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Newsletter # 66
December 10, 2004

My college sophomore son Joel asked me which current writers will be read and admired in a hundred years. I found it hard to answer–the truth is that I really don't keep up with current writing in any systematic way, except through the in-process work I see in the classes and workshops I teach. I did not for example read the finalists for the National Book Award. One of the reasons I started this newsletter was to broaden my reading–to collect recommendations for reading from someone other than the NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW.
I used to read all the time, searching for the meaning of life between the book covers. Now some of the energy I used to give to reading goes to my own writing and to various projects and political work with live people. I probably read better now, and even with more pleasure and understanding than I did when I was seventeen, but I do read less. Of course, like many, I also spend a lot of time doing the specialized reading that is e-mail and Internet, which is worth some consideration at another time. I read literary best sellers occasionally, to check out what is moving people, to learn what moves people in my classes. Reading best sellers also reassures me that all the hype sometimes IS hype, and that the best sellers are just books, some very good, some less good, some uneven.
This time, in my explorations, I read Jonathan Franzen's wildly successful THE CORRECTIONS (see below) and THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME by Mark Haddon. Haddon, it turns out, is primarily a children's writer/illustrator. And this popular, enjoyable little book is funny and upbeat. It apparently had alternate covers in England, one for the adult market and one for the young adult market. What I liked best about this book, aside from the excellent illusion of the autistic boy Christopher's voice, was the demonstration of how his parents were deeply flawed but also truly loved their kid. It's an exploration of trust, too, in the narrow arena of how a human being can learn to trust when he can't read expressions and voice tones. There are a few loose ends to the story that didn't satisfy my adult need for verisimilitude–like all those hours Christopher is traveling by train with his pet rat in his pocket. Would the rat really have stayed there? Maybe Haddon knows more about the little critters than I do. But the illusion holds most of the time, and it is a wonderful little read.
Just for comparison, you might look at a fascinating nonfiction book written by a real Asperger's autistic, Temple Grandin, called THINKING IN PICTURES: AND OTHER REPORTS FROM MY LIFE WITH AUTISM. She's a Ph.D., a gifted animal scientist, who has designed about a third of the facilities in the United States for about a third of the facilities in the United States for handling livestock in preparation for slaughter. Her story is really gripping: she identifies with animals, and has studied deeply to figure out how to make their last minutes less horrible than they have been in the past. She was quoted recently in the NEW YORK TIMES in connection with a scandal about conditions in a glatt kosher slaughter house.
I also read THE CORRECTIONS, which I'd been avoiding for a long time. Now that I've finished it, I can say that I liked it, mostly. Part of its success, instructive to book writers, is that it has a strong structure, which such a big book needs. It opens with a disastrous family lunch at brother Chip's house, setting up family relationships, names, and a general range of colorful dysfunction. Then it goes back into the childhoods of the children, but also back in more recent in time, returning slowly to the present, and then proceeds more or less forward chronologically to the Christmas holiday after the lunch, when the family gathers again.
In spite of a lot of portentous and even pompous commentary on the back cover (Pat Conroy says "Franzen gives notice that from now on, he is only going to hunt with the big cats," and David Foster Wallace calls it "a testament to the range and depth of pleasures great fiction affords," etc. etc.), it is in the end a nursing home book– that is, what editors often ridicule as one more story about putting mom in the nursing home. In this one, it's dad who has Parkinson's and dementia, and is a splendid character, verging on the tragic. He is very self-aware, even with his hallucinations, as he struggles to stay on top of his mental and physical deterioration. Enid, the mother, is probably the book's greatest weakness. I think Franzen wants us to think he likes her, but he doesn't, and in the end she is simply not as intelligent and surprising as her husband or her children. She makes a friend on a cruise who is approximately her age, and that woman has a lot of stature–seems, in fact, to interest Franzen more that the middle American mom he has committed himself to writing.
In the end, in spite of a darkly comedic red herring section set in Lithuania that suggests geopolitical ramifications, THE CORRECTIONS is a thoroughly entertaining domestic drama.
                                         Meredith Sue Willis


Self-described library nut Shelley Ettinger says, "I use three library systems--New York Public Library, Queens Borough Public Library, and NYU--in my perpetual mania to make sure I have an adequate to-read pile. I get especially frenzied as time off work approaches. The prospect of having time to read without the right variety of choices horrifies me. So as the NYU holiday break approaches, I've found myself daily surfing each library system's online catalogue to see what's in, then rushing out (lunch hour for NYU or NYPL, after work for Queens) to take the books out. So sue me, I'm at one or the other library almost every day. Today it was the lovely little Ottendorfer branch on Second Avenue. As I stood in the check-out line I realized I'd lost my NYPL card so I got a new one and–imagine my delight–along with the regular wallet card they now give you a miniature one for your key chain! Isn't this dandy? I also love librarians but that is I suppose a different, and perhaps less wholesome, topic."


Barbara Heisler Williams says that "though she claims that THE OPPOSITE OF FATE is not a memoir, rather a collection of non fiction pieces she wrote over the years, Amy Tan is so personal a writer that it reads as one. Clearly, at the heart of her chapters are the binding ties of mother-daughter relationships. Her observations of the everyday are engaging and wonderful."
Marina Spence writes: "I've been reading Alice Munro's THE LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN. I had it for awhile unread, and the recent NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW rave about her prompted me. She really is smooth and perceptive."
Ingrid Hughes, last issue's guest editor, writes that she found a volume called THREE SHORT NOVELS by Kay Boyle which has a novella I had praised in Newsletter # 64 called "The Crazy Hunter" plus one she likes even better, "The Bridegroom's Body." She says the third novella, "Decision," isn't as good, but she likes "The Bridegroom's Body" a lot.


Mindy Aloff responds to the last issue on memoir: "Very interesting list of memoirs....Of course, I hope that no one forgets Olga Lengyel's FIVE CHIMNEYS–harsh reading, but amazing that, having gone through the experience she did, she was in any shape to write a book at all."
I want to add one more memoir that I read, THE JEW STORE by Stella Suberman, about a Jewish family opening a general store in West Tennessee. This is an upbeat story, which is rather remarkable, given some of the events in it. A lot of the family history happened before the writer was born, so she uses the family tales she heard repeated over and over growing up. Even though this keeps the clear point of view of the youngest child, it thickens and expands the book into being the story of the whole family rather than one member of it.


Order a four color map of West Virginia with literary sites and the names of many of West Virginia's writers and literary figures (I'm on the map!). This project was spear-headed and researched by our friend Phyllis Moore. 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.fscwv.edu/wvfolklife/ ,

Mindy Aloff says of the recent NEW YORK TIMES piece about the National Book Awards (see Newsletter #65), "Caryn James's screed is just vicious. You might be interested in Laura Miller's more thoughtful take in ... [THE NEW YORK TIMES] BOOK REVIEW. And PUBLISHER'S LUNCH had a little comment."
Another comment on the subject came from Roberta Allen: "Interesting that both Lily Tuck and Christine Schutt (I love her writing) are both "Lishies" (Gordon Lish students)."
For those who don't know, Gordon Lish was a famous editor and writing guru (nicknamed "Captain Fiction"), who famously judged people's writing on how each sentence flows into the next. He was also famous back when he was the fiction editor of ESQUIRE magazine for reading small magazines and discovering people. He once read one of my stories in a small literary journal and called me up, which made me wild with ambition for a while, but nothing I sent him was what he wanted. Lish himself wrote several collections of short stories, and is the subject of an interesting article on Salon.com (see http://www.salon.com/media/1998/09/01media.html).
Usually I thoroughly dislike writing about writing– I KNOW about sitting at a computer and writing! I want to read about something I don't know about! So I almost didn't read an old (1968) Alice Munro story in the WORLDS OF FICTION anthology (see Newsletter # 64) called "The Office" which is about a housewife who rents an office to write in. Ho hum, I was thinking, another mad housewife circa the late sixties, breaking out by renting an office. Boring. But, of course, it's Alice Munro we're talking about here, so yes it's a housewife and yes she's trying to break out, but the story is really about her relationship with her creepy landlord who interrupts her attempts to write and brings her presents, and generally turns into something just short of an over-the-top stalker.
GROUNDS FOR APPEAL by Lee Brenner is a new legal thriller in which Laura Adler, Public Defender, takes on the appeal of a man only because he was a childhood friend. Half-believing there are no real grounds for the appeal, she is shocked when strange, and dangerous, events threaten her own life. The problem is that many of the suspects are friends of the victim or of Laura herself: two prosecutors, an attorney in private practice, a photographer, a scientist at the med school– and Laura's client. Check it out at Grounds for Appeal


Nicholas Caruso has a new book called ONE BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN. This story centers on a seven year old immigrant girl who comes to the United States from Italy. She meets a little boy in steerage, but is separated from him. She does well in school, but is raped as a teenager, and her father shot by the cops trying to avenge her. Her mother goes crazy, the young woman eventually has an affair with a handsome young fascist in Italy, but comes back and marries an older labor organizer. There is much more–labor strife, gangsters, the Second World War and the Battle of Midway, a happy ending– and some really outstanding descriptions of great meals! Learn more at One Beautiful American.


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.



Newsletter # 67
January 28, 20045

We just got back from our first family trip in about twenty years– that would be from before my son was born. We went to Italy for a week and a half, and I am still thrilling to the experience of being somewhere else. For anyone who especially likes travelogues, I've posted my travel journal at http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/blogextra.html.

While I was in Italy, I was reading a very long, very old fashioned 1930 Modern library edition of a book that was apparently finished by 1910 – THE MEDICI by Col. G. F. Young, C.B. (And does anyone know what "C.B." stands for? I don't). It was in some ways a real hoot with lots of references to how "our women today" are so much softer than those old Medici dames. There was a deep bias in favor of the sterling qualities of simple honest soldiers over more bookish types. But the prejudices are so obvious, and the story of the Medicis is so good, that I just loved this book with its slow, old fashioned, leisurely writing style. I was totally caught up in the vivid tales of Cosimo Pater Patriae and Piero the Gouty, Lorenzo Il Magnifico and all the later ones who left behind republicanism but always embraced art. The change in Florence from a republic to a duchy is a reminder to all of us that democratic and republican forms of government can be undercut and replaced by other forms-- destroyed even by people claiming to want to spread Freedom.

I especially appreciated the emphasis in this book on the Medici women, including the great Catherine de' Medici of France, who, according to the always-gallant-to-the-ladies Colonel Young, tried tirelessly to stop the brutal civil wars between the catholics and the protestants in 16th century France. I'll never remember all the details of this book, but I have it for reference, and it was a great pleasure to be reading it while we were in Florence and Rome.

Next comes an extensive response to the last two issues from Evelyn Codd, who wrote this just after finishing her first semester of graduate study:

Writes Evelyn: "Now that my semester is over, I'll comment on your last two newsletters. I read THE CORRECTIONS shortly after it came out. After all the hoopla surrounding Franzen's dis of Oprah and the overwhelming praise for the novel, I couldn't wait to read it. After investing the time necessary to get through his tome, I felt taken. Now mind you, it was two years ago that I read it, so it isn't fresh in my memory, but I remember thinking at the end of it that all the major characters could drop dead and who would, or should, care? I've had many arguments with my sister about the TV show, SEINFELD. She just couldn't get it; why should she watch a show about a bunch of whiny, self-absorbed yuppies? "I felt similarly about the three siblings in THE CORRECTIONS. And they weren't even funny, therefore, they had no redeeming qualities. I did initially get into each of their problems and how those problems evolved and how they were coping with them. I did admire how Franzen set up the locations of the stories. Though I don't know the city of Philadelphia, I felt like I did after reading of the gentrification of the neighborhood where Denise sets up her happening new restaurant. I loved his descriptions of the Brooklyn neighborhood where she moves. (As you know, it's not far from where we lived.) But her behavior was so self-destructive and I never got the impression she learned anything from her experiences. I was initially drawn into Gary's crisis with his wife, but again, after a while, who cares? I wanted to give both Gary and Denise a slap and say, ‘Just get over yourselves and move on!' And Chip's story? Sorry, I never believed it. And I especially didn't buy what seemed to be a pasted-on ending with him marrying his dad's doctor and living happily-ever after.

"Shortly after I read THE CORRECTIONS, I read a book by Brad Leithauser called A FEW CORRECTIONS. Now he also has complicated, difficult-to-like characters in his book, but over-all, I was taken with them, cared about them, and enjoyed this book so much more. "THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTIME–two big thumbs up! [My college student daughter] Theresa bought that book last Christmas break, and I sat and read it in one evening as she was complaining, ‘But it's my book and I wanted to read it tonight!' Through various schools {my son] Daniel has been in, I've met kids like the one in this book and the portrayal of an Asperger's kid was true.

"I've also read Temple Grandin's books, and many other on the topic of autism, and would recommend two books by Donna Williams: NOBODY NOWHERE and SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE, and two books by Clara Claiborne Park: THE SIEGE and EXITING NIRVANA. These are all non-fiction.

"Speaking of non-fiction, last month's newsletter dealt with memoirs. About 2-3 years ago, I was on a memoir reading jag. After reading about 4 memoirs, I thought to myself, why do these people think their lives are so interesting, and why am I spending my time reading about them? I was about to give up on the genre, when a local bookstore, (The Happy Booker, now defunct, [sob]) recommended HAMLET'S DRESSER by Bob Smith. It is simply the best memoir I have read. He grew up a lonely boy, with a severely disabled sister, and parents who were in a dysfunctional marriage. One day he read these words, "In sooth I know not why I am so sad," from THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. In discovering Shakespeare, he found his life's calling and saved himself. I was crying by the end of it. But he never lapses into self-pity, and that is why the story is so compelling. I gave the book to [my husband and English professor] Michael to read while he was on a London trip a few summers ago, and he found himself almost sobbing on the plane.

"Back to your comments on THE CURIOUS INCIDENT etc. and appreciating the portrayal of the parent's relationship. Have you read THE EMPEROR OF OCEAN PARK by Stephen Carter? It's an excellent book on so many levels. If you are a chess fan, you will love how the intricacies of the game dictate how the mystery unfurls. It has some great stuff on the political machinations within a university law school department, and on social and gender issues in general. And as a marriage disintegrates, you can clearly see how deeply it affects the husband, a viewpoint not often written about. Deeply satisifying reading here.... I think I've said enough. Happy reading!"

Thanks to Evelyn– and I hope other readers of this Newsletter will feel free to write about the books they are reading so I can share the good ideas.

                                                  Meredith Sue Willis



If you recall, I doubted the verisimilitude of a pet rat riding for hours in a boy's pocket as it does in A CURIOUS INCIDENT (see Newsletter # 66). But, says Ardian Gill,

"I don't know about rats, but my father used to put a chipmunk in his greatcoat pocket with a handful of peanuts. He would take a bus to work in the mill some twenty-five miles away. The chipmunk would still be there at the end of the day and would accompany him home. Since it was also a rodent, maybe the rat story is credible."

Ardian adds, "I tried Franzen's book but couldn't get committed. Maybe I'll try again, but your review didn't enthuse me."



Adam Sexton says that he is teaching a brand-new class on Philip Roth at NYU. He says, "As always, we will be discussing the books from the writer's point of view, though all perspectives are welcome. As a result, I expect lively discussion and debate throughout the term." See below for a description of the course from the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies catalogue. And if you'd like to sign up, you can do so online at Phillip Roth Class.




The temperature was dropping.
My heart--that jolly puppy--
was thumping its tail on the floor.
I bandaged myself up and walked out.
What had been a gray, solemn rain now became
rain mixed with snow, and then a light wind sprang
up and blew away the rain. Only the snow remained,
great white puffs of it, lowered on invisible
wires. Fluffs of cotton clung to my lashes,
got in the way of my eyes. I blew them away.
Whiteness was stretching itself out upon the ground.
The forest, far off across the fields, had a white screen
suspended before it. And the playfulness of it seemed
to infect us all. We put on the white of a hospital
where every illness was its own cure



There is a new button on Barbara Crooker's website called Poem of the Month: www.barbaracrooker.com. On the first of every month, she'll enter a new poem. Come and visit!


Also, Shelley Ettinger has a prose poem in the new issue of Maverick online magazine.



I want to give high praise to a book about activist-poet Don West by Jeff Biggers and George Brosi called NO LONESOME ROAD. My full review of it should be up momentarily at the Ethical Culture Review of Books: http://www.ethicalculture.org/review/.

I also enjoyed THE DEATH OF VISHNU by Manil Suri. This novel is lush with a highly worked surface, and the psychology of the characters shifts in an interesting way. All the characters had pretty much equal importance, most not looking particularly admirable, but the humor cast an affectionate glow over them all. It was like nothing else I've read recently: it has movies that were possibly dreams, and memories that may have been mythology– a sort of whirling realism. Suri has an amusing professional web page about himself and the book at http://www.manilsuri.com/biography.htm and a web page for himself in his role as a mathematics professor as well!

And, for something completely different, THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION by Gordon Wood, a small summary by a well known historian, fast moving, full interesting ideas, new to me, about the birth of the US of A. For example, the old colonial capitals were on the coast, facing England, but the new state capitals tended to be inland with a local base of farms and raw materials. In a related way, a city like Newport, RI on the coast lost importance, but New York City kept importance because of easy access to the farms and other resources from the interior. Also notable: that the old Colonials and English treated the native Americans with some respect as sovereign nations while the famously independent farmers and explorers of the new nation were totally unscrupulous in their land grabs.



Halvard Johnson tells us to crank up our Acrobat Readers: "Lots of interesting new titles [from Xpressed]. I won't even mention that a new one of mine is there." For more information, visit http://www.xpressed.org.




Check out a place for a wonderful writing retreat in wild, wonderful West Virginia: http://www.creeksideresort.net/retreats.html .



And speaking of West Virginia, you can still order the four color literary wall map with literary sites and the names of many of West Virginia's writers and literary figures (I'm on the map!). This project was spear-headed and researched by our friend Phyllis Moore. 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, go to their website at Folklife.



I read an interesting article in SALON by Laura Miller about Graham Greene.


A lot of writers are considering self-publishing today, and there are many of issues to think about, not least of which is that the new Print-on-Demand like iUniverse and Xlibris have a low status in the publishing world. It should, however, be pointed out that the Print-on-Demand companies like those are different from the print-on-demand technologies which are used by big commercial publishers as well as tiny boutique publishers to provide books one or a few at a time. For more on the pros and cons of self-publishing and the types of publishing available, see http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/resources.html#publishingtypes and http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/resources.html/#pod . For an article about PCMAGAZINE's favorite POD company, see http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1045933,00.asp .





Newsletter # 68
February 25, 2005



This will be my last newsletter about books we read for our trip to Italy! My husband's brother (David Weinberger, writer and philosopher of the Web -- see his blog ) sent a package of books and maps to my college age son just before the trip, and he and I both read the books: the first one, by Ross King, was BRUNELLESCHI'S DOME: HOW A RENAISSANCE GENIUS REINVENTED ARCHITECTURE. This popular but never condescending book was about the building of the great cathedral of Florence, the Duomo. It has drawings of machines Brunelleschi invented for lifting marble and sandstone arches hundreds of feet in the air, and while I didn't get all the mechanics of what was going on, I loved the sense of closeness to people of the fourteenth century. It seemed to me, too, that King did a pretty fair job of including the working people in his narrative– what they ate and drank, for example: watered wine for the masons working at the highest levels so they wouldn't get tipsy, and meat just once a week.

The book really demonstrates what it means to be a "Renaissance Man." Brunelleschi was apprenticed as a goldsmith, then spent a lot of time in Rome looking at ruins, entered competitions to design church doors, cranes, domes, war machines– was a Dante scholar, architect, and engineer. Another thing that was striking to me was how he and the other builders figured things out as they went, using previous knowledge and experience from other structures as well as experience from this one in progress. But they didn't have a blueprint for the whole thing the way we would for a skyscraper today. There could be years with little work going on while the guild financing the structure discussed and voted on which architect to hire, or while the architect developed solutions to various problems. All of this, at least in Florence, happened in the dead center of the entire city, with everyone watching and a lot of people participating. Brunelleschi kept secrets (wrote his notes in cipher, never told his full plans till the last minute), but at the same time, he was part of a communal creation–carrying out someone else's vision of the dome, building the dome on top of work planned and executed by many other people over many generations. I love this alternate model for creating– of course the individual's inspiration is always essential, but we build on what went before.

The other book David sent us was a copy of the huge 1961 novel THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY by Irving Stone. My son got totally wrapped up in it, and I did too. It's awfully badly written in a lot of places, especially whenever women show up, luckily not too often. In this case, communal takes a back seat to the romantically singular genius of the individual artist. And of course, who has more individual genius than the incomparable Michelangelo? Who, I have to say, I never really appreciated until actually being under his frescoes and walking around his sculptures.

The biography is suspect in a lot of ways–according to Stone, Michelangelo only had sex about three times in his life, and always with women. What Stone is very good at is creating narrative drama about the details of painting fresco and carving marble. Well, Irving Stone certainly doesn't need any recommendations from me. His book has been wildly popular for more than forty years. You can buy it in all the museums shops in Italy in all the major languages.

And finally– just to prove I finally read something besides books about Renaissance Italy – I read my first novel by P.D. James, INNOCENT BLOOD. I understand that this is atypical, as it is not a mystery, but it was a pleasure to read. Some of her scene setting was as full and painstaking as Irving Stone on quarrying marble in 1500, but of course, here it's the what-happens-next that you are really reading for. I was totally swept up and enjoyed it immensely, above all, the exploration of ordinary people who murder.

Now I want to read some of her mysteries. Does anyone have any suggestions about where to start?

                                                        Meredith Sue Willis



Ardian Gill helped me out with my query last issue about the British honorific, "CB." "You can find the origin of CB if you Google and put in British CB. Here's an excerpt: ‘The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the ancient ceremony wherein individuals participated in a vigil of fasting, prayer and bathing on the day before being knighted (the ceremony was discontinued in 1815). Apart from the Sovereign and the Great Master, before 1815 there were a maximum of thirty six Knights of the Bath (K.B.). After 1815 the number of members were increased and the K.B. was replaced with three new types of members: In order of seniority, they are Knights and Dames Grand Cross (G.C.B.), Knights and Dames Commanders (K.C.B. and D.C.B.) and Companions (C.B.). ‘"

Ardian then went on to comment about the old book THE MEDICI that I was reading last month: "Wow, did THE MEDICI ever take me back. As I recall I read it in 1956 either before or just after visiting Florence, having sailed to Italy on the Andrea Doria. You are astute to point out the correlation with today's situation. Could be the Iraqis will call back Saddam a la Lorenzo. I was taken by the pathos of the death of Alessandro in Il Duomo (the Pazzi conspiracy) and even titled a mystery I wrote many years ago THE TOZZI CONSPIRACY....If you wish more on Florence, Mary McCarthy trashed G. F. Young [author of THE MEDICI] in THE STONES OF FLORENCE. And of course there's George Eliot's ROMOLA, a wonderful evocation of the Florentine era."

He also congratulated me on "getting through THE CONNECTIONS. I couldn't begin to get interested and threw it down after a few pages. I'm still dabbling in Greene and Nabokov. Just reread Greene's THE CAPTAIN AND THE GENERAL. About a boy whose father loses him at backgammon."



Norman Julian wrote the following article that ran in late 2003 in the MORGANTOWN (West Virginia) DOMINION POST:

When Father Colombo Bandiera provided the tour of the newly dedicated Saint Francis de Sales Church here, things he said kept reminding me of a book on cathedral construction. Bandiera gave me the national bestseller, BRUNELLESCHI'S DOME, when the new church he pastors was still in the digging and building stage. Ross King, usually a novelist, wrote the non-fiction story of how Renaissance genius Filippo Brunelleschi masterminded the building of the dome for Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral that is the architectural focal point of Florence, Italy. Bandiera toured the cathedral to absorb principles of construction and religion. The church here has in common with the European cathedral a commanding view of the cityscape and countryside, and a rich dialogue that led to the choices of when and how to build. But architecturally, they are much different. Florence during the High Renaissance took church building to new heights, literally.

"Most people don't understand or realize how much work they put into that church,' says Bandiere, who immersed himself in church planning for the task in Morgantown....Those Renaissance churches didn't happen by magic. Building them was a very complex endeavor.' Not that the church here should suffer from an inferiority complex. Some consider it the most beautiful building, secular or religious, in Morgantown, the University City."

Bandiera's visits to the Florence cathedral and other Italian churches provided ideas that found their way into the new church...But back to the book and Brunelleschi. Reading it, I kept seeing parallels to that building effort of nearly 5 centuries ago and ours today. For their one building, the townspeople of Florence bestowed the enthusiasm our town conferred on the building of the Raddison Hotel (Morgantown's highest), Mountaineer Field and Mylan Park combined.

Brunelleschi, a diminutive man about 5-4, short even for an Italian, seemed to make up in imaginative and inventive gifts what he may have lacked in physical proportion or attractiveness. In early life he apprenticed to became a master clock maker, later studied ancient architectural techniques among the ruins in Rome and used both disciplines in building the cathedral. It was a supreme challenge of building, stone upon stone and brick upon brick, what would be a 37,000-ton masonry cupola 142 feet across. The U.S. Capitol dome stretches 95 feet. Still the largest of its kind in the world, the vault at Florence has withstood earthquakes and multiple lightning strikes because of the ingeniousness of his techniques. Today pollution and vibrations of automobile traffic jeopardize the structure. The cathedral was consecrated in 1436 after 140 years of construction. Today's architects in Morgantown employed steel, aluminum, plastic and glass and even a handsome barn (from the old Guthrie Farm) to build in a year a complex that rivals in scope and size Renaissance structures that took decades.

Ross King is an English novelist and uses a novelist's skills to chronicle the struggles, both of construction of society, of building a church. You think Morgantown has suffered from in-fighting over Catholic real estate issues in the past few years? You ought to read about the property intrigues in Florence circa the 14th and 15th centuries. The contentious conflicts there over the value of church property and contracts in Brunelleschi's time came with prison sentences, real warfare and a strong match of powerful personalities. Churches are marvelous constructions where the best aspirations of mankind reach out to the creator of everything, as if to touch and fashion the face of a god we cannot see. The impulse in Morgantown and in Florence is the same, the wish to be in touch with the divinity. That the new church in Morgantown will optimize that opportunity like no other is no small accomplishment, even by Renaissance standards. This theme, of the extension of human personality and divine power through our buildings, has played out throughout the centuries and will be renewed here in Morgantown for a long time, thanks to the new church.

(Reprinted with the author's permission)



"Intriguingly perverse and provocative!"

"Oddly poetic and clandestinely morbid!"

Lynda Schor's new short story collection is being published by the Fiction Collective Two (FC2). More information .

Read an excerpt !



Belinda Anderson recommends: Robertson Davies' FIFTH BUSINESS, first published in 1970. She quotes from Gail Godwin, who wrote the introduction to the paperback edition: "Seen from the outside, [Dunstan] Ramsay grew up in a small Canadian town, was dominated by his mother, enlisted rebelliously in World War One, lost a leg, was nursed back to health by a lovely upper-class English girl, was decorated with the Victoria Cross for what seemed to be a heroic act -- and for forty-five years, his entire working life, taught in a boys school and published some articles and books about saints. But inside Dunstan Ramsay, as is the case with each of us, is the other story, the one that goes deeper down, into the mythical and spiritual dimensions of humankind . . . ‘People want to marvel at something, and the whole spirit of our time is not to let them do it,' the magician Magnus Eisengrim tells Dunstan Ramsay, explaining that what his and Liel's magic show offers is 'an entertainment in which a hungry part of the spirit is fed.' " And Belinda goes on to say, "An entertainment in which a hungry part of the spirit is fed is a perfect description of FIFTH BUSINESS."







Newsletter # 69
March 31, 2005





I've recently read some older, short novels: Kay Boyle's THREE SHORT NOVELS are really more like long stories. I especially liked the final one in the volume, "Decision," about the search for a missing man in Franco's Spain just after the Second World War. It's pretty moving and strong, about political convictions and governments that haven't the faintest interest in the political rights of their citizens.

I also picked up from the course stacks at the NYU bookstore a volume of two short novels by Nella Larsen, whose name I had only heard occasionally as a minor figure in the Harlem Renaissance. The first novel, QUICKSAND follows the rise and fall of a young woman of mixed race and condemns the effect of religion and conventional mores on women as well as the benign racism of Europeans. The second story, PASSING is even more interesting. The ideologically insistent introduction asserts that it is less about race and more about a hidden Lesbian love, but I have to disagree: yes the narrator Irene is fascinated by her childhood friend Clare, who lives pretending to be white. Irene is engrossed in every detail of Clare's life– her body, her make-up, her clothes, and I would say that certainly has an element of physical passion in it, but Irene is drawn to Clare also because Clare has embraced the forbidden: she is living with the enemy, even to the point of having married a white bigot. Clare is one of these people who is, if not fearless, certainly unawed by fear, willing, indeed eager, to live dangerously. She does as she pleases, or so it seems to Irene who has fenced herself into an incredibly tight bourgeois life style. The relationship of the two women reminds me of the double protagonists in Toni Morrison's grand SULA, one a fascinating "bad" girl who turns up and turns things over.

Okay, the last book I want to mention involves a confession. I broke my word. I said I was going to stay away from reading inspired by my Italy trip, but Ardian Gill's response in a recent issue reminded me that George Eliot's ROMOLA is set in 15th century Florence, and I reread it. I have to say that I am not going to recommend ROMOLA unless you really like George Eliot and large, heavy nineteenth century novels. ROMOLA has a problem which I remember from my first reading and still find true, which is that Eliot's hard work on researching gets carried over into the novel as she published it. It is hard work to read. The early chapters especially are overly dense, and I found myself skimming. Still, once the story gets rolling, it has a lot of momentum, and three good characters: the saintly Romola of the title, her facile and handsome husband Tito, and an historical figure, the political priest Savonarola. Oddly, for a few days after I'd finished reading it, I actually found myself missing that painstakingly constructed world.

In it is a typical George Eliot book, especially in that its most careful attention is to what happens "ever after"– that is to say, what happens AFTER the wedding, AFTER the conversion, AFTER the escape from captivity. Crises and climaxes never impress George Eliot very much: she is only satisfied when her characters have been stunned and disappointed and run through the wringer and finally created for themselves some kind of peace.

Romola herself is another take on the intellectually serious young woman like Dorothea Brooke from MIDDLEMARCH– admirable, beautiful, and eager to subsume her ambitions and talents in service to some greater ideal. Like Dorothea, Romola makes a disastrous marriage. Much of the novel's plot is about her struggles to decide between the righteousness of submitting to her husband and the moral necessity of opposing him.

Another interesting "ever after" here is Romola's odd conversion to Savonarola's message. The prophetic priest created a movement for a reformed and strict Christianity that also included a deep critique of the corrupt Papacy of the time along with a strong element of popular democracy. Romola is moved to subsume herself again to a powerful personality, although she never quite believes Savonarola's supernatural teachings. She is attracted to his strict rules and especially to his belief in service to others. This allows her to be both good and to be powerfully active in the public sphere. She is in the streets far more than a lady probably should be, but she is working to give succor to the needy.

Romola's dilemmas are interesting, but her character was recognized even by some of Eliot's contemporaries and friends as a little too saintly. Totally unsaintly is her husband Tito, the facile and personable young scholar who escapes from a ship wreck and arrives not-quite-empty-handed in Florence. Rescued as a boy from the streets and adopted by a scholar, he has enormous beauty and talent– and a sharp instinct for political expediency. Each scene of his life is about his increasing depravity following his choice not to use his resources to try and resuce his adoptive father. This ultimately has great consequences for him. Tito is one of those characters whose appearance on the scene always gives good entertainment value.

And in the end, it is entertainment that we seek, is it not? The voices we would never hear without novels? To give our attention– to extend hospitality–to another mind; to consider and contemplate.

                                       --  Meredith Sue Willis


Responses to P.D. James Notes in Newsletter #68

Ingrid Hughes says, "I have read two or three P. D. James mysteries, and seen some on PBS's Mystery program. I find her books often end– after we know who done it, but while that person is being "brought to justice" – with a lot of gruesome deaths of women, so I've written her off for her gratuitous violence against women. Sorry I don't remember the titles."

Also on P.D. James: Libby McCord says that she began reading P.D. James, whom she has come to adore, as books on tapes selections on long drives.


Are You Familiar with Wikipedia?

This is my new hobby horse, and I'm trying to get everyone to take a ride. Wikipedia is the online "free content" encyclopedia located at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page. More important that being free to read, it is free to edit and contribute to. As usual with things on the Internet, I heard about this first from my brother-in-law, Internet maven David Weinberger (see the Wikipedia entry on him at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Weinberger). My son Joel Weinberger also recommended it repeatedly. Joel is taking computer science classes at college, and he says it is the first place he goes for the most up-to-date definitions and information in the field.

Let me be sure you get the concept: You can go to Wikipedia RIGHT NOW and add an entry or make changes to the articles. That's right, I did it just before drafting this– I looked up Kay Boyle when I was reading her novellas. I was reading the article for information, and I thought the style was clunky at best, so I clicked on the edit button, and edited it for style, leaving the information unchanged. I've also changed the tone of an article that I thought was biased, and I've added articles on writers who were missing from the encyclopedia, including Harriette Arnow, Grace Paley, Edith Konecky, and Carol Emswhiller. I added myself too.

But how, you ask, do you know that the information is correct if anyone can make changes anytime? There are some safeguards in place, such as a team of registered Wikipedia volunteers who spend hours each day checking their areas of interest for vandalism and advertising and general stupidity, but the real answer is that you don't know any more than you know any other information on the Web is correct. You compare it to what you already know or have read, you take it under consideration, you check the sources, you go to the links. Joel says that the computer science community is so active on Wikipedia, and so many new ideas are being developed all the time, that it is the only logical place to go for up-to-date information.

The concept absolutely blows me away: people pooling and sharing their knowledge. We are smarter together than individually. I don't know the facts about Kay Boyle, but I can correct some infelicities of language. I think this is something extraordinary that is truly new, a possible great good coming out of the technology that is also of course leading us down all sorts of potentially perilous paths.

You might want to take a look at an article on Wikipedia at Wired Magazine at Wired Magazine. I would really encourage all of you to go correct and add and participate in this.


More Reading Recommendations

Irene Tiersten writes to say, "I thought of you when I finished reading AUTHOR, AUTHOR, David Lodge's novel about Henry James. Some months ago I had read Colm Toibin's novel about Henry James. Very satisfying to read both, not only because of the subject, but because of each author's take on the known facts of James' life. Interestingly, although each author did substantial research, neither calls his book a biography. A novel leaves more room for creativity than a fact-bound biography, and I think Lodge and Toibin, each in his own imaginative way, give us a true portrait of Henry James."



"Intriguingly perverse and provocative!" "Oddly poetic and clandestinely morbid!" Lynda Schor's new short story collection is being published by the Fiction Collective Two (FC2). See information at: information . Read an excerpt !


Books Received

Unlimited Publishing LLC of Bloomington, Indiana has just published Sara Miller's NO SIMPLE THING, a novel about what to do when love asks too much. Miller is the author of many children's books published by major houses ranging from Random House to Golden books as well as a wedding planning book. This is her first novel. Learn more at her website.


Andre Norton Dies

The doyenne of science fiction, Andre Norton, died in March. She took Andre as a pen name because she thought only boys read science fiction and then eventually changed her name permanently. Obituary at http://sfwa.org/news/anorton.htm


Poetry and Poetry Articles Online

The March 27, 2005 NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW has an article of praise and recommendation by Clive James about a new book by Camille Paglia (read the review online ). Paglia's book seems to be Paglia's close reading of a number of English and American poems possibly aimed at students who have grown up in a culture of images with a loss of connection to the word– but for the rest of us too. Halvard Johnson points us to a site with a wonderful poem by Susan Mernit called "Yiddish".

Barbara Crooker has new poems too at http://www.valpo.edu/english/vpr/.


More to Read Online

PEDESTAL magazine has a regular Readers' Awards prize, and I particularly liked the recent fiction winner Crissa-Jean Chappell's piece, "The Bone Industry."


Department of Outstanding Offspring

Ardian Gill's son John writes regularly for THE NEW YORK TIMES city section. He had an interesting recent piece about evangelical Christian skaters that you can read online.



One of the Readings Divas now runs a bar in Brooklyn. Learn more at their latest issue.



Poet and literary impressaria Maureen Holm died in January. She was an extraordinary friend to writers, organizing events both in New York City and near Rensalearville in New York State. She was the co-founder, senior essayist and articles editor of BIG CITY LIT, the monthly literary magazine. For a full obituary and links to her online publication, see Big City Lit.



Check out a place for a wonderful writing retreat in wild, wonderful West Virginia: http://www.creeksideresort.net/retreats.html .



And speaking of West Virginia, you can still order the four color literary wall map with literary sites and the names of many of West Virginia's writers and literary figures (I'm on the map!). This project was spear-headed and researched by our friend Phyllis Moore. 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.





Newsletter # 70
May 5, 2005


I'm curious about how we read these days. My mother, a recently widowed 86 year old, has begun reading novels after many years of giving full time care to my father. She wakes up at 5:30 a.m. every day to do her religious reading– Bible and various devotional and study texts, but now she also has time in broad daylight to read novels. She has read LIFE OF PI and my two latest books and is now working on John Knowles' A SEPARATE PEACE. She reacts strongly: "I can't believe he really did that," she says of the narrator in A SEPARATE PEACE, and, "What did you mean in that story?" in reference to something surreal in DWIGHT'S HOUSE AND OTHER STORIES. She is reading with great absorption and seriousness and, I believe, with pleasure. She is reading in a space in her days that used to be filled by interacting with my father.

I used to read for hours every day I wasn't in school, and I think some of that reading has now been replaced by live human interaction, but I find myself envying the way my mother reads in the daylight hours. In my life now, I seem to read only after dark, when I'm tired, when my meetings and teaching work are over. On a day when I don't teach, I try to write. Sometimes when I'm tired, I never even make it to reading, but waste time on the Internet or updating pages for my website.

Often, for relaxation, I re-read familiar nineteenth century novels. Sometimes I turn to fast reads that I would once have scorned– mysteries or historical fiction. A couple of weeks ago, I got sucked into another historical novel about one of my mini-obsessions, my favorite Italian Baroque Old Mistress, Artemisia Gentileschi (see samples of her paintings). The book was THE PASSION OF ARTEMISIA by Susan Vreeland. I think what I'm hungry for is what it was like to be a woman back then, in the seventeenth century. But historical novels rarely really tell me that. This one had a feminist slant– it wasn't about Artemisia with the heaving bosom (see my negative comments on another Artemisia book by Alexandra Lapierre in Newsletter # 19 ). Vreeland's is more Artemisia as Struggling Artist and Single Mother. The book was strong on details about painting (special glazes, how long it took to finish a big easel painting, where you got your models) and on food! Great meals, nicely researched. But the emotional heart of seems to be feminist issues and psychological struggles with Daddy. So far, the only thing that remotely satisfies me in my search for Artemisia is not an easy book at all, but the excellent art book ARTEMISIA GENTILESCHI by Mary D. Garrard (also discussed in Newsletter # 19 ). Then I read another Graham Greene novel, THE END OF THE AFFAIR. I've never been as engaged by adultery as a lot of novelists seem to expect me to be. Indeed, to me the most interesting character in this book is the curmudgeonly God that the main characters start believing in before the book is over– a sort of God of Random Miracles, taking away and giving back arbitrarily, not a god who gives comfort. Sarah's vow to give up her affair with Maurice if he survives a bombing is interesting, as is her learning about God through sexual pleasure. It is a nicely structured book, a pleasure to read, even if it has a coolness that mitigates against loving it passionately.

Greene always moves along skillfully, though, which seems to be what I need in my late night and on-the-train reading. Harder to plunge into was an earlier mid-twentieth century novel, MONDAY NIGHT by Kay Boyle. I can't find who suggested this one to me, and I started out trying to read it in snatches. There were a lot of long speeches by an alcoholic failed writer named Wilt who tells most of the story, although he is not the only point of view character. His language alternates between flowery and complex and a kind of slangy wit that I presume was au courant in 1938. Once I began to get my bearings–especially when it hit me that–duh!–this was actually a quirky murder mystery–it all began to fall into place. It is, in the end, a most interesting novel, all drinking and smoking and café life, silk stockings and the erotic high arches of women's feet. Wilt, the shabby drunk is on a quest, and he does, in the end, probably do something worthwhile.

So then, are you still reading? When do you read? So many people apologize to me for not reading my books by saying, "Oh, it's terrible, but I only read professional journals these days. I used to read novels when I was young." Do you read nonfiction? Poetry? Comix? Do you include in your reading online material? If so, do you print it out or actually read on the computer screen? Do you have the patience for modernist and post modern experimentation?

Please let me know what you're reading– and how you're reading.

                                                               --  Meredith Sue Willis









Personal news: Both of my 2004 books have been named finalists in the FOREWORD MAGAZINE Book of the Year Awards . These awards are especially set up for small presses, and THE CITY BUILT OF STARSHIPS from Monte mayor Press is a finalist in the science fiction category and DWIGHT'S HOUSE AND OTHER STORIES from Hamilton Stone Editions in the short story collection category. I also have a new story online at Pedestal Magazine , a fable about the life of Scheherezade and her sister (I bet you didn't know she had one). Also, two good reviews of DWIGHT'S HOUSE are linked at http://meredithsuewillis.com/commentary.html#dwight.






Rochelle Ratner responded to my comments on Wikipedia: "Your note on Wikipedia is amazing! I just checked some things there, and want to add several pages (not only was I not listed, but Ron Sukenick isn't listed -- I want to put in excerpts from his long obituary), and AMERICAN BOOK REVIEW isn't in there either. Great spot for information."

If you missed my comments on Wikipedia, it is the online "free content" encyclopedia located at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page. More important than being free to read, it is free to edit and contribute to. You can go to Wikipedia right now and add an entry or make changes to the articles. Registered Wikipedia volunteers spend hours each day checking their areas of interest for vandalism and advertising and general stupidity, but of course you have to compare any information on the Web with what you already know or have read. An article that summarizes some of the issues around Wikipedia is available at WIRED MAGAZINE.






Alice Robinson Gilman recommends a book called IN OUR HEARTS WE WERE GIANTS by Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev: "I just finished a fascinating non-fiction book about a Jewish family of dwarfs (7 dwarfs, 3 tall people) in pre-world war II in a small village in Romania. . They were orthodox and part of the Yiddish world before it is decimated by Hitler. They were well-known performers in that world, traveling from village to village. They are sent to Auschwitz and all survive due to being under the ‘protection' of Menegle as he uses them to experiment on them. It is the closest I've come to actually ‘seeing' the reality of the holocaust through the eyes of these people and what they saw in the camp.

"To summarize, it was fascinating on three accounts: the Yiddish community before the war; the concentration camp and Mengele's experiments and their ambivalence about being ‘saved' due to his interest in them as subjects; and what being a dwarf is like in terms of actual day to day life."






Interesting recent article in THE NEW YORK TIMES on self-publishing.






Phyllis Moore recommends THE HARD-TIMES JAR by Ethel Footman Smothers, illustrated by Clarksburg, West Virginia native John Holyfield. "The story and illustrations depict the book-hunger of a little would-be author, the child of migrant farm workers, who writes her own books on grocery bags but yearns for a store-bought book of her very own. Her Florida family is working in Pennsylvania when she begins first grade. She is the only child of color in a non-segregated school (the time period of the book is before integration) and is thrilled to see and read books...and the plot thickens. It's a nice addition to the library of those of us who love books, good stories, and West Virginia related literature."






Chris Grabenstein's debut novel TILT-A-WHIRL will be published this fall from Carrol and Graf. James Patterson calls it "A fast-paced thrill ride with lots of twists and turns." See http://www.chrisgrabenstein.com/, with the first chapter available to read at http://www.chrisgrabenstein.com/ChrisGrabensteinFIRSTCHAPTER.html .


John Amen's second poetry collection, MORE OF ME DISAPPEARS, will be released in late August by the Cross-Cultural Communications. His first poetry collection, CHRISTENING THE DANCER, was nominated for various awards, including the Kate Tufts Award, the Oscar Arnold Young Award, and the Brockman-Campbell Prize. He will be giving a series of readings and musical performances on the east and west coasts, and he's putting out a new CD. For more information on the multi-talented Mr. Amen, see his website at http://www.johnamen.com/# His CD, ALL I'LL NEVER NEED, was released by Cool Midget Records in 2004. An interview by Tom Jarvis is at http://www.wah.org.uk/wah2/JohnAmen/JohnFeature.htm. For a sample of some of his work (poems and visual art as well!) Go to http://www.wah.org.uk/wah2/JohnAmen/JohnPoems.htm#ABadTrip




Marie Myung-Ok Lee's new book SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER is just out from Beacon Press. Learn more at http://www.marielee.net/


Beard Books has just published Daniel Hill Zafren's third novel, "a book that will uplift your spirit and bring a tear to your eye. It will kindle a belief in the power of dreams." SHADOW SELVES E-mail: bookorder@beard.com. Daniel Hill Zafren retired in 1998 as the Director of Legal Research at the Law Library of Congress. In addition to writing novels, he has started a successful business in selling antique clocks, musical boxes and radios.

Lynda Schor's new short story collection is being published by the Fiction Collective Two (FC2). See information at: information . Read an excerpt !






...to a reading and book party, sponsored by O.W.N. (Older Women's Network) to celebrate the publication of Edith Konecky's VIEW TO THE NORTH (Hamilton Stone Editions). It will take place on Thursday, May 19th, 2005, 3.30 - 5.30 P.M., at Westbeth Community Room. (155 Bank St., between Washington and West Street).


...to the Book Launch reading for the Spring titles from Marsh Hawk Press: SOMEHOW by Burt Kimmelman, SKINNY EIGHTH AVENUE by Stephen Paul Miller, and WATERMARK by Jacquelyn Pope. The event takes place on Wednesday, May 25th at 7:00 pm at Teachers & Writers Collaborative 5 Union Square West New York, NY 10003-3306.






A new book titled WHEN MINERS MARCH reveals new details about one of the most explosive episodes of modern history, the 1920-21 West Virginia Mine War. Researched and written by William C. Blizzard, Jr., son of one of the most prominent participants, the book is based on articles originally published in serial form in a labor newspaper. Learn more at http://www.wvbookco.com or send $24 (includes shipping) to ACS, 229 Birtrice Road, Gay, WV 25244.






Poet Maureen Holm died in January. She was an extraordinary friend to writers, organizing events both in New York City and near Rensalearville in New York State. She was the co-founder, senior essayist, and articles editor of BIG CITY LIT, the monthly literary magazine. For a full obituary and links to her online publication, see Big City Lit.








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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