Monday, September 26, 2016

Judy Fogarty

Judy Fogarty lives, writes, reads, and runs on the historic Isle of Hope in her native Savannah, Georgia. She holds a master of music degree from the University of Illinois and has served as director of marketing for private golf and tennis communities in the Savannah/Hilton Head area. Breaking and Holding is her debut novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Fogarty's reply:
The Yellow Birds

I've just finished The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, a 2012 National Book Award finalist. At only 226 pages, I expected a quick read but didn't get it. The author is a poet. His prose is mesmerizing and begs to be read slowly. Every time I opened The Yellow Birds, I found myself rereading the opening paragraphs. Throughout the novel, the beauty of the language is juxtaposed against a raw, harrowing story of the friendship of two young men fighting in the Iraq war. Powers served in the US army in 2004-05, so the action rings true. Knowing from the opening pages that one of the two, Murphy, will meet a tragic death, I read with curiosity and increasing dread. I was moved and terrified, saddened and disturbed. How else could one feel when reading sentences like these: "While I slept that summer, the war came to me in my dreams and showed me its sole purpose: to go on, only to go on. And I knew the war would have its way."

The Goldfinch

I purchased a copy of The Goldfinch not long after it won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and was immediately stricken with a serious case of procrastination. With "so many books, and so little time," I was hesitant to make the necessary investment in such a hefty novel. Friends in my writing group who liked it very much still suggested that sharper editing had been needed, and a few other readers and friends had found it slow in parts. Not me! Thirteen-year-old Theo Decker was as alive for me as any character I've known, and not one I could desert as he suffered through the loss of mother; tried to play the various bad hands he was dealt; struggled with secrets including his theft of a masterwork of art; felt the pain of unrequited love and addiction;and made mistakes that placed his life in danger in the novel's dark, suspenseful climax. The cast of supporting characters came to life just as vividly for me, particularly the colorful Boris and gentle, unassuming Hobie. From New York City to Las Vegas to Amsterdam, the settings were lush in detail, and the underworld of art was exposed and made accessible by a capable, knowledgeable novelist. The conclusion left me thinking deeply and for a long time about the intersection of art, truth, beauty, loss and life.

Right now, I'm trying to decide what to read next. Until recently, I proudly finished every book I started. But suddenly, plot alone can't hold me, no matter how compelling. I have to have prose and style that resonate. This week, sadly, I have started three books and closed every one, permanently. I'd love a recommendation.
Visit Judy Fogarty's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Angela Palm

Raised in the rural Midwest, Angela Palm earned a BA in English Literature and a BS in Criminal Justice at Saint Joseph's College. She is the editor of a book featuring work by Vermont writers, called Please Do Not Remove. Palm has taught creative writing at Champlain College, New England Young Writers' Conference, The Writers' Barn, and The Renegade Writers' Collective. She is a recipient of a Bread Loaf Fellowship in nonfiction.

Palm's new book is Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here, recipient of the 2014 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m usually reading a few books at once: one purely for pleasure, one that informs my writing in some way, and one that’s been personally recommended to me.

I just finished How to Start a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball. I bought this book because I’d read an article about Jesse Ball that painted him as unconventional, unpredictable. My impression of him is that he is one of those mad genius types who might give an off the cuff, potentially off putting answer in an interview. I liked that authenticity, the way it disrupts the expected course of literary publicity a little bit. Literature needs more punk. This book has it. It’s about a teenage anarchist whose father has died, leaving behind only his Zippo lighter. The precocious, if somewhat misguided, girl is shuffled to an impoverished aunt’s house and to an alternative school after being expelled for stabbing a boy with a pencil who threatens her last tie to her father—the lighter. The lighter and her attraction to fire gains her entry into what she believes may be an arson club. Written as a series of journal entries, we watch the girl’s fleeting opportunities to reroute her life slip away.

I also just finished an advance copy of Sarah Manguso’s new book, 300 Arguments. It’s tiny—just a bit bigger than my hand. It’s structured as a collage of self-contained thoughts that bite and turn where you least expect them to and gradually build into something more. Reading the arguments was soothing, meditative, thought-provoking. Little treasures and insights about life, art, self, desire, relationships. I love Manguso’s prose because it’s so completely different than mine. She can say in a sentence or two what takes me ten pages. I admire her minimalism and hope to learn something from it.

I’m halfway through Eros the Bittersweet by Anne Carson, which was recently recommended to me by David Shields. We’d been discussing a book he’s working on that is partly—I’m not sure exactly in what way—about his marriage. We got to talking about the intersections of life, art, marriage, and erotic love and he suggested I read Eros. I’m a fan of Anne Carson but had never heard of it. It details in a way that’s both lyric and academic the philosophical and literary history of romantic love. It’s structured as a progression of brief essays. As a whole, the book is esoteric, engrossing. I’ve highlighted the thing nearly to death.
Visit Angela Palm's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Teddy Wayne

Teddy Wayne is the author of the novels Loner, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, and Kapitoil.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Wayne's reply:
I recently reread Rebecca Schiff's debut story collection, The Bed Moved. The stories are funny without being slapsticky, weird but not precious, moving yet not sentimental. They would be great models for how to write a contemporary short story if they weren't so original and inimitable.
Visit Teddy Wayne's website.

The Page 69 Test: Kapitoil.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 23, 2016

Amanda I. Seligman

Amanda I. Seligman is professor of history and urban studies at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. She is an editor of the Historical Studies of Urban America series. Her new book is Chicago's Block Clubs: How Neighbors Shape the City.

Recently I asked Seligman about what she was reading. Her reply:
When I was in graduate school in the mid-1990s, writing my dissertation, working two academic jobs, and abstaining from fiction, I dreamed of the day when I would have tenure and work on just one work of scholarship at a time, in an orderly, sequential, and logical fashion, without the constant sense that I was behind in everything. That fantasy was nothing more than an illusion, as I seem always to have several projects going at the same time. Two decades on, I have surrendered to my natural condition. The tendency to multitask turns out to infect my reading habits as well. The books I am pretty sure I am currently reading more or less actively include:

Robert C. Ellickson, Order without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes (1991): I have been poking around in legal research lately and stumbled across this book, which resonates very strongly Chicago’s Block Clubs’ emphasis on how urban dwellers cooperate with their neighbors. In the first few chapters, Ellickson argues that neighboring cattle ranchers resolve their disputes without resorting to legal remedies. I can’t decide yet whether this argument is completely banal or a brilliant execution of a foundational insight.

Anders Ericcson and Robert Pool, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise (2016): For a project on the history of educational provision for gifted children, I have been trying to understand genius and creativity, primarily by reading biographies and psychology. Ericcson and Pool report inter alia on how people teach themselves to memorize amazingly long sequences of numbers.

Robert Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (2005): Because music and history and genius. And because my 12-year-old wanted to read it.

Gary Nash, The Urban Crucible: Social Change, Political Consciousness, and the Origins of the American Revolution (1979): This classic work of urban history traces the social foundations of the American Revolution in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. I don’t usually spend this much time in the cognitive world of the 18th century, but the change of pace is illuminating.

Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1963): I pull this extended essay off my shelf from time to time and have recently felt moved to driving it around in my car. More than five decades after its initial publication, Hofstadter’s distinction between intelligence and intellect feels like prophecy.

Max Brooks, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (2007): My current leisure read. I am a younger and/or more sensitive viewer and cannot watch action movies. But I adore dystopian fiction—especially post-apocalyptic novels—and I was captivated by the trailers for the movie version of this novel. Fortunately for me, Brooks focuses on the social and political effects of the zombie germ and minimizes the moaning and the gore. World War Z does not quite have the brilliant realism of Daniel H. Wilson’s meditation on what it means to be human in the Robopocalypse series, but it is a roaring good yarn that does not give me nightmares.
Learn more about Chicago's Block Clubs at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson is the author of the Walt Longmire mystery series, which has garnered popular and critical acclaim.The latest installment in the series is An Obvious Fact.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Johnson's reply:
I’m catching up on a lot of things, but the top of the nightstand is Scott Phillips’s Rake, I like to check in with him periodically just because his books and voice are so damn funny. Then I’ve got Miracle Boy and Other Stories by Pinckney Benedict who wrote Dogs of God and who I consider to be one of the unsung godfathers of the current rural, tough-guy clan of authors out there like Donald Ray Pollock, Frank Bill, Benjamin Whitmer, and Jon Bassoff.

Then we hit a stratum of Alaska recommended literature since I was up there fishing and had a few of the guides give me some of their favorites such as Skeletons on the Zahara, the true story of these New England sailors who crashed on the coast of Africa and were sold into slavery and Ada Blackjack, this wonderful book by Jennifer Niven about the sole survivor of an Arctic expedition back in the twenties.
Learn more about the author and his work at Craig Johnson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

James R. Benn

James R. Benn is the author of the Billy Boyle World War II series, historical mysteries set within the Allied High Command during the Second World War. The series began with Billy Boyle, which takes place in England and Norway in 1942. Blue Madonna is the eleventh installment of the series.

Not so long ago I asked Benn about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m currently caught up in research reading, so my current stack is all non-fiction.

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution, by Nathaniel Philbrick.

A terrific and well-written story of the early years of the American Revolution, when Benedict Arnold was one of our bravest and most gifted generals. Philbrick makes him come alive, and breaks through the image of the vile traitor (although that he was) to show a more rounded, and quite sad, view of the man for whom life’s bounties were never enough, and every slight was a mortal insult.

For Adam's Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England, by Allegra di Bonaventura.

A fascinating look at slavery and servitude in colonial New England, focusing on the intertwined lives of whites and blacks in New London, CT. The author creates real, living characters from records and archives. Superb for the historical enthusiast.

I’m working on a young adult book, with a recently freed slave as the protagonist – set in Revolutionary War Connecticut, during the summer in which Benedict Arnold raided New London and burned the city he knew very well to the ground.
Learn more about the Billy Boyle WWII Mystery Series at James R. Benn's website.

The Page 69 Test: Blue Madonna.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Robert K. Tanenbaum

Robert K. Tanenbaum is the author of thirty-one books—twenty-eight novels and three nonfiction books. He is one of the most successful prosecuting attorneys, having never lost a felony trial and convicting hundreds of violent criminals. He was a special prosecution consultant on the Hillside strangler case in Los Angeles and defended Amy Grossberg in her sensationalized baby death case. He was Assistant District Attorney in New York County in the office of legendary District Attorney Frank Hogan, where he ran the Homicide Bureau, served as Chief of the Criminal Courts, and was in charge of the DA’s legal staff training program. He served as Deputy Chief counsel for the Congressional Committee investigation into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He also served two terms as mayor of Beverly Hills and taught Advanced Criminal Procedure for four years at Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, and has conducted continuing legal education (CLE) seminars for practicing lawyers in California, New York, and Pennsylvania. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Tanenbaum attended the University of California at Berkeley on a basketball scholarship, where he earned a B.A. He received his law degree (J.D.) from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.

Tanenbaum's new novel is Infamy: A Butch Karp-Marlene Ciampi thriller.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and The Angel by Uri Bar-Joseph are two books worthy of mention from my summer reading. First, Hillbilly Elegy informs about the forgotten Americans who reside in the thirteen Appalachian states ranging from south-western New York down through the Appalachian Mountains to Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Most impacted are portions of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

I have long supported the Christian Appalachian Project charity with the hope that elected representatives will seriously address and actively engage in the vital issues of education reform, poverty, and drug addiction. The Appalachian stagnation must be reversed. Its revitalization is truly America’s concern.

The Angel is the code name for the Israeli spy son-in-law of the late Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. The focal point of interest is the October 6, 1973, Syrian and Egyptian invasion of Israel chronicled as the “Yom Kippur War.” The “Angel” had information about the pending war and tried to persuade the Israelis of its immediacy, information which ran counter to Israeli intelligence alleged experts who were wedded to a concept that left Israel in peril and unprepared to defend the attack.
Visit Robert K. Tanenbaum's website.

The Page 69 Test: Infamy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 19, 2016

Laura Levine

Laura Levine is a former sitcom writer whose credits include The Bob Newhart Show, Laverne & Shirley, The Jeffersons, The Love Boat, Three’s Company, and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. As an advertising copywriter, she created Count Chocula and Frankenberry cereals for General Mills. Her work has been published in The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

In her latest (and favorite) incarnation as a mystery novelist, she has been an IMBA paperback bestseller and winner of the RT Book Reviews award for Most Humorous Mystery.

Levine's new Jaine Austen mystery is Murder Has Nine Lives.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Just finished reading A.L. Herbert’s Murder with Macaroni and Cheese. A light breezy mystery, well plotted, with some very funny lines. I especially like this series because it features African American heroines, which I hardly ever see in the world of cozy mysteries. Halia Watkins and her cousin Wavonne aren’t exactly Lucy and Ethel, but they remind me of them. And it’s great fun following their antics as they try to figure out who killed the meanest of the Mean Girls in their high school.

And I’m now in the middle of reading A Man Called Ove, a heartwarming, poignant but most funny and touching book about a curmudgeonly widower determined to end his life, only to have his attempts interrupted by his new neighbors, faulty suicide equipment, and a mangy cat. Don’t know how it will end, but it certainly has me hooked so far.
Visit Laura Levine's website.

The Page 69 Test: Killing Cupid.

My Book, The Movie: Death by Tiara.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Michael Copperman

Michael Copperman has taught writing to low-income, first-generation students of diverse background at the University of Oregon for the last decade. His prose has appeared in The Oxford American, The Sun, Creative Nonfiction, Salon, Gulf Coast, Guernica, Waxwing, and Copper Nickel, among other magazines, and has won awards and garnered fellowships from the Munster Literature Center, Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, Oregon Literary Arts, and the Oregon Arts Commission.

Copperman's new memoir is Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I am reading, as I tend to, a number of books at once.

Story by story, saving each to savor, is Lucia Berlin’s collection, A Manual for Cleaning Women. Like so many brilliant writers who never quite break into the limelight, Ms. Berlin was unknown to me until my friend Heather Ryan gave me this book. The prose so strong and assured, the stories and their subjects so unpretentious and relatable, the angle of vision so clear—I cannot understand how I didn’t hear of Ms. Berlin while she was alive, but it is a gift to encounter her now.

I am reading Erin Stalcup’s And Yet It Moves, a new collection from Indiana University Press, also story by story as a sort of counterpoint to Ms. Berlin’s fictions. While Berlin is a realist of the first order, Stalcup’s fictions are formally inventive and fabulist in dimensions, if nonetheless character driven. Her debut collection makes me hungry for more from an immensely talented writer.

I am also reading Ralph Eubanks’ The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South, which is a brilliant literary memoir that interrogates the personal and familial and historical in telling the story of his own mixed-race background, and the ways race defined the course of his grandparent’s lives, even as they defied convention and sought identities which were less delimited by convention-- and how their experiences and choices bear the burden of living history, as they are passed on.
Visit Michael Copperman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Teacher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN USA Award winner. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, received the Pura Belpré Award, Golden Kite Award, Walter Dean Myers Honor, and Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, among others. Her other books have received multiple Pura Belpré, Américas, and Jane Addams Awards and Honors, as well as a Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, and International Reading Association Award. Her most recent picture book, Drum Dream Girl, received the Charlotte Zolotow Award for best picture book text.

Engle lives in central California, where she enjoys helping her husband train his wilderness search and rescue dog.

Her new novel is Lion Island: Cuba's Warrior of Words.

Recently I asked Engle about what she was reading. Her reply:
I usually read four books at a time, including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books. Right now, I’m re-reading Legacies, by Heberto Padilla. These poems represent one of the more amazing eras of Cuban literary tradition, written during an era of censorship, yet filled with hope. I’m also reading The Line of the Sun, a novel by Judith Ortíz Cofer. Like Legacies, this book is not new, but I feel that it’s important, because it takes us from the island of Puerto Rico onto the mainland, showing one of the most perplexing aspects of U.S. history, and in turn, U.S. family life. That aspect is the continued colonization of an island where the people are American citizens, but do not have the right to vote in presidential elections. The nonfiction book I’m really enjoying right now is Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel, by Carl Safina. Even though we can never really know exactly what animals think, this book presents a lot of what is known, with an emphasis on elephants. I love elephants, and want to know whatever I can about them. Since I just finished The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery , this is giving me a lot to absorb about animal intelligence, both vertebrate and in the surprising case of the octopus, invertebrate. The children’s book I just finished, and really found fascinating, is Talking Leaves, by Joseph Bruchac. It’s biographical fiction about Sequoyah, who developed an alphabet for the Cherokee language. I love any book about the history of reading, and this one is no exception. Next, I’ll read Moo by Sharon Creech, which I rushed out and bought on its release day, as I do with every verse novel I can find!
Visit Margarita Engle's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Margarita Engle & Maggi and Chance.

The Page 69 Test: Lion Island.

--Marshal Zeringue