Monday, October 15, 2012

Ellen Hart

Ellen Hart, “a top novelist in the cultishly popular gay mystery genre” (Entertainment Weekly), is also a Lambda and Minnesota Book Award winner.

Her latest novel, Rest for the Wicked, is the 20th mystery featuring Jane Lawless.  A few weeks ago I asked Hart what she was reading.  Her reply:
In August, my partner and I moved from a house we’d lived in for almost thirty years. Packing up books seemed to take forever--and this was after I’d given a ton of them away. In setting up my new study, I came across volumes I’d read in my twenties and thirties, books that moved me for one reason or another and so had to keep. I’m in the middle of two of them right now. Both novels.

The Women’s Room, by Marilyn French. I remember how much I was impressed by this book, but couldn’t recall the story. When I first read it, it seemed very timely, spoke directly to my own experience. The book seems dated now, but no less important or compelling. I’d like my daughters to read it, just to get a sense--a incredibly well-realized portrayal--of what life felt like for women in the 1950’s.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig. Another book that captured me as a younger person. I find it hilarious now to think that Robert Redford optioned this book for a movie. I have no idea how anyone could turn something so essential cerebral into the sort of movie middle-America would watch. Again, I come to this book from a different perspective now, with more life experience, with more of my own philosophy and opinions. This doesn’t take away from the story, from his central thesis, but, in fact, adds to it.

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, by D. T. Max. I’m always reading a biography, and this is my current obsession. The book is about David Foster Wallace, one of the most prominent literary figures of the last twenty years. While I find his novels impenetrable, I was drawn to some of his shorter writings, and always loved listening to his talks and interviews. The biography is flat-out terrific, taking us deep into his life and giving us a sense of both his genius and his life-long fight with mental illness. Of special interest to me were his thoughts on writing. A brilliant man and a brilliant biography.

Drift, by Rachel Maddow. For my political and/or historical reading, this is my current find. Actually, as a history lesson, this book is fascinating, so full of information that I’m on my second time through it. Maddow says that she hates writing, that she wouldn’t have undertaken this as a project in her otherwise already super-busy life if she hadn’t felt she had an idea that needed a book-length explanation. The subject is war--how America goes to war in the first part of the 21st century. How it’s changed over the years. A very timely and very important work. Can’t recommend it more highly.
Visit Ellen Hart's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lost Women of Lost Lake.

Writers Read: Ellen Hart (November 2011).

The Page 69 Test: Rest for the Wicked.

--Marshal Zeringue