James Joyce once wished for an “ideal reader with an ideal case of insomnia”; a reader of Joyce Carol Oates similarly needs an ideal insomnia to plow through the 50-plus novels of this legendarily prolific writer. As it turns out, Oates herself suffers from insomnia, and has since she was a girl, using her night hours productively and well. Her new book, The Lost Landscape: A Writer’s Coming of Age, offers an exquisitely rendered glimpse of her own childhood in rural upstate New York.
Stuart Stevens grew up going to Ole Miss games with his father. In 1962, in the midst of tumultuous battles over civil rights on campus, Stevens and his father cheered the Rebels to a perfect season and a national championship. More than 50 years later, having just finished leading an exhausting and unsuccessful presidential campaign for Mitt Romney, Stevens “wakes up” and realizes that what he wants most in the world is one more season, “with my father and football and the Ole Miss Rebels.”
Negroland is not a geographic locale. It’s the name Margo Jefferson gives to the place, time and circumstances of her upbringing in the upper echelons of black society. Her memoir, which reads with the blast force of a prose poem, looks back with love and no small amount of anger at a life spent navigating the freedoms of class while flirting with, and occasionally skirting, the imposed limits of race.
Never heard of Jacob Fugger? That’s probably because he was born in Augsburg in 1459, the grandson of a Swabian peasant. But by the time he died in 1525, Fugger had become, according to author Greg Steinmetz (who compared the net worth of wealthy people with the size of the economy in which they operated), the richest man who ever lived.
le of magazines in the spare room or perhaps the mountain of unused sporting equipment in the garage? You won’t find a much better incentive than reading Mess, Barry Yourgrau’s lighthearted account of his two-year quest to clean out his New York apartment.
Rambunctious and poignant, Blaine Lourd’s moseying coming-of-age memoir, Born on the Bayou, takes readers to the swampy, misty marshes of his youth in New Iberia, Louisiana.
Dan-el Padilla Peralta’s new memoir does more than chronicle his contrasting lives in the two very different worlds he simultaneously occupied. Undocumented gives the Dominican-born, American-raised Peralta a voice and, perhaps, more importantly, it gives readers a figure they can understand and empathize with.
Raw and revealing, Amy Seek’s unflinching memoir, God and Jetfire: Confessions of a Birth Mother, opens up the world of adoption with a candor that both challenges and comforts all players in this most fraught of family dramas.
In 1993, Mardi Jo Link was a 31-year-old wife and mother of two and a bar waitress with a college degree. Just before sunrise on an October Michigan morning, Link and three friends set off on what would become an annual get-the-hell-out-of-Dodge adventure to the isolated refuge of Drummond Island on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In 1993, Link was the newest member of the sorority, but she eventually became the chronicler of the highs and lows of the annual island weekend.
When Barton Swaim read a column by his state’s governor, he promptly sat down and wrote him, “I know how to write, and you need a writer.” He got the job, but his writing skills went to waste as the governor insisted on a “voice” that bore only a slight resemblance to proper English.