Sunday, June 29, 2008

Darin Strauss

Darin Strauss is the international bestselling author of the New York Times Notable books Chang and Eng and The Real McCoy. Also a screenwriter, he is adapting Chang and Eng with Gary Oldman, for Disney. The recipient of a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction writing, he is a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU's Graduate school.

His new book is More Than It Hurts You.

Earlier this month I asked Strauss what he was reading. His reply:
I've been reading Between the Bridge and the River by Craig Ferguson, frankly because I was a guest on his show; I picked it up for careerist reasons, simply because I thought it'd be smart to read what the host had written. But this is, in fact, a really quite literary, moving, smart novel. When does he have the time to write literary fiction and be a late night talk show host? I really recommend it. It's very much like Roddy Doyle's stuff, but maybe a little lighter.

Also, I'm re-reading Time's Arrow, by Martin Amis. I think he's under-rated, famous as he is. He's the best stylist out of the UK since VS Pritchett, I think, and as funny as Nabokov. In the generation of English-language writers after Updike's, I think he musters the best sentences, page after page. At least he does in his best stuff (Money, this book, Visiting Mrs. Nabokov, and even London Fields.) And this book -- gimmick though it is -- really shows how you can use your material to create suspense. Because of the structure of the book, everything the character does is interesting -- even (especially?) going to the bathroom.

Finally, I'm reading Remains of the Day, because I'm teaching a "craft class" for NYU's Graduate Writing program in the fall, and -- as I think Christopher Hitchens said -- this book's narrator was born to be unreliable. It's a great thing to read, if you want to learn that trick, that very hard thing to pull off: making your narrator say one thing, while communicating another to the reader. This book does it effortlessly.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, on More Than It Hurts You:
“This book is harrowing, hurtling, heartbreaking and—more than anything— devastatingly accurate. Darin Strauss (a novelist whose talents sometime seem limitless to me) has created characters whose complexities and dark motivations—though they are always hidden from each other, and even sometimes from themselves — are never hidden from their author. This is a brilliant, sharp, suspenseful novel, impossible to turn your gaze from.”
Visit Darin Strauss's website to learn more about him and his work, and visit Newsweek's "Booked" blog to read about his book tour.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hillary Rosner

Hillary Rosner is the co-author, with David Bach, of the New York Times bestseller Go Green, Live Rich: 50 Simple Ways to Save the Earth and Get Rich Trying.

Recently, I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I've got a bad habit of reading multiple books at once (well, not literally at once, but you know what I mean), so there's always a big stack by my bedside, some of which I confess I will never make it through. I'm about halfway done with The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples by Tim Flannery. Flannery's the rare combination of a scientist and a great general-audience writer. This book isn't quite as good as The Weather Makers, his more recent one about climate change, but it's a pretty fascinating journey through the history of life on our continent.

I just bought Ed Park's recently published first novel, Personal Days, which is supposed to be loosely based on his years at the Village Voice, where we were colleagues. Planning to start it tonight, if I've got anything left in me after reading sections of two books by Paul R. Ehrlich (The Population Explosion and One with Nineveh), which I just took out of the library because I'm reviewing his newest addition to the "we are in huge trouble thanks to overpopulation, overconsumption, and general bad behavior" genre, The Dominant Animal. No wonder I never want to get out of bed.

I've also got Best American Science and Nature Writing 2007 close at hand, though I'm unfortunately almost done with it and I think there are about six more months until the 2008 edition.

And next on my novel list will, I think, be Janelle Brown's All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.
Hillary Rosner is a journalist specializing in science and environmental issues. Her work has appeared recently in the New York Times, Popular Science, Men’s Journal, Seed, Audubon, Town & Country, and 5280. She has been a contributing editor at New York and a senior editor at the Village Voice, and has also written for Ski, Wired, Prevention, High Country News,,, The Industry Standard, and many other publications. She was also a contributor to Al Gore’s bestselling book An Inconvenient Truth, and to The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook.

Visit Hillary Rosner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ruth Dudley Edwards is a journalist, historian and prize-winning biographer (the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Victor Gollancz: a biography).

Her non-fiction books include True Brits: inside the Foreign Office, The Pursuit of Reason: The Economist 1843-1993, The Faithful Tribe: an intimate portrait of the loyal institutions, and Newspapermen: Hugh Cudlipp, Cecil Harmsworth King and the glory days of Fleet Street.

In America, she may be better known for her crime novels. The latest, Murdering Americans, is set in the academic world of Indiana. It won the 2008 Last Laugh Award, awarded at Crimefest.

Last week I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm spending most of my days in court in Belfast or Dublin covering the civil case against the Omagh bombers - about which I'm writing a book. Terrorism is these days my main interest, so I'm reading Michael Burleigh's chilling but very lively Blood and Rage: a cultural history of terrorism.

By way of light relief, I have Donna Moore's hilarious send-up of every cliche in the crime-writing canon, Go to Helena Handbasket, which makes me laugh out loud. It deserves to become a classic.
Visit Ruth Dudley Edwards' website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lijia Zhang

Lijia Zhang has been published in the South China Morning Post, Far Eastern Economic Review, Japan Times, The Independent, Washington Times, and Newsweek.

She is co-author of China Remembers (Oxford University Press, 1999) and author of the newly released, "Socialism Is Great!": A Worker’s Memoir of the New China.

Recently, I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
As a journalist reporting from China, I always try to read new books about China. Recently, I read a few good ones.

The Little Red Book of China Business by Sheila Melvin. This is not another book for how to do business in China, cashing in on the large potential of the China market and the need for guidance through the political and cultural maze. This is a most unusual book about how to apply Chairman Mao’s thoughts to understanding business culture in China. It sounds wacky, but makes sense. Although Mao died over 30 years ago, he influenced the new generation of business leaders and his legacy lives on. With her deep knowledge and insight into the culture, Ms. Melvin unlocks many secrets to business success in China. Her accessible writing style and funny anecdotes make this a highly enjoyable read.

Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China by Duncan Hewitt. There have been quite a few books written by western journalists after reporting from China for some years, often a re-working of their clippings. But this one, by a former BBC correspondent, exceeds my expectations for the solid research, gripping account and selection of individual stories that illuminate the fast and vast changes.

Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection by John Man. I just interviewed the author who was in China to research his next book about Xanadu: In the Footsteps of Marco Polo. It's such a gripping read that I found it hard to put it down. Man’s passion for his subject, something that fired up his imagination 40 years ago, shines through. The biography is an exhilarating blend of travel and history. His personal experience – in searching for Genghis’s burial place – not only updates the current situation in Mongolia but also makes the history alive and accessible.

The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho. A friend gave the novel to me for my birthday, wishing the magic to be part of my life. Having read and enjoyed the book, I now believe, more than ever, that there are magical things/moments in our lives if we are open to them.

A Bridge without Bank: An Aesthetics’ Two Lives by Tian Huidong. About a third of the books I read are in Chinese. Overall I am disappointed in the quality of the fiction coming out of China these days, which was why I was so excited and thrilled to come across this highly unusual novel, a sort of magic realism with Chinese characteristics. The story is set in the Cultural Revolution. An art student, after being hit on the head by the Red Guards, begins to experience her former life as a man from a wealthy family before the Communists took over. After being raped, the student wakes up from her coma. The hospital director claims it is due to the magic power of Chairman Mao. But she is disgraced after being discovered pregnant. With the wisdom of two life experiences, she decides to maintain the dignity of the aesthetic.

One book I always take on trips with me is Michael Ondaatje’s Running In the Family, a semi-biographical account of his journey back to Sri Lanka, mixing tales, often hilarious ones, heard or imagined, about his family. It is so evocative, beautiful and exotic – you’ll know what I mean if you read it.

On Entering the Sea: The Erotic and Other Poetry of Nizar Qabbani. Qabbani, a Damascus-born poet is reputed to be the most popular one in the Arab world. In this collection, he not only sings the praises of beauty and eroticism but champions women's rights and social Justice.
Peter Hessler, Bejing correspondent for The New Yorker and author of Oracle Bones and River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, on Lijia Zhang's "Socialism Is Great!":
If David Copperfield had been a Chinese girl in the 1980s, in the city of Nanjing, he might have ended up on the assembly line at Liming Machinery Factory, under the authority of the Ministry of Aerospace Industry, making missiles capable of reaching North America. Has the blacking factory ever seemed so benign in comparison? In ‘Socialism is Great!’ Lijia Zhang has written a beautiful memoir of this important period, when China began to recover from its political traumas and open to the outside world. Our current China literature is heavy with victim memoirs, but this is a true tale of aspiration: a young woman coming of age in a nation desperately trying to do the same.
Read an excerpt from "Socialism Is Great!" and visit Lijia Zhang's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 20, 2008

Eluned Summers-Bremner

Eluned Summers-Bremner is the author of Insomnia: A Cultural History; the forthcoming books, A History of Wandering and Ian McEwan: Sex, Death and History; and many scholarly essays.

Last week, I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Because I owe a book on the novelist Ian McEwan to a publisher by the end of July, most of this year has been taken up with rereading McEwan--or illicitly reading things like Bruce Chatwin’s biography and Kerouac’s On the Road for the History of Wandering I’ll be writing after that, but which I’m not allowed to work on yet. I was struck by how much I enjoyed (again) McEwan’s Saturday while simultaneously feeling short-changed by it as a book about the decision to go to war in Iraq. And I was struck by his having neurosurgeon Henry Perowne issue a statement about science one day cracking the secret of consciousness in a novel in which Perowne’s daughter’s recitation of a poem works the magic that frees the family from a hold-up.

Literary works conjure belief explicitly, but the suggestion that complete (scientific) knowledge is always just around the corner is magical thinking, too. I didn’t get really interested in the text until I realised the importance the narrative gives to the characters’--both Perowne’s and his daughter Daisy’s--voices as, I guess, material acts of language the consequences of which are extremely significant--life or death in this novel--but not predictable in advance. The voice is perhaps the knife-edge, the performative element, of language, like a surgeon’s scalpel: you can be a master of it without always knowing what will result. Anyway the book works well as an enjoyable thriller and McEwan is fabulous with detail: Henry’s squash game with his anaesthetist is wonderfully done, a mini-epic, but then so is Henry’s son Theo’s music and his breakfasts!

I’m about halfway through James Meek’s We Are Now Beginning Our Descent, and am not enjoying it as much as I thought I would--usually I enjoy foreign correspondent in a war zone books a lot, like travel stories but with extra danger and moral complication. I read a review before I read it which claimed that the protagonist’s unlikeability is a problem (he's a journalist who's been in Afghanistan), but I’m not sure whether it’s that that’s bothering me or something else. I think the conversations about politics read a bit too much like set pieces, so far anyway, although I expect in this area there’s always going to be a problem with things having been said in similar ways before.

I’m also part way through rereading both John McGahern’s Collected Stories and Colum McCann’s Fishing the Sloe-Black River, and reading Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul: Memories of a City. I read McCann’s Zoli earlier this year for something I had to write, and Dancer before that, which was great, but I like these early stories better. I’m currently reading with an eye to writing things that might not be non-fiction--I don’t want to say fiction which might hex the attempt--in an upcoming period of research leave in London so I’m looking for things particular writers do well, kind of going back to creative writing school. I like the way McCann disciplines the natural music of his voice in these stories. I’m loving Pamuk's Istanbul so much I’m trying to read it slowly. It’s a city I haven’t been to yet, and there’s a peculiar pleasure in reading about a city you long to visit but haven’t yet gotten around to. The photographs are great too, but less unsettling than, say, W. G. Sebald’s photographs, more enjoyably than disturbingly haunting. I’m saving rereading John Updike up for the research leave, too--that’s going to be a lot of fun.
Read more about Insomnia: A Cultural History, including an excerpt as well as reviews at the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.

Learn more about Eluned Summers-Bremner and her work.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sara Varon

Sara Varon's work includes the graphic novels Sweaterweather and Robot Dreams, and the picture book Chicken and Cat (a 2006 Parent's Choice silver honor award winner).

I recently asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I was reading a lot of books until I subscribed to The New Yorker magazine! It takes me awhile to get through that I so I don't have much time to read anymore.... I gotta figure that out!

Even though I make graphic novels, I don't read that many. But my favorite is The Rabbi's Cat by Joann Sfar. The Rabbi's Cat 2 just came out, and that was my most recent read. The second book was just as good as the first one - both the stories and pictures are fantastic.

Before that, I think I read the 3-book YA series by Philip Pullman which begins with The Golden Compass. (I found it pretty satisfying.) And before that (I am a big boxing fan) I read Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, which is great probably even if you aren't interested in boxing. Jack Johnson's life makes a great story and it gives a pretty good account of what life was like for black Americans in the early part of the 1900s.
Read more about Sara Varon and her work.

From the Booklist starred review for Robot Dreams:
In this nearly wordless graphic novel, Dog’s desire for a companion is satisfied the day Robot arrives by mail. Dog assembles Robot, and their adventures begin. After visiting the library, watching movies, and eating popcorn, the companions end up at the dog beach. Robot is hesitant to frolic in the waves with Dog at first, but after a short pause, he dives right in. The result is unfortunate — a rusty, immobile Robot. Unsure of what to do next, remorseful Dog abandons Robot on the sand to dream of what might have been (depicted first in brown tonal artwork as opposed to the color used to designate actions in real time) had things turned out differently. While Robot is used and abused, and eventually disposed of in a scrap yard, Dog agonizes over his companion, then begins searching for a new one with mixed, sometimes comic results. Varon’s drawing style is uncomplicated, and her colors are clean and refreshing. And although her story line seems equally simple, it is invested with true emotion. Varon’s masterful depiction of Dog’s struggles with guilt and Robot’s dreams of freedom effectively pulls readers into this journey of friendship, loss, self-discovery, and moving forward. Use this as Exhibit A to prove that graphic novels can pack an emotional punch equal to some of the best youth fiction.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 16, 2008

Elizabeth Wurtzel

Elizabeth Wurtzel is the author of Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America: A Memoir, Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women, The Secret of Life: Commonsense Advice for Uncommon Women, and More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction.

I recently asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm afraid the answer is rather depressing: I'm studying for the New York bar exam, so I am mostly reading study books on civil and criminal procedure, real property, commercial paper and all the things they don't teach at Yale Law School. YLS is, by the way, a minor cult of the Constitution in the middle of Connecticut. Wonderful place, kind of a legal encampment held together by chewing gum and toothpicks and a registrar's office, but not a lot of law taught here.

In my spare time, I am trying to read the manuscript to Love Junkie by my friend Rachel Resnick, because I want to blurb it. But I'm having a hard time getting it done.

If I ever have time to read again, I'm looking forward to The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein and The Future of The Internet by Jonathan Zittrain, who teaches law at Oxford and Harvard. Also, I'm dying to read the new novel by Darin Strauss, More Than It Hurts You, which is supposed to be amazing.
Read Wurtzel's March 18, 2008 Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times, "Bitter Ashes of Burned Brassieres." Her bottom line(s):
Feminism, which was meant to be fun, has lately started to seem so sour. Men, particularly married men, often dislike Hillary Clinton, and I suspect that it's because she represents the unsexy wing of the women's movement. She comes across as nearly neutered, as the woman whose husband would cheat on her -- and, in fact, we know he did. But it cannot be the case that we went through all that bra-burning and consciousness-raising to be left choosing between, yet again, the madonna or the whore. Balance is difficult. But we can do it; we're women. Like Ginger Rogers, we've been doing everything that men do, only backward and in high heels, for a very long time.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Matthew Jarpe

Matthew Jarpe is the author of the novel Radio Freefall and other science fiction stories.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I'm so glad you caught me in a month when I'm reading some high brow stuff. It could just have easily been a Calvin and Hobbes retrospective or Spider-Man comic books. But it just so happens that right now I'm reading Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union. I've always been a big fan of the Yiddish language and John Straley's series of Cecil Younger mysteries set in Sitka, Alaska. Both of these interests find an unlikely cohabitation in Chabon's latest novel.

And since I'm commuting by car now for the first time in my life, I've been filling the time listening to audiobooks. The first book I picked out is a history of the 14th century called A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman. Holy crap a lot of bad stuff happened in Europe in that century. The Black Death, a Hundred Years War, crazy kings, peasants revolt and to top it off, two popes at once. It's a wonder anyone survived at all.

I'm also halfway through Floating Off the Page, a collection of stories from the middle column front page of the Wall Street Journal. I had to break it up because I found myself about to board a plane in Chicago with nothing to read. My horror subsided when I passed a bookstore and noticed Chabon's book had come out in trade paperback. I haven't been able to put it down since.

Next up, naturally, is a bunch of trivial fluff including the backs of cereal boxes and instructions for video games.
Among the praise for Jarpe's Radio Freefall:
"Rock and roll and old-school hard SF go together like peanut butter and jelly in Jarpe's debut novel."
--Publishers Weekly

"This is a brisk, lucid and engrossing debut. The bloodlines of Heinlein and Varley are clearly displayed in an original new scion. I found it no end of fun."
--Kage Baker, author of Rude Mecanicals

"SF, drugs, and rock and roll! I'm holding my Bic lighter up to the rafters, waiting for an encore."
--Warren Hammond, author of KOP
Visit Matthew Jarpe's website to learn more about him and his work, and to read an excerpt from Radio Freefall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Megan Hustad

Megan Hustad is a former book editor, former bookstore manager, current freelance writer, and the author of How to Be Useful: A Beginner's Guide to Not Hating Work.

Earlier this month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I've been on fire lately -- or just extraordinarily lucky to pick up a series of books that socked me. Books generous in their judgments, imbued with patience for flawed characters and other fools, but never saccharine, or -- far worse, in my mind -- willfully naive. Their generosity is all the more remarkable because that l-o-v-e is coupled with a fierce, unblinking intelligence. In their own way, they're all works of highly refined moral sensibilities, but as I type that I realize it makes the lot sound twee and dull and sanctimonious, which they're decidedly not, so I'll shut up and get to the list:

Zadie Smith's On Beauty. It's been reviewed everywhere, so I'll spare you a recap and say only that she made me a believer with this one.

Geoff Dyer's Out of Sheer Rage. This came recommended by a friend, and it wasn't until p. 78 that I figured out why. From time to time you hear an author referred to as a "writers' writer," and it always struck me as a smug, damning charge. (A sure path to topping out at 4,000 copies net!) Dyer may be a writers' writer, and Out of Sheer Rage may be a writers' book. But few contemporary authors can make me wait for it, and wait for it, and get so irritated with him or her that I audibly scoff, and then finally, starting at the bottom of p. 224, and through the end (p. 232, so not long), swallow whole a rousing affirmation of...well, read it. I was smiling for days afterward.

Carl Wilson's Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste. A Toronto rock critic and snob immerses himself in a study of Celine Dion, emerges a better man.

Next up, if I can get my hands on it, a $60 coffee table book about the Heidelberg Project in Detroit.
Read an excerpt from How to Be Useful, and learn more about the book and author at Megan Hustad's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Brendan Borrell

Brendan Borrell is a correspondent for The Scientist whose work has appeared in many other publications, including Audubon, Natural History, Scientific American, Slate, and the Los Angeles Times.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished reading three books over the last week. The first was The Underdog: How I Survived the World's Most Outlandish Competitions, in which the 129-pound author, Joshua Davis, competes in everything from an extreme sauna championship in Finland to a "retrorunning" race in Italy. Needless to say, it was not heavy reading, but Davis is one of the most talented narrative journalists working today so I've consumed just about everything he's written. The book is apparently being turned into a film starring Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite fame -- if that gives you any indication of the reading level.

The second was Peter Singer's Practical Ethics, which I picked up for a short assignment but found so compelling I read the 400-page text in a marathon session. It's the first time I've read an academic philosophy book since college, and I was blown away by Singer's clarity and persuasiveness. He takes a level-headed look at controversial topics ranging from abortion to euthanasia and ends with the toughest question of all, "Why be moral?"

Finally, I read Richard Preston's Panic in Level 4, a collection of his New Yorker articles over the last 15 years. The most skillful writing is found in "Mountains of Pi," about a homemade supercomputer, while the most riveting story had to be "The Self-Cannibals," which is about people who have a mutation in a single gene that causes them to mangle their lips and hands. I found myself cringing and then laughing with every sentence as the account alternates between the details of this disfiguring disease and the humanity of those afflicted with it.
Brendan Borrell has "gone toadbusting in Australia, hunted for chile peppers in Bolivia, and followed in the footsteps of an Arizona mountain lion. [He] learned why a leading squash expert never finished graduate school, and [he] tried to discover the truth behind the fall of a star ornithologist."

He "can tell you why wine is red and why cheddar smells like rotten cabbage. [He] can talk tech, too. [He has] written on a birdwatching robot, an electronic nose, and on a hedge fund magnate’s quest to build a supercomputer for the drug industry."

Visit Brendan Borrell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ellen Wittlinger

Ellen Wittlinger is the author of many young adult novels including Sandpiper, Parrotfish, Hard Love, and the forthcoming Love & Lies: Marisol's Story.

In a recent Writers Read entry, Jane Yolen called Sandpiper "a well-written and smart book about a girl and boy who both have lived with unbearable secrets and who are both afraid that they now have no lives to live at all."

Late last month I asked Wittlinger what she was reading. Her reply:
At the moment I'm reading The Liar's Club by Mary Karr and Thinking About Memoir by Abigail Thomas. I'm not too far into either of them, but enjoying them both a great deal.

My favorite recent YA read was The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart, and my favorite recent adult book was The Maytrees by Annie Dillard. Lockhart's book is about a prep school girl invading and bringing down a secret all-male society at her school and it is wonderful. The Maytrees is a very quiet book of character studies, beautifully written and observed, and also set in Provincetown, Mass., my beloved spiritual home.

I've also been reading lots of graphic novels lately so as to attempt to write one myself! I've liked: 100 Demons by Lynda Barry, Watchmen by Alan Moore, Vampire Loves by Joann Sfar, and Robot Dreams by Sara Varon.
Ellen Wittlinger's Hard Love won the American Library Association Michael L. Printz Honor Book and a Lambda Literary Award. Learn more about Wittlinger and her books at her official website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 6, 2008

Joshua Clark

Joshua Clark is the author of Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in its Disaster Zone, a 2007 finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award.

Last week, I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I feel so guilty because I get asked by the National Book Critics Circle to contribute to their blog about my favorite new books and here I am re-reading the Odyssey. Just finished The Wonderful Wizard of Oz too. What a nearly perfect book! Incredible. And of course it's the Odyssey for children. I also recently read, for the first time, Life of Pi. Someone needs to write a fabulous long essay about the trinity that these three books form. The search for home in a strange land (or ocean) is only the tip of the iceberg.

Let's see... What's beside my bed now (before I fall asleep being really the only time I have to read): William Carlos Williams' In the American Grain (the Lincoln passage alone makes this one of the greats), Wallace Stevens' Collected Poems (I found him separating sunlight before twilight into masculine and feminine forms), The Sound and the Fury (my favorite book, period), Mississippi by Anthony Walton (I'm working on a book about Mississippi writers), Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, The Little Friend by Donna Tartt, and Lives of the Saints (one of the all time great New Orleans books) by Nancy Lemann that I love to pick up and start reading at any page after I've had too much to drink (which happens only a few times a year nowadays thank goodness), Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia, The Road by Cormac McCarthy (the best book I've read that's come out in the last decade... please God don't let them mess the movie up), and of course Faulkner's Collected Stories (the best collection of stories ever published).
Joshua Clark is the founder of Light of New Orleans Publishing. He has edited such books as French Quarter Fiction, Southern Fried Divorce, and others, including most recently Louisiana: In Words. A past editor for SCAT Magazine, he contributes to many publications including The Best American Nonrequired Reading, Lonely Planet anthologies, Consumer Affairs, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Miami Herald, Poets & Writers, Louisiana Literature, Time Out: New York, and he will represent Louisiana in the forthcoming anthology State by State.

Clark runs the KARES writers relief fund and covered New Orleans in the hurricane's aftermath for and National Public Radio.

The Page 99 Test: Heart Like Water.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Warren Hammond

Warren Hammond's first novel, KOP, was published in 2007 and is now available in paperback. Its sequel, Ex-KOP, is due to hit shelves in October of 2008. Currently, he is writing KOP Killer, the third book in the KOP series.

Late last month I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
For anybody who has read my writing, you know that my two great loves are crime novels and science fiction, but I do like to dabble in other genres from time to time, and lately I've been dabbling. In no particular order, here are some of the books I've read over the last few months.

Carrie Vaughn - Kitty and the Midnight Hour - Just plain fun. An underappreciated quality in the literary world.

Joe R. Lansdale - Sunset and Sawdust - "This Lansdale fella's got a way with words and such," I say with a Texas drawl. Seriously, if you've never read Lansdale, you need to start.

Mario Acevedo - The Nymphos of Rocky Flats - Vampires. Aliens. Nymphomaniacs. What's not to love?

Matthew Jarpe - Radio Freefall - SF, drugs, and rock and roll! I'm holding my Bic lighter up to the rafters, waiting for an encore.

Daniel Abraham - A Betrayal in Winter - Like all the best fantasy, Abraham drew me in so deep that he left me longing for the fact that his world's not real.

K.W. Jeter - Dr. Adder - This one's hard to find, but wow is it twisted. And I thought I was dark!
David Drake, bestselling author of Hammer’s Slammers and Lacey and His Friends, said of Hammond's debut:
"KOP is about as good as noir crime gets since Dashiell Hammett stopped writing. Yes, I know what I just said."
The Page 99 Test: KOP.

Visit Warren Hammond's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pam Lewis

Pam Lewis' short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and other literary publications.

Her books include Speak Softly, She Can Hear and the recently released Perfect Family.

Best-selling author Wally Lamb said of Perfect Family: "Pam Lewis is the literary equivalent of a forensic scientists. In her compelling second novel, Perfect Family, Lewis pulls the body of a beautiful young woman from a lake, then, layer by suspensful layer, unpeels and revels a well-to-do family's secrets, lies, and hidden heartaches. I was riveted."

Last week I asked Lewis what she was reading. Her reply:
I've just finished Haruki Murakami's After Dark. Normally I avoid anything that smacks of fantasy. I like stories solidly grounded in reality. But Murakami writes in a way that must mirror the concrete and abstract parts of our own minds because the fantasy in his stories is totally credible and satisfying.

Before that I was on a serious Harry Crews kick, finishing up with Classic Crews, the Harry Crews reader. I mean, talk about concrete — one of the stories is about a man who eats a car. You can't forget Harry Crews once you've read him.

Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo (Penguin paperback, translated by Robin Buss) is next. I can't wait to start. I think I'll be lost in this story for weeks. It's a very fat paperback. A friend likened it to reading a meatloaf.
Read an excerpt from Perfect Family, and learn more about the author and her work at Pam Lewis' website.

--Marshal Zeringue