Celebrate with a kiss, a pint of green beer or a bit of great literature -- it doesn't really matter, because we're all a little Irish on St. Patrick's Day. But since BookPage is neither kissing booth nor pub, we'll cover that last one: Irish stories.
For such a small island, Ireland has a vast history of notable (though often incredibly sad) writing: Swift, Joyce, Yeats, Beckett, Heaney, McCourt, George Bernard Shaw, etc.
And the great books keep coming. Check out these three new epic tales, each taking inspiration from the Emerald Isle:
The O'Briens by Peter Behrens feels like the next generation in Irish literature. The poor O'Brien family seems caught between its potato-famine heritage, its isolation in the Canadian wilderness and the desire to grasp the 20th-century American Dream. It's a fascinating depiction of how Irish sorrow ripples through time. (Pantheon, 3/6)
May the Road Rise Up to Meet You by Peter Troy hits on familiar touchstones of Irish literature--famine, loss, the near impossibility of survival--but against the fresh backdrop of the American Civil War. This debut's four voices (Irish, Spanish and two slaves) tell a classic tale that feels equally Irish and American. (Doubleday, 2/28)
The Last Storyteller by Frank Delaney is the conclusion to the beloved Ben McCarthy trilogy. These novels, set in impoverished 1950s Ireland, tell of the epic romance between Ben and his lost love Venetia. The masterful depiction of this tumultuous era in Irish history makes this series the perfect fit for historical fiction buffs. (Random House, 2/7)
For admirers of Frank McCourt and classic Irish memoirs, here are two great examples from the BookPage archives:
Almost There: The Onward Journey of a Dublin Woman by Nuala O'Faolain is the second memoir from one of the most powerful female Irish voices on bookshelves. In this book, she details her reinvention as she enters middle-age. Her process of aging as a "semi-American" is funny, candidly emotional and a great read. (Riverhead, 2003)
Midlife Irish by Frank Gannon is a humorous account of one man's exploration of his Irish heritage. He travels to the Emerald Isle to uncover his family's history and, in the process, begins a likeable, critical discussion of the country's past, present and future. This one just might send you searching for the untold stories lurking in your own family's past. (Warner, 2003)
And for kids with a little green in their blood, these picture books celebrate the spirit of ancient Irish traditions:
A Fine St. Patrick's Day by Susan Wojciechowski introduces a brand new fairy tale to the holiday. Children will love the story of the competition between the towns of Tralee and Tralah. (Dragonfly, 2008)
Finn MacCoul and His Fearless Wife: A Giant of a Tale from Ireland by Robert Byrd gives a loveable makeover to a classic Celtic legend. How can you go wrong with a tale of dueling giants? (Dutton, 1999)
Do you have a favorite Irish author or story?
I mentioned in yesterday's contest post that we're already getting geared up for the spooky Halloween season here at BookPage. What better way to do so than by reading scary books?
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
An amnesia victim suffers from short-term memory loss in S.J. Watson's debut, Before I Go to Sleep. As the victim, Christine, spirals into paranoia, the reader wonders if—and why—her husband is not being entirely truthful to her. Read more>>
Chasing the Dead by Joe Schreiber
Equal parts supernatural horror and psychological thriller, the majority of Chasing the Dead takes place during one nightmarish 14-hour period—when a single mom find out that her daughter has gone missing . . . then the kidnapper takes her on a horrific ride (think grave robbing and an appearance of the undead). Read more>>
Dracula's Guest edited by Michael Sims
BookPage contributor Michael Sims is the editor of Dracula's Guest, a collection of the best Victorian vampire stories, with contributions ranging from Edgar Allan Poe to Bram Stoker himself. Read more>>
Fangland by John Marks
Fangland is no ordinary vampire tale, and it's not simply a re-telling of Dracula. In the story, a television producer journeys to Transylvania to interview a crime boss—where she learn that he is a vampire. This is a darkly funny book that's both sad and terrifying. Read more>>
Harbor by John Ajvide Lindqvist
John Ajvide Lindqvist finds horror in the element of water in Harbor, the story of a man who loses his daughter to the sea and a pair of ghosts. Read more>>
lost boy lost girl by Peter Straub
Peter Straub's lost boy lost girl is a groundbreaking novel from a master of literary horror. It's a ghost story, a murder mystery, a beautiful love story, a gruesome account of a serial killer—and a heartfelt study of the bonds that hold family together through good times and bad. Read more>>
Merrick by Anne Rice
Merrick is classic Anne Rice, a vampire saga set in the mystery-shrouded streets of New Orleans. The main character is Merrick Mayfair, distantly related to Rice's Mayfair Witches and a powerful psychic and magician in her own right. Read more>>
Neverland by Douglas Clegg
This sinister tale was originally published in 1991, and is still as haunting now as it was two decades ago. It's a Southern Gothic story of a 10-year-old boy who becomes drawn into a web of evil on his family's vacation. There's a shack on his grandmother's property that the boy's cousin has named "Neverland"—and where reality is blurred with nightmare. Read more >>
Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
From the author of Fight Club, Rant is a faux oral history that includes comments from more than 100 characters on the life of Buster "Rant" Casey, a teenage rebel whose iconic death in a fiery car crash made him a dashboard saint among a cult of teenage car-crash enthusiasts. Read more>>
Sorry by Zoran Drvenkar
In Zoran Drvenkar’s Sorry, four 20-something German friends run run an agency that will apologize for others (for an exorbitant fee). Their business takes a turn for the grotesque when a brutal killer leaves his mess for the Sorry team to clean up. Read more>>
The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein by Peter Ackroyd
Novelist and biographer Peter Ackroyd imagines a shocking world in which Victor Frankenstin is best friends with Percy Shelley. Read more>>
The Right Hand of Evil by John Saul
Ted Conway moves his family to a mansion near Shreveport, Louisiana, after his Aunt Cora leaves him the house. Once there, the family starts to succumb to the mansion's supernatural influence . . . Read more>>
The Vampire Archives edited by Otto Penzler
For even more vampire tales, read Otto Penzler's collection The Vampire Archives, a collection of stories ranging from pure pulp (Stephen King) to high art (D.H. Lawrence). Read more>>
Under the Dome by Stephen King
King's Under the Dome takes place in a small town in Maine that is sealed off from the world by an invisible force field. Nobody knows what the field it is or how it got there. It's on the sealed-off stage of the town where the worst and best of human nature will be displayed. Read more>>
Under the Skin by Michel Faber
In Michel Faber's debut, a woman (who is not what she seems) picks up a string of hitchhikers. Although the message of Under the Skin is ultimately compassionate and humane, the book is not for the faint-hearted or squeamish. (Let's just say that Hannibal Lecter would have love it.) Read more>>
Want even more spooky reads? See last year's blog post highlighting scary books, complete with a Freak-ometer rating.
A post from the Author Enablers
With more than 25 years of experience, Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam Barry have the inside scoop on writing and publishing. Together, they are the authors of Write That Book Already!: The Tough Love You Need to Get Published Now. Email them your questions (along with your name and hometown) about writing and publishing, and don’t miss their column on BookPage.com.
Publishing is changing by the minute. In some ways this is scary and upsetting, as we worry that good books will not get published and the art of writing and reading will disappear.
But all change is not bad, and in fact, the rise of new technologies and shifting markets sometimes present an opportunity. While the giant publishers fix their sights on blockbuster hits, new, smaller, nimbler publishers are coming into existence to fill the void and publish important books.
One exciting example of this phenomenon is the newly released We’re Not Leaving: 9/11 Responders Tell Their Stories of Courage, Sacrifice, and Renewal, by Benjamin J. Luft, M.D. (Greenpoint Press). We’re Not Leaving is a compilation of powerful first-person narratives told from the vantage point of World Trade Center disaster workers—police officers, firefighters, construction workers, and other volunteers at the site. This worthy book might not have seen light of day or been properly published were it not for the efforts of creative thinkers using new models of publishing. In this case the agent and author worked together to find Greenpoint Press, a dedicated publisher utilizing print-on-demand technology to publish important books that might be overlooked by the big commercial presses.
Our reviewer describes it as even better than his first book, The Story of Forgetting. It "is a sort of mythic re-imagining of a period in the 1960s when his grandmother put his grandfather in a mental hospital," and the result is a "beautifully written" historical fiction on madness and genius.
Check out our interview with Block, where he talks about his kitchen floor, the "terrible urgency" that gave rise to The Storm at the Door and the echoing of literary voices.
Will you be picking up a copy of The Storm at the Door?
Manning Marable, the African-American author and historian whom the New York Times called "a leading scholar of black history," passed away two weeks ago on April 1, at age 60. His last book, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, was published three days later, on April 4. In this guest post, BookPage contributor Ron Wynn reviews the book, which occupied Marable for more than a decade and is now an integral part of his legacy.
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
By Manning Marable
Viking, April 4, 2011
Noted historian and scholar Dr. Manning Marable spent much of his professional career examining the impact and extraordinary life of Malcolm X. Marable, who helped create Columbia University's Black Studies program in 1993, spent two decades compiling the material in his extensive (592 pages) new book Malcolm X: A Life Of Reinvention. The book is proving as controversial as its subject, especially given the amount of new information not included in any prior Malcolm X biography.
Bombshell allegations include the contention that much of esteemed author Alex Haley's The Autobiography of Malcolm X is at best erroneous and at worse bogus. He characterizes Malcolm's marriage to Betty Shabazz as troubled from the start, more an arrangement than a romantic union. Marable also disputes prevailing notions about Malcolm X's supposed transformation following a pilgrimage to Mecca. While acknowledging he abandoned the separatist rhetoric he'd previously championed as a member of the Nation of Islam, Manning contends Malcolm remained a political and social radical rather than the benevolent voice of brotherhood and understanding that's been his post-Mecca image.
The section generating the most public attention covers Malcolm's assassination. Marable maintains that the original investigation was seriously flawed, and the guilty parties have not been caught. Indeed, the book names 72-year-old Al-Mustafa Shabazz (formerly known as William Bradley) of Newark as one of the killers. Shabazz has denied any involvement and threatened legal action against the publishers. Marable even gets current Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to speak on the record regarding whether he had any involvement in the assassination (Farrakhan vigorously denies it).
While Marable's book has its critics (most notably Betty Shabazz's two daughters as well as some other Malcolm X biographers) his research seems solid. Sadly, he died two weeks ago at 60, three days before Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention was released. Hopefully the book will stimulate not only plenty of discussion, but also ample re-investigation and scrutiny into Malcolm X’s murder.
Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam Barry—also known as the Author Enablers—will blog about writing and publishing on The Book Case once a month.
To be a writer, one must be someone who loves words. This doesn’t mean writers are required to get degrees in philology or etymology or be grammarians (though a little knowledge of all these fields helps); rather, it is the interest in and attention to words and sentences, to how we communicate by these means, that sets writers apart from, say, train engineers. (Though Sam knew a train engineer who loved writing—a preacher who had lost his vocation—but that is another story.)
But how do we keep our own writing fresh? The primary way, of course, is to read; writers must be readers. But sometimes we need other stimulation besides reading our favorite novels or histories or comic books. Sometimes we need the help of an accessible, brilliant teacher to make us think anew about words and writing.
Word Catcher by Phil Cousineau offers just such an opportunity. This pocket-sized, accessible book is packed with information about strange words you’ve probably never encountered; words you though you understood but that turn out to have a wild, interesting background; and just plain fun words. For instance, kinephentom is the term for that “weird phenomenon of the wheels of a bike appearing to spin backwards.” Who knew the lowly pretzel was originally designed to resemble the folded arms of a praying monk? And what about “flizzen,” which sounds like it was invented by J. K Rowling and means “to laugh with every muscle in the face”?
Word Catcher is a book to keep beside your dictionary or bedside to keep your writer’s mind growing, thinking, and laughing.
But! Why would you want to do that when you can take a 3.5-minute video tour? In the video, I tell you about this month's author interviews—and a few of our editors work out their issues with young literary phenom Téa Obreht. The video was filmed in BookPage's office (for all those wondering where the magic happens).
What books from the March issue are you most looking forward to reading?
For more video fun, visit BookPage.com on YouTube.
If you think everyone interested in books will have one novel on the mind this week, you're probably right (hint: it starts with The Girl Who). But in case you're not a Larsson fan—or you were lucky enough to read an advanced copy of the novel—this week we're highlighting plenty of other books and genres on BookPage.com.
For those of you who do have Lisbeth Salander on the brain, we've got you covered, too. First up...
As you count down the minutes until tomorrow's release of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, read an interview with Knopf publisher and editor-in-chief Sonny Mehta, who introduced the works of Stieg Larsson to American readers.
If you're looking for an unusual memoir, try...
Vanessa Woods, an Australian chimp aficionado, had never heard of bonobos until she fell for Brian Hare, an American scientist whose dream is to compare the behavior of chimps and bonobos living in Congolese sanctuaries and figure out what the differences reveal about human evolution. Bonobo Handshake is Woods’ beguiling story of falling in love with bonobos and the Congo while her marriage to Hare matured.
Heading to the lake, beach or pool over Memorial Day weekend? Don't miss...
Romance columnist (and author) Christie Ridgway's book recommendations will start your summer with a sizzle! In her words: "With summer’s approach, it’s time for books destined to fill those long hours of daylight or the warmth of a flower-scented night with steamy stories. From regency to contemporary romances, this month’s selections really turn up the heat. Enjoy!"
This is a big week for book releases, so keep your eye on BookPage.com for a bunch of new content. I am especially excited about the following reviews and features (click the links to keep reading):
Interview with Andrew Gross about Reckless
Thriller writer Andrew Gross honed his writing skills collaborating with James Patterson on books like Jester. Four solo novels later, he's become a best-selling author in his own right and has started a popular series starring police detective Ty Hauck, a tough guy who always tries to do the right thing. In Reckless, Gross pits Hauck against a group of unlikely terrorists whose target is America's financial system. Though Hauck is no longer a detective, he can't let this case go since in solving it he will also avenge the death of a friend. We asked Gross a few questions about the book, the thriller genre and what sparks a writer's imagination.
Review of Anna Quindlen's Every Last One
Anna Quindlen’s previous novels have all been centered on families—whether average, non-traditional or dysfunctional; she even calls herself “hyperdomestic.” It comes as no surprise, then, that her sixth novel, Every Last One, begins with a lengthy description of the minutiae of the everyday life of Mary Beth Latham—wife, mother of three teenagers and owner of a successful landscaping business.
Interview with Hampton Sides about Hellhound on His Trail
Memphis historian and subculture explorer Hampton Sides was six years old on April 4, 1968, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel by a prison escapee named James Earl Ray. Sides remembers that his father, who worked at the Memphis law firm that represented King during his marches on behalf of the city’s striking garbage workers, came home that evening, poured himself a stiff drink and braced his family for the worst.
Review of Michelle Boyajian's Lies of the Heart
Katie Burrelli, the protagonist of Michelle Boyajian’s Lies of the Heart, didn’t have the most satisfying life even before the death of her husband. She’s the kind of woman who has always seen herself as second best; not as pretty as her beautiful sister Dana, not as beloved by their parents, not as popular as her friends. Then she meets Nick while he’s fishing for clams in their native Rhode Island. They marry, and he becomes a speech therapist for developmentally challenged people while she becomes, halfheartedly, a documentary filmmaker.
With so many great choices. . . which book will you read first?!
It's the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and of course we at BookPage have some reading suggestions to make! Anyone concerned about our planet's future shouldn't miss this Q&A with environmental activist Bill McKibben, who posits in his latest book, Eaarth, that climate change has already happened. Still, he says, it's not too late: "[W]e're going to need to be dealing with the ever-increasing effects of an unraveling climate, which will be costly and hard. But not impossible, not if we think clearly, calmly and as communities."
Other Earth day highlights include a roundup of environmental books for kids. Since we believe that reading can encourage environmental awareness in children, we're giving away three of the books from the roundup: Mary McKenna Siddals' Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth; Frances Barry's Let's Save the Animals; and 31 Ways to Change the World, produced by We Are What We Do. To enter to win, read Bill McKibben's Q&A and answer the following question in the comments section: What can we (as individuals) do to help our planet? The deadline is April 29 at 10 a.m.