Issue # 151
Issue # 152
Issue # 153
Issue # 154
Issue # 155


Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 151

April 9, 2012

It looks better online! Read it here.


In this Issue:

It's National Poetry Month Again...


Todos Santos and Threads


All My Georgias

Announcements and News


Free e-mail subscription to this newsletter.

To create a link to this newsletter, use this permanent link .
For Back Issues, click here.

Check MSW's e-books and the e-books other Hamilton Stone Editions Writers at . Out of the Mountains is also now available for e-book reading for Kindle and for the Nook.






This month I'm beginning with two excellent books from small presses, Deborah Clearman's Todos Santos from Black Lawrence Press and Steve Schrader'sThreads from Hanging Loose. These books once again remind me that it is the small presses that are saving serious fiction. Yes, wonderful books are being published by the big commercial presses-- but not nearly as many wonderful books as are being written.


Todos Santos is the story of a lot of decent people fouling up badly. It is set in the Guatemalan highlands and is anchored by real events in history-- both the human rights abuses of the Guatemalan government supported by the U.S. during the administration of Ronald Reagan and a terrible lynching by indigenous people after the Civil War was over.

The Norteamericano mother and son at the heart of the novel, children's book writer/artist Catherine and her slacker son Isaac, come to Guatemala for renewal and second chances. Catherine is enraptured by the beautiful Mayan people and their culture and leaves her son in the care of her sister-in-law. Both Catherine and Isaac begin a series of errors in judgement and choice that cause complications including the death of a teenage expatiate, a maybe fake (and maybe not) kidnapping, and some sad collateral damage to a group of Japanese tourists. Some of these things the mother and son are responsible for; others they are simply the catalyst.

One interesting aspect of this novel is that even the appealing indigenous people-- in spite of the wisdom of their ancient culture, in spite of their native artistry and the beautiful highland scenery– are frightened and damaged enough to make their own cruel mistakes.

Using multiple points of view, and keeping the nation of Guatemala and its recent history firmly in focus, Clearman writes of dysfunctional families and of a culture where religion is divided among the old gods-- the Lords of the Mountains, Catholicism, and a particularly raw and punitive Pentecostal Protestantism of Ríos Montt, the brutal military dictator from the mid-nineteen-eights..

In the end, though, in spite of some horrible events, the main characters struggle to do the right thing, to find friendship and even love as they struggle to recover from the repercussions of their actions. Clearman manages all this with a compact storytelling style that builds from excellent suspense to a satisfying conclusion.


Steven Schrader's Threads: More Stories from a New York Life is a very different book, much closer to memoir than fiction in spite of being called "stories." Employing a flexible, natural organization that alternates childhood and adult scenes, Schrader gradually lets the chronological past catch up to the narrative present, and the book ends with the death of the narrator's father, a towering, influential self-made titan of New York's garment district. The power and influence of the father over the narrator, his brother and especially over their poor isolated mother with her increasingly serious suicide attempts– is a rich source of psychological and social insight. The narrator's father is, in fact, is pretty much identical with the writer's father, who was the friend of politicians and union leaders, who gave large amounts of money to hospitals and Jewish charities, and who was a real emblem of the American century as embodied by the energetic immigrant.

The writer's own story is that of coming to manhood in the second half of the twentieth century and striving in a direction unappreciated by his father. Like his father, he is New York-centric, but he also makes forays into the deep South for Freedom Summer, and into the lives of very different people. His New York crosses cultural and racial lines. He goes to funky, poverty stricken parts of New York where he teaches and works with gangs. He seeks success by his own lights, in social service or political action or literature-- but is constantly prodded by the sense of how his father doesn't respect his choices.

What I've said so far, however, completely misses the main reason to read this book, which is the voice that walks us through this life. Schrader has a wonderful clean, dry and jaundiced humor that colors the most embarrassing and painful moments and also moments of compassion and love. Repeatedly and hilariously Schrader seems to be at once in the center of the world and yet somehow missing the main thing: he goes to a club in the Village for the early show and doesn't stay for the second show when young Bob Dylan gets up and jams with Ramblin' Jack Elliot. Malcolm X waves at the narrator, but he doesn't respond. His dad shows him a picture of a movie star-sexy woman and offers a double date, but our narrator turns him down.

I lived in New York for many years, and some of my experiences overlap Schrader's– I was at the Columbia University MFA program for a year with him, for example– but his world and my world, in spite of the same scenery and even some of the same people, seem to have been in different universes. And I have to say that the glimpse into his universe is a real pleasure.

Too infused with affection for stand up comedy, too brutally direct and stripped of decoration to be a Big American Novel a la Saul Bellow or Norman Mailer or some of the young pretenders making literary headlines now, what Schrader offers is pages where every word lights up, every sentence has a mission, every scene explodes with an epiphany. In spite of its brevity, it feels as large and rich as New York City.




A Few more Books, read on the Kindle

I borrowed from the library and generally enjoyed PILLARS OF EARTH by Ken Follett. It has fine energetic story telling and some solid research into the early middle ages, but, as the pages accumulated, the writing sometimes got --some characters not fully developed, for example. Oddly, my favorite character– the one I thought Follett managed best–was the murderous thug William who only gets sexual when he can hurt someone. Maybe because Follett doesn't admire William and has to make an effort to see his point of view, he ends up with a grudging affection for this hopelessly lost and brutal soul, who is afraid of going to hell, shrewd but not smart.

The monk Phillip is a fine character too. His practicality and asexuality become endearing, and he is totally believable as a Medieval man– as opposed to some of the other characters, who felt more like modern people in Robin Hood outfits. Really good story, though.


I have begun to look forward to reading a Saramago book occasionally the way I look forward to Victorian novel treats. This is not my favorite, but still wonderful: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS CHRIST. The first two thirds is especially strong, but starting with a too-long discussion among JC, God, and the devil, it began to feel like it was loading the dice against God, and the ending was weaker than the beginning.

But the beginning-- Joseph and Mary and Jesus as a little boy– right through Him falling in love with Mary M.-- all that was really interesting.


Finally, I also read the surprise Pulitzer Prize winner from tiny Bellevue Press, TINKERS by Paul Harding. This is a lovely and touching book written in a style that approaches poetry. There is a story line, which is the lives and deaths of a father and son, as they fumble internally after meaning. The characters' perceptions circle and swirl around, going wide and deep.

The book ends with a simple bit of narrative, everything tied up, in human connections. The really amazing thing is how all this mental exploration– the epileptic father's auras and his wanderings in northern New England woods– and the son's intricate knowledge of clock repair– how all this manages to be extremely concrete and readable. I felt uplifted by it in some odd way. It's not the way I write, but it is beautiful and moving and admirable.

See more about ti at



April is National Poetry month, so what better time to suggest that everyone read some poetry!


Juanita Torrence-Thompson's latest collection, Breath-Life from Scope Craft Press, includes a great range of poems from an exploration in compression called "Her Sweet Ear Flowered" to "Aida," a dramatic monologue about singing with Placido Domingo. I especially liked a little parable in verse called "African Absurdity" in which a magnificent African woman meets an honest boy, and "My Soul," in which Torrence-Thompson writes in the first stanza: "My soul, a rhapsody/plays melodies at each stanza/each insatiable syllable."

She experiments with many forms from the ghazal to prose poems. Torrence-Thompson's delight in language and imagery comes out, and pulls you in.


Juanita Torrence-Thompson is also the editor of MOBIUS: POETRY IS THE MUSIC OF THE SOUL. This twenty-ninth issue of the magazine has work by Rita Dove, Cornelius Eady, Daniela Gioseffi, Nikki Giovanni, Lyn Lifshin, John McKernan, Simon Perchik, Marge Piercy, Thaddeus Rutkowski, Sonia Sanchez, Jane Stuart, and many many more.

I especially enjoyed some of the winners of the Third Dr. Zylpha Mapp Robinson International Poetry Award, especially the first prize winner by Martha Kaplan with its straightforward and extremely moving monologue by Albert Parsons, one of the Haymarket martyrs:    "I'll hand for the eight-hour day/I'll hang for the lies of the Chicago Tribune/for the wealth of Marshall Field...."    Another wonderfully direct and moving poem is second prize winner, "Your Sister," by Lois Marie Harrod about a deteriorating relative in a hoarder's den. There are dozens of poems in this issue, all worth exploring.

Congratulations to the prize winners, but the good fortune is for all of us readers.



                          -- Meredith Sue Willis





Seems some publishing houses aren't as excited about the e-book revolution as the growing torrent of millions of e-reader owners. Several top-flight publishers, including Hachette, McMillan, Penguin and Simon and Schuster, have announced that they won't sell books to lending libraries, while Random House is reportedly planning to raise the price of e-books by a whopping 300%. Molly Raphael, president of the American Libraries Association recently said: "In a time of extreme financial restraint, a major price increase effectively curtails access for many libraries." The U.S. Department of Justice plans to begin an antitrust investigation of suspected price-fixing of e-books by four major publishers. Isn't it time the publishing industry got its act together?


See "John compares BRITS with YANKS," the latest post on John Birch's blog at .



Magdalena Ball reviews MICHAEL LYDON'S REAL WRITING:WORD MODELS OF THE MODERN WORLD (About realist novelists)
Sam Sacks on Miles Klee's IVYLAND in the WALL STREET JOURNAL: "At some point in the near future, the threat of a viral pandemic has led Americans to submit to a bizarre surgical procedure said to immunize them. But the procedure has grotesque side effects, and the corporation that provides it has become the country's de facto governing body....In jagged, non-chronological chapters, Mr. Klee follows a group of boys from a New Jersey suburb...Ivyland is a standout among a recent spate of dystopian novels."



Take a look at NancyKay Shapiro's delightful review of Elizabeth Taylor's ANGEL in Rumpus at
Pamela Erens reviewed THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy in GOOD READS:

In a review for The New Republic, James Wood suggested that much dystopian fiction is limited in imagination--the author changes one significant detail about our world and leaves much of the rest intact. By contrast, The Road fully imagines both the most microscopic and macroscopic consequences of a worldwide nuclear concussion. There are no trees left in this world, no birds or bugs or animals. An ashen dust moves constantly over what's left: sand, rocks, dead wood, dirty water, old houses, burnt-out cars, and the skeletons of other human enterprise. People eat only what remains in cans from abandoned pantries or bomb shelters. Unspoken is the fact that these sparse stores, frantically sought after by the few surviving humans, will eventually run out.

The story is the story of a man and his ten-year-old son, born soon after the disaster, making their way along roads to what is merely called "the coast." The father behaves as if "the coast" will bring some change of circumstance, some relief, some reason for hope, but there is no evidence that this is the case. The novel contains McCarthy's usual extraordinary attention to landscape and objects and the mechanics of human activity, his eccentric vocabulary, and his sly dark humor. What I'll be left with years from now, I expect, even more than the human tale, is the utterly persuasive landscape and atmosphere of a world about to wink out forever.





Sol Literary Magazine has Carole Rosenthal's touching story about taking her father's ashes to a Mexican cemetery, " Day of the Dead" .
LATEST ISSUE OF MOBIUS: POETRY IS THE MUSIC OF THE SOUL The twenty ninth anniversary of Juanita Torrence-Thompson's MOBIUS has just been published with a wealth of poetry from Rita Dove, Daniela Gioseffi, Nikki Giovanni, Lyn Lifshin, John McKernan, Simon Perchik, Marge Piercy, Thaddeus Rutkowki, and many many others. The magazine's poetry contest is also underway, the 4TH Annual Dr. Zylpha Mapp Robinson International Poetry Award thru June 1, 2012. Get guidelines at More guidelines online at .
Juanita Torrence-Thompson's latest collection of poems is called breath-life.
PERSIMMON TREE has a new issue at They are also soliciting submissions for SHORT TAKES on the topic of "Milestones," and poems for the INTERNATIONAL POETRY CONTEST. You can find information about these two contests at
Thad Rutkowski has a story at the NEW YORK TIMES online– yes, fiction!
Alice Cody has an essay about how the experience of miscarriage changed her as a mother that will be included in a collection called THIS I BELIEVE: ON MOTHERHOOD, released by John Wiley and Sons will be available in bookstores and online at Amazon at
Diane Lockward has a new chapbook out. Previously published as part of the Greatest Hits series, the collection is now available as an ebook and can be downloaded onto any e-reader device. The collection consists of 12 poems, the ones most often requested, and an essay tracing the history of the poems. TWELVE FOR THE RECORD can be purchased for $3 at Amazon. No e-reader? Amazon has applications that you can download for free. Then you can read right on your computer, tablet, Blackberry, iPhone or Android.. Learn more at


Linda Elovitz Marshall 's second picture book, GRANDMA ROSE'S MAGIC (KarBen, 2012) has just come out. It's about a kindly grandmother - a seamstress - who sews for family and friends, always doing something extra nice when she sews....and always saving when she is paid. Here's the review in Kirkus Review: and the Facebook Page:
Redjeb Jordania's book of memoirs ALL MY GEORGIAS is now available! "ALL MY GEORGIAS is a book of memoirs structured as a compilation of real life stories that paint a vivid picture of the author's lifelong journey through the hectic 20th century. Redjeb Jordania is the son of the first president of Georgia, Noé Jordania, who along with his entire government, was forced to immigrate to France after the Soviet occupation of Georgia in 1921. Redjeb was born in Paris, where he grew up among the Georgian émigré colony. He later moved to the United States where he eventually settled in New York and East Hampton. His very first occasion to visit the country of his ancestors came about in 1990. That fall and the following year he had the privilege of witnessing some of the tumultuous events that led to Georgia's independence, the election of President Gamsakhurdia, and a few months later his ouster by an armed rebellion. These stories are told in a masterful manner, fascinating, sometimes comical, with historical and cultural insights as background, including: life in the Georgian émigré colony in Paris, a delirious music lesson under the bombs during WWII, living without citizenship, a New York encounter with the KGB, Georgia's road to independence, and much more. Anyone interested in how people adjust to history - or just a good story - will find this book hard to put down." – Sandro Kvitashvili. Rector, Tbilisi State University (Available as paperback or E-book from,, Googlebooks, Kindle, Nook,, and other venues).


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.)
The Poco Field   by Talmage A. Stanley. In this beautifully written meditation on identity and place, 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.




Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 152

May 9, 2012

It looks better online! Read it here.


My News:

There's a lovely review of my book of stories, Re-Visions, at
Women Writers, Women's Books
written by Diane Simmons. Feel free to leave a comment!


In this Issue:


Marc Harshman on Signs and Seasons


Of Little Faith by Carol Hoenig


All My Georgias


The E-Reader Report with John Birch

Announcements and News


Free e-mail subscription to this newsletter.

To create a link to this newsletter, use this permanent link .
For Back Issues, click here.


Check MSW's e-books and the e-books other Hamilton Stone Editions Writers at . Out of the Mountains is also now available for e-book reading for Kindle and for the Nook and so is The City Built of Starships!



Guest Editor Marc Harshman on John Burroughs' Signs and Seasons (edited and with Critical Commentary by Jeff Walker, Syracuse University Press, 2006)

[Bracketed numbers refer to page numbers in the above text]

It may be that Audubon, Thoreau, and Muir come first to mind when we think of the great American naturalists of the 19th Century but we do so at a real loss if we do not also include John Burroughs. Although he didn't make the discoveries of Audubon, mount wilderness expeditions like Muir, nor ever attain the literary laurels of Thoreau, he had a clarity of vision and honesty regarding our place in the natural world that most anticipates the visionaries of our own era such as Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, and Terry Tempest Williams. These contemporaries are always careful to note that stewardship of the land must begin at home. And if there is a common thread in Burrough's writing it is the close observation of nature he finds at home and out his back door.

Jeff Walker has done us a great favor in re-introducing this collection of thirteen essays originally published in 1886, a collection that not only includes some of Burroughs' best but also well indicates the range of his many interests. These encompass pastoral reflections upon seasons in his native mid-Hudson valley (where Walker himself lives) to detailed observations of birds and their enemies to musings about the way in which a home might best "fit" the landscape.

Walker begins with a concise overview of Burrough's life followed by a more detailed introduction that places this work in the context of a prolific lifetime, as well as reflects upon the way in which Burroughs offers "both inspiration and encouragement" to those still concerned with preserving "harmony between our human and natural communities." Burroughs is often seen as the "father of the nature essay" and it is a special delight to read and relish the elegant prose of this largely self-educated author, albeit one who treasured literature. As Walker puts it: "…nature writing and literature" were inseparable with Burroughs. Or as Burroughs himself says: "Man can have but one interest in nature, namely, to see himself reflected or interpreted there, and we quickly neglect both poet and philosopher who fail to satisfy, in some measure, this feeling. [37] It is no surprise that Burroughs had close friendships with many of the greatest writers of his day and knew their work intimately. In an account of being seaside he eloquently quotes from Rosetti, Byron, and Whitman, Whitman who was, in fact, staying with Burroughs at the time and a valued friend.

Nearly every page possesses keenly observed and succinctly rendered accounts of a creature or plant or other natural phenomenon. Even those he's never seen he captures as if he had known them always -- the pileated woodpecker whose "blows should wake the echoes." [152] He muses that April is "that part of the season that never cloys upon the palate. It does not surfeit one with good things, but provokes and stimulates the curiosity. One is on the alert, there are hints and suggestions on every hand … May is sweet, but April is pungent. There is frost enough in it to make it sharp, and heat enough in it to make it quick." [176] He is a writer who can detect the smell of "tree buds." [183 ff.] or catalog an eagle on an ice floe with the unerring accuracy of a Stieglitz photograph. [209]

Unlike most of my generation the story of John Burroughs and his world as reflected in these pages is the story of a man who largely stayed put, happy to gain wisdom by continually asking questions of the world that came to meet him in the near at hand. It was a good path to wisdom then and remains so now. The words of John Burroughs remain a touchstone for anyone seeking a similar path.

                                                    -- Marc Harshman



David Evanier' story "Sentences" in Per Contra is about the lives of writers, hilarious and touching:



Guernica Magazine has just published Jose Saramago's last stories ( Leora Skolkin-Smith says it's " free on-line and it's spectacular."



Norman Julian and Jim Minick both recommend a recent interview with Wendell Berry. NATURE AS AN ALLY: AN INTERVIEW WITH WENDELL BERRY :



Sol Literary Magazine has Carole Rosenthal's touching story about taking her father's ashes to a Mexican cemetery, " Day of the Dead" .






I read Carol Hoenig's Of Little Faith, which is an original e-book. The story begins directly, almost plain in its story telling style. This works, though, as a way of giving the illusion we are simply hearing about some real people's lives. By the final third, when one of the main characters, Laura, is not only pregnant but seriously ill, you find yourself rooting for her, of course-- but also for her brother the conflicted minister and his wife, and even the awful fundamentalist sister.

There is a subplot in which a children's book writer has a wild success with TV gigs and a Macy's balloon, and a loving Englishman who makes a contract to have a have a baby with Laura, but falls in love with her too. The bad sister seems like the stereotype of a tightly laced hysterical fanatic, but when her hysteria expands to a breakdown, it turns out she has a good reason for her collapse.

One interesting aspect to the book is how it has a spiritual quality, but seems to push no particular dogma. It is serious and heartfelt, and highly readable.


                                                               --- MSW





Norman Julian's column directed us to this:





Look out, there's a growing number of websites offering free e-books. But be careful, because some will ask you for an "access fee" that can be more than $40. And once they've got your money they'll only introduce you to other sites that already offer free books!

Project Gutenberg is a genuine site managed by volunteers. It offers 38,000 free books that you can upload to Kindle, Android, iPad and iPhone. Check out their Top 100 free classics that include a whole range of books ranging from those of Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens and Alexandre Dumas to Agatha Christie and G.K. Chesterton to P.G. Wodehouse.

Now you can read all those great books you promised yourself you'd read years ago. See www. .


See the lastest post on John Birch's blog at .



If you're in Huntington, West Virginia this June-- check out the Word & Song Café atop the beautiful gazebo at 14th Street West during the 21st annual Old Central City Days. Sit back and enjoy a cup or two of tea and delicious pastries from Betty Schoew’s Manchester House Tea Catering and listen to The Harmonica Club, award-winning writers, and performers, Saturday and Sunday, June 16 and 17, 2012, from 1-3pm. Writers include Marie Manilla, John Van Kirk, Laura Treacy Bentley, Carter Taylor Seaton, and many more. For more information, go to



Jennifer Miller's new novel THE YEAR OF THE GADFLY officially hits stores May 8. Glamour calls it "Part Dead Poet's Society. Part Heathers. Entirely addictive." It's a fun, literary prep school novel, with a mystery driven forward by a high school journalist whose only friend is the ghost of Edward R. Murrow.

See Jennifer in person:

May 8: Brooklyn, NY @ BookCourt, 7pm
May 9: Brookline, MA @ Brookline Booksmith, 7pm
May 10: Exeter, NH @ Water Street Books , 7pm
May 14: Washington, DC @ Politics and Prose, 7pm
May 19: Gaithersburg, MD @ Gaithersburg Book Festival, 2pm
June 11: Brooklyn @ Franklin Park Reading Series, Franklin Park, 7pm
June 12: New York City @ Le Poisson Rouge "Book Reports", 7pm
June 22: Chicago, IL @ The Book Cellar, with the amazing Jennifer Close


Sanctuary: A Reading of Poetry & Fiction by Acclaimed Authors and Poets to benefit the IYYUN Center. Sunday, June 3rd at 7:30 PM, IYYUN Center 650 Sackett Street (between 3rd and 4th Avenue, Brooklyn) Light refreshments will be served. Suggested Donation: $18.

Authors and Poets include: Allan Appel, Beth Bosworth, Marc Kaminsky, Dennis Nurkse, and Mark Solomon.

All the presenters have been studying Torah with Rav Pinson for the past 7 years. They have come together to sponsor and offer this incredible and unique program, to benefit the IYYUN Center and its new building in Brooklyn. This is a rare opportunity to experience the poetry and fiction that you love, being presented by their highly acclaimed authors.





ONE STORY WORKSHOP This summer, One Story will again be offering our intimate 6-day fiction workshop for writers. The week will include morning workshops, afternoon craft lectures, and evening panels with authors, agents, MFA faculty, and editors. The workshop will be held July 22 - 27, 2012, in our office at The Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn, New York.

We are crafting a unique experience, both practical and creative, for writers looking to take the next step in their careers. Former Associate Editor Marie-Helene Bertino and Contributing Editor Will Allison will be returning as workshop leaders. Editor-in-Chief Hannah Tinti, as well as other established writers chosen for their ability to teach the craft of writing in engaging ways, will teach afternoon craft classes. Every night, there will be a wine and cheese reception and panel discussion with industry professionals. Last year's lecturers and panelists included Myla Goldberg, Darin Strauss, Jenny Offill, Simon Van Booy, editors from Granta, Electric Literature, A Public Space, Gigantic, literary agents, and MFA directors.

Please join us at the Old American Can Factory on Thursday, May 17th for a free craft lecture from Hannah Tinti on the art and skill of creating character. The event will begin with a reception at 6:30 PM. This is a rare chance to sample a craft lecture like the ones offered during the workshop, and an opportunity to meet some of the faces behind One Story.

Applications for the One Story Workshop for Writers are being accepted until May 31, 2012. To learn more, write One Story 232 3rd St. #E106 Brooklyn, NY 11215 or click on



Jim Minnick's THE BLUEBERRY YEARS is just out in paperback. The book is a memoir about a pick-your-own, organic blueberry farm in Floyd County, Virginia. Last year, it won the SIBA Best Nonfiction Book of the Year award, and it has garnered kind words from many folks, including Naomi Wolf who calls it "delicious reading." For excerpts and photos, visit




Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 153

June 21, 2012


MSW News:

Check my e-books-- five books now, includingThe City Built of Starships at Amazon and now for Nook as well.





In this Issue:

Phyllis Moore on the Hatfields and McCoys


Announcements and News:
New books by Hannah Brown and Reamy Jansen
Naomi Replansky's Collected Poems– and more!


Ray Bradbury


The E-Reader Report with John Birch

Free e-mail subscription to this newsletter.

To create a link to this newsletter, use this permanent link .
For Back Issues, click here.




I've just finished reading two books that have really stimulated my thinking about the meaning of community, and about the political work I've been involved in for a long time-- working locally for stable racial integration. One of the books I had been meaning to read for a long time: J. Anthony Lukas's prize winning (Pulitzer, National Book Award, AND the National Book Critics Circle Award) COMMON GROUND: A TURBULENT DECADE IN THE LIVES OF THREE AMERICAN FAMILIES. Written in the mid-eighties, it's about the grim headline-catching busing crisis in Boston a decade earlier.  The second book is brand new: THE POCO FIELD: AN AMERICAN STORY OF PLACE by Talmage A. Stanley. This one is a multidisciplinary study of the effects of the coal industry on MacDowell County, West Virginia– about both the struggles of a single middle class family and about community and grass roots organizing in the region. The two books tell a lot about our nation and the power relations that rule our lives. I identified with the family in Boston that wanted to live in a diverse (but also beautiful and safe) urban community; I identified even more with the Appalachian family whose bread winner signed on as a store keeper for the Company– as did my own father's father.

The books have very different styles– Lukas's comes out of a journalist's world view and is written to be thorough, accurate, and popular. Stanley, a community activist and trainer of community activists, writes a book that is a mix of the academic (he is the director of the Appalachian Center for Community Service and chair of the Department of Public Policy ad Community Service at Emory & Henry College in southwest Virginia) and the personal, as he's using photographs and letters and history from his own family.

Stanley has a world view that is hardly rosy, but is hopeful and engaged, whereas the brilliant and much-lauded J. Anthony Lukas committed suicide in 1997. Lukas suffered from depression, of course-- you don't die of a jaundiced view of society-- but his personal despair and his stance as an observer of great public movements makes a sharp contrast to Tal Stanley's commitment to making change, not just reporting events. Lukas makes a point of seeing all sides of his issues. It is a nuanced and complex view, but in the end, what seems to stand out– and I don't doubt the accuracy– is the errors, the corruption, the failures, perhaps even the sheer hubris of hoping to make change in a city like Boston in the 1970's.

Common Ground follows three families of different races and classes: black, Irish, and old New England white, and also has chapters about public figures like Mayor Kevin White, anti-busing activist Louise Day Hicks, Federal Judge Arthur Garrity, and the Archbishop of Boston. The situation was this: Boston's schools were highly segregated by race; a federal judge gave the order to integrate; black kids were bussed to some tight knit white working class communities, and all Hell broke loose. The results were disastrous: beatings and lost months of schooling were the least of it. The mayor moved from vague idealism and a hope for higher office to hanging on by the fingernails to being mayor. The affluent Diver family in their lovely South End town house eventually were beaten down by crime and moved to suburban Newton (and, like a lot of people with affluence and education in their background, landed on their feet: Colin Diver just recently retired from the presidency of Reed College). The featured matriarchs of the white Irish McGoffs and the black Tymons both died in middle age, leaving children in various kinds of legal trouble.

Lukas's story is of how this imposed-from-above de-segregation imploded. It is vivid and searingly painful to read, and also disconcerting for an old Sixties demonstrator like me to read about how the often racist mothers of Charlestown organized rallies and street theater to stop the busing. Lukas finds a few very small incremental changes: teenager Lisa McGoff makes a couple of African-American friends, and maybe sees things just a hair differently, with a little broader perspective, after knowing them. .

It needs to be pointed out, however, that there was never a concerted good faith political effort at the highest levels to make integration of the Boston schools work: there was never any attempt, for example, to include the white municipalities of Brookline and Newton (suburbs, but both in very near proximity to Boston) along with Charlestown and South Boston in the integration plan. Very few white children were sent to schools in majority black Roxbury– schools that in general no one should have had to attend.

Lukas writes especially well of things like the highly principled but impractical Judge Garrity, and of the vigorous and community organizing of the Charlestown anti-busing mothers; and of a hopeful naiveté among many of the black people who simply seemed to believe that their children deserved excellent educations. A sad story, anyway you look at it.

Tal Stanley's THE POCO FIELD is not about a community tragedy: it is trying for something else, which is about the importance of community in people's lives. He begins with his own college experience when he felt cut off from the mainstream culture. This sense of being from a marginal culture silenced him for a long time, and he tells how he gradually found his own voice. Part of THE POCO FIELD is his personal effort to understand his own culture from a region of the United States that is often stereotyped and ignored. He uses family artifacts and oral history from own family as exhibits and examples of what he calls– new phrases to me– the "citizenship of place" and "the creative practice of place." At the broadest level, Stanley is writing the hopeful version of what Lukas despairs over in COMMON GROUND: the possibility of political change and community creation. Stanley sees the hope in work from the ground up, groups of people restructuring power relationships.

The time span of THE POCO FIELD is the roughly eighty years between the end of the First World War and the late nineteen-nineties, and the place is the great Pocahontas coal seam in southern West Virginia and southwestern Virginia. Stanley also writes about some earlier events: the passage of the native Americans out of the region and the entry of European subsistence farmers, the surveying of mineral resources and the economic excitement over extracting them. The detailed story begins with Stanley's grandfather, C.T. Apperson, young and ambitious, traveling by train to Keystone, West Virginia, in Macdowell County where he begins to work for the coal company store. He wants to move up into the industrial and corporate middle class– a move that my own grandfather was also making a dozen miles over the mountains. Apperson marries Stanley's grandmother, Aldah Williams, who is from a small, nonindustrial farming town. The first part of the book follows their efforts to become part of the American middle class, which was and is marked by mass produced consumer products, social striving, and an ideology of individualism that Stanley refers to by the shorthand term "Westfield," after a subdivision of the town of Keystone where the strivers build fancy homes and the women try to keep the coal dust off their possessions. A house in the suburbs west of downtown, now as then, is often a marker of success for Americans.

But the Appersons' American dream comes up slam-bang against the vicissitudes of the coal industry: the boom and bust cycle that made Southern West Virginia one of the most volatile spots in the country for the raw power of mineral extracting capitalism versus human needs. Apperson, seeing that people are losing jobs at the previously patriarchal and high minded company store, resigns and tries his own business and even moves out of the region altogether. His effort to become an entrepreneur fails, and he and his wife and child (the author's mother) move back to his wife's home place. He has a massive heart attack and dies young.

The second half of the book covers how the young widowed Aldah Apperson makes a satisfying life in her home community, centering her life on family and church and community. This is ambitiously intercut with life back in MacDowell County, West Virginia– which has become one of the most impoverished areas in the United States– where the residents struggle to create grass roots organizations to help each other, to do "place based work." They don't, of course call it that. Americans, especially Appalachians, don't naturally make scholarly generalizations, nor do they see their lives in terms of political economy as a Marxist would. But they do, as Stanley points out, see the value of working together, of helping each other, of creating community. Particularly he focuses on a changing cast of characters who form and sustain an organization called Big Creek People in Action. This becomes a group portrait of people heroically determined to stay in their mountains, to sustain relationships, to struggle against the colossal economic forces that have for a century decimated southern West Virginia.

Stanley moves back and forth between this and Aldah Apperson volunteering at her church and raising money for local charities: two kinds of community, suggesting that there is no single way to create citizenship of place. In Stanley's understanding, creative mutual endeavor is perhaps the most essential human activity– and one that is opposed and undermined by the raw profit taking of the great corporations but also the ideology of individualism. Otherwise admirable people like his grandfather, the store manager, essentially break their hearts striving to move on up as individuals.

As in much other literature, THE POCO FIELD is sometimes hijacked by colorful bad actors. In this case, there is a fascinating story of financial shenanigans in Keystone when a new bank president brings in a team that develops some wild speculations and scams that are like a flashforward to the 2008 banking debacle. These bankers essentially steal money while making themselves popular with a system of civic giving– until the bubble bursts.

There is also a fascinating section that deserves a book of its own about how the schools of MacDowell county were run to educate a very few and hold down the rest. Here is a connection some scholar needs to make in detail-- between the willfully undereducated rural population and the children in our worst urban schools.

Stanley's book is not a blueprint for change, but it makes a strong beginning at analyzing an aspect of American culture that is often undervalued or even vilified: grassroots community organizing. He also honors the quiet volunteerism of people like his grandmother. To connect the church lady with her charities and the loud mouth activist creatively starting trouble is perhaps the single most brilliant insight of this book.

                                                                                    --Meredith Sue Willis



... includes Arnold Bennett's OLD WIVES TALE on the Kindle after reading about it in THE ART OF TIME IN FICTION by Joan Silber; also, after a suggestions in Silber's excellent little book, a reread (also on the Kindle) of TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf.
Some speedy light reading at home and away for the week-end: LITTLE CRIMINALS by Gene Kerrigan (Irish crime) and my first Michael Connelly, a noirish Los Angeles cop novel THE CLOSERS.
Back to the Kindle: RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE by Zane Grey, my all-time childhood favorite, which I knew in the form of a comic! The the comic book version skipped the strong anti-Mormon tone of the novel– all cowboy, all fun!
Bennett, Zane Grey, Virginia Woolf-- all free for e-readers and other devices at the inimitable Project Gutenberg.



Laura Treacy Bentley on the late Ray Bradbury at .



I confess that, traveling daily on the New York subway, I often find myself peering over fellow travelers' shoulders to see what they're reading. That's a pretty harmless and anonymous invasion of their privacy, isn't it?

But maybe I should mend my ways. Tom Tivnan, an editor of the Brit magazine The Bookseller, says that sales of soft porn and romance e-book titles are suddenly rocketing there because, as one newspaper says, "there is far less risk of being caught … with such material."

"The e-reader is the new brown paper bag," Tivnan says.

Wondering whither this phenomenon is confined to the UK, I Googled "Erotic Books USA," and the sources seemed endless. I stopped counting at 50 entries.


See John's blog-- it contains about two dozen of his short stories and articles. The current post "A Taste of Sherri" is about a seduction... or is it? .





I didn't watch the History Channel/Kevin Costner version, but Phyllis Wilson Moore says it is for sale as a DVD. She also says, "It will provoke as much discussion as DANCING OUTLAW (The piece about a Jessco White and the fightin', feudin' Whites of Webster County, WV] but perhaps in a more benign way. I give it a thumbs up as, like CRUM, it captures the truth. Every book about the feud was checked out of Bridgeport Library yesterday. "

Phyllis goes ahead to suggest some serious nonfiction on the feud: "If you want to read what I consider the best nonfiction about the feud," writes Phyllis, "get THE TALE OF THE DEVIL: THE BIOGRAPHY OF DEVIL ANSE HATFIELD. It was written by Dr. Coleman C. Hatfield and based on his father, Coleman A.'s manuscripts and research. Coleman A. was the son of William Anderson "Cap" Hatfield (Cap was the most military and capable of Anse's sons).

"The mini-series should have mentioned that during the feud when 'Cap' and Jonse had to hide out for awhile, Cap changed his name and went to law school. He came back to try to do 'court' and contract details and the feud was still going on. If my family had as many professionals in it I'd take out outdoor advertising! In great handfuls, the Hatfields became senators, governors, doctors, lawyers, etc.

"One fun thing about the Hatfields, they loved to name their numerous children after ancestors and that is one reason they also used fun labels such as Devil Anse and Preacher Anse. They referred to the past ancestor they recalled best as "Eph of All" as he was the father of (I think) 18 kids and every generation named one or more Eph. I think that is sweet."


For a good (and pretty accurate) fictional version if the feud, Phyllis recommends– and I agree!– a brand new novel about the feud, THE DEVIL'S SON by Anne Black Gray ( . Black is herself a native of West Virginia and also a descendant of the Hatfield family. In her novel, I especially like the part where Cap goes to Law School in Tennessee, his culture schock, and his intelligence and willingness to work, and also the complex relationship between him and Pappy ("Devil Anse"). Women characters in the novel are secondary but sharply drawn, but the story telling really aces it.











BIG NEWS! Last issue's guest editor, Marc Harshman, has just been appointed poet laureate of West Virginia.  He replaces the late Irene McKinney.



Madeline Tiger is reading Thursday, July 9 at 6:00 P at the Cornelia Street Cafe, 29 Cornelia Street, NYC. Admission is $7 (includes a glass of wine). She'll be reading from From the Viewing Stand and from The Atheist's Prayer (Dos Madres Press). Also reading will be Rosaly Roffman.


Accepting short fiction & poetry, creative nonfiction, interviews, social justice concerns, spiritual insights for GINOSKO LITERARY JOURNAL. Editorial lead time 1-2 months; accept simultaneous submissions & reprints; length flexible, accept excerpts. Receives postal submissions & email—prefer email submissions as attachments in Microsoft Works Word Processor, Rich Text Format or Word. Copyright reverts to author. Read year-round. Publishing as semiannual ezine. Check downloadable issues on website for tone & style,

ON BARCELONA is "On the prowl for work--poems, prose, images, what have you." Send submissions to Halvard Johnson at, but take a look at On Barcelona first at .
Tayari Jones' book THE SILVER SPARROW is now out in paperback.
BARBARA CROOKER 's poem, "Gratitude," was the poem of the day on Your Daily Poem today: poem was part of a special issue on food at RED BOOTH REVIEW .
HANNAH BROWN has a new novel called IF I COULD TELL YOU about mothers raising children with autism. I'll be reviewing this in an upcoming issue, but it is based on her own experiences as the mother of two autistic sons. See . Here's a link to Hannah's recent "Modern Love" column from the New York Times, and she also published a piece after Maurice Sendak's death called "Where the Wild Things Are .":


Coming soon: TWO WAYS OF NOT HEARING by REAMY JANSEN from Finishing Line Press . Look in "Bookstore" at "pre-order forthcoming titles." "Secrets we've never heard before," says Dan Masterson, and Kevin Prufer calls it a "terrific collection...intriguing, deeply intelligent."




NAOMI REPLANSKY'S COLLECTED POEMS is forthcoming Summer 2012 from Black Sparrow Books (an imprint of David R. Godine Publisher; ISBN 978-1-57423-215-8). Available for pre-ordering.

"Nominated for the National Book Award in 1952, Naomi Replansky's first book Ring Song dazzled critics with its candor and freshness of language. Here at long last is the new and collected work of a lifetime by a writer hailed as "one of the most brilliant American poets" by George Oppen.

Replansky is a poet whose verse combines the compression of Emily Dickinson, the passion of Anna Akhmatova, and the music of W.H. Auden. These poems, which Marie Ponsot calls "sixty years of a free woman's song," are Replansky's hymns to the struggle for justice and equality and to the enduring beauty of life in our dangerous world."



Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 154

July 28, 2012

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MSW News: I now have five e-books with three publishers, $1.99 and up. The City Built of Starships is at Amazon and Nook , and if you want to support indie publishing, you can also buy them at You can also find the Blair Morgan trilogy at all three places. Out of the Mountains is available as Kindle and Nook only.



In this Issue:

If I Could Tell You by Hannah Brown

A Special Request to Readers

The E-Reader Report with John Birch

David Weinberger on New Jersey's Turnpike Witch

Marc Harshman on Thomas Merton

Announcements and More

Good Reading Online

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To create a link to this newsletter, use this permanent link .

For Back Issues, click here.


I really liked If I Could Tell You by Hannah Brown. It is at once quick-paced realistic novel about a year in the lives of four families with autistic children and a primer on resources and challenges and therapies for such families. Brown seamlessly mixes information with story in a way that is natural and entertaining. Her characters are drawn together to attend a support group, and they read and discuss a different volume on autism each month. Meanwhile, of course, they live their lives, love their children, have crises, have affairs, break up with their spouses– and sometimes get back together. There is an intra-family kidnaping, several reconciliations, and lots of extremely well-dramatized material about current debates on how to approach and treat autism. If I Could Tell You is that extremely unusual genre, a successful and moving didactic novel. You learn a lot, but mostly you live passionately with the characters.

They are New Yorkers, including an Israeli immigrant married into an Italian family from Brooklyn and a young "Russian" model from Brighton Beach. Some are affluent; some are barely making it. One of the main characters is an extremely high-powered publishing professional. The children vary from high functioning to those who may need care all their lives. The therapies dramatized range from rigid behavioral methods to gluten free diets to chelation therapy for cleaning toxic elements from the child's system.

Brown, a native New Yorker herself, now lives in Israel with her two sons and is a professional journalist (the New York Post, film critic for the Jerusalem Post-- see samples of her journalism below.). She has an admirable ability and facility with communicating facts, but the reason to read this book is how smoothly and deeply it goes into its people. By the time I got to the final third of the novel, I was hurrying away from meals to get back to reading.

Also, it repeatedly surprises. The least likable of the women starts out as a sort of Anna Wintour/ Devil Wears Prada wannabe. She is ambitious, cold, committed to cutting her losses, and finds it very hard to deal with her hyperactive, autistic, adopted daughter. How she changes, and how much she changes, is one of the novel's delights. Another character, the former model, who also owns a club, still thinks getting a man is what she really wants. She has painfully low self-esteem and almost gets her child killed through an attempt at a medical quick-fix for his autism. The Israeli character has not one but two autistic sons and a fascinatingly fraught and interesting relationship with the mother of her ex-husband. Each character is interesting and– without any false optimism– moving in an upbeat direction by the end of the novel.

I don't know that this novel was written as high art, but frankly, I don't care. It tells its story and conveys its information beautifully and smoothly. Read it for the story; come out uplifted and informed. It may feel more Charles Dickens than James Joyce, but while readers admire Joyce, they adore Dickens.

                                                                                    --Meredith Sue Willis




I read Chinua Achebe's THINGS FALL APART. What a beautifully structured novel, and now I have two more of his books to read. I turned to Achebe after reading Isak Dineson's OUT OF AFRICA, which I liked, but felt uncomfortable about– it is a beautiful book in so many ways, and you feel why she loves the Kenyan land and the landscape, and the animals, and the various ethnic and tribal groups. The problem is that she seems to love it all equally, and with a vast sense of possessiveness.  She never seems to question why people who have lived for generations on "her" farm are called "squatters." There is a fierceness to her passion for the hills and air and Kikuyu people and Somali people and Masai and lions, but I kept recoiling from her sense of entitlement. It taught me a lot about the way an aristocracy feels its obligations as well as its supremacy. It's a beautiful book in many ways, but I was thankful to turn to Achebe for a sense of the complexity and interior lives of people in a different part of Africa.

Another book I'd meant to read for a long time came up as a cheap summer special for Amazon Kindle was Ron Kovic's BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY. It starts and ends with the firefight in Vietnam in which he was gravely wounded, and in between charts his journey from gung ho Marine boy to partially paralyzed anti-war activist. He also writes nostalgic memories of boys playing sports and playing war in America's 1950's, and he doesn't stint on the description of daily life for someone with a high paralysis: the depressions and frustrations and daily jobs like removing fecal matter. It is good to know he is still alive, still advocating for soldiers and against war.

Perhaps because it's summer, I've also been reading murder stories. Away for the week-end, I read a page-turner called THE FIFTH WITNESS by Michael Connelly– a best seller that seemed good at the time, but now I have trouble remembering what it was about.

I also read my first and second P.D. James novels, and was, to tell the truth, pretty disappointed. DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLY is set in the early nineteenth century years of of Elizabeth's marriage to Darcy. I think I assumed the sleuth would be Elizabeth, but it was Darcy instead. The best part was the introduction, which is a lively update on the characters from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, as seen by minor characters and village people.

COVER HER FACE is a 1962 novel of James in which I just couldn't care much for the people, except the lively victim who turned out to be a real a piece of work, and had far more juice in her than the living characters.

Which brings me to the final murder novel, Alice Sebold's THE LOVELY BONES, which I had resisted for a long time, just because there was a period when everyone was talking about it. I did read and admire her baldly-told rape memoir LUCKY.  What surprised me about THE LOVELY BONES (told from the point of view of a brutally murdered girl now looking down from her personal heaven) was its soft focus, its occasionally sentimental tying up of loose ends. Heaven is nicely invented, and the idea of both the living unable to let the dead go and of the dead unable to let go of living is worked through in such a way that it feels to me like a fantasy novel. The dead girl (SPOILER ALERT!!!) comes back briefly, borrowing the body of her ghost-obsessed friend in order to have sex with the boy who first kissed her. The best parts for me are the fantasy speculation about heaven and also the very realistic way in which there is no single dramatic confrontation with the killer. The painstaking police work never quite catches him, but it does gradually identify him. The murder itself is told at the beginning and is grim, but over quickly, like a painful medical procedure. The novel then is mostly about love and loss. I got tearful when the faithful family dog joins the girl in heaven, but in the end, it's a sentimental novel build on wish fulfillment.




Most fiction is crap. Often the plot is arbitrary or unsurprising. More often, you can see the author's plans behind the writing: The author needs a brainy nerd, a wisecracking minor character, a mysterious presence, someone with the key to the jalopy. Whatever. The characters, the plot, the entire mess feels constructed. Which is usually the opposite of art. (This is certainly true of my pathetic stabs at fiction.) Then, of course, there are the magicians. John Updike could make you feel you were inhabiting a real person within a single paragraph. I'm reading Philip Roth's Nemesis now, and while I often find Roth's world unpleasant to live in, I find myself in that world without any sense of Roth standing between it and me.

So, meet Brad Abruzzi. Brad was a Berkman Fellow last year, and we hit it off. Brad was also a lawyer in Harvard's Office of the General Counsel, and I got to know him in that capacity since he was a silent hero in the effort to negotiate the freedom of 12M+ bibliographic records from Harvard Library. He has since moved to MIT, which is too bad for Harvard. I like Brad a lot. But I had no idea, none at all, that he is a fiction writer whose work is the opposite of crap. You wouldn't know it to look at him, but the guy can write. Of course, I don't know what I would expect a good fiction writer to look like, short of a beret and a thick coat of pretension.

I downloaded Brad's novel NEW JERSEY'S FAMOUS TURNPIKE WITCH with trepidation, figuring I'd have to say something nice to him about it while technically salvaging my integrity through some clever, noncommittal choice of words. But NJFTPW is just wonderful.

I'm only 70% through, and I'll let you know how the whole thing goes, but I'm loving it so far. Brad has created a skewed world in which the NJ Turnpike is its own realm, with its own culture, sociology, and politics. The fulcrum of the story is Alice, a performance artist who — implausibly, until you realize that this is not the NJ Turnpike you're used to driving — is beloved by the long lines of cars she ties up with her antics. The story is brimming with characters, none stock, most somewhat over-the-top, each richly imagined and each with her or his own unexpected history — funny short stories on their own.

Brad, it turns out, is endlessly inventive. You would never ever read back from this book and figure it was probably written by a Harvard-MIT lawyer. This is a really good book. Once you give into its absurd premises, it follows a logic that makes sense as it unfolds. It's funny, satiric, frequently hilarious, and full of sentences you'll re-read because they're that enjoyable. Holy cow, Brad! Holy holy cow. (From David Weinberger's blog)





There is a lovely new "gift-book" edition of Thomas Merton's thoughts on Eastern meditation edited and with an introduction by Bonnie Thurston (New Directions, NY, 2012).  Dr. Thurston is a native West Virginian whose many books of theology and poetry I fear have not been given the due they deserve, certainly not in her home state. She is superbly qualified to have gathered this work on Merton as not only the editor of the seminal MERTON AND BUDDHISM, but as the past president of the International Thomas Merton Society. It is a friendly 'little' book – palm-sized and seventy-five pages in length – and handsomely produced by New Directions, original publishers of so much great poetry since the 1930's including several of Merton's own collections. The volume itself is divided into sections on Landscape, Teaching, and Practice and draws from both Merton's books and journals, as well as his poems. Thurston's succinct introduction is masterful in the way she places Merton within the context of authentic Christian faith and a profound and nearly life-long affection and respect for the religious traditions and practices of Mother Asia.

It is those who acquire inordinate possessions for themselves and defend them against others, who make it necessary for the others to steal to make a living.

No writing on the solitary, meditative dimensions of life can not say anything that has not already been said better by the wind in the pine trees.

These are just two of the many pithy statements to be found in this deliciously insightful book, a book I warmly recommend.


[Fans of Merton may also wish to note the simultaneous publication by New Directions of THOMAS MERTON ON CHRISTIAN CONTEMPLATION, edited by Paul M. Pearson.]





Eddy Pendarvis recommends Gurney Norman's KINFOLKS. "It's a collection of short stories, though, not a memoir or novel. 'Night Ride' and 'Fat Monroe' from that collection were made into films by Appalshop."



Gerald Swick recommends RIN-TIN-TIN, THE LIFE AND THE LEGEND. He says he enjoyed this "more than any other I've read in the last couple of years. If you have any interest in dogs, the early movie industry or the early television industry, you ought to look into it. It's also just a good read."









Everyone's asking when public libraries will be dragged into the third millennium and make e-books – and even e-readers – available to their members. You probably know that the main problem is that some major US publishers, including big names such as Random House and Harper Collins, are refusing to make their books available.

But one huge publisher, Penguin Group, is leading the way. In a joint venture with 3M Library Systems, it's launching a pilot project that will make Penguin Group books available to members of both The New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library. And if the pilot is successful it will be rolled out across the US.

The pilot will begin in August, and library users will be able to access e-books with "public library-compatible reading devices. Titles will only be available six months after their publication date, giving booksellers "first dibs."

Penguin, a part of Pearson plc, has imprints that include Viking, Putnam, Penguin Press, Portfolio, Riverhead, New American Library, Dutton, Puffin, and others. 3M Library Systems, electronic book distributors, provides sophisticated tracking and security systems, and the technological know-how behind the e-book phenomenon.


See John's blog-- it contains about two dozen of his short stories and articles. The current post "A Taste of Sherri" is about a seduction... or is it? .



Deborah Clearman has a story in GREEN HILLS LITERARY LANTERN
Barbara Crooker's late August tomato poem is at
HANNAH BROWN, whose novel IF I COULD TELL YOU is reviewed above, also has some good recent journalism online. See her recent "Modern Love" column from the New York Times, and her piece after Maurice Sendak's death called "Where the Wild Things Are ."



Ardian Gill and others have photograph in the PAI Members' Photography Exhibit t Weill Cornell Medical Library, 1300 York Avenue at 68th Street in New York City. The exhibit is open July 23 - September 12. Reception Wednesday, September 12th, 5 to 7 PM


Deborah Clearman and others will be at La Casa Azul Bookstore, Thursday, September 13, 6:00 pm, La Casa Azul Bookstore, 143 East 103rd Street, New York, NY to celebrate this vibrant new independent bookstore in El Barrio—grounded in Latino culture.


MOBIUS CONTEST SUBMISSIONS extended to JULY 31, 2012 -- Queens-based MOBIUS, THE POETRY MAGAZINE 2012 Seeks Superior Poetry for 30th Anniversary Issue. Guidelines for contest submission & themes on website. .


MAIN STREET RAG PUBLISHING COMPANY is publishing one of Valerie Nieman's short stories in KEEPING TRACK. The book is scheduled for release this December and will sell for $14.95, but you can get it now for only $8.50 + shipping by placing an Advance Discount order from the Main Street Rag Online Bookstore at .


Also! Valerie's novel BLOOD CLAY is the winner of the 2012 Eric Hoffer Award in General Fiction.... called "a great American novel" by the AMERICAN BOOK REVIEW.


Juanita Torrence-Thompson's Recent Publications include poems in Spillway Magazine #18, Summer 2012; the June issue of "First Literary Review-East," edited by Cindy Hochman & Karen Neuberg (see Juanita's poems are also published in her weekly online and print poetry column in THE CULVERT CHRONICLES IN NY.


NEW BOOK! E. Lee North has a new book out, RUN, RUN, RUN! THE 1941 DIARY OF A DEAF LONG ISLAND TEENAGER:



Coming soon: TWO WAYS OF NOT HEARING by REAMY JANSEN from Finishing Line Press . Look in "Bookstore" at "pre-order forthcoming titles." "Secrets we've never heard before," says Dan Masterson, and Kevin Prufer calls it a "terrific collection...intriguing, deeply intelligent."


NAOMI REPLANSKY'S COLLECTED POEMS is forthcoming Summer 2012 from Black Sparrow Books (an imprint of David R. Godine Publisher; ISBN 978-1-57423-215-8). Available for pre-ordering.

"Nominated for the National Book Award in 1952, Naomi Replansky's first book Ring Song dazzled critics with its candor and freshness of language. Here at long last is the new and collected work of a lifetime by a writer hailed as "one of the most brilliant American poets" by George Oppen.

Replansky is a poet whose verse combines the compression of Emily Dickinson, the passion of Anna Akhmatova, and the music of W.H. Auden. These poems, which Marie Ponsot calls "sixty years of a free woman's song," are Replansky's hymns to the struggle for justice and equality and to the enduring beauty of life in our dangerous world."






I'm working on expanding my list of novels that have some serious political content and/or public effect but are also acceptably literary. Nineteenth century examples would include Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and Émile Zola's Germinal as well as, perhaps, Henry Adams's Democracy and Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South.

Twentieth and twenty-first century examples would be Richard Wright's Native Son and Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible.   Other writers who can might fit on the list would include Orwell, Saramago, Sherman Alexie, and Toni Morrison.

Would you include historical novels like Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and perhaps Follett's The Fall of Giants? How about All the King's Men and The Help? How badly written can a novel be and still be valuable if its heart is in the right place? How about beautifully written novels about politics that are deeply cynical? (I'm thinking All the King's Men here).

Please help me out on this– cast your bucket widely into the waters and give me a line about why you suggested what you did.

And thank you!




Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 155

August 30, 2012

It looks better online!
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      Herta Muller              John Douglas Thompson       Jayne Anne Phillips             J. McHenry Jones


News: The Writer Magazine Has a New Owner


In this Issue:

Reader Suggestions for Political Literature

The E-Reader Report with John Birch

Announcements and More

Good Reading Online

Satchmo at the Waldorf

Wanchee Wang Reviews father's day by Buzz Bissinger

Free e-mail subscription to this newsletter.

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For Back Issues, click here.


In response to my last issue's request for well-written works that are serious as literature and also have political impact, several people sent excellent suggestions and lists. Jane Lazarre wrote, " If you like [Chinua] Achebe, you will find his essays about literature wonderful and eye opening– especially the early one, HOPES AND IMPEDIMENTS. Also the other novels."

Pamela Erens began with Achebe too, and said, "I love WHEN THINGS FALL APART; I think it's just an amazing novel, [and]  I think Jonathan Franzen's FREEDOM is a terrific book– there's quite a bit of political content (feminism, Iraq, the environment, population control) and it's of high literary quality. The political content ranges from gently to highly satirical, but I think that makes it particularly effective– what goes down with humor works its way into your system before you know it. Franzen is clearly a lefty and yet he makes it clear that the left doesn't have a lock on virtue or common sense or effectiveness."

Pamela goes on to say, "I tried reading WOLF HALL [by Hilary Mantel]. I know some people love it, and it's been treated as a literary novel, but I don't think it is one. The characters are interesting only externally, and there's nothing particularly great about the language."   For more on WOLF HALL, see my comments at

Leora Skolkin-Smith suggested the work of Nobel Laureate Herta Muller: "She is absolutely breath-taking and won the Nobel Prize a year or so ago. Her work is about her life behind the Iron Curtain and is terrifying, expresses personal desperation, hunger, and political oppression under the Soviet dictatorship. She's a magician, truly, making us feel what that life was like during the Cold war." Skolkin-Smith also suggests Christa Wolf and Efriede Jelinek "also a Nobel Prize winner, who expresses political tensions through sexual imagery and language in contemporary Germany. I am deeply saddened that these extraordinary writers, hailed in Europe never seem to find their way into American bookstores..I know I have learned more from them as a writer than any others."


Phyllis Wilson Moore gives us a list of books by writers from West Virginia and the Mountain South. Here is her list, with her comments:

1. LARK AND TERMITE by Jayne Anne Phillips is as much about the horror and futility of war as anything else. (See a discussion of this novel HERE)
2. MACHINE DREAMS is another futility of war novel by Phillips.
3. SCREAMING WITH THE CANNIBALS by Lee Maynard gives a birds-eye view of the Civil Right era and issue as they evolved. The county Myrtle Beach is in instigated a movement to end school segregation just as the time our young man was there messing around with the black beach and its residents, etc.
4. EMILY'S GHOST by Denise Giardina has much to do with women's rights and the abuse of the working class.
5. The novels you mentioned [in Issue # 154] all seem appropriate, especially THE HELP.
6. Nonfiction by a West Virginia author on the same subject is WHENCE COMETH MY HELP by Ethel Morgan Smith.
7. HEARTS OF GOLD by WV's J. McHenry Jones and WVU Press
8. I just finished ANGEL HEAD: MY BROTHER'S DESCENT INTO MADNESS by Greg Bottom. It's so truthful it hurts. It also shows the plight of trying to get help for the mentally ill. He's not a WV author but I forgive him.
9. James Joyce's PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST is an interesting take on one possible result of guilt-producing religiosity.
10. Your sit-in and VISTA novels [TRESPASSERS and ONLY GREAT CHANGES] qualify.
11. Denise Giardina's coal mine war novels [THE UNQUIET EARTH and STORMING HEAVEN] seem to fit.
12. SISTERS OF SILENCE by Darleen Berry is a new WV novel about wife abuse--both sexual and physical.
13. LIFE IN THE IRON MILLS by Rebecca Harding Davis is about the mistreatment of the iron mill laborers. Davis also wrote WAITING FOR THE VERDICT about racial issues and PUT OUT OF THE WAY about the treatment of the mentally ill.
14. BLAKE OR THE HUTS OF AMERICA by Martin R. Delany was said to be his answer to the pacifism in UNCLE TOM'S CABIN.
15. Hawk's Nest by Hubert Skidmore is misuse of laborers and cover-up.
16. BOGEYWOMAN by Jaimy Gordon is about the institutalization of a young girl because she is a lesbian.
17. ALL THE BRAVE PROMISES is Mary Lee Settles memoir of her disillusionment and service in World War II. THE SCAPEGOAT is her novel re the treatment of immigrants in the mining camps.


Finally, some notes from Janet Mackenzie: "In terms of historical novels, no [book] is better, more persuasive, nor more beautifully written than Louis de Berniere's BIRDS WITHOUT WINGS, which details the idiocy of forced repatriation after WWI of Greeks who had been living in Turkey and Turks who had lived in Greece. Moreover, it creates at least fifty characters, twenty of them memorable, who depict the gentle love which exists in a town in Turkey which is half Christian and half Muslim. He exposes the barbarism of sharia law, the wisdom and kindness of the local imam, the nobility and treachery of several citizens.

"I recently reread ALL THE KING'S MEN and think it's a major work, not only in giving us an insight into the life of the coastal South of the time but also in studying the rise and fall of an essentially decent man. That power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely as Burke observed, is borne out in this work. The more I read, hear and learn about politics the more I see the inherent corruption which surrounds it....The business of politics makes me chary. The caustic narrator in ALL THE KING'S MEN, who never did anything with his own life, does bother me. Learning the lie of one's father's paternity must have crippling force on a person, but the Greeks taught us that love is complicated and betrayal is not always premeditated.

"I liked THE HELP and thought the way Stockett told the story was very effective. It recalled the fifties, with its preoccupation with what people thought perfectly. The deeply embedded racism which could engender the idea of separate toilets struck a responsive note. I remember my shock, traveling to Baltimore, and seeing 'Whites Only' signs at the water fountain of the drive-in movie. Even in the sixties when civil rights movements began to gather strength, people were sure they were Communist inspired.

"I haven't ever read Sherman Alexie, and it's been so many years for Richard Wright, (in college), fifty odd years ago, that I can't comment in any detail. I do remember reading BLACK BOY and being shocked by the killing of the rat with a frying pan and the story of driving as a chauffeur in (Chicago)?... the book struck so many chords when I read it.

"I've just finished THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DEZOET, which details the life in the Dutch East India company in Nagasaki in the late 1700's. The reader learns of plots and scheme in business as well as medical practices of the time. The author points out the disparity between the avowed belief in the Dutch Reformed branch of Christianity, with decidedly unchristian behavior among the Dutch businessmen, just as Melville points out the huge disparity between the Quaker religion of the ship's owner of the Pequot and his willingness to pay a decent wage to the men who worked and risked their lives aboard her. In fact, MOBY DICK is one of the great historical novels, with so many philosophical questions about the nature of man and of making a living. After numerous descriptions of the types of whales and the behavior of them and of men, he gives us a brutal picture of the act of killing whales. That men were god-fearing was one thing, that they despoiled nature to make a living is another. Melville is very clear about showing that Queequeg is more manly and civilized than Ishmael, as he offers the hospitality of his room, shares his fortune with a virtual unknown, and suffers fools with restraint when he could easily kill them. That he dives overboard to save a man who has ridiculed him says it all. I love the way he uses passages from Lear, Hamlet and Macbeth to inspire the stream of consciousness of Ahab."


Thanks to one and all for these suggestions and comments.

As always, I welcome more reviews, comments, suggestions on all kinds of books.


                                                                                      --Meredith Sue Willis





In father’s day, bestselling author Buzz Bissinger embarks on a road trip with his adult savant son. Zach was born 13 weeks premature and three minutes after his twin brother. Because of those three minutes, his brain was deprived of oxygen, rendering him borderline mentally disabled (his twin suffered developmental delays but is now a school teacher and leads an independent life). He undertakes this trip in an effort to understand his son, to “crack through the surface into his soul.”

He writes with brutal candor about his efforts to come to terms with his son’s condition: “Why sugarcoat it? My son is mentally retarded. Because of three fucking minutes.” One wonders whether it is Bissinger’s very drive for success that made it that much more difficult for him to accept his son’s disabilities. He is the bestselling author of Friday Night Lights, which sold two million copies and was made into a film and an acclaimed TV series; he has won a Pulitzer Prize. Having grown up in a high-achieving family (his maternal grandfather founded Lebenthal & Co., a municipal bond firm) and summered on Nantucket with other successful families, his “…whole life pivoted on success.”

Written with unflinching honesty, the book does not always show Bissinger in a favorable light. He is impatient, easily angered, and curiously lacking in self-control. It is his self-awareness that saves him from being totally unsympathetic: when planning their trip, he wonders whether this plan is “…a selfish one, a classic example of a father forcing his imprint on his son and creating an experience that only becomes memorable because both parties spend a lifetime unsuccessfully trying to forget it.” In the end, he does recognize the limits of a life based on the dogged pursuit of success: “We normally associate success with intellect and riches and status…Up until this trip, that was my own definition.”   It is a revealing read into the heart and mind of a parent of a child with disabilities.







My wife and I recently lost two Kindles, first mine, and then hers. I left mine in the gym, where some kind soul handed it in to the desk. After that I glued polite little "please return" messages inside the covers of both machines with our names, phone number and e-mail address. It worked. A week or two later, my wife left hers on a Greyhound bus, on our way home to Manhattan after a visit to Ithaca. It wasn't long before we had a call from a kind hearted young lady in Philadelphia, who'd nearly sat on it. Here's another word to the unwary. A friend of ours, Frank, deleted his Nook's password because he grew tired of typing it in all the time. Big mistake! He left it in the airport lounge in Istanbul. He hadn't put his name and address in it, either, so the finder's probably enjoying all those books Frank was looking forward to reading.



See John's blog-- it contains about two dozen of his short stories and articles-- .



I don't write a lot about theater in this newsletter, but this is my favorite company and my favorite actor. We have been going to see Shakespeare productions at Shakespeare & Company in Western Massachusetts for more than thirty years, and my son can remember a performance of Midsummer Night's Dream he saw when he was maybe three years old (out-of-doors on the grounds of the Edith Wharton mansion). He still quotes Jonathan Croy as Bottom showing how he can act, falling on the floor shouting, "I die! I die!" And he still loves Shakespeare, thanks to the humor and the speeches spoken so trippingly on the tongue by that excellent company.

My favorite actor in recent years has been one of the Shakespeare & Company stalwarts, the splendid John Douglas Thompson who was a terrific Edmund who pretty much stole the King Lear he was in, and a much-praised Othello. Two years ago, he did Richard III with enough sex appeal that you actually believed the wives of people he killed might consider marrying him.

This year, he is performing in a contemporary play, Satchmo at the Waldorf  by theater critic and biographer Terry Teachout. Thompson does Louis Armstrong, but also Armstrong's agent Joe Glaser, plus a little bit of Miles Davis (standing stiff, in a spotlight, accusing Armstrong of being an Uncle Tom). With all these changes, and a full ninety minutes or more alone on stage, this production is a real showcase for John Douglas Thompson. One person shows have never been my favorite-- what I love most about theater is the multi-voicedness of it, the many things happening at once. Thus I've always liked a crowded stage with lots of battles and supernumeraries and extra fairies and witches. In theater, unlike the movies, you are experiencing something that can never happen again quite like this. There is a near-religious calling down of powers in good theater that is not the same as the dream-like movie or my own art form, the novel, with its world that depends on the reader's ability to imagine. Sure, you have to suspend some disbelief in theater, but you are really, really there. Something real is happening.

And John Douglas Thompson is what is happening here as he channels two terrific characters. It is a fully peopled play, with different voices speaking to one another, indirectly but powerfully. He is forehead-wrinkled and Southern with a slight dipping limp when he is the aging Armstrong. For the Miles Davis vignettes, his forehead seems to broaden. But maybe the most astounding turn was when he became the guilty, worldly, foul-mouthed Joe Glaser, pacing the front of the stage, trying to explain and justify his relationship to Armstrong.

Complaints? I don't know, do I have to make any? I had trouble hearing some of the softer parts, especially Miles Davis, but this is probably my faulty hearing: a shame though, because I didn't want to miss a word.





If you're in the Yellow Springs, Ohio, area, consider Ed Davis's informal facilitated writing group in his Yellow Springs home. This is for writers interested in doing deep revision on works of fiction, creative nonfiction and memoir. The focus will be on producing good drafts, rather than finished products, and learning the difference between major reconstruction versus mere proofreading. The workshop will be small—between six and eight—and will meet every other Wednesday for two hours, 7-9:00 p.m. Sessions will run from September 12 until November 21, a total of 6 for $75. (Meeting dates are 9/12, 9/26, 10/10, 10/24, 11/7 and 11/21). If interested, send a brief statement to Ed's e-mail ( explaining why you'd like to be in a workshop that stresses process over product. He'll then give further instructions.







Some readers and writers I know have an online book discussion group. Linked here is their shared conversation about Jayne Anne Phillips's LARK AND TERMITE. CLICK HERE to read the discussion – names changed to provide privacy!
















Here is an excellent story by Sondra Spatt Olsen published online for the first time: "The Sigh of the Hard-Pressed Creature" at . This journal is putting neglected wonderful writing from small magazines online for contemporary readers.
Check out Dolly Withrow's essay "With Age Comes Knowledge to Share with Young" from the Charleston Daily Mail about teaching young people when you are no longer young– and also about how to use the grammatical passive voice!
Dolly also has a funny/touching story of interspecies friendship at
Children's artist and writer Peter Brown has a vimeo online about his newest project, CREEPY CARROTS -- for the kids and you too!
If you missed it, here's a survey of the ins-and-outs of self-publishing:




Yorker Kageyama's manuscript THE OTHER LA BOHÈME has been named a semi-finalist in the 2012 William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition of the Pirates Alley Faulkner Society of New Orleans. See the list of semi-finalists at


Yorker recommends the competition. The contest for 2013 will be announced shortly. He also recommends including notice of any awards of commendations of your work to agents who are considering your work. He had an agent ask for a full manuscript after he emailed her with news of his book being a semi-finalist in this contest!


Marie Manilla's new novel, SHRAPNEL, is out. There will be a Book Launch Party at Empire Books in Huntington, WV on Friday, Sept. 14th from 6:00pm – 9:00pm. Wine, noshes, and music provided. Everyone is welcome. SHRAPNEL is also available directly from the publisher at, as well as Learn more at http://


Leora Skolkin-Smith's novel HYSTERA has just won the 2012 Global E-book Award for multicultural literature! For more, see


Ardian Gill and others have photograph in the PAI Members' Photography Exhibit t Weill Cornell Medical Library, 1300 York Avenue at 68th Street in New York City. The exhibit is open July 23 - September 12. Reception Wednesday, September 12th, 5 to 7 PM .


Deborah Clearman and others will be at La Casa Azul Bookstore, Thursday, September 13, 6:00 pm, La Casa Azul Bookstore, 143 East 103rd Street, New York, NY to celebrate this vibrant new independent bookstore in El Barrio—grounded in Latino culture.


NAOMI REPLANSKY'S COLLECTED POEMS is forthcoming Summer 2012 from Black Sparrow Books (an imprint of David R. Godine Publisher; ISBN 978-1-57423-215-8). Available for pre-ordering.

"Nominated for the National Book Award in 1952, Naomi Replansky's first book Ring Song dazzled critics with its candor and freshness of language. Here at long last is the new and collected work of a lifetime by a writer hailed as "one of the most brilliant American poets" by George Oppen.

Replansky is a poet whose verse combines the compression of Emily Dickinson, the passion of Anna Akhmatova, and the music of W.H. Auden. These poems, which Marie Ponsot calls "sixty years of a free woman's song," are Replansky's hymns to the struggle for justice and equality and to the enduring beauty of life in our dangerous world."




MSW now has five books in e-book format from three different publishers, $1.99 and up. The City Built of Starships is at Amazon and Nook , and if you want to support indie publishing, you can also buy them at You can also find the Blair Morgan trilogy at all three places. Out of the Mountains is available as Kindle and Nook only.








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 .
Also take a look 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  -- mostly classics, but 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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#155 Buzz Bissinger; reader suggestions; Satchmo at the Waldorf
#154 Hannah Brown, Brad Abruzzi, Thomas Merton
#153 J.Anthony Lukas, Talmage Stanley's The Poco Fields, Devil Anse
#152 Marc Harshman guest editor; John Burroughs; Carol Hoenig
#151 Deborah Clearman, Steve Schrader, Paul Harding, Ken Follet, Saramago-- and more!
#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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