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Newsletter # 61
July 28, 2004


There are never enough satisfying comic novels, but the University Press of Mississippi is doing its part to keep us laughing with LAUREN'S LINE by Sondra Spatt Olsen. Physically, it is a compact, attractive book. The beginning is a little demanding because of the sheer number of characters who pop up, but it quickly becomes clear that we are getting a scan of an entire English department at a university campus in New York City. Part of the pleasure of the book is the sound of this rather motley crew in different combinations chatting and revealing their prejudices and failings and ambitions. It isn't giving anything away to say that the story is about what happens after a professor dies unexpectedly, leaving her tenure track line available– for someone. The machine driving the rest of the novel is the part-time teachers' quest for Lauren's line. A novel of academic manners and office politics, it is funny and painful, and most of its characters are probably recognizable to anyone who has ever spent time around a college. The nearest thing to a protagonist is a young man who is a bit of a Lucky Jim (except that, unlike Kingsley Amis's hero, he really loves his research), but I probably like even better the quirkier characters like the aging Department Chair who locks himself in his office for important work that turns out to be choosing just the right color daylily for his house in the Hamptons. There is also a brilliant feminist scholar who is engaged in an experimental same-sex relationship, but gets interrupted by her baby's demands to nurse, and then is censured for bringing the infant to campus. There a Russian immigrant poet whose English is less than sterling, and an up and-coming-young adjunct who does everything right– except stay out of a compromising relationship with one of his students. There is also the deceased professor's lover, who goes delightfully mad in front of the whole department. And I'm willing to bet you won't guess who finally gets Lauren's line! Definitely great preparation for the fall semester.

This past winter I missed my usual Victorian fix and made up for it this month with Charles Dickens' 822 page blockbuster OUR MUTUAL FRIEND–his last completed novel. I had recently read Frederick Busch's novel (see Newsletter # 59) that uses Dickens as a character, so I was in the mood for the Real Thing. OUR MUTUAL FRIEND is divided between present tense chapters that satirize the social circle around a wealthy family aptly called Veneering and past tense chapters set among the working and middle classes. In the end, of course, the two worlds are intimately entwined through both characters and plot. The plot is about money, but also about parents and children. It takes off from an unpleasant rich man who leaves his wealth to an exiled son–but only if the son agrees to marry a particular girl whose childhood temper tantrums appealed to the old man. The son, returning from abroad, apparently drowns, his body fished up by one of an unsavory crew of scavengers who haunt the docks of London (a scavenger who has an extraordinarily beautiful and devoted daughter), and off we go, with each of those people and many more given full, luscious portraits, manners of speech, and points at which they participate in the various plots. And everything is knit up with Dickens' overblown, richly humorous, and sometimes tortuous imagery.

Some of the characters in this late novel are even multi-layered. For example, there is one languid ne'er do well would-be-seducer who improves his character through a near-death experience, and there is an impoverished young gentlewoman, who, for at least half the book is quite feisty and morally self-aware. There are several other relatively complex female characters including a crippled teen age seamstress who calls her drunken father her "bad child,"and a young woman of low class who might in an earlier Dickens book have ended up dying to avoid a fate worse than death, but here proves physically courageous and morally stalwart. Dickens was in his fifties when he wrote this novel, the father of intelligent, lively grown daughters–and engaged in an affair with a young woman, so I think that perhaps he actually empathizes with women of spirit more than he did at the beginning of his career. Unfortunately, the liveliest young woman in this novel, the adult version of the little girl with the bad temper, ends up going goo-goo over her baby and tediously standing by her man.

There are always the villains–a wonderfully sly and evil scavenger known as Rogue Riderhood and a slimy young money-lender who pretends that the poor Jew who works for him is the one who is actually ruining people. If you're in the mood for the full Dickens experience– and this one regaled readers for eighteen months in its original serial form– try OUR MUTUAL FRIEND: thick, hilarious, exasperating, not subtle (but then, neither is a sunset), and always always entertaining.

                                                                                                      – Meredith Sue Willis




I'm offering a four session online writing course that begins September 7. For more information, see http://meredithsuewillis.com/MSWclasses.html.




Roberta Mundie is reading Proust: "The new translation is unorthodox, since the various volumes (seven) have different translators. There has been great praise for Lydia Davis's translation of the first volume, SWANN'S WAY, and more moderate praise for the translation (by James Grieve) of the second volume." Roberta says she is about two-thirds of the way through the second volume and has few complaints. She continues: "Proust looms as a literary giant of the 20th Century, but he's spoken of more than read, and I too have avoided him till now, supposing he was too ‘difficult' in the sense of intricate, dense, complicated, and slow. My pleasure has been to find how compelling a story teller he is, how beautiful the writing, how interestingly the parts fit together (e.g., descriptions mesh with narrative, and both mesh with reflections by the narrator). Proust was a great observer of human ways without being clinical, detached, or judgmental. I wish I hadn't waited so long....It was a review by Peter Brooks in the NEW YORK TIMES (Jan. 25, 2004) that turned me on to this translation. The seven novels... will probably take me a year. I do other reading in parallel in part because Proust's work needs time to reflect on, and in part because who can resist other current titles? (e.g., THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB). That's another book I've recently enjoyed."

Roberta is also reading Nadine Gordimer's short stories in CRIMES OF CONSCIENCE: "As always, her writing is spare and provocative. Finally, I remain enchanted by Iain Pears's DREAM OF SCIPIO. Of all the historical novels I've ever read, this is the one I would be most proud to have written."

More summer reading ideas: Arthur Dobrin's SEEING THROUGH AFRICA is "a memoir built around themes that take us from New York to East Africa and back again." Mr. Dobrin, who spent many years in Kenya, is Professor of Humanities at Hofstra University and Leader Emeritus of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. For more information, see the publisher's website at http://www.cross-culturalcommunications.com.




Dolly Withrow writes, "When I read about you reading once again Davis Grubb's NIGHT OF THE HUNTER [Books For Readers Newsletter #60], I had to send this note. About three months ago, I came across an old sketch that Davis Grubb drew for me many years ago. The fragile paper was showing signs of age because it had been in first one drawer, then another. Davis had sketched little John and Pearl looking up at the evil preacher. A candle is in the middle with the preacher's hand visible, along with H-A-T-E spelled out on the fingers of his left hand. The caption reads, ‘Where's the money, kids!' Davis signed the sketch and wrote ‘Night of the Hunter.' After discovering the damage to the sketch about three months ago, I took it to Ripley [West Virginia] Florist for framing. The owner does a beautiful job. Davis's drawing is now protected and hanging in my bedroom."




Speaking of Dolly Withrow– her new book is titled BEYOND THE APPLE ORCHARD. Read more about this collection of memoir and reflection online at http://www.wonderfulwv.com/bookshelf.cfm?menu=apple . Also, for those of you who can get West Virginia Public Radio, Dolly will be featured soon reading her work.

Barbara Crooker's new chapbook IMPRESSIONISM is the winner of Grayson Books 2004 Poetry Chapbook Competition. "Reading these poems," says Sue Ellen Thompson author of THE LEAVING: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS, "one does indeed step out of one's life and into a world of light, color, even odor and taste– and all so vividly portrayed n language that manages to cover both solace and delight."




...at http://www.readingdivas.com/. This is their July/August 2004 with poetry by Seven young writers from Robert Louis Stevenson High School; Charlene Howard; Jerrifaye Gregoire; and John Bryan. They also have NOT FICTION by Dina Dusko, Marissa Priddis, and Lauran Strait, plus FICTION by Dana Schwartz, Ashley Lyons, and Julie Sedlis. Take a look. And, more interesting news from the Divas....




Reading Diva Krista is opening an art-oriented lounge featuring local wine/beer/talent on Grand Street in Brooklyn. She had a benefit party on July 23 (details at http://www.stainbar.com.)




Ellen Bass recommends a poet friend who does manuscript evaluation for poets, Marta Ferguson of Wordhound Writing & Editing Services, LLC. Marta says, "I am a publishing poet (recent work–as Marta Boswell–in 5 AM, RATTLE, PRAIRIE SCHOONER and other magazines) and I hold a Ph.D. in creative writing, specializing in poetry. I have eight years of experience working at literary magazines, most recently as the poetry editor of THE MISSOURI REVIEW. The services I offer my poet-clients include manuscript organization and evaluation, developmental editing, and literary marketing advice. Since poets almost never have agents, I've found I can be helpful pointing people in the direction of magazines and anthologies that might be good markets for their work. I would be happy to talk with any of you about those services and if you contact me by the end of the month, I'll give you my starving student discount." Marta Ferguson, Wordhound Writing & Editing Services, LLC, PO Box 10289, Columbia, MO, 65205-4005, http://www.wordhound.com

Marta and Ellen also recommend Allison Joseph's CWROPPS (Creative Writing Opportunities) list at http://lists.topica.com/lists/crwropps.




PoemHunter.com is an interesting website both for current literary news and for finding online samples of poems by favorite writers. My caveat is some awful intrustive animation accompanying the poems. You can scoll it away, thank the Muses! They have a Top 500 poems list, of which the top 5 include 2 by Shel Silverstein and 3 by Pablo Neruda. It's at http://www.poemhunter.com/


The Summer 2004 online issue of EPIPHANY can be found at http://www.epiphanyzine.com.


The Summer 2004 issue of the HAMILTON STONE REVIEW is at http://www.hamiltonstone.org/hsr.html. This one is all poetry, edited by Halvard Johnson, with poems by Hugh Seidman, Alvin Greenberg, Jordan Davis, Harriet Zinnes, Edward Field, Gene Frumkin, Zan Ross, Barry Alpert. and Mary Rising Higgins.




My new collection of short stories set around lakes, DWIGHT'S HOUSE AND OTHER STORIES, is now available. The MIDWEST REVIEW said: "Focusing on believable characters put in paralyzing dilemmas, these tales examine the troubling paradoxes of the human condition with sympathy and synchronicity.... Highly recommended." For more information, see Dwight's House.







Newsletter # 62
September 1, 2004

My son, beginning his sophomore year of college, did a lot of reading this summer on the train to an internship in New York City. I had an idea that I would read or re-read what he was reading (DUBLINERS, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, fantasy novels, mysteries), but I only got to Graham Greene's THE HONORARY CONSUL. I haven't read much Graham Greene, but I enjoyed this a great deal. I guess I'm a sucker for the ominous South America of books like this and Conrad's great NOSTROMO. The story is well told, seemingly written without effort, and I wonder if, in the end, this is what separates what we call popular fiction from literary– that popular goes down easy.

One technical accomplishment that I especially admired was the switch of point of view. It wasn't arbitrary, nor did it follow some pattern extraneous to the plot. There are two close point-of-views, and the switch happens deep into the novel. It goes from Dr. Plarr, cool, youngish, an observer of the world, to the kidnapped character, sloppy drunk Charley Fortnum. This works well for plot and balance, but also for the slow but steady increase in intensity and compassion that the reader feels. It's a very satisfying novel with plenty of believable suspense.

My distraction from the plan of following my son's reading happened when I was caught up (once again) in Joseph Frank's multi-volume biography of Dostoevsky, which I started six or seven years ago. Based on comments in the biography, I decided to read THE IDIOT for the first time in thirty years. Some book! I had a Modern Library edition, with what they called "a new rendition" of Constance Garnett's Victorian version by Anna Brailovsky, and it was generally fine, especially brief footnotes that explained important things such as why a character switches to the familiar form of the second person pronoun at a certain moment. But every so often the translator seems to go crazy over cute Americanisms. Thus, in order to capture the tone of some Russian expression in a passage of otherwise standard speech, a character will suddenly say that he is "afeared," or a young girl will be fondly called a "kook"! I would have much rather have had transliterations of the Russian with notes.

However translated, however, THE IDIOT is a magnificent novel. I don't think it's the first Dostoevsky to read– CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, UNDERGROUND MAN or even THE GAMBLER would be much better places to start– but this one is Dostoevsky in all his baggy splendor. When I first read it a million years ago, I was fascinated and horrified and aware that I was largely failing to get it– but still couldn't stop reading. Joseph Frank says in his long introduction that this is the book where Dostoevsky puts his own ideology to the test. That is, he creates a character who embodies Russian Christian compassion and suffering, and takes it to the extreme– demonstrating with unflinching honesty how badly such a life would come out in the real world.

What I love best is the flood of voices coming at me out of the novel in long speeches and set pieces. There is also a beautiful sadness about how these active, dramatic, declaiming people repeatedly fail each other--even the extremely good and loving Prince Mishkin. One of the reasons this is a relatively difficult book is that much depends on a background of highly refined social strata and customs. Even the exact position of the disgraced Nastasya Filippovna isn't totally clear to me. Why, for example, does no one ever consider prosecuting or at least ostracizing the guy who raped her as a girl when she was his ward? I wonder how many have written Master's theses comparing this situation to the one in Nabokov's LOLITA? At any rate, this is a world in which poverty is less prominent than in some of Dostoevsky's novels, and manners and behaving "comme il faut" matter a great deal. The problem for a twenty-first century reader is never quite understanding those nineteenth century Russian bourgeois manners.

Central, in the end, are the deeply human conditions of extreme emotion, madness, obsession, and physical illness. Ippolit, the youth dying of consumption, is a wonderful creation in his fury over his coming dissolution. There are a couple of drunken buffoons who also have their poignant moments, and the young girl Aglaia is romantic, irritating, and occasionally charming. This is not a naturalistic world, but one that is patently real. It has some of the best scenes in literature: the humiliation of Prince Mishkin at the Epanchin's party with his various excruciating faux pas; Nastasya Filippovna's birthday party when she offers herself to the highest bidder; and of course the final scene of the prince and the murderer. How does Dostoevsky do it? The book is funny, tragic, occasionally tedious, and totally gripping.

                                                                                                   – Meredith Sue Willis




Belinda Anderson writes: "So much has happened in the world since Azar Nafisi wrote READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN: A MEMOIR IN BOOKS, but recently I was struck anew by the aptness of this quote near the end of the book: ‘I have a recurring fantasy that one more article has been added to the Bill of Rights: the right to free access to imagination. I have come to believe that genuine democracy cannot exist without the freedom to imagine . . . To have a whole life, one must have the possibility of publicly shaping and expressing private worlds, dreams, thoughts and desires, of constantly having access to a dialogue between the public and private worlds. How else do we know that we have existed, felt, desired, hated, feared? We speak of facts, yet facts exist only partially to us if they are not repeated and re-created through emotions, thoughts and feelings.'"




Shelley writes: "I finally read some good books. FOUR SPIRITS by Sena Jeter Naslund--I liked it better than AHAB'S WIFE. It felt less contrived and I was more moved by it. It's about Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963 and ‘64, and the title refers to the four little girls killed in the bombing of the Black church there; they aren't actually characters in the book but they and their deaths are central to the story and all the other characters. Also THE BOOK OF SALT by Monique Truong, a novel about the Vietnamese cook for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in the 1930s in Paris; Truong's writing is beautiful, conveying the anger of the colonized and loneliness of the immigrant. Change of pace: I tittered my merry way through THE WELL OF LOST PLOTS, the third in Jasper Fforde's series about ‘jurisfiction' agent Thursday Next's adventures inside literature. This one seemed slightly less silly than the previous ones, actually had a number of pretty astute observations about writing and creativity. His fourth, which I think is titled SOMETHING ROTTEN, just came out, and it features Hamlet leaving Bookworld and venturing into the Outland (real world) with Thursday."

She also just finished what she calls a "fantastic book," YOU HAVE TO BE CAREFUL IN THE LAND OF THE FREE by the Scottish writer James Kelman, who won a Booker for an earlier novel. "The style is unusual, one long stream of consciousness first-person narrative that moves back and forth in time over the course of a single night during which the protagonist gets drunk, and it's in Scottish vernacular to boot. The politics are, for me, a delight, hard-hitting against all that's wrong with U.S. society and particularly the post-Sept. 11 repression against immigrants, which directly affects the main character although he's aware that since he's, as he puts it, pink-skinned, he avoids the worst of it. My only complaint is that the character uses the misogynist ‘c' word constantly as an all-purpose slur against anyone and everyone including himself; ordinarily I'd close a book on first or, at most, second appearance of this usage but for some reason I let it slide this time. That aside, the book is hilarious, startling and sad, and I wish I could find someone else who would enjoy it as much as I did."




Courtney Davis, a nurse poet you can discover at : . There is a sample poem at http://endeavor.med.nyu.edu/lit-med/lit-med-db/webdocs/poems/blood.cd.html

Phyllis has more poetry to recommend as well: "KETTLE BOTTOM, a poetry collection by Diane Gilliam Fisher, is unique and worth adding to any collection." For a sample poem and information about Fisher's book, see http://www.perugiapress.com/books2004_kettle.html ."The daughter of a former ‘Bloody Mingo' County resident, Diane captured stories of the coal mine war and tells them in the voices of the residents. The result is heart-wrenching but there is also some humor. The poems are historically accurate as well." Don't miss "Explosion at Winco #8" at the URL above.

Phyllis also notes that Fisher will be at the Women and Creativity Workshop at West Virginia University in October. For more information, see http://www.as.wvu.edu/wmst/



Speaking of Appalachia– if you don't know APPALACHIAN JOURNAL, it's a fine entertaining and scholarly publication about the Appalachian region. I have a long article about Keith Maillard's Raysburg novels in the upcoming issue. Check out the website at http://www.appjournal.appstate.edu.




Did you miss National Punctuation Day? Maggie Cadman reports that August 22 was National Punctuation Day. You can still take a look at their site, learn a few things about punctuation marks, and begin to prepare for next year: Go to http://www.nationalpunctuationday.com/



For an obituary of major American poet Donald Justice, see http://www.geocities.com/Paris/LeftBank/5810/justice.html

Halvard Johnson also informs us that Ron Schreiber, poet, teacher, and one of the founding fathers of HANGING LOOSE died this summer.

Finally, the author of an early book on the West Virginia mine wars, Lon Savage, recently died. His work was the inspiration for John Sayles' movie MATEWAN as well as background for parts of Denise Giardina's novels. The book, THUNDER IN THE MOUNTAINS, is an excellent place to start learning about the West Virginia mine wars of 1920 and 1921.



The website of the Academy of American Poets can be found at http://www.poets.org/

An interesting article on sequels and spin-off novels (novels that imagine the next phase of some other other novel, or tell the same story from another point of view) is at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3583430.stm

Take a look at the website of writer and radio commentator Dave Bouchier at http://www.davidbouchier.com/default.htm



She has a feature and four poems at POETRY LIFE AND TIMES at www.poetrylifeandtimes.com/current.html and another poem at Writer's Almanac www.writersalmanac.com for the week of August 9-15, 2004.



Of my collection of short stories set around lakes, DWIGHT'S HOUSE AND OTHER STORIES, the MIDWEST REVIEW said: "Focusing on believable characters put in paralyzing dilemmas, these tales examine the troubling paradoxes of the human condition with sympathy and synchronicity.... Highly recommended." For more information, see http://meredithsuewillis.com/dwightshouse.html .

I am also experimenting with blogging. I have a blog with photos at http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/blog.html and also a blog at http://meredithsuewillis.blogspot.com/





Newsletter # 63
October 2, 2004



My summer reading included the selection for our community book read, Two Towns One Book. This is always a book that explores racial or ethnic diversity. This year's choice was THE NAMESAKE by Jhumpa Lahiri, a best seller by a graduate of Barnard College (the college I graduated from, although I didn't start there). I liked the book– it was aneasy read with a colorful portrait of a Bengali family in the US. I especially enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book. The last part–about main character's love life–didn't seen as tight as the rest. I don't fully trust myself here–I am frequently disappointed with the endings of books– sometimes I say we don't know how to end a book anymore, and maybe I just don't like books to stop.

I read another popular book this summer that I'd been putting off for a long while with my usual reverse snobbishness ("Oh no, I'm not reading the popular best-seller, I'm reading this rather long and tedious 18th century pre-cursor to Jane Austen....") I picked up ANGELA'S ASHES by Frank McCourt, in Great Barrington, MA, at the Yellow House used book store. I got the cheap mass market movie tie-in version with the kid actor's face on the cover. It was a lot of fun to read– more fun that I expected from reviews that emphasized the extremes of poverty it depicted. I think some reviewers seemed overly respectful of the narrator's suffering, as if poverty by itself could give depth and meaning. It's not that the suffering isn't real, but the heart of this book is story-telling, not sociology. In the end, it is a comedy in the Aristotelian sense of having the main character rise in fortune.

Two more in this survey of my reading in the waning days of summer– the first I discovered because of a pink handbag. I had Japanese house guests who brought me as a gift an embroidered bag that they told me was designed by the "famous woman writer Uno Chiyo." Has anyone heard of her? I hadn't. I found a British edition of one of her books online, THE STORY OF A SINGLE WOMAN. Uno Chiyo was, according to the back cover, "the most significant Japanese woman writer of the twentieth century." Uno Chiyo turns out to be of roughly the generation and tone as Jean Rhys and Marguerite Duras–one of an international crew of early twentieth century women writers who seized on personal freedom which they expressed largely through sexual adventures.

THE STORY OF A SINGLE WOMAN, half novel, half memoir, was published in 1971 when Uno Chiyo was well into her seventies. Her subject is a young woman's dogged determination to live as she pleases, in particular, not to marry. One of the interests is how both the old narrator and the young woman Kasue marvel at the almost random series of decisions that lead young Kasue to transgress against social mores. There is a lot of oddly unerotic sex, almost always sex for something other than itself– to please a man or to demonstrate in Kasue's own mind that she can do what she wants. I especially liked Kasue as the little girl sent on errands by her erratic father and then Kasue the hard worker. She is always working– teaching, cooking, selling magazine subscriptions, writing articles. And late in life, so it seems, designing fashion accessories! Uno Chiyo lived another twenty five years after this book– not dying till she was 98. I'm going to keep an eye open for her other work.

Finally, I want to recommend a book I read at Shelley Ettinger's suggestion, Sarah Waters' AFFINITY. I think I probably liked Waters' TIPPING THE VELVET and FINGERSMITH better, but all of her work is a delight: she writes with this wonderful conviction that novels are important and that there will be a large reading public. Is this a British mind set that Americans have largely lost? Or maybe never had? In the 19th century, novel writing and novel reading were somewhat suspect in this country, especially for men. Melville, for example, was certainly a macho writer, but never as popular as he expected to be. The best selling 19th century American novelists were a whole slew of sentimental writers, largely women or men using female pseudonyms, plus socially conscious writers like Harriet Beecher Stowe. England has always seemed to me to have a more stable community of readers of what we now call midlist writing.

In any case, Sarah Waters is in that great tradition of confident writers, and AFFINITY is a highly entertaining, dark Gothic-style story with fearful events and wonderfully researched material about spiritualists and nineteenth century women's prisons. The story is told in two voices: the illusion is of two women writing their stories in slightly different time frames that link up by the end of the novel. It's a very efficient and suspense-building device. The more self-revealing of the two voices becomes through the course of the novel increasingly out-of-control, plunging after her obsessions, being her own worst enemy, etc. I really loved that splendidly evil prison.

I also reread NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND, but that's not summer reading, and since Dostoyevsky's biography is my continuing Big Project, I'll return to that sad neurotic another time– I mean the Underground Man, of course, not Fyodor Mikhailovich.

Don't forget to tell me what you are reading.


                                                                                  – Meredith Sue Willis





Marc Harshsman's new collection of poetry is LOCAL JOURNEYS, "rich beautiful poems...so close to the natural world that you can almost feel the wet stones and moss...." says Maggie Anderson. I've been keeping the book beside my computer for a quick fix of calm after the agitation of dancing electrons.


Juanita Torrence-Thompson asks us, "What do you think of Rochelle Ratner's new book, HOUSE AND HOME? Isn't it superb?"


I've lost my note about who recommended this book, so please let me know who it was! The person wrote about Elizabeth Black: "Her book is BUFFALO SPIRITS....She writes lyrically about growing up in a dugout house in close contact with nature, about the ecology of that part of the world and the devastation agribusiness and irrigation has brought..."


Ardian Gill says he thinks he has probably "read all of Graham Greene at least once, including his many letters to the editors and his autobiography. (He played Russian roulette with himself as a young man). THE END OF THE AFFAIR is a writer's book, and it was a fine movie with Liam Neeson. I just listened to THE CONFIDENTIAL AGENT (1937, out of print) and then found a used copy. Talk about point of view shifts. I haven't read it in a long time but A BURNT OUT CASE, set in Africa still lingers. I can visualize the opening scene of a paddle steamer on the Congo. I've been trying Pushkin and don't see what the fuss is all about. I guess I'll have to go to EUGENE ONEGIN to find out."


Ardian Gill's book THE RIVER IS MINE will be used in a writing course at Middlebury College!

Michelle Sanders recently gave a reading at Stand Up NY at a special singles reading organized by NetWorkingGirl.com/JVPassion.com.



There's an article in the BOSTON GLOBE on this topic at http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2004/09/19/pictures_of_exile_election_and_strife/ –I found it via the literary blog "Book Slut."



I received an e-mail saying "Save HALLOWEEN for STAIN's. big party. Not your average costume party at all." For information, go to http://newyork.sheckys.com/bar.asp?id=2812. Stain is at 766 Grand St., (Humboldt St. & Graham Ave.) In Williamsburg. The phone is 718-387-7840. All their beers and wines are native New Yorkers. Corona and Turning Leaf have been replaced by the likes of Brooklyn Lager and Long Island's Rivendell City Cab wine, with specialty drinks like the Diablo's Blood (red wine and Dr. Brown's Black Cherry soda). The bar is described as having comfy red couches and candlelit tables for two where you can "scrawl your thoughts in the notebooks left out on the tables, or head to the spacious garden out back to contribute to the ongoing mural."



The next issue of COLUMBIA POETRY REVIEW will be an to be published in May 2005. For submission guidelines, write to Columbia Review.



The OKLAHOMA REVIEW is an electronic literary magazine published through the Department of English at Cameron University in Lawton, OK. They say, "The goal of our publication is to provide a forum for exceptional fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction in a dynamic, appealing, and accessible environment. The magazine's only agenda is to promote the pleasures and edification derived from high-quality literature." Previous issues can be viewed online at http://www.cameron.edu/okreview/.



APPALACHIAN JOURNAL is an entertaining and scholarly publication about the Appalachian region. I have a long article about Keith Maillard's Raysburg novels in the upcoming issue. Check out the website at http://www.appjournal.appstate.edu .




I am still experimenting with blogging. I have a personal blog with photos at http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/blog.html and also a somewhat more public blog at http://meredithsuewillis.blogspot.com/





Newsletter # 64
October 31, 2004







I'm in one of my times when I've been away from home a lot (visiting my parents in West Virginia, going to see my son at college, attending a conference on integrated communities near Philadelphia). I've also been extremely busy with my local integration organization–not to mention having to run around finding political lawn signs after someone stole all the ones on our street! I manage to do papers for my classes, to have my meetings, and stay in touch, though just barely, with a new novel I'm working on. It is my reading that takes the biggest hit. When I come back exhausted from a late meeting, I flip on the television while I exercise my bad shoulder and watch THE DAILY SHOW. I think sadly of all the wonderful books I'm not reading. I have another volume of the Dostoyevsky biography I want to read, and friends and people in my classes and readers of this newsletter keep recommending more and more books.

This month, about all I've been able to read is some short works, especially from a big fat anthology of multi-cultural stories called WORLDS OF FICTION edited by Roberta Rubenstein and Charles R. Larson. I've been dipping in, reading all the short stories from Africa, then the Middle Eastern ones. Of course, every third or fourth story is by an author I now want to read in more depth.... It occurs to me, too, at this busy time, that the novella is a very satisfactory length. The WORLDS OF FICTION anthology includes two older novellas I'd already read, Kate Chopin's THE AWAKENING and a sad but strong work by Mulk-Raj Anand called THE UNTOUCHABLE. I wonder, in fact, if the novella might not be the perfect size for fiction– enough space to explore, but short enough for the initial impulse of the writer to be carried out as a whole, and something a reader can also experience as a whole over a very few sessions of reading.

I found such a novella by Kay Boyle, THE CRAZY HUNTER, in one of my favorite casual book shopping places, the cut-rate bin at NYU's bookstore. The writing style is a little florid for our present day tastes, but you quickly get pulled into a sharp story about a family triangle. The crisis centers on the daughter's maturing, and the occasion is that her horse suddenly goes blind. There is lots of English squirearchy atmosphere (although Boyle herself is a native of St. Paul, Minnesota) and information about horses. The girl is one of those innately lovable young people just between girlhood and womanhood who is determined to save her horse's life. The mother is a solid character too, but the drunken, buffoonish, and perhaps heroic father is brilliantly written.

Does anyone know Kay Boyle's work? Is it all this good? How come I've missed it?

A few days after buying THE CRAZY HUNTER, I picked up a small art book for half price at my local bookstore, Goldfinch in Maplewood, New Jersey (not actually the town I live in, but my nearest independent bookstore.) The book is REMBRANDT: THE GREAT DUTCH MASTER. It's from a British publishing house, Dorling Kindersley, and doesn't seem to have a named author. Lots of pictures, of course, a goodly amount of background. The book opened me to the tremendous scope of his work, and also got me interested in his life. So– another query– Does anyone know a really good biography of Rembrandt?

And while I'm asking, what is your favorite novella?

                                                                                      – Meredith Sue Willis



Evelyn Codd writes, "I also read THE NAMESAKE and wanted to really, really like it, but at the end of it I thought, ‘OK, pretty good, but I wanted more.' It didn't move me the way, let's say, ATONEMENT did. I finished the book not really caring about the characters....Right now I'm reading psychoanalytical criticism on ‘The Wife of Bath!'"


A guest-edited issue of BOOKS FOR READERS on memoirs is in the works.


Rochelle Ratner's new E-Chapbook is free! It is called NEWSREAL: 2003 and is published by Tamafyhr Mountain Press and can be downloaded at http://www.tmpoetry.com. The blurb says, "If you think it's been a bad four years, check out these prose-poems based on news stories of 2003."


Barbara Crooker has two new poems up online at KALEIDOWHIRL at http://home.alltel.net/ellablue/index.html plus six poems and an interview at New Works Review at http://www.new-works.org , and Shelley Ettinger has poems in http://www.failbetter.com and one in the "political anthology" issue of The Pedestal: http://www.thepedestalmagazine.com/Secure/Content/cb.asp?cbid=4002


If you're looking for gifts for the coming holidays, don't forget the always-splendid Feminist Press with its wide range of books of many cultures, fiction, nonfiction, and anthologies. At http://www.feministpress.org.


Halvard Johnson passes on this found poem that has been floating around in cyberspace:

The Unknown

As we know,
There are known knowns.

There are things we know we know.

We also know

There are known unknowns.

That is to say

We know there are some things

We do not know.

But there are also unknown unknowns,

The ones we don't know

We don't know.

--Donald Rumsfeld from a 2-12-02 Department of Defense news briefing






Newsletter # 65
November 13, 2004


Ingrid Hughes, a writer of poetry, and, currently, memoir, is an activist in her union, the Professional Staff Congress at the City University of New York, and a teacher there. Her book of poetry is ALL THE TREES IN THE OCEAN. She offers suggestions for reading in the genres of memoir and autobiography.
                                                              – Meredith Sue Willis


Autobiography and memoir are often used interchangeably, though a memoir can be anything from an essay of a few pages to a book, and an autobiography is more likely to be a book. I would say that in memoir/autobiography, more than in other genres, you tend to like a work because you like the person writing it, and so base your preferences on the qualities that you find appealing in a person.

The book to start with is the NORTON BOOK OF WOMEN'S LIVES, an absolutely terrific collection of 61 memoirs by 20th century women all over the world edited by Phyllis Rose. Next, HALF THE WAY HOME: A MEMOIR OF FATHER AND SON by journalist Adam Hochschild is about an older father and mother, German Jewish and wealthy, bringing up a son who is closer to the new left, and the gap in values and attitudes between the two generations. Adam Hochschild does well at describing his parents without intrusive judgments.

BOWMAN'S STORE: A JOURNEY TO MYSELF is a lovely story by Joseph Bruchac about growing up with his grandparents in a small town near Saratoga Springs. His grandfather, an Abenaki Indian, never acknowledged being an Indian, but nevertheless transmitted to Joseph Bruchac his identity as a Native American. Bruchac's view of his grandparents is mostly free of the ambivalence that contemporary memoir writers often express about those who brought them up.

Isabelle Allende's PAULA was written to her daughter as she lay for months in a coma. It is rich with the places and characters of Allende's childhood in Peru, Chile and Lebanon, her maturity in Chile, Venezuela and North America. It took me several tries to get past the first few pages of this book, but when I did, it was worth it. A PLACE TO STAND by the poet, Jimmy Santiago Baca, is the story of a New Mexican Hispanic who grew up in youth homes and was jailed in the New Mexico penitentiary, where he learned to read and began to write. This is a painful and impressive story of his escape from the life of a criminal.

THE NAZI OFFICER'S WIFE: HOW ONE JEWISH WOMAN SURVIVED THE HOLOCAUST by Edith Hahn Beer with Susan Dworkin is a story of an affluent Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust in Germany, pretending to be non-Jewish and marrying a Nazi officer. Lorna Sage's BAD BLOOD is an excellent book which describes growing up in Wales, during and after WWII. She describes the period and the environment more consciously than many American memoirists.

Mary Karr's memoir, THE LIAR'S CLUB, is a portrait of a working class family, and unusual for that reason. It is respectful and honest, leaving the reader with a sense of her love and her parents' stature, despite their eccentricities and some impressive negligence. COMING OF AGE IN MISSISSIPPI by Anne Moody is about growing up in the Jim Crow south and participating in the civil rights movement of the early 60s. Esmeralda Santiago's excellent memoir of childhood in Puerto Rico (father a carpenter, mother a garment worker) and adolescence in New York, WHEN I WAS PUERTO RICAN, is told from her point of view as a youngster, without retrospective comments.

WEST OF KABUL, EAST OF NEW YORK: AN AFGHAN AMERICAN STORY by Tamim Ansary, is about growing up in Afghanistan, moving to the U.S. as a teenager, and as an adult journalist traveling back to the Mideast. Just after 9/11 he wrote a famous e-mail which reached huge numbers of people about why the U.S. should not invade Afghanistan, which gave him a platform for this interesting but rather sketchy book. CHANGE ME INTO ZEUS'S DAUGHTER is a story of neglect and abuse. The narrator was one of many children of an alcoholic father and an abused mother. This was one of my least favorites.

And, finally, THE COLOR OF WATER by James McBride is the story of a girl who grew up in a Jewish family with an abusive father, fled that family, and married an African American preacher. She brought up twelve children, never telling them she was Jewish, or even white. Her son tells her story and his own tale of growing up in New York with love and also a disturbing shock, as he discovers, in the course of talking to his mother about her life, that she was brought up Jewish.

                                                                                – Ingrid Hughes



Christine Willis writes:

The backdrop (political or social, for example) in which the reader is reading, really impacts the interpretation of a novel. As Election 2004 was nearing its end, I was completing the reading of LORD OF THE FLIES. Had I read it during a different political time, the novel might have taken on different meaning. Striking and frightening parallels can be drawn, however, between Golding's divided society and the American voting populace.

A group of young boys, stranded on an island, need to make decisions that will impact their survival. Golding's rough and unformed society develops into a two party system representing the intelligent, future-looking, minority and the reactive, macho, war-painted masses. We watch the characters on the island slip into mindless, albeit violent activity boosted by slogans and chants: "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood! all the while losing sight of the necessary actions required for survival. They even have their terrorist-beast in the form of a dead parachutist! That beast is very effectively used by Jack, the slogan-chanting leader, to manipulate the boys into action against the few outward-looking, survival-concerned boys. In effect, we observe a society that forms through emotional rhetoric which loses sight of pressing issues of survival. LORD OF THE FLIES is a powerful novel that renders the ugliness of human nature palpable. If left unchecked, evilness and the fear that underlies it, can consume the masses: listen to the sow's head.



Mindy Aloff writes to say that she would like to have people's responses on the controversy about the five nominees for fiction in the National Book Awards ( Sarah Shun-lien Bynum for MADELINE IS SLEEPING; Christine Schutt for FLORIDA; Joan Silber for IDEAS OF HEAVEN: A RING OF STORIES; Lily Tuck for THE NEWS FROM PARAGUAY; and Kate Walbert for OUR KIND: A NOVEL IN STORIES. She says, "I'd like to know if the opprobrium that list has attracted is owing to (a) the fact that the jury wanted to make a political statement, and so excluded from consideration good books by established writers, or, (b) the fact that the book industry is so blinkered by its concern for the bottom line that, out of hand, it would dismiss a list of unknown contenders because it won't help to sell books, or 3) some other reason."

One of the writers on the list, Christine Shutt, was profiled in the October 31, 2004 NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE. Shutt is apparently a serious and accomplished writer whose books have not sold many copies. Did the judges decide to reward merit alone, with no reference to sales? That ideas pleases me, but Caryn James in the November 11, 2004 issue of THE NEW YORK TIMES (see the article at http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/11/books/11fict.html?oref=login) Complains about the artistic sensibility of the books: "When the fiction nominees were announced, there was much grumbling about their sameness–all women, all living in New York City, all little-known names. But the minor resemblances of sex and city are nothing next to what really makes this one of the least varied lists of nominees in recent years: a short-story aesthetic. Not one of these books is big and sprawling. And not one has much of a sense of humor."

In the hard copy version of the newspaper, there is also a count of how many copies of these books have sold, and it is pretty sobering– all under 3,000 copies, and only one even near that figure. Of course, my secret response is: If they found THOSE books, how come MY books are languishing undiscovered?



Deborah Reed writes: "When I enjoy a book as much as Patty Friedmann's SECONDHAND SMOKE, I want to share it with reading friends. Set in New Orleans, this novel will keep you laughing and praying for its troubled family of characters from an opening line I'd give a toe to have written."

One more novel, originally recommended in this newsletter, is THE BOOK OF SALT by Monique Truong. It has a lovely style, but is also an exploration of the effects of colonialism. I especially like the scenes at the French Governor General's house in Saigon, but the Alice B. Toklas/Gertrudestein parts are a lot of fun. The premise is that the narrator is a Vietnamese cook known as Binh, who works for the Steins in Paris. One attractive element is Binh's identification with Miss Toklas's tiny daily actions to make things go smoothly for G.S. The sex is delicate and moving. There's an interview with Monique Truong at http://www.readersread.com/features/moniquetruong.htm that explains a few things–which parts were invented, which were from research. The cameo appearance by someone who may be Ho Chi Minh is nice–and might give a hint of an alternate possible future for Binh, who seems blocked and lost through most of the novel. What if, after leaving the Steins, he might go home to Vietnam and became a revolutionary? Clearly this reader's interpretation, but it's a book that welcomes the imagination.



Don't miss some excellent prose, poetry, and photography in the Fall 2004 issue of EPIPHANY .


An All-Fiction issue of the HAMILTON STONE REVIEW is also available.


For a funny short story with a really strong first person voice, try Randa Jarrar's "You Are A Fourteen Year Old Arab Chick Who Just Moved to Texas" online at http://eyeshot.net/jarrar.html.



Order a four color map of West Virginia with literary sites and the names of many of West Virginia's writers and literary figures! You can get it from West Virginia Folklife Center, Fairmont State University, 1201 Locust Avenue, Fairmont, West Virginia 26554. For how to order, call 304-367-4403, e-mail wvfolklife@fairmontstate.edu or go to their website at http://www.fairmontstate.edu/wvfolklife.


New poetry by Michele Burke, new fiction by Dana, new reviews by Krista of MISS MEDIA by Lynn Harris and Stephen Policoff's BEAUTIFUL SOMEWHERE ELSE at http://www.readingdivas.com/.









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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