Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hometown Heroes: Some Locals You Should Know, Pt 2 (Doris Betts)

In the last “installment” of Hometown Heroes, I talked about how much I love mountain-man and accomplished NC author Ron Rash. In this one, I’m going to steer us closer to the Piedmont to discuss the recently deceased and wildly talented Doris Betts.

A short story girl at heart, my first encounter with Doris Betts began in a Southern Literature class at UNC my senior year. Jaded, worldly, and obviously as sage as they come, I had, by that point, grown pretty bored of most of the required reading my professors had assigned that semester. Then came Betts’ short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” -- perfectly paced, beautifully-rendered, sympathetic characters, and themes that unfold like a blossom under water. It centers on a “homely” woman (quotation marks to indicate a narrator who is lovably unreliable and insecure), whose journey to see a religious healer in the mid-century American South forces her to confront her perceptions of herself as they compare to the rest of the world’s.

The writing is that rare-as-they-come mix of effortless and devastating. I would read a few sentences speedily, and then stop in my tracks at some gorgeous turn of phrase. By no means flowery, Betts encompasses what I see as a real woman’s writer. The protagonist isn’t daffy or shallow, and her superficialities peel back to reveal the depth of a real human. Fellows, that doesn’t mean this isn’t for you. Like Henry James’ “Portrait of a Lady,” a flesh-and-blood character is enjoyable no matter what sex you happen to be.

Her short story collection Beasts of the Southern Wild (no connection to the movie, so far as I can tell) is at turns surreal, grounded, and nightmarish, like Kafka strained through a molasses sieve (is that even a real thing?). Come pick up a copy here at Flyleaf!

So Many Books...

Hoping that readers haven’t abandoned me after my long hiatus, I have an exciting list of titles for you to check out.  These are amazing books that have either recently been published or are about to appear on Flyleaf’s shelves.  Holiday gifts, anyone?

I haven’t read all of these, but I’ve read a few and people in the store have read others.  Always ask the staff about a book if you are uncertain.  They are very enthusiastic readers.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis
The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
NW by Zadie Smith
Elsewhere: A Memoir by Richard Russo
Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie
Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe
In Sunlight and In Shadow by Mark Helprin
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

For those who want to support local authors/photographers in their work I'd like to recommend that you check out Eric Muller's book, Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II   
It's both lovely and haunting.  

In addition, photographer (and friend) Alex Harris has a new book out with E.O. Wilson entitled Why We Are Here:  Mobile and the Spirit of a Southern City.  I am biased, but I think this is a spectacular book.  

And coming soon to Flyleaf to read from her new book, The Inexplicables, Cherie Priest.  I have just finished Boneshaker and enjoyed it.  I am looking forward to hearing Cherie read from the new book on Friday, 30 November.  

Friday, November 2, 2012


    Today, a regular (and, dare I say, a favorite) customer came in with a quandary. In the midst of Scott Hutchins’ A Working Theory of Love (a book I haven’t read, but which everyone, including this beloved customer, seems to have enjoyed), he still couldn’t find the get-up-and-go to get excited about reading. As a certified expert in the field of prescriptive books (self-proclaimed), I had only one prescription: a slump-buster.
    Both fortunately and unfortunately, the phrase means something different to everyone. I won’t begin to tell you your own perfect slump-buster, because you might have different leanings than I do. Where some might go for Stephen King’s The Shining, I typically reach for something in our Young Adult section. Either way, slump-busters are the perfect excuse to whip out something you might otherwise have deemed too fluffy, juvenile, plot-based, or what have you. All bets are off, and all judgments get put aside (for at least a few chapters or so).
    Here are some of my favorite, most trusted reads that have gotten me out of a slump or two in the past:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hometown Heroes: Some Locals You Should Know, Pt 1 (Ron Rash)

It ain’t a secret: the Tar Heel State claims a hefty swath of the nation’s literati. In the same way that we boast the best of so many things – sweet potatoes, barbeque, whatever kind of pharmaceutical alchemy they’re working on in RTP –  North Carolinians can proudly point to enclaves like Hillsborough and rattle off a list of impressive names a few paragraphs long. Obviously bookstores, particularly indie ones, often rely on local authors and publishers. They’re our lifeblood, and if it’s between Jill McCorkle and Jodi Picoult, you know which lady’s wares we’re rooting for you to buy. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Interview, Pt. I: Nathan Kotecki, author of Suburban Strange

In preparation for tonight's reading at 7, I sat down with Nathan Kotecki on an appropriately overcast afternoon a few weeks ago to talk about his new YA novel, Suburban Strange. As a first time author, Kotecki's story is especially interesting -- an architect, DJ, and now, an author of supernatural fiction, the Durhamite & I discussed first-time authorship, Henry James, and Goth culture. This is part one of a two-part interview.

LG: What drove you to write the book in the first place?

NK: I really struggle to answer that question, because it really happens so spontaneously. I’ve always been a scribbler, even just having that notebook by the bed. You write speculative fiction but
it’s really self-indulgent and you don’t think it’s going to go anywhere. It was right around Halloween of 2008. I started with this very basic idea of this girl who kind of finds herself in the midst of this alternative group and has to decide whether it’s the right thing for her or not. It was one of those things that I just kind of kept writing to find out what happened. It was very organic.
I was pretty much 80% of the way through this before it really occurred to me that I was writing
a novel and I had to decide if I was going to be serious about it and finish it and see if there was
something to do. I hope it doesn’t sound like a cop-out, but it was really so organic that I kind of
surprised myself.

LG: Was it always a series in your mind, or did it start as one book?

NK: No. When I finished it, it was very much a stand-alone. It wasn’t until I was in the process
of shopping for an agent that I thought, “OK, what are the kinds of questions they’re going
to ask me that I should be prepared to answer.” And that occurred to me, that that would be
one that I’d be likely to be asked. I thought, okay, could this be a series? The more I thought
about it, the more obvious it was that it really could. It was at that point that I stepped back and
thought, “What are the ways that I can use this to lay the groundwork for an ongoing series?”
Originally, it was a stand-alone, and it wasn’t until I actually took myself seriously that I
thought, “No, actually, this is a story I could continue telling and be very happy.”

LG: Had you read a lot of YA before you started writing this?

NK: No. None.

LG: Really?

NK: I am a classic literature snob. I think that probably shows up, too.

LG: I definitely think it did.

NK: I’ve never read Twilight, I’ve never read Harry Potter. I basically spent these last six months
trying to nibble around the edges and find out how I fit into this genre. But no, it was one of
these things where I kind of discovered I’d written a young adult novel in the same way that I
discovered I’d written a novel, and then had to find out how to position it that way. At this point
I’m still very intrigued to find out more about the genre.

LG: Was it difficult to occupy the headspace of a young high school girl, because… you’re not?

NK: Complicated answer: I’ve had a real admiration for male authors who are able to write female
characters. I think Henry James is a really good example of that — someone who can really inhabit the psychology of a woman. I don’t flatter myself to think that I’ve done that in any
way, the way that, say, Portrait of a Lady does. But it is something that I had in mind — is this
something that I can do? The more I thought about it, I guess to segue to the other complicated
part of the answer, is that I will jokingly describe this as autobiography by way of funhouse
mirror. The things that Celia goes through, I’m not saying that I went through, but everybody
deals with insecurities and everybody deals with that turning point where you have to decide to
take control of your own life. Those things aren’t very gender-specific. I guess I had close female
friends from high school and beyond that, I don’t think I consciously thought about it too much,
but all those things kind of shaped the way I thought about Celia. I was intrigued to find out
— that was one of the things that I was most interested in when I first asked people to read this
back in the day, from the beginning. Is this voice sounding like a teenage girl? It was kind of a
relief when it seemed like people thought I’d been successful at that.

LG: Kind of a non sequitur, but how has your architecture affected your writing? Do you think it has
at all?

NK: Absolutely, yes. I am a better writer for having studied architecture. I guess the way that it makes
sense to me is that you go to architecture school and you deal with design in a very pure sense. I
remember in first year architecture school, we did exercises like “create a sculpture that responds
to a piece of music.” Those kinds of exercises that have very little to do with architecture and
really have more to do with flexing your creative muscles and figuring out how you make
design decisions. That’s applicable in any art form. It made me a better visual artist, it’s made
me a better graphic designer. I definitely approach writing, and I certainly approach things like
manuscript revisions, in a very design sense. Like, “What is my plan? What is the agenda for
this? How am I thinking about things like structure, and rhythm, and balance, symbolism?” I
absolutely do think it changed or shaped the way I write.

LG: Have you done any workshopping or writing at all in your academic career?

NK: I took a poetry class. I took one poetry class as an undergrad and enjoyed it, and do still enjoy
poetry, although I haven’t been writing as much in it. But that is the single writing class I ever

LG: Wow. Where were you in school?

NK: Miami University of Ohio.

LG: It’s interesting, the Gothic subculture in this. What draws you to that, do you think? I know that
you personally were a DJ.

NK: It’s part of my high school experience. It’s kind of not very obvious. I will call myself “the
most vanilla Goth you’ll ever meet.” I listen to this music on a daily basis. I have for however
many decades. So the natural love of it is there. That was really my point of entry into this. It
was really about what it would be like for a girl, high school age now, to engage with this kind
of alternative Goth culture which is admittedly much older. That’s the whole book: there’s this
group of kids who are contemporary, but just happen to like this music that’s much older. That was very much the starting point. For me, it’s always been part of my aesthetic. I’m drawn to
darkly beautiful things, to things where — I think there’s a line in there about rummaging around
in the ugliness to find the beauty. That’s just always been part of my aesthetic.

LG: There’s a lot of debate, even in a New York Times article I read recently, where a lot of YA
novels get a lot of flack for being really dark, or being really into death and depression, things
like that. Do you think that’s a timeless theme in literature?

NK: I have a couple of reactions to that. For one thing, I think being a teenager is inherently dramatic.
Not necessarily darkly dramatic, but everything that happens to you is the most important
thing that’s ever happened to you, and everything that’s happened to you has never happened
to anyone else. Nothing is proportional because you’re not old enough to really have a sense
of proportion. There is drama in being a teenager, and I think that that makes it very easy for
teenagers to be responsive to things that are inherently dramatic. Obviously dark things are. I
can’t say I’m surprised by it. I think it makes sense. I think people a lot of times will overstate
a teenager’s enjoyment of dark things with some huge psychological profile that I don’t think
really exists most of the time. Most of us do all kinds of dramatic things as teenagers and then
grow up and leave most of it behind, become healthy adults. There’s also something — and this
is not just in the YA category — but dark dramatic things make for good drama. They make for
good art. That’s in any genre, so of course it’s a little more pointed. I would say that I think that
there is a responsibility that comes along with that. It does make me nervous that there seem
to be books that are very formulaic in the way that they approach dark materials now, because
it’s something that sells. It goes along with, “Do we need another vampire book? Do we need
another book that has X, Y, and Z in it?” I think if you’re going to write about dark things, if
you’re going to write about sensational dramatic things like this, I think there is a responsibility
to at least tell a good story while you’re doing it. Not to just turn it into another set piece. I do see
that at times.

LG: Since this is a multi-part series, do you feel pressure in terms of how you move forward? Do you
have an idea already?

NK: The second one is done. I actually was fortunate enough to get a two-book deal, so the second
one is in the pipeline for publication next fall. There really wasn’t. It was one of the first
indications I got that Houghton-Mifflin was really interested in working with me, because they
gave me a two book deal without seeing anything about the second book, which I was really kind
of surprised by. So yeah, I don’t want this to turn into The Suburban Strange: The College Years,
so really, it’s not about Celia. I’m not going to follow Celia out of high school. The second book
is told from the point of view of a new character who arrives at Suburban, and Celia’s still in
the book. Everyone who hasn’t graduated is still in the book, but it’s told from Bruno’s point
of view. It really turns Suburban High School into the main character, because it’s kind of the
epicenter of this conflict between the Kind and the Unkind.

LG: I’m intrigued with the marketing of this. Looking at the cover and the blurb on the back, it didn’t
seem to have the same referentiality that the book had — every chapter was an album title, things
like that. How are you pushing this, in terms of who you’re trying to sell it to?

NK: There’s always that tension, isn’t there, between what my vision is, and then the best way to
sell this book. That was a big part of the conversation that I had with the design folks and with
the publicity folks at Houghton-Mifflin. At the end of the day, the cover and the blurb are what
convince people to buy the book, but it isn’t necessarily the reason why they’re going to enjoy
the book. You basically just want to make sure that they pick it up. So there were decisions that
were made that I think were a little sensational — the quote on the front, and a quote on the
back, on the actual hardback. There’s that excerpt where Mariette and Celia are talking, and she
says, “I don’t think the point is to hurt a girl, I think the point is to kill her.” This really really
(makes slasher noise) version of the book. And obviously there’s a lot more subtlety in there.
I think the concept was, let’s, I don’t want to say trick the reader, but let’s go for the obvious
selling points, which are supernatural thriller, and then let the subtlety of the book happen on the
back end.

Part II coming soon!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

An English Author

Ian McEwan has a new book entitled Sweet Tooth. Well, it will be out in the US in October. I happen to have a signed British first edition in my possession as I write this. I have to admit I haven't read it yet. But everything I've heard leads me to believe I am going to enjoy it.

On Tuesday evening Ian Rankin answered questions about his fictional character John Rebus. (Rankin has been writing about Rebus for twenty-five years.) The conversation between Rankin and the moderator was so funny. It was as if they were discussing an old friend. Clearly the audience felt that way. They practically gave Rankin a standing ovation when he announced that Rebus would be making a comeback in his new book after retiring in the character in the book Exit Music in 2007. The new book will be called Standing In Another Man's Grave and will come out sometime in 2013.

This week has been such an amazing experience. The Edinburgh festival is really an intimate gathering of enthusiastic readers and writers who want to meet them. It's encouraging to see how these interactions play out, not only in book sales, but also in true appreciation of audience and writer alike. I leave Edinburgh Saturday morning for London. Although I am looking forward to that part of the trip,  I'll be a bit sad to leave the book festival and all of the great writers behind. It's been such fun. Now all I have to do is find the time to read the books that I've purchased.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Mole Breeches Magnificently

China Mieville is not a household name. Well, he's much admired in my household but that's beside the point. Mieville's writing is creative, masterful and yes, at times, weird. His imagination seems to know no bounds. He can be challenging to read, but who doesn't like a challenge in their life every now and then?

Last evening in Edinburgh Mieville answered questions about his inspirations (he includes a list of writers who inspire him in the back of every book), where his ideas come from, what jokes make him laugh, why he writes for both adults and young people and if one of his books ripped off Ulysses. He did so with charm, humor and a warm earnestness that was impressive given that he has answered these questions so many times before.  

Mieville's talk focused on his latest book Railsea, an unusual take on Moby Dick if there ever was one.  It's written for young adult reader's because, according to Mieville, when he was developing the story he imagined telling it to his 10 year old self. The voice in his head imagined a younger version of himself becoming immersed in the story in a way his adult self was unable to.  

He's very articulate about his writing, particularly how prolific he has been over the past 5 years. It was  such a joy to see him at the festival. I'll be thinking about his talk for a long time to come.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Anne Enright is brilliant. Her books are well worth reading, but more importantly for this week, she is engaging in person.  Her reading today at the festival focused on her newest novel The Forgotten Waltz.  She spoke passionately and intelligently about the Irish economy, Irish morals and the state of marriage.  If this is the example of what authors have to offer at the festival, I am in for a fantastic week!!  

There is an energy here that is hard to describe. Walking into Charlotte Square where the Book Festival takes place is like being transported to a world of thoughts and words conveyed through writing.  It's intimate and international, crowded yet personal.  As you can surmise, it's hard to explain.  I'll try to do better as the week goes on.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Confessions of a Serial Book Juggler

Most nights, there is barely enough room in my bed for me to sleep. As I brush my teeth each evening, I’m forced to decide which bedmate I can boot to the floor (or, occasionally, my inadequately tiny bookshelf). The excuses pile up in my head like lines I would use to blow off last-minute plans: “Don’t worry, Jonathan Safran Foer, I’ll get to you soon!” “Alice Munro, you know I love your short stories, but I really need to focus on this memoir right now.”

It’s the apology-ridden language of an addict, only for me, the substance in question is less dangerous (depending on who you ask, at least) than drugs or alcohol: I’m a serial book-juggler, and despite my best efforts, I’ll probably always be one.

So what is a serial book-juggler, you ask? In the simplest terms, it’s someone who bounces back and forth between several books at a time, reading a chapter or two here and then abandoning the novel for a few weeks in favor of some other, attention-grabbing read. More complicated, for me at least, is the way these books feel like planets orbiting my life. In my car: three titles, one of which has been riding shotgun for the past two weeks, glaring back at me like a neglected puppy. In my living room: a neat little stack that my roommates have collected, through which they mean to say “Quit leaving books in the living room.” In my bed: well, let’s just not go there. The cat that once nestled next to my feet has been replaced with a hardcover copy of the Aeneid and a few copies of The New Yorker.

There’s an upside, if you’re the type to find silver linings. On the few occasions when some sneaky friend manages to get inside my room (usually, it’s so messy I bark out a quick, “Don’t come in!” and close the door), I seem like a very literary person. There have been plenty of times when an acquaintance has mentioned Elizabeth Bishop and I’ve said, “Oh, borrow my copy!” It’s a way to make friends, and then lose them very quickly when they realize that you’ll forgo social outings so you can save up for that new issue of McSweeney’s or whatever.

I’m not proud of it. It takes me ages to finish any one thing, unless that one thing happens to meet that perfect confluence of time/place/interests. I’ve been reading Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison for months, yet picked up the previously mentioned Paris I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down and gobbled it up in three days flat. Currently, I’m forsaking Don DeLillo’s The Names, a collection of indie short stories, and an MFA application guide in favor of an advance reader copy of a goth-themed YA novel.  

When I feel guilty or strange about my addiction to starting books, to juggling them all at once, the Pollyanna side of me says that these heaps of paper are like friends. With every relationship, there’s a cycle. Your best friends never leave – I pick up Bishop’s complete poems a few times a month. Sometimes, you make new ones. Sometimes, a connection fades, only to come back stronger when the seasons or your perspective changes. Other times, you just don’t jell. And you know what? That’s ok. Nobody likes everyone, and not everyone likes you. Sometimes your friends are hip, and sometimes they’re embarrassingly loud or geeky (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, for my part).

I probably won’t change my ways. There are plenty like me out there, brows furrowing as they shove aside stacks on their bed each night. We are a secret union, this type, and when all the e-readers in the world go on the fritz, we’ll be there to lend you a copy of our favorite poems.

Friday, August 10, 2012

In Search of Jackson Brodie's Apartment

Tomorrow the 2012 Edinburgh International Book Festival begins in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Browsing the program is like reading the Who's Who of UK literary royalty - Pat Barker, Roddy Doyle, Ian McEwan and Ann Enright.  Not to mention the North American, South American and other writers that appear on the list of 800 authors that will be appearing across the next two weeks.  It's bound to be an exciting event.

Oh, did I not mention that I'm going?  I leave one week from today.  Tickets are in hand to some big names who will be reading while I'm there.  Could there be an event in the world that would be more tempting?  Not for me.

While I'm there I am in search of the wonderful apartment Kate Atkinson's main character Jackson Brodie occupies in the PBS series Case Histories.  I covet that place - former garage doors that act as a wall that can be opened to the outside!  I suggest reading the Jackson Brody series by Kate Atkinson.  The TV series doesn't depict the subtlety with which Atkinson draws our hero.

Check in on the blog.  There will be pictures and tales of the adventure to come.

Cheerio!  Ta Ta! Tarah!

Expat Lit: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Rosecrans Baldwin disent "il ne faut pas pousser mémé dans les orties"

Alright. Confession time: I love France. I love Proust, I love croissants, I love Francoise Hardy. I love Midnight in Paris and the way the French can’t pronounce hard h’s. There are even a few real live French people I happen to like quite a bit that I met during my time at UNC. 

It’s weird, I know. I hope that you can still respect me, at least a little bit.

By virtue of my interests, it follows that I also really like books about France, especially those written by folks who (like me) weren’t born with the “je ne sais quoi” but have to trek over and put in some time abroad to earn it. There are three people I’ve read during my twenty-something years on the planet that have chronicled this search for baguettes and the right striped shirt quite aptly: Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Rosecrans Baldwin.

You might have just read those first two names, waved your hand dismissively at your computer screen and said, “Wow, Linnie, really obscure picks you’ve got there.” But bear with me. I’m going to try to get to the root of why these two famous expats and one less-famous expat have been so successful at chronicling life abroad where others have failed. Really failed –gag-inducing-Cinderella’s-castle-portraits-of-Paris failure. I’ve picked up certain books, gotten halfway through, and then wanted to chuck them out a window when the description of a stranger on the metro seemed eerily similar, in its voyeurism and sap, to a passage from 50 Shades of Gray

Thankfully, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Baldwin spare you the saccharine, the superfluous.  In A Moveable Feast, you get typical Hemingway: spare, sparse prose that might seem dry for an instant, then wallops you over the head with its beautiful phrasing and wordplay when you aren’t looking. Hemingway’s style works perfectly in his account of life with one of his many wives (I can’t be bothered to look up which one, in fact) and among his famous friends. Seriously, who else could get away with calling Gertrude Stein a boorish oaf? Where some of his works have their moments of coldness or detachment, you can pick up on his fondness for the city almost instantly here. 

There’s a characteristic that unites all three of these books (two of which are outright memoirs, the other of which draws heavily on Fitzgerald’s real life) – Paris (or France, in Fitzgerald's case), the beloved subject, is still liable to the same jibes and criticisms that all of the characters and events receive. It might still be sacred, but these writers aren’t scared of getting a little blasphemous, a little ornery.

I don’t want to bore you with the classics. They’re just good, ok? Just read them. We sell them at Flyleaf.

Know what else is good? Paris I <3 You But You’re Bringing Me Down. Rosecrans Baldwin’s now a Chapel Hillian, but his account of life in Paris was thoroughly enjoyable. I laughed out loud in the non-metaphorical internet way, and ended up typing out entire sections to send to friends in emails and Facebook posts. After too many years of French classes and francophilia, I ate up all the weird colloquial phrases and tales of weird city folk like candy. And there’s lots of oddity to take in. The French phrase in the title of this post means “Don’t push grandmother into the nettles.” Still figuring that one out. I don’t even think Rosecrans himself employs that one too often.

Who knows what draws us Americans to that city of light. I know I’d do a lot of things for a great pastry, or a chance to bump into Sofia Coppola on the street. But if you, like me, can’t afford to hop on a plane with your Louis Vuitton luggage… might I suggest a great book?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

War and Art

Let me say from the start that I am a huge Pat Barker fan. I believe her Regeneration trilogy to be one of the finest collections of novels written about war and its aftermath.  My devotion and admiration for them is comparable to how I feel about Margaret Laurence’s Manawaka cycle.  For me, there is no higher praise.

It’s no surprise then that I was delighted to see that Barker has a new book coming out in October.  I asked for and received an advance reader’s copy from the publisher.  Toby’s Room is a slim volume that contains much to recommend it.  In fact, I can see reading this book multiple times gaining new insights on each reading. 

The story takes place during and shortly after the end of World War I (seemingly Barker’s favorite topic).  The titular character is Toby Brooke, a medical student who serves as a doctor on the front lines in France following his training at Slade School of Art in London.  (Barker’s previous novel, Life Class, is also set at the Slade with overlapping characters. Another trilogy in the making?)

Toby’s relationships are the center of the book.  Toby, his sister, Elinor, and her friends, Kit Neville and Paul Tarrant, all participate in the brand new world of walking wounded left by the war.  As an art student, Elinor studies the human body through dissection before the war and reconstruction of facial injuries afterward.  Barker is graphic about the damage done physically and emotionally to the service men.  Her ability to convey the change that war wrecks on individuals and to society as whole is compellingly empathetic, never preachy.

As an example, here is a passage about Paul relating his own grief over the loss of his mother to the grief Elinor struggles with throughout most of the book.

It seemed, looking back, that he’d grown around the loss, that it had become part of him, as trees will sometimes incorporate an obstruction, so they end up living, but deformed.

I'd recommend reading Life Class now and Toby's Room as soon as it is available in October.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Not Quite Eden

Arcadia is the story of the Stone family who participate in one of the 1970s great commune experiments.  Bit, the first child of Arcadia, is the central figure.  Although Bit has greater perception than most children of Arcadia, he is aware of the dirt, starvation and general deprivation that occur around him.  The relationships are confusing and confounded by his naivety in the beginning of the book.  Things become clearer and more troubling as Bit ages reaching an understanding of the difficulties Arcadia’s families endure in their attempt to create a more perfect community.

Lauren Groff’s first book, The Monster’s of Templeton, introduced readers to a writer very concerned with character.  Groff doesn’t allow Bit to stray from his optimistic or idealized world view even when he experiences tragedies.  The reader can't help but hope for a happy ending even when it's unlikely to occur.

Hardcover: 304 pages
Price: $25.99
Publisher: Voice (March 13, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1401340873
ISBN-13: 978-1401340872

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Shhh! I'm Trying to Think!

Do you know someone who abruptly leaves a party unannounced and the next day tells you she had a great time?  How about someone who says he gets “over stimulated” by large crowds or in big box stores?  Do you need a lot of down time in order to be sociable?  If any of this sounds familiar, you will want to read Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Cain discusses the difference between extroverts and introverts in this book. The premise is not as simplistic as it sounds.  Cain isn’t arguing that there are only two types of people in the world, extroverts and introverts; she is investigating the characteristics of these two personality types and describing how American culture has come to     value one more than the other.

Cain offers examples of how introverted adults have developed coping mechanisms that allow them to be successful while dealing with their quiet nature. This book may be of particular interest to parents of children who are deemed shy or quiet. They may gain insight into their children through the eyes of the adults in the examples Cain provides.  

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
ISBN-13: 9780307352149
Published: Crown, 1/2012 $26.00