This past weekend, I met up with one of my best friends in Asheville, North Carolina. With me in Nashville and Megan in Durham, Asheville seemed like the perfect place for a weekend getaway between our cities. Neither Megan or I had ever been to Asheville, and while we had heard wonderful things about the gorgeous mountains and charming downtown area, we had no idea Asheville is also a book lover’s mecca.
Like me, Meg is a total book nerd—and a publicist at the wonderful Algonquin Books—so I could not have asked for a better partner in crime. She was happy to indulge me with a visit to Battery Park Book Exchange, an amazing used bookstore that encourages you to enjoy a glass of wine while you browse (pretty much my idea of heaven). We checked out Malaprop’s, a great local bookstore where Meg sends her Algonquin authors on tour, and we loved their giant “staff picks” section—something I think all bookstores should have.
But we didn’t stop there. Thomas Wolfe, author of the American classics Look Homeward, Angel and You Can’t Go Home Again, was born and raised in Asheville, and his mother’s gorgeous boarding house is now a memorial to the author and his work.
For the bargain price of $1/person, we got a guided tour of the house, watched a 20-minute film about Wolfe’s life and wandered through an exhibition recreating the many places Wolfe lived over the course of his career. It was such a fun way to spend an afternoon, and we walked away knowing so much more about the author—and his wonderful hometown.
Don’t worry, we engaged in some low brow activity, too, with lots of shopping, wine drinking and sampling of local (delicious) cuisine, but we were thrilled to discover all that Asheville has to offer the bibliophile. And now, of course, we're looking forward to planning our next visit.
Fans of the hit show “Glee” know actress Jane Lynch as the cranky, conniving cheerleading head coach Sue Sylvester. In September, we’re going to get a peek behind the iconic tracksuit when Hyperion’s Voice imprint publishes Lynch’s memoir, Happy Accidents.
According the New York Times, "the book will recount her comedy career at the Second City improv theater and her work in films like Best in Show and The 40-Year-Old Virgin while addressing how she learned to her embrace her homosexuality and overcame alcoholism, and perhaps show how intertwined she and her 'Glee' persona are.”
Lynch is one of the funniest women on television today, so we can’t wait to hear what she has to say in Happy Accidents.
Are you a fan of "Glee" and Jane Lynch? Will you be on the look out for Happy Accidents?
Just a few weeks ago, Random House announced that the Bantam Dell imprint would be merging with Ballantine to form Ballantine Bantam Dell (or BBD), under the leadership of senior vice president and publisher, Libby McGuire. And just yesterday, BBD announced their first major acquisition—a debut novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh titled The Language of Flowers.
According to BBD, “the novel tells the story of a woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to come to terms with her own troubled past as a foster child. When she falls in love with a young farmer at the flower market, she must confront a memory that has haunted her for years, and decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.” BBD won North American rights in a “heated auction with eight bidders” and translation deals have already closed in Holland, Spain and Italy, with other international auctions underway.
BookPage traded emails with editor Jennifer Smith, who acquired the novel, and is clearly thrilled to have The Language of Flowers on the BBD list. Smith says, “We all fell in love with this novel immediately. There was such an outpouring of enthusiasm in-house, and nobody could put it down. It’s definitely a special book, and one that we think will really resonate with readers. We’re so excited to be publishing it.”
Author Vanessa Diffenbaugh was “inspired by her own experience as a foster mother. To write the novel, she researched the original Victorian language of flowers—used by lovers to communicate—in which every flower corresponds to a specific meaning.” The novel is set to publish in August 2011, and we can’t wait to hear more about it.
Are you excited about The Language of Flowers?
Fans of The Office—and funny women everywhere—rejoice! Writer/producer/blogger/twitterer Mindy Kaling (who plays the hilarious Kelly Kapoor on the workplace sitcom) has just inked a book deal with Random House’s Crown imprint.
The Contents of My Purse, slated for a fall 2011 release, will be “a collection of comic essays detailing moments from a woman’s life, including everything from relationships to fashion.”
Or, as Kaling tweeted: “My book will be essays and personal anecdotes, pictures, fashion, and general opinionated bossiness about how women should live. Twitter has an 140 character limit, but I hear books can have something like 500,000 characters!”
While she is best known for playing the outrageous, unstable Kapoor on The Office, Kaling is also co-executive producer of the show and has written 18 episodes over the course of its six seasons (the most recent of which was last night’s hilarious, ridiculous “Secretary’s Day.”)
If that didn’t keep her busy enough, Kaling has signed a deal to write and star in a new NBC comedy, and is in the process of writing her first feature-length film, The Low Self-Esteem of Lizzie Gillespie. Not too shabby for a woman on the cusp of her 31st birthday.
Are you a fan of Mindy Kaling? Will you buy her book?
When the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction finalists were announced yesterday, the names were recognizable—even predictable: Barbara Kingsolver, Lorrie Moore, Colson Whitehead and Sherman Alexie. But the fifth finalist, Lorraine M. López, nominated for Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories, stood out from the crowd.
While I didn’t recognize the title of the story collection, I thought I recognized the name: I had an English professor named Lorraine López as an undergraduate at Vanderbilt.
Turns out Professor López is not only an incredible teacher (her Latino literature class remains one of my favorites) but a greatly talented writer. I love this description of Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories, from fellow writer and critic Heather Sellers: “An amazingly original Flannery O’Connor/Loretta Lynn collision, this collection lets us witness the indomitable spirit and forces us to take pure joy in all we really ever have a chance at: flawed, gorgeous, weird, rollicking, screwed survival.”
Published in November 2009 by BkMk Press (at the University of Missouri, Kansas City), Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories is sure to get a lot of attention in the coming weeks—and we couldn’t be happier for its gracious and gifted author.
Lorraine M. López was kind enough to humor a former student—and took time out of her busy teaching/writing schedule to talk with BookPage today.
When did you find out you were named a finalist for the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction? What was your initial reaction?
My editor at the Press, Ben Furnish sent me an email saying he’d been contacted by the PEN/Faulkner Prize administrators who wanted my contact information, and soon afterward, I had an email telling me to call the director of the Prize. I called right away and she congratulated me for being a finalist for the award. I’m a low-key person, so I’d make a terrible game show contestant. I don’t whoop and holler. I think I said, “Wow,” but quietly. I don’t think I was able to take it in fully for the first 24 hours or so. I’m still processing the news, which is unbelievably wonderful, the kind of thing I wouldn’t even dare to dream. And when I saw the list of the other finalists, I went into super-fan mode, and I grew excited all over again with the anticipation of meeting these writers and hearing them read at the ceremony in May.
Were you aware that your publisher had submitted your stories for award consideration?
The remarkable Ben Furnish sent me a list of the competitions in which he’d entered the book months ago, so I suppose I had some awareness of this then. But many things happened between that time and now, and I didn't have this on the tip of my consciousness when I heard the news, adding to my sense of surprise.
What are you most looking forward to about the awards ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library on May 8th?
I am looking forward to the reading. I cannot wait to hear Sherman Alexie, Barbara Kingsolver, Lorrie Moore and Colson Whitehead read their work. I have only heard Colson, whom I met through Kevin Young, read, and he is great. I know this will be a reading I will never forget.
What are you working on now?
Now, I’m working on surviving the semester, but I just turned in two manuscripts for publication in 2011. Realm of the Hungry Spirits, a novel, is due out from Hachette/Grand Central in spring of 2011 and a collection of essays titled The Other Latin@ that I coedited with Blas Falconer will be forthcoming from University of Arizona Press in fall of 2011. Next academic year I am on leave and have plans to work on another young adult novel, working title The Vidalia Onion Queen and a collection of linked stories with this working title: La Cariña. This phrase means “The Darling,” and it is an homage to Chekhov’s unforgettable story about a woman who absorbs identity from the various men she marries. While I enjoy writing novels, the short story is my true love and I can’t wait to get begin composing the pieces for this next collection.
For more on the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Prize finalists, click here. And keep your fingers crossed for Lorraine M. López!
Scott Turow has made a name for himself writing fast-paced, incisive legal thrillers (eight of which have been bestsellers). But the book that started it all—1987's Presumed Innocent—is undoubtedly his best-known (and best-selling) work. Set in a midsize Midwestern city, the novel focuses on Rusty Sabich, Kindle County's longtime chief deputy prosecutor, who has been asked to investigate the rape and murder of one of his colleagues, Carolyn Polhernus. Her murder has been an embarrassment to Rusty's boss, Raymond Horgan, who is facing a serious challenge in the upcoming election and who looks to Rusty for a fast solution to the case that will help save him politically. But what Horgan doesn't know is that, only a few months before she was murdered, Carolyn Polhemus and Rusty Sabich were lovers. And, after several complicated legal twists and turns, Rusty finds himself accused of Carolyn's murder.
Twenty years after Rusty Sabich and Tommy Molto went head-to-head, they find themselves pitted against each other once again in a riveting psychological match. When Sabich, now sixty years old and the chief judge of an appellate court, finds his wife, Barbara, dead under mysterious circumstances, Molto accuses him of murder for the second time, setting into motion a trial that is vintage Turow—the courtroom at its most taut and explosive.
Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
May 2001, Pocket
I recently devoured Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed (which I would highly recommend) and have just started on Jennifer Weiner’s debut novel, Good in Bed. Weiner didn’t become one of the queens of women’s fiction (In Her Shoes, Little Earthquakes, this summer’s Best Friends Forever) for nothing, and Good in Bed is just plain good so far.
In the first chapter, we meet Cannie Shapiro, a twentysomething reporter for a Philadelphia newspaper, who has just parted ways with her boyfriend, Bruce. A normal work day becomes anything but when Cannie’s best friend calls her to suggest she check out the latest issue of Moxie, a women’s magazine, and turn to page 132:
I sat, opened the M & M’s, eased a few into my mouth, and flipped to page 132, which turned out to be "Good in Bed," Moxie’s regular male-written feature designed to help the average reader understand what her boyfriend was up to . . . or wasn’t up to, as the case might be. At first my eyes wouldn’t make sense of the letters. Finally, they unscrambled. “Loving a Larger Woman,” said the headline, “By Bruce Guberman.” Bruce Guberman had been my boyfriend for just over two years, until we’d mutually decided to take a break three months ago. And the Larger Woman, I could only assume, was me.
You know how in scary books a character will say, “I felt my heart stop?” Well, I did. Really. Then I felt it start to pound again, in my ears, my throat, my fingertips. The hair at the back of my neck stood up. My hands felt icy. I could hear the blood roaring in my ears, as I read the first line of the article: “I’ll never forget the day I found out my girlfriend weighed more than I did.
Good news for Weiner fans: Best Friends Forever comes out in paperback in May, and Weiner's latest novel, Fly Away Home goes on sale in July. What's your favorite book by Jennifer Weiner?
Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories by Kevin Wilson
March 2009, Harper Perennial
From “Grand Stand-In”
The key to this job is to always remember that you aren’t replacing anyone’s grandmother. You aren’t trying to be a better grandmother than the first one. For all intents and purposes, you are the grandmother, and always have been. And if you can do this, can provide the level of grandmotherliness with each family, every time, then you can make a good career out of this. Not to say that it isn’t weird sometimes. Because it is. More often than not, actually, it is incredibly, undeniably weird.
I never had a family of my own. I didn't get married, couldn't see the use of it. Most of my own family is gone now, and the ones that are still around, I don't see anymore. To most people, I probably look like an old maid, buying for one, and this is perfectly fine with me. I like my privacy . . . . I like the dimensions of the space I take up, and I am happy. But it's not hard to imagine what it would have been like: husband, children, grandchildren, pictures on the mantle, visits at Christmas, a big funeral, and people who would inherit my money. You can be happy with your life and yet still see the point of one lived differently. That's why it seemed so natural when I saw this ad in the paper: "Grandmothers Wanted—No Experience Necessary."
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!
By Gail Caldwell
August 2010, Random House
An unbelievably honest, moving and heartbreaking account of Caldwell’s midlife friendship with fellow writer Caroline Knapp, who died suddenly of lung cancer in 2002. Caldwell and Knapp shared everything—profound love for their dogs, Clementine and Lucille, a history of alcohol addiction and a passion for writing. Read it—and try not to weep.
"I have a photograph from one of those summers at Chocorua, framing the backs of my dog and Caroline's, Clementine and Lucille, who are silhouetted in the window seat and looking outside. It is the classic dog photo, capturing vigilance and loyalty: two tails resting side by side, two animals glued to their post. What I didn't realize for years is that in the middle distance of the picture, through the window and out to the fields beyond, you can make out the smallest of figures—an outline of Caroline and me walking down the hill. We must have been on our way to the lake, and the dogs, now familiar with our routine, had assumed their positions. Caroline's boyfriend, Morelli, a photographer, had seen the beauty of the shot and grabbed his camera.
I discovered this image the year after she died, and it has always seemed like a clue in a painting—a secret garden revealed only after it is gone . . . . Like most memories tinged with the final chapter, mine carry the weight of sadness. What they never tell you about grief is that missing someone is the simple part."