The magic of Scorpio season is arcane: preserved but not explained. It is an alternate reality, a new sky full of constellations in new shapes – thistles and snakes and clasped hands – with a far off ruling planet named Pluto. It is a time for the cold and the clear and the creeping darkness that necessitates the bedside lamp. It is a spell to be cast, but not without guidance.
An indisputable Scorpio, Margaret Atwood was a soothsayer before The Handmaid’s Tale and remains one still today. She can read palms and cards and pasts and futures, just as she can write them. Published in 1996 but inspired by the true story of an 1843 Canadian murder trial, Alias Grace is a charm for the season: a history with a dash of hypnotism, a mystery with a taste of femme fatale, a romance with a vengeance.
Nothing says Scorpio like all-encompassing heartbreak, furious love, or communing with the departed. Written by Yiyun Li after losing a child herself, Where Reasons End is a book-length conversation between a mother and her dead son. An impossible novel born of impossible pain, it is a book written where language stops… and where the voice gives over to both grief and intimacy.
Things Fall Apart is the story of centers that could not hold, told by one of the hands still clenching the pieces. Born in the Igbo town of Ogidi in 1930, Chinua Achebe collected fragments of a colonized culture – shards of memory and myth – and planted them in what would become the most widely read African novel in history. Ardent and rooted and seething, its season goes without saying.
This book is an assertion; a commitment; a chorus sung from rural eastern New Mexico. This book is a blessing, an often-banned badge of Mexican-American survival and spirit, where people of color were “centered instead of stereotyped.” Like the scorpion encased in amber or like the orange mirage in the desert distance, it is divine. First published in 1972, Bless Me, Ultima shimmers and stupefies still, 50 years since.
When Sylvia Plath wrote, “I thought the most beautiful thing in the world must be shadow,” she cemented her name on the Scorpio shelf. Except she kept writing. She wrote until she became something other, something epitomical. Tortured, possessed and powerful, she wrote shadow into “ bureau drawers and closets and suitcases… shadow under houses and trees and stones, and shadow at the back of people's eyes and smiles… shadow, miles and miles and miles of it, on the night side of the earth.” She wrote it into The Bell Jar, and invited us all to see.
Sarah J. Bofenkamp is a reader, writer, and librarian living in Palouse, Washington.
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