Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pg. 69: Janet Burroway's "Bridge of Sand"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Bridge of Sand by Janet Burroway.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this beautifully written novel, Burroway uses a woman’s personal loss, coincident with 9/11, to explore race, territory, and renewal.

Dana, the widow of a Pennsylvania senator, buries her husband the morning of 9/11, only miles from the United 93 crash. After months of paralysis, she sells her house and heads south in an effort to pick up the lost strands of her youth.

Finding that her grandmother’s house is now gone, replaced by a strip mall, she phones an old acquaintance. Cassius Huston is black, separated from a harridan of a wife, and devoted to his three-year-old daughter.Much to their surprise, Cassius and Dana fall in love. But when Dana is threatened by Cassius’s family, she flees to the Gulf Coast, where she finally finds herself, and her life, in a place and culture she never could have anticipated.

Set amid the blur of 9/11, this wise, beautifully written novel of love, race, territory, and renewal explores the issues that challenge us all.
Read an excerpt from Bridge of Sand and learn more about the author and her work at Janet Burroway's website.

Janet Burroway is Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor Emerita of the Florida State University and the author of numerous novels, plays, poetry, essays, texts for dance, and children’s books. Her Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft is the most widely used creative writing text in America.

The Page 69 Test: Bridge of Sand.

--Marshal Zeringue

Antonya Nelson's five most essential books

Antonya Nelson is the author of the newly published short story collection Nothing Right (Bloomsbury, 2009).

Her books include the short story collections Some Fun and In The Land Of Men, and three novels: Talking in Bed, Nobody’s Girl, and Living to Tell; and her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper's, Redbook and many other magazines, as well as in anthologies.

She told Newsweek about her five most essential books. And addressed two related issues:
A Book to which you always return:

"The Member of the Wedding" by Carson McCullers. A deeply felt descent into adolescence. Timeless and painfully beautiful.

A classic you revisited with disappointment:

"Wuthering Heights" by Emily Brontë. What I thought was naughty and necessary romance and drama turns out to be more like melodrama.
Read more about Nelson's five most essential books.

Wuthering Heights appears on Valerie Martin's list of novels about doomed marriages.

The Page 99 Test: Wuthering Heights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Rory Nugent's "Down at the Docks"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Down at the Docks by Rory Nugent.

About the book, from the publisher:
“No writer I can think of, unless it is Sebastian Junger, might have written this obsessed, intrepid, and intelligent book.”
—Alec Wilkinson

“‘Nowhere in all America,’ wrote Herman Melville in Moby-Dick, ‘will you find more patrician-like houses, parks and gardens more opulent, than in New Bedford.’ Not any- more. Down at the Docks is about the lives of New Bedford fishermen–man against the sea, and all that–but it is much more; it is a hard, unvarnished look at New Bedford today, where the relic commercial fishing industry is only one of the components, and where the old ways run smack into modern problems like drug-smuggling, illegal immigration, organized crime, disorganized crime, and suffocating government regulations. Melville would have been shocked to see what has become of what he called ‘the dearest place to live in, in all of New England.’ Rory Nugent tells the fascinating story of New Bedford the way it really is, not the way wistful romantics would like to remember it.”
—Richard Ellis, author of Men and Whales
Visit Rory Nugent's website.

Rory Nugent is an explorer and a writer. His previous books are The Search for the Pink-Headed Duck and Drums Along the Congo.

The Page 99 Test: Down at the Docks.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Robert Leleux reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Robert Leleux, author of The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy.

His entry begins:
Right now, I'm racing through the last chapter of Zoe Heller's marvelous new book, The Believers. It's a novel of ideas, centering around a lefty family in Greenwich Village, whose belief systems and presumptions are set into a tailspin during the first, lousy years of this century. Really entertaining, really smart and thoughtful. Of course, I adore Zoe Heller--who seems such an interesting person. Her father was a famous screenwriter, who wrote Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and others. She was, for many years, considered a lightweight writer by the British press, before coming out with... What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal which I just read last week, and LOVED. Oh, my. What a marvelous, satisfying novel. I don't care if you've seen the movie, or not, you MUST read this. The awful fate of the thoughtless Bathsheba is absolutely delicious and haunting. What a morality tale! And not in the least pedantic, or heavy-handed. Just perfect and wicked.[read on]
Read an excerpt from The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy.

Among the praise for the book:
The title of this funny, bittersweet, and ultimately heartwarming book tells it all. Leleux looks at beauty from the outside in and inside out, not only physical beauty, but inner beauty as well. In the process, he exposes both beauty and ugliness in all their various forms. He begins his story with the departure of his father, who leaves him with his very southern and gentrified mother. How the two of them manage to survive without the resources to which they've become accustomed is a tale filled with tension, loss, self-discovery and laughter. Robert Leleux is beautiful. No doubt about it. I loved this book.
--Kathi Appelt
Visit Robert Leleux's website and blog.

Writers Read: Robert Leleux.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pg. 69: Kelley Armstrong's "Made to be Broken"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Made to be Broken by Kelley Armstrong.

About the book, from the publisher:
The author of the acclaimed Women of the Otherworld series returns with her latest novel featuring an exciting heroine with a lethal hidden talent. This time she’s hot on the trail of a young woman no one else cares about—and a killer who’s bound to strike again.

Nadia Stafford isn’t your typical nature lodge owner. An ex-cop with a legal code all her own, she’s known only as “Dee” to her current employer: a New York crime family that pays her handsomely to bump off traitors. But when Nadia discovers that a troubled teenage employee and her baby have vanished in the Canadian woods, the memory of a past loss comes back with a vengeance and her old instincts go into overdrive.

With her enigmatic mentor, Jack, covering her back, Nadia unearths sinister clues that point to an increasingly darker and deadlier mystery. Now, with her obsession over the case deepening, the only way Nadia can right the wrongs of the present is to face her own painful ghosts—and either bury them for good, or die trying. Because in her book everyone deserves a chance. And everyone deserves justice.
Read the first three chapters of Made to be Broken, and learn more about the author and her work at Kelley Armstrong's website.

Kelley Armstrong is the author of the internationally bestselling The Otherworld series and other works.

Read the My Book, The Movie entry for Exit Strategy, the first Nadia Stafford novel.

The Page 69 Test: Made to be Broken.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best scars in fiction

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best examples of scars in fiction.

One scar on the list:
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling

The lightning-flash cicatrix on Harry's forehead, evidence of Voldemort's attempt to kill him as a baby, throbs when things get dangerous. But Professor Dumbledore declines to repair it. "Scars can come in useful. I have one myself above my left knee which is a perfect map of the London Underground."
Read about another scar on Mullan's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Barry Strauss' "The Spartacus War"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Spartacus War by Barry Strauss.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Spartacus War is the extraordinary story of the most famous slave rebellion in the ancient world, the fascinating true story behind a legend that has been the inspiration for novelists, filmmakers, and revolutionaries for 2,000 years. Starting with only seventy-four men, a gladiator named Spartacus incited a rebellion that threatened Rome itself. With his fellow gladiators, Spartacus built an army of 60,000 soldiers and controlled the southern Italian countryside. A charismatic leader, he used religion to win support. An ex-soldier in the Roman army, Spartacus excelled in combat. He defeated nine Roman armies and kept Rome at bay for two years before he was defeated. After his final battle, 6,000 of his followers were captured and crucified along Rome's main southern highway.

The Spartacus War is the dramatic and factual account of one of history's great rebellions. Spartacus was beaten by a Roman general, Crassus, who had learned how to defeat an insurgency. But the rebels were partly to blame for their failure. Their army was large and often undisciplined; the many ethnic groups within it frequently quarreled over leadership. No single leader, not even Spartacus, could keep them all in line. And when faced with a choice between escaping to freedom and looting, the rebels chose wealth over liberty, risking an eventual confrontation with Rome's most powerful forces.

The result of years of research, The Spartacus War is based not only on written documents but also on archaeological evidence, historical reconstruction, and the author's extensive travels in the Italian countryside that Spartacus once conquered.
Read an excerpt from The Spartacus War, and learn more about the book and author at Barry Strauss' website.

Barry Strauss is a professor of history and classics at Cornell University as well as the director and a founder of its Program on Freedom and Free Societies. His books include The Battle of Salamis, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Washington Post, and The Trojan War: A New History, a main selection of the History Book Club.

The Page 99 Test: The Spartacus War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What is Nicholas Syrett reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Nicholas L. Syrett, an assistant professor of history at the University of Northern Colorado and author of the newly released The Company He Keeps: A History of White College Fraternities.

One book mentioned in the entry:
David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife combines a fictionalized memoir of Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young’s infamous nineteenth wife (who herself wrote such a memoir called Wife #19) with the story of a gay teenager expelled from his polygamous Mormon off-shoot community who finds out that his mother (herself a nineteenth wife) is accused of murdering his father. I started out being more intrigued by the contemporary plot line and ended up switching my preference. Regardless, I read all 500 pages in 48 hours. It was addictive. Ebershoff is adept at moving back and forth between the nineteenth and the twenty-first centuries; his research on women, gender, marriage, and Mormons is great; and he writes about faith and Mormonism in ways that are sympathetic, questioning, but never condemning. I’ve already leant it two people, given it to one, and recommended it to many others.[read on]
Learn more about Nicholas Syrett's teaching and scholarship at his faculty webpage.

Among the praise for The Company He Keeps:
"Long shrouded in baroque mystery, the collegiate fraternity has never before been the subject of such a clear, sensible, and grounded historical study. Nicholas Syrett's meticulous research draws back the curtain on these bastions of white male privilege, without solely celebrating their camaraderie nor condemning the cold cruelties on which it has historically rested."
--Michael Kimmel, author of Manhood in America: A Cultural History
Read more about The Company He Keeps.

Writers Read: Nicholas L. Syrett.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best valets in literature

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

One valet on the list:

A competent valet is a great thing if you are on the path of righteous vengeance. After he escapes from the terrible prison of the Château d'If in Alexandre Dumas' novel, Edmond Dantès assumes the identity of the Count of Monte Cristo and naturally acquires a valet-de-chambre, Baptistin, who will help him in his mission to destroy his enemies.
Read about the valet who topped Mullan's list.

Law professor Jonathan Freiman suggested that Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo is a good novel that demonstrates what's at stake in the debate over habeas corpus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Wendy Moore's "Wedlock"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Wedlock: The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore by Wendy Moore.

About the book, from the publisher:
With the death of her fabulously wealthy coal magnate father when she was just eleven, Mary Eleanor Bowes became the richest heiress in Britain. An ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II, Mary grew to be a highly educated young woman, winning acclaim as a playwright and botanist. Courted by a bevy of eager suitors, at eighteen she married the handsome but aloof ninth Earl of Strathmore in a celebrated, if ultimately troubled, match that forged the Bowes Lyon name. Yet she stumbled headlong into scandal when, following her husband’s early death, a charming young army hero flattered his way into the merry widow’s bed.

Captain Andrew Robinson Stoney insisted on defending her honor in a duel, and Mary was convinced she had found true love. Judged by doctors to have been mortally wounded in the melee, Stoney persuaded Mary to grant his dying wish; four days later they were married.

Sadly, the “captain” was not what he seemed. Staging a sudden and remarkable recovery, Stoney was revealed as a debt-ridden lieutenant, a fraudster, and a bully. Immediately taking control of Mary’s vast fortune, he squandered her wealth and embarked on a campaign of appalling violence and cruelty against his new bride. Finally, fearing for her life, Mary masterminded an audacious escape and challenged social conventions of the day by launching a suit for divorce. The English public was horrified–and enthralled. But Mary’s troubles were far from over . . .

Novelist William Makepeace Thackeray was inspired by Stoney’s villainy to write The Luck of Barry Lyndon, which Stanley Kubrick turned into an Oscar-winning film. Based on exhaustive archival research, Wedlock is a thrilling and cinematic true story, ripped from the headlines of eighteenth-century England.
Read an excerpt from Wedlock, and visit Wendy Moore's website.

Wendy Moore is a writer and journalist. Her work has been published in a range of newspapers and magazines, including the Guardian, the Observer and the British Medical Journal and has won several awards. Her first book, The Knife Man, was published to great critical acclaim.

The Page 99 Test: Wedlock.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pg. 69: Christian Moerk's "Darling Jim"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Darling Jim by Christian Moerk.

About the book, from the publisher:
A modern gothic novel of suspense that reveals, through their diaries, the story of sisters who fall in love with a beguiling stranger, and of the town that turns a blind eye to his murderous ways

When two sisters and their aunt are found dead in their suburban Dublin home, it seems that the secret behind their untimely demise will never be known. But then Niall, a young mailman, finds a mysterious diary in the post office’s dead-letter bin. From beyond the grave, Fiona Walsh shares the most tragic love story he’s ever heard—and her tale has only just begun.

Niall soon becomes enveloped by the mystery surrounding itinerant storyteller Jim, who traveled through Ireland enrapturing audiences and wooing women with his macabre mythic narratives. Captivated by Jim, townspeople across Ireland thought it must be a sad coincidence that horrific murders trailed him wherever he went—and they failed to connect that the young female victims, who were smitten by the newest bad boy in town, bore an all too frightening similarity to the victims in Jim’s own fictional plots.

The Walsh sisters, fiercely loyal to one another, were not immune to “darling” Jim’s powers of seduction, but found themselves in harm’s way when they began to uncover his treacherous past. Niall must now continue his dangerous hunt for the truth—and for the vanished third sister—while there’s still time. And in the woods, the wolves from Jim’s stories begin to gather.
Read an excerpt from Darling Jim, and visit Christian Moerk's website and the Darling Jim Facebook group.

Born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark, Christian Moerk moved to Vermont in his early twenties. After getting his MS in journalism at Columbia University, he was a movie executive for Warner Bros. Pictures, and later wrote about film for the New York Times.

The Page 69 Test: Darling Jim.

--Marshal Zeringue

Books about the rise of conservatism: 5 best

At the Wall Street Journal, David Frum, author of Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again, named a five best list of books about the rise of conservatism.

One title on his list:
Abraham Lincoln
by Allen C. Guelzo
W.B. Eerdmans, 1999

As Allen Guelzo notes in his profound study of Lincoln's deepest political beliefs, "Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President," the future emancipator rejected from his earliest youth Thomas Jefferson's cult of the soil. Lincoln recognized that the Whigs -- with their message of individual and national self-improvement through enterprise -- opened opportunity for talents like his own, while a farming society must be an immobile society. Yet it was Lincoln's political genius to seize and reinterpret Jefferson's egalitarian words and to build a new national ideology on the wreck of slaveholder power -- baffling and outraging Southern slavemasters who had always (and with some justice) assumed that their neighbor and hero Jefferson had written those words to champion them.
Read about Number One on Frum's list.

The Page 99 Test: Allen C. Guelzo's Lincoln and Douglas.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Matthew Beresford's "From Demons to Dracula"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: From Demons to Dracula: The Creation of the Modern Vampire Myth by Matthew Beresford.

About the book, from the publisher:
In blood-soaked lore handed down the centuries, the vampire is a monster of endless fascination: from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this seductive lover of blood haunts popular culture and inhabits our darkest imaginings. The cultural history of the vampire is a rich and varied tale that is now ably documented in From Demons to Dracula, a compelling study of the vampire myth that reveals why this creature of the undead fascinates us so.

Beresford’s chronicle roams from the mountains of Eastern Europe to the foggy streets of Victorian England to Hollywood, as he investigates the portrayal of the vampire in history, literature, and art. Opening with the original Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, and his status as a national hero in Romania, he endeavors to winnow out truths from the complex legend and folklore. From Demons to Dracula tracks the evolution of the vampire as an icon and supernatural creature, drawing on classical Greek and Roman myths, witch trials and medieval plagues, Gothic literature, and even contemporary works such as Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. Beresford also looks at the widespread impact of screen vampires from television shows, classic movies starring Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee, and more recent films such as Underworld and Blade. Whether as a demon of the underworld or a light-fearing hunter of humans, the vampire has endured through the centuries, the book reveals, as powerfully symbolic figure for human concerns with life, death, and the afterlife.

A wide-ranging and engrossing chronicle, From Demons to Dracula casts this blood-thirsty nightstalker as a remarkably complex and telling totem of our nightmares, real and imagined.
Learn more about the book and author at Mathew Beresford's website.

Matthew Beresford is a freelance writer based in Chesterfield, Derbyshire in the UK.

The Page 99 Test: From Demons to Dracula.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 27, 2009

What is Rosie Molinary reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Rosie Molinary, author of Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina.

Among the praise for Hijas Americanas:
Hijas Americanas gives voice to the many influences that go into making strong, talented, beautiful Latina women. Its broad-based approach includes Latinas of all stripes, races, ethnicities, who have made different choices about what balance to strike between their two cultures. Rosie Molinary contributes to a much-needed conversation about what defines us as a community as well as what challenges us as individuals. The book sends an affirmative message that is bound to resonate with Latinas and with women of all backgrounds and ages.
—Julia Alvarez, author of In The Time of the Butterflies
One book from Molinary's Writers Read entry:
The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan is the kind of well-told memoir that breaks you open and, because of Corrigan’s gifted writing, puts you back together again. The book made me ache, because it was beautifully written, because of Corrigan’s good humor, honesty, and vulnerability, because of the awful fates that give a young mother of two stage 3 breast cancer and at the even worse fates that give that young mother’s beloved father his own grave cancer diagnosis just months after her own. It’s a book that I couldn’t read fast enough while simultaneously feeling sad that it was ending, and I have searched out Corrigan’s essays and other writings ever since finishing The Middle Place.[read on]
Read an excerpt from Hijas Americanas, and visit Rosie Molinary's website, blog, and MySpace page.

Writers Read: Rosie Molinary.

--Marshal Zeringue

Rachel Cline's “My Liar,” the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: My Liar by Rachel Cline.

The entry begins:
My Liar is about the struggle for dominance between two women who are working on a movie together in Los Angeles. One of them, Laura, is the director and therefore the boss. Annabeth, a young film editor, admires Laura from afar and then befriends her in the hope of getting hired to cut her next film. And Annabeth gets her wish, but of course things don’t turn out the way she expected them to. Annabeth is an outsider, she comes from northern Minnesota, is too pale to genuinely enjoy the sunshine, and too “nice” to let her ambition and competitiveness show. In my dreams, she is played by Lauren Ambrose—the redhead who was the daughter, Claire, on Six Feet Under, and also the shrewdly seductive literature student in Starting Out in the Evening with Frank Langella. (That was such a good movie!)

Laura’s character is in many ways Annabeth’s opposite. She is urbane, forthright in her drive to succeed, and almost as contemptuous of weakness in others as she is when she sees it in herself. She also spends more money than she makes and lies about her age. I like to think of...[read on]
Read an excerpt from My Liar and learn more the author and her work at Rachel Cline's website.

Brooklyn native Rachel Cline lived in Los Angeles from 1990 to 1999. During that time she wrote screenplays and teleplays, designed interactive media, and taught screenwriting at USC. Her first novel, What to Keep, was published in 2004.

The Page 69 Test: My Liar.

My Book, The Movie: My Liar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eric Kraft: most important books

Eric Kraft is the author of a series of novels chronicling the life of fictional character Peter Leroy. His latest title is Flying.

He told Newsweek about his five most important books. And addressed two related issues:
A book to which you always return:

"Adventures in the Skin Trade" by Dylan Thomas. Puts me in touch with my inner angry young man.

A classic you revisited with disappointment:

"On the Road" by Jack Kerouac. It electrified me as a teenager, but now comes across as just a boy's book: loud, insistent and hollow.
Read about Kraft's most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Eve Pell's "We Used to Own the Bronx"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: We Used to Own the Bronx: Memoirs of a Former Debutante by Eve Pell.

About the book, from the publisher:
An inside story of privilege, inherited wealth, and the bizarre values and customs of the American upper crust.

We Used to Own the Bronx tells the story of a woman born into the proprieties of an East Coast dynasty who nevertheless leaves her world of privilege for a career as an investigative reporter. Recounting her upbringing, Eve Pell offers an inside look at the bizarre values and customs of the American aristocracy, from debutante balls and the belowstairs hierarchy of the servant class to the fanatical pursuit of blood sports and private men’s clubs whose members were cared for like sultans. In the patriarchal world of the upper crust, girls were expected to flatter and defer to boys and men: her scholar-athlete sister was offered a racehorse if she would refuse to attend college. A parade of eccentrics populates the book, from the cockfighting stepfather who ran away from boarding school with a false beard and a stolen motorcycle to the Brahmin great-uncle who secretly organized the servants in Tuxedo Park to vote for Teddy Roosevelt.

But as she moved beyond the narrow world she was expected to inhabit, Pell encountered people and ideas that brought her into conflict with her past. Equally unconventional are the muckrakers and revolutionaries she met in the 1960s and 1970s, and her subsequent adventures and misadventures while working with radical activists to reform the California prison system. As Pell traces her absorbing journey from debutante to working mother, from the upper crust of the East Coast to the radical activists of the West, from a life of wealth and privilege to one of trying to make ends meet, she provides exceptional insight into the prickly and complex issues of social class in America.
Read an excerpt from We Used to Own the Bronx, and learn more about the book and author at Eve Pell's website.

Eve Pell served as reporter and associate producer for three PBS documentaries: The Best Campaign Money Can Buy, which won a Columbia-DuPont award in 1992, Heartbeat of America, which won a Cine Golden Apple a year later, and The Battle Over School Choice. Her books include The Big Chill about the Reagan administration and Maximum Security on conditions in California prisons.

The Page 99 Test: We Used to Own the Bronx.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69 & 99: Laura Lippman's "Life Sentences"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test/Page 99 Test: Life Sentences by Laura Lippman.

About the book, from the publisher:
Author Cassandra Fallows has achieved remarkable success by baring her life on the page. Her two widely popular memoirs continue to sell briskly, acclaimed for their brutal, unexpurgated candor about friends, family, lovers—and herself. But now, after a singularly unsuccessful stab at fiction, Cassandra believes she may have found the story that will enable her triumphant return to nonfiction.

When Cassandra was a girl, growing up in a racially diverse middle-class neighborhood in Baltimore, her best friends were all black: elegant, privileged Donna; sharp, shrewd Tisha; wild and worldly Fatima. A fifth girl orbited their world—a shy, quiet, unobtrusive child named Calliope Jenkins—who, years later, would be accused of killing her infant son. Yet the boy's body was never found and Calliope's unrelenting silence on the subject forced a judge to jail her for contempt. For seven years, Calliope refused to speak and the court was finally forced to let her go. Cassandra believes this still unsolved real-life mystery, largely unknown outside Baltimore, could be her next bestseller.

But her homecoming and latest journey into the past will not be welcomed by everyone, especially by her former friends, who are unimpressed with Cassandra's success—and are insistent on their own version of their shared history. And by delving too deeply into Calliope's dark secrets, Cassandra may inadvertently unearth a few of her own—forcing her to reexamine the memories she holds most precious, as the stark light of truth illuminates a mother's pain, a father's betrayal ... and what really transpired on a terrible day that changed not only a family but an entire country.
Browse inside Life Sentences and visit Laura Lippman's website.

Laura Lippman's top 10 memorable memoirs.

The Page 69 Test: Another Thing to Fall.

The Page 69 Test: What the Dead Know.

The Page 69 Test/Page 99 Test: Life Sentences.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What is Cynthia Leitich Smith reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Cynthia Leitich Smith. Her books include Jingle Dancer (Morrow, 2000), Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001), Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002), and two YA gothic fantasy novels, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) and Eternal (Candlewick, 2009).

Her website offers articles, interviews, reading recommendations, publishing news, and annotated links. It was named one of the top 10 writer sites on the Internet by Writer's Digest, and was recognized among "Great Sites for Kids" by the American Library Association in the "Authors/Illustrators" category.

One paragraph from her entry:
What girl hasn't hated how she looks? At first glance, you'd never imagine that of Terra Cooper, what with her long legs and lovely blonde hair. But a "flaw" on her face breaks that image of perfection and, worst of all, damages the way she sees herself. Author Justina Chen Headley's books are infused with heart, substance, and, with subtly, social conscience. In this latest, North of Beautiful (Little, Brown), her many starred reviews come as no surprise.[read on]
Visit Cynthia Leitich Smith's website and blog.

Writers Read: Cynthia Leitich Smith.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten fictional coffee scenes

Benjamin Obler's debut novel Javascotia is out now in the UK and coming soon to North America.

For the Guardian, he named "his favourite significant appearances of coffee in literature."

One title on the list:
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

DECEMBER 16 I'm sick for real. Rosario is making me stay in bed. Before she left for work she went out to borrow a thermos from a neighbour and she left me half a litre of coffee. Also four aspirin. I have a fever. I've started and finished two poems.

Coffee as litmus test. Coffee as a baseline, a standard. A token of caring, requiring a suitable vessel. A lover wanting her coffee gift kept warm while she's away. Does it stay in the thermos? Does it grow cold? Coffee appears in many scenes in the first 100 pages of this book: at the cafes where Juan hangs out with the infamous Visceral Realists, and where a girl performs a sex act on him; at Maria's house, where he breakfasts with the whole crazy family. But coffee's presence is like the many poems that are allegedly written and never seen. "We're poets, and we drink coffee!" Sounds like when I was 19. Whether Bolaño is glorifying literary poserdom or poking fun is for someone else to say.
Read about another work on Obler's list.

Visit Benjamin Obler's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Beryl Satter's "Family Properties"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America by Beryl Satter.

About the book, from the publisher:
Part family story and part urban history, a landmark investigation of segregation and urban decay in Chicago—and cities across the nation

The "promised land" for thousands of Southern blacks, postwar Chicago quickly became the most segregated city in the North, the site of the nation’s worst ghettos and the target of Martin Luther King Jr.’s first campaign beyond the South. In this powerful book, Beryl Satter identifies the true causes of the city’s black slums and the ruin of urban neighborhoods throughout the country: not, as some have argued, black pathology, the culture of poverty, or white flight, but a widespread and institutionalized system of legal and financial exploitation.

In Satter’s riveting account of a city in crisis, unscrupulous lawyers, slumlords, and speculators are pitched against religious reformers, community organizers, and an impassioned attorney who launched a crusade against the profiteers—the author’s father, Mark J. Satter. At the heart of the struggle stand the black migrants who, having left the South with its legacy of sharecropping, suddenly find themselves caught in a new kind of debt peonage. Satter shows the interlocking forces at work in their oppression: the discriminatory practices of the banking industry; the federal policies that created the country’s shameful "dual housing market"; the economic anxieties that fueled white violence; and the tempting profits to be made by preying on the city’s most vulnerable population.

A monumental work of history, this tale of racism and real estate, politics and finance, will forever change our understanding of the forces that transformed urban America.
Read an excerpt from Family Properties, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Beryl Satter is the author of Each Mind a Kingdom and the chair of the Department of History at Rutgers University in Newark. For her work in progress on Family Properties, Satter received a J. Anthony Lukas citation.

The Page 99 Test: Family Properties.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pg. 69: Jason Goodwin's "The Bellini Card"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Bellini Card by Jason Goodwin.

About the book, from the publisher:
Istanbul, 1840: the new sultan, Abdulmecid, has heard a rumor that Bellini’s vanished masterpiece—a portrait of Mehmed the Conqueror—may have resurfaced in Venice. Yashim, our eunuch detective, is promptly sent to investigate, but—aware that the sultan’s advisers are against any extravagant repurchase of the painting—decides to deploy his disempowered Polish ambassador friend, Palewski, to visit Venice in his stead. Palewski arrives in disguise in down-at-the-heel Venice, where a killer is at large, as dealers, faded aristocrats, and other unknown factions seek to uncover the whereabouts of the missing Bellini.

But is it the Bellini itself that endangers all, or something associated with its original loss? And how is it that all of the killer’s victims are somehow tied to the alluring Contessa d’Aspi d’Istria? Will the Austrians unmask Palewski, or will the killer find him first? Only Yashim can uncover the truth to the manifold mysteries.

Jason Goodwin’s first Yashim mystery, The Janissary Tree, brought home the Edgar Award for Best Novel. His second, The Snake Stone, more than lived up to expectations. In The New York Times Book Review, Marilyn Stasio hailed it as “a magic carpet ride to the most exotic place on earth.” Now, in The Bellini Card, Jason Goodwin takes us back into his “intelligent, gorgeous and evocative” (Independent on Sunday) world, as dazzling as a hall of mirrors and utterly compelling.
Preview The Bellini Card, and learn more about Jason Goodwin and his work at his website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Snake Stone.

My Book, The Movie: The Snake Stone.

The Page 69 Test: The Bellini Card.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best visits to the lavatory

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best visits to the lavatory in literature.

One title on the list:
Ulysses by James Joyce

The modern novelist is keen to take us into every private place. After breakfast, Leopold Bloom takes a copy of Titbits to the privy at the end of the garden. "Asquat on the cuckstool he folded out his paper turning its pages over on his bared knees." A prosaic episode, but shocking to its first readers. "Midway, his last resistance yielding, he allowed his bowels to ease themselves quietly as he read, reading still patiently."
Read about another entry on Mullan's list.

Ulysses also made John Mullan's list of the ten of the best parodies in literature and Frank Delaney's top 10 list of Irish novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Matthew Pearl's "The Last Dickens"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl.

About the book, from the publisher:
In his most enthralling novel yet, the critically acclaimed author Matthew Pearl reopens one of literary history’s greatest mysteries. The Last Dickens is a tale filled with the dazzling twists and turns, the unerring period details, and the meticulous research that thrilled readers of the bestsellers The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow.

Boston, 1870. When news of Charles Dickens’s untimely death reaches the office of his struggling American publisher, Fields & Osgood, partner James Osgood sends his trusted clerk Daniel Sand to await the arrival of Dickens’s unfinished novel. But when Daniel’s body is discovered by the docks and the manuscript is nowhere to be found, Osgood must embark on a transatlantic quest to unearth the novel that he hopes will save his venerable business and reveal Daniel’s killer.

Danger and intrigue abound on the journey to England, for which Osgood has chosen Rebecca Sand, Daniel’s older sister, to assist him. As they attempt to uncover Dickens’s final mystery, Osgood and Rebecca find themselves racing the clock through a dangerous web of literary lions and drug dealers, sadistic thugs and blue bloods, and competing members of Dickens’s inner circle. They soon realize that understanding Dickens’s lost ending is a matter of life and death, and the hidden key to stopping a murderous mastermind.
Read an excerpt from The Last Dickens, and learn more about the author and his work at Matthew Pearl's website.

Matthew Pearl is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow, and is the editor of the Modern Library editions of Dante’s Inferno (translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue: The Dupin Tales.

The Page 99 Test: The Poe Shadow.

The Page 99 Test: The Last Dickens.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Jan Clausen reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Jan Clausen, essayist, poet, novelist, memoirist and critic. She has published creative work in Bloom, Fence, Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time, Hanging Loose, The Kenyon Review, North American Review, Ploughshares, and many other periodicals and anthologies. Her essays, book reviews, and literary journalism appear in Boston Review, Ms., The Nation, Poets and Writers, and The Women’s Review of Books.

Clausen's poetry collections, From a Glass House (IKON) and If You Like Difficulty (Harbor Mountain Press) appeared in 2007.

One paragraph from her Writers Read entry:
Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan (Arcade Publishing 2006, translated by Howard Goldblatt). Brilliantly combining elements of traditional mythology with a satire of recent Chinese history, Mo Yan takes as his premise the idea that a “rich peasant” executed for his sins against the revolution is reincarnated as a farm animal in his old village. We then get a slow lope through the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the transition to a profit-based economy in the 1990’s, told from a combination of animal and human perspectives. There’s a lot of sadness here, but little clear-cut victimization, as people work the system to make the best of some very bad bargains. The reader is invited to laugh at human folly as seen through the eyes of (successively) a donkey, an ox, a pig, and a dog; but the laughter is cut short when one reflects that the human dramas—for instance, that of a boy torn between his father’s noble refusal to join the farm collective and his own adolescent attraction to the “mainstream” of his rural society, with its tractors and perks for the collectivized—are versions of a reality experienced by millions of Chinese people over the last half century.[read on]
Read excerpts from Clausen’s recently completed novel, The Company of Cannibals, and learn more about the author and her work at ablationsite.org.

Writers Read: Jan Clausen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pg. 69: Philipp Meyer's "American Rust"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: American Rust by Philipp Meyer.

About the book, from the publisher:
Set in a beautiful but economically devastated Pennsylvania steel town, American Rust is a novel of the lost American dream and the desperation—as well as the acts of friendship, loyalty, and love—that arise from its loss. From local bars to trainyards to prison, it is the story of two young men, bound to the town by family, responsibility, inertia, and the beauty around them, who dream of a future beyond the factories and abandoned homes.

Left alone to care for his aging father after his mother commits suicide and his sister escapes to Yale, Isaac English longs for a life beyond his hometown. But when he finally sets out to leave for good, accompanied by his temperamental best friend, former high school football star Billy Poe, they are caught up in a terrible act of violence that changes their lives forever.

Evoking John Steinbeck’s novels of restless lives during the Great Depression, American Rust takes us into the contemporary American heartland at a moment of profound unrest and uncertainty about the future. It is a dark but lucid vision, a moving novel about the bleak realities that battle our desire for transcendence and the power of love and friendship to redeem us.
Read an excerpt from American Rust, and learn more about the book and author at Philipp Meyer's website.

The Page 69 Test: American Rust.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten spectacular second novels

At the (London) Times Luke Leitch named "the most successful literary sequels ever."

One title on his list:
Midnight's Children- Salman Rushdie

The recent winner of the Booker of Booker's, Midnight's Children is often cited as a first novel. The reason is that Grimus, published in 1975, was so poorly received that barely anyone remembered it.
Read about Number One on Leitch's list.

Related: ten literary one-hit wonders and top 10 cursed second novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Karen Greenberg's "The Least Worst Place"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days by Karen Greenberg.

About the book, from the publisher:
In January 2002, the first flight of detainees captured in the "Global War on Terror" disembarked in Guantanamo Bay, dazed, bewildered, and--more often than not--alarmingly thin. Given very little advance notice, the military's preparations for this group of predominantly unimportant ne'er-do-wells were hastily thrown together, but as Karen Greenberg shows, a number of capable and honorable Marine officers tried to create a humane and just detention center--only to be thwarted by the Bush Administration.

The Least Worst Place is a gripping narrative account of the first one hundred days of Guantanamo. Greenberg, one of America's leading experts on the Bush Administration's policies on terrorism, tells the story through a group of career officers who tried--and ultimately failed--to stymie the Pentagon's desire to implement harsh new policies in Guantanamo and bypass the Geneva Conventions. She sets her story in Camp X-Ray, which underwent a remarkably quick transformation from a sleepy naval outpost in the tropics into a globally infamous holding pen. Peopled with genuine heroes and villains, this narrative of the earliest days of the post-9/11 era centers on the conflicts between Gitmo-based Marine officers intent on upholding the Geneva Accords and an intelligence unit set up under the Pentagon's aegis. The latter ultimately won out, replacing transparency with secrecy, military protocol with violations of basic operation procedures, and humane and legal detainee treatment with harsh interrogation methods and torture.

Guantanamo's first 100 days set up patterns of power that would come to dominate the Bush administration's overall strategy in the war on terror. Karen Greenberg's riveting account puts a human face on this little-known story, revealing how America first lost its moral bearings in the wake of 9/11.
Learn more about The Least Worst Place at the Oxford University Press website.

Karen J. Greenberg is Executive Director of the Center on Law and Security, New York University School of Law. She is the editor of numerous books, including The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib and the well known Terrorist Trial Report Card which has tracked all US terrorism cases to go through the US courts since 9/11.

The Page 99 Test: The Least Worst Place.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 23, 2009

What is Paul Rivlin reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Paul Rivlin, author of the newly released Arab Economies in the Twenty-First Century.

His entry begins:
I am reading Peter Hennessy’s Having it So Good: Britain in the Fifties. This is the second volume of his history of Britain after the Second World War and takes up the story from Never Again: Britain 1945-1951. These books are encyclopedic covering many aspects of life including sport, diet, religion, dress, politics and economics and have a long historical sweep. In the late 1940s and early 1950s some of Britain’s leaders were Edwardians, with experience in and before the First World War. Understanding them means understanding the world they were formed in and this is included. The remarkable achievement of these books is that the reader is never lost in the detail. The author steers through many subjects and then brings the reader back to the main road and the main point.

For someone born and brought up in the Britain of the 1950s, Hennessy conveys the details of a world that I was too young to see. Britain in the early 1950s was an interesting mixture. It had undergone the massive transformation that the Second World War and the post-war Labour government had generated through social policy and nationalization. It was losing...[read on]
Paul Rivlin is a Senior Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University. He is the author of The Dynamics of Economic Policy Making in Egypt (1985), The Israel Economy (1992), Economic Policy and Performance in the Arab World (2001), and papers on defense economics and Arab economies.

Read an excerpt from Rivlin's Arab Economies in the Twenty-First Century, and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website.

Writers Read: Paul Rivlin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Peter Singer's "The Life You Can Save"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty by Peter Singer.

About the book, from the publisher:
This is the right time to ask yourself: “What should I be doing to help?”

For the first time in history, it is now within our reach to eradicate world poverty and the suffering it brings. Yet around the world, a billion people struggle to live each day on less than many of us pay for bottled water. And though the number of deaths attributable to poverty worldwide has fallen dramatically in the past half-century, nearly ten million children still die unnecessarily each year. The people of the developed world face a profound choice: If we are not to turn our backs on a fifth of the world’s population, we must become part of the solution.

In The Life You Can Save, philosopher Peter Singer, named one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time magazine, uses ethical arguments, provocative thought experiments, illuminating examples, and case studies of charitable giving to show that our current response to world poverty is not only insufficient but ethically indefensible.

Singer contends that we need to change our views of what is involved in living an ethical life. To help us play our part in bringing about that change, he offers a seven-point plan that mixes personal philanthropy (figuring how much to give and how best to give it), local activism (spreading the word in your community), and political awareness (contacting your representatives to ensure that your nation’s foreign aid is really directed to the world’s poorest people).

In The Life You Can Save, Singer makes the irrefutable argument that giving will make a huge difference in the lives of others, without diminishing the quality of our own. This book is an urgent call to action and a hopeful primer on the power of compassion, when mixed with rigorous investigation and careful reasoning, to lift others out of despair.
Read an excerpt from The Life You Can Save, and visit The Life You Can Save website and blog.

Peter Singer is Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He is the author, co-author, or editor of more than thirty books, including Animal Liberation, widely considered to be the founding statement of the animal rights movement, Practical Ethics, and One World: Ethics and Globalization.

The Page 99 Test: The Life You Can Save.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Paul Tremblay's "The Little Sleep"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay.

About the book, from the publisher:
Raymond Chandler meets Jonathan Lethem in this wickedly entertaining debut featuring Mark Genevich, Narcoleptic Detective

Mark Genevich is a South Boston P.I. with a little problem: he’s narcoleptic, and he suffers from the most severe symptoms, including hypnogogic hallucinations. These waking dreams wreak havoc for a guy who depends on real-life clues to make his living.

Clients haven’t exactly been beating down the door when Mark meets Jennifer Times—daughter of the powerful local D.A. and a contestant on American Star—who walks into his office with an outlandish story about a man who stole her fingers. He awakes from his latest hallucination alone, but on his desk is a manila envelope containing risqué photos of Jennifer. Are the pictures real, and if so, is Mark hunting a blackmailer, or worse?

Wildly imaginative and with a pitch-perfect voice, The Little Sleep is the first in a new series that casts a fresh eye on the rigors of detective work, and introduces a character who has a lot to prove—if only he can stay awake long enough to do it.
Read an excerpt from The Little Sleep, and visit Paul Tremblay's website, blog, and The Little Sleep Facebook page.

Paul Tremblay is a two-time nominee for the Bram Stoker Award and the author of the short speculative fiction collection Compositions for the Young and Old and the hard-boiled/dark fantasy novella City Pier: Above and Below. He has sold over fifty short stories to markets such as Razor Magazine, CHIZINE, Weird Tales, Last Pentacle of the Sun: Writings in Support of the West Memphis Three, and Horror: The Year's Best 2007.

The Page 69 Test: The Little Sleep.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 20 most loaned books in Norway's libraries 2008

Of the 20 most loaned books in Norway's libraries last year, 5 were Jo Nesbø novels:
2. Snømannen [The Snowman] (Jo Nesbø)

10. Hodejegerne [The Headhunters] (Jo Nesbø)

12. Frelseren [The Redeemer] (Jo Nesbø)

14. Rødstrupe [The Redbreast] (Jo Nesbø)

18. Sorgenfri [Nemesis] (Jo Nesbø)
Read about another title on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 22, 2009

David Hewson's "Dante's Numbers," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Dante's Numbers by David Hewson.

The entry begins:
Dante's Numbers is a book that mixes The Divine Comedy with Hitchcock's wonderful classic movie Vertigo on the -- doubtless spurious grounds -- that Dante's obsession with his dead muse Beatrice Portinari resonates with Scottie's morbid love of the mysterious Madeleine Elster. The book is the seventh in the Nic Costa series, the first to be set mostly inside the US, in San Francisco, and very much set in the unreal world of the movies, since it involves an apparent bloody vendetta against the stars and crew of an adaptation of Dante's Inferno.

To be honest I see this exercise more in terms of director than cast. I tried to imitate Hitchcock in some ways by introducing a story that's more than a little outre, with characters - two identical twin San Francisco firemen in particular - to match. If I had the choice there really would only be one director for this piece, and that would be...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at David Hewson's website and blog.

Hewson is the author of the Nic Costa series of novels set primarily in contemporary Rome. A former journalist with the London Times and Sunday Times, his work has been translated into many languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Thai ... and Italian.

The Page 69 Test: The Seventh Sacrament.

The Page 99 Test: The Garden of Evil.

My Book, The Movie: Dante's Numbers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten cursed second novels

At the (London) Times Luke Leitch named ten "writers who couldn't quite match their initial success."

One author on the list:
The Almost Moon- Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones was 2002's must-read. Five years later the critics rounded on The Almost Moon. The New York Times called it “so morally, emotionally and intellectually incoherent that it's bound to become a bestseller”. Miaow.
Read about Number One on the list.

Related: Ten literary one-hit wonders.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Mario Acevedo's "Jailbait Zombie"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Jailbait Zombie by Mario Acevedo.

About the book, from the publisher:
Vampires versus Zombies, round one...

Vampire detective Felix Gomez has seen a lot of weird things since becoming one of the undead—nymphomaniacs, aliens, and X-rated bloodsuckers, just to name a few—but now he comes face-to-face with the worst sort of undead.

To stop a ravenous army of zombies, Gomez must team up with a precocious teen with clairvoyant powers whose cooperation comes at a price: she won't help unless Felix makes her a vampire ... if the zombies don't get her first.
Browse inside Jailbait Zombie, and learn more about the author and his work at Mario Acevedo's website and his blog.

Mario Acevedo is the bestselling author of The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, X-Rated Bloodsuckers, and The Undead Kama Sutra. A former infantry and aviation officer, engineer, and art teacher to incarcerated felons, he lives and writes in Denver, Colorado.

View the video trailer for Jailbait Zombie.

The Page 69 Test: The Nymphos of Rocky Flats.

The Page 69 Test: The Undead Kama Sutra.

The Page 99 Test: Jailbait Zombie.

--Marshal Zeringue