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Meredith Sue Willis's Books for Readers # 183 March 28, 2016
There are these days about as many uncredentialed walk-ons in our literary fiction as there are walk-ons in major league baseball. -- Gerald Howard
That quotation and the full article linked give a grim look at the publishing world today. it is, it turns out, a very small world, led by a handful of people who include those who know how to make money from books and a smaller handful who see themselves as fighting for high art in literature. If I had to choose sides, my allegiance would go with the second group, but they can be as provincial in their tastes as anyone else. Also, I find myself, in my advancing age, drawn less to beautiful sentences and the exuberance of experimentation and more to the powerful momentum of story. I like to take a trip when I read.
I also have a low tolerance for bad writing of any kind-- I try to read a little poetry every day (to get free poems for National Poetry Month, go to Poem-a-Day), but I am deeply cognizant of how much writing is not getting through to the public or-- an equally big problem-- is getting to the public but is sloppily written and edited. I refer here mostly to self-published work which can be really bad, but sometimes quite good. The stigma of self-publishing, however, is fading fast, although distribution as well as editing remain huge problems, as they do with small and university presses.
A few days ago I came across an interesting science fiction novel (first of a trilogy) that is frankly and honestly self-published in e-book format and available for only $2.99-- three bucks with as much bang as Trader Joe's famous three buck Chuck. See my comments below.
While we wait for publishing to sort itself out, there is still the writing itself, and the reading itself. One of the things I've read since the last issue is a wonderful book about writing, How We Write: The Varieties of Writing Experience by Hilton Obenzinger. This is based on many years of Obenzinger's interviews with people through the "How I Write" Project at Stanford University. I had assumed that this would be interesting comments from poets and fiction writers on their process, and indeed they are in the book. I especially enjoyed a wonderful passage about David Henry Hwang's process of structuring his famous play M. Butterfly-- how an idea took form as a drama.
But perhaps what I liked best here were the other writers--the scholars and professors. Writing is– why don't we think of this?– an essential part of many, many professions. For scholars, as for so-called creative writers, a great deal is explored and discovered in the process of writing. Included here are writers from the social sciences, but also from the hard sciences, in which visuals like graphs and charts become the backbone of an article, and words are mostly used to link the parts. Data, in other words, is the backbone of the piece of writing.
How We Write also has, along with excellent examples of the great variety of processes of writing among various people, an interesting subplot, as it were, about the tensions for scholars between writing articles acceptable to the scientific world of journals and scholars and the desire to share their insights and writing with lay people. There is, according to several of these writers, a danger of being "Saganized," which is having your career taken less than seriously in your profession (as apparently happened to astronomer Carl Sagan) by becoming a popularizer. Claude Steele, who named "stereotype anxiety" (the destructive socio-psychological force that can trammel members of racial and gender minorities), talks well about the division between the experiments and research in his work and how he gets the work out to the public.
Generally, Obenzinger himself takes a back seat here, featuring his admirable and delightful guests at what must have been a terrific series of live interviews. He is himself, of course, an accomplished and excellent writer (see my review of his memoir Busy Dying ), and there are a number of hints of techniques he has developed in his teaching of writing to all kinds of students, including a passage on editing out over-used words that is really about how the over-used words are part of the process of thinking through writing.
This is an exciting and useful book for teachers of writing and anyone who writes. You'll dip into it often to refresh your thoughts about one of the most deeply human ways of exploring and sharing experience.
Next is a novels especially for the kind of readers who consider learning something to be part of the entertainment of reading. Fraccidental Death by Donna Meredith combines a beautifully observed Harrison County, West Virginia setting with a lot of research about the mineral extraction business today–especially the dangers of so-called fracking in the Marcellus Shales of the EasternUnited States– plus a gripping murder mystery.
The plot line is that graduate student Summer Cassidy discovers that her thesis advisor is either having a nervous breakdown or running away from danger. Summer, a Florida native, arrives in West Virginia as winter comes on to study water quality near fracking sites. She meets lots of interesting people (and reignites an old relationship with a veteran who has become an anti-fracking activist).
The residents are friendly and welcoming, but they begin refusing to let her test their water-- and then she meets an elderly woman who has become ill after exposure to foul-tasting well water. Then a trucker whose job is hauling chemicals is badly injured in a chemical explosion.
Summer, a dedicated scientist, wants to hear both sides of the story--and ends up hearing at least seven or eight. A smooth, good-looking business man, who purports to do the extractions cleanly, is interested in her both as an employee and as a possible lover. She is tempted, but cares more for the anti-fracking veteran.
She brings up her best friend from Florida, a computer whiz who engages mano a mano(figuratively speaking) with an industry-hired hacker. Meanwhile, Summer is also forced to engage with her pill-addicted, unsupportive mother.
It's a big book that explores one woman's psychology, gives you a rousing good mystery story, and has just the right amount of love-- the course of which doesn't run smooth at all. Even the bad guys are under a lot of pressure, and the good guys don't always take the high road. Meanwhile, you learn a lot about gas and oil extraction and local politics. It's a solid, worthwhile read.
As you can see, I've been doing my favorite thing these last weeks, and impulse reading wherever a friend or another book sends me. After seeing an excellent exhibit of the work of the portraitist Elizabeth Vigée-LeBrun at the Metropolitan Museum in New York (see my blog entry ) I ordered a copy of her memoir for my e-reader from the wonderful free Gutenberg.org, Memoir by Elizabeth Vigée-LeBrun, translated by Lytton Strachey (yes, the dear friend of Virginia Woolf and the rest of the Bloomsbury group).
Vigée-LeBrun was a total royalist during the French Revolution, but reading the memoir gives that a context for me. She is not an aristocrat herself, but rather an extremely talented artist who made her own living and supported her family-- by painting the queen and the aristocrats. There is no theoretical underpinning of politics, only her loyalty to the people who are (according to her optimistic view) kind, graceful, and give her commissions.
She fled to Italy with her daughter (truly the only great love of her life) and then worked for seven years in Russia, and three years in England, coming back to Paris in between, and living out the rest of her life in Louveciennes, north and east of Paris. She doesn't like the Bonapartists, of course, when they become the leaders of society, and is especially critical of the way the men and women don't mix socially under the Bonapartes (who knew that?), but she is careful what she says about them too-- indeed, about anyone with power. I think in many ways her psychology must be that of a high level servant– that is, totally dependent on the upper classes, and totally identified with them, even though she herself was a hard worker.
She painted prodigiously, a true working woman, who left her gambler-art dealer husband, but stayed in mostly amiable touch. Her real love, as I said, was her daughter, who did her wrong in the end and married a Russian with little money, and then ran away from him.
Vigée-LeBrun also loved her many friends, and her memoir is full of lively descriptions of them and the countries where she lived, and the bone wracking journeys between them. Some but not all of her paintings are quite wonderful, the life in certain faces, mostly women but men too. Her writing is clear and to the point. Like most people, in the end, she loved those who were kind to her.
This short memoir would be an excellent entryway into understanding the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries-- the story of a first rate portraitist, who wanted to be a history painter, but found that path largely denied to a woman, and and lived a long, active life during a time of great turbulence.
THE JOHN BIRCH E-READER REPORT: JOHN BIRCH STEPS DOWN
We are sorry to report that John Birch, who has provided us with a report on the state of e-reading for many issues, says that since e-books and e-readers have now been around for several years, his monthly computer searches reveal very little new, interesting, or unusual about e-books, Kindles, Nooks and "the whole e-phenomenon." He adds that, after making a real effort in the last month or two, he's drawn a total blank, because there's "precious little new to write about."
I really enjoyed this quirky early-twentieth-century novel with a neurotic sad sack of a hero-- a young marquis who feels he should have died so his hearty sportsman of a brother could have been the heir. He faints at crucial moments and is tricked into marrying a woman who refuses to have sex with him. All the characters except for "Sainty" himself and one or two minor exceptions have very little in the way of socially redeeming characteristics. Even Sainty's Cambridge mentor turns out to be a garden variety snob.
The finally lines are a letter to Sainty from a woman he finds repellently vulgar, but who turns out to be the only person who truly appreciates his loss of a child he loves. Another of the handful of decent people is his earliest governess, a lady who ends up marrying (perish the thought) a widowed Jew who has two daughters, one of whom marries the fascinating snake in the grass, Sainty's cousin Claude-- smooth, sinuous, and sexually attractive to all genders. It's a book like no other I've read.
Sturgis was a good friend of Edith Weirton and Henry James, and I read Belchamber after a recommendation in Lea vis's The Great Tradition. Lea vis also ranks James's The Bostonians as a top choice, so I reread it, in spite of a memory of having despised it many years ago. This time, when I finished, I realized that I had absolutely no memory of how it ended.
What I seem to have missed back then is (a) the comedy and (b) that the ending frankly predicts unhappy days ahead for the couple. The whole end section is a lot of fun, a dramatic and comic scene in the "retiring" room at the Boston Music House where the unreconstructed Southern lover Basil Ran some comes to save the inspirational speaker Verona Tar rant from plunging into a career as a public speaker for the Feminist Cause. There is an amusing stand-off between Basil and a cop and the reappearance of Verona's awful, Dickensian parents, along with most of the other major characters. Olive Chancellor, the ideologue who has been battling with Basil during the whole novel for Verona's soul and body, sees she has lost, and there is some indication that she may be going on stage in place of Verona, to speak for the Cause, which is what she should have done in the first place instead of try to train Verona to do it.
The main question in the book is always whether the handsome Southerner's fatuous arrogance and general male chauvinist pig-headed ness are endorsed by James. I had always assumed that it was a wholly reactionary novel, but as the book goes on, James evinces more sympathy for Olive's suffering, and definitely likes a couple of the other women characters, especially the vague but lovable old campaigner Miss Birds eye as well as a woman doctor who takes Basil Ran some fishing.
The biggest problem for me is that while all "messages" and "ideologies" are disdained, Basil's conservatism is presented as quixotic, silly, and idiosyncratic whereas the feminist "Cause" is a parody of real issues. The bits of speeches about oppressed women have no depth, and are treated as if they were as idiosyncratic as Basil Ransom e's hobby-horses, when, indeed, they are part of a movement that has become part of today's accepted beliefs. There is no depiction of anything near the real work that was done by people like Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Lady Stentorian latter of whom even had a husband and children. That would be a fun novel-- about friendship and political change, but James never could have written it, nor would he have had any interest in it.
So I'm still not sure why Lea vis thinks it's one of James's best, but it's much more interesting and complex than I remembered.
This novel, The Deep Link is the first of a trilogy, and it is self-published. Available in e-book format for only $2.99 as well as in paperback, it gives at least as much bang for buck as Trader Joe's famous three buck Chuck. Author Veronica Sicoe calls herself an "authorpreneur," and makes no apologies about it. She wants to keep control of her work, and to sell it directly to readers.
The novel is at least as well written as commercially published science fiction I have run across. There is in the front matter acknowledgement by name of the cover artist (not unusual) and the editor. I wonder if acknowledging the person who edited the book is a new trend-- I like the idea, actually, because serious writers these days are often having to hire or trade for editing, and it makes sense to know that a book has not simply come straight from the writer's computer with no gatekeepers at all, but has rather been vetted by someone you can look up, get evaluations of. Is this a new way of separating the well-written wheat from the unreadable trash?
The novel itself is fast moving with an adventuring, ethical woman hero I liked a lot. It has a little too much cyber-jargon for me-- but that is taste, not a criticism-- and there is also a quirky mixing of present and past tenses that I am sure is chosen consciously, but annoyed me. Maybe I've taught too many fiction writing classes where I emphasized consistency in tenses.
But mostly I just went along for a compelling ride: slipping through space, experiencing a rebellion in a dystopian human city, and lots and lots of colorful, sometimes slimy, aliens (always my favorite part!).
Best of all was an especially powerful inter-species love story: a kind of alien-human version of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. He, way beyond human beings in his abilities, does a mind meld exploration on her to get information-- and is blown away by a mutual link more powerful than either of them can imagine. Really nice! And explosively, electronically sexy.
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
The considerable strength of this young adult novel is the Caribbean/African ancestors/spirituality/ mural painting and Bedford-Stuyvesant characters and setting. It's about a moment during gentrification when the teen characters both like the expensive new hipster coffee shops and feel pushed out of their neighborhood. The language beautifully mixes an artful and conscious street slang and literary imagery. The villain is a white guy, of course, corrupted by envy of relationships with the spirts. The dead here, if I get it right, have power and their memories, but no future. There's lots of dancing and music and nice distinctions between Puerto Rican and Haitian and from Martinique and Dominican Republic. Oh, and while heroine Sierra is definitely a leader, she always needs her friends and family. The importance of the group is inspiring and believable. The plot is a little clunky in places-she seems to figure out who the villain is a little too easily, for example, but, on the other hand, I didn't care much as I read fast and with pleasure.
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
Odd for me, to read a book after seeing the movie. The movie of this, with Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman, caught me up with its atmosphere--the Soviet Union under Stalin, and I wanted more. So I got a paperbackswap copy of the book. It was a a best seller when it came out, although I'd never heard of it: it's about an officer of the secret police who tries to do the right thing, acts the sleuth when children are murdered--and the power structure won't admit that such things could happen in a happy country.
There are lots of required plot turns and connections, but also a lot of emotional resonance and the exploration of what you will do to survive-- including betraying anyone, and how everyone understands that. The movie really changed a lot, including Leo's childhood gory back story. It was also a striking example of what books have that movies don't and vice versa.
What the movie had was Tom Hardy, of whom I'm a big fan. Unlike a lot of actors, he totally disappears in each part, but the part always excites me, whether it's this Russian state security officer or Mad Max. The movie also has Gary Oldham-- lots of faces . As Norma Desmond famously says in Sunset Boulevard, "We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!" It also has a beautiful long shot of a train running through some Hungarian woods, or no I believe Czech.
What the book has is more vicious and detailed violence and a more complex plot. The extra plot complexities enriched the novel and made it feel like a more important book than it probably is. The book also takes the privilege of the thriller writer (influenced by the movies of course) and flips point of view a lot. Oh, and the book has a lot of its big scenes of the novel in winter, which the movie just skipped over, probably too hard to film. There is, for example, a good action scene of breaking through a frozen stream that's skipped in the movie, and this kind of action–from the inside, how long you have before your body shuts down from the cold– is just about impossible to do in the movies, which are a sense experience in themselves, whereas books are largely a demand on the reader to imagine the senses. Anyhow, a good thriller.
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 atwww.JohnBirchLive.blogspot.com.
Chela: The Adventures of Jack and Ty is in part a tribute to one of the greatest writers andhumorists of the twentieth century, Sir P.G. Wodehouse, and a spoof on the fantasy genre where anything and everything can happen at any given moment and time. Jack is a hungry jackal, booted out of his clan for being lazy and incapable of providing for himself. One night while wandering a patch of forest he accidentally steps on the tail of a tiger that is understandably furious at the jackal. The tiger Ty, confronts the jackal with the latter begging forgiveness. The commotion dies down and they soon go their separate ways. Fate, however, brings them together again and and they soon realize they are both facing a similar predicament – an acute shortage of food. The two strangers soon become comrades and along with Herbert, a cross between a wolf and a pariah dog, set out on a journey through the vast woodland of Baganpore and beyond in search of food. On the way they face perils aplenty in the form of diabolical relatives, cunning scavengers, a mysterious banyan tree and a lake that isn't what it appears to be.
I have a lot of friends and colleagues who really despise Amazon. For a discussion of Amazon and organized labor and small presses, see the comments of 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 Amazon.com. An alternative way to reach Powell's site and support the union is via http://www.powellsunion.com. Prices are the same but 10% of your purchase will go to support the union benefit fund.
WHERE TO FIND BOOKS MENTIONED IN THIS NEWSLETTER
If a book discussed in this newsletter has no source mentioned, don’t forget that you may be able to borrow it from your public library as either a hard copy or a digital copy. You may also buy or order from your local independent bookstore. (To find a bricks-and-mortar store, click the "shop indie" logo left).
To buy books online, I often 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.
#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 #181 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 & Klons; Lady Audley's Secret #160 Carolina De Robertis, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Ross King's The Judgment of Paris #159Tom Jones. William Luvaas, Marc Harshman, The Good Earth, Lara Santoro, American Psycho #158 Chinua Achebe's Man of the People; The Red and the Black; McCarthy's C.; Farm City; Victor Depta;Myra Shapiro #157 Alice Boatwright, Reamy Jansen, Herta Muller, Knut Hamsun, What Maisie Knew; Wanchee Wang, Dolly Withrow. #156The Glass Madonna; A Revelation #155 Buzz Bissinger; reader suggestions; Satchmo at the Waldorf #154 Hannah Brown, Brad Abruzzi, Thomas Merton #153 J.Anthony Lukas, Talmage Stanley's The Poco Fields, Devil Anse #152 Marc Harshman guest editor; John Burroughs; Carol Hoenig #151 Deborah Clearman, Steve Schrader, Paul Harding, Ken Follet, Saramago-- and more! #150 Mitch Levenberg, Johnny Sundstrom, and Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns. #149 David Weinberger's Too Big to Know; The Shining; The Tiger's Wife. #148The Moonstone, Djibouti, Mark Perry on the Grimké family #147 Jane Lazarre's new novel; Johnny Sundstrom; Emotional Medicine Rx; Walter Dean Myers, etc. #146 Henry Adams AGAIN! Also,Fun Home: a Tragicomic #145 Henry Adams, Darnell Arnoult, Jaimy Gordon, Charlotte Brontë #144 Carter Seaton, NancyKay Shapiro, Lady Murasaki Shikibu #143Little America; Guns,Germs, and Steel; The Trial #142 Blog Fiction, Leah by Seymour Epstein, Wolf Hall, etc. #141 Dreama Frisk on Hilary Spurling's Pearl Buck in China; Anita Desai; Cormac McCarthy #140 Valerie Nieman's Blood Clay, Dolly Withrow #139 My Kindle, The Prime Minister, Blood Meridian#138 Special on Publicity by Carter Seaton #137 Michael Harris's The Chieu Hoi Saloon; Game of Thrones; James Alexander Thom's Follow the River#136 James Boyle's The Creative Commons; Paola Corso, Joanne Greenberg, Monique Raphel High, Amos Oz #135 Reviews by Carole Rosenthal, Jeffrey Sokolow, and Wanchee Wang. #134Daniel Deronda, books with material on black and white relations in West Virginia #133 Susan Carpenter, Irene Nemirovsky, Jonathan Safran Foer, Kanafani, Joe Sacco #132 Karen Armstrong's A History of God; JCO's The Falls; The Eustace Diamonds again. #131The Help; J. McHenry Jones, Reamy Jansen, Jamie O'Neill, Michael Chabon. #130 Lynda Schor, Ed Myers, Charles Bukowski, Terry Bisson, The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism #129Baltasar 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 #127Olive 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 #124Cloudsplitter, Founding Brothers, Obenzinger on Bradley's Harlem Vs. Columbia University#123 MSW's summer reading round-up; Olive Schreiner; more The Book Thief; more on the state of editing #122 Left-wing cowboy poetry; Jewish partisans during WW2; responses to "Hire a Book Doctor?" #121 Jane Lazarre's latest; Irving Howe's Leon Trotsky; Gringolandia; "Hire a Book Doctor?" #120 Dreama Frisk on The Book Thief; Mark Rudd; Thulani Davis's summer reading list #119 Two Histories of the Jews; small press books for Summer #118 Kasuo Ichiguro, Jeanette Winterson, The Carter Family! #117 Cat Pleska on Ann Pancake; Phyllis Moore on Jayne Anne Phillips; and Dolly Withrow on publicity #116 Ann Pancake, American Psycho, Marc Harshman on George Mackay Brown #115Adam 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 #108The Animal Within; The Ground Under My Feet; King of Swords #107The Absentee; Gorky Park; Little Scarlet; Howl; Health Proxy #106Castle Rackrent; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; More on Drown; Blindness & more #105Everything is Miscellaneous, The Untouchable, Kettle Bottom by Diane Gilliam Fisher #104 Responses to Shelley on Junot Diaz and more; More best books of 2007 #103 Guest Editor: Shelley Ettinger and her best books of 2007 #102 Saramago's BLINDNESS; more on NEVER LET ME GO; George Lies on Joe Gatski #101My Brilliant Career, The Scarlet Letter, John Banville, Never Let Me Go #100The Poisonwood Bible, Pamela Erens, More Harry P. #99 Jonathan Greene on Amazon.com; Molly Gilman on Dogs of Babel #98 Guest editor Pat Arnow; more on the Amazon.com debate #97 Using Thomas Hardy; Why I Write; more #96 Lucy Calkins, issue fiction for young adults #95 Collapse, Harry Potter, Steve Geng #94 Alice Robinson-Gilman, Maynard on Momaday #93Kristin Lavransdatter, House Made of Dawn, Leaving Atlanta #92Death of Ivan Ilych; Memoirs #91 Richard Powers discussion #90 William Zinsser, Memoir, Shakespeare #89 William Styron, Ellen Willis, Dune, Germinal, and much more #88 Sandra Cisneros's Caramelo #87Wings of the Dove, Forever After (9/11 Teachers) #86 Leora Skolkin-Smith, American Pastoral, and more #85 Wobblies, Winterson, West Virginia Encyclopedia #84 Karen Armstrong, Geraldine Brooks, Peter Taylor #83 3-Cornered World, Da Vinci Code #82 The Eustace Diamonds, Strapless, Empire Falls #81 Philip Roth's The Plot Against America , Paola Corso #80 Joanne Greenberg, Ed Davis, more Murdoch; Special Discussion on Memoir--Frey and J.T. Leroy #79 Adam Sexton, Iris Murdoch, Hemingway #78The Hills at Home; Tess of the D'Urbervilles; Jean Stafford #77 On children's books--guest editor Carol Brodtrick #76 Mary Lee Settle, Mary McCarthy #75 The Makioka Sisters #74In 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 #67The Medici #66Curious Incident,Temple Grandin #65 Ingrid Hughes on Memoir #64 Boyle, Worlds of Fiction#63The Namesame #62Honorary Consul; The Idiot#61Lauren'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 #55Addie, Hottentot Venus, Ake #54 Scott Oglesby, Jane Rule #53 Nafisi,Chesnutt, LeGuin #52 Keith Maillard, Lee Maynard #51 Gregory Michie, Carter Seaton #50Atonement, Victoria Woodhull biography #49Caucasia #48Richard Price, Phillip Pullman #47 Mid- East Islamic World Reader #46Invitation to a Beheading #45The Princess of Cleves #44 Shelley Ettinger: A Few Not-so-Great Books #43 Woolf, The Terrorist Next Door #42 John Sanford#41 Isabelle Allende #40Ed Myers on John Williams #39 Faulkner #38 Steven Bloom No New Jokes #37 James Webb's Fields of Fire #36 Middlemarch#35 Conrad, Furbee, Silas House #34 Emshwiller #33 Pullman, Daughter of the Elm #32 More Lesbian lit; Nostromo #31 Lesbian fiction #30 Carol Shields, Colson Whitehead #29 More William Styron #28 William Styron #27 Daniel Gioseffi #26 Phyllis Moore #25 On Libraries.... #24Tales of the City #23 Nonfiction, poetry, and fiction #22 More on Why This Newsletter #21 Salinger, Sarah Waters, Next of Kin #20 Jane Lazarre #19Artemisia 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 #13Gap 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 #5Tales of Good and Evil; Moon Tiger #4 Homer Hickam and The Chosen #3 J.T. LeRoy and Tale of Genji #2 Chick Lit #1 About this newsletter