Books for Readers Archives #176- 180

Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 176

March 13, 2015

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In Books for Readers # 176:

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Trampoline: An Illustrated Novel by Robert Gipe

We the Animals    Gilead

Two Old Women   Lonesome Dove

Jane Eyre   The Ambassadors

Fumiko Enchi    Vera's Will

Readers Comment

E-Reader Report with John Birch

Things to Read & Hear Online

Announcements and News


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I took a walk today, the first sunny day over 30 degrees Fahrenheit in a long time, and I was mulling over this newsletter a little, and suddenly thought, out of the blue, "What a pleasure books have been to me!" Just a little moment of gratitude for all the journeys I've had with books. There is nothing for me like the pleasure of going into the world of a novel-- it lasts a long time, compared to, say, a movie, but I think, for me at least, what's most pleasurable is the way it plugs directly into my imagination. I do a lot of the work of creating the reading experience: I hear the voices, I imagine the faces, and that work makes the book much more mine than other media. And when I reread something I first read decades ago, it is like a new experience, but with extra depth.

I'm not going to say much this month about some genre books I enjoyed a lot-- except to recommend them: first, the Fool series by my new fave fantasist, Robin Hobb, and then Michael Nava's Henry Rios mysteries about a gay Mexican-American lawyer (The Little Death, Goldenboy, Howtown, The Hidden Law, The Death of Friends, The Burning Plain , Rag and Bone). The latter books have a wonderfully precise evoction of urban California during the height of the AIDS crisis.

I also will say relatively little about most of the highly reviewed and popular books I liked: one was Justin Torres's We the Animals, which I gobbled in a couple of hours. He says he writes word by word painstakingly slowly, and I believe it, because it is quite perfect, line by line. It's a kind of elegy for a dangerous and violent yet still somehow magical childhood.

Also popular and not needing my praise is I Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (and her new book set in Gilean, Lila, just wond the National Book Critics Circle award for 2015). Gilead had been on my mental list for a while, and I found it strong, slow, and moving. Indeed, it took a while for me to settle in to it, but I ended up teary-eyed. About the only thing James Wood missed in his excellent review in The New York Times is that the book is not really the story of one rather limited but kindly pastor– John Ames –bur rather the story of a town, Gilead, which has several other John Ameses– including the pastor's wild prophetic grandfather who rode with John Brown. I was also interested to find Gilead on a list of novels that are supposed to be both good literature and Christian friendly.

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Two Old Women by Velma Wallis, has apparently been a best seller, although I only recently heard of it. It is sometimes classified as a book for adults, sometimes for children, perhaps because it's so small. The writer is a Gwich'in Athabascan Indian, born in 1960. She hasn't published a lot. I looked for an image of her via Google, and one picture I found was of her a few years back speaking about one of her brothers who was homeless and burned to death.

I don't know her present world or her cultural past, but Two Old Women is wonderful. It is in the form of a legend told by a mother to a daughter. It tells of two elder-women left behind by their nomadic band to die during a time of extremely tight resources. They are not simply victims-- indeed, it turns out they have been demanding and lazy. They also have rich memories of their own lives and also of how to do things. They do extremely well on their own for a whole year, accumulating large stores of dried fish and meat, rabbit fur gloves and homemade coats. They are contacted again by their band, who are still starving, and there is guilt and distrust on all sides, and then a slow, painstaking reconciliation. Everyone learns respect, and the two old women learn not to expect always to be taken care of-- that they need to share their efforts and knowledge. This is a really interesting happy ending of a group experience rather than an individual one.

As long as Two Old Women is short, is a book about two old men: Larry McMurty's Lonesome Dove.  I was raised on cowboy movies and cowboy TV shows, and while I have criticisms of Lonesome Dove, I mostly just ate it up. The men characters are fighter-killer-drinker-whore-ers who are entertaining and amusing and incredibly hard- headed and often destructive and self-destructive. The two old men, former Texas Ranger partners Woodrow Call and Gus McCrae, are bored with their settled life near the Rio Grande River. They set off almost casually on a cattle drive to claim ranch land in Montana. This is at period at the end of the Comanche wars (the period detailed in the book about Quanah Parker book I reviewed recently ).

There's plenty of human evil– rape and death by gun, arrow, and hanging– as well as violent weather and wonderfully fierce animals: bison, grizzly bears, a nightmare of water moccasins. There are also lots of passages of crude humor, the sort of laughing at ugliness that men living in rough conditions seem to use to keep themselves sane. The book is thoroughly successful at what it sets out to do, in spite of my annoyance when my favorite characters start getting killed off in ways that sometimes feel manipulative (spoilers ensue): weak puppy-eyed Jake; heroic Deets; best point of view character, Gus. I assume McMurty is making a point here that anyone can go at any time (which can hardly be disputed), but he is also carrying out a plan for showing– however much he delights in his cowboys and Indians and rangers and whores– that this cattle drive and maybe the whole western expansion by Europeans over the North American continent was possibly ill-fated and maybe even meaningless.

It's probably significant that most of the survivors at the end, with one or two exceptions, are the least colorful-- that would be most of the women and a couple of relatively clueless men. It's a fine book, and during my reading, I kept waking up in the morning still thinking of it. For those of us who grew up with Gunsmoke and High Noon and Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, it fulfills an old craving.

For the rest of you, read it as a fine example of Americana.

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I also reread-- again!-- Jane Eyre, so important to me as a girl, and of renewed interested because a colleague of mine is writing a spin-off of it. It's been a hard winter here in the northeast, and a Victorian novel with the snow outside always hits the spot.

I enjoyed this adult reread hugely (I read it on my Kindle, but kept picturing the 1943 Fritz Eichenberg wood cuts that were in the first edition I read). It is just so entertainingly histrionic! Jane is so brave! She stands up to Mr. Rochester and of course he has to fall in love with her! And Mr. R. is such an entitled jerk when he's in his full strength, rich and playing unpleasant tricks on people. St. John Rivers is worse– he's the handsome cold fish who tries to drag Jane into a loveless marriage because he needs a female missionary companion and thinks she would be just the ticket. Really, the men are hopeless. Mr. R. barely passes muster at the end because he truly loves Jane, and, of course, he is by that point famously wounded and needy.

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My other reread was The Ambassadors by Henry James. It was written in 1903, and there is some reason to call it the first modern novel: it probably inspired Dorothy Richardson and her not-much-read (certainly not by me) stream-of-consciousness work which was, however, read by Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, both of whom almost certainly read The Ambassadors as well. There's a nice piece online in praise of its modernism at http://www.fractiousfiction.com/the_ambassadors.html.

I have to say it's a novel I've always admired more than loved. It's the story of an American, Lambert Strether, who is sent by the rich widow to whom he is affianced, to bring her adult son back from Europe where he is supposedly in the clutches of a fallen woman. Strether is determined to do right by his task, but he is also fully open to new impressions and beauty-- to Europe.

I can't say I am sympathetic to the leisure class preciousness of most of the characters, let alone their the highly developed manners and lavender gloves and collecting of bibelots. The story, though, has splendid sharp scenes, especially toward the end, as young Chad Newsome's future becomes pretty clear, and Mme. De Vionnet breaks down when she realizes she is going to lose him. Strether comments that in spite of how amazingly improved Chad is (more sophisticated, courteous, educated), he's still Chad-- which turns out to mean a young American man having his adventures before settling down to business. And really, who can blame him for wanting to do something active with his life?

The never-onstage Mrs. Newsome, Chad's mother, is wonderfully done: she is threatening and peremptory, and, in a brilliant touch, James has Strether decide that his only correct action is to go home with nothing for himself (he turns down an American expatriate's offer to make a nice life for him in Paris.) When Chad's sister and brother-in-law and a potential wife visit, the events are funny– The Ambassadors is, in fact, a much more humorous book than anyone gives it credit for.

When James stops elaborating mental states and recording long conversations and does scenes, you remember that he was first a powerful realist novelist, and that everything he is doing here is exactly what he means to do. It's a novel with terrific bones, and if I occasionally drifted away, I always came back. He himself rated The Ambassadors highest among his books. He told some stunned friends they should read 5 pages at a time, but read every day!

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                                                                                       Meredith Sue Willis

 

SHORT TAKES

Just Published!

Vera's Will covers the twentieth century with sweep and passion. It begins with the Kishinev pogrom and a family of Jewish immigrants to the United States. It is also the story of a woman's discovery she's a lesbian. The woman, Vera, has a devastating series of losses: she is removed from her lover, and her husband, when he discovers her sexual orientation, separates her from her beloved little sons. She spends much of her life in a misguided belief that she has to stay away from women as an alcoholic has to stay away from liquor. Vera's life is thus constrained and built on pain and loss, yet she is determined to be in her sons' lives in any way possible. She manages through sacrifice and loneliness also to maintain her self-respect and dignity.

Structurally, the novel balances Vera's story with that of her granddaughter Randy, who is a second half twentieth century woman who also discovers she is a lesbian, but in a time with more paths open to her. Randy's life is to some extent twisted too, not by who she loves, but by her formidably damaged father, the boy who suffered most from the exile of his mother. Randy survives and comes out as a Lesbian and an activist. Her childhood sections are terrific, and so is the depiction of the damage done to three generations by separating a lesbian mother from her sons.

I've rarely read better characters with deep flaws and admirable values. There is a happy ending in Randy's personal life, and a general hopefulness in the political future of all oppressed people. It's an exciting, excellent book. Get another opinion in the rave review in Library Journal that calls Vera's Will "powerful, superbly written" and "a breathtaking achievement."

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COMING SOON

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Trampoline: An Illustrated Novel by Robert Gipe came to me as an advanced reading copy, and I just flipped through a few pages, not expecting too much, and got sucked in before I knew what hit me. The illustrations, also by Robert Gipe, are little b&w images of narrator Dawn Jewell's face with a line of dialog or monologue. I don't know that they are necessary to the story, but they make an attractive punctuation.

The story is of a teenage girl caught up in the sometimes-violent antics of her trashy, drug-dealing junk-food-scarfing Kentucky family. Her voice is wonderful, and she relates one incident leading to the next in a way that seems to define the lives of the poorest: you have to do something to get some money, you have to do something to anesthetize your hopelessness, you get in an argument, you throw a punch, you end up in the emergency room or thrown out of school, you get released and still need the money and the anesthesia, and it all starts over again..

Happily, and quite realistically, the novel also has a strong sub-plot--or maybe super-plot-- about Dawn's grandmother being an organizer against mountaintop removal. There are brief organizing scenes, and a visit to the governor (an excellent scene in which Dawn gets a glimpse of how the world works at the top), and, while the people on Blue Boar mountain get a bit of a reprieve, this story is set at the end of the nineties, so we know that the mountains are still being beheaded. The limits to how far any individual's political efforts can go is realistic, and the political and personal are woven together extremely well.

At one point, Dawn talks about the dilemma of those who love the mountains but also tear them up to make a living:

"Those Coal miners who had been so good to me, who had loved me through my tree-hugging ways, needed mountains and woods more than any of us. They loved it here, and they had to tear it up to stay. The full hard hardness of their lot came down on me that winter night, and I knew maybe not them but other coal-mining people would be mad at me, would hate me, but after that night, I never was mad at them, not the ones who lived here with me, not the ones taking their own sorrow and joy from what was left of these trees, these rocks, these rustling waters." (P. 226)

Another thread is Dawn's search for a young radio DJ over a state line (to Kingsport, Tennessee) whose voice appeals to her. The whole novel is essentially Thanksgiving though the Christmas holidays with fights, oxytocin, moonshine, attempted suicide, possible murder or maybe just death, plus a little unsexy sex– it's a heartbreakingly real story, with an excellent use of contemporary Appalachian voices.

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The Waiting Years by Fumiko Enchi is about the family of a Japanese government official who is a  sort of anti-Prince Genji. Genji, the Shining Prince, is the hero of an eleventh century novel centering on the love affairs of a prince who seems remarkably always to keep his women happy, even when he takes a new lover: he builds new new wings to his palace for each beloved.

The Waiting Years is about a family where the women are notably not happy. The man forces his wife to find him the perfect concubine, then takes another, and eventually has an affair with his daughter-in-law.The long-suffering primary wife, Tomo, meanwhile, does all the family business. She collects rents, does accounts, and lives a grimly proper life shut out of any kind of affection. It is not a single point of view, but is mostly Tomo's story as she yearns for a particular kind of revenge– one that includes saving the family.

As in Enchi's other novel I read (see issue 172 ), I know I'm missing a lot of the subtleties of Japanese culture, and why certain things that seem like no biggie to me are shocking to the characters. Sex, pregnancy, even hemorrhoids, however, are treated with practicality.

Tomo's dilemma, and that of the other women in the household, moves me, even when I don't always quite get why.

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READER COMMENTS

Phyllis Moore writes: "Crystal Wilkinson's book list ( in the Extra to Issue # 175) is a snapshot of classic books by Appalachian African American authors. She included poets, biographers, historians, and novelist. BLACKS IN APPALCHIA and BEETLECREEK are both excellent jumping off points for readers interested in an accurate view of life as it was and as it is in this one section of the USA."

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Note: In the Extra to Issue # 175 in January, I asked for thoughts about the future of where we'll get our ideas for what to read--where the gatekeepers will come from. I wrote about it in a blog post , largely in reaction to an essay at Slate by Daniel Menaker.

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In fact, as Johnny Sundstrom says below, reviews like Books for Readers can be part of the answer. I picture a time when we go first to certain blogs or newsletters we partcularly like. I often take a look at Goodreads after I've started a book to see some comments on it. I also use Books for Readers for my own reading. A lot of what I've read in the last few years comes directly from suggestions people gaave me here.

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Johnny Sundstrom wrote (and thanks for the compliments!): " You've done a great job at what you're asking to be done, being a 'gatekeeper' and a guide to good writing. In spite of efforts such as yours, the issues you raise and the quandaries all serious writing faces today are omnipresent and growing. The feeling of futility that confronts an 'unknown' writer today is probably not that different than what has always been there for those who become discouraged from even trying or who have been frustrated by the always present lack of opportunity presented by the limited access to the opportunities controlled by commerce.

"However, the sheer quantity of 'crap' and the current state of the pop/money market has to be even more daunting than ever. My quick response to your questions (without much thought going into it) is that the world's Librarians and wannabe librarians, whether publicly supported and/or working in academia, are also an endangered species, and they are by and large booklovers themselves and have literary qualifications and experience. Perhaps as a part of their vocations and avocations, they could be enlisted and organized into a Voice and outlet for the preservation of reading and writing that serves both the writing/reading communities and their own survival as a pillar of an enlightened society.

"This would not necessarily be an attempt to get more people to use libraries so much as it would add to the job description and value of the profession, and through the internet become a valuable service in the interests of the goals you are suggesting.

"Thanks for all you're doing."

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JOHN BIRCH E-READER REPORT: E-BOOKS WILL REPLACE OLD-FASHIONED PAPER SCHOOLBOOKS – BUT HOW?

A recent survey of 475 educators – mostly school and district leaders -- predicts a massive growth of the market for e-books in schools in the next two years, replacing traditional paper schoolbooks.  Parents will be delighted, because schoolbooks have always seemed shockingly pricey, and even kindergartners and other youngsters, overburdened by their backpacks, will relish a lighter load. But will e-books really work? How easily can you look back a couple of pages for a minute or two, or jump forward a chapter or two, or jump to the contents and back, or consult the index, or a glossary or a cast of characters? I asked a similar question in the last Newsletter, but on that occasion in everyday use of e-book readers. But the problem's even more acute in the case of, say, a science, history or biology textbook.

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Don't miss John's latest post on his blog, "Lazy Saint," at blog.

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BOOK LEAF REPORT

The latest idea in crowd-sourcing:http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/feb/15/readership-crowdfunded-ebook-publishing-unbound .

 

LISTS

Here's a blog post by a professing Christian who enjoys literary fiction and has found twelve books that he thinks challenge and help his faith: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/books/12-fiction-books-will-shape-your-theology .
 

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READ AND LISTEN ONLINE


Spring 2015 Issue of the Hamilton Stone Review, #32

Poetry by Billy Cancel, Darren C. Demaree, Howie Good, Nels Hanson, Nora Iuga, Seth Jani, Dan Lewis, Kevin McLellan, Kat Meads, Simon Perchik, Erin Redfern, Margaret A. Robinson, Terry Savoie, Elaine Sexton, D.E. Steward, Mark Young, and Lisa Zimmerman; Fiction by Peggy Backman, Dreama Wyant Frisk, Edward Miller, Caleb Okereke, Michael Price, Patty Somlo, Peter Speziale, and Scott Wheatley; Nonfiction by Liza Case, Chelsey Clammer, Reamy Jansen, Dean G. Loumbas, Gregg Orifici, and Steven Roiphe.
Jane Lazarre has an essay on Tom Dispatch.
Check out Sleet Magazine.
Check out Fractious Fiction–essays on modernism, mostly in the novel: http://www.fractiousfiction.com/index.html
ABE books has a funny list of famous books that had a lot of rejections: Tales from the Slushpile.
 

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ANNOUNCEMENTS, BOOKS RECEIVED, CONTESTS, WORKSHOPS, READINGS ETC.

An interview with NancyKay Shapiro about her novel-in-progress, Celine Varens, as well as an excerpt from the novel at the online journal WIPs: Interview at http://www.wipsjournal.com/?p=2313and excerpt at http://www.wipsjournal.com/?p=2300 .

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Erik Corr's The Kingdom of Assassins now available. It's also at amazon.  "In the near future, a disillusioned New York City Counter-terrorist detective investigates a terrorist cell. A beautiful Arabian Princess comes to identify one of the dead from an assault on a safe house. Later during the investigation a Saudi Diplomat is also found dead, as well as another man with no identity. Tensions rise between Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. From the concrete canyons of New York City to the searing oceans of sand in Arabia, Detective Mike Maclaymore purses the truth to its terrifying conclusion."

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Just out from Ohio University Press: Every River on Earth: Writing from Southern Appalachia, edited by Neil Carpathios with a foreword by Donald Ray Pollock.

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Valerie Nieman's second poetry collection, Hotel Worthy, is now available from Press 53 and on Amazon. Joseph Bathanti says, "There abides in its pages an uncanny past wrought into poems that spring from a memory – from a vast, liturgical acumen – that unites the dead with the living, restores the abandoned, returns the missing. This is a startling book. The language – its lyric nuance, its plaintive harmonies, its ceremonial beauty – is unforgettable." Val will be touring for the book. Watch for her from Greensboro, North Carolina to the New School in New York City to Charleston, SC and Blairsville, GA.

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Jane Hicks has a new book of poetry, Driving With the Dead. It's from The University Press of Kentucky, published the last quarter of 2014. I hope to have a review of this one soon.

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Do you want to own your own poetry magazine??

Long-time editor Juanita Torrence-Thompson is donating Mobius so it can stay alive. If any group, poet, editor, college, etc. might be interested in editing and publishing Mobius, please send her the information. She is available to offer limited assistance as a consultant the first year. Moving the magazine online is okay.

Here are a few of the award winning poets whose work has appeared in MOBIUS along with many people just starting out: Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Nikki Giovanni, Marge Piercy, Robert Bly, Sonia Sanchez, Natasha Trethewey, Naomi Shihab Nye, Charles Simic, Elizabeth Alexander, Cornelius Eady, Colette Inez, Yusef Komunyakaa, Diane Wakoski, Denise Duhamel, Virgil Suarez, Samuel Menashe, Maurice Kenny, Simon Ortiz, Carter Revard, Simon Perchik, Lyn Lifshin, Duane Niatum, Joseph Bruchac, Ed Galing, Daniela Gioseffi, Louis Reyes Rivera, Patricia Smith, Hal Sirowitz, Stephen Stepanchev, Rochelle Ratner, Susan Terris, Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan, Antony Oldknow, Daniel Thomas Moran, Thad Rutkowski, Ellaraine Lockie, and A.D. Winans.

Write Juanita Torrence-Thompson at poetrytownjtt@gmail.com

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The Epiphany Chapbook Contest-- excellent judges in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry & Graphic Lit. Full details and guidelines are listed here: http://epiphanyzine.com/submit.html

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Two poems from Barbara Crooker are up in the new issue of Verse-Virtual: http://www.verse-virtual.com/barbara-crooker-2015-february.html .

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Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 177

May 1, 2015

When possible, read this newsletter online in its permanent location .

  For Back Issues, click here.
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Who is Meredith Sue Willis?

 

 

 

In Books for Readers # 177:

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If You're Going to San Francisco...

Short Takes

Daniel Levine     Jane Hicks

Constance Fenimore Woolson

Patricia Harman     Ken Champion

Recommendation from Danimaris Fonseca

E-Reader Report with John Birch

Things to Read & Hear Online

Announcements and News

 


New Online Class!

The Summer Starter

Meredith Sue Willis's New Online  Class to
Start or Re-start  Your Writing Project


Monday, June  8, 2015; Monday, June 15, 2015;
Monday, June 22, 2015: Monday, June 29, 2015

For more information,
click here.

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From friends, from students in my classes, from these newsletters, from other books and publications-- I discover books to read. My latest are an old American novel Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson, a 2014 novel called Hyde by Daniel Levine (spun off the old Stevenson novella "The Strange History of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"), plus a book of poems, Driving with the Dead by Jane Hicks.

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Jane Hicks's poems, published as part of the Kentucky Voices series of Kentucky Press, are described as having the "idiom and flavor (and humor) of the mountains," by Richard Taylor, a former Kentucky poet laureate. They also have wonderful black and white photographic images from Hicks' own family–a graveyard, men in World War I uniforms or snappy fedoras and cigarettes, women in sandals and dresses or "lunch lady" outfits. The images don't always refer directly to the poems, but add texture to them.

The poems often take off from places like her great uncle's store and people like a teacher who loved Gerald Manley Hopkins. There is a demented grandmother who runs away in her slip but carries a Styrofoam pitcher for a purse. It all works together create a powerful sense of a world that is sometimes in the past and sometimes in the present, but always in the poet's heart and soul-- and always conveyed to the reader's as well.

For example, the poet goes out in early spring to find creecy greens to use, as her grandmother did, for cleansing the blood:

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The wind cuts, my nose drips,

my fingers burn then numb

gloves left behind in the almost April...

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My grandmother's habit urges me

out toward spring

that lies in fat buds at field's

edge, redbuds and dogwood wait

for the call of sunlight...

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The first poem in the book, "Summer Rain," sets up a lot of the themes to come: funeral traditions and the past of great-greats long gone as well as the poet's own youthful past. There is always also the sharp perception of the present moment: "a row of ancient oaks that whisper and jostle in the breeze." I've been looking for years for the word for what tree leaves do when in full leaf and the air moves through. Jostle, of course. So obvious, so fresh and new.

There are poems with Elvis and a poem about the Carter Family, a draft lottery poem, and a stunning poem about the collapse of a mined mountain that killed a little boy:

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Your room marked with yellow tape, your crib

where you breathed easy as mama put you down to rest,

driven into the floor by strip-mine spoil...

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It's a wide-ranging beautiful book that may or may not be about the world you live in or grew up in, but feels just as real.

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Then there was Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson. I first heard of Woolson in Colm Toibin's novel of Henry James. Woolson, a close friend of James (and a relative of James Fenimore Cooper) was a reasonably successful American writer who work seems today sometimes melodramatic, as her audience expected, but always interesting.

The first part of this novel is set in a bucolic, idealized Mackinac Island in Michigan, where lovely, intensely good Anne cares for her nearly-destitute father and siblings. The rest of the book takes place in the East-- with loyal Anne going away after her father dies to try and make a living to support her half-siblings.

Before leaving, Anne gets engaged to her childhood friend and would marry him, even though later on she loves another--but he runs off with her little sister! This little sister-- actually, all of Anne's half-siblings-- demonstrate a lot of common prejudices of the time. Apparently closely related to the fact that little sister Tita is dark and part French and part Indian, her personality is passionate and selfish and untrustworthy-- although she ends not as a villain but as a somewhat frivolous but happy wife.

Meanwhile, Anne struggles in New York Society's faddish summer places and later in border cities during the civil war. One thing that is remarkable about this book is how widely its Victorian era heroine travels. The story line includes novel-of-manners parts when the girl is taken up by a sadistic great aunt and lives among people who look down on her.

She falls in love with probably the best character in the novel, Ward Heathcote, a languid, spoiled, self-absorbed figure who is wildly attractive to women. He goes through many changes in the course of the novel, largely through his soldiering as he leads a regiment in the Civil War. He also, in his lackadaisical way, loves Anne. Ward is a lady killer finally captured by a strong woman, but only when he learns how weak he is.  It seems that men's imperious natures improve immensely when they learn something about suffering (viz. Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre).

Anne becomes a volunteer nurse for a while, near the battlefront, and experiences a full-scale melodramatic coincidence when Heathcote is wounded near where Anne is serving. He pretends he is free rather than married to her best friend, and thus elicits her declaration of love for him. Then, in a turn that is what makes Heathcote such an interesting man, he confesses the truth.

Righteous Anne, of course, walks off and returns to her lonely suffering. There are scenes of our heroine poor and walking through New york in the snow while she sees her wealthy former-friends nearby. There is-- in the final section-- a murder and a murder mystery that is solved ostensibly by the "intuition" of Anne and some other women characters, but, in fact, they reason just as well as the men, only working from a different starting point.

Woolson is well worth reading, as long as you're willing to set aside some melodrama and coincidences and casual prejudices of the time. You can get most of her work free as e-books: https://constancefenimorewoolson.wordpress.com/list-of-works-available-online/ .

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Finally, Daniel Levine's Hyde is a thick, rich spin-off of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange History of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," the late nineteenth century novella about vaguely scientific chemical experiments on personality  splitting.  Daniel Levine's version takes the form of Mr. Hyde's confession in which Mr. Hyde, who embodies evil in Stevenson's story, is in Levine's book the victim of the upper middle class Dr. Jekyll and his machinations.

Victorian London is beautifully recreated, especially in the small bits of material culture. The cloaks and the vials and foggy streets pull you in, but the thing that makes the book really work isn't the complexities of Levine's version of plots and twists but rather the pathos of Hyde's hunger for life.

He has been powerfully repressed, and his world view is sadly limited. He spent "their" childhood and youth three-quarters asleep, with limited experience, limited hopes and dreams-- yet he was a full sufferer with Jekyll in the grim abuse they were subject to as a boy.

This plausible backstory gives a solid basis for the increasingly dark events and the dreamy horror that infuses Hyde's new freedom. I found myself feeling terribly sad for this unfinished man who knows suffering and the beginnings of pleasure, but can't hold on to them because of the "body" and because of the personality he shares it with.

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IF YOU'RE GOING TO SAN FRANCISO....

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Check out the wonderful Glen Park San Francisco Bookstore and Jazz club, Bird and Beckett at http://www.birdbeckett.com/ .  It's located at 653 Chenery Street-- almost any Saturday has something terrific happening in music or literature. I happened to pass by when I was visiting last fall, and Diane Di Prima was reading.

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READERS RESPOND

From Donna Meredith:  "I was disappointed in [Gilead].  I kept waiting for something to happen, the big reveal, and it never came. I felt sorry for the 'bad' kid named after the minister. And the minister came across as so righteous he got on my nerves. When I have a reaction like this, so different from the rest of the world's, I start to wonder what's wrong with me! "

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SHORT TAKES

In doing some research for writing a possible mystery novel, I did a fast read of Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Hidden Staircase by Carolyn Keene. This was really badly written ("Nancy Drew, a tall blonde girl of eighteen..") more than a little class-ist (the bad guy is crude and an immigrant) and sexist. Although in reference to the latter, I have to say that I get it: Nancy was beloved of girls in the 1930's because of her perky sleuthing and how, while staying a lady, out-thinks and out-heros all the male characters. In this one she even saves her father from a kidnapping.

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DON'T FORGET

Newest Books from Hamilton Stone Editions and Irene Weinberger Books:

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and Trampoline by Robert Gipe from Ohio Universty Press

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RECOMMENDATION FROM DANIMARIS FONSECA

THE WAR OF ART by Steven Pressfield is a must read for any artist struggling to complete a piece of work. Too many people are crashing into their graves with their gifts still inside them. I am a firm believer that our main purpose on earth is to leave the world better than we found it. That painting, novel, or song you cannot stop thinking about– that is your purpose, create it now!

Steven Pressfield is harsh, he nudges you along with tough love, he unveils and exposes all of the ways we sabotage or delay our progress as artists. He builds up the grandness and necessity of your work of art and then he introduces us to 'Resistance' an opposing and equally grand force that looms over you every step of the way.

He states that "Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, the unique and priceless gift we were put on this earth to give and that no one else has but us. Resistance means business."

I feel that by naming this force and describing its qualities with such detail he personifies it and in doing so he takes away its ethereal power, making it something we can overcome. Steven Pressfield gives you the courage to act on your visions, he makes you forget about all of the reasons why it won't work and highlights the one reason why it must, because your life (and sanity) depends on it.

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JOHN BIRCH E-READER REPORT: AMAZON NAMES THE YEAR'S TOP-SELLING BOOKS SO FAR.

Amazon has named what it describes as "The year's 20 top-selling books so far," and here are the first dozen, seven of which are novels , marked (*). All 12 are available as e-books.

1. UPDIKE, by Adam Begley.
2. THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS* ,by Christine Henriquez.
3. REDEPLOYMENT, by Phil Klay.
4 EUPHORIA*, by Lily King.
5. NO PLACE TO HIDE: EDWARD SNOWDEN, by Glenn Greenwald.
6. IN PARADISE*, by Pete Matthiessen.
7. THE INVENTION OF WINGS*, by Sue Monk Kidd.
8. RED RISING*, by Pierce Brown.
9. SAVAGE HARVEST, A TALE OF CANNABIS, by Carl Hoffman.
10. HOLLOW CITY*, by Ransom Riggs.
11. TO RISE AGAIN AT A DECENT HOUR*, by Joshua Ferris.
12. THE EMPATHY EXAMS, (essays) by Leslie Jamison.
For the remaining eight titles, Google: "Amazon.com best books of the year so far".

 

READ AND LISTEN ONLINE

Interview with Barbara Crooker: http://delphiquarterly.com/current-issue/interview-with-barbara-crooker/
Listen to an interview of Laura Treacy Bentley at Voices of Appalachia http://voicesofappalachia.com/writers-block-with-laura-treacy-bently/

 

BOOK CHANNEL RECOMMENDS...

Thought about you and Politerature when I read this review of a new novel: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/08/preparation-for-next-life-review-debut-novel

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RECENTLY PUBLISHED OR COMING SOON FROM FOREVERLAND PRESS!

    • Spider Woman's Loom, a novel by Lorie Adair
    • It's Not About the Dog and The Minor Apocalypse of Meena Krejci by Susan Taylor Chehak
    • A Mother's Time Capsule, stories by Beth Havey
    • Smoke Street, a novel by Mark Smith
    • County Seat by Paul Corey (and we'll be creating an omnibus of the three books in his Mantz Trilogy this spring)
    • Zen and The Art of Knitting by Bernadette Murphy

 

COMING SOON....

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.... from Penniless Press Publications: Keefie by Ken Champion.


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ANNOUNCEMENTS, BOOKS RECEIVED, CONTESTS, WORKSHOPS, READINGS ETC.

Two announcements from Deborah Clearman: First the publication by NY Writers Coalition of THESE ARE HARD TIMES FOR DREAMERS: WRITING FROM RIKERS ISLAND. This is a beautiful and moving collection of poetry and prose written in Clearman's creative writing workshops for women in jail on Rikers Island.
Second, as part of PEN's World Voices Festival, she's participating on a panel called Writing on the Inside, Reading on the Outside. With her on the panel are Sean Dalpiaz, Rita Hickey, Randall Horton, Hettie Jones, and Linda Perez, moderated by Michael Keck. The discussion takes place: Thursday, May 7, at 9:00pm, Nuyorican Poets Café, 236 East 3rd Street, New York, NY Tickets: $12 at the door/$10 in advance, PEN and Nuyorican Poets Café Members and students with valid ID. For more info, see https://www.facebook.com/events/984532711557209/

Halvard Johnson's WINTER JOURNEY republished: https://www.createspace.com/5376388
Patricia Harman's The Reluctant Midwife just came out from HarperCollins. Set in the Great Depression in WV, it features Becky Myers RN and Dr. Isaac Blum who return to the Hope River Valley, impoverished and homeless. Something is really wrong with the once brilliant surgeon and Becky is stuck with him. His older brother, also a physician, has kicked him out. Dr. Blum won't speak or even eat without help. With nowhere to go, they are forced to call on their midwife friend, Patience. If you read The Midwife of Hope River, you will like this. It's a book about healing, the power of community and hope.
See a good review here.
 
Melanie Vickers has new articles recently published about Ginny, the dog who saves coal miners: "Coal Mine Canine." BOY'S LIFE, September, 2014 and "Listen for my Bark." COAL PEOPLE MAGAZINE, May, 2014. Upcoming soon is "Go, Ginny, Go!"in HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN.

Now accepting unsolicited fiction and nonfiction: http://trainlessmagazine.com/ .
Laura Treacy Bentley's short story prequel to her novel THE SILVER TATTOO is available on Amazon for pre-order. It's called NIGHT TERRORS. Check out her blog at http://www.lauratreacybentley.com/

Barbara Crooker's sixth collection of poetry, Small Rain, is an exploration of the wheel of the year, the seasons that roll in a continuous circle and yet move inexorably forward. Gorgeous lyric poems praise poppies, mockingbirds, nectarines, mulch and compost, yet loss (stillbirth, cancer, emphysema), with its crow-black wings, is also always present. In poems that narrow in on the particular ("a cardinal twangs his notes of cheer; he has no truck with irony and post- / modernism"), poems that focus on aging and the body ("how many springs are left on my ticket?"), poems that open out into the larger world of politics, war, global climate change, Crooker's work embodies Wendell Berry's words, "Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts," reminding us that sometimes we need to stop in wonder, look at the natural world, which we are close to ruining forever, and let "our mouths say o and o and o."

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An interview with NancyKay Shapiro about her novel-in-progress, Celine Varens, as well as an excerpt from the novel at the online journal WIPs: Interview at http://www.wipsjournal.com/?p=2313and excerpt at http://www.wipsjournal.com/?p=2300 .
Just out from Ohio University Press: Every River on Earth: Writing from Southern Appalachia, edited by Neil Carpathios with a foreword by Donald Ray Pollock.
Valerie Nieman's second poetry collection, Hotel Worthy, is now available from Press 53 and on Amazon. Joseph Bathanti says, "There abides in its pages an uncanny past wrought into poems that spring from a memory – from a vast, liturgical acumen – that unites the dead with the living, restores the abandoned, returns the missing. This is a startling book. The language – its lyric nuance, its plaintive harmonies, its ceremonial beauty – is unforgettable." Val will be touring for the book. Watch for her from Greensboro, North Carolina to the New School in New York City to Charleston, SC and Blairsville, GA.

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Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 178

July 11, 2015

When possible, read this newsletter online in its permanent location .

  For Back Issues, click here.

MSW Home

Who is Meredith Sue Willis?

 

 


 

My Favorite News: Appalachia Now:
Short Stories of Contemporary Appalachia

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I am honored and delighted to be included in this collection (edited by Charles Dodd White and Larry Smith ) alongside Darnell Arnoult, Marie Manilla, Rusty Barnes, Mark Powell, Chris Holbrook, Chris Offutt, and a whole host of others,

Dump your creaky old stereotypes about spittin' and whittlin' and feudin' and fussin' and read some top notch short stories. This is from the excellent  Bottom Dog Press—look for their other books as well.

 


 

In this issue of Books for Readers (# 178):

"Almost Heaven White Water Rafting Outfitters and Book Club" on William Demby's Beetlecreek
Phyllis Moore Reviews Cat Pleska's Riding on Comets

Deborah Clearman Reviews Mitch Levenberg's Write Something

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Keefie by Ken Champion

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My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell

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Janet MacKenzie Reviews Serena by Ron Rash

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Angels of the Appalachians by Deanna Edens

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Short Reviews

E-Reader Report with John Birch
Things to Read & Hear Online

Announcements and News
If You're Going to San Francisco...

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For a Free E-mail subscription to this newsletter:

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It's been a busy beginning of summer. I just finished teaching an online class with all the interesting work-in-progress that teaches me how prose narrative works. My only problem with these online classes is that, unlike face-to-face teaching, they take the same sit-at-the-computer energy as writing and putting out newsletters.

So it's been a while since I did #177. However, lucky for me and those of you looking for books to read--I have a lot of help with reviews. This issue includes a review by the indomitable "Almost Heaven White Water Rafting Outfitters and Book Club" of a novel by the late William Demby set in the city in West Virginia where I was born; a review of Cat Pleska's memoir by Phyllis Wilson Moore; and a hilarious, enthusiastic response to Mitch Levenberg's Write Something written by Deborah Clearman.

There's a lot more--short reviews and longer. If there's no byline, I wrote it.

Also, be sure and take a look at the new contemporary Appalachian story collection from Bottom Dog Press, Appalachia Now.

                                                    

                                                                                 Meredith Sue Willis

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William Demby’s Beetlecreek (Review compiled by Eddy Pendarvis from remarks by Almost Heaven White Water Rafting Outfitters and Book Club members June Berkley, Donna Meredith, Phyllis Moore, and guest member Crystal Wilkinson)

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Our book club had a particular question about William Demby’s novel, Beetlecreek.

The novel has remained in print for sixty-five years and is cited in many encyclopedias of Black literature. One of our members read the novel years ago and was not impressed by it. On this recent reading, she felt she saw its  merit; but she wondered if her second reading was influenced by the book’s reputation. She posed the question to our club—“Is Beetlecreek a classic?”

I think it’s fair to say we answered yes. This review summarizes our reasons. The quotes are verbatim opinions of some of the members.

Published in 1950, Beetlecreek has been in print for over half a century. While it doesn’t yet have a strong claim on being a “classic” as a work that has stood up over time, it has a good start in that direction. In representing this microcosm with profound authenticity, it represents a “class” or group of a certain place and time—in this case, people living in the Black community of Glenn Elk, near Clarksburg, West Virginia, in the 1940s. At the same time, it powerfully addresses universal issues.

Beetlecreek “examines the contradictory needs of human beings to belong to a social group and to escape from the constraints of society. Demby applies the theme in a unique way to the black experience and in a particular to blacks isolated in a small community.” The novel is “about alienation of identities and the use of the African American experience as a metaphor for all lives denied dignity in American culture or society in general.”

It’s clear from the first few sentences that this novel is going to be way out of the ordinary. It is a unique coming-of-age story about a Black teenage boy, his uncle, and an old White man. Its depth and honesty in facing the ugliness of reality (and maybe not even seeing it as ugly, but just human) are perhaps the most original things about the book and part of what make it a classic.

Bill Trapp is “the mover of the action.”  The only White character who is central to the story, he is an outcast of both the White and Black communities. Trapp has lived as a hermit for years; and in the opening scene, he starts to chase away some Black boys who are stealing apples from his apple tree. One of the boys, Johnny, doesn’t run, and Trapp ends up inviting him to sit down on the porch and have some cider. Not long afterward, Johnny’s uncle David comes by to get his nephew, and the three sit and talk a while longer. With this scene Demby introduces the story’s three main characters, all of whose lives are changed dramatically by the events that come out of their meeting.

An alternative title under which the novel was published at least once is Act of Outrage. And there are outrages of many kinds and at many levels in the story. One of the most obvious is the outrage of racism. Johnny’s uncle, David, says that for him, ‘Negro life was a fishnet, a mosquito net, lace, wrapped round and round, each little thread a pain.’ ”  In fact, the back stories of all three protagonists are characterized by the entrapment of poverty and abandonment; but the major outrage in terms of the plot is an imaginary outrage that engenders a real one.

Encouraged by the friendly manner of Johnny and David, Trapp’s conviction to change his life and become part of a community grows. He decides to have a picnic for the local children, both Black and White. Though there appears to be nothing salacious in Trapp’s party plans, an undercurrent of sexuality runs through the story; beginning to end.  Demby doesn’t lead the reader much, however, and sexuality as related to children surfaces overtly only in the shack that serves as a clubhouse for a group of teenage boys who live in Beetlecreek. In the privacy of their shack, they look at pornographic pictures and masturbate. Though Johnny is reluctant to join in, his sexuality is part of the story, too.

One of the girls at the party, a girl named “Pokey,” finds a picture of a naked person, tears it out of the book, takes it home, and gets caught with it. The page is from an anatomy book, but she and the adults who see the picture consider Trapp to be a pedophile. In the face of the community’s indignation over Trapp’s supposed imposition on young girls, Johnny and David give in to popular opinion even though they think this opinion is wrong.

The story ends in violence and even greater betrayal, as well as questions about the destiny of all three main characters. Demby’s novel is engaging in its humanity and depth and, maybe most of all in the questions it raises—calling to mind another definition of a literary classic: “a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”

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PHYLLIS MOORE REVIEWS CAT PLESKA'S RIDING ON COMETS

RIDING ON COMETS: A MEMOIR by Cat Pleska is as unique as her name. An only child born into a family of story-tellers, Pleska paid attention to the nuances of daily life. Like the proverbial "little pitcher with big ears" Pleska captured the life of her extended family. She didn't always understand what she heard and saw, but like a camera obscura, she recorded it to ponder.

In RIDING ON COMETS we meet a loving, imperfect, intelligent, working class family. The men drink and smoke too much but hold on to their repetitive jobs. They carouse, hunt, and fight with each other while the women bond and worry about the men and each other. Depression rears its ugly head.

Money is scarce but love isn't.

Little did they know the child in their midst would preserve their lives and share them with the world in a truthful, sometimes humorous way. She recalls their superstitions, folk sayings, and quirky habits. One of the most humorous incidents related in the memoir is told first by the grandfather, then by the father, and finally by the daughter. Each voice is unique and each version has its own flair.

There are poignant chapters about the mundane realities of death: the necessity of buying new underwear for your father or choosing a wig for your mother. Pleska writes about the fears as well as the joys of childhood, about her father's life long curiosity and her mother's love of books. Thankfully, all the monsters under her bed proved imaginary and harmless and she survived to record this legacy of love.

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DEBORAH CLEARMAN REVIEWS MITCH LEVENBERG'S WRITE SOMETHING (BRILLIANT, IF YOU CAN!)

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Reading Mitch Levenberg fills me with despair. I wish I could write like Mitch Levenberg. In killer two-word sentences. With dark side-splitting humor. I wish I could tell sly WASP jokes the way Mitch Levenberg tells Jewish jokes. I wish I could be Mitch Levenberg.

This reminds me of when I was a young art student and I wanted to be Matisse. But no matter how much I flattened out the nude model into great languorous shapes, no matter how I pared her down to essential sinuous lines, no matter how I surrounded her with decorative fabrics purchased at discount stores on 14th Street, no matter how I tyrannized my classmates putting her into odalisque poses, I couldn't be Matisse. It was 1970, not 1920. Abstract Expressionism had come and gone, the locomotive of art history had roared on to Conceptualism, which I didn't even like, and nobody cared about Matisse any more.

Furthermore, instead of being a fat old genius who lay in bed all day and drew on the walls with his charcoal attached to the end of a long stick, I was an ordinary girl of mediocre talent, who would never change the course of art history, who would have a few shows and a couple children, who would give up the art world in disgust and start a second career in an equally farfetched endeavor and write a novel that wouldn't be funny and dark like a Mitch Levenberg story but rather just another divorce story. And even my divorce wouldn't have half the existential angst I see in every Mitch Levenberg paragraph. Maybe you have to be Jewish to have angst?

I would never write a sentence as perfect as "he too snores who only sits and waits."

Just a few minutes ago while reading Mitch Levenberg I was struck by the irresistible urge to write about Mitch Levenberg, but first I had to extricate my laptop from under the tray table in the middle seat of a cross-country Jet Blue flight. Perched on the tray table next to my Kindle was of course a cup of hot coffee. Who can read Mitch Levenberg without being filled with a craving for hot coffee? Nearly every other essay in WRITE SOMETHING extolls the power of coffee to raise us to the heights of creativity. In the words of Mitch Levenberg, "I always think coffee. First I think, 'Am I still breathing?' and then I think coffee. Not always in that order." Or how about, "Does it bother me that coffee beans could be extinct by 2080?. . .just the juxtaposition of the words coffee and extinct sends chills down my spine and lethargy spreading throughout my nervous system." Furthermore, "Those two extra cups of coffee every morning provide me with the absolute certainty that I can accomplish anything. . .provide me with the desire to love the world and figure out how to save it all in one streaming heart. .. . "

As I lifted the tray table a mere fraction of an inch and wrestled my laptop out from under my feet, naturally I spilled hot coffee on my lap. This excited the passenger beside me at the window seat, a woman my age who was doubtless familiar with rescuing beverages left in precarious positions by children and grandchildren, and she instinctively swooped in to grab my coffee. Thus further humiliating me after an earlier humiliation when trying to lift my excessively heavy carry-on bag into the overhead bin, I resisted help from a kindly gentleman in the row in front of me and chose instead an elaborate acrobatic feat of climbing onto the armrest of a seat not even my own. When I was still unable to raise my carry-on I finally acquiesced to the offer of help. My embarrassment was increased when I was sure I overheard the passengers in the row in front of me discussing the fact that I had nabbed a spot in the overhead bin that was in fact not my spot. It was a row ahead of my spot. This I had done in an effort to stow my bag in front rather than behind my seat, so that I wouldn't have to wait for the entire plane to unload before retrieving my bag. I was fairly certain they had taken note of this aggressive, or should I say passive/aggressive, move on my part.

And now I will spend the next ten days with coffee stains on my brand new khaki pants.

So I move on to Mitch Levenberg's story "Redemption" because I am feeling in need of some redemption myself and I'm hoping to pick up some wisdom beyond just the wonderful effects of hot coffee. I'm struck by the other half of WRITE SOMETHING, which is not only about writing but is also about the unique writerly experience (Here I must digress. When I was in art school there was a lot of discussion about the word painterly, which we used rather a lot in critiques. What do you mean, painterly, some combative fellow student would ask, probably a sculptor—the sculptors were all conceptual artists at the time. How can you make painter into an adjective? Is there a word sculptorly? Hah! I offer my ripost forty years later in writerly.) the unique writerly experience of reading one's work out loud in front of an audience.

I am struck by Mitch Levenberg's relationship with the act of reading—a love/hate relationship of course—and how it affects his relationships with his stories. How his stories become characters as he presents them to an audience. While I think of my stories as my children—to be nurtured and supported and sent out into the world to stand on their own two feet—Mitch Levenberg thinks of his stories as lovers. He must prove himself worthy of them over and over, and only then will they reward him by delighting and seducing his audience, only then will they redeem him.

Could I redeem myself in the eyes of the woman in the window seat (who has been working on some kind of legal document on her laptop while I discreetly peer over her shoulder trying to figure out what program she's using) by reading her this review of WRITE SOMETHING by Mitch Levenberg?

Or would she find me out as the imposter I am. Now that I have written my own version of a Mitch Levenberg story, I suggest you read the real thing. They're much better.

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Keefie by Ken Champion

This novel of the London Blitz splendidly captures real life on the ground mostly through the eyes of a bright and creative working class boy. Young Keith's knowledge of what is going on is limited, but his experience leads us deep into a time and place– and the lives of ordinary people. Part of what makes the book successful is the narrowness of this slice of reality: Keith painstakingly and with great artistic talent draws the various types of aircraft involved in the bombing and defense of London. He experiences almost nightly interruptions of sleep to go to the bomb shelter.

Otherwise, his life and the lives of his friends are made of family, play, and conflict just like any child's. He has a proud worker father and a middle class-aspirational mother, along with a new baby brother. Life on his street is full of urban games and neighbor kids and a lot of colorful aunts and uncles.

I would have been satisfied to spend the novel in London with these people, hurrying down to the shelters when the air raid sirens go off, going back to bed when the all clear is rung. There's a real beauty to the way the British defiantly continued their lives, the children hardly understanding at all why it was all happening, even a bright, imaginative boy like Keith.

Keith is, however, sent to the countryside for his safety, where he lives with two Americans in a troubled marriage. The male American, Robert, and the third adult in the household, Norman, are professors much given to discussions about sociology and psychology. They focus their attention on the psyche of poor Keith, whose father is perhaps distant and cool, but hardly anything out of the ordinary.

In the end, all the brainy speculations of the adults collapses into the reality of life: Robert begins an affair with one of his students, the brilliant and beautiful daughter of an African diplomat, and Keith, in a misguided burst of racism and a desire to protect his adult friends, attacks her. Meanwhile, the bombs fall in the rural areas, too, and in the end, everyone returns to London– as if that great city were for all of them, not only for Keith, the heart of human struggle.

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Keefie is available from the publisher at http://www.pennilesspress.co.uk/books/keefie.htm .

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My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell

I always want to call her "Mrs. Gaskell," which is what she called herself. So does it honor her more to call her what she called herself in 1860 or to call her what honors a woman today? She died at 55, but wrote a load of books, this one called a novella. It was used as part of the material for the BBC production of Cranford.

Like Cranford, "My Lady Ludlow" has a charming story-upon-story open-ended quality. There's a rather disingenuous narrator, an invalid spinster who spends many years as a ward or guest of the lovely, blatantly reactionary Lady Ludlow. Lady Ludlow is the usually- benevolent dictator of the small world of this story. Naturally generous, she yet believes that blood and class are fundamental to social order.

The reader's first inkling that her benevolence is associated with some real bad stuff is when she goes off on a rant about how the lower orders should never be educated. Then, as evidence, Lady Ludlow relates a long story-within-the story about the French Reign of Terror and a young aristocrat who escapes to England and is under the protection of her and her husband. He then goes back to France to rescue the cousin he loves, and they are both guillotined. To Lady Ludlow, this tragic romance is supposed to prove how wrong it was for her agent to teach the bright young son of the local poacher to read and write!

The whole book is told with Gaskell's light touch (like Cranford but not her "industrial" novels). Bit by bit, Lady Ludlow's old ways are shown up: the young vicar who wants to start a school finally does start one; the poacher's son he taught to read turns out to be a success; an illegitimate girl (Lady Ludlow has always ignored the existence of anyone born out of wedlock) comes to live with one of Lady Ludlow's good friends. And gradually, Lady Ludlow makes her peace with these changes.

Near the end, there is a scene where she entertains for tea a number of people she has pretended didn't exist through much of the story. One ignorant nouveau riche woman with a showy new dress spreads a bandana on her lap to protect her dress from spills. The other ladies titter, and Lady Ludlow proves that truly good breeding is ultimately about kindness: she pulls out her own handkerchief and puts it on her own lap in solidarity with her guest.

I especially like Gaskell's insistence that people can change. Lady Ludlow has been a good-hearted person in many ways from the beginning. She is also a woman who, we learn almost in passing, has lost almost her entire family: all nine of her children die before her. That, I remember was one of my strongest reactions to reading Cranford: how all the silliness and pettiness and small mindedness and comedy is set against a background of constant death from illness and accident.

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Ron Rash photographed by Ulf Andersen

JANET MACKENZIE REVIEWS SERENA BY RON RASH

A film has already been made of this novel about naked evil; its distribution held up by concerns over the unrelenting malice of Serena, the main character. Ron Rash, the author uses North Carolina's vulnerable forests as foil to the unbridled ambition of Pemberton's wife. At her husband's logging camp, Serena wears the pants, proud to be the match for any man. Pristine forests are felled by crews desperate for work in the depression. No compensation is paid for loss of life or limb.

A cross between Medea and Lady Macbeth; Serena shows no compassion when men are mangled or killed by logs. Learning she will never bear a child she sets out to kill the son fathered by her husband with Rachel, an orphan. Rash weaves his novel artfully, using the conversation of logging camp workers as a Greek chorus, who comment on Serena's machinations.

Rash's ancillary characters display facets lacking in Pemberton and Serena. Rachel, the resourceful teenage mother of Jacob, Pemberton's unacknowledged son, supports herself and child by working at the logging camp. Her habits of excellence, her woodlore, her desire to be a good mother, her gratitude to a boy who befriends her, create a rounded character. In contrast, the Pembertons are flat; supercilious with workers and dinner guests. Satisfied in and with themselves, their sole ambition is to make pots of money fast.

Pemberton's lumber company owns the town, but can't buy Sheriff McDowell. When a string of deaths occurs around the logging camp McDowell accuses the Pembertons of culpability . His courage facing pathological criminals distinguishes him.

Snipes, one of the loggers, sees himself as an intellectual. His pedantic pronouncements and his inability to answer logical questions, create comic moments. Gallagher, a ghoulish local saved from death by Serena's quick thinking, becomes her henchman.

The novel is unevenly written; with wooden portraits of the two central characters balanced by lovely vignettes of minor characters, and a story line which employs brilliantly conceived murders. That the deaths of the two main characters is more interesting than their lives testifies to Rash's ability to make the reader turn pages.

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A FEW SHORTER REVIEWS


The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley

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Thanks to my excellent reading friends, I keep making wonderful new discoveries. I had never heard of Mary Wesley, who isn't exactly a secret, as there've been at least one television mini-series from her work, but she was new to me. She wrote some children's books, but began writing her adult novels in 1983 when she was 71. From 1982 to 1991, she wrote and delivered seven novels. Check out this article in The Guardian .

This book is England at the beginning of the Second World War, and during it. Maybe I was in the mood after reading Keefie above, but all the talk and sophisticated sex was just delightful.                                         

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Angels of the Appalachians by Deanna Edens

This is a short e-book-only of linked stories about two women from southern West Virginia, Ida and Erma. There is also a more contemporary figure, Annie, who is a student in the 1980's and a married woman in the present, who talks to the older women and learns their histories and shares some of their final years.

The big city Ida and Erma go to is Charleston WV, the state capital, where they work their way through college. The small town they come from is Thurmond in the New River valley, a coal and railroad town in its heyday in the early twentieth century.

The background to these stories is a time when men died in the mines with brutal regularity, and the United Mineworkers was just organizing. The kindly Mrs. Jones who helps out the girls' families is a relative of Mary "Mother" Jones, the union organizer and firebrand. The lives of Ida and Erma, as filtered by the much younger Annie, are told with humor and a light touch, emphasizing the happy moments and real life angels of the region.

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A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George

Elizabeth George turns out to be an American, something of a disappointment to me, because my favorite thing about mysteries and thrillers is almost always the setting. I depend on my mystery writers to know their territory.  George may know Yorkshire, but not in the way Michael Nava, say, knows gay Los Angeles during the AIDS plague.

So this was fun, but it suffered from soft spots the way a lot of these ripe genre novels too, as if they were missing one last revision.   I figured out early that the real crime was going to be the child abuse. The whodunit is subsumed by the crime underlying the mystery.

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Death at La Fenice: A Commissario Brunetti Mystery By Donna Leon

This writer is also American author, but she has lived in Venice for decades. I got the idea to read this book from the "guilty pleasures" list below . Anyhow, I really did like Venice in this mystery, Leon's first, and it got better as it went along. The sleuth, Guido Brunetti, is smart and psychically attractive, spending his day knocking back coffees and glasses of wine and brandy. Sounds like la dolce vita to me!

This series may become a guilty pleasure for me too.

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Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat doesn't need recommendations from me, but she is always a delight to read. This is the story of her two fathers, the personal mixed naturally in with politics. Her family neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is a war zone in this memory piece between gangs and UN troops who shoot first and ask questions later. Meanwhile, there are serious illnesses, separations, lots of characters, and the interestingly loving but slightly withdrawn narrator– it is all so particular, and so universal in its particularity.

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Nomads of the Wind : A Natural History of Polynesia by Peter Crawford

This picture book was made to accompany a BBC television documentary from twenty years ago. It is about the flora and fauna and history of the Polynesian people and their voyages from Tahiti (most likely) to the Marquesas, Easter Island, Hawaii, and New Zealand. Not scholarly and very upbeat (you can almost heard the underlying inspirational music as the narration rolls on), it inspired me to reread the parts of Jared DIamond's Collapse about Easter Island and the Pitcairns and other Polynesian Islands where human settlements failed without any help from Western colonialsts.

It made much more sense now, especially with the bright Nomads images in mind.

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The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

The Return of the Soldier was written when Rebecca West was only 24, and it's only 212 pages long. It is a taut and surprising story centered on three women who love one man. The peripheral but passionate narrator is a poor gentlewoman kept by her wealthy cousins. The plot is simply that the man of the house returns to his wife and adoring cousin from the trenches in World War I France with partial amnesia: He does not remember the last ten years or so, which includes his relationship with his wife. He is still in love with another woman, of a lower social class than his, who is married to someone else. There are some difficulties for me with certain assumptions about class and the beautiful descriptions of landscape are long for our taste today, but it is essentially brilliant and intense, and highly worth reading.

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For more about Rebecca West, check out the New York Times accumulated reviews .

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IF YOU'RE GOING TO SAN FRANCISO....

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Visit the Glen Park San Francisco Bookstore and Jazz club, Bird and Beckett at http://www.birdbeckett.com/ .  It's located at 653 Chenery Street-- almost any Saturday has something terrific happening in music or literature. I happened to pass by when I was visiting last fall, and Diane Di Prima was reading.

 

JOHN BIRCH E-READER REPORT: KINDLE VOYAGE IS "PROBABLY THE BEST EVER" E-READER

CNET -- a popular website that publishes reviews, news, articles and blogs about everything hi-tech – has rated the Kindle Voyage e-reader "outstanding," the best of 2015, and "probably the best ever." The Voyage is pretty pricey compared with its competitors at $199, up to $120 more than one of its well-rated competitors. All six of the best rated models offer longer battery life and "a more paperlike reading experience" than the color tablets that have emerged on the market.

The runners-up in CNET's top ratings are:

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BEST OVERALL E-READER VALUE: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Rated: Excellent $119

BEST AD-FREE E-INK READER: Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight Rated: Excellent $99

BEST BARGAIN E-READER: Amazon Kindle 2014 model Rated: Very Good $79.

 

BACKCHANNEL REPORT

"Somehow, I missed this book of short stories 'til now … came out last year, Redeployment, about the Iraq/Afghanistan soldiers: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/26/redeployment-phil-klay-review-incendiary-stories-of-war .

"Looks really interesting."

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READ AND LISTEN ONLINE

Don't miss John Birch's blog post: encounters with Vita Sackville-West and T.S. Eliot!
http://www.johnbirchlive.blogspot.com/2015/05/elite-encounters.html
Guilty reading pleasures of well-known writers: http://uvamagazine.org/articles/guilty_pleasure_reads
Christian Sahner's report on the danger to the antiquities in Palmyra: http://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-states-next-target-1432762972#livefyre-comment
Interesing piece by Ed Davis on how to take criticism: http://www.davised.com/2015/05/editing-102-ownership/ .
Cat Pleska's review of Lee Maynard's Cinco Becknell here: http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150503/GZ05/150509955/1116
The Spring issue of Persimmon Tree is still online, full of powerful poetry from Chana Bloch, lovely paintings by Nancy Hagin and entertaining stories. Anthropologists have insights about Papua New Guinea and Burma to share, while storytellers have a couple of stories about places you might be going to yourself: http://www.persimmontree.org
 

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RECENT BOOKS FROM HAMILTON STONE EDITIONS AND IRENE WEINBERGER BOOKS:

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ANNOUNCEMENTS, BOOKS RECEIVED, CONTESTS, WORKSHOPS, READINGS ETC.

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Ron Padgett's latest book of poems   just got a terrific review in The New York Times .
 
Through the Riptide: Colin Preston Book Two by Bert Murray and Phyllis Fahrie:  An attractive thirty year old professional woman leaves NYC after being attacked there and finds a new job by the seashore. She has to decide whether she will date her ex-boyfriend or a mysterious new man she meets on a bus ride. Filled with passion, emotion, romance and the excitement of a summer by the sea...

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New Publisher/Editor for Möbius      
Gail Taylor is the new Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Möbius, The Poetry Magazine. The magazine has a 32-year history of publishing poems by influential artists including four United States Poets Laureate (Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Charles Simic, and Natasha Trethewey).  Taylor says, "I am super excited to lead Möbius, The Poetry Magazine. [It] has thrived under the leadership of [Juanita] Torrence-Thompson and Ms. Hull Herman. The magazine got started in the Midwest before it became headquartered in New York. Now, with this transition, a new editorial team gets a chance to carry on the tradition while being open to the possibilities of new aesthetics that reflect themes of resilience, migration, and geography. Aesthetically, this change of course presents new creative possibilities."

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Patricia Park's new novel  Re:Jane is getting rave reviews!
 
Galal Chater in Thuglit   Galal Chater has a short story in the literary crime fiction magazine Thuglit. There is a paperback edition and a Kindle edition.

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Just Published: Death: A Novel by Fred Skolnik  In this multilayered novel, Fred Skolnik creates an intriguing narrative that begins and ends with a burst of red light in the sky. Who is the narrator and what is the meaning of his journey? Ostensibly set in a Hollywood milieu and containing elements of the thriller, Death unfolds in a dreamlike atmosphere where ancient and modern mythologies are woven together as the unnamed hero seeks to evade his pursuers and escape his destiny. It is a novel that will remain with the reader long after he turns the last page. Available at Amazon or through the publisher Spuytenduyvil.

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Peter Speziale Story noted at New Millennium Writings!

Peter Speziale has won Honorable Mention for "The Magic Butterfly" in the 39th New Millennium Writings Short-Short Fiction Contest. Look for the list at www.newmillenniumwritings.com.

 

Debut Novel from Matthew Neill Null

Matthew Neill Null's debut novel is Honey from the Lion, to be published by Lookout Books on September 8th, 2015. The publisher says, "In this lyrical and suspenseful debut novel, a turn-of-the-century logging company decimates ten thousand acres of virgin forest in the West Virginia Alleghenies—and transforms a brotherhood of timber wolves into revolutionaries....[The novel] evokes the ecological devastation and human tragedy behind the Gilded Age, and sings both the land and ordinary lives in all their extraordinary resilience."

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Eric Fritzius Short Stories Now Available

Eric Fritzius has just published a collection of short modern horror/fantasy stories entitled A Consternation of Monsters....In these tales, a creature of make-believe proves difficult to disbelieve, a trickster-god takes an unkindly interest in witnesses, eldritch horrors can be summoned using a quilt, frustrated wolves face dangerous prey, the angel of death wears a plaid sport coat, wise old women are to be feared and heeded, the corpses of legends can be perilous to have around, Elvis remains the once and future king of rock & roll, and where one of the most powerful and potentially destructive objects in the world is a fork.

A Consternation of Monsters is available for purchase on Amazon.com, in both print and ebook formats, and at Barnes & Noble.com.

 


 

 

Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 179

September 14, 2015

When possible, read this newsletter online in its permanent location .

  Back Issues    MSW Home     Who is Meredith Sue Willis?

 

 

 

 


 

New from Irene Weinberger Books:

Mitch Levenberg's Dementia Diaries
from Irene Weinberger Books

 


Coming Soon from Montemayor Press:

 


MSW's young adult novel,
Meli's Way!

Read the pre-reviews!

 


Bottom Dog Press presents

Appalachia Now: Short Stories of Contemporary Appalachia

 

 

I am honored and delighted to be included in this collection (edited by Charles Dodd White and Larry Smith ) alongside Darnell Arnoult, Marie Manilla, Rusty Barnes, Mark Powell, Chris Holbrook, Chris Offutt, and a whole host of others. Dump your creaky old stereotypes about spittin' and whittlin' and feudin' and fussin' and read some top notch short stories. This is from the excellent  Bottom Dog Press—look for their other books as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

In this issue of Books for Readers (# 179):

More On William Demby's Beetle Creek
Belinda Anderson on Zelda Fitzgerald's Letters
Christine Willis and others on Go Set a Watchman
For Janeites and Other 19th Century Fanatics Only
MSW on Patient Women by Larissa Shmailo
Ed Davis on A Consternation of Monsters by Eric Fritzius
Short Reviews
E-Reader Report with John Birch
Things to Read & Hear Online

Announcements and News
If You're Going to San Francisco...
Irene Weinberger Books
 

For a Free E-mail subscription to this newsletter, click below:

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It's still summer, and through some pretty grim heat, I've been following trails from one book or article to another. Thinking of writing a murder mystery, I read two early Lew Archer novels that were a lot of fun, plus three Donna Leon Commisario Brunetti in Venice novels. I'm in the middle of drafting a science fiction novel, and to get in the mood for that, I read two Justice of Thoren novels by Ann Leckie. I even managed to read some literary books from the twentieth century: Saul Bellow's Humbolt's Gift and then, because his character Humbolt was patterned on the sacred monster Delmore Schwartz, I read Schwartz's book of short stories, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities.

Schwartz does some pretty wonderful things. In the dream story of the title, a young man shouts at the movie screen where he is watching the courtship of his parents. This story was the first piece in the first issue of Partisan Review in 1934. It was surreal and wonderfully, deeply felt. I loved even more the long first-second generation immigrant tales, "The Child is the Meaning of Life" and "America! America!" I was less thrilled with the ones about New York Bohemian life and its drinking parties, but the book ends with the terrific closure of another semi-surrealistic story set in a movie theater, "Screeno." In this story, there is a sort of lotto game that a young poet wins, and then gives his winnings to a stubborn old man--nice brackets, the two movie stories. Everyone talks about Delmore Schwartz: these early stories are truly worth reading.

 

Next, because it had been on my list for a long time, I moved from the 1930's to stories from the 1990's, Denis Johnson's Jesus's Son. This was a stunningly lovely book. How does Johnson make so much beauty out of a life in drugs and alcohol? In spite of the grit and violence and nastiness, everything felt colored like sunsets. I mean, this guy makes art out of what you're supposed to avoid at all costs. In the final story, "Beverly," he has his main character finally clean up and struggle through recovery. His recovery is not exactly uplifting: he works in a nursing home part time writing a chipper little newsletter. He becomes a peeping tom, too. He sees himself, and most of the people around him as monstrosities--but this allows him, finally, to see himself as human, and thus worthy of forgiveness and healing, although recovery is a lot less rosy than some of his antics when he was drugged out.

For another view, see The Guardian.

 

Probably the biggest surprise of my summer reading was Patient Women by Larissa Shmailo. Shmailo is a highly accomplished poet, editor, and translator (see my review of her poetry in Issue # 169) . She does a lot of so-called "mixed" media, and she blogs at larissashmailo.blogspot.com. She is productive and successful, and lives a rich life in the arts.

She is also a survivor and child of survivors, and in her new novel Patient Women, she fictionalizes pieces of her life and recreates passages from her parents' lives as well as creating searing poems ostensibly written by her character Nora Nader.

There is plenty of recreational sex and drugs and drinking and also sex work, and brilliant recreations of the downtown milieu of New York City in the nineteen seventies. Much, much sensation and despair and struggle. There are whorehouse discussions during down time about what you want in an ideal client, and there are stunning shocks: at one point, Nora finally finds a man who has potential as a long term partner. They marry-- and he drowns on their honeymoon.

Nora's life is out of control, but the novel is completely in the novelist's control. In her great confidence in her own powers, Shmailo moves towards the end out of the straight narrative into a series of experiments in story telling and genre.

The bulk of the book is the grim narrative of Nora's dive into the lower depths and her grumbling return to sobriety through the efforts of a saintly trans friend who is dying of AIDS. Then, Nora begins to press her mother to repeat and explain family stories of their time in concentration camps under the Nazis: how they survived intact. She includes her mother's stories as free-standing short works, and it becomes increasingly clear that the family was not intact at all. The stories throw Nora into a near psychotic state of remembering that seems like too much for one person to bear. She says goodbye to Chrisis, her dying sobriety sponsor. She gives support to a dying stranger, money to a beggar. She notices that the world is still around her. And then come the poems, which act both as a reprise of the themes and events of the novel and also also as unnarrated evidence of Nora's talent and hopeful future. It is a gamble, to end a novel with so many passages in a different genre, but it pays off beautifully: Nora doesn't forget, perhaps doesn't even move on completely, but she can be with people. She can create.

 

Another surprise hit with me was a short book, more monograph than biography, Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice by Paula Byrne. There is little known about the "slave daughter," so the book is mostly about British Lord Chief Justice Mansfield and the abolition of slavery in England.

I came across this book after reading Mansfield Park (probably named after Justice Mansfield) and looking up some criticism of the Austen novel. I came across notes about Jane Austen's views on slavery, and mention was made of Dido Elizabeth Belle, who is probably the beautiful and beautifully dressed girl in the painting to the left. Austen almost certainly knew people who knew her.

Belle's natural father was Justice Mansfield's nephew, and she was raised by Justice Mansfield and his wife. She eventually married a Frenchman, had a family. Her last living descendent lived in South Africa during apartheid–and was registered as white!

Much of the book is about the British slave trade and the efforts to end it, and slavery as well. Justice Mansfield made a number of anti-slavery decisions, somewhat reluctantly, but as an essential part of the end of of slavery in England.

Read the article that caught my attention here.

 

After reading in this book, and starting another by Paula Byrne, The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things , I spent a lot of free time in the summer stuffing myself with Jane Austen books. If you like reading about Austen, take a look at my notes below.

 

Also in this issue are: Belinda Anderson's take on William Demby's Beetlecreek; Ed Davis on A Consternation of Monsters: Stories by Eric Fritzius; comments from several people, especially Christine Willis, on Go Set a Watchman.

                                           

                                                                                 Meredith Sue Willis

 

 

 

Special: Ed Davis Reviews A Consternation of Monsters: Stories by Eric Fritzius

 

I didn’t really need radio show host Rik Winston’s definition of “consternation” in his forward to Eric Fritzius’ new short story collection A Consternation of Monsters: “a strong feeling of surprise or sudden disappointment that causes confusion.”I instantly felt the word’s rightness in my own reaction to the unexplained phenomena these ten tales deal with. Fritzius’ collection is a smorgasbord of varied treats from dark creatures of the night and parallel universes to the very human “monster” we’ll all recognize.

Variety is evident throughout. There’s a creepy tale of father and son concerning the hocco, a creature “inside an echo,” according to the precocious five year old Aaron, that “says everything you say so you’ll keep saying stuff. Then it follows the sound. And then it gets you.” His father is skeptical, setting up the crisis of belief at the heart of many of these tales. Other stories are humorous, such as the author’s take on the Mothman myth:  “. . . to a Flame,” involving the hapless Virgil Hawks, who loves “listening to kooks on the radio spouting about alien abductions and cattle mutilations and anal probes” and who has something very strange (and dead) lying in the back of his truck.

Odd characters, “subcontractors” from beyond, appear in these stories with contracts to fulfill for clients, most notably Bisley and Mr. Ramond, who track down the legendary Madam Z to her dusty antique store. The intruders represent the titular “Wise Ones,” whose goal is to blackmail “Miss Zeddie,” one of the “Ascended Masters” who may be “an angel on assignment from the All Mighty himself.” If she doesn’t agree to “be on retainer” to Bisley, he’ll reveal her whereabouts to her enemies. After a careful buildup of suspense, the inevitable clash of great powers ensues.

A couple of the best stories involve shape shifters. “The Ones that Aren’t Crows” dramatizes indigenous people’s revenge on the bureaucrat that cheated them out of sacred land and fishing rights. The powerfully suspenseful “Old Country” concerns hand-made quilts with protective powers crafted by the protagonist Martin’s two grandmothers. He’ll desperately need those powers if he’s to avoid being “retired” by his deceased dad’s Mafioso associate, Jimmy Jambalaya. Hiding in the attic when Jimmy and his thugs arrive, Martin invokes otherworldly powers and watches “something in the corner of his vision [move] above the center of the attic’s floorboards . . .” The creature’s shape will shift twice more before the story reaches its conclusion—but can it save both Martin and his girlfriend?

The stories that especially stood out for me in this collection were the final two. “Puppet Legacy,” the penultimate tale, reveals a southern family’s complex blend of darkness and light, reintroducing Aaron, the smart five-year-old from the collection’s first story about the hocco. Now grown and affianced to Stephanie, Aaron has returned to his maternal grandparents’ backwoods Wayne County, Mississippi farm to introduce his bride-to-be to the relatives with whom he spent seminal parts of his childhood. The story focuses on Great-Aunt Regina’s hand-made puppets, likenesses of each of the relatives Aaron loves and respects—except for their “casual racism,” which Aaron’s dad warned him about, explaining that the men of this side of the family “were of a different era with different attitudes [which] didn’t make them bad people necessarily; just wrong.”

Regina’s puppets are incredibly real likenesses which, once turned inside out, display a different, often darker face of the family member, emphasizing a character trait that’s not always flattering; for example, obnoxious cousin Amos, whose current job is to prevent the couple from having premarital sex, is “grinning, red-haired, apple-cheeked roly-polyness” on one side but a ridiculous-looking clown on the puppet’s inner side. According to Aaron, Regina had a gift to “know things that she otherwise wouldn’t.”

When Amos challenges Aaron to show Stephanie the “ghost” out in the old smokehouse, the pair find themselves on a mission that’s more than just finding missing puppets; it’s a journey that, to Aaron, “seemed somehow familiar, like something felt a long time ago . . . ” While his fiancé waits outside, Aaron penetrates veils of cobwebs and layers of junk to discover a stunning revelation about his grandfather, which the author subtly prepared us for by clues introduced earlier in the story.

Finally, “Limited Edition” focuses on the presence of otherworldly forces embodied in objects (here called archetypes) and seemingly normal people at an Antiques Road Show. The story involves the ageless, legendary “Miss Zeddie,” whom we already met in “The Wise Ones.” In the earlier story, Madam Z was so all-powerful that the fight between her and her enemies was hardly a fair one. This time, though, she meets her match in the all-too-human antiquities appraiser C. Phillips Hovelan. Without giving away too much, I’ll say the intricate plot turns on a tiny archetypal fork; the mythical man who bears it, called the Furcifer; and a shattering, very satisfying confrontation between Zeddie and Hovelan.

In addition to varied plots and characters, the writing itself in Consternation is lively, for example, the House of Usher-esque description of Madam Z’s lair in “The Wise Ones:  “The building itself was an ancient structure composed of chipped gray bricks . . . held together by crumbling mortar and sheer will alone.” There’s a monstrous laugh described in the same story:  “The unholy sound grew in intensity as the tall man’s jaws became a spreading cavern, his features pushing aside to make room. Beneath the foul laughter was a grotesque whistling, like that of a sick animal’s labored breath.” Such sensory description is necessary to make us believe—and fear—the dark powers Fritzius embodies in his characters, both human and supernatural. Occasionally I found a monster’s description a bit vague, but I believe Fritzius’ strengths greatly outweigh any weaknesses and most readers will find many savory delights in this uniquely themed collection. 

 

 

 

MORE ON WILLIAM DEMBY's BEETLECREEK (See discussion in Issue # 178)


Belinda Anderson writes:

I was struck by the sense of crushing isolation experienced by the characters, whether or not they were physically isolated. Bill Trapp voices it, frequently: "I could tell you a thing or two about being here all alone." Johnny's moral disintegration, from a boy who tries to protect a bird to a boy who makes up a story that will get Bill Trapp into even more trouble, seems to be the result of his desire to escape isolation, to belong to a group: "And he knew that, behind the terror and the feeling sorry for the bird, the dead creature, was also a new feeling: a new feeling of envy for the power the Leader had over things and creatures and the other boys ..."

(Phyllis Moore had noted Johnny being shown as kind, but that trait dwindles as his determination to belong controls his actions).

Bill Trapp's efforts to escape his isolation have extended negative consequences. Eddy mentioned Mary as seeming a less sympathetic character, but once again here is a person trying desperately to belong. I also was struck by the always-surfacing human impulse to rush to judgment, which ironically is a way of belonging -- clustering to exclude someone. In addressing Phyllis's question about the status of this book as a classic, this is what the university press edition that I read had to say: " ... is remarkable for its continued emotional resonance ... While Beetlecreek did not aspire to tragedy, readers are moved by a series of lost opportunities for reconciliation within the plot. Yet throughout these lost opportunities, Beetlecreek speaks to sustain a flickering desire to violate the racial status quo."

 

 

 

A FEW SHORTER REVIEWS AND COMMENTS

 

Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman

Christine Willis:

My reading of To Kill a Mockingbird didn't reveal an unbiased, unprejudiced Atticus that would define a liberal as is understood today. He appeared to me to be a man who lived by the instruction of law, which resulted in him behaving in such a way that some (even his own community) believed him to be a "nigger lover." I don't think he was a person who would be deserving of such a slam in the time of To Kill a Mockingbird. He was scripted words by Harper Lee to the effect that the worst thing a person could do was to cheat a Negro: "As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it --whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash."

The black man of To Kill a Mockingbird's time was vulnerable to the white man's treatment as well as the white man's law. Through that condescension, Atticus recognized and to a degree supported, the status of the black man at that time. He did not renounce a system or society that created and perpetuated the black man's situation, and he accepted its existence. Atticus goes on to address "a Negro's ignorance:"

"There's nothing more sickening to me than a low-grade white man who'll take advantage of a Negro's ignorance. Don't fool yourselves – it's all adding up and one of these days we're going to pay the bill for it. I hope it's not in you children's time."

The Atticus of Go Set a Watchman was just short of stating that the bill had become due. The black man's political progress was too fast for Atticus: "Honey, you do not seem to understand that the Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people. You should know it, you've seen it all your life. They've made terrific progress in adapting themselves to white ways, but they're far from it yet. They were coming along fine, traveling at a rate they could absorb, more of 'em voting than ever before. Then the NAACP stepped in with its fantastic demands and shoddy ideas of government --can you blame the South for resenting being told what to do about it own people by people who have no idea of its daily problems?"

Atticus, as he is portrayed in Go Set a Watchman, is a credible descendent of [the] Atticus of To Kill a Mockingbird. Each is a product of his environment and experience.

 

 

Eddy Pendarvis:

The Harper Lee book is interesting. One thing of interest to me is how much fun Harper Lee seems to have had in scattering literary allusions throughout the book. Another thing is how I've seen no reviews that talk about Scout's racism (I mean the grown Scout). It all seems to be focused on Atticus's racism. I don't know whether Harper Lee's view was similar to Jean Louise's or whether she was just presenting an accurate portrayal of two forms of racism. Anyway, I think it's a great book to read when all the controversy of the rebel flag is still a little in the news. You ought to read it as of literary-history and social-history interest, if nothing else.

 

 

 

Ursula LeGuin:

http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Blog2015.html#102Watchman

 

 

 

Belinda Anderson on Zelda Fitzgerald's Letters

I recently read Zelda Fitzgerald's collected short stories and letters. [Zelda] was so much in her husband's shadow, at least in terms of critics, that I wasn't sure what to expect. I discovered that I liked her writing very much. I had previously read that she didn't care much for women, but I liked her female characters. I find her short stories fizzing, with the energy of a writer like Ray Bradbury. She fires similes and metaphors so rapidly that the reader is swept right along, with no time for scrutiny to see if they hold up. The entire effect works. Loved her cleverness and humor: "The first thing she bought was a tan coat much too thin to wear until it would be too hot to wear it. " Another example: "…the management set them in a corner just in case they might be more important than they looked. Then, just in case they might not, the busboys went on sweeping the floor."

Here's another aspect I like about her short stories – something happens. Her main characters turn a corner. Sometimes it's a hopeful corner. Sometimes it's a matter of learning to cope with circumstances. But something happens. I really don't understand why she didn't receive her due as a writer. Her letters were so poignant, especially with the contrast of the effervescence of her youth to the despair of her disappointments. I thought this line from a character in one of her stories was very telling: "I am going to work so hard that my spirit will be completely broken."

 

READERS RESPOND

 

Donna Meredith wrote in response to Janet Mackenzie 's review of Ron Rash's Serena: "I am so glad someone else thought Ron Rash's novel had weaknesses. I thought Serena was extremely one-dimensional and unbelievable as a character."

 

 

IF YOU'RE GOING TO SAN FRANCISO....

 

Visit the Glen Park San Francisco Bookstore and Jazz club, Bird and Beckett at http://www.birdbeckett.com/ .  It's located at 653 Chenery Street. Almost any Saturday, something terrific is happening in music or literature. I happened to pass by when I was visiting last fall, and Diane Di Prima was reading.

 

JOHN BIRCH E-READER REPORT: MAYBE THE FUTURE OF E-BOOKS DOESN'T LOOK AS ROSY AS WE THOUGHT

I'm sure you'll remember that several years ago there was a flap and panic in the book world, during which it was believed that e-books would take over, and that "old-fashioned" paper books would become a relic of some other time and place. Well, that doesn't seem to be happening after all. This year, independent bookstores and national chains seem to believe that print and digital books will coexist, and that they won't compete with each other. The dream of an exclusive e-book world has been severely squashed by a number of notable reports. The Association of American publishers recently released their annual data report and found that in the first three months of 2015 e-books have "plummeted."  Meanwhile, according to the US Census Bureau, brick and mortar bookstore sales are on the rise for the third straight month. This May, U.S. sales across the board for books, stationery and magazines have increased by $776 million from the same period last year. We'll keep an eye on it.

John Birch's blog is at http://www.johnbirchlive.blogspot.com/

 

 

READ AND LISTEN ONLINE

John Birch's blog is at http://www.johnbirchlive.blogspot.com/
Ed Davis's review of Meli's Way
Cathy Weiss's website for writers and readers: Check it out! http://www.armoredoxfords.com/
Prodigal's Chair has memoir, fiction, etc. online at http://www.prodigalschair.com .
Cathy Weiss's piece "Sturdy Black Shoes" is at http://www.prodigalschair.com/sturdy-black-shoes.html .
Jack Deacy has an excellent two-part memoir piece on his experience as a journalist on Bloody Friday in Belfast in The Easthampton Star at: http://easthamptonstar.com/Fiction/2015714/Baptism-Belfast     . http://easthamptonstar.com/articles/Fiction
 

 

IRENE WEINBERGER BOOKS:

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ANNOUNCEMENTS, BOOKS RECEIVED, CONTESTS, WORKSHOPS, READINGS ETC.

 

Take a look at Troy Hill's new website: http://www.troyernesthill.com/

 

 

Hamilton Stone Editions is getting Buy Buttons!

 

 

 

Just published by Austin Macauley Publishers in London is Alexandra Psaropoulou's long poem with graphic designs, ALL THE STARS. See http://alexandrapsaropoulou.wix.com/books

 

Latest poems by Barbara Crooker online: http://www.barbaracrooker.com/online.php

 
Debut Novel from Matthew Neill Null

 

Matthew Neill Null's debut novel is Honey from the Lion, just published by Lookout Books on September 8th, 2015. The publisher says, "In this lyrical and suspenseful debut novel, a turn-of-the-century logging company decimates ten thousand acres of virgin forest in the West Virginia Alleghenies—and transforms a brotherhood of timber wolves into revolutionaries....[The novel] evokes the ecological devastation and human tragedy behind the Gilded Age, and sings both the land and ordinary lives in all their extraordinary resilience."

I hope to review it soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Austen Again: 19th century fanatics only!

I was so annoyed by a 1999 movie version of Mansfield Park that I couldn't finish it and reread the book instead. Mansfield Park has a broader canvas than most of Austen, including a lot about the lives of men (and boys!) in the navy and indirect reference to slavery and the slave trade. The heroine Fanny Price isn't the feistiest of Austen's women, but the bad Crawfords siblings are totally charming.

Many years ago in an earlier reading, I rooted for the Crawfords. You know they are selfish and destructive, but it's hard not to be attracted to them. In Austen's summary at the end, she suggests Henry Crawford could ultimately have won Fanny, had he persevered and made that the one great effort of his life--that would have been an interesting, but very different book.

Patriarchy doesn't come off well in this book. Sir Thomas, the head of the family at Mansfield Park, leaves his family to their own devices (probably to deal with his slave plantations in the West Indies). His wife Lady Bertram is completely irresponsible and probably the most wonderful embodiment of indolence ever written. We don't waste time lying around on couches like that anymore! Sister Norris, who is at least energetic, is a downright monster.

Fanny keeps her back stiff, and is painfully good, but she finally grows enough to have an angry soliloquy late in the novel, which she promptly suppresses. Still, you see this suppression as an act of strength and choice, not self- abnegation.

 

I also read (for the first time), the unfinished Sandition which seemed cursory and sharp, more satire than wit. It is a kind of business story-- some gentlepeople trying to turn a sleepy beach village into a more elite version of Brighton or Bath. It has a gabby central family and is narrated by their practical minded young guest. Most of the satire is aimed at people who go around insisting they are suffering with various ills yet also hurrying about running everyone else's life. Also heavily satirized a young man whose plan is to seduce various women a la Lovelace in Clarissa. He's' pretty funny--assuming he doesn't really do anything too bad. How sad that Austen laid down her pen after writing forty or fifty pages of this and was never well enough to finish it.

 

By then I was well into my obsessive Austen-gobbling. I reread Emma, never my favorite, but the one that was highly praised when I was at Barnard College those many years ago. I think I've always been bothered by its narrowness and the essentially snobbery of the main character. Emma's moral development is engrossing to watch, but I found her attitudes and the community stifling. Emma marries the man next door, whose influence has been part of her upbringing, and she is glad to be separated from Harriet Smith, both because Harriet is marrying a farmer but also because Harriet turns out to be the natural child of a tradesman. Are the snobbery and devotion to class structure only Emma's, or Austen's as well? I never felt it in the other books, so maybe it's character based. Maybe not too. There is plenty to admire in the novel, and many things that made me laugh out loud-- the monologuists Miss Bates and obnoxious Mrs. Elton especially. But I don't like Emma's father, who is a spoiled old piss-pot who everyone treats as the finest example of English gentlemanhood. Well, maybe they think he is. I don't.

 

Sense and Sensibility goes fast and is largely fun, although Marianne is a fool for a lot of the novel, and I lose patience often with Elinor's extreme patience, but you can't forget how trammelled a lady was in that time and place. My favorite character may be the scheming Lucy Steele, and I adore her social triumph and who she marries. She single-mindedly scrambles to succeed in the only way she knows how--by marriage to a wealthy, socially well-placed man. It might be fun to write her version of the novel.

The movie of this novel (unlike the Mansfield Park) was good, except that they made the actor who played Lucy Steele ugly. Even now, I keep visualizing Kate Winslet as Marianne (excellent choice), Emma Thompson as Elinor (a little too old), Hugh Grant as Edward, Alan Rickman as Col. Brandon. The actor who played Willoughby is Emma Thompson's present husband and father of her daughter.

 

So Sense and Sensibility has lots of dependable pleasures, but my favorite Austen novels at the moment are Mansfield Park (see above), and Persuasion.

Persuasion is in some ways simpler than Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice or Mansfield Park with their larger casts of characters. (Or do they only feel larger? Anne's time in Bath has a fairly broad look at society, and there is an interesting woman friend there with a checkered past).

The love story is well-known as a return of love to older people (the heroine, fading fast, is all of 28!), but it feels like everyone is in their forties. There's a deliberateness about the writing that is a little sad, a little slow–but the gradual rediscovery of love between Anne and Wentworth is beautifully done. Anne is quicker to realize her feelings and that she has to squash them. Wentworth has to deal first with his anger and resentment. Very believable. Also, the obstacles between them are almost all character driven, not plot: Wentworth pulls back because of the attentions to Anne of the deceitful Mr. Elliot, but not for long. His honorable intentions toward Louisa Musgrove don't preclude a sensible decision to separate from her for a period during which he hopes she'll give him up. She promptly engages herself to a different man.

The story is a little grayer than the rollicking ups and downs of Sense and Sensibility (which feels much closer to, say, Fielding), but it gives really satisfaction. But how awful to be among people all the time, though, as Anne is. She, too has to give service to an appalling papa, and has an unpleasant sister as well.

 

I'm struck by how many awful people there are in Austen's books. She is, after all, in so many ways closer to the satirists of the eighteenth century than the sentimentalists of the nineteenth.

 


 

 

Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 180

November 17, 2015

When possible, read this newsletter online in its permanent location .

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In this issue of Books for Readers (# 180):

NEW!!
Obituaries
Notes on Saul Bellow
Honey from the Lion by Matthew Neill Null

Poetry

Ghost Dance by Edwina Pendarvis
Tarzan in Kentucky by Judith Moffett

Short Reviews

Nahid Rachlin

Eve Ensler

 

Theodore Dreiser's Jennie Gerhardt

E-Reader Report with John Birch
Things to Read & Hear Online

Announcements and News
Irene Weinberger Books

 

 

New, New, New,
and New!!!


Montemayor Press Presents Meredith Sue Willis's
young adult novel, Meli's Way
Read the Reviews!


 

  A Journal of Practical Writing

 

I've started a web page of posts and articles with practical ideas for writers of prose narrative. Some of these will be short pieces I've written; some will be by other people, such as...


Latest from Irene Weinberger Books :
Mitch Levenberg's Dementia Diaries

 

 


 

ISSUE # 33 Fall 2015 of The Hamilton Stone Review

Poetry by William Aarnes, Ace Boggess, Doug Bolling, John Davis, Camillo DiMaria, Keith Dunlap, John Freeman, Howie Good, James Grabill, Nels Hanson, Tricia Knoll, Susanna Lang, Michael Lauchlin, Rita Maria Martinez, Larry Narron, Stan Sanvel Rubin, David Salner, Sanjeev Sethi, D. E. Steward, Millie Tullis, James Valvis, Laryssa Wirstiuk, and Mark Young; Fiction by Tyler Atkinson, Jane Lazarre, Anne Leigh Parrish, Adam “Bucho” Rodenberger, Fred Skolnik, Esvelyn Walsh, and Iromie Weeramantry; Nonfictionby Jim Brega, Reamy Jansen, Johnathan Jones, Alice Lowe, Helen Park, and Kenny Yuan.

 

 

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I want to begin with the deaths of two people very important to literature and my literary life. One was Merle Moore, a great West Virginian builder of libraries and festivals and supporter of West Virginia writers and all literature. Here's what I wrote about her in my blog.

 

 

The second was Vera B. Williams, working class children's writer and artist. I was in the same writers' peer group with her in New York City for many years. She received loving, moving obituaries in The New York Times and Publisher's Weekly .

 

 

 

 

 

Saul Bellow and Matthew Neill Null

 

If you are a fan of Saul Bellow, I hope you'll write and give me your thoughts, as I am having a hard time warming up to his work. He is undoubtedly a brilliant writer (after all, he won the Nobel Prize!). He created a diction that includes both high culture and street language, especially the rhythms of Chicago and New York, and, of those rhythms, especially the resonance of Yiddish and Russian. So I'm deeply admiring of his technique and accomplishment, but--for me--something is missing. Over the summer I read Humdoldt's Gift and I reread The Adventures of Augie March. There are passages and scenes in those books (and in his excellent, short Seize the Day) that are as good as anything written in English since 1900. But--and again, I'm hoping for another opinion on this-I find myself feeling feel the performance, not the experience.

Halfway through my reading Humboldt's Gift (the roman a clef about Delmore Schwartz, who I spoke about in in Issue #179), I wrote in my journal, "Humboldt's Gift has some wildly wonderful scenes but also a lot of attitudes to women that make me want to puke. I can't say I like Saul Bellow, but when he's on, he's really on. There's great long section about the bashing of protagonist Charlie Citrine's Mercedes by a punk criminal wannabe and then a crazy day of Charlie and the same punk running around together.... I get the picaresque–I get the complex relationship between Charlie and Humboldt, I get that Charlie likes getting turned on by women (and that he thinks he loves women, but he only loves sex as far as I can see and maybe some forms of mothering.)

"The plot, and especially the plots of the movie treatments Charlie and Humboldt write together for fun, are over the top with what I think is supposed to be comedy and hyperbole, but largely seem angry and weird ...I suppose if you won the Nobel Prize for literature (1976) you must feel at some level like there's something in every thought and idea you have. Still, when he's good, he's very very good: the stuff with Rinaldo Cantabile the punk wanna be gangster, all that is tons of fun. The late passage on the narrator's brother's heart surgery and his love for the brother, crass businessman that he is– that whole long section is almost worth reading the 487 pages for. Maybe."

In some ways I liked The Adventures of Augie March better. It too has a crass businessman brother and deals magnificently with the strains between the brothers that are always suffused with love. There are stunning, thick passage of rich detail of his brother's possessions, especially expensive shirts and shoes. Augie has tremendous energy and momentum in its tumble forward, and some memorable characters, especially the Chicago types and eccentrics. There's "Grandma," a Russian Jewish grand dame who lets the impoverished March family live in her apartment and then uses them mercilessly for chores and personal service. There's the paralyzed local businessman/crime boss Einhorn (Bellow is extremely good on the many levels of low lifes and petty criminals) and certain scenes (again) are just super. I especially liked the Depression sequence when Augie goes on the bum and jumps railroad cars with the hobos. He works for a union for a while and helps with organizing a chambermaids' strike, but Bellow drops that in a hurry and sends Augie off to Mexico with a ditzy rich girl who wants to train an eagle to hunt.

The lovers' dialogue is often awkward and feels dated. I don't think dialogue is Bellow's strong suit-- he's great on speeches and monologues and internal and external philosophizing. Actually, I liked Augie, at least part of the time. He goes to war in the Merchant Marine, gets married and then torpedo'd, then adrift in a boat with a madman, finally ending up doing illegal import deals and living in Paris. The ending works, and the adventures largely work, and also the wonderful juxtaposition of forties Chicago slang with highly erudite imagery. Still, for all of what works, and all of what is brilliant, I am left cold by something about Bellow: it isn't just the misogyny, either, it's some lack in the personality of the writer (I believe) that he tries to hide in brilliance, in good stories, in vast glossolalian explosions of language. Again, if you're a fan, please 'fess up and tell me where I've gone wrong!

 

 

Next I want to share an excellent new novel, Honey from the Lion, by Matthew Neill Null. Set in the late nineteenth century timber clearing camps and towns of north central West Virginia, it creates its world convincingly, but is thoroughly twenty-first century in its bleak view of politics and human nature. Nascent union efforts are foreshadowed as damned from the beginning, and the most politically conscious people are killed early on. The survivors, including the main character, are apolitical at best. One character sees that the effort is failing here, and goes to the coal fields of southern West Virginia where the unionization has more success, but Null's interest isn't with him, but rather with the texture and violence of the world of timber exploitation.

The novel captures the moment in the late 1800's when outside companies were blithely buying and stripping timber off the mountains. The workers are at once proud of this huge thing they are a part of and aware that what they are doing is ugly and destructive. The point is made that the magnificent spruces and ancient oaks are turning into clothes pins and newspapers that go quickly from today's news to outhouse wiping paper. This is the tragic given--the ground-- of the story Null wants to tell.

One of Null's great successes here is in hinting just enough at the language of a a hundred and thirty years go, and using just enough examples of the material culture to create his world believably and without condescension.

We are told that the main character, Coleman "Cur" Greathouse will live a long life, so we're not too jumpy about him being killed in one of the many violent incidents in the novel. He is presented as a psychological drifter: the great emotional event of his life occurs when he is in his teens, in a triangle among himself, his father, and his father's young second wife. The rest of his life is a kind of drifting search for someone to admire, follow, love.

The book is unapologetically omniscient, slipping easily into various people in the boom town of Helena: a god-ravaged preacher, the "absentees" who own the timber company--as young men, they discovered the vast stands of forest when they were soldiers in the Union army. Now one is a senator, one a judge. They are appealing in their youth and corrupt in their middle age.

I have a couple of quibbles, all in a context of great appreciation and enjoyment. One is that Cur's return to his home place and family is appropriately unhappy, but in a way that seems to me maybe too neat. This may be taste, though. The other quibble is what I mentioned at the beginning, that the whole union organizing/labor wars theme gives no quarter to the workers. You know from the very beginning that the efforts to unionize the timber fields will fail, which is, I assume historically correct. But the organizing scenes are undermined by our fore-knowledge. The most serious union leaders are killed brutally almost immediately, and the most successful action is a free-lance assassination by a character who has been mostly offstage. Again, this is not about accuracy, but it is about Null's choice of what to highlight.

I'm always looking for a different book, I guess, the one in which the characters, unlike attractive but somewhat dim Cur, have a consciousness of history and their own place in it. Denise Giardina managed this in Storming Heaven, and I am probably asking Null for something he had no interest in doing. So read it for the story, the characters, and the wonderful evocation of a semi-frontier world in northern West Virginia in the 1800's.

 

                          

                                                                                 Meredith Sue Willis

 

 

 

Two Powerful Books of Poetry

 

Ghost Dance by Edwina Pendarvis gives an overall impression of wide variety and a deep fund of wit. Pendarvis takes us to the world of legends and myths, and she brings us up close to the texture of our lives. She has enormous range– from light-hearted to heart-rending. The first section is loosely governed by reflections on the Ghost Dance, a religious movement of the Plains Indians at the end of the nineteenth century. The poems in this section include everything from instructions on "How to enter an Iceberg" ("Blue-green popsicle tinting your lips/wearing shoes of fire.) to surviving a bad day "What with Johnny Cash dying ("and George Bush in the White House,/all in the same season./and my son moved out to Utah"). There are also sections called "Phosphors," and others called "Fairy Tales" and "Games" and "Riddles." The luminescent phenomena described in "Phosphors" include morning mist and frost-whitened lawns, New York City seen during a plane landing, a frosted wedding cake, and a snowy rural scene where "as a gate to empty fields/never gives, never yields,/so the spirit takes its form/from each thing that calls it home."

Some of my favorites are probably the short narratives like "Lot's Wife," which is a retelling of that Bible story, and a memory poem called "Paper Dolls" in which Liz Taylor and Mitzi Gaynor join Ann Blythe and Betty Grable– starlets, punched out of cardboard, rocking back and forth on little paper feet from one linoleum square to another.

There is also a very real "Catfish" that reminds me of some of Marianne Moore's work; a charming "Operetta" that is organized by acts; and a sequel to "Twelve Dancing Princesses" called "Twelve Languishing Princes" in which the executed suitors' bodiless heads play an important part.

There are also character poems like the touching observation of what I take to be the poet's child as he/she goes scuba diving. I also especially liked one called "Dovey" about a girl who is the only African-American in her junior high class. She does everything right, is treated badly– and manages to get a subtle revenge. I could go on listing and quoting, which is exactly what a collection like this makes you want to do. This is poetry that is intelligent and rich, clever and beautiful– yet never esoteric. It is an eminently readable collection that deserves a broad audience and wide acclaim.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tarzan in Kentucky: Poems by Judith Moffett is a chewy, sinuous collection of poems by a living poet who went many years without writing poetry, but is--to our great benefit--writing again. Called "An effortless" virtuoso by James Merrill and "among the most accomplished of her generation" by Daniel Hoffman, Moffett writes brilliantly lucid everyday language contained--and freed--by tight forms like tercets and and sonnets. You only notice the form if you are looking-- you feel the emotion, see the picture, hear the voice and the story. The forms are certainly there, though, giving her poems a musculature that makes much of the free verse we are used to seem flaccid.

The fourth and final section of the book, "Tarzan and the Apes," is a long poem that is part autobiography of the poet (who was raised in Kentucky and southern Ohio in a fundamentalist church), and part history of the human relationship with other primates. It raises the question of whether or not chimpanzees and gorillas are able really to use language, to which question Moffett gives a resounding yes. She writes especially movingly of Kanzi, a bonobo, whose mother Matata has been the subject of language experiments. Matata is removed for "breeding leave," and

                                  Now little Kanzi, frantic,
Runs to the keyboard, heretofore ignored,
To say what no one ever tried to teach him:
Help Kanzi    Where Matata    Where Matata

In other words the young bonobo, who was not instructed, has learned to keyboard and communicate in English by observing. It's such a brilliant passage, so sad, so straightforward, so quintessentially Moffett.   Every poem is worthwhile: a number of them are about her farm, and there is a long section called "Grief" in which she writes about the aftermath of her husband's death. The poet speaks to herself in one called "Broken Couplet:"

Solutions, none. No cures.
This task alone is yours:
to make each day a quest
for getting through it best
when "best" cannot mean "well..."

 

You feel here what rhyme is about: an arbitrary way of linking things that then makes meaning of what started out as arbitrary. Next after "Broken Couplet" is another long semi-narrative poem also about loss and relationships, in this case about the William Wordsworth-Dorothy Wordsworth-Samuel Taylor Coleridge triangle--written in the meter of "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Moffett's poem, replete with knowledge of the Romantic poets' circle and the Lake district of England, is called "The Rime of Poor William and The Recluse." She also writes about her mentor and friend James Merrill and about Original Sin and other issues of fundamentalist Protestantism. She writes about dogs and evolution. She writes with a sinewy natural line that gives it all up to us, if we'll only listen.

 

For more information, go to http://www.davidrobertbooks.com/moffett.html

 

 

 

 

 

A FEW SHORTER REVIEWS AND COMMENTS

 

 

Nahid Rachlin's novella Crowd of Sorrows is a gripping and sad story of broken families and damaged children. A woman takes her little girl and leaves her husband. The mother and child move into an apartment complex with lots of other families, and the main character looks out her sliding doors to a common play space and learns more about the lives of her neighbors than she thinks she wants. It is, however, this crowd of people and its sorrows that becomes the center of the story.

One family's child is seriously ill; one mother and child leave and go back to England; there is one troubled boy who hits the others and generally appears dangerous. Meanwhile, the narrator gets a job with a small Turkish/English magazine. Many of her happiest memories during a much-traveled childhood were of Turkey, and she is attracted to her boss, who reminds her of a teenage boyfriend.

The largest event of the novella is when the narrator's daughter goes missing and she has to to face the horrors of failing to keep a child safe. The girl survives intact, but the Turkish magazine folds. The boss wants her to come back to Turkey with him, and there is a resurgence of sense memories in her of how much she loved that place, implicitly comparing it to the bleak sorrows of this northeastern U.S. apartment complex.

 

 

 

I also read In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler, who is best known as the playwright of The Vagina Monologues. The memoir starts out being about her activism helping build an institution for women who have survived the horrors of war in the Congo. Soon, however, the book is overwhelmed by Ensler's personal cancer story. On the one hand, it feels wildly wrong to insist on this connection--that she, a first world white woman with a terrible illness somehow represents all the women raped and ravaged in political turmoil. Still, you probably need crazy egomaniacs like Even Ensler as catalysts for action: if the Internet isn't lying, her institution, The City of Joy appears to be wonderful place .

 

 

 

Finally, Theodore Dreiser's Jennie Gerhardt, which doesn't get a lot of praise compared to Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy. I have a lot against it, but surprised myself in the end by liking it a lot. The main character Jennie is loving and attractive, but a total sap around men: that is, by inclination and training, she does as she's told. There's a kindly but lecherous older bachelor (another U.S. senator!) she has sex with once, and she is immediately pregnant. He dies, and she has the baby, Her stiff-necked German Lutheran father disowns her, but her mother manages to keep her near.

Next, Jennie gets a job as a ladies maid in a fancy society woman's home. Enter Lester Kane, wealthy young scion of a carriage business family, and he decides he wants her: "You're mine," he says repeatedly, and she says no no no and it's really yes yes yes because of the extreme neediness of her family and her own sense of herself as already damaged beyond repair and also her sensuality. Soon she's taking trips with Lester, then being kept by him, then living with him.

The situation is infuriating: marry her you pusillanimous twerp, one shouts at the page. Yet, Lester cares for her in his own arrogant way. He keeps her from getting pregnant, teaches her, dresses her. etc. He becomes more and more attached to her. He just won't marry her. There are are various crises: she keeps her daughter's existence from him; she lies to her father and convinces him, after her mother's death, to move in with her and Lester, and brings the girl too, once she finally confesses. No one ever really deserts Jennie, except by death.

Finally, Lester's father dies and the will has a complicated set of stipulations that essentially force him either to discard Jennie and get lots of money, marry Jennie and get less money, or stay with Jennie without marriage and get no money. Lester spends the entire three years he's given for the decision dithering, but in the end sets Jennie up in style and marries another woman who also adores him. On his deathbed, he calls for Jennie and tells her he made a mistake. He has always loved her. There's a lot of Dreiser's pseudo-philosophy about the essential meaninglessness of life and how we are in the end completely buffeted by fate.

I think I'm telling the whole plot here because I can't imagine that many people will go out and read this--even though it's free or almost free for your e-book. The old fashioned type of womanhood is hard to take, and Dreiser's writing can be clunky, but against all my ideological convictions, I found myself believing this book, partly because of Dreiser's sharp eye for the stupidity of America's borrowed class distinctions.

 

 

JOHN BIRCH E-READER REPORT: E-BOOK SALES SLIP, BUT THEY ARE FAR FROM DEAD

I suppose it had to come. For the last year or two I've been telling you that sales of e-books were on the up and up. Well, it seems that's over, at least for the time being. HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster and Hachette, three of the biggest guns in publishing, have recently reported that revenue from e-books declined in their last quarter.

An article last month in the New York Times, boldly headlined E-BOOKS SLIP, AND PRINT IS FAR FROM DEAD quoted Len Vlahos, a former executive director of The Book Industry Study Group as saying that "E-books were this rocket ship going straight up. Just about everybody you talked to thought we were going the way of digital music."

The Times article went on "But the digital apocalypse never arrived, or at least not on schedule. While analysts once predicted that e-books would overtake print by 2015, digital have instead slowed sharply."

That's as maybe, but I wouldn't swap my Kindle for all the tea in China.

 

 

John Birch's blog is at http://www.johnbirchlive.blogspot.com/

 

 

READ AND LISTEN ONLINE

 

Cathy Weiss's website for writers and readers: Check it out! http://www.armoredoxfords.com/
Read John Birch's latest blog post, "A Taste of Sherri."
Ed Davis's review of Meli's Way.
Prodigal's Chair has memoir, fiction, etc. online at http://www.prodigalschair.com .
Cathy Weiss's piece "Sturdy Black Shoes" is at http://www.prodigalschair.com/sturdy-black-shoes.html .
Jack Deacy has an excellent two-part memoir piece on his experience as a journalist on Bloody Friday in Belfast in The Easthampton Star at: http://easthamptonstar.com/Fiction/2015714/Baptism-Belfast  and  http://easthamptonstar.com/articles/Fiction .
And more Jack Deacy! Click, then scroll down !
Ingrid Hughes's blog has a story of one woman's journal through serious mental illness.
The New York Times on eight women's suspense writers of the 1940's.
Free Online Courses!

 

 

 

IRENE WEINBERGER BOOKS:

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ANNOUNCEMENTS, BOOKS RECEIVED, CONTESTS, WORKSHOPS, READINGS AND MORE.

 
Evelyn Walsh has won the SEÁN Ó FAOLÁIN SHORTSTORY COMPETITION for her story "White Rabbit !" Also see her work in the current issue of The Hamilton Stone Review.
Troy Hill has a new website at http://www.troyernesthill.com/
Check out the BUY buttons at Hamilton Stone Editions
Just published by Austin Macauley Publishers in London is Alexandra Psaropoulou's long poem with graphic designs, ALL THE STARS. See http://alexandrapsaropoulou.wix.com/books
Latest poems by Barbara Crooker online: http://www.barbaracrooker.com/online.php
 

 


A NOTE ABOUT AMAZON.COM
I have a lot of friends and colleagues who really despise Amazon. For a discussion of Amazon and organized labor and small presses, see the comments of Jonathan Greene and others in Issues #97 and #98 .
The largest unionized bookstore in America has a webstore at Powells Books. Some people prefer shopping online there to shopping at Amazon.com. An alternative way to reach Powell's site and support the union is via http://www.powellsunion.com. Prices are the same but 10% of your purchase will go to support the union benefit fund.
 

WHERE TO FIND BOOKS MENTIONED IN THIS NEWSLETTER

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 find a bricks-and-mortar store, click the "shop indie" logo left).
To buy books online, I often use Bookfinder or Alibris. Bookfinder gives the price with shipping and handling, so you can compare what you’re really going to have to pay.
Another source for used and out-of-print books is All Book Stores. Also consider Paperback Book Swap, a postage-only way to trade books with other readers.

If you are using an electronic reader like Kindle, Nook, or Kobo, don't forget free books at the Gutenberg Project—mostly classics, and free, free, free!
Kobobooks.com sells e-books for independent brick-and-mortar bookstores.

 

RESPONSES TO THIS NEWSLETTER

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

BACK ISSUES click here.

 

LICENSE

Creative Commons License Books for Readers Newsletter by Meredith Sue Willis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.meredithsuewillis.com. Some individual contributors may have other licenses.
 
"I hereby release my Goodreads review under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License." -- Joel Weinberger

 

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           Meredith Sue Willis, the producer of this occasional newsletter, is a writer and teacher and enthusiastic reader. Her books have been published by Charles Scribner's Sons, HarperCollins, Ohio University Press, Mercury House, West Virginia University Press, Monteymayor Press, Teachers & Writers Press, Hamilton Stone Editions, and others. She teaches at New York University's School of Professional Studies.

 

BACK ISSUES:

#180 Saul Bellow, Edwina Pendarvis, Matthew Neill Null, Judith Moffett, Theodore Dreiser, & more
#179 Larissa Shmailo, Eric Frizius, Jane Austen, Go Set a Watchman and more
#178 Ken Champion, Cat Pleska, William Demby's Beetlecreek, Ron Rash, Elizabeth Gaskell, and more.
#177 Jane Hicks, Daniel Levine, Constance Fenimore Woolson, Ken Chamption, Patricia Harman
#176 Robert Gipe, Justin Torres, Marilynne Robinson, Velma Wallis, Larry McMurty, Charlotte Brontë, Henry James, Fumiko Enchi, Shelley Ettinger
#175 Lists of what to read for the new year; MOUNTAIN MOTHER GOOSE: CHILD LORE OF WEST VIRGINIA; Peggy Backman
#174 Christian Sahner, John Michael Cummings, Denton Loving, Madame Bovary
#173 Stephanie Wellen Levine, S.C. Gwynne, Ed Davis's Psalms of Israel Jones, Quanah Parker, J.G. Farrell, Lubavitcher girls
#172 Pat Conroy, Donna Tartt, Alice Boatwright, Fumiko Enchi, Robin Hobb, Rex Stout
#171 Robert Graves, Marie Manilla, Johnny Sundstrom, Kirk Judd
#170 John Van Kirk, Carter Seaton,Neil Gaiman, Francine Prose, The Murder of Helen Jewett, Thaddeus Rutkowski
#169 Pearl Buck's The Exile and Fighting Angel; Larissa Shmailo; Liz Lewinson; Twelve Years a Slave, and more
#168 Catherine the Great, Alice Munro, Edith Poor, Mitch Levenberg, Vonnegut, Mellville, and more!
#167 Belinda Anderson; Anne Shelby; Sean O'Leary, Dragon tetralogy; Don Delillo's Underworld
#166 Eddy Pendarvis on Pearl S. Buck; Theresa Basile; Miguel A. Ortiz; Lynda Schor; poems by Janet Lewis; Sarah Fielding
#165 Janet Lewis, Melville, Tosltoy, Irwin Shaw!
#164 Ed Davis on Julie Moore's poems; Edith Wharton; Elaine Drennon Little's A Southern Place; Elmore Leonard
#163 Pamela Erens, Michael Harris, Marlen Bodden, Joydeep Roy-Battacharya, Lisa J. Parker, and more
#162 Lincoln, Joseph Kennedy, Etel Adnan, Laura Treacy Bentley, Ron Rash, Sophie's Choice, and more
#161 More Wilkie Collins; Duff Brenna's Murdering the Mom; Nora Olsen's Swans & Klons; Lady Audley's Secret
#160 Carolina De Robertis, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Ross King's The Judgment of Paris
#159 Tom Jones. William Luvaas, Marc Harshman, The Good Earth, Lara Santoro, American Psycho
#158 Chinua Achebe's Man of the People; The Red and the Black; McCarthy's C.; Farm City; Victor Depta;Myra Shapiro
#157 Alice Boatwright, Reamy Jansen, Herta Muller, Knut Hamsun, What Maisie Knew; Wanchee Wang, Dolly Withrow.
#156 The Glass Madonna; A Revelation
#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; 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.
#130
Lynda Schor, Ed Myers, Charles Bukowski, Terry Bisson, The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism
#129 Baltasar and Blimunda; Underground Railroad; Navasky's Naming Names, 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 Amazon.com; Molly Gilman on Dogs of Babel
#98   Guest editor Pat Arnow; more on the Amazon.com 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
#65
   Ingrid Hughes on Memoir
#64
    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
#49    
Caucasia
#48    
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
#25
   On Libraries....
#24    Tales of the City
#23
   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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