A couple months ago, Trisha posted the cover to Anita Shreve's latest novel (Rescue, out November 30 from Little, Brown) with a note that "no one does 'wistful' like an Anita Shreve heroine."
There's little information about the plot online, although thanks to the Little, Brown fall catalog we can get more info:
Peter Webster is a rookie paramedic when he pulls a young woman out of a car wreck that should have killed her. Sheila haunts his thoughts, and despite his misgivings, Peter is soon embroiled in an intense love affair—and in her troubled life.
Nineteen years later, Sheila is long gone and Peter is raising their daughter, Rowan, alone—until a phone call from Sheila alters their quiet existence, bringing long-buried questions back to the surface. Why did a mother leave her family? How did the marriage of two people so deeply in love unravel? A story about trespass and forgiveness, secrets and the seismic force of the truth, Rescue is a masterful portrayal of a family trying to understand its own fractured past and begin again.
Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
HMH • $19.95 • September 1, 2010
I have been eager to read Scarlett Thomas' latest since I first heard about it back in March. As predicted, it's another book full of big ideas. This time Thomas' main focus is narrative—its limitations, restrictions and role in our lives—which she explores through the story of Meg, a would-be literary author who works as one of many ghostwriters for the Zeb Ross series of adventure novels.
Then again, perhaps it's wrong to call this a story, exactly. One of the many notions batted around in this philosophical novel is the idea of the "storyless story," a tale that refuses to follow the traditional narrative structure, and Our Tragic Universe can definitely be read as such. It's difficult to pull an excerpt from a book with so many threads—but in the one below, Meg is thinking about the ways in which tragedy is different from genre fiction.
Oedipus is an almost perfect example of the deterministic, cause-and-effect-based plot, where Y can only happen because I has happened first. . . . But every time I re-read it I marvelled at how a narrative could do so much more than just tell a satisfying story with a beginning, middle and an end, which was basically what I was always teaching the people on the retreat to do, and what I'd always done myself. Somehow, Oedipus seemed to dramatise a fundamental puzzle of human existence. Anna Karenina did this as well. So did Hamlet. . . . I could see that most narrative was an equation that balance, a zero-sum game, and that tragedy was special because you got more out of the equation that you put in, but I had no idea how to write like that. The mechanics of Oedipus were simple enough to grasp, but where did one get all that feeling from?
I'd once speculated about what would have happened if Zeb Ross had written Hamlet. There'd be no ghost, for a start. Or at least, the ghost would be reduced to a troubled teenager's hallucination, and Hamlet, with the help of his plucky love interest, Ophelia, would come to realise that his new stepfather didn't really do something as improbably and stupid as pour poison in his father's ear, and had in fact tried to save his life! Hamlet would start seeing a counsellor—perhaps Polonius, who dabbles in the self-help industry himself, would recommend someone—and come to terms with his bereavement and realise that it's OK for his mother to have sex with her new husband (although there'd be no 'rank sweat of an enseamed bed' or anything icky like that) and he'd go back to university happy, having now accepted the change in his family circumstances, with Ophelia in tow. Then I realised that if I'd written Hamlet it probably would have been like that too.
It doesn't seem that long ago that Maeve Binchy was regretfully informing her public that she would write no more. After the announcement, she released two more novels with then-publisher Dutton and lapsed into silence for 3 years.
Whatever Knopf promised her to get her to continue—more money? a less punishing schedule? both?—it has resulted in two novels since 2007, with a third to come in March 2011. Minding Frankie, like Binchy's Whitethorn Woods, is another "small town knows best" story that finds a single father fighting for custody of his daughter when a meddling social worker thinks the recovering alcoholic is an unfit parent. What she doesn't realize is that the whole town has been pitching in to "mind" baby Frankie.
Read reviews of Maeve Binchy's past work on BookPage.com.
According to an AP article published yesterday afternoon, boys trail girls in reading achievement as much as 10 percentage points in some states. The best way to get them reading is to give them "sports and historical nonfiction, potty humor, bloodthirsty vampires and action-packed graphic novels, fantasy and sleuthing." Or, as reporter Leannie Italie writes, "fart jokes."
(I bet you thought the day we wrote about Norman PhartEphant would be the last post on this topic. No such luck!)
No surprise here, but the reluctant readers I know all go crazy for Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants books. The sequel to Raymond Bean's popular Sweet Farts comes out on August 3 (titled Sweet Farts: Rippin' It Old School) and Pilkey has a new book out on August 10 (The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future). An alternative for kids waiting for Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5 (out November 9) is Lincoln Peirce's Big Nate: In a Class by Himself.
If you are a parent, teacher, librarian or babysitter to boys, please share: What books are the boys you know most excited about?
If you're interested in books for boys, make sure you're signed up for BookPage Reading Corner, our kids e-newsletter; we're planning an entire boy-themed issue for the fall.
This morning, The Daily Beast unveiled the cover of Meghan McCain's book Dirty Sexy Politics, which comes out August 31. (The cover is now available on Amazon.com, as well.) McCain is a weekly columnist for the online news and culture site, so I'm not surprised Hyperion gave Beast readers the first look at the jacket image:
Whether you agree with her politics or not, as one of the most vocal young Republicans around, McCain is an interesting person to follow. In the September issue, BookPage will run a hand-written Q&A with the author about Dirty Sexy Politics.
If you could ask McCain a question about her book, what would it be? Are you interested in what she has to say?
Also in BookPage: Browse past hand-written Meet the Author columns, including this month's interview with Go, Mutants! author Larry Doyle.
I know there are some Alice Hoffman fans among the Book Case readers, so we had to share when we heard that she's publishing a new novel on January 25, 2011. The Red Garden (Crown) sounds like classic Hoffman—small town, 300 years of history and secrets, a hint of magic (in this case, a garden where only red plants can grow).
Read our reviews of Alice Hoffman's past works here.
In a recent review for BookPage, Deborah Donovan wrote that Joanna Trollope is "known for her well-drawn characters, offering empathetic glimpses into the lives of the English middle class." Donovan was writing specifically about The Other Family, an engaging novel about what happens after a man dies and leaves behind two grieving families.
Trollope's just-announced next project, called Daughters in Law, is about a woman with three grown sons and three daughters-in-law who faces a crisis and "must come to terms with her family's shifting priorities and loyalties." Reviewer Amy Scribner has written that Trollope "reports from the front line of home and family like no one else." Daughters in Law sounds like it will show off what she does best.
The novel's out in spring 2011 from Touchstone Fireside—will you look for it? What's your favorite book by Joanna Trollope?
Way back in November, Abby wrote a "What We're Reading Wednesday" post about Let's Take the Long Way Home, Gail Caldwell's memoir of friendship, dogs and grief. "Read it," she wrote, "and try not to weep."
I finally read the memoir over the weekend, and I'll second Abby's request (confession: I tried not to weep, and I failed). Caldwell writes beautifully about her friendship with writer Caroline Knapp, who died in 2002 from lung cancer. In what will surely become one of the memoir's most frequently-quoted lines, Caldwell writes, "Finding Caroline was like placing a personal ad for an imaginary friend, then having her show up at your door funnier and better than you had conceived."
Let's Take the Long Way Home comes out three weeks from today. While you wait for the release, watch this just-released trailer from Random House, which provides an overview of the women's friendship and includes a clip of Caldwell reading an excerpt from the book:
Are you interested in Let's Take the Long Way Home?
Do you have a favorite memoir about friendship?
Novelist Andre Dubus has hit the bestseller list, been a National Book Award finalist and had one of his novels selected for Oprah's book club. But even this talented writer has had projects that ended in failure: In a 2008 BookPage interview, Dubus told us that he had been working on an autobiographical novel, but kept throwing away drafts. "Terrible, man. It was just so bad," he said. "So I think I've decided I'm not one of those fiction writers who can write from my life. It's like calling a dog. Maybe the dog just doesn't want to come."
But memoir? That, apparently, clicked: Townie (Norton) will be published on February 28, 2011. From the publisher's catalog:
After their parents divorced in the 1970s, Andre Dubus III and his three siblings grew up with their exhausted working mother in a depressed Massachusetts mill town saturated with drugs and crime. To protect himself and those he loved from street violence, Andre learned to use his fists so well that he was even scared of himself. He was on a fast track to getting killed—or killing someone else—or to beatings-for-pay as a boxer.
Nearby, his father, an eminent author, taught on a college campus and took the kids out on Sundays. The clash of worlds couldn't have been more stark—or more difficult for a son to communicate to a father. Only by becoming a writer himself could Andre begin to bridge the abyss and save himself. His memoir is a riveting, visceral, profound meditation on physical violence and the failures and triumphs of love.
Poet Natasha Trethewey, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her collection Native Guard, has sold a poetry collection* to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Titled Thrall, it will be published in fall of 2012.
Trethewey taught at Auburn University while I was at school there, and though I never took a class with her (my decision to concentrate in tech writing was partly a nod to my lack of creative writing ability) I attended one of her readings when her first collection, Domestic Work, was published in 1999. It drew such acclaim that the young assistant professor became one of the English department's most prominent faculty members, and Emory stole her away just a few years later with the offer of the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry.
Trethewey's background has profoundly influenced her poems, many of which, like "Flounder," are very personal. She was born in Mississippi in 1966 to a black mother and a white father. Their marriage was illegal in the state at the time. Though they divorced while Trethewey was still young—she moved with her mother to Atlanta—the poet spent childhood summers on the Gulf Coast.
*The original deal announced the sale of a novel, but Thrall is another poetry collection. The post has been corrected.