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BOOKS FOR READERS is a free, independent newsletter written and produced by Meredith Sue Willis, copyright Meredith Sue Willis 2005.   Write to Meredith Sue Willis at To have this Newsletter sent to you by e-mail, send a blank email to To unsubscribe, send a blank email to Readerbooks-unsubscribe

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Newsletter # 76
November 5 , 2005

After missing October entirely, I finally sat down to put together this newsletter– only to have my hard drive die. I spent hours a day for almost a week on the phone with #$&*!* Dell computers, waiting for a human being while loud advertisements were broadcast from my speaker phone. Then, once #$&*!* Dell finally agreed that my contract did indeed include repairs, I had to wait to hear from the technician who would be coming to install a new hard drive. Now that I have a hard drive again, I’ve been installing software, copying files, making sure of what I still have and what I lost.

I am now wildly dependent now on the computer– and increasingly on the Internet as well. I’ll be writing a note, or actually working on fiction, and I’ll need to know something— usually a fact, a birth date or death (is Mary Lee Settle in the same age cohort as Mary McCarthy? McCarthy is five or six years older). I just flip over to the ever-available Internet. It’s a kind of super-sizing of my memory if not my whole brain. And it’s right here on my desk in chunky beige plastic. Some other time, I’ll write about the serious negatives of the computer (the option of obsessive ego surfing, shopping when you could be creating– addictions are only a mouse click away).

Another reason for the slowness of this newsletter is that I’ve been focusing my reading on a couple of books by Mary Lee Settle, who died a month and a half ago. She was born in 1918 in West Virginia, although she lived all over the world and died in Charlottesville, Virginia. She wrote the Beulah Quintet, a series of five historical novels covering the history of West Virginia, and the National Book Award winning Blood Tie. I’m reading her two earliest books, written when she was making the switch from being a playwright and actress (she is said to have done a screen test for the part of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind), plus The Clam Shell, a later novel that explored the events of her eighteenth year. She was in my parents’ generation, when the drive to leave home regions was probably even stronger in America than it was for people of my generation. The present young people of Appalachia are not, I don’t believe, so convinced that you have to go to Paris or New York to have adventures or make art.

Even before Settle died, I was reading books by some of the old grand old dames of the twentieth century, especially those who came to adulthood before the Second World War: stories by Jean Stafford, who is a marvel, and the redoubtable Mary McCarthy, whose cool judgmental mind is as refreshing as iced spring water. I re-read THE GROUP, which I liked much better this time around. I also read HOW I GREW, a memoir written when she was in her sixties, that covers some of the same period as THE GROUP, and is full of opinions and a breezy tone that makes it feel more like journalism that a memoir. But the most interesting surprise was CANNIBALS AND MISSIONARIES, a novel that centers on an act of terrorism in the style of twenty years ago– that is back when people were taken hostage and threatened with death rather than simply blown up.

The novel’s characters include several art collectors and politicians, and is full of discussions of art as consumer product as well as terrorism as art for art’s sake– very interesting indeed. The title of the book, by the way, comes from a mental game in which you have to figure how some cannibals and missionaries can get ferried back and forth across a river with no one getting eaten. I think the game I knew was about foxes and ducks.

One of McCarthy’s great strengths is that she is so interested in details of the physical world as well as details of argument and social behavior that her books don’t feel dated. Even a book like this with what on the surface appears to be a kind of passé terrorism is so full of interesting detail about the nineteen eighties that it seems fresh. One of the difficulties for most people of writing about your own time is that we have so many assumptions– that we will always and forever know who Paris Hilton was, for example. McCarthy, by contrast, looks so closely at everything that if she uses slang or refers to a figure in pop culture, it is always with close analysis and critique.

CANNIBALS, like most of her work is very cool. She seems to prefer her most annoyingly superficial characters to the ones who have depth– not that she doesn’t know they are annoying, but they seem to amuse her most, and thus she keeps them alive when others die. The violence, which you know has to happen, is presented almost off-handedly, which gives it a kind of bracing realism. McCarthy, also has rather more affection for the rich as a class than I do, but the book is engagingly intelligent– and inexpensively available in the online used book stores.

                                                                -- Meredith Sue Willis


I’m still working on a list of books to give as gifts. Around the middle of November, I’m going to e-mail and post a special page recommending these books, and I would greatly appreciate your suggestions. Two requests: (1) The book should be from a small publisher or long out-of-print so that people probably won’t see it advertised elsewhere, and (2) try to write a brief line about who you think would really enjoy the book. See Issue 75, plus some samples here:

SHANNAGANEY BLUE, a novella by West Virginian native June Langford Berkley, gets Phyllis Moore’s vote as one of the best publications by a small press. First published in 1983 in The Akros Review, Spring, 1983, Number 7, the intriguing volume is now in its fifth printing. Never advertised, it has a loyal readership and has been used in classrooms. Shannaganey's protagnoist Kate calls to mind another much loved fictional character, Scout in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Each child tells a story as only a child can, a story set firmly in a place they know and love. Kate and Scout are the real deals, each speaks with an authentic, sometimes amusing, voice. Each tells the truth as they see it. Moore says, “I've read SHANNAGANEY's 47 tightly crafted pages many times. In case of a house fire, it's one of the books I'd rescue.”
To order SHANNAGANEY BLUE readers may contact the author. . The cost is $5.00 and postage is included

Here’s one I think I’ll get for my mother, who is 86 and likes to be inspired and comforted: EVERYDAY BLESSINGS: A Year of Inspiration, Comfort and Gratitude Compiled by June Corner (Source books, Inc., $11.99, ISBN 1-4022-0606-2) Available now at bookstores nationwide. For more information, visit

In the same vein, Barbara Crooker has a 2006 Everyday Blessings calendar, a 365-day, page-a-day boxed calendar, is now in bookstores.Click here: Everyday Blessings

That’s the idea. You can always, of course, recommend best sellers and classics as well, but for this special page I’m looking for books that people might miss otherwise.



South Orange resident James VanOosting has just published his tenth book (See HarperCollins’ page on him at ). Actually, he has two new books out– one is a novel called WALKING MARY that is the object of a censorship campaign by a librarian in South Carolina! He also has a book of reflections on ways to think about words, from writing and book making, to reading and sharing what we have read, called AND THE FLESH BECAME WORD: REFLECTIONS THEOLOGICAL AND AESTHETIC.

Kenneth J. Harvey’s new novel is out: THE TOWN THAT FORGOT HOW TO BREATHE, which concerns what happens when the art of storytelling begins to die out in a small, coastal community. His work has been highly praised and well reviewed, and J.M. Coetzee gave this book one of his rare blurbs: "An eerie and gripping story, the work of an extravagantly haunted imagination."

Barbara Crooker’s poem "Elegy for New Orleans" is up at, and information about her new book RADIANCE is available at or through


Here are some books on Iraq recommended in an “Essay”column at the end of the 10-30-05 NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW by Robert F. Worth. He especially likes Wilfred Thesiger: ARABIAN SANDS (1959) and (better) Thesiger’s book THE MARSH ARABS, plus OUT OF THE ASHES by the Cockburns and books by Hiro, Kelly, and Atkinson. The best general books on the Middle East and Iraq, says Worth, are Bernard Lewis: THE MIDDLE EAST and THE CRISIS OF ISLAM and David Fromkin’s PEACE TO END ALL PEACE. The latter gives the background on the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and British efforts to govern Iraq in the early 20th century. Worth also recommends Makiya on Baathism and Saddam Hussein and Ajami on the Iran-Iraq war, a book called DREAM PALACE OF THE ARABS, as well as Yitzhak Nakash on Shi’ism.


Still giving information about the small and tiny presses– look for the new editions of the ever-useful Dustbooks publications at .


See Belinda Anderson’s article on West Virginia’s own Literary Map at



I found two little online magazines that actually welcome long fiction: THE KING’S ENGLISH at and the OREGON LITERARY REVIEW at

NIMROD INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL has themes for its spring and fall 2006 issues– “The Healing Arts” and “Doings the Hundreds at Fifty.” Send work to NIMROD, The University of Tulsa, 600 S. College Ave., Tulsa, OK 74104. Please send email submissions only if you are a writer living overseas. If you have any questions, please write to us at .


These websites will give you ideas (Suggestions thanks to SOCIETY OF CHILDREN’S BOOK WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS NEWSLETTER):
20,000 names at
Random name generator at :



Books mentioned in this newsletter are available from your public library and your local independent bookstore as well as online and at the mall. For online shopping, try a site that specializes in textbooks, but includes general trade books too– Direct Textbook. Another good choice is Bookfinder. A good site for comparison shopping is . Another is Sources for used and out-of-print books include Advanced Book Exchange and Alibris.

You can also, of course, get almost any book online from or Barnes & Noble, but keep in mind that both and Barnes & Noble avoid unions and are responsible for the demise

Please send any responses and suggestions directly to me. Unless you say otherwise, your responses may be edited and published in this newsletter. Please e-mail Meredith Sue Willis at Meredith Sue Willis.






Newsletter # 77
December 3 , 2005

Guest Editor Carol Brodtrick !


This issue has a special selection of old and current books for young people suggested by guest editor Carol Brodtrick.

                                                                -- Meredith Sue Willis

Growing up in small-town Appalachia, one of the gifts I knew would be under the Christmas tree every year, was a book. Sometimes it would be Nancy Drew, sometimes a Dickens story, or a book of poetry, stories of Biblical figures, fairy tales or mythology. I counted on that gift, right through high school. The tradition was carried on to my children and now to their children. Many wonderful books are available, from read-aloud to young adult. And just in case you need a last minute gift for a young person in your life, I’d like to share some of those we’ve loved, with you.


YOU ARE MY MIRACLE, by Maryann Cusimano Love. This is a great read-aloud picture book and beautifully illustrated by Satomi Ichikawa. A feel-good book that’s fun to read.

Kids love dinosaurs, even the very young ones, and Jane Yolen and Mark Teague have two of our family favorites; HOW DO DINOSAURS GET WELL SOON? And HOW DO DINOSAURS SAY GOOD NIGHT? These books are fun to read and the illustrations on the inside of the front and back covers of different dinosaurs blowing bubbles, drinking tea, and curled up in bed reading, are a hoot.

THE PIGEON FINDS A HOT DOG. Mo Willems has done several of these “pigeon” books, each with a basic concept like attitude and feelings. This one is about sharing and is so clever and funny you’ll love reading it again and again to your little one.

BAD KITTY by Nick Bruel. This one is on the “buy” list of almost everyone. A sweet kitty turns bad when she’s offered people food instead of her own food. It’s the funny story of a picky eater on a rampage through an alphabet of bad deeds. All ends well when Kitty’s generous owner sees the light and brings her the tasty treats she loves.


GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU, by Sam Mcbratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram,
and GOODNIGHT MOON, by Margaret Wise Brown.


THE KINGFISHER TREASURY OF STORIES by Edward Billshen, a collection of twenty-four stories just right for four-year olds and up, plus great illustrations.

THE PRESCHOOLER’S BUSY BOOK: 365 Creative Games and Activities to Occupy 3 – 6 year-olds by Trish Kuffner. Great for developing math and reading skills.


MAD LIBS – THE WORLD’S GREATEST WORD GAME books by Roger Price and Leonard Stern. Boys and girls who like word challenges love these fill in the blank books. (Grown-ups like these, too.)

MATILDA, by Roald Dahl—Story of a five-year-old genius with rotten parents who goes to school and finds an even worse headmistress, but also finds Miss Honey who is in perfect sync with Matilda. A funny book and classic Dahl.

E.B. White’s THE TRUMPET OF THE SWAN, story of a Trumpeter swan who has no voice, and STUART LITTLE, story of a mouse that lives with a human family and goes out on a great adventure.


These books overlap the age levels of upper middle grade into junior high and even beyond. They’re well written, and carry powerful messages wrapped up in good stories.

CRISPIN, by AVI. A “boy” book girls like, too. It’s an adventure story set in the middle ages about a boy searching for his name and a place in the world. (Any book written by AVI is a sure bet.)

Two books by E.L. Konigsburg; the first, a Newberry Award winner, is FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER about a girl, Claudia, and her brother, Jamie, who run away to New York City and live for a whole week on twenty-four dollars and forty-three cents. The other is THE OUTCASTS OF 19 SCHUYLER PLACE, a story about twelve-year-old Margaret Rose Kane who wants to preserve the three towers her great-uncles have spent forty years building in their back yard.

THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, by Ann Brashares, about an ordinary pair of jeans that travel and do great things through the efforts of four friends.

And, finally, THE PENDERWICKS, by Jeanne Birdsall, who just won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature with this novel about a widowed father, his four daughters and their three-week vacation that includes a mansion, the boy who lives there, and a gardener who befriends them.

                                                       – Carol Brodtrick


Anything by Vera Williams ( from the ever popular A CHAIR FOR MY MOTHER to SCOOTER and AMBER WAS BRAVE, ESSIE WAS SMART and the splendid first book for the very little, MORE, MORE, MORE, SAID THE BABY.


Sara Pepitone tells us she has had two pieces in the NEW YORK TIMES this year, the “Modern Love” column in the Sunday Styles section!




Phyllis Moore suggests this site to find our what National Book Aware Writers read:


Poet Jane Hicks has a web site that’s worth visiting just for the name– – but Jane Hicks is a wonderful poet too. The Jesse Stuart Foundation published her book, BLOOD & BONE REMEMBER.

Don’t forget Helen Duberstein’s ( most recent books ROMA in which three women share an apartment in Rome and A THOUSAND WIVES DANCING about upheavals in the lives of couples in Provincetown.

Daniela Gioseffi recommends WOMEN WITHOUT SUPERSTITION: NO GODS--NO MASTERS--THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF WOMEN FREETHINKERS OF THE NINETEENTH & TWENTIETH CENTURY edited by Annie Laurie Gaylor She says, “This book makes a great gift for young women or anyone. It contains daring and pioneering thinkers who women can be proud of intelligent and humanistic role models, including Susan B. Anthony, Mary Wollstonecraft, Harriet Martineau, Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances Wright, Meridel LeSueur, Barbara Ehrenreich, Katha Pollitt, and numerous other women who were free thinking liberators of not only women, but all oppressed peoples. An eye-opening book for our time when religious extremists are trying to oppress us and mix church and state together when they should be clearly separated in order to avoide religious oppression or discrimination.”

For more books from small presses, look at


Sara P. writes that she “just finished WASHINGTON SQUARE for the first time and had no idea how much I liked Henry James. I love to read about old New York, and this was such an interesting portrayal of characters. I had to pick up some Balzac to see/understand his inspiration...”


The NYRB Classics ( series reintroduces some of the many remarkable books that have fallen out of print, or simply out of sight, in recent years. The series, now entering its fifth year, has been a notable success with the public and the press, and currently includes more than 100 titles, from Richard Hughes's black and dazzling tale of childhood, A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA, to Edward Gorey's illustrated selection of ghost stories, THE HAUNTED LOOKING GLASS.


Order WOMEN WITHOUT SUPERSTITION for $25 postpaid from The Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc. PO Box 750, Madision, WI. 53701. Phone is (608) 256-8900, website .





Newsletter # 78
December 24 , 2005



Dear Friends,
Please accept my best wishes for the coming year, and my hopes that you are all enjoying a holiday of family, friends, good food, fires, candles, and whatever is reassuring and hopeful to you in this dark season. My mother and son Joel are here with me and Andy today, and two of Joel’s friends are arriving later (one is his girlfriend!). Tomorrow come three friends from Japan. We will have Christmas with Buddhists, Jews, one serious Christian and a couple of secular humanists, followed by the first night of Hanukkah.
      This newsletter is all the writing I’ll get to do today, and I don’t expect anyone to read it till after the holidays. When you do get a chance, please get back to me with your suggestions and thoughts.
     Meanwhile, Happy, Happy, Holidays!
          -- Meredith Sue Willis



I read a contemporary book, THE HILLS AT HOME by Nancy Clark. This is an interesting attempt to create a novel of manners, and it has lots of characters and some really amusing scenes , but it is light to the point of floating away–except for its inordinate size. Some commentary called it a satire, but it is gentle satire, which, of course, means satire with no bite. In the end, how do you satirize a society like ours that is at once self-referential and self-parodying? Jon Stewart on THE DAILY SHOW often does it by simply showing clips of real television news that demonstrate official and media stupidity and lying. THE HILLS AT HOME is just making fun of a family. Much of the time Clark seems to be doing what children do when they have small world play: she created this family and now she makes up stories about them. Some of the stories are terrific fun, but some are tedious and self-indulgent. A couple of the characters, the former school teacher family matriarch Aunt Lily and the middle-aged self-deceiving Ginger in particular, were wonderfully quirky, and also viewed affectionately by the author. There’s also some interesting plot material, especially towards the end, bringing in rapacious land developers and the CIA, but over all there were just too many characters and too many pages.

Which brings me to my recent re-read of Thomas Hardy’s TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES. As I have said repeatedly in this Newsletter, I greatly enjoy a Victorian novel as the days get shorter. TESS is a wonderful, sad, gripping story. I had trouble getting started because I remembered from my first read thirty years ago that it was going to be tragic– Hardy is one of the world’s experts on creating a terrible sense of foreboding. And you can guess right away where it’s going, even if you weren’t an English major in college at a time when TESS was a major stopover on the Great Tradition. But this time, TESS seemed to me less depressing than– just to stick with Hardy– JUDE THE OBSCURE. In the end, Hardy manages both his tragedy and a brief period of happiness for Tess before she is crushed by the hand of Fate and the Law.

TESS is in many ways a novel about belief systems that are too rigid: Tess’s husband thinks he is a liberal thinker, but his philosophy is even more destructive than his father’s strict religious beliefs. Tess too chooses a bad religion – total faith in one individual man. Not that conventional religion would have saved her from the forces of society and the Victorian emphasis on technical purity for women. Hardy’s landscape description is stunning, and the details of farm life beautifully highlighted. Hardy’s laborers, unlike those in books written by Victorians with roots in the upper classes, have rich lives. There are interesting details such as how laborers have one day a year when they switch jobs, whole families on the move, and an almost festive atmosphere as they move from farm to farm. A number of Tess’s working class friends live vagabond lives, and the varieties of working class experience are refreshingly displayed as background. Tess’s tragedy unfolds from her father’s discovery of probable aristocratic roots. It’s a lovely, sad story. Yay, Thomas Hardy!

I also finished THE COLLECTED STORIES OF JEAN STAFFORD, which has some real knock-out wonderful pieces. I finally know why people speak of her as a writer’s writer, incredibly skillful. I liked the stories set in Colorado best– the ones about Manhattan and the northeast are in their own way as grim as Hardy with huge amounts of drinking and depression. But all beautifully written, and the Colorado stories were superb.


What do those of you who write read to help you write? Greg Sanders says “It's hard as hell to find the time to sit down, get in that 20 minutes we need to get the thoughts rolling, then actually attempt to write. I've been reading in the interstices--the COLLECTED STORIES OF VLADIMIR NABOKOV (humbling, so very humbling), Stephen Dixon (to inject me with frenetic dialog juice and darkly sardonic whit, and fearlessness), and I've started a collection of Gogol short stories, THE OVERCOAT. Wonderfully weird stuff--and esp. ahead of its time when you consider how long ago he lived (1809-1852).”


Don’t miss a piece by Phyllis Moore on how her parents encouraged her to read:

Also, this newspaper column by Georgia Green Stamper tells about her first visit to a library plus the books that have meant the most to her in her life:

And if you enjoy that essay, take a look at Stamper’s about the day Kennedy died:


A book by Adam Sexton called MASTER CLASS IN FICTION
WRITING: LESSONS FROM AUSTEN, HEMINGWAY AND OTHERS has just been published by McGraw-Hill. You can find it at or Barnes & Noble.

Brighid's Fire Books specializes in First Fiction:

For writer- run workshops in NYC – see their web page at or call 212-479-7383.

Ellen Bass gives poetry workshops in all kinds of interesting places. Coming up soon is her February 11-12, 2006 Poetry Workshop at UCSC Extension in Santa Cruz, California. Go to

Services for self-publishing and other things at Novel 2 Go Publishing:



Ellen Bass reports that her mentor Dorianne Laux has just published her fourth, “amazing”
collection of poetry, Facts About the Moon.

Greg Sanders has a story called "Choco," about a retired circus bear in Moscow, coming out in Pindeldyboz #6 ( plus a story called "Port Authority, Part I," coming out in the next issue of Lit (Winter or Spring '06).



There’s an interview with Nancy Clark, author of THE HILLS AT HOME at



This company makes books by hand with a letter press– so beautiful they count as art objects. They don’t seem to have an online presence, but you can call them at 413-498-4343 or write Ed Rayher 15 Warwick Avenue, Northfield, MA 01360


Jane Hicks is at

George Ella Lyon’s new website is just up. It is for everyone, but has special appeal for kids, as she writes many books for children: .


The NYRB Classics series ( reintroduces some of the many remarkable books that have fallen out of print or out of sight in recent years. The series, now entering its fifth year, currently includes more than 100 titles, from Richard Hughes's dazzling tale of childhood, A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA, to Edward Gorey's illustrated selection of ghost stories, THE HAUNTED LOOKING GLASS; from the complete works of J.F. Powers, brilliant comic chronicler of the ways and woes of Midwestern priests, to such blazing singularities of the literary universe as J.R. Ackerley's MY DOG TULIP and Robert Burton's THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY. It features an exceptional roster of international authors, too, including Alberto Moravia, Robert Walser, Colette, and Álvaro Mutis.



From Phyllis Moore: “I once read that sailors in submarines were observed craving cottage cheese. Later, research shows it contains nitrogen, a substance needed in the closed environment they were in. Books are the same, it is my belief readers of all ages find what it is they need to read and should be allowed to read it.”

Cat Pleska adds, “My mother never believed in age appropriate stuff. It was the times, I'm sure. Mothers didn't hang over us so closely. But she was not one to censor in any case. I owe much of my free-thinking to her. Bless her.”


Still giving information about the small and tiny presses– look for the new editions of the ever-useful Dustbooks publications at .



Newsletter # 79
January 21 , 2006


Let me recommend most enthusiastically both to writers and readers Adam Sexton’s new book MASTER CLASS IN FICTION WRITING: TECHNIQUES FROM AUSTEN, HEMINGWAY, AND OTHER GREATS (LESSONS FROM THE ALL-STAR WRITER’S WORKSHOP). The idea of the book is that you can learn to be a better writer by studying specific techniques of excellent writers: Hemingway for voice, Austen for characterization, etc. He puts in all the sections you’d expect– structure, plot, characterization, dialogue, description, point of view, etc., and each section focuses on one work– a short story, long story, or novel. He actually tells you to “Stop now and read....” so you’ve got an excellent guide to reading or re-reading some twentieth century classics plus SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. I didn’t read every single thing he suggested, but I did re-read Joyce’s “Araby;” Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer,” and Hemingway’s A FAREWELL TO ARMS.

Plus I read my first ever book by Iris Murdoch, A SEVERED HEAD. I don’t know why I’ve been so slow to dip into Murdoch’s work, but I’m glad I was pricked to try this weirdly funny book with lots of dialogue and lots of silly people switching sexual partners. It had a brown and red quality to me, I suppose what I imagine to be wealthy British interiors with oak paneling and damask. Murdoch tells the story from a man’s point of view, creating the illusion of a man’s voice very well because (a) the milieu is one where men and woman talk the same language and even a man who goes to business is a bit of a dilettante, and (b) there is a lot of yearning after women’s bodies which she does very well. I can’t imagine plunging into Murdoch’s world every day or even every week, but it was fun to try out.

Does anyone have any suggestions for my next Iris Murdoch book?

As for the Hemingway, which I read years and years ago, the simplest way to describe my reaction is to say that the war parts are superb, but I could have done with less of dear brave Catherine. The ambulance drivers, the famous retreat in disarray, the casualness of death, the disorganized reality of war on the ground– even descriptions of rain and flat agricultural country are as good as anything I’ve read from the last century. But the love affair became tiresome to me. Even Catherine’s tragic end annoys me because it is really about the narrator, not about her. I sound terribly crabby here, and I don’t pretend that this is anything but personal, but is it really fair that the lover’s death is just a part of the young man’s coming-of-age experience? It’s still a really worthwhile book, of course, and I intend to recommend it to one young man I know.

That latter reaction is mine, not Adam Sexton’s. For a quick course in some great fiction and to study fiction techniques for your own writing, get hold of Adam Sexton’s MASTER CLASS.

A couple more: I re-read THE WARDEN by Anthony Trollope at the suggestion of Ingrid Hughes. This chronologically first of the Barchester novels is perhaps the best portrait I know of a morally good man whose goodness doesn’t keep him from having to make a hard choice.

A Christmas gift from my husband: THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING by Joan Didion. I didn’t start it until hearing of the sudden death of an acquaintance. It is a powerful book about the loss of a husband, perhaps made more fascinating because most readers know that shortly after publication, Didion’s daughter, whose illness is a part of the book, had a relapse and died. So the facts are shocking and moving in themselves. Still, I had some of my usual Joan Didion reactions, which include jealousy of her fame and accomplishments. She always assumes that her life is somehow typical–as she jets around to Malibu and Hawaii. She has an interesting passage about people she knows who think they are great life-managers because they have the phone numbers of all the top doctors and good friends at every consulate overseas. Of course part of the point is that those at the top are also subject to massive heart attacks and septic shock and the insanity of grief.

Most of the time as I read Didion, I am totally wrapped in her life (I made a typo here and wrote “wrapt,” conflating wrapped up and rapt) and observations and insights, but every so often the spell fails, and I think, Yes, yes, but why are YOU the one who gets to tell your life instead of, say, some Ethiopian mother whose sons were stolen to be soldiers and whose baby died of starvation? The point isn’t count your blessings and think of the starving children in Africa, but that recognizing the common humanity of the privileged is only a small part of what we need to be doing.

                                                                      Meredith Sue Willis




Shelley Ettinger says, “I'm just finishing Michael Cunningham's SPECIMEN DAYS. It didn't get very good reviews and I'd had mixed feelings about THE HOURS so I hadn't rushed to read it, but I took it out of the library last week and it's bowling me over. His writing, as always, is extraordinarily beautiful, but I'm also loving the story--or rather, the three stories, set in NYC in three different eras, including a dystopian future, all harking in some way to Walt Whitman's poetic vision.”

Sheila Belt says that in the busyness of life, she finds that keeping a short story collection beside the bed the best way to get some reading done. She recommends BREAKING ICE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY BLACK WRITERS edited by Terry McMillan with a preface by John Edgar Wideman. Featured writers include Gloria Naylor, Darryl Pinckney, Ntozake Shange, Alice Walker, Ishmael Reed, Terry McMillan, and many others.

I’ve read a couple of books on artists lately. I liked the little CARAVAGGIO: PAINTER OF MIRACLES by Francine Prose from the “Eminent Lives Series.” It’s a short introduction to Caravaggio written in graceful sentences. He was a street fighter in life, but he conveyed an astoundingly materialistic splendor in his religious paintings– Prose calls them Caravaggio’s miracles– Paul getting his vision, Peter being crucified. Then there are all the paintings of seductive little boys....

Also read/looked at DAVID: FIVE HUNDRED YEARS by Antonio Paolucci. This was a Christmas present from my son, a picture book of Il Gigante’s inhuman brilliant eye close up and his infinitely more expressive and appealing flanks, feet, hands, etc. with several articles offering a general appreciation of the statue, its history, and short bio of Michelangelo. This will make a good resource–issues of preservation and political meaning and well as the innate splendor of the thing.



Carol Rosenthal mentions the current scandal about memoir– the James Frey Oprah pick A MILLION LITTLE PIECES. She says that the scandal strikes her as crazy, “given all the big lies we are told every single day, the official lies that lurk in every nook and cranny of the public imagination.”

I had actually been following more closely the brouhaha about J.T. LeRoy (who used to sell raccoon penis bones on his website). I talked a little about J.T.’s novel SARAH in one of the early issues of this newsletter, saying of the novel at the time, “SARAH, by J.T. LeRoy, a young West Virginia native who now lives in San set in the back lots of the barren gas station-restaurant truck stops of the Interstate highway system. Here pimps of various degrees of kindheartedness and brutality run stables of prostitutes of all genders, primarily servicing truck drivers.” The main character of the book is a boy who appropriates his mother's clothes and name. Predictably, as all the people in this world are involved in the sex trade, he becomes a prostitute too. This was supposed to be a gauze-thin disguised version of LeRoy’s own life. The book got a lot of attention, and the boy was taken up by celebrity types– and now is exposed to be most likely a middle aged woman writer plus a skinny younger woman who pretended to be J.T. in public, wearing dark glasses and wigs. (See and

So here’s my question: What is going on here? Are we so starved for something to believe in, for truth, that we are confusing Truth with Real? As a fiction writer, I find this a fascinating topic. What’s wrong with a middle aged woman imagining the life of a boy prostitute? And mainly why would such a book have a better chance if written by an actual boy prostitute?

Thoughts on this topic welcome.



There is a Daniella Gioseffi issue of SUGAR MULE!

GHOTI magazine has an interview with Nathan Leslie where he talks about what it takes to be a writer today– and says something nice things in passing about me and Lynda Schor.

Barbara Crooker has more in her series of post 9-11 poems. Also, see her new book, RADIANCE at .



Phyllis Moore offers this one from Winston Churchill: "If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them....arrange them on you own plan so that you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them at any rate be your acquaintances." ( Winston Churchill from Book Lovers Quotations edited by Helen Exley. ) Then she goes on to say, “My personal plan is to arrange my Appalachian collection by genres but to not let books touch each other if I know the authors don't like each other or if one is a prude and the other a free spirit. Good friends and lovers are side by side.”



Cat Pleska has an interesting blog/article on Eudora Welty.



And here’s what all you writers have been waiting for: a website that compares the qualities of a title to the titles of best sellers.

Newsletter # 80
February 6, 2006

This issue has long, thoughtful responses to the Truth/Memoir/Fiction discussion begun last issue from Carole Rosenthal and Keith Maillard as well as more suggestions for reading Iris Murdoch, more thoughts on Joan Didion, and, of course, other suggestions for what to read.

One book I want to mention first is the latest by Joanne Greenberg, author of I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN FAME. Her new book is APPEARANCES, published by Montemayor Press, which (truth in advertising!) has also published and reprinted work of mine. I picked up APPEARANCES to take with me on the train to New York because the book I was already reading was too large to carry. And then I couldn’t stop reading, and I ended up crying my eyes out.

Yes, dear reader, it made me cry. It is an uplifting story with mostly good people in it. It is also full of interesting information about everything from the practice of ski law to wedding planning. The characters in the novel have real jobs and generally enjoy their work. I can imagine someone calling it a novel with a message or even a didactic novel, but it seems to be that the kind of graceful teaching going on here is as legitimate in fiction as any of the other things fiction does, like building suspense, sharing intense sensual experiences, or exploring the rhythms of common language.

The heart of the story is a father hunt. The main character, the ski lawyer, discovers that his father is not dead, and is, indeed (– warning! Plot spoiler coming – ) in prison for child molesting. I think that a lot of people will find the empathy for the child molester difficult, but Greenberg handles this with great aplomb and a kind of bare honesty that I found really moving.

It is, I should say, a book for grown-ups– not the subject matter, but the tone. I’m sure there are fourteen year old readers who would be caught up in it, but the target audience is not really the famous 18-34 year old big spenders. And frankly, I think we can use more novels for the rest of us. I have always read in part to learn how to live, and it is a great pleasure to read something that focuses on living beyond the age of twenty-four. I’m grateful to Montemayor from bringing this one out.

                                                                      Meredith Sue Willis



Just Released from Plain View Press: THE MEASURE OF EVERYTHING by Ed Davis . I’ve read this book, and recommend it to everyone . It’s an American novel that takes grassroots political action seriously. It captures how a political movement can develop and even succeed. The novel culminates in the auction of the farm, a public event that both fulfills plot expectations and uplifts the reader without any sugar coating. Place your order—and find out more about Ed’s books—at And if you happen to be in Yellow Springs, you’re invited to a book signing and concert at The Emporium at 233 Xenia Avenue, Yellow Springs, Friday, February 17, Reading 6:30-7:00, Concert:7-8:30 p.m. Directions and a map are available at Ed



Ardian Gill says, “Re: Didion. I've liked her earlier books but the YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING was a bit self-indulgent, and her refusal to accept the reality of Dunne's death was hard to fathom.”

Whereas Rebecca Kavaler writes, “I have never cared much for her, finding her cold and remote, while acknowledging that, particularly in her nonfiction, she writes well. But when you ask where does she get off touting HER grief over that of a mother in Ethiopia etc.., the answer is very simple. History is written by the victors, they say. Actually, it's written by writers. As is the explication of human emotions. That mother in Ethiopia can't write, which means that HER grief will be restricted to her own heart. Didion's, on the other hand, will be felt by multitudes. This is, I suppose, one of the fringe benefits of being a very good writer, which she undoubtedly is. (I had the same qualms, I admit, reading her book, which however I found one of her strongest.”


Keith Maillard writes, “As to Leroy [J.T. LeRoy the supposed West Virginia boy prostitute author] I’ve been following the developments in this story of the loveliest literary hoax since Carlos Casteneda. No, of course, there’s nothing wrong with a middle-aged woman imagining the life of a boy prostitute – any more than there was anything wrong with a middle-aged man (me) imagining the life of a young country club woman in the fifties [Maillard’s novel GLORIA], but I didn’t assume a woman’s pseudonym and attach it to the writing and then hire a woman of Gloria’s age to impersonate the author in public appearances. I think we’re disturbed about the Leroy case because it calls into question what we think (and feel) about authorship… the way the popular media seems always to assume that all fiction is always autobiographical (I find this maddening)… and also how we feel about celebrity, the way some writers create large public personae for themselves and then market that rather than their fiction per se. SARAH, I thought, was a pretty good first novel but certainly not a spectacular one, and the leaked suggestions that Leroy was writing thinly disguised autobiography certainly helped to sell the book. (No matter what we say, we’re all of us still looking for somebody to tell us something that’s TRUE.)

“But there’s another question that nobody seems to be asking yet: why West Virginia? Much of SARAH takes place in that contemporary, hard-to-define landscape I’ve called ‘urban magic realism’ (this can shade into cartoon writing very easily) and so is not meant to be taken straight – certainly not as standard-issue realism. But there were enough authentic West Virginia details to take me in – me, a West Virginia writer. So now I’m thinking, yeah, WHY West Virginia? The loopiest place the author could think of? The land of hillbillies and weird happenings? As West Virginia writers, should we be offended by this – or should we be having a good laugh? I don’t know. I’d love to hear anybody else’s ideas on this topic.”

Carole Rosenthal says, “People ought to be reading fiction ‘for a dose of truth.’ In fact, I used to say that regularly for years in my classes, particularly when students defined nonfiction and fiction initially defined as ‘true’ and ‘not true.’ I think it is a losing battle though. Part of the cachet of JT Leroy's fiction was, of course, his/her invented personality. The same is true in different proportions in Frey's memoir [James Frey, A MILLION LITTLE PIECES, first honored then lambasted by Oprah], apparently. The whole thing pisses me off. It is the commodification of ‘the author’– commodified as is everything in our lives these days, including our experiences and even the shape of our imaginations.

“Memoir, of course, is an evolving form. It is different from journalism, or biography, or even autobiography, although it can contain elements, or even the form, of all of those. Good literature, in my view, is genuinely ‘moving.’ That is, it actually shifts your perception of the world, both internal and external, so that when you emerge from the work's universe, familiar people and events and even the geography may look slightly different to you. It is interesting that it is sensational or confessional writing about sensational topics that has popularized the memoir, made it a more commercial genre for the big publishers than ‘fiction.’ Leroy's transgressive fiction was popular because the invented persona of the author made it ‘true,’ based on ‘his’ own 'true story.’.... Publishers intuit that people want to view their own dark undersides, their shadow selves, through the lens of sensational and usually redemptive confession. My unsettling perception– and not a novel one– is that the illusion of truth has come to be cherished as ‘fact.’ Very well-packaged ‘truths’ make for the most popular reading, and authors are packaged as personalities. When the public face is pulled off, then people are furious. It is the illusion that these ‘facts’ about these created personalities are TRUE that makes me think that Stephen Colbert really hawked it when he coined the word ‘truthiness.’

“Thus we live in a world suffused by lies, big, big political lies, corporate lies, and what John Berger refers to as ‘publicity’ – publicity that is unanalyzed and lies that are insufficiently challenged. I find the atmosphere very annoying. This new unveiling of lies in the Frey memoir and in the underlying assumption about the author and his background in Leroy's case feel like a kind of yucky grace note to the cult of celebrity and gossip that has substituted for inner life in our culture.

“On a personal note, since I too am writing a ‘memoir,’ I'm worried about the publishing future of the form. Maybe I just need another word for what it is that I am doing– the stories that are unfolding from memory. But memory itself is constantly shifting. There are many different ways of seeing an event or a series of events as you go through life and change your viewing perspective. For instance, I am not the same person in relation to my mother that I was as a child, or even, as it turns out, as I was last week. So what I am writing and what shape it takes is still not pinned down for me. Nor do I want it pinned down artificially by a pre-packaged form. My bottom line, is the same as yours. I want to tell the truth. The truth has many facets, many ways that it can be viewed. I think Maxine Hong Kingston's THE WOMAN WARRIOR: A MEMOIR OF A GIRLHOOD AMONG GHOSTS was stunning because it employed fictional techniques to portray not only the characters, but also our reliance on language to understand the shifty and shifting nature of what we represent and what is represented to us as the factual world.

“The one other point I'd like to make, I guess, is that the imagination itself is threatening because of its ambiguity, the uncertainty of where you end up when you are ‘moved’ by art. It's a little scary to be surrounded by so much uncertainty, when we live in a world in which we are bombarded by ‘news’ and one which feels more and more unstable, our own myths sliding away from us quickly in the present political climate. How ironic and thought-provoking that ‘reality shows’ are the most popular and profitable from the TV networks. To both feed our imagination and to trivialize it, everything is reduced to the common denominator of gossip.”



Adam Sexton (see my notes on his book in NEWSLETTER #79) says, “Murdoch's acknowledged masterpiece is THE SEA, THE SEA. I recommend it enthusiastically.”

Dorothy Wick comments: “You asked for suggestions of other Murdoch books to read and I want to recommend her first book UNDER THE NET. I, too, was not a Murdoch reader (and somehow or the other had the idea I wouldn't care for her) until I took Adam Sexton's course "Reading Fiction for Fiction Writers." We read "THE SEVERED HEAD" for her skill in handling dialogue and I was impressed (also, liked her descriptions of London, especially at night, as I lived there for a year quite a few years ago and her writing brought back the feel of the place). But, I didn't go out and pursue other Murdoch titles until I read Carolyn See MAKING A LITERARY LIFE: ADVICE FOR WRITERS AND OTHER DREAMERS (which, incidentally, I found top-notch for that genre - See's style is so good, clear and practical advice told in very amusing, witty prose. I especially enjoyed the chapter on 'Pretend to be a writer.') In See's chapter on Geography, Time, and Space she writes:...’Iris Murdoch in UNDER THE NET, one of the most wonderful novels in the English language, invents a hapless hero who, along with his equally hapless sidekick, feels that he must steal a German shepherd, a movie-star dog named Mr. Mars from an invidious villain. Mr. Mars is in a cage in the villain's living room. The cage is too big for the door. A cab is waiting outside. Time is of the essence. The cage could go through the door if it were turned on its side, but when that happens, Mr. Mar's paws go through the bars. Those five or six pages of gorgeous fiction say more about space, existential acts, and the random quality of the universe than all of Sartre and Camus combined.’ Naturally, I wanted to read the book immediately and there it was on my bookshelves (reinforcing my contention that - yes, I must hang onto all these old paperbacks). What luck! I immediately plunged into my yellowed Avon 1967 paperback copy of what the publishers were obviously trying to market to a 'hip' generation (sexy girl on cover with come-on ‘A lusty novel of the swinging city's movie world and underground night life.’ The novel was originally published in l954, and the events, although madcap and eccentric were probably not ones that the 60's readership the publishers were trying to attract could identify with). In addition to the action with Mr. Mars (he becomes a very sympathetic player in the plot), there are some marvelous descriptions of a Mrs. Tinckham's shop which is full of cats (the function of this shop, Mrs. Tinckham herself and the hero's use of this establishment are wonderfully rich). One of my favorites is an account of a inebriated philosophic midnight swim the hero makes with his sidekick and the editor of the Independent Socialist. If I would have any critical comments on this book, I guess it would have to be that it is almost too rich in plot! What a wonderful fertile imagination Murdoch had. There is so much action, events happening, and the ending doesn't come together neatly ending. The book sort of peters out, but it is so wonderful and richly written, I can't fault it!”

Keith Maillard adds, “Back in the early 80s I went through a period of a couple years when I was addicted to Murdoch. She’s a truly wacky writer, and I loved her to pieces. She was a philosophy professor, and each of her books deals with a philosophical problem (or problems). I’d suggest for your next one THE NICE AND THE GOOD which is my favorite. It’s about exactly what the title says – the difference between NICE and GOOD – and it’s lots of fun. Another good one, something we’d call “edgy” today, is the strange, dark THE BLACK PRINCE. It ’s not exactly fun, but it’s certainly engaging.”



JC Todd and Margita Gailitis have translated many Latvian poems. Some are recent, a window into current Latvian/Baltic thought. Others are poems of the Soviet-occupation when publishing was difficult and sometimes dangerous. JC says the poems are “incredible, moving, fierce, sorrowful engagements with oppression and freedom. Working with them, I have felt they could be seeds for drama, dance, film, visual and plastic arts, music. They are that powerful. Also included are translations of poems from Russian, the Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, and Slovenia....THE DRUNKEN BOAT is free because it's online at .
Please take look and if something develops for you from these poems, please let me know.”
You can get in touch with JC Todd at .



Dee Rimbaud at Thunderburst writes that he has added a new section to his website at 'Recommended Poets'. This section has links to websites featuring the work of 200+ poets, as recommended by poets, writers, artists and magazine editors on his mailing list. “If curiosity gets the better of you, you might want to find out what floats other peoples' boats. There are plenty of exciting, interesting and often unheard of poets out there to explore. You might also want to check out if your own personal favourites have been represented.... Who knows, you might even find that you are one of the recommended poets (there are quite a number of poets on my mailing list who have been nominated).”


Lynne Gleason writes, “When I read that you enjoyed the war scenes in A FAREWELL TO ARMS, I had to write to recommend a book out of the group here in Denver. Take a look at Nick Arvin's ARTICLES OF WAR. It's just a little book, but it's stuck with me. I haven't been a big fan of audiobooks, until my drive to California last month. My son recommended THE LIFE OF PI. Though I have the book in my stack, I hadn't read it, so the story was new. The reading is absolutely delightful! And, I still intend to dive into that hard copy! “


Celebrate with THE PEDESTAL!


(This info is posted in the Schedule section of his site, too):
Reading/Greenville, SC Date: 2/21/2006 Time: 11:30:00 AM
Description: Reading at Furman College. 3300 Poinsett Highway; Greenville, SC. For additional

Reading/Bryn Mawr, PA Date: 3/2/2006 Time: 7:00:00 PM
Description: Featured reader, along with Bob Small, in this series hosted and moderated by Eileen D'Angelo. Barnes and Noble; 720 Lancaster Avenue; Bryn Mawr, PA.

Reading/Newton, NJ Date: 3/3/2006 Time: 7:00:00 PM Featured reader, along with Gretna Wilkinson, at the Idiom Reading Series held at Sussex County Community College. One College Hill Rd.; Newton, NJ.

Reading/New York, NY Date: 3/5/2006 Time: 3:00:00 PM Description: Featured reader, along with Karen Hildebrand. The Back Fence (corner of Thompson Street); 155 Bleeker Street; New York, NY.



From Marina Budhos: “I would like to invite you to a book party and reading of my new novel, ASK ME NO QUESTIONS, at The Goat Café in South Orange, on Saturday, February 25th, 2006, from 4 to 6 p.m....The novel tells the story of two sisters, illegal Muslim immigrants, whose lives fall apart when their father is detained as a suspected terrorist. It's received a starred review in BOOKLIST and is a Junior Library Guild selection....I'd especially like to invite those who have middle-schoolers and high schoolers, as this novel is written for them. However, it's also a crossover for adult readers, whom I believe will also enjoy the book.” For more information,see .


...and of course there’s a little ad on the back, but I’ve tried them and they really do what they say.








The largest unionized bookstore in America has a webstore at Powells Books. Some people prefer shopping online there to shopping at An alternative way to reach Powell's site and support the union is via Prices are the same but 10% of your purchase will go to support the union benefit fund. For a discussion about Amazon and organized labor and small presses, see the comments of Jonathan Greene and others in Issues #97 and #98 .



If a book discussed in this newsletter has no source mentioned, don’t forget 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" above) that sells online at  Another good source for used and out-of-print books is All Book Stores at .
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 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; Molly Gilman on Dogs of Babel
#98   Guest editor Pat Arnow; more on the debate
#97   Using Thomas Hardy; Why I Write; more
#96   Lucy Calkins, issue fiction for young adults
#95   Collapse, Harry Potter, Steve Geng
#94   Alice Robinson-Gilman, Maynard on Momaday
#93   Kristin Lavransdatter, House Made of Dawn, Leaving Atlanta
#92   Death of Ivan Ilych; Memoirs
#91   Richard Powers discussion
#90   William Zinsser, Memoir, Shakespeare
#89   William Styron, Ellen Willis, Dune, Germinal, and much more
#88   Sandra Cisneros's Caramelo
#87   Wings of the Dove, Forever After (9/11 Teachers)
#86   Leora Skolkin-Smith, American Pastoral, and more
#85   Wobblies, Winterson, West Virginia Encyclopedia
#84   Karen Armstrong, Geraldine Brooks, Peter Taylor
#83   3-Cornered World, Da Vinci Code
#82   The Eustace Diamonds, Strapless, Empire Falls
#81   Philip Roth's The Plot Against America , Paola Corso
#80   Joanne Greenberg, Ed Davis, more Murdoch; Special Discussion on Memoir--Frey and J.T. Leroy
#79   Adam Sexton, Iris Murdoch, Hemingway
#78   The Hills at Home; Tess of the D'Urbervilles; Jean Stafford
#77   On children's books--guest editor Carol Brodtrick
#76   Mary Lee Settle, Mary McCarthy
#75   The Makioka Sisters
#74    In Our Hearts We Were Giants
#73    Joyce Dyer
#72    Bill Robinson WWII story
#71    Eva Kollisch on G.W. Sebald
#70    On Reading
#69    Nella Larsen, Romola
#68    P.D. James
#67    The Medici
#66    Curious Incident,Temple Grandin
   Ingrid Hughes on Memoir
    Boyle, Worlds of Fiction
#63    The Namesame
#62    Honorary Consul; The Idiot
#61    Lauren's Line
#60    Prince of Providence
#59    The Mutual Friend, Red Water
#58    AkÉ,
Season of Delight
#57    Screaming with Cannibals

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