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Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 146

November 11, 2011

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Two World War I Poems for Veterans' Day


Alison Bechdel with image from Fun Home: A Family TragiComic
This Issue:

Recommendations from Erens, Jansen, & Osner

Review by Joel Weinberger


Review of Ugly to Start With by John Michael Cummings


News and Announcements

New Music
-- George Brandon & Redjeb Jordania

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First, I want to welcome new subscribers to this newsletter – or, maybe I should say welcome people getting this issue whether they subscribed or not. And if you want to unsubscribe, just go to the very bottom of this email an click on "unsubscribe."

These Newsletters, which I produce roughly every six weeks, have a twofold purpose. First, I want to get the word out about authors and works that I and other people recommend– old books and new. Second, I use the newsletter to get ideas for my own reading, and to discuss various issues that capture my interest. I welcome email suggestions and recommendations, including occasional guest editors. In this new world of digital publishing and e-books and online literary journals and big commercial publishers running scared, it seems essential to me that we pool resources to support literature and expand the possibilities for what to read.

Over the last two months or so, I've read a number of books, most of which I won't review but want to mention: I read DANCING WITH DRAGONS, the fifth George R.R. Martin novel in the "Fire and Ice" Series (now on HBO)– an addiction; I was deeply moved by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's HALF THE SKY about the horror and hope of women in the third world; I read HELL AT THE BREECH by Tom Franklin, which is discussed below as is FUN HOME: A TRAGICOMIC, the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. I also read THE LONG MARCH by William Styron; WOMAN IN WHITE, my first Wilkie Collins novel; UNKNOWN MAN #89 by Elmore Leonard; and gave Henry Adams a second chance with his novel DEMOCRACY.

Several of these books I chose because they are free for Kindle, which is not worst way to choose a book– I'd been, for example, meaning to try Wilkie Collins, so I did, and it was lots of melodramatic fun as well as full of quotidian details about Victorian life that the more famous Victorians (except maybe Anthony Trollope) often skip. The Elmore Leonard and the fifth George R.R. Martin were just long overdoses of sugar– not that the stories are sweet, but that I sneaked them and gobbled like candy. Styron's THE LONG MARCH is a really interesting take on war and the military, set here at home during the Korean war, hardly more than a novella in length, but very interesting. HALF THE SKY I read because an organization I'm part of is going to send some money to support a woman in the Congo, and this book has had excellent press and is very worthwhile.

The others, I want to say a little more about.

For those with the patience to read it, I exposed my decade long dislike of Henry ("The Education of...") Adams in a recent issue of this newsletter . I then decided, because it was free and not something everyone else was reading, to give Adams another chance and read one of his two novels, DEMOCRACY. There's a reason it's not a popular nineteenth century novel, but it wasn't bad. I liked it better as it went along, ad certainly liked it better than THE EDUCATION. In both books, Adams assumes a world-wearing narrative persona– here channeling Trollope, I guess. It's a story that tries to create in fiction the world of the United States governing class in Washington D.C. during the years following the Civil War. The best character is the ostensible bad guy, a corrupt senator who becomes Secretary of the Treasury and a possible candidate for president. I actually find him very attractive. The protagonist, Madeline "Mrs. Lightfoot" Lee is attractive as a character too, but somehow her fascination with politics and then her rejection of it feels shallow to me. I just wasn't convinced that the Senator was as bad as Adams wanted me to think he was. George Eliot (or Trollope himself for that matter) could have done better in analyzing the woman and the politics, but on the other hand, DEMOCRACY has some smash bang-up dialogues about politics and some set pieces in the social-political whirl of Washington that I've never seen anywhere else. I don't quite know why Adams insists on being so prissy– there is a taint of sour grapes about his dislike of politicians. It's a worthwhile look at our own country in the 1870's, though, and I'm thinking of trying his other novel, ESTHER, as well.

Next, I read a 2003 novel, Tom Franklin's HELL AT THE BREECH, which is a rousing semi-Western story of an informal back country civil war between townsfolk and country folk. It gets in all the detailed descriptions of the effects of multiple gunshot wounds to human bodies in Cormac McCarthy style, but has a more or less happy ending for its three most nuanced characters. There is lots of beautiful writing, lots of momentum (the drama is set off by two young brothers who either do or don't murder a man they are only trying to rob), lots of humorous gore and gory horror. I'm glad I read it, but in the end, I find it has a failure of nerve, as if the story didn't have the courage of its convictions: that is, it plays at the holocaustic vision of McCarthy, but is finally more of an old style horse opera– the sheriff is GUNSMOKE with a dirty face, creaky bones, too much drinking, but dogged and heroic in the end. But, then, it was a good yarn, and I've always been a sucker for cowboys.

Finally, I have to recommend a book that I am totally, wholly, in love with. I adored FUN HOME: A FAMILY TRAGICOMIC. This is the memoir of the early life of Alison Bechdel, comic strip artist (DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR), who writes exactly what the title says: a comic memoir of a tragic family. The "Fun Home" part refers to the family nickname for their part-time mortuary business. I love the drawings in this: Bechdel's tender, white-bottomed Lesbian lovers, the extraordinarily beautiful face of the extremely flawed father who is both a mortician and a high school teacher, very literary, very artistic, and possibly a pederast. I don't know how she does it, in a black and white comic format, but she creates wonderful, powerful faces– especially the father, the mother, and the little Alison. The lineaments of family love and dysfunction and cruelty are vividly present: the mother an actress in local stage productions, the father using his kids for his projects, hiding his secrets and his sexuality, mostly, but also a writer of graceful letters and a reader of all the literature popular in the nineteen fifties and sixties. Little Alison deeply dislikes all girliness (even though her father wants to dress her in pretty clothes!),and then makes an enthusiastic discovery in college that she's a lesbian-- followed almost immediately by discovering her father's secret gay life. Her mother finally decides to leave him, and then he dies, hit by a Sunbeam bread truck. Was this a suicide? Just awful dark-humored bad luck? And all of this takes place in a tiny town in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. It's a wonderful memoir, and I can't imagine it as anything but a graphic novel. I bought the book used on the Internet, priced very reasonably, but it doesn't look bad as an e-book either– different, because each frame gets its own page.


                                                                                                                  – Meredith Sue Willis






Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Reviewed by Joel Weinberger)

(This review republished, with permission, from Good Reads.) NOTE from J.W.: I "read" this book in the audio book form, narrated by Fred Sanders (an excellent narrator, I might add). Also, this is a great audio book to run to, unsurprisingly.


Born to Run by Christopher McDougall is a fantastic story, an interesting narrative, a compelling idea, insightful, but tempered by Bad Science (that's not to say that the author's theories are incorrect or bad, but just that the science by which he arrives at his conclusions is bad).

Born to Run is the author's somewhat personal story of his rise from a crippled, pained runner to his race in an Ultra Marathon, and the stories of the characters he meets along the way. The backdrop of most of the book is the author's admiration of the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico, a group of people with a natural talent for running that blows the mind. Much of the book is McDougall's search to understand this elusive tribe and what makes them such good runners.

It is also a personal story about several runners who get together to travel to Mexico to race the Tarahumara, not for glory, but just for the joy of running. That's really, at its core, what the book is about: the joy of running, and why everyone should love running, and how McDougall believes everyone *can* love running.

Unfortunately, part of McDougall's quest involves questionable science and scientific claims. He makes a very compelling case based on human history why humans should be barefoot runners, or at the very least "minimalist" runners with a much different gait than what we currently have. It's not worth going into the details here, but unfortunately, in his scientific claims, McDougall doesn't know the difference between causation and correlation, among other problems. Additionally, I take particular offense in his treatment of Bill Bowerman, the founder of Nike and one of the greatest track coaches of all time, which pretty much consists of ad hominem attacks on Bowerman's physique, and pretty much ignores his expertise as a coach.

I would not let the Bad Science stop you from reading this book. It is a great read and most of his theories are compelling in spite of the flawed reasoning. It is still an inspiring book, with fantastic characters, and it makes me want to run barefoot.


John Michael Cummings, whose first book was a well-received and prize-winning young adult novel called "The Night I Freed John Brown," has just published his first collection of short stories, Ugly to Start With: One Boy's Stories of Growing Up, with the newly rejuvenated West Virginia University Press. The stories are set in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, a town steeped in history– indeed, John Brown's Harper's Ferry Raid at the beginning of the Civil War is a large part of the town's economic base, and the family in the linked stories lives in a tiny old house on the national park premises and across the street from a wax museum.

Near Washington, D.C., the Harper's Ferry of Cummings' book is awash with annoying tourists and defined by sharp clashes between the genteel monied class and the poor native Appalachians, both white and black.
With the town as an active player in the book, not just background, Cummings tells stories of a family of boys with a gracious though disgruntled mother and an autocratic father who doesn't believe in having guests. "Our front porch," says the main character Jason, "had a real hillbilly look, too, but that in itself was never a problem. We had a tree out front to keep tourists from seeing the dirty plastic covering the windows, the white extension cord holding up the rain gutter, and the junk stacked everywhere....We had that tree to cover up our dog Barfy, too—named for what he did best, running the flower bed bare, choking himself on his own chain, then throwing up. We had a tree for all this. One big tree....What we didn't have was a way to cover up the raw sewage smell..."

It turns out that Dad put in the faulty sewer line himself, and has done most of the other work around the house. Dad is a mail carrier and a dedicated do-it-yourselfer to the point of a kind of manic extremism that has his family camping out in the rain stacking wood and separating piles of washers and nuts and bolts that have rusted together. "To my father, no task was ridiculous, if it meant saving something worth saving. And everything was worth saving." The father, a man with mountain roots who has become twisted and angry, is seen as essentially driving his family crazy, especially Jason, the youngest son, who has a penchant for visual art and a yearning to get away– and his desire to escape seems to be equal parts from near-poverty, the divided town, and his father.

One of the very best stories, "The Wallet," is about a man whose wife has left him and is staying with Jason and his mother, and comes howling for her, and making a sad fool of himself as well as having overstepped the bounds of permissible behavior with his wife. What is poignant, of course, is that the man is destructive, but also in pain. He says to Jason, "Somebody should take your mother away, boy," he said over his shoulder. His plain blue mechanic's shirt was pulled out in back. "See how it feels." Then he stopped, turned around, and came all the way back to me, beer bottle hooked over one finger, wallet crushed in his other fist, guts of pictures hanging down."I'm proud to be from the mountain, boy. I'm…proud to…"

Another interesting story of the type Cummings does so well is "Carter," the story of a boy's experimental relationship with an aging gay man. The story is marvelously skillful in how it captures the boy's eagerness for experience, for people who are different from those he knows, for finding out what it means to be a man.
The sad, doomed men like the abusive husband in "Wallet" and Carter are one of Cummings' great achievements in this book: the question, unanswered, is whether Jason will escape from that particular doom, or if he will carry it with him when he leaves.

Cummings manages to create a painfully failed family that is still richly human and hopeful, set in a community where history and economic class are as eccentric and idiosyncratic as the main character's family– a very particular and sharp light penetrating the human experience.




Jeremy Osner recommends Yiyun Li's new collection of short stories which he says is like Appalachian literature with Appalachia replaced by China!
Reamy Jansen recommends Hisham Matar's Anatomy of a Disappearance (Dial Press, 2011)
Pamela Erens says of WIlliam James's The Varieties of Religious Experience, "Fascinating. James aims to describe and classify the various types of mystical religious experiences that have been reported over the centuries by those who experienced them. He points out near-universals in these experiences and concludes that there are other types of reality that we are not normally conscious of and that mystical states give us some hint of. I appreciate James's perspective--which is that of a person who doesn't experience these states himself but has respect for them and is not willing to write them off as hysteria or 'mere' imagination. James is a patient, wise, and rational guide. And, as so many have noted, he has an utterly engaging and down-to-earth writing style. This book was originally a series of lectures given in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1901-02."
P.S. from MSW: Thanks to Pamela's recommendation, I am in the middle of the book-- another free e-book, and it's taking me a while to read, but is extremely evocative.



HarperCollins supports an online community of writers who upload work for others to critique. Things that get a a lot of attention from other users is sent to the "Editor's Desk," where it is given a close look by the actual publishing company: Take a look at



Don't miss a 9/11 piece by novelist Laren Stover at New River Dramtists' Art on the Air at Floating World.
Good long interview of poet-actor-musician Michael Lally by Burt Kimmelman at Jacket 2 (
Barbara Crooker has a new fall poem up.
Take a look at Dolly Withrow's republished piece, "A Soap-Opera Approach to Grammar," online here.







Abby Slovin's new book Letters in Cardboard Boxes has been called "a novel that you will want to keep with you for the rest of your life. A book that will remind people why they love to read.”






Snail Mail Review is now seeking submissions for the third issue. Submissions are open now until December 31, 2011. They accept all genres of poetry and short fiction. Contributors will receive a complimentary copy as payment. No online submissions are accepted, except from overseas & Canada. If you are interested in submitting, please send 3-5 poems of no more than 35 lines and/or 1-7 pages of fiction to: Snail Mail Review, c/o Kris Price, 3000 Coffee Rd., Chateau Apt #B6, Modesto, CA, 95355. For more information, e-mail

Deb C. Gaisford has a new story online at THE FEAR OF MONKEYS: "Love Letters from Vietnam,"
Burt Kimmelman's The Way We Live is now available from Dos Madres Press (click here) and Amazon (click here)."Burt Kimmelman is a poet who trusts what is: the continuous autonomy of two people in a close marriage, the unalterable passage of time, the lies the mirror tells us, the comfort of "simply living / among the objects of the day." Yet, like the inimitable domestic scenes painted by Pierre Bonnard, Kimmelman's quiet poems contain the luminescence of perception, its lure, its beauty, its Zen of breath, tracing beauty in the pulse of the extant."    - Star Black
Leora Skolkin-Smith's new novel Hystera is about to launch. Early Praise includes: "Hystera is a haunting, mesmerizing story of madness, longing and identity, set against one of the most fascinating times in NYC history. Skolkin-Smith's alchemy is to inhabit her characters even as she crafts a riveting story that is nothing short of brilliant."-- Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of "Pictures of You", Reviewer.
Submissions are now open for Nimrod International Journal's Spring 2012 issue, the theme of which is "The View from Here." Nimrod invites poets, fiction writers, and essayists to explore "The View from Here." All interpretations of this theme are welcome. Postmark Deadline: January 15th, 2012 (Themed manuscripts will be accepted during December, though general submissions to Nimrod are closed Dec. 1st – 31st.) Publication will be in Nimrod's Spring/Summer 2012 issue, appearing in late April or early May 2012.
All themed manuscripts should be marked "Theme" on both the outer envelope and the cover letter. Send your interpretation of "The View from Here" to Nimrod Journal, The University of Tulsa, 800 S. Tucker Dr., Tulsa, OK 74104. If you have questions, or for more information, please writer to us at or call 918-631-3080. For more information about Nimrod, visit
Barry Wildorf's FLIGHT OF THE SORCERESS won the Global E-Book award for best historical fiction!
A personal essay on witnessing the final space launch by Melanie Vickers appeared on July 28, 2011 at

Erik Corr's e-book THE WITCH AND THE SUNFLOWER GIRL is now available:
The subtitle is "A Halloween and Christmas Fairy Tale about Karma and Free Will," and the story only costs .99 cents! Also see Erik's Youtube about an open source novel he's writing:

Mark DeFoe's tenth chapbook of poems In the Tourist Cave is coming out this fall. Pre-publication orders are now being taken by Finishing Line Press of Georgetown, KY. Order online at and click on "new releases:" Click on the "New Releases and Forthcoming titles" link.
Cat Pleska has a piece about the terrors of planes at Airplane Reading: essays about airplanes. Check out her "Rock and Roll" at .
New book from Halvard Johnson: Sonnets from the Basque & Other Poems.



George Brandon has a new cd out, "Towards the Hill of Joy". The cd features both instrumental and vocal compositions by George Brandon who plays trombone and piano on it as well. Vocalist and new music diva Nora McCarthy is a featured artist, as is Afro-percussionist extraordinaire Neil Clarke. Take a look for free at\georgebrandon.The September 2011 issue of JazzInside magazine features an interview with George at


In honor of Redjeb Jordania's 90th birthday, Driftwood Press is releasing a new edition of his seminal Concerto Classico for Percussion Solo and Symphonic Winds, Russian Federal Orchestra, Vakhtang Jordania conductor, Alexei Amosov Percussion Solo. Also included on the CD is Redjeb's Perkiomen Suite, the original 1963 recording with the composer at the piano. To hear samples, go here. . For the CD only, go to Create Space, Producers: . Further Information:









In Flanders Fields
By John McCrae
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Dulce Et Decorum Est
Wilfred Owen
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, -
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori

Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 147

December 10, 2011

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This Issue:
Johnny Sundstrom's new novel

An Anthology recommended by Ed Davis


Phyllis Wilson Moore on Walter Dean Myers and Yankee at the Seder

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Dear Friends: It's holiday giving season– please consider for your last-minute gifts some of the small press books on my gift books page and/or some of the books mentioned below.


First up today, a stunning and powerful book from the small press Hamilton Stone Editions by Jane Lazarre (BEYOND THE WHITENESS OF WHITENESS, SOME PLACE QUITE UNKNOWN). Lazarre's new novel, INHERITANCE, is a meditation on race and the racial and ethnic history of the United States. Its central, germinal story is what happened to a young white woman named Louise and her beloved Samuel in the years leading up to the Civil War. Samuel and his mother are enslaved, and Louisa discovers she is the sister of a slave and becomes the mother of a slave. What happens when her pregnancy is discovered, and then the color of the baby, is harrowing and horrible. The rest of the novel circles around and expands out of these events into many generations.

The mutilation-murder of Samuel is careful and respectfully narrated without any of the pornographic violence that a lot of American writers seem to delight in. Lazarre's focus is on transformation as people deepen their understanding of race and history. One of the most interesting parts is how Louisa survives mentally by changing her consciousness.

Characters in the framing stories have similarly complex deepening of their consciousnesses, especially women struggling with their whiteness and their relationships with people of color. All of the main point of view characters are articulate and exhibit many layered thinking. Among them are the teenaged daughter of a white Jewish mother and Black father (whose own mother is an Italian-American novelist). There is also an adult writer descended from Louisa and Samuel; there is early twentieth century Jewish Hannah (great grandmother of the teenager above) who falls into a passionate non-physical relationship with the third Samuel. All the characters have the sensibilities and intellectual seriousness of a writer or other artist.

The genealogies are complex and the issues of whiteness and Blackness are dealt with in detail. The story of the nineteenth century white girl's lonely effort to understand and survive is especially wonderful, as are the scenes on Long Island Sound, such as the one where the housewife Hannah Sokolow, unhappy in her marriage and life, eats an oyster pulled directly from the Sound and offered to her in friendship by the third Samuel--a transgression of the rabbinical laws as well as the formal and informal race laws of her day.

It is an ambitious and powerful book that teases out where we cannot reach across the abysses of race and history– and also where we can.


A book of poetry with a serious message from a small press is AZRAEL ON THE MOUNTAIN by Victor Depta. Betty Huff, managing editor of Blair Mountain Press, writes to say: "Ten years ago, in 2002, we at Blair Mountain Press published Dr. Victor Depta's AZRAEL ON THE MOUNTAIN, a book of poems protesting mountaintop removal coal mining. That method of coal extraction continues to this day, regardless of what the American public knows about global warming and what Appalachians suffer as a consequence of that mining practice. Azrael on the Mountain is the only Appalachian book in which every poem is a protest against Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining. It has sold slowly but steadily in the past ten years, so much so that we have reprinted the book for the individual buyer and for the classroom...[order directly from] Blair Mountain Press ($10.00) or from Amazon." Blair Mountain Press is at 114 E Campbell St, Frankfort, KY 40601, phone 502-330-3707, or .


A third small press book I want to mention is psychotherapist Penelope Young Andrade's brand-new, lively, and personable self-help book, EMOTIONAL MEDICINE RX. Her idea is that if we can learn to distinguish the stories we tell ourselves about our sufferings and unhappiness from our real emotions– if we can learn to experience fully and directly the big four– Mad, Sad, Scared, and Glad– we will begin to heal ourselves physically and mentally. The book is full of stories of how people have used her techniques to enrich their lives and heal their complaints. Learn more about Penelope, her strategies, and her book at


Notes on recent Kindle reading:

I also have some notes on various other things I've been reading– the Kindle selections, in particular, have a lot of serendipity, as I've been borrowing what was available through the library's Kindle collection and from the vast pool of available free books, many of which I was unlikely to have read in the past.. For example, after finishing INHERITANCE, I "bought" two free books related to the Grimké Sisters, footnoted in Jane Lazarre's INHERITANCE. First, I read an old 1885 biography (that would almost certainly not have been available to me without an elaborate university library search) of the Grimké Sisters. I also read Angelina Grimké's first pamphlet publication, a powerful call to Southern women to turn against slavery. The dual biography by Caherine H. Birney is called THE GRIMKÉ SISTERS SARAH AND ANGELINA THE FIRST AMERICAN WOMEN ADVOCATES OF ABOLITION AND WOMAN"S RIGHTS. It is one of those old-fashioned hagiographic biographies that somehow manages (like Mrs. Gaskell's biography of Charlotte Brontë) to tell a really good story in spite of skipping a lot of the juicy parts.

This one also assumes that all the readers share a Protestant Christian world view, but it's still a good short book. I especially enjoyed the selections of diary entries and excerpts from letters. Angelina, the much-younger of the sisters, was apparently a wonderful public speaker, the first American woman to address "promiscuous" crowds– that is, mixed with men and women. In her thirties, she married Theodore Weld and set up housekeeping with him and Sarah, the older Grimké sister. Something happened, not specified in this book, that kept her out of the public eye, possibly a a breakdown or maybe just a lot of childbirth and babies. The sisters and Weld, however, continued to teach and write, and had that admirable Protestant sense that serving is equally important in public or in private, large or small.

Their final great drama was the discovery late in their lives that one of their beloved brothers, Henry, had taken an enslaved lover with whom he had three boys. He never freed his family, and his legitimate heir continued to enslave them. When they discovered this, after the war, Angelina and Sarah helped the young men in their careers: one became a well known Presbyterian minister and the other a Harvard educated lawyer whose daughter was a poet in the Harlem Renaissance.


A Kindle library borrowing was COMPOSED by Roseanne Cash– this just attracted me at the moment and was lots of fun with its scenes backstage in a musical celebrity family. Roseanne Cash's persona is likeable, and she is a highly accomplished song writer, musician and performer, but it cannot pass notice, either, that Roseanne got a LOT of help along the way– her father supporter her financially through a decade of experimentation, and gave her introductions and chances in the music business that no one else would ever have had. This is not said to denigrate Cash, but to remind us all that talent is precious but far from uncommon-- ask anyone who has ever worked with the arts with children. The next step, success, especially commercial success, requires a whole other set of skills and nurturing and luck. Imagine thus a potentially brilliant pianist who grows up undernourished and ends up a teenage addict and eventually in jail. This is the thesis of Virginia Woolf's famous essay about Shakespeare's imaginary sister Judith who had all the talent and none of the other requirements to succeed.

But I liked the book– and I liked Roseanne Cash too for her honesty and directness.


IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS: LOVE, TERROR, AND AN AMERICAN FAMILY IN HITLER'S BERLIN was recommended to me by a writer friend as an excellent example of an accurate and highly entertaining nonfiction book built out of letters and diaries. It is about the American ambassador to German and his adult daughter and their attempts to be upbeat about the brand new Chancellor Hitler and his regime and their gradual disillusionment and horror with the Nazis. Hitler et alia in he early years is interesting-- especially how the Nazi's squabbled with and killed each other-- but more interesting the cultural anti-Semitism and general ignorance of the Americans.

Finally, moving away from under-reported and under-read, I took a look at the wildly popular young adult novel HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. For this one I paid $4.69, which I absolutely think was worth it. I liked it a lot– a real trip. I admired how she managed to make the heroine at once believably tough and really disinclined to kill people,which is what she will have to do to triumph-- and survive-- the Games. In the end, she succeeds most by teaming up. Least interesting to me was the love stuff, not sure why. It felt whipped up to me. I would like to have seen it end cleaner. But this was partly done to lead into two more books of the Trilogy. I was not as totally into it as I was into Fire and Ice, but Fire and Ice is a much larger world.

And finally finally one non-Kindle actual hardcover novel, WHEREVER YOU GO, by Joan Leegant. This is highly recommended, full of interesting Israelis and Americans in Israel: a man who discovers Judaism, goes orthodox, then pulls out of it; strong-jawed, laconic Shin Bet operatives, a crazy American kid who decides to kill some Arabs and is given support by the crazy right-wing This Land Is Mine guys. It functions neatly as a primer on a whole set of attitudes and issues towards and in Israel. And I couldn't' stop reading.

More small press books below in the announcements section.


                                                                                                          -- Meredith Sue Willis



A book that men as well as women will enjoy is THE MOMENT I KNEW: REFLECTIONS FROM WOMEN ON LIFE'S DEFINING MOMENTS ($14.95 from, a collection of brief essays and poems by women from six countries. I found it so compelling I read most of it in a weekend.

My friend Cyndi Pauwels' essay, "Powerful Eyes of Love," appears along with twenty-nine others in the second "Reflections from Women" series, founded by editor and psychotherapist Terri Spahr Nelson, who hopes to provide writers as well as readers the chance for self-examination, expression and healing. Writers from Granville, Ohio to Reading, England tackle topics ranging from relationships to pregnancy, family and children.

In Cyndi's essay, present meets past on a recent icy day following an eight-inch snowfall. She re-lives, in the span of a few minutes, the years between ages seven and seventeen when her step-father abused her for everything that went wrong in the household—just the way everything seems to be going wrong on this day. But in a shattering climax, Cyndi discovers she is not that abused, fearful child anymore.

Editor Nelson designed the Reflections of Women series to be a collaborative process. Cyndi said she never felt forced to accept Nelson's proffered editing, and contributors were allowed to vote on the book's cover photo as well as which women's charities the book would benefit. (Purchasing online from Sugati guarantees a greater percentage to these worthy organizations.) Such a democratic process is rare in the small press publishing world. Interested writers should visit the website to see topic areas for upcoming books in the series, along with deadlines. An interview with Cyndi Pauwels appears on my website:




Have you ever wondered about the role Jewish Americans played in the Civil War? Do you know what a seder is and how it is celebrated, or how Passover traditions relate, sort of, to the 4th of July? THE YANKEE AT THE SEDER, a unique children's picture book by Elka Weber with illustrations by Adam Gustavson from Tricycle Press in Berkeley, CA, is an enjoyable and educational way for both children and adults to learn about Passover and freedom.

A Virginia Confederate Jewish family, reeling from the Yankee occupation of their town and word of Lee's surrender, prepares for Passover. Ten year old Jacob is especially unhappy; he will not get to be a solider. When his mother invites a stranger, a Yankee Jewish solider, to their seder and to spend the night, he is angry. This fictional version of an actual event includes end notes revealing the facts of the two families involved, the Yankee soldier, of Philadelphia, and the "enemy" family who befriended him. It is a heartwarming story, sensitively illustrated, of freedom and acceptance.

Found: A BAD BOY in the Library

What attracted me to this memoir was the title, BAD BOY [by Walter Dean Myers], written in large red letters on the dust cover. As a former high school teacher, I detest labels slapped on children. "Bad boy" and "no good" cause me to bristle.

Myers, once a young extremely bright "bad boy," tells the story of his painful growth to manhood. So fond of reading and writing he hid his library books in a brown paper bag, he became a high school drop-out eager for a fight.

How he survived adoption, a speech impediment, being overly tall, having a passion for poetry and reading, racism, poverty, fighting neighborhood gangs, teen-hood, the army, and menial jobs, makes a story most teens will tap into. How he became one of the nation's most "awarded" and respected authors of children's and youth books is a gripping story.

Myers appreciates the important roles reading and writing play in his life as did finding a community respectful of his talents. This book by a former "bad boy," has substance, sadness, and humor. It is suitable for teens and adults and as good as a memoir can get.

Myers [photo at right], born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, grew up in Harlem, New York.



Joel Weinberger recommends THE BLIND SIDE, the book. "As is probably the case for many people, he writes, "I came to read THE BLIND SIDE after seeing the surprisingly good movie that was based on the book. When I mentioned to a friend that I enjoyed the movie, he pointed out that it was only half the story. While certainly the central story of the book is around the offensive lineman Michael Oher's journey, the other half is around the evolution of the game of football, strategically and economically, around the offensive line. Much like the movie MONEYBALL ,as compared to the book, the movie only tells one half of Michael Lewis's story, leaving the more quantitative half for readers. (For the record, I very much enjoyed MONEYBALL the movie as well as the book.)

"All of this is to say that THE BLIND SIDE has two distinct, but tightly wound, focuses. One is the now well known, but still incredible, story of Michael Oher's journey from a homeless teenager to one of the most incredible forces to ever play college football (and now in the NFL). In several incredible strokes of luck, Michael Oher is brought from the street to an almost entirely white high school, eventually meeting the Tuohy family, who guide him through the wealthy, white world he has found himself in. The family helps him take advantage of his natural, physical gifts, and become the most recruited football player in high school, as well as increase his grades as necessary to play NCAA football, despite the assumptions surrounding him that he isn't intelligent enough.

"The other half of the story, which, as a quantitative man myself, I find even more fascinating, is the story of the evolution of football itself. The book explains *why* Michael Oher is so prized by college football programs and the NFL. Michael Lewis gives a brilliant account of the state of football in 1981, when Lawrence Taylor (L.T.), arguably the best linebacker of all time, makes his appearance in the league. L.T. completely alters the game of football, and especially the economics of how important it is to protect the quarterback. Michael Lewis discusses the implications of this defensive approach and how, in particular, it affected the offensive design of Bill Walsh, the coach of 49ers, who eventually led his teams to several Superbowl titles. In this context, Michael Lewis shows the transformation of the NFL from a place where many of the players are "interchangeable" and seen as equally important, to the rise of the importance of the left offensive tackle, who protects quarterbacks from linebackers. The economics that Michael Lewis brings to light are fascinating in a very similar way to MONEYBALL.

The book is not quite as deep as MONEY BALL, in many ways, and at times it seems Lewis has found himself drawn into his subject in such a way that it is not subjective (it terns out in the afterward that Sean Tuohy, one of the main subjects, is a childhood friend of Michael Lewis). For these reasons, I can't quite bring myself to give it a 5-star rating, but call it a sold 4.5. Without hesitation, I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the economics of sports, or just in for a touching story of a life saved.



Laura Bentley and Marie Manilla interviewed on the radio:
A successful self-publishing author:

Barbara Crooker on Your Daily Poem. See Barbara, right.




Johnny Sundstrom's novel DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT is now available: In 1849 a wagon train was moving slowly along the parched Oregon Trail in the empty desolation that was to become known as southern Wyoming.  Martha Bradford was told she must discard either her cast-iron cook stove or her pianola to lighten the burden for the oxen. She has them both unloaded and then refuses to go on any further:  "She declared that if the only things that made her life worth living were being left behind, they'd just as well leave both the stove and the pianola, and her with them."

This novel is based on the next six generations of her family and the first ranch settled in that part of the country. Here are real cowboys and cowgirls, Indians of the past and present, a faith-challenged evangelist, a militant suffragette, newspaper owner, and many others, linked together by their hard work, rowdy pleasures, their spiritual beliefs or non-beliefs, and stitched into a panoramic story-quilt representing the dream of the Morning Star and its hopeful annunciation of a new day rising in the Old West.

JOHNNY SUNDSTROM has lived most of his life in the American West. His book is a tribute to this great region, its people and places, its history and its future. He is part-owner and manager of a livestock and forestland operation in western Oregon, a natural resources consultant, and high school track coach. For nearly 40 years, he has spent part of every summer visiting his relations in Wyoming. He graduated from Williams College with a degree in English Literature and has written extensively over the years, as well as having been involved in professional and amateur theater.

Virginia Center for the Creative Arts anthology is now available-- click here. Poets include Kelly Cherry, Halvard Johnson, Barbara Crooker, J.C. Todd, Thaddeus Rutkowski, Neil Shepherd, B.J. Ward, Colette Inez, and many, many more.
Larissa Shmailo has new e-book from Jeffrey Side's press, Argotist Ebook. It is a free download, so check it out:
Ardian Gill has three images in the PAI show at the Office of Borough President Scott Stringer, 1 Centre Street 19th Floor. Please bring ID. Exhibit open 9-5 PM Monday thru Friday.

PM Press has some excellent new books out including a reprint of a Marge Piercy novel and On the Ground: An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S.edited by Sean Stewart.
Abby Slovin's new book Letters in Cardboard Boxes has been called "a novel that you will want to keep with you for the rest of your life. A book that will remind people why they love to read.”

Deb C. Gaisford has a new story online at THE FEAR OF MONKEYS: "Love Letters from Vietnam,"
Burt Kimmelman's The Way We Live is now available from Dos Madres Press (click here) and Amazon (click here)."Burt Kimmelman is a poet who trusts what is: the continuous autonomy of two people in a close marriage, the unalterable passage of time, the lies the mirror tells us, the comfort of "simply living / among the objects of the day." Yet, like the inimitable domestic scenes painted by Pierre Bonnard, Kimmelman's quiet poems contain the luminescence of perception, its lure, its beauty, its Zen of breath, tracing beauty in the pulse of the extant."    - Star Black
Leora Skolkin-Smith's new novel Hystera is about to launch. Early Praise includes: "Hystera is a haunting, mesmerizing story of madness, longing and identity, set against one of the most fascinating times in NYC history. Skolkin-Smith's alchemy is to inhabit her characters even as she crafts a riveting story that is nothing short of brilliant."-- Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of "Pictures of You", Reviewer.
Barry Wildorf's FLIGHT OF THE SORCERESS won the Global E-Book award for best historical fiction!
A personal essay on witnessing the final space launch by Melanie Vickers appeared on July 28, 2011 at

Erik Corr's e-book THE WITCH AND THE SUNFLOWER GIRL is now available:
The subtitle is "A Halloween and Christmas Fairy Tale about Karma and Free Will," and the story only costs .99 cents! Also see Erik's Youtube about an open source novel he's writing:


Mark De Foe's tenth chapbook of poems In the Tourist Cave is coming out this fall. Pre-publication orders are now being taken by Finishing Line Press of Georgetown, KY. Order online at and click on "new releases:" Click on the "New Releases and Forthcoming titles" link.
Cat Pleska has a piece about the terrors of planes at Airplane Reading: essays about airplanes. Check out her "Rock and Roll" at .
New book from Halvard Johnson: Sonnets from the Basque & Other Poems.








Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 148

January 16, 2012

It looks better online! Read it here.


Elmore Leonard              Wilkie Collins          Archibald Grimké          Angelina Weld Grimké              Francis Grimké,  
In this Issue:

Announcements and News


Phyllis Wilson Moore on Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend

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I'm just coming out of a month of family visits and cooking and digesting big meals. Our weather here in the garden state has been dry and cold with no snow, so while there are still greens and lettuce under plastic in the garden, it's hard to get them out of the frozen ground.

Anyhow, it's my favorite time for Victorian novels and other story-centric books. I read a newish Elmore Leonard called DJIBOUTI that I borrowed from the library for Kindle, and I read THE MOONSTONE by Wilkie Collins, free for the Kindle. THE MOONSTONE is often called the first modern mystery, and it has a detective and a lot of hokey scientific deducing and evidence collecting, but the mystery and detecting are the least of the fun.. Collins tells the story by having characters give their own versions of events then handing off to someone else in a series of reports plus and journal entries. The book has several interesting and quirky characters: Mr. Betteredge, an old family retainer, uses Robinson Crusoe as others use the Bible– he opens the book and lets his hand fall on an answer or prediction. Miss Clack, a spinster committee woman whose religion is not a bore because she is so absurdly self-righteous. Wherever she goes, she leaves a scattering of leaflets and religious tracts.

Miss Clack is a stereotype, but she also has a typical vigor that Collins gives to his women characters. All his women are active: The heroine Rachel kisses her beloved before he kisses her, and has to be warned to behave properly. Also, although the gentle folk have the lead roles, Collins seems admirably comfortable with intelligent working class people.  Betteredge, for example, has the first point of view, so we get the "downstairs" perspective before the upstairs. His bright and lively daughter Penelope, who is not a point-of-view character, gives lots of opinions and hypotheses about the missing jewel, and even the ill-fated Rosanna Spearman, who was previously incarcerated for thievery, turns out to be capable of writing long, expressive letters. Collins manages to present her fate as moving and tragic without being sentimental, as Dickens certainly would have. The person who makes the final discoveries solving the mystery is a clever street kid. If you haven't read it, don't miss it.

I have a theory that Elmore Leonard came up with the idea for DJIBOUTI from a combination of headlines (piracy off the coast of east Africa) and a interview in which movie actor Morgan Freeman (image right) complained that he gets lots of work, but never gets to have sex in his movies. He has played Nelson Mandela, the corner man in MILLION DOLLAR BABY, not to mention God a couple of times- -all pretty much asexual. So my little scenario is that Leonard, who always has his eye on the movies, wrote the character of seventy-ish Xavier in DJIBOUTI for Freeman. Just a thought.

Leonard himself is now in his mid eighties, an inspiration to all of us for his continuing fecundity. This book has a pretty slow start (when you're in your eighties and totally bankable in publishing and the movies, you can fool around if you want to). There are a few too many long scenes where Xavier and his boss filmmaker Dara look at video rushes and comment on (a) action that was not dramatized in the main line of the novel and (b) how to make a movie of what's happening in the novel, which is what they're filming. The reviewer in THE GUARDIAN, Giles Fodens says, "Leonard's participle-rich prose style builds action round dialogue in an intriguing way, coming off like the bastard child of Hemingway and Virginia Woolf."

Well put, although Fodens seems to take the book's stylistic pretensions a little too seriously. In the second half, Leonard gets over his meta stuff, seems to catch a wave, and things move along briskly, especially the material following an American ex-con and ex-jihadist who is one of Leonard's entertaining stone cold killers. This character, Jama, doesn't seem to differentiate between his living and murdered relationships-- he misses a particular woman, hardly seems to remember why she isn't available to him anymore. A couple of other colorful characters are let drop a little too soon, but I figure Leonard will bring them back in his next book. Basically, once he goes back to following his own famous Ten Rules of Writing and puts his focus on killers, grifters, and a few goodish guys in an exotic setting, it was pretty good.


The final book I want to speak about-- and recommend highly-- is a nonfiction family history of the Grimkés, LIFT UP THY VOICE: THE GRIMKÉ FAMILY'S JOURNEY FROM SLAVEHOLDERS TO CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS by Mark Perry. The book starts by covering a lot of the same material as the biography of Sarah and Angelina by Catherine Birney that I wrote about in Issue $ 147 ( He adds some interesting conflicts: how Angelina Grimké's withdrawal from public view was probably a result of "female problems," that there was a likely unconsummated– of course!– love affair for the elder abolitionist sister Sarah Grimké.

Then Perry moves on to the story of the abolitionist sisters' nephews, Archibald and Francis, who were the enslaved sons of their brother– and the sisters never knew of their nephews' existence till after the Civil War, and which point they helped educated them. The book summarizes the Civil War as Archibald and Francis Grimké experienced it, then Reconstruction, and finally the long struggle after Reconstruction was undermined to create a civil rights movement. This part of the book is about a whole professional black class including the Grimké brothers and their contemporaries Booker T. Washington and W.E. B. Dubois. The book gives special attention to the Great Debate between those two latter, in which the Grimké brothers were deeply involved: should the Negro concentrate on industrial arts and agriculture or demand higher education and full civil rights?

Archibald Grimké at one point was the U.S. consul to the Dominican Republic; Francis Grimké was the minister of a major African-American church n Washington D.C. The final generation in the story is the daughter of Archibald Grimké and his estranged white wife. The daughter, Angelina Weld Grimké, was a poet known as a pre-cursor of the Harlem Renaissance. All of this is fascinating stuff: the old abolitionist movement through the war through reconstruction and the horrors of anti-black rioting and lynching that followed, plus the struggle over the direction of the Negro political movement and the founding of institutions like the NAACP. And the Grimkés were part if it all.

My heart especially went out to the less famous people: Angelina Weld Grimké the poet had several moments of fame, but ended in silence as a reported recluse in a little house in Brooklyn, no longer writing. The third Grimké brother, John, who did not get an education, rejected the help of the white aunts and others and went to Florida and essentially disappeared. A derelict? A drunk? Just a guy who didn't want any part of public life? Apparently unknown. The other silent ones were the mothers: Nancy Weston Grimké, the enslaved woman who was mother to the three Grimké men with her legal master, Henry Grimké, brother of Sarah and the first Angelina.

And finally, Sarah Stanley, a white woman, who married Archibald Grimké, gave birth to Angelina Weld Grimké, and eventually left her husband and eventually sent her daughter back to him. What was going on here– what racism? What pain?

I love history and biography. But it never satisfies the way imaginative writing can.



                                                                                                          -- Meredith Sue Willis




The following note came from Laura Bentley after I mentioned reading THE HUNGER GAMES in Issue 147. In my brief mention of the popular novel, I forgot to comment on how the Dystopian world of the novel is organized is by "districts." The heroine is from a poor mining region – District 12– which is essentially coextensive with Appalachia.

Laura wrote, "I, too, read THE HUNGER GAMES and was very pleasantly surprised. Because it was a YA book and had received so much hype, I was prepared to dislike it, but it was a fascinating read and made me proud to be from District 12."







A well done picture book, BELLE, THE LAST MULE AT GEE'S BEND, illustrated by Clarksburg, WV native John Holyfield and written by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Sroud, is based on the true story of two mules from a little Alabama town named Gee's Ben and their role in history.

Martin Luther King had visited Gee's Bend to encouraged the residents to vote. Of course, trouble followed. They managed to vote anyway.

When the Benders (as they call themselves) took the ferry to vote, the county stopped the ferry from running. The guy in charge said, "We didn't stop the ferry because they are black. We stopped it because they forgot they are black." I think I have the quote right. Gee's Bend had about 300 residents and is on a portion of a piece of land jutting out into a river. At that time there was one dirt road in and off the jut. The only other route was to go up river and back down and many of them had no transportation. They did it anyway.

When King was murdered, the town was asked to supply two mules to pull a farm wagon carrying King's casket in the funeral procession. This met opposition from local law enforcement but the town prevailed and the mules became part of history. The state police tried to prevent the mules from crossing the Alabama state line and it took high level calls to the governors of Georgia and Alabama to achieve their trip's destination.

Somehow, I missed this fact when watching the funeral.

This book tells the story without being morbid, and the illustrations are warm and loving.



NancyKay Shapiro says: "Have you seen Lynda Barry's book about writing/creativity/letting it out?   It's called WHAT IT IS.  It's gorgeous, and magical and full of great stuff about her struggles to become an artist, and very hands-on encouragement to do art RIGHT NOW.  Here's a link to it on amazon: "



Here is a wonderful story about the beginning of a war and some of its unbloody but still painful repercussions: "We Are At War" by John Birch:


Suzanne McConnell has a wonderful article on Kurt Vonnegut at






Miles Klee's debut novel IVYLAND is just out from OR Press. Take a look at . The NEW YORK OBSERVER says of the book,





Lots of good reviews for Leora Skolkin-Smith's new novel Hystera such as this one: "Leora Skolkin-Smith's new novel... provides a very vivid sense of being in the head of someone having a psychotic breakdown, and is a powerfully useful reference book for dealing with the mental-health system. It also pungently evokes the gritty New York of the '70s."
             —Robert Whitcomb, reviewer "The Providence Journal;" excerpts featured recently at; and an interview at WBAI: http://www.catradiocafe.

Julia Kaminsky has a new story up at .


Cheryl Denise has a new poetry CD. Preview it at . She reads 13 of her own poems, and a musician friend plays some mandolin and guitar music in between. The poems are from her two collection, I SAW GOD DANCING and her upcoming February 2012 WHAT'S IN THE BLOOD, by Cascadia Publishing House.



Barbara Crooker did a two-part interview with Erika Funke at WVIA (public radio, Scranton), available at their website: . The broadcast dates were January 5 & 6, 2012.




... Poem-a-day – it's nice to get them in the email everyday, whether you read them or not. Sign up at



Paperback Book Swap: get rid of your good quality paperback books and get new ones for the price of postage by swapping at The Paperback Book Swap:





Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 149

February 1, 2012

It looks better online! Read it here.


In this Issue:

Too Big to Know

Announcements and News


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I don't generally send out a new issue quite so quickly, but I'm excited about the new book by my brother-in-law, David Weinberger, Too Big to Know.  Weinberger is a Senior Researcher at Harvard University's Berkman Center for the Internet & Society and author of (among many other things) Everything Is Miscellaneous, and The Cluetrain Manifesto (with others). He is a big picture thinker about issues of the Internet, digitalization of knowledge, and much more. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy (he specialized in Heidegger) and has written comic strip scripts for Woody Allen. He and I once tried to write a novel together, a rousing failure, but I did get a name from it for a minor character in my Marco books for kids.

As you can see, I'm talking about this book personally. There are plenty of reviews and blogs about it from experts in the field, so Google it if you're interested.

I have pretty much taken my entire understanding of the Internet/digital age from David's books and conversation. He has give me hints or instruction in everything from choosing a program for making my own website to the idea of the Internet as non-hierarchical and better for conversational than fine writing. I've now advanced far enough on my own to disagree with him occasionally—some of the finest new poetry, for example, is being published in online journals. It is true, though, that the Web world is ideal for getting ideas up and out, and for sharing and discussion and elaborating. It is this communal or at least collective wisdom that is one of Weinberger's primary themes in Too Big to Know.  A small example: I have a page of resources for writers on my website, anda few days ago I received a testy but accurate e-mail from a total stranger informing me that one of my links was not just broken, but that the person I had linked to was dead. I deleted that link and fixed a few others while I was at it. The help, if not the kindness, of strangers.

Too Big to Know is full of much richer (a favorite Weinberger compliment) examples of people working together with strangers in group creativity, which he sees as the opposite of "group think." Wikipedia is the obvious example that we probably all recognize, but in his chapter on networked leadership styles, Weinberger writes about how, after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the street names of Port-au-Prince were named on maps for the first time. An organization called had satellite maps, but lacked street names in Port-au-Prince, which were sorely needed during the crisis. People from all over the world, mostly Haitians abroad, contributed the names so that the map filled up and aided in the work of everyone from the US Marines to the World Bank and the UN.

Weinberger also has a long and excellent chapter on the changes in science due to the digital era and the Internet. He compares Charles Darwin's years of painstakingly taking barnacles apart to the new way of doing science that has scientists posting on the web vast amounts of raw data as well as unfinished theses for critique and suggestions. One interesting change is that scientific results in the past rarely considered publishable in print—negative results—are now not only available but proving to be highly useful. Books and paper journals were simply too expensive to publish what appeared to be dead ends.  Yet, negative results of experiments, tentative results, gigabytes of raw data—all are now increasingly available to the scientific community, enabling discoveries and insights that would never have happened the old way.

Weinberger acknowledges the doomsayers who think we are getting lazy from the Internet ("Let Me Google That For You" ), and worse. He says,"The Internet has broadened science and increased its reach. There are few scientists who would undo the Internet....At the same time, it seems incontestable that this is simultaneously a great time to be stupid. If you want to ignore the inconvenient truth of science, you can surround yourself with a web of ignoramuses who...make falsehoods seem as profound as truths." (Too Big to Know, New York: Basic Books, 2011, p. 156.)  If you are unfamiliar with the phrase "echo chamber," this book explains it– how it is easy to find vast amounts of real estate on the web where we only learn from, listen to, and converse with those with whom we agree.

Another especially interesting theme running through Too Big to Know is how the physical limits of a hard copy book and the economics of publishing have shaped Western thinking for centuries. And now we have before us the open and fluid possibilities of digital publishing, e-books, and the Internet. One final goody in the book: Weinberger offers an easy guide to Postmodernism starting on page 88. For me, being able to have an outline of Postmodernism is worth at least $26 dollars.

Even if this is not the kind of book you usually read,you should at least flip through the pages: it is well-written and witty. Don't miss the final chapter on "Building the New Infrastructure of Knowledge."




                                                                                                          -- Meredith Sue Willis


A Storm in Literary Waters

If you've missed it-- and I did until recently-- there has been a literary donnybrook over Harvard critic and scholar Helen Vendler's review in the New York Review of Books of The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry edited by former US Poet Laureate and Pulitzer prize winner Rita Dove. Vendler denigrates Dove's choices and writing style; Dove responds accusing Vendler of closed minded adherence to the white male canon, and the blogs and magazines are off to the races. For a summary of the positions, take a look at the article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  

I tend to be of the inclusive party rather than the exclusive one, but I was particularly struck by Dove's comment that some of the missing poems and poets (Allen Ginzberg, Sylvia Plath, the later work of Wallace Stevens and more) were simply too expensive to get the rights for. Was Penguin too cheap? Probably, but the underlying problem is how our copyright laws are being used for big profit for big business (See my review of James Boyle's the Public Domain: Closing the Creative Commons of the Mind).

The good news is perhaps some expanded interest in poetry beause of the controversy?


Two More Books...

I ready my first Stephen King novel, The Shining, thanks to Kindle and the South Orange Public Library. I was not surprised that the story had lots of momentum, and I really liked how skillfully King slips the Evil Force into his characters' minds, and how the characters move in and out of sanity, possession, dreams, visions– impressively well modulated. It was plenty scary, but my narrative intuition told me the kid was going to live and probably the mother. My sense of this was based mostly on where chapters ended– a lot of close calls that seemed to indicate the endangered one was going to be back. The big narrative question for me was, which father figure was going to die?

I admired the telling of this a lot, but for me, there is still a basic problem with horror, which is: yeah, but why?  I don't feel this about good science fiction or carefully built fantasy– I think it's because those worlds, however alien, have stable rules. In them, there is terror for a reason– because there's a war, or because some person wants revenge, etc.– it's part of the whole. And I suppose you could make a case that this novel is a massive exaggeration of how an alcoholic damages his family, except, I don't think psychological insight is the point. In fact, a lot of it seems to be simply about what they

used to call in nineteenth century fiction effects-- the creation of certain sensations. And this makes me feel manipulated in spite of admiring the narrative technique.


I also read the highly popular literary novel The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht. A lovely book in so many ways, and I especially liked the Balkan background, but the Grandfather's tales run away with the show, as perhaps they're supposed to.


Miles Klee's debut novel IVYLAND is just out from OR Press. Take a look at . To read what the NEW YORK OBSERVER says of the book, see .


Julia Kaminsky has a new story up at .

Check out the Vermont Poetry Newsletter for events and more in Vermont.


Cheryl Denise has a new poetry CD. Preview it at . She reads 13 of her own poems, and a musician friend plays some mandolin and guitar music in between. The poems are from her two collection, I SAW GOD DANCING and her upcoming February 2012 WHAT'S IN THE BLOOD, by Cascadia Publishing House.


Lots of good reviews for Leora Skolkin-Smith's new novel Hystera such as this one: "Leora Skolkin-Smith's new novel... provides a very vivid sense of being in the head of someone having a psychotic breakdown, and is a powerfully useful reference book for dealing with the mental-health system. It also pungently evokes the gritty New York of the '70s."
             —Robert Whitcomb, reviewer "The Providence Journal;" excerpts featured recently at; and an interview at WBAI: http://www.catradiocafe.









Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 150

March 4, 2012

It looks better online! Read it here.


Dawn's Early Light by Johnny Sundstrom   Principles of Uncertainty by Mitch Levenberg
In this Issue:

Mitch Levenberg


Johnny Sundstrom


The Warmth of Other Suns

Announcements and News


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It's READ AN E-BOOK week (March 4 - 10, 2012). Check out my e-books and the e-books other Hamilton Stone Editions Writers at . Also now available as an e-book is Out of the Mountains (for Kindle) and for the Nook.





This issue I'm featuring-- and recommending highly--two books that you won't find on the shelf at Barnes & Noble, but are well worth the effort of seeking out. First, Mitch Levenberg's short story collection Principles of Uncertainty and Other Constants is a surprise and delight. Reading this weird and wonderful collection is sometimes like stepping into a surrealist painting and sometimes like being too close for comfort to real life. In one of the last stories, "Placenta," Levenberg writes that "Dreams, other people's in particular, were starting to get on Mike's nerves. He always said how can you care about things that don't really happen, that have no connection to real life. Then why should we care about your writing, they told him since it was all made up anyway, so he decided to listen to their dreams and then, after a while, he even decided to steal from them." (P. 108)

Many of the stories are about relationships in trouble, often with a woman with a strange name: "Alaska," "Dyspnea." Some take frightening urban situations (a home invasion, a knife point robbery) and give them a masterful twist. Sometimes this works both to make the events like a terrifying dream in which the dreamer/protagonist is nearly catatonic, and to make them funny. How does he do that? Terror and humor, unrealistic and yet it's as if it happened to you? You don't sit down and read the book front to back in a big gulp. Nor do you precisely savor it- the stories are too acerbic for savoring- but each foray into Levenberg's world of uncertainty and other constants is invigorating and engrossing.

Don't miss  "The Bagel King," in which the protagonist has to come to terms with a savior who has "a line of sweat running down the center of his shirt [and] wild tufts of hair sprouting from his chest, sprinkled with specks of sesame seeds and onion flakes...." (P. 120); "The Hotel Clerk," in which the Jewish point-of-view character, traveling in Germany, is sent to Dachau by an attractive hotel desk clerk; and "Dyspnea," in which the narrator's love has trouble breathing. In that latter story, the narrator himself is finally heroic, saving the girl through a kind of psychological descent into hell.

The second book is Johnny Sundstrom's Dawn's Early Light . This novel is a paean to the ways of the West– the real, contemporary West. It eschews movie-style macho confrontations, rather circling around its events with a far more realistic kind of tension and excitement. The pivotal event, foretold from early on, is that an important character is going to die young. Yet, when the death happens, it is both shocking and extremely moving. It is an accidental death, typical of the hard life of Wyoming ranchers but no less monumental for the future of the individual's family.

Each short chapter works on its own with Sundstrom's natural sense of when to dramatize events and when to narrate in the old storyteller's fashion. Stories from the days of the Oregon Trail and the post Civil War years are well-integrated with the story of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

The foreground story is about the love between a teenage boy descendent of one of the old time white families and a Northern Arapaho girl. In this case, the sins of the boy's ancestors, which he has barely heard of, turn out to be fully alive among the historians of the girl's tribe. How this is worked out is romantic and satisfying.

Sundstrom also does a great job making the daily working life of his characters come alive. There are colorful cowboy jobs like bringing in lost cattle and watching cows drop calves, but also fixing machines, buying a bull dozer, and even decisions about the business of when to sell cattle and when to lower the size of the herd and sell the hay instead. There is a minor but enlightening subplot about organized ranchers versus environmentalists. The conflict centers on how to manage a resurgent grizzly bear population. Sundstrom even manages to write well about the dynamics and drama of committee meetings.

All this wealth of detail is told gracefully and with lots of intrinsic drama-- a rich portrait of the contemporary West.



I also want to mention one final book that does not need a push from me: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson (author photo below). This is a narrative of the migration of African-Americans from the deep South of the United States to the North and West during the first half of the twentieth century. It weaves three stories of separate individuals with occasional short chapters of history and analysis. It is a journalist's book, extremely readable.

One of Wilkerson's important points is about the general success of the families who migrated, The stereotype is of all those poor folks from Down South peopling the ghettoes of northern cities, but she proves that the generations after the migrants were full of highly successful Americans: everyone from Michelle Obama to David Dinkins to Toni Morrison. Another interesting insight is how the Great Migration had deep effects in the South itself, notably how the thinning of the labor force led to better working conditions and ultimately to civil rights. Even lynching began to fade out, thus exposed as less about drunken insanity and more about mass social control.

Wilkerson makes a beautiful plea for how even the apparent failures among the migrants were still glad they went: for them. the decision to go was a great act of defiance and personhood. One of her subjects works on the trains and lives in Harlem, where his son becomes a dealer and drug addict; one subject is a highly successful but conflicted surgeon in Los Angeles who for a while treated Ray Charles; one becomes the matriarch of an intact family– although her home overlooks ugliness and crime of her South Side Chicago street.

You end up feeling that these people are your own relatives. You care deeply about their stories, and their families. It's a fine book, readable, educational, inspiring.

                                                                                                          -- Meredith Sue Willis


Readers Respond

From Leora Skolkin-Smith: "I really want to read [Too Big to Know] thank you!!! So many of my thoughts about the cyberspace evolution are muddled, and I'm feeling ambivalent sometimes about all the communication and knowledge accessible suddenly, and then enthralled...with the pure egalitarianism of the internet community which honors every this will help!"



With this issue, we begin an occasional column of hints and reviews on e-readers and reading from veteran journalist and writer John Birch.

Looking for an e-reader? What's the best one for you, a Kindle, a Nook, or one of the half-dozen or so alternatives now on the market? Well, now there's an ingenious website that will help you choose: .  It asks you a string of questions about how you'll use your e-reader, and what features you need. Then it tells you which make and model will best suit your needs. It worked well for me, recommending a Kindle 3.


See John Birch's blog at . The latest post is "John compares BRITS with YANKS and vice versa."


The current issue of The Hamilton Stone Review, Number 26, Winter-Spring 2012 is available at featuring poetry by John Allman, Gerard Beirne, Ruth Gooley, KJ Hannah Greenberg, Sarah Marshall, Tim Mayo, Mark J. Mitchell, Simon Perchik, Frederick Pollack, Aaron Poller, and Judith Skillman and fiction by Ellen Alexander Conley, Jack Dowling, Joachim Frank, Nicholas Grider, Sue Mellins, Suzanne McConnell, Richard Peabody, Susan Robbins, and Jane Zingale.



The author of this issue's lead book, Mitch Levenberg, keeps an interesting blog at about books and life. Take a look!



From Hilton Obenzinger: "[A book] by James Kunen, author of "The Strawberry Statement," [] the brilliant and beautiful account of Columbia 1968 by a 19-year-old student (Ignore the movie version!). Now he's writing about another 'coming of age' story, the story of getting laid off and changing his life (to become a teacher of English as a second language). .. I haven't read it yet but I look forward to it. The TV interview linked on this site is fascinating."


The magazine Hanging Loose has its 100th issue coming in April 2012. They will be celebrating this occasion at the Hanging Loose 100 celebration at the Brooklyn Public Library on April 25, 2012. There will also be a Hanging Loose reading at the NYU bookstore in celebration of Steven Schrader's THREADS on May 1, 2011. Also reading will be Robert Hershon, publisher of Hanging Loose Press, and another Hanging Loose author, poet Gerald Fleming.


Innisfree 14, the spring 2012 issue of The Innisfree Poetry Journal, is now available on a device (i.e., computer, tablet, or smartphone) near you at


New book by Carol Hoenig: OF LITTLE FAITH. Four narrators push along this charming tale set in 1960s Seabrook, Long Island, as three adult siblings converge in their recently deceased father's home. Laura is a 30-year-old newspaper columnist from New York. Her brother, Eric, is a compassionate minister trying to find his faith, and sister Beth is an angry and disapproving fundamentalist who is determined to hinder her siblings' desires in the name of her religion. They share the narration with Eric's wife, Jenny. Available as an e-book from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple's iBooks, Booktango and more for $4.99: Amazon .

Hoenig blogs for THE HUFFINGTON POST, and her novel, WITHOUT GRACE, was awarded the Silver Medal for Book of the Year 2005 by ForeWord Magazine. She was Senior Editor for Digital Americana, the first literary magazine for the Apple iPad and teaches continuing education courses at Hofstra University. For more information, visit


2012 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize— Submission deadline: April 30, 2012. Submit a manuscript of 48-84 pages of original poetry in any style in English. The manuscript must not have been published previously in book form, although individual poems appearing in print or on the web are permitted. Entries may consist of individual poems, a book-length poem, or any combination of long or short poems. Collaborations are welcome. (Please note: Manuscripts longer than 84 pages may be considered, but please contact us before submitting.)


Coming soon: (The Poco Field ) by Talmage A. Stanley. In this beautifully written meditation on identity and place, Talmage A. Stanley tells the story of his grandparents' middle-class aspirations from the 1920s to the 1940s in the once-booming Pocahontas coalfields of southern West Virginia. Part lyrical family memoir and part social study, The Poco Field: An American Story of Place addresses a long-standing gap in Appalachian and American studies, illustrating the lives and choices of the middle class in the mid-twentieth century and delving into questions of place-based identity. Stanley is the director of the Appalachian Center for Community Service and an associate professor and chair of the Department of Public Policy and Community Service at Emory & Henry College in southwest Virginia.


Mobius, The Poetry Magazine Contest 2012:     March 1 thru June 1, 2012. 4TH Dr. Zylpha Mapp Robinson International Poetry Award (Special 30th Anniversary Mobius, The Poetry Magazine) . Cash prizes. Get guidelines at More guidelines online at .


Thad Rutkowski's book Tetched: A Novel in Fractals, has been reissued in a Kindle edition.


P.J. Laska's THE ORIGINAL WISDOM OF THE DAO DE JING has just been published. The Dao De Jing is a classic of ancient Chinese philosophy and one of the great wisdom texts of world literature. To recover its original meaning P. J. Laska sets aside traditional mystical interpretations and views the work as a coherent and profound body of thought concerned with the "constancy" of life's capacity for renewal.

P. J. Laska is a poet, essayist and translator. He has a Ph.D. in philosophy and is a past National Endowment for the Humanities fellow and a former National Book Award nominee for poetry. Publisher: ECCS Books (


Jim Minick's THE BLUEBERRY YEARS, a memoir about our pick-your-own, organic blueberry farm in Floyd County, Virginia, comes out in paperback this May. Last year, it won the Best Nonfiction Book of the Year award from the Southern Independent Booksellers Association, and it has garnered kind words of praise from many folks, including Ron Rash, Robert Morgan, Sharyn McCrumb, and Naomi Wolf who calls it "delicious reading." For excerpts and photos, visit Look for Jim at the Appalachian Studies Conference, Indiana University of PA and 4/19/12 at Virginia Tech, 7:00. For all events, check for details and any changes.










Don't forget – get rid of your good quality paperback books and get new ones for the price of postage by swapping at The Paperback Book Swap:



The largest unionized bookstore in America has a webstore at Powells Books. Some people prefer shopping online there to shopping at An alternative way to reach Powell's site and support the union is via Prices are the same but 10% of your purchase will go to support the union benefit fund. For a discussion about Amazon and organized labor and small presses, see the comments of Jonathan Greene and others in Issues #97 and #98 .



If a book discussed in this newsletter has no source mentioned, don’t forget that you may be able to borrow it from your public library as either a hard copy or a digital copy. You may also buy or order from your local independent bookstore.
To buy books online, I often go first to Bookfinder or Alibris.   Bookfinder has a feature that tells you the book price WITH shipping and handling, so you can compare what you’re really going to have to pay.
A lot of people whose political instincts I respect prefer the unionized bricks-and-mortar bookstore Powells (see "About" above) that sells online at  Another good source for used and out-of-print books is All Book Stores at .
Take a look also at Paperback Book Swap, a low cost (postage only) way to get rid of your old books and get new ones by trading with other readers.

If you are using an electronic reader like Kindle, Nook, or Kobo, get free books at the Gutenberg Project-- most classics, and other things as well. Libraries now lend e-books too!




Please send responses and suggestions directly to Meredith Sue Willis at Unless you instruct otherwise, your responses may be edited for length and published in this newsletter.

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#150 Mitch Levenberg, Johnny Sundstrom, and Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns.
#149 David Weinberger's Too Big to Know; The Shining; The Tiger's Wife.
#148 The Moonstone, Djibouti, Mark Perry on the Grimké family
#147 Jane Lazarre's new novel; Johnny Sundstrom; Emotional Medicine Rx; Walter Dean Myers, etc. 
#146 Henry Adams AGAIN!  Also,Fun Home: a Tragicomic
#145 Henry Adams, Darnell Arnoult, Jaimy Gordon, Charlotte Brontë
#144 Carter Seaton, NancyKay Shapiro, Lady Murasaki Shikibu
#143 Little America; Guns,Germs, and Steel; The Trial
#142 Blog Fiction, Leah by Seymour Epstein, Wolf Hall, etc.
#141 Dreama Frisk on Hilary Spurling's Pearl Buck in China; Anita Desai; Cormac McCarthy
#140 Valerie Nieman's Blood Clay, Dolly Withrow
#139 My Kindle, The Prime Minister, Blood Meridian
#138 Special on Publicity by Carter Seaton
#137 Michael Harris's The Chieu Hoi Saloon;The Professor and the Madman; Game of Thrones; James Alexander Thom's Follow The River
#136 James Boyle's The Creative Commons; Paola Corso, Joanne Greenberg, Monique Raphel High, Amos Oz
#135 Reviews by Carole Rosenthal, Jeffrey Sokolow, and Wanchee Wang.
#134 Daniel Deronda, books with material on black and white relations in West Virginia
#133 Susan Carpenter, Irene Nemirovsky, Jonathan Safran Foer, Kanafani, Joe Sacco
#132 Karen Armstrong's A History of God; JCO's The Falls; The Eustace Diamonds again.
#131 The Help; J. McHenry Jones, Reamy Jansen, Jamie O'Neill, Michael Chabon.
Lynda Schor, Ed Myers, Charles Bukowski, Terry Bisson, The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism
#129 Baltasar and Blimunda; the Underground Railroad; Navasky's Naming Names, new and recommended small press and indie books.
#128 Jeffrey Sokolow on Histories and memoirs of the Civil Rights Movement
#127 Olive Kitteridge; Urban fiction; Shelley Ettinger on Joyce Carol Oates
#126 Jack Hussey's Ghosts of Walden, The Leopard , Roger's Version, The Reluctanct Fundamentalist
#125 Lee Maynard's The Pale Light of Sunset; Books on John Brown suggested by Jeffrey Sokolow
#124 Cloudsplitter, Founding Brothers, Obenzinger on Bradley's Harlem Vs. Columbia University
#123 MSW's summer reading round-up; Olive Schreiner; more The Book Thief; more on the state of editing
#122 Left-wing cowboy poetry; Jewish partisans during WW2; responses to "Hire a Book Doctor?"
#121 Jane Lazarre's latest; Irving Howe's Leon Trotsky; Gringolandia; "Hire a Book Doctor?"
#120 Dreama Frisk on The Book Thief; Mark Rudd; Thulani Davis's summer reading list
#119 Two Histories of the Jews; small press books for Summer
#118 Kasuo Ichiguro, Jeanette Winterson, The Carter Family!
#117 Cat Pleska on Ann Pancake; Phyllis Moore on Jayne Anne Phillips; and Dolly Withrow on publicity
#116 Ann Pancake, American Psycho, Marc Harshman on George Mackay Brown
#115 Adam Bede, Nietzsche, Johnny Sundstrom
#114 Judith Moffett, high fantasy, Jared Diamond, Lily Tuck
#113 Espionage--nonfiction and fiction: Orson Scott Card and homophobia
#112 Marc Kaminsky, Nel Noddings, Orson Scott Card, Ed Myers
#111 James Michener, Mary Lee Settle, Ardian Gill, BIll Higginson, Jeremy Osner, Carol Brodtick
#110  Nahid Rachlin, Marion Cuba on self-publishing; Thulani Davis, The Road, memoirs
#109 Books about the late nineteen-sixties: Busy Dying; Flying Close to the Sun; Looking Good; Trespassers
#108 The Animal Within; The Ground Under My Feet; King of Swords
#107 The Absentee; Gorky Park; Little Scarlet; Howl; Health Proxy
#106 Castle Rackrent; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; More on Drown; Blindness & more
#105 Everything is Miscellaneous, The Untouchable, Kettle Bottom by Diane Gilliam Fisher
#104 Responses to Shelley on Junot Diaz and more; More best books of 2007
#103 Guest Editor: Shelley Ettinger and her best books of 2007
#102 Saramago's BLINDNESS; more on NEVER LET ME GO; George Lies on Joe Gatski
#101 My Brilliant Career, The Scarlet Letter, John Banville, Never Let Me Go
#100 The Poisonwood Bible, Pamela Erens, More Harry P.
#99   Jonathan Greene on; Molly Gilman on Dogs of Babel
#98   Guest editor Pat Arnow; more on the debate
#97   Using Thomas Hardy; Why I Write; more
#96   Lucy Calkins, issue fiction for young adults
#95   Collapse, Harry Potter, Steve Geng
#94   Alice Robinson-Gilman, Maynard on Momaday
#93   Kristin Lavransdatter, House Made of Dawn, Leaving Atlanta
#92   Death of Ivan Ilych; Memoirs
#91   Richard Powers discussion
#90   William Zinsser, Memoir, Shakespeare
#89   William Styron, Ellen Willis, Dune, Germinal, and much more
#88   Sandra Cisneros's Caramelo
#87   Wings of the Dove, Forever After (9/11 Teachers)
#86   Leora Skolkin-Smith, American Pastoral, and more
#85   Wobblies, Winterson, West Virginia Encyclopedia
#84   Karen Armstrong, Geraldine Brooks, Peter Taylor
#83   3-Cornered World, Da Vinci Code
#82   The Eustace Diamonds, Strapless, Empire Falls
#81   Philip Roth's The Plot Against America , Paola Corso
#80   Joanne Greenberg, Ed Davis, more Murdoch; Special Discussion on Memoir--Frey and J.T. Leroy
#79   Adam Sexton, Iris Murdoch, Hemingway
#78   The Hills at Home; Tess of the D'Urbervilles; Jean Stafford
#77   On children's books--guest editor Carol Brodtrick
#76   Mary Lee Settle, Mary McCarthy
#75   The Makioka Sisters
#74    In Our Hearts We Were Giants
#73    Joyce Dyer
#72    Bill Robinson WWII story
#71    Eva Kollisch on G.W. Sebald
#70    On Reading
#69    Nella Larsen, Romola
#68    P.D. James
#67    The Medici
#66    Curious Incident,Temple Grandin
   Ingrid Hughes on Memoir
    Boyle, Worlds of Fiction
#63    The Namesame
#62    Honorary Consul; The Idiot
#61    Lauren's Line
#60    Prince of Providence
#59    The Mutual Friend, Red Water
#58    AkÉ,
Season of Delight
#57    Screaming with Cannibals

#56    Benita Eisler's Byron
#55    Addie, Hottentot Venus, Ake
#54    Scott Oglesby, Jane Rule
#53    Nafisi,Chesnutt, LeGuin
#52    Keith Maillard, Lee Maynard
#51    Gregory Michie, Carter Seaton
#50    Atonement, Victoria Woodhull biography
Richard Price, Phillip Pullman
#47    Mid- East Islamic World Reader
#46    Invitation to a Beheading
#45    The Princess of Cleves
#44    Shelley Ettinger: A Few Not-so-Great Books
#43    Woolf, The Terrorist Next Door
#42    John Sanford
#41    Isabelle Allende
#40    Ed Myers on John Williams
#39    Faulkner
#38    Steven Bloom No New Jokes
#37    James Webb's Fields of Fire
#36    Middlemarch
#35    Conrad, Furbee, Silas House
#34    Emshwiller
#33    Pullman, Daughter of the Elm
#32    More Lesbian lit; Nostromo
#31    Lesbian fiction
#30    Carol Shields, Colson Whitehead
#29    More William Styron
#28    William Styron
#27    Daniel Gioseffi
#26    Phyllis Moore
   On Libraries....
#24    Tales of the City
   Nonfiction, poetry, and fiction
#22    More on Why This Newsletter
#21    Salinger, Sarah Waters, Next of Kin
#20    Jane Lazarre
#19    Artemisia Gentileschi
#18    Ozick, Coetzee, Joanna Torrey
#17    Arthur Kinoy
#16    Mrs. Gaskell and lots of other suggestions
#15    George Dennison, Pat Barker, George Eliot
#14    Small Presses
#13    Gap Creek, Crum
#12    Reading after 9-11
#11    Political Novels
#10    Summer Reading ideas
#9      Shelley Ettinger picks
#8      Harriette Arnow's Hunter's Horn
#7      About this newsletter
#6      Maria Edgeworth
#5      Tales of Good and Evil; Moon Tiger
#4      Homer Hickam and The Chosen
#3      J.T. LeRoy and Tale of Genji
#2      Chick Lit
#1      About this newsletter
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