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

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Angie Kim

Angie Kim's new novel is Miracle Creek.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Miracle Creek?

A: Miracle Creek is centered on a fatal fire and explosion in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) chamber. HBOT is a real medical treatment used in hospitals as a treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning and diving accidents, and it’s increasingly being used as an experimental treatment for a wide variety of conditions, ranging from infertility to cerebral palsy and autism.

One of my kids, who has celiac disease and ulcerative colitis, was an HBOT patient years ago in a privately-run facility with a group chamber. It was an intense experience, being sealed up in a submarine-like chamber with three other families for an hour at a time for 40 consecutive “dives.”

We shared our life stories with each other and were forced to deal with minor emergencies that came up while we were sealed inside (including some temper tantrums, panic attacks, and bathroom emergencies).

When I set out to write a novel years later, I immediately thought of the chamber, a crucible in more ways than one, and I wondered what we would have done if something truly horrific had happened during a dive, when we were sealed inside with no way of getting out.

Once I decided on a fire/explosion as the inciting incident, it seemed natural to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 11, 2019

John Paul Stevens

Justice John Paul Stevens served on U.S. Supreme Court from 1975 until his retirement in 2010. He is the third-longest serving Justice in American history. Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1920, Stevens served in the United States Navy during World War II and graduated from Northwestern University School of Law. He was appointed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 1970 by President Richard Nixon and to the Supreme Court in 1975 by Gerald Ford. He is the author of Five Chiefs, Six Amendments, and the newly released The Making of a Justice: Reflections on My First 94 Years.

From the transcript of his interview with NPR's Nina Totenberg:

TOTENBERG: In his last years on the Supreme Court, Stevens was publicly worried about the court's rightward tilt. But now off the court, he's even more worried. He sees a newly constituted and more aggressive conservative court majority acting in a, quote, "less neutral fashion." For example, he dissented fiercely in 2008 when the court ruled for the first time that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to own a gun.

STEVENS: Its analysis of the history and the reasons for the amendment was dead wrong.

TOTENBERG: Still, as Stevens discloses in his book, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who provided the fifth and decisive vote in the case, insisted that the decision include language protecting reasonable gun regulations. Kennedy, however, retired last June, to be replaced by Brett Kavanaugh, who, as a lower court judge, viewed as unconstitutional every major gun regulation that came before him.

So what hope, if any, do you have for the court upholding serious gun regulation were it to pass?

STEVENS: I suppose the odds are not very favorable now.

TOTENBERG:...Judicial doctrine does change over time. But do you think that the current court is taking a radical turn to the right?

STEVENS: Yes, I really do. I think some of the decisions really are quite wrong, and they're quite contrary to the public interest.

TOTENBERG: Every member of the court, not just the chief justice, goes around saying, we are not politicians; we're judges. But it gets harder and harder for some people to believe that.

STEVENS: Well, it's harder and harder to believe. But there's still some hope that it won't be totally that way. But it is true that it seems to be more ideological than it's been since...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 10, 2019

Daniel Okrent

Daniel Okrent's new book is The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America.

From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: It's fascinating to read in your book how Hitler and the Nazis were drawing on the American eugenics movement to, like, strengthen their own movement. They were almost using some of the American eugenics, quote, "findings" as guidelines for themselves. You know, Hitler becomes chancellor in 1933, but he writes "Mein Kampf," or at least he publishes it, in 1925, which is one year after the Immigration Act of 1924 has passed. And you cite a passage from "Mein Kampf" in which Hitler directly refers to America.

OKRENT: He refers to it as - the United States as the one - this is a quote - "one state in which at least weak beginnings toward a better conception of citizenship are noticeable - among them, simply excluding certain races from naturalization." And from there, he goes on to quote in later speeches and writings - Madison Grant becomes a hero of his. And most importantly, the American eugenicists, even the most respectable of them, had for - by the time Hitler takes power in 1932, '33, for nearly three decades, the German eugenicists and the American eugenicists had been working together to develop their presumed science. They were collaborators in a more respectable sense of the word, but then the collaboration becomes deadly and awful once Hitler takes over.

In 1933, addressing a convention of doctors who were engaged in eugenic research, he said, I cannot do without you for a single day, not a single hour. If not for you, if you fail me, then all is lost. And...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Daniel Okrent's website.

The Page 99 Test: Last Call.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe's new book is Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland.

From his Q&A with Entertainment Weekly's David Canfield:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’m curious about how this project evolved. What story did you set out to tell here?

PATRICK RADDEN KEEFE: In my day job at The New Yorker, I write this big, sprawling, often investigative narrative pieces. I only do three or four of them a year. This book started as a piece of the magazine. I read an obituary in The New York Times in 2013, of Dolours Price. What initially drew me in was the outsize drama of the life of this woman. Then, in that obituary, it mentioned that she had implicated herself in the disappearance of this woman, Jean McConville, in 1972. That was the seed for this story — the idea you could tell this story of these two women, one of them an IRA soldier, and the other a victim, and through their intertwining stories tell a larger story about the Troubles.

You’re coming at this mystery as a total outsider. Was that a benefit in your reporting?

At the beginning, I thought it would be a disadvantage, just because the history is so complex there and I felt that there was a very steep learning curve for me in terms of grasping some of the politics and almost tribal dynamics of...[read on]
Visit Patrick Radden Keefe's website.

The Page 69 Test: Chatter.

Writers Read: Patrick Radden Keefe (June 2007).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Cathryn J. Prince

Cathryn J. Prince's new book is Queen of the Mountaineers: The Trailblazing Life of Fanny Bullock Workman.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you first learn about Fanny Bullock Workman, and why did you decide to write her biography?

A: For this one, it was different. I usually find out about someone through casual conversations. With this book, I did want to write about a strong woman. So many of my books are focused mostly around men.

This was a more deliberate choice, and I started looking through different histories, to find who hadn’t been written about. I came across her, I can’t remember where. The first thing that drew me to her was that I saw one of her portraits. I thought she looked formidable.

Then, in deciding to write about her, [I found that] she exemplifies debates now over professional women and motherhood. She ran into societies and memberships where people were telling her she’s a woman and she didn’t let it thwart her.

The first thing I learned about her was about her bicycle rides. She rode in woolen outfits on bikes for 14,000-mile trips, for 6,000-mile trips. I thought, this is an interesting lady! And there was the climbing, to the Himalayas. And the...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Cathryn J. Prince's website.

The Page 99 Test: Death in the Baltic.

Coffee with a Canine: Cathryn J. Prince & Hershey and Juno.

The Page 99 Test: American Daredevil.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Kate White

Kate White's new novel is Such a Perfect Wife.

From her Q&A with Alafair Burke for Crime by the Book:

Alafair: What were some of the thoughts that went into the story of Such a Perfect Wife?

Kate: The idea came from the fascination I have and the sadness I feel when reading news stories about wives or girlfriends who vanish and later turn out to have been murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Recently there was that horrible story of Shanann Watts, whose husband Chris killed her and their two little daughters so he could be with his mistress, and the Colorado mom apparently killed by her fiancé, who, it seems, might have disposed of her body with the help of his secret girlfriend. With Such a Perfect Wife, I wanted to write about a missing wife, but I also wanted to pose the question: What if, just maybe, the husband didn’t do it? Bailey finds herself asking that question when she is sent by Crime Beat to cover the story of a young mother named Shannon Blaine, who seems to have vanished into thin air. By the way, I had already chosen the name before I read about...[read on]
Visit Kate White's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Even If It Kills Her.

The Page 69 Test: Eyes on You.

The Page 99 Test: The Gutsy Girl Handbook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 6, 2019

Pamela D. Toler

Pamela D. Toler is the author of Women Warriors: An Unexpected History.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Of the various women you wrote about, were there some whose stories you found especially compelling?

A: I kept coming back to the story of the Contessa Matilda of Tuscany. She was the largest landowner in the Holy Roman Empire in the 11th century—an accomplishment in its own right, since few women were able to maintain control of their inheritance.

She was deeply involved in one of the most important political and theological issues of her day. And she was a successful military commander for 40 years. And yet her career is often reduced to a supporting role in a single incident.

I found her story fascinating in its own right and emblematic of the way women have been...[read on]
Visit Pamela D. Toler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Melanie Benjamin

Melanie Benjamin's new novel is Mistress of the Ritz.

From her Q&A with Mandy Nachampassack-Maloney:

I noticed that a lot of your books are concerned with movies and the 1920s. What is it about this subject and time that has captured your imagination?

If I could be a time traveler, I’d definitely go back to the 1920s. I love that era; I love that women were so liberated and eager to enjoy life, life on their own terms. I love the fashions – the long-waist dresses, the bobbed hair. I love the joyful attitude. Everything was just beginning – Broadway musicals, the film industry, so many great literary magazines like The New Yorker. I would just love to have been there when everything, particularly in the arts, seemed so shiny and new, and when women were first experiencing liberation.

I read that you said information on the real Auzellos was scarce. How did you build their relationship? Did you plan to make it as volatile as it was or did the writing process take you that way?

There really was very little about them but what was there all mentioned how troubled their marriage was. And that’s catnip to an author, of course. Basically I knew that Claude had mistresses in the French way – not believing they had anything to do with his marriage – and Blanche, being an American, did not view them in the same light. And this led to the volatility. Add to that the fact that they were two very different people whose romance had begun in an unbelievably passionate, dramatic way, and I thought—how does a marriage live up to such a grand, epic beginning? So that part of the story of their marriage, I imagined. And then I imagined how a marriage based on epic highs and lows would evolve in wartime, when...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Melanie Benjamin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Alice I Have Been.

The Page 69 Test: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

My Book, The Movie: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

The Page 69 Test: The Aviator's Wife.

The Page 69 Test: The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

The Page 69 Test: The Girls in the Picture.

Writers Read: Melanie Benjamin (January 2018).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates's new book is The Moment Of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes The World.

From the transcript of her interview with NPR's Michel Martin:

MARTIN: [Y]ou quote a friend several times in the book who was very skeptical of the ability of, quote, unquote, "American billionaires" to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those facing extreme poverty. I mean, right now, we're in a moment - not just in the United States, but around the world - when a lot of people are questioning - or they're asking, what is fundamentally fair?

And I wanted to ask you. It's true, your family's been extremely generous with your wealth. But some are asking now, what are the terms on which wealth is generated to begin with? Is that something you're prepared to discuss? Is that something you think, as a society, we should be talking about, and if so, how?

GATES: We should absolutely be talking about that as a society. I don't want my children to grow up in a society that has such large inequities. And so part of the reason that we work, for instance, on the U.S. education system is that is the best opportunity to reach a child in our country, to help lift them up and let them go on to thrive and have their best life.

But we have to step back as a society and say, what is it that's causing these inequities? We have to look at our tax policies. You know, Bill and I are on record saying we believe high-income people should pay more than a middle-income family than should pay more than a low-income family. And so it's time to revisit some of the tax policies, some of the regulations in our society.

But make no mistake, living in a capitalistic structure is a fabulous place to live. I meet so many families around the world who want to live in the United States and have the system we have. Warren Buffett, our co-trustee, my husband, Bill, they are so clear that, you know, they could not have started those - the companies they have in Malawi or in Senegal or in Niger. We benefit from the structure we have in the United States, but we don't have it all right. And...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 3, 2019

Nick Groom

Nick Groom is the author of The Vampire: A New History.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this history of vampires?

A: I’ve written a lot about the Gothic, and my approach has been to think about its political context, particularly in England in the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s a way of looking at constitutional history, Protestantism, and progress.

Vampires don’t fit in that model. They’re supernatural beings. They got me thinking in a different way about politics and theology. It’s not just a history of bloodsucking demons, but that the vampire was a thought experiment used in Enlightenment thinking.

Q: Vampires are very common in today's popular culture. Why do you think that is, and what do you see looking ahead?

A: A lot of people who write books on vampires are keen to write the obituary of the vampire, that the vampire has now lost its allure. But it hasn’t. There might be even...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Heather Morris

Heather Morris is the author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and its follow-up, Cilka’s Journey.

From her Entertainment Weekly Q&A with David Canfield:

[Cilka’s Journey] is another harrowing, inspiring story. Is there a reason you keep returning to this world, however painful it is?

“They are us. We are one” — Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand prime minister. It’s that simple, folks. There are so many stories to tell and deserving of their place on our bookshelves, in our hearts. I will listen, I will learn, and it’s my good fortune to bring these stories out to readers.

How are you resting with the success of Tattooist? Why do you think it resonated on such a large scale?

At times uncomfortably, unable to comprehend the success of my debut novel. Always humbled particularly when I meet people who wish to know more about Lale, and the many who write to me sharing their stories of pain and the hope and love they have received by reading about Lale and Gita. Delighted that so many people ask, “What happened to Cilka? I need to know.”

I don’t over-analyze why The Tattooist of Auschwitz has resonated with so many people, in so many countries, other than the need to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Chaya Bhuvaneswar

Chaya Bhuvaneswar is the author of White Dancing Elephants: Stories.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How was the book's title (also the title of the first story in the collection) chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: It's a Buddhist image, a South Asian image, but also resonates (I hoped) with the dream the narrator of the title story has, juxtaposing Disney elephants with far different imagery.

Q: Do you see certain themes running through the collection?

A: Loss, grief; what the Kirkus reviewer called "the aftermath" - definitely a state of being that all the characters face in...[read on]
Visit Chaya Bhuvaneswar's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Ashley Jardina

Ashley Jardina is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Duke University. Her new book is White Identity Politics.

From her interview with The New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner:

How has white identity changed over the past several decades?

One thing that’s different is how salient and politically relevant it is. We don’t have good public-opinion data going back in time to indicate that levels of white identity in the population have changed, or that now more people are identifying with their racial group than in the past. But what’s certainly clear is the extent to which white identity, or racial identity for some whites in the United States, matters for how they view the political and social world.

Think about white identity as being episodic and contextual. It’s politically relevant when something happens in the environment that makes it relevant, or when élites try to activate it, but it’s not always a force in politics in the way that we’re observing it to be today. If we could go back to the nineteen-twenties, in the wake of massive immigration to the United States, or if we could go back to the civil-rights movement, there are periods when there was a challenge to the dominant status of whites. There’s a possibility that the United States was no longer going to be defined by whiteness. These are places in time in which we might have seen white identity matter just as...[read on]
Visit Ashley Jardina's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 29, 2019

John A. Farrell

John A. Farrell is the author of Richard Nixon: The Life.

From his Q&A with The New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner:

Was there ever a moment in the Watergate scandal akin to this one, in terms of where Democrats were substantively and politically?

Yeah, I would say probably in the fall of 1973, before the Saturday Night Massacre set everything aflame. The Democrat-led Watergate Committee had spent all summer calling all of Nixon’s henchmen up to the Hill, and had unearthed and dug up a lot of stuff, particularly John Dean’s testimony, which said, “Yes, the President obstructed justice.” But the country was waiting for a smoking gun, and they had just reëlected Nixon by a huge landslide, a historic landslide, and they were suspicious, probably rightly so, that Democrats were seeking to settle old grievances, to settle in Congress what they couldn’t settle at the ballot box. And so you had this period in September and October of 1973 when lots of stuff was happening. Spiro Agnew was resigning. The Arabs and Israelis went to war. But the public-opinion polls showed there was still great hesitancy about Watergate and that a vast majority of people were much more concerned about the economy.

Did events then change, or did the Democrats do something that changed things?

No, I think primarily events changed things, primarily the Saturday Night Massacre. People knew there were tapes in 1973, because that had come out during the Watergate Committee hearings. And they were sort of widely saying, “Well, the tapes are going to show who is telling the truth, John Dean or Nixon, and we will wait for them to come out. And when it went to the courts, it was seen as the process working. And then, all of a sudden, Nixon took this radical step of firing [the special prosecutor Archibald] Cox, and forcing [Attorney General] Elliot Richardson and [Deputy Attorney General] William Ruckelshaus to resign, and all of a sudden people said, “Wait a minute, he is not waiting for the courts to act and for the tapes to come out so we know what the truth is; he is covering up.”

That pretty much solidified mainstream liberal Democrats behind impeachment. You had Tip O’Neill going on the House floor and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sally Hepworth

Sally Hepworth is the bestselling author of The Secrets of Midwives, The Things We Keep, The Mother's Promise, and The Family Next Door.

Her new novel is The Mother-in-Law.

From Hepworth's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Mother-in-Law, and for your characters Lucy and Diana?

A: The idea came to me while hosting my in-laws, who stayed with us for six weeks following the birth of my third child.

On this particular trip, my (beloved) father-in-law had been pestering me continually about what my next book was about. Now, I didn’t know what my next book was going to be about, given the fact that I had just given birth! But he wouldn’t let it go.

Finally I told him, in jest: “I’m going to write about a woman who murders her father-in-law.” We laughed about it, but the more I thought about it, I decided it wasn’t a bad idea.

Still, I thought it would be an even better idea if I substituted Mother-in-Law for Father-in-Law. My father-in-law was bummed, because he was looking forward to his 15 minutes of fame, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Anne Harrington

Anne Harrington's new book is Mind Fixers: Psychiatry's Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness.

From the transcript of her Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: So I think the first drug that was used to treat manic depression was lithium, which you write was previously marketed as a health tonic. That amazed me when I read it.

HARRINGTON: Really? The first thing to know about lithium to understand its strange place in the history of psychiatry is that unlike all the other drugs, it wasn't invented in a laboratory. It's an element. It's found in the natural world. And it's found, for example, in certain kinds of spas in Europe that, in the past, you know, bragged about their high lithium content of their drinking water. And so it had a place in spa culture. It had a place as a feel good tonic. It was, for a period of time, an ingredient in a new lemon-lime soft drink that became quite popular in - up through the 1950s that gets renamed 7UP. And there's a...

GROSS: 7UP had lithium in it?

HARRINGTON: 7UP had lithium in it, and there's - no one quite knows for sure why Griggs (ph), the inventor of this soft drink - it had a very convoluted previous name. But it was renamed 7UP, and some think that this might be a reference to the atomic number of lithium. It's just under seven and the up meaning the suggestion that it lifts the mood. Lithium is no longer in 7UP. Cocaine is no longer in Coca-Cola.

GROSS: (Laughter) Right.

HARRINGTON: But there was this previous history of lithium. And then lithium sort of fortunes as a product, and it's used in all sorts of other things too that have nothing to do with, you know, the health industry. But its fortunes as a product in the health industry take a nosedive when it is used as the basis - or a compound of lithium is used as the basis for a salt substitute that ends up, people believe, causing heart problems and even several deaths. And so there's a warning sent out by the AMA and then eventually FDA that, you know, these salt substitutes - take them off the market. This is a dangerous drug. And so lithium's emergence in psychiatry emerges against the background of two relevant facts. One, it has a reputation now for being dangerous and, two, it's not going to make a pharmaceutical company very much money because they can't patent it.

GROSS: So is lithium still, like, a drug of choice for treating patients with bipolar disorder?

HARRINGTON: I think there are a lot of people who say it's a very...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 26, 2019

Renée Rosen

Renée Rosen's new novel is Park Avenue Summer.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on Helen Gurley Brown in your new novel, and how did you come up with the idea for her (fictional) assistant, Alice?

A: I knew I wanted to set a book in New York City in the 1960s and I wanted it to be centered around a glamorous industry. Mad Men already had the corner on advertising, so I went with magazines. Initially I was thinking of a fictional magazine and a full cast of fictional characters. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with my editor that we realized we had to tell Helen Gurley Brown’s story.

That led to the next dilemma--whose point-of-view should the story be told from. There were so many non-fiction books already out there about HGB, even some that Brown wrote herself. I didn’t want to just fictionalize what had already been done and so beautifully before, so, enter Alice Weiss. I wanted to show HGB’s influence on a typical “Cosmo girl.” Using Alice as a vehicle also enabled me to...[read on]
Visit Renée Rosen's website, blog, and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Every Crooked Pot.

My Book, The Movie: Dollface.

The Page 69 Test: Dollface.

The Page 69 Test: What the Lady Wants.

My Book, The Movie: What the Lady Wants.

Writers Read: Renée Rosen (February 2017).

My Book, The Movie: Windy City Blues.

The Page 69 Test: Windy City Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Don Winslow

Don Winslow's The Border is a follow-up to his 2005 novel The Power of the Dog and 2015’s The Cartel. From the author's Southwest Review Q&A with William Boyle:

WB: Michael Connelly wrote this about The Cartel: “[It’s] a first-rate edge-of-your-seat thriller for sure, but it also continues Winslow’s incisive reporting on the dangers and intricacies of the world we live in. There is no higher mark for a storyteller than to both educate and entertain. With Winslow these aspects are entwined like strands of DNA.” I wonder what it’s like to work with that idea in your head, that you’re educating people, that you’re dealing with some people who are crime fiction fans who will be on board and some people who are smart who will know you’re getting it right, but then you’re also dealing with a whole host of people who are buying into falsehoods, maybe even believing that stuff in Sicario: Day of the Soldado is reality.

DW: I have to forget about all of that. I’m aware of all of it: My education is as a historian, and that’s the way I tackle these things. But then I have to remind myself I’m not writing history, I’m writing a novel. I’m writing what better be a good, exciting, interesting story, albeit with a lot of information. The way I view my job is that I’m supposed to bring people into a world they couldn’t otherwise enter. I’m their guide. When I’m writing, even though I’m aware of everything you just mentioned, dead-on, I have to throw all of that away. I’ve gotta be inhabiting the character’s mind, I’ve gotta be seeing the world through the character’s eyes. I won’t consider any of that stuff, period. Because then I’m writing polemics or history. The other thing is you have to avoid the...[read on]
Learn about Winslow's hero from outside literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Tim Johnston

Tim Johnston's latest novel is The Current.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Current?

A: The idea dates back to a short story I wrote just before I began my previous novel, Descent, back in 2007.

That story, called "Water," is set in small-town Minnesota and concerns the drowning of a young woman in the local river and the search for her killer. The law casts a serious eye on one young man, but charges are never filed, the truth is never known, and everyone in the story is damaged irrevocably, The End.

The inspiration, you might say, came seven years later, in a café in Memphis. I was reading student stories, minding my own business, when two young women pretty much demanded that I stop reading student stories and begin writing theirs. (These were young women in my mind, just to be clear, and not actual young women.)

They intended, they let me know, to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Louis Bayard

Louis Bayard's new novel is Courting Mr. Lincoln.

From his Q&A with Mackenzie Dawson for the New York Post:

Lincoln was open about sharing a bed with [his best friend, Joshua] Speed — was this a common arrangement at the time?

It was a common arrangement among bachelors because beds were expensive. [What was strange] was the length of time [they shared the bed] — three years. And they got married late in life.

What research did you do?

I learned as much as I can about these guys, and the book is a promiscuous mixture of fact and invention. The book that was helpful was “The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln” by C.A. Tripp. He was a Kinsey Institute sex researcher and the first to declare that Lincoln was homosexual. The book is a bit over-the-top and was savaged at the time, but it was the first to bring up that possibility. Although [Lincoln biographer] Carl Sandburg brought up in his 1926 biography that the friendship had a...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Louis Bayard's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Black Tower.

The Page 69 Test: The Pale Blue Eye.

The Page 69 Test: The School of Night.

The Page 69 Test: Roosevelt's Beast.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 22, 2019

Robert Dugoni

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon best selling author of The Tracy Crosswhite series, My Sister’s Grave, Her Final Breath, In the Clearing, and The Trapped Girl.

Dugoni's new novel is The Eighth Sister.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on your character Charles Jenkins, who's appeared before in your work, in this new novel?

A: I had a story fall into my lap. A true story of a CIA agent accused of espionage. Long story short, I wanted to write a novel and Jenkins, a former CIA agent living on Camano Island, was perfect for the novel I was crafting. He’d worked against the KGB in Mexico City. He was now married with kids and therefore vulnerable.

The Eighth Sister isn’t based on a true story, though the trial pretty strongly reflects true events. I also really had a soft spot for Jenkins. I thought he was a character people would...[read on]
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Eighth Sister.

Writers Read: Robert Dugoni.

The Page 69 Test: The Eighth Sister.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Robert A. Caro

For his biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, Robert A. Caro has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, has three times won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and has also won virtually every other major literary honor, including the National Book Award, the Gold Medal in Biography from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Francis Parkman Prize, awarded by the Society of American Historians to the book that best “exemplifies the union of the historian and the artist.” In 2010 President Barack Obama awarded Caro the National Humanities Medal, stating at the time: “I think about Robert Caro and reading The Power Broker back when I was twenty-two years old and just being mesmerized, and I’m sure it helped to shape how I think about politics.” In 2016 he received the National Book Award for Lifetime Achievement. The London Sunday Times has said that Caro is “The greatest political biographer of our times.”

Caro's new book is Working.

From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Dave Davies:

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR, and we're speaking with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and biographer Robert Caro. He has a new book about his life working and writing these biographies. It's called "Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing."

After you finished "The Power Broker" - this book about this towering figure who exercised powers in many unseen ways - Robert Moses, you decided you wanted to write about Lyndon Johnson. Why?

CARO: Well, I never was interested in writing a biography of Robert Moses or Lyndon Johnson. I never had the slightest interest in writing a book just to tell the story of a great man. I wanted to use their lives to show how political power worked. That's what I was interested in.

And with Moses, I came to see - I didn't really understand - you know, as you're doing a book, you're finding - you're realizing what you're doing. You don't realize - I've realized, I'm writing a book about urban political power, power in cities. I said, if I ever have - remember; I was broke. My editor had told me no one was going to read this book. I said, if I ever could do another book, I'd like to do national political power, and I'd like to do it through Lyndon Johnson.

Well, as it happens, I say, well, my publisher isn't going to let me do that because I've signed the contract. In order to get enough money to do "The Power Broker," I had to sign a two-book contract, and the second one was to do a biography of Fiorello La Guardia, the mayor of New York. So I was starting on the La Guardia biography. I didn't want to do it.

I figured my publisher was never going to let me out when my editor, Bob Gottlieb - Robert Gottlieb - he calls me up one day. And he says - now, Bob. He says, I know you're a terrible temper. We used to have terrible fights. He said, I want you to come in. I have something I want to talk to you about, and I want you to promise me you won't lose your temper until I finish. And I said, OK.

And he says, I don't think you should do a biography of Fiorello La Guardia, and I have an idea who you should do a biography of. And it should be a biography of Lyndon Johnson. And you should do it in volume so we don't have to cut any of this stuff out. I always felt I increased my advance by some substantial sum by not saying, what a great idea - by saying, oh, I'll think about it (laughter).

DAVIES: (Laughter) OK. When I read the first volume of your series about Lyndon Johnson, which is "Path To Power," I always tell people who are daunted by reading a book as long as you write them - trust me; you will find this fascinating from Page 1.

And what you begin
...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Ann Weisgarber

Ann Weisgarber was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio. She has lived in Boston, Massachusetts, and Des Moines, Iowa. She is the author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize and shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers.

Weisgarber's new novel is The Glovemaker.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Glovemaker, and for your character Deborah?

A: It started with a vacation in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park and an apple. The park service maintains the orchards that were originally planted in the 1880s by white settlers, and allows visitors to pick fruit during harvest season. The apples were ripe when I was there a few years ago, and as I climbed a ladder to pick one, I thought about the people who planted the trees.

Who were they? What drove them to live is such an isolated and harsh landscape?

Haunted by these questions, I bought a few books at the Visitor Center. One of the settlers was a married woman who owned 20 acres in her own name. Doing more research, I discovered that she didn’t have children and her husband had disappeared from public records. This woman became...[read on]
Visit Ann Weisgarber's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Promise.

The Page 69 Test: The Glovemaker.

Writers Read: Ann Weisgarber.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 19, 2019

Chip Cheek

Chip Cheek's new novel is Cape May.

From his Q&A with David Adams:

How did you get the idea for Cape May?

I’ll give you a little bit of backstory. I come from a family of people who’ve worked on the railroad in Georgia going back to the beginning of the 20th century, and I was always interested in that. After my MFA, I began working on a novel steeped in the Jim Crow era in Georgia and drawing on stories from my family’s history. I was dealing with murder and race, all this compelling stuff, but I kept getting sidetracked by the love stories. For reasons that are lost in time now, I decided to marry two of my characters to each other and send them on a honeymoon. I was immediately transported; I wanted to stay in that world forever. But I was supposed to be writing this other novel about the railroad and Jim Crow. So I shelved it.

A couple years later, on probably my third novel attempt, the same exact thing happened again–I married two of my characters, sent them on a honeymoon. This was in the summer of 2014, after I got married. This time, I decided that the “important” novel I’d been working on was not the novel–it was this novel, the one set in Cape May. When I let go of...[read on]
Visit Chip Cheek's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Lia Purpura

Lia Purpura’s new collection of essays is All the Fierce Tethers (Sarabande Books). Her most recent collection of poems is It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (Viking/Penguin.) She is the author of three previous collections of poems (King Baby, Stone Sky Lifting, The Brighter the Veil); three previous collections of essays (Rough Likeness, On Looking, Increase), and one collection of translations (Poems of Grzegorz Musial: Berliner Tagebuch & Taste of Ash).

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How was the book's title (also the title of one of the essays) chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: In this moment, to recognize the ways we’re all tethered to each other and to others, the land, the elements that sustain us all and are in themselves alive and sentient is, to my mind, the most urgent project we’re engaged in.

If we are to live together with some sense of equity and justice, if we are to sustain varied communities (and not monocultures of any kind) and see those variations as necessary, then the tethers between us must be recognized not as gossamer and fragile but...[read on]
Writers Read: Lia Purpura (April 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Rich Karlgaard

Rich Karlgaard is the author of Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement.

From the transcript of his interview with NPR's Rachel Martin:

MARTIN: So in the book, it's not like you're saying don't celebrate these people who we see doing incredibly remarkable things at young ages. We can do that. It's just that we also need to celebrate people for whom success comes later.

KARLGAARD: Well, absolutely. Now, here where I live in Silicon Valley, it's kind of ground central for putting pressure on teens and young adults because there are so many examples of young adults who have gone out and done tremendous things, whether it's the two founders of Google, whether it's Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook.

MARTIN: Right.

KARLGAARD: The pressure that this is putting on kids, teens and parents is incredible. So this pressure cooker and this idea that we're putting kids on a conveyor belt - they're supposed to trade their youthful curiosity for determined focus - is having on the whole, I believe, a very bad outcome. And that's why...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Crystal King

Crystal King is a novelist, editor, professor, social media professional, and critical & creative thinker.

Her debut novel, Feast of Sorrow, is about Marcus Gavius Apicius, the man whose name is on the world’s oldest known cookbook.

Her new novel, The Chef's Secret, is a story about a famous Italian Renaissance chef, Bartolomeo Scappi, who was the cuoco segreto (private cook) to several Popes.

From King's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you learn about 16th century chef Bartolomeo Scappi, and why did you decide to write a novel based on his life?

A: When I was doing research for Feast of Sorrow and wanted to understand more about the ancient Roman gourmand Apicius, I kept coming across the name Bartolomeo Scappi as one of the most important chefs in the history of Italian cuisine.

I picked up the cookbook more out of curiosity than anything else. But I found that the cookbook is very readable and there is a lot of really fascinating information about the various regions where the food is from and about Bartolomeo's employers in the papal kitchen, and the various cardinals he worked for.

But there's not much about him and his life. There's a few small details like his nephew and apprentice, Giovanni, worked for him, and we know about the banquets that he created for his wealthy employers. But we don't have any idea where he lived or how much money he made or if he was in love or if he had any children. And...[read on]
Visit Crystal King's website.

The Page 69 Test: Feast of Sorrow.

Writers Read: Crystal King (March 2019).

The Page 69 Test: The Chef's Secret.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 15, 2019

Erin Lee Carr

Erin Lee Carr is a New York-based director, producer and writer. Her memoir is All That You Leave Behind.

From the transcript of the author's NPR interview with Scott Simon:

SIMON: I have thought in my mind if there's a nice way to phrase this, and I'm afraid I can't, so let me try anyway, OK? Addiction damn near killed your mother and your father, and it damn near ruined the lives of you and your sister. Wasn't that enough to warn you away from drinking?

CARR: I think it's a good question. I think that there's, one, a genetic component to this. But the first time I tried cocaine, it really felt like a part of my DNA had been completed. And later, I realized because that's how my life started. That would make complete sense.

So what I can offer you is what I learned about my dad through what he told me, through "The Night Of The Gun" - it did stop me at certain moments from really developing the addiction into something that was like his. Like, I was really lucky that not only was there this really intense example of what addiction looked like, there was what sobriety looked like. You know, for me, I need to be very clear that for the majority of my life, my father was a sober man.

SIMON: You talk in the book - you did find sobriety hard.

CARR: Yes. I mean, the...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Marcia Butler

Marcia Butler has had a number of creative careers: professional musician, interior designer, documentary filmmaker, and author. As an oboist, the New York Times has hailed her as a “first rate artist.” During her musical career, she performed as a principal oboist and soloist on the most renowned of New York and international stages, with many high-profile musicians and orchestras – including pianist Andre Watts, and composer/pianist Keith Jarrett. Her interior designs projects have been published in numerous shelter magazines and range up and down the East coast, from NYC to Boston, to Miami. The Creative Imperative, her documentary film exploring the essence of creativity, will release in Spring 2019.

Butler’s nationally acclaimed memoir, The Skin Above My Knee, was one of the Washington Post’s “top ten noteworthy moments in classical music in 2017.”

Butler's debut novel is Pickle's Progress.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

Q) What inspired you to write this story about twins and complicated family relationships? How does their relationship exemplify the themes or messages you wanted to examine?

A) A few things came together for me when I began this novel. The surface inspiration was a set of identical twin sisters I knew from college days. One of them had just become engaged and confided in me that she was worried that her fiancé was attracted to her sister, who appeared virtually indistinguishable. She summoned the courage to ask him and he denied any attraction whatsoever. She felt reassured and relived. (They are still married!) Yet, I remained suspect; how could he not be attracted to the sister? This notion became the territory which I then explored more deeply in my novel regarding nature vs. nurture in family of origin.

Another influence inserted itself into Pickle McArdle’s character and story line in an almost stealth way. I recognized this only after the book was complete. This is an example of how the author will most assuredly insert some aspect of herself because she is writing from her personal psychological prism, and cannot help doing so. I came from a large family with five children and was always painfully aware that I was not the favored child. And it became my childhood mission to...[read on]
Visit Marcia Butler's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Skin Above My Knee.

My Book, The Movie: The Skin Above My Knee.

The Page 69 Test: Pickle's Progress.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Lydia Fitzpatrick

Lydia Fitzpatrick's new novel is Lights All Night Long.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that your protagonist Ilya was originally supposed to be a minor character in the novel. Why did you end up making him the focus of the book?

A: Sadie was the protagonist of the novel’s first few incarnations (there have been many!), and Ilya was a minor character meant to capture her attention briefly.

I’m generally resistant to the mystification of the writing process (maybe the muse was more apt to sing pre-Internet?), but the moment Ilya appeared on the page did feel charged.

I normally write exposition long and scenes short, but the scene when he and Sadie met went on and on, it became unwieldy and awkward, because, I realized, I didn’t want Ilya to leave the story. I wanted to know what had brought him from Russia to Louisiana, who he’d left behind, and in exploring his past, I found...[read on]
Visit Lydia Fitzpatrick's website.

--Marshal Zeringue