Wednesday, August 31, 2022

What is Jehanne Dubrow reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Jehanne Dubrow, author of Taste: A Book of Small Bites.

Her entry begins:
My reading is often shaped by my writing. So, for instance, I’m currently working on a biblio-memoir about my long-term love affair with Anne Carson’s novel in verse, Autobiography of Red. I’ve spent the last two decades reading and rereading Red. The book has molded who I am as a reader, as a teacher, and as a writer. Over the past twelve months, I have pretty much read everything Carson has ever written. For a newcomer to Carson’s oeuvre, I recommend her scholarly book about desire, Eros the Bittersweet, her fascinating collaged elegy for her brother, Nox, and of course Autobiography of Red. Carson is a poet, a scholar, a translator, and a maker of unclassifiable texts. This deep immersion in her work has encouraged me to be more playful in my own writing, to experiment with blending or ignoring genre, and to write about experiences I’ve been afraid to...[read on]
About Taste: A Book of Small Bites, from the publisher:
Taste is a lyric meditation on one of our five senses, which we often take for granted. Structured as a series of “small bites,” the book considers the ways that we ingest the world, how we come to know ourselves and others through the daily act of tasting.

Through flavorful explorations of the sweet, the sour, the salty, the bitter, and umami, Jehanne Dubrow reflects on the nature of taste. In a series of short, interdisciplinary essays, she blends personal experience with analysis of poetry, fiction, music, and the visual arts, as well as religious and philosophical texts. Dubrow considers the science of taste and how taste transforms from a physical sensation into a metaphor for discernment.

Taste is organized not so much as a linear dinner served in courses but as a meal consisting of meze, small plates of intensely flavored discourse.
Learn more about the book and author at Jehanne Dubrow's website.

Writers Read: Jehanne Dubrow (April 2010).

Writers Read: Jehanne Dubrow (November 2012).

Coffee with a Canine: Jehanne Dubrow and Argos.

Coffee with a Canine: Jehanne Dubrow & Lola and Bandit.

Writers Read: Jehanne Dubrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven top locked room mysteries

Alice Feeney is the New York Times bestselling author of Sometimes I Lie, I Know Who You Are, His & Hers, and Rock Paper Scissors. Her novels have been translated into over twenty-five languages, and have been optioned for major screen adaptations.

Feeney was a BBC journalist for fifteen years, and now lives in the Devon countryside with her family. Daisy Darker is her fifth novel.

At CrimeReads the author tagged seven of her favorite locked room mysteries, including:
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

I loved Ruth Ware’s debut novel In a Dark, Dark Wood. Our locked room in this book is a dark, dark house in a dark, dark wood, and our main character Nora (another writer) is arriving for the hen weekend (bachelorette party) of an old school friend.

I think most have us have experienced murderous thoughts on a bachelorette weekend, especially when we only really know and like the bride-to-be (or is that just me?) This is a dark and suspenseful story where nothing is quite what it seems.
Read about another entry on the list.

In A Dark Dark Wood is among Claire Douglas's five great psychological thrillers set in isolated places and Jody Gehrman's top seven novels that use weather to enhance the suspense.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Joseph O. Chapa's "Is Remote Warfare Moral?"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Is Remote Warfare Moral?: Weighing Issues of Life and Death from 7,000 Miles by Joseph O. Chapa.

About the book, from the publisher:
America is at an important turning point. Remote warfare is not just a mainstay of post–9/11 wars, it is a harbinger of what lies ahead—a future of high-tech, artificial intelligence–enabled, and autonomous weapons systems that raise a host of new ethical questions. Most fundamentally, is remote warfare moral? And if so, why?

Joseph O. Chapa, with unique credentials as Air Force officer, Predator pilot, and doctorate in moral philosophy, serves as our guide to understanding this future, able to engage in both the language of military operations and the language of moral philosophy.

Through gripping accounts of remote pilots making life-and-death decisions and analysis of high-profile cases such as the killing of Iranian high government official General Qasem Soleimani, Chapa examines remote warfare within the context of the just war tradition, virtue, moral psychology, and moral responsibility. He develops the principles we should use to evaluate its morality, especially as pilots apply human judgment in morally complex combat situations. Moving on to the bigger picture, he examines how the morality of human decisions in remote war is situated within the broader moral context of US foreign policy and the future of warfare.
Visit Joseph O. Chapa's website.

The Page 99 Test: Is Remote Warfare Moral?.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Kathleen Rooney's "Where Are the Snows"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Where Are the Snows: Poems by Kathleen Rooney.

About the book, from the publisher:
Where Are the Snows takes its title from the famous refrain of François Villon’s 15th Century poem “Ballad of the Ladies of Times Past.” Like that poem, the book functions, among other things, as an ubi sunt, Latin for “Where are they?” as in “Where are the ones who came before us?”—the beautiful, the strong, the virtuous, all of them? In keeping with that long tradition, these poems offer a way to think about life’s transience—its beauty, its absurdity, and of course its mortality. Allusive and associative, anti-capitalist and unapologetically political, aligned somewhere between comedy and anger, this poetry juxtaposes the triumphs and tragedies (mostly tragedies) of our current age with those of history, and—by wondering “Where are they?”—explores the questions of where we are now and where we might be going.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen Rooney's website.

The Page 99 Test: Live Nude Girl.

The Page 99 Test: For You, for You I Am Trilling These Songs.

My Book, The Movie: For You, for You I Am Trilling These Songs.

My Book, The Movie: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

The Page 69 Test: Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey.

My Book, The Movie: Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey.

Writers Read: Kathleen Rooney (July 2022).

The Page 69 Test: Where Are the Snows.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Q&A with Hayley Scrivenor

From my Q&A with Hayley Scrivenor, author of Dirt Creek: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Esther Bianchi, a twelve-year-old girl who goes missing on her way home from school, lives in a small country town in Australia called Durton. A nickname for the town, one used on the playground by the kids who live there, is ‘Dirt Town’. By that logic, Durton Creek also becomes ‘Dirt Creek’. And because it’s been a long, hot and dry spring in the town, ‘Dirt Creek’ is just about right, in terms of the water level.

It’s interesting, because Dirt Creek is the name my American publisher preferred, but the book is called Dirt Town in my home country of Australia. Dirt Creek is an important site in the book—lots of important events happen there—and I like the way the title brings that into focus more. I do get a lot of messages asking about the difference, but I like having different titles in different countries. It makes me feel like...[read on]
Visit Hayley Scrivenor's website.

Q&A with Hayley Scrivenor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven top complex portraits of criminality in literature

Our Sister Who Will Not Die: Stories, Rebecca Bernard’s debut collection of stories, won the 2021 Non/Fiction prize from The Journal and was published by Ohio State’s Mad Creek Books in August 2022. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Southwest Review, Wigleaf, Witness, and elsewhere. She holds a PhD in Fiction from the University of North Texas and an MFA from Vanderbilt University. Her work received notable mention in the Best American Short Stories of 2018. She is an Assistant Professor in the English department at Angelo State University. She serves as a Fiction Editor for The Boiler.

At Lit Hub Bernard tagged seven of the best complex portraits of criminality in literature, including:
Colson Whitehead, The Nickel Boys

We can’t discuss portrayals of criminality without acknowledging that large swaths of the American population have been marked as criminal based purely on the color of their skin, absent of any wrongdoing. Mass incarceration and the over-policing of bodies of color and its reality as modern-day slavery, though not the focus of this list, must be part of the conversation. Whereas the other characters on this list are culpable for their crimes, many of the boys incarcerated at Whitehead’s Nickel Academy (based on the real-life Dozier school, a reform/juvenile detention center in Florida) are either innocent or simply young people placed in impossible situations and forced to deal with the side effects of poverty and institutional neglect. The novel follows Elwood, an academically thriving boy in his teens who is convicted for unwittingly riding in a stolen car on his way to attend early college course. Sent to Nickel Academy, we see his attempts to survive the harsh, brutal environment where he befriends another young man named Turner. The novel pushes us to consider what it means to be deemed criminal, and who are the true bad actors—the boys in the care of the facility or the guards and overseers who exploit them and brutalize them for economic gain or out of baseless cruelty.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Nickel Boys is among Zak Salih's eight books about childhood friendships throughout the years.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones's "A Question of Standing"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: A Question of Standing: The History of the CIA by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones.

About the book, from the publisher:
A Question of Standing deals with recognizable events that have shaped the history of the first 75 years of the CIA. Unsparing in its accounts of dirty tricks and their consequences, it values the agency's intelligence and analysis work to offer balanced judgements that avoid both celebration and condemnation of the CIA.

The mission of the CIA, derived from U-1 in World War I more than from World War II's OSS, has always been intelligence. Seventy-five years ago, in the year of its creation, the National Security Act gave the agency, uniquely in world history up to that point, a democratic mandate to pursue that mission of intelligence. It gave the CIA a special standing in the conduct of US foreign relations. That standing diminished when successive American presidents ordered the CIA to exceed its original mission. When they tasked the agency secretly to overthrow democratic governments, the United States lost its international standing, and its command of a majority in the United Nations General Assembly. Such dubious operations, even the government's embrace of assassination and torture, did not diminish the standing of the CIA in US public opinion. However, domestic interventions did. CIA spying on domestic protesters led to tighter congressional oversight from the 1970s on.

The chapters in A Question of Standing offer a balanced narrative and perspective on recognizable episodes in the CIA's history. They include the Bay of Pigs invasion, the War on Terror, 9/11, the weapons of mass destruction deception, the Iran estimate of 2007, the assassination of Osama bin Laden, and Fake News. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 diminished the CIA and is construed as having been the right solution undertaken for the wrong reasons, reasons that grew out of political opportunism. The book also defends the CIA's exposure of foreign meddling in US elections.
Learn about Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones's top ten classic spy novels.

The Page 99 Test: In Spies We Trust.

The Page 99 Test: We Know All About You.

The Page 99 Test: A Question of Standing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Randee Dawn's "Tune in Tomorrow," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Tune in Tomorrow: The Curious, Calamitous, Cockamamie Story Of Starr Weatherby And The Greatest Mythic Reality Show Ever by Randee Dawn.

The entry begins:
Though I have a movie of every story I write going on in my head as I write it, I don't often fixate on one specific actor to fill any given role. Instead, the characters are an amalgam of several people in most cases, and sometimes are more about the essence of a real-life person than an exact likeness.

Tune in Tomorrow is about a reality TV show run by mythical creatures, for mythical creatures – and starring humans. That made things a little easier for me: Nearly everyone has to be preternaturally handsome or pretty, due to the nature of fae creatures and stars alike. I worked at a soap opera magazine for several years, and was inspired by some of the actors on real-life soaps, but these are not meant to be direct pulls whatsoever.

My protagonist Starr Weatherby – still a struggling actor in her mid-20s, looking for her big break – is the one I've given the most thought to – I imagine she's a bit on the short and curvier side, which makes me think of Bridgerton's and Derry Girls' Nicola Coughlan, mixed with...[read on]
Visit Randee Dawn's website.

The Page 69 Test: Tune in Tomorrow.

Q&A with Randee Dawn.

My Book, The Movie: Tune in Tomorrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 29, 2022

Ten top books highlighting honesty

Reviewers at the Christian Science Monitor tagged ten books that "offer powerful examples of people seeking truth, pursuing justice, and insisting on the dignity of each individual." One title on the list:
Madwoman by Louisa Treger

At a time when public trust in the media is at an all-time low, Louisa Treger’s “Madwoman” is a reminder of how journalism can drive positive change. This work of historical fiction tells the story of Nellie Bly, the first female investigative reporter, who not only demanded justice from powerful institutions, but also insisted on dignity and compassion for the most vulnerable citizens.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Holly Lawford-Smith's "Gender-Critical Feminism"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Gender-Critical Feminism by Holly Lawford-Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:
The expectation used to be that men would be masculine and women would be feminine, and this was assumed to come naturally to them in virtue of their biology. That orthodoxy persists today in many parts of society. On this view, sex is gender and gender is sex.

A new view of gender has emerged in recent years, a view on which gender is an 'identity', a way that people feel about themselves in terms of masculinity or femininity, regardless of their sex. On this view, sex is dismissed as unimportant, and gender is made paramount.

In the rush to celebrate this new view of gender, we have lost sight of a more powerful challenge to the traditional orthodoxy, namely the feminist sex/gender distinction according to which sex is biological and gender is social. On this view, gender is something done to people on the basis of sex. Women are socialised to conform to norms of femininity (and sanctioned for failure), and masculinity and femininity exist in a hierarchy in which femininity is devalued. This view helps us to understand injustice against women, and what we can do about it.

Holly Lawford-Smith introduces and defends gender-critical feminism, a theory and movement that reclaims the sex/gender distinction, insists upon the reality and importance of sex, and continues to understand gender as a way that men and women are made to be, rather than a way they really are.
Visit Holly Lawford-Smith's website.

The Page 99 Test: Not In Their Name.

The Page 99 Test: Gender-Critical Feminism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Ellen Meister's "Take My Husband"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Take My Husband: A Novel by Ellen Meister.

About the book, from the publisher:
Only one thing stands in the way of Laurel Applebaum's happiness…Doug Applebaum.

In this darkly comic novel about a wife whose rope is so frayed it's about to snap, Laurel gets a call that her husband has been in an accident. She imagines the worst. But as she is on the way to the ER, another emotion seizes her. Relief. Doug's death could solve all her problems. No more catering to his incessant demands. Then there's the insurance money. Laurel's dreams seem so close. There's just one problem: Doug is very much alive. Now Laurel has to decide if she is going to do something about it.

Subversive, irreverent and surprisingly poignant, Take My Husband probes the deep corners of a marriage and emerges to find the light. For anyone who's spent a little too much time with a significant other and thought, One of us has got to go.
Visit Ellen Meister's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dorothy Parker Drank Here.

The Page 69 Test: Love Sold Separately.

The Page 69 Test: Take My Husband.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Coffee with a canine: Erin Flanagan & Mavis and Lorna

Featured at Coffee with a Canine: Erin Flanagan & Mavis and Lorna.

The author, on how her dogs got their names:
About a week before Mavis came home, Erin was walking on a bike trail and someone behind her started calling “Mavis! Mavis!” She turned around and was being chased by a pig. The man yelling the name finally emerged and yelled, “Be careful!” Having grown up on a hog farm, Erin knew pigs could get mean so stayed still and hoped for the best. She still doesn’t know if the pig was family or dinner. Mavis’s knicknames are Hoob and F*cknut.

Lorna was named by Barry, a compromise Erin agreed to in order to get a second dog. Lorna also goes by...[read on]
About Erin Flanagan's Blackout, from the publisher:
In this unforgettable psychological thriller, the dark is a terrifying mystery for a woman on the edge.

Seven hard-won months into her sobriety, sociology professor Maris Heilman has her first blackout. She chalks it up to exhaustion, though she fears that her husband and daughter will suspect she’s drinking again. Whatever their cause, the glitches start becoming more frequent. Sometimes minutes, sometimes longer, but always leaving Maris with the same disorienting question: Where have I been?

Then another blackout lands Maris in the ER, where she makes an alarming discovery. A network of women is battling the same inexplicable malady. Is it a bizarre coincidence or something more sinister? What do all the women have in common besides missing time? Or is it who they have in common?

In a desperate search for answers, Maris has no idea what’s coming next―just the escalating paranoia that her memories may be beyond her control, and that everything she knows could disappear in the blink of an eye.
Visit Erin Flanagan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Blackout.

My Book, The Movie: Blackout.

Coffee with a Canine: Erin Flanagan & Mavis and Lorna.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eleven of the best books about restaurant kitchens

At Vulture Megan Hennessey tagged eleven books "if you .. want to immerse yourself in the thrilling (and oftentimes stressful) world of restaurants, or if you just need a cathartic story centered on a kitchen." One title on the list:
Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential is the obvious place to start. The late celebrity chef entertains with wild stories of snorting lines of coke and falling asleep on the beach at sunrise after a night of partying. He advises readers on what to order (and when) based on his years of being inside professional kitchens. But this memoir is also brimming with stories of autocratic chefs who demand total loyalty and the willingness to work through injury or sickness, to say nothing of the abuse they dole out to their staff — an experience The Bear’s Carmy could certainly relate to. Rereading Kitchen Confidential, I’m struck by how Bourdain relishes the challenge to be the best under such horrific circumstances. While he would later speak out against the male-dominated “meathead” restaurant culture, and reflect on the role Kitchen Confidential had in promoting this worldview, this version of Bourdain seems to accept that the abuse he faced was just part of paying his dues in becoming a chef.
Read about another entry on the list.

Kitchen Confidential is among Eric Ripert's six favorite books, Ryan Stradel's ten top books about food, the Telegraph's list of the ten best food and drink books of all time, Grub Street's top 25 food memoirs of all time, the Guardian's top ten food books of the last decade, David Kamp's six books notable for their food prose, Trevor White's ten notable books about dining, and Laura Lippman's top ten memorable memoirs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Johanna Drucker's "Inventing the Alphabet"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Inventing the Alphabet: The Origins of Letters from Antiquity to the Present by Johanna Drucker.

About the book, from the publisher:
The first comprehensive intellectual history of alphabet studies.

Inventing the Alphabet
provides the first account of two-and-a-half millennia of scholarship on the alphabet. Drawing on decades of research, Johanna Drucker dives into sometimes obscure and esoteric references, dispelling myths and identifying a pantheon of little-known scholars who contributed to our modern understandings of the alphabet, one of the most important inventions in human history.

Beginning with Biblical tales and accounts from antiquity, Drucker traces the transmission of ancient Greek thinking about the alphabet’s origin and debates about how Moses learned to read. The book moves through the centuries, finishing with contemporary concepts of the letters in alpha-numeric code used for global communication systems. Along the way, we learn about magical and angelic alphabets, antique inscriptions on coins and artifacts, and the comparative tables of scripts that continue through the development of modern fields of archaeology and paleography.

This is the first book to chronicle the story of the intellectual history through which the alphabet has been “invented” as an object of scholarship.
Visit Johanna Drucker's website.

The Page 99 Test: Inventing the Alphabet.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Marty Wingate reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Marty Wingate, author of The Orphans of Mersea House: A Novel.

Her entry begins:
I find myself immersed in historical fiction lately—not the distant past of medieval battles and Viking invasions, but of the more recent past within the last century or so.

Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym (1953)

Barbara Pym excelled at writing about the lives of the women in the 1950s—what they want to do, what they are allowed to do, and what they do anyway. Jane and Prudence is about two friends from university, one married to a vicar and living in the country where she isn’t sure just what she should be doing, and one single, working and living in London and falling in love regularly with unsuitable men. Jane, the vicar’s wife, is determined to do the right thing, often fails, but stays mostly in good spirits regardless. Meanwhile, in town, Prudence imagines a love affair with her quite ordinary boss, because he once called her by her first name. The story meanders along, but it’s never boring. There is a...[read on]
About The Orphans of Mersea House, from the publisher:
In the tradition of Kristin Harmel and Elise Hooper, USA Today bestseller Marty Wingate transports us to postwar England’s Suffolk coast in a rich historical drama about love lost—and promise found.

England, 1957.
Olive Kersey’s only love never returned from World War II, and now, she’s alone and penniless. Then, the last person she ever expected to see again returns to Southwold. Olive’s childhood friend, Margery Paxton, arrives to claim her inheritance: Mersea House, a stately old home she plans to turn into the town’s only lodging. Olive’s life takes a sunny turn when Margery hires her to run the establishment. But Mersea House holds its own mysteries—and its own dangers.

First, rumors begin to fly when two enigmatic lodgers move in: Hugh Hodson, manager of the town cinema, and Mrs. Abigail Claypool, a recluse and war widow. And then, the completely unexpected: Margery is informed she has a new ward, eleven-year-old Juniper Wyckes, the orphaned daughter of Margery’s first love. Mrs. Lucie Pagett, Children’s Officer at the local authority, informs Margery that Juniper was severely stricken with polio as a child, and makes clear that she could be taken away if her welfare is in jeopardy.

But the past is never far behind for the inhabitants of Mersea House, and looming secrets may destroy these friendships they’ve created.
Visit Marty Wingate's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Librarian Always Rings Twice.

The Page 69 Test: The Librarian Always Rings Twice.

Q&A with Marty Wingate.

The Page 69 Test: The Orphans of Mersea House.

Writers Read: Marty Wingate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Q&A with Randee Dawn

From my Q&A with Randee Dawn, author of Tune in Tomorrow: The Curious, Calamitous, Cockamamie Story Of Starr Weatherby And The Greatest Mythic Reality Show Ever:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The full title of Tune in Tomorrow is actually Tune in Tomorrow: The Curious, Calamitous, Cockamamie Story Of Starr Weatherby And The Greatest Mythic Reality Show Ever. Since I don't want people walking away in the middle of my giving that full title, I stick with Tune in Tomorrow. I think it tells you exactly what you need to know: "Tune in tomorrow" is a classic cliffhanger entertainment phrase and the rest of it is both explanatory and suggests that humor lies ahead. And that's perfect: This is a story about a reality TV show run by mythical creatures, for mythical creatures, but starring humans – particularly, a new hire called Starr Weatherby, who's about to have a whole lot of adventures. To my surprise, the publisher was perfectly happy with including all of the title – though...[read on]
Visit Randee Dawn's website.

The Page 69 Test: Tune in Tomorrow.

Q&A with Randee Dawn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Mahmood Monshipouri's "In the Shadow of Mistrust"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: In the Shadow of Mistrust: The Geopolitics and Diplomacy of US-Iran Relations by Mahmood Monshipouri.

About the book, from the publisher:
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the normalisation of relations between Iran and America has appeared unrealistic if not inconceivable, given that the Iranian state has vigorously pursued an anti-American ideology. This account of US-Iranian relations examines the efficacy of external pressure such as sanctions, as well as domestic grassroots reform movements within the Islamic Republic.

The Obama presidency marked a rare high point in the Washington-Tehran relationship, as negotiations between the two countries and other powers produced an unprecedented nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. However, the Trump administration's unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA, and re-imposition of new sanctions in pursuit of "maximum pressure," had devastating economic consequences, undermining the Iranian middle class, which has consistently been the voice of political moderation and supported Iran's integration into the global economy. Crucially, sanctions have also driven Iran further into the arms of China, while rendering it an even more recalcitrant and aggressive adversary.

Monshipouri's central conviction is that negotiations are pivotal to dismantling the mistrust that has long characterised US-Iranian relations, and to seeking détente between Iran and its Arab neighbours--a critical priority, since gradual US withdrawal from the region is all but certain.
Learn more about In the Shadow of Mistrust at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: In the Shadow of Mistrust.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top road trip novels featuring women

Before her retirement in 2014, Deborah K. Shepherd was the director of a domestic violence program in central Maine. Her essays have been published by Herstry, Persimmon Tree, Women on Writing, and Women Writers, Women’s Books. Her Covid-themed essay was a winner in the Center for Interfaith Relations 2020 Sacred Essay Contest. During an earlier career as a reporter, she wrote for Show Business Newspaper and the Roe Jan Independent, a weekly newspaper in upstate New York. She holds a BFA in drama from the University of Arizona and an MSW from Fordham University.

Shepherd's first novel is So Happy Together.

At Shepherd she tagged five of the "best road trip novels with women in the driver’s seat," including:
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

Whenever I re-read this book, I’m gob-smacked that it’s a debut novel. Taylor Greer just wants to avoid the fate of her peers—unwanted pregnancies and dead-end lives in the small Kentucky town where she was born—when she points her Volkswagen Bug due West in search of something different. She has no idea how different her life will become when she stops at a gas station in Oklahoma and a stranger puts a small child in the passenger seat of her car. The story of how Taylor and the child become a family with the help of some unlikely friends, is one that’s stayed with me from first read. Kingsolver’s writing is quietly and deeply dazzling and paints a stunning picture of what it means to find sanctuary, family, and home in a way you never imagined.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 26, 2022

What is Jillian Medoff reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Jillian Medoff, author of When We Were Bright and Beautiful.

Her entry begins:
I’m a voracious reader, and always carry at least one book wherever I go. Recently, I recently went on a non-fiction binge and read three books in a row: Dopesick (Beth Macy) about the opioid epidemic, Bad Blood (John Carreyrou) about Elizabeth Holmes and the Theranos scandal, and The Premonition (Michael Lewis) about the COVID-19 pandemic.

I love non-fiction books that read like novels, and...[read on]
About When We Were Bright and Beautiful, from the publisher:
You can have everything, and still not have enough.

Cassie Quinn may only be twenty-three, but she knows a few things. One: money can’t buy happiness, but it’s certainly better to have it. Two: family matters most. Three: her younger brother Billy is not a rapist.

When Billy, a junior at Princeton, is arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Cassie races home to Manhattan to join forces with her big brother Nate and their parents, Lawrence and Eleanor. The Quinns scramble to hire the best legal minds money can buy, but Billy fits the all-too-familiar sex-offender profile—white, athletic, and privileged—that makes headlines and sways juries.

Meanwhile, Cassie struggles to understand why Billy’s ex Diana would go this far, even if the breakup was painful. And she knows how the end of first love can destroy someone: Her own years-long affair with a powerful, charismatic man left her shattered, and she’s only recently regained her footing.

As reporters converge outside their Upper East Side landmark building, the Quinns gird themselves for a media-saturated trial, and Cassie vows she’ll do whatever it takes to save Billy. But what if that means exposing her own darkest secrets to the world?

Lightning-paced and psychologically astute as it rockets toward an explosive ending, When We Were Bright and Beautiful is a dazzling novel that asks: who will pay the price when the truth is revealed?
Visit Jillian Medoff's website.

My Book, The Movie: This Could Hurt.

Writers Read: Jillian Medoff (January 2018).

The Page 69 Test: When We Were Bright and Beautiful.

Writers Read: Jillian Medoff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Karen B. Graubart's "Republics of Difference"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Republics of Difference: Religious and Racial Self-Governance in the Spanish Atlantic World by Karen B. Graubart.

About the book, from the publisher:
Spanish monarchs recognized the jurisdictions of many self-governing corporate groups, including Jews and Muslims on the peninsula, indigenous peoples in their American colonies, and enslaved and free people of African descent across the empire. Republics of Difference examines fifteenth-century Seville and sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Lima to show how religiously- and racially-based self-governance functioned in a society with many kinds of law, what effects it had on communities, and why it mattered. By comparing these minoritized communities on both sides of the Spanish Atlantic world, this study offers a new understanding of the distinct standings of those communities in their urban settings. Drawing on legal and commercial records from late medieval Spain and colonial Latin America, Karen B. Graubart paints insightful portraits of residents' everyday lives to underscore the discriminatory barriers as well as the occupational structures, social hierarchies, and networks in which they flourished. In doing so, she demonstrates the limits, benefits, and dangers of living under one's own law in the Spanish empire, including the ways self-governance enabled some communities to protect their practices and cultures over time.
Visit Karen B. Graubart's website.

The Page 99 Test: Republics of Difference.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top SFF books about the multiverse

Tim Pratt is a Hugo Award-winning SF and fantasy author, and has been a finalist for World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Stoker, Mythopoeic, and Nebula Awards, among others. He is the author of over twenty novels, including The Deep Woods and Heirs of Grace, and scores of short stories. His work has been reprinted in The Best American Short Stories, The Year's Best Fantasy, The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, and other nice places. Since 2001 he has worked for Locus, the magazine of the science fiction and fantasy field, where he currently serves as senior editor. He lives in Berkeley, CA with his wife and son.

Pratt's latest novel is Prison of Sleep: Book II of the Journals of Zaxony Delatree.

[Writers Read: Tim Pratt (October 2019); Writers Read: Tim Pratt (April 2022)]

At the author tagged five "books and stories that got me hooked on the concept of the multiverse in the first place, and the ones that expanded my idea of what multiverse stories could accomplish," including:
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

I’ve enjoyed Harrow’s writing since her Hugo Award-winning story “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” (which, as the title suggests, is also about other worlds), and snapped up her debut novel The Ten Thousand Doors of January as soon as it came out. Imagine my delight when I discovered it’s about the exploration of alternate realities, and my even greater delight over the fact that it’s about actual magical doorways to other worlds: I unabashedly love the magic door trope, from Stephen King’s The Drawing of the Three to the weird SyFy Channel mini-series The Lost Room. This is the tale of January Scaller, a young woman who discovers a book (The Ten Thousand Doors) about travel to other worlds—and soon learns it’s not fiction, but a true account. January goes searching for those doors, looking for adventure, but she also learns about her own surprising origins, and the truth about her mysterious family. It’s a beautiful novel, moving and breathtaking.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is among Mike Chen's five recent books featuring superpowered characters and A.K. Larkwood's five favorite fantasy multiverses.

The Page 69 Test: The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Pg. 69: Anoop Judge's "No Ordinary Thursday"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: No Ordinary Thursday: A Novel by Anoop Judge.

About the book, from the publisher:
A family, broken by the shattering turns of a single day, will do anything to find their way back to one another.

Lena Sharma is a successful San Francisco restaurateur. An immigrant, she’s cultivated an image of conservatism and tradition in her close-knit Indian community. But when Lena’s carefully constructed world begins to crumble, her ties to her daughter, Maya, and son, Sameer―both raised in thoroughly modern California―slip further away.

Maya, divorced once, becomes engaged to a man twelve years her junior: Veer Kapoor, the son of Lena’s longtime friend. Immediately Maya feels her mother’s disgrace and the judgment of an insular society she was born into but never chose, while Lena’s cherished friendship frays. Meanwhile, Maya’s younger brother, Sameer, struggles with an addiction that reaches a devastating and very public turning point, upending his already tenuous future.

As the mother, daughter, and son are compromised by tragedy, secrets, and misconceptions, they each must determine what it will take to rebuild their bonds and salvage what’s left of their family.
Visit Anoop Judge's website.

The Page 69 Test: No Ordinary Thursday.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Victor Stater's "Hoax: The Popish Plot that Never Was"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Hoax: The Popish Plot that Never Was by Victor Stater.

About the book, from the publisher:
The extraordinary story of the Popish Plot and how it shaped the political and religious future of Britain

In 1678, a handful of perjurers claimed that the Catholics of England planned to assassinate the king. Men like the “Reverend Doctor” Titus Oates and “Captain” William Bedloe parlayed their fantastical tales of Irish ruffians, medical poisoners, and silver bullets into public adulation and government pensions. Their political allies used the fabricated plot as a tool to undermine the ministry of Thomas Lord Danby and replace him themselves. The result was the trial and execution of over a dozen innocent Catholics, and the imprisonment of many more, some of whom died in custody.

Victor Stater examines the Popish Plot in full, arguing that it had a profound and lasting significance on British politics. He shows how Charles II emerged from the crisis with credit, moderating the tempers of the time, and how, as the catalyst for the later attempt to deny James II his throne through parliamentary action, it led to the birth of two-party politics in England.
Learn more about Hoax: The Popish Plot that Never Was at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Hoax: The Popish Plot that Never Was.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about Israel

Lavie Tidhar was born just ten miles from Armageddon and grew up on a kibbutz in northern Israel. He has since made his home in London. He won the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize for Best British Fiction, was twice longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award and was shortlisted for the CWA Dagger Award and the Rome Prize. He co-wrote Art and War: Poetry, Pulp and Politics in Israeli Fiction, and is a columnist for the Washington Post.

Tidhar's latest work is Maror, "a novel that attempts to write an Israel that couldn’t be written from within."

At the Guardian he tagged ten books that answer the question How does one write of Israel? differently. One title on the list:
The Simulacra by Philip K Dick

I grew up on a kibbutz, on a diet of translated American science fiction, and never saw myself reflected until I read Philip K Dick. My favourite remains The Simulacra, one of his more obscure, mid-period novels bursting with invention, with its time-travelling Israelis and kibbutzim on Mars. Dick’s books gave me the confidence to eventually write my own.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Coffee with a canine: Jehanne Dubrow & Lola and Bandit

Featured at Coffee with a Canine: Jehanne Dubrow & Lola and Bandit.

The author, on how her dogs got their names:
Lola and Bandit came from what was known as “the Vegas litter.” Their sire was Vegas, a very successful show dog. All the puppies in the litter were given Las Vegas-themed names. Lola is a showgirl, as the song goes. And Bandit, well, I guess there are lots of robbers and outlaws in Vegas?

Lola also goes by Mouse. Sometimes she sits and looks up at me like the little rodent in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, smart and quizzical and most certainly in need of a treat.

Bandit is also known as...[read on]
About Taste: A Book of Small Bites by Jehanne Dubrow:
Taste is a lyric meditation on one of our five senses, which we often take for granted. Structured as a series of “small bites,” the book considers the ways that we ingest the world, how we come to know ourselves and others through the daily act of tasting.

Through flavorful explorations of the sweet, the sour, the salty, the bitter, and umami, Jehanne Dubrow reflects on the nature of taste. In a series of short, interdisciplinary essays, she blends personal experience with analysis of poetry, fiction, music, and the visual arts, as well as religious and philosophical texts. Dubrow considers the science of taste and how taste transforms from a physical sensation into a metaphor for discernment.

Taste is organized not so much as a linear dinner served in courses but as a meal consisting of meze, small plates of intensely flavored discourse.
Learn more about the book and author at Jehanne Dubrow's website.

Writers Read: Jehanne Dubrow (April 2010).

Writers Read: Jehanne Dubrow (November 2012).

Coffee with a Canine: Jehanne Dubrow and Argos.

Coffee with a Canine: Jehanne Dubrow & Lola and Bandit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best Illinois books

Edward McClelland is a native of Lansing, Mich., which is also the birthplace of Burt Reynolds and the Oldsmobile.

McClelland’s most recent book, Midnight in Vehicle City: General Motors, Flint, and the Strike That Built the Middle Class, is a narrative account of the 1936-37 Flint Sit Down Strike, which led to the establishment of the United Auto Workers as the nation’s flagship labor union. His previous book, How to Speak Midwestern, is a guide to the speech and sayings of Middle America, which The New York Times called “a dictionary wrapped in some serious dialectology inside a gift book trailing a serious whiff of Relevance.”

At Chicago magazine McClelland tagged ten books to take us on "an armchair journey through Illinois, from Chicago to Cairo, and from the Age of Lincoln to the Age of Obama," including:
The Man with the Golden Arm, Nelson Algren

Wicker Park sure has changed since Nelson Algren lived and wrote there. Just after World War II, when The Man with the Golden Arm takes place, it was a Polish neighborhood of run-down three-flats and even more run down taverns. Frankie Machine returned from the war with a morphine habit – a “monkey on his back,” a term Algren heard among the hustlers and junkies on Division Street, and introduced to the popular vernacular in this novel. Unable to work as a musician due to his addiction, Frankie deals cards in backroom poker games, hence the title. Algren, who began his career during the Depression, was the last of the proletarian novelists, still writing about the urban underclass at a time when Americans were moving to the suburbs.

The Man with the Golden Arm won the first National Book Award, but Algren’s career went into a long decline afterwards, until he finally moved to Paterson, New Jersey, in the 1970s, to research a book on boxer Ruben “Hurricane” Carter. Nonetheless, he is considered the Great Chicago Novelist, namesake of a fountain at Division and Milwaukee, and of the Chicago Tribune’s annual fiction contest.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Man with the Golden Arm is among Geoffrey Johnson's top forty Chicago novels.

The author Pete Anderson applied the Page 69 Test to The Man with the Golden Arm.

There is a strong case for Nelson Algren as The Great Illinois Novelist.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Alfred R. Mele's "Free Will"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Free Will: An Opinionated Guide by Alfred R. Mele.

About the book, from the publisher:
Free Will: An Opinionated Guide offers a clear and straightforward introduction to a vexing topic, from an internationally recognized authority on free will.

What did you do a moment ago? What will you do after you read this? Are you deciding as we speak, or is something else going on in your brain or elsewhere in your body that is determining your actions? Stopping to think this way can freeze us in our tracks. A lot in the world feels far beyond our control--the last thing we need is to question whether we make our own choices in the way we usually assume we do. Questions about free will are so major and consequential that we may prefer not to think about them at all, lest we feel completely lost and unsure of everything we thought we knew!

Free will is certainly important, but it does not need to be daunting. Free Will: An Opinionated Guide offers a clear and straightforward introduction to this vexing topic. Drawing on decades of extensive research in philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology, internationally recognized authority on free will Alfred R. Mele explains and explores the most prominent theories, puzzles, and arguments about free will, all the while presenting his own distinctive take on the topic.

Mele's use of attention-grabbing thought experiments brings deep philosophical issues to life. He tackles the questions already on readers' minds and some they will encounter for the first time, on topics like determinism, neuroscience, and control. Whether this is the only book on free will you will read, or just the beginning of a deeper investigation, you will never think about free will, or the decisions you believe you're making, in the same ways again.
Learn more about Free Will at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Free Will.

--Marshal Zeringue

Liz Parker's "The Family Compound," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Family Compound: A Novel by Liz Parker.

The entry begins:
While I think a great book must live truly within a reader’s imagination, The Family Compound is ripe for adaptation. Five cousins inherit a property in Vermont with one critical stipulation: they must decide what to do in unison. Whether the property stays in the family or gets put on the market, The Family Compound looks at what it means for family to stick together. It’s funny, it’s dramatic, and it’s about growing up when you’re already… grown-up.

Writer/Director-wise, I’d love to see Tom Bezucha take this one. Anyone who claims they don’t rewatch The Family Stone every December is lying to you: Tom wrote and directed a holiday classic, and his ability to weave humor and drama within a family is nearly unmatched.

For Penny and Andrew, two young thirtysomethings finding their way in the world. Julia Garner for Penny, and Zac Efron (with a classic outdoor kid scruff) for Andrew.

For Halsey and Heather, two mid-forty something’s not expecting to fall in love with...[read on]
Visit Liz Parker's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Family Compound.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Q&A with Jerome Charyn

From my Q&A with Jerome Charyn, author of Big Red: A Novel Starring Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles:
What's in a name?

Since Rita and Orson are historical, I can’t really comment on their names. But I can tell you how I created Rusty Redburn.

Names are very important to me, and that’s one reason why I admire Dickens and Nabokov so much. Like them, I love to play with names.

Since Rusty had an ambiguous sexuality, I thought the name “Rusty” could suggest a kind of tomboy or someone who could float between male and female. Today we’d call her nonbinary. And the name Redburn comes from one of my favorite authors, Herman Melville – it is the title of one of his books. The music of language means so much to me, and the sound of Rusty Redburn seemed...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jerome Charyn's website.

The Page 69 Test: Under the Eye of God.

My Book, The Movie: Big Red.

Q&A with Jerome Charyn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top books about how people imagine politics

Eve Fairbanks writes about change: in cities, countries, landscapes, morals, values, and our ideas of ourselves. A former political writer for The New Republic, her essays and reportage have been published in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Guardian, among other outlets. Born in Virginia, she now lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Inheritors: An Intimate Portrait of South Africa's Racial Reckoning is her debut.

At Lit Hub Fairbanks tagged ten favorite titles "about politics [that] dig deep into how people imagine politics—how we imagine what makes people happy and how much change we can tolerate to our self-image." One entry on the list:
Linda Kinstler, Come to This Court and Cry: How the Holocaust Ends

In the most deeply personal and recent book on this list, Kinstler, a writer and a student of architecture, travels to Latvia to trace the story of a paternal relative who worked in a unit responsible for Holocaust atrocities. In Riga, she observes Latvians’ contemporary efforts to decide which of their longtime national heroes must be dethroned for complicity in these historical crimes and which, in their eyes, can be pardoned. When, if ever, can people be forgiven for the past? And why do we need historical heroes, anyway? It’s set in the Baltics, but I can hardly think of one country where these questions aren’t front and center.
Read about another title on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Come to This Court and Cry.

--Marshal Zeringue