Thursday, April 17, 2014

Meredith Sue Willis's Books for Readers # 169 April 17, 2014


Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 169

April 17, 2014

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In this Issue:

Pearl S. Buck Memoirs of her Parents;
Short Takes; A Word from the Sponsor;
The E-Reader Report with John Birch;
Things to Read Online; Announcements


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I want to reommend two books by Pearl S. Buck about her mother and her father (image to left: Buck on the far left with father, little sister, mother, and beloved nurse).
I've been reading Buck's work for several months in preparation for a talk at Buck's birthplace in June, and I want to acknowledge the direction given to me by Eddy Pendarvis and Phyllis Moore in choosing the core Buck works to read. I've featured some reviews of her work and of books about her (see Eddy Pendarvis on a rediscovered Buck novel and Dreama Frisk on a Buck biography .
Few few people associate Buck, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature, with my home state of West Virginia, largely because she is tied so closely with China where she grew up. Her parents were dedicated missionaries, and she grew up bilingual in English and Chinese, experiencing revolution and war at a very early age. She witnessed the results of terrible famine and the abandoned corpses of baby girls. Her Pulitzer prize winning early novel The Good Earth--under-valued today though often greatly loved-- was all most Americans knew about China in the first half of the twentieth century. Buck was highly successful as a popular writer and speaker and founded organizations for giving homes to orphans here in the States. She was a woman of great power and political activism as well as being the major interpreter of Chinese life to Americans.
Much of her good work, however, was supported by a string of old-fashioned B-grade pot boilers. The two books I want to talk about are among her best. The memoir/biography of her mother is called The Exile, and it is a document of love and praise. She calls Carie Sydenstricker the most human person she ever knew, by which she means not dedicated to abstractions like her father with his god-driven life, but rather warm and caring and giving practical aid to everyone around her, while remaining humorous and playful and sometimes angry-- in spite of the deaths of children and political turmoil that endangered her family.
Buck makes Carie an amazingly gallant and attractive person. She died in her early sixties, so she was very much herself at the end, still grabbing for and loving life– maybe more openly in her final years than during her youth, when she when she always seemed to think she was somehow bad or faulty for not being more "spiritual" and "saintly" like her husband. I've never read such a convincing love letter to a mother– also full of incidents in the peculiar lives of the American protestant missionary community in China in the late 1800's.
Pearl Buck's father, on the other hand, is clearly much more difficult for her to write about. Yet here too she manages to create a full and wryly loving portrait, even though the man caused much harm and pain to his family.  Fighting Angel: Portrait of a Soul is a struggle-- ultimately successful-- to understand someone whose strengths are all dispassionate and in many ways inhuman. Had he not been her father, she probably would never have been able to be so kind to him. The story is of a quintessentially nineteenth century American mind spoiled by religious certainty. He believes in submitting himself fully to his religion, about which he appears to have no doubts. He also operates under a fully developed patriarchal system of values: as he submits to God, he expects the women in his family to submit to him. Buck writes of the missionaries as a group that "Religion in their case, as in so many another, has hardened their hearts and made it impossible for them so see, except through the dark glass of their own creed, what life is or ought to be."
And yet Absalom or "Andrew" as she calls him, apparently had a great deal of a kind of distant charm. He was also anti-racist (stood up for Chinese preachers when the Europeans and other Americans were deeply contemptuous of them), and was much loved, especially in his later years, by many Chinese who called him "The Old Teacher."  He was also physically courageous, staying put during revolutions when other missionaries fled. She sums him up at the end by saying, "But Andrew never touched the fringe of human life, he never knew its stuff, he never felt its doubt nor shared its pain. And so he lived, a happy soul, and never knew he died."
Whew. What a great line. She makes a powerful case for the happiness of a man who is completely sure of his direction, of his end, of his work.


                                                                                  Meredith Sue Willis




A Word from the Sponsor: Newest Love Palace Reviews!



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SHORT TAKES    (by MSW Unless Otherwise Noted)

Phyllis Moore on Zelda Fitzgerald's Save Me the Waltz:

I just read Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler, one of the latest Zelda novels, and gave it an "I Like It" on Goodreads. One book does lead to another.
After years of avoiding it, I'm listening to Zelda's only published novel Save Me the Waltz (it was dumped on by USA critics but lauded in Europe). I'd assumed it was 2nd rate but now find I I like it very much, perhaps because it is so autobiographical, and partly because it opens in Montgomery. Montgomery is one of those glittering white small southern towns and she describes it so well. Plus, Jim and I visited the house she and Scott rented there and walked on the wooden floor in her "ballet" room.
The novel is like Zelda: Over the top and beautiful. I can see and smell the flowers and watch the flirty deb. I'd hoped to read along as a I listened.  Unfortunately, no local library has a copy!  I guess they were discarded in prior sales. It really is a listeners novel. Her flowery language comes across well in speech and I might have skipped some of it as I speed along.  It is said she wrote it in six weeks but she must have thought about it for years. Scott objected to its publication but finally agree to "allow" it to be published. He had struggled with  writing TENDER IS THE NIGHT for about three years and would not finish it for four more. The two novels are basically about their marriage.
 

#specialcharacters by Larissa Shmailo

I thought this was going to be all poetry, but it is much more experimental than that, ending with a wonderful piece about a woman who is close to the end of the line with aging, mental illness, and poverty. It's called "MIRROR, or a Flash in the Pan." It is very close to fiction, although it certainly has passages of poetry. It's an excellent piece, crystal clear and shockingly honest. The collection also includes what is rightfully maybe Shmailo's most famous (popular?) poem, available to read on line, "The Other Woman's Cunt". This one is angry, raunchy, vicious and -- by the way! -- hilarious.
There is a fair amount of typographical experimentation and deep connections to literature and mythology, but at its heart, as a whole, the book has the remarkable quality of being extremely moving even when you aren't sure what's going on.
That's a serious statement, too, because you have the feeling that things that look like games on the surface – for example, a short poem called " t(his), (he)re" – are in fact the only way Shmailo could have written what she wanted to write. This is highly recommended as both interesting experimental work and for its powerful emotional connections.
Learn more about Larissa Shmailo here.


Rama: Gaze in My Direction by Liz Lewinson

This biography of Frederick Philip Lenz, III, Ph.D., also known as Rama and Atmananda, is written by a woman whose spiritual practice was profoundly formed by him. It traces the first part of his life, including his youth and his time as a follower of Sri Chinmoy as well as the founding of his own institutions.
Rama taught what he termed American Buddhism with a mix of Zen, Tibetan, Vedanta, and other forms of mysticism. Among other things, Lewinson recounts miracles witnessed by various individuals and has interviewed many people for their take on Rama.
There was controversy surrounding Rama, but you can find that easily enough on the web. Essentially, this is a biography of a fascinating human being who claimed–and is believed by many – to have been both an enlightened teacher and the culmination of many past lives.




Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup

As of this writing, I haven't yet seen the movie, but the book is thoroughly worth reading on its own. it is an excellent example of the slave narratives that were published in the 19th century. This one came out just after Uncle Tom's Cabin (Twelve Years in 1853, Uncle Tom in 1852), and Northrup dedicated his book to Harriet Beecher Stowe. It is an as-told-to book (edited by David Wilson), written to some large extent as propaganda, with a trajectory (like Uncle Tom's Cabin) of increasingly evil slaveholders, geographically deeper into the South. In this case, there is the happy ending of Northrup's release.
He is, as I assume most people know at this point, a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery The book is clearly and simply told, gripping for its witness. It doesn't spend a lot of time on the despair that Northrup must have felt during those twelve years– it narrates the despair but doesn't dramatize it– focusing on the facts, which are damning enough without any melodrama at all.
One of the interesting points is how impossible it would have been for Northrup to run away and get home from the bayous of Louisiana on his own. Much of the fascination is learning about the everyday lives of the enslaved-- details, for example, of their diet and how they supplemented it
Don't forget you can get this free from Project Gutenberg and elsewhere. Also, take a look at the article in the New Yorker about the historian who got a shout out from Steve McQueen at the Oscars– a Louisiana woman whose historical work centered on Northrup:
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2014/03/the-historian-who-unearthed-twelve-years-a-slave.html .

 

Geek Love By Katherine Dunn

This is one of those books known as a cult classic-- the story of a carnival sideshow family that creates its own side show children. It's engaging in its satisfyingly weird way. The ending is a little contrived, but I can't imagine anything better--warm-hearted in spite of all the ugliness of creating handicapped children and exploitation all around.. Artie, the boy who is all torso, smokes cigars and takes over the Binewski family. He's essentially a sleazy little godfather, sexy in his perverted way. There are a couple of pulled punches--incest is never quite acted out, although it was obviously in the air and would have simplified some of the complicated plot stresses. Published in 1989, it was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Dunn has not written a novel since Geek Love, but is an accomplished writer about boxing!


Forever Sad the Hearts by Patricia L. Walsh

This Vietnam war novel was Phyllis Moore's suggestion while I was looking for books by nurses. I now find that it has been repackaged as a memoir, River City. As far as I can tell, it's the same book with a new cover and some photos. Walsh also has a memoir of PTSD and a movie called The Other Angels about going to a celebration of nurses in Vietnam back in '93 or so.
This novel, which I always assumed was mostly a memoir, is structured around the experience of a civilian nurse in Vietnam during the intensifying attacks from the North Vietnam/Viet Cong forces.  It is totally gripping, and amazingly real: the extreme American desire to "do something," and how half the time or more that turns out to be a failure. The insanity of bombing villages and then bringing the wounded into the civilian hospitals for treatment. The horror of patients choking on their own worms, the inability to tell who is on whose side.
This is the first in-country Vietnam story that made real emotional sense to me: the soldier stories have always mostly made me want to flee. But this story is about women, twenty-something nurses, who want to help and also want adventure. They save babies, take them to orphanages (run by half-French nuns), then have to run from bombs. They sleep with loaded pistols beside their beds. They drink a lot.
There are only a few glances at politics when the nurses and their friends comment on the irony of giving medical care to the people the soldiers and shooting and bombing and burning, always returning to how evil the communists must be. The soldiers themselves bring the victims in. There is a constant scramble to borrow supplies as the supplies sent to the civilian hospitals are usually stolen before they arrive.
Not great literature, but powerful witness.

 

Books on War From a Non-Eurocentric or American Perspective

Joydeep Roy-Battacharya, author of the excellent The Watch (reviewed in Issue #163), suggests three books about war from a non-Eurocentric perspective:

1. Bao Ninh, The Sorrow of War (about the Vietnam war)
2. Hassan Blasim, The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq (about the war in Iraq)
3. Tahar ben Jelloun, This Blinding Absence of Light

He also reminded us of the great religious-philosophical classic The Bhagavad Gita, which takes place in the middle of a war.

 

THE E-READER REPORT WITH JOHN BIRCH: YOU MAY HAVE SOME MONEY COMING TO YOU...

... but it may not be much, and it's complicated! You'll probably remember last year's e-book price fixing scandal, in which Apple was found to be a guilty party. Five major publishers involved in the debate reached a federal court settlement, as a result of which you may be entitled to a modest payout. The settlement dictates that people may get a retrospective benefit from the deal. If you bought an e-book from one of the publishers between April 1st 2010 and May 21st 2012, you could be eligible for a $3.06 pay-out for each book you bought. But – and it's quite a big but -- there's an unexpected condition, it turns out that these amounts are only for books that appeared on the New York Times best seller list. Books that weren't in that list will only get a payment of 73 cents. The payback will apply to e-books purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple, and reach you in the form of a credit with whichever seller you bought them from. Furthermore, these sums are, still tentative. Macmillan and Penguin have approved the settlement, but still "need to finalize their stance." But it looks certain that, providing that you satisfy all the conditions, you'll get at least a few bucks back!

John Birch's latest post is a wonderful essay on that most quintessentially British food product, Marmite. Check it out at www.JohnBirchLive.blogspot.com.
 

RESPONSES FROM READERS

John Van Kirk writes that he just read the note at the bottom of the newsletter about where to buy books. He said, "I wondered if you were aware of Indiebound, a website that allows shoppers to locate and link to their nearest independent bookstore. It's a great way to support independent bookstores. And thank you for the link to Powell's via the union—great resource."
 
Thank you for the suggestion, John! Here's a link to Indiebound so readers may find their nearest local bookstores.


TO READ ONLINE

Interview with Belinda Anderson, author of Jackson Vs. Witchy Wanda: Making Kid Soup (See my review in Books for Readers Issue #167.
Check out Susan Rabin's page with information about her new book, The Summer Train!
How to Collaborate on Writing a book from Laura Treacy Bentley's blog: http://www.lauratreacybentley.com/apps/blog/entries/show/41980432-spotlight-jane-congdon
Just for fun: Joel Weinberger tweeted a site with world's worst book covers and titles: http://www.boredpanda.com/funny-book-titles-covers/
For do-it-yourselfers: A site about making good (and bad!) Book covers: http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/designing-book-covers/
Bad news for British writers, from the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/02/bestseller-novel-to-bust-author-life .
Conversation with Jeanette Walls by Laura Treacy Bentley at WVLIVING
Dave Barry reviews 50 Shades of Grey: "Dave Barry Learns Everything You Need to Know about Being a Husband from 50 Shades of Grey"
 

 

SPECIAL FOR WRITERS

For writers: Book Marketing Toolkit: http://bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com/2013/11/book-marketing-author-publicity-toolkit.html .
Anyone writing a medical thriller? Here's a WRITERS DIGEST blog column on how to to it (a lot is pretty obvious).
 

ANNOUNCEMENTS, NEWS, CONTESTS, WORKSHOPS, READINGS ETC.

If you're near Yellow Springs, Ohio-- Epic Bookshop is newly-reopened at 229 Xenia Avenue between the Senior Citizens Center and the Emporium/Underdog Cafe. Celebrate National Poetry Month on Sunday, April 27 at 2:30 p.m. for an afternoon of poetry at Epic with Julie L. Moore, Rita Coleman, and Ed Davis. More info at www.davised.com/2014/03/epic-poetry-in-april/
Coming in June: The North Wildwood Beach Writers' Conference (http://www.nwbwc.com/)
July workshop on turning your story into a play in Rhinebeck, NY with Rosary O'Neill.
Mobius, The Poetry Magazine for Sale: Juanita Torrence-Thompson, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher/Owner of internationally acclaimed Mobius, The Poetry Magazine, seeks poets, editors, colleges, or organizations interested in purchasing and publishing 32 year-old print magazine. Serious buyers only. Previous contributors include Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Nikki Giovanni, Marge Piercy, Robert Bly, Sonia Sanchez, Naomi Shihab Nye, Charles Simic, Cornelius Eady, Elizabeth Alexander, Colette Inez, Yusef Komunyakaa, Diane Wakoski, Samuel Menashe, Maurice Kenny, Simon Perchik, Lyn Lifshin, Duane Niatum, Joseph Bruchac, Ed Galing, Daniela Gioseffi, Louis Reyes Rivera, Hal Sirowitz, Stephen Stepanchev, Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan, Daniel Thomas Moran, A.D. Winans, etc. www.mobiuspoetry.com. For more information, email poetrytownjtt@gmail.com.

Now available as an e-book-- Valerie Nieman's Neena Gathering!

Now available: Queen Lear by Ellen Conley
William Luvaas's book has been called Book of the Year! Ashes Rain Down..
Rosary O'Neill has a new book: New Orleans Carnival Krewes The History, Spirit and Secrets of Mardi Gras .
Ross Ballard writes: "We're doing the Happy Dance around the studio here at MountainWhispers.com Audiobooks. (Thank God, cuz I just spend a fortune building a new studio. No really...near $300k) Our production of Lee Maynard's 'Screaming with the Cannibals' has grabbed a coveted Audie Nomination for Best Audio Drama from the Audio Publishers Association. (www.theaudies.com) I'm guessing with the first WV studio to be nominated for an Audie. Win, lose, or draw we'll be partying with a Hollywood 'A' list in NYC on May 29th. Some other nominees are Meryl Steep, Donald Sutherland, Billy Crystal, Neil Gaiman, they're all coming. etc. etc… woohoo…."  Congratulations Ross & Mountain Whispers!
The indefatigable folks at CROPPS keep on sending us places to submit! Get on their list for regular notices about open submissions at various literary journals and presses: CRWROPPS-B@yahoogroups.com
Rita Quillen's historical novel HIDING EZRA, inspired by a true story from the life of her husband’s grandfather and set in Scott County, VA, is just out from Little Creek Books.  Samples and information at www.ritasimsquillen.com. Order paperback or the Kindle version here:http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_11?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=hiding+ezra&sprefix=hiding+ezra%2Caps%2C359. Barnes & Noble here:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/hiding-ezra?keyword=hiding+ezra&store=book . Or, if you'd like to win a free copy, try Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/82380-hiding-ezra . Finally, if you "Like" Rita's Facebook author page at www.facebook.com/ritaquillenhidingezra , she'll be giving away 1 free book for every 100 LIKES the page gets.
If you are in Northern New Jersey, learn about regular, excellent, free programs and peer workshops, many at the Montclair Library and environs. To get the monthly announcements, send an e-mail request to Carl Selinger at selinger99@aol.com .
 

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 of 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 that you may be able to borrow it from your public library as either a hard copy or a digital copy. You may also buy or order from your local independent bookstore. (To find a bricks-and-mortar store, click the "shop indie" logo left).
To buy books online, I often go first to Bookfinder or Alibris. Bookfinder gives the 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 source for used and out-of-print books is All Book Stores. Also consider Paperback Book Swap, a postage only way to trade books with other readers.

If you are using an electronic reader like Kindle, Nook, or Kobo, don't forget free books at the Gutenberg Project—mostly classics, but other things as well.
Kobobooks.com sells books for independent brick-and-mortar bookstores.

RESPONSES TO THIS NEWSLETTER

Please send responses to this newsletter and suggestions directly to Meredith Sue Willis . Unless you instruct otherwise, your responses may be edited for length and published in this newsletter.
 

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BACK ISSUES:

#169 Pearl Buck's The Exile and Fighting Angel; Larissa Shmailo; Liz Lewinson; Twelve Years a Slave, and more
#168 Catherine the Great, Alice Munro, Edith Poor, Mitch Levenberg, Vonnegut, Mellville, and more!
#167 Belinda Anderson; Anne Shelby; Sean O'Leary, Dragon tetralogy; Don Delillo's Underworld
#166 Eddy Pendarvis on Pearl S. Buck; Theresa Basile; Miguel A. Ortiz; Lynda Schor; poems by Janet Lewis; Sarah Fielding
#165 Janet Lewis, Melville, Tosltoy, Irwin Shaw!
#164 Ed Davis on Julie Moore's poems; Edith Wharton; Elaine Drennon Little's A Southern Place; Elmore Leonard
#163 Pamela Erens, Michael Harris, Marlen Bodden, Joydeep Roy-Battacharya, Lisa J. Parker, and more
#162 Lincoln, Joseph Kennedy, Etel Adnan, Laura Treacy Bentley, Ron Rash, Sophie's Choice, and more
#161 More Wilkie Collins; Duff Brenna's Murdering the Mom; Nora Olsen's Swans & Klons; Lady Audley's Secret
#160 Carolina De Robertis, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Ross King's The Judgment of Paris
#159 Tom Jones. William Luvaas, Marc Harshman, The Good Earth, Lara Santoro, American Psycho
#158 Chinua Achebe's Man of the People; The Red and the Black; McCarthy's C.; Farm City; Victor Depta;Myra Shapiro
#157 Alice Boatwright, Reamy Jansen, Herta Muller, Knut Hamsun, What Maisie Knew; Wanchee Wang, Dolly Withrow.
#156 The Glass Madonna; A Revelation
#155 Buzz Bissinger; reader suggestions; Satchmo at the Waldorf
#154 Hannah Brown, Brad Abruzzi, Thomas Merton
#153 J.Anthony Lukas, Talmage Stanley's The Poco Fields, Devil Anse
#152 Marc Harshman guest editor; John Burroughs; Carol Hoenig
#151 Deborah Clearman, Steve Schrader, Paul Harding, Ken Follet, Saramago-- and more!
#150 Mitch Levenberg, Johnny Sundstrom, and Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns.
#149 David Weinberger's Too Big to Know; The Shining; The Tiger's Wife.
#148 The Moonstone, Djibouti, Mark Perry on the Grimké family
#147 Jane Lazarre's new novel; Johnny Sundstrom; Emotional Medicine Rx; Walter Dean Myers, etc.
#146 Henry Adams AGAIN!  Also,Fun Home: a Tragicomic
#145 Henry Adams, Darnell Arnoult, Jaimy Gordon, Charlotte Brontë
#144 Carter Seaton, NancyKay Shapiro, Lady Murasaki Shikibu
#143 Little America; Guns,Germs, and Steel; The Trial
#142 Blog Fiction, Leah by Seymour Epstein, Wolf Hall, etc.
#141 Dreama Frisk on Hilary Spurling's Pearl Buck in China; Anita Desai; Cormac McCarthy
#140 Valerie Nieman's Blood Clay, Dolly Withrow
#139 My Kindle, The Prime Minister, Blood Meridian
#138 Special on Publicity by Carter Seaton
#137 Michael Harris's The Chieu Hoi Saloon; Game of Thrones; James Alexander Thom's Follow the River
#136 James Boyle's The Creative Commons; Paola Corso, Joanne Greenberg, Monique Raphel High, Amos Oz
#135 Reviews by Carole Rosenthal, Jeffrey Sokolow, and Wanchee Wang.
#134 Daniel Deronda, books with material on black and white relations in West Virginia
#133 Susan Carpenter, Irene Nemirovsky, Jonathan Safran Foer, Kanafani, Joe Sacco
#132 Karen Armstrong's A History of God; JCO's The Falls; The Eustace Diamonds again.
#131 The Help; J. McHenry Jones, Reamy Jansen, Jamie O'Neill, Michael Chabon.
#130
Lynda Schor, Ed Myers, Charles Bukowski, Terry Bisson, The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism
#129 Baltasar and Blimunda; Underground Railroad; Navasky's Naming Names, 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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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Activities Out in the World!

Starting a busy spell in my teaching life: a high school in Park Ridge, New Jersey; NYU Advanced Novel continuing; as is my class at the Veterans' Administration Hospital in Lyons. I just did a workshop with seniors at the Newark Museum, and I have a whole week of workshops and talks coming up in June in West Virginia, part of it associated with the Allegheny Echoes Summer Workshops. I'll be doing writing, of course, not music! It looks like a lot of fun, and I'm also going to give a talk on Pearl S. Buck, born in West Virginia. I bet you didn't know that!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mother and Child...

Andy and I went out for a drive to mid-western New Jersey yesterday--where the houses are huge and the American Equestrian team roams.  We stopped for a bite and in the parking lot, at the dumpsters, was a family of black vultures:  son or daughter begged for food, and Mom obliged with a typical nurturing bird regurgitation.   Baby is the one with its beak inside the mother's beak.

If you look at them long enough, they begin to get beautiful.


Saturday, March 08, 2014

Arabian Nights of the Internet....

The joys of ego surfing! It used to be easier to find new references to yourself, back in the days of the old search engines that brought up what was new rather than what is most popular. With Google, you have to look at too many pages of things you've seen before you find anything new.  But I digress. Last night I found a reference to my story "Scheherezade and Dunzyad" on a comparative literature course syllabus at the University of Kuwait! Is that cool or what? It includes what may be a translation into Arabic (okay, someone is going to tell me this is a recipe for kofta kebab, but how would I know)? In any case, finding that someone picked up my story over there is one of those pleasant moments of feeling connected all around-- ego stroked of course, too--but, honestly, given all the cacaphony and selling on the web, isn't this lovely?


Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Books for Reader

Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 168

March 5, 2014

When possible, read online for updates and corrections.  

     MSW Home

In this Issue:

Main Article: Catherine the Great and Clara Barton
Short Takes: Edith Poor, Mitch Levenberg, Jane Shapiro, Melville, Munro, & More
A Word from the Sponsor 
The E-Reader Report with John Birch
Backchannel
Announcements
Rita Quillen's new book


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I like biographies best as an entry into history. It helps me to have a person to track through the thickets of event and war. Catherine the Great by Robert Massie, which I borrowed as an e-book from the library, took me into central Europe and Russia in the eighteenth century. Massie became a popular historian of the Romanov family of Russian royalty because his own child was a hemophiliac, and he started reading about the hemophiliac son of Nicholas and Alexandra.
Catherine the Great strove to be an enlightened autocrat: half her life she struggled to hold a precarious place as the unloved wife of a psychological mess, the great nephew of Peter the Great. Often out of favor, she read and studied. Never able to have enough of a relationship with her husband to get pregnant, she finally had a son almost certainly with a lover. This, however, appears to have fulfilled the dynastic requirement.
Then, when she was 33, she participated in a coup that overthrew her husband. He was quickly assassinated by her friends, although apparently not at her orders. She subsequently lived thirty some years as empress, trying to rule by convincing and building public agreement, yet always in the end turning to autocracy. She and Peter the Great (according the Massie) were the only really successful enlightened autocrats in Russia.
Catherine was smart and well-read, and had diplomatic skills. She also started wars, raised her favorites to government positions and made them rich. She censored writers and anyone else she was afraid of-- especially after the French Revolution which terrified her and every other crowned head of Europe. Yet she abandoned torture as a method of getting information, and early in her reign made a serious but abortive effort to rewrite the laws of Russia along Enlightenment principles. This would have included the slow emancipation of the serfs. She may have been as good as it got in 18th century Russia, but it was never very good, at least not for those not born in the upper classes.
Which is where most of us living today would have been.
It was, by the way, Catherine who seized the Crimea from the Ottoman Empire-- Crimea of the Crimean War and the present crisis in the Ukraine.

An extraordinary woman of a very different position in life was Clara Barton, whose given name was "Clarissa Harlowe" Barton, presumably after the heroine of the gargantuan novel by Samuel Richardson. I read A Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War by Stephen B. Oates with deep engagement. 2013 was the 150th birthday of my home state of West Virginia, split from Virginia during the Civil War, and one of the earliest historical books I ever read was about Andersonville, the horrific prison camp in Georgia where union prisoners of war were kept.
What is best about Oates' book is first his focus on Barton's part in the war. He summarizes her other accomplishments (founding a school, breaking the gender barrier at the patent office in Washington, D.C., making a living on the lecture circuit, founding the American Red Cross and more), but mostly he writes about her struggles to participate in the war.
He also makes a serious effort at portraying Barton's complexity. She went through major depressions and was not always easy to work with– she had major disagreements, for example, with Dorothea Dix, who organized nursing at large hospitals behind the lines of battle. Barton was a freelance during the war, giving succor to soldiers with shells falling around her. She was hugely brave, vastly energetic and enormously capable, and she was met with opposition at every turn by individuals, bureaucracy, and culture.
She based her right to go into the war zone on being single yet having a large family, so she was not needed at home. Indeed, when her father was dying and later when her older brother and her nephew were ill, she stopped public work for months in order to nurse them. This, of course, was how nineteenth century women learned nursing, and where their first allegiance was supposed to lie.
At the age of nearly 40, she determined that she was going to be a part of the union effort in the Civil War. She wrote appeals, she collected supplies--and finally broke through her own scruples about women's role as well as official opposition and went to the battlefields: She was at Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and others, almost always working under fire
I said she overcame great opposition, but she also never lacked friends and admirers in government. She was also hugely popular among the rank-and-file, and for a whole generation man named their daughters after her. She went through periods of round-the-clock nursing and cooking and letter writing for the soldiers, then periods of inaction, depression, and sometimes near-paranoia. She spent four years at the great eastern theater battles, and also on the sea islands outside Charleston SC where she witnessed the brutal charge of the first "colored" regiment, the Massachusetts 54th, as it charged in what was essentially a suicide mission. Admiring these heroic fighters and getting to know other men and women, she became increasingly less racist and more abolitionist. When the war was over, she began systematizing the efforts of families to find missing soldiers. Her final war project was to get names on the graves at the notorious Andersonville.
Clara Barton made up her life's work as she went along, and witnessed and wrote about things that still freeze your mind: the amputations and the dysentery and malaria that killed more of the soldiers than battle.  I can only admire how Oates used his historian's tools to bring me this foray into the Civil War following the trail of a great woman.

                                                                 Meredith Sue Willis




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SHORT TAKES (by MSW Unless Otherwise Noted)


Voicework By Edith Poor

This is a small book, now available as an e-book, that works like a Montaigne essai,alternating short passages of quotation with the author's deeper examinations and arguments. Edith Poor looks at traditional perceptions of women's and men's voices, carefully delineating what is physiological from the cultural and psychological. She shows us how perceptions have shaped our public speaking and, in the case of many women in leadership positions, kept them from reaching their potential. In too many situations, the "masculine" style of speaking remains the ideal, even if women are the speakers. Edith Poor suggests that we can all– men and women– expand the range of our voices and make them more flexible for communicating what is important to us. She also suggests that we would do well to expand our hearing skills as well.




Write Something by Mitch Levenberg

This is a surprisingly engaging trip into the life and mind of a Brooklyn writer, particularly his public readings and his relationship to the other readers, the audience, and to his own stories. He calls the pieces, in his introduction, a collection of short essays, and they come mostly from his blog (http://mitchlevenberg.com/blog/).
The truth is that I don't usually read prose about writing and the writing process: it's what I do and what I teach, so I like to read about cooks and bricklayers, or just about everything except writers. But this one is delightfully different, and I can't exactly say why. Partly it's that even though it appears on the surface to be self-referential (it's a writer writing about times he has read his writing), the sensation is of a deep sharp tunnel into a special world. There are hilarious passages about the other readers, who arrive late, spend too long flipping through their manuscripts, and the audiences who don't respond to a story that other audiences have always responded to. There are foods eaten and drinks drunk, and the delightful honesty of how the writer is sometimes moved by his own writing– and why shouldn't he be? If he isn't moved, how on earth could we be? Anyhow, Mitch Levenberg is clearly someone who can take absolutely anything his eye lights on and make that thing light up.
Small, sharp, and wonderful. An e-book only, so far.
Here's my review of Levenberg's short story collection in Principles of Uncertainty and Other Constants in Issue # 150.



Dear Life By Alice Munro



I don't feel much need to praise Alice Munro. She just won the freaking Nobel Prize.
I read this collection over a number of months, and I intend to reread a couple of the stories just to learn from her incredible ability to move a story from here to there and give the delight of surprise.
The book seems structured more or less from young main characters to older ones, and I liked the aged stories best. One, a nightmare of dementia, is called "In Sight of the Lake," a real chiller, at least once you are old enough to start imagining losing your mind. Another, "Dolly," also an aging story, is about a long time couple and a resurgence of jealousy and a slight resettling of the rules of engagement. Both brilliant.


                                                                      

Benito Cereno by Herman Melville


This was pretty neat: as usual with Melville in my experience, you have to get over the slow, tedious listings of names and information and documents-- probably fake but in this case based on a real incident. The novel works by having a rather naive point-of-view character tell most of the story. He is faintly uncomfortable with what's going on around him, but forces himself to ignore his discomfort.
And of course the real story is exactly what is under the surface.
It was published a few years after Uncle Tom's Cabin, but still pre-civil war, and it has always caused controversy over whether it was pro-slavery and/or anti-black-- or actually abolitionist. There is a powerful cultural racism at work-- but Melville isn't unaware of this as his rebelling slaves depend totally on the belief of those they interact with that they are incapable of what they've done.
Nothing is ever said explicitly in the rebelling slaves' defense– no monologue on the gibbet, no hint of the enormous despair they must have felt– yet the novella ends not with the first narrator, and not with the eponymous Benito Cereno, but with the slave revolt ringleader Babo, who, once caught-- after a constant, articulate running of the show, pulling the strings, asking the questions through Benito Cereno's mouth, signalling the other ex-slaves– clams up and refuses to speak again. He is silent on the gibbet, and his head is put on a stake and displayed, also in silence.
Ending with him was an exquisite narrative choice.


The Dangerous Husband By Jane Shapiro

This is a hyperbolic tale of mutual assured destruction in a marriage: the klutz husband expanded and expounded to the nth degree. He kills pets inadvertently, breaks the narrator's toe and arm. She plans to have him assassinated but it doesn't quite work out. She tries to run away from him and fails. It has some sketchy plot points (like how does she find that hit man?) but it is unlike anything else I've ever read.
I read it soon after pushing the Sisyphean boulder of Underworld up the hill, so the narrative momentum alone was a great pleasure. Part of the fun of the novel is its incredibly claustrophobic world of Brooklyn brownstones where everyone is a writer or other creative type– even the hit man only lives as far from their Brooklyn Heights place as Park Slope, and he's a novelist too. For more, here's the New York Times review.


Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

A much shorter novel than I remembered, and I had also forgotten how much it was science fiction.  It was a favorite novel of the nineteen sixties, not nearly as popular now.  The best parts are the parts to me are the ones that were closest to Vonnegut's actual experience as a prisoner of war during the fire bombing of Dresden. All the meta stuff where he plays with "that was me," setting himself up as one of the prisoners of war, part of the frame story but also part of the protagonist Billy Pilgrim's story– all that seemed to work extremely well. Given the horrors Vonnegut experienced personally, the meta fiction indirection seems eminently reasonable. And he does set up some lovely characters, Billy Pilgrim sweet and passive everyman, Kilgore Trout the failed commercial science fiction writer, etc. Nasty little Paul Lazarro with revenge on his mind– many many good characters, and all the horror of the randomness of war is imitated nicely.
But then come the Tralfamadorians (and I see on Wikipedia that their planet reappears in Vonnegut books but with different details each time) shaped like plumber's helpers. Then comes the wet dream of Billy Pilgrim caged with a gorgeous actress and asked to mate with her– all that feels a little silly, as if he didn't work very hard. I think that mix of of real and crazy and lazy may be what delighted a certain generation of young people.


Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

This novel has an interesting premise: a group of war heroes, the Bravos, get a celebration before being whisked back to fight and probably die in Iraq. The satire is heavy handed (I'm sure it was meant to be), and also it seems to be skewering the same thing over and over. The novel has a well drawn "present time"-- the day of a big Cowboys football game, with full flashbacks to protagonist Billy Lynn's visit to his family. All the war material is done as bits and pieces of memories. It is the novelist's reconstruction of how war is remembered by one poor schmoo-- and it seems to work pretty well. There is a slipping and sliding around who is telling the story: is it Billy (19 and someone who barely made it out of high school), or is it the implied author with elaborate imagery and deep understanding of what is happening? It's a trick that allows the author to go full tilt with all his skills. It's his conscious choice, and a case can be made that it's just fine, but I felt a little manipulated by it: it makes Billy feel smarter and wiser than the other Bravos (let alone all the venal publicity people and top brass of the Dallas Cowboys). It makes him a brilliant prize winning writer, in fact.   On the other hand– it's entertaining, and sure makes this hillbilly want to stay the heck out of Texas.

 

 

THE E-READER REPORT WITH JOHN BIRCH: All's Not Well in the World of E-Books

All is not entirely well in the world of e-books. Amazon is holding the fort, but one or two casualties are appearing on the scene. You're probably aware of the decline and uncertain future of the Nook, Barnes & Noble's response to Kindle, following the recent layoff of a significant number or workers at B&N's Nook division. Then there's the shrinking of Barnes & Noble itself, which is closing 15 to 20 stores a year.
Recently, Sony has announced that it's retreating from its US e-book business, and has inked a deal for a handover to Kobo, a big international Japanese company that has 18 million customers, and access to 4 million e-books. And now there's another barely noticeable development – the fact that public libraries now have many, many more e-books available on loan. The website PublicLibraries.org reports "massive growth in e-book checkouts," adding that the number of e-books loaned by public libraries is growing by at least 100% every year. It remains to be seen how this increased availability of free e-books from public libraries will affect the sales of even Amazon, Kobo and their ilk..
See: www.JohnBirchLive.blogspot.com -- a growing collection of nearly 30 short stories, articles and essays. Most recent is a poem about a ten year old boy living in Kent in England when the German bombers were crossing over on their way to London.


BACKCHANNEL REPORT

Backchannel draws our attention to a Guardian article, On Liberty: Edward Snowden and top writers on what freedom means to them, at http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/21/on-liberty-edward-snowden-freedom .
Backchannel notes an article on books about the first World War, which has the centennial of its beginning this year.

 


TO READ ONLINE

Laura Treacy Bentley features writers on her excellent blog. The current one has wonderful Cat Pleska. Here's a 2011 photo of me, Lee Maynard, and Cat when she was the president of West Virginia Writers.
Phyllis Moore suggests an article online in The New Yorker where Jon Michaud discovers Breece Pancake.
A funny-sad cartoon blog called Depression Part Two: It begins: "I remember being endlessly entertained by the adventures of my toys. Some days they died repeated, violent deaths, other days they traveled to space or discussed my swim lessons.... "
Singapore Poetry is a site about all things Singaporean, run by a Singapore poet living in New York. It is called "a curated gallery of poetry by Singaporeans, and of all things poetic about Singapore....Though the spotlight is on Singapore poetry, this website will also showcase all things poetic about Singapore," says Jee Leong Koh, defining poetic s not just "beautiful or lyrical... [but] some quality that cannot be measured in economic terms, but is pursued for its own sake. These other forms of poetry may be found in the performing and fine arts, music, film, design, landscape, people and, yes, food. Singapore Poetry is especially interested in news of doings, happenings, and beings that travel off the beaten track, fly under the radar, and break new ground. Things not already supported by government agencies or public institutions."
Barbara Crooker's Zen bird poem from Little Pauxtent Review. Also see her "Ode to Chocolate" at http://www.tweetspeakpoetry.com/2014/02/12/8-chocolate-poems-love-chocolate/ (it's the last of seven).
For fun: Laren Stover has a recent piece in the Times on the new new corset-wearers: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/fashion/Sarah-A-Chrisman-wears-a-corset-for-a-year-and-writes-a-book.html?_r=0
Check out Long Reads at http://www.longreads.com/
 


ANNOUNCEMENTS, NEWS, CONTESTS, WORKSHOPS, READINGS ETC.


Carter Seaton's new book is Hippie Homesteaders about the "come-here's" who chose to move to West Virgnia. There is information at her website at http://www.carterseaton.com/ and on the publisher's website at http://wvupressonline.com/node/510#4 Hippie Homesteaders . See her at West Virginia's arts center Tamarack on April 6: http://www.carterseaton.com/pages/news.html#Tamarack .
New issue of the Marsh Hawk Review .
Rita Quillen's historical novel HIDING EZRA, inspired by a true story from the life of her husband’s grandfather and set in Scott County, VA, is just out from Little Creek Books.  Samples and information at www.ritasimsquillen.com. Order paperback or the Kindle version here:http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_11?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=hiding+ezra&sprefix=hiding+ezra%2Caps%2C359. Barnes & Noble here:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/hiding-ezra?keyword=hiding+ezra&store=book . Or, if you'd like to win a free copy, try Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/82380-hiding-ezra . Finally, if you "Like" Rita's Facebook author page at www.facebook.com/ritaquillenhidingezra , she'll be giving away 1 free book for every 100 LIKES the page gets.
Now available as an e-book: Keith Maillard's Alex Driving South.
The Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee has chosen Linda Elovitz Marshall's The Passover Lamb (Random House, 2013) as a Notable Book in the Younger Readers category for 2014!
Hour of Writes is conducting some research for a series of articles about creative writing, and how people relate creative writing practice to their private, work and social lives. Much of the material for these pieces comes from a big survey they're conducting. They're looking for participants (they say it's anonymous): https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HourOfWritesWriters001 .
Don't forget this list for regular notices about open submissions at various literary journals and presses: CRWROPPS-B@yahoogroups.com
If you are in Northern New Jersey, learn about regular, excellent, free programs and peer workshops, many at the Montclair Library and environs. To get the monthly announcements, send an e-mail request to Carl Selinger at selinger99@aol.com .


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 of 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 that you may be able to borrow it from your public library as either a hard copy or a digital copy. You may also buy or order from your local independent bookstore. To buy books online, I often go first to Bookfinder or Alibris. Bookfinder gives the 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 source for used and out-of-print books is All Book Stores. Also consider Paperback Book Swap, a postage only way to trade books with other readers.

If you are using an electronic reader like Kindle, Nook, or Kobo, don't forget free books at the Gutenberg Project—mostly classics, but other things as well.
Kobobooks.com sells books for independent brick-and-mortar bookstores.

RESPONSES TO THIS NEWSLETTER

Please send responses to this newsletter and suggestions directly to Meredith Sue Willis . Unless you instruct otherwise, your responses may be edited for length and published in this newsletter.
 

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BACK ISSUES:

#168 Catherine the Great, Alice Munro, Edith Poor, Mitch Levenberg, Vonnegut, Mellville, and more!
#167 Belinda Anderson; Anne Shelby; Sean O'Leary, Dragon tetralogy; Don Delillo's Underworld
#166 Eddy Pendarvis on Pearl S. Buck; Theresa Basile; Miguel A. Ortiz; Lynda Schor; poems by Janet Lewis; Sarah Fielding
#165 Janet Lewis, Melville, Tosltoy, Irwin Shaw!
#164 Ed Davis on Julie Moore's poems; Edith Wharton; Elaine Drennon Little's A Southern Place; Elmore Leonard
#163 Pamela Erens, Michael Harris, Marlen Bodden, Joydeep Roy-Battacharya, Lisa J. Parker, and more
#162 Lincoln, Joseph Kennedy, Etel Adnan, Laura Treacy Bentley, Ron Rash, Sophie's Choice, and more
#161 More Wilkie Collins; Duff Brenna's Murdering the Mom; Nora Olsen's Swans & Klons; Lady Audley's Secret
#160 Carolina De Robertis, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Ross King's The Judgment of Paris
#159 Tom Jones. William Luvaas, Marc Harshman, The Good Earth, Lara Santoro, American Psycho
#158 Chinua Achebe's Man of the People; The Red and the Black; McCarthy's C.; Farm City; Victor Depta;Myra Shapiro
#157 Alice Boatwright, Reamy Jansen, Herta Muller, Knut Hamsun, What Maisie Knew; Wanchee Wang, Dolly Withrow.
#156 The Glass Madonna; A Revelation
#155 Buzz Bissinger; reader suggestions; Satchmo at the Waldorf
#154 Hannah Brown, Brad Abruzzi, Thomas Merton
#153 J.Anthony Lukas, Talmage Stanley's The Poco Fields, Devil Anse
#152 Marc Harshman guest editor; John Burroughs; Carol Hoenig
#151 Deborah Clearman, Steve Schrader, Paul Harding, Ken Follet, Saramago-- and more!
#150 Mitch Levenberg, Johnny Sundstrom, and Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns.
#149 David Weinberger's Too Big to Know; The Shining; The Tiger's Wife.
#148 The Moonstone, Djibouti, Mark Perry on the Grimké family
#147 Jane Lazarre's new novel; Johnny Sundstrom; Emotional Medicine Rx; Walter Dean Myers, etc.
#146 Henry Adams AGAIN!  Also,Fun Home: a Tragicomic
#145 Henry Adams, Darnell Arnoult, Jaimy Gordon, Charlotte Brontë
#144 Carter Seaton, NancyKay Shapiro, Lady Murasaki Shikibu
#143 Little America; Guns,Germs, and Steel; The Trial
#142 Blog Fiction, Leah by Seymour Epstein, Wolf Hall, etc.
#141 Dreama Frisk on Hilary Spurling's Pearl Buck in China; Anita Desai; Cormac McCarthy
#140 Valerie Nieman's Blood Clay, Dolly Withrow
#139 My Kindle, The Prime Minister, Blood Meridian
#138 Special on Publicity by Carter Seaton
#137 Michael Harris's The Chieu Hoi Saloon; Game of Thrones; James Alexander Thom's Follow the River
#136 James Boyle's The Creative Commons; Paola Corso, Joanne Greenberg, Monique Raphel High, Amos Oz
#135 Reviews by Carole Rosenthal, Jeffrey Sokolow, and Wanchee Wang.
#134 Daniel Deronda, books with material on black and white relations in West Virginia
#133 Susan Carpenter, Irene Nemirovsky, Jonathan Safran Foer, Kanafani, Joe Sacco
#132 Karen Armstrong's A History of God; JCO's The Falls; The Eustace Diamonds again.
#131 The Help; J. McHenry Jones, Reamy Jansen, Jamie O'Neill, Michael Chabon.
#130
Lynda Schor, Ed Myers, Charles Bukowski, Terry Bisson, The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism
#129 Baltasar and Blimunda; Underground Railroad; Navasky's Naming Names, 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