Saturday, September 22, 2018

My Day in Clarksburg....

... was a huge treat.  The Clarksburg Harrison Library had done a thorough publicity job with notices in the papers, cards stuck in borrowed books, announcements online and more, and I was delighted with almost 30 people for my open workshop, and then a smaller but highly receptive group of old friends and new who came for the reading and refreshments  (Thank you friends of the library!)
    And by the way, this was all on a WVU game day-- and Mountaineer football games are always a statewide event (WVU won 35 to 6, for the record.)
    I was introduced by Library Manager Julia Todd who pulled it all together, and before I started the workshop, the mayor of Clarksburg, Catherine  Goings, who I had just met, came up and gave me a certificate from the city of Clarksburg!  And then I got one from the governor of West Virginia.  Pretty neat.
     The workshop was lots of fun with a wonderful variety of people--professors and high school age students and seniors, published writers and beginners, everyone eager to write, most willing to share, their thoughts if not their writing.

      Dear Anna Smucker came to the reading, and Steve and Beth Goff.  He's the former WV Writers president. And for the whole day, instigator and informal publicist, money collector for my sales  (she brought cash for change) and doyenne of West Virginia literature, the inimitable Phyllis Moore was there.  Her license is "BKWORM," and she knows everything about writers and books in West Virginia.

     When the library event was over, and the library closed, she drove me on her new Literary Tour of Clarksburg.  Phyllis with her husband Jim for technical support gives frequent power point lectures to schools and senior centers etc. on various aspects of West Virginia literature:  immigrant writers, African-American writers, Civil War writers, and much more.  She's a published poet and essayist and really such a good friend to me and other writers.  After the tour, we visited her home, aka private library, where I met the famous cat Pearl S. Buck, and then, to top off a wonderful day, she took me to Minards Spaghetti Inn  for dinner.
      This is the first Italian restaurant I ever went to--it was a big deal for my family to go out at all and to go to Minard's for spaghetti and meatballs (and salad and Italian bread!) was the height of culinary delight.  It's still a fine restaurant, recommended to all of you when you go to Clarksburg, West Virginia, where I was born, and where today I felt like I was truly coming home.

Writing Workshops and Sauerkraut

The workshop last evening at the Barnes and Noble in  Morgantown was small but intense and lively.
Then, at the very end, in came my new friend photographer-journalist and author Nancy Abrams!
I was thrilled to meet her-- I had blurbed her book The Climb from Salt Lick for WVU Press, and it
is really worth reading.
  The  B and N, there at Towne Center, was another lovely public place, spacious, cool, quiet, with
a big coffee shop, and, like the libraries I've been visiting, it seems to be a destination for a lot of
people who love books and serenity.  They set us up right in front, near the cafeteria, with room
for maybe 8 people, and I had 4, all serious writers from Morgantown and Bruceton Mills.

In the afternoon, I had seen our great family friend, Charlie Cowger who had been storing
a lot of boxes of my mother’s memorabilia.  Charlie just finished making his yearly
sauerkraut that he loves and gives away for Christmas presents.

All this, after visiting students in the morning at Lincoln High School, who were receptive
and very interesting.  Thanks to Mrs. Payton and Mrs. Ferris (an old friend of my mother’s
from East Shinnston!) as well as Mrs. DeMarco the librarian (who was a Romeo, her dad 's
cousins to my dad's Romeos) and Ms. Osborne   
  Off to Clarksburg today--this book touring is really, really fun and really really exhausting!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Thursday of my tour was all about New Friends and my Oldest

I had a leisurely morning with time to take a good walk and also finally to see one of the coal trains go by below the deck of the little house I'm staying in:

I spent the afternoon at Lowe Library in Shinnston, another library that provides a wide variety of services to all kinds of people.  People dropped by to meet the author  (me) and shared information about their writing and I tried to give some tips.  One man introduced me to another Fan Fiction world that I hadn't heard of:  Furry Fandom. 
      Then I had dinner with my oldest friend: David Hardesty, law professor at WVU and former president of the University, as well as former state treasurer.  But for me, he's above all the oldest friend I have:  as babies we took baths together, and his mother, a nurse, was at my birth.  I got to meet his daughter and two grandchildren  (his wife Susan was babysitting and didn't come to dinner with us).  We went to the lovely Morgantown  Wine Bar at Vintner Valley and talked and talked.  He has a terrific nuanced understanding of West Virginia and West Virginia politics which I wish all my friends in the Northeast could hear him talk about.

Parkersburg and Shinnston!

Yesterday I  visited my family house in Shinnston and then over to see my mother’s adopted grandchildren, Jenn and Buddy Taylor....

....and then drove over to Parkersburg for a visit to the remodelled Parkersburg Wood County library.-- what a beautiful community center with several spaces for puppet shows and creative play for children and lots of computers--and plenty of books!

This was one of those reading/author visit events that was small but very warm--thanks to Jeanne Michie at the library, and to Madeline Murphy, the reporter from the News and Sentinel who was also among those in attendance.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Three West Virginia Cities and a College President Who Leads by Serving......

I was in Charleston, WV yesterday, Monday 9-17-18, getting interviewed by Cat Pleska for local public television.  She's a friend, and we met first at the delightful Capitol Market with an outdoor farmers' market and indoor upscale coffee shops, fish restaurant, butcher, bakeries, WV crafts, etc.  Very nice place, and our personal catch up and visit got me very loose for the formal interview, which went very well.
    In the evening I read with Ginny Savage Ayers at Writers Can Read at Empire Books in Huntington, and had dinner first with Reading series curators Eliot Parker and Carter Seaton along with people including Llewellyn and John McKernan, Cat Pleska, and Eddy Pendarvis  (hidden by moi in the photo).  She invited me to stay in her home overnight, and I got up at the crack of dawn and drove back up the road.
      And today it was two classes at Fairmont State University: thank you professors George and Myers for inviting me in!  Both groups of students were curious and insightful about what they had read of my work, and liked hearing the author's voice present the work.  They also willingly wrote exercises for me, and except for being wiped out after the long drive, I was just happy as a clam.
     In the evening I read at the Folklife Center with Rick Campbell and there were a ton of friends there, including Professor Jack Wills and Jack Hussey as well as Donna Long, editor of Kestrel magazine, and Dr. Angela Scher, head of the English department.  A former online student of mine, Sarah Blizzard Robinson was there too, as well as a number of students, some I met earlier in the day.
    It was a solid event, with the readings and then question and answer.
     Several people over these two days have complimented me as a teacher, which was gratifying.
     There was also the issue of the President of FSU.
      As I arrived, I was struggling in the parking lot with my bags and a box of books to sell.  A pleasant lady with long gray hair ad a nice purple blazer waved as if she knew me, and came toward me and said firmly, "I'll take that," and insisted on carrying the box, even though her shoes were higher that mine--elegant little black pointed heels, and I was wearing sandals, albeit patent leather sandals.  Anyhow, she said she worked there, and by the time we got in the elevator, she confessed she's the new president of  FSU, Dr. Mirta Martin.  I call that a service leader.
    These things strike me as very West Virginian: the president showing up and sitting through the reading as well as carrying my book box; the open mic after the readers in Huntington, and how he ages of readers ranged from late seventies to high school students.  The neighborhood where my airbnb is:  beautiful brand new colonials with wrap around porches, next to a trailer park with trailers in a variety of stages of freshness and deterioration.  West Virginians tend to live together. 

    Oh, and the graveyard up the street really does have my cousin's wife's family in it!  Oh, this reminds me of all the good things about my home state!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

In my neat river view airbnb in Fairmont!

Great to be back in West Virginia!  I can't believe it's been two years....Cute airbnb in Fairmont, on the river-- it's a hot Sunday afternoon, so I've seen jet skis and a small party boat go by, and I've only been here half an hour!  

Friday, September 14, 2018

Getting ready for my trip!

We have a block party tomorrow, so I'm making potato salad, WV style, but without eggs.  Between potatoes, I'm trying to figure out what to wear with tropical storm rains from Florence on Monday and hot weather during the week.  I've picked the pieces from Their Houses to read--that was easy compared to picking clothes to wear!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

MSW on the Gary Bowden Show, 103.3 WAJR-FM!

I was just interviewed on the Gary Bowden radio show out of Clarksburg, West Virginia (weekday mornings at 9, 103.3 WAJR-FM).

Gary had done his homework and knew who I was and where I was from, and we talked about how I try to explain things about West Virginia to folks in the Northeast, and occasionally vice versa.   He was interested in the Appalachian Literary Renaissance and my visits to Shinnston and Clarksburg.

His programs have a lot of information and people with interesting local news and issues.  This was a great kick-off to my first week of book promotion!

P.S. When I said Gary had "done his homework," I was thinking of a time years back when I was on a t.v. show with my first novel, and the host said, as the break was ending and I was sitting down at the broadcast desk, "So what are you here for?  Oh, the blue book. I remember. It's on the desk here somewhere..."

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Rainy Sunday--Molly Gilman Interview at Ethical Culture Society of Essex County, NJ

     Our block party for today was rained out, postponed to next Saturday, just before my book tour of West Virginia begins, for Their Houses. 
     This morning at the Ethical Culture Society for our first program, with the new Families for Ethical Education starting too, I interviewed Molly Gilman about her time in the Ethical Sunday School as well her career as an actor, and the way those things have interacted in her life.  She sang too, some show songs and that wonderful John Denver song "Rhymes and Reasons," (which she sang a lot better than Denver, IMHO!)
      One extremely interesting moment came at the end when Molly talked about having a conversation with a cab driver with whom she disagreed strongly, but used her ethical education inclination to learn more about the other person's views, and her acting skills to draw him out--  "I was acting," she said, "but acting is a way to find the truth."
     I love that--so is writing fiction:  making up stuff to discover what is bedrock real.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 198

August 23, 2018

When possible, read this newsletter online in its permanent location.

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Some of this Issue's Reviewers

   Donna Meredith                 Belinda Anderson            Phyllis Wilson Moore            Eddy Pendarvis                      Dolly Withrow

Contents Issue #198

Book Recommendations from Dolly Withrow

Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

The Land Breakers by John Ehle

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Middlemarch Reviewed by Belinda Anderson

The Mill on the River Floss Reviewed by Eddy Pendarvis

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid

Chuck Kinder's The Silver Ghost Reviewed by Donna Meredith

Vada Faith by Barbara Whittington Reviewed by Phyllis Wilson Moore

Wet Work  by Donna Meredith Reviewed by Phyllis Wilson Moore

Follow up to Previous Issues

Reviews and Short Takes

Things to Read & Hear Online

Announcements and News



If I'm in your neighborhood this fall, please stop my one of my appearances in the schedule below! I'm in West Virginia in September and then back for the Charleston Book Festival.
Also, for me and all the other authors--if you read one of our books and like it, please consider posting short reviews on on Amazon, Good Reads, and/or Barnes & Noble. These online places have become increasingly important for selling books. I recycle many of the reviews I write for this newsletter at Amazon and the others.

Meredith Sue Willis's appearances, Fall 2018
  • Monday Sept. 17, 2018: 7:00 PM Writers Can Read, Huntington WV
  • Tuesday Sept. 18 Fairmont State University, Fairmont, WV   1:30 - 2:45 College Class; 3:00 to 4:15 College Class; 7:00 PM--Reading Folklife Center
  • Wednesday Sept.19 Parkersburg, WV Wood County Library 7:00 PM
  • Thursday Sept. 20 Shinnston, WV Library book signing, 1:00 - 4:00 with a short reading at 2:00 PM
  • Friday Sept. 21 Morgantown, WV Barnes & Noble 6 to 7:15 Reading/discussion/writing workshop
  • Saturday Sept 22 Clarksburg, WV Library/Waldomere      11:00 am--1:00 PM: Writing workshop: Starting Your Novel!    2-4; Meet and Greet
  • Sunday Sept. 23 Shepherdstown, WV Four Seasons Bookstore 1:00 PM
  • October 1: New York City: Novel Writing at NYU's SPS in New York begins
  • Saturday, October 6th 2:00 to 4:00 Turn of the Corkscrew, Rockville Centre, Long Island–Reading and Workshop
  • Thursday, October 11 Montclair, New Jersey, Montclair Library, Write Group 6 - 8
  • Tuesday, October 16 WORDS bookstore in Maplewood, New Jersey 7:30 PM reading
  • Friday Oct. 26 Charleston, WV Book Festival workshop 10 AM
  • November 3, 2018 New York City: Jump Start Your Novel One Day workshop at NYU's SPS
  • Wednesday, November 14, 2018 Next Year's Words: A New Paltz Reading Forum, Jewish Congregation of New Paltz Community Center, 30 North Chestnut St. (on Route 32) from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM New Paltz, New York.
  • Thursday, November 29 New York City: Reading at the Jefferson Market Library in New York, NY with Diane Simmons 6:00 - 8:00
I've been pretty busy with all this the last few weeks, and I've done a little reading. Most of my book comments this issue are in the Short Takes section, while the longer reviews come from a number of kind friends. They include essays on the work of George Eliot, Chuck Kinder, Barbara Whittington, and Donna Meredith. The reviewers include Belinda Anderson, Donna Meredith, Phyllis Wilson Moore, Eddy Pendarvis, as well as a special list of favorite books from Dolly Withrow.
Take a look!

“In death they were not divided,” A Review of The Mill on the Floss by Eddy Pendarvis

Not long ago, I came across an old schoolbook my mother has kept for years, probably not one of her own schoolbooks—the inside cover has a childish cursive naming “Horace Thacker” as the owner. Anyway, I was surprised to find that one of the stories in that fourth-grade reader, published in 1918, is an abridged excerpt from George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss. Entitled, “Maggie and the Gypsies,” the excerpt omits the hardest words, like “obloquy,” and has a short glossary of not quite as hard words, such as “treacle” and “placid.”  I’m sure one reason for including the excerpt was to acquaint children with “classic” literature. Other authors represented by stories or poems in the book were Jonathan Swift, Victor Hugo, Robert Louis Stephenson, Lewis Carroll, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Johannah Spyri (author of Heidi), with, as my list suggest, male authors far outnumbering female authors.
I wondered if another reason to include the Eliot excerpt was because it featured a girl. It was one of just a few stories with girls as lead characters. Most were about girls helping other people, like a story about a lighthouse keeper’s daughter who risked her own life to save survivors of a shipwreck. The Maggie in the excerpt isn’t self-sacrificing, though. She has run away from home to live with the gypsies. The excerpt ends with Maggie’s being glad to be returned to her family, as the gypsies were far less appreciative of her than she’d expected them to be—they definitely weren’t going to make her their queen.
However, Maggie’s character as developed in Eliot’s novel is certainly self-sacrificing. To me, she is one of those unforgettable women in literature, like Sophocles’ Antigone, Thomas Hardy’s Tess, and, yes, Margaret Mitchell’s Scarlet O’Hara. Maggie is a headstrong, self-pitying, ugly duckling of a child who, naturally, grows into a beautiful woman. Her mother, Bessey, is ashamed of Maggie’s behavior; her father, “Mr. Tulliver” (“Mr.” even to his wife), takes up for the “little wench”; her brother, Tom, puts up with her, mostly. Maggie is sometimes resentful toward her mother; she loves her father dearly, and she adores her brother. Conflict between her desire to please her father and brother and her desire to make other choices drives the plot.
In re-reading Mill on the Floss and thinking about that fourth-grade reader, I wondered why read Victorian novels now? Wouldn’t the time be better spent reading something contemporary?  I know, supposedly the quality of a work is established if it’s stood the test of time; but there are books of equal quality that have been published in the 21st century. If I looked up other reasons, I’d see a mention of the historical value of classics in helping us to understand, among other things, what’s changed and what hasn’t in the way people think and act. Published in 1860, Mill on the Flossdepicts middle-class lifeways in a small town in the middle of England in the 1820s as charming and disturbing.
Part of the charm is the nostalgic perspective of the story. The narrator and characters look lovingly on the past. Eliot’s understanding of the deep identification with nature that is shared by people whose childhood was spent playing outside; her apparent love of myths and fairy tales; and her patronization (in good and bad ways) of children, rustics, and “underlings” are part of her popular appeal.
The “Midlands” dialect Eliot has many of her characters speak is charmingly quaint. Especially notable to me was the use of the word “doubt.” For example, in bemoaning Maggie’s dark hair and skin-coloring, one of her aunts says, “I doubt it’ll stand in her way i’ life to be so brown.” The context makes clear that she means she fears it will stand in Maggie’s way.  Another example from an aunt reads, “But I doubt high living and high learning will make it harder for you, young un, nor it was for me.”  The speaker means high living and high learning may make life harder for Maggie than it’s been for the aunt, who has the advantage of very little education.  In sentences like the latter one, “nor” seems to mean “than.” I liked coming across that substituted “y” ending so typical of English and American dialect, as in “baloney” for “bologna.” Maggie’s mother dreads losing her good “chany” (china) in the family’s financial disaster.
Eliot’s use of dialect, though not as heavy as the dialect in Sir Walter Scott’s novels, is reminiscent of his. Fond of Scott’s novels, Eliot has Philip, the character who is truest in his love for Maggie, turn up with the second volume of Scott’s The Pirate in his pocket one day when he and Maggie are on a walk. Maggie tells him she’s read the first volume, but couldn’t get the second volume, and so doesn’t know what happened to Minna, the novel’s heroine.
This scene and some others make me want Philip to be the narrator of The Mill on the Floss, the one who remembers Maggie as a child. After all, Philip has the ending of one woman’s story in his pocket and, as the last person mentioned in the book, he knows the ending of Maggie’s story. His first name “Philip” has “love” in it from the Greek “philia,” and his last name “Wakem” is easy to link to his efforts to get Maggie to wake up and consider what will make her happy and fulfilled, rather than trying to live the way her brother and father want her to live. In other words, he tries to keep her from being so self-sacrificing. He fails, and the novel ends in romantically satisfying tragedy.
This disturbing isolation of a 19th century woman unable to fit into a society which is in many senses too small for her is repeated in infinite regression in the novel. Maggie’s alienation is foregrounded in the novel, but every character treated in any detail is alienated from other characters in some important way. Even Philip, who seems emotionally closest to Maggie, never fully connects with her. His truth is not her truth. The terrible flood at the end of the novel seems like a deus ex machina to eliminate a problem that has no real solution. When Maggie is finally united with her beloved brother, the book ends. In the alienation of individuals from each other, the story recognizes not only the devastating effects of industry and business on agrarian ways of life, but the possibility that shared understanding of truth also suffers from modern realities, which are divergent, complex, and rife with conflicting material interests. Read in the context of our current political economy—in which truth is not just contested but often irrelevant to outcomes, George Eliot’s classic, The Mill on the Floss, is as prescient as it is historical.  


Middlemarch Meditation by Belinda Anderson

Somehow Middlemarch had escaped me until recently. I had read other works of Mary Ann Evans, writing as George Eliot, but never Middlemarch. When I discovered it was available as an audiobook through my local library, I immediately checked it out. The appeal of listening to a classic read in a charming British accent overcame the somewhat daunting prospect of an unabridged recording of a 800-page 19th-century novel. 
Just as I’d hoped, I thoroughly enjoyed Middlemarch, though it does take a bit of commitment at first to shift into the author’s measured pace. But Kate Reading, in her performance for Phoenix Recordings, is brilliantly vivacious. She understands how to enunciate the narration so that the flavor of the writing, from humorous to dramatic, is imparted – too many actors use I’m-reading-you-a-story voices. Her renditions of the characters’ voices were appealingly distinctive.
I came away with the impression that Middlemarch is a literary soap opera, elevated by the author’s astute observations of human nature. Or: Middlemarch is an examination of human nature, cloaked in a compelling soap opera plot.
There are many lofty summations of Middlemarch that address politics, religion and other themes. This synopsis from the Avid Reader’s Musings blog is perhaps the most succinct: “Everyone has their own secrets and money problems and everyone knows everyone else’s business.” In a later post replying to a reader’s comment about the length of the book (“Holy crap,” to be precise), Melissa, the Avid Reader, said, “Audiobooks are perfect for slow classics. They become so much more accessible when someone is telling me the story.” 
As my listening to the book proceeded, I began to better appreciate Eliot’s discussion of her characters in a manner that might at first seem like author intrusion, but becomes more of an invitation to us to consider our own judgmental natures. Just as we’re getting riled on Dorothea’s behalf about the behavior of her husband, Casaubon, the author directly asks us to consider his point of view. Perhaps the warmth of Kate Reading’s voice made me more inclined to accept the author’s discussion points. I found myself reflecting that yes, all of us need to try to better understand others’ points of view.
During the period it took me to listen to the audiobook, Middlemarch kept popping up on my radar. I came across My Life in Middlemarch, a book by Rebecca Mead dedicated to Mead’s experience of the novel. (I read the book in print, but Kate Reading also narrated it for Blackstone Audio.)
Mead explores the book in the context of the life of George Eliot’s life, even describing Eliot’s work routine: “most days, Eliot retreated upstairs immediately after finishing breakfast, at 8:00 a.m., and worked steadily for five hours.” Very admirable. But this is the ultimate writer’s dream: “Affairs were arranged so that she was as free from domestic concerns as possible. Two servants … kept the household running along well-established lines.”
Mead addresses directly my experience of feeling called by Eliot to expand my compassion, in quoting  a letter Eliot wrote in 1857: “My artistic bent is directed not at all to the presentation of eminently irreproachable characters, but to the presentation of mixed human beings in such a way as to call forth tolerant judgment, pity and sympathy.” Her intent seems very relevant today.
In an essay written the year before, in 1856, Eliot said, “Art is the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds of our personal lot.”
(However, Mead says, she has not been able to verify a very popular quote attributed to Eliot: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”)
Mead neatly distills this theme as “we each have our own center of gravity, but must come to discover that others weigh the world differently than we do.”
Eliot’s very last line of Middlemarch, a tribute to Dorothea, echoes her essay’s stated intent about contact beyond the bounds of our personal lot: “But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” (The original manuscript, according to Mead, concluded with an addition phrase: “having lived a hidden life nobly.”)
With such a striking conclusion, I can understand why author Anna Quindlen called Middlemarchperfection, in Pamela Paul’s By the Book feature for The New York Times Book Review. She ranked it with Bleak House and Pride and Prejudice as contenders for her favorite book of all time.
Author Gary Shteyngart confessed in another of Paul’s interviews to being a new discoverer (like myself). When asked what was the best book he had read recently, he said, “Middlemarch! Can you believe I read the whole thing? When I finished it I expected a Publishers Clearing House-type van to pull up to my house and some British people to pop out and present me with a medal.” When he was asked what books he was embarrassed to not have yet read, he said, “Dickens’s Bleak House. What’s wrong with me? On the other hand, I finished Middlemarch! So lay off me.”
He should check out London Records’ audio recording of Bleak House. It’s read marvelously -- by Sir John Gielgud.
And it’s abridged.

The Silver Ghost by Chuck Kinder Reviewed by Donna Meredith

First issued as a hardback by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1979, Chuck Kinder’s The Silver Ghost is now available as a paperback published by Braddock Avenue Books.
While the novel’s characters are not always likeable, the story captures the essence of a mythical era in American history, the late 1950s. Kinder’s great accomplishment in The Silver Ghost is a nearly perfect rendition of teenage angst. In the first half of the book, anyone can relate to Jimbo Stark. His mooning over his girlfriend Judy. The impossibility of meeting the macho expectations of his war-obsessed father. The agony when Jimbo is forced to move away from friends and girlfriend to finish out his senior year in a podunk town in southern West Virginia. He is the epitome of the disgruntled, rebellious teenager, the only poet in a small town high school, wallowing in despair as he imagines his girl cuddled up to some other guy at the Valentine’s dance.
Kinder’s over-the-top, poetic language captures the intensity of a lovesick teen: “It is the late 1950s and America is a lush, electric, song-filled garden for teenage truelove, and Jimbo and Judy fully expect that their own truelove will grow and grow until the end of time, until the twelfth of never.” Reality is fluid in this story, dream-like, shifting from real events to movie scenes, both incorporating fragments of songs, all while diving through time.
Jimbo’s adulation of a popular movie star rings true. He attempts to emulate James Dean’s iconic cool in Rebel Without a Cause, a point Kinder emphasizes through lyrical variations of this image: Jimbo “arched his eyebrows and wrinkled his forehead and let his lower face collapse into smiles, which was his perfectly Cool James Dean moviemask, mastered after earnest effort.” The protagonist is even called Jimbo after James Dean’s role in Rebel.
The Silver Ghost of the novel’s title is a Porsche belonging to Judy’s brother Frank. A status symbol, it could burn every other car in town. Quite generously, Frank lets Jimbo borrow it for dates.
When Judy spots a diamond ring with a heart of perfect small pearls shaped around it, she declares it is “the only ring in the whole wide world for us.” Lovesick Jimbo is determined to buy this token for his girl. He sells all his own treasures, but still doesn’t have enough money. Desperate, he steals the soldiers in his father’s painstakingly assembled WWII battle scenes, scenes representing the defining moments in his father’s life. The theft delivers a devastating gut-punch, psychological revenge against the father who never understood his poetry-inclined son, replicating the father/son relationship in the movie.
Banished from his more-than-irate father’s sight, Jimbo suffers through his senior year angry, alone, and lonely.  He finds relief by drinking alcohol, smoking and telephoning Judy.
After an epic struggle to return home and deliver a Valentine to his beloved Judy, Jimbo learns from Pace, his best friend, that “teenage truelove” isn’t so true after all. There’s a snake in the “song-filled garden.” Judy has slept with Jimbo’s rival, a star football player.
Devastated, Jimbo steals the Silver Ghost and the two boys set out for Florida. Unfortunately, the gullible teens meet Morris, a charming criminal who preys on young boys. Jimbo soon finds himself on a bad road, one filled with robberies, violence, and betrayals.
In the novel’s final scene, the adult Jimbo sits alone in a bar. He wonders if it wouldn’t have been best if he’d committed suicide back when the authorities caught up to him—died at the moment he was “perfectly seventeen,” with his youth preserved forever like James Dean, who died in his Porsche at the age of twenty-four.
Kinder’s structure allows events to flow freely through time, with a prologue and epilogue adding thematic development and perspective. Fishing imagery appears frequently in this literary novel, with meanings that shift and waver as if seen through water. Sometimes the image seems to suggest fear of delving too deeply into the past: “You never, however, try to imagine fishing that 180 degrees of current lost in space and time.” Kinder himself never flinches from an author’s duty to dive into the past and surface with characters fully formed and seriously flawed.
 The novel’s first draft was completed in 1977 while Kinder was an Edith Merrilees Fellow at Stanford. In a December 2017 interview, Kinder said he has always seen the world through a cinematic lens. He claims almost every word of The Silver Ghost is true, close to autobiography, except for a homosexual rape scene late in the story.
Born and raised in West Virginia, Kinder taught at the University of Pittsburgh for more than three decades and served as director of the creative writing program. His other books include Snakehunter and Last Mountain Dancer, recently re-published by West Virginia University Press; and Honeymooners, as well as several volumes of poetry.


Vada Faith: A Novel by Barbara Whittington Reviewed by Phyllis Wilson Moore.

Set in the fictional small town of Shady Creek, West Virginia, the novel Vada Faith has a very southern feel to it. Vada Faith Waddell and her twin sister Joy Ruth are co-owners of the only beauty shop in town. Their lives are tangled in every way possible including their mutual attraction to Vada Faith's husband, John Waddell.
Back in high school, the handsome young athlete was Joy Ruth's boyfriend. To be blunt,Vada stole him. Sister is still single while Vada Faith and John live happily in their old historic house with their twin daughters. Life is good.
Unbeknown to everyone, Vada Faith has issues. She wants to be someone. She wants to help someone. As far as she is concerned, she has never done anything significant and she never will. She never has enough money to spend. She wants a big new house. Now.
When a local couple places an ad offering a huge payoff to a qualified surrogate mother, she answers it. The wealthy couple is prepared to be very generous with the surrogate fee and will absorb all expenses. In addition, they offer perks: clothes, jewelry, etc. If she agrees, she will be the first surrogate mother in the county, ever, and she can quit waiting for the big fancy home. How can she refuse this childless couple?
The way Vada Faith sees it, it should be her decision, and hers alone. In fact, she keeps this good deed a secret from everyone (except her sister) including John and her daughters. After all, it is her body and she is a mature woman, right? Duh.
Pregnancy as a secret is laughable and so is this humorous novel. Her family's reaction and that of the townspeople are just what a thinking person might expect, ramped up a tad.
The novel covers a serious subject but is chock-full of southern humor in a style reminiscent of Fannie Flagg. I can see a young Dolly Parton as Vada Faith and can hear the gossip-fest in the shop.

Water, Water, Every Where and…. WET WORK  by Donna Meredith Reviewed by Phyllis Wilson Moore

Authors strive for a hook, and this novel certainly has one. In four succinct pages, Donna Meredith, introduces a likeable illegal immigrant, a former Mexican engineer named Paulo.
Paulo, soon to return to his beloved family in Mexico, is eager to rejoin his mother and wife and see his newborn son for the first time.
In just a few paragraphs, I like the homesick Paulo. Then, bam, Meredith shoots him dead. On the fourth page.  Now I call that a hook.
The novel is an environmental thriller set in Florida, first in a swamp, then a university campus, and then out into the lush rivers and byways. I’m rather new to the environmental novel but I like thrillers, especially when they are set in places I’d like to visit, and I like novels with characters from other cultures.
The novel has interesting characters and Summer Cassidy is a good example. Pretty, intelligent, and quick with a witty response, she is finishing her research for a master’s in hydrogeology. Her work is groundbreaking. Some of the ogres of big business are sure her report will be detrimental to their businesses. As Important donors to the university, they assume a woman as intelligent as Cassidy, a woman in need of  a scholarship to pursue her Phd, can be convinced to give more thought to her research findings. After all, just how important is clean water compared to jobs?
Well researched and well written, I suggest readers add this work to their stack of books waiting to be read.  I’ll go even further and suggest it be placed on the top of the stack and next to a box of tissues and a tall glass of water.
(Wild Women Writers. Tallahassee, Florida, 2014 )


The Land Breakers by John Ehle

I met the late John Ehle at a conference some years back, and he was handsome and courtly and fragile with age. He was carefully watched over by his wife, the British actor Rosemary Harris. Their daughter is Jennifer Ehle, an accomplished actor like her mother, famous for playing Elizabeth Bennet opposite Colin Firth in the BBC's Pride and Prejudice series. As this opening paragraph indicates, I knew much more about Ehle's wife and daughter than about him, and more's the pity, because his work has is rich and full of adventure.
This novel, and the ones I have not read yet that follow it, concern the European-American settlers of the Appalachian mountains. It celebrates the kind of work people used to have to do for food and shelter: clearing forest, skinning animals, smoking meat; weaving linsey-woolsey. There are natural dangers all around-- the bears are particularly present, and there is a scene with rattlesnakes that I wish I could forget. Like Harriet Arnow's great Hunter's Horn, this novel doesn't focus on the solitude of hunters and trappers, but rather about people who want a community. They don't all define community in the same way, but they want to be near other people. The main character, although he is only one of many , Mooney Wright, and his long time love buy land on a mountain in what is now Western North Carolina. Shortly after they build their cabin, other people start coming to the same area, and Mooney's beloved sickens and dies.
Soon there are five or six families, all with their own interesting stories, and each representing a type of "landbreaker:" Mooney is physically powerful, adept with his hands, and hard working. An orphan boy, he is about as self-made as is realistically possible. The second group in is led by a patriarch called Harrison who is old and viciously determined to be the big man in his new settlement. He comes with enslaved people, a beaten down son, a new child bride (who happens to be his blood niece), and his daughter and her young sons.
The daughter, Lorry was abandoned by her husband, and is in her own way as determined as her father to find what she needs in this place. She, like Mooney, is especially good at the tasks needed to make a home here. There is also a ne'er do-well musician with a string of daughters. One of them, Mina, is beautiful and imaginative and free-spirited and determined not to be like her mother. Another group lives across the river, primarily made up of hunters.
The big plot question is whether Mooney will pair off with teen-age Mina or turn to Lorry with her knowledge and her sons? The next big question is will the community survive? What if Lorry's original husband shows up and challenges Mooney? Will the wild animals kill all the stock?
There are hunts and conflicts, a murder, that snake story, and a livestock drive that seems to be the settlement's last chance to survive. The book is a wonderful trip, and the answers to the questions the story raises are the least of itspleasures.

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

This is the story of a damaged kid named Deming, sometimes Daniel, trying to find his way, and his mother who wants to care for him, but is trammelled by poverty and her desire to have her own life. She leaves him in China with her father for the first part of his life, then brings him to the States where she attempts to make a good life for both of them.
She suffers hugely, however, at the hands of the United States government when she is caught up in a raid on undocumented workers. She loses Deming, who is adopted by a white American couple, and she, Polly, apparently disappears.
The book is the winner of one of Barbara Kingsolver's PEN/Bellwether prizes for Socially Engaged Fiction, and it surely deserve the honor for its examination of contemporary international poverty, immigration, and loss.
The ending offers hope that Deming/Daniel will find a way for himself, but the most artful and ambitious part of the novel is the speculation on how and why his mother Polly takes hold of the life that happens to her.

Marking Time (Second Book of the Cazalet Chronicles) by Elizabeth Jane Howard

The Cazalet Chronicles are slow-building novels, set around and during the Second World War, with enough characters that you really do need the dramatis personae provided at the beginning. Most of them get their own points of view, too. The setting is primarily the Home Place, a large summer dwelling between London and the English channel where the Cazalet elders, wives, and children live during the Blitz of London. The men commute into the city to work, and just about everyone goes to London occasionally.
As the family goes about its illnesseses and studies and struggles and occasional adulteries, there is the regular passing overhead of German planes on their way to bomb London, and the war is a constant topic of conversation and disruption as family members go to fight. Even though it is mid-twentieth century, the women often seem to be living in Edwardian if not Victorian times.
Still, it's a full, rich world especially as viewed through the eyes of the children in this enormous family. Howard is especially good on children and teens, but also on the old ladies like fat kind Miss Milliment the governess and the maiden aunts who quarrel all the time but are each other's entire lives.
I am presently starting the fourth book, and enjoying them thoroughly, but I have to offer a caveat with my recommendation: to enjoy these, you meed patience for a lot of quotidian life details and for British upper middle class prejudices and their reluctance to show emotion.


The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid

This is a highly praised novel that is certainly worth reading, but maybe not as amazing as I expected it to be. It opens with an intriguing situation: a Muslim in his home country is speaking in the second person to a jittery American in a café. Between the situation and the title, you begin to get impatient for the punch line: who is the prey and who the predator? The speaker or the one he is feeding tea and grilled meat?
The story is literary, of course, not genre, so there's no promise of genre satisfaction. The pleasure is in the cleverness and games, and a wonderful created atmosphere of dread. Who is gaming whom. I assumed most of the way through that the narrator was the predator. He tells the long and engaging backstory of his life in America as a financial Master of the Universe and lover of the increasingly psychotic Erica.  I kept waiting for the attack on the American who is receiving his story (and wears a gun).
But by the end, there is a growing possibility that the American may be about to attack Changez , who it is revealed is now a college professor who supports his students' anti-american demonstrations. Still, if Changez should be the victim, then his tone of knowingness sounds fake ("Oh you are made nervous by our waiter? It's true he is a powerful man with a grim face and keeps looking at us, but it's really just his natural expression..." ) I get the issues, and empathize with the story of the young man who thinks he is joining the American elite but never really has a chance, and his horror when he realized he is rejoicing when the U.S. is attacked.
I guess I liked the back story so much that I didn't feel the need for the cleverness of the narrative strategy.

Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

I expect you have to be a fan of Donna Leon's Inspector Brunetti books to like this one. It is a downer, and (spoiler! spoiler!) you don't find out for sure there has been a murder (although you suspect it strongly) until the final page. Brunetti and his colleagues do some investigating, but the end is a win for the corporate polluters of the laguna who kill at will and get off scot free.
I've been enjoying Leon's novels for a while, and now I'm trying to remember if any of them actually end with punishment for the murderers? Some of them surely do. As usual, I read mostly for Venice, or in this case an island that is apparently under the jurisdiction of Venice's police force. It was nice to see Brunetti get at least part of a vacation.



Book Recommendations from Dolly Withrow

  • When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi - Written by a neurosurgeon who majored in English Literature at Stanford, and then earned the master's in graduate school. He gets incurable cancer and is faced with death. His search for meaning in life and how the mental, physical, and spiritual connect. He writes that language is an almost supernatural force. His love of language, his love of science, and his concern for his patients are threads woven throughout this touching book. He marries and fathers a daughter before his death. His loving wife writes the epilogue. I seldom weep when reading a book, but the ending made me cry. Of course, I am still emotionally vulnerable because of my own beloved husband's death.
  • A Man Called Ove, by Fredik Backman – This was one of the best books I had read in a long time. On the surface, it is a simple story, simply told, but it has depth in the thoughts and comments of the characters. Ove is a taciturn man, highly principled, but grumpy and critical of others. He can repair anything that requires simple tools, anything from heaters to cars. This is a book with characters that are like people we know. They are not murderers; rather they are just everyday people like our neighbors. The characters reveal meanness and goodness and love and jealousy, oh, and generosity, caring. How it is told brings the characters to life. I can almost hear their heartbeats and feel their warm breath across my face. Excellent book written by a talented Swede who knew exactly what he was doing.
  • Beartown, by Fredik Backman -- I like the heft and depth of Fredrik Backman's Beartown. More than 400 pages, the novel is no formulaic romance, nor is it a killer-thriller. The plot revolves around hockey and what sports can do to people. They both divide and unite. They create us and them; then each side roars and rages against the other side.
Hidden away in a deep forest in Sweden is Beartown, where businesses have been closing one after the other. The hockey team fights to win—must win, for the men paying the bills and the townspeople believe winning will bring glory back to Beartown and rejuvenate the sagging economy. Shortly before the big game, however, everything goes amok when Kevin, the team's star player and son of the rich Erdahls, rapes Maya, the daughter of the team's general manager. Kevin can't be accused of such a horrible act; it would destroy the team and any chance of victory, so the town is ready to make Maya the guilty party. After all, she shouldn't have gone upstairs to the bedroom with Kevin when the kids were at the Erhdahl home having a drunken party while the parents were away.
Another aspect of the story is how money can work to protect the guilty. Amat, who will be a future star on the A-team, shows what one young hero can do when he's willing to risk everything to speak up for what's right. The themes of friendship, hypocrisy, betrayal, communication breakdowns, big money, and injustices run through the story like a muddy creek rushing through a valley after a heavy rain. One character says, "One of the worst things a person has to admit to himself is that he is a hypocrite. In another place, one says, "Who are the biggest hypocrites—the ones with tattoos on their necks or the ones with neckties?"
When David signs Sune's resignation form, making it look as if Sune has retired of his own will, he knows he's just fired his idol. He also knows he's a hypocrite. Ana, Maya's best friend, fails to go to Maya after Maya was raped; Ana knows she's a hypocrite. Throughout the story, characters try to find the words to communicate their feelings, but fail. One says he knew what he should say, but he just couldn't find the thing to say it.
The team players use rough language because the author did not shrink from words many teen-aged boys would utter. His use of authentic language adds verisimilitude to his novel. We've all heard of locker-room talk; it can be vulgar. That is part of real life. Yes, I like the heft and depth of Beartown. It is underneath about life itself, not just about hockey, although some have called it a sports novel. It is so much more—so much more.
  • News of the World, by Paulette Giles – This is a wonderful book, different from most of the books I read now. It reminded me a little of A Man Called Ove, but the storyline is different. There is still a classic feel to it. A ten-year-old girl is rescued from Indians who had killed her parents when she was three. She now is traveling with Captain Kyle Kidd a long distance to her German aunt and uncle, who are mean to her when she finally arrives. The ending is satisfying and left me with a wistful, emotional feeling. I highly recommend this book, although it won't please some.
  • Comet's Tale: How the Dog I Rescued Saved My Life , Steven Wolf – This is a true and beautiful story about a dog who saves a man by leading him outside his house. Walking Comet, the protagonist meets a man who knows a doctor who can help the man. That's a small part of Comet's tale. The man's spine is crumbling, and he can barely walk, but he gets help. An animal lover, I'm a sap for any dog or cat book. I even feed Maybelline Masketta, a raccoon who comes out of the woods to dine in my yard each evening.

Responses from Readers:

Edwina Pendarvis wrote, "I love your review of Middlemarch. George Eliot is my second favorite author, after Thomas Hardy. Tess of the D'Urbervilles is my all-time favorite book, and The Mill on the Floss is up there in my top ten, along with Joseph Conrad's Victory and Thomas Mann's Felix Krull: Confidence Man, which is absolutely great and which you just have to read if you haven't already!"   See Eddy's discussion of The Mill on the Floss above.


Western/Crime fiction: Recommendations that combine the two genres.
Jane Lazarre was interviewed by Deborah Kalb on "Book Q & A's with Deborah Kalb." She talks about memoir writing, as well as about her particular new book, The Communist and the Communist's Daughter," reviewed here in Issue #194.
60 Lolita covers for the book's 60th birthday. Some are just downright hilarious.
Late summer issue of Persimmon Tree!
Don't miss Rick Bragg's article on how you recognize a great Southern writer. It's less literary than you think...
July 17, 2018 New poem by Denton Loving.
A new story about a retired man's comback--John Birch's blog, always worth a read!
E-conversation with Carter Seaton about the fiction writing devices of the different kinds of "shadowing." and an article that helps me a little anyway.
More commentary on Allan Appel's The Book of Norman,


Valerie Nieman has two books coming out: one of poetry, The Leopard Lady, and a novel To the Bones (a "horror mash-up") in the spring. Check out her website for more information and dates she's going to be in your neighborhood!

Rachel King's One Story "Railing" has just come out. You can buy a hard copy or download here:   Read an interview with her about the story here:

The short film adapted from Bill Luvaas's novel WELCOME TO SAINT ANGEL has just won the "Best Adapted Screenplay" award at the Golden State Film Festival in L.A.  It started out as a book trailer and evolved into a short film. You can see the film on Vimeo:
Don't forget to subscribe to the CRWROPPS listserv for submissions opportunities.
Writing prompts and exercises from Poets & Writers.
My writing exercises.
Contests! See The Masters Review list of current contests.
Woven Tale Press's latest Literary and Art Competition.






I have a lot of friends and colleagues who despise Amazon. There is a discussion about some of the issues here in # 184,  as well as older comments from Jonathan Greene and others here.
The largest unionized bookstore in America has a webstore at Powells Books. Some people prefer shopping online there to shopping at An alternative way to reach Powell's site and support the union is via Prices are the same but 10% of your purchase will go to support the union benefit fund.


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 as an ebook. 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 use Bookfinder or Alibris. Bookfinder gives the price with shipping and handling, so you can see what you really have to pay.
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.
Ingrid Hughes suggests "a great place for used books which sometimes turn out to be never-opened hard cover books is Biblio. I've bought many books from them, often for $4 including shipping."
If you are using an electronic reader (all kinds), don't forget free books at the Gutenberg Project—mostly classics, and free, free, free! sells e-books for independent brick-and-mortar bookstores.


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

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     Meredith Sue Willis, the producer of this occasional newsletter, is a writer and teacher and enthusiastic reader. Her books have been published by Charles Scribner's SonsHarperCollinsOhio University PressMercury HouseWest Virginia University Press, Monteymayor PressTeachers & Writers PressHamilton Stone Editions, and others. She teaches at New York University's School of Professional Studies.



#198 Reviews by Belinda Anderson, Phyllis Moore, Donna Meredith, Eddy Pendarvis, and Dolly Withrow. Eliot, Lisa Ko, John Ehle, Hamid, etc.
#197 Joan Silber, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Alexander Hamilton, Eudora Welty, Middlemarch yet again, Greta Ehrlich, Edwina Pendarvis.
#196 Last Exit to Brooklyn; Joan Didion; George Brosi's reviews; Alberto Moravia; Muriel Rukeyser; Matthew de la Peña; Joyce Carol Oates
#195 Voices for UnityRamp HollowA Time to Stir, Patti Smith, Nancy Abrams, Conrad, N.K. Jemisin, Walter Mosely & more.
#194 Allan Appel, Jane Lazarre, Caroline Sutton, Belinda Anderson on children's picture books.
#193 Larry Brown, Phillip Roth, Ken Champion, Larissa Shmailo, Gillian Flynn, Jack Wheatcroft, Hilton Obenziner and more.
#192 Young Adult books from Appalachia; Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse; Michael Connelly; Middlemarch; historical murders in Appalachia.
#191 Oliver Sacks, N.K. Jemisin, Isabella and Ferdinand and their descendents, Depta, Highsmith, and more.
#190 Clearman, Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods, Doerr, Octavia Butler, Colson Whitehead, Miss Fourth of July, Goodbye and more.
#189 J.D. Vance; Mitch Levenberg; Phillip Lopate; Barchester Towers; Judith Hoover; ; Les Liaisons Dangereuses; short science fiction reviews.
#188 Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban; The Hemingses of Monticello; Marc Harshman; Jews in the Civil War; Ken Champion; Rebecca West; Colum McCann
#187 Randi Ward, Burt Kimmelman, Llewellyn McKernan, Sir Walter Scott, Jonathan Lethem, Bill Luvaas, Phyllis Moore, Sarah Cordingley & more
#186 Diane Simmons, Walter Dean Myers, Johnny Sundstrom, Octavia Butler & more
#185 Monique Raphel High; Elizabeth Jane Howard; Phil Klay; Crystal Wilkinson
#184 More on Amazon; Laura Tillman; Anthony Trollope; Marily Yalom and the women of the French Revolution; Ernest Becker
#183 Hilton Obenzinger, Donna Meredith, Howard Sturgis, Tom Rob Smith, Daniel José Older, Elizabethe Vigée-Lebrun, Veronica Sicoe
#182 Troy E. Hill, Mitchell Jackson, Rita Sims Quillen, Marie Houzelle, Frederick Busch, more Dickens
 Valerie Nieman, Yorker Keith, Eliot Parker, Ken Champion, F.R. Leavis, Charles Dickens
#180 Saul Bellow, Edwina Pendarvis, Matthew Neill Null, Judith Moffett, Theodore Dreiser, & more
#179 Larissa Shmailo, Eric Frizius, Jane Austen, Go Set a Watchman and more
#178 Ken Champion, Cat Pleska, William Demby's Beetlecreek, Ron Rash, Elizabeth Gaskell, and more.
#177 Jane Hicks, Daniel Levine, Constance Fenimore Woolson, Ken Chamption, Patricia Harman
#176 Robert Gipe, Justin Torres, Marilynne Robinson, Velma Wallis, Larry McMurty, Charlotte Brontë, Henry James, Fumiko Enchi, Shelley Ettinger
#175 Lists of what to read for the new year; MOUNTAIN MOTHER GOOSE: CHILD LORE OF WEST VIRGINIA; Peggy Backman
#174 Christian Sahner, John Michael Cummings, Denton Loving, Madame Bovary#173 Stephanie Wellen Levine, S.C. Gwynne, Ed Davis's Psalms of Israel Jones, Quanah Parker, J.G. Farrell, Lubavitcher girls
#172 Pat Conroy, Donna Tartt, Alice Boatwright, Fumiko Enchi, Robin Hobb, Rex Stout
#171 Robert Graves, Marie Manilla, Johnny Sundstrom, Kirk Judd
#170 John Van Kirk, Carter Seaton,Neil Gaiman, Francine Prose, The Murder of Helen Jewett, Thaddeus Rutkowski
#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 & KlonsLady 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 PeopleThe 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 MadonnaA 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 KnowThe ShiningThe Tiger's Wife.
#148 The MoonstoneDjibouti, 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 MinisterBlood 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 FallsThe Eustace Diamonds again.
#131 The Help; J. McHenry Jones, Reamy Jansen, Jamie O'Neill, Michael Chabon. 
 Lynda Schor, Ed Myers, Charles Bukowski, Terry Bisson, The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism 
#129 Baltasar and Blimunda; 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 CloudsplitterFounding 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 latestIrving 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 DrownBlindness & more
#105 Everything is MiscellaneousThe UntouchableKettle 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 CareerThe Scarlet Letter, John Banville, Never Let Me Go
#100 The Poisonwood Bible, Pamela Erens, More Harry P.
#99   Jonathan Greene on; Molly Gilman on Dogs of Babel
#98   Guest editor Pat Arnow; more on the debate
#97   Using Thomas Hardy; Why I Write; more
#96   Lucy Calkins, issue fiction for young adults
#95   Collapse, Harry Potter, Steve Geng
#94   Alice Robinson-Gilman, Maynard on Momaday
#93   Kristin LavransdatterHouse Made of DawnLeaving Atlanta 
#92   Death of Ivan Ilych; Memoirs
#91   Richard Powers discussion
#90   William Zinsser, Memoir, Shakespeare
#89   William Styron, Ellen Willis, DuneGerminal, 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 WorldDa 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 HomeTess of the D'Urbervilles; Jean Stafford
#77   On children's books--guest editor Carol Brodtrick
#76   Mary Lee Settle, Mary McCarthy
#75   The Makioka Sisters 
#74    In Our Hearts We Were Giants
#73    Joyce Dyer
#72    Bill Robinson WWII story
#71    Eva Kollisch on G.W. Sebald
#70    On Reading
#69    Nella Larsen, Romola
#68    P.D. James
#67    The Medici 
#66    Curious Incident,Temple Grandin 
    Ingrid Hughes on Memoir
    Boyle, Worlds of Fiction#63    The Namesame
#62    Honorary Consul; The Idiot#61    Lauren's Line
#60    Prince of Providence
#59    The Mutual Friend, Red Water
#58    AkÉ, 
Season of Delight
#57    Screaming with Cannibals

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