What a little moonlight can do

April 8, 2011
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“Strange indeed are the places that give birth to the ideas that later, for better or worse, find physical form as books. I first encountered my subject lying on my back in a dentist’s chair. In an effort to distract the minds of those undergoing treatment, the dentist in question had attached a large photographic poster to the ceiling depicting the earth at night, seen from space. It is to the distant yet familiar world that his patients cast their eyes, sometimes blurred by tears, sometimes pre-naturally sharpened by the effort of ignoring their discomfort. What they learn is that much of the planet we inhabit no longer experiences ‘night’ as it was once understood.”

So James Attlee begins Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight, his meditation on the sublunar landscape and all things lux illuminata. Praised by Dominique Browning in the New York Times Book Review as “an inspiration,” Nocturne left our critic commenting, “It makes you want to pull a chair out into the garden and bathe in the moonlight. No questions asked.”
Jonathan Messinger, of Time Out Chicago, championed Attlee’s occasionally gruff yet wildly wondering prose as that of “our kind of codger,” while the Sunday Telegraph was struck by how much pleasure Attlee takes “from simply looking.”
In addition to reviews of the book, Attlee has been gracing international pages with commentaries and essays on lunar-lit concerns, from a piece on the moon in literature for the Independent and on the supermoon in the Telegraph to a consideration of darkness in the Observer. All of this, not at all unexpected, from someone whose touchstones shift with such ease from Goethe, Auden, and Basho, to black and white photography, copper mines, and True Detective Magazine.
Piqued your interest?
Listen to Attlee reading excerpts from the book (in streaming format) here, taped during a recent Press trip to Oxford, UK. And, as ever, for additional information about Nocturne, pay a visit to the book’s University of Chicago Press webpage.

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