Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Jill Fordyce's "Belonging," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Belonging by Jill Fordyce.

The entry begins:
I write in scenes and I love movies, so I have always imagined Belonging as a film. A little about the novel: Jenny Hayes is raised in a dreary, faithless home, so she paints her room the color of a tangerine, collects prayer cards, and surrounds herself with music. She has a self-reliance that both protects her and keeps her from the love and closeness she desires. As an adult, Jenny returns home to confront the wounds of her childhood: the mother who abused her in subtle ways; the father who allowed it; the boy she once loved; the landscape that is beautiful, barren, and stifling; the secrets kept for generations. Spanning three decades, Belonging is about first love and heartbreak, friendship and secrets, family and forgiveness, hometowns and coming of age, and memory and music. The heart of the story is Jenny’s struggle to undo the binds of a childhood that have deeply affected her life, the painful path to love endured by children raised in alcoholic families, and the grim reality of believing you must hide a part of yourself in order to belong.

My dream director for the film adaptation of Belonging would be Sofia Coppola. I loved her most recent film, Priscilla, for several reasons—all of which would be important to a film version of Belonging: a strong female perspective, a commitment to authentic depiction of the time period, a soft retro color palette, and...[read on]
Visit Jill Fordyce's website.

The Page 69 Test: Belonging.

My Book, The Movie: Belonging.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Matthew J. C. Clark's "Bjarki, Not Bjarki"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Bjarki, Not Bjarki: On Floorboards, Love, and Irreconcilable Differences by Matthew J. C. Clark.

About the book, from the publisher:
“You know, I actually think about that an awful lot, like, what is our purpose in life? Why am I here? I always think about some little kid being like, ‘What’d you do with your life?’ And me being like, ‘Well, I sold a bunch of floors.’”

These are the words of Bjarki Thor Gunnarsson, the young man who manufactures the widest, purest, most metaphorical pine floorboards on the planet.

As Matthew Clark—a carpenter by trade—begins researching a magazine-style essay about Bjarki and his American Dream Boards, he comes to discover that nothing is quite as it seems. Santa Claus arrives by helicopter. A wedding diamond disappears. A dead coyote jumps to its feet. And then, at a Thai restaurant in central Maine, Bjarki is transformed into an eggplant.

In Bjarki, Not Bjarki, Clark wants nothing less than to understand everything, to make the world a better place, for you and him to love each other, and to be okay. He desires all of this sincerely, desperately even, and at the same time he proceeds with a light heart, playfully, with humor and awe. As Clark reports on the people and processes that transform the forest into your floor, he also ruminates on gift cards, crab rangoon, and Jean Claude Van Damme. He considers North American colonization, masculinity, the definition of disgusting, his own uncertain certainty. When the boards beneath our feet are so unstable, always expanding and cupping and contracting, how can we make sense of the world? What does it mean to know another person and to connect with them, especially in an increasingly polarized America?
Visit Matthew J. C. Clark's website.

The Page 99 Test: Bjarki, Not Bjarki.

--Marshal Zeringue

Twelve crime novels set in Galveston

Paul French is a British author of books about modern Chinese history and contemporary Chinese society including Midnight in Peking and the 2018 release City of Devils.

At CrimeReads he tagged over a dozen crime novels set in Galveston and the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico. One title on the list:
[S]omething extra special and a personal favourite of mine – Nic Pizzolatto’s Galveston (2014). A perfectly formed and executed short noir from the creator of True Detective, with all the atmosphere and febrile tension you’d expect from the man behind that TV show. Roy Cady is by his own admission ‘a bad man’. With a snow flurry of cancer in his lungs and no one to live for, he’s a walking time-bomb of violence. He’s on the run from New Orleans to Galveston, a journey of seedy bars and fleabag hotels, a world of treacherous drifters, pick-up trucks. Read the book, soak up the Gulf Coast atmosphere and then watch the great movie they made from it too.
Read about another book on the list.

Galveston is among Jeff Somers's must-read noir detective novels and Attica Locke's five books on Texas.

The Page 69 Test: Galveston.

My Book, The Movie: Galveston.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

What is M. A. McLaughlin reading?

Featured at Writers Read: M. A. McLaughlin, author of The Lost Dresses: A Novel.

Her entry begins:
Smile Please, by Jean Rhys

I have been drawn to Rhys’ work for years, from her early novels in the 1920s to her last, brilliant novella, Wide Sargasso Sea, published in 1966. She is a writer’s writer. In every novel, she achieves the perfect balance of lush descriptive imagery with sharp, precise prose—a very difficult thing to achieve. Of all the novelists who have influenced my writing, none have been as significant as Rhys, and I go back to her work time and time again for inspiration. Right now, I’m re-reading her autobiography, Smile Please, begun when she was eighty-five and left unfinished at her death three years later. I always pick it up in January when...[read on]
About The Lost Dresses, from the publisher:
In this rich, atmospheric historical novel, perfect for fans of Brenda Janowitz and Adriana Trigiani, two stories of love and deceit intertwine nearly a hundred years apart in Verona, Italy.

Verona, 1947. Textile historian Marianne Baxter comes to post-war Italy with one thing on her mind: three pristine Victorian dresses, once owned by the famous poet Christina Rossetti. Hidden away in a trunk for nearly a century, they were recently discovered at the Fondazione Museo Menigatti and Marianne’s expertise is needed before they go on exhibit. Still grieving the loss of her husband, the trip is also a reason for Marianne to start over. But when she arrives, she discovers an unsupportive but handsome museum owner, a superstitious local community, and a mysterious letter with a scribbled warning hidden among the dresses.

Verona, 1864. Christina Rossetti returns to her family’s homeland in hopes of leaving her unfulfilled personal life and poetry career in England and beginning a new chapter. After a chance encounter with an old family friend, she finds a gift her father once gave her: a small ornate box with the three Muses carved into the lid. When she stumbles across a secret compartment, Christina finds a letter from her father with an urgent and personal request.

The letter, speaking of a pendant and stolen book that must be returned, connects Marianne and Christina—and leaves them both with more questions than answers. Inspired by the real-life mysteries surrounding poet Christina Rossetti, The Lost Dresses transports readers to Verona with the enchantment and intrigue of Italian art and fashion.
Visit M. A. McLaughlin - Marty Ambrose's website.

My Book, The Movie: Forever Past.

The Page 69 Test: Forever Past.

Q&A with Marty Ambrose.

Writers Read: M. A. McLaughlin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Shaun Gallagher's "The Self and its Disorders"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Self and its Disorders by Shaun Gallagher.

About the book, from the publisher:
Shaun Gallagher offers an account of psychopathologies as disorders of the self. The Self and its Disorders develops an interdisciplinary approach to an 'integrative' perspective in psychiatry. In contrast to some integrative approaches that focus on narrow brain-based conceptions, or on symptomology, this book takes its bearings from embodied and enactive conceptions of human experience. Gallagher offers an understanding of the self as a pattern of processes that include bodily, experiential, affective, cognitive, intersubjective, narrative, ecological and normative factors. He provides a philosophical analysis of the notion of self-pattern; then, drawing on phenomenological, developmental, clinical and experimental evidence, he proposes a method to study the effects of psychopathologies on the self-pattern. The book includes specific discussions of schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, depression, borderline personality disorder, and autism, among other disorders, as well as the effects of torture and solitary confinement. It also explores a variety of issues that relate to therapeutic approaches, including deep brain stimulation, meditation-based interventions, and the use of artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Learn more about The Self and its Disorders at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Self and its Disorders.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight titles about women’s invisible labor

Brandi Wells is an Assistant Professor of creative writing at California State University, Fullerton. They have an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama and a PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California. They’ve published a novella, This Boring Apocalypse, and a chapbook of stories, Please Don’t Be Upset.

Wells's new novel is The Cleaner.

At Electric Lit they tagged "eight books that explore invisible women and their labor," including:
The Woman in the Wall by Patrice Kindl

In this novel, the protagonist is quite literally invisible. Unless she stands the right way and has the proper light, her family can’t even see her. She has to give a little wave or a shout to get their attention. Teachers and classmates can’t see her, so it makes sense that she should stay at home. And she loves this—she makes herself small and reconstructs parts of her house so she can slip along behind walls and reside in closed off rooms. Readers will delight in watching her secret life, which she spends caring for those around her. All the while she watches the lives of her family, as well as friends of her sisters who come and go, and all the activities that make up a life where one is seen.
Read about another entry on the list.

Coffee with a Canine: Patrice Kindl and Dante.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 29, 2024

Q&A with Sarahlyn Bruck

From my Q&A with Sarahlyn Bruck, author of Light of the Fire: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I love this question because I do sweat the title. It takes awhile for me to find the right fit. First off, I like a title that hints at a meaning or theme of my book, and I think Light of the Fire does that.

But this was not my original title. The original title was Offside, which is a soccer reference. It does very little to indicate what the book is really about—two estranged high school besties and former soccer teammates, who are forced to face a twenty-year-old accident that was blamed on someone else. It is something they’ve kept secret for all these years and that subsequently destroyed their friendship. Now, when circumstances bring the two together again, they must decide to what extent they’ll go to keep their secret hidden or face the consequences of finally coming clean. It’s a story about the power of friendship, forgiveness, and healing from past mistakes.

My editor at Lake Union suggested we change the title and came up with Light of the Fire, which hints at the women’s rekindled friendship, the fear they each have as they muster the courage to live outside of their comfort zones, as well as the secret they’ve...[read on]
Visit Sarahlyn Bruck's website.

My Book, The Movie: Light of the Fire.

Q&A with Sarahlyn Bruck.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Laura Pappano's "School Moms"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: School Moms: Parent Activism, Partisan Politics, and the Battle for Public Education by Laura Pappano.

About the book, from the publisher:
An on-the-ground look at the rise of parent activism in response to the far-right attacks on public school education

For well over a century, public schools have been a non-partisan gathering place and vital center of civic life in America--but something has changed. In School Moms, journalist Laura Pappano explores the on-the-ground story of how public schools across the country have become ground zero in a cultural and political war as the far-right have made efforts to seek power over school boards.

Pappano argues that the rise of parent activism is actually the culmination of efforts that began in the 1990s after campaigns to stop sex education largely fizzled. Recent efforts to make public schools more responsive and inclusive, as well as the pandemic, have offered openings the far-right have been waiting for to organize and sway parents, who are frustrated and exhausted by remote learning, objections by teacher’s unions, and shifting directives from school leaders. Groups like Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education are organizing against revised history curricula they have dubbed as "CRT," banning books, pressing for "Don't Say Gay" laws, and asserting "parental rights" to gain control over the review of classroom materials. On the other side, progressive groups like Support Our Schools and Red, Wine & Blue are mobilizing parents to counter such moves.

Combining on-the-ground reporting with research and expert interviews, School Moms will take a hard look at where these battles are happening, what is at stake, and why it matters for the future of our schools.
Visit Laura Pappano's website.

The Page 99 Test: School Moms.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five notable Gothic heroines

Hester Musson studied at Bristol University and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She worked as an actress and autocue operator in London before writing full time and now lives in Scotland.

Musson’s debut novel The Beholders tells the story of Harriet, a young maid newly employed at a grand country house in the 1870s, who finds herself in thrall to her entrancing yet erratic mistress and the much-lauded yet strangely absent master of the household.

At the Waterstones blog Musson shared a list of her five favorite Gothic heroines. One entry on the list:
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Catherine Earnshaw is a heroine I both disliked and wanted to be like in equal measure growing up. Proud, selfish and sometimes mean, she is also driven by a ferocious desire to live and feel deeply, torn between cultured but suffocating gentility and passionate but brutal nature.

Brontë’s tale of a tiny, stifled community on the vast and stormy Yorkshire moors and the almost demonic love affair between Catherine and the foundling Heathcliff came as a shock to contemporary critics – cruelty, coarse language and digging up your lover’s body weren’t quite the Victorian domestic ideal.

The story also makes brilliant use of unreliable narrators – we are brought in closer sympathy with our heroine purely through our distrust of the narrators’ own views of her. Whether dream or ghost, Catherine’s scraping at the window to be let in feels like the plea of every Gothic heroine to be seen for who she really is.
Read about another entry on the list.

Wuthering Heights appears on Harriet Evans's list of ten notable close families in literature, Jane Healey's list of five of the best gothic love stories, Brett Kahr's list of books helpful for understanding blended families, Siri Hustvedt’s ten favorite books list, Robert Masello's list of six classics with supernatural crimes at their center, André Aciman's list of five favorite books about the intensity of a once-in-a-lifetime love, Emily Temple's top ten list of literary classics we (not so) secretly hate, Cristina Merrill's list of eight of the sexiest curmudgeons in romance, Kate Hamer's list of six top novels with a strong evocation of atmosphere, Siri Hustvedt's six favorite books list, Tom Easton's top ten list of fictional "houses which themselves seem to have a personality which affects the story," Melissa Harrison's list of the ten top depictions of British rain, Meredith Borders's list of ten of the scariest gothic romances, Ed Sikov's list of eight top books that got slammed by critics, Amelia Schonbek's top five list of approachable must-read classics, Molly Schoemann-McCann's top five list of the lamest girlfriends in fiction, Becky Ferreira's list of seven of the worst wingmen in literature, Na'ima B. Robert's top ten list of Romeo and Juliet stories, Jimmy So's list of fifteen notable film adaptations of literary classics, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best thunderstorms in literature, ten of the worst nightmares in literature and ten of the best foundlings in literature, Valerie Martin's list of novels about doomed marriages, Susan Cheever's list of the five best books about obsession, and Melissa Katsoulis' top 25 list of book to film adaptations. It is one of John Inverdale's six best books and Sheila Hancock's six best books.

The Page 99 Test: Wuthering Heights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Pg. 69: Jill Fordyce's "Belonging"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Belonging by Jill Fordyce.

About the book, from the publisher:
Belonging is a story about the events that transform our lives: the innocence and heartache of your first love, the confusion and sadness of a cherished friendship slipping away, the way we are all shaped by the places we come from, and the fierce desire to make a family when your own family has failed.

Jenny is thirteen when an epic dust storm rolls into her central California town in December 1977. Bedridden after contracting a life-threatening illness in the storm and suffering a shocking loss, Jenny realizes she will never be cared for by the mother who both neglects and terrifies her or the father who allows it. She relies on her cousin, Heather, who has the loving home Jenny longs for; her beloved great-uncle, Gino, the last link between generations; her best friend, Henry, a free spirit with whom she shares an inexplicable bond; and earnest baseball star, Billy, who becomes her first love. After a stunning turn of events in both their lives, Jenny and Henry leave for college in LA together in the summer of 1982—Jenny fleeing a broken heart, and Henry running from something he can’t reveal, even to his best friend. When she returns home years later, the life Jenny so carefully created collides with the one she left behind.

Spanning three decades, Belonging is about first love and heartbreak, friendship and secrets, family and forgiveness, hometowns and coming of age, and memory and music. The heart of the story is Jenny’s struggle to undo the binds of a childhood that have deeply affected her life, the painful path to love endured by children raised in alcoholic families, and the grim reality of believing you must hide a part of yourself in order to belong.
Visit Jill Fordyce's website.

The Page 69 Test: Belonging.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thirty of literature's best parents

A few years ago at Mental Floss, Linda Rodriguez McRobbie tagged thirty of the best parents in literature. One parent and book on the list:
The Man // The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Like much of his work, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is grim. Really, really grim. But the post-apocalyptic travelogue is also a testament to the love between a father, the unnamed man, and his son. The Man is the kind of parent we’d like to have in the aftermath of some cataclysmic world event. We just desperately hope we wouldn’t ever need him.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Road appears on Robert Lee Brewer's list of the ten best dystopian novels ever written, Pedro Hoffmeister's list of five titles with lessons to turn a post-apocalyptic novel into a thriller, Malcolm Devlin’s list of eight zombie stories without any zombies, Michael Christie's list of ten novels to reconfigure our conception of nature for the better, Emily Temple's list of the ten books that defined the 2000s, Ceridwen Christensen's list of ten novels that end their apocalypses on a beach, Steph Post's top ten list of classic (and perhaps not so classic) road trip books, a list of five of the best climate change novels, Claire Fuller's top five list of extreme survival stories, Justin Cronin's top ten list of world-ending novels, Rose Tremain's six best books list, Ian McGuire's ten top list of adventure novels, Alastair Bruce's top ten list of books about forgetting, Jeff Somers's lists of five science fiction novels that really should be considered literary classics and eight good, bad, and weird dad/child pairs in science fiction and fantasy, Amelia Gray's ten best dark books list, Weston Williams's top fifteen list of books with memorable dads, ShortList's roundup of the twenty greatest dystopian novels, Mary Miller's top ten list of the best road books, Joel Cunningham's list of eleven "literary" novels that include elements of science fiction, fantasy or horror, Claire Cameron's list of five favorite stories about unlikely survivors, Isabel Allende's six favorite books list, the Telegraph's list of the 15 most depressing books, Joseph D’Lacey's top ten list of horror books, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five unforgettable fathers from fiction, Ken Jennings's list of eight top books about parents and kids, Anthony Horowitz's top ten list of apocalypse books, Karen Thompson Walker's list of five notable "What If?" books, John Mullan's list of ten of the top long walks in literature, Tony Bradman's top ten list of father and son stories, Ramin Karimloo's six favorite books list, Jon Krakauer's five best list of books about mortality and existential angst, William Skidelsky's list of the top ten most vivid accounts of being marooned in literature, Liz Jensen's top 10 list of environmental disaster stories, the Guardian's list of books to change the climate, David Nicholls' top ten list of literary tear jerkers, and the Times (of London) list of the 100 best books of the decade. In 2009 Sam Anderson of New York magazine claimed "that we'll still be talking about [The Road] in ten years."

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Kim Hong Nguyen's "Mean Girl Feminism"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Mean Girl Feminism: How White Feminists Gaslight, Gatekeep, and Girlboss by Kim Hong Nguyen.

About the book, from the publisher:
White feminists performing to maintain privilege

Mean girl feminism encourages girls and women to be sassy, sarcastic, and ironic as feminist performance. Yet it coopts its affect, form, and content from racial oppression and protest while aiming meanness toward people in marginalized groups.

Kim Hong Nguyen’s feminist media study examines four types of white mean girl feminism prominent in North American popular culture: the bitch, the mean girl, the power couple, and the global mother. White feminists mime the anger, disempowerment, and resistance felt by people of color and other marginalized groups. Their performance allows them to pursue and claim a special place within established power structures, present as intellectually superior, substitute nonpolitical playacting for a politics of solidarity and community, and position themselves as better, more enlightened masters than patriarchy. But, as Nguyen shows, the racialized meanness found across pop culture opens possibilities for building an intersectional feminist politics that rejects performative civility in favor of turning anger into liberation.
Learn more about Mean Girl Feminism at the University of Illinois Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Mean Girl Feminism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Sarahlyn Bruck's "Light of the Fire," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Light of the Fire: A Novel by Sarahlyn Bruck.

The entry begins:
If they make Light of the Fire into a film, here’s who I’d like to play the lead roles of Beth, Ally, and Jordan.

Beth is a professional soccer player—a goal keeper. I envision her as tall and lanky, with far reaching arms, and long, light brown hair that’s almost always pulled into a ponytail. Originally, I envisioned actual soccer players for the two leads as I wrote the first draft. But the actress who could capture her athleticism, competitiveness, and independence would be someone like Mackenzie Davis. She’s tall, the right age, and she has something about her that could inhabit the character of Beth.

Ally used to play soccer, too. She’s smaller than Beth and has a classic...[read on]
Visit Sarahlyn Bruck's website.

My Book, The Movie: Light of the Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight books on love, loss, & betrayal in the Caribbean

Donna Hemans is the author of The House of Plain Truth and two previous novels, River Woman and Tea By the Sea, which won the Lignum Vitae Una Marson Award. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Electric Literature, Ms. Magazine, and Crab Orchard Review, among others. She is also the owner of DC Writers Room, a co-working studio for writers based in Washington, DC. Born in Jamaica, she lives in Maryland, and received her undergraduate degree in English and Media Studies from Fordham University and an MFA from American University.

[Q&A with Donna Hemans]

At Electric Lit Hemans tagged "eight Caribbean family sagas [that] portray families formed by biology or culture, proximity or shared experiences." One title on the list:
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

When Eleanor Bennett dies, she leaves behind a long voice recording for her children, Byron and Benny, along with a traditional black cake. Eleanor’s message describes a swimmer who escapes her island on her wedding day just after her new husband collapses and dies, and a baby born during her time in England. Estranged siblings, Byron and Benny, are both reeling with the secrets their mother has chosen to disclose only after her death, the new family stories they uncover, and their own broken relationship. The book explores how family stories can both upend and unite a family.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 26, 2024

Pg. 99: Christoph Adami's "The Evolution of Biological Information"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Evolution of Biological Information: How Evolution Creates Complexity, from Viruses to Brains by Christoph Adami.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why information is the unifying principle that allows us to understand the evolution of complexity in nature

More than 150 years after Darwin’s revolutionary On the Origin of Species, we are still attempting to understand and explain the amazing complexity of life. Although we now know how evolution proceeds to build complexity from simple ingredients, quantifying this complexity is still a difficult undertaking. In this book, Christoph Adami offers a new perspective on Darwinian evolution by viewing it through the lens of information theory. This novel theoretical stance sheds light on such matters as how viruses evolve drug resistance, how cells evolve to communicate, and how intelligence evolves. By this account, information emerges as the central unifying principle behind all of biology, allowing us to think about the origin of life—on Earth and elsewhere—in a systematic manner.

Adami, a leader in the field of computational biology, first provides an accessible introduction to the information theory of biomolecules and then shows how to apply these tools to measure information stored in genetic sequences and proteins. After outlining the experimental evidence of the evolution of information in both bacteria and digital organisms, he describes the evolution of robustness in viruses; the cooperation among cells, animals, and people; and the evolution of brains and intelligence. Building on extensive prior work in bacterial and digital evolution, Adami establishes that (expanding on Dobzhansky’s famous remark) nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of information. Understanding that information is the foundation of all life, he argues, allows us to see beyond the particulars of our way of life to glimpse what life might be like in other worlds.
Learn more about The Evolution of Biological Information at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Evolution of Biological Information.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best books about whistleblowers

James Ball is the global editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. He was on the Pulitzer Prize winning teams that reported the Edward Snowden leaks and the Panama Papers.

At the Guardian he tagged five top books about whistleblowers, including:
Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg is the former Pentagon official and security contractor whose growing despondency at the Vietnam war led him to painstakingly photocopy 7,000 pages of classified documents and share them with newspapers.

Nixon’s attempts to secure Ellsberg’s conviction led to the appointment of his infamous “plumbers”, whose burglary of the Watergate Hotel eventually ended Nixon. This 2002 autobiography is Ellsberg’s account of his extraordinary life as a whistleblower.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Q&A with Alexander Sammartino

From my Q&A with Alexander Sammartino, author of Last Acts: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

A good amount, I think. It establishes a mood, a feeling.

What's in a name?

Oh, so much. Theories about naming—like Kripke’s idea that the meaning of a name is identical to its referent, or Frege’s notion that there’s some abstract sense a name also refers to—have long fascinated me. When writing, I try to take each opportunity for a name as its own situation. Sometimes I might choose a name to create a sense of geographic or historical realism, and, other times, I might choose something that sounds poetic or funny to call extra attention to that character or that location. The names all depend on...[read on]
Visit Alexander Sammartino's website.

The Page 69 Test: Last Acts.

Q&A with Alexander Sammartino.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jürgen Buchenau's "The Sonoran Dynasty in Mexico"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Sonoran Dynasty in Mexico: Revolution, Reform, and Repression by Jürgen Buchenau.

About the book, from the publisher:
Two generals from the northwestern state of Sonora, Álvaro Obregón and Plutarco Elías Calles, dominated Mexico between 1920 and 1934, having risen to prominence in the course of the Mexican Revolution. Torn between popular demands for ending the privileges of wealthy foreign investors and opposition by a hawkish U.S. administration and enemies at home, the two generals and their allies from their home state mixed radical rhetoric with the accommodation of entrenched interests.

In The Sonoran Dynasty in Mexico Jürgen Buchenau tells the story of this ruling group, which rejected the Indigenous and Catholic past during the decades of the revolution and aimed to reinvent Mexico along the lines of the modern and secular societies in western Europe and the United States. In addition to Obregón and Calles, the Sonoran Dynasty included Adolfo de la Huerta and Abelardo L. Rodríguez, four Sonorans among six presidents in less than two decades. Although the group began with the common aims of nationalism, modernization, central political control, and enrichment, Buchenau argues that this group progressively fell apart in a series of bloody conflicts that reflected broader economic, political, and social disagreements. By analyzing the dynasty from its origins through its eventual downfall, Buchenau presents an innovative look at the negotiation of power and state formation in revolutionary Mexico.
Learn more about The Sonoran Dynasty in Mexico at the University of Nebraska Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Sonoran Dynasty in Mexico.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eleven top weird and wild books of Texas

Elizabeth Gonzalez James is the author of the novels Mona at Sea (2021) and The Bullet Swallower (f2024), as well as the chapbook, Five Conversations About Peter Sellers (2023).

Originally from South Texas, she now lives with her family in Massachusetts.

At CrimeReads the author tagged eleven "books that complicated my picture of the American west, specifically Texas (my home state), and delighted my taste for the weird." One title on the list:
Charles Portis, The Dog of the South

Most people have heard of True Grit, Portis’s blockbuster novel of how much butt fourteen-year-old girls can kick, even in the wild west. But The Dog of the South, which is begging for a Coen brothers adaptation, is equally funny and surprising. Ray Midge drives across Texas and all the way into Belize to chase after the Ford Torino his wife took when she ran off with her ex-husband. On the way Midge thinks about the Civil War, and runs across a bizarre cast of characters, including Dr. Reo Symes, a leech and extraordinary bullshitter. Come for the journey; stay for the prodigious use of exclamation marks.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Dog of the South is among Bob Odenkirk's six favorite books and the Star Tribune's eight funny books for dire times.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Pg. 69: Alexander Sammartino "Last Acts"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Last Acts: A Novel by Alexander Sammartino.

About the book, from the publisher:
Following a near-death experience, an entrepreneurial father-and-son duo wreak havoc and fend off bankruptcy in this unflinching portrayal of the absurdities of American life.

Even though his firearms store is failing, things are looking up for David Rizzo. His son, Nick, has just recovered after a near-fatal overdose, which means one thing: Rizzo can use Nick’s resurrection to create the most compelling television commercial for a gun emporium that the world has ever seen. After all, this is America, Rizzo tells himself. Surely anything is possible. But the relationship between father and son is fragile, mired in mutual disappointment. And when the pair embarks on their scheme to avoid bankruptcy, a high stakes crash of hijinks, hope, and disaster ensues.

Featuring a cast of unforgettable characters, this razor-sharp social satire lays bare both the gun and opioid crises. Fans of Don DeLillo and Stephen Markley will be thrilled by this smart, inventive debut.
Visit Alexander Sammartino's website.

The Page 69 Test: Last Acts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Dane Kennedy's "Mungo Park’s Ghost"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Mungo Park's Ghost: The Haunted Hubris of British Explorers in Nineteenth-Century Africa by Dane Kennedy.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 1816 the British sent two large, ambitious expeditions to Africa, one to follow the Niger River to its outlet, the other to trace the Congo River to its source. Their shared goal was to complete the unfinished mission of Mungo Park, who had disappeared during a journey to determine whether the Niger and the Congo were the same river. Both quests ended disastrously and were soon forgotten. Telling the full story of these failed expeditions for the first time, Dane Kennedy argues that they provide fresh insight into British ambitions in Africa. He places them in the contexts of the imperial rivalry with France, the slave trade and the abolition campaign, and the independent power wielded by African states and peoples. He also shows that they were haunted by the same sense of hubris that would afflict many of the expeditions that followed. This hubris was Mungo Park's ghost.
Learn more about Mungo Park's Ghost at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Mungo Park's Ghost.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best postcolonial novels

Geneva Abdul is a reporter and feature writer for the Guardian. One title from her list of five of the best postcolonial novels:
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Set in the foothills of the Himalayas, the novel – close to the author’s own family story – tells of a 1980s rebellion of the ethnic Nepalese in the town of Kalimpong, revolving around an affair between 17-year-old Sai and a maths tutor.

A revealing moment comes when two Anglophilic Indian women discuss VS Naipaul’s Bend in the River, describing the author – often a divisive Nobel laureate known for exploring exile and colonialism unsparingly – as “strange” and “stuck in the past”. At 35, the novel made Desai the youngest woman to win the Booker prize in 2006.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Pg. 99: Luke William Hunt's "Police Deception and Dishonesty"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Police Deception and Dishonesty: The Logic of Lying by Luke William Hunt.

About the book, from the publisher:
Cooperative relations steeped in honesty and good faith are a necessity for any viable society. This is especially relevant to the police institution because the police are entrusted to promote justice and security. Despite the necessity of societal honesty and good faith, the police institution has embraced deception, dishonesty, and bad faith as tools of the trade for providing security. In fact, it seems that providing security is impossible without using deception and dishonesty during interrogations, undercover operations, pretextual detentions, and other common scenarios. This presents a paradox related to the erosion of public faith in the police institution and the weakening of the police's legitimacy.

In Police Deception and Dishonesty, Luke William Hunt--a philosophy professor and former FBI Special Agent--seeks to solve this puzzle by showing that many of our assumptions about policing and security are unjustified. Specifically, they are unjustified in the way many of our assumptions about security were unjustified after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when state institutions embraced a variety of brutal rules and tactics in pursuit of perceived security enhancements. The police are likewise unjustified in their pursuit of many supposed security enhancements that rely on proactive deception, dishonesty, and bad faith. Hunt shows that there are compelling reasons to think that the police's widespread use of proactive deception and dishonesty is inconsistent with fundamental norms of political morality regarding fraud and the rule of law. Although there are times and places for dishonesty and deception in policing, Hunt evocatively illustrates why those times and places should be much more limited than current practices suggest.
Visit Luke William Hunt's website.

The Page 99 Test: Police Deception and Dishonesty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nine top literary mysteries with a big winter mood

Ceillie Clark-Keane is a writer and editor based in Boston. Her work has been published by Electric Literature, the Ploughshares blog, Bustle, Oh Reader, and other outlets. She is a nonfiction reader for Salamander and Pangyrus.

At Electric Lit Clark-Keane tagged nine "cozy books set in warm, dusty libraries and grand old houses," including:
The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

Like [A.S. Byatt's] Possession, this novel begins with a fictional discovery. In her final year before retirement, historian Helen Watt receives a call from a former student who found seventeenth-century documents in his home. The documents include household accounts as well as correspondence of a rabbi who lived in the house, written by the rabbi’s scribe, a young woman named Ester. Helen, who is ill, begrudgingly enlists the support of American graduate student Aaron Levy. Together, Helen and Aaron work quickly to translate the documents, search for the identity of the scribe, and uncover connections to prominent historical figures before Helen’s retirement—and before the documents become available to other, more prominent scholars. In the novel’s 1660s storyline, the stakes are even higher, particularly with the plague looming. While the stakes are high, the pacing is measured and Kadish’s writing is beautiful, dense with detailed descriptions. Including plenty of cold winter drafts and thick knit sweaters.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Weight of Ink is among Kate Manning's eleven novels about women misbehaving & making history, Ruth Reichl's top six recent novels to cook to and Melissa Ragsdale's eight books that go right along with the spirit of Hanukkah.

My Book, The Movie: The Weight of Ink.

The Page 69 Test: The Weight of Ink.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 22, 2024

Q&A with Lea Carpenter

From my Q&A with Lea Carpenter, author of Ilium: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Probably not enough, if I am honest. The story of the novel all started when I saw a series, or “cycle,” of paintings by Cy Twombly, one of my favorite artists, called Fifty Days at Iliam. Iliam, for Twombly, was with an “a” not a “u,” which makes it foreign, yet uncanny. The paintings are Twombly’s take on the Trojan War, which is a war that has hung around, or over, so much of what I have written, beginning with Eleven Days, my first novel. That title referred to the eleven-day period at the end of the Trojan war when Achilles agrees to stand down his army to allow Priam to properly bury his son, Hector, who was killed by Achilles to avenge the death of Achilles’s best friend, Patroclus. Cycles of violence: the idea that all conflicts are at risk of becoming “forever” (the word Dexter Filkins brilliantly affixed to the terror wars) is at the center of a lot of what I write and is certainly at the center of Ilium. Hopefully by the end of the novel, which I close with a quote from Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey, the reader will like the reference in the title. I have...[read on]
Q&A with Lea Carpenter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Grant Olwage's "Paul Robeson's Voices"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Paul Robeson's Voices by Grant Olwage.

About the book, from the publisher:
Paul Robeson's Voices is a meditation on Robeson's singing, a study of the artist's life in song. Music historian Grant Olwage examines Robeson's voice as it exists in two broad and intersecting domains: as sound object and sounding gesture, specifically how it was fashioned in the contexts of singing practices, in recital, concert, and recorded performance, and as subject of identification. Olwage asks: how does the voice encapsulate modes of subjectivity, of being?

Combining deep archival research with musicological theory, this book is a study of voice as central to Robeson's sense of self and his politics. Paul Robeson's Voices charts the dialectal process of Robeson's vocal and self-discovery, documenting some of the ways Robeson's practice revised the traditions of concert singing in the first half of the twentieth century and how his voice manifested as resistance.
Learn more about Paul Robeson's Voices at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Paul Robeson's Voices.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven notable mysteries set in the Pacific Northwest

When Paula Charles isn't writing under the towering trees of the Pacific Northwest, she can be found in the garden with her hands in the dirt or sitting on her front porch with a good book and a glass of iced tea. She has a love for small towns, ghost stories, and pie. During her childhood, she grew up in a town suspiciously resembling the fictional Pine Bluff, Oregon where she trailed behind her grandmother in the family's hardware store until her grandmother would get fed up and put her to work counting nails. She is a member of Sisters in Crime. Charles lives on a small farm in Southwestern Washington with her husband, two furry dogs, two naughty goats, a handful of cackling chickens, a teeny tiny bunny rabbit, and one adventurous kitty cat.

Her new novel is Hammers and Homicide.

At CrimeReads Charles tagged "seven crime reads that overflow with the spirit of Cascadia," including:
Death on Tap, Ellie Alexander

...Ellie Alexander’s Death on Tap takes us east to the Bavarian-themed village of Leavenworth in the Cascade Mountains. This is the first in a series where craft beer brewer Sloan Krause brews up tasty pints and manages to get herself entangled in murder mysteries. In Death on Tap, Sloan has left her husband and her position at the Krause family brewery. She’s gone to work at Nitro, a new brewery in town and is settling in just fine. But when Sloan finds another brewer dead in the fermenting tub with Nitro’s secret recipe in hand, the calm she was beginning to find froths over. Alexander does a great job of bringing the reader right into the heart of the Cascades with her vibrant descriptions of snow-encrusted peaks and crisp mountain air.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Death on Tap.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Pg. 99: Julia F. Irwin's "Catastrophic Diplomacy"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Catastrophic Diplomacy: US Foreign Disaster Assistance in the American Century by Julia F. Irwin.

About the book, from the publisher:
Catastrophic Diplomacy offers a sweeping history of US foreign disaster assistance, highlighting its centrality to twentieth-century US foreign relations. Spanning over seventy years, from the dawn of the twentieth century to the mid-1970s, it examines how the US government, US military, and their partners in the American voluntary sector responded to major catastrophes around the world. Focusing on US responses to sudden disasters caused by earthquakes, tropical storms, and floods—crises commonly known as "natural disasters"—historian Julia F. Irwin highlights the complex and messy politics of emergency humanitarian relief.

Deftly weaving together diplomatic, environmental, military, and humanitarian histories, Irwin tracks the rise of US disaster aid as a tool of foreign policy, showing how and why the US foreign policy establishment first began contributing aid to survivors of international catastrophes. While the book focuses mainly on bilateral assistance efforts, it also assesses the broader international context in which the US government and its auxiliaries operated, situating their humanitarian responses against the aid efforts of other nations, empires, and international organizations. At its most fundamental level, Catastrophic Diplomacy demonstrates the importance of international disaster assistance—and humanitarian aid more broadly—to US foreign affairs.
Learn more about Catastrophic Diplomacy at the University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Catastrophic Diplomacy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top island thrillers

Alex Michaelides was born and raised in Cyprus. He has an M.A. in English Literature from Trinity College, Cambridge University, and an M.A. in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. The Silent Patient was his first novel, debuting at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and has sold more than 6.5 million copies worldwide. The rights have been sold in a record-breaking 51 countries, and the book has been optioned for film by Plan B. His second novel, The Maidens, was an instant New York Times bestseller and has been optioned for television by Miramax Television and Stone Village.

Michaelides's new novel is The Fury.

At the Waterstones blog he tagged five of his favorite island thrillers, including:
The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith

This novel is set partly in Athens and also Crete – the Cretan section is particularly powerful, with a deadly visit to the Minoan ruin of Knossos, and the equally deadly love triangle between its central characters. It has been adapted for the screen twice – unsurprisingly, as Highsmith brings glamour, sexiness and her trademark duplicity to the island thriller. Her writing is never less than compelling and this is the perfect book to read on a Greek holiday.
Read about another entry on his list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Pg. 69: Thomas Perry's "Hero"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Hero: A Novel by Thomas Perry.

About the book, from the publisher:
A private security agent finds that being branded as the City of Angels’ latest hero could also make her its next victim.…

Justine Poole takes her job seriously providing security for wealthy and high-profile Hollywood stars. When she prevents a brazen robbery at the Beverly Hills home of two of her clients―killing two of the five armed robbers in the process―she is initially lauded in the media as a local hero. But the spotlight soon puts her in the crosshairs of the crime kingpin behind the burglaries.

Unable to stand the embarrassment of his lackeys having been defeated by a lone woman, Mr. Conger puts in a call to the one man who can make his problems disappear. Known for his swiftness and subtlety, Leo Sealy will kill anyone for a price. All he needs is a name and a face, any starting point to pick up his victim’s trail. Luckily for him, the local news is as eager as he is for any information about the heroic bodyguard―and quick to broadcast their findings, regardless of what it might mean for her safety. But Sealy isn’t prepared for just how quick and resourceful Justine can be. So begins a cat and mouse game between two people who know more about how to take down one’s enemies than anyone else in the business.

Justine finds herself up against both a hardened killer and a fickle media landscape that can just as soon turn on her as celebrate her in this high-stakes thriller from the author of The Old Man.
Visit Thomas Perry's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Silence.

The Page 99 Test: Nightlife.

The Page 69/99 Test: Fidelity.

The Page 69/99 Test: Runner.

The Page 69 Test: Strip.

The Page 69 Test: The Informant.

The Page 69 Test: The Boyfriend.

The Page 69 Test: A String of Beads.

The Page 69 Test: Forty Thieves.

The Page 69 Test: The Old Man.

The Page 69 Test: The Bomb Maker.

The Page 69 Test: The Burglar.

The Page 69 Test: A Small Town.

Writers Read: Thomas Perry (December 2019).

Q&A with Thomas Perry.

The Page 69 Test: Eddie's Boy.

The Page 69 Test: The Left-Handed Twin.

The Page 69 Test: Murder Book.

The Page 69 Test: Hero.

--Marshal Zeringue