Monday, July 11, 2016

More baby pix

Phil Zakowski took these lovely pictures of us with Shira on Saturday, July 9, 2016 after the naming ceremony for Shira.  We were at the airbnb where Phil and Jan stayed, and Jan put together about 50 pictures of various parents, grandparents, uncles, great uncles, cousins once removed, etc.  Just loved looking at those pictures!  

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Just back from meeting Shira in San Francisco...


     We had a lovely ten days with Joel and Sarah and Shira:  present for her two week birthday and her three week birthday as well as her naming ceremony, the simchat bat.
      A lot of Sarah's family came up for that, and her parents rented an airbnb house that held them and a lot of celebrating and socializing.  Below are Phil & Jan Zakowski, Joel, Sarah, Shira, and me and Andy.   Happy happy grandparents!

     Joel and Sarah arranged the naming ceremony with a group they attend sometimes, the Mission Minyan, a lay-led group that uses an orthodox prayer service, but has the room divided up into men, women and mixed, and women have much of the leadership: carried the Torah around and everythng. A mostly-young congregation that is also traditional.
     But what I love is that they rent their space from La Casa de Mujeres/ Woman's House-- a beautifully muraled community center in San Francisco's Mission District, and the ceremony took place in -- get this-- the Audre Lorde room!  (For those young enough not to know, Audre Lorde was a great poet, activist, and lesbian feminist).  What more could we ask for Shira?  Her dad and mother's chosen tradition but also the women-owned community center plus Audre Lorde.
     It that cool or what?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 185

June 24, 2016

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



In This Issue

MSW Interviews Monique Raphel High
Quill: A New Queer Publication Series from Red Hen Press
Text of the 2016 JUG award presented by Cat Pleska to Marc Harshman
Reviews          Recommendations from Readers
Things to Read & Hear Online          Announcements and News
Coming Soon from Irene Weinberger Books         A Journal of Practical Writing

Article about saving drafts in the Journal of Practical Writing

Summer Special! E-book versions of Meredith Sue Willis's
Blair Morgan trilogy
 $1.99 each!

For a Free E-mail subscription to this newsletter, click below:


 Books for Readers # 185

This issue has an interview with a wonderful writer of historical and contemporary novels,Monique Raphel High, as well as reviews of books by Crystal Wilkinson, Elizabeth Jane Howard, and Phil Klay.
Enjoy your reading this summer whether you are posing for a Kindle ad (reading in bright sunlight on a beach) or carrying an old paperback with a broken spine on the subway, or sitting in a wing back chair with a limited edition of poems on creamy paper with the French doors open to your English garden-- enjoy your reading!
                                                                            -- MSW

A Conversation with Monique Raphel High

  Monique Raphel High and I were in the class of 1969 at Barnard College, although we didn’t know each other then. We became personally acquainted at one of our reunions, and she was my literary agent for a while. She gave the book she was representing a superb revision.
  I am not going to explore her background and that of her family here, but she has a fascinating history, and one that she uses repeatedly in her fiction.  To learn more, see her website.  She was born in New York City to French parents and raised in Europe.  Her father is a scion of the de Günzburg family, ennobled by Tsar Alexander II and considered among the most notable Jewish dynasties in the world. Growing up, Monique knew film and literary celebrities and eventually went to Barnard, graduating with a double major in Renaissance Studies and English literature. She married Soviet psychiatrist/psychologist Grigorii Raiport, and with him wrote a book about methods of mentally focusing athletes that still has a following around the world.  Her second husband was Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Ben Walter Pesta, II, and she recently became engaged to Paul Harrison.
  Monique has published several excellent and popular novels and taught writing at UCLA.  She became a literary agent in the 2000's with offices in Beverly Hills, New York, Paris, and London.  This year,Penner Publishing has the good fortune to be bringing out new editions of her work, beginning withThe Four Winds of Heaven (which I reviewed in Issue #136  of Books for Readers ), a gripping and beautiful fictionalizing of her family during the Russian Revolution.

MSW:  Monique, an outline of your family’s history and your own life reads like the summary of an epic novel trilogy or a multi-part t.v. series: two continents; a rich and sometimes violent family past;  famous friends; New York and Los Angeles; courtroom drama. What out of all this living life made you a writer rather than, say, an actress or business woman or movie executive or lawyer?

MRH:  The answer to that is complex. I was a film brat, because my parents and two grandfathers were involved in the film world.  My mother’s edict always was: “Do not become an actress; that life will destroy you.  Stay away from our world.”  My father’s deep passion for running the business side of film production and distribution did make me think of becoming an executive, and my father had a number of young protégés. But I was an arrogant young woman: I wanted to succeed on my own, in my own field.
  Because I was reared in such a strange way, as an only child, a mini-adult thrust into my mother’s salons and accepted there as an equal, while, at the same time, prevented from going about my own life with friends my own age, I became more comfortable with the wits and literary people who gathered like moths around my mother.  I became an observer.  I would then weave tales about what I had observed, and by the time I was five, I was telling stories that later, at nine, I turned into handwritten novels and short stories.
            As for becoming a lawyer, my father’s escape from Nazi-occupied France at the age of 17, and having to give up his dream of entering the legal profession… yes, I was very drawn to that.  I would have become a lawyer had I not been mentored at Barnard by Professor Maristella di Panizza Lorch, who turned me, instead, into a medieval and Renaissance scholar.  At first I thought I would follow in her footsteps and enter academia.  But quickly, I started to ask myself, “Why would you spend your life researching and dissecting other writers, when you could be a writer yourself?” The answer was: I didn’t want to do that; I wanted to be that writer.

MSW:  That helps me understand your career path, but not a certain quality of your life I’d like to explore.  Following you from afar-- as a reader and social media friend-- I am struck by how you carry your heart on your sleeve, as the cliché goes.  Most writers I know, me included, tend to hold a lot back, whereas you always seem to be living full speed ahead.  Do you ever hold back?  Do you think this personal style of living has an effect on your writing?

MRH:  I wasn’t always like that, Meredith Sue.  I grew up very shy, and in my family, problems were covered up. Mother “didn’t feel well” meant that she was knee-walking drunk.  We hid our frailties.  I never even discussed the volatile nature of my childhood—the diva mother who was alternately “the good mommy who encouraged me to read and write,” and the “ghastly mommy who beat me, demeaned me, prevented me from blossoming into a normal teen” until well into my marriage to my attorney husband (in the late eighties).  I have learned that there is nothing to be ashamed of except cruelty and stupidity, and I try, sometimes failing, never to do something that will make me ashamed of looking in that mirror.  Having a crazy family has made me part of who I am.
     I realized early on that readers desperately want to connect with their favorite writers.  I would receive letters, then emails, then messages on my blog and Facebook pages that asked me personal questions.  Mostly, readers wanted to connect, to feel the person who had created characters they liked.  They asked me some of the questions you are asking now.  And I felt I owed it to them to answer fully and honestly.  Nothing shameful, nothing embarrassing.  But snippets of my life, bits and pieces to make them see how absolutely human I really was.
    I’ve been asked many times to write about myself and my life, but until now, I couldn’t do this.  I simply didn’t find myself that interesting!  So I place what I’ve learned, what I’ve observed, and how I feel into my characters.  Most often, readers and even dear friends think I’m the obvious protagonist, whereas I may be a supporting one with whom I personally relate. 
  Recently, however, my fiancé, Paul Harrison, has been encouraging me to explore comedy, and to use some of the episodes in my life as short stories in a collection. I think it might be fun, though I might have to use a pseudonym in order not to shock my public, which is accustomed to greater reserve and decorum.
  I can’t help being open.  It tends to make other people respond by being open back, and then, after hearing their stories, I gather new material.

MSW: I love that-- that your openness has opened people who openly give you their stories.  Beautiful!  I also want to ask about the part of your life when you and I were in the same place at the same time, from our extremely different backgrounds.  What was it like for you to come to Barnard College in New York City from Europe at the end of the 1960's?

MRH:  Oh, my God! It was a dream come true. Suddenly I could be the person I was, and I could thrive, make friends, wander through a new city, soaking up experiences.  During Freshman Orientation, I decided to explore Harlem.  I was followed and reprimanded by my Barnard Big Sister’s sweet boyfriend, although I still can’t imagine what was so “dangerous” about wandering uptown.
  Can you believe that I’d come to feel Europe was parochial, and that I found New York so much vaster and more mysterious?  And the accents!  Later, of course, the ’68 revolt was absolutely magnetizing.  We did what we pleased, what we ardently believed in, and we were young women, not girls, anymore.

MSW:   And then you began to write and publish.  If you were to recommend an order for a reader to approach your work, what would it be?  Should we start with Four Winds of Heaven, or elsewhere? 
MRH:  Yes, definitely, one should begin with Four Winds, because that is my family history. I would then read Thy Father’s House, because the house in question, a manor house owned by Napoleon III, lies at the center of the French branch of the Günzburg family.  The three cousins about whom I write are based on real cousins, or composites of several cousins.  The next book I would recommend reading is The Keeper of the Walls. Nobody who doesn’t know me would figure out that Prince Mikhail is really my father’s scoundrel of a dad, but it gives one an impression of how my grandmother, father and aunt survived World War II. The Eleventh Year and Between Two Worlds depart the most from my grandmother’s journals.  They fulfill my desire to dig deeply into Paris in the Twenties, and my personal fascination with that film world in which I grew up.  Additionally, my Russian husband is the star of Between Two Worlds, although, of course, his stardom arose through coaching the USSR Olympic team, and not through acting.
Last, I would recommend Encore, because it’s my favorite.  I started taking ballet at the age of two.  I wasn’t much good at it, but I loved it. Additionally, it depicts a truly liberated heroine, even though she came of age between 1905 and 1927.  Best of all, the best character I ever created, Count Boris Kussov, is based on my great-uncle Dmitri de Günzburg, who really did finance the Mariinsky Theatre and Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, and who certainly was bisexual.
Sexuality fascinates me, and so do the mores that allow, or prevent, that sexuality from evolving naturally.

MSW: I’m ready to continue my exploration of your novels!  Now, please tell us a little about your new project, a courtroom novel based on the work of your late husband, Ben Pesta?

MRH:  Irrevocable Trust takes place in Los Angeles in from 1985 to 1987—before Nazi criminals and camp survivors were too old to bring to life, and before DNA was used in court and Anita Hill saved women from sexual harassment. Yet 1985 is still the recent past that many readers can vividly remember.  Very little has changed since then, except, of course, from everyone’s familiarity with the Internet.
    I’ve had that title in mind for decades.  When my late husband practiced law, I used to watch him.  He was very much an actor, a courtly orator, and he could demolish specious arguments by sheer wit and irony, as well as impeccable research.  I came upon the idea of Irrevocable Trustwhen I became close friends with Kathy Perow, whose obsession for World War II stories and the Holocaust makes her the leading expert in my eyes in those fields.  One day, while visiting me during my late husband’s illness, she told me about child survivors, and how she listened to tapes of interviews of children who had been hidden by gentile families.  I asked her, “Were any of these hidden children kept by their new families? Did the gentile foster parents ever refuse to return them to their birth families?”  Kathy said she thought this had happened.  And so I decided to write the story of one of these children, and to make him come into his own through a series of cases that, as a Franco-American defense lawyer, he is forced to take on.
    I was terrified of writing a legal thriller.  Legalese isn’t one of the languages I thought I could speak.  But twenty-eight years with Ben had affected me more than I’d ever realized.  Once I began, I channeled his experience and even his words into the book, and I found myself totally fluent. Ben worked on some significant cases, and even had his name placed into case law.  Most of all, it was his ardent belief that everyone, even those accused of the most heinous crimes, deserves the best defense he/she can be given, that helped me create my protagonist’s value system.

MSW:  That book sounds like it’s going to pull together so many of your themes as well as your moral passion. I want to end this conversation, which is really only a beginning, with a couple of questions about your writing process, and your reading.  Could you speak a little more about the trajectory of your writing career?  You published books that were commercial successes and critically acclaimed.  There have been major changes in publishing over the last fifteen to twenty years.  What changed in your career?  Have you experimented with any of the newer ways of bringing your work to the public?

MRH:  Yes, I have. It would be foolish not to keep up with publishing trends—a little like a couturier choosing not to listen to what men and women want to wear right now, for the lifestyles the majority of them are choosing.  My historical novels needed to become accessible in eBook format. And so, I asked my literary manager to sell them to a publisher who would reissue them both as “real books” and eBooks.  That was Penner Publishing. Next step, obviously, will be to seek to make them available as audiobooks.
  What really has changed the most is my style. Readers today want fewer descriptions and more action, more drama. No one has the patience to be led up to peak points in small ballet steps. They want Olympic sprinting. So my sentences are shorter, carrying more punch, and I get to the point much faster and with more dramatic edge. My writing is more cinematic; I visualize my scenes as scenes on a screen. When I’m at the movies, I wear a special watch that lights up, and I press the mechanism that activates this each time the film hits a key scene—so I may learn how to build my books in the same way, with a pace that keeps up with readers’ attention spans.

MSW:   My final questions are about your reading.  No serious writer, in my opinion, is not also a reader.  And, unlike poor me, you are able to read in several languages.  So my question is, what books do you go back to for study and pleasure?  For me, it’s the Victorians– George Eliot, especially, but any Dickens or Trollope.  I’m also a fan of Mrs. Gaskell, and I am always rereading Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, in translation, of course. 

MRH: Oh, my! I too reread Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Meredith Sue.  Some of my favorite novels are French: Liaisons Dangereuses, on which two films were based (Dangerous Liaisons), is a brilliant novel of letters that explores evil, manipulation, and the mores of the French court in the eighteenth century (when the novel first appeared); Tant que la Terre Durera and Les Eygletières, by Academician Henri Troyat, who was, like me, a Russian Frenchman; The Red and the Black, by Stendhal; and Madame Bovary, the twin of another favorite, Anna Karenina.
   I think my favorite novels are a series by another French Academician, Maurice Druon, entitledThe Accursed Kings. I reread Fitzgerald, and yes, I reread Chaucer, Boccaccio, and Shakespeare… many times over.

MSW: Excellent– Maurice Druon– a new author for my To Read list!   Finally, for all of us who write and teach, please share the best writing advice you ever had, and the  best writing advice you ever gave.

MRH:  The best I received came from Epictetus: “If you want to be a writer, write.”  And the best I gave was read, read, read good books, but avoid all the how-to-write ones.  Each writer is an individual, with his/her own needs, obsessions, passions, and voice.  Simply because one writer, or worse, unpublished writing teacher, says you need to follow his or her specific yesses and nos, doesn’t help a new writer at all.  There is a format, yes.  But first, you have to know what you really want to say, and what medium fits your theme.

MSW: Thank you, dear Monique for your time and consideration!  May you write and publish many, many more books for our delight and edification!


The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard is a fine old-style character novel of London and the English countryside just before the beginning of World War II.  Howard, who was married for a while to novelist  Kingsley Amis (and credited by his son Martin Amis with encouraging the younger man's writing), wrote many novels. This one begins the Cazalet chronicles. It moves admirably among many characters of all ages, doing perhaps especially well with the children. I liked its leisurely quality--appropriate to a novel of holidays at a family homeplace.
This is not meant to imply that it is in any way loose or sloppily written.  It just takes its time with a typical British confidence in its own story-telling, circling around the large cast of characters, trying them out in various combinations, checking in with what is happening historically at the same time.  It has a whiff of (without the difficulty of) Virginia Woolf's The Waves. Both have characters with a shared sense of language and imagery. In Woolf's, four young voices are present as streams of consciousness that blend into one another. Howard's characters share family idiosyncrasies, private references, and class culture, but the characters are vividly delineated. I liked both outsiders to the family like Zoe, the very young second wife of Rupert, who teases her way into an ugly date rape, and insiders like the cousins Polly and Clary who are respectively morally and literarily precocious. The common diction and mental landscapes are part of the strong group portrait.
I love the places and life style, too-- lots of improvised meals and out-door activities-- heaven for kids.
The book demands a reading strategy of stepping in feeling the book swirl around your ankles, then your knees, and right up to your neck. The fascinations are with its texture and threads of interacting personality. And oh those personalities-- even the minor characters (but are they really?) are sterling creations like the Cook and her dictator/busybody counterpart above stairs, the patriarch known as the Brig.
You have to love those British nicknames.

Redeployment by Phil Klay is a solid collection of war stories. It was a Ten-Best-Books at theNew York Times and a National Book Award winner. It has an interesting emphasis on soldiers who were there-- in Iraq, mostly-- but did not do all that much actually fighting, and on those suffering in the aftermath of war. Some of it is about trying and failing to communicate with civilians, some about trying to reconnect with those the point of view characters fought alongside.
"Ten Kliks South," the last story, is about a young artillery man after his first "kills," which are done from a great distance. He goes around base looking for evidence of who/what they killed. It's dryly horrifying in its blankness. 
I also especially liked "Prayer in the Furnace," from the point of view of a chaplain who has a loose, fraught relationship with a particularly haunted soldier. Finally, take a look also at Klay's essay, not in this book, but available online here.  Scroll down to "After the War, A Failure of the Imagination.")

The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson is paragraph-by- paragraph as masterfully written a work as you can find. It is rich with beautiful images of the generations of a family in a town called Opulence, with many graceful appearances of real birds and symbolic birds. One bird appears in the house just before a particular character's death. Wilkinson uses such common beliefs and folk ways as well as skillful touches of dialect to enrich her story.
The book centers on a pair of young girls growing up like sisters (and it isn't ruled out that they actually are half sisters). One becomes the kind of woman who uses her sexuality both for pleasure and to move through the world. The other is more conventional, but getting pregnant and having babies is central to everything in the story.
Most striking is the gorgeousness of the prose and the evocation of an African-American-Appalachian family and community.


NancyKay Shapiro says she has read all of Edna O'Brien and is "astounded by her. This book [LITTLE RED CHAIRS], written in her early 80s, is being called her masterpiece, and I'd have to agree except that I don't like the sense of diminishment of the other work that the word seems to imply to me. This was a compulsive read, and informed me about things I didn't know, as well as immersing me in a burbling exuberant fearless use of language that is O'Brien's specialty. It's a cruel story, in places nearly unbearable, which is part of its importance, but never less than beautiful."

Ernest BeckerJane Lazarre on Ernest Becker: "Long ago, I guess when it came out, I reviewed Becker's book [The Denial of Death] for the Voice. Just getting started publishing and reviewing during those early years, I remember criticizing it for not being sensitive to women's issues. The women's movement was just in its beginning heyday -- and [I criticized] some of the things he said about menstruation not specifying the differences in history of gender. I also remember admiring much of what he did say about the body, all much more profoundly dissected some years later by Dorothy Dinnerstein, who was steeped in gender issues as well as in the same wing of psychoanalysis as Becker-- the human body and its destiny."



Judith Moffett's science fiction novels are now available as e-books as well as hard copies. See her website and click on the left column book names. Judy writes wonderful, prize-winning science fiction but is also a powerful poet (see my review of Tarzan in Kentucky ) as well as translator from the Swedish and student of the work of James Merrill. All of her work is work reading.


Queer literature is often found in the side stacks, in the back of the bookstore, under "Gay and Lesbian." These authors are put into a genre that barely fits them, excluded from mainstream funding, and alienated by submission questionnaires and prying questions about identity and the underlying, "What are you?" Red Hen Press seeks to work against the negative politics of labeling while honoring and empowering authors who identify as queer.
Quill will publish literary prose by a queer (LGBTQ) author once per year, chosen by rotating judges through award submissions, with a $5 entrance fee and a minimum of 150 pages. The chosen author will be awarded $1,000 in addition to having their work published by Red Hen Press.
  • Submissions will open June 1, 2016 and close September 15, 2016.
  • Quill Mission: To publish quality literature by queer writers.
  • Guidelines: Prose, minimum 150 pages 
  • Deadline: September 15, 2016 
  • Submission Fee: $5
  • Award: $1,000 and publication by Red Hen Press
  • Inaugural Judge: Celeste Gainey
  • Submit here.


Open Road Integrated Media is a global ebook publisher and digital content company  thatpublishes and markets ebooks by legendary authors, including William Styron, Pat Conroy, Alice Walker, James Jones, and Laurie Colwin. Open Road also oversees a network of social websites built around authors, books, and the love of reading. It has now begun to acquire the backlist for digital editions of a number of Britain's greatest writers of the 20th and 21st centuries. These writers include Beryl Bainbridge, Bruce Chatwin, Clare Francis, Patrick Gale, Rumer Godden, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Hammond Innes, and Piers Paul Read.
Open Road also offers an Early Bird special newsletter that allows you to get special prices and even free ebooks, such as a recent ebook of Alice Walker's The Color Purple for $2.99.



A Conversation About Keeping Drafts in The Practical Writer with Suzanne McConnell, NancyKay Shapiro, Diane Simmons, and Meredith Sue Willis.
Ed Davis has an insightful piece in his blog about men talking together.
Matthew Neill Null  on literature and West Virginia.
Suzanne McConnell's "Neighbors" is available online from The New Ohio Review and as a podcast.
Burt Kimmelman's article on William Bronk, "Our Anxiety in Reading William Bronk is in Talisman.
Ingrid Hughes's blog includes a report on a journey through serious mental illness.
John Birch, just retiring from a regular column in this newsletter, has been running a blog for the past few years, and it now contains several dozen of his fiction and nonfiction stories, many of which have been published here and there in the U.S. and Europe. See it at John BIrch Live at Blogspot.
Barbara Crooker's poems are updated often on her website.
Check out Cathy Weiss's website for writers and readers:



On June 11, 2016, at the West Virginia Writers Conference, Cat Pleska presented the JUG Award ("Just Uncommonly Good") to West Virginia's poet Laureate, Marc Harshman, with these words: "Choosing talented poets as laureates is an indication of the value society places on literature. Most states choose laureates, and the nation chooses gifted writers every two years. The state of West Virginia has chosen laureates for a long time, and we have been fortunate in the last few years that our poet laureate, Marc Harshman, diligently and honorably represents his and our respect for literature. Marc is a friend to all, a good man who says and writes beautiful words. His literary arts are prolific, deeply and thoughtfully written, sometimes with a fierce voice in his poems and at other times a gentle voice in his children's books. The depth and breadth of his literary accomplishments are astounding. But ever and always, Marc is someone we can point to proudly as our laureate. West Virginia Writers, Inc. is pleased to award Marc Harshman with its highest award, the JUG, which stands for Just Uncommonly Good.  Because Marc Harshman truly is."
Barry Zack has published his first novel, Jewish Lightning: the Book.
Joan Liebovitz's story"A Bad Day in the Promised Land," has been accepted for publication inPersimmon Tree.
Yorker Keith's novel Remembrance of Blue Roses is featured in the June 1, 2016 issue of the Kirkus Reviews magazine as one of about 40 reviews on Indie Books (independently published books). Fewer than 10% of the reviews are selected to be featured in the magazine (see page 140).
Marc Harshman has a new poetry podcast: Upcoming are Robert Morgan, Jeff Mann, and Maggie Anderson.
Matthew Neill Null's new story collection Allegheny Front is out from Sarabande.

Hamilton Stone Editions-- Now with BUY buttons!

Summer Special! E-book versions of Meredith Sue Willis's Blair Morgan trilogy $1.99 each! Through July 15, 2016 only! To get the special price, go to or smply click on the book cover below.  

At checkout, put in the coupon code below (not case sensitive) for each book.

HIGHER GROUND Code: REW50 Promotional price: $1.99 Expires: July 15, 2016
ONLY GREAT CHANGES:   Code: GP53X Promotional price: $1.99 Expires: July 15, 2016
TRESPASSERS Code:    SWS50  Promotional price: $1.99 Expires: July 15, 2016




Saturday, June 18, 2016

It's a baby! I mean, I'm a grandma!

Andy and I just became grand-parents!

Our son Joel and his wife Sarah had a beautiful girl, Shira Tova Weinberger  (named for Joel's paternal grandmother and Sarah's paternal grandmother). They are in San Francisco, and we won't see the baby for another two weeks, but big excitement.  They are still at the hospital with all systems go.

Their process of choosing a name was particularly lovely: the names together (Hebrew) mean "beautiful song," with a particular honor to Andy's folk guitar playing mother, Sherry Weinberger.

It's a lovely Jewish custom that I particularly like of naming babies after deceased people.  Sarah's mom and I both have living mothers, but Andy and Sarah's dad's are gone.  Thus the name.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Just back from a great week-end giving workshops at the West Virginia Writers Conference at Cedar Lakes, West Virginia.  Seeing old, good friends (Phyllis Moore, Eddy Pendarvis, Marc Harshman, Anna Smucker, Cat Pleska, George Lies, Kirk Judd, Ken Sullivan, Taylor Seaton, Cheryl Denise-- oh I could go on and on!-- and that doesn't even begin to mention everyone or new friends like new excellent fiction writer Matthew Neill Null and the out-going WVW president Susan Nicholas, Huntington t.v. personality).

Cedar Lakes is near Ripley, West Virginia, a beautiful camp for all sorts of groups.  I got up early each day for a walk with my sticks before plunging in to socializing and discussing books and  how to write them.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Special E-book Promotion Celebrating the 2016 West Virginia Writers Conference


Special E-book Promotion Celebrating the
2016 West Virginia Writers Conference!

Three novels that follow a young woman through the nineteen sixties,
from a small mining town in north-central West Virginia to anti-poverty
work in Tidewater Virginia to anti-Vietnam War protests in New York City.

$1.99 Per Book
Special prices through July 15, 2016

To get the special price, go to
Do a search for the book by title or for “The Blair Ellen Morgan Trilogy”
or go straight to the url beside the book below.   At checkout, put in
the coupon code (not case sensitive) for each book .  

Coupon Code: REW50
Promotional price: $1.99
Expires: July 15, 2016

Coupon Code: GP53X
Promotional price: $1.99
Expires: July 15, 2016

Coupon Code: SWS50
Promotional price: $1.99
Expires: July 15, 2016

Thursday, June 02, 2016

When to Save Your Drafts

There's a new article in A Journal of Practical Writing about whether and when to save drafts with comments by Suzanne McConnell, NancyKay Shapiro, Diane Simmons, and MSW.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Books for Readers Newsletter #184


Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers # 184

May 10, 2016

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

anthony trollopeSuzanne McConnellamazon primeGermaine de StaelLaura Tillman
Images of Anthony Trollope, Suzanne McConnell, Amazon warehouse, Germaine de Staël, Laura Tillman 

In Issue# 184

Two Views of Amazon:
Donna Meredith and Darryl Bollinger

Main Article
Kimmelman on Bronk

Short Reviews:

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer
reviewed by Joel Weinberger
The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts:
Murder and Memory in an American City
 by Laura Tillman
The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
Blood Sisters: The French Revolution
in Women's Memory 
by Marilyn Yalom
Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope

Recommendations from Readers

Things to Read & Hear Online

Announcements and News

Updated Biography of Meredith Sue Willis

Irene Weinberger Books

A Journal of Practical Writing

French Revolution women
Women of the French Revolution

For a Free E-mail subscription to this newsletter, click below:


Meredith Sue Willis's Books for Readers # 184
May , 2016


Issue # 184 of Books for Readers begins with some celebratory news. First, my friend Pamela Erens got a stellar review for her new novel Eleven Hours in The New York Times Book Review.
Second, Burt Kimmelman has an article in Talisman on William Bronk that is partly about the longstanding strain of anti-intellectualism in the United State.
Third, my friend Suzanne McConnell's story “Neighbors” won the 2015 New Ohio Review Fiction contest. The story is now online to read as a text and as an audio podcast from New Ohio Review’s website. Set in gritty 1970’s downtown Manhattan, it's a story of friendship with a brilliant and beautiful woman who is also schizophrenic.
And, finally, for something a little less celebratory, here's a quotation from  Ed Myers, author of 37 published books . He says, "I can't seem to stop [writing], and I enjoy the craftsmanship of the task, but I'm skeptical about where any of the books will go once they're done. Writing feels somewhat like woodworking or cooking a good meal: I create something pleasant or even good, and a very small number of people enjoy it. But that's the end of it. There seems to be no 'out there' any more."

Which brings me to the guest essayists for Issue #184. Donna Meredith and Darryl Bollinger discuss the effect of Amazon-dot-com on writing. Has the influence of this International Octopus of a commercial giant been positive or negative? And if it's here to stay, what do writers do about it?



Amazon: A Writer’s Best Friend or the Devil Incarnate?

By Donna Meredith

It’s hard to believe now, but Amazon-dot-com started as a bookstore before expanding into selling almost anything that fits into a shipping box. Now they dominate the print book market with around two-thirds of all sales. And they have moved into printing and publishing with CreateSpace, a print-on-demand operation; Kindle, which claims two-thirds of ebook sales, and Audible and ACX, which produce audiobooks. And even though Amazon reviews are one of the biggest drivers of book sales, the company also bought Shelfari and Goodreads, online sites where readers can share their opinions on books. They control everything about content these days—which is a little scary.
As an active member of writing associations, I’ve encountered varied points of view concerningdonna meredithAmazon. For years I coordinated a literary contest, and we often gave judges—accomplished writers themselves—an Amazon gift card. The recipient could use it on a wide array of products, from the obvious choice for writers (books) to the practical (yoga DVDs and hemorrhoid cream to counteract all those hours sitting in front of a computer). The gift cards worked well. Until one judge told us to keep it. She, for one, boycotted Amazon. And she was not alone.
I was aware, of course, that writers had mixed opinions on the marketing behemoth. Stephen Colbert raised quite a ruckus when his latest book was listed as not immediately available because of a dispute between Amazon and his publisher. I thought the problem had nothing to do with me, that it would only affect New York Times Bestsellers. I thought Amazon had better things to do than try to corner more sales from bottom-feeders like me. I was wrong.
Several years ago without warning, my titles showed up as not available for immediate shipment. I realized all those hours spent luring potential readers through promotions and book talks were wasted if they couldn’t click that BUY NOW button and see the book drop into the shopping cart. Online shoppers expect immediate gratification. Not many would return a second time.
My primary book distributor, Ingram Content Group, is one of the largest in the world, but Amazon is nothing if not fiercely competitive. Its nefarious plan was to push writers into using its own printing services. It worked. I uploaded my books to Amazon’s CreateSpace, as well as continuing to use Ingram. Immediately my books showed up as available for purchase again. I’m sure this means when an online shopper buys my book, it is printed and shipped by Amazon, rather than Ingram. I still buy bulk copies from Ingram to sell myself.
While I don’t like Amazon’s aggressive business model, I also have to credit them for making books easily available to customers worldwide. People can and do buy my books all over the country—and once in a while overseas. Barnes and Noble lists my books, too, but I don’t sell nearly as many copies there. Online books ales have pushed many brick and mortar stores out of business. But for writers, the online store has key advantages. If a potential reader sees a review of your book, he can immediately go online and purchase it. To some extent, books are impulse buys. Miss the impulse, you miss the sale. Books are not products a person has to purchase, like groceries or medicines.
The majority of writers and small publishing companies I know use CreateSpace to print their books. As one friend told me, “I've never had any problems with Amazon. The process is easy to understand and execute. I especially like the preview process both on the computer and in print. It lets me see immediately where I've messed up.”
She’s right—the Kindle spell check is stronger than those included in very expensive editing software I’ve purchased. I have to admit Amazon has gone out of its way to make book production simple with almost any software you have on your home computer. They have MS Word templates and a Cover Generator available.
The upside for authors is they can bypass the traditional publishing route, which consumes time and eats up potential profit. The downside is that the market is flooded with titles, some of which are poorly written and edited.
Nonetheless, the bottom line for writers is this: it’s almost impossible not to work with Amazon if you want to sell books.

Amazon: Is it the Best or Worst Thing to Happen to Books and Writers?

By Darryl Bollinger

As a writer, I am frequently asked this question, especially by other writers. Some tend to view Amazon as the proverbial 600-pound gorilla, constantly shoving lesser players around the playground. Others see Amazon as the great liberator, making publishing available to those who might not have had a chance to publish works via the traditional route. Each side is quick to brandish examples that support their opinion.
     I think the answer is neither simple nor binary. Overall, I believe Amazon is good for readers and writers. They have streamlined the publishing process and reduced the entry cost, enabling writers like myself to get books to market easier and faster. Many would also argue that Amazon has been instrumental in putting a bigger piece of the sales price into authors’ pockets.
The number of books published has increased, leading to more competition. I also believe the quality has suffered. Too many times I’ve heard self-published authors proclaim that they don’t need an editor or a cover artist or other professional help. This has conspired to give indie publishers a tarnished reputation. For the free-market advocates, though, the Amazon model allows the market to be the ultimate arbiter, which I see as desirable.
 At the same time, giving any one player too much power can be dangerous. According to reliable estimates, E-books represent one-third of all book sales. Amazon has two-thirds of the E-book market. They continue to place tremendous price pressure on traditional publishers, both large and small, not hesitating to use their clout.
They also put pressure on authors. On more than one occasion, I’ve heard complaints about Amazon’s increasingly restrictive attitude on reviews. Again, they have the market presence to dictate the rules. 
Last, we are down to basically two nationwide bookstore chains: Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million. According to Forbes, the number of indie-owned bookstores has declined by over fifty percent in the last twenty years and now represent less than ten percent of all book sales. More books and fewer potential retail outlets mean more pressure on writers.
In conclusion, no author can afford to ignore the Amazon behemoth, like them or not. The industry is changing rapidly, and I like having a gorilla on my side as long as I pay attention to where he steps. 

(For a discussion about Amazon several years back, click here.)



Martha Moffett recommends her favorite book about Appalachia: East 40 Degrees: An Interpretive Atlas by Jack Williams. She says, "It's a beautiful book, with old and new maps and great photographs, but most remarkable, it's by a geographer at Auburn University in Alabama who has the most beautiful, unclouded writing style. I have the oversize paperback edition, and have given it as a gift to a couple of people who are notoriously hard to shop for."

Susan Lindsey (of Savvy-comm) wrote: "Since you've read Elizabeth Vignee-LeBrun's memoir, you might also want to read The Fountain at St. James Court, or Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman by Sena Jeter Naslund. It's a novel within a novel that follows a writer living in contemporary Louisville who is writing about Elizabeth Vignee-LeBrun's life.".

Janet MacKenzie recommends the work of Lucia Berlin. "I have her collection of short stories, A Manual For Cleaning Women, whose title story is very funny. I had not heard of her but she was married to one poet and one jazz musician. She had four sons but died of scoliosis, after defeating cancer and alcoholism. I've also just finished Jane Smiley's Some Luck, which I hope to get my book group to read. Tom Keneally's Daughters of Mars, the novel about two sisters who became nurses in WWI to escape their Australian dairy farm, js a lovely work, filled with fascinating and well-drawn characters."


Joel Weinberger reviews The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germanyby William L. Shirer ( (republished from Good Reads)

(Note: I listened to the unabridged Audible version of this book.)

A very dense and detailed history of the Third Reich that suffers from a few issues, many of which may be attributed to the proximity of the writing to the events that occurred. The author focuses in great depth and detail on several events which, while fascinating, perhaps have little bearing on the actual outcome or politics of the War or of the state.
Most famously, Shirer focuses a very detailed section on the Valkyrie Plot. It is a fascinating attempt at Hitler's life, but ultimately had almost no bearing on history, and I question whether it was the best use of space in this already massive tome. Additionally, there are many notable absences from the book, especially around the war crimes that were committed by the Nazis. While there is a chapter on the death camps and concentration camps, it is rather short given the length of the book, and it misses many important details, such as, for example, the great numbers of non-Jews killed in the camps. This may simply be because it was written so soon after Nazi Germany fell, and a full understanding of their horrors wasn't understood yet, but it certainly makes the reader question other details.
On another note, there are several extreme cases of homophobia expressed by the author that made be very uncomfortable with the book, nearly to the point of putting it down. This includes parts where he states out of hand that certain Nazis were gay and that this explains their horrible actions. Perhaps this is an artifact the era it was written in, but it is jarring none the less.

The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City by Laura Tillman
laura tillman
The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts is a journalist's journey tracking down the details of an appalling crime (the murder of three small children by their parents). The book is about the crime and the city of Brownsville, Texas, and many other matters. Tillman starts with the building where the children were killed, and which is her first assignment dealing with the crime, committed several years before she came to work for the The Brownsville Herald.
She opens up her exploration to the city itself, to the sad stories of the killers, to the general background of curanderismo (there was some talk that witchcraft and possession were involved in the deaths), and to poverty in this border town and across the border in Mexico. She interviews and writes about the lives of people who lived near where the murders occurred, and, gradually, we begin to share her written correspondence with death row inmate John Allen Rubio, the father and stepfather who did the killing, with help from his common law wife. His story occupies a lot of the book, and the climactic sections are her in-person visits with him on death row. The description of what it is like to visit someone on death row is wonderful, as is her ability to capture John Rubio's charm and his profound sadness.
Tillman, manages to do all this by taking us with her on the path that she follows in researching the story without foregrounding her own emotions (although she gives us just enough of her relationships, her family, her feelings about being a Northeasterner living in Texas, etc.). She is our Virgil leading us through the many levels of a hellish crime which came out of great suffering as well as causing great suffering. She takes care to examine her own prejudices and only very rarely gets lost in a little unnecessary philosophizing.
For me, the story and city were fascinating, but the real high point was the gentle probing she does into a man who did monstrous things: our imaginations are stretched by being face-to-face with the human being behind the almost unimaginable deeds.

The Denial of Death by Ernest BeckerErnest Becker
This Pulitzer prize winning book published in 1973 was recommended to me by a psychiatrist friend who has read it several times. Becker, a multi-disciplinarian, public intellectual like Susan Sontag, has a deep and abiding faith in philosophy and reason-- and psychoanalysis. Becker is far from uncritical of Freud--he sees him as a genius and great thinker, but hardly right in all or maybe even most particulars. He is also critical of Adler and Jung, likes Otto Rank better. He writes at length in dialogue with Kierkegaard and Paul Tillich.
Becker's book is dense and passionate. It emphasizes disgust with the animality of our bodies, but finds transcendence and even nobility in the attempt of conscious human beings to be heroic in the face of the death we alone of the animals know is coming. Becker himself died shortly after the publication of The Denial of Death. He died, by the way, of colon cancer, which makes me wonder if some of his emphasis on the filth of our bodies grew out of personal experience.
I didn't get everything-- I want to go back and reread some parts I underlined-- so much of it moving and interesting. Becker's style of thinking and the thinkers he engages are still important, but not as central to the life of the mind as they once were. Also, the confident erudition displayed here stands on many assumptions that have been at least partially undermined: that Western culture is supreme; that homosexuality is a perversion, that women are beside the point. These limitations of the thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth century do not mean we should dismiss them, but they do make us aware that they are one part of the really big picture.

Blood Sisters: The French Revolution in Women's Memory by Marilyn Yalom
This is a book I learned about while reviewing Hilton Obenzinger's book Why We Write (Issue # 183). Yalom was one of his interviewees, and her study of women's views of the French Revolution is build around old memoirs and letters. She has passages from Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun's memoir, which I also reviewed last issue (Vigée-Lebrun right). Yalom's book includes a majority of aristocratic writers or admirers of the aristocracy, but also Madame Roland, a Republican who wrote a lot of her husband's material and died on the guillotine during the Terror.
Among the aristocrats, Madame Tour de la Pin has a particularly striking story. She was young and energetic and fled with her husband to various European countries and America during the revolution. They farmed and made a popular hard cider. So she was aristocratic but not afraid of work. There is also a conservative peasantFrench Revolution womenwoman who was a soldier of the Vendée. No one fits neatly in a box. My only caveat, and it is one that Yalom is very aware of herself, is that there is very little to represent the truly poor (and most likely illiterate) women who supported the Revolution.
So one has to make do with the endlessly entertaining Liberal and enemy of NapoleonGermaine de Stael, Madame de Staël (right). Unlike most of the writers here, she was a theorist even more than a recorder of her own experience, although she gets that into her writings too. She was one of the richest women in Europe and always worth reading for her sharp observations and her quasi-feminism-- or at least De Staëlism.
Yalom has great notes and a bibliography, of course, and is also good on the position of women in the eighteenth century, all classes. The work began as a scholarly piece, but is very readable, with excellent images and choice quotations from the various memoirs and letters and journals.

Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope (first of the Palliser novels)
I just had my Victorian fix for the month. This is the first book of Trollope's six Palliser novels centering on a wealthy, aristocratic British family and on life in and out of Parliament. I've read this before, and like it, even though when it was published, the satirical magazine Punch referred to it asanthony trollope"Can You Stand Her?" and another commentator called it "Can You Possibly Finish It?" Both jokes have some truth. It's long, and the most prominent character, Alice, isn't particularly likable. The best thing here is the difficult marriage of Lady Glencora and Mr. Palliser. Glencora is one of those spirited young women beloved of 19th century male authors like Trollope and Tolstoy. She is an heiress who also wants to have adventures, falls in love with a bounder, and is persuaded by her family and friends to marry the solid if dull Plantagenet Palliser instead. He is delighted with her; she feels trapped.
Both Glencora and Alice Vavasor made me want to give them professions or a university education or a war zone to be brave in. Anything to use their energy and passion and intelligence to worry about something besides love and marriage. Alice's problem is that her true love is so good and loyal that she makes a fetish of insisting that she doesn't deserve him. I found myself wanting her to stand by her guns, but of course in the end he bulldozes her with his devotion, and she accepts him-- or maybe lets him tell her she has..
He also, to give Trollope his due, does what Alice hoped for and runs, or rather, "stands" for Parliament. There is a kind of happy ending, with the marriages in place and Lady Glencora finally producing an heir for her husband, who is himself the heir to a great duke.
So here's the thing with Trollope: he does very well in capturing the yearnings and struggles of young women (and one must remember that all the leading roles here, male and female, are 30 or younger), but he just can't seem to imagine, or doesn't want to imagine, a way for them to become anything but Victorian gentlewomen, wives and mothers. George Eliot's female characters are often thoroughly chastised by experience and the real world, but their aspirations are taken extremely seriously, and they at least attempt to act in the world in ways other than half-heartedly trying to run off with a lover.
So what do I like here? I like how hard Lady Glencora flails against her fate. I like the comic relief of Aunt Greenow and her suitors-- and her choice of a fancy man she carefully arranges NOT to have access to her money. I also like the satisfyingly melodramatic George Vavasor with the eloquent color-changing cicatrix on his face. And Burgo Fitzgerald who is about as useless and hopeless a human being you can find--but wildly handsome.


Excellent article by Matthew Neill Null about literature and West Virginia.
Suzanne McConnellSuzanne McConnell's "Neighbors" is now available online from The New Ohio Review and as a podcast as well! Suzanne (picture left) says about the process of posting the podcast: "Wrong audio sent in November, another unavailable for weeks, then that one sent without enough capacity. At last [an angelic friend], an expert sound guy who works in film, brought professional recording equipment, instructed me, and left it. That was January. I had a bad cold. [He] edited out a 7 second coughing fit. More technical difficulties ensued on the other end. But now it’s up! Lessons in persistence, trust, and patience."
Burt Kimmelman's article in Talisman on William Bronk, "Our Anxiety in Reading William Bronk"Crystal Wilkinson
PBS interview with Crystal Wilkinson (right) as well as a 2001 clip of her reading a powerful poem called "Dear Johnny P."
Some beautiful photographs on Mark Wyatt's page.
An amusing article about the romance novel self-publishing scene-- and the male models who want to be the Fabio of the digital age!
Here's a good blog post from Ed Davis on the writer's life--there's more to it than keeping your keister at the computer....
Ingrid Hughes's blog includes a report on a journey through serious mental illness.
John Birch, just retiring from a regular column in this newsletter, has been running a blog for the past few years, and it now contains several dozen of his fiction and nonfiction stories, many of which have been published here and there in the U.S. and Europe. See it at John BIrch Live at Blogspot.
Barbara Crooker's poems are updated often on her website.
Check out Cathy Weiss's website for writers and readers:



Krkus Reviews praises Yorker Keith's novel!
Marc Harshman has a new poetry podcast: Upcoming are Robert Morgan, Jeff Mann, and Maggie Anderson.
Matthew Null's new story collection Allegheny Front is out from Sarabande

  • SALON AT GABRIELLA'S CAFE with Tess Taylor and Ellen Bass June 7, 2016 Dinner at 6 PM Reading at 7:30 PM Sponsored by Catamaran Literary Reader Gabriella's Cafe, Santa Cruz, CA For more info, email Catherine Segurson .
  • PACIFIC UNIVERSITY MASTER OF FINE ARTS IN WRITING Residency dates: June 16-26, 2016 Residency location: Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. If you are interested in learning more about the program, please contact the director, Shelley Washburn or Ellen Bassat with your questions.
  • POETRY READING & WORKSHOP with Ellen Bass August 19, 2016 Workshop 1:30 to 5:30 Poetry reading 7:30 California Poets in the Schools Annual Conference, Los Gatos, CA. Contact Tina Areja-Pasquinzo.
  • THE GLINT OF LIGHT ON BROKEN GLASS A Workshop in Writing Stories, Essays and Poems with Pam Houston and Ellen Bass August 21 - 27, 2016 The Inn at Lake Connamarra, Hope, B. C. Canada

Buy a Book from Hamilton Stone Editions-- Now with BUY buttons!




Donna Meredith is the author of five books, including Fraccidental Death.

Darryl Bollinger is the author of five medical thrillers, including Satan Shoal.

"I hereby release my Goodreads review under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License." -- Joel Weinberger

I have a lot of friends and colleagues who really despise Amazon. See the discussion in Issue # 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 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 use Bookfinder or Alibris. Bookfinder gives the price with shipping and handling, so you can compare what you’re really going to 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.
Still another place to buy books: 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 like Kindle, Nook, or Kobo, don't forget free books at theGutenberg 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 instruct 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.



#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

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