Monday, September 23, 2013

The Parakeet Has Expressed his Wants

Well, I put dinner in the crockpot (I’m going into the city in a couple of hours), and started to work at my desk, but finally gave up and went to the grocery store to buy a bag of the cheap bird food for Taxi the parakeet, who has not been eating from his seed cup, at least not in front of me, since I bought the expensive stuff with little tiny chunks of dried fruit.  He eats what I’m eating, and I’m convinced he’s been eating the seed when I’m not looking, because it’s been three days! 
    Anyhow, I just emptied his cup and put in the plain millet or whatever it is, and he immediately leaped to the seed perch and started chowing down.  The little jerk.  What am I going to do with the expensive seed?  Try to slip it to him, or just throw it out?  Probably the latter.
    I’m feeling the flip side effects of communication with animals.  In this case, the parakeet has made his point.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Politerature has a new posting on Hector Tobar's The Barbarian Nurseries

Shelley Ettinger and I post occasional comments on books that we see as "politerature," progressive novels mostly that satisfy some of our desire for fiction that has a truly political aspect.  The new posting is about Hector Tobar's novel, The Barbarian Nurseries.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Books for Readers # 163

Books for Readers # 164

September 17, 2013

Latest changes and corrections online        MSW Home

A word from our sponsor: Two terrific new reviews of the revised A Space Apart (my first novel, newly published in an e-book edition from Foreverland Press) -- one by Diane Simmons, author of Little America and Dreams Like Thunder, and one by Michael Harris, author of Romantic History and The Chieu Hoi Saloon.


Elmore Leonard, 1925 - 2013

See Susan Lindsey's comments on his career


In this Issue:

Elaine Drennon Little's A Southern Place

Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth

Peter Ackroyd's Shakespeare: The Biography

Ed Davis on Julie Moore's poems

Call for Books to Review...

The E-Reader Report with John Birch


Special Project for Rural Women

Interesting Things to Read Online

Recommendations from Backchannel


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For Back Issues, click here.


Elaine Drennon Little's new novel A SOUTHERN PLACE is the direct and moving story of two generations of poor white Georgians trying to get out of "Dumas County" (pronounced, we learn, "Doom us"). It takes place between 1958 and 1995, and has a happy ending after a lot of really bad things along the way. Women who know better fall for bad men or men who turn out to be forbidden to them. Babies come without planning, but, at least in this family, are loved. There is spousal abuse, a lot of drinking, and a rich villain so evil that he not only ruins the lives of the employees in his ladies' panties factory, he is also cruel to his own dyslexic son.
There is a lot of alcoholism and drug addiction as well as pure bad luck, beyond human control, especially a accident that turns an optimistic young man who loves the land into a bitter drunk. Even the happy ending has a lot to do with luck.
The central character, Mary Jane Mullinax, known as Mojo, is bright and extremely hard working. She supports a talented but dangerous musician by working several jobs. The way she finally escapes her circumstances (and Dumas County) has less to do with her efforts and more to do with chance.
The storytelling is smooth and engaging, but the novel's greatest strength is how it subtly makes you pull for the characters. It opens with Mojo near death after a terrible beating, and then moves back in time to her mother and uncle's stories. The book ends in Mojo's voice, so we have the satisfaction of knowing she is a survivor.
We are easily and beautifully initiated into the world of peanut farmers in the second half of the twentieth century and of another world, the world of Southern clubs and bars. There is a wonderful passage where you learn about how a club band chooses its play list and moves the audience through increasingly intense emotional highs. The novel gives lip service to religion, but in the end, it is a story about the effect of luck on working people. Fortune (both the goddess and wealth) hold sway here, but the reader reads for the beating hearts and determined striving of people who work as farmhands and waitresses, in factories and convenience stores.
I also reread Edith Wharton's THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, in which an entire wealthy class is skewered, and the narrow path possible to women is sharply drawn. I've read the novel at least three times, and I used to name it as my favorite. This reading, however, I found it almost too painful-- possibly because I knew the ending well, and felt Wharton moving towards it inexorably.
Elaine Drennon Little's novel was governed by the vicissitudes of fortune, but felt upbeat somehow. Wharton's wonderful, artistically shapely novel brutally, constantly nudges Lily Bart into her downfall. Everything works brilliantly here. The final chapters of Book I , for example, set up the tragedy of the second half. Lily barely escapes a wealthy male acquaintance's attempt to rape her. She is devastated by the betrayal (she owes him money), but goes home to her cold, rich aunt's house and waits for a visit from the man she thinks she loves. She asks her aunt for money to pay her debts, and is refused, but still convinced her beloved will save her. She waits and waits, but he never comes. We know, but she doesn't, that he saw her leaving the home of the man who attacked her and assumes she was there for an assignation.
Instead of her beloved, she is visited by the Jewish parvenu Simon Rosedale, who proposes to her. She almost accepts, once she realizes her beloved isn't coming. She is, in fact, about to write a note accepting Rosedale, but receives a telegram from a friend inviting her to cruise in the Mediterranean. She thus passes on her best remaining chance to be a rich society woman and goes on the voyage which will finally ruin all her chances at the kind of marriage she was bred for. There are many things Lily Bart does to hasten her own fall– she uses her small inheritance when she gets it to pay off her debts. She refuses to take the action that would save her reputation. She undercuts all her own work early in the novel to get a proposal from an annoying boor. She is repeatedly too invested in a kind of high-mindedness that she cannot afford. She never closes the deal on investing the valuable property that is herself.
I admire the novel enormously and will no doubt read it again, but this time I was impatient with Lily's self-destructive behavior, and felt for the first time that perhaps Wharton was too determined to make the story come out the way she wanted. Lily has a friend who is poor and lives for others– a model of an alternative life– but Lily disdains that life. She will only live is she can have both luxury and high-mindedness. Essentially, I felt that Simon Rosedale was beginning to take over the novel, and that Lily should have accepted him. She comes very close, is indeed writing a note to him when the invitation to cruise arrives. So it is a combination of chance (the arrival of the invitation) as well as Lily's pride and, of course, the anti-Semitism of her class that ruin her. There is also an unexplored element of terror of physical sex entering in, I think. Rosedale loves Lily for her expensive, superbly decorative quality, but he also desires her physically.
Except for some of the heavy handed sentimentality over the working girl who gives Lily brief respite near the end, Wharton wrote a pretty much perfect novel, only perhaps too determined to trace Lily's downward trajectory to its logical conclusion.
Image above of Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart.


In a mood for more Wharton, I read SANCTUARY, a very short novel, which Pamela Erens liked it on Goodreads. The first half was pretty terrific– a young girl discovers her fiance's weakness if not moral turpitude. The second half, in which she obsessively manipulates her son into behaving honorably, is a little creepy to me. I kept expecting the young man would be ruined by mama's self-immolating yet still selfish love, but he buys into it completely. See an interesting discussion of the story as an example of melodrama at

In vacation mode, I read THE SECOND CONFESSION by Rex Stout. This was my first Nero Wolfe mystery in a while. My husband's family are all Nero Wolfe fans, and Rex Stout is the first mystery writer I ever liked enough to read extensively. This one, new to me, was good in a lot of ways. Published in 1948, it takes place among rich folks on their Westchester estate; the detective Wolfe, who is famously fat and sedentary, has to get in in a car; narrator Archie Goodwin cracks wise; a right-wing radio personality loses his job. It is also mainstream for its time with its anti-communism, but nuanced enough to have some actual CP members appear with information Wolfe can use. Archie is his usual unrepentant and obnoxiously sexist self. Anyhow, it's of its time in all kinds of interesting ways. Oh, and it has an appearance by Wolfe's crime boss nemesis, the original he-who-shall-not-be-named, Arnold Zeck.

Joseph Kanon's THE GOOD GERMAN is written more recently, but also has a post-World War II setting, Berlin in 1945– a searing, wonderfully described setting. There is a mystery here too, and lots of action and car chases and fire fights and narrow escapes on foot. They weren't bad, but I felt them being written, probably with an eye to the hoped-for movie (which starred George Clooney and Cate Blanchett and a crew of other big names). I kept hoping that the German heroine Lena would turn out to be not-so-good, but she stayed good, and instead we got a lot of interesting Nazis and not-Nazis plus good underworld characters like an expatriate Cockney whoremaster and real estate magnate The main character Jake was a little too skillful in his sleuthing and fighting to suit me. This is another book where I liked the minor characters better than the major ones. But oh that Berlin, and the very real sufferings of the Berliners, many still blaming the Jews.

I also reread for summer pleasure LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner. As usual I'm glad Faulkner took on some issues of race, but also as usual, it's hard to separate Faulkner's characters' racism from his own. There's lots to be offended by– lots of assumptions about "Negro" poverty, even "Negro" odor. If I were African-American, I think I'd be hard put to read Faulkner. Does anyone know of any good African-American criticism of Faulkner's work? Faulkner is pretty terrible in how he treats women too. In spite of all the discomfort, the novel has some of the darkest, funniest scenes in literature, including the brutal, weird love affair between Joe Christmas and Joanna Burden. Faulkner is especially good on sniffing out the racism of the people who ostensibly want to help blacks (like the Burden family). He is the master of having truly awful things happen that are also funny as hell– the origins of Southern Gothic, but done so much better by Faulkner than by his imitators.
He is also a master of moving around among many characters, and using them to tell the story in long first person speeches. There is a lot in his novels that is meant to be profound but that I find overblown, exaggerated, even silly, but he's a wonder if you can stand him.

I'll end the short takes with a nonfiction book I was dipping into over most of the summer, when we always see at least one Shakespeare play at the always-terrific Shakespeare and Company. The book was SHAKESPEARE: THE BIOGRAPHY by Peter Ackroyd. It is written with many short chapters, which works well because of the amount of information included. It essentially establishes the case for Shakespeare's popularity as a playwright in his lifetime, for his determination to cut a figure back home in Stratford, and for his enthusiastic search for whatever material and stagecraft would please his audiences, which ranged from the general populace in outdoor theaters like the Globe to the more genteel audiences at the indoor Blackfriars theater, to many special appearances at the courts of Elizabeth I and, especially, her successor, James I.
None of this in any way undercuts Shakespeare as a genius. He was happy with the demands of his profession as man of the theater– actor and entrepreneur as well as writer, but he never stopped his exploration of the human spirit and human condition. It's a very pragmatic and I would say just look at Shakespeare. It includes reference to records of deeds and legal proceedings Shakespeare was involved n as well as his publication history. One especially interesting circumstance was the regular, powerful effects of the plague every summer that caused the theaters to be closed and the company to go on the road.
A solid book with minimal speculation and maximum reality.

                                                                               --Meredith Sue Willis


The writing world lost a master craftsman recently when Elmore Leonard died at the age of 87. Leonard was a prolific novelist, short story author and screenwriter. He wrote nearly 50 books. Most were Westerns or crime fiction set in Florida or Detroit. Hollywood made more than half of them into movies or TV shows. The titles are familiar: Hombre, 3:10 to Yuma, Joe Kidd, 52 Pick-up, Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Be Cool, Mr. Majestyk, Freaky Deaky, Maximum Bob, Tishomingo Blues, and many more. The TV series Justified is based on two of his novels (Riding the Rap and Pronto, and one of his short stories, "Fire in the Hole").
His work might not have been great literature, but it was always great reading. Leonard was a master of clean and elegant prose. He was an astute observer of human character, but never as an aloof anthropologist. Leonard climbed into the getaway car himself and rode off with his characters. His villains and anti-heroes were weak and sometimes not too bright, but always memorable. Leonard was renowned for his authentic dialogue. It was direct, gritty, witty, and used sentence fragments, slang, and regionalisms. Within a few sentences, the reader knew where the character was from, how much schooling he had had, his spot on the social ladder, and how much money he earned. Open any of Leonard's books at a random page and read the dialogue aloud; you couldn't find a better teacher.
In July 2001, the New York Times published Leonard's now famous list of ten writing rules. The list includes "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue" and "Keep your exclamation points under control." Rule 10 is my favorite, "Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip." Leonard lists a final rule that sums up the others: "If it sounds like writing, rewrite it." That's sound advice from a masterful teacher. Elmore Leonard is gone, but his books and wonderful characters live on.
Susan Lindsey sends out a monthly newsletter called Savvy Writer that is available by emailng her at Her business is Savvy Communications services for writers. See the website at



(Book published in Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, An Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2013.

I met Julie Moore at Antioch Writers' Workshop in 2009 when I led the afternoon poetry sessions, subbing at the last minute for John Drury. Julie was the Judson Jerome scholarship winner that year and had already published her chapbook Election Day. Not only did I find out during the week what a wonderful poet she is but also how generously she helps other poets. So I wasn't surprised when she published a full-length collection Slipping out of Bloom the following year. In the meantime her poems have been widely-published in numerous journals from Southern Review to Christian Century, anthologized and nominated for Pushcart Prizes. Just when I thought she couldn't get any better, Cascade Books just published another full-length collection, Particular Scandals, which is her most mature work so far: accessible, entertaining and spiritually profound.
The book contains three untitled sections. The first section immerses us deeply in poems about loss, illness and healing, as she and her husband faced serious health challenges while still in their forties. Among many fine poems, one I found most touching, "Prayer Shawl," focused on a woman who'd lost her son to suicide and who now, along with a surviving son, sits "fashioning shawl after need-/thick shawl, praying/for those, like me,/to once again be whole." Although facing such serious issues with eyes wide open, the poems are by no means relentless downers. "Recovery," for instance, uses the wonderful image of bees, "persistent as repeated pleas/ . . . tasting grace as insistent as the tune they hum" to help her deal with continuing pain from seven surgeries.
As if Julie realizes she's given the reader a strong dose of mortality—and lessons to be learned from it—the second section includes mostly nature poems, celebratory and healing. These include, among other things, poems about a very happy dog, pagan dancing in the rain, a barefoot husband-gardener and, once again, bees, this time as "Hell's Angels." I love the image of them "in their striped jackets,/black helmets and snug gloves,/[cruising] through coreopsis/while their pollen passengers hug them tight." Delightful stuff.
All of which builds to the satisfying final section synthesizing the previous two. Interspersed among poems dealing with tragedy and abuse and are those filled with healing from both natural and supernatural sources. The wonderfully life-affirming "Afterlife" concerns a World War II veteran, raised an orphan, who experienced "a childhood with nerve amid the world's first breakdown." He now raises horses, "each foal a scandal of particular beauty." Moore repeats this striking (italicized) phrase, or some version of it, throughout the book, gaining resonance with each usage. It first appears in one of the epigraphs from Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, in reference to Christ's having been born, "improbably, ridiculously," into his particular time and place as "the scandal of particularity." To both Dillard and Moore, the phrase comes to mean this world now ("the only world that I, particularly, know," says Dillard): the sensory world of experience and meaning from which both of these fine writers craft their work.
Section Three contains perhaps the book's most heart-breaking poem "Voice," in which the mother of a twenty-year-old suicide later stumbles on a voice mail he left, with a shattering final line, the effect of which I won't spoil by quoting. It also contains some of the funniest, most whimsical and light-filled poems. Who could resist reading a poem with the title "Will you let me write about my love for my child"? (I say yes.) The collection ends movingly with two very different and deeply spiritual poems: "Remember Blessing" and "Window." The former is a stunning summation of the book's themes, expanding outward to include "fire-bombed streets" and "screams of children/fettered to the long arm/of a godless law," concluding with a list of the author's own blessings, to which we can relate. The book could've ended on that note—find hope when there is none—but she saved the best for last, "Opening," which brought me to my knees.
Too easily labeled a "Christian poet," Julie writes poems which are spiritual, even theological at times, but never in-your-face preachy. Only the most Christianity-averse reader will be disturbed; this Buddhist Baptist was hardly ever uncomfortable, and I found myself trusting the poet to tell me the unsentimental, unvarnished truth about suicide, abuse, illness and mortality while affirming life in the here and now. Eternity was almost always found in "particulars."
As I age, I increasingly require literature that unflinchingly helps me face the Big Issues. "A Clear Path," near the book's end, deals with an overzealous farmer-neighbor who, while Julie watches, whips out a chainsaw and cuts down a post to gain easier access to his fields—the same post where the poet watched a vulture she once wrote about. "A clear path," Julie writes, "often means loss." Amen. Particular Scandals, as all of Julie Moore's work, helps me face inevitable losses by balancing them with what's most meaningful and loving at the root of life.


An ebook only bookstore, by subscription. New idea! It's based in the U.S. and operates with U.S. dollars:
You can subscribe, and they'll send you something new each month. Periodicals also included. Observer article says it's stuff unlikely to be found at the bookshops.
It'd be nice to see independent endeavors like this competing with the monolithic corporate structures.
                                                             (Thanks, Backchannel)

"The Wiz of the West!" is so witty and totally non-offensive it deserves a few more!!!! It's a fantasy novel for kids, probably pre-teen, and as fun and quirky as it gets. If you can imagine a Dotty in, you guessed it, red cowgirl boots, you get the idea. It's mostly about kind people and friendship with a few "wicked" folks sprinkled in, of course. It's one of those "clean" books we can thank Woodland Press for publishing. The author is S. Clayton Rhodes from Marietta, Ohio. He's a new-to-me author. If you give it a look, let me know your opinion.


Paola Corso has undertaken a project writing book reviews for the GASP (Group Against Smog and Pollution) newsletter's Greening the Bookshelf column. She says, "They traditionally review non-fiction books, but I've proposed they broaden that to include poetry and fiction. Do let me know if you have a book that might be appropriate for review. And/or spread the word please!... The column is national in scope. For the most part, we're looking for books published in the last couple of years that relate to the organization's focus on clean air--solar, nuclear, coal, urbanism, conservation, nature, energy, etc are a few examples. Since poetry and fiction have never been reviewed in the column before, suggestions for poetry and fiction books that have been published no matter how long ago are welcome too. It could be that the column will include an author interview in a Q&A format."
Here's a link to her first review (scroll to page 8):


A new story from Susan Taylor Chelak:"What She Didn't Do"  at Conte: A Journal of Narrative Writing.

Leora Skolkin-Smith reviews Herta Muller's new novel THE HUNGER ANGEL on Ready Steady Book
"For me, Müller's uncompromising work, born from her own personal experience, however painful and hard to bear at times, is the anguish of a writer unwilling to surrender to our times, some echo perhaps, a linkage not only to European modernism, but to what is most authentic in ourselves and in our world, offering the reader and the writer a lasting collaboration."

New book from Foreverland Press, John Leggett's ROSS AND TOM: TWO AMERICAN TRAGEDIES.

A performance poem that went viral this summer: an OCD guy talks about love: :

A good list of Alternative History Novels from ABE Books:


For years I've admired author and journalist Verlyn Klinkenborg, his highly therapeutic columns in the New York Times and his thirty-odd books on country life and all things rural and rustic. In a recent piece in the Times, Klinkenborg expressed a somewhat ambivalent view of what's been going on in the world of books. While he claims to have read no fewer than 800 e-books on his iPad, he can't help being nostalgic about the real paper and ink ones still on his shelves. Here it is: A article in the New York Times by Verlyn Klinkenberg about what he asserts is the tendency to forget what you read on an ereader more easily that what you read in a physical book. Provocative– probably more true for elders than youngers?
Writes Klinkenborg: "I finish reading a book on my iPad — one by Ed McBain, for instance — and I shelve it in the cloud. It vanishes from my "device" and from my consciousness too. It's very odd. When I read a physical book, I remember the text and the book — its shape, jacket, heft and typography. When I read an e-book, I remember the text alone. The bookness of the book simply disappears, or rather it never really existed. Amazon reminds me that I've already bought the e-book I'm about to order. In bookstores, I find myself discovering, as if for the first time, books I've already read on my iPad.
" All of this makes me think differently about the books in my physical library. They used to be simply there, arranged on the shelves, a gathering of books I'd already read. But now, when I look up from my e-reading, I realize that the physical books are serving a new purpose — as constant reminders of what I've read. They say, "We're still here," or "Remember us?" These are the very things that e-books cannot say, hidden under layers of software, tucked away in the cloud, utterly absent when the iPad goes dark
"This may seem like a trivial difference, but that's not how it feels. Reading is inherently ephemeral, but it feels less so when you're making your way through a physical book, which persists when you've finished it. It is a monument to the activity of reading. It makes this imaginary activity entirely substantial. But the quiddity of e-reading is that it effaces itself. In the past several years, I've read nearly 800 books on my iPad. They've changed me and changed my understanding of the world, distracted me and entertained me. Yet I'm still pondering the nature of e-reading, which somehow refuses to become completely familiar. But then, readers are always thinking about the nature of reading, and have done so since Gutenberg and long before.
"There is a disproportionate magic in the way black marks on white paper — or their pixilated facsimiles — stir us into reverie and revise our consciousness. Still, we require proof that it has happened. And that proof is what the books on my shelves continue to offer."

In his August blog post, John describes why, early in World War II, 3 million Brits, mostly children, were made to leave home -- most often without their parents -- to live with total strangers. See: -- a growing collection of nearly 30 short stories, articles and essays.


Jumpa Lahiri's newest: Back Channelf says, "The political & the personal intersect in this new novel." The review says, "THE LOWLAND is a sweeping, ambitious story that examines in intimate detail the intersection of the political and the personal, encompassing nearly 50 years of Indian and American history through the lives of one family."

A rediscovered Nineteenth century Spanish novel, THE HOUSE OF ULLOA by Emilia Pardo Bazán: :

Backchannel also mentions the film WINTER's BONE, and then two articles are about how white privilege doesn't mean very much to poor whites living in all-white communities like the Ozarks and coalfields of Appalachia. This first article is more about the film: This second article is more about discussing the "limits of white privilege" to poor, rural whites surrounded by whites. In such a context, it becomes all about class. But even if a white, poor person makes it to college where there are other poor minorities, there are still issues.
Backchannel also mentions about mountain-top removal and issues of digital privacy:


Ed Davis writes: "I'm writing with an offer and a request for help. "First, I'm pleased to share that my new poetry collection,Time of the Light, will be published by Main Street Rag Press in November 2013. Time of the Light represents what I feel is my best effort to follow my muse down many meandering country roads and forest paths, from West Virginia coalfields to Ohio cornfields. Birds, boots, blues and banjoes—there's even healing dirt, plus many of the kindred spirits, living and dead, who've made my journey always interesting and often luminous.
"This book will sell for $12, but you can get it for $7 at the MSR Online Bookstore by placing an advance order now.Please note: The book won't be shipped until November, but this pre-publication sale price will only last for a limited time, so I wanted to let you know.
"Now the request... As many of you already know, it's a challenge for any poet to reach his or her audience these days. I hope you'll help me spread the word by forwarding this announcement to any friends who might be interested and/or mentioning the book on social media or your own website. I'd so appreciate it.
You can receive more information (and order the book) at my author's page:
The MSR Online Bookstore is located at:
Just a note: If you'd prefer not to buy online, Main Street Rag Press will take checks, but the price is a flat rate of $11/book regardless of quantity, which includes shipping and sales tax.

Paola Corso's poetry book The Laundress Catches Her Breath won the Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing.

Lee Maynard has a new ebook CINCO BECKNELL

Barbara Crooker's new book is GOLD:

Peter Brown's mew book for kids is MR. TIGER GOES WILD! Are you bored with always being proper? Do you need to have more fun? Would you like to act a little wild? Mr. Tiger knows just how you feel. To read excerpts from reviews of Mr. Tiger (which have been extremely generous), check out Peter's website: . Check for Peter's book tour, and see if he's coming to a city near you!

Joyce Dyer has an essay about memoir in the September 2013 issue of Writer's Chronicle, the official publication of AWP. It's titled "Let Me Think About That: The Memoirist as Ruminant."

Pamela Erens' novel THE VIRGINS (reviewed in # 163) received an excellent review written by John Irving in the New York Times Book Review at Pamela will also be reading in the New York City region:
  • Wed. September 18, 2013, 7 p.m.: Reading/reception/book signing, Maplewood Memorial Library, 51 Baker St., Maplewood, NJ (973) 762-1622.
  • Thurs. September 19, 2013, 7 p.m.: Conversation/Q&A, The Center for Fiction, 17 E. 47th St., NY, NY. With Jonathan Dee, author of The Privileges and A Thousand Pardons.
  • Sun. September 22, 2013, 5 p.m.: Appearance at The Brooklyn Book Festival, Brooklyn, NY. (This event is at St. Francis McArdle, 180 Remsen St.)
  • Thurs. September 26, 2013: Reading, Pete's Candy Store, 709 Lorimer, Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 11211. (718) 302-3770. With Gabriel Roth, author of The Unknowns.
  • Mon. September 30, 2013, 6 to 8 p.m.: Book fair/schmooze, Barnes & Noble Union Square, 13 E. 17th St., NY, NY.

Shopping for gifts and services for bookish people? Try Persimmon Tree's Arts Mart.

Phillip Lopate's NY Times Book Review piece "Midlist Crisis" about being a writer and having crushed ambitions: .

Thad Rutkowski 's latest "novel," Haywire, is now available as an e-book on Kindle, thanks to Starcherone and Dzanc Books."These flash stories are mostly gems." --Publishers Weekly "Rutkowski returns with his characteristic blend of anomie and epigram." --Kirkus Reviews Here's the link:
If you're near New York City, Thad reads at KGB Bar, 85 East Fourth Street, Manhattan (, in these two events: Sept. 19, Thursday, at 7 p.m., Drunken Careening Writers, with Lisa Ferber and Kurt Gottschalk and Sept. 25, Wednesday, at 7 p.m., The Understanding Between Foxes and Light (anthology from Great Weather for Media), with Joel Allegretti, Stephanie Dickinson and others.
Also in New York: Thursday, October 24th, 2013, 6-8 PM at Fountain Gallery, 702 Ninth Ave. @ 48th St., New York, NY, there will be a book launch for OF LITTLE FAITH (Steel Cut Press) by Award-winning Novelist Carol Hoenig. This novel was reviewed in # 152 here. Have you read about Carol’s writing journey to publishing this novel on The Huffington Post at ?

To obtain your copy of Poet Laureate of West Virginia Marc Harshman's long poem, "A Song for West Virginia" to celebrate the Sesquicentennial Celebration of the state, call 304-232-3087. $20. Or write Wheeling National Heritage Area, 1400 Main Street, 3rd Floor, Wheeling, WV 26003.

Don't forget to get on this list for regular notices about open submissions at various literary journals and presses:


See for general information, and an August 2013 only call for submissions to The Notebook:


There are regular, excellent, free programs and peer workshops, many at the Montclair Library and environs. To get the monthly announcements, send an e-mail request to Carl Selinger at .


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 buy books online, I often go first to Bookfinder or Alibris. Bookfinder tells you the book 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 low cost (postage only) way to get rid of your old books and get new ones by trading with other readers.

If you are using an electronic reader like Kindle, Nook, or Kobo, don't forget free books at the Gutenberg Project—mostly classics, but other things as well. And libraries now lend e-books too!


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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#164 Ed Davis on Julie Moore's poems; Edith Wharton; Elaine Drennon Little's A Southern Place; Elmore Leonard
#163 Pamela Erens, Michael Harris, Marlen Bodden, Joydeep Roy-Battacharya, Lisa J. Parker, and more
#162 Lincoln, Joseph Kennedy, Etel Adnan, Laura Treacy Bentley, Ron Rash, Sophie's Choice, and more
#161 More Wilkie Collins; Duff Brenna's Murdering the Mom; Nora Olsen's Swans & Klons; Lady Audley's Secret
#160 Carolina De Robertis, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Ross King's The Judgment of Paris
#159 Tom Jones. William Luvaas, Marc Harshman, The Good Earth, Lara Santoro, American Psycho
#158 Chinua Achebe's Man of the People; The Red and the Black; McCarthy's C.; Farm City; Victor Depta;Myra Shapiro
#157 Alice Boatwright, Reamy Jansen, Herta Muller, Knut Hamsun, What Maisie Knew; Wanchee Wang, Dolly Withrow.
#156 The Glass Madonna; A Revelation
#155 Buzz Bissinger; reader suggestions; Satchmo at the Waldorf
#154 Hannah Brown, Brad Abruzzi, Thomas Merton
#153 J.Anthony Lukas, Talmage Stanley's The Poco Fields, Devil Anse
#152 Marc Harshman guest editor; John Burroughs; Carol Hoenig
#151 Deborah Clearman, Steve Schrader, Paul Harding, Ken Follet, Saramago-- and more!
#150 Mitch Levenberg, Johnny Sundstrom, and Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns.
#149 David Weinberger's Too Big to Know; The Shining; The Tiger's Wife.
#148 The Moonstone, Djibouti, Mark Perry on the Grimké family
#147 Jane Lazarre's new novel; Johnny Sundstrom; Emotional Medicine Rx; Walter Dean Myers, etc.
#146 Henry Adams AGAIN!  Also,Fun Home: a Tragicomic
#145 Henry Adams, Darnell Arnoult, Jaimy Gordon, Charlotte Brontë
#144 Carter Seaton, NancyKay Shapiro, Lady Murasaki Shikibu
#143 Little America; Guns,Germs, and Steel; The Trial
#142 Blog Fiction, Leah by Seymour Epstein, Wolf Hall, etc.
#141 Dreama Frisk on Hilary Spurling's Pearl Buck in China; Anita Desai; Cormac McCarthy
#140 Valerie Nieman's Blood Clay, Dolly Withrow
#139 My Kindle, The Prime Minister, Blood Meridian
#138 Special on Publicity by Carter Seaton
#137 Michael Harris's The Chieu Hoi Saloon; Game of Thrones; James Alexander Thom's Follow the River
#136 James Boyle's The Creative Commons; Paola Corso, Joanne Greenberg, Monique Raphel High, Amos Oz
#135 Reviews by Carole Rosenthal, Jeffrey Sokolow, and Wanchee Wang.
#134 Daniel Deronda, books with material on black and white relations in West Virginia
#133 Susan Carpenter, Irene Nemirovsky, Jonathan Safran Foer, Kanafani, Joe Sacco
#132 Karen Armstrong's A History of God; JCO's The Falls; The Eustace Diamonds again.
#131 The Help; J. McHenry Jones, Reamy Jansen, Jamie O'Neill, Michael Chabon.
Lynda Schor, Ed Myers, Charles Bukowski, Terry Bisson, The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism
#129 Baltasar and Blimunda; Underground Railroad; Navasky's Naming Names, small press and indie books.
#128 Jeffrey Sokolow on Histories and memoirs of the Civil Rights Movement
#127 Olive Kitteridge; Urban fiction; Shelley Ettinger on Joyce Carol Oates
#126 Jack Hussey's Ghosts of Walden, The Leopard , Roger's Version, The Reluctanct Fundamentalist
#125 Lee Maynard's The Pale Light of Sunset; Books on John Brown suggested by Jeffrey Sokolow
#124 Cloudsplitter, Founding Brothers, Obenzinger on Bradley's Harlem Vs. Columbia University
#123 MSW's summer reading round-up; Olive Schreiner; more The Book Thief; more on the state of editing
#122 Left-wing cowboy poetry; Jewish partisans during WW2; responses to "Hire a Book Doctor?"
#121 Jane Lazarre's latest; Irving Howe's Leon Trotsky; Gringolandia; "Hire a Book Doctor?"
#120 Dreama Frisk on The Book Thief; Mark Rudd; Thulani Davis's summer reading list
#119 Two Histories of the Jews; small press books for Summer
#118 Kasuo Ichiguro, Jeanette Winterson, The Carter Family!
#117 Cat Pleska on Ann Pancake; Phyllis Moore on Jayne Anne Phillips; and Dolly Withrow on publicity
#116 Ann Pancake, American Psycho, Marc Harshman on George Mackay Brown
#115 Adam Bede, Nietzsche, Johnny Sundstrom
#114 Judith Moffett, high fantasy, Jared Diamond, Lily Tuck
#113 Espionage--nonfiction and fiction: Orson Scott Card and homophobia
#112 Marc Kaminsky, Nel Noddings, Orson Scott Card, Ed Myers
#111 James Michener, Mary Lee Settle, Ardian Gill, BIll Higginson, Jeremy Osner, Carol Brodtick
#110  Nahid Rachlin, Marion Cuba on self-publishing; Thulani Davis, The Road, memoirs
#109 Books about the late nineteen-sixties: Busy Dying; Flying Close to the Sun; Looking Good; Trespassers
#108 The Animal Within; The Ground Under My Feet; King of Swords
#107 The Absentee; Gorky Park; Little Scarlet; Howl; Health Proxy
#106 Castle Rackrent; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; More on Drown; Blindness & more
#105 Everything is Miscellaneous, The Untouchable, Kettle Bottom by Diane Gilliam Fisher
#104 Responses to Shelley on Junot Diaz and more; More best books of 2007
#103 Guest Editor: Shelley Ettinger and her best books of 2007
#102 Saramago's BLINDNESS; more on NEVER LET ME GO; George Lies on Joe Gatski
#101 My Brilliant Career, The Scarlet Letter, John Banville, Never Let Me Go
#100 The Poisonwood Bible, Pamela Erens, More Harry P.
#99   Jonathan Greene on; 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 Lavransdatter, House Made of Dawn, Leaving Atlanta
#92   Death of Ivan Ilych; Memoirs
#91   Richard Powers discussion
#90   William Zinsser, Memoir, Shakespeare
#89   William Styron, Ellen Willis, Dune, Germinal, and much more
#88   Sandra Cisneros's Caramelo
#87   Wings of the Dove, Forever After (9/11 Teachers)
#86   Leora Skolkin-Smith, American Pastoral, and more
#85   Wobblies, Winterson, West Virginia Encyclopedia
#84   Karen Armstrong, Geraldine Brooks, Peter Taylor
#83   3-Cornered World, Da Vinci Code
#82   The Eustace Diamonds, Strapless, Empire Falls
#81   Philip Roth's The Plot Against America , Paola Corso
#80   Joanne Greenberg, Ed Davis, more Murdoch; Special Discussion on Memoir--Frey and J.T. Leroy
#79   Adam Sexton, Iris Murdoch, Hemingway
#78   The Hills at Home; Tess of the D'Urbervilles; Jean Stafford
#77   On children's books--guest editor Carol Brodtrick
#76   Mary Lee Settle, Mary McCarthy
#75   The Makioka Sisters
#74    In Our Hearts We Were Giants
#73    Joyce Dyer
#72    Bill Robinson WWII story
#71    Eva Kollisch on G.W. Sebald
#70    On Reading
#69    Nella Larsen, Romola
#68    P.D. James
#67    The Medici
#66    Curious Incident,Temple Grandin
   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 Evil; Moon Tiger
#4      Homer Hickam and The Chosen
#3      J.T. LeRoy and Tale of Genji
#2      Chick Lit
#1      About this newsletter


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

It has been a rough year in the garden: groundhog battles--and the groundhogs may be excluded now-- but also slugs and lack of sun. Thus this late plate of veggies is a great satisfaction. Hard work, many losses. Decisions and compromises and workarounds to come.