Sunday, January 18, 2015

Books for Readers EXTRA #175

Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers EXTRA # 175

Jamuary 19, 2015

This Issue is an EXTRA: if you haven't read the last full issue, it's available here.

  For Back Issues, click here.
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A Word from our sponsors: Cat Pleska's Review of Love Palace at theCharleston-Gazette      

A new book coming February 2, 2015 from Hamilton Stone Editions: Shelley Ettinger's Vera's Will

In this EXTRA Issue:

OF WEST VIRGINIA by Marc Harshman

Suggestions for Your Reading Pleasure from
Janice Eidus, Shelley Ettinger, and Crystal Wilkinson

The E-Reader Report with John Birch

The Painter's Bad Day by Peggy Backman

Reader Comments

Things to Read & Hear Online

Announcements and News

For a Free E-mail subscription to this newsletter:

This issue is an extra, which means it is short on reviews (although it has a couple, including a review of a book of West Virginia child lore by Marc Harshman and John Birch's E-Reader Reportas well as fresh announcements and things to read online). If you haven't read the last full issue, it's available here .

The main purpose of this extra is to ask your response to some comments I blogged in reaction to an essay at Slate by Daniel Menaker.   Menaker is someone I know socially, ex-fiction editor at The New Yorker as well as ex-editor at Random House. Here's what I wrote.
The question I'd like responses to is this: in this new age of e-books and self-publishing and ever-closing doors to the world of commercial publishing, where do you think we'll go in the future to find out what to read?
It used to be that there were great editors who loved literature more than lucre. There was at least a slim possibility for a writer to be taken on by one of them and brought along by a commercial publisher till her or his work began to make a modest amount of money. There were also book reviews in most newspapers in big cities and medium sized ones as well.
All of this is rapidly collapsing.
Therefore--where do we get ideas for what we read now? And where will we get what we read next year and in the years after? Do you depend for your book choices on The New York Times Book Review?   Here is New York Times Notable Books of 2014: I think I've read none of them. Below are more lists  from some people I respect.
I'm looking for your ideas and books lists, but also ideas for how to create new gatekeepers and book sources. Do you miss the good old days? Were the old days really good? Where do you get your book recommendations now?
What do you predict for the future of literature?

                                                                     Please write me at MeredithSueWillis (at)



Jeffrey Sokolow says (of Madame Bovary discussed in Issue # 174"Bovary is simply devastating. Infuriating woman, foolish and materialist, an uncaring mother, impossible to forget."
He also comments on a new book about why we keep reading The Great Gatsby:  "Maybe you can find a Gatsby fanatic to review it. Made me want to reread Gatsby again for the umpteenth time. How odd that the two greatest American novels -- both the very long one (Moby Dick) and the very short one (The Great Gatsby) -- were...commercial failures whose authors were nearly forgotten by the time of their deaths. Who says there are no second acts in American letters? Solace to writers everywhere (assuming they're as good as HM or FSF!)"


This handsomely produced book is clearly a labor of love for many people but I think especially for its gifted editor, Judy Byers. Of course, it is, as well, the result of the earlier passion of its late authors, Ruth Ann Musick and Walter Barnes, seminal collectors and champions of Appalachian folklore.
What a reader will find here are all the permutations imaginable for child "lore" from WV, from play party games to sobering ghost tales, from Mother Goose-like rhymes to jokes, riddles, and much, much more. The preface alone is uniquely valuable as it provides intriguing historical perspective on both Musick, Barnes, and their life's work, as well as Byers' own intersection with that work.
Personally, I was captivated by the weird darkness to be found in several of the sections. For instance, among the 'Mother Goose' rhymes can be found this: "In eighteen hundred and four, / My grandfather went to war. / He pulled two triggers / And shot ten strangers, / And that was the end of the war." Some of the rhymes are very close to the familiar rhymes from more generic collections such as this one: "Rub-a-dub-dub, / Three men in a tub: / The butcher, the baker, / The candlestick maker, / All jumped out of a rotten potato." And some were as simply mind-blowingly surreal as any French poet: "'Twas a nice day in October, last September in July; / The moon lay thick on the ground, and the mud shone in the sky. / The flowers singing sweetly and the birds were full of bloom, / As I went into the cellar to sweep an upstairs room."
Of course, there is much more here than the "jingles and rhymes" section and I don't have room to point to them all but I will say that the whole of this gathering represents a treasure trove to any enterprising teacher of young children. The songs, group and play- party games alone are numerous enough to keep any group of children captivated. There are, as well, the finger and act-out games of which I've never encountered such a large gathering – the "fist stock" portion of these are a singular treat.
In yet another section readers of a certain age will find stories such as "Tailypo" familiar to readers of Richard Chase's landmark collection THE GRANDFATHER TALES as "Chunk O Meat," as well as other remembered stories from more distinctly European antecedents – all a delight with the special flavor preserved from their dissemination and recording in West Virginia.
I can not recommend this book too highly for parents, teachers, librarians, anyone who might work with young people throughout Appalachia and beyond. Easily accessible, illustrated, and with accompanying instructions for the games, it should be a gift that will demand re-gifting in only the best of ways.
Order MOUNTAIN MOTHER GOOSE: CHILD LORE OF WEST VIRGINIA – Ruth Ann Musick & Walter Barnes, ed. Judy Prozzillo Byers, 2013 Fairmont State University Press, WV from the The Frank & Jane Gabor WV Folklife Center, 1201 Locust Avenue, Fairmont, WV 26554 or .


Amazon says it wants to make reading a Kindle easier than reading a traditional book. Well, in my view it isn't. Not yet, anyway. Alright, it's great to change to bigger or smaller type, or to be able to read your Paperwhite in semi-darkness before the movie begins. But a key reason why Kindles aren't perfect is that, without extraordinary gymnastics, you can't turn pages back to remind yourself of a character's name, or confirm some twist in the plot.
Try reading Hilary Mantel's excellent "Wolf Hall" for instance. And it's doubly annoying for nonfiction readers who almost always need to take a quick peek at the index or footnotes. Another thing is that several perfectly honest and decent people I know, especially mystery and romance enthusiasts, enjoy the perverse pleasure of sneaking a look at the last page to discover whether the butler did it, or whether Lady Sybil finally marries her chauffeur. You can't do that easily with a Kindle.
Read John's blog.


Peggy Backman's The Painter's Bad Day is a charming miscellany of stories, anecdotes and bits of memoir, and poetry. The writer is a psychologist turned fiction writer whose work is set in Manhattan and the Hamptons, with wry observations and imaginings of human behaviors in both places.
My favorites are probably the one about what it is like to face privileged little trick-or-treaters in a high rise on the Upper East Side and the one about hiring a cleaning woman whose degree is possibly more advanced than your own (hint: check out who does the most work in the end). The title story is a wonderfully grim takin- to-extremes of thoughts or daydreams any one might have.
Some of the pieces are inspired by uneasy dreams (day and night), and others are more grounded in waking life. Lots of fun and some shivers as well.



She says, " They're in no particular order, and are both fiction and nonfiction. I've very much enjoyed all of these." Thank you, Janice! See her website at
-- THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS -- Cristina Henriquez
– FIRE SHUT UP IN MY BONES -- Charles M. Blow
-- FLORENCE GORDON -- Brian Morton
-- I LOVED YOU MORE -- Tom Spanbauer
-- THE HUNDRED-YEAR HOUSE -- Rebecca Makkai
Sable Girls
Black Hill Folk and Brown Country
Teaching the Affrilachian Poets
Beetlecreek by William Demby
Memphis Tennessee Garrison
Saint Monkey by Jacinda Townsend
Alena Hairston's The Logan Topographies
Blacks in Appalachia by William Turner and Ed Cabell
Fiction & poetry
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Bleak House
 by Charles Dickens
Into the Go-Slow by Bridgett M. Davis
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
My Father's Ghost is Climbing in the Rain by Patricio Pron
Philadelphia Fire by John Edgar Wideman
She Rises by Kate Worsley
I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita
A History of the African American People (Proposed) By Strom       Thurmond by Percival Everett
See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
How It All Began by Penelope Lively
I Dreamt I Was in Heaven by Leonce Gaiter
The City of Palaces by Michael Nava
Perla by Carolina De Robertis
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
The Unseen by Nanni Balestrini
Long Man by Amy Greene

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine
Goliath by Max Blumenthal


Asking My Liver for Forgiveness by Rob Cook, from Rain Mountain Press (


Check out Fractious Fiction–essays on modernism, mostly in the novel:


Halvard Johnson's newest book is Junkyard Dog:
Listen to an interview of Ed Davis after the publication of his THE PSALMS OF ISRAEL JONES at
Cathy Weiss's piece "The Animals in Our Family" at . Her memoir is coming this spring. Cathy Weiss, Director The Cathy Weiss Project 203 376 0892 email .
It's too late to see this New York City production, but note the good notice received by West Virginia poet laureate Marc Harshman's daughter Sarah Jane Harshman:

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.
For a discussion of Amazon and organized labor and small presses, see the comments of Jonathan Greene and others in Issues #97 and #98 .


If a book discussed in this newsletter has no source mentioned, don’t forget that you may be able to borrow it from your public library as either a hard copy or a digital copy. You may also buy or order from your local independent bookstore. (To find a bricks-and-mortar store, click the "shop indie" logo left).
To buy books online, I often go first to Bookfinder or Alibris. Bookfinder gives the price with shipping and handling, so you can compare what you’re really going to have to pay.
A lot of people whose political instincts I respect prefer the unionized bricks-and-mortar bookstore Powells (see "About" above) that sells online at  
Another source for used and out-of-print books is All Book Stores. Also consider Paperback Book Swap, a postage only way to trade books with other readers.

If you are using an electronic reader like Kindle, Nook, or Kobo, don't forget free books at theGutenberg Project—mostly classics, but free, free, free! sells 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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#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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