Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Randy Susan Meyers

Randy Susan Meyers's new novel is Waisted.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: In our previous interview, you said of Waisted, "It was hard to write." Why was that?

A: I played with the first line of this book for over a decade: “Everyone hates a fat woman,” but I wrote and published four books before using it in Waisted. The story screamed in my head, but I kept it locked away because writing it meant facing myself. Writ honest, the novel would have to include tales of self-loathing, hiding food, and scale-terror. All of which I face daily.

Feeling ready to hit the personal nadir that delving into issues of women and weight could/would ignite took years. Hiding from the truth was far more inviting. And yet, “Everyone hates a fat woman” wouldn’t let go. So, I began.

Once embroiled in the story, I wanted to never eat again, and I wanted to eat every minute. I never wanted to look at a scale, and I wanted to weigh myself three times a day. Part of me wanted to continue denying the cruelty we face from ourselves and others, but I also felt the urge to open myself to every loathsome thought I’d ever had about myself and every bit of self-hatred I (and I imagined other women) held.

I reckoned with my mother teaching me to hate anything short of perfection. I remembered and confronted the question she’d ask on almost every phone call: “How’s your weight?”— as though “my weight” was something separate from me. Like a roly-poly puppy I dragged behind me. Or a snarling feral bear.

Inhabiting my characters forced ...[read on]
Visit Randy Susan Meyers' website.

The Page 69 Test: The Murderer's Daughters.

The Page 69 Test: The Widow of Wall Street.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Adam Gopnik

Adam Gopnik's new book is A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism.

From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: You describe, as one of the shining lights of liberalism, John McCain's concession speech to Obama. Explain why?

GOPNIK: Yes, because it's terribly important that we remember that liberalism and liberal traditions belong to no one party. One of the crucial and, if you think about it, Fareed, astonishing, miraculous things in the liberal tradition, totally unknown to the rest of human history, is the idea that we can surrender power without vengeance and without feeling embattled.

When John McCain stood up there on the night of 2008 and said, "I honor the new president; I respect the people's voice, and I wish him nothing but well, and I will stand beside him," we take that somewhat for granted. He did it with particular eloquence that night and in a particularly embattled time. But that's a miraculous thing. That doesn't happen in human history. That isn't something that we should ever take for granted. And in that sense, John McCain's concession speech was a great moment in the history of liberalism.

ZAKARIA: And you think that Trump does represent a threat to this?

GOPNIK: How can we deny that he represents a threat to it? Every day he tweets something -- and it's not a question of where you stand on abortion; it's not a question of where you stand on what the Federal Reserve should do about interest rates. It's a question of every day someone, the president, tweeting something to cast doubt on the legitimacy of an election, to cast doubt on the basic legitimacy of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 20, 2019

Tembi Locke

Tembi Locke is an accomplished actor who has appeared in over forty television shows and films, including The Magicians, NCIS: LA, Animal Kingdom and Dumb and Dumber To. She is also a TEDx speaker. Her talk, What Forty Steps Taught Me About Love and Grief, traces her journey as a cancer caregiver. She is the creative voice behind The Kitchen Widow, a web series and grief support community that has received mentions in the New York Times and the Guardian. The author of From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, she lives in Los Angeles with her young daughter but can be found each summer on the island of Sicily.

From Locke's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir, and what impact did writing it have on you?

A: There were perhaps two main reasons I decided to write From Scratch. One, I wanted to share what I had learned about love and loss. Two, I wanted to create a kind of love letter to my late husband and his homeland for our daughter. I had reached a point in my life where to not tell the story would have been another kind of grief.

Plus, I am a firm believer that there are times when we need to look back and find meaning into order to go forward. It gives us a better understanding of our present and perhaps our future.

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: From Scratch has multiple meanings. On the one hand, it directly connects to the theme of food in the book. But it is also about...[read on]
Visit Tembi Locke's website.

The Page 99 Test: From Scratch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Alafair Burke

Alafair Burke's latest novel is The Better Sister.

From her interview with Paul Burke for NB:

PB: ... The Better Sister explores the darker side of social media. Chloe experiences horrendous abuse simply because she is a successful woman, sadly her experience mirrors that of a lot of people with a public profile. Are we taking this issue seriously enough yet?

AB: That’s a big, fat Nope. There are all kinds of stories online of women reporting threats and harassment online, but there’s no accountability. The anonymity emboldens people to act horrifically. End anonymous accounts—or even limit their visibility—and it would all change immediately.

PB: The Better Sister raises the concern that #MeToo gives a voice to women in the public eye (I know it’s still very difficult coming forward), but the abuse of many women in everyday jobs is still ignored. Is there a danger that we assume the publicity means the problem is being dealt with when we are only scratching the surface?

AB: I do have some concerns that the evolution of #MeToo moved toward lower level wrongs (if you can put these things on a spectrum, which some don’t want to do), also committed by high-profile men. Has the movement really changed anything for cashiers, waitresses, nurses, factory workers? That story remains to be told, and it’s something that Chloe Taylor...[read on]
Visit Alafair Burke's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Connection.

The Page 69 Test: Angel’s Tip.

The Page 69 Test: 212.

The Page 69 Test: All Day and a Night.

The Page 69 Test: The Ex.

The Page 69 Test: The Wife.

The Page 69 Test: The Better Sister.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Brandy Scott

Brandy Scott's new novel is Not Bad People.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that you came up with the idea for Not Bad People while viewing a letting-go ceremony. How did that experience turn into this novel?

A: I’m constantly auditioning ideas for novels in my head. Things that happen to me and others, things I read about in the newspaper. The letting-go ceremony I went to – where a group of us tied resolutions to sky lanterns and let them off a balcony – stuck in my head afterwards, along with the possible consequences. I just kept thinking “what if?”. I’m a born worrier and in this case, that was an asset – I basically worried my way into a plot.

Q: How did you come up with your characters Aimee, Melinda, and Lou, and what do you think the book says about old friendships?

A: My characters are all completely fictional, but tend to be sparked by things I’ve experienced or witnessed. I can be a bit anxious – see above! – which is where Aimee’s issues started; I’ve had long chats with my girlfriends about the subtle indignities of being single in your forties, which I’ve given to Melinda. Lou and I are very similar in temperament. But these are just launchpads for character.

I think Not Bad People highlights the casual carelessness we can slip into with...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 17, 2019

Stephen Budiansky

Stephen Budiansky's new book is Oliver Wendell Holmes: A Life in War, Law, and Ideas.

From his Q&A at SCOTUSBlog:

Question: There are some great Holmes lines that, it turns out, were not actually his words. Can you give us a few examples?

Budiansky: Probably the most famous is his oft-quoted assessment of FDR: “A second-class mind, but a first-class temperament,” which he almost certainly never said. He did say something vaguely like that about Theodore Roosevelt, which may have been where the story got started. But every book about FDR seems to repeat it.

Holmes was such a well-known wit that he suffered from the Mark Twain or Winston Churchill syndrome of having just about any commonplace witty saying of the day attributed to him. But his genuine quips were in a class by themselves. Dean Acheson once asked him what old Justice Harlan had been like. Holmes replied, “Harlan’s mind was like a vise, the jaws of which did not meet. It only held the larger objects.”

Question: You write: “[I]t was the Civil War that was his touchstone.” Given that, you dwell on Holmes’ Civil War experience at some length, and impressively so. In what sense was Holmes’ experience the touchstone of his philosophy and jurisprudence?

Budiansky: He hated war, and hated reading about the Civil War, but he always acknowledged it as the great transformative experience of his life. At the...[read on]
Visit Stephen Budiansky's website.

The Page 69 Test: Budiansky's The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Juliet Grames

Juliet Grames's new novel is The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: What do you think the novel says about family, and also about immigration?

A: Life has taught me that families are both really complicated and also profoundly influential on important decisions we make, even decisions that don’t seem to have anything to do with our families.

There’s a Calabrese proverb that I use in the novel: I guai da pignata si sapa sulu a cucchjiara cchi c’e vuota, which translates as “The problems inside the pitcher are known only to the spoon that stirs it.” In other words, only a family knows its own problems.

I hope the novel encourages empathy and patience for difficult people by reminding readers that “difficult” personalities are often products of family hardships.

As for immigration, I have always found the notion of stepping onto a boat to sail away from your homeland forever, to head toward another country you have never been, where you don’t know the language and have no promise that you’ll be able to thrive or even survive—I’ve always found the thought overwhelming, heartbreaking, and inspiring.

I’ve never done anything remotely as brave as my immigrant ancestors, and...[read on]
Visit Juliet Grames's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Jackie MacMullan

Jackie MacMullan was a beat reporter, covering the Boston Celtics, in the eighties, then a writer for Sports Illustrated and a columnist for the Boston Globe, and finally a columnist and writer for ESPN. (She also appears frequently on a number of ESPN television shows.) She has co-written autobiographies by Larry Bird, Geno Auriemma, and Shaquille O’Neal, and, with Bird and Magic Johnson, she wrote When the Game Was Ours. Last year, she co-edited, with Rafe Bartholomew and Dan Klores, Basketball: A Love Story, an oral history of basketball based on the ESPN documentary series of the same name.

From her interview with Louisa Thomas for The New Yorker:

How do you preserve your objectivity?

It bothers me that people don’t seem to care. We have people at ESPN saying “my team,” or “we won.” I’m like, “What are you doing? No.”

Bill Simmons, who used to be my boss, has made a career out of being a fan—though with him it’s very explicit.

As much as I admire and respect Bill Simmons, every time he does it, I cringe. I’m old school, I guess. Now, I don’t think we should ever stop being a human being when we interview someone. Sometimes people say things they shouldn’t say, and, if they’re young, and inexperienced, I always say, “Are you sure you want to say that?” And I probably shouldn’t do that.

I think you should.

I do. I was doing a story on Chauncey Billups once, when he was a rookie for the Celtics. We did a lunch interview, and he said some things, and I know they didn’t come out the way he wanted. It had to do with race relations in Boston. I didn’t use them. I said, “I like you. I think you should be careful. You don’t want to start out here like that.” I didn’t realize it, but, for the rest of my life, Chauncey Billups is going to have my back. That’s not why I did it. But, to me, that’s different.

But, listen. Josh Beckett is the biggest horse’s ass I’ve ever come across in my life. I couldn’t stand the guy. But he was a great pitcher, and so, when he won big games, I had to write about how good he was. Conversely, I remember Dennis Johnson, at the end of his career, was having some trouble adjusting to the young players taking some of his time, and as much as I adored Dennis Johnson—talk about someone who gave me every chance and then some, went out of his way to give me a platform—I had to write that he was behaving poorly. It’s terrible. It’s the hardest part of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Kelly Harms

Kelly Harms's new novel is The Overdue Life of Amy Byler.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Overdue Life of Amy Byler, and for your character Amy?

A: I find that most of my story ideas are cooked up from a little bit of my own personal escapism with just a sprinkling of cultural subversion. As a single mom myself, it wasn't hard to dream up a situation where a woman would want to step out of her daily toil and try the road not traveled.

But the subversion comes in when you understand just how much messaging is out there about what a single mother should be. Our culture reveres and abhors single mothers in equal parts, and places expectations on such women that are absolutely untenable, and the more I dug into that, the more I realized it applied to...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at the official Kelly Harms website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 13, 2019

Brenda Wineapple

Brenda Wineapple's new book is The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation.

From her interview with Isaac Chotiner for The New Yorker:

You write, “To reduce the impeachment of Andrew Johnson to a mistaken incident in American history, a bad taste in the collective mouth, disagreeable and embarrassing, is to forget the extent to which slavery and thus the very fate of the nation lay behind Johnson’s impeachment.” That is not the version of Johnson’s impeachment that is usually taught. Are you trying to offer a corrective?

I certainly hope it offers a corrective, and more than that I hope it’s convincing. I don’t know how you were taught, but I certainly wasn’t taught much about the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. I was taught that it was preposterous. It was engineered by fanatics. Even recently, when I gave a talk, a very literate, intelligent man asked me if the Tenure of Office Act hadn’t been cooked up in order to ensnare Johnson, which I think was a kind of standard view.

But, when I read through the Congressional record, when I went back to newspapers, when I went into old files and letters and archives, it became clear, to my mind, that the cause of it, that what was being debated, was the way in which the country would go forward and not just get rid of slavery, which the Thirteenth Amendment did, but get rid of the lingering effects of the slavery, which were huge.

Why do you think Andrew Johnson was impeached? Was it over the violation of the Tenure of Office Act, or was it a much larger question?

It was both. The reason that the House voted overwhelmingly to impeach, when it finally did, in February of 1868, was that he violated the Tenure of Office Act. Congress felt that, by breaking the law, that particular law, Johnson was thumbing his nose at them and the rule of law. That was the immediate reason.

But it’s also true that there were people in Congress and outside of it, but primarily we’re talking about Congress, who had rejected the direction Johnson was taking the country in and felt that he was squandering the outcome of the war, or what the war...[read on]
Visit Brenda Wineapple's website.

--Marshal Zeringue