Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jaclyn Moriarty

Jaclyn Moriarty lives in Australia.

Her young-adult novels, Feeling Sorry for Celia and The Year of Secret Assignments, are both international bestsellers. Her newest novel is The Spell Book of Listen Taylor, about which Martha Brockenbrough wrote: "It's marketed as a young-adult novel, but I can't imagine anyone well into old-adulthood (sigh) not loving it."

I recently asked Moriarty what she was reading. Her reply:
At the moment, I’m writing a ghost story – the characters are grade twelve students who are studying gothic fiction. So I’ve been reading a lot of ghost stories and gothic novels. Most recently: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe.

Last night, I finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, and I thought it was deliriously lovely. A couple of days ago I read a young adult book: the sharp, macabre and funny Martyn Pig by Kevin Brooks. Much of Martyn Pig is spent in the presence of a slowly decaying corpse. The smell is so vividly depicted that I’m still opening windows in my house, trying to let in some fresh air.

I read a lot of picture books to my 2-year-old, Charlie. Some of his favourites make me want to suffocate myself. But others, including Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd, Night Cars by Teddy Jam and Eric Bellows, and Winter Afternoon by Jorge Elias Lujan and Mandana Sadat are so enchanting that, although I’ve read them to Charlie hundreds of times, I sometimes read them to myself.

And finally, two books have kept me turning pages fast in the last month. One was What Alice Forgot, the upcoming novel by my sister, Liane Moriarty. It is fantastic (and I’m being objective). The other was Great Expectations: Twenty-Four True Stories about Childbirth, edited by Dede Crane and Lisa Moore. I have to disclose that the only reason I read this was because I have a story in the collection. But once I started, I was addicted. Setting my own story aside, this book is a strangely compelling collection of beautiful, funny, and powerful narratives about having babies – with some breathtaking twists and turns. It kept making me cry.
Visit Jaclyn Moriarty's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 28, 2008

Laura E. Ruberto

Laura E. Ruberto is co-chair, Arts and Cultural Studies Department, Berkeley City College.

Her published works include the books Italian Neorealism and Global Cinema (Wayne State University Press, 2007, co-edited with Kristi M. Wilson) and Gramsci, Migration, and the Representation of Women's Work in Italy and the U.S. (Lexington, 2007).

Last week I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m in the middle of reading Emigrant Nation: The Making of Italy Abroad, by Mark I. Choate. It’s an impressive historical study on the construction of Italian national identity through the everyday lived realities of its emigrants. I find his approach refreshing since it sort of inverts the migration narrative back on to the country of origin and considers emigrants as agents of change in Italy (as well as in their adopted country). I’m especially interested in how Choate teases out the Italian government’s role in promoting Italo-culture beyond Italy.

I also recently started reading Grazia Deledda’s Dance of Modernity (by Margherita Heyer-Caput). The book situates itself among other contemporary examinations of this writer: sometimes Deledda’s been read as a regional (Sardinian) writer, at other times as a woman writer, or as a canonical Nobel Prize-winning writer. Heyer-Caput instead situates Deledda within the modernist philosophical framework of her contemporaries. My background in film studies led me to jump ahead to the chapter on the novel Cenere, since it was made into what is now considered a classic of Italian silent cinema starring the stage actress Eleonora Duse. The novel is a tragic story involving a mother and her son, and Heyer-Caput points to how the novel centralizes the son, whereas the film, through Duse’s body language and creative use of light, highlights the mother’s personal development and action.
Learn more about Laura E. Ruberto and her work.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Linda Barnes

Linda Barnes is the author of the Carlotta Carlyle mysteries and the Michael Spraggue mysteries. She is a winner of the Anthony and American Mystery Awards.

Recently I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I've just finished:

Furious Improvisation, by Susan Quinn
Nerve Damage, by Peter Abrahams
The French Lieutenant's Woman, by John Fowles
Brass Verdict, by Michael Connelly.

This week I'm planning to read The Hungry Tide, by Amitav Ghosh.
Visit the official Linda Barnes website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 24, 2008

Robert Tsai

Robert L. Tsai is associate professor of law at American University, Washington College of Law. His new book is Eloquence and Reason: Creating a First Amendment Culture.

Earlier this month I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I'm teaching a course in the spring on presidential leadership on rights, so a good deal of my reading at the moment is focused on finding well written journalistic, historical, or political science treatments of the matter. To that end, I am reading Jane Mayer's The Dark Side, a gripping account of the Bush administration's efforts to rewrite legal frameworks having to do with the detention and interrogation of individuals suspected of terrorism or other crimes.

I recently re-read Robert H. Jackson's The Struggle for Judicial Supremacy, written while he was U.S. Attorney General and published the same year he was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In it, Jackson looks back on the transformative New Deal years as part of a constant struggle in American politics between judicial supremacy and popular government. Although he is obviously a partisan--someone who participated actively in the making of history and law during these formative years and would continue to do so--he tried to put events in historical context. The book is highly accessible. It demonstrates that the issues intellectuals struggled with during the war years are much the same as the ones we struggle with now: how to reconcile the rule of law with rule by the majority; and how to reform government to render it more accountable to the needs of average Americans.

Because a good deal of my existence involves reading rather dense and dry law review articles, I have developed a knack for scanning for basic ideas. I feel the countervailing need to read literature to force my mind to slow down and regain a sense of pleasure in good writing. At the moment, I am reading Murakami's, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. His writings are always evocative and whimsical.
Learn more about Robert Tsai's teaching and research at his personal website.

Read an excerpt from Eloquence and Reason, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Visit the Eloquence and Reason blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Brenda Shaughnessy

Brenda Shaughnessy is a Lecturer in Creative Writing in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University and the Poetry Editor of Tin House magazine and Tin House Books. Her poems have been published in Bomb, Boston Review, Colorado Review, Conjunctions, McSweeney’s, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Yale Review and elsewhere. Her publications include: Interior with Sudden Joy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999, finalist for the Norma Farber First Book Award, PEN/Joyce C. Osterweil Award and Lambda Literary Award (2000)) and Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon Press, 2008).

Recently, I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
My scattered but obsessive reading habits have me reading six or seven books simultaneously. Currently, I am lingering happily in the middle of the marvelous novels: The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt, Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead, The Way Through Doors by Jesse Ball, and the fantastic "webnovel" The Unbinding by Walter Kirn.

Books of prose I recently finished that I keep thinking about are Ed Park's hilariously-and-sadly-perfect-for-our-times Personal Days. I also loved Kelly Link's Magic For Beginners. And on the serious side, Simone Weil's essays Waiting for God.

In poetry, I'm crazy about Jennifer Michael Hecht's Funny. I love how she explores the constructions and methods of humor, while remaining humorous! Claudia Keelan's The Devotion Field and Utopic blew my mind, in ways I can't explain in prose. When I'm feeling Po-Mo I have the irresistible urge to pick up, again, Monica de la Torre's Talk Shows.
Poems by Brenda Shaughnessy available online include:
"I'm Over the Moon"
"Me in Paradise"
"Why is the Color of Snow?"
Read more about Human Dark with Sugar at the publishers' website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Porter Shreve

Porter Shreve's first novel, The Obituary Writer, was a 2000 New York Times Notable Book, a Book Sense pick, and a Borders Original Voices selection. His second novel, Drives Like a Dream, was a 2005 Chicago Tribune Book of the Year, a People "Great Reads" selection, and a Britannica Book of the Year. His third novel, When the White House Was Ours, was published by Mariner Houghton Mifflin in September.

Shreve currently directs the Creative Writing Program at Purdue University.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
At the moment I'm teaching a graduate course in the Craft of Fiction here in the MFA Program at Purdue. We read a book a week from the perspective of writers, looking at how character, voice, point of view, tone, image, language, style, dialogue, plot and theme converge to make art. Because so many of my students are writing short stories but need to think about how to put the stories together into a first book we're reading a few themed collections – Birds of America by Lorrie Moore, Drown by Junot Díaz, and Hunger by Lan Samantha Chang, who also visited Purdue a couple weeks ago and gave a wonderful reading from a novella in progress. I'm amazed by the title novella in Hunger, told from the point of view of a mother looking back over the course of her whole life, from her mother's warnings about yuanfen, "that apportionment of love which is destined for you in this world," to her arrival in New York and mostly loveless marriage, to her raising of two very different daughters to her death and return at the end as a hungry ghost, still haunting the New York apartment where one of her daughters still lives. It's a moving, beautifully written story that uses the supernatural in surprising yet inevitable ways.

A particular interest of mine these days, which can also be useful to students looking to rework their stories into books is the novel in stories or story cycle, so I'm teaching three "regional" story cycles – Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie, The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day – and three "urban" story cycles – Dubliners by James Joyce, I Sailed With Magellan by Stuart Dybek, and The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor. We're also reading novels, both close and wide in scope – Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, The Ice Storm by Rick Moody, American Pastoral by Philip Roth – and the play Wit by Pulitzer Prize-winner Margaret Edson, who also recently visited Purdue. And just yesterday I taught one of my favorite books: Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell. There's no greater challenge for a writer than combining satire and realism into the same novel, because readers expect one or the other, not both, even though life is a constant teetering between comedy and tragedy, blind hope and inescapable sorrow. Perhaps Connell disarms readers' expectations through his use of an innovative fragmented structure – Mrs. Bridge is a mosaic of a book, told in 117 short chapters, some only a paragraph long, that mirror the protagonist's fractured sense of self, her puzzlement. Somehow, through extraordinary skill and tonal control, Connell manages to display great affection for Mrs. Bridge while at the same time revealing her to be the very emblem of the insular, isolationist, ignorant, xenophobic, spiritless, lost suburbanite of mid-century Middle America. And perhaps what astounds me most each time I read this masterpiece of portraiture written nearly fifty years ago is how current the novel is, how true to our time, any time.
Learn more about Porter Shreve and his work at his website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

John McNeill

Since 1985 John McNeill has served as a faculty member of the School of Foreign Service and the History Department at Georgetown University. From 2003 until 2006 he held the Cinco Hermanos Chair in Environmental and International Affairs, until his appointment as University Professor.

He teaches world history, environmental history, and international history at Georgetown. His books include Epidemics and Geopolitics in the American Tropics, 1640-1920 (2008) and Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th-Century World (2000).

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I recently enjoyed H. Bruce Franklin's story of the role of an unsung and unloved fish, the menhaden, in American history and life: The Most Important Fish in the Sea. I had been entirely unaware of this humble fish's role in filtering American inshore waters and as food for most of the predator fish that we like to eat. It recounts the rise and fall of the menhaden fishery, and ends with the partial comeback of menhaden populations, and reminds us how poorly we manage marine resources.

Before that I read Elizabeth Fenn's Pox Americana, about the smallpox epidemic in North America in the 1770s, a fabulous piece of history writing. I had read it a few years ago, but wanted to remind myself of how a good book is put together.

I've also read most of (and should soon finish) Julian Bennett's Trajan, to learn more about one my favorite Roman emperors, especially about his conquest of what we now call Iraq early in the second century A.D. His successor, Hadrian, decided it was not worth the cost of keeping it and withdrew Roman forces. I suspect President Obama will conclude similarly in a few months.
Learn more about John McNeill's research and teaching at his faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Andrea Weiss

Andrea Weiss is a documentary filmmaker, nonfiction author, and Professor and Chair of the Department of Media and Communication Arts at The City College of New York, CUNY.

Her most recent book is In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story.

Recently I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Last week I finished reading The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. You've already heard, unless you've been hiding under a rock, that the story is fascinating and Winchester tells it amazingly well. Hard to believe that what is essentially a history of the dictionary can make for such a compelling read. All those accolades he received for it are well deserved.

I have also recently started Local Girl Makes History by Dana Frank, which so far is the perfect mix of anecdote, personal memoir and historical analysis. In the interest of full disclosure, Dana is a friend of mine. But she is also a terrific historian and her politics are always right on the money. I was among her loyal readership before I ever met her (through a random chat on a New York subway twenty years ago, strangely enough), so it's not because of friendship that I'm just groovin' on this book.

And I am very nearly finished with a book still in manuscript form, Brothers in Exile by Selig Kainer, coming out soon from Scarith Books (New Academia Publishing). It's calling itself "A Novel of the Lives and Loves of Thomas and Heinrich Mann" and basically takes their factual relationship, which has been the subject of quite a few biographies, as its point of departure. Let's face it, I started reading it only because I was asked to provide a quote for its jacket. After David Hajdu so graciously wrote one for me, it would have been churlish to turn Kainer down. And it turns out I am glad I didn't, because I probably never would have read it now that my own book is finished and I am finally, after way too many years, once and for all off the subject of the Mann family. (I saw a new English translation of Klaus Mann's novel Alexander in the St. Marks Bookshop the other day, and, incredibly, I didn't even buy it.) Anyway back to Kainer's novel: such an undertaking seems somewhat arcane, but the vivid detail he brings to it is gripping and his obsession with his characters is contagious. I think it is coming out around the end of the year -- watch for it.

The book I'll pick up next from my bedside pile is River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler. It has that magical look about it, so I'm really eager to dive in.
Read more about Andrea Weiss' films and books, and read an excerpt from and learn more about In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Jen Lin-Liu

Jen Lin-Liu's debut nonfiction memoir is Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China.

A few days ago I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I am currently reading Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang, The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux, and Out of Mao's Shadow by Philip Pan and just finished The Last Days of Old Beijing by Michael Meyer.
Jen Lin-Liu is a Chinese-American writer and the founder of the cooking school Black Sesame Kitchen. She was raised in southern California, graduated from Columbia University, and went to China in 2000 on a Fulbright fellowship. A restaurant editor for Zagat Survey and the coauthor of Frommer’s Beijing, she has also written for Newsweek, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Saveur, Food & Wine, and Time Out Beijing.

Visit Jen Lin-Liu's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lawrence R. Jacobs

Lawrence R. Jacobs is the director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the Hubert Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota.

His new book, co-authored with Lawrence D. Brown, is The Private Abuse of the Public Interest: Market Myths and Policy Muddles.

I recently asked him what he was reading. His reply:
My eclectic recent reading list:

Julie Schumacher, Black Box
Richard Pious, Why Presidents Fail
Jane Mayer, The Dark Side
Learn more about Lawrence R. Jacobs' research and teaching at his faculty webpage.

Read more about The Private Abuse of the Public Interest at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stephen Hess

Stephen Hess' new book is What Do We Do Now?: A Workbook for the President-Elect.

Earlier this week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
A book I just finished and have already passed along to two colleagues is The Columnist (Harvest Book, 2001), a novel by Jeffrey Frank. It is the only Washington novel that I would dare call Swiftian. Brutally funny.
Stephen Hess is Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Brookings Institution. A veteran staffer of the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations and an advisor to Presidents Ford and Carter, he focuses on the presidency, the news media, and the political culture of Washington.

About What Do We Do Now?, from the publisher:
The period from Election Day to Inauguration Day in America seems impossibly short. Newly elected U.S. presidents have less than eleven weeks to construct a new government composed of supporters and strangers, hailing from all parts of the nation. This unique and daunting process always involves at least some mistakes—in hiring, perhaps, or in policy priorities, or organizational design. Early blunders can carry serious consequences well into a president’s term; minimizing them from the outset is critical. In What Do We Do Now? Stephen Hess draws from his long experience as a White House staffer and presidential adviser to show what can be done to make presidential transitions go smoothly.[read more]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Karen Chance

Karen Chance is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Cassandra Palmer Series and other books and stories, including the recently released Midnight's Daughter.

Last week I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I grew up reading whatever was lying around the house, usually what my mother was reading. As a result, I received some very strange looks in the fourth grade when the teacher asked everyone to list their favorite book. At the time, mine was Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (still a favorite).

My tendency toward eclectic reading didn’t change with age. I write urban fantasy, but I probably read more outside the genre than in it. My most recent obsession is Lindsey Davis’s charming Falco books. They are a great series for anyone interested in ancient Rome, but who prefers to learn about it the easy way—through a fictional narrative—rather than through a more traditional text book. Likewise, the Cadfael mysteries by Edith Pargeter [aka Ellis Peters] offer a wonderful glimpse into medieval England and Wales.

On the nonfiction front, I just finished Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth Century World by John McNeill, Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser and The Floating Brothel: The Extraordinary True Story of an 18th-Century Ship and Its Cargo of Female Convicts by Sian Rees.
Read an excerpt from Midnight's Daughter.

Visit Karen Chance's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tom Santopietro

Tom Santopietro is the author of Considering Doris Day, The Importance of Being Barbra, and the newly released Sinatra in Hollywood.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I usually am reading three books at a time: one work of fiction, one of non-fiction, and one for the subway that is usually a collection of essays. My recent choices:

1. Hope Dies Last by Studs Terkel. One of my literary heroes, and as happens with each book of Terkel's that I read, I find myself underlining multiple passages. Terkel's books contain wisdom in abundance. He will be sorely missed.

2. The Lion of Hollywood by Scott Eyman. A terrific biography of Louis B. Mayer that rescues Mayer from the cliched portrait of Hollywood moguls, and delves into his extraordinary drive and Horatio Alger-like life. A terrifically entertaining examination of exactly how much the Hollywood dream factories influenced American culture in the twentieth century.

3. Life Class by Pat Barker. I've been hooked on Barker's writing ever since the (award winning) "Regeneration" trilogy, and this is yet another arresting look at the horrors of World War I and how the foundations of our modern world came into being.
Among the early praise for Tom Santopietro's Sinatra in Hollywood:
"A terrifically lucid and entertaining look at Sinatra's achievement."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Santopietro directs his attention to Sinatra's film career with great success. This work is both highly readable and extensively researched... Santopietro ably fills a long-standing gap in Sinatra biography, and his book is highly recommended."
--Library Journal
Visit Tom Santopietro's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Gina Athena Ulysse

Gina Athena Ulysse was born in Petion-Ville, Haiti. Trained as an anthropologist, she is also a poet/performer and multi-media artist.

Ulysse is also a professor of Anthropology and African American Studies at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Her first book, Downtown Ladies: Informal Commercial Importers, a Haitian Anthropologist and Self-Making in Jamaica, was published by the University of Chicago Press.

Earlier this week I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
During the semester, my reading is almost always determined by my courses. This term, I am teaching a first year seminar "Haiti: Myths and Realities." So the last couple of weeks, I have been simultaneously re-reading The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat and Massacre River by René Philoctète-- two fictionalized accounts of the 1937 Trujillo ordered massacre of thousands of Haitians in the Dominican Republic. I am kicking myself for not having assigned either this time, choosing instead to use a significant social science text, Race and Politics in the Dominican Republic by Ernesto Sagas. That book offers a much more in-depth look at the historical development of what Sagas aptly calls Anti-Haitianism in the DR. My regret is that the visceral in the novels add a dimension to the tragedy that most structural analyses often miss. Next time, I will assign selections from all three.

For the junior seminar on contemporary anthropological theory, I am reading an epic ethnographic poem "The Coolie" by E. Valentine Daniel in the journal Cultural Anthropology. I am fighting with this poem because of its structure, terza rima, though I am enjoying it for its craft, rich references and secretly loving the fact that Daniel (one of my former profs at UM) is actually blurring genres.

A couple years ago, I made it a rule to not read anything work related before sleep or when I awake. On my bedside table, I have a stack of memoirs that I plan to get to (I am currently revising my own, Loving Haiti, Loving Vodou, Loving Myself), and lots of poetry that tend to rotate. Poetry for me is meditation. Right now, I am savoring Nikky Finney's Rice that a friend recommended and Michael Palmer's Company of Moths. I attended his reading at Wesleyan weeks ago. There are two staples, The Black Poets anthology edited by Dudley Randall and Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, that never go back on the shelf. I often get a daily fix, reading random bits from both. I imagine the poets in conversation with each other. I might begin with James A. Randall's "Don't Ask Me Who I Am" or June Jordan's "Poem for My Family" and always end with a selection from Whitman's "Song of Myself." One of my favorite lines of all time, "I exist as I am and that is enough." After reading these, I usually feel like I can rule the world until the next day or night.
Read more about Downtown Ladies.

Visit Gina Athena Ulysse's website to learn more about her poetry and other projects.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 7, 2008

John Dunning

John Dunning has revealed some of book collecting's most shocking secrets in his bestselling series of crime novels featuring Cliff Janeway: Booked to Die, which won the prestigious Nero Wolfe award; The Bookman's Wake, a New York Times Notable Book of 1995; and the New York Times and Book Sense bestsellers The Bookman's Promise, The Sign of the Book, and The Bookwoman's Last Fling. He is also the author of the Edgar Award-nominated Deadline, The Holland Suggestions, and Two O'Clock, Eastern Wartime. An expert on rare and collectible books, he owned the Old Algonquin Bookstore in Denver for many years. He is also an expert on American radio history and author of On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio.

Recently, I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I'm re-reading The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw, and reading Books by Larry McMurtry.
Dunning's On the Air made Anthony Rudel's five best list of books about the "Golden Age of Radio."

Visit John Dunning's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Marcello Simonetta

Marcello Simonetta is the author of The Montefeltro Conspiracy: A Renaissance Mystery Decoded.

Simonetta received his doctorate in Renaissance Studies from Yale. He has been featured on The History Channel, and in 2007 he curated an exhibition on Federico da Montefeltro’s library at the Morgan Library & Museum.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I have just read Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader, a delightful, short masterpiece about the pleasures and dangers of reading. The uncommon main character is none other than the Queen of England, who gets entangled in the intoxicating habit of book-tasting at the risk of compromising her own status. Surrounded by philistine prime ministers and dutiful clerks, by the end she convinces even the most unsympathetic reader that literature is the necessary cure against soulless politics.
Read an excerpt from The Montefeltro Conspiracy, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 3, 2008

Laurel Corona

Laurel Corona is the author of more than a dozen middle school books and is a professor of English and Humanities at San Diego City College.

Her new book is The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi's Venice.

Late last month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I have to admit I’m putting down a fair number of books “for later” these days, not because I don’t find them interesting or well written, but because I’ve got the attention span of a fruit fly in the lead-up to the release of my debut novel, The Four Seasons. Top of the list of books to read is Sweetsmoke by David Fuller, once I have finished Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen. Sweetsmoke is set during the Civil War on the eponymously-named plantation, and involves the investigation by one slave of the murder of another. A quick leaf-through shows the protagonist, Cassius Howard, to be an intelligent, self-educated, and principled character, which should make for a nuanced plot.

The book I finished most recently is The Only Son by Stephane Audeguy, about an older brother Jean-Jacques Rousseau mentions only once in his Confessions. The book gives a fascinating look at Paris in the period of the French Revolution and Reign of Terror. I also picked up Tess Gerritsen’s tense historical murder mystery The Bone Garden in an airport recently, and didn’t put it down until I had finished. This summer, my pool reads were Lauren Willig’s fun and lighthearted The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, and Lauren Groff’s quirky The Monsters of Templeton. I highly recommend this one to lovers of early American literature and/or baseball, since it is set in a fictionalized version of Cooperstown NY, and weaves in real characters from the eras of both Abner Doubleday and James Fenimore Cooper.

I am currently reading a book called Thanks, by Robert A. Emmons. It’s part of the “positive psychology” movement, focusing on the important emotional and health benefits of what Emmons calls “practicing gratitude.” It makes complete sense to me that one of the key markers of mental health turns out to be the habit of pausing during our days to identify who and what helps us along our way, and being both outwardly and inwardly thankful. I think I am pretty well practiced at what he is talking about, having, as always, an extraordinary number of things about which to feel grateful. Including my job (I’m a professor of Humanities at San Diego City College), and right now, as unsexy as it sounds, what I really have to go read is that stack of midterms on my desk.
Visit Laurel Corona's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Lennard Davis

Lennard J. Davis is Professor in the English Department in the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he had also served as Head. In addition, he is Professor of Disability and Human Development in the School of Applied Health Sciences of the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as Professor of Medical Education in the College of Medicine. He is also director of Project Biocultures, a think-tank devoted to issues around the intersection of culture, medicine, disability, biotechnology, and the biosphere. He is the author of The Disability Studies Reader, My Sense of Silence: Memoirs of a Childhood with Deafness, and Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body, among other books.

His new book is Obsession: A History.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I tend read a lot of books at once. Right now I'm reading Russell Shorto's The Island at the Center of the World, David Lodge's Deaf Sentence, Judith Butler's The Psychic Life of Power, and a book in French I just picked up in Paris from a show at the Rodin Museum about Freud and Rodin as collectors of antiquities. I'm also paging through the catalog from the Courbet show at the Met in NYC.
Visit Lennard Davis' website, and learn more about Obsession: A History at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue