Saturday, February 28, 2009

What is Michelle Boisseau reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Michelle Boisseau, a professor of English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City whose books of poetry include No Private Life (Vanderbilt 1990); Understory, winner of the Morse Prize (Northeastern University Press 1996); Trembling Air (University of Arkansas Press 2003), a PEN USA finalist; and A Sunday in God-Years (University of Arkansas Press 2009).

Two books mentioned in her entry:
David Schloss's new book of poems, Group Portrait from Hell; for people who love poems, it's a book that comes from paradise. Schloss is a skilled poet of formal meters, and he uses them with the wit and aplomb of the great Latin poets: to call attention to the foibles, ghastliness, and hilarity of their age, and to do it bravely, for it meant life or death or exile. Schloss speaks as an exile in the strange land where we find ourselves: our times. I also just finished the brand new book by the young poet Randall Mann, Breakfast with Tom Gunn, an outrageous and gorgeous and side-splitting collection of poems. Mann writes exquisite formal poems, and they crackle on the page. If Mann were writing these in prose the authors of Prop 8 in California would figure out a new proposition to hush him up. As is, he flies under the radar, writing poetry that is harrowing, sharp, and for adults.[read on]
Read more about A Sunday in God-Years, including a sample poem from the collection, "Sandcastle Guarded by a Cicada Shell."

Writers Read: Michelle Boisseau.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Danny Scheinmann's "Random Acts of Heroic Love"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Random Acts of Heroic Love by Danny Scheinmann.

About the book, from the publisher:
With over 200,000 copies sold in the UK, aRichard & Judy pick, rights sold in 19 countries, called “riveting” and “mesmerizing,” this is a cinematic debut from a gifted new writer. Based on real family events, Danny Scheinmann’s novel paints a dramatic portrait of two apparently unconnected epic love stories.

1992: Traveling through South America with his girlfriend, Leo wakes up in a hospital to find his girlfriend is dead. He blames himself for the tragedy and is sucked into a spiral of despair. But a surprising secret leads Leo to discover something that will change his life forever.

1917: Moritz is a POW fugitive, with seven thousand kilometers of the Russian steppes separating him from his first love, whose memory has kept him alive through carnage and captivity. The war may be over, but he now faces a perilous journey and the insecurity of whether his love is still waiting.
Read an excerpt from Random Acts of Heroic Love, and learn more about the author and his work at Danny Scheinmann's website.

Danny Scheinmann is a writer, actor and storyteller. He lives in London.

The Page 69 Test: Random Acts of Heroic Love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Best books: James Gray

James Gray's films include Two Lovers, starring Joaquin Phoenix and ­Gwyneth Paltrow, and Little Odessa and We Own the Night.

He named his six best books for The Week.

One book on the list:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Puffin, $5).

If you haven’t taken a look at it recently, you should. I read it too early—high school—but picked it up again not too long ago and realized it’s as good as they say. A caustic book, but a very funny one, too. Essential.
Read about another title on Gray's list.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is #5 on the list of the 100 best last lines from novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 27, 2009

Pg. 99: R. Zaretsky & J.T. Scott's "The Philosophers' Quarrel"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Philosophers' Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding by Robert Zaretsky and John T. Scott.

About the book, from the publisher:
The rise and spectacular fall of the friendship between the two great philosophers of the eighteenth century, barely six months after they first met, reverberated on both sides of the Channel. As the relationship between Jean-Jacques Rousseau and David Hume unraveled, a volley of rancorous letters was fired off, then quickly published and devoured by aristocrats, intellectuals, and common readers alike. Everyone took sides in this momentous dispute between the greatest of Enlightenment thinkers.

In this lively and revealing book, Robert Zaretsky and John T. Scott explore the unfolding rift between Rousseau and Hume. The authors are particularly fascinated by the connection between the thinkers’ lives and thought, especially the way that the failure of each to understand the other—and himself—illuminates the limits of human understanding. In addition, they situate the philosophers’ quarrel in the social, political, and intellectual milieu that informed their actions, as well as the actions of the other participants in the dispute, such as James Boswell, Adam Smith, and Voltaire. By examining the conflict through the prism of each philosopher’s contribution to Western thought, Zaretsky and Scott reveal the implications for the two men as individuals and philosophers as well as for the contemporary world.
Read an excerpt from The Philosophers' Quarrel, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Robert Zaretsky is professor of French, Honors College, University of Houston. John T. Scott is professor of political science, University of California, Davis. Zaretsky and Scott are coauthors of Frail Happiness: An Essay on Rousseau.

The Page 99 Test: The Philosophers' Quarrel.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Steve Knopper reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Steve Knopper, author of the newly released Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age.

One paragraph from his entry:
-- To answer your question literally, I'm on about page 30 of Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis. As a music critic for years and a longtime feature writer, I never thought I'd be a business reporter, but my recent professional obsession with the music business has led me to figure out why bad stuff happens to other industries. I've read Moneyball, and Lewis' piece on subprime mortgages and the economic crash in Condé Nast Portfolio magazine last fall made me seek out this one. So far I'm just into the ambition and chutzpah phases of his broker's narrative about '80s Wall Street and haven't quite gotten to the greed and corruption....[read on]
Steve Knopper covers the music business for Rolling Stone magazine.

He is a Denver-based journalist who has written for Spin, Details, Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, National Geographic Traveler, Wired, New York, Chicago, Backpacker, as well as the Chicago Tribune, Newsday, The Washington Post, the Toronto Globe and Mail, the Denver Rocky Mountain News, the Miami Herald, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and many books and websites.

Learn more about Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age.

Visit Steve Knopper's website.

Writers Read: Steve Knopper.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Andrew Gottlieb's "Drink, Play, F@#k"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Drink, Play, F@#k: One Man's Search for Anything Across Ireland, Las Vegas, and Thailand by Andrew Gottlieb.

About the book, from the publisher:
One man’s spiritual journey to rediscover how much he hates spiritual journeys

What’s a guy supposed to do when eight years of marriage end in a nasty divorce? How does he rediscover his manly essence after years of being forced to attend poetry readings, string quartet recitals, and pasta making courses? There is only one way: drink, play, and f@#k.

In Drink, Play, F@#k, Bob Sullivan, jilted husband, sets off to explore the world, have a few laughs, and kill a few brain cells. From his home in New York City, he goes on a bender across Ireland, pumps the action in Las Vegas, and basks in physical pleasures in Thailand. After a lifetime of playing it safe, he lives out man’s great fantasies. For who among us hasn’t dreamed of a drunken knife-throwing contest outside a Dublin pub? What could be more exhilarating than losing every penny you have because an Australian rules football team did something at the last second you don’t even understand? And what sensate creature could ever doubt that the greatest pleasure known to man can be found in a tropical hut on a secret beach at the end of an unnamed jungle road?

Mr. Sullivan has a lot to teach us about life. Let’s just pray we have the wisdom to put aside our preconceptions and listen. Because what he finds, with the help of his guru Rick, who sometimes sleeps in the bathroom at the YMCA, isn’t at all what he expected.
Learn more about Drink, Play, F@#k at the publisher's website.

Andrew Gottlieb is a comedy writer who has written sitcoms (The Single Guy, Watching Ellie, Hope and Faith), feature films (Agent Fabulous), and books (In The Paint, Death to All Sacred Cows, Hechingers Field Guide to Ethnic Stereotypes). Currently he is an Executive Producer of Z Rock airing on the Independent Film Channel.

The Page 69 Test: Drink, Play, F@#k.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pg. 99: J. D. Trout's "The Empathy Gap"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Empathy Gap: Building Bridges to the Good Life and the Good Society by J. D. Trout.

About the book, from the publisher:
A road map to a better society linking the cognitive psychology of individual and social decision making

Drawing on his sweeping and innovative research, philosopher and cognitive scientist J. D. Trout recruits the latest findings in psychology, behavioral economics, and neuroscience to answer the question: How can we make better personal decisions and design social policies that improve the lives of everyone?

Empathy prompts us to roll up our sleeves. Empathy for the risk and suffering of our fellow citizens can lead to moral outrage, more decent laws, and fairer policies. But new research on judgment and decision making has revealed that the human mind makes decisions that undermine the best interests of the individual and society alike. Empathy is an admirable impulse, but alone it is unreliable. It needs to be balanced by rationality if we are to develop a responsible social approach to decent and democratic policy making.

With penetrating insight into our cognitive and empathic limitations, Trout offers pragmatic political solutions to vault these crippling psychological barriers and outlines the best way to use our brains and our policies to improve society and the life of every individual.
Learn more about the book and author at J.D. Trout's website and his Psychology Today blog, The Greater Good.

J.D. Trout is a Professor of Philosophy at Loyola University Chicago, and Adjunct Professor at the Parmly Sensory Sciences Institute.

The Page 99 Test: The Empathy Gap.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten "eccentric" Middle East books

Patrick Tyler is a journalist and author whose career in newspapers includes 12 years at The Washington Post, and 14 years at The New York Times, where he was chief correspondent from 2002-2004. He anchored The Times coverage of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and established its Baghdad Bureau after the fall of Saddam Hussein. His latest book is A World of Trouble: The White House and the Middle East--from the Cold War to the War on Terror.

For the Guardian, he named a top ten list of "eccentric" Middle East books -- books that "come at the essential conflict in the region from an obtuse angle, casting surprising light on a situation that often seems all too familiar."

One title on the list:
Ropes of Sand by Wilbur Crane Eveland

An early insider's account of disillusionment, by an American spy that mirrors TE Lawrence's lament about the west's inability to keep its promises to the Arabs. Eveland is an Arabic-speaking intelligence operative who gravitates from the Eisenhower White House to the CIA, where he advises Allen Dulles on coup plotting in Syria and managing the rise of Nasser in Egypt. His narrative stands out as a sincere attempt to understand the failed American seduction of Nasser at a time when Washington wanted desperately to harness his power for the west.
Read about another book on Tyler's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Spencer Quinn's "Dog On It"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Dog on It by Spencer Quinn.

About the book, from the publisher:
Meet Chet, the wise and lovable canine narrator of Dog on It, who works alongside Bernie, a down-on-his-luck private investigator. Chet might have flunked out of police school ("I'd been the best leaper in K-9 class, which had led to all the trouble in a way I couldn't remember exactly, although blood was involved"), but he's a detective through and through.

In this, their first adventure, Chet and Bernie investigate the disappearance of Madison, a teenage girl who may or may not have been kidnapped, but who has definitely gotten mixed up with some very unsavory characters. A well-behaved, gifted student, she didn't arrive home after school and her divorced mother is frantic. Bernie is quick to take the case -- something about a cash flow problem that Chet's not all that clear about -- and he's relieved, if vaguely suspicious, when Madison turns up unharmed with a story that doesn't add up. But when she disappears for a second time in a week, Bernie and Chet aren't taking any chances; they launch a full-blown investigation. Without a ransom demand, they're not convinced it's a kidnapping, but they are sure of one thing: something smells funny.

Their search for clues takes them into the desert to biker bars and other exotic locals, with Chet's highly trained nose leading the way. Both Chet and Bernie bring their own special skills to the hunt, one that puts each of them in peril. But even as the bad guys try to turn the tables, this duo is nothing if not resourceful, and the result is an uncommonly satisfying adventure.

With his doggy ways and his endearingly hardboiled voice, Chet is full of heart and occasionally prone to mischief. He is intensely loyal to Bernie, who, though distracted by issues that Chet has difficulty understanding -- like divorce, child custody, and other peculiar human concerns -- is enormously likable himself, in his flawed, all-too-human way.
Read an excerpt from Dog On It, and learn more about the book at the Simon & Schuster website.

Spencer Quinn lives on Cape Cod with his dog, Audrey.

The Page 69 Test: Dog on It.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What is Mary Cappello reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Mary Cappello, a regular contributor to the world of literary nonfiction and experimental prose, and the author of Night Bloom: An Italian/American Life, the Los Angeles Times bestselling book-length essay on “awkwardness,” Awkward: A Detour, and other works.

Her entry begins:
Currently, I’m reading a book that is, sadly, out of print: James Scully’s Line Break: Poetry as Social Practice, originally published by Bay Press. I’ve been rediscovering it because of classes I’m teaching in poetry this semester, and I still find it to be one of the most lucid, bracing, important and teachable collections to address the lines that too often set poetry apart from the political. I’m also happily re-reading some favorite essayists this week—most notably, the wildly dense, heightened sentences of William Gass’ Tests of Time, in particular his essay on lists, as I ask my students to articulate the differences between list poems and facebook lists. Once back inside of this collection, I found myself returning to Gass’ still unsurpassed essay on Gertrude Stein—“The Geography of the Sentence” in The World within the Word. Then, I pined for an era in which the book review was shot through with readerly prowess, erudition, conversation, for the days, too, when it was a form more writers happily and necessarily inhabited: the book review as art. Discussing this with a colleague this week, he put the two volumes of Virginia Woolf’s Common Reader into my lap, and I found myself re-reading one of the magnificent essays therein—on how to read a book. I read it on the spot while my friend gave another guest a tour of the orchids he cultivates. Orchids or Woolf’s Common Reader? It’s a tough choice, but maybe not if you love the intricate beauty of essays as much as I do.[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Mary Cappello's website.

Writers Read: Mary Cappello.

--Marshal Zeringue

A. Scott Pearson's "Rupture," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Rupture by A. Scott Pearson.

The entry begins:
Rupture, my novel of medical suspense, introduces surgeon Eli Branch. While investigating the suspicious death of one of his patients, Eli uncovers an elaborate web of lies spun by his late father, a longtime professor of anatomy at Mid-South Medical College in Memphis. Instead of finding answers, Eli finds more questions–and more victims, each meeting a sudden, violent end.

Eli joins forensic pathologist Meg Daily to find a common thread among the victims. As they piece together the chilling puzzle, Eli and Meg plunge headfirst into the world of deadly medicine–a world way too close to home. Trapped in the paradox of ending one life to save another, Eli finds that in this life-or-death race against time, one false step could be fatal.

For the main character, burgeoning surgeon Eli Branch, I would choose a young Harrison Ford, without question. Since that’s not happening, I turn to Jude Law, or an inquisitive John Cusack. Maybe a serious Jay Mohr. It both thrills and troubles me to consider what Robert Downey, Jr. could do with the role. Jake Gyllenhaal could take this part and run with it. Rising to the top of the pack, however, is Matt Damon.

For the heroine, pathologist Meg Daily, her part is fun to think about...[read on]
Read more about Rupture at the official website or at the publisher's website.

A. Scott Pearson is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis. For the past decade, Dr. Pearson has been on the surgical faculty at Vanderbilt University, where he combines cancer research with the clinical practice of surgery and teaches on the importance of the patient’s narrative in medicine.

My Book, The Movie: Rupture.

--Marshal Zeringue

John Mullan's 10 best parodies in literature

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best parodies in literature.

One title on the list:
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

The tale of Flora Poste's sojourn with her cousins, the Starkadders, at their farm near Howling (it feels remote but is in fact in Sussex) made mock of early 20th-century rural primitivism. There are traces of Hardy and Lawrence, but the main target was the once popular Mary Webb. Webb is forgotten, Ada Doom's clan lives on, and we still talk of "something nasty in the woodshed".
Read about another parody on Mullan's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: José Latour's "Crime of Fashion"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Crime of Fashion by José Latour.

About the book, from the publisher:
Latour’s first novel since his immigration to Canada is a tale of heart-stopping action, deceit, and desperation that sees Elliot Steil race from Miami to Toronto to rescue a fashion model from her kidnappers

In Latour's latest novel Jenny Scheindlin, an ex-New York fashion model and daughter of Steil's former boss, has been kidnapped. The abductors choose Steil as intermediary in the negotiations to free her. Two Israeli agents formulate a devious plan to get the ransom to Toronto and bring Jenny home. But Steil is standing on quaking terrain, where nothing is as it seems, and no one can be trusted. Are the kidnappers members of the Islamic Army of Canada as they claim, or is Jenny the victim of an elaborate conspiracy? Is Steil himself a hero on a mission or a patsy who's walked right into a trap? As he tries to stay calm and one step ahead of a frightening and unknown nemesis, a noose is tightening around Steil's neck.

Crime of Fashion’s serpentine story and its mix of mystery, international espionage, and deceit make it a nail-biter. Latour is a master of suspense and surprises, and he’s writing at the top of his considerable powers in Crime of Fashion.
Browse inside Crime of Fashion, and learn more about the book and author at José Latour's website.

José Latour is one of the Spanish-speaking world’s top crime-fiction writers and is a former vice-president of the International Association of Crime Writers. In 2002, he left Cuba for Spain, and immigrated to Canada in the fall of 2004.

At The Rap Sheet, Linda L. Richards wrote of Crime of Fashion: "[I]t’s wonderful. The story takes place mostly in Miami and Toronto and it involves fashion, espionage, and kidnapping. If it happens your way, grab hard and hold on: I finished it in just a couple of days ago and I still haven’t dreamed up any quibbles."

The Page 69 Test: Crime of Fashion.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Michael Krepon's "Better Safe Than Sorry"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Better Safe Than Sorry: The Ironies of Living with the Bomb by Michael Krepon.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 2008, the iconic doomsday clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was set at five minutes to midnight—two minutes closer to Armageddon than in 1962, when John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev went eyeball to eyeball over missiles in Cuba! We still live in an echo chamber of fear, after eight years in which the Bush administration and its harshest critics reinforced each other's worst fears about the Bomb. And yet, there have been no mushroom clouds or acts of nuclear terrorism since the Soviet Union dissolved, let alone since 9/11.

Our worst fears still could be realized at any time, but Michael Krepon argues that the United States has never possessed more tools and capacity to reduce nuclear dangers than it does today - from containment and deterrence to diplomacy, military strength, and arms control. The bloated nuclear arsenals of the Cold War years have been greatly reduced, nuclear weapon testing has almost ended, and all but eight countries have pledged not to acquire the Bomb. Major powers have less use for the Bomb than at any time in the past. Thus, despite wars, crises, and Murphy's Law, the dark shadows cast by nuclear weapons can continue to recede.

Krepon believes that positive trends can continue, even in the face of the twin threats of nuclear terrorism and proliferation that have been exacerbated by the Bush administration's pursuit of a war of choice in Iraq based on false assumptions. Krepon advocates a "back to basics" approach to reducing nuclear dangers, reversing the Bush administration's denigration of diplomacy, deterrence, containment, and arms control. As he sees it, "The United States has stumbled before, but America has also made it through hard times and rebounded. With wisdom, persistence, and luck, another dark passage can be successfully navigated."
Read the preface to Better Safe Than Sorry, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Michael Krepon is co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, Diplomat Scholar at the University of Virginia, and the author or editor of many books, including Cooperative Threat Reduction, Missile Defense, and the Nuclear Future, Space Assurance or Space Dominance? The Case Against Weaponizing Space, Nuclear Risk Reduction in South Asia, and Escalation Control and the Nuclear Option in South Asia.

Learn more about Michael Krepon and his work at his Stimson Center webpage.

The Page 99 Test: Better Safe Than Sorry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What is Kyle Minor reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Kyle Minor, author of In the Devil's Territory, a collection of short fiction, and co-editor of The Other Chekhov.

About In the Devil's Territory, from the publisher:
A schoolteacher escapes East Berlin at night, swimming the Spree River three times carrying elderly relatives on her back, so she can make her way to West Palm Beach, Florida, and "ruin the lives of fifth grade boys." A young husband reckons with the likelihood that his wife's troubled pregnancy will end with her death before Christmas. A preacher bathes his ill and elderly mother, not knowing that she has mistaken him for the long-lost cousin she watched murder his brother in her father's tobacco field. In six stories that read like novels in miniature, Kyle Minor plumbs the depths of human mystery, where meet our kindnesses and our cruelties, our generosities and our pettinesses.

In the Devil’s Territory is a brilliant, electrifying debut by one of America’s best young writers. Filled with grace and wisdom, Kyle Minor’s bold, compassionate stories burn deep into the eternal mysteries and violent truths of the human experience with the force of a welding torch cranked to the max. I would walk through Hell to be able to write like him.”
—Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff
See what Kyle Minor has been reading, and learn about his current 25-city book tour.

Learn more about Kyle Minor and his work at his website, MySpace page, and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Kyle Minor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Lindsey Davis' top ten Roman books

Lindsey Davis is the author of 19 novels featuring Marcus Didius Falco (born AD41) as well as other works. The first Falco novel, The Silver Pigs, won the Authors' Club Best First Novel award in 1989; Davis has since won the Crimewriters' Association Dagger in the Library and Ellis Peters Historical Dagger, while Falco has won the Sherlock Award for Best Comic Detective.

The 19th Falco novel, Alexandria, has just been published in UK and will be out in the US this spring.

For the Guardian, Davis named her top 10 Roman books. One title on the list:
I, Claudius by Robert Graves

One for grown-ups, or two if you include Claudius the God. For the TV generation it's now almost impossible to read this without thinking of Derek Jacobi et al, but that's no hardship. There is no better way to get to grips with the complicated family tree of the early emperors, who are so vital to understanding how imperial Rome came about. And rarely has a male novelist created such a subtle female character as here in the devious Empress Livia. The modern chaps hardly do women at all – they could learn from Graves.
Read about another book on Davis' list.

Read the Page 99 Test for the 18th Falco novel, Saturnalia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: David Moody's "Hater"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Hater by David Moody.

About the book, from the publisher:
Soon to be a major motion picture—produced by Guillermo del Toro and directed by J.A. Bayona

REMAIN CALM DO NOT PANIC TAKE SHELTER WAIT FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS THE SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL Society is rocked by a sudden increase in the number of violent assaults on individuals. Christened 'Haters' by the media, the attackers strike without warning, killing all who cross their path. The assaults are brutal, remorseless and extreme: within seconds, normally rational, self-controlled people become frenzied, vicious killers. There are no apparent links as a hundred random attacks become a thousand, then hundreds of thousands. Everyone, irrespective of gender, age, race or any other difference, has the potential to become a victim - or a Hater. People are afraid to go to work, afraid to leave their homes and, increasingly, afraid that at any moment their friends, even their closest family, could turn on them with ultra violent intent. Waking up each morning, no matter how well defended, everyone must now consider the fact that by the end of the day, they might be dead. Or perhaps worse, become a killer themselves. As the status quo shifts, ATTACK FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS LATER becomes the order of the day... only, the answers might be much different than what you expect....

In the tradition of H. G. Wells and Richard Matheson, Hater is one man’s story of his place in a world gone mad— a world infected with fear, violence, and HATE.
Read an excerpt from Hater, watch the video, and learn more about the author and his work at David Moody's website.

Moody self-published Hater online in 2006, and without an agent, succeeded in selling film rights to Guillermo del Toro (director, Hellboy 1 & 2, Pan’s Labyrinth and the upcoming Hobbit series) and Mark Johnson (producer, The Chronicles of Narnia).

The Page 69 Test: Hater.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pg. 99: Adrian Gregory's "The Last Great War"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War by Adrian Gregory.

About the book, from the publisher:
What was it that the British people believed they were fighting for in 1914–18? This compelling history of the British home front during the First World War offers an entirely new account of how British society understood and endured the war. Drawing on official archives, memoirs, diaries and letters, Adrian Gregory sheds new light on the public reaction to the war, examining the role of propaganda and rumour in fostering patriotism and hatred of the enemy. He shows the importance of the ethic of volunteerism and the rhetoric of sacrifice in debates over where the burdens of war should fall as well as the influence of religious ideas on wartime culture. As the war drew to a climax and tensions about the distribution of sacrifices threatened to tear society apart, he shows how victory and the processes of commemoration helped create a fiction of a society united in grief.
Read an excerpt from The Last Great War.

The Page 99 Test: The Last Great War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Best books: Lynda Resnick

Lynda Resnick, author (with Francis Wilkinson) of a new book on branding, Rubies in the Orchard, named a best books list for The Week.

One title on her list:
Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice (Ballantine, $15).

Long before Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight series, Rice’s 1976 novel made vampires sensual and desirable. I was so thoroughly frightened by some of the passages, I had to stop and switch on every light in the house. I’ve been trying to meet a vampire ever since.
Read about another book on Resnick's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Deborah Turrell Atkinson's "Pleasing the Dead"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Pleasing the Dead by Deborah Turrell Atkinson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Some nasty predators dwell in paradise, and they aren’t all hiding in the azure waters. The day attorney Storm Kayama arrives in Kahului to help Lara Farrell set up her new dive shop, someone bombs a restaurant. When one of Lara’s employees, a recent Japanese immigrant, kills himself and one of his young daughters, Storm begins to ask questions.

The tentacles of the Yakuza, the dangerous, Japanese organized crime group, grip local businesses, real estate, and politics. Cunning and deadly, the clan leaders exploit underage women and eliminate anyone who dares face up to them.

Storm finds herself up against a lethal and faceless enemy, in a place where disposing of a victim is easy as dumping her in shark-infested waters.

But who is hunting whom? In a struggle to the death, Storm begins to realize that surviving doesn’t always mean living. For some, the ghosts of the past may be more painful than the anguish of the present.

Hawaii lawyer Storm Kayama must battle against the yakuza's presence and an ancient adherence to tradition to save more young girls from a terrible fate.
Learn more about the book and author at Deborah Turrell Atkinson's website.

Deborah Turrell Atkinson lives in Honolulu, Hawaii. She is the author of three previous Storm Kayama novels: Primitive Secrets (2002), The Green Room (2005), and Fire Prayer (2007).

The Page 69 Test: Pleasing the Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What is Robin Gerber reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Robin Gerber, author of the new book, Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her.

Her entry begins:
I just read Caroline Moorehead’s biography, Gellhorn:A Twentieth Century Life, the story of the journalist and wife of Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn. Gellhorn was restless and intrepid, a match for Hemingway in her intensity, moods and need to be in the center of the action. They covered the Spanish Civil War together, fought, married, fought some more, traveled, loved and divorced in a firestorm of recrimination. She was the only woman who left him, and probably the only one he loved. I had admired Gellhorn for years and the book confirmed my impression of her as yet another woman who deserves a more prominent place in history.[read on]
Learn more about Robin Gerber and her work at her website.

In addition to Barbie and Ruth, Robin Gerber has also written Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way: Timeless Strategies from the First Lady of Courage (Penguin/Portfolio, 2002) and Katharine Graham: The Leadership Journey of an American Icon with a foreword by Jim Collins, author of Good to Great (Penguin/Portfolio, October, 2005). Her novel Eleanor vs. Ike (Harper/Avon, January, 2008) imagines Eleanor Roosevelt as a candidate for President.

Browse inside Barbie and Ruth.

Writers Read: Robin Gerber.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Michael Ezra's "Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon by Michael Ezra.

About the book, from the publisher:
Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay) has always engendered an emotional reaction from the public. From his appearance as an Olympic champion to his iconic status as a national hero, his carefully constructed image and controversial persona have always been intensely scrutinized. In Muhammad Ali, Michael Ezra considers the boxer who calls himself “The Greatest” from a new perspective. He writes about Ali’s pre-championship bouts, the management of his career and his current legacy, exploring the promotional aspects of Ali and how they were wrapped up in political, economic, and cultural “ownership.”

Ezra’s incisive study examines the relationships between Ali’s cultural appeal and its commercial manifestations. Citing examples of the boxer’s relationship to the Vietnam War and the Nation of Islam—which serve as barometers of his “public moral authority”—Muhammad Ali analyzes the difficulties of creating and maintaining these cultural images, as well as the impact these themes have on Ali’s meaning to the public.
Read an excerpt from Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Michael Ezra is Chair of the American Multicultural Studies Department at Sonoma State University.

The Page 99 Test: Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Steven M. Forman's "Boca Knights"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Boca Knights by Steven M. Forman.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a debut novel sure to both excite passions and elicit laughter, a different kind of hero emerges in that most unlikely criminal hotbed: Boca Raton.

Eddie Perlmutter is capable of fighting with fearless frenzy, but only does so to defend the defenseless. Eddie’s career as a much-honored Boston cop has come to an end. At sixty, he’s still energetic and virile, but decades of harsh New England winters and collaring the pug-uglies of Boston’s underworld have taken their toll—especially on his knees. So what does a lonely, retired cop with arthritic knees do? Head to sunny Florida, of course.

Country-club politics and early-bird specials are a far cry from the street toughs, scuffles, and arrests of his former life. But some things never change. Instead of enjoying a relaxed, laid-back retirement, Eddie quickly discovers the darker side of Boca Raton’s endless sun and palm trees, where hate crimes, counterfeiting, and worse lurk beneath the deceptively calm surface of cushy retirement communities.

With his no-nonsense crime-fighting skills and roll-with-the punches attitude, Eddie hits Boca Raton like of a Nor’easter from Hell, fast, fresh, and unstoppable. A compulsively readable comic thriller with an egalitarian message that will inspire readers of all ages, Boca Knights will have readers in stitches and keep them on the edge of their seats.
Read an excerpt from Boca Knights, and learn more about the book and author at Steven M. Forman's website and MySpace page.

Forman divides his time between Massachusetts and Boca Raton, Florida. Boca Knights is his first novel.

The Page 69 Test: Boca Knights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best autobiographies by actresses

Molly Haskell is a writer and film critic. She has lectured widely on the role of women in film and is the author of From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies.

Her new book, Frankly, My Dear: "Gone with the Wind" Revisited, is out this month.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best of autobiographies by actresses. One title on Haskell's list:
Lulu in Hollywood
by Louise Brooks
Knopf, 1982

After laboring for much of the 1920s in Hollywood, the black-helmeted Kansas-born free spirit Louise Brooks had to go to Europe to become a star. She was a revelation in two mesmerizing German silent films directed by G.W. Pabst, "Pandora's Box" (1928) and "Diary of a Lost Girl" (1929) -- but then Brooks, independent-minded to a fault, refused to compromise once Hollywood came calling, and she basically threw her career away. By the late 1940s, she was working as a saleslady at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. She was rescued by admirers, chief among them James Card, curator of the George Eastman House film archive in Rochester, N.Y. He persuaded Brooks to move to Rochester, where she lived in the 1950s as a recluse, watched films, her own and others, and was reborn as a writer. (She was also rediscovered as an actress by Kenneth Tynan, who championed her work in an influential piece for The New Yorker.) "Lulu in Hollywood" -- Lulu was the ill-fated innocent who drove men to distraction in "Pandora's Box" -- is a collection of Brooks's often brilliant essays. Some of the pieces recount her own joyous romp through the 1920s as a Ziegfeld showgirl (a job she enjoyed more than making movies) and party-girl courtesan. Other essays shimmer with insight as she discusses the work of Humphrey Bogart, W.C. Fields, Greta Garbo, Lillian Gish and others. She paints a vivid picture of Bogie, for instance, still showing vestiges of the stiff stage actor in "The Roaring Twenties" in 1939, when he appears helpless opposite James Cagney, whose "swift dialogue" and "swift movements ... had the glitter and precision of a meat slicer ... impossible to anticipate or counterattack."
Read about another book on Haskell's list.

Read an excerpt from Frankly, My Dear, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Linda L. Richards' "Death Was the Other Woman," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Death Was the Other Woman and Death Was in the Picture by Linda L. Richards.

The entry begins:
I was asked to participate in “My Book the Movie” when the first Kitty Pangborn novel came out in 2008. I didn’t. I couldn’t. When I thought about the book, no film faces popped up. That’s just how it is for me. The characters that people my books are never – never – inspired by real people. Without exception. I never have anyone real in mind when I write those characters. They come out of my imagination: individuals fully formed.

Also, I know enough about the making and casting of films to understand that A) my casting choices will have little or anything to do with who ultimately plays those roles should there be a film version and B) there is no role – that is to say, I can’t imagine the role – that could be played by only one actor. Such is the nuance of that particular art that different actors bring different things to different roles. And so, for instance, if you’ve read the first Kitty Pangborn novel, Death Was in the Picture, imagine Charlize Theron in the Kitty role. Now imagine Halle Berry. Or Kate Hudson in the role. Now Jennifer Hudson. Now Katie Holmes. None of those five women would, in my mind, be entirely wrong for the role (and just what is “wrong,” anyway?) but, obviously, it becomes an entirely different role with each of those women: they’d bring different things to playing Kitty Pangborn and none of those things would be wrong; none of them would be incorrect.

That said, not long after Death Was the Other Woman was released in 2008, I was at a play....[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Linda L. Richards' website.

View the Death Was in the Picture trailer.

The Page 69 Test: Death Was the Other Woman.

The Page 69 Test: Death Was in the Picture.

My Book, The Movie: Death Was the Other Woman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Tiffany Baker's "The Little Giant of Aberdeen County"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker.

About the book, from the publisher:
When Truly Plaice's mother was pregnant, the town of Aberdeen joined together in betting how recordbreakingly huge the baby boy would ultimately be. The girl who proved to be Truly paid the price of her enormity; her father blamed her for her mother's death in childbirth, and was totally ill equipped to raise either this giant child or her polar opposite sister Serena Jane, the epitome of femine perfection. When he, too, relinquished his increasingly tenuous grip on life, Truly and Serena Jane are separated--Serena Jane to live a life of privilege as the future May Queen and Truly to live on the outskirts of town on the farm of the town sadsack, the subject of constant abuse and humiliation at the hands of her peers.

Serena Jane's beauty proves to be her greatest blessing and her biggest curse, for it makes her the obsession of classmate Bob Bob Morgan, the youngest in a line of Robert Morgans who have been doctors in Aberdeen for generations. Though they have long been the pillars of the community, the earliest Robert Morgan married the town witch, Tabitha Dyerson, and the location of her fabled shadow book--containing mysterious secrets for healing and darker powers--has been the subject of town gossip ever since. Bob Bob Morgan, one of Truly's biggest tormentors, does the unthinkable to claim the prize of Serena Jane, and changes the destiny of all Aberdeen from there on.

When Serena Jane flees town and a loveless marriage to Bob Bob, it is Truly who must become the woman of a house that she did not choose and mother to her eight-year-old nephew Bobbie. Truly's brother-in-law is relentless and brutal; he criticizes her physique and the limitations of her health as a result, and degrades her more than any one human could bear. It is only when Truly finds her calling--the ability to heal illness with herbs and naturopathic techniques--hidden within the folds of Robert Morgan's family quilt, that she begins to regain control over her life and herself. Unearthed family secrets, however, will lead to the kind of betrayal that eventually break the Morgan family apart forever, but Truly's reckoning with her own demons allows for both an uprooting of Aberdeen County, and the possibility of love in unexpected places.
Read an excerpt from The Little Giant of Aberdeen County.

Learn more about the author and her work at Tiffany Baker's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Charles Kurzman's "Democracy Denied"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Democracy Denied, 1905-1915: Intellectuals and the Fate of Democracy by Charles Kurzman.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the decade before World War I, a wave of democratic revolutions swept the globe, consuming more than a quarter of the world’s population. Revolution transformed Russia, Iran, the Ottoman Empire, Portugal, Mexico, and China. In each case, a pro-­democracy movement unseated a long-standing autocracy with startling speed. The nascent democratic regime held elections, convened parliament, and allowed freedom of the press and freedom of association. But the new governments failed in many instances to uphold the rights and freedoms that they proclaimed. Coups d’état soon undermined the democratic experiments.

How do we account for these unexpected democracies, and for their rapid extinction? In Democracy Denied, Charles Kurzman proposes that the collective agent most directly responsible for democratization was the emerging class of modern intellectuals, a group that had gained a global identity and a near-messianic sense of mission following the Dreyfus Affair of 1898.

Each chapter of Democracy Denied focuses on a single angle of this story, covering all six cases by examining newspaper accounts, memoirs, and government reports. This thoroughly interdisciplinary treatment of the early-twentieth-century upheavals promises to reshape debates about the social origins of democracy, the causes of democratic collapse, the political roles of intellectuals, and the international flow of ideas.
Read an excerpt from Democracy Denied, 1905-1915, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

Charles Kurzman is a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His books include Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook, Modernist Islam, 1840-1940: A Sourcebook, and The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran.

The Page 99 Test: Democracy Denied, 1905-1915.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ten of the best weddings in literature

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best weddings in literature.

One wedding on the list:
Paul Marshall and Lola Quincey

In Ian McEwan's Atonement, Briony attends the wedding of her cousin, Lola, and the repellent "chocolate magnate" Paul Marshall. Briony knows that it was Marshall who raped Lola a few years earlier, a crime for which another man was convicted. But now there is nothing she can say.
Read about another wedding on Mullan's list.

Atonement also appeared on Mullan's list of ten of the best identical twins in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Paul Harding's "Tinkers"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Tinkers by Paul Harding.

About the book, from the publisher:
An old man lies dying. Confined to bed in his living room, he sees the walls around him begin to collapse, the windows come loose from their sashes, and the ceiling plaster fall off in great chunks, showering him with a lifetime of debris: newspaper clippings, old photographs, wool jackets, rusty tools, and the mangled brass works of antique clocks. Soon, the clouds from the sky above plummet down on top of him, followed by the stars, till the black night covers him like a shroud. He is hallucinating, in death throes from cancer and kidney failure.

A methodical repairer of clocks, he is now finally released from the usual constraints of time and memory to rejoin his father, an epileptic, itinerant peddler, whom he had lost 7 decades before. In his return to the wonder and pain of his impoverished childhood in the backwoods of Maine, he recovers a natural world that is at once indifferent to man and inseparable from him, menacing and awe inspiring.

Tinkers is about the legacy of consciousness and the porousness of identity from one generation the next. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, it is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature.
Read more about Tinkers at the publisher's website.

Paul Harding has an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught writing at Harvard and the University of Iowa.

The Page 69 Test: Tinkers.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Megan Hart reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Megan Hart, the best-selling author who has published in almost every genre of romantic fiction, including historical, contemporary, romantic suspense, romantic comedy, futuristic, fantasy and perhaps most notably, erotic. She also writes non-erotic fantasy and science fiction, as well as continuing to occasionally dabble in horror.

Her new novel is Stranger, and she's a contributor to the soon-to-be-released Naughty Bits, the first collection of Harlequin's Spice Briefs.

One book mentioned in her entry:
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker -- I picked this as one of my choices when I joined the Doubleday Book Club, and I'm enjoying it. Truly is a giant -- I'm not sure if she's got a condition or is just gigantic, and the book so far is a series of scenes of her life that are entertaining and interesting, even if they don't seem to be moving the plot in the direction suggested by the book blurb. [read on]
Learn more about Megan Hart and her work at her website and blog.

If you are 18 or older, read excerpt 1 and excerpt 2 from Stranger.

Writers Read: Megan Hart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pg. 99: Mary Jane Maffini's "The Cluttered Corpse"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Cluttered Corpse by Mary Jane Maffini.

About the book, from the publisher:
Organization can get very messy...

When Charlotte Adams agrees to help Emmy Lou Rheinbeck organize her stuffed animal collection, she never imagines she'll find herself fending off pranksters whose shenanigans lead to murder.
Learn more about the author and her work at Mary Jane Maffini's website.

Mary Jane Maffini is the author of three mystery series and nearly two dozen short stories. The Charlotte Adams mysteries launched in May 2007 with Organize Your Corpses, and was followed by The Cluttered Corpse in 2008. Death Loves a Messy Desk, the third novel in the series, is due out this spring.

The Page 99 Test: The Cluttered Corpse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10: books of South American journeys

Hugh Thomson’s first book, The White Rock, was the result of a twenty-year long quest to explore and understand the Peruvian Andes in the area beyond Machu Picchu. His most recent book, Nanda Devi: A Journey to the Last Sanctuary is about the celebrated Nanda Devi Sanctuary in the Himalaya, on the border between Tibet and India, long closed to all visitors by the Indian government, but briefly re-opened to the outside world for an international expedition of which he was a part.

He also has had a long career as a director and producer of documentaries.

For the Guardian, he named his top ten books of South American journeys.

Number One on his list:
The Motorcycle Diaries, A Journey Around South America by Ernesto Che Guevara

Che leaves his girlfriend, studies and Argentina behind to take off with a fellow medical student, Alberto Granado, on a freewheeling and delightfully irresponsible tour of the continent. With hardly any money, they beg meals off fellow doctors in the countries along their way, most of whom amiably comply. Che admits that the only difference between the clothes they wear at night and during the day is that they take their shoes off in bed. They fall off the bike a great deal, not least because bits kept falling off the bike. The inspiration for Walter Salles's thoughtful film, but with much that was of necessity left out.
Read about another book on Thomson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pg. 69: Toni Jordan's "Addition"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Addition by Toni Jordan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Everything counts . . .

Grace Lisa Vandenburg orders her world with numbers: how many bananas she buys, how many steps she takes to the café, where she chooses to sit, how many poppy seeds are in her daily piece of orange cake. Every morning she uses 100 strokes to brush her hair, 160 strokes to brush her teeth. She remembers the day she started to count, how she used numbers to organize her adolescence, her career, even the men she dated. But something went wrong. Grace used to be a teacher, but now she's surviving on disability checks. According to the parents of one of her former students, "she's mad."

Most people don't understand that numbers rule, not just the world in a macro way but their world, their own world. Their lives. They don't really understand that everything and everybody are connected by a mathematical formula. Counting is what defines us . . . the only thing that gives our lives meaning is the knowledge that eventually we all will die. That's what makes each minute important. Without the ability to count our days, our hours, our loved ones . . . there's no meaning. Our lives would have no meaning. Without counting, our lives are unexamined. Not valued. Not precious. This consciousness, this ability to rejoice when we gain something and grieve when we lose something—this is what separates us from other animals. Counting, adding, measuring, timing. It's what makes us human.

Grace's father is dead and her mother is a mystery to her. Her sister wants to sympathize but she really doesn't understand. Only Hilary, her favorite niece, connects with her. And Grace can only connect with Nikola Tesla, the turn-of-the-twentieth-century inventor whose portrait sits on her bedside table and who rescues her in her dreams. Then one day all the tables at her regular café are full, and as she hesitates in the doorway a stranger—Seamus Joseph O'Reilly (19 letters in his name, just like Grace's)—invites her to sit with him. Grace is not the least bit sentimental. But she understands that no matter how organized you are, how many systems you put in place, you can't plan for people. They are unpredictable and full of possibilities—like life itself, a series of maybes and what-ifs.

And suddenly, Grace may be about to lose count of the number of ways she can fall in love.
Browse inside Addition.

Writers Read: Toni Jordan.

Visit Toni Jordan's website.

Read about Jordan's top ten flawed romantic heroines.

See the links to reviews, interviews, etc at "Matilda," the indispensable Australian litblog.

The Page 69 Test: Addition.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Beverly Gage's "The Day Wall Street Exploded"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in its First Age of Terror by Beverly Gage.

About the book, from the publisher:
Just after noon on September 16, 1920, as hundreds of workers poured onto Wall Street for their lunchtime break, a horse-drawn cart packed with dynamite exploded in a spray of metal and fire, turning the busiest corner of the financial center into a war zone. Thirty-nine people died and hundreds more lay wounded, making the Wall Street explosion the worst terrorist attack to that point in U.S. history.

In The Day Wall Street Exploded , Beverly Gage tells the story of that once infamous but now largely forgotten event. Based on thousands of pages of Bureau of Investigation reports, this historical detective saga traces the four-year hunt for the perpetrators, a worldwide effort that spread as far as Italy and the new Soviet nation. It also takes readers back into the decades-long but little-known history of homegrown terrorism that shaped American society a century ago. The book delves into the lives of victims, suspects, and investigators: world banking power J.P. Morgan, Jr.; labor radical "Big Bill" Haywood; anarchist firebrands Emma Goldman and Luigi Galleani; "America's Sherlock Holmes," William J. Burns; even a young J. Edgar Hoover. It grapples as well with some of the most controversial events of its day, including the rise of the Bureau of Investigation, the federal campaign against immigrant "terrorists," the grassroots effort to define and protect civil liberties, and the establishment of anti-communism as the sine qua non of American politics.

Many Americans saw the destruction of the World Trade Center as the first major terrorist attack on American soil, an act of evil without precedent. The Day Wall Street Exploded reminds us that terror, too, has a history.
Visit Beverly Gage's Yale faculty webpage, and learn more about The Day Wall Street Exploded at the Oxford University Press website.

Beverly Gage teaches at Yale University. Her historical commentary has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, The Nation,,, and the Washington Post. She has appeared as a guest commentator on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and in Time magazine.

The Page 99 Test: The Day Wall Street Exploded.

--Marshal Zeringue