Debut novelist Catie Disabato "picks up" where her mentor left off in this faux-journalistic novel about two disappearances, one a Lady Gaga-esque pop star and the other music journalist Cait Taer. Multilayered doesn't begin to describe this tale packed with footnotes, commentary from Disabato, explorations into philosophy and history and the investigation itself, which includes secret notebooks, interviews and more. As complicated as all this sounds, Disabato is a clever guide and will charm readers hoping for something wholly original.
After Molly disappeared, a few kooks came out of the woodwork to offer elaborate explanations. A popular Illuminati conspiracy theory website called The Vigilant Citizen weighed in with their particular brand of insanity. On August 12, 2009, the website published a long article called "Molly Metropolis: An Illuminati Puppet," which claimed Molly was a mind-controlled puppet and every time she posed for a picture with her hair over her eye (which, admittedly, happend a lot in her early press photos and the music videos for her Cause Célèbrety singles) she was making herself into the symbol for the All-Seeing Eye. The Vigilant Citizen wrote: "Those who have passed the 101 of Illuminati symbolism know that the All-Seeing Eye is probablyits most recognizable symbol."
According to The Vigilant Citizen, Molly Metropolis disappeared because her "Delta" or "killer" programming had been activated and she completed her "final Illuminati opersation," then vanished to hide the evidence of her actions.* With the story, The Vigilant Citizen ran an early publicity photo with Molly dressed in a black t-shirt with a deep v-neck; she holds the back of her hand up to her left eye to reveal the tattoo of an eye inside a triangle Molly has on her palm. Needless to say, the police never investigated "Delta programming/evil Illuminati mission" as a possible explanation for her disappearance.
What are you reading today?
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Alden Mudge's interview with acclaimed photographer Sally Mann from our May issue is featured today on LitHub. In the interview, Mann, who is known for her provocative and ethereally beautiful photographs, discusses tumultuous family history, her art and her new memoir, Hold Still. Go Behind the Interview for even more from Sally Mann.
May is a great month for mothers and daughters to celebrate each another's company—and that includes reading together! Here are four great choices for moms to read alongside their teens, or to share in mother-daughter book clubs. With themes like female identity, competing conceptions of beauty, mothers who are absent (or overly present) and even a bit of magic, these young adult picks are sure to spark interesting discussions. (Of course, these books can also be enjoyed by mothers and sons. Or fathers and daughters. Or fathers and sons. Or anyone who likes a great read!)
Glory's mother, a talented photographer, killed herself when Glory was in preschool. Now about to graduate from high school, Glory, a photographer in her own right, reopens her mother's basement darkroom for the first time. Through her mother's photography notebooks, Glory hopes to learn more about her mother, what drove her to her terrible decision . . . and how much like or unlike her mother she herself might be. Her friend Ellie's complicated relationship with her own mother adds a parallel storyline.
Glory O'Brien's History of the Future is a multilayered, genre-defying book; it's also about the changing dynamics of teenage friendship, the uncertainty of post-high school plans and the dark and bizarre glimpses of a misogynist, dystopian future that Glory and Ellie begin to see after drinking a petrified bat (really). It's a story about images and visions and how what you see depends on how you look. But at its heart, it's a story about women's relationships with each other: as members of society, as friends and as mothers and daughters.
As was the case with Glory O'Brien's History of the Future, Just One Day doesn't fit neatly into one genre category. The first half of the book follows recent high school graduate Allyson on a whirlwind one-day summer tour of Paris with Willem, a young man she's just met. The second half takes place during Allyson's first year at college. Allyson's always been satisfied to go along with her mother's color-coded schedules and neatly-designed plans, but Willem's spontaneity has shaken her expectations and her desires.
As her mom continues to arrange her future, Allyson faces the need to stand up for herself as a person with interests and hopes of her own. But their newly emerging roles go both ways: Just as Allyson asks her mother to understand her motivations better, her mother asks the same of her newly adult daughter.
Moms and daughters who want to know more about Allyson and Willem can also read Forman's follow-up novel Just One Year and concluding short story "Just One Night."
Unlike the two previous books, mothers are barely present in Bray's imaginative, highly feminist, almost over-the-top Beauty Queens. Most of the book takes place on a desert island populated exclusively (at least at first) by teenage beauty contestants marooned there after a plane crash.
This Lord of the Flies-like premise allows Bray to explore intersections of gender, race and sexuality in an environment quite different from everyday society. Throughout, readers are invited to wrestle with questions related to society's expectations of women and girls: What constitutes beauty? What ideals should women aim to meet, and what happens when they choose other paths? And who counts as a 'woman,' anyway?
Like Glory O'Brien's History of the Future, Franny Billingsley's The Folk Keeper features a long-dead mother whose presence is continually felt. Like Just One Day, it's about a daughter learning to define the direction her own life. And like Beauty Queens, it takes place in a unique setting that's central to its story.
Orphaned Corinna is confident in her identity as a folk keeper: a boy (Corinna cuts her hair and disguises her clothes to look the part) who lives in cellars and protects country homes from mischievous faeries. But when a dying patriarch sends her to her family's ancestral home, Corinna begins to learn secrets about herself and her new surroundings. Many of these secrets revolve around her mother, the mysterious Lady Rona, whose death still haunts the cliffside estate.
Scottish legends, magical abilities and budding romance interweave in this quiet, introspective novel, told in the form of entries in Corinna's journal-like Folk Record. Although theoretically published for middle grade readers, The Folk Keeper is in many ways the perfect YA novel: It's about power, gender, identity and the interplay between who you're born as and who you choose to become. It's also a perfect read for mothers and daughters who want to ask . . . and maybe even answer . . . these questions together.
What are some of your favorite YA mother-daughter reads?
Locker Combinations is a Book Case feature by BookPage contributor and young adult (YA) literature expert Jill Ratzan. Using a variety of literary, cultural and educational perspectives, Jill guest blogs about the latest in YA lit and the general direction, trends and changes of the field. Read more BookPage reviews, interviews and posts by Jill here.
Two mega-best-selling novels lead the roster of paperbacks released this week:
The Invention of Wings
By Sue Monk Kidd
Penguin • $17 • ISBN 9780143121701
With more than a million copies sold since its hardcover publication in January 2014, Kidd's captivating historical novel is already a runaway hit with readers, and this new paperback edition should move it to the top of the list for reading groups everywhere. A book club kit from the publisher is available online.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
By Haruki Murakami
Vintage • $15.95 • ISBN 9780804170123
Another million-seller comes to paperback with this edition of the latest book from international literary star Murakami. A #1 bestseller in hardcover, the novel follows the “colorless” Tsukuru when his four best friends inexplicably shun him after college.
A Man Called Ove
By Fredrik Backman
Atria • $16 • ISBN 9781476738024
This quiet and thoroughly charming novel from one of Sweden's most popular writers has struck a chord with American readers. Ove, who has lost both his beloved wife Sonja and his job, is ready to throw in the towel, but his boisterous new neighbors, his mailman and even his newly adopted cat help to change his plans.
The Mockingbird Next Door
By Marja Mills
Penguin • $17 • ISBN 9780143127666
With the publication of Harper Lee’s newly discovered novel, Go Set a Watchman, just two months away, this controversial portrait of the author and her sister, Alice, at home in Monroeville, Alabama, is especially timely.
Back in January we shared our 15 most anticipated books of 2015, and now it's already time to talk about the best and biggest books published so far this year. Based on the number of pageviews on BookPage.com, we present you with the top 10 books that have readers talking.
After you've looked through the list below, be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below. And then vote in our reader poll for your favorite book of 2015 (so far!).
#1: The Girl on the Train
By Paula Hawkins
British author Hawkins struck gold with this deliciously twisted thriller that became an instant bestseller. Told through three unreliable narrators—Rachel, the alcoholic voyeur; Megan, the other half of the "golden couple" Rachel watches from the train; and Anna, who lives down the street. When Megan goes missing and a media firestorm follows, Rachel feels compelled to get involved. Already optioned for film by DreamWorks, this edge-of-your-seat suspense is sure to continue its upward trajectory.
#2. A Spool of Blue Thread
By Anne Tyler
With 20 novels published during her 50-year writing career, Anne Tyler has cemented her reputation as one of our most consistent and talented American authors. Her newest family saga, A Spool of Blue Thread, focuses on the Whitshanks, led by Abby and Red, a long-married couple whose story of the day they fell in love has become legendary. But now their four children are wondering whether—and how—Abby and Red can continue to live alone in the Baltimore home that Red's father built as they enter their 80s.
#3. The Bookseller
By Cynthia Swanson
Debut novelist Swanson penned a surprise hit with her inventive portrayal of one woman's two distinct lives in The Bookseller. Exploring the "what if?" questions we all ask ourselves at a certain age, Swanson follows Kitty Miller along two life paths—as both an unmarried bookshop owner and as Katharyn, a suburban stay-at-home mother.
To an outsider, Grace Chapman has a perfect life: She’s a lifestyle maven with a best-selling author husband of 20 years, a beautiful daughter and an elegant home outside of New York City. But Green takes us underneath the veneer, and soon the cracks begin to show.
Larson is one of our most talented and exciting writers of narrative nonfiction today. In Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, he tells the riveting, tragic story of the final voyage of the luxury British ship, which sailed from New York City on May 1, 1915 with 1,959 passengers, and was sunk by a German U-boat off Ireland's coast just six days later. Larson weaves in an astonishing amount of research into this event which is often cited as the reason America joined the fighting in World War I.
#6. Etta and Otto and Russell and James
By Emma Hooper
Emma Hooper’s captivating debut novel is inspired by a piece of her own family history. Shifting back and forth through a couple's history, Hooper tells the story of 83-year-old Etta as she leaves her husband Otto behind to walk more than 3,000 kilometers to see the ocean. This touching and creative novel explores the fuzzy boundaries of love, memory and time.
#7. He Wanted the Moon
By Mimi Baird and Eve Claxton
When author Mimi Baird was 6 years old, her father, prominent Boston dermatologist Perry Baird, did not come home. In the following 15 years between that fateful night and his death in 1959, Baird saw her father only once. When she discovers a cache of her father's letters and his unfinished manuscript in the '90s, Baird sets upon the task of bringing her father back to life.
#8. It Was Me All Along
By Andie Mitchell
Andie Mitchell chronicles her lifelong struggle with binge-eating in her strikingly honest memoir, It Was Me All Along. Tipping the scale at almost 300 pounds at the age of 20, a semester trip to Rome led Mitchell to confront her dependence on food to numb her emotional pain instead of nourishing her body.
#9. Born With Teeth
By Kate Mulgrew
You may recognize Mulgrew from her acting in television shows such as "Orange Is the New Black" and "Star Trek: Voyager," but she proves to be an equally skilled storyteller in her tellingly titled Born With Teeth. Yes, Mulgrew chronicles her 40-year career, but the boldly honest and heartbreaking stories concerning her Irish-Catholic family and deep friendships are the true focus of this well-crafted memoir.
McCreight’s follow up to her break-out debut, Reconstructing Amelia, is another suspenseful story about the ripple effect of tragedy. When the corpse of a baby is found in the woods of a picture-perfect New Jersey town, each resident suddenly becomes subject to scrutiny and suspicion. Reporter Molly Sanderson has just suffered a stillbirth, so this case feels personal, but she’s determined to solve the mystery. Using flashbacks and multiple narrators, McCreight keeps the tension tight all the way to the satisfying conclusion.
Choice vs. fate is the dilemma faced by the heroine of New Zealand author Bianca Zander's second novel, The Predictions. In a guest blog post, Zander explains why the idea of a destined romance is so attractive.
When the heroine of my latest novel, set on a remote New Zealand commune, is predicted to find true love in a faraway land, she faces an eternal dilemma: Should she stay in a romance with Lukas, the adoring fellow she grew up with on the commune, or abandon him for a shot at the destiny predicted for her?
For Poppy, the prediction that leads her astray is a tangible one, but it’s fair to say that plenty of young women—myself included—face a similar predicament at one time or another.
The idea that each of us has a predestined soul mate—a match that is perfect for us in every way—is seductive, especially when we’re young and have no time for the notion that lasting love requires work.
In my early 20s, I was forever announcing to friends that I had just met my future husband at a party in the form of an attractive stranger with whom I had shared a fleeting but soulful connection. This happened with such frequency that even I was embarrassed by the number of times my prophecy had turned out to be untrue.
By the same token, I often took for granted the affections of those men already in my circle, dismissing outright their romantic potential.
Ignoring the true love that is right under our noses has been the subject of hundreds of novels and fairy tales since the beginning of time, but I wanted to explore the psychology behind the phenomenon.
Why are some women—and men—so bad at recognising true love when others harbour no such delusions? What might be in a person’s background that predisposes them to such folly?
In my own case, whatever it was, I grew out of it—as most of us do. I stopped judging books by their covers, and got to know a real man instead.
But in Poppy’s case, “growing out of it” is more fraught. She and Lukas were raised on the commune in a parenting experiment—an experiment whose scars don’t start to show until they reach adulthood.
Inside each of the lovers, something is broken, and if they stand a chance of being together, not only must they overcome the prediction, but the damage that was done to them in childhood.
Writing a love story between two broken people was a challenge but it also felt true to life. So does the journey Poppy goes on, from believing love is fate, to understanding that it’s a choice.
In The Year My Mother Came Back, Alice Eve Cohen explores the ways in which her deceased mother re-enters her life as she copes with an onslaught of unwelcome difficulties. Our reviewer writes, "This thoughtful memoir shows how our past and present remain constantly intertwined, and how being a mother is a complex journey that’s often full of stunning surprises." (Read the full review.)
As we prepare to celebrate our mothers this Sunday, we asked Cohen to tell us about three books she's enjoyed reading lately.
Two years after first reading A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, I still dip into it on a regular basis, savoring the language of favorite passages, or trying yet again to unravel its mysteries. I’ve had the good fortune to meet Ruth Ozeki on several occasions. We had coffee together a few years ago while I was worrying that the memoir I was writing contained too much fantasy and read like a novel. Her encouragement gave me the courage to continue in that direction. When I read A Tale for the Time Being, I found that it was a novel that read like a memoir. A middle-aged woman named Ruth (like the author), lives on a tiny island in the Pacific Northwest, where she finds a zip-close bag, loaded with stuff, washed up on the beach. Ruth thinks it’s detritus from the recent 2011 Tsunami. Inside the bag is a diary of a 16-year-old Japanese girl with a fabulous imagination, sardonic wit and suicidal fantasies. Fictional Ruth becomes entranced with the girl’s diary and deeply concerned about its author. The diary writer fantasizes about her imaginary reader. Ruth Ozeki is a writer and a Zen Buddhist priest. Philosophical and spiritual questions are intricately woven into the fabric of the book. Edgy, contemporary storytelling is juxtaposed with ancient, timeless stories. It’s a brilliant book.
I recently read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, because my daughter was studying it in her 10th-grade English class. Though I’d read other powerful novels by Morrison, I found myself overwhelmed by this tragic tale. The first lines of the book fracture the seemingly innocuous patter of Dick and Jane—Remember those very white children from the ubiquitous schoolbooks of the 1940s and ’50s? Dick and Jane, fragmented and reassembled, becomes a ghoulish leitmotif when we meet the young black protagonists whose sense of self-worth is warped by the white standards of beauty exemplified by Shirley Temple and Dick and Jane. Reading The Bluest Eye was so heartbreaking that I had to enlist my daughter to talk with me about it every day, surreptitiously reaping the benefits of her high school English teacher’s smart questions and comments. While the book is unbearably sad, it provokes new ways of thinking, and the staggering beauty of Toni Morrison’s writing is redemptive.
I teach playwriting to undergrads, and I always assign my students Tony Kuschner’s Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches. It’s one of my very favorite plays, so I reread it each year. It’s a great read—even better on the page than on the stage, in my opinion. With each new reading, more layers are revealed. The canvas is huge—NYC at the end of the millennium, ravaged by the AIDS epidemic, Reaganism and homophobia; It covers loss, death, religion, politics, homosexuality, gender ambiguity, spirituality and on and on and on. Kushner is a brilliant writer, his dialogue alternately realistic and otherworldly, comic and tragic, and always deeply musical—his dialogue and split scenes are as rhythmically nuanced as a jazz ensemble. He combines realism with magic and in so doing, he arrives at a greater truth than if he’d stuck to the plain ole real.
Thank you, Alice! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Janet Charles)
Occasionally our interviewers give us a peek behind the scenes of their chats with authors. Today, longtime BookPage contributor Alden Mudge shares Sally Mann's secrets to physical and creative longevity, in honor of her birthday.
Today, May 1, is photographer Sally Mann’s 64th birthday. In the conversation that led to this month’s BookPage interview about her fearless, provocative memoir, Hold Still, Mann told me that she didn’t “want to die until I’m ready to die.”
Morbid? Maybe a little. But Mann’s remarks came at a point when we were touching on issues of artistic longevity. Most writers I interview tell me that they have some form of regular exercise to counteract the sedentary nature of writing. Gone are the days of hanging out in a bar after a day at the desk. Now it’s onto the treadmill for a 30-minute jog.
Mann says she considered buying a treadmill desk because she couldn’t stand the idea of sitting all day. “I think sitting is the new smoking,” she says. Mann eventually opted for simply “taking a beer cooler and raising my computer on it” so she could work standing up.
Mann says she didn’t exercise much at all until she was in her mid-30s. “Twiggy was my ideal of the perfect female,” she says, laughing. “I’d never run a step before I turned 38.” Of course, hauling around a big format view camera gave her a pretty good workout on a regular basis. But then as she approached 40 the exercise bug bit her.
“Being a little obsessive the way I am I have pretty much thrown myself into it. Every morning I do all kinds of exercise, rowing machines, ellipticals, I lift weights.” Mann is also a longtime horse rider. “When I get on a horse all my quotidian concerns just fly out of my head. I don’t think about anything other that listening to my body and listening to the horse. It’s control-alt-delete for my brain.” Mann is certain that exercise “helps the brain work better,” and hopes it will enable her to remain creative for a long time.
Mann’s 20-year friendship with the artist Cy Twombly (1928-2011) gave her a model of creative longevity. Twombly grew up in Lexington, Virginia, where Mann has lived all her life. In his later years, Twombly divided his time between Lexington and Rome, Italy. Twombly was a friend of her parents before Mann got to know him well.
“He went to Italy and didn’t come back for a while,” Mann remembers. “Funnily enough the first time I came out to have tea with Cy at my parents’ house I rode my bicycle. It was at the beginning of my exercise obsession.”
Mann by then was working as a photographer, but still struggling to gain recognition from New York art galleries. “I had so many disappointments. I could wallpaper my entire house with the rejections I had. It was so painful. I wasn’t making good work at the time, so I understand it. But the reason I wasn’t making good work was to some extent because I didn’t have any exposure.”
Mann found some solace in what she knew of Twombly’s early struggles. “What I remember about Cy, and this is an interesting aspect of Cy, is that there was a period when he was not popular. He wasn’t the art hero that he came to be. He was sort of an underdog. Even at the very end, he still had mixed feelings about the way he was treated in certain museums. So I took some consolation as I watched Cy’s star begin to re-ascend. I mean he got that last laugh there.”
Mann writes warmly and in detail of her long friendship with Cy Twombly in Hold Still. His picture hangs on the wall in her office, not far from her computer.
Alden Mudge has been interviewing authors for BookPage for more than 25 years. He lives in Northern California.
The 2015 Edgar Awards, honoring the best mysteries and thrillers and presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America, have been announced! Several of our favorites earned nods:
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Scribner)
BEST FIRST NOVEL:
Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman (Norton)
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL:
The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani (Penguin)
BEST FACT CRIME:
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood
by William J. Mann (Harper)
Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe by J.W. Ocker (Countryman)
Greenglass House by Kate Milford (Clarion)
BEST YOUNG ADULT:
The Art of Secrets by James Klise (Algonquin)
MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD:
The Stranger You Know by Jane Casey (Minotaur)
Did your favorites win?