Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Heather Child

Heather Child's experience in digital marketing has brought her into close contact with the automation and personalization technologies that herald the "big data" age.

Her debut novel is Everything About You.

Recently I asked Child about what she was reading. Her reply:
I read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, the latter often as research for whatever I’m writing.

This is what brought me to Selfie by Will Storr. It’s ostensibly about our current selfie-taking celebrity culture, but I was surprised to find it a far-reaching study that chronicles how the concept of ‘the individual’ came to be revered, from ancient Greece through to American neoliberalism.

Putting the self first is a western - rather than universal - cultural tendency, and it’s fascinating to read about how research was wilfully misused to argue that high self-esteem would solve all social ills – violence, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy etc – so that the majority of US primary schools put programmes in place to boost it. Of course, low self-esteem isn’t great either, but we seem to have overshot the happy medium of people having a realistic view of their abilities, resulting in the narcissistic ‘selfie’ culture we have today.

Fiction-wise, I’m part way through My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, about two girls growing up in Naples. It was my turn to pick something for a local book club, and my ulterior motive for choosing this novel was to see a stylish depiction of close female friendship, something I’m trying to write about currently. Reading is the best way to learn about writing, after all.

My Brilliant Friend is beautifully narrated, but it took me a while to get into the story - probably because it is realism and I’ve been reading a lot of speculative fiction recently (so I kept expecting something strange and unnatural to happen!)
Visit Heather Child's website.

The Page 69 Test: Everything About You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 15, 2019

Julie McElwain

Julie McElwain is a national award-winning journalist. Born and raised in North Dakota, she graduated from North Dakota State University, and moved to Los Angeles, where she worked for a fashion trade newspaper. Currently, she is an editor for CBS Soaps In Depth, covering the No. 1 daytime drama, The Young & The Restless.

Her first novel, A Murder In Time, was one of the top 10 picks by the National Librarian Association for its April 2016 book list. The novel was also a finalist for the 2016 Goodreads’ readers choice awards in the Sci-fi category, and made Bustle’s list of 9 Most Addictive Mystery series for 2017.

The series continues Kendra Donovan’s adventures in Regency England with A Twist in Time, Caught in Time, and Betrayal in Time.

When McElwain is not on her laptop, she enjoys traveling, exploring different cultures, spending time with family and meeting friends for Happy Hour. She lives in Long Beach, California.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. McElwain's reply:
Lethal White, by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) and The Accidental Dictionary by Paul Anthony Jones

Lethal White is the fourth installment in the Cormoran Strike/Robin Ellacott detective series, and I was as engrossed and entertained as the other three books. The mystery begins when an obviously mentally disturbed man named Billy seeks help over the long ago murder of a child. Or what he believes to be the murder of a child. While Strike and Robin are intrigued enough to launch an investigation into Billy’s claim, they have to wonder how much is true, and how much is simply a fantasy created by a delusional mind. Rowling writes mysteries as brilliantly as she writes magic (ala her Harry Potter series). Lethal White is filled with interesting characters that have plenty of motives to keep their secrets tightly locked away — and one person who will resort to murder to get what they want. Equally important to the story is the ongoing and evolving relationship between Strike and Robin. For that, I would recommend readers to begin with the first book, Cuckoo’s Calling. My only frustration with this series is that Rowling is still caught up in writing for the Harry Potter universe, so there tend to be long waits between the Strike novels. But it is well worth the wait!

I am also reading the non-fiction book, The Accidental Dictionary. In writing my books, I spend a lot of time researching words and phrases, so I was particularly pleased to find this book, which explores the etymology of words and phrases. One example: A bimbo was originally meant to describe a man. Reading this book is like rummaging around in an attic and uncovering unexpected treasures — truly delightful!
Visit Julie McElwain's website.

The Page 69 Test: Caught in Time.

My Book, The Movie: Betrayal in Time.

The Page 69 Test: Betrayal in Time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Hilary Davidson

Hilary Davidson’s debut novel, The Damage Done, won the 2011 Anthony Award for Best First Novel, and the Crimespree Award for Best First Novel. The second book in the series is The Next One to Fall and the third is Evil in All Its Disguises. Davidson’s first standalone novel, Blood Always Tells, was published by Tor/Forge in April 2014.

Her new novel is One Small Sacrifice—the first book in a new series.

Recently I asked Davidson about what she was reading. Her reply:
I was on book tour recently, and my most recent reading has been influenced by the writers I appeared with. I’d never met Laird Barron before we did an event together at Scottsdale’s Poisoned Pen, but I’d heard about his work in the horror genre. Before our event, I read his new novel, Black Mountain, which is the second in his Isaiah Coleridge series. There were a lot of reasons I loved the book, starting with how the author incorporated mythology from several cultures. Isaiah Coleridge himself is half-Maori, half-Celt, and there are dreamlike sequences that are very different from what I’ve encountered in most crime novels. The private investigator novel is well-trod terrain, but Barron’s version came with many delightful twists.

I knew Laura Benedict before we appeared together at the St. Louis County Library, and I’ve read her short fiction before. But I’d never read her novel-length work until I started The Stranger Inside. It’s a delightfully twisted domestic suspense, with two timelines that show the main character, Kimber Hannon in very different ways. In the contemporary timeline, she’s the victim of a con artist who’s managed to move into her house while she was away for a few days; in a timeline set in the past, Kimber is an aggressive teenager who makes a terrible, tragic mistake and buries the consequences. Of course, the past never stays dead, and the confluence of past and present makes for a thrill ride of a book.

Finally, I had the pleasure of reading Rachel Howzell Hall’s standalone novel, They All Fall Down. I’ve seen some reviews calling it a modern take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, but it’s so much more than that. It manages to take a diverse crew of miscreants and make the reader care about them, none more so than Miriam Macy, the bitter, vengeful narrator of the story. The novel delves deeply into issues around sin and punishment, and I loved every dark moment of it.
Visit the official Hilary Davidson site.

The Page 69 Test: The Damage Done.

The Page 69 Test: Blood Always Tells.

The Page 69 Test: One Small Sacrifice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Keely Hutton

Keely Hutton is a novelist, educational journalist, and former teacher. She is the recipient of the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop scholarship at Chautauqua.

Hutton has worked closely with Ricky Richard Anywar to tell his story in her first novel, Soldier Boy.

Her latest novel is Secret Soldiers.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Hutton's reply:
Spring was a great season of reading for me.

In April, my first novel Soldier Boy was honored at the 26th Annual Children’s Africana Book Award in Washington D.C. In preparation for and following the ceremony, I read the books written and illustrated by my fellow honorees. I highly recommend these wonderful stories that celebrate African history and culture and provide readers with a better understanding of African societies and issues.

Books for Young Readers:

Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke and illustrated by Angela Brooksbank

Mama Africa by Kathryn Erskine and illustrated by Charly Palmer

Grandma’s List by Portia Dery and illustrated by Toby Newsome

Sleep Well, Siba & Saba by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl and illustrated by Sandra Van Doorn

Books for Older Readers:

When Morning Comes by Arushi Raina

Solo by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

One Shadow on the Wall by Leah Henderson

In May, I read King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo. I am a huge fan of Bardugo’s novels, and King of Scars did not disappoint. I was delighted to find characters from her Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows duology in the first book of her new duology. Her beautiful writing, memorable characters, and fast-paced adventures immerse you in the Grishaverse she’s created and leave you wishing the next novel was already available.

Following King of Scars, I read Refugee by Alan Gratz. A teacher-friend recommended the book, and I devoured it in two days. This heartbreaking middle grade novel follows the stories of three young refugees forced to flee their home countries in search of safety and freedom. Told in the alternating points-of-view of Josef, a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany, Isabel, a Cuban girl in 1994, and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy in 2015, Gratz skillfully weaves historical facts with emotion to help readers, young and not-so-young, better understand the plight of refugees in our not-so-distant past and present and sparks much-needed discussions in our homes, schools, and communities.

I am currently reading the Winner of the 2017 Newbury Medal The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. Barnhill’s lyrical writing brings this fairytale of witches, a tiny dragon, a poetry-loving bog monster, and a baby girl who is accidentally imbued with magic when she is fed moonlight to life in the reader’s imagination.

The next book on my TBR pile is For Every One by Jason Reynolds. Reynold’s Long Way Down is one of my favorite books. I recommend it to everyone and can’t wait to kick off my summer reading with Jason Reynold’s inspirational words in For Every One.
Visit Keely Hutton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Soldier Boy.

My Book, The Movie: Soldier Boy.

The Page 69 Test: Secret Soldiers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Garry Disher

Garry Disher is one of Australia’s best-known novelists. He’s published over 50 books in a range of genres, including crime, children’s books, and Australian history. He lives on the Mornington Peninsula, southeast of Melbourne.

Disher's novel Under the Cold Bright Lights is now out in the US.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Disher's reply:
An Australian, I have been reading more Australian fiction recently, especially the crime novels The Dry by Jane Harper, and Scrublands by Chris Hammer. My crime novel Bitter Wash Road (published by Soho in the US), sits comfortably with both books in a sub-genre we might call "outback noir". The setting is remote rural rather than urban, and, crucially, the lead investigators are newcomers or outsiders who, unlike completely-at-home urban investigators like Bosch in LA, must try to understand the setting in addition to the circumstances of the crimes they're investigating.
Visit Garry Disher's website.

The Page 69 Test: Under the Cold Bright Lights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 8, 2019

Aminah Mae Safi

Aminah Mae Safi is a Muslim-American writer. Safi was the winner of the We Need Diverse Books short story contest, and that story appears in the anthology Fresh Ink. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her partner and cat.

Her new novel is Tell Me How You Really Feel.

Recently I asked Safi about what she was reading. Her reply:
In terms of Young Adult, I've been reading If I'm Being Honest by Austin Siegemund-Broka and Emily Wibberly which has a great heroine— the mean girl who is usually the villain of most YA books. So I love turning that trope on its head. Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo, which is a fantastic just one day kind of story— it's Roman Holiday with a K-pop star in Hong Kong. And When the Light Went Out by Bridget Morrissey, because she's such a master of creating ensemble casts where you can keep everyone separate in your mind and understand all the character's underlying motivations and wants so cleanly. I love reading to learn a new way of telling a story and a more masterful way of cleaning up my own work.

I recently read The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson and I keep thinking about the ways memory and space and experience shape us. The ways in which how we tell stories about ourselves and our lives provide the foundation for how we see not only ourselves, but the world around us. But Wilson always manages to remind me the power of story.

I’ve also been reading a good amount of poetry for research for my latest book and Rapaces by Joyce Mansour was particularly vivid and haunting. Beautifully angry femme Surrealist poetry.

And then I finally got to dive back into the world of Lyra and His Dark Materials with La Belle Sauvage. I love the world that Pullman has built and I love the way his stories are just this slow ramping up. They're really like that old adage about boiling the frog. Where the layers just slowly add and add and the heat slowly turns up and suddenly we're on this boiling, insane, fast-paced adventure despite Pullman's having taken so much time to set the scene and set up his world. It's a master class on not skipping the exposition while also keeping the reader engaged.
Visit Aminah Mae Safi's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Richard Zimler

Richard Zimler's novels include The Search for Sana, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, and The Seventh Gate. He has won many prizes for his writing and has lectured on Sephardic Jewish culture all over the world. He now lives in Porto, Portugal, where he teaches journalism and writes.

Zimler's latest novel is The Gospel According to Lazarus.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Zimler's reply:
I’m currently reading two books: Sails & Winds: a Cultural History of Valencia, and The Dead Sea and the Jordan River.

Sails & Winds, by British journalist Michael Eaude, is a wide-ranging, in-depth look at Valencia and its region – its history, politics, culture, agriculture... The author clearly has an encyclopedic knowledge of his subject and writes extremely well. He’s particularly good on early Valencian literature – on writers such as Ausiàs March, regarded by many literary critics as Spain’s greatest poet in the fifteenth century, and Joanot Martorell, who wrote the famous 15th century novel, Tirant Lo Blanc. Eaude provides his own translations of excerpts from their writings, which I found extremely helpful.

Another aspect of Sails & Winds that I really like is the exploration of current Spanish politics – and Valencia’s role in all the conflicts and controversies. It’s fascinating, for instance, to discover the different perspectives on the Valencian version of the Catalan language, and how these perspectives have served political ends – and continue to serve them. I would highly recommend the book to anyone interested in Spanish literature, history or politics. And for anyone who likes reading about present-day corruption in Spain, it’s a gold mine of information!

The Dead Sea and the Jordan River, by Barbara Kreiger, is also beautifully written. And again, the author has an extraordinary depth of knowledge about her subject matter, which is the Dead Sea. I’m at a point in the book where Kreiger is detailing the many expeditions made in the 19th century to try to answer age-old questions about the famous lake – for instance, how far below sea level does it lie? What happened to the ancient cities once bordering its shores and that seem to have completely vanished? Does it have any underground outlet to the Red Sea?

I would highly recommend the book to anyone interested in the geographical and cultural history of the Holy Land – and particularly to people who like to read about pioneering expeditions in extremely harsh environments.
Visit Richard Zimler's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Gospel According to Lazarus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Kimberly Belle

Kimberly Belle is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of novels of suspense. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, she worked in marketing and nonprofit fundraising before turning to writing fiction. She divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Belle's new novel is Dear Wife.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
One of the best perks of this job is getting to read, a lot. Most of the titles I pick up are suspense, but I’ll throw in an occasional women’s fiction or romance to keep things interesting.

The Kill Club by Wendy Heard. Heard has a real knack for creating characters who are as unique as they are compelling, with real-life flaws and big, strong voices. Jazz in The Kill Club has a gritty, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo vibe, and she drives the action in this full-throttle thriller all the way to the deliciously dark end. This was one of my favorites this year, out in December.

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier. It takes a lot to hit me with a twist I don’t see coming, but Hillier did it with this one. Jar of Hearts is the perfect kind of thriller, dark and twisty and genuinely surprising, the kind of book best swallowed in one sitting. I’m not the only one who thinks so, either; it’s been nominated for a whole slew of awards, including from the International Thriller Writers.

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. This book was recommended to me by dozens of people, and they were right; it’s fabulous. The perfect blend of humor, snark, and sweet romance, and it brings home an important message without being preachy. I loved it!
Visit Kimberly Belle's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dear Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Adam Mitzner

Adam Mitzner is currently the head of the litigation department of Pavia & Harcourt LLP in midtown Manhattan and the author of several acclaimed novels, including Dead Certain, A Conflict of Interest, A Case of Redemption, Losing Faith, The Girl from Home, Dead Certain and Never Goodbye.

Mitzner's new novel is A Matter of Will.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Before I start writing a new book, I like to do a lot of reading. (And in this case, the new book is not the one after A Matter of Will, but the one after that, which I just submitted to my publisher for publication in April 2020). At the moment, I’m juggling the following:

Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art by Michael Shnayerson

In my legal practice, I’ve represented many artists and gallery owners. I’ve always wanted to set a novel in the art world because the idea that someone could scribble on a blank piece of paper and turn it into a million dollars is fascinating to me. One of the early quotes in the book is attributed to Jasper Johns, when he is told that one of his works sold for a $100 million, and he says, “That’s nice, but it has nothing to do with art.”

The Better Sister by Alafair Burke

Alafair was the first real author I met, when I attended a reading of hers right before my first novel came out. Since then, I’ve never missed one of her books, and I’ve never been disappointed either.

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

This is a sequel to The Word is Murder, Horowitz’s meta novel where he writes himself into the story in the Watson role to a Sherlock named Daniel Hawthorne, a former police inspector turned private detective whom Horowitz both despises and is amazed by. The first book was so good that I started watching The Midsomer Murders, a British procedural that Horowitz references in the book because he wrote some of the early episodes.
Visit Adam Mitzner's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Conflict of Interest.

My Book, The Movie: A Conflict of Interest.

The Page 69 Test: A Case of Redemption.

My Book, The Movie: A Case of Redemption.

The Page 69 Test: Losing Faith.

My Book, The Movie: Losing Faith.

The Page 69 Test: A Matter of Will.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 1, 2019

Laura Sibson

Laura Sibson worked for years as a career counselor for undergraduates before getting her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, counseling, or drinking impossibly strong coffee, you can find her running miles around her home in Philadelphia, walking her dog, or ingesting pop culture (along with great takeout) with her family.

Her new YA novel is The Art of Breaking Things.

Recently I asked Sibson about what she was reading. Her reply:
It’s not uncommon for me to be reading several books at once and now is no exception. After seeing Endgame for the second time, my 19-year-old suggested, nay demanded, that I read Watchmen for a different take on superheroes. I’m haven’t read many graphic novels and I’m stunned by interplay between the images and the text bubbles.

I’m listening to an audio-version of Sarah Carlson’s debut young adult novel All the Walls of Belfast, which is the dual-narration story of two teens whose families have lived on opposite sides of the Northern Ireland conflict. I’m swooning over the story and the accents of the narrators. Carlson’s depiction of the ways that the conflict has affected generations is challenging me to deeply consider similar current conflicts. Sarah and I will be on a panel along with several other 2019 YA debuts where we will be talking about tackling tough issues in our fiction, so I was looking forward to reading her book before we meet.

I’m also beta-reading the brilliant, new novel by writing friend and fellow VCFA alum, Heather Demetrios. Little Universes follows two sisters, one biological and one adopted, as they try to process the loss of their parents to a tsunami. Mae, who is very science-minded, tries to work out every life situation the same way that she’d work out a calculus or physics problem. Hannah, on the other hand, looks for signs from Something Else and finds herself driven back to her addiction. When the sisters learn about the secrets each are keeping from the other, it’s apparent that neither of their approaches will solve these problems. Heather is one of my favorite writers. I love her mind-blowing metaphors and the ways that she allows her characters to experience their worlds.

The last book I’ve been dipping into every now and then to make it last as long as possible is the absolutely delightful (and useful!) Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer, the Chief Copyeditor at Random House. Buy this book for the grammar tips; enjoy it for the footnotes.
Visit Laura Sibson's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Laura Sibson and Nala.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Louis Greenberg

Louis Greenberg is a renowned writer in his own right, having been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for his debut novel The Beggars’ Signwriters (2007), but is perhaps more known for his work with Sarah Lotz as one half of internationally bestselling S.L. Grey.

Green Valley is his first solo novel to be published outside his native South Africa. He is currently based in England.

Recently I asked Greenberg about what he was reading. His reply:
My choice for this post surprises me. I usually seek out books that are set elsewhere – whether on another continent or on another planet. I love reading that transports me. But the book I’ve most enjoyed recently is The Plague Stones by James Brogden. I thought it was deftly plotted and felt effortlessly confident, and it was all about the history and present of the part of England where I currently live.

Partly, I suppose it’s because I’m newish to England and the area, so in a way this was like reading a book about another place. But on the other hand, I’ve been here long enough for the villages and towns in the area to feel familiar, and then to get the thrill of those familiar places being rendered strange through this uncanny novel. Finding the right book is so much about where and when it meets you.

I find the layers of history in England fascinating. I live in a place where there are barns and houses older than Shakespeare, and where if there’s a carving in a beam above a door, it’s a genuine witch mark, not some self-conscious, faux decoration. Until not that long ago, people here were stashing children’s clothes and other trinkets in their ceilings to ward off evil presences. Who knows, perhaps some still are.

The Plague Stones brilliantly blends the contemporary politics of short-cut property developers and bodies corporate with much older stories of injustice and ostracism. It made me look at cornerstones and keystones and the weathered old rocks I’ve already started taking for granted with the new eyes of a traveller.
Visit Louis Greenberg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 28, 2019

Domenica Ruta

Domenica Ruta is a fiction writer and memoirist from Massachusetts. A scholarship kid at Phillips Academy Andover and Oberlin College, she has worked as a videographer and editor, a book store clerk, a waitress, a bartender, an English-as-a-Foreign-Language teacher, a nanny, a nursing home caregiver, a domestic violence hotline advocate and a house cleaner. She received her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas, Austin.

Her first book, the memoir With or Without You, was a New York Times Bestseller and named by Entertainment Weekly as one of the top three nonfiction books of the year 2013. The Boston Globe, Macleans, NPR, Slate, Elle, Bust, and USA Today all loved it.

Ruta's newly released first novel is Last Day.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Right now I'm reading In Love with the World: A Monk's Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. It's about this Tibetan Buddhist monk living in India, a man who essentially grew up as royalty. He's from a long lineage of esteemed teachers and monks and has led a very sheltered life full of meditation and study but not much dish washing or laundry or even walking alone. One night he leaves his monastery, telling no one, to spend a few years in poverty and anonymity begging for food on the streets. Of course the narrative is interspersed with bits of spiritual wisdom and practical techniques for dealing with the noisy chaos of regular life, but these two threads - the story and the lessons - are so beautifully woven that at no point does this book feel like a "how-to." My favorite part so far (I'm not finished) is Yongey's account of a more common childhood experience for Tibetan Buddhists: when a toy breaks or an older sibling elbows a kid in the side or some little thing like that happens, the typical parental response to the crying child is to say, "impermanence and death!" I've been trying that on my four-year-old at home and I don't think it's working but it cracks me up every time.
Visit Domenica Ruta's website.

The Page 69 Test: Last Day.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Season Butler

Season Butler is a London-based writer, performance artist and teacher, and an associate producer of the I'm With You art collective.

Her new novel is Cygnet.

Recently I asked Butler about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve been thinking a lot – and writing a bit – about the idea of intergenerational conflict and the climate crisis, so I revisited Rachel Carson’s classic, Silent Spring. Carson’s brilliance comes through in her command of the diversity of her reader’s imagination, weaving together science, fable and reportage to illustrate the challenges facing humanity. Rachel Carson was close to the end of her life when Silent Spring was published in 1962 – though only 54 when it came out, she died of cancer two years later. While we often think of environmentalism as a youth movement (and young activists like Greta Thunberg and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez certainly deserve credit for the eloquence and energy they bring to the movement), it’s worth remembering that mass movements for social change happen across social divisions, in coalition, benefitting from experience and optimism alike.

I like to read one piece of fiction alongside one non-fiction, and The Farm by Joanne Ramos has me completely gripped. It’s a poignant look at commodification under late capitalism through the deeply personal experiences of motherhood and other kinds of “women’s” labour. It has been compared to Handmaid’s Tale, and I agree that it achieves a similarly potent social critique, but the work is totally original. I am devouring it.

My next read was recommended to me by the artist Liz Rosenfeld. The Motion of Light on Water is Samuel R Delany’s memoir, and Rosenfeld’s all-time favourite book. I’m expecting a personal reflection that is also a loving tour through New York City’s evolution from mid-century toward the millennium. I have loved Delany’s sci-fi and social critique (Times Square Red, Times Square Blue is among my all-time favourites), so I think I’ll be in for a treat with this one.
Visit Season Butler's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cygnet.

The Page 69 Test: Cygnet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Catherine Chung

Catherine Chung was born in Evanston, IL, and grew up in New York, New Jersey, and Michigan. Writing has been her life-long passion, but as an undergraduate she indulged in a brief, one-sided affair with mathematics at the University of Chicago followed by a few years in Santa Monica working at a think tank by the sea.

Eventually she attended Cornell University for her MFA, and since then she and her books have been given shelter and encouragement from The MacDowell Colony, Jentel, Hedgebrook, SFAI, Camargo, The University of Leipzig, VCCA, UCross, Yaddo, Civitella Ranieri, The Jerome Foundation, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation. Her brother, Heesoo Chung, has also given her a bed and fed her lots of ice cream at criticał times.

Chung is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Director’s Visitorship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She was a Granta New Voice, and won an Honorable Mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award with her first novel, Forgotten Country, which was a Booklist, Bookpage, and San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2012. She has published work in The New York Times, The Rumpus, and Granta, and is a fiction editor at Guernica Magazine. She lives in New York City.

Chung's new novel is The Tenth Muse.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
This has been a phenomenal year in reading for me so far: I've been blown away by the amazing books have come my way which I found both timely and timeless. Two of my favorite poets published new collections this year: Honeyfish by Lauren Alleyne, is a shimmering, elegiac collection of poetry laced with wonder and grief that tackles immigration, police and state violence, and the longing for the home left behind and the home not yet found; in Deaf Republic Ilya Kaminsky imagines an occupied country that goes collectively deaf after the soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy. Terrifying, tender, and filled with beauty and pain, it is a work of tremendous imagination and heart. Another poet (and novelist and translator) Idra Novey wrote one of my favorite novels of the year, the extraordinary Those Who Knew about personal and political power, violence, and the cost of speaking up versus the cost of staying silent.

Every book I read by Helen Oyeyemi is an utter delight--I don't know if there's anyone writing today who charms me more. She's wildly inventive, wickedly smart and funny and full of heart. She doesn't write like she's breaking the rules, she writes like there are no rules, like nothing can touch her. Her latest novel, Gingerbread, is pure exhilaration.

Spring by Ali Smith was--as her entire quartet has been--a revelation. It brings together different lives and outlooks, different times, ideas, and modes of art into one dazzling, thought-provoking, endlessly compassionate conversation, at the center of which is a young immigrant girl of such heartbreaking courage and integrity, with such a beautiful capacity to trust the humanity in anyone, even those who would harm her--that I found myself resolving to be better somehow after reading it.

Women Talking by Miriam Toews and Trust Exercise by Susan Choi I read back to back and was blown away by the brilliance of both. They're each structurally daring in different ways, and each grapples with the implications of who gets to tell the story, and involves coming to a new comprehension of the past that requires a reckoning with one's place and agency in the present. I found them equal parts heartbreaking and empowering, and though they are very different, they are both unsettling books of immense depth that ask enormous, difficult questions about community, love, self-determination, and power.
Visit Catherine Chung's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 24, 2019

Peter Houlahan

Peter Houlahan is a freelance writer contributing to a wide range of publications. In his career as an emergency medical technician, he has written a number of articles related to his profession. He holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. A native Southern Californian, Houlahan now lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

His new book is Norco ’80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History.

Recently I asked Houlahan about what he was reading. His reply:
Mayflower: A Story of Courage Community and War. Nathanial Philbrick. It doesn’t get any better than Nathanial Philbrick when it comes to history writers, and his wheelhouse is anything maritime. His sense of story arc and trenchant prose makes fiction writers envious, but he never sensationalizes or trivializes his subjects. The Nantucket-based writer is happy to take the reader on little field trips into related subjects and somehow never make it feel tangential. History of maritime cannibalism anyone? You never feel that he comes to a subject with an agenda or ideological chip on his shoulder, but he is not afraid to set the record straight when it comes to our most cherished national tales, as he does here in Mayflower. Often for better and sometimes for worse, the Pilgrims were certainly not who you thought they were.

Where the Money Is: True Tales from the Bank Robbery Capital of the World. William J. Rehder and Gordon Dillow. I love little known facts and stories that absolutely astonish me when I learn of them. “Of all the bank robberies in the nation over the past three or four decades, at least 25 percent of them have gone down within commuting distance of the soaring white spire of [Los Angeles] City Hall,” writes former FBI Special Agent William Rehder. Rehder is talking about the epidemic of bank robberies that swept the L.A. metro area during the 1980s and early 1990s when he was the head of the bank robbery squad for the Fed’s L.A. field office. So how bad was it? Really bad. Between 1985 and 1995 there were 17,106 bank licks in the area, including 2,641 in 1992 alone, one every 45 minutes of each banking day. Rehder and Dillow – a veteran crime journalist and war correspondent – tell this frequently absurd, often terrifying, always entertaining story of a crime wave that seems almost unimaginable by today’s standards.
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--Marshal Zeringue