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Newsletter # 31
September 19, 2002


I want to recommend two nonfiction books this issue. BASE INSTINCTS by neurologist Jonathan H. Pincus, is about factors common to many of the most vicious murderers of recent years. The factors Pincus outlines are: first, mental illness (depression, mania, schizophrenia); second, physical damage to the brain (often lesions on the frontal lobes or congenital defects like those associated with fetal alcohol syndrome); and third, abuse to the person as a child.

Of course the vast majority of people with one or even two of these factors don't murder. But Pincus theorizes that the three together– physical and/or sexual abuse as a child; the confusion and pain of mental illness; organic damage to the part of the body that controls the impulses– are frequently part of the profile of serial killers and other murderers.

The most gripping part of the book is the harrowing stories of the individual killers. You are astounded: how could a parent have done these things to a child? You want personally to throttle the torturing fathers and mothers– and then discover that those parents were themselves often tortured as children. Then you wonder, How could we, as a society, execute such sadly damaged people? This book is one of the strongest arguments you'll read against the death penalty.

In the "what to do?" section, Pincus describes a potentially successful long-term program that supports and monitors at-risk families to stop child abuse before it happens. He also spends time giving information on the proper way to do physical examinations that uncover disastrous brain damage. In fact, the book ends with a rather dry chapter on diagnosis, which I can't imagine made Pincus's editors happy, but he wants us to remember that he's a neurologist, not a writer of sensational crime stories, or, for that matter, a social activist.

I found the second book in a stack of freebies in a college English department a few years back. This one is the history of lesbian life in the twentieth century, ODD GIRLS AND TWILIGHT LOVERS, by Lillian Faderman. One of the themes running through the book is the difference between lesbian "essentialists," who see lesbianism as an innate, and thus natural state that deserves integration into society along with all the other normal human varieties, and the lesbian "existentialists," who see lesbianism as a choice all women should make in order to destroy the patriarchy that has straight-jacketed and endangered human life in male-dominated cultures of war and hierarchy.

Faderman moves from professorial delineation of romantic friendships and the rise of women's colleges to the experiments and adventures in lesbianism of the roaring twenties. She really gets rolling, however, with her history of the repressive nineteen fifties with butches and femmes and bar culture, and then the seventies and the heyday of the utopian Lesbian Nation, and the subsequent battles over outlaw sex and the return of role playing.

A substantial side benefit of the book is the number of novels Faderman mentions. One interesting phenomenon she points out is that even depressing potboilers and pulp novels of the fifties and early sixties that were supposed to show the evils of lesbian love (she gives titles like STRANGER ON LESBOS) were devoured by women who ignored the overt message as they discovered that they weren't alone. She also refers to many novels with a positive picture of lesbian life, but, since her book ends at the beginning of the nineteen-nineties, she doesn't know terrific reads such as Sarah Waters' FINGERSMITH and TIPPING THE VELVET.

I've ordered one of the older books Faderman does mention, June Arnold's SISTER GIN, and I long ago read Rita Mae Brown's RUBYFRUIT JUNGLE, but can anyone give an opinion on other books mentioned, such as the science fiction novels THE WANDERGROUND by Sally Gearhart or Rochelle Singer's THE DEMETER FLOWER? How about Lee Lynch's THE SWASHBUCKLER? Ellen Frey's LOOK UNDER THE HAWTHORNES? Any recommendations or warnings?.

                                                               Meredith Sue Willis



Andy Weinberger has been forwarding an email newsletter to me that I like: Michael Quinion's "World Wide Words: Investigating International English from a British Viewpoint." This newsletter is a lot of fun. It has recent notes on the origins of "braggadocio" (not quite what you think) as well as a discussion of the phrase "The exception proves the rule." Take a look at the website, and if you like it, subscribe to the free newsletter.



Greg Sanders has just begun working on an MFA at the New School in New York City. He writes that the first book assigned for a literary seminar class is MIDDLEMARCH, one of my favorites, mentioned last issue.

MIDDLEMARCH, by the way, is one of the novels that I read over and over again. In the last issue, Naomi Freundlich wrote about books she reads over and over again: THE GROUP by Mary McCarthy, and Dawn Powell's novels.

Now Phyllis Moore writes to describe the stack of stack of books she keeps near the door (to grab in case of a house fire, she says) that includes LEGACY OF LOVE, "a memoir by Julia Davis of Clarksburg, West Virginia. In it she recalls her maternal and fraternal relatives with humor and love, warts and all. Her ability to create a feeling for both people and places is flawless. This work evokes the same warm fuzzy feelings in me as does Harper Lee's novel TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, which is also in the stack."

TO OBTAIN BOOKS mentioned in this newsletter, tr your public library and your local independent bookstore. For book buying online, I have been using Alibris at . For online shopping through independent bookstores, go to Booksense.




Newsletter # 32
October 8, 2002


May I begin with happy personal news? My new novel is novel out! It's called ORADELL AT SEA, a story about a woman who grew up in a coal mining town and gets rich unexpectedly. Details are available at the publisher's site.

Meanwhile, I've been on an excursion into the works of the ever-formidable Dead White European Males: first, James Joyce's wonderful "The Dead," from DUBLINERS. This long story is always new, always offering more in its rich forty pages. It has one of the most mouth-watering descriptions of food you'll ever read; it offers a model example of how to write crowd scenes (the short version: limit the number of people with proper names); and, of course, the main thrust– the sad, touching, dead-and-dying who surround us– and are us. If you don't own the book, you may read the story online.

Second, I read Joseph Conrad's NOSTROMO, a book that is too turgid for too long. Conrad indulges himself in a ponderous first fifty pages to build his fictional province with its history, its capital, its high and low citizenry, its topography, its weather!– I almost gave up. However, once the world was built to his satisfaction– and once I'd made the commitment of slogging through it– there was a kind of magical shift, a sea change if you will, and I was suddenly entranced by the mix of revolution, quirky characters, physical adventure, and big ideas about the corrupting influence of power over people– and of riches over the powerful. It's a remarkable book– thick and sinuous as snakes and vines, twisting around your imagination and drawing you through its complexities.

Something completely different: CROSSING TROUBLESOME is a new, collective portrait of the Appalachian Writers Workshop, a yearly institution that has been taking place at the Hindman Settlement School in Knott County, Kentucky for twenty-five years. The book has poetry and prose memories by interesting folks across the spectrum of Appalachian writing from the late James Still and Harriette Arnow to Lee Smith, George Ella Lyon and Sharyn McCrumb. One of the special qualities of the Workshop– and this volume captures it very well– is a profound and warm egalitarianism that gives equal time to big-name teachers and regular attendees. This democratic approach is part of the culture of the workshop, which welcomes even Foreigners and Come Here's (a few of the many Appalachian terms meaning "You weren't born in this part of the world, were you?"). You can learn about the collection here.

                                                       Meredith Sue Willis


Poetry Daily has an online verse-a-day, all reprints from excellent literary periodicals or books of poetry: Try it!


If you recall, last issue I asked for suggestions for good lesbian fiction. I had just read a history of Lesbianism in the 20th century by Lillian Faderman.

Shelley Ettinger writes: "I have very fond memories of some of those 70's novels Faderman recommends like SISTER GIN, THE WANDERGROUND, and especially THE SWASHBUCKLER. Other good ones of the immediate post-Stonewall era include the wonderful PATIENCE AND SARAH by Isabel Miller, LOVER by Bertha Harris, FOLLY by Maureen Brady... LES GUERILLERES by Monique Wittig, NERVES by Blanche M. Boyd.

"For all their problems, I also retain a soft spot for the 50's-60's pocketbooks, which I have quite a few of, including DESERT OF THE HEART and other Jane Rule books, RETURN TO LESBOS and others by Valerie Taylor, and especially the Beebo Brinker series by Ann Bannon. They include I AM A WOMAN, WOMAN IN THE SHADOWS and ODD GIRL OUT, which provided part of Faderman's title.

"Going back even further, there are WE TOO ARE DRIFTING by Gale Wilhelm and NIGHTWOOD by Djuna Barnes. The classic THE WELL OF LONELINESS by Radclyffe Hall was banned in Britain and the U.S. in 1928 for its sympathetic portrayal of the protagonist yet by today's lights is suffused with homophobia and self-loathing; I still find it very moving and worth reading.

"More recently there've been lots of lesbian mysteries, science fiction, romances, ‘erotica,' etc., of, shall we say, varying quality. There is also quality literature such as THE GILDA STORIES by Jewelle Gomez, SOR JUANA'S SECOND DREAM by Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Dorothy Allison's work, Sylvia Brownrigg's. I think of several of Alice Walker's novels in this category too. And I've heard good things about last year's LIGHT, COMING BACK by Ann Wadsworth, but haven't read it yet.

"On another note, I recently read THE BOTANY OF DESIRE by Michael Pollan. Liked it a lot. It's about the co-evolution of humans and plants. I found the chapters about apples and marijuana are particularly interesting. For anyone who finds that apples have less and less taste, and that on those once-a-year indulgences in old habits a single toke is all you can take, this book explains why. (The change isn't in you, it's the plants.)"



Or, for that matter, a web page chronicling your baby's first smiles and steps? I'd love to publicize web pages of readers of this newsletter and/or people they admire. For starters, Shelley Ettinger, who offered the mini-survey of Lesbian literature above, has a brand new website listing her online works.

Also, do take a look at the website of Carol Emshwiller, who has two new books out this fall, a novel and a book of short fiction– both unlike anything you'll read anywhere else! Take a look at her site at or, go straight to the books at her publisher's page.



TO OBTAIN BOOKS mentioned in this newsletter, try your public library and your local independent bookstore. For book buying online, I have been using Alibris.






Newsletter # 33
October 25, 2002


Larry Zirlin wrote to tell what he's been reading and to raise a question: "I spent most of the spring and summer reading and rereading Philip Roth - all the Zuckerman novels, as well as the Kepish novels and MY LIFE AS A MAN (where the author's alter ego is also named Zuckerman). Besides finding his novels compelling portraits of both personal and societal anxieties (if I don't control my urge to underline, the books would become unreadable), I get a special enjoyment since the neighborhood in Newark he writes about, the Weequahic section, is where I grew up. When he describes the orphanage across the street from his apartment, I know exactly where it is. Leslie Street, where he locates his childhood home, was where I lived. The 107 bus to New York is the bus I took. On Lyons Avenue. I even realized, reading his description of his apartment building, that I delivered THE STAR-LEDGER to that building when I had a paper route. Of course, Roth was long gone, but those details (along with the candy store on the corner I used to go to, Beth Israel Hospital, the Osborne Terrace branch of the library) make his books much more personal to me than any other writer....All of which leads me to wonder if there are other readers who have the same kind of connection to a writer they enjoy – not someone they know, but a writer who coincidentally has appropriated a place to which the reader has a strong emotional connection."

By chance, I've actually done writer-in-the-school workshops in Larry and Roth's old neighborhood in Newark, and I now live in the town where Roth occasionally places his character's brother, an affluent gynecologist. But the book that connects to my homeplace is an 1899 potboiler you won't have heard of if you aren't from West Virginia: DAUGHTER OF THE ELM by Granville Davisson Hall. Long before I ever saw the actual volume, I had heard of it. My dad pointed out the site of the Big Elm that figures in the novel and the remains of an old bridge that appears in the story. I wouldn't say that knowing a book was set in Shinnston made me a writer, but it was my first inkling that flesh and blood human beings could write books– and that those writers used concrete locations that might even be the ones I saw every day. In my case, the book was far less important that the fact of its existence.

It seems to me so important for all those children out there in communities that are marginalized in one way or another to have an opportunity to make those links: that their real worlds too can be the stuff of art and ideas; that they might be the ones to create that art and have those ideas.

Now I'm curious if others of you have books or authors that resonate for you the way Phillip Roth's Weequahic Newark books resonate for Larry Zirlin or DAUGHTER OF THE ELM did for me.

                                                       Meredith Sue Willis



Ardian Gill says, "You've touched [in Newsletter #32] on one of my very favorite stories, Joyce's "The Dead." I have it on tape in a book and on film. It's one of the rare cases where the movie can claim to be as good as the book. This is especially difficult with Joyce where there is so much interior monologue and stream of consciousness. There is one thing that puzzles me and maybe you noticed it too. When they are in the cab returning to their hotel (and "the snow is general all over Ireland"), they see a red horse and proclaim it is good luck (I think). In the movie it is a white horse, and since you don't see it, I wonder why it was changed. Perhaps they had intended to show it in the film and it would look better in the snow, like Fellini's white peacock in Amercord."

Larry Zirlin also writes that he was struck by Newsletter #32's comments on Conrad's NOSTROMO, which, he says, "I slogged through a few years ago on the Vineyard. I feel much as you do about- once he gets past the set-up the book is exciting and entertaining. Of course, to my mind, his greatest book is THE SECRET AGENT, which I reread every few years. It is amazing how contemporary the book is. Terrorists blowing up famous buildings to make a ‘statement' - nothing changes."

Belinda Anderson recommends LYING AWAKE by Mark Salzman, and Sara P. recommends THE LAST SAMURAI as "the most challenging and rewarding read I have had in a long time (and I've been reading quite a bit lately). Story of a ‘lost' genius woman and her genius son - struggling, surviving, living. It's hilarious and, like I said, a real challenge - very non-traditional, non linear writing. It's very much a commitment. I loaned my copy to someone and have not seen it back in more than 2 months!"

Shelley Ettinger just finished reading Philip Pullman's trilogy HIS DARK MATERIALS. "I'd heard that he writes young adult fantasy/adventure that's more complex and with a grander vision than the Harry Potter series, which I've never managed to motivate myself to read. Then I heard the Vatican had denounced him. Naturally I dove in. Well, the books are terrific--exciting, fast-moving, emotionally involving, intricately plotted tales that move among several universes inhabited by all sorts of beings. Best of all, the hero is a girl. A grand conflict plays out between the forces of love, joy, wonder, knowledge and kindness and those of repression, ignorance and, well, non-joy--between, as Lyra, the hero, puts it, "the Kingdom of Heaven ... and the Republic of Heaven." The writing completely pulled me in; I'd never have known the books are aimed at young readers if it weren't for the cover illustrations."


Elaine Palencia, author of two excellent short story collections, BRIER COUNTRY: STORIES FROM BLUE VALLEY and SMALL CAUCASIAN WOMAN, has just published a chapbook of poetry THE DAILINESS OF IT about having a mentally and physically disabled child in the family. This is available from Grex Press in Louisville, Kentucky.

Watch for Madeline Tiger's new poetry collection coming in April from Marsh Hawk Press: BIRDS OF SORROW AND JOY: SELECTED AND NEW POEMS, 1970-2000.

Also just out is a beautiful collection of poetry and stories called BACKCOUNTRY: CONTEMPORARY WRITING IN WEST VIRGINIA. It includes writers from Mary Lee Settle and Davis Grubb to Breece Pancake and Jayne Anne Phillips.



Teachers & Writers Collaborative runs an interesting listserv you might want to join, and they have also begun reviewing books specifically about the teaching of writing: go to their website then then click on Book Talk/Book Forum. To register with their list serv, go to http://www.twc.org/forums/registerwn.html.



Please tell me about it so I can put the URL here. Tell me also if you have any other sites you think people who read this Newsletter would like.

Two favorites of mine from previous Newsletters are the Poetry Daily at and World Wide Words.

Larry Zirlin's website has current poems and a link to an interesting parable about choice.

TO OBTAIN BOOKS mentioned in this newsletter, try your public library and your local independent bookstore. For book buying online, I have been using Alibris.



Newsletter # 34
November 13, 2002


I'm having an exhausting but satisfying fall season. I'm teaching, writing a little, and also putting in a lot of time doing appearances and publicity for my new novel, ORADELL AT SEA. I just came back from a second visit to West Virginia where I saw lots of friends and visited bookstores and participated in a reading/conversation at West Virginia University with Jo Ann Dadisman, a professor there. The two of us were set up in wingback chairs on the stage of a nice-sized auditorium where the human voice can reach the outer walls. One of the topics we talked about was what it means to be a regional author.

My belief is that we are all regional. We can only tell our own stories (even when we're recounting someone else's), make our own observations, flesh out our flashes of insight– always from our particular place, time, and specific mix of ethnic and religious backgrounds. It should be obvious that the best writers– those called regional and those not called regional– make leaps of imagination and are able to speak to more than their local compatriots. The best writers both reach beyond and also reach deep inside: Larry Zirlin gave the example in last issue of Phillip Roth's Jewish kid growing up in newly affluent Weequahic in Newark in the nineteen fifties. The place is special to someone who lived there– but also meaningful to those who didn't. We depend on such messages from the regions to help our imaginations reach beyond ourselves, to have some understanding of other times, places, genders, social classes– think of William Kennedy's Albany or Louis Auchincloss's upper crust New Yorkers or the country families of Jane Austen.

Thus I am perfectly happy to be labeled of the order Female, family American, genus Appalachian, species West Virginian– as long as you are willing to admit with me that the sophisticated acquisition editors in the commercial publishing houses are equally regional, if not parochial, in their experiences and tastes. This appears to be coming around again to my ever-grinding ax about how we need to look beyond the Land of Marketing and Commerce for our reading. Excellent books certainly appear in the Mega stores– on the shelves if not in the dumps near the front door, but more and more alternative sources are also popping up.

Jane Ciabattari, for example, is a writer and book reviewer for the LOS ANGELES TIMES, the WASHINGTON POST, and the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE. She writes to say that "like City Lights in San Francisco and Shakespeare & Co. in Paris, my publisher is a small press spun off from a bookstore, Canio's Books in Sag Harbor. The bookshop is twenty-two years old, the press 10 years old. The positive reviews of my book [STEALING THE FIRE] took us by surprise. The publisher was unable to find a distributor; AOL announced a plan not to distribute small-press books a month or so before publication date; and here we were with a book of short stories with positive reviews from KIRKUS, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY and LIBRARY JOURNAL and no way to get the book distributed other than through Canio's Books itself. It is a very familiar story, I know."

The good news is that Jane's sales are going well through library orders, postcards, and a lot of personal appearances.

-- Meredith Sue Willis



FURTHER NOTES I dipped into Colson Whitehead's JOHN HENRY DAYS (see Newsletter # 30) again because my town is having an all-town book read of the book. Interestingly enough, I liked it better when I dipped – reading pages I had marked and pages referred to in a reading guide, than I had liked it when I read straight through. It is a book with a lot of disparate elements and many plot threads, so I started wondering if maybe it might not be a kind of hypertext novel that works best if you follow it as linked threads rather than by reading beginning to end. I don't mean to suggest that there is no story– section by section it is generally pretty conventionally written, and there is certainly a plot, even an important question of who lives and dies, but I could imagine reading it in a non-conventional order, reading each night the parts that suggested each other, until the whole store had been circled around and completed.




I want to make a special recommendation of my friend Carol Emshwiller's new novel THE MOUNT. Carol is an accomplished writer with a long career in experimental, avant garde fiction and also in the science fiction genre. She and I are in the same writers' peer group, so I saw parts of this novel in draft. The book is the charming and exciting story of a time when human beings are used as mounts by a race of aliens who insist they know what is best for us. Charley, the narrator, is a pubescent boy, and his host, Little Master, is slated to be the future Ruler-of-us-all. Of course there's a rebellion by the humans and lots of hiding and running and fighting, but the real story is about the wonderful cross-species bonding between the two children. There is no one with a sensibility like Carol Emshwiller's. Although she is a prize-winning veteran with a history of commercial publishing both here and abroad, her new publisher is Small Beer Press, one of the dedicated small publishing houses that I am especially pleased to be able to recommend.




Jane Ciabattari's short story collection STEALING THE FIRE is published by yet another good small press, also mentioned above, Canio's Books. To sample her stories, go to her website. The website also features links to reviews by her, including one of Alice Munro's latest collection, which Jane thinks is one of the best books published last year.

Al Young has a professionally done, multi-media website.




MountainWhispers.com is a recording studio in West Virginia that is bringing long forgotten stories to life on cd– including dear old DAUGHTER OF THE ELM, which they describe as "the true story of the beautiful Lorraine Esmond, her determined fight to stay above the immorality of a criminal family, and her forbidden love for the man she barely knew." Now THAT's fiction! Get in touch with them at mountainwhispers.com or Email Ross@MountainWhispers.com.




Ardian Gill writes about the West Chelsea neighborhood in New York City where he has a photography studio: "Before he struck paydirt with the Godfather novels, Mario Puzo wrote a couple of neat novels about honest Italian immigrants struggling to survive in New York. THE PASSIONATE PILGRIM [also recommended in Newsletter # 27] is set in my neighborhood. While there was no frisson of childhood recognition, it was wonderful to know how the neighborhood was maybe a century ago with freight moving on horse drawn trolleys to where the Long Island railroad yard is now and small mom and pop stores where there are now Lincoln Tunnel entrances, etc. Besides it's interesting to read a first novel by a well known author and to see how his style changed."

Jane Ciabattari is reading Fred Tuten's book THE GREEN HOUR, and loving the way in which "he describes a woman torn between two men--the charismatic but unreliable Rex and a sophisticated investment banker who can handle all of her financial worries, but doesn't have the sex appeal of Rex. Tuten was for many years head of a New York City writing program, with students like Oscar Hijuelos and Walter Mosley. It's great to see him coming into his own as a writer."

Ciabattari also just reviewed the new Tim O'Brien novel JULY, JULY: A NOVEL for the LOS ANGELES TIMES (and the whole review may still be posted there). She writes: "O'Brien's war stories are his legacy, not only the memoir but also the National Book Award-winning novel GOING AFTER CACCIATO...a hallucinatory novel about a soldier who walks away from the Vietnam War and heads for Paris; and THE THINGS THEY CARRIED..., which contains some of the best stories ever written about war....O'Brien does not seem as sure-footed when his subject matter is the complexities of life back home for men haunted by the war or the battle of the sexes, in which the rules of engagement are as murky as those in Vietnam, with sudden betrayals, subterranean flare-ups and grenades lobbed from friendly corners. His sense of humanity does not seem to extend to his female characters, who are rarely as fully realized as his men...."


Alice Robinson-Gilman calls our attention to a book of creative work by steelworkers called THE HEAT: STEELWORKERS' LIVES AND LEGENDS. This collection grew out of workshops with poetry Jimmy Santiago Baca and is published by Cedar Hill Publications, another small press, not-for-profit, committed to publishing poetry and prose of the highest caliber. They offer bookstores, prisoners, and seniors a 40% discount, and can be reached through Maggie Jaffe at 3438 Villa Terrace, San Diego, CA 92104. Email her at mjaffe@mail.sdsu.edu.

BOOKS mentioned in this newsletter are available from your public library and your local independent bookstore as well as online and at the Ubiquitous Mall Monster-Store. For online shopping, try Bookfinder, which connects you to new, out-of-print, and used books at. Other good online sources for used and out-of-print books include Advanced Book Exchange and Alibris. To buy through independent booksellers, go to Booksense. You can also, of course, get almost any book online from Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. For comparison shopping and deep discounts, try www.half.com.



Newsletter # 35
December 2, 2002


I am happy to have a new Silas House book to recommend: A PARCHMENT OF LEAVES. The novel is told in the voice of an Appalachian Cherokee woman around the time of the First World War as she marries out of her own community into what she calls an "Irish" Appalachian family. Vine Sullivan's voice seems very like the voice of any Appalachian woman of her time– she has never learned to speak the Cherokee language, and her mother only surreptitiously teaches her some lore of her people.

Much of the novel is about the beauties of mountain life– native American or European American. There are house raisings, pig slaughterings, gardening, gathering the bounty of the woods, and responding to the mountain grandeur. Throughout the novel, however, a constant undercurrent of danger threatens Vine and those she loves. There is a threat from wealthy landowners (the Cherokee settlement is driven from their little cove in the mountains by a rich white man who wants to build a mountain retreat); from industry (Vine's husband Saul works for a clear-cutting lumber company); from racism (Cherokee people are attacked in town); and from a very personal danger from a relative who is obsessed with Vine.

One of the best things about this book is the ethical dilemma posed by a secret Vine has to bear. Much of the last third of the novel is about how the secret affects Vine, her husband Saul, and the Sullivan family. This is, in the end, however, the story of strong, healthy people who love each other and know how to survive in spite of torn loyalties and cruel blows of fate. I am always pleased by books that don't peter out at the end, and A PARCHMENT OF LEAVES satisfies the reader and fulfills its narrative promises.

Coincidentally, just before reading A PARCHMENT OF LEAVES, I had finished a biography of an historical Cherokee woman, WILD ROSE: NANCY WARD AND THE CHEROKEE NATION by Mary R. Furbee. Furbee's little book, written for children but worthwhile for any reader, tells the story of an important historical figure whose life is a long effort at peacemaking between the Cherokee people and the invading whites. Peacemaking in this book is at least as exciting and demanding as war– a lesson not taught often to our children. Nancy Ward's life demonstrated that she recognized both Cherokee and white as true people. She even made a second marriage with a white man in order to have children with him and thereby connect the two peoples.

In stark contrast to these two Cherokee women who try to bridge the gap between peoples is that classic of Western confrontation with the Other that I recently reread: the splendid, horrifying HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad. Probably the thing that is most frightening in it is not the evil of the famously corrupt and debased Mr. Kurtz– he at least manages to go down to darkness with panache– but rather the pervasive and oppressive everyday evil of the forces of Western commerce and Western ideology and Western religion that flail out destructively in every direction at once, at least in Conrad's late nineteenth century vision.

I'm glad I had some balance for HEART OF DARKNESS with the stories of Nancy Ward's historical efforts to create bridges and Vine Sullivan's fictional struggle to create a family within a different culture. Maybe the real hope of the human race is lots of good old-fashioned miscegenation....

-- Meredith Sue Willis



The September 23, 2002, BOSTON GLOBE had a report by David Mehegan about the state of small press publishing in the Boston/Cambridge, MA area: "Mount Ivy Press," he says, "is history, Brookline Books/ Lumen Editions ceased publishing a couple of years ago, and Cambridge-based Zoland Books recently shut down and sold much of its list to Vermont's Steerforth Books." He continues, however, with the story of how Judith Gurewich of Cambridge, principal owner of Other Press, and Harry Thomas of Watertown, teacher at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, have joined together to create a new press, Handsel Books.

The new press will be edited by Harry Thomas and funded by Gurewich under the aegis of Other Press. Their first five books will be three of poetry, one of interviews with poets, and a collection of reviews by critic and Boston University professor Christopher Ricks. Their website is at Handsel.


Do you have favorite small presses that Books for Readers readers may not know about? Please let us know.


Pat Arnow, formerly of NOW AND THEN and IN THESE TIMES and SOUTHERN EXPOSURE has an interesting website. Don't miss her poultry page!


Elsa Morante's novels ARTURO'S ISLAND and HISTORY: A NOVEL, both discussed in early issues of this newsletter, are available in fresh, new editions from Steerforth Books, an excellent small press (mentioned above) that is worth everyone's attention.

Victor Depta's AZRAEL ON THE MOUNTAIN, a book of environmental poems protesting mountaintop removal coal mining, is available from Blair Mountain Press at 2027 Oakview Road, Ashland, KY 41101.





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. For a discussion about Amazon and organized labor and small presses, see the comments of Jonathan Greene and others in Issues #97 and #98 .



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

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




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

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#146 Henry Adams AGAIN!
#145 Henry Adams, Darnell Arnoult, Jaimy Gordon, Charlotte Brontë
#144 Carter Seaton, NancyKay Shapiro, Lady Murasaki Shikibu
#143 Little America; Guns,Germs, and Steel; The Trial
#142 Blog Fiction, Leah by Seymour Epstein, Wolf Hall, etc.
#141 Dreama Frisk on Hilary Spurling's Pearl Buck in China; Anita Desai; Cormac McCarthy
#140 Valerie Nieman's Blood Clay, Dolly Withrow
#139 My Kindle, The Prime Minister, Blood Meridian
#138 Special on Publicity by Carter Seaton
#137 Michael Harris's The Chieu Hoi Saloon;The Professor and the Madman; Game of Thrones; James Alexander Thom's Follow The River
#136 James Boyle's The Creative Commons; Paola Corso, Joanne Greenberg, Monique Raphel High, Amos Oz
#135 Reviews by Carole Rosenthal, Jeffrey Sokolow, and Wanchee Wang.
#134 Daniel Deronda, books with material on black and white relations in West Virginia
#133 Susan Carpenter, Irene Nemirovsky, Jonathan Safran Foer, Kanafani, Joe Sacco
#132 Karen Armstrong's A History of God; JCO's The Falls; The Eustace Diamonds again.
#131 The Help; J. McHenry Jones, Reamy Jansen, Jamie O'Neill, Michael Chabon.
Lynda Schor, Ed Myers, Charles Bukowski, Terry Bisson, The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism
#129 Baltasar and Blimunda; the Underground Railroad; Navasky's Naming Names, new and recommended small press and indie books.
#128 Jeffrey Sokolow on Histories and memoirs of the Civil Rights Movement
#127 Olive Kitteridge; Urban fiction; Shelley Ettinger on Joyce Carol Oates
#126 Jack Hussey's Ghosts of Walden, The Leopard , Roger's Version, The Reluctanct Fundamentalist
#125 Lee Maynard's The Pale Light of Sunset; Books on John Brown suggested by Jeffrey Sokolow
#124 Cloudsplitter, Founding Brothers, Obenzinger on Bradley's Harlem Vs. Columbia University
#123 MSW's summer reading round-up; Olive Schreiner; more The Book Thief; more on the state of editing
#122 Left-wing cowboy poetry; Jewish partisans during WW2; responses to "Hire a Book Doctor?"
#121 Jane Lazarre's latest; Irving Howe's Leon Trotsky; Gringolandia; "Hire a Book Doctor?"
#120 Dreama Frisk on The Book Thief; Mark Rudd; Thulani Davis's summer reading list
#119 Two Histories of the Jews; small press books for Summer
#118 Kasuo Ichiguro, Jeanette Winterson, The Carter Family!
#117 Cat Pleska on Ann Pancake; Phyllis Moore on Jayne Anne Phillips; and Dolly Withrow on publicity
#116 Ann Pancake, American Psycho, Marc Harshman on George Mackay Brown
#115 Adam Bede, Nietzsche, Johnny Sundstrom
#114 Judith Moffett, high fantasy, Jared Diamond, Lily Tuck
#113 Espionage--nonfiction and fiction: Orson Scott Card and homophobia
#112 Marc Kaminsky, Nel Noddings, Orson Scott Card, Ed Myers
#111 James Michener, Mary Lee Settle, Ardian Gill, BIll Higginson, Jeremy Osner, Carol Brodtick
#110  Nahid Rachlin, Marion Cuba on self-publishing; Thulani Davis, The Road, memoirs
#109 Books about the late nineteen-sixties: Busy Dying; Flying Close to the Sun; Looking Good; Trespassers
#108 The Animal Within; The Ground Under My Feet; King of Swords
#107 The Absentee; Gorky Park; Little Scarlet; Howl; Health Proxy
#106 Castle Rackrent; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; More on Drown; Blindness & more
#105 Everything is Miscellaneous, The Untouchable, Kettle Bottom by Diane Gilliam Fisher
#104 Responses to Shelley on Junot Diaz and more; More best books of 2007
#103 Guest Editor: Shelley Ettinger and her best books of 2007
#102 Saramago's BLINDNESS; more on NEVER LET ME GO; George Lies on Joe Gatski
#101 My Brilliant Career, The Scarlet Letter, John Banville, Never Let Me Go
#100 The Poisonwood Bible, Pamela Erens, More Harry P.
#99   Jonathan Greene on 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
   Ingrid Hughes on Memoir
    Boyle, Worlds of Fiction
#63    The Namesame
#62    Honorary Consul; The Idiot
#61    Lauren's Line
#60    Prince of Providence
#59    The Mutual Friend, Red Water
#58    AkÉ,
Season of Delight
#57    Screaming with Cannibals

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