1990 and works as a research professor at the University of Washington, where she studies cellular biology of aging and carcinogenesis.

Sidorova's new novel is The Age of Ice.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading.  Her reply:
My reading list is comprised of catching up with the fiction that was published years ago, and of a lot of nonfiction that I read as research for my own writing — books, articles, fragments, oddities. (You won’t believe how entertaining can be a diary of an early nineteenth century Englishman traveling to Paris!) Of nonfiction books, I recently read Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova and Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks. Both books are popular science treatises on the ways our brain perceives and manipulates reality (something every writer of magic realism should study). Konnikova’s well-crafted book combines examples of recent advances in neuroscience with a practical guide on how to pay more and better attention, activating what she calls a brain “system Holmes” instead of our default, lazy “system Watson.” Consider just one of the memorable observations found in the book: a sad or depressed brain notices less and forms fewer, less detailed memories. The times spent in gloom do not just feel empty in the now —they will appear even emptier looking back.

I picked up Sacks’s Hallucinations for its facts, and found the book even more useful and enjoyable than I expected. It is a skillfully put together compendium of the various types of “sensing things that are not there,” compiled by the author from his patients’ cases as well as from his own experience. Above and beyond that — it is a sympathetic, earnest, remarkably personal account. Not to mention the reader’s recognition factor: I am not alone! Now I am sure that everybody has at least one little hallucination under their belt, or should get one.

Of fiction, I am currently reading John Crowley’s Love and Sleep, Book Two of his Aegypt cycle, originally published in 1987 and reissued in 2008. Picking up this book, I had a vague recollection that I had read Book One of the cycle decades ago, when I had been in so many ways unqualified to appreciate the finesse of Crowley’s work. The vague recollection soon turned into certainty, and now I am wondering whether my cycling back to Aegypt is a coincidence or not. I am half-way through Love and Sleep now, enchanted, and savoring treats like this one (describing one Italian man’s trick for learning English whereby he transformed each word and its translation into dancing couples, Italian men and English ladies):

“…so that whenever he summoned an Italian word in his mind (tradutto, all in black, with a poison-ring on his finger) there would come along his partner (treachery, her gown sewn with eyes and tongues).”
Visit J.M. Sidorova's website, blog and the Scribner website.

The Page 69 Test: The Age of Ice.

--Marshal Zeringue