Thursday, March 31, 2011

What is Nancy Martin reading?

Today's featured contributor at Writers Read: Nancy Martin, author of Our Lady of Immaculate Deception and Sticky Fingers.

Her entry begins:
Like many writers, I often read two books at once. This winter, I read Fannie Flagg’s I Still Dream About You while also plugging through Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Both books held me fast, and I soon realized they were both telling the same kind of story—although in very different ways.

I have spent the winter mulling over the best and worst qualities of what we might call an “epic” story—a grand, sprawling tale that attempts to define and illuminate a time and place. The Great American Novel is one, surely, that attempts to showcase America through the eyes of finely drawn characters who exemplify some noteworthy qualities in our national persona. (Definition is mine, so feel free to argue with me!)

The voice of Freedom is sure and clear—not exactly witty, but intelligent, and a distinctly—in my view—male perspective. The female characters all seemed to exist to serve the male characters, but perhaps...[read on]
Among the early praise for Sticky Fingers:
"Martin's wacky second Roxy Abruzzo mystery improves on the excellent first entry, 2010's Our Lady of Immaculate Deception (retitled for reprint Foxy Roxy)...."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Martin is a good choice for those who have read all of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series and want to try something new."
--Library Journal

"Guaranteed to delight tough girls and tough-girl fans everywhere."
--Kirkus (starred review)
Learn more about the book and author at Nancy Martin's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Our Lady of Immaculate Deception.

The Page 69 Test: Sticky Fingers.

Writers Read: Nancy Martin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ian Rankin's 5 favorite literary crime novels

Ian Rankin is a worldwide #1 bestselling writer, and has won an Edgar Award, a Gold Dagger for fiction, a Diamond Dagger for career excellence, and the Chandler-Fulbright Award.

He named his five favorite literary crime novels for The Daily Beast. One title on the list:
Bleak House
by Charles Dickens

Dickens spins a yarn crammed with mysteries, unexplained deaths, blackmail plots, and courtroom drama. There’s also plenty of satire and a serious exploration of the ties that bind us all together. The main mystery concerns the parentage of Esther Summerson. A lawyer called Tulkinghorn may hold the answers, but there’s also a landlord with the all-too-apt name of Krook, a mysterious tenant called Nemo, and the enigmatic Lady Dedlock. Spinning a web to trap all of them is the extraordinary figure of Inspector Bucket. Bucket owes something to a real-life French detective of the period, Vidocq. Vidocq was a master of disguise and intuition, a man who seemed to appear from nowhere and know everyone’s innermost secrets and desires. He is, then, the template for many fictional detectives to come.
Read about another book on Rankin's list.

Bleak House is one of Tim Pigott-Smith's six best books, James McCreet's top ten Victorian detective stories and one of Rebecca Ford's favorite five fiction books. It is on John Mortimer's list of the five best books about law and literature and John Mullan's list of ten of the best men writing as women, and is among the top ten works of literature according to Stephen King.

Also see Rankin's six best books list.

Learn about the best selling book Rankin wishes he'd written.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Rosalind Brackenbury's "Becoming George Sand"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Becoming George Sand by Rosalind Brackenbury.

About the book, from the publisher:
Maria Jameson is having an affair—a passionate, lifechanging affair. She asks: Is it possible to love two men at once? Must this new romance mean an end to love with her husband?

For answers, she reaches across the centuries to George Sand, the maverick French novelist who took many lovers. Immersing herself in the life of this revolutionary woman, Maria struggles with the choices women make and wonders if women in the nineteenth century might have been more free, in some ways, than their twenty-first-century counterparts.

Here, Rosalind Brackenbury creates a beautiful portrait of the ways in which women are connected across history. Two narratives delicately intertwine—following George through her affair with Frederic Chopin, following Maria through her affair with an Irish professor—and bring us a novel that explores the personal and the historical, the demands of self and the mysteries of the heart. Sharply insightful, Becoming George Sand asks how we make our lives feel vibrant while still acknowledging the gifts of our pasts, and challenges our understanding of love in all its forms—sparkling and new, mature, rekindled, and renewed.
Learn more about the book and author at Rosalind Brackenbury's website.

The Page 69 Test: Becoming George Sand.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pg. 99: Robert Lane Greene's "You Are What You Speak"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: You Are What You Speak: Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity by Robert Lane Greene.

About the book, from the publisher:
What is it about other people’s language that moves some of us to anxiety or even rage? For centuries, sticklers the world over have donned the cloak of authority to control the way people use words. Now this sensational new book strikes back to defend the fascinating, real-life diversity of this most basic human faculty.

With the erudite yet accessible style that marks his work as a journalist, Robert Lane Greene takes readers on a rollicking tour around the world, illustrating with vivid anecdotes the role language beliefs play in shaping our identities, for good and ill. Beginning with literal myths, from the Tower of Babel to the bloody origins of the word “shibboleth,” Greene shows how language “experts” went from myth-making to rule-making and from building cohesive communities to building modern nations. From the notion of one language’s superiority to the common perception that phrases like “It’s me” are “bad English,” linguistic beliefs too often define “us” and distance “them,” supporting class, ethnic, or national prejudices. In short: What we hear about language is often really about the politics of identity.

Governments foolishly try to police language development (the French Academy), nationalism leads to the violent suppression of minority languages (Kurdish and Basque), and even Americans fear that the most successful language in world history (English) may be threatened by increased immigration. These false language beliefs are often tied to harmful political ends and can lead to the violation of basic human rights. Conversely, political involvement in language can sometimes prove beneficial, as with the Zionist revival of Hebrew or our present-day efforts to provide education in foreign languages essential to business, diplomacy, and intelligence. And yes, standardized languages play a crucial role in uniting modern societies.

As this fascinating book shows, everything we’ve been taught to think about language may not be wrong—but it is often about something more than language alone. You Are What You Speak will certainly get people talking.
Read an excerpt from You Are What You Speak, and learn more about the book and author at Robert Lane Greene's website.

Robert Lane Greene is an international correspondent for The Economist, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on Slate, and in other publications.

The Page 99 Test: You Are What You Speak.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Lela Nargi reading?

Today's featured contributor at Writers Read: Lela Nargi, author of the new children’s book, The Honeybee Man.

Her entry begins:
I’m in that weird holding pattern between books – wanting to read but not able to find just the right thing. Sometimes, this has to do with the fact that I’m in the process of writing a book or an essay and I’m purposefully not reading – I’ve found, to my horror, that I accidentally steal ideas, phrases, voices and not reading ensures that I stay honest. But at the moment, I’m just plain uninspired by the books I’ve got lying around.

Someone recently gave me a novel they thought I’d like, but I lost interest after a few pages. Novels are tricky. Those I enjoy are few and far between and usually not contemporary: Salinger’s Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters (which I’m actually thinking of picking up again – maybe this afternoon, it’s raining here in Brooklyn, perfect Salinger weather); The Moviegoer, Walker Percy’s first (and somewhat imperfect) first novel; T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, which I absolutely cannot wait to read to my daughter, once she’s old enough to be patient for the endless riveting descriptions of falconry and knightly arms and other arcana; Lolita of course. I don’t like to read just for reading’s sake; I don’t enjoy quick, simple reads to pass the time. I want to...[read on]
Among the early praise for The Honeybee Man:
"This is wonderful 'realistic fiction' in a picture book format. Readers enjoy the story of Fred, who lives with Cooper his dog and Cat his cat in a brownstone in Brooklyn. Each morning after breakfast, Fred climbs a ladder to the rooftop where Fred “greets the rest of his family,” the queens and all the bees who live in the three hives on the rooftop.... Nargi captures the reader’s imagination as Fred pictures himself as a honeybee, swooping into the backyard gardens and parks around the borough. She weaves facts about honeybees into the story, naturally, using terms that may be new to younger reader, but are easy to decode in context...."
--Dawn, Too Fond of Books

"Nargi's descriptive language is filled with smell and sound and sight, carrying readers right up to that rooftop with Fred, while seamlessly interweaving detailed information about beekeeping.... Eccentric and unusual with an appealing, gentle charm."
--Kirkus (starred review)

"The language in this book is lovely and evocative. It is a book that creates small moments of celebrations."
--Tasha Saecker
Lela Nargi lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and Jaffa. She writes about food, knitting, and kids. Her new book for children is The Honeybee Man.

Visit Lela Nargi's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Lela Nargi and Jaffa.

Writers Read: Lela Nargi.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 books on motherhood

Eleanor Birne works as an editor and has written reviews for various publications. She lives in London with her husband and son. Her first book is When Will I Sleep Through the Night?.

At the Guardian she named a top ten list of books on motherhood.

One title on the list:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868-69)

Little Women revolves around an all-sacrificing mother, Mrs March. She busies herself with charitable works while raising her own four daughters pretty much single-handedly (her husband is a chaplain in the army and away when the novel opens). It's a portrait of a saintly style of motherhood very few women would now aspire to, but Marmee is a tough character who inspires her daughters to want to do great things.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Little Women
also appears on Erin Blakemore's list of five gutsy heroines to channel on an off day, Kate Saunders' critic's chart of mothers and daughters in literature, and Zoë Heller's list of five memorable portraits of sisters. It is a book that disappointed Geraldine Brooks on re-reading.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Martin Kihn & Hola

The current featured duo at Coffee with a Canine: Martin Kihn and Hola.

The author, on Hola's proudest moment:
Our book Bad Dog tells the story of how Hola starts as a kind of good-looking Marley -- just a badly-behaved, badly-trained dog. At a certain point, my life was falling apart and I decided we were going to train and get our Canine Good Citizen award from the American Kennel Club. This is a ten-point test of good manners and basic training, but it was totally impossible for us at first. Literally impossible. But after a lot of hard work, Hola earned her CGC in 2010. It was...[read on]
Among the early praise for Bad Dog: A Love Story:
“This tale of a man who forgot he was a man and the dog who ultimately reminded him is the most touching, original buddy story I’ve come across in ages. Sit. Stay. Read.”
—Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air

“A modern masterpiece that captures the dark side of K9 love.”
—Julia Szabo,

“Martin Kihn’s agile wit is showcased in this memoir of addiction, recovery, and the highs and lows of canine and human behavior. Despite its compact form, Bad Dog carries a surprising amount of weight, and when you're not looking, it will knock you over and charm you, all while licking your face.”
—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

“A bittersweet tale of renewal ... An endearing read full of hope, humor and humility.”
Kirkus Reviews
Learn more about Bad Dog: A Love Story at Martin Kihn's website and the Bad Dog Facebook page.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Martin Kihn and Hola.

--Marshal Zeringue

Bathsheba Monk's "Nude Walker," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Nude Walker by Bathsheba Monk.

The entry begins:
My first option is to have James Franco write the screenplay, direct and play all the parts, because I would really like to see how far he can stretch, and I’m sure he’s curious too, but if that can’t happen because of prior commitments, I would like him at least to play Jenna, the Bible-thumping-tattoo-covered sensualist, who is the “other woman.” Ryan Reynolds is my idea of the Steady-Eddy who everyone wants to marry so he would do a bang-up job as Duck Wolinsky, but I can see him as a guy who would secretly screw around, too, and isn’t that Duck to a T? Jake Gyllenhaal can play Max, mostly because, like Max, he’s...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Nude Walker, and learn more about the book and author at Bathsheba Monk's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Nude Walker.

Writers Read: Bathsheba Monk.

My Book, The Movie: Nude Walker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What is Brad Parks reading?

Today's featured contributor at Writers Read: Brad Parks, author of the Nero and Shamus Award-winning Faces of the Gone and the recently released Eyes of the Innocent.

His entry begins:
On the face of it, I can think of few things – this side of Ulysses – that I would be less likely to read than a mystery series involving an Episcopal priestess.

I mean, I’m a guy! I like Jack Reacher! Harry Bosch! I’m not just going to read some precious little cozy with a…

Oh, wait, the Episcopal priestess is a former Army helicopter pilot? And she’s having a not-so-secret love affair with the town police chief? And the chief’s wife has just been brutally murdered, making the chief the lead suspect? And… well, hang on, this is getting interesting.

That’s the set-up for Julia Spencer-Fleming’s All Mortal Flesh. It’s...[read on]
Among the early praise for Eyes of the Innocent:
"Eyes of the Innocent is the complete package. With wonderful prose, witty observations and a relentless drive, this book held me hostage until the last page. Well done, Brad Parks!"
—Michael Connelly

"While some authors are known to fall into a bit of a sophomore slump on their second books, Parks has gained momentum. Eyes of the Innocent ignites the suspense on page one that grips the reader to the last page, to the final brilliant sentence... And when you think you have the mystery figured out, you discover that wasn't the actual mystery after all. Where the heck is Parks going with this? I predict he's going straight to another award-winning novel."
Jen Forbus, Jen's Book Thoughts

"An enjoyable second mystery featuring a street-smart investigative reporter (after 2009's Faces of the Gone)... Once again, Parks, a former Washington Post reporter, deftly brings the personalities and dynamics of a modern-day city newsroom to life."
Publishers Weekly

"Who says white men can't jump? ... Street-smart Carter, appearances notwithstanding, has all the moves he needs to stay one step ahead. Or one jump. A breezy, entertaining sequel to Parks' well-received debut."
Kirkus Reviews
Learn more about the book and author at the official Brad Parks website and Facebook presence.

Read "The Story Behind the Story: Eyes of the Innocent, by Brad Parks" at The Rap Sheet.

The Page 69 Test: Faces of the Gone.

The Page 69 Test: Eyes of the Innocent.

Writers Read: Brad Parks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 books about psychological journeys

Novelist, literary journalist, and psychotherapeutic counsellor Sebastian Beaumont is the author of Thirteen and The Juggler.

A few years ago he named a top ten list of books about psychological journeys for the Guardian, including:
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Palahniuk's journey into the violent heart of masculinity is as disturbing as it is illuminating. His searing attack on consumerism was certainly timely. The hall of mirrors of identity that accompany this exhilarating journey is stunning.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Justin J. Wert's "Habeas Corpus in America"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: Habeas Corpus in America: The Politics of Individual Rights by Justin J. Wert.

About the book, from the publisher:
For most Americans, habeas corpus is the cornerstone of our legal system: the principal constitutional check on arbitrary government power, allowing an arrested person to challenge the legality of his detention. In a study that could not be more timely, Justin Wert reexamines this essential individual right and shows that habeas corpus is not necessarily the check that we’ve assumed. Habeas corpus, it emerges, is as much a tool of politics as it is of law.

In this first study of habeas corpus in an American political context, Wert shifts our collective emphasis from the judicial to the political—toward the changes in the writ influenced by Congress, the president, political parties, state governments, legal academics, and even interest groups. By doing so, he reveals how political regimes have used habeas corpus both to undo the legacies of their predecessors and to establish and enforce their own vision of constitutional governance.

Tracing the history of the writ from the Founding to Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Boumediene v. Bush, Wert illuminates crucial developmental moments in its evolution. He demonstrates that during the antebellum period, Reconstruction, Gilded Age, Great Society, and the ongoing war on terrorism, habeas corpus has waxed and waned in harmony with the interests of majoritarian politics. Along the way, Wert identifies and explains the political context of fine points of law that many political scientists and historians may not be aware of—such as the exhaustion rule requiring that a federal habeas participant must first exhaust all possible claims for relief in state court, a maneuver by which the post-Reconstruction Court abandoned supervision of race relations in the South.

Especially in light of the new scrutiny of habeas corpus prompted by the Guantánamo detainees, Wert’s book is essential for broadening our understanding of how law and politics continue to intersect after 9/11. Brimming with fresh insights into constitutional development and regime theory, it shows that the Great Writ of Liberty may not be so great as we have supposed—because while it has the potential to enforce conceptions of rights that are consistent with the best ideals of American politics, it also has the potential to enforce its worst aspects as well.
Learn more about Habeas Corpus in America at the publisher's website, and visit Justin J. Wert's faculty webpage.

Justin J. Wert is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma and recipient of the 2006 American Political Science Association’s Edward S. Corwin Award.

The Page 99 Test: Habeas Corpus in America.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Nancy Martin's "Sticky Fingers"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Sticky Fingers by Nancy Martin.

About the book, from the publisher:
Roxy Abruzzo stays one step ahead of trouble----especially now that her cash flow is less than stellar, and she's "doing favors" for her slippery uncle Carmine, one of the last old-time Mob bosses in Pittsburgh.

With her sidekick, Nooch, and her thieving pitbull, Rooney, Roxy hustles the mean streets collecting debts for Uncle Carmine and keeping his customers in line. With her daughter's college tuition to pay, Roxy can almost convince herself that the shady jobs are legal. But when Carmine's consigliere offers Roxy a contract to kidnap someone, that's a line she won’t cross.

Trouble is the kidnapping happens anyway, and when the victim turns up murdered, Roxy’s number one on the police hit parade. To protect herself, she investigates and soon learns the victim had a big secret---or two. Add a rock singer with a penchant for dinosaur bones and throw in a pesky paleontologist, plus an ex-nun with a mustache problem---not to mention a sexy chef with a taste for whatever Roxy dishes up---and you've got a caper full of quirky characters and laugh-out-loud mayhem.

Peppered as usual with Nancy Martin’s sharp one-liners, Sticky Fingers---the second Roxy Abruzzo mystery---is even tastier than the first.
Read an excerpt from Sticky Fingers, and learn more about the book and author at Nancy Martin's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Our Lady of Immaculate Deception.

The Page 69 Test: Sticky Fingers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 28, 2011

What is Cara Hoffman reading?

Today's featured contributor at Writers Read: Cara Hoffman, author of So Much Pretty.

Her entry begins:
I’m reading In the Shadow of the American Dream: The Diaries of David Wojnarowicz. The first entries date from when he was seventeen years old and the last from about a year before he died of AIDS.

Wojnarowicz is far and away one of my favorite writers. Probably because he was not simply a writer but an activist and an artist. And because his way of thinking, his modes of expression had no use for the tropes of power and authority. And because he was concerned with beauty—the kind of beauty people in what he would describe as “the one tribe nation” don’t see.

For the...[read on]
Among the early praise for So Much Pretty:
“This beautiful, stealthy novel creeps up on the mesmerized reader, subtly drawing new strands into itself until what begins as the suspenseful story of a rural American murder grows into a dark, disquieting and urgently fascinating examination of the violence and concealment practiced by a whole society. By choosing a small town canvas on which to paint her big picture, Hoffman achieves a focused intensity which she holds on the very edge of anger, without once giving in to it. She never surrenders the compassion, insightfulness and humor that make her a masterful navigator of the human heart. This is an impassioned, intelligent and important work of art, and with it Hoffman takes her place in that select group of American novelists including Philipp Meyer and Adam Haslett who, eschewing nihilism and hauteur, write with urgency and passion about what is really going on out there.”
—Chris Cleave, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Little Bee and Incendiary

"So Much Pretty is everything I love in a novel - dark, fascinating, beautifully written, impossible to put down. It marks the beginning of what promises to be an indelible literary career for Cara Hoffman."
—Lauren Grodstein, author of A Friend of the Family

"So Much Pretty is certain to be talked about—not merely because it is a profound meditation on both public and private violence in small-town America, but for its captivating storytelling which draws you in on a visceral level and leaves you feeling haunted, in the best of ways."
—Philipp Meyer, author of American Rust
Read more about So Much Pretty at Cara Hoffman's website and blog.

Writers Read: Cara Hoffman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Chelsea Cain's 6 favorite detective stories

Chelsea Cain's novels featuring Detective Archie Sheridan include Heartsick, Sweetheart, Evil at Heart, and The Night Season.

For The Week magazine she named her six favorite detective stories.

One title on the list:
The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid

This 1995 novel, set in the fictional English town of Bradfield, is the first of six books about criminal psychologist Tony Hill and Detective Inspector Carol Jordan. It is utterly compelling and über-perverted, and I mean that in the best possible way. Plus, it’s British. So automatically kind of fancy.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Sweetheart.

The Page 69 Test: Evil at Heart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Joel Best's "Everyone's a Winner"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: Everyone's a Winner: Life in Our Congratulatory Culture by Joel Best.

About the book, from the publisher:
Every kindergarten soccer player gets a trophy. Many high schools name dozens of seniors as valedictorians—of the same class. Cars sport bumper stickers that read “USA—Number 1.” Prizes proliferate in every corner of American society, and excellence is trumpeted with ratings that range from “Academy Award winner!” to “Best Neighborhood Pizza!” In Everyone’s a Winner, Joel Best— acclaimed author of Damned Lies and Statistics and many other books—shines a bright light on the increasing abundance of status in our society and considers what it all means. With humor and insight, Best argues that status affluence fosters social worlds and, in the process, helps give meaning to life in a large society.
Read an excerpt from Everyone's a Winner, and learn more about the book at the University of California Press website.

Joel Best is Professor of Sociology at the University of Delaware and the author of Damned Lies and Statistics, More Damned Lies and Statistics, Flavor of the Month, and Stat-Spotting.

The Page 99 Test: Everyone's a Winner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What is Mike Sacks reading?

Today's featured contributor at Writers Read: Mike Sacks, author of Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason.

His entry begins:
I'm currently reading The Blunderer by Patricia Highsmith.

Patricia Smith has always been a favorite of mine. From what I've read, she wasn't the nicest of people, which usually doesn't matter, especially when it concerns solitary writers, but I wonder if this is why she was able to so accurately capture the emotional nuances of her disturbed, damaged characters. It seems to me that each character is, if not a jerk, than a bit of a sociopath--capable of murder or emotional devastation with a flick of a knife or a (well) sharpened remark. It's incredible how well she digs into...[read on]
Among the early praise for Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason:
"Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason makes you laugh out loud, and at the same time it inspires wonder. 'This is my language?' you’ll find yourself thinking. 'Really?' Nowhere else will you read the phrase 'shame spiral eye patch' or find the word 'robot' alongside 'with a bar tending degree.' This is to say that Mike Sacks is not just a sensational comic writer, but a sensational writer—period.
—David Sedaris

"Sacks and his various co-writers are gifted humorists, and it's safe to say that any reader will emit chuckles, guffaws, and chortles on nearly every page."

"An enjoyable collection of zaniness."
Kirkus Reviews

“The essays, many of which were published in McSweeney's and The New Yorker, are a selection of contemporary social satires... Highlighting this often hilarious book are Yu's many illustrations, such as the inclusion of Pynchon's muted post horn, and Sancton's 10 drawings depicting 'Everyday Tantric Positions' as well as an eight-page pantomime comic strip from Esquire about frustrating Ikea assembly instructions.”
Publishers Weekly
Read more about Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason at the Tin House Books website.

Mike Sacks has written for Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, The New Yorker, Time, McSweeney’s, Radar, MAD, New York Observer, Premiere, Believer, Vice, Maxim, Women’s Health, and Salon. He has worked at The Washington Post, and is currently on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair.

His books include And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Humor Writers About Their Craft and (co-writer) Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk.

Visit Mike Sacks's website.

Writers Read: Mike Sacks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best locked rooms in literature

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

One title on the list:
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

The third-floor staircase door at Thornfield, "which of late had always been kept locked", conceals a sealed apartment where Mr Rochester's servant, the enigmatic Grace Poole, presides. One day Jane hears a terrible mirthless laugh from behind it, "a clamorous peal that seemed to wake an echo in every lonely chamber". What could it hide?
Read about another book on the list.

Jane Eyre also made the Guardian's top 10 lists of "outsider books" and "romantic fiction;" it appears on Lorraine Kelly's six best books list, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, and Jessica Duchen's top ten list of literary Gypsies, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best weddings in literature, ten of the best pianos in literature, ten of the best breakfasts in literature, ten of the best smokes in fiction, and ten of the best cases of blindness in literature. It is one of Kate Kellaway's ten best love stories in fiction.

The Page 99 Test: Jane Eyre.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jim Krusoe's "Toward You"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Toward You by Jim Krusoe.

About the book, from the publisher:
Toward You completes Jim Krusoe's bittersweet trilogy about the relationship between this world and the next. Bob has spent several years trying to build a machine that will communicate with the dead. He's gotten more or less nowhere. Then two surprising things happen: he receives an important message from a dog, and a former girlfriend, Yvonne, reenters his life. These events make Bob even more determined to perfect the Communicator, as he calls his invention, in the belief that it will change his friendless, humdrum life for the better. In the meantime, Yvonne's young daughter inhabits an afterlife she is trying to escape and would give anything to be reunited with her mom.

Toward You is a poignant story of longing, mistakes, regret, disaster, and, above all, hope.
Read reviews and excerpts, and learn more about Toward You at the publisher's website.

Jim Krusoe is the author of the novels Erased, Girl Factory, and Iceland. His stories and poems have appeared in the Antioch Review, Bomb, the Chicago Review, the Denver Quarterly, the American Poetry Review, and other publications.

The Page 69 Test: Girl Factory.

The Page 69 Test: Erased.

The Page 69 Test: Toward You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sophie Littlefield's "Aftertime," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Aftertime by Sophie Littlefield.

The entry begins:
I’m so tone-deaf when it comes to pop culture, and especially movie stars, that I always have to turn to my secret whiz kid for help on casting my books as movies. None of them have been picked up for film yet, but I’m hopeful, especially after my pal came up with what I think is our best line-up yet:

In Aftertime, the 30-year-old heroine Cass Dollar has been through a lot: a recovering alcoholic, she struggled to raise a baby while working at a convenience store, only to lose Ruthie first to the department of family services and then to zombies and then to an evil religious cult. So she has to be played by someone with real grit: Juliette Lewis.

If you’re remembering Juliette from her fresh-faced ingénue days, think again. She’s still got those hypnotic green eyes but now she’s added steely determination and don’t-mess-with-me to her chops. I think she’d bring it just fine.

Throughout the Aftertime trilogy, Cass finds herself in a love triangle with two men: the mysterious, damaged, vengeful Smoke, who rescues and accompanies her on her journey to get Ruthie back – and the cynical, domineering, ruthless-when-he-has-to-be Dor, who rules the stark community where they take refuge.

When my movie-savvy friend recommended Josh...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Aftertime, and learn more about the book and author at Sophie Littlefield's website and blog. 

Aftertime is the first installment in a new dystopian series.

Littlefield's crime novels include A Bad Day for Sorry and A Bad Day for Pretty.

The Page 69 Test: A Bad Day for Sorry.

Writers Read: Sophie Littlefield.

The Page 69 Test: A Bad Day for Pretty.

My Book, The Movie: A Bad Day for Pretty.

The Page 69 Test: Aftertime.

My Book, The Movie: Aftertime.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What is Ben Tanzer reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Ben Tanzer, author of You Can Make Him Like You.

The entry begins:
I've actually been in a really interesting stretch over the last month where I've been reading three debut novels, okay, two novels, and one memoir for those of you counting at home, all three by authors I have become friendly with, and all quite different in tone and texture, but still all debuts, and self-published or from new, small presses, so quite cool, fun to dig into and deserving of a wider audience.

The first is Sophomoric Philosophy by local Chicago writer and daddy cool Victor David Giron, which is published by his press Curbside Splendor and covers all of the things classic and true debut male novels are supposed to, sex and girls and music and drugs, but also rises above so many of these novels by introducing the theme of immigrant kids and their families and ultimately where the world as we think we know it is...[read on]
Among the early praise for You Can Make Him Like You:
"You Can Make Him Like You is, I think, the book High Fidelity could've been, wanted to be."
--Nik Korpon, reviews at The Nervous Breakdown

"Tanzer, in a manner most mysterious to me, somehow harnesses the power of straight, conventional writing without the usual level of pandering or expositional obtuseness."
--JA Tyler review at Red Fez

"This is what an "adult" coming of age story would look like, if there ever was such a thing. A big, long, sloppy, wet kiss goodbye to what they used to know, and a timid and frightening hello to unknown, and sometimes unbelievable, new territory."
--Lori Hettler review at The Next Best Book Club

"This is one of the best, if not the best, depictions of the transition from empty childlessness to fatherhood I’ve ever had the opportunity to experience. Tanzer has succeeded in imbuing every interaction, every situation, every political pot-shot with the metaphorical acceptance of fatherhood."
--Caleb J. Ross review at Outsider Writers
Read an excerpt from You Can Make Him Like You, and learn more about the book and author at the official website.

Tanzer is the author of the books Lucky Man, Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine, Repetition Patterns and 99 Problems. He also oversees day-to-day operations of This Zine Will Change Your Life.

My Book, The Movie: Lucky Man.

The Page 69 Test: Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine.

The Page 69 Test: You Can Make Him Like You.

My Book, The Movie: You Can Make Him Like You.

Writers Read: Ben Tanzer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Kathryn Lofton's "Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon by Kathryn Lofton.

About the book, from the publisher:
“Today on Oprah,” intones the TV announcer, and all over America viewers tune in to learn, empathize, and celebrate. In this book, Kathryn Lofton investigates the Oprah phenomenon and finds in Winfrey’s empire—Harpo Productions, O Magazine, and her new television network—an uncanny reflection of religion in modern society. Lofton shows that when Oprah likes, needs, or believes something, she offers her audience nothing less than spiritual revolution, reinforced by practices that fuse consumer behavior, celebrity ambition, and religious idiom. In short, Oprah Winfrey is a media messiah for a secular age. Lofton’s unique approach also situates the Oprah enterprise culturally, illuminating how Winfrey reflects and continues historical patterns of American religions.
Learn more about Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon at the University of California Press website.

Kathryn Lofton is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and American Studies at Yale University.

The Page 99 Test: Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best books on the Cold War

Charles Cumming's latest novel is The Trinity Six, which William Boyd, author of Ordinary Thunderstorms, called "Utterly absorbing and compelling. A brilliant re-imagining of events surrounding the notorious Cambridge spy-ring."

For the Wall Street Journal, Cumming named a five best list of books on the Cold War.

One title on the list:
by Anna Funder (2003)

"If you want a pictureof the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face forever." George Orwell's dystopian vision became terrifying reality in Cold War East Germany, a surveillance state, controlled by the dreaded Stasi, in which neighbor spied on neighbor, spouse spied on spouse. In "Stasiland," Anna Funder interviews a transfixing cast of characters from the country's horrifying past. We meet an ex-Stasi officer who laments the collapse of communist East Germany, another who is now a guide at the Berlin Wall. One woman, imprisoned after a failed defection, was given her freedom—and then saw her husband arrested soon afterward as punishment for having applied to live in the West. It will only be a matter of time before similar books emerge from 21st-century police states: What horrors will be told of life in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Libya?
Read about another book on Cumming's list.

Learn more about Charles Cumming's novels A Spy By Nature, The Spanish GameTyphoon, and The Trinity Six.

Read about Cumming's five favorite works of espionage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 25, 2011

What is Neeti Nair reading?

Today's featured contributor at Writers Read: Neeti Nair, author of Changing Homelands: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India.

The entry begins:
Having spent the last week listening to a variety of visitors expound on the matter of religious and ethnic differences, it was a pleasure to end the week with Siddhartha Deb’s The Point of Return. Set in north-east India in the 1970s and 80s, this lyrical novel introduces the reader to the early beginnings of what became a full-blown insurgency with only the tiniest of signs – the unwritten rules governing the use of a cricket pitch, for instance. As the novel proceeds, the full import of hate crimes directed against those deemed to be ‘foreigners’ becomes apparent. Deb’s narrator moves back and forth in time reminding us of the uneasy and often unbidden presence of the past, but by the end of the novel, it is clear there is no going back. Deb pays attention to...[read on]
Among the early praise for Changing Homelands:
“Nair’s powerful book claims that for Punjab’s Hindus there was nothing inevitable about the coming of partition. She offers new and challenging interpretations of major events and personalities, which will transform our understandings of Punjab’s relationship to the Indian nationalist movement. Her discussion of Punjab’s partition and the subsequent memory of partition among Delhi Hindus is a tour de force.”
—David Gilmartin, author of Empire and Islam: Punjab and the Making of Pakistan

“This engagingly written book places Punjabi Hindus at the center of Partition scholarship. Nair’s often devastating examination of the complex considerations and unfathomable burdens that weighed on the minds of millions as they ‘chose’ to migrate reveals fresh thinking about religion and politics in South Asia.”
—Mridu Rai, author of Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects: Islam, Rights, and the History of Kashmir
Visit Neeti Nair's faculty webpage, and learn more about Changing Homelands at the Harvard University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Changing Homelands.

Writers Read: Neeti Nair.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Lela Nargi & Jaffa

This weekend's featured duo at Coffee with a Canine: Lela Nargi and Jaffa.

The author, on how she and Jaffa were united:
We used to live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, back before it was fancy. Every pet owner in the neighborhood hung out at BARC, the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition, and bought food and supplies from its bizarre and hilarious owners, Tony and Vinnie. One day, friends called to say they’d “borrowed” a puppy from BARC for the day, did we want to come down to their shop and see it? The puppy, of course, was Jaffa. Having had no intention of ever owning a dog, we...[read on]
Lela Nargi lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and Jaffa. She writes about food, knitting, and kids. Her new book for children is The Honeybee Man.

Visit Lela Nargi's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Lela Nargi and Jaffa.

--Marshal Zeringue

Mark Malloch-Brown's 6 favorite novels of empire

Mark Malloch-Brown is a former United Nations deputy secretary-general and a former British Foreign Office minister. His new book is The Unfinished Global Revolution: The Pursuit of a New International Politics.

He named his six favorite novels of empire for The Week magazine.

One title on his list:
I, Claudius by Robert Graves

For my generation, this was first a television dramatization, which drove us to the novel because it seemed to tell, through the prism of the Roman Empire, the story of the rise and fall of our own.
Read about another novel on the list.

I, Claudius also appears on Annabel Lyon's top ten list of books on the ancient world, Lindsey Davis' top ten list of Roman books, and John Mullan's list of ten of the best poisonings in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Sabine Feisst's "Schoenberg’s New World"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: Schoenberg's New World: The American Years by Sabine Feisst.

About the book, from the publisher:
Arnold Schoenberg was a polarizing figure in twentieth century music, and his works and ideas have had considerable and lasting impact on Western musical life. A refugee from Nazi Europe, he spent an important part of his creative life in the United States (1933-1951), where he produced a rich variety of works and distinguished himself as an influential teacher. However, while his European career has received much scholarly attention, surprisingly little has been written about the genesis and context of his works composed in America, his interactions with Americans and other emigres, and the substantial, complex, and fascinating performance and reception history of his music in this country.

Author Sabine Feisst illuminates Schoenberg's legacy and sheds a corrective light on a variety of myths about his sojourn. Looking at the first American performances of his works and the dissemination of his ideas among American composers in the 1910s, 1920s and early 1930s, she convincingly debunks the myths surrounding Schoenberg's alleged isolation in the US. Whereas most previous accounts of his time in the US have portrayed him as unwilling to adapt to American culture, this book presents a more nuanced picture, revealing a Schoenberg who came to terms with his various national identities in his life and work. Feisst dispels lingering negative impressions about Schoenberg's teaching style by focusing on his methods themselves as well as on his powerful influence on such well-known students as John Cage, Lou Harrison, and Dika Newlin. Schoenberg's influence is not limited to those who followed immediately in his footsteps-a wide range of composers, from Stravinsky adherents to experimentalists to jazz and film composers, were equally indebted to Schoenberg, as were key figures in music theory like Milton Babbitt and David Lewin. In sum, Schoenberg's New World contributes to a new understanding of one of the most important pioneers of musical modernism.
Learn more about Schoenberg’s New World at the Oxford University Press website, and visit Sabine Feisst's website.

Sabine Feisst is Associate Professor of Music History and Literature at Arizona State University. She published a book on concepts of improvisation in new music as well as numerous articles on Arnold Schoenberg and American music in essay collections, professional journals, and encyclopedias.

The Page 99 Test: Schoenberg's New World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Larry D. Sweazy's "The Badger’s Revenge"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Badger’s Revenge by Larry D. Sweazy.

About the book, from the publisher:
Tracking an Indian raiding party, Texas Ranger Josiah Wolfe and his compatriots run afoul of a notorious gang leader known as the Badger. As they are led to where the Badger is waiting, Josiah knows that time is running out. But luckily, Texas Rangers are hard men to kill.
Watch the trailer for The Badger’s Revenge, and learn more about the book and author at Larry D. Sweazy's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Badger’s Revenge.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What is Christopher Lane reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Christopher Lane, author of The Age of Doubt: Tracing the Roots of Our Religious Uncertainty.

His entry begins:
My study right now has small piles of books dotted around the floor, each tied to a particular project, course, or article. I read a lot for my classes and writing, so there are various contenders for mention here, but I recently went back to Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America, which I devoured when it first came out in 2009, and which I’m finding just as impressive on a reread. Ehrenreich, one of our most astute social commentators, begins with a somewhat bemused account of the teddy bears and crayons she was encouraged to enjoy after the shock of a cancer diagnosis (now mercifully in remission). For me, the full payoff of her argument comes in the book’s second half, when Ehrenreich goes to town on the limits of positive thinking for business gurus and management consultants, whose upbeat cheer was constitutionally incapable of predicting, much less addressing, the Stock Market tumble and financial crisis in 2008. Her embrace of our current difficulties is such a tonic after the endless platitudes she quotes that I...[read on]
Among the early praise for The Age of Doubt:
"Lane’s stimulating analysis asks whether acknowledging how science, religion, and society have produced a growing chasm between faith and doubt, and even destroyed belief, can offer a way forward."
—Keith Thomson, author of Before Darwin and The Young Charles Darwin

"The story of Victorian doubt is both fascinating and important for understanding why we continue to be mired in fierce cultural battles over the status of evolution and the value of religious faith. This provocative book is well worth the read."
—Bernard Lightman, York University

"A fresh and nuanced examination of how the major scientific assumptions of the nineteenth century informed and were shaped by doubt."
—Jude V. Nixon, Professor of English & Dean of Arts & Sciences, Salem State University, and Editor of Victorian Religious Discourse
Learn more about The Age of Doubt at the Yale University Press website and Christopher Lane's website.

Lane is the Pearce Miller Research Professor of Literature at Northwestern University and a recent Guggenheim fellow. He is the author of numerous essays and several books on literature, belief, and psychology, including Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness.

Author Interviews: Christopher Lane.

The Page 99 Test: The Age of Doubt.

Writers Read: Christopher Lane.

--Marshal Zeringue

The 10 best bad fairies

The 13 Treasures, Michelle Harrison's first novel for children, won the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize and has been sold in the UK, USA and fourteen other countries.

Its sequel, The 13 Curses was published in January 2010, and was followed by a third book, The 13 Secrets, in February 2011.

For the Guardian, Harrison came up with a ten best list of bad fairies--fairies "that were deceitful, malicious – even deadly."

One title on the list:
Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti

Despite warnings from her sister, a young girl, Laura, falls victim to malicious goblin men peddling irresistible, enchanted fruit. In exchange for a lock of her hair and a tear drop, Laura eats the fruit and falls ill, nursed back only by Lizzie's sisterly love. Rossetti's cautionary poem can be read on several levels though there is ambiguity, even from the author, over whether it is intended for children. Many argue that the themes of temptation and forbidden fruit, and the nature of the descriptions would suggest not.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Bradford Martin's "The Other Eighties"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: The Other Eighties: A Secret History of America in the Age of Reagan by Bradford Martin.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this engaging new book, Bradford Martin illuminates a different 1980s than many remember—one whose history has been buried under the celebratory narrative of conservative ascendancy. Ronald Reagan looms large in most accounts of the period, encouraging Americans to renounce the activist and liberal politics of the 1960s and ‘70s and embrace the resurgent conservative wave. But a closer look reveals that a sizable swath of Americans strongly disapproved of Reagan’s policies throughout his presidency. With a weakened Democratic Party scurrying for the political center, many expressed their dissatisfaction outside electoral politics.

Unlike the civil rights and Vietnam era protesters, activists of the 1980s often found themselves on the defensive, struggling to preserve the hard-won victories of the previous era. Their successes, then, were not in ushering in a new era of progressive reforms but in effecting change in areas from professional life to popular culture, while beating back an even more forceful political shift to the right. Martin paints an indelible portrait of these and other influential, but often overlooked, movements: from on-the-ground efforts to constrain the administration’s aggressive Latin American policy and stave off a possible Nicaraguan war, to mock shanties constructed on college campuses to shed light on corporate America’s role in supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa. The result is a clearer, richer perspective on a turbulent decade in American life.
Read an excerpt from The Other Eighties, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Bradford Martin is an associate professor of history at Bryant University in Rhode Island. He is the author of The Theater Is in the Street: Politics and Public Performance in Sixties America.

The Page 99 Test: The Other Eighties.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ben Tanzer's "You Can Make Him Like You," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: You Can Make Him Like You by Ben Tanzer.

The entry begins:
Once upon a time, and in a galaxy far, far away I was once asked to tackle the challenge presented by "My Book, The Movie" for my novel Lucky Man. At the time I expressed a handful of desires and recommendations.

One, that when Lucky Man was optioned, and for the record it's still available, so please do contact my representatives, quickly, I hoped that one result would be that Diane Lane would become so enamored with the movie's writing she would be compelled to finally return one of my calls. Still waiting for that, though my hopes are on the rise again with the release of my new novel You Can Make Him Like You.

Two, that the soundtrack would have to include songs by the still largely unknown band The Hold Steady, and this will not change with You Can Make Him Like You, a novel both inspired by and an homage to the now much more widely loved music of that very same band.

Three, that for the director, I would favor Larry Clark, Gregg Araki, Sofia Coppola, Noah Baumbach or...[read on]
Read an excerpt from You Can Make Him Like You, and learn more about the book and author at the official website.

Tanzer is the author of the books Lucky Man, Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine, Repetition Patterns and 99 Problems. He also oversees day-to-day operations of This Zine Will Change Your Life.

My Book, The Movie: Lucky Man.

The Page 69 Test: Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine.

The Page 69 Test: You Can Make Him Like You.

My Book, The Movie: You Can Make Him Like You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What is Michael Northrop reading?

Today's featured contributor at Writers Read: Michael Northrop, author of Trapped (2011), an Indie Next List selection and a Barnes & Noble “Must-Read for Teens.”

The entry begins:
I recently started the novel Little Bee by Chris Cleave. It’s too early to say anything more definitive than that it’s very British and the prose is beautiful, but I got it at one of my favorite indie bookstores: WORD in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. They sold me several of my favorite books of last year (including my absolute favorite, Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes), and I trust their recommendations completely.

Before that, I read...[read on]
Among the early praise for Trapped:
“Some snow days dump so much snow that only Stephen King could enjoy them. Trapped is narrated by a 15-year-old basketball player who’s trapped with six classmates — four other boys and two girls — in their rural New England high school while it snows for an entire week. The snow knocks out power, heat and, perhaps worst of all, cellphones. The compelling plot of this young-adult novel is more The Breakfast Club than Lord of the Flies. Author Michael Northrop deftly describes teens who are tested by the endless snow: ‘It wasn’t a storm; it was whatever comes after that.’”
USA Today

“The pages turn like wildfire.”

“A gripping disaster story.”
Publishers Weekly

“A rousing, suspenseful tale… It all felt real.”
PW: ShelfTalker

“Truly impossible to put down.”
RT Book Reviews Magazine
Northrop is also the author of Gentlemen (2009), one of the American Library Association’s “Best Books for Young Adults.”

Learn more about the books and author at Michael Northrop's website.

Writers Read: Michael Northrop.

--Marshal Zeringue