Friday, July 31, 2009

How technology shapes the world: 10 books

Evgeny Morozov is a fellow at the Open Society Institute in New York and is working on a book about the Internet's role in authoritarian societies. His writing has appeared in The Economist, International Herald Tribune, Le Monde, Foreign Policy, Slate, San Fransisco Chronicle, and other media.

For Foreign Policy, he named ten books to learn how technology shapes the world.

One book on the list:
The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers by Tom Standage

Standage (who - full disclaimer - still edits my occasional pieces for The Economist's Technology Quarterly) offers a contrarian view on the relative importance of the telegraph (and the relative unimportance of the Internet) seen through the prism of history.
Read about another book on the list.

Writers Read: Tom Standage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Glenn Stout's "Young Woman and the Sea"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World by Glenn Stout.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 1926, before skirt lengths inched above the knee and before anyone was ready to accept that a woman could test herself physically, a plucky American teenager named Trudy Ederle captured the imagination of the world when she became the first woman to swim the English Channel. It was, and still is, a feat more incredible and uncommon than scaling Mount Everest. Upon her return to the United States, "Trudy of America" became the most famous woman in the world. And just as quickly, she disappeared from the public eye.

Set against the backdrop of the roaring 1920s, Young Woman and the Sea is the dramatic and inspiring story of Ederle’s pursuit of a goal no one believed possible, and the price she paid. The moment Trudy set foot on land, triumphant, she had shattered centuries of stereotypes and opened doors for generations of women to come. A truly magnetic and often misunderstood character whose story is largely forgotten, Trudy Ederle comes alive in these pages through Glenn Stout’s exhaustive new research.
Read an excerpt from Young Woman and the Sea, and learn more about the book and author at Glenn Stout's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Young Woman and the Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Michael Robertson's "The Baker Street Letters"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson.

About the book, from the publisher:
First in a spectacular new series about two brother lawyers who lease offices on London’s Baker Street--and begin receiving mail addressed to Sherlock Holmes

In Los Angeles, a geological surveyor maps out a proposed subway route--and then goes missing. His eight-year-old daughter, in her desperation, turns to the one person she thinks might help--she writes a letter to Sherlock Holmes.

That letter creates an uproar at 221b Baker Street, which now houses the law offices of attorney and man about town Reggie Heath and his hapless brother, Nigel. Instead of filing the letter like he’s supposed to, Nigel decides to investigate. Soon he’s flying off to Los Angeles, inconsiderately leaving a very dead body on the floor in his office. Big brother Reggie follows Nigel to California, as does Reggie’s sometime lover, Laura---a quick-witted stage actress who’s captured the hearts of both brothers.

When Nigel is arrested, Reggie must use all his wits to solve a case that Sherlock Holmes would have savored and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fans will adore.
Read an excerpt from The Baker Street Letters, and learn more about the novel at the publisher's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Baker Street Letters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Mary Jane Maffini & Daisy and Lily

This weekend's feature at Coffee with a Canine: Mary Jane Maffini & Daisy and Lily.

Mary Jane Maffini is the author of three mystery series (all with beloved resident dogs and plenty of coffee-drinking scenes) and a number of short stories. Her real life dogs are Daisy and Lily, both miniature dachshunds of "a princessy disposition." They look a lot like Sweet Marie and Truffle in the Charlotte Adams mysteries.

Death Loves Your Messy Desk, the latest Charlotte Adams mystery, was released in May. In 2008, its predecessor The Cluttered Corpse was featured at the Page 99 Test.

Maffini is a former President of Crime Writers of Canada, and a former member of the board of directors of the Canadian Booksellers Association.

She is a frequent speaker on writing mysteries and on the importance of Canadian crime fiction. In real life, although she is a member of the Ladies' Killing Circle, she claims she has never killed anyone.

Learn more about the author and her work at Mary Jane Maffini's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Mary Jane Maffini & Daisy and Lily.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Five best: books on cosmetic surgery

Gerald Imber is an internationally known plastic surgeon. He has lectured widely on prevention and correction of facial aging, and has written numerous scientific papers and several books.

In 2005 he named a five best books on cosmetic surgery list for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on the list:
"Skin Tight" by Carl Hiaasen (Putnam, 1989).

Riotously funny, this early Carl Hiaasen novel has as its central character a venal, unscrupulous and blazingly incompetent cosmetic surgeon. Hiaasen's canvas is broad--really, the folly of civilization, with particular attention to the South Florida branch. And his palette includes oversize, outrageous behavior, fully two shades beyond reality. Every page made me roar with laughter as well as cringe for myself and my colleagues. Hiaasen makes us--plastic surgeons--remember what we are supposed to be and most particularly what we never want to become. The laugh is on all of us, both doctors and patients.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69 & 99: Maile Meloy's "Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It"

The current feature at The Page 69 Test and The Page 99 Test: Maile Meloy's Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It.

About the book, from the publisher:
Award-winning writer Maile Meloy’s return to short stories explores complex lives in an austere landscape with the clear-sightedness that first endeared her to readers.

Meloy’s first return to short stories since her critically acclaimed debut, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It is an extraordinary new work from one of the most promising writers of the last decade.

Eleven unforgettable new stories demonstrate the emotional power and the clean, assured style that have earned Meloy praise from critics and devotion from readers. Propelled by a terrific instinct for storytelling, and concerned with the convolutions of modern love and the importance of place, this collection is about the battlefields—and fields of victory—that exist in seemingly harmless spaces, in kitchens and living rooms and cars. Set mostly in the American West, the stories feature small-town lawyers, ranchers, doctors, parents, and children, and explore the moral quandaries of love, family, and friendship. A ranch hand falls for a recent law school graduate who appears unexpectedly— and reluctantly—in his remote Montana town. A young father opens his door to find his dead grandmother standing on the front step. Two women weigh love and betrayal during an early snow. Throughout the book, Meloy examines the tensions between having and wanting, as her characters try to keep hold of opposing forces in their lives: innocence and experience, risk and stability, fidelity and desire.

Knowing, sly, and bittersweet, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It confirms Maile Meloy’s singular literary talent. Her lean, controlled prose, full of insight and unexpected poignancy, is the perfect complement to her powerfully moving storytelling.
Visit Maile Meloy's website.

What is Maile Meloy reading?

The Page 69 Test: Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It.

The Page 99 Test: Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tim Hallinan interviews Brett Battles

Timothy Hallinan and Brett Battles both have new books out in their acclaimed series.

Battles' Shadow of Betrayal, the third novel in the Jonathan Quinn series, was published earlier this month. Hallinan's Breathing Water, the third installment of his Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers, is due out in a couple of weeks.

At Author Interviews today: the first installment of a two-part Q&A in which the writers query each other about their series and their process.

Visit Brett Battles' website and blog, and Timothy Hallinan's website and blog.

Read: Tim Hallinan interviews Brett Battles.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Peter M. Shane reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Peter M. Shane, author of Madison's Nightmare: How Executive Power Threatens American Democracy.

Part of his entry:
I am currently looking at Scott Matheson's Presidential Constitutionalism in Perilous Times, Hal Bruff's Bad Advice, and Dana Nelson's Bad for Democracy: How the Presidency Undermines the Power of the People. I came across each of these after I published my own book, Madison's Nightmare. I am hoping the Matheson book will help me take a longer historical view of developments in presidential power I identified as becoming especially troubling between 1981 and 2009. The Bruff book is a really thorough analysis of what went wrong in the Justice Department's handling of national security-related legal questions after September 11. The Nelson volume is prodding me to consider whether my own critique of presidentialism goes deep enough. Even if Presidents remain squarely within the purview of their well-founded legal authorities, Americans might still be too preoccupied with the presidency as an instrument of democratic change; at least, that's the argument...[read on]
Peter M. Shane is the Jacob E. Davis and Jacob E. Davis II Chair in Law and Director of the Project on Law and Democratic Development at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, and Executive Director of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy.

Read an excerpt from Madison's Nightmare, and learn more about the book at the University of Chicago Press website.

Visit Peter M. Shane's website.

Writers Read: Peter M. Shane.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Joanna Hershon's "The German Bride," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: The German Bride by Joanna Hershon.

The entry begins:
I do love a good casting session and when Vanity Fair asked me last March to "cast my novel" shortly after The German Bride was published, I admit to becoming so engrossed with the process that I had to remind myself that I did not, in fact, have Gael García Bernal on speed dial. I do think that this book would be a sweeping and juicy movie (if expensive to make, although thankfully that miraculous southwestern light is still free of charge) and there are terrific roles for actors.

Natalie Portman is the obvious choice for Eva-- complicated and intelligent, with just a touch of imp. Rachel Weisz would bring...[read on]
Read an excerpt from The German Bride, and learn more about the author and her work at Joanna Hershon's website.

Joanna Hershon is also the author of Swimming and The Outside of August. Her writing has appeared in One Story, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Post Road, the literary anthology Brooklyn Was Mine, and was shortlisted for the 2007 O. Henry Prize Stories.

The Page 69 Test: The German Bride.

My Book, The Movie: The German Bride.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Charlotte Greig's "A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy by Charlotte Greig.

About the book, from the publisher:
Susannah’s official boyfriend, Jason, is the perfect foil for her student lifestyle. He is ten years older, an antiques dealer, and owns a stylish apartment that prevents her from having to live in the seedy digs on campus. This way, she can take her philosophy major very seriously and dabble in the social and sexual freedom of 1970s university life. But circumstances become more complicated than Susannah would like when she begins to have an affair with her tutorial partner, Rob. Soon she is dating two men, missing her lectures, exploring independence and feminism with her girlfriends, and finding herself in a particularly impossible dilemma: she becomes pregnant. Forced to look beyond her friends and lovers for support, she finds help and inspiration from the lessons of Kierkegaard and other European philosophers.

A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy is a delightfully insightful, bittersweet coming-of-age romp, in which love is far from platonic and the mind—body predicament a pressing reality. It even succeeds where many introductions to philosophy have failed, by effortlessly bringing to life the central tenets of the most important European philosophers of modern times.
Read an excerpt from A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy, and learn more about the author and her work--both words and music--at Charlotte Greig's website.

Charlotte Greig worked as a music journalist in print and radio before becoming a folk singer and songwriter. She has made five albums and written a book on girl groups, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?: Girl Groups from the 50s On. She is also a playwright, for radio and stage.

The Page 69 Test: A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 books to make your blood boil

Brian Schofield has been a journalist since 1998, and has worked as executive editor on GQ Active magazine, and as editor of the Sunday Times Travel Magazine.

His writing has appeared in the New Statesman, The Sunday Times, the Independent on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph, Conde Nast Traveller, GQ and FHM.

His first book, Selling Your Father's Bones, a work of literary non-fiction on the history and ecology of the American North-West, was published by Simon & Schuster in the US.

For the Guardian, he named a top ten list of "furious books that scream at the system." One title on the list:
Tourist Season by Carl Hiassen

I hero-worship Hiassen slavishly – his Florida thrillers are tearfully funny, but also steam with rage against corruption and eco-crime. The man's a living, vengeful god.
Read about another book on Schofield's list.

Visit Brian Schofield's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a Canine: Cheryl Norman & Ginger

The current feature at Coffee with a Canine: Cheryl Norman & Ginger.

They're a well-traveled duo:
Ginger is an RV dog.... She has been all over the U.S. and parts of Canada, including Alaska and British Columbia. She found Las Vegas sadly lacking in grass and Minnesota with too much snow (at least in March) but mostly loves every place. We’ve taken her along parts of the old Route 66, including Santa Rosa, New Mexico, and St. Louis, Missouri, two places featured in my two novellas in "Romance on Route 66." Next we plan a return to Arizona via Amarillo, two places I need to research for next year’s "Romance on Route 66" Christmas anthology. Ginger is always ready to go bye-bye.
Cheryl Norman won the 2003 EPPIE award for her contemporary romance, Last Resort. Her debut with Medallion, Restore My Heart, earned her a mention in Publishers Weekly as one of ten new romance authors to watch.

Read My Book, The Movie: Running Scared by Cheryl Norman.

Romance on Route 66, her anthology of romance novellas written with Judith Leigh, is out this summer.

Learn more about the books and author at Cheryl Norman's website and MySpace page.

For information about her latest Route 66 stories, visit

Read--Coffee with a canine: Cheryl Norman & Ginger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pg. 99: Margot Canaday's "The Straight State"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America by Margot Canaday.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Straight State is the most expansive study of the federal regulation of homosexuality yet written. Unearthing startling new evidence from the National Archives, Margot Canaday shows how the state systematically came to penalize homosexuality, giving rise to a regime of second-class citizenship that sexual minorities still live under today.

Canaday looks at three key arenas of government control--immigration, the military, and welfare--and demonstrates how federal enforcement of sexual norms emerged with the rise of the modern bureaucratic state. She begins at the turn of the twentieth century when the state first stumbled upon evidence of sex and gender nonconformity, revealing how homosexuality was policed indirectly through the exclusion of sexually "degenerate" immigrants and other regulatory measures aimed at combating poverty, violence, and vice. Canaday argues that the state's gradual awareness of homosexuality intensified during the later New Deal and through the postwar period as policies were enacted that explicitly used homosexuality to define who could enter the country, serve in the military, and collect state benefits. Midcentury repression was not a sudden response to newly visible gay subcultures, Canaday demonstrates, but the culmination of a much longer and slower process of state-building during which the state came to know and to care about homosexuality across many decades.

Social, political, and legal history at their most compelling, The Straight State explores how regulation transformed the regulated: in drawing boundaries around national citizenship, the state helped to define the very meaning of homosexuality in America.
Read an excerpt from The Straight State, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

Margot Canaday is assistant professor of history at Princeton University.

The Page 99 Test: The Straight State.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten addictive true stories

Oprah and company came up with a ten best list of memoirs.

One title on the list:
Without a Map
by Meredith Hall
248 pages; Beacon

Nostalgic for the good old days of Norman Rockwell America? Without a Map may forever change the way you look at small-town life. Meredith Hall's memoir is a sobering portrayal of how punitive her close-knit New Hampshire community was in 1965 when, at the age of 16, she became pregnant in the course of a casual summer romance. Hall was expelled from high school, shunned by her friends and neighbors, cut loose by her parents, and forced to put up her baby for adoption. Unsurprisingly, the psychological damage she sustained was serious and persistent. After a reckless backpacking tour of Europe and the Middle East, Hall returned to her native state, married, had two sons, divorced, and was finally found by Paul, the son she'd been compelled to give away. Raised in New Hampshire, Paul had suffered through a childhood even more problematic than his (biological) mother's adolescence. As she documents her attempts to make sense of her parents' behavior and the cruelty of her son's adoptive father, Hall offers a testament to the importance of understanding and even forgiving the people who, however unconscious or unkind, have made us who we are.
Francine Prose
Read about another book on the list.

Read an excerpt from Without a Map, and learn more about the book and author at Meredith Hall's website.

The Page 69 Test: Meredith Hall's Without a Map.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Samantha Wilde's "This Little Mommy Stayed Home"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: This Little Mommy Stayed Home by Samantha Wilde.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Mother of all Motherhood novels.

In this riotously funny, ruefully honest, and irresistibly warmhearted debut, Samantha Wilde writes about one new mother who discovers the wonders and terrors of motherhood—one hilarious crisis at a time. For new moms, potential moms-to-be, and anyone who just wants to (wisely) live the experience vicariously…

New mom Joy McGuire hasn’t changed her sweatpants since her baby was born. Of course she’s crazy about her newborn son; it’s her distracted, work-obsessed husband and his impossible mother she can’t stand. Joy turns to her own mom for support, but she’s too busy planning her fourth wedding to a suspicious self-help guru. Sure, Joy’s a woman on the brink, but it’s nothing a little sleep, sanity, and chocolate can’t fix.

Until her old college boyfriend shows up at their ten-year reunion. The one she was still in love with when she married her husband. It must be the lack of sleep, because Joy is starting to think she might have ended up with the wrong man. Not to mention she’s obsessed with her sexy yoga instructor, who might just be interested in her. Joy used to be single, skinny, and able to speak in complete sentences, but who is she now? As she’s trying to figure that out, her husband goes missing….

Frank, bawdy, and full of keenly self-aware observations, this novel tells the story of one new mother, three men, one marriage, and the baby love that keeps us up at night.
Preview This Little Mommy Stayed Home, and learn more about the book and author at Samantha Wilde's website.

The Page 69 Test: This Little Mommy Stayed Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Renée Rosen reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Renée Rosen, author of Every Crooked Pot.

Her entry begins:
My reading tastes have been all over the board the past few months, with a mixture of old and new. I’ve also been very intrigued by the use of voice, especially multiple voices, which is what I found so captivating about Andre DuBus III’s House of Sand and Fog. I became completely engrossed with these different voices. Each character took on a life of his or her own and the suspense kept me turning pages, despite the story’s darkness.

Now I’m reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett, an impressive debut novel that...[read on]
Among the praise for Every Crooked Pot:
"Every Crooked Pot is a beautifully nuanced tale about an extraordinary family and even more extraordinary young woman. Not since Myla Goldberg's Bee Season has a first novel so deftly captured the complexities, joys, and frustrations of daughters and their families. It's hard to believe this is a debut -- Rosen's voice is already as good as it gets. Keep an eye out for this rising star."
--Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants
Read an excerpt from Every Crooked Pot and learn more about the novel at Renée Rosen's website.

The Page 99 Test: Every Crooked Pot.

Writers Read: Renée Rosen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ten of the best novels about novelists

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best novels about novelists.

One book on the list:
Any Human Heart by William Boyd

Boyd's novel consists of the journals of Logan Mountstuart, a novelist whose inventiveness diminishes as he gives more and more of his energy to disastrous affairs and the cultivation of celebrities. Even as his own fiction dries up, he meets Joyce, Woolf, Hemingway and Waugh, and donates ideas for their novels to them.
Read about another novel on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Mary Anna Evans' "Floodgates"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Floodgates by Mary Anna Evans.

About the book, from the Booklist review:
Archaeologist Faye Longchamp is taking a break from her doctoral studies to do some fieldwork in New Orleans. She is working at the site of the Revolutionary War’s Battle of New Orleans when a park ranger offers to show her a neighborhood destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Volunteers cleaning up a damaged home find a body there. The police think that it’s another drowning victim, but Faye notices that the debris piled on the corpse is all wrong. A young female detective brings Faye and her fiancé, Joe Wolf Mantooth, into the case because their archaeological expertise will be useful in sorting out what happened. They soon discover that the victim, Shelly Broussard, played an important role in the poststorm rescue work but may have made some serious enemies in the process. Evans has written a fascinating tale linking the history of New Orleans’ levee system to the present and weaving into the story aspects of the city’s widely diverse cultures. Voodoo, Native American spirituality, greed, and corruption all play roles in what is easily the best installment yet in a too-little-known series.
Read an excerpt from Floodgates, and learn more about the author and her work at Mary Anna Evans' website.

The Page 69 Test: Floodgates.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a Canine: Steven D. Hales & Sophie

The current feature at Coffee with a Canine: Steven D. Hales & Sophie.

Steven D. Hales is a Professor of Philosophy at at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of many scholarly articles and books, including What Philosophy Can Tell You About Your Dog, What Philosophy Can Tell You About Your Cat, and Beer and Philosophy.

Among the topics addressed in What Philosophy Can Tell You About Your Dog:
* Do dogs live in the same world that we do?
* What's your dog thinking about?
* Are dogs extensions of the human mind?
* If dogs are our best friends, why do we assume we can have them neutered?
* Do dogs use logic?
The origins of Sophie's name are linked to Hales' professional interests:
I wanted to name our daughter "Sophie" but got outvoted in favor of "Holly." However, I got to name the dog. "Sophia" is Greek for wisdom, and is one of the root words for "philosophy." A much better name for the dog would have been "Houdini." Sophie could escape from a supermax prison. It practically takes landmines and concertina wire to keep her in the yard; our 11 acres just isn't big enough for a dog with the wanderlust of Columbus. And she always heads straight for the muddy creek with her buddy Wiley, the big black dog next door.
Read--Coffee with a canine: Steven D. Hales & Sophie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Daniel E. Sutherland's "A Savage Conflict"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War by Daniel E. Sutherland.

About the book, from the publisher:
The American Civil War is famous for epic battles involving massive armies outfitted in blue and gray uniforms, details that characterize conventional warfare. A Savage Conflict is the first work to treat guerrilla warfare as critical to understanding the course and outcome of the Civil War. Daniel Sutherland argues that irregular warfare took a large toll on the Confederate war effort by weakening support for state and national governments and diminishing the trust citizens had in their officials to protect them.

Sutherland points out that early in the war Confederate military and political leaders embraced guerrilla tactics. They knew that "partizan" fighters had helped to win the American Revolution. As the war dragged on and defense of the remote spaces of the Confederate territory became more tenuous, guerrilla activity spiraled out of state control. It was adopted by parties who had interests other than Confederate victory, including southern Unionists, violent bands of deserters and draft dodgers, and criminals who saw the war as an opportunity for plunder. Sutherland considers not only the implications such activity had for military strategy but also its effects on people and their attitudes toward the war. Once vital to southern hopes for victory, the guerrilla combatants proved a significant factor in the Confederacy's final collapse.
Learn more about A Savage Conflict at the publisher's website, and visit Daniel Sutherland's faculty webpage.

The Page 99 Test: A Savage Conflict.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What is Helen Benedict reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Helen Benedict, author most recently of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq and The Edge of Eden, a forthcoming novel.

One book from her entry:
I'jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody by Sinan Antoon, an Iraqi novelist and film maker who now lives in the U.S., was published by City Lights Books in 2007. All things Iraqi fascinate me now, as I have just finished a nonfiction book about the Iraq War and am now writing a novel set in Iraq, too. Iraqi literature has a totally different tone and approach to Western literature, and often seems both experimental and ancient at the same time. This book plays with language and explores politics, but indirectly, as it is told through the voice of a man imprisoned under Saddam for writing an objectionable poem. It feels like reading a fever dream, one that is both meandering and bizarre yet strikingly clear at the same time. At times I was reminded of the formality and floridness of ancient Turkish poetry; at other times of Kafka. But either way, the novel gives you a clear sense of what it is like to seethe and squirm under...[read on]
Helen Benedict is the author of five novels and five books of nonfiction. Her new nonfiction book, The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq came out from Beacon Press in April 2009. Benedict's play based on the book, The Lonely Soldier Monologues, was performed in New York City at The Theater for the New City from March 5–22, and at La MaMa on March 17. It will be performed again this coming fall, dates to be arranged.

One of her articles on the subject, "The Private War of Women Soldiers" (Salon, March 2007) was awarded The James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism in 2008. She has since written other articles on women soldiers that have appeared in the New York Times, The Nation, Ms., In These Times, Huffington Post, and elsewhere. Benedict's newest novel, The Edge of Eden, set in Seychelles in 1960, is to be published by Soho Press in November, 2009.

Learn more about Helen Benedict and her work at her official website.

Writers Read: Helen Benedict.

--Marshal Zeringue

Oprah: 7 books for dog lovers

Oprah and associates came up with 7 books for dog lovers.

One work of fiction on the list:
Nose Down, Eyes Up
by Merrill Markoe
320 pages; Villard

Gil, the growly, slovenly, haplessly divorced fellow in Merrill Markoe's Nose Down, Eyes Up, is clueless about human relationships; frankly, he's a bit of an animal. Listening in as his favorite dog, Jimmy, counsels his fellow canines on life and love ("It's the big emotion behind snack time"), Gil bumbles through comic misadventures with his bouncy girlfriend, Sara, and his sexpot ex-wife, Eden. Read this novel for its nose-to-the-ground wisdom, its unsentimental take on family, and for the funniest, furriest pack of jokesters this side of the Marx Brothers.
Cathleen Medwick
Read about another book on the list.

Visit Merrill Markoe's website.

The Page 69 Test: Nose Down, Eyes Up.

Also see: Five best books about dogs and Five best books for your canine, and you.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Tess Callahan's "April & Oliver"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: April and Oliver by Tess Callahan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Best friends since childhood, the sexual tension between April and Oliver has always been palpable. Years after being completely inseparable, they become strangers, but the wildly different paths of their lives cross once again with the sudden death of April's brother. Oliver, the responsible, newly engaged law student finds himself drawn more than ever to the reckless, mystifying April - and cracks begin to appear in his carefully constructed life. Even as Oliver attempts to "save" his childhood friend from her grief, her menacing boyfriend and herself, it soon becomes apparent that Oliver has some secrets of his own--secrets he hasn't shared with anyone, even his fiancé. But April knows, and her reappearance in his life derails him. Is it really April's life that is unraveling, or is it his own? The answer awaits at the end of a downward spiral...towards salvation.
Read an excerpt from April & Oliver, and learn more about the novel and author at Tess Callahan's website.

The Page 69 Test: April and Oliver.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Marie Brennan's "In Ashes Lie," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Marie Brennan's In Ashes Lie and Midnight Never Come.

The entry begins:
I'm very bad at visualizing faces, so I do occasionally try to "cast" my characters, in order to have a reference point to work from. In my Onyx Court series of London-based historical fantasies -- installments so far are the Elizabethan Midnight Never Come and Civil War-era In Ashes Lie -- I've had variable luck with finding suitable choices.

Michael Deven, the human protagonist of Midnight, was the first one I cast. My choice for him is a younger James Purefoy, whom I first saw playing Edward, the Black Prince, in A Knight's Tale. (Without the scar he sported in that movie, though.) Good-looking, but not excessively Hollywood-pretty, and unlike some actors, he doesn't look weird in a historical context. Lune, the faerie protagonist, took much longer; it's hard to find a human with the right kind of delicacy. I only recently settled on Olivia Wilde, most famous as Thirteen on House M.D. She's got an austere beauty that's pretty close to what I had in mind. As for Invidiana, the cruel faerie Queen, I've never found anyone suitable at all. Strangely, Hollywood seems to have a shortage of women who are both inhumanly gorgeous and utterly terrifying. If you dressed up Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent in Elizabethan clothing, though, you'd come close.

For the sequel, In Ashes Lie, I knew even before I wrote Jack Ellin that he looked like...[read on]
Learn more about the books and author at Marie Brennan's website.

My Book, The Movie: In Ashes Lie and Midnight Never Come.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jennifer Mathews' "Chicle"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: Chicle: The Chewing Gum of the Americas, From the Ancient Maya to William Wrigley by Jennifer P. Mathews.

About the book, from the publisher:
Although Juicy Fruit® gum was introduced to North Americans in 1893, Native Americans in Mesoamerica were chewing gum thousands of years earlier. And although in the last decade “biographies” have been devoted to salt, spices, chocolate, coffee, and other staples of modern life, until now there has never been a full history of chewing gum. Chicle is a history in four acts, all of them focused on the sticky white substance that seeps from the sapodilla tree when its bark is cut. First, Jennifer Mathews recounts the story of chicle and its earliest-known adherents, the Maya and Aztecs. Second, with the assistance of botanist Gillian Schultz, Mathews examines the sapodilla tree itself, an extraordinarily hardy plant that is native only to Mesoamerica and the Caribbean. Third, Mathews presents the fascinating story of the chicle and chewing gum industry over the last hundred plus years, a tale (like so many twentieth-century tales) of greed, growth, and collapse. In closing, Mathews considers the plight of the chicleros, the “extractors” who often work by themselves tapping trees deep in the forests, and how they have emerged as icons of local pop culture—portrayed as fearless, hard-drinking brawlers, people to be respected as well as feared. Before Dentyne® and Chiclets®, before bubble gum comic strips and the Doublemint® twins, there was gum, oozing from jungle trees like melting candle wax under the slash of a machete. Chicle tells us everything that happened next. It is a spellbinding story.
Read an excerpt from Chicle, and listen to a National Public Radio interview with Jennifer P. Mathews.

Visit Jennifer P. Mathews' website.

The Page 99 Test: Chicle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best: novels about immigrants in America

Matthew Kaminski, a member of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, named his five favorite novels about immigrants in America for his newspaper.

One title on the list:
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Diaz
Riverhead, 2007

The eponymous hero of Junot Diaz’s breakout novel is a fat, warm, complex, lonely, sex-starved, sci-fi-obsessed New Jersey kid who happens to be a Dominican. We’re in Philip Roth ­territory here. Wao’s angst is that of an adolescent (where does he, a ­Dominican “GhettoNerd,” fit in?) and of an immigrant (ditto). Diaz peppers his book with Spanish phrases and ­pop-dweeb trivia without explaining ­either, which in no way hurts the book. As for sections of the novel set back in the native land of Oscar’s mother, extended footnotes are provided “for those of you who missed your ­mandatory two seconds of Dominican history.” The novel is a rare ­accomplishment, a serious literary work with “street” appeal.
Read about another book on Kaminski's list.

Also see Junot Díaz's most important books and the Page 99 Test: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 24, 2009

What is Whitney Terrell reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Whitney Terrell, author of the award winning novels The Huntsman and The King of Kings County.

His entry begins:
Of late, I have been reading Updike, Updike, Updike. This is a jag that began with his death which spurred me, as I suspect it did many people, to go back and actually read his work again, rather than dealing with him as an idea, a “great author,” a brand name. I began with the third and best of the Rabbit books, Rabbit is Rich, and read back from there to Redux and finally to Run. I was shocked and abashed by how much he achieved in these books, how serious and consistent their purpose seemed, and how far they exceeded the achievement I’d granted them in my memory. The fault was all mine, not his. In the encomiums that followed Updike’s death, many spoke of his writing about sex, the titillating aspects of his work, as well as his majestic prose. But in the Rabbit books, he seems to me, more than any writer I can think of, the great American poet of...[read on]
Whitney Terrell is the New Letters Writer-in-Residence at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The Huntsman was a New York Times notable book and was selected as a best book of 2001 by The Kansas City Star and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The King of Kings County won the William Rockhill Nelson award from The Kansas City Star and was selected as a best book of 2005 by the Christian Science Monitor. In 2006, he was named one of 20 “writers to watch” under 40 by members of the National Book Critics Circle.

His non-fiction has appeared in The New York Times, Details, The New York Observer, The Kansas City Star, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Recently, he embedded with the 22nd infantry in Baghdad, an experience he covered for the Washington Post Magazine.

Visit Terrell's website to learn more about the author, his novels, and his non-fiction.

The Page 99 Test: The King of Kings County.

Writers Read: Whitney Terrell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Hyatt Bass' "The Embers"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Embers by Hyatt Bass.

About the book, from the publisher:
A once-charmed family is forced to confront the devastating tragedy that struck it years ago in this fiercely tender tale of betrayal and reconciliation

It’s the fall of 2007, and Emily Ascher should be celebrating: she just got engaged to the man she loves, her job is moving in new and fulfilling directions, and her once-rocky relationship with her mother, Laura, has finally mellowed into an easy give-and-take. But with the promise of new love

Settling into old comes a difficult look at how her family has been torn apart in the many years since her brother died. Her parents have long since divorced, and her father, Joe, a famous actor and playwright who has been paralyzed with grief since the tragedy, carries the blame for his son’s death—but what really happened on that winter night? Why has he been unable to clear his name, or even discuss that evening with Laura and Emily?

As spring looms—and with it Emily’s wedding in the Berkshires and an unveiling of Joe’s new play—each Ascher begins to reevaluate the events of long ago, finally facing the truth of his or her own culpability in them. Moving between past and present over the course of sixteen years, The Embers is a skillfully structured debut novel of buried secrets and deep regrets that crush a family while bonding its members irrevocably.
Read an excerpt from The Embers, and view the video trailer.

Learn more about the book and author at Hyatt Bass' website.

The Page 69 Test: The Embers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Richard Schickel's 5 best show-biz biographies

Richard Schickel is a film critic, documentary film maker and movie historian, who has written over 30 books, including Elia Kazan: A Biography.

A few years ago he named his five favorite show-biz biographies for the Wall Street Journal. One book on the list:
"A Life" by Elia Kazan (Knopf, 1988).

Common consent holds that this may be the greatest of all showbiz autobiographies and, for once, the conventional wisdom is correct. Kazan emerged from his fervent, apprentice years with the Group Theater determined to revolutionize American acting and theatrical writing by infusing it with greater realism. In the 1940s and '50s he did just that, in the process becoming our greatest stage director and one of our greatest movie directors. He was also a frenzied womanizer, a controversially engaged political figure and a man with passionate loves and hatreds for everyone he knew and worked with. All of that rambunctiously hangs out in this wounding, wounded and powerfully truthful and affecting book.
Read about another biography on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Nicholas Griffin & Otto

The current feature at Coffee with a Canine: Nicholas Griffin & Otto.

Griffin's books include the historical novels The Requiem Shark and House of Sight and Shadow and the nonfiction work, Caucasus. His latest novel is Dizzy City.

Read an excerpt from Dizzy City and learn more about the book and author at Nicholas Griffin's website.

Griffin on Otto the city dog:
He loves the dog parks, I’m not so keen. A French bulldog took a bite out of his ear last week so he came home, shook his head and redecorated the kitchen in blood. Every now and then, when I take him to the country, he tries to make friends with anyone who walks past hoping to be adopted and spared a return to a life of concrete and peeing against piles of trash. Last week, out of the city, he surreptitiously crept into someone’s golf cart while I was talking to them and almost made it to a life of grass and trees. I like to think of him as a canine Steve McQueen and we’re serving our time in the city together.
The Page 99 Test: Dizzy City.

Writers Read: Nicholas Griffin.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Nicholas Griffin & Otto.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pg. 99: Anna Stilz's "Liberal Loyalty"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Liberal Loyalty: Freedom, Obligation, and the State by Anna Stilz.

About the book, from the publisher:
Many political theorists today deny that citizenship can be defended on liberal grounds alone. Cosmopolitans claim that loyalty to a particular state is incompatible with universal liberal principles, which hold that we have equal duties of justice to persons everywhere, while nationalist theorists justify civic obligations only by reaching beyond liberal principles and invoking the importance of national culture. In Liberal Loyalty, Anna Stilz challenges both views by defending a distinctively liberal understanding of citizenship.

Drawing on Kant, Rousseau, and Habermas, Stilz argues that we owe civic obligations to the state if it is sufficiently just, and that constitutionally enshrined principles of justice in themselves--rather than territory, common language, or shared culture--are grounds for obedience to our particular state and for democratic solidarity with our fellow citizens. She demonstrates that specifying what freedom and equality mean among a particular people requires their democratic participation together as a group. Justice, therefore, depends on the authority of the democratic state because there is no way equal freedom can be defined or guaranteed without it. Yet, as Stilz shows, this does not mean that each of us should entertain some vague loyalty to democracy in general. Citizens are politically obligated to their own state and to each other, because within their particular democracy they define and ultimately guarantee their own civil rights.

Liberal Loyalty is a persuasive defense of citizenship on purely liberal grounds.
Read an excerpt from Liberal Loyalty, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

Anna Stilz is an assistant professor of politics at Princeton University.

The Page 99 Test: Liberal Loyalty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Christopher Buckley's best books

Novelist, editor, and humorist Christopher Buckley's most recent book is the memoir Losing Mum and Pup.

Back in 2002 he named a best books list for The Week. One title on the list:
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (Little, Brown & Co., $14).

Probably the only book I’ve read a half dozen times and hope to another half dozen before my time is up. A very great masterpiece of style, wit, satire, manners, and meaning, to say nothing of a godsend, since 1981, to the Yorkshire tourist economy. (It was filmed at Castle Howard.)
Read about another book on Buckley's list.

Alexander Waugh, grandson of Evelyn, recently reviewed Buckley's Losing Mum and Pup and shared a few anecdotes about the William F. Buckley-Evelyn Waugh relationship.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Blake Crouch's "Abandon"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Blake Crouch's Abandon.

About the book, from the publisher:
On Christmas Day in 1893, every man, woman and child in a remote gold mining town disappeared, belongings forsaken, meals left to freeze in vacant cabins; and not a single bone was ever found. One hundred thirteen years later, two backcountry guides are hired by a history professor and his journalist daughter to lead them into the abandoned mining town so that they can learn what happened. With them is a psychic, and a paranormal photographer—as the town is rumored to be haunted. A party that tried to explore the town years ago was never heard from again. What this crew is about to discover is that twenty miles from civilization, with a blizzard bearing down, they are not alone, and the past is very much alive.
Read an excerpt from Abandon, and learn more about the book and author at Blake Crouch's website.

Blake Crouch is also the author of Desert Places and Locked Doors.

The Page 69 Test: Abandon.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Maile Meloy reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Maile Meloy, author of the acclaimed new short story collection, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It.

Her entry begins:
I just finished The Tin Princess by Philip Pullman. It’s the fourth and last of the Sally Lockhart mysteries, all set in the 19th century with a plucky heroine who falls into the detective business. They’re as wonderful as Pullman’s His Dark Materials, with history (exciting, fascinating history) in place of magic. When I was a kid, I read all of the Trixie Belden mysteries, to my grandmother’s dismay—she thought I should be reading something more edifying—and I loved them. I hadn’t read many mysteries since, so I think Sally Lockhart has answered a deep, forgotten need.

In the first book....[read on]
Maile Meloy is the author of the story collection Half in Love, and the novels Liars and Saints, shortlisted for the 2005 Orange Prize, and A Family Daughter. Meloy’s stories have been published in The New Yorker, and she has received The Paris Review’s Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2007, she was chosen as one of Granta’s Best American Novelists under 35.

Among the early praise for Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It:
“Though it might seem strange to praise a writer for the things she doesn’t do, what really sets Meloy apart is her restraint. She is impressively concise, disciplined in length and scope. And she’s balanced in her approach to character, neither blinded by love for her creations, nor abusive toward them.... She’s such a talented and unpredictable writer that I’m officially joining her fan club; whatever she writes next, I’ll gladly read it.”
—Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times Book Review
Visit Maile Meloy's website.

Writers Read: Maile Meloy (March 2008).

The Page 99 Test: A Family Daughter.

Writers Read: Maile Meloy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Top 10 tales from cold climes

Marcus Sedgwick's latest novel Revolver, now available in the U.K., is a tense psychological drama set above the Arctic Circle.

For the Guardian, he named his top ten tales from cold climes. One novel on the list:
On Her Majesty's Secret Service by Ian Fleming

Rather unfairly deemed a second cousin in the series, the film version of Fleming's OHMSS still has its good points (including the best soundtrack of any Bond film) and yet, as so often, the novel gives so much more. As Bond passes himself off as an expert in heraldry to investigate Blofeld's Alpine lair, you can almost hear the swish of skis cut into the crust of the snow as the pages turn.
Read about another novel on Sedgwick's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Richard Lange's "This Wicked World"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: This Wicked World by Richard Lange.

About the book, from the publisher:
Elmore Leonard meets Denis Johnson in this explosive first novel set on the seedy side of Southern California.

Ex-marine Jimmy Boone-former bodyguard to Los Angeles's rich and famous-is fresh out of Corcoran, on parole, and trying to keep his nose clean until he figures out his next move. He has a job tending bar on Hollywood Boulevard, serving drinks to tourists, and is determined to put the past behind him.

But trying to do the right thing has always been Boone's downfall. When he backs up a buddy on a hero-for-hire gig-looking into the mysterious death of a kid on a downtown bus-he once again finds himself in a world of trouble.

As Boone learns more about the boy, an innocent who got involved with the wrong people, his investigation becomes a mission. Along the dangerous margins of Los Angeles, he encounters down-on-their-luck drug dealers, a vengeful stripper, a dog-fighting ring, a beautiful ex-cop, a vicious crime boss and his crew, and a fortune in counterfeit bills. Before long, Boone realizes that his quest to get at the truth about a ruthless murder may also turn out to be his last chance at redemption.

This Wicked World is a knock-out blend of superb writing and breakneck storytelling that grabs you by the collar and makes it impossible to stop reading.
Read an excerpt from This Wicked World and learn more about the book and author at Richard Lange's website.

Writers Read: Richard Lange.

The Page 69 Test: This Wicked World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Alison Goodman & Xander

The current feature at Coffee with a canine: Alison Goodman & Xander.

Alison Goodman, author of novels including the highly acclaimed Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, and Xander Matthias Goodman, "a cross between a Jack Russell Terrier and a lower level demon," made a coffee-date at Laurent French Patisserie in Brighton, Melbourne, Australia. It didn't go exactly as planned.

Goodman’s Eon: Dragoneye Reborn (aka The Two Pearls of Wisdom) has sold into 13 countries and recently won the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel. It is also a James Tiptree Jr. Honour Book and a CBCA Notable Book. The Times wrote, “This intelligent, vividly written tale grips from the first page,” and SFX called it “addictive reading…the climax is gloriously tantalising.”

Read an excerpt from Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, and learn more about the author and her work at Alison Goodman's website and MySpace page.

The Page 69 Test: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn.

Read--Coffee with a canine: Alison Goodman & Xander.

--Marshal Zeringue