I want to recommend two books in my main article this issue. The first is an award winning poet’s first collection of short stories from a small university press. The second is a novel from a big press by a very big author.
First is Paola Corso’s GIOVANNA’S 86 CIRCLES. This svelte, attractive volume from the University of Wisconsin’s Library of American Fiction series has ten short stories that consistently surprise and delight– you never know quite where they will end up. In one, a woman tries on her dead mother’s clothing in a resale shop; another takes place in a hospital laundry– and amazing things happen among the sheets. In a third story, an extremely eccentric woman supports herself by saving what everyone else discards; and in still another, two sisters struggle to preserve their heritage over a chunk of frozen starter dough from Italy.
The stories are set mostly in working class Italian-American neighborhoods, often in Pittsburgh, with lots of Italian grandmas and young girls who create magic out of memories and imaginations– and yet, even fantastic events are squarely, charmingly grounded in the real world. One story that I particularly liked is “Nose Dive,” which is set in San Francisco where the narrator has just moved following a fickle lover. She has not even unpacked her suitcases. In the story, birds begin visiting her in her imagination and in her room. She makes a friend, and the bird visitors shift from sooty and frightening to the delightful swoops and iridescence of hummingbirds: “I imagined waking up beside a hummingbird flickering in the sunlight. Its color would be so brilliant that I’d make it out against the backdrop of red-tinned roofs. I’d prop my pillow against the headboard to listen for the gurgling sound a straw makes when a glass is empty and hurry to bring out a refill. It’d be a regular soda fountain like the Tarentum Confectionery. As a young girl, I remember spinning on a red stool at the counter until my mother said I was making her dizzy....” It is, of course, Corso’s art that makes us spin, and brings us the hummingbirds.
The second book is a best seller by one of our Very Big Boys, namely Philip Roth, THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA. This is a novel that gives the classic pleasure of “What If?” The situation is that Charles Lindbergh, friend of Nazis, has run for president and defeated FDR. What follows is an American Jewish paranoid nightmare of how American fascism would have felt in nineteen forties Newark– a landscape Roth has been exploring through his whole career. The Roth family is beautifully done–the quixotic but attractive father, the fiercely loving mother, the big brother who gets sucked into collaboration with the Lindberghists, and the little brother, Philip, who sees everything in marvelous vivid detail at ground level. The book probably doesn’t satisfy science fiction readers (many of the questions it raises are left in literary ambiguity), but I think it is a sterling example of fictional thinking about world affairs. It makes me want to go out and write something in the same genre.
–Meredith Sue Willis
A WEEK-END WITH TOO MUCH FICTIONAL VIOLENCE
A couple of week-ends ago I overdosed on reading plus saw the DVD of an Oscar winning movie, CRASH. I’m pleased that the movie won the Oscar for best picture, but reading FREEDOMLAND by Richard Price and MR. PARADISE by Elmore Leonard on the same week-end made me want to go take a nice long bath in something polite and squeaky clean, like maybe Jane Austen.
The movie is absolutely worth seeing– my only regret is that I saw it on THAT particular week-end. So see CRASH if you haven’t already, but not on the same week-end you read FREEDOMLAND and MR. PARADISE.
I have a lot of sympathy for Richard Price’s effort to be both popular and honest, and I respect the job he’s done with FREEDOMLAND (this is the book not the movie), but after awhile all the blood, sweats and funkiness began to get to me. Price’s main characters always need sleep and a shave, as if being dirty with bloodshot eyes made you a more serious human being. This novel’s situation is promising and the ending is interesting, but there is a turgid wandering around in the middle that borders on the pathetic fallacy– that is, that the characters’ chaos is expressed through a chaotic story. I always wonder if African Americans read the white Richard Price– Spike Lee did, as he turned one of his novels into a movie. Well, at least Price is willing to take on big subjects.
Then I read MR. PARADISE by the veteran crime novelist, Elmore Leonard. This paperback got an “A” last summer at the lake house from my brother-in-law David Weinberger who always puts a little grade in the front of the vacation reading. This was where I really felt like I was overdosing on Nines and Glocks and faces blown off in vivid technicolor and corpses with their genitals exposed. In this one, I especially did like the hit men who are definitely over the hill and not overwhelmingly bright, either. Leonard also has this funny trick of dispensing with subjects in most of his character’s dialects: “Was waiting for you to say that.” He also dumps articles: “Man says she’s a ho.” Fun, but a little too much. This week, Trollope’s THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS.
WE LOVE KIND WORDS
Ed David wrote: “What a fantastic issue of the Newsletter! Fascinating stuff, especially the articulate voices weighing in on the memoir/fact/fiction controversy. Thanks so much. These responses were far better than any of those I've read/heard in the media. And as always, the book recommendations are appreciated. Makes me want to read all of them. ‘Life is short but art is long,’ as we used to say at WVU in grad school.” For Ed Davis’s newest book, go to http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/giftbooks.html#davis .
Are you a mystery fan? Here’s a mailorder family business in Cincinnati that you might consider patronizing– Grave Matters at http://gravematters.com/ .
1. CORNELIA STREET CAFÉ
March 10, 6 p.m. Pink Pony West Reading Series@ Cornelia St. Café
29 Cornelia St. (Between W. 4th and Bleecker) $6.00 includes one house drink.
IRIS N. SCHWARTZ and open Mike for poets
2. THE PARK PLAZA POETRY READING
220 Cadman Plaza West (near Clark Street and Pineapple Walk– Take the 2 or 3 to Clark Street Station or the N or R to Court St. call 718-596-5900)
SUNDAY MARCH 12, 2006
2:30-4:30 Our featured Reader: ROZ RABIN
$4.00 minimum $3.00 suggested donation for the reading
3. NIGHT AND DAY SERIES at 230 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn
– Sunday March 19TH, 6 p.m. Breakfast of Champions with DANIELA GIOSEFFI, HUGH SEIDMAN, andHARVEY SHAPIRO
– Sunday May 21st, 6 p.m. PAMELA HARRISON, GARY LENHART, and STEVEN SCHRADER
Take the M or R Train to Union Street
Newsletter # 82
April 14, 2006
As usual, when I’m looking for a treat, I indulge in Victorian novels. Those guys had the enviable conviction that their work was an important cultural contribution, and the also enviable expectation that their books would make money. From the very beginning of Anthony Trollope’s THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS, the narrator expresses firm disapproval of the central character Lizzie Eustace, an inspired gold-digger with emphatically unpleasant qualities that don’t stop you from being attracted to her. The introduction by W.J. McCormack suggests that Lizzie may represent the rapacious mores of England-as-Empire as opposed to boring, long-suffering Lucy Morris who may represent the sterling virtues of Jolly-old-England-the-nation. It’s one of those interestingly unprovable theories.
The plot is that Lizzie’s rich husband dies and either leaves or doesn’t leave her some fabulously valuable diamonds which his family believes belong to the family, not to the widow. The diamonds get carried around in an iron box, discussed, gone to law over, stolen– and worn only once or twice. The diamonds hold the novel together, which works very well for Trollope, a notorious improviser–that is, he wrote rapidly with minimal revision, always forging ahead. His broad understanding and appreciation of his world, however, make his writing in this novel, at any rate, lucid and exciting. You get a real tour of how far a woman could go in her transgressions in late Victorian England before she fell out of the social scene altogether..
I also had the pleasure of reading a delightful nonfiction book by a Montclair, New Jersey, writer, Deborah Davis. STRAPLESS started out, I believe, as an exploration of Amélie Gautreau, the subject of John Singer Sargent’s great painting known as “Madame X” which caused a scandal when first displayed because of the dropped strap of an evening gown. Davis seems to have set out to discover the story of woman in the painting– and she does tell a lot about Gautreau, but in the end, she focuses on Sargent and the milieu in which he made his career. There is wonderful stuff about the politics of French academic painting; there is a neat delineation of what did and did not shock the public (nipples: no shock; a dropped strap: much shock); and there is even the detailed beauty regimen of society ladies. Mme. Gautreau becomes in the end a sad figure, because her only art form is her looks, which she loses in due course with the advance of age. She becomes a recluse. I think Davis rather wants this to be due to the strapless scandal, but I don’t think the evidence is quite so clear.
Gautreau and Sargent both are Americans who live mostly in Europe, and what in the end is best about the book (and very good indeed) is a sketch of fin de siPcle and early 20th century upper class Parisian life. I read the book with delight, especially after a recent visit to Boston and the Isabelle Stewart Gardner museum which has a lot of Sargent. Even the Boston Museum of Fine Arts has some big mythic murals painted by Sargent towards the end of his life.
Next I read a popular novel with mostly blue collar characters, Richard Russo’s EMPIRE FALLS, which has been recommended to me by several students in my novel writing classes. I liked the book, and am pleased that it has done well because it is a solidly character-driven novel in spite of a flurry of mostly earned (literarily speaking) violence at the end. It’s very readable and only occasionally repetitive (when Russo really likes a character like the ne’er do well old Max Roby he just lets them be cute in the same way for pages on end).
There is one particularly interesting technique for writers to note: the sections following the main character Miles (and others ) are in past tense, but the second most important character, his teen-age daughter, has HER passages in present tense. This seems to work nicely in capturing the teenager’s view of life. I like both of these characters, Miles and daughter Tick. I was aware as I read the last thirty pages of the book that my body had gone very still in that anticipatory way that means I am totally sucked in. It took a hundred pages or so to get into that mode, but once I was there, it was almost as much fun as reading Trollope.
Sherry Chandler wrote: “Oh thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m all the time seeing Elmore Leonard held up as a great writer of dialogue and I’m glad to see somebody else who, like me, is just annoyed by the gimmicky business of dropping the noun like that and the articles. And also it’s good to know that another intelligent woman is just turned off by all the violence. My husband enjoyed a few Leonard novels but I just found them unreadable.” Sherry blogs at http://sherrychandler.com/
ANOTHER RESPONSE: WE TALK ABOUT MOVIES TOO!
In the last issue, I mentioned the Oscar winning movie CRASH, and Allan Appel wrote: “A brief comment about your opening endorsement of CRASH. Dunno if that film is based on a written fiction or is an original screenplay, but it was one of those movies that genuinely bothered me as a fiction writer precisely because it was so ultimately plotless, and believable and engaging plot with a building of tension is such a hard thing to accomplish in any narrative form. Is the film not merely a charm bracelet of episodes, vignettes, sketches, very loosely connected, and maybe, at best, has the feeling of diffuse unity of a collection of interconnected stories, if that? But if so, the movie should announce what you're getting; otherwise feels like a false product to me. There's no build up of tension or incident, and, moreover, so many of the incidents are screamingly politically correct, and all the tough-to-achieve propulsive narrative of fiction is non-existent....anyway, I rant on, but every ranter needs rantees, and hope you and the wonderful Newsletter don't mind too much. Onward. With best wishes.”
THE SHELLEY ETTINGER REPORT
Shelley Ettinger says, “I've read three very good novels in the last week or two. INTUITION by Allegra Goodman deserved its glowing reviews. (And once again, my Queens nieghborhood library serves up a book that I'd have to reserve and wait months for in Manhattan.) It's a sharply observed, entertaining story about cancer researchers and what happens to them and their relationships when one accuses another of faked results.
“My idol Sarah Waters' latest, THE NIGHT WATCH, didn't send me swooning to my sick bed like FINGERSMITH did but I liked it a lot. My take on it is roughly opposite David Leavitt's in his March 26 NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW review (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/26/books/review/26leavitt.html?_r=1&oref=slogin). He faulted the structure while praising the characterizations. I thought the structure, which sounds gimmicky--the story starts at the end, then works back in time, showing the characters at key moments in 1947, 1944 and then 1941--worked incredibly well, so well, in fact, that it left me wondering why every story isn't told this way. There was an unpeeling of layers that I found very effective. I had a little trouble, however, with some of the characters--for about the first half of the book I kept mixing up several of the main female characters, couldn't seem to tell them apart, which obstructed my involvement in the story as I kept getting confused about who was who. This eased up as the book went on, but it was a problem since a big part of the unfolding-backward approach involves revealing how these characters' lives are intertwined and when I couldn't keep them straight this was hard to follow. Could be the problem was my own obtuseness; I'll be interested to hear whether anyone else has this problem. As in Waters' previous works, the sense of time and place and the richness of detail are wonderfully realized.
“My favorite recent read is U.S.! by Chris Bachelder. (Yes, the title has an exclamation point--you'll get it when you read the book.) Here's a gifted young writer who's crafted a wacky-sounding idea into a beautiful, comic, sad, silly, profound, touching novel. The story centers on Upton Sinclair, best known as author of THE JUNGLE but who was also a lifelong socialist and who was nearly elected governor of California during the Depression. In real life, Sinclair lived into the 1970s and during his long life wrote many novels, all, like THE JUNGLE, intended to arouse the masses into revolutionary action and all panned by the literary powers that be. In Bachelder's book, Sinclair, like Joe Hill, never died--or, at least, not for good. The writer lives, and dies, and lives again, an ineradicable symbol of the struggle for social justice: over and over, he is assassinated by right wingers who win fame and fortune for the deed, and over and over, he is exhumed and brought back to life by young folks determined to revive the struggle. With each renewed life, Sinclair writes more books, speaks at more underground meetings, touches more young hearts and minds. The class struggle, it seems, just will not die. As if that message weren't enough to endear this book to me, there's also lots of slyly wonderful stuff about the question of political art and how capitalism tries to crush it; look especially for a great scene where Upton Sinclair and E.L. Doctorow chew this over at a Chinese restaurant.”
STILL MORE TO READ
Cat Pleska has a lot of good book reviews on her blog. She says, “I've reviewed a lovely little book, APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN GIRL, at the request of the publisher, Academy Chicago Publishers.” Watch her website for upcoming reviews of Jeff Mann's LOVING MOUNTAINS, LOVING MEN, a memoir of being a gay man in Appalachia and a new book of short stories, THE BINGO CHEATERS by our friend Belinda Anderson. She’ll also be doing interviews with Mann, Anderson, and perhaps Denise Giardina. See her blog at http://www.rednecromancer.typepad.com/mouth_of_the_holler/
EXCELLENT SMALL PRESS PUBLISHES NEW KEITH MAILLARD SERIES
Do you know of Brindle & Glass, a small Canadian Press? They are definitely toiling in the literary fields in a way that deserves support. See their web page at http://www.brindleandglass.com/news.htm. They are bringing out a series of books by Keith Maillard– see http://www.brindleandglass.com/books/lyndon.htm for LYNDON JOHNSON AND THE MAJORETTES. Maillard is the author of many successful Big Press books, including GLORIA.
ARTICLE ON READINGS AND LECTURES
Here’s a nice piece on the resurgence of the experience of the human voice heard directly in literary lectures and readings. I just gave an afternoon reading to some college classes and others at Ramapo College in northern New Jersey. I almost always enjoy readings, but I haven’t read in a while (maybe since last summer at the Appalachian Writers Conference?), and this was a particularly moving experience, feeling my written word and my voice and these responsive young people and their teachers all together in the moment. The article is at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/17/books/17lect.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2&oref=slogin
NEW BOOK FROM ROCHELLE RATNER
Rochelle Ratner’s latest is BEGGARS AT THE WALL, published by IKON.
IT”S NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!! NEW JERSEY POETRY EVENT
Sunday, May 21– Poetry Festival: A Celebration of New Jerseys Literary Journals12 journals and their editors: The Barefoot Muse, Edison Literary Review, Exit 13, Journal of New Jersey Poets, Lips, The Literary Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Tiferet, and US 1 Worksheets, Up & Under, plus New York neighbor journals, Good Foot and Heliotrope
Plus the new anthology, THE POETS OF NEW JERSEY. 26 poets will read throughout the afternoon. Books will be available for sale and signing. West Caldwell Public Library, 30 Clinton Ave., West Caldwell, NJ. 1-5 PM Free . More information: http://hometown.aol.com/dslockward/myhomepage/club.html
IRIS PRESS POET
Another Iris poet was featured on Poetry Daily. Charlotte Matthews' poem "Country Burial" from her recent book, Green Stars, was heard on Sunday, April 9, 2006. Learn more about Bob Cumming’s Iris Publishing Group at http://www.irisbooks.com.
MARSH HAWK READING
Friday, April 21, 2006 7:00 - 9:00 PM Launch party for Marsh Hawk Press's New books--
UNDER THE WANDERER'S STAR by Sigman Byrd, WHAT HE OUGHT TO KNOW by Edward Foster, and THE GOOD CITY by Sharon Olinka at Poets House, 72 Spring Street in New York City. This event occurs during National Poetry Month, with Poets House hosting its annual poetry book showcase, with just about every poetry book published in 2005 on display. Wine and savory tidbits, too!
MAKING PEACE POETRY BROADSIDES
Barbara Crooker sends us a link to see the bookstores in 35 states who will be displaying the Making of Peace Poetry Broadside Series (over fifty of them) across the US and internationally. Visit http:// www.agodon.com/themakingofpeace
POETS AND FICTION WRITERS READING IN THE NEW YORK AREA
The Nimrod/Hardman Awards competition offers two annual awards from Nimrod International Journal, deadline April 30, 2006. The Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction and The Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry offer first prizes of $2,000 and second prizes of $1,000, along with publication of the winning stories and poems, and a trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to receive the awards and take part in their annual writing workshop. Past winners include Sue Monk Kidd, Kate Small, Diane Glancy, Steve Lautermilch, Ellen Bass, Thomas Gough, Ruth Schwartz, and Sarah Flygare. Past judges for the Awards include Marvin Bell, Mark Doty, Janette Turner Hospital, Stanley Kunitz, W. S. Merwin, Pattiann Rogers, William Stafford, Ron Carlson, Edward Hirsch, and John Edgar Wideman. Visit the website at http://www.utulsa.edu/nimrod to learn more.
RESIDENCY IN JAPAN
Deadline: June 26, 2006 -The U.S.-Japan Creative Artists’ Program provides five-month residencies in Japan for individual creative artists in any discipline. While in Japan, artists work on an individual project that may include the creation of new work or pursuit of other artistic goals. When planning the stay abroad, artists should consider how exposure to Japan’s contemporary or traditional cultures can influence their creative work. Five awards are made annually. This program is administered jointly by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission. Guidelines are available at http://www.jusfc.gov
And now, a little less about my activities and a little more about books and reading. I think I am reading with less and less skill, or is it less and less attention? I was aware (21 years ago, to be exact) that I was reading less when my son was born and I was pressed for time. But I think there are more pressures on reading than mere time management. There are the other media, of course: television never particularly bothered me, or movies. But the Internet has affected how I read, especially as I have become a small-time web master. I think I’ve developed a nervous eye–as if the physiology of reading had changed. I also find myself sometimes wanting to “click” on a phrase in a book to get more information. Obviously I DO read, although not a lot compared to some of my friends and colleagues. Indeed, one of the reasons I began this newsletter was to get suggestions that would help me choose my reading better. From my personal point of view, the newsletter has been highly successful: a lot of my reading now comes directly from what people suggest to me here.
Meanwhile, I’ve been engaged in conversations in my two spring writing classes at NYU about what is literature– including the inevitable discussion about whether the Da Vinci Code is readable (no one really claims it is worth reading!) The problem seems to me to be that literary art and entertaining reading have become ever-more-separated. Some writers, centered often but not always around university writing programs, seem to write challenging work that demands to be studied. This kind of writing is not for relaxing at the end of a long day. What is valued most is a kind of beautiful, thickly layered, self-conscious language that often makes heavy, indirect references to other literature. At the opposite end of the continuum is entertaining schlock, written for nothing but relaxation and sensation and easy transference to the movies. In the old days, when novels were the major entertainment game in town, there was more opportunity for work that was both entertaining and literary as well as perhaps striving for an ethical apprehension of life.
Here’s where I reveal myself: I yearn to read and write like a twenty-first century George Eliot– to be at once layered and dense but also readable by the many. I find myself impatient with some of our finest writing, especially when I realize that all the complexities and carefully balanced sentences often center on the experiences (here comes Madame Curmudgeon) of brilliant young people whose sharpest adult experiences are about sex and alcohol and drugs. Where is the great literature that also tells me how to live my next thirty or forty years? Some recent popular literature that comes close, in my opinion, to being all these things includes MIDDLESEX and ATONEMENT, a lot of Pat Barker’s work, occasional work of Phillip Roth. Toni Morrison does the balancing act. You’ll send me more, I hope.
Meanwhile, I made the sacrifice and read the DA VINCI CODE, a book that is WAY over at the fast food end of the book buffet. A lot of people I know who take literature seriously couldn’t finish it, and the people who did are apologetic: “I know it’s really badly written but...” I rationalized my ability to finish it by deciding it isn’t a novel at all but a puzzle. That is to say, it’s more like one of the elaborate Role Playing Game computer programs in which you pick a “role” to be and then go through many adventures trying to figure out the path to the prize. The only person who is remotely like a character in the DA VINCI CODE is the albino monk, who has a backstory and wears a leather strap with spikes aimed in at his flesh of his thigh. If he feels a little low, he tightens the strap. The rest of the alleged characters simply say the lines that take us one step closer to solving the puzzle. There are chases and mild surprises and red herrings, but everything is superficial, and the fun is simply what happens. Period. The trick is to read it very, very rapidly.
And now for something completely different: I read THE THREE CORNERED WORLD by Natsume Sōseki because my sister Christine Willis told me that my nephew Alex Kato-Willis, a musician and composition major in college, admires it enormously. He says of the novel, “THE THREE CORNERED WORLD represents the epitome of gestalt. Its aesthetic is based on an objective purity and makes no effort to coerce the reader into feeling or understanding. THE THREE CORNERED WORLD is the pinnacle of literature and exists in an effortless conversation with those open to experiencing it.”
Also of interest, says my sister, is that THE THREE CORNERED WORLD was one of Glenn Gould's favorite books. According to Peter Ostwald's GLENN GOULD: THE ECSTASY AND TRAGEDY OF GENIUS, Gould in 1981 devoted a radio program to reading passages from the book.
I too admired the book, but I had my own reading experience with it. I thought there was irony and humor going on – a distance between the author and the narrator’s views. The premise is that a young man leaves the city hoping to live as an artist, to be cool and distant and dispassionate. He goes to an isolated inn, where there is a mysterious divorced woman who fascinates him. She seems to be reaching out to him. There is also a lot of quite wonderful writing about spring and mist and flowers, which the narrator sometimes criticizes for being too colorful and thus vulgar, just as he would criticize a painting (that HAS to be ironic, doesn’t it?). People appear and disappear in the dim night light and mist and behind screens. The narrator does not respond to the woman, he continues to keep his distance, thinking he might paint her, except that a particular quality is missing from her face. This is where I can’t tell how much distance there is between the writer and the narrator– to me, it is funny that the guy is trying so hard to be an objective artist, but never quite makes his painting. What is missing, it turns out, is that most Buddhist of qualities, compassion. At the end, all the main characters go to the train to see a young man off to war, and suddenly, in the narrator’s mind. thoughts of war become paramount, and simultaneously, he finally sees compassion in the woman’s face as her husband leaves on the train too. So, one realizes, the narrator, is also feeling compassion. Is he now really an artist? It’s a most interesting, book. I wish the translation was better– and that it had good notes.
I’m working on a summer reading list. I am earnestly soliciting examples of good books of any genre that are (a) published by small presses, (b) under-published by big presses (that is, essentially given no publicity, (3) out-of-print, or (d)otherwise in need of a small boost. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO INCLUDE YOUR OWN BOOKS, although I especially like little notes of recommendation for the books.
Students in my Spring 2006 “Making Your Novel Happen” course at NYU suggested two Booker Prize winners as having a lot of narrative drive– that is, their stories grab you and don’t let you go: IF NOBODY SPEAKS OF REMARKABLE THINGS by Jon McGregor and VERNON GOD LITTLE by DBC Pierre.
THE WHITE by Deborah Larsen is a fictionalized version of one of the endlessly fascinating narratives of the female captives of native Americans. This one fictionalizes the story of Mary Jemison, who eventually chose to marry into and stay with the Seneca tribe of New York. It’s a part of American history that I’d like to know more about: especially the realization by some of the captive women that being a woman in the Iroquois federation is probably a better state than living European style. This book didn’t give me the information I wanted– it is small and more poetical than historical, but it is quite lovely by its own lights.
IRIS SCHWARTZ NEWS
Iris Schwartz is half of a new book of poetry, AWAKENED: POETRY BY MADELINE ARTENBERG, POETRY BY IRIS N. SCHWARTZ. The book is now available from Rogue Scholars Press. See http://www.roguescholars.com . There will be a book party—with musical accompaniment & special guests for AWAKENED on Sunday, June 18, 2006, 6 p.m., at the Cornelia St. Café. Also, Iris’s poems “Insufficient” and “More than the Sum” will be forthcoming in the September 2006 issue of MOBIUS.
THE LITERARY SCENE IN BROOKLYN:
The almost-independent state of Brooklyn has a lot going on. First, there is The Stain Bar, an arts lounge dedicated to local products and talent at 766 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211 – http://www.stainbar.com
718/387-7840 . The owner is novelist Krista Madsen.
Night and Day Bar has an excellent reading series, especially Sunday, May 21, 2006, at 6 p.m. when readers are Pamela Harrison, Gary Lenhart, and Steven Schrader will be presenting. NIGHT AND DAY is at 230 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn. Fine food & fine writing from the folks who bring you The Cornelia Street Café. Take the M or R Train to Union Street.
I feel like I’ve been working on web pages more than reading lately, but I have gobbled several books for entertainment and information, and these are all recommended. That is, they are worth your time in reading them, although I do have my reservations.
First is a highly praised recent historical novel about an English town that quarantines itself when the Bubonic Plague strikes. Year of Wonders is by Geraldine Brooks, an accomplished journalist and nonfiction writer, was engrossing and entertaining and with lots of dramatic arc. It probably has too many events, though: not only are there all possible varieties of plague but it also has the lynching of a witch, some zealous self-flagellants, lots of child birth, murder, etc. This is also another decent book with (to my taste) the wrong ending. The ending has the narrator– a 17th century working class woman– escaping to a kind of Moslem Eden where she is taken into a harem and trained to be a doctor. It strains credulity, but that bothers me less than that I think it devalues the more likely outcome: that Anna would have married the widowed rector and lived quietly, appreciated for her local skills as a midwife and housewife. I have this feeling that Brooks drew back with femininist and post-modern scorn from the ordinary obviousness of the most likely. It’s a good read, though, terrifically researched. I’ve always been a sucker for the Plague, ever since my high school discovery of the risqué Forever Amber and, later, Daniel Defoe’s Journal of a Plague Year .
I also read with considerable admiration the artful Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson. This is my first Winterson book, and I hear that each of her books is quite different from the next. This one has some outstanding writing, witty, humorous, sexy: “It’s the clichés that cause the trouble. A precise emotion seeks a precise expression. If what I feel is not precise then should I call it love? It is so terrifying, love, that all I can do is shove it under a dump bin of pink cuddly toys and send myself a greetings card saying ‘Congratulations on you Engagement....’”
The writing is humorous and exploratory and lovely, but the story line sometimes seems heavy handed . Winterson, of course, knows what she’s doing– I guess the question is, does knowing it mean it works? This in reference to plot, especially the ending again, not to the writing page by page.
Then there was A Summons to Memphis by the late great Peter Taylor. The novel is an indirectly told story whose climax is a couple of elderly men embracing. There’s a delightful confidence to the curling indirection of the narrative. I expected it to straighten itself out eventually into a broad Mississippi of a book, but it stayed narrow: the curtailed aspirations of the narrator and the twisted father-love of his two big sisters. I totally believe that the father ruined everyone’s life, but on the other hand, here in the 21st century in the northeast, it feels like it would take more than moving the family from Nashville to Memphis. I had this odd reaction of both loving the book and also being repelled by a certain curdled quality of the end. A Wikipedia article insists that everyone is reconciled at the end. I think they are just all shrunken and frustrated. See for yourself by reading the book and the article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Summons_to_Memphis
Finally, a brief but enthusiastic recommendation for two nonfiction books, Islam, by Karen Armstrong, a little work of genius that tells you incredibly much in a short space about the youngest of the great monotheisms. It’s only 187 pages in an extra small sized book, but it brought me immeasurably closer to understanding the difference between Sunni and Shia (the Shias are the ones who have a thing for Great Leaders, going back to Ali and Hussein, the descendants of Muhammad who were cruelly murdered by bad leaders.) Armstrong is also very good on the egalitarian roots of Islam.
Also highly recommended: Leaving Mother Lake by Yang Erche Namu & Christine Mathieu. This describes a matrilineal society in which sex is recreation and family is centered around a female-led household economy that requires male participation but not sexual exclusivity. Each adult woman has a private “flower” room where she entertains whoever she pleases, changing men often or rarely.
I’m in the final stages of a summer reading list, and I earnestly solicit your favorite books that are of any genre but (a) published by small presses or (b) under-published by big presses (that is, essentially given no publicity, (3) out-of-print, or (d) otherwise in need of a small boost. Feel free to include your own books.
Thirty Great Years for Hanging Loose Press!
Speaking of small presses– since 1976 Hanging Loose Press has been publishing poetry, stories, novels, and a magazine that includes work by both adults and teens. Hanging Loose Press has published Sherman Alexie, Robert Hershon, Bill Zavatsky, Ha Jin, Mark Pawlak, Jeni Olin, Joanna Fuhrman, Charles Wyatt, Steven Schrader, Bill Zavatsky– the list goes on and on. They deserve your support– and you deserve their great books! Website is http://www.hangingloosepress.com .
Fred First's Slow Road Home: A Blue Ridge Book of Days
Fred First, biologist and naturalist, has collected the best of his newspaper column and blog about his life on a small property in Floyd County, Virginia. He and his wife chose this property in this location after much thought, and his life in these southwestern Virginia mountains is a conscious, indeed ideological choice– that is to say, he is attempting to live in a way that is exemplary and instructive to others. He believes that it is a good thing to garden in the summer and a good thing to chop wood and tend the wood stove in the winter. In particular, he believes that a meditative observation of nature is a good thing, and some of his paragraphs of description are as powerful as any I’ve ever read about nature.
These passages represent a very simple but very profound observing and opening to the world we live in, and even if there were only three instead of dozens, First’s book would be a valuable project: “Snow falls onto the creases of my parka,” he writes, “and does not melt. What had looked through the windows like falling flakes are not flakes but aggregations– light loose thatches of tiny ice needles, linear and sharp-tipped–loose feathers of filamentous crystal down There is no sight of a six-sided lacy flake in any of it. The locks fall from the shoulders of my jacket onto my arms, white against the dark of my coat like my hair short from barber’s shears, slivers of gray and white, they tumble softly to the ground.”
Of a meteor shower he writes, “The light of a setting full moon and the wet haze in the predawn air washed out the weakest stars. But it was dark enough. In thirty minutes, I saw perhaps 200 meteors. Most were zips at the edge of vision. Some were spectacular, lighting up the valley in less than a blink, like a photographic flash. Others left persistent trails across the sky in the way an artist would lightly dash a perfectly straight line on black canvas with a luminescent pale blue pigment with a fine-tipped brush. One split into two, each fragment sizzling off to die dark death, extinguished in the protective shield of atmosphere.”
Ellen Bass writes, “Dan Gottlieb is my oldest friend. I've known him since I was five years old when we both lived on Main St. in Pleasantville, NJ– he in the apartment above his family's Army and Navy store and I above my family's liquor store. Dan is one of two people who I consider to be my spiritual teachers. Whenever I see him, something important shifts inside me. I wish each of you could have Dan for an old friend--and his book makes that just a little bit possible....I'm so happy to be able to introduce you to him through this book. It was published in April and is available at bookstores, online, and from Dan's website http://letterstosam.com.” The book is Letters To Sam , by Daniel Gottlieb. A Grandfather's Lessons on Love, Loss, and the Gifts of Life For more information on Dan & Letters to Sam, visit http://www.letterstosam.com. The author's royalties will benefit Cure Autism Now and other children's charities.
Jack Wills Recommends...
Professor of Literature emeritus and restorer of old mills Jack Wills recommends Thomas Friedman’s book The World Is Flat. Jack writes, “Friedman's book is about how the earth has been ‘flattened’ by computer and other technologies and how this flattening has, along with a newly trained work force (in India, China, and elsewhere) and significant political changes (fall of the Berlin Wall, move to a capitalistic economy, etc.), created a ‘triple convergence’ which is offering unprecedented opportunities for people all over the world but also (with al-Quaeda and other angry, alienated groups) new perils. I consider this book a must for anybody who truly wants to understand the world of the twenty-first century; it might even shake up one's long-held political beliefs.”
Lee Maynard Recommends:
Lee Maynard writes of Piers Paul Read’s book The Templars: The Dramatic History of the Knights Templar, the Most Powerful Military Order of the Crusades. “I've waded through the first third of the book and am totally overdosed on names of characters who somehow figured into the history of the Templars. I enjoy such information, but enough is enough, already. And, his style doesn't exactly sing. I find myself aching for a Templar book written by Barbara Tuchman. I'm just now to the actual founding of the order. A very strange bunch of guys. (Yep, all guys. They weren't allowed to "consort" with women. A Templar knight, by rule, could not "touch, embrace, kiss, or otherwise 'know' a woman." Hmmmm, I was never cut out to be a Templar.)”
Writing Workshop for Young People
The Fifth annual Gull Lake Conference for Young Writers (aged 16-22) will be held July 24-28, 2006 at Kellogg Biological Station and Conference Center in Michigan. The conference offers young writers a week to live a monk’s existence, to devote themselves to their craft while living on beautiful Gull Lake. For information, get in touch with John Rybicki,7546 S. Crooked Lake, Delton, MI 49046, 269-623-3099, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writing Workshops for Everyone:
With Roberta Allen:
(1) New York City: Her new Tuesday night workshop starts June 7, 2006 from 7:30-10 PM. It meets twice monthly for 8 sessions (4 months) and costs $400. (2) Woodstock, NY: The new Monday night workshop starts June 12 from 7-9:30 PM.. It meets twice monthly for 8 sessions (4 months) and with the special $50 discount only costs $350. Trial class for first timers costs $50. Write to Roberta Allen at Roall@aol.com or see her website at http://www.robertaallen.com .
With Ellen Bass:
WRITING AND KNOWING. A Poetry Workshop with Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, and Joseph Millar August 20-25, 2006 at Esalen, Big Sur, California. “We will write poems, share our writing, and hear what our work touches in others. We'll also read model poems by contemporary poets and discuss aspects of the craft. But mainly this will be a writing retreat-- time to explore and create in a supportive community. Though we'll focus on poetry, prose writers who want to enrich their language will find it a fertile environment.” Esalen fees cover tuition, food and lodging and vary according to accommodations--ranging from $475 to $1060. The least expensive rate is for sleeping bag space which can be very comfortable, but it's limited. All arrangements and registration must be made directly with Esalen. Please register directly with Esalen at 831-667-3005 or visit http://www.esalen.org .
I’ve been busy teaching this summer, more than usual for this time of year, but I do have several reading ideas I’d like to share. I suppose these are all recommendations of a sort: that is, I can’t say everyone is going to like them all, but they’re all worth dipping into. They may or may not be your cup of tea: if not, why, just take your dunking cookies elsewhere! Also, don’t forget to take a look at the list I’ve been compiling of small press or otherwise under publicized books .
The first book I want to mention is a graphic novel history book called WOBBLIES! It was edited by one of my son Joel’s professors, Paul Buhle along with Nicole Schulman. The popular medium of wonderful intense black and white art by various artists seems just right for a history of the Industrial Workers of the World, an organization that believes that all workers should be united as a class and the wage system abolished. The book does all the things I like a history book to do– it puts things in perspective (Emma Goldman’s relationship to the Wobblies, why they liked Eugene Debs but not Samuel Gompers, and on and on). I’ve been singing "Solidarity Forever"ever since I realized it was an IWW song. I was especially interested in the sections on Lucy Parsons and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (subject of Joe Hill's "Rebel Girl."). I was also struck by the different struggles then and now: the eight hour day versus Net Neutrality? Americans, at least, certainly eat more now, but we’ve lost that sense of commonality with other people that those early twentieth century unionists had.
I’m also desultorily reading the top books on the NEW YORK TIMES best books of the last 25 years list. I agree with most of the criticism of the list, but it does include some authors and books I’d been wanting to read. In fact, the only one of the top-top books that I’d read was Number One, Toni Morrison’s BELOVED. Now I can add BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy. Quite a contrast to WOBBLIES! (Or BELOVED, for that matter). It has a dense poetic prose and a deeply pessimistic, perhaps reactionary, vision of human nature as entirely, viciously, bloodily, hopelessly flawed. The setting is the old west, and the story is of some roughnecks who set out to make money by collecting the bounty on Apache scalps. If there are no Apaches available, Mexican farmers’ hair is about the right color. The landscape is described with wrenching beauty, and tortured bodies are described equally lovingly. The book has an important character, tall and resilient, who is called the Judge but who turns out to be Death. The most frequent point-of-view character is the Kid, who survives the horrific main events only to meet the Judge years later in an impressively artistic but no less pessimistic finale. I have just about no ideological sympathy for McCarthy, but I was raised on cowboy movies, and I found the conceptual shapeliness and the poetic writing admirable. Perhaps the most moving moment is when the Kid offers to help an old woman who turns out, when he touches her, to be a mummy. Take that, you commiesymp humanists! Killing, especially in the first half, is random, recreational, and occasionally lucrative, although that is clearly not the point. The point is killing. Is McCarthy saying that the only way to stop killing would be to get rid of the judge? To defeat death? I suppose that has a rough connection to Christian theology: that if we can defang death, we can live altruistically and righteously. But McCarthy’s Old West seems less interested in beating Death and more in joining him. I suppose it’s a good book if I judge it by whether or not it makes me want to go write my own books. It does, as opposed to say, Da Vinci Code, that made me want to start a fire and read a real book.
Also magical and violent is Jeanette Winterson’s second novel, SEXING THE CHERRY. The attitude here, however, is somehow good-humored, largely because one of the narrators, the giantess Dog Woman, only kills when people are really unpleasant. She is generally a positive if Royalist life force. This is adult fantasy– a strange mix of time travel and living inside fairy tales plus some serious sixteenth century research. The second narrator is Dog Woman’s adopted son Jordan who inhabits fairy tales like Rapunzel and the 12 Dancing Princesses (all murderous young beauties) and hears the true story from the characters. Meanwhile, Dog Woman lives in a shockingly corporeal and scatalogical Commonwealth/Restoration London. She is an enormous embodiment of Id who takes a man’s injunction to eat him quite literally. But she and Jordan, and some of their late twentieth century avatars, have a lot of affection mixed in with their violence and philosophizing. It’s hard book to describe, but easy to read, and definitely worth checking out.
Finally, I want to mention PARTY OF THE CENTURY by Deborah Davis (I discussed her book STRAPLESS in Newsletter # 82 . This book is about Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball of 1966. It includes thumbnail sketches of Capote, Harper Lee, Capote’s socialite friends, Howard Hawks– oodles of mid twentieth century folks. The book is more lively journalism than analysis, but it made for a quick, enjoyable summer read. I liked STRAPLESS a lot, but also I was invited to a friend’s book club party (a black and white salon!) to hear Davis speak. She was quite engaging and seems to enjoy writing her books. She brought along a CBS tape from 1966 of people arriving at the Plaza hotel for the party. What she didn’t emphasize, however, and what I felt often as I read the book (but not at the party!) was a considerable sadness: all those people who were crushed because they weren’t invited. Tallulah Bankhead begged her way to an invitation. The party took on enormous importance in the lives of the strange creatures, the socialites, especially Capote’s beautiful women friends that he called the swans.
As always, I invite your suggestions– what should we read next?
“I'd like to bring to your attention a book published by the 25-year-old small press,
The Permanent Press—BRIAN IN THREE SEASONS, by Patricia Grossman. It just won the
2006 Ferro-Grumley Award in the women writer's category -- rather an unusual situation since it is told in the first-person point of view of a middle-aged gay man. It is a very convincing rendering and highly sympathetic to all its characters—Brian's midwestern family, his friends and created family in NYC, where he barely gets by teaching one art history course and tending
bar. During the course of the novel, Brian's life opens up in unexpected ways. Beautifully written.”
UPDATE FROM LEE MAYNARD
Lee Maynard writes with a final word on the Templar book by Read: “I felt left out of the history (the story). He feels obligated to mention every character involved in any given event, but we never get to know them (there are a couple of exceptions). I had to struggle through it. But, in all fairness, maybe it's just me. I like history that zings. Barbara Tuchman comes to mind. But, the book did stir me to find another Templar history. Always hoping for ‘better luck next time.’”
BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS! GOOD NEWS!
The West Virginia Encyclopedia is officially published and available! I love this book. Yes, I’m in it, but so is the Buffalo Creek Flood and A. J. Manchin and Seneca Rock and thousands of really splendid articles and photos. It’s an enormous coffee table book with a beautiful blue quilt on the cover, a perfect gift for anyone with any interest in West Virginia or Appalachia or the natural sciences or American history or literature. See it at http://www.wvhumanities.org/encyc1_eg.htm.
The ninth issue of The Hamilton Stone Review is up, featuring fiction by D. L. Luke, Grant Tracey, Aaron Gilbreath, Charles Rammelkamp, and Mark MacNamara; nonfiction by Lori Horvitz and Tim Murphy; and poetry by Rodney Nelson, kari edwards, Sybil Kollar, Lanny Quarles, Michelle Greenblatt and Sheila E. Murphy, Jan Clausen, Jeanne Shannon, Alan Sondheim, Janet Jackson, Bob Marcacci, and Simon Perchik.
Since December 2000, Tamafyhr Mountain Poetry has been a strong online presence. Editor Kenneth P. Gurney published 38 issues online (and 6 in print). In addition, he published 53 e-books and chapbooks. TMPoetry was, however, taken offline in June 2006. In an attempt to fill a deep void, Rochelle Ratner has moved some of those chapbooks to this site: http://home.mindspring.com/~rochelleratner/TMPlinks.htm . You’ll find chapbooks there by Kenneth P. Gurney, Sandy McIntosh, Simon Perchik, Paul Pines, Ratner, and Eileen Tabios.
AWAKENED BY ARTENBERG AND SCHWARTZ
Rogue Scholars Press has published a book called AWAKENED by Iris N. Schwartz and Madeline Artenberg, two terrific poets who are active performer-readers in the New York City poetry reading and publishing circuit. Their poems in this book are full of insight, uplifting personal manifestos, and wonderful created character monologues.
Bob Heman has been writing a series of small books of prose poems that bounce off the legends of the Serpent and the Garden. For more information, write him at email@example.com.
MORE POETRY: CAT PLESKA RECOMMENDS...
Poet Jean Anaporte. There are poems to sample and Cat’s comments on Anaporte at Cat’s always engaging blog, Mouth of the Holler .
THE LITERARY SCENE IN BROOKLYN...
...continues to thrive: Don’t forget The Stain Bar, an arts lounge dedicated to local products and talent at 766 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211. The website is http://www.stainbar.com . 718/387-7840 . The owner is novelist Krista Madsen.
Night and Day is also running a full program of readings at 230 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn . Fine food & fine writing from the folks who bring you The Cornelia Street Café
Take the M or R Train to Union Street
Sunday July 16th, 6 p.m.: Richard Levine, Robin Puskas, Nicholas Johnson
Sunday August 20th, 6 p.m.” Neela Vaswani and Roger Bonair-Agard
Sunday September 17th, 6 p.m.: Joel Allegretti, Penelope Karageorge, Dean Kostos
Sunday October 15th, 6 p.m.: Heliotrope– Readers to be announced
Sunday November 19th, 6 p.m.: Bill Zavatsky, Page Dougherty Delano, Robert Hershon
If a book mentioned in this newsletter has no website mentioned, don’t forget you public library and your local independent bookstore. Online, I often go first to Alibis at http://www.alibris.com. For other online shopping, try Bookfinder at http://www.bookfinder.com; http://www.cheapbooks.info/ ; and http://www.allbookstores.com. An especially good source for used and out-of-print books is Advanced Book Exchange at http://www.abebooks.com. Booksprice at http://www.booksprice.com bills itself as a “free innovative service of finding the best price on a purchase of several books together.” It has the advantage of showing what the price WITH shipping will be a the store you choose, plus you are able to create a “comparison cart” to see what the total cost of books with shipping will be in various combinations of online stores. To buy online through independent booksellers, try http://www.booksense.com. You can also, of course, get almost any book from http://www.amazon.com or http://www.bn.com, but keep in mind that both Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble avoid unionization and are responsible for the demise of many independent booksellers.
Please send responses and suggestions directly to me. Unless you request otherwise, your responses may be edited and published in this newsletter. Please e-mail Meredith Sue Willis at MeredithSueWillis@gmail.com.
The largest unionized bookstore in America has a webstore at Powells Books. Some people prefer shopping online there to shopping at Amazon.com. An alternative way to reach Powell's site and support the union is via http://www.powellsunion.com. Prices are the same but 10% of your purchase will go to support the union benefit fund. For a discussion about Amazon and organized labor and small presses, see the comments of Jonathan Greene and others in Issues #97 and #98 .
WHERE TO FIND BOOKS MENTIONED IN THIS NEWSLETTER
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!
RESPONSES TO THIS NEWSLETTER
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.
#146 Henry Adams AGAIN! #145 Henry Adams, Darnell Arnoult, Jaimy Gordon, Charlotte Brontë #144 Carter Seaton, NancyKay Shapiro, Lady Murasaki Shikibu #143Little 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. #134Daniel 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. #131The Help; J. McHenry Jones, Reamy Jansen, Jamie O'Neill, Michael Chabon.
#130 Lynda Schor, Ed Myers, Charles Bukowski, Terry Bisson, The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism #129Baltasar 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 #127Olive 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 #124Cloudsplitter, 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 #115Adam 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 #108The Animal Within; The Ground Under My Feet; King of Swords #107The Absentee; Gorky Park; Little Scarlet; Howl; Health Proxy #106Castle Rackrent; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; More on Drown; Blindness & more #105Everything 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 #101My 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 #93Kristin Lavransdatter, House Made of Dawn, Leaving Atlanta #92Death 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 #87Wings 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 #78The 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 #74In 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 #67The Medici #66Curious
Incident,Temple Grandin #65 Ingrid Hughes on Memoir #64 Boyle, Worlds of Fiction #63The Namesame #62Honorary Consul; The Idiot #61Lauren'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 #55Addie,
Hottentot Venus, Ake #54 Scott Oglesby, Jane Rule #53 Nafisi,Chesnutt, LeGuin #52 Keith Maillard, Lee Maynard #51 Gregory Michie, Carter Seaton #50Atonement, Victoria Woodhull biography #49Caucasia #48Richard Price, Phillip
Pullman #47 Mid-
East Islamic World Reader #46Invitation to
a Beheading #45The Princess of Cleves #44 Shelley Ettinger: A Few Not-so-Great Books #43 Woolf, The Terrorist Next Door #42 John Sanford #41 Isabelle
Allende #40Ed Myers on John Williams #39 Faulkner #38 Steven Bloom No
New Jokes #37 James Webb's Fields
of Fire #36 Middlemarch #35 Conrad, Furbee,
Silas House #34 Emshwiller #33 Pullman, Daughter
of the Elm #32 More Lesbian lit; Nostromo #31 Lesbian
fiction #30 Carol Shields, Colson Whitehead #29 More William Styron #28 William Styron #27 Daniel Gioseffi #26 Phyllis Moore
#25 On Libraries.... #24Tales of the
#23 Nonfiction, poetry, and fiction #22 More on Why This
Newsletter #21 Salinger, Sarah
Waters, Next of Kin #20 Jane Lazarre #19Artemisia 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
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 #5Tales 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