Books for Readers

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BOOKS FOR READERS is a free, independent newsletter written and produced by Meredith Sue Willis, copyright Meredith Sue Willis 2006.  To have this Newsletter sent to you by e-mail, send a blank email to  Readerbooks-subscribe@topica.com. To unsubscribe, send a blank email to Readerbooks-unsubscribe @topica.com. Write to Meredith Sue Willis at MeredithSueWillis@gmail.com. Unless you specifically request otherwise, your responses or selections from them may be included in future Newsletters.

 

 

 

 

Books for Readers #86
  July 31, 2006

In June, I attended a party of a local book group that had read Deborah Davis’s PARTY OF THE CENTURY, about Truman Capote’s huge celebrity event. Davis herself came and was charming (and the party was great!). In the course of her talk, she recommended Capote’s unfinished novel, ANSWERED PRAYERS. I took her advice, bought a cheap copy online, and thought that the first story of the three pieces in the book, “Unspoiled Monsters,” was a real revelation of what might have come from Capote if he had stayed straight (meaning drug free not heterosexual!) long enough to finish the book. His character P.B. Jones is wonderfully lost, selfish, amusing, sad– really a good narrator, especially for the sex-and-money story he’s telling. The infamous piece called “La Côte Basque” is sad and ugly, although by its small lights good too. But it is mainly “Unspoiled Monsters” that makes me so sorry Capote self-destructed.

A much more successful famous writer of the same generation, one who has kept himself aloof from the social scene, is the formidable Phillip Roth. I recently read and really liked THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA (see Issue # 81) ) and expected to like the highly praised AMERICAN PASTORAL equally well. This novel, however, was to me tedious in too many parts. I think it had a lot of padding, which in Roth’s case means enormous paragraphs where he just lets go with his incredible fluency and fills page after page with suffering and Jewishness and sex (and there is a great passage of sex writing in this one) line by line the writing is consistently brilliant, and the ideas are almost always worth thinking about. But this novel I just didn’t believe a lot of. I got impatient and skipped when I saw that he was winding up for a real peroration. The set-up is that Roth’s often-unpleasant and grandiloquent Nathan Zuckerman is looking back at the Golden Age of 1940's Jewish Weequahaic in Newark to examine/imagine a golden boy athlete and essentially good human being, Swede Levov. After a lengthy Zuckerman opening with a high school reunion and Zuckerman’s memories of interactions over the years with Swede, the rest of the novel is Swede’s own story, presumably as refracted through Zuckerman, although Zuckerman doesn’t return. Is this a way for Philip Roth to be able to distance himself from taking any solid position on who Swede was? But why bother with the elaborate frame since the real point is precisely Swede’s story, made up by Roth. What happens when the golden boy is determined to live in WASP western New Jersey married to a Catholic wife? What happens if this thoroughly good man’s child becomes a terrorist and rejects everything he stands for?

The scenes in Newark are, as always, deeply touching and full of life, and the passages about the glove trade are wonderful. A lot is wonderful: the details about the Miss America pageant in 1949 and much more. But Swede’s behavior, especially when he finds his daughter who has been underground, is not something I fully believe. And yet, I woke up thinking about the book, engaged with it. Angry at it. This is why Roth really is one of our best, but he and Zuckerman can get awfully self-indulgent.

In my mode of Big Books by Big Boys, I also read WHITE NOISE by Don LeLillo. It’s often a very funny book, and I laughed fairly often at its over-the-top dark but witty world view. Like Roth, DeLillo uses a lot of ink showing his brilliancy by amassing words. It’s funny, both line by line and in concept, and the children especially are wonderful. There are some terrific scenes where the family builds structures of incorrect information, but even these excellent passages tend to go on too long and then recur with only minor changes. It’s the repetition and the equal inclusion of the less than brilliant that finally weights the scales for me in the direction of annoyance.

At the other end of the spectrum are two smaller books, written by accomplished writers who are not household names. These two books also come to us from smaller presses, and I am thankful for the presses and the books. The first one, from the tiny Glad Day Press founded by Grace Paley and Robert Nichols is EDGES: O ISRAEL O PALESTINE by Leora Skolkin-Smith, and it’s not a book that you lie back and sink into: it takes some concentration for its rapid and realistic changes. The situation is that an American girl Liana’s Israeli mother takes her back to Israel in the early nineteen sixties, and yes, there was a shooting war going on then too, albeit generally with smaller arms. There are deaths: the girl’s father is a suicide, as is her mother’s beloved brother. A small naked Arab boy is shot to death in a skirmish between Israeli soldiers and snipers from the Jordanian side. Liana’s mother is a full figured ripe woman with whom she is passionately connected, rich with smells and embraces. Liana wants to run away to Paris which she associates with her father, but instead she finds an American diplomat’s son who has gone missing. There are illicit forays into Jordan; Liana runs away. There is sex, there are smells, always smells and fabrics. There is a rejoining with the family. A feverish, sensual, remarkable book.

Finally, BRIAN IN THREE SEASONS is Patricia Grossman’s touching sweet novel in the voice of a gay man, published by Permanent Press. I don’t know if Grossman would want to have her novel called “touching” and “sweet,” but let me elaborate, because I think what I felt was that she truly loves her characters, especially underachieving Brian, but also his middle American Republican daddy and his twin sister who is her daddy’s daughter except not politically conservative, her teen age daughter, various characters at Brian’s place of work (a bar), the college where he teaches (a low level junior college), and people on his block and in his building. What is interesting is that for all of its realism and relatively ordinary events, it is a gripping read. It’s also an uplifting novel even in the midst of after hours club back room anonymous sex and a lot of grungy New York living. It’s the kind of humanistic novel that used to be called midlist, back when the commercial publishing houses were willing to have some slots for books that weren’t blockbusters or literary showoff pieces. I enjoyed BRIAN a lot, and I thank Permanent Press for publishing it.

Meredith Sue Willis

 

 

 

JOAN LEIBOVITZ ON PETER TAYLOR

Of that grand master of short story and the South, Joan Leibovitz writes: “Your comments about A SUMMONS TO MEMPHIS [see Books for Readers Issue # 84] made me go back to his work. I reread SUMMONS and then went on to reread most of his short stories. First, I think I told you that I came across his work, serendipitously, in 1976 when I read ‘The Captain's Son’ in The New Yorker. I had just started to write, and a cousin had suggested I write about [our] family; he then told me a lot of family stories, stories I had never known; some of them have ended up in [my] stories....When I read ‘The Captain's Son,’ I realized that not only my family story, but also my own ‘story’ --how I perceived my own life--was profoundly connected to what Peter Taylor was doing with the rigid, isolated, self-proclaimed dominant culture in the south. That's the personal side of my interest in Peter Taylor, which obviously is enormous. I also think--and I don't think his novels (there are a few–SUMMONS is the best of them) are in any way nearly as good as his short stories, which I think are some of the most finely crafted, exquisitely told stories I've ever read. They seem to meander, but they are tightly constructed and I usually end up saying to myself, ‘How did he do that!’ ‘The Captain's Son’ is one of his very best and really spells out what Taylor is up to. ‘The Old Forest’ is maybe the best of them all. They are all about the southern WASP culture, and how some people can't or won't conform, or conform and pay a huge price for doing so, and how they mess themselves up as a result--or how, like Phillip, in SUMMONS, escape (and I loved it that he ended up living ‘in sin’ in New York with a Jewish woman!!) Considered broadly, as American literature, the stories are definitely regional, specially southern, and constitute another take on that very peculiar, but very American issue of class and race: who gets to live in this world, who gets to set the rules, who has to fight to ‘belong,’ etc.”
 

EVELYN CODD ON JEANETTE WINTERSON

Evelyn Codd writes: “I read this book [SEXING THE CHERRY by Jeanette Winterson– see Books for Readers Issue # 85] several years ago, and wherever I went with it (subway stations, the train) people always did a double-take and then asked me about it. I don't remember it well, but I do remember the sensation of having people read over my shoulders, and, also, the looks I got when I laughed out loud at some of the parts. I also read ORANGES ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT and WRITTEN ON THE BODY by Winterson. Very interesting books.”
 

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM ARDIAN GILL

“First is Doctorow's THE MARCH. The title refers to Sherman's march in the Civil war, but what a tour de force in terms of characterization, point of view shifts and all encompassing sweep of history. He has Sherman of course but a number of other officers, many liberated slaves, refugees of all social and economic levels, even two Rebel prisoners who keep changing identities from southern to northern and back again to avoid capture or return to jail. And let's not forget Lincoln and Mary Todd. It really is an extraordinary piece of work. I first listened to it on tape narrated by Tom Morrison, apparently a black man who does marvelous southern and slave voices. I liked it so much that I then bought the book to savor it more slowly.
“The second book I'm in the midst of is SUITE FRANCAISE, written by a woman who wrote it while a refugee in France and Germany in WW2. She was killed before she finished it and it was published from her handwritten ms. It is full of irony, snobbishness, humanity and inhumanity. A portrait of the class system in France by following various characters as they fled Paris as the Germans were approaching and as the French army was collapsing. It makes one wonder if there were any unselfish people in Paris at the time. The wide ranging choice of characters, their relationships and reactions to the many difficult situations is engrossing. Each chapter deals with a different character or group in turn, so we see them in different stages of their exodus from Paris and sometimes their return. According to the review, the second half is quite different, written I think when she was in a concentration camp, but I haven't started that yet.
“By the way, SUITE FRANCAISE has an appendix which has the author’s notes on her thought process in the writing, who to bring forward, who will be unkind, etc, along with notes on how the war is going and why the French are losing....she was arrested and disappeared into a camp in Poland.”
 

DEPARTMENT OF SMALL PRESSES WE SHOULD ALL BE SUPPORTING: IRIS BOOKS

We’ve already mentioned books in this newsletter from Glad Day Press and The Permanent Press, which everyone should bookmark and buy from. Here’s another:
The Iris Publishing Group, Inc (Iris Press and Tellico Books) has been run by Robert Cumming for ten years. They publish people like Ron Rash and Cathy Smith Bowers. In 2006 they have 5 books so far and plan a total of 10 by the end of the year, and a similar number in 2007. Lately they have done more literary fiction and at least one work of nonfiction. Upcoming is a historical novel on Francisco Goya and the Duchess of Alba, scheduled for January 2007. The website is http://www.irisbooks.com .

 

SUPPORT WEST VIRGINIA WRITERS (THE ORGANIZATION)

To support the excellent writers’ organization for all those who live in or love West Virginia, you can purchase a copy of MOUNTAIN VOICES, an anthology of Appalachian writing written by members of the WVW Roundtable. All Proceeds go to WV Writers, Inc. You can buy it cheap from Authorhouse at http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/ItemDetail~bookid~38604.aspx
 

WEST VIRGINIA ENCYCLOPEDIA

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 .
And, by the way, there’s also a new Encyclopedia of Appalachia to enjoy. See the web page at http://cass.etsu.edu/encyclo/contents.htm .

AWAKENED BY ARTENBERG AND SCHWARTZ

Rogue Scholars Press (http://roguescholars.com/roguepress/default.html) has published 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.

 

MORE SERPENTS

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 clwnwr@earthlink.net

 

REGIONAL LITERARY NEWSLETTERS

There’s an interesting Kentucky Literary Newsletter now available online at
http://windpub.com/current.htm .
Literary events and news from Virginia can be found at: http://www.vabook.org/

 

 

 

 

Books for Readers #87

  September 9, 2006

9/11 Supplement

I just reread THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James. It takes the relaxation of the end of summer to take on late James. There’s no question that it’s slow going– the famous style stirs up all sorts of silt and smoke and clouds of sparkle. James can write as sharply and concretely and brilliantly and penetratingly as anyone who ever put pen to paper (or walked around dictating, as he supposedly did these later novels), but he also has a passion for circling around and around and for repeatedly using certain large, vague words like “immense” and “prodigious” and “magnificent” and “splendid.” A few years back, I had a lot of fun in one of my novels, TRESPASSERS, in which I had a college student hate James but persist in writing papers on him. She says: “I can't even bear to read the Old Fart, you know. Every word he uses. Immense. Beautiful. Tremendous. He never says anything, but everything he says is beautiful and immense. Beautiful hot air. Tremendous blasts of gas from the immense Old Fart.” [TRESPASSERS , Hamilton Stone Editions: 1997, p. 100]

Let me make it clear that I say these things, and wrote that passage, in a context of being a fan of Henry James. I have read and reread his books, and expect to continue rereading him as I do George Eliot and Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and Dickens and Jane Austen and many others. They are part of the furniture of my life, and I am thoroughly convinced you should read them too, but you have to be willing to take the time, and in the case of James, to be very patient with what I believe was his attempt to create a new kind of fiction, a kind of fiction for his new century, the twentieth (THE WINGS OF THE DOVE was published in 1902). He was attempting, in his circuitous long passages to trace the movement of his character’s highly developed consciousnesses. Sometimes, it works wonderfully well, but other times, IMHO, we are watching James pace and fumble and circle around his ideas. There is, it seems to me, a delicate slip-slide for us now and for James then between writing your way into your novel– the process of finding and creating the work, the path you follow as you write – and the path you ultimately want a reader to follow. Today we cut a lot more, and I’m certainly willing to grant James his elaborations, but sometimes, he really does go on too long.

But then, out of the swirling and portentousness and magnificent immensity, all of a sudden there emerges a perfect, powerful scene. And you remember how good he is at what he does. The plot of THE WINGS OF THE DOVE is that a young woman of spirit and talent has no money and, if she is to live opulently at the top of society, she must marry who her rich aunt chooses. She falls in love with a journalist, and wants both her love and her lifestyle. A second young woman of great wealth arrives on the scene with a potentially fatal illness, and the first young woman sets up a plot against the rich one. There are, of course, no murders and hardly even any voices raised, but within this carefully narrowed space, there is a lot of what amounts to moral horror.

Here’s what’s I love: out of the hot air and obscurity the scenes flame out at you. How brilliantly James contrasts an incredibly refined civilization (appreciation of art, conversation, fine clothing, weather, a palace in Venice, a winter storm in Venice) with the brutish demands of having to get the money to live this way. In fact, in spite of my protests early, I don’t think this novel would sizzle as much without at least some of the slow build-up. At a certain point I found myself totally sucked in, and realized I had read better than a hundred pages more or less straight through (well, in one afternoon between gardening and making dinner). The story does not end happily, but it is powerful and satisfying.

I wanted to end by noting one technique James uses, which is to follow at some length the point of view of the character who is at the height of his or her power and awareness. Thus, the novel opens with Kate Croy before she has begun her plot, when she is still willing to choose her family over wealth. It then has a long middle following rich, ill Milly Theale as she is learning of her situation, and the final part, all moral dilemma and suffering, follows the journalist, Morton Densher.

 

Meredith Sue Willis

 

 

 

BOOKS ON AND LOVED BY GLENN GOULD:

 

On vacation, my husband and I saw 32 SHORT FILMS ABOUT GLENN GOULD (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108328/ ). I asked my sister, Christine Willis, if she’d seen the film, and if she had any suggestions about books about him. She and her son Alex, a music composition major, are great fans of Gould. She replied: “We saw the ‘32' many years ago and enjoyed it very much. Glenn Gould's favorite book was THE THREE CORNERED WORLD [see Newsletterl # 83 ].   Alex has read three bios of Gould. I asked him his favorite: WONDEROUS STRANGE: THE LIFE AND ART OF GLENN GOULD by Ken Bazzana. ( I have read two, and that was my favorite, too.) We also read Peter Ostwald's THE ECSTASY AND TRAGEDY OF GENIUS. From what I have read, he was not as nuts as people tried to portray him. An SSRI [serotonin reuptake inhibitor] would have taken away most of the strangeness, I think.”

 

 

REBECCA KAVALER RECOMMENDS...

Rebecca Kavaler writes to say: “Although I have faithfully read your news letters, I have not felt any urgent need to insert my own suggestions for books to read, mainly because I have lately felt considerable anomie when faced with current literature. My age? I wondered– m I full up with reading? But to my relief– am not actually dead, after all– have discovered, and want to alert you, to a recent book that has me as excited and moved and pleasured as I used to be as a reader: BRIEF ENCOUNTERS WITH CHE GUEVERA by Ben Fountain, the best book of short stories I have read in years. The usual complaint about literary short stories is that they concern themselves with insignificant domestic issues and ignore the larger world, that however ‘fine’ the writing, the content is trivial. And the most telling complaint about fiction that does address the larger world issues is that it is boring. Well, here is a writer who can enter into any part of the Third World, however remote, however alien to our Western bourgeois life, and tell a story with dramatic power, in a language that is enviably concrete and vivid, with characters pulsating with life, with suspense in the movement of the action painfully intense, yet without any tricks of the trade. I have never read such good writing applied to such a world-view. Whether it is Haiti, Thailand, Sierra Leone, Columbia--this is the familiar territory of human character, for better and worse. And I responded to it as if I were young again and reading was the real staff of life.”

 

 

 

IT’S ALL GOOD– THE WRITING NEWS, THAT IS!

J.C. Todd’s poetry collection WHAT SPACE THIS BODY will be published by Wind Publications in Fall of 2007. There’s also an interview with her, a column that discusses some of her poems & a group of poems in a new on-line journal: http://www.wildriverreview.com .

Laren Stover has a neat piece about her relationship with ferret on Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood.

 

Christopher Grabenstein’s young adult ghost novel THE CROSSROADS, has been picked up by Random House for May, 2008. Also, the sequel to his thriller TILT A WHIRL (nominated for Gumshoe and Anthony awards as best first mystery of 2005 ) came out in June, 2006. It’s called MAD MOUSE. This series continues in June 2007 with WHACK A MOLE and in June, 2008 with HELL HOLE. He has a new Thriller Series debuting in November with SLAY RIDE. Way to go, Chris!! Learn more at http://www.ChrisGrabenstein.com .

 

Thaddeus Rutkowski’s Thad new novel TETCHED is out, and it’s getting noticed!
"The innovative writer reads from his coming-of-age novel." – NEW YORK magazine, Aug. 21, 2006. TETCHED is also reviewed in the July edition of KBG Bar's online journal:
www.kgbbar.com/lit/book_reviews/thaddeus_rutkow.html . You can meet Thaddeus:
Oct. 5, Thursday, 8 p.m. Poetry vs. comedy. Galapagos Arts Space, Galapagos 70 North Sixth Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. L train to Bedford. Call (718) 782-5188. Also see him Jan. 18, 2007, Thursday, 7 p.m. Drunken! Careening! Writers! KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (at Second Avenue). Manhattan. Hosted by Kathleen Warnock. Free. He is also giving a workshop, “Generating Fiction,” that begins on Monday evening, Sept. 11, at The Writer's Voice of the West Side YMCA. The workshop focuses on producing new writing (stories, chapters, prose pieces) and is open to everyone. Eight meetings. Free for Y members. Call Glenn Raucher at (212) 875-4124, or email graucher@ymcanyc.org.
 
 
David Weinberger’s book for children is My 100 Million Dollar Secret.    He has written about the process of publishing it through Lulu.com at
http://www.hyperorg.com/backissues/joho-aug21-06.html#hundred.
 
 
Anna Egan Smucker's latest book TO KEEP THE SOUTH MANITOU LIGHT received the 2006 Award of Merit from the Historical Society of Michigan. It's the highest recogntion presented by the state's official historical society and oldest cultural organization. The book is now available in paperback ($13.95). Anna is also being honored by the Marion County, West Virginia, Arts and Humanities Commission for her achievements in the field of children's literature. West Virginians from other artistic fields will also be honored at this yearly gathering scheduled for 3:00 pm October 22, 2006 in the Carriage House at Highgate, 830 Walnut Avenue, Fairmont, West Virginia. A donation fee of $15.00 requested for attendance and light refreshments are served.

HAVE YOU READ YOUR “DOVER BEACH” TODAY?

One of my all time favorite poems, which you can find along with lots of other good information about Victorian Literature on the Victorian Web is Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach,” (http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/arnold/writings/doverbeach.html) . It’s wonderfully melancholy, mixing scenery and weather and loss of faith and politics and, of course, love!! A funny and mildly sexist twentieth century answer by Anthony Hecht is “The Dover Bitch.” (http://www.poemhunter.com/p/m/poem.asp?poet=8612&poem=193915) That’s my idea of parody: no attacks, just riffs on the original.

 

 

BLOG ON BAD EXPERIENCE WITH SUBSIDY PUBLISHING

A teacher named Jeanette Stricklen has an online piece called “Writers—Beware of Subsidy Publishers, Vanity Publishers, and Poetry Websites” on Ron Pramschufer’s website at http://blog.selfpublishing.com/?p=133 . It’s an interesting piece, straightforward, except that at the end Ms. Stricklen DOES give a plug to Mr. Pramshufer’s business, http://www.selfpublishing.com.   She seems to feel that iUniverse and Authorhouse and the others pretend to be publishers while Mr. P. represents his business more honestly. This may simply be her increasing sophistication, but the piece is worth taking a look at if you’re considering self-publishing. You might also want to see some of the materials on my website at http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/resources.html#publishingtypes .

DEPARTMENT OF SMALL PRESSES WE SHOULD ALL BE SUPPORTING: IRIS BOOKS

We’ve already mentioned books in this newsletter from Glad Day Press and The Permanent Press, which everyone should bookmark and buy from. Here’s another: The Iris Publishing Group, Inc (Iris Press and Tellico Books) has been run by Robert Cumming for ten years. They publish people like Ron Rash and Cathy Smith Bowers. In 2006 they have 5 books so far and plan a total of 10 by the end of the year, and a similar number in 2007. Lately they have done more literary fiction and at least one work of nonfiction. Upcoming is a historical novel on Francisco Goya and the Duchess of Alba, scheduled for January 2007. The website is http://www.irisbooks.com .
Also, don’t forget The Feminist Press at http://www.feministpress.org.

 

SPEAKING OF WOMEN...

The WOMEN”S REVIEW OF BOOKS is up and running once again, and not a moment too soon! This scholarly but highly readable journal ha a website at http://www.wcwonline.org/womensreview/ . One of their features is well-known writers telling what they’re reading. For example, in a recent issue, Gish Jen wrote that her list includes: Joan Didion’s YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING; Jane Kenyon’s COLLECTED POEMS; Jack Gilbert’s GREAT FIRES; and Milosz’s SECOND SPACE; Qiu Xiaolong’s WHEN RED IS BLACK; Allegra Goodman’s INTUITION; George C. Williams; PLAN AND PURPOSE IN NATURE: THE LIMITS OF DARWINIAN EVOLUTION.
 

WORKING WRITER

You can get a complimentary issue of Working Writer Newsletter with articles on writing, promotion, publishing, different genres, how-to, and how-not-to (plus a large dose of humor and writing camaraderie) by writing to workingwriters@aol.com. Their website is at http://www.workingwriter1.com.

SUPPORT WEST VIRGINIA WRITERS (THE ORGANIZATION)

To support the excellent writers’ organization for all those who live in or love West Virginia, you may purchase a copy of MOUNTAIN VOICES, an anthology of Appalachian writing by members of the West Virginia Writers Roundtable. All Proceeds go to WV Writers, Inc. Buy it at http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/ItemDetail~bookid~38604.aspx .

 

WEST VIRGINIA LITERARY MAP IS SEARCHABLE ONLINE!

The literary map of West Virginia is now searchable online at : http://www.fairmontstate.edu/wvfolklife/literarymap/index.shtml .
 

WEST VIRGINIA ENCYCLOPEDIA

Learn more about the West Virginia Encyclopedia at http://www.wvhumanities.org/encyc1_eg.htm .
 

 

9/11 Supplemement

 

 

Last week I went to a book party for a publication that I had the great privilege of helping in a small way to bring to life. FOREVER AFTER: NEW YORK CITY TEACHERS ON 9/11 from Teachers College Press is a collection of the stories of teachers who were working in New York City on September 11, 2001. Some of the teachers literally had to flee with their students with ash from the collapsed buildings falling on their heads. Some had to move their classrooms repeatedly before getting back into their school building. There is a piece by a young woman who was a student at Stuyvesant High School who, with her classmates, saw people jumping off the buildings. There is a piece by a Muslim teacher who was threatened afterwards because she wears the hijab head scarf. These are wonderfully written stories of witness, and it was my great good fortune to have been called in as a writing coach when these teachers were beginning work on writing their experiences.

It was one of the most satisfying teaching assignments I have ever had. I had felt wildly useless after the attacks on the World Trade Center. I wasn't a trained EMT. I didn't have anyone close who had a direct death there who needed comfort. I lived near enough to see the smoking site but not to feel under siege the way my friends who lived in New York City did. So I leaped at the chance to do a few workshops with skilled teachers and administrators who didn't necessarily aspire to be writers. Some of these pieces I had nothing to do with (the former Stuyvesant student, for example, I never met till the book party). But others actually began their pieces with writing exercises I offered. There was then a two and a half year long editorial process for most of the contributors with a special editor, Maureen Grolnick, who worked long and hard.

The pieces are powerful, even stunning, and they remind us that all the heroes of 9/11 weren’t wearing uniforms. Teachers and administrators literally saved children's lives– all 20,000 public school students in the immediate Ground Zero area got to safety. But these pieces also testify to the long-term work of helping young people deal with their trauma. For all of us, too, this is a lesson about a side of human experience that Americans have generally been spared: terrorist attacks, acts of war, bombings in which ordinary people are considered collateral damage.

Acts that even our own leaders have too often been willing to perpetrate on others.

                                           –Meredith Sue Willis

 

 

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE: EVELYN CODD IN METROPOLITAN DIARY!

Sometime contributor to this newsletter, Evelyn Codd, made the New York Times Metropolitan Diary today.

 

 

 

ARE YOU LOOKING FOR GIFTS OR SUGGESTIONS FOR YOUNG ADULTS???

Nathan Weinberger, a tenth grader at Brookline High School in Brookline, Massachusetts, recommends the following:

1. Any of the multiple series set in the Forgotten Realms universe by R.A. Salvatore. He has written seven or eight different series following pretty much the same group of characters. The series do go in a certain order, but you can get away with reading them out of order. All of the characters seem like real people and I would read the books even if they didn’t have a plot because the characters are so well written.

2. THE SWORD OF TRUTH Series by Terry Goodkind. They are set in a really interesting world with magic and swordfights. Really interesting characters and plots.

3. THE SWONG AND SWORD series by Elaine Cunningham. Also set in the Forgotten Realms universe, they follow a half-elf and her dandy companion on all sorts of adventures. They are funny and great.

4. SPEARWIELDERS TALE by R.A. Salvatore. A trilogy about a man who is kidnapped and taken to the magical land of Faerie just because he is the perfect size to fit into a dead heroes armor. These books are hilarious and also really well written.

5. EVERMEET: ISLE OF ELVES by Elaine Cunningham. The Forgotten Realms has a series of stand alone novels that take place in one of the main cities in the Forgotten Realms universe. This is a complete history of Evermeet starting with the Elvin gods and the creation of the elves.

6. THE CITY OF SPLENDORS by Ed Greenwood and Elaine Cunningham and. Another in the Cities series. This one takes place in Waterdeep and follows many different characters for about a year.

7. THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexandre Dumas. This book is 1500 pages long so it shouldn’t be stepped into lightly. I am only half way through it but so far it is really great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHERE TO FIND BOOKS MENTIONED IN THIS NEWSLETTER

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.

RESPONSES


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.

 

 

 

 

 

Books for Readers
Supplement to #88

  October 24, 2006

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT SUPPLEMENT!!

 

My good news! The latest issue of APPALACHIAN HERITAGE magazine has honored me by making me their featured author for the fall issue. There is a story and an essay by me; a biographical essay by the doyenne of West Virginia literature, Phyllis Wilson Moore; a reappraisal of my 1981 novel HIGHER GROUND by Keith Maillard, the author of GLORIA and many other highly praised novels; and a personal essay about how we grew up by my oldest friend, West Virginia University President David C. Hardesty.

And! If you’re in you’re in Kentucky on November 10th, there will be a reading of all the featured APPALACHIAN HERITAGE authors from this year: Crystal Wilkinson, Jeff Mann, and me. More information at Appalachian Heritage or email them at appalachianheritage@berea.edu .

 

                        --Meredith Sue Willis                                                                                                  

 

DON’T FORGET: SEND YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE STATE OF PUBLISHING

Cat Pleska and I are waiting for your thoughts on the state of getting published at the end of 2006. To read her notes, click on http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/booksforreaders.html#cat .
To reply, email me at meredithsuewillis@gmail.com .

 

 

SHELLEY ETTINGER’S LIT BLOGS

Shelley Ettinger has some comments on literary blogs: “They’re a mixed bag. Some--maybe most--are silly and sophomoric and a waste of time. Some I find do have more substance. Some are basically rehashes of news stories and links to literary coverage in newspapers and magazines, some are more interesting and original. I check a few of them most days if I get a chance. Your tastes might differ from mine but you'll find your favorites after sampling them
if you feel like it. The one I like best is Maud Newton's. You'll see that on her blog's homepage you can click on "Links" on the left. That'll bring you to a list of blogs and other literary websites, and from there you can surf around and find what you like. Also, every Monday afternoon she posts a listing of selected literary events for the week in NYC; it's called ‘The Smart Set’ and it's compiled by Lauren Cerand. Lauren Cerand is a literary publicist. I have the impression she's young and energetic, with a feminist slant, and effective, too, judging by some of her work. One of her clients is Tayari Jones, a gifted young writer who's published two novels and who credits Lauren Cerand with getting her noticed. Tayari Jones spoke at the writers' conference I went to in August, and she with Jayne Ann Phillips is on the founding fiction faculty for the new MFA
program at Rutgers-Newark. And Tayari has a blog too. Here are the links, to Maud Newton,

 

Maud Newton: http://maudnewton.com/blog/
Lauren Cerand: http://www.luxlotus.com/about.html
Tayari Jones: http://www.tayarijones.com/blog/

 

Also, here's one for Media Bistro/Galleycat, which has a lot about the publishing industry every day: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/ .”

 

 

 

 

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT– IF YOU’RE IN LONDON!

More Poetry Presented by ken Champion and Julie Jeana
Upstairs at Stoney Street Café– Borough Market 1 minute from London Bridge Underground
(Borough High St. west exit) next to Market Porter pub – 7.45pm Thursday 2 November
open mic. + Philip Wilson Poet Translator GOTH METAL LOVER, Author of BLESSED AND UNBROKEN BY THE FALL . Admission free – drinks included! Food available before and afterwards Contact: kenchamp@hotmail.com .

 

 

 

 

EPIPHANY IS BACK

 

Willard Cook reports that “after a year of absence ep;phany lives to see another day. There is much to be appreciated in this issue. In her story ‘The Artists’ Caroline Huber explores the agony of being distracted when one is trying to create. Lewis Schrager’s ‘The Rivers of Analaroa’ is a heartbreaking tale of love against the backdrop of a medical clinic in Madagascar and John Mulderig’s ‘We Can Be Like They Are’ captures a youthful friendship with precision and élan. Elizabeth Bales Frank rails against material attachment in her essay ‘Against Bric-a-Brac.’ Tracy DeBrincat’s ‘Cletus Love Donatella’ asks what love is, and Charles Hassell’s ‘Monkey Eat Fiction’ is improvisational jazz. In Margeret Ingraham’s ‘Sleeping with Sorrow’ notice how the hydrangeas change from blue to rust. Dan Stryk’s poem ‘Meditation on the Nature of ‘Epiphany’ makes us wonder what art is and finally Kay Kenny’s images give voice to hidden passion.”

 

Books for Readers #88

  October 19 2006

Special book on Teachers and 9/11/01

 


Sandra Cisneros

 

 

I finally read CARAMELO by Sandra Cisneros, and I really enjoyed it. I had been looking forward to reading this book ever since Shelley Ettinger recommended it enthusiastically in Issue 40 of this newsletter, in March of 2003. That’s how long it takes me now to get to things on my reading list! I read all the time– student work, some of it inspiring, periodicals online and in hard copy, and books for review. But the delightful following of whim and attraction happens less often. Indeed, one of the reasons I started this newsletter was to organize my reading.

But, I did read Cisneros’s no-longer-new book, and I enjoyed and admired it from the very first page. Oddly though, considering how I liked it, I didn’t gobble the book. I would read a little, then lay it aside for a few days. This was partly, of course, because of busy days teaching and doing community action. Also, I had a hardcover edition that was too heavy to carry in my briefcase on days I trundle myself all over New York to teach. But there was more to how I laid it aside: Cisneros is a poet and short story writer, and this book is constructed of marvelous, highly polished, short pieces, each with its own title. You have the sense that you are reading– especially in the first half– a collection of wonderful linked stories. I would finish one, feel satisfied, and put the book down. Later, I would happily come back, but in the first half of the book I didn’t find the strong momentum to go forward that I usually feel in my very favorite books.

But this changed in the second half of the book. The intertwining of pieces becomes stronger as you get to know the family, as you take repeated trips to Chicago, Mexico City, and San Antonio. The narrator’s smart ass voice itself begins to carry you to the next section, and you feel an increasing sense of insight into an in-between-culture: a Mexican father, a Chicana mother, a family that uses English mostly, but amply larded with Spanish and sometimes more Spanish than English. Somewhere in the middle, I began to read longer passages. I think maybe it was when Awful Grandmother began to be more than a colorful if irritating family phenomenon. Awful Grandmother, Soledad, turns out to have her own sad stories, and engages in an active after-life with her granddaughter, narrator, Celaya/Lala. There is an interesting love triangle, too, among Soledad, her son Inocencio, and Lala. There are many other characters, too, of course, a whole passel of brothers I never quite separated one from the other; a strong, often angry mother; aunts, cousins, boyfriends, girlfriends– many, many people and many sights and smells and foods. There are also sustained images, especially the caramelo itself, which is both candy and things the color of candy and, especially, a particularly treasured type of rebozo shawl.

The book has some quirky structural touches that I generally liked: footnotes about historical events and celebrities of movies and Mexican telenovelas, and a long list at the end of people who helped Cisneros, and people who died during the ten years she was writing the book. There is even one more story after the last story. I joined her in not wanting the book to end, and it sits in my memory now as a large, incredibly colorful structure that I hope to visit again.

                               – Meredith Sue Willis

 

 

 

CAT PLESKA POSES A QUESTION ON THE STATE OF PUBLISHING AND GETTING PUBLISHED

Cat Pleska writes: “I recently attended a conference in Columbus where the presenters were all agents and editors, most from New York. In one session, an editor (with William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins), said that it was the chain bookstores that drove what got published in this country. I understood the editor to say that the publishers pay the chain stores to put their books on the front table near the door and if the books don't do well, they're off the table quickly and sent back to the publisher for a refund.

“What's your take on this, and specifically I mean that books are ‘account’ driven? Only those books that are almost guaranteed to sell well at a big chain store are considered for publication (obviously, other books are published that never appear on the front table). In a way, it sounded as if the publishers are shrugging to the wannabe authors and saying, ‘It's not our fault we can't publish your excellent book--it's the bean counters at the big chain stores.’

“University and small presses may be picking up the slack, but their finances are limited. Yet, I see the same books at independent bookstores that are in the chain stores (your point about non union supporting is well taken, but I'm not sure independents could afford to hire union employees).”

Cat poses these issues for us, and I would love to get responses. My peer writers’ group, for example, recently had an impassioned discussion about publishers who demand what amounts to a marketing plan from writers before they’ll even look at their work. It’s called a “platform,” meaning essentially something the book and writer can “run” on. Do you have experiences to share? Hope for the future??

CAT PLESKA’S LITERARY BLOG

Cat Pleska has a literary blog called Mouth of the Holler. One recent entry is about September 2006's lovely 25th Anniversary Appalachian Literary Festival at Emory & Henry College.
 

NEW YORK AREA LITERARY EVENTS

For a list of some of the many, many things happening in NYC, write to listings@poetz.com . Get on the mailing list, and find out more than you can possibly participate in!
Here’s one: A reading for the BELLEVUE LITERARY REVIEW: Sunday, October 29, 2006, 5:00 pm t the Bellevue Hospital Rotunda, 462 First Avenue at 27th Street, New York City. Free, with Wine and Cheese. For more information, write info@BLReview.org .
Bob Heman reports that Proteus Gowanus of Brooklyn is an amazing space on the edge of Park Slope (at Union and Nevins) that is a combination reading room/gallery and a year-long Library Exhibition. It's an amazing and unique space and worth a visit. Over 50 artist’s books displayed, from editioned pamphlets to unique sculptural book art. The location is Proteus Gowanus, 543 Union Street @ Nevins Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217. Get more information from info@proteusgowanus.com or 718-243-1572.

MOMOIRS

George Byers has a new book out about his mother, a sharp eyed, observant woman who recalls the struggles and joys of growing up during the Depression and starting a family during World War II. Peggy Kerr grew up in a large family in Oblong, Illinois in a time when her father made shoes and her mother baked bread. Peggy remembers pantywaists and button hooks, the outhouse, the carriage, and the "hickory stick" at school. She also remembers child death and violence– a bootlegger shooting the sheriff at a best friend's home. Learn more at: http://www.diesel-ebooks.com/cgi-bin/item/059584166X .
 

SHELLEY ETTINGER’S SUMMER READING

Shelley Ettinger writes, “Hope you had a good summer and all's well. I kept meaning to send you a little summer reading report but never got a chance and by now, with all the literary novels and other serious stuff I read, the only book that I remember is the biography of Ava Gardner, which was a riproaring, page-turning blast!”

 

KEITH MAILLARD’S TETRALOGY NOW COMPLETE

I hope soon to write about Maillard’s excellent tetralogy, “Difficulty at the Beginning,” but you can read about it now with Cheryl Harshman’s review at http://theintelligencer.net/articles.asp?articleID=10508 .
 

THERE’S A DEAD MULE IN IT

Phyllis Moore points out some works of Southern Culture that have a dead mule in them....

 

VALERIE NIEMAN NEWS

The Morgantown Writers Group (MWG) sponsored a two-hour poetry workshop on October 7 with poet and novelist Valerie Nieman. Nieman also gave a reading from FIDELITIES, her collection of 18 short stories, as well as from her newest publication, WAKE, WAKE, WAKE, a collection of poetry published by Press 53.   Visit the website for information on fall readings and events. WAKE, WAKE, WAKE is available directly from the publisher at Press 53, P.O. Box 30314, Winston-Salem NC 27130. Website is http://www.press53.com/ .
 

DIANE LOCKWARD HAS A NEW COLLECTION

The people at Wind Publications announce Diane Lockward’s new collection WHAT FEEDS US. Thomas Lux says that "WHAT FEEDS US is sometimes humorous and sometimes heartbreaking. Diane Lockward's language is both plain-spoken and rich, lush. This is a wonderful book that might not nourish your body but certainly will nourish your heart."
WHAT FEEDS US (2006) Wind Publications, 85 pp, $15.00. This book may be obtained through your favorite local bookstore, from on-line vendors such as Amazon, from our friends at Spring Church Books, or from the publisher. See http://windpub.com/books for further information.
 

POETRY CONTESTS CAN BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR WALLET ....

Here is a site tries that tries to separate out the legitimate ones: http://www.winningwriters.com/
 

AND HERE ARE SOME CONTESTS WORTH CONSIDERING FROM HARPUR PALATE:

The Milton Kessler Memorial Prize for Poetry deadline is November 1 (postmark deadline). Send 3 to 5 poems (no more than 10 pages) with a $15 entry fee and a cover letter containing your contact information and the titles of your poems to the address listed below. Please make sure that your contact information does not appear anywhere on your poems. The editors will judge. The winning poet will receive $500, and his or her poem will appear in the Winter issue of Harpur Palate. All entries will be considered for publication, and your entry fee includes a 1-year subscription to Harpur Palate!
Harpur Palate will accept entries for our John Gardner Prize January 1 through March 31. Send an unpublished short story of up to 8,000 words with a $15 entry fee and a cover letter containing your contact information to the address below. Please make sure your contact information does not appear anywhere on your entry. The editors will judge. The winner will receive $500, and his or her story will appear in the summer issue of Harpur Palate. All entries will be considered for publication, and your entry fee includes a 1-year subscription to Harpur Palate!
Summer 2007 - 7.1 Themed Issue: The editors of HARPUR PALATE are pleased to announce that they will publish their first themed issue, summer 2007. They welcome submissions to this special issue on Food, Hunger, and Appetite, broadly interpreted: stories, essays, and poems relating to the theme. Please write "Special Issue" on your envelope, so it doesn't get mixed in with other submissions.

Genre editors now have new email addresses. As of October 2006, please contact our prose editors at hpfiction@gmail.com and our poetry editors at harpur.palate.poetry@gmail.com. The email for general inquiries is still harpur.palate@gmail.com. The mailing address is Harpur Palate, English Department, Binghamton University, P.O. Box 6000, Binghamton, NY 13902 hpalate@binghamton.edu .

 

 

GETTING PUBLISHED ISN’T EASY..

Shelley Ettinger sent information from the Poets & Writers' Speakeasy discussion board where some writers listed fiction markets by degree of impossibility of getting published in them. She points out that it is not comprehensive (and recommends the fuller list at http://www.newpages.com) but says she likes the way this one breaks it down.

Some Markets & Resources for Writers of Literary Short Fiction

I. Too competitive for words:
Atlantic Monthly ©. Michael Curtis, fic. ed.) www.theatlantic.com
Harper's (Ben Metcalf, literary ed.) www.harpers.org
Esquire (Adrienne Miller, literary ed.) http://www.esquire.com/about
GQ http://us.gq.com
Ms. www.msmagazine.com
The New Yorker (Deborah Treisman, fic. ed.) www.newyorker.com
Playboy (Christopher Napolitano) http://www.playboy.com/...tion-guidelines.html
II. Ultra Competitive:
DoubleTake www.doubletakemagazine.org/
Granta (Ian Jack, ed., London) www.granta.com/about/contacts
Glimmer Train, www.glimmertrain.com
McSweeny's www.mcsweeneys.net/
The Oxford American (Southern writers/themes) www.oxfordamericanmag.com/
Paris Review (Brigid Hughes) http://parisreview.com/
Ploughshares (guest editors) www.pshares.org/index.cfm
The Sun (Sy Safransky, ed. www.thesunmagazine.org
The Threepenny Review (Wendy Lesser, ed) www.threepennyreview.com/
Tin House (Rob Spillman, ed.) http://tinhouse.com
Zoetrope www.all-story.com

III. Very very competitive:

Agni www.bu.edu/agni/
Antioch Review www.antioch.edu/review/
Boulevard www.richardburgin.com/boulevard.htm
Conjunctions www.conjunctions.com
Epoch www.arts.cornell.edu/english/epoch.html
Georgia Review www.uga.edu/garev/
Gettysburg Review www.gettysburg.edu/academics/gettysburg_review
Iowa Review www.uiowa.edu/%7Eiareview/mainpages/tirweb.html
Kenyon Review (Nancy Zafris, fic. ed.) www.kenyonreview.org
Michigan Quarterly Review www.umich.edu/~mqr/index.html
Missouri Review (Speer Morgan, ed.) www.missourireview.org/
New England Review http://cat.middlebury.edu/~nereview
North American Review www.webdelsol.com/NorthAmReview/NAR
Ontario Review www.ontarioreviewpress.com/review/home/hm_index.html
Prairie Schooner www.unl.edu/schooner/psmain.htm
Southern Review http://appl003.lsu.edu/...hernreview.nsf/index
Tri-Quarterly (Northwestern U) www.triquarterly.org/
Virginia Quarterly Review (Ted Genoways) www.virginia.edu/vqr/
Zyzzyva (West Coast writers; Howard Junker, ed.) www.zyzzyva.org/

IV. Darn Competitive

Alaska Quarterly Review http://aqr.uaa.alaska.edu/
Another Chicago Magazine www.anotherchicagomag.com/
Bellingham Review www.ac.wwu.edu/~bhreview/
Beloit Fiction Journal www.beloit.edu/~english/bfjournal.htm
Bellevue Literary Review www.blreview.org/
Black Warrior Review http://webdelsol.com/bwr/
Blue Mesa Review http://www.unm.edu/~bluemesa/
Chicago Review http://humanities.uchicago.edu/orgs/review/
Boston Review www.bostonreview.net/aboutBR.html
Carolina Quarterly www.unc.edu/depts/cqonline/
Cimarron Review http://cimarronreview.okstate.edu/
Colorado Review www.coloradoreview.com/
Conjunctions www.conjunctions.com/njhome.htm
Cutbank www.umt.edu/cutbank/
Denver Quarterly www.denverquarterly.com/
Fiction (Mark Mirsky, ed) www.fictioninc.com/
Fiction International http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/dept/press/fi/
Fiddlehead www.fiddlehead.ca/
Five Points (Ga. SU) www.webdelsol.com/Five_Points/
Greensboro Review www.uncg.edu/eng/mfa/review/review.htm Gulf Coast www.gulfcoastmag.org/index.html Harvard Rev http://hcl.harvard.edu/...tments/harvardreview
Hayden's Ferry www.asu.edu/clas/pipercwcenter/publications/haydensferryreview
Indiana Review http://www.indiana.edu/~inreview/ir.html
The Journal www.cohums.ohio-state.edu/english/journals/the_journal/
Land Grant College Review www.land-grantcollegereview.com/index.php
Literal Latte www.literal-latte.com/
The Literary Review www.theliteraryreview.org/
Malahat Review http://web.uvic.ca/malahat/
Manoa www.hawaii.edu/mjournal/
The Massachusetts Review www.massreview.org/
Meridian www.engl.virginia.edu/meridian/
Mid-American Review www.bgsu.edu/studentlife/organizations/midamericanreview
New Orleans Review http://www.loyno.edu/~noreview/
Nimrod www.utulsa.edu/nimrod/
Open City www.opencity.org/main.html
Phoebe www.gmu.edu/pubs/phoebe/main.html
Puerto del Sol www.nmsu.edu/%7Epuerto/welcome.html
Quarterly West www.webdelsol.com/Quarterly_West Seattle Review http://depts.washington.edu/engl/seaview1.html
Sewanee Review www.sewanee.edu/sreview/home.html
Shenandoah http://shenandoah.wlu.edu/
Stand Magazine www.people.vcu.edu/~dlatane/stand.html
Swink (new, Leelila Strogov, ed.) www.swinkmag.com
Western Humanities Review www.hum.utah.edu/whr/
Witness www.occ.cc.mi.us/witness/ Yale Review www.yale.edu/yalereview/

V. Still plenty competitive

American Literary Review www.engl.unt.edu/alr/index.html
Ascent www.cord.edu/dept/english/ascent/
Crab Orchard Review www.siu.edu/~crborchd/
Crab Tree Review www.crabcreekreview.org/
Cream City Review www.uwm.edu/Dept/English/ccr/index2.html
Crescent Review www.crescentreview.org/
Florida Review www.flreview.com/
Global City Review http://webdelsol.com/globalcityreview/
Nebraska Review www.unomaha.edu/~fineart/wworkshop/submits.htm
New Letters www.newletters.org/
New Delta Review http://english.lsu.edu/journals/ndr
Ninth Letter www.ninthletter.com
North Dakota Quarterly www.und.nodak.edu/org/ndq/
Notre Dame Review www.nd.edu/~ndr/review.htm
Other Voices www.uic.edu/depts/engl/othervoices/index.html
Painted Bride Quarterly http://webdelsol.com/pbq/
Potomac Review www.montgomerycollege.edu/potomacreview/index.html
Small Spiral Notebook www.smallspiralnotebook.com/
South Carolina Review www.clemson.edu/caah/cedp/scrintro.htm
South Dakota Review www.usd.edu/sdreview/
Spinning Jenny www.blackdresspress.com/
Southeast Review www.english.fsu.edu/southeastreview/default.htm
Southwest Review www.southwestreview.org/
Sycamore Review www.sla.purdue.edu/academic/engl/sycamore/
Tampa Review http://tampareview.utampa.edu/
Third Coast www.wmich.edu/thirdcoast/
West Branch www.bucknell.edu/About_Bucknell/Publications/West_Branch/

VI. Web magazines (many paper mags also publish larger web versions.):

www.blackbird.vcu.edu; www.collectedstories.com ; www.Nerve.com; www.pieriansprings.net; www.Pifmagazine.com; www.vestalreview.net; www.vorticalmag.com

 

Books for Readers #89

  November 25, 2006

Friends: Are you looking for holiday gifts? I’m collecting a special list of under-publicized books, most from small presses, but some out of print. Take a look at this list for all ages. Each book recommended by someone. There are lots of good books at Barnes & Noble too, but for a change of pace, consider supporting the future of literature as you delight your friends: go to Gift Books.
A couple of recent literary deaths: Ellen Willis died in early November, as did William Styron. Willis was a leftist and a feminist who always did interesting work, but I had a personal relationship to her work: I read a book, called I think QUESTIONS FRESHMEN ASK. It was probably her first one, because she was only a few years older than I, and I was in high school. The book was about going to college, and it was terribly sophisticated and funny and stunned me with a whole world view. It both made me feel I would never survive college and paradoxically made me think how wonderful it would be. She also had the same name as my father's cousin Ellen Willis, too. Not to mention the same last name as me.
William Styron was one of the ones who tried to write the Great American Novel. He was what I think of as a quintessential Heroic Novelist. SOPHIE’S CHOICE and LIE DOWN IN DARKNESS are well worth reading– ambitious and moving and self-consciously profound, and I also admire his memoir pieces, especially his memoir of depression DARKNESS VISIBLE. The thing about the Heroic Novelists is that they have the enviable belief that novels are the most serious form of art-- and that art is the most serious form of human endeavor.
Now I’ve given a great deal of my life to writing novels, and as a writer and a reader I find novels to be one of the supreme expressions of meaning in human life. For me, however, especially from my thirties on, novel writing has increasingly appeared to be one of many human activites– perhaps the best one for exploring mental states and emotions and for connecting the individual to society, and the past to the present and ideas to emotion– oh, I could go on and on. But I have come to see this (perhaps a little sadly) as something human beings do in many ways. Furthermore, novel writing in the twenty-first century is a privilege that generally requires financial support. Fewer people make a living writing fiction. Also, it is, in the end, a safe and relatively healthy occupation: writing novels might give you carpal tunnel syndrome, but it won’t give you black lung.
Of course you may hear sour grapes in this. I confess to feeling envy for the Heroic Novelists, but there is an alternative model.  Chaucer, for example, was a diplomat and businessman and wrote his poems in his leisure hours, not for money. Shakespeare famously spent much of his time as actor and theater owner, and at least sometimes wrote to supply his business with content, as they say in th computer biz. This cannot possible downgrade the value of Shakespeare and Chaucer: on the contrary, to me it supports my argument that genius, too, is a human activity, and likely more common than we think. Whatever the personal cost and struggle to write– and it can be a huge one (see Tillie Olsen’s book SILENCES), it is one of many human struggles, many human activities.
A couple of years back, we had some discussion of Styron and his work in this newsletter ( see 28 and 29) and I expressed my admiration and ambivalence there. Some wonderful books, always ambitious, and a life full of struggle and pain like all human lives.
Notes on my recent reading: THE ROMANTICS:ENGLAND IN A REVOLUTIONARY AGE, by E.P. Thompson, is a collection of book reviews and articles by the late British historian, unfinished at his death. The book gave me a lot of new ideas. It is about those years in the late 1790's when Wordsworth and Coleridge were writing the LYRICAL BALLADS. It was also a time when it could be threatening to one’s freedom and even ones life to be British and support the French Revolution, which included most of the Romantic poets in their twenties. The book then talks about the rejection of the French Revolution by Wordsworth and Coleridge, the abstracting of ideas from politics by William Godwin (Mary Wollstonecraft’s husband), and also introduced me to an interesting new figure, the overly self important bad poet and rabble rouser, John Thelwall. I wish some of these articles had been included in my Romantic Literature class at Barnard back in the late sixties.
For something completely different, I read the incredibly light and good-humored THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY by Alexander McCall Smith. This was a gift from my friend Petrina Livecchi who volunteers at her library and is the first of a popular series about a Botswanan woman who decides to become a detective. I wonder what people in Botswana think of it? The author Alexander McCall Smith, a white man, says they like it...
Also for entertainment, I reread the redoubtable DUNE by Frank Herbert. The great sand worm “makers” are a wonderful invention, and the story is a grand old ride. The religion seems pretty derivative, but I can’t complain about borrowing, as I see now how much of my science fiction novel THE CITY BUILT OF STARSHIPS is influenced by my first reading of DUNE years ago. Oh well, I’m the one who insists it’s good to imitate.
I also want to recommend two books by writers I read with recently. I had the great honor of being the featured writer in APPALACHIAN HERITAGE magazine this fall. (For information on how to get a copy, e-mail appalachianheritage@berea.edu or call 859-985-3699 or 859-985-3559. Mailing address is Appalachian Heritage, CPO 2166, Berea, Kentucky 40404). There are articles by Keith Maillard, Phyllis Moore, and West Virginia University President David C. Hardesty.
I was then invited to participate in the first ever Featured Author Reading at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, on Friday, November 10th to honor the magazine. The reading included the two other living featured writers for 2006, Crystal Wilkinson and Jeff Mann. (The person who died was the National Book Award winning West Virginian author, Mary Lee Settle.) I definitely want to recommend books by the other readers at that event: Crystal E. Wilkinson’s BLACKBERRIES, BLACKBERRIES is a collection of short stories told in a wonderful voice that sounds both black and Appalachian, which is no surprise as the stories are set in small town Kentucky with mostly African American characters. There are some real knock-out stories including “Waiting for the Reaper” about how a woman’s life is colored by how she’s always expecting/wanting to die and be with her loved ones. “Peace of Mind” is a monologue during one afternoon while a woman tries to have some time to herself and gets called by her ex husband and her kids and camp at her best friend while her lemonade melts; “Tipping the Scales” is a novel-in-miniature. See the publisher’s website at http://tobypress.com. I am also reading LOVING MOUNTAINS, LOVING MEN by Jeff Mann, who is probably the first self identified literary gay mountain man. The book does a really wonderful job of delineating one man’s precise place in the world. It also has some harrowing stories of suffering adolescence and a number of powerful poems. See Mann.
Both of these books would make excellent gifts (for yourself too!)and I’ve listed them on my special page of recommended books from small presses at giftbooks.
Finally. Don’t miss the continuing discussion below of the state of publishing in almost-2007.
                        – Meredith Sue Willis

MORE CAT PLESKA ON PUBLISHING

Cat Pleska sends some of her notes from a writing conference in Columbus, Ohio:

The NY editors/agents were definite about having a platform. They all talked about it at the Columbus conference (and I'm sure any other where they appear). It's a built-in audience for you, in whatever way that can be counted: on radio? Great! Published clips– of course. Got a hobby? Do you knit, snowboard? Then they can market you to these areas of interest, regardless (almost) of what you write). Areas of interest? Are you into certain groups? The ACLU, the underwater basket weaving association? Labor History? All these they'll consider. The more numbers you can give them as to your potential or actual audience is the more they'll consider your proposal.

We're not going to talk them out of this. Quality of writing is a given and the quality of writing has improved steadily for a couple decades. So, what is a writer to do? If a great book of any type isn't enough?

I personally feel the publishing industry dropped the ball and now the bean counters drive what's published. What sells the most? Chick lit? Romances are always good sellers. Mysteries, other genre writing. All good sellers. What happens if you happen to write literary works? While the occasional literary work does make it big time, it's rare and becoming more rare.

Regardless of the state of publishing (I also have a sneaking suspicion that the publisher may be letting the fall guy be the bean counters and that they haven't done enough to keep the public interested in reading. Why not? We have to morph to get published so why don't they work harder?) But that's history. It is what it is now. The question becomes what do people do about it? How can we outfox the fox?

IRENE TIERSTEN ON THE STATE OF PUBLISHING

Responding to the discussion in the October issue of BOOKS FOR READERS, Irene Tiersten shares this true story: “This past June, I met with an executive editor of a major publishing company. Over lunch in New York, she educated me about the current state of publishing, which was exactly what Cat Pleska described. I am a writer of fiction and non-fiction as well as a playwright. Two of my books, a novel and a collection of related short stories, were published by the editor’s company: she, in fact, edited them and we became friends. Since that time, I have concentrated on playwriting, but now I have completed a new novel, which was the subject of our lunch meeting. She educated me about the new practice of publishers having to pay bookstores to display new books. She was genuinely distressed at the limitations this practice placed on her ability to buy new manuscripts. She asked to see mine, saying she had very little hope that she would be able to buy it no matter how good it was. Some weeks later, she told me ruefully that she liked the book, but…..I have gone back to writing plays.”

 

BLOG AND PEAR BUTTER

Cat Pleska has a new essay on her web site– plus a recipe for pear butter related to the essay! Also photos and of caves and a new book review. Go to Mouth of the Holler.
 

GERMINAL

Shelley Ettinger recommends Emile Zola’s classic GERMINAL, “a novel that I think might interest you, if you haven't read it already.... published around 1885 I believe. It's the story of a French miners' strike in the 1860s. I found it fascinating in a number of ways. The prose is certainly of the 19th century– plenty of telling rather than showing, sort of flowery in some passages– yet where I sometimes find this style tedious I didn't here. The portrayal of the miners and their families as well as of the bourgeois and their families and their respective living conditions, and most of all the incredibly vivid, horrifying scenes down in the mines, the work and the disasters, were engrossing, as were the chapters detailing the action of the strike itself, which is the heart of the book. I was also very interested in Zola's depiction of sex roles and sexuality, not at all what I might have expected. The women do work in the mines– who knew?– and when the strike breaks out it's the women who are its most radical proponents, and who lead every mass action, including the turn toward violence. At the same time, there is a total sort of (hetero) sexual freedom with little or no regard for religious or bourgeois social mores; women couple with whomever they please at no real peril to their reputations. It's complicated, because it's borne of the brutal, packed living conditions that break down any of the usual restrictions, and it can as easily result in wife beating, rape and yearly pregnancy as in free love, so it's not that Zola presents it as the ideal, but the way the sexes relate to each other in and out of the mines and the way the mines are really the controlling factor in both is very very interesting.”
 

COAL: A POETRY ANTHOLOGY

... is just out from Blair Mountain Press. It is an important and timely collection. The ISBN is 0-9768817-1-3; price $15.00; Chris Green, Editor.

 

 

 

BLACKBIRD

Shelley also draws our attention to a newly published college poem of Sylvia Plath’s at an interesting online magazine, Blackbird http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/
 

MY 100 MILLION DOLLAR SECRET

David Weinberger is a well known journalist, NPR commentator, blogger and book writer (SMALL PIECES LOOSELY JOINED)has a new book due out this spring. If you feel really insecure about your knowledge of the web, see his primer at http://www.hyperorg.com/misc/metaphysics/. You can also Google the name “David Weinberger” and he comes up ahead of Michelangelo’s statue! He’s also my husband’s baby brother, and he has been my private tutor for all things Internet– this newsletter, for example, would probably never had happened without his example and advice. He has now published his first children’s novel, a longish chapter book, MY 100 MILLION DOLLAR SECRET.
The narrator and his friends are middle school students, and the plot is both entertaining and idea-driven (David started life as a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a comedy writer). The protagonist-narrator is a boy whose father is a newspaper man who has a crusade against lotteries, and the boy wins a tremendous amount of money– in the lottery. So the story is about how to hide something from your parents without lying and how to spend and give away lots and lots of money. It also has an amusing sub-sub plot about how kids have to hire grown-ups to front for them in various business situations. There’s also just the slightest hint of love interest, an evil capitalist who runs the rival town newspaper, some mean girls who get a mild comeuppance, a little sister who picks up lice at school every year, and lots more. It would be an excellent gift for a thoughtful student and would make a great centerpiece in an Ethics for Children class. The adults I know who’ve read it were also highly enthusiastic.
 

BENNY-BE BOARD BOOK FOR LITTLE ONES!

Are you looking for a board book for the very littlest book people? Try Trish Bentley’s guide book to New York City–through the eyes of her pooch Benny-Be!
 

NORTH CAROLINA POSTS POETRY

The North Carolina Arts Council has a poet of the week that is well worth looking at:
http://www.ncarts.org/today_poem.cfm?
 

LEORA SKOLKIN AND TOVAH FELDSHUH

Leora Skolkin reports that the gifted actress, Tovah Feldshuh has been reading from her novel EDGES, O ISRAEL, O PALESTINE, an original audio edition, in production set directed by Charles Potter, a three-time grammy award winner and director of Maya Angelou's audio poetry book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUPPLEMENT 12/7/06

  • A Room of Her Own Foundation is accepting applications for the Gift of Freedom Award for Fiction. Every year, the Foundation provides one Gift of Freedom Award of up to $50,000 to a woman artist who has a track record of commitment to her art and is making a concerted effort to be self-sufficient. The award is given each year on a rotating basis among one of four categories: fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and visual art. This year is Fiction Applications which must be submitted by February 1, 2007. Application guidelines and forms are available at the Foundation’s website Apply for a Room of Your Own. To learn more abut the foundation.  Link to Funder Profile

 

 

 

 

Books for Readers #89

  November 25, 2006

Friends: Are you looking for holiday gifts? I’m collecting a special list of under-publicized books, most from small presses, but some out of print. Take a look at this list for all ages. Each book recommended by someone. There are lots of good books at Barnes & Noble too, but for a change of pace, consider supporting the future of literature as you delight your friends: go to Gift Books.
A couple of recent literary deaths: Ellen Willis died in early November, as did William Styron. Willis was a leftist and a feminist who always did interesting work, but I had a personal relationship to her work: I read a book, called I think QUESTIONS FRESHMEN ASK. It was probably her first one, because she was only a few years older than I, and I was in high school. The book was about going to college, and it was terribly sophisticated and funny and stunned me with a whole world view. It both made me feel I would never survive college and paradoxically made me think how wonderful it would be. She also had the same name as my father's cousin Ellen Willis, too. Not to mention the same last name as me.
Styron was of course one of the ones who tried to write the Great American Novel. He was what I think of as a quintessential Heroic Novelist. SOPHIE’S CHOICE and LIE DOWN IN DARKNESS are well worth reading– ambitious and moving and self-consciously profound. I also admire his memoir pieces, especially his memoir of depression DARKNESS VISIBLE. The thing about the Heroic Novelists is that they always had the enviable seriousness of writers who truly believed that novels are the most serious form of art, and that art is the most serious form of human endeavor.
Now I’ve given a great deal of my life to writing novels, and as a writer and a reader I find novels to be one of the supreme expressions of meaning in human life. For me, however, especially from my thirties on, novel writing had increasingly appeared to be one human activity– perhaps the best ever invented for exploring mental states and emotions and for connecting the individual to society, and the past to the present and ideas to emotion– oh, I could go on and on. But I no longer see this as a heroic struggle of an individual artist, but rather something human beings do. Furthermore, the practice of novel writing is a privilege that generally requires financial support, especially in a time when you can’t depend on making a living as a fiction writer. Also, it is, in the end, a safe and relatively healthy occupation: writing novels might give you carpal tunnel syndrome, but it won’t give you black lung.
Of course I have a lot of envy of the Heroic Novelists like Styron, but I now see myself as less like them (and I’m speaking here of attitude rather than accomplishment!) Than like, say, Chaucer, who was a diplomat and business man and wrote his poems in his leisure hours, not for money. Shakespeare of course famously spent much of his time as actor and theater owner, and at least sometimes wrote primarily to supply his business with content, as they say in th computer biz. This in no way downgrades the value of Shakespeare: on the contrary, to me it supports my argument that genius, too, is a human activity, and likely more common than we think. In other words, whatever the personal cost and struggle to write– and it can be a huge one (see Tillie Olsen’s book SILENCES), it is one of many human struggles, many human activities.
A couple of years back, we had some discussion of Styron and his work in this newsletter ( see 28 and 29) and I expressed my admiration and ambivalence there. Some wonderful books, always ambitious, and a life full of struggle and pain like all human lives.
Notes on my recent reading: THE ROMANTICS:ENGLAND IN A REVOLUTIONARY AGE, by E.P. Thompson, is a collection of book reviews and articles by the late British historian, unfinished at his death. The book gave me a lot of new ideas. It is about those years in the late 1790's when Wordsworth and Coleridge were writing the LYRICAL BALLADS. It was also a time when it could be threatening to one’s freedom and even ones life to be British and support the French Revolution, which included most of the Romantic poets in their twenties. The book then talks about the rejection of the French Revolution by Wordsworth and Coleridge, the abstracting of ideas from politics by William Godwin (Mary Wollstonecraft’s husband), and also introduced me to an interesting new figure, the overly self important bad poet and rabble rouser, John Thelwall. I wish some of these articles had been included in my Romantic Literature class at Barnard back in the late sixties.
For something completely different, I read the incredibly light and good-humored THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY by Alexander McCall Smith. This was a gift from my friend Petrina Livecchi who volunteers at her library and is the first of a popular series about a Botswanan woman who decides to become a detective. I wonder what people in Botswana think of it? The author Alexander McCall Smith, a white man, says they like it...
Also for entertainment, I reread the redoubtable DUNE by Frank Herbert. The great sand worm “makers” are a wonderful invention, and the story is a grand old ride. The religion seems pretty derivative, but I can’t complain about borrowing, as I see now how much of my science fiction novel THE CITY BUILT OF STARSHIPS is influenced by my first reading of DUNE years ago. Oh well, I’m the one who insists it’s good to imitate.
I also want to recommend two books by writers I read with recently. I had the great honor of being the featured writer in APPALACHIAN HERITAGE magazine this fall. (For information on how to get a copy, e-mail appalachianheritage@berea.edu or call 859-985-3699 or 859-985-3559. Mailing address is Appalachian Heritage, CPO 2166, Berea, Kentucky 40404). There are articles by Keith Maillard, Phyllis Moore, and West Virginia University President David C. Hardesty.
I was then invited to participate in the first ever Featured Author Reading at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, on Friday, November 10th to honor the magazine. The reading included the two other living featured writers for 2006, Crystal Wilkinson and Jeff Mann. (The person who died was the National Book Award winning West Virginian author, Mary Lee Settle.) I definitely want to recommend books by the other readers at that event: Crystal E. Wilkinson’s BLACKBERRIES, BLACKBERRIES is a collection of short stories told in a wonderful voice that sounds both black and Appalachian, which is no surprise as the stories are set in small town Kentucky with mostly African American characters. There are some real knock-out stories including “Waiting for the Reaper” about how a woman’s life is colored by how she’s always expecting/wanting to die and be with her loved ones. “Peace of Mind” is a monologue during one afternoon while a woman tries to have some time to herself and gets called by her ex husband and her kids and camp at her best friend while her lemonade melts; “Tipping the Scales” is a novel-in-miniature. See the publisher’s website at http://tobypress.com. I am also reading LOVING MOUNTAINS, LOVING MEN by Jeff Mann, who is probably the first self identified literary gay mountain man. The book does a really wonderful job of delineating one man’s precise place in the world. It also has some harrowing stories of suffering adolescence and a number of powerful poems. See Mann.
Both of these books would make excellent gifts (for yourself too!)and I’ve listed them on my special page of recommended books from small presses at giftbooks.
Finally. Don’t miss the continuing discussion below of the state of publishing in almost-2007.
                        – Meredith Sue Willis

MORE CAT PLESKA ON PUBLISHING

Cat Pleska sends some of her notes from a writing conference in Columbus, Ohio:

The NY editors/agents were definite about having a platform. They all talked about it at the Columbus conference (and I'm sure any other where they appear). It's a built-in audience for you, in whatever way that can be counted: on radio? Great! Published clips– of course. Got a hobby? Do you knit, snowboard? Then they can market you to these areas of interest, regardless (almost) of what you write). Areas of interest? Are you into certain groups? The ACLU, the underwater basket weaving association? Labor History? All these they'll consider. The more numbers you can give them as to your potential or actual audience is the more they'll consider your proposal.

We're not going to talk them out of this. Quality of writing is a given and the quality of writing has improved steadily for a couple decades. So, what is a writer to do? If a great book of any type isn't enough?

I personally feel the publishing industry dropped the ball and now the bean counters drive what's published. What sells the most? Chick lit? Romances are always good sellers. Mysteries, other genre writing. All good sellers. What happens if you happen to write literary works? While the occasional literary work does make it big time, it's rare and becoming more rare.

Regardless of the state of publishing (I also have a sneaking suspicion that the publisher may be letting the fall guy be the bean counters and that they haven't done enough to keep the public interested in reading. Why not? We have to morph to get published so why don't they work harder?) But that's history. It is what it is now. The question becomes what do people do about it? How can we outfox the fox?

IRENE TIERSTEN ON THE STATE OF PUBLISHING

Responding to the discussion in the October issue of BOOKS FOR READERS, Irene Tiersten shares this true story: “This past June, I met with an executive editor of a major publishing company. Over lunch in New York, she educated me about the current state of publishing, which was exactly what Cat Pleska described. I am a writer of fiction and non-fiction as well as a playwright. Two of my books, a novel and a collection of related short stories, were published by the editor’s company: she, in fact, edited them and we became friends. Since that time, I have concentrated on playwriting, but now I have completed a new novel, which was the subject of our lunch meeting. She educated me about the new practice of publishers having to pay bookstores to display new books. She was genuinely distressed at the limitations this practice placed on her ability to buy new manuscripts. She asked to see mine, saying she had very little hope that she would be able to buy it no matter how good it was. Some weeks later, she told me ruefully that she liked the book, but…..I have gone back to writing plays.”

 

BLOG AND PEAR BUTTER

Cat Pleska has a new essay on her web site– plus a recipe for pear butter related to the essay! Also photos and of caves and a new book review. Go to Mouth of the Holler.
 

GERMINAL

Shelley Ettinger recommends Emile Zola’s classic GERMINAL, “a novel that I think might interest you, if you haven't read it already.... published around 1885 I believe. It's the story of a French miners' strike in the 1860s. I found it fascinating in a number of ways. The prose is certainly of the 19th century– plenty of telling rather than showing, sort of flowery in some passages– yet where I sometimes find this style tedious I didn't here. The portrayal of the miners and their families as well as of the bourgeois and their families and their respective living conditions, and most of all the incredibly vivid, horrifying scenes down in the mines, the work and the disasters, were engrossing, as were the chapters detailing the action of the strike itself, which is the heart of the book. I was also very interested in Zola's depiction of sex roles and sexuality, not at all what I might have expected. The women do work in the mines– who knew?– and when the strike breaks out it's the women who are its most radical proponents, and who lead every mass action, including the turn toward violence. At the same time, there is a total sort of (hetero) sexual freedom with little or no regard for religious or bourgeois social mores; women couple with whomever they please at no real peril to their reputations. It's complicated, because it's borne of the brutal, packed living conditions that break down any of the usual restrictions, and it can as easily result in wife beating, rape and yearly pregnancy as in free love, so it's not that Zola presents it as the ideal, but the way the sexes relate to each other in and out of the mines and the way the mines are really the controlling factor in both is very very interesting.”
 

COAL: A POETRY ANTHOLOGY

... is just out from Blair Mountain Press. It is an important and timely collection. The ISBN is 0-9768817-1-3; price $15.00; Chris Green, Editor.

 

 

 

BLACKBIRD

Shelley also draws our attention to a newly published college poem of Sylvia Plath’s at an interesting online magazine, Blackbird http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/
 

MY 100 MILLION DOLLAR SECRET

David Weinberger is a well known journalist, NPR commentator, blogger and book writer (SMALL PIECES LOOSELY JOINED)has a new book due out this spring. If you feel really insecure about your knowledge of the web, see his primer at http://www.hyperorg.com/misc/metaphysics/. You can also Google the name “David Weinberger” and he comes up ahead of Michelangelo’s statue! He’s also my husband’s baby brother, and he has been my private tutor for all things Internet– this newsletter, for example, would probably never had happened without his example and advice. He has now published his first children’s novel, a longish chapter book, MY 100 MILLION DOLLAR SECRET.
The narrator and his friends are middle school students, and the plot is both entertaining and idea-driven (David started life as a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a comedy writer). The protagonist-narrator is a boy whose father is a newspaper man who has a crusade against lotteries, and the boy wins a tremendous amount of money– in the lottery. So the story is about how to hide something from your parents without lying and how to spend and give away lots and lots of money. It also has an amusing sub-sub plot about how kids have to hire grown-ups to front for them in various business situations. There’s also just the slightest hint of love interest, an evil capitalist who runs the rival town newspaper, some mean girls who get a mild comeuppance, a little sister who picks up lice at school every year, and lots more. It would be an excellent gift for a thoughtful student and would make a great centerpiece in an Ethics for Children class. The adults I know who’ve read it were also highly enthusiastic.
 

BENNY-BE BOARD BOOK FOR LITTLE ONES!

Are you looking for a board book for the very littlest book people? Try Trish Bentley’s guide book to New York City–through the eyes of her pooch Benny-Be!
 

NORTH CAROLINA POSTS POETRY

The North Carolina Arts Council has a poet of the week that is well worth looking at:
http://www.ncarts.org/today_poem.cfm?
 

LEORA SKOLKIN AND TOVAH FELDSHUH

Leora Skolkin reports that the gifted actress, Tovah Feldshuh has been reading from her novel EDGES, O ISRAEL, O PALESTINE, an original audio edition, in production set directed by Charles Potter, a three-time grammy award winner and director of Maya Angelou's audio poetry book.

 

 

 

 

 

WHERE TO FIND BOOKS MENTIONED IN THIS NEWSLETTER

If a book mentioned in this newsletter has no website mentioned, don’t forget your public library and your local independent bookstore.
Online, I often go first to Alibis at http://www.alibris.com, and a lot my friends use Powells.  An especially good source for used and out-of-print books is Advanced Book Exchange at http://www.abebooks.com .   All Book Stores at http://www.allbookstores.com/ has a special feature: it tells you how much the book you’re ordering will cost WITH shipping and handling, so you can compare what you’re really going to have to pay.
For other online shopping, try Bookfinder at http://www.bookfinder.com; http://www.cheapbooks.info/ ; and Booksprice at http://www.booksprice.com which bills itself as a “free innovative service of finding the best price on a purchase of several books together.”
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 resist unionization and are responsible for the demise of many independent booksellers.

RESPONSES

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.

 

 

 

Issue #90

December 17, 2006

 

 

BOOKS FOR READERS is a free, independent newsletter written and produced by Meredith Sue Willis, copyright Meredith Sue Willis 2006.  To have this Newsletter sent to you by e-mail, send a blank email to  Readerbooks-subscribe@topica.com. To unsubscribe, send a blank email to Readerbooks-unsubscribe @topica.com. Write to Meredith Sue Willis at MeredithSueWillis@gmail.com. Unless you specifically request otherwise, your responses or selections from them may be included in future Newsletters.

For back issues, click here

 


      First, welcome to new subscribers, and warmest holiday regards for this season when people in the northern hemisphere gather to celebrate and thus stave off the dark of the year. It is also one of the best times of year to have an exchange with people from far away or long ago by sinking into a good read. One of the main purposes of this newsletter is to share ideas for just such reading experiences.

There is also still time, just barely, to support what I believe is the future of literature by choosing books and gift books from small and university presses. I keep a gift books page at giftbooks.html where I’m collecting ideas for these books that you may well have overlooked. My newest suggestions are books by Ed Davis plus a West Virginia bookstore Phyllis Moore informed me about that specializes in Appalachian and simple living books. There’s also an interesting list of poetry books keyed to certain types of friends () plus some small press children’s books. For more suggestions, see the archives of these newsletters.

Meanwhile, here’s some of what we’ve been reading at my house. First, my 87 year old mother has been here for a long visit, and she loves to read, but doesn’t like a lot of sex, violence and what is sometimes called “edginess.” So I was delighted to discover that she hadn’t read the Barchester novels of Anthony Trollope! She confesses she skips some of the long digressions on politics, but loves the stories. And the good news is, there are hundreds of thousands of more words by Trollope out there for her to enjoy once she finishes the Chronicles of Barchester with its English churchmen and their sins and loves.

Our friend Petrina Livecchi, a member of my mother’s generation, often gives my mother and me books that have been discarded by her public library. She gave us one that my mother and I both like, THE ELM AT THE EDGE OF THE EARTH. This is an unusual autobiographical novel by Robert D. Hale about a little boy who, while his mother is sick, lives with his aunt and uncle at the County Farm, a working farm with animals and delicious home cooked meals many times a day– and a collection of inmates who are poor or crippled or, in once case, serving out an indefinite term for spousal murder. The book, which is apparently in large part memoir, captures a childhood mood that includes loss and grief, but also much that is light and humorous. It also feeds your nostalgia for a rural America that is mostly long gone. The book was published commercially fifteen or more years ago, but it’s readily available on the web.

Next, Margarethe Laurenzi suggested a short and wonderful collection of writings about memoir, INVENTING THE TRUTH: THE ART AND CRAFT OF MEMOIR edited by William Zinsser. The book is based on a lecture series with pieces by Alfred Kazin, Russell Baker, Annie Dillard, Toni Morrison, and Lewis Thomas. I’m teaching an online class in Prose Narrative starting right after New Year’s (http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/mswclasses.html) and I’ll have both fiction and memoir writers in the class, so this small book was extremely timely for me. Zinsser says, “The writer of a memoir takes us back to a corner of his or her life that was unusually vivid or intense– childhood, for instance– or that was framed by unique events. By narrowing the lens, the writer achieves a focus that isn’t possible in autobiography; memoir is a window into a life.” Russell Baker says that memoir is the opposite of autobiography, which attempts to tell the whole story: “The biographer’s problem is that he never knows enough. The autobiographer’s problem is that he knows much too much. He knows absolutely everything; he knows the whole iceberg, not just the tip....So when you’re writing about yourself, the problem is what to leave out.” Toni Morrison says, “...the crucial distinction for me is not the difference between fact and fiction, but the distinction between fact and truth. Because facts can exist without human intelligence, but truth cannot.”

I also read A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE by James Shapiro. This one, instead of attempting to be a biography (“the biographer’s problem...”), instead brings to life one exemplary year late in the reign of Elizabeth I, at the height of Shakespeare’s career. The year, 1599, is an anxious one in England with rumors of war and possible plots against the throne: Everyone is expecting the Spanish to invade, but they never come. England, however, invades Ireland, and this ill-fated venture is the beginning of the downfall of the Earl of Essex. It is the year that Shakespeare and his colleagues built the Globe theatre; the year Shakespeare, still acting regularly, probably played the ghost in Hamlet and an old man named Adam in As You Like It. It is also the year that Shakespeare wrote– this is so amazing!– Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You like It and, oh yes, Hamlet! “The Romantic myth of literary genius,” says Shapiro, has difficulty accommodating “a Shakespeare whose greatness was a product of labor as much as talent.” Like most quotations that strike me as just right, this one captures my own views very nicely.

Finally, I finished a book I mentioned last issue, Jeff Mann’s LOVING MOUNTAINS, LOVING MEN. I think I called Jeff the first self identified literary gay mountain man. Mann’s project here is to combine memoir and poetry. The memoir is straightforward and often painful in its delineation of suffering and loss and loneliness. What I hadn’t gotten to when I made reference to the book last issue was a final section of poems that cover much of the same emotional territory as the prose, but transcend it in interesting ways. Some of the poems also cut to the chase of the goodness of life– gardens and food and fellowship. This would be a great book for a class in Gay studies or Appalachian studies, but also to be read as one life story, sometimes told straight up, sometimes distilled into amazing poems.

   

                                                                  Meredith Sue Willis


FROM KASUMU SALAWU

Kasumu Salawu calls our attention to the article about Helen Vendler in the December 10, 2006 New York Times. He has also reviewed Vendler’s book at Amazon. His review is at:
Vendler . The TIMES article is here.
Dr. Salawu writes: “Kindly note similar mentions of Irish Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney, and Professor Harold Bloom in relation to the Harvard professor, Vendler. I would like to read a prodigious amount of literature but I must attend to the minutiae of the computerese that pays my bills. Amy Hempel's COLLECTED STORIES is on the New York Times Top Ten books of the year -- I have not read the minimalist much. I prefer the prose and styles of Joan Didion, Cynthia Ozick and Jane Smiley. Nabokov insisted that literature is all about aesthetics, not morality and symbolism, but there are a million and one works of imaginative writing that challenge the inimitable punning genius's conclusion.”
 

NORMAN JULIAN’S COLUMN “THE WRITER’S LIFE” ONLINE

Norman Julian writes an interesting monthly column called " The Writer's Life" in the Morgantown DOMINION POST. One example, about Davis Grubb, author of NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, can be read here .
 

WRITING RETREATS WITH ELLEN BASS

Writing For Our Lives: Two Writing Retreats With Ellen Bass: Mallorca: April 28-May 6 or Tuscany: May 7 - 13, 2007 . For information, email Ellen Bass at ellen@ellenbass.com or see her web page at http://www.ellenbass.com .
 

JOHN AMEN

John Amen is working on a new CD which should be released in Spring 07. He’s also doing readings/performances in the spring– east and west coasts, including a reading in New York at the West Side Y with Larissa Shmailo and Colette Inez and a Philadelphia reading at the Manayunk Art Center. He’ll be in Hawaii in March and Maine in April. He’s recently been the North Carolina Arts Council featured poet. For more info, see http://www.johnamen.com.
 

DO YOU KNOW ABOUT WRITERSMEETUP.COM??

There’s a web site called http://www.Meetup.com dedicated to putting people in touch around interests ranging from scrapbookers to bikers. One of the largest groups is writers. It would be a useful way to find and organize writers in your area.
 

CONGRATULATIONS TO DIANE LOCKWARD

The 2006 Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize has been awarded by Wind Publications to WHAT FEEDS US by Diane Lockward. This prize is awarded annually to an outstanding book of poetry published by Wind Publications. It commemorates the late Quentin R. Howard who founded Wind Magazine in 1972. Diane is the author of two previous collections, EVE’S RED DRESS (2003) and a chapbook, AGAINST PERFECTION (1998). Diane’s web page is http://www.dianelockward.com.
 

CHRIS GRABENSTEIN’S BOOK IS NOW IN AUDIO!

Now you can download Chris Grabenstein’s thriller SLAY RIDE . The award-winning actor Jeff Woodman reads and performs the whole book. Once you download SLAY RIDE, you can listen to it on your iPod, MP3 player, or burn it onto CDs to take along in the car.

 

 

 

 

ABOUT AMAZON.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.
 

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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
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#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
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#138 Special on Publicity by Carter Seaton
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#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
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#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.
#130
Lynda Schor, Ed Myers, Charles Bukowski, Terry Bisson, The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism
#129 Baltasar and Blimunda; the Underground Railroad; Navasky's Naming Names, new and recommended small press and indie books.
#128 Jeffrey Sokolow on Histories and memoirs of the Civil Rights Movement
#127 Olive Kitteridge; Urban fiction; Shelley Ettinger on Joyce Carol Oates
#126 Jack Hussey's Ghosts of Walden, The Leopard , Roger's Version, The Reluctanct Fundamentalist
#125 Lee Maynard's The Pale Light of Sunset; Books on John Brown suggested by Jeffrey Sokolow
#124 Cloudsplitter, Founding Brothers, Obenzinger on Bradley's Harlem Vs. Columbia University
#123 MSW's summer reading round-up; Olive Schreiner; more The Book Thief; more on the state of editing
#122 Left-wing cowboy poetry; Jewish partisans during WW2; responses to "Hire a Book Doctor?"
#121 Jane Lazarre's latest; Irving Howe's Leon Trotsky; Gringolandia; "Hire a Book Doctor?"
#120 Dreama Frisk on The Book Thief; Mark Rudd; Thulani Davis's summer reading list
#119 Two Histories of the Jews; small press books for Summer
#118 Kasuo Ichiguro, Jeanette Winterson, The Carter Family!
#117 Cat Pleska on Ann Pancake; Phyllis Moore on Jayne Anne Phillips; and Dolly Withrow on publicity
#116 Ann Pancake, American Psycho, Marc Harshman on George Mackay Brown
#115 Adam Bede, Nietzsche, Johnny Sundstrom
#114 Judith Moffett, high fantasy, Jared Diamond, Lily Tuck
#113 Espionage--nonfiction and fiction: Orson Scott Card and homophobia
#112 Marc Kaminsky, Nel Noddings, Orson Scott Card, Ed Myers
#111 James Michener, Mary Lee Settle, Ardian Gill, BIll Higginson, Jeremy Osner, Carol Brodtick
#110  Nahid Rachlin, Marion Cuba on self-publishing; Thulani Davis, The Road, memoirs
#109 Books about the late nineteen-sixties: Busy Dying; Flying Close to the Sun; Looking Good; Trespassers
#108 The Animal Within; The Ground Under My Feet; King of Swords
#107 The Absentee; Gorky Park; Little Scarlet; Howl; Health Proxy
#106 Castle Rackrent; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; More on Drown; Blindness & more
#105 Everything is Miscellaneous, The Untouchable, Kettle Bottom by Diane Gilliam Fisher
#104 Responses to Shelley on Junot Diaz and more; More best books of 2007
#103 Guest Editor: Shelley Ettinger and her best books of 2007
#102 Saramago's BLINDNESS; more on NEVER LET ME GO; George Lies on Joe Gatski
#101 My Brilliant Career, The Scarlet Letter, John Banville, Never Let Me Go
#100 The Poisonwood Bible, Pamela Erens, More Harry P.
#99   Jonathan Greene on Amazon.com; Molly Gilman on Dogs of Babel
#98   Guest editor Pat Arnow; more on the Amazon.com debate
#97   Using Thomas Hardy; Why I Write; more
#96   Lucy Calkins, issue fiction for young adults
#95   Collapse, Harry Potter, Steve Geng
#94   Alice Robinson-Gilman, Maynard on Momaday
#93   Kristin Lavransdatter, House Made of Dawn, Leaving Atlanta
#92   Death of Ivan Ilych; Memoirs
#91   Richard Powers discussion
#90   William Zinsser, Memoir, Shakespeare
#89   William Styron, Ellen Willis, Dune, Germinal, and much more
#88   Sandra Cisneros's Caramelo
#87   Wings of the Dove, Forever After (9/11 Teachers)
#86   Leora Skolkin-Smith, American Pastoral, and more
#85   Wobblies, Winterson, West Virginia Encyclopedia
#84   Karen Armstrong, Geraldine Brooks, Peter Taylor
#83   3-Cornered World, Da Vinci Code
#82   The Eustace Diamonds, Strapless, Empire Falls
#81   Philip Roth's The Plot Against America , Paola Corso
#80   Joanne Greenberg, Ed Davis, more Murdoch; Special Discussion on Memoir--Frey and J.T. Leroy
#79   Adam Sexton, Iris Murdoch, Hemingway
#78   The Hills at Home; Tess of the D'Urbervilles; Jean Stafford
#77   On children's books--guest editor Carol Brodtrick
#76   Mary Lee Settle, Mary McCarthy
#75   The Makioka Sisters
#74    In Our Hearts We Were Giants
#73    Joyce Dyer
#72    Bill Robinson WWII story
#71    Eva Kollisch on G.W. Sebald
#70    On Reading
#69    Nella Larsen, Romola
#68    P.D. James
#67    The Medici
#66    Curious Incident,Temple Grandin
#65
   Ingrid Hughes on Memoir
#64
    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
#49    
Caucasia
#48    
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
#25
   On Libraries....
#24    Tales of the City
#23
   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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