Safe From the Neighbors by Steve Yarbrough
January 2010, Knopf
Steve Yarbrough’s fifth novel is one of the finest examples of lovely language in fiction I’ve read all year. The vehicle for Yarbrough’s words is the story of Luke May, a local history teacher in Loring, Mississippi, in the Delta. When a new teacher comes to Luke’s school, he is pushed to investigate a Civil Rights-era tragedy. This consuming quest—part murder mystery, part personal reckoning—will lead Luke to make a drastic and painful choice.
She’s not there. I hang around near the door until two minutes before eight, nodding at the students as they file past, a couple of them giving me funny looks, wondering what I’m doing here. When I finally give up and head for my own room, at the far end of the west wing, I see her: like me, she’s been standing outside the door, this small, trim woman in the same white slacks and purple blouse she wore the first day of school. She looks anxious, her hands working nervously as they hang by her sides. She has no intention of leaving. The bell rings, but she doesn’t move.
She watches while I walk toward her. When I’m four or five feet away, she says, “Yes?”
I don’t know how I know this, but I do: yes with a question mark after it doesn’t mean yes and it doesn’t mean no. It’s not a statement, but neither is it a question. What it is is an opening, a space you can either fill in or choose not to.
What are you reading today?
Today's holiday gift book suggestion is the 60th anniversary pop-up edition of Antoine St. Exupery's The Little Prince. Fans of the work will be pleased to hear that it contains the original text and illustrations—but now they're in 3-D.
Click here to read Julie Hale's review of this book in our literary gifts roundup. Leave a comment before noon CST on Thursday, December 3, telling us what your favorite book in the roundup is, and you'll be entered to win a copy of the new edition of The Little Prince!
After the jump, a video trailer.
Over the next three weeks, this series will highlight 12 books that make great holiday gifts for readers. From fiction to history to children's books, we're serving up something for everyone—and even giving some of them away (perhaps tomorrow, cough cough). First up: Kate Jacobs' Knit the Season.
This third book in Jacobs' Friday Night Knitting series takes place during the holiday season, but is a warmhearted read for any time of the year. The novel focuses on Dakota, the daughter of the late Knitting Club founder, Georgia. As Dakota prepares to strike out on her own, her mother's friends rally around her and share their memories of the woman who brought them together. If that isn't enough to get you in the holiday spirit, there are recipes and knitting patterns at the end of the book.
More great gift ideas can be found in our holiday catalog.
There are many celebrities who call the Hawaiian island of Kauai home. I didn't run into any of them during my stay in Hanalei last month,* but I did take the time to scope out the home of the late Michael Crichton from afar. I thought the publication date for his last novel, Pirate Latitudes, would be a good time to post a few pictures. (Read our review of Pirate Latitudes.)
The pictures were taken the day after Kauai's worst storm in years, so they might look a bit dreary...but the lush vegetation and beautiful beach, which Crichton's home faces, are a sight to see.
Crichton valued his privacy so much that he also bought the lot across the street, leaving it to nature. Real estate here is at a premium so this empty lot is a pretty big luxury.
If you were a famous writer, where would you choose to hide away from the world? As beautiful as Hawaii is, I think it would be the French countryside for me . . .
*though I'm pretty sure my brother was out surfing with Will Smith's kids.
Special thanks to yesterday’s edition of Shelf Awareness for pointing us in the direction of “Novel-Ts”–a collection of t-shirts dedicated to those of us who find “heroes in the bookstore instead of in the ballpark.”
Check out http://novel-t.com/about.htm for “an opportunity to express your support for the all-stars of literature.” Heavy hitting readers can show their support for Hester Prynne (Abby’s favorite), Huck Finn, Walt Whitman and other literary greats with these clever t-shirts. The current "team" features nine "players" and new teams, featuring an increasing roster of domestic and foreign players, will join the Novel-T Word Series league in the future. Shirts are available online and from a few select retailers. Batter up!
Occasionally at BookPage we link to book trailers at the end of our reviews and features (see Rebel Yell, The Hollow and Ivy & Bean: Doomed to Dance). Trailers also circulate widely on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. One trailer, however, is about to get a much bigger platform.
Quirk Books has announced that the book trailer of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters will screen in six movie theaters around the country through Christmas Day.
Is this a wise advertising move? Would you buy a book based on a trailer?
Over at Slate, Troy Patterson has suggested that the term “trailer” is inappropriate for a book ad – teaser, promo and commercial are all closer to the truth.
What do you think? I enjoy book trailers for their entertainment value, although I haven't yet been compelled to read a book based purely on a one- or two-minute video.
What a wonderful coincidence – Louisa May Alcott was born on this day in 1832, the same day as Madeleine L’Engle, in 1918.
Alcott was a favorite author of mine before I even knew how to read; my mom read Little Women to me out loud. When I did learn to read on my own, L’Engle was the author who best held my attention. From A Wrinkle in Time, to A Ring of Endless Light, to her memoirs, I think I read (and re-read) about 20 of L’Engle’s books.
Trisha reviewed the biography Louisa May Alcott, by Harriet Reisen, earlier in the month. On comparisons between Alcott and her heroine Jo March, she wrote:
the real Louisa was just as intelligent, hot-tempered, rebellious and ambitious as her fictional counterpart. But the true story of Alcott’s life is both more tragic and more triumphant than anything she cooked up for her favorite little woman.
The book has been adapted by PBS for their American Masters series. (The film debuts Dec. 28.) After the jump, watch outtakes from PBS’s "Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women."
Revisiting childhood and teen favorites seems to be a trend right now. In Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, Lizzie Skurnick writes about beloved YA novels. (Read an interview with Skurnick.) In Everything I need to Know I learned From a Children’s Book, Anita Silvey asks over 100 people to choose a book from childhood that changed their worldview.
Alcott and L’Engle certainly inspired my love of reading. What books or authors are your childhood favorites?
James Agee died in 1955, at age 45. Two years later, his novel A Death in the Family was published with the help of David McDowell, Agee’s editor. The novel won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for Agee, and famed book critic Alfred Kazin wrote that it was “the work of a writer whose power with English words can make you gasp.”
Today, on the 100th anniversary of the author’s birth, we have reason to re-visit (or discover) Agee’s masterpiece. Penguin Classics has republished the novel with an introduction by Steve Earle, who lived in Tennessee -- Agee's home state -- for many years. (I know Earle as a hard-living songwriter and singer, but he wrote a short story collection, Doghouse Roses, in 2001.)
In the introduction, Earle writes, “[James Agee’s words] are so indelibly etched someplace inside of me that I couldn’t reach to rub them out even if I wanted to. And I never want to.”
About a year ago, A Death in the Family created buzz because literary scholar Michael A. Lofaro of the University of Tennessee edited A Death in the Family: A Restoration of the Author’s Text. The New York Times praised Lofaro’s volume, which opens with an entirely different scene. Will Blythe wrote:
At last we have A Death in the Family that appears closer to the author’s original intention. This tidying is good in its own right, but the main reason to celebrate the publication of this version is that it serves as a fresh reminder of the wondrous nature of Agee’s prose — unabashedly poetic, sacramental in its embrace of reality, and rhythmical as rain on a Tennessee tin roof.
Happy Black Friday! If you’re like me you’re probably… still in bed on this lovely morning the day after Thanksgiving. If you’re like millions of other Americans, though, you’ve been out in the trenches for hours, shopping for a great deal. (Bonus points if you’re reading this very post on your cell phone, in line to check out at a store.)
In honor of the official start day of the holiday shopping season, we want to know: Will you be buying an e-reader this year? Which one? A Nook? Kindle? Sony Reader?
According to a report from iReaderReview.com, e-book sales have risen in a big way. Random House sold $22.6 million worth of e-books in September 2009 – up from $2.9 million a year ago. The website also reported that by the end of 2010, e-book sales should represent 10-20% of total book sales.
And if you're not interested in e-readers, you're you alone. Just listen to bookseller Patty Donovan from The Book Nook, who told us:
Before e-books, book ownership was a thing to be prized, a goal to be lauded and a visible symbol of success and intelligence. E-books have tarnished that gilded image, turning people who used to look for integrity in the printed word into those who think that Wikipedia is a far more accurate and dignified source than anything in print.
You’re probably eating turkey (or another favorite food) right now, and spending time with family and friends. I love doing all those things on Thanksgiving, but I also like to spend the holiday diving into a good book.
If you’re looking for Thanksgiving kids books, here are a few favorites from the BookPage.com archives. This year, we highlighted Duck for Turkey Day and Thanksgiving Rules, but there are many older books worth re-reading or discovering, too.
1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac, shows a re-enactment of the Thanksgiving feast of 1621 at living history museum Plimoth Plantation.
Rivka's First Thanksgiving, by Elsa Okon Rael, is about a young Jewish girl’s celebration of the holiday in 1910. About the book, reviewer Alice Cary writes, “Here’s a lovely story with unique insights into what it means to be a thankful American.”
All About Turkeys, by writer, illustrator and naturalist Jim Arnosky, is about the feeding, hunting and mating habits of the wild turkey. We’ve got an interview with Arnosky here. (Sneak peek: “I am convinced that if you love the outdoors, natural places, and wildlife, you will grow into a person who will consider those factors no matter what work you do.”)
Enjoy the holiday! What are you reading?