Friday, October 30, 2015

Jay Atkinson

Jay Atkinson, called “the bard of New England toughness” by Men’s Health magazine, is the author of eight books. Caveman Politics was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Program selection and a finalist for the Discover Great New Writers Award; Ice Time was a Publishers Weekly Notable Book of the Year and a New England Bookseller’s Association bestseller; and Legends of Winter Hill spent seven weeks on the Boston Globe hardcover bestseller list. He has written for the New York Times, Boston Globe, Newsday, Portland Oregonian, Men’s Health, Boston Sunday Herald, and Boston Globe magazine, among other publications. Atkinson teaches writing at Boston University and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times. He grew up hearing Hannah Duston's story in his hometown of Methuen, Massachusetts, which was part of Haverhill until 1726. He lives in Methuen, Massachusetts.

Atkinson's new book, Massacre on the Merrimack: Hannah Duston's Captivity and Revenge in Colonial America, focuses on a series of events in late 17th century New England between English settlers and members of the Abenaki tribe.

From the author's Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: The book includes so many details of Hannah Duston’s story. How did you recreate them?

A: The book’s research took about two years and six months, and the research had a bifurcated way that it developed. The first 18 months, all my research was indoors, reading all the accounts written about her, some contemporaneous with her actions—those were pretty short.

And because I’m from the same area, I was able to go to the special collections room in Haverhill where she lived. They had old deeds, and ephemera relating to the Duston family. For the first year, I tried to get my head around Abenaki warrior tactics, the English colonial government’s agrarian society taking over the wilderness.

And then there was her story—a homesteading wife with [many] children, a 39-year-old woman who had delivered a baby a week earlier, before the Indians attacked. I had all these facts, and I had stick figures performing these actions, and I had ...[read on]
Visit Jay Atkinson's website.

My Book, The Movie: Massacre on the Merrimack.

Writers Read: Jay Atkinson.

The Page 99 Test: Massacre on the Merrimack.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Carrie Brownstein

Carrie Brownstein co-founded the band Sleater-Kinney and is the co-creator and co-star of the IFC TV comedy series Portlandia. Her new memoir is Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl.

From Brownstein's Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: You didn't know it at the time, but your father was gay. He didn't come out until he was 55, and you were probably in your 20s by then. Do you think he knew at the time, when you were in your teens and living at home with your parents? You think he knew he was gay?

BROWNSTEIN: Wow, that - that's sort of the million dollar question in our family. I think deep down he did. I think he would say that now. He does sort of say that now. But it was very buried. It was subconscious and unconscious. He really did not know. I think he and I and anyone in our family can look back and see signs or see hints, but only in retrospect. At the time, no, I would have to just say no.

GROSS: When he came out at the age of 55, you say you were thankful that he was happy. And you say now there's someone to know. Did you feel like there was no one present when you were growing up, that your father was - that he didn't know who he was, therefore you didn't know who he was?

BROWNSTEIN: Definitely. My dad, as I describe in the book, he was sort of this series of signifiers - a generic office building in the suburbs, a three-piece suit, a soccer coach, a clean-cut, you know, haircut and clean-shaven. And he interacted with my sister and I through activities and much less so with emotions. And he really only ever had one story from his childhood. There was just this blankness that was very difficult to penetrate. I always felt very close to him but just almost this sort of - by default. And I really just didn't know him. I think none of us did. So, yeah, when he came out, it was like...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Nicholas Stargardt

Nicholas Stargardt is Professor of Modern European History at Magdalen College, Oxford. His new book is The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this book, and how does your analysis differ from that of some other historians?

A: There hasn’t been a history of German society in the Second World War. There are whole libraries on military strategy, the Nazi leadership and the Holocaust, but we simply have not known what the German people thought they were fighting for. And this was a war the regime could not have fought without mobilizing everyone.

So, this book does something quite different from what historians have explored till now. I wanted to know what people experienced but also how completely the war overturned and transformed their lives and perspectives.

Individual voices have a special place here, because one of the key questions which interested me was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Steve Knopper

Steve Knopper is a Rolling Stone contributing editor and author of MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson (2015).

From his Q & A with John Wenzel for The Denver Post:

Q: Why Michael Jackson? Why now?

A: A few reasons: One, it’s a book I could sell. I wrote this book about the music business and I was super happy with it and it got a lot of press. But in the end, it was a pretty limited audience (of) people who are interested in the music business. And so I wanted another book, but as I was pitching idea after idea it kept not going anywhere. Then Michael passes away…

Which was not too long ago, in the scheme of things.

June 25, 2009, which is burned in my brain. But immediately after that I pitched my previous agent, and it just all kind of crystallized.

A lot of people might assume there’s not much new information, given the dozens of books already out there about him.

There are, but there hasn’t really been a book that’s credible. Not a salacious tell-all, but a narrative, music-business book. I kind of pitched it as the Peter Guralnick version of Michael Jackson’s story. He’s the guy that did the Elvis Presley biographies (“Last Train to Memphis”), and those books are great because there’s a lot of dirt in there, a lot of sexy stuff. But in addition to that, it’s high-level criticism and analysis, and you don’t come away from that going, “Wow, Peter Guralnick is really a cheap celebrity biographer.” That’s what I aspired to. My agent liked the idea but at the time he said, “Can you finish it in six months?” and almost immediately after Michael’s death. And I said, “No, I really think it needs a lot more depth than that. I don’t think we should rush-release something into the market just because he died.” His death reminded me and so many other people how much we loved him and his music and I really wanted to...[read on
Visit Steve Knopper's website.

Writers Read: Steve Knopper.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 26, 2015

David O. Stewart

David O. Stewart is the author of several works of history, including Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America, which have been awarded the Washington Writing Award and the Society of the Cincinnati History Prize.

His latest new novel is The Wilson Deception.

From Stewart's Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What are some of the most common perceptions and misperceptions about Woodrow Wilson?

A: Wilson was a highly idealistic and moralistic person, the son of a Presbyterian preacher who loved to sing hymns. Surviving photographs tend to emphasize the grim, somewhat constipated side of his character.

But he also was a vigorous fellow who liked women a lot and relished telling bad jokes and reciting limericks. I tried to convey a more complex picture of him.

Q: When you mix historical figures and fictional creations, how much do you stick to the actual facts?

A: The basic events of history, the basic traits of historical figures – I respect all of those. In The Wilson Deception, the sequence of the peace negotiations provides the timeframe for the story and I follow it very closely.

The assassination attempt on French Premier Georges Clemenceau, the death of British diplomat Mark Sykes (architect of the Sykes-Picot agreement carving up the Middle East), and President Wilson’s health crises are...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at David O. Stewart's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Wilson Deception.

Writers Read: David O. Stewart.

The Page 69 Test: The Wilson Deception.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Diane Roberts

Diane Roberts is an English professor and a football fan at Florida State. Her new book is Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America.

From her Q & A with Steve Almond at Salon:

Early on in “Tribal” you talk about how fandom “takes the edge off this painful self-examination, offering a kind of energetic clarity.” But the book complicates the experience of fandom, by suggesting all the toxic attitudes and outcomes football fosters. Does the game still provide you with that clarity?

I can still disappear into the hold-your-breath moment of the game. I holler. I cheer. I sing. I clap. If I’m home watching on television, I coach. I’m really good at calling plays when nobody can hear me. It’s so comfortable and fine to belong, to be part of the tribe, to know that the people around you in the stadium — people who don’t see the world as you do, who might hate your politics — will share the general triumph when your guys score. For a moment, you’re all one family.

It’s why people join churches, political parties, sororities, fraternities, gangs, book clubs. Most of us live tangled in paradox. Loving a college football team is simple and comforting — even when that team loses. When I’m praying that FSU’s quarterback can actually get the ball to that open receiver, I forget all about climate change, Syria and the NRA. When the ball lands in the boy’s waiting hands, the world falls away. Joy takes over.

As a devout fan for many years, I get it. But can I just ask why you decided to open this particular can of worms?

Because it’s my can of worms. I’m trying to figure out how and why this absurd (and gorgeous and thrilling and destructive) game has such a hold on me and other people. I’m particularly interested in the way we often love things that aren’t good for us: chocolate, booze, narcissists, football.

I’m also a product of my culture — a culture I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Robert C. Holub

Robert C. Holub's latest book is Nietzsche’s Jewish Problem: Between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Judaism.

From his Q & A at the Princeton University Press website:

Should Nietzsche be regarded as a forerunner of National Socialism and its racist ideology?

There are strong arguments against considering Nietzsche as a precursor of National Socialism. Perhaps the two ideological pillars of Nazism were ardent nationalism and virulent anti-Semitism, and Nietzsche evidences neither of them. He was nationalistic and Judeophobic during his Wagnerian period, but he never embraced these tenets passionately and without reservation. On the other hand, Nietzsche did admire strong and dictatorial leaders, such as Napoleon; he detested democracy, parliamentary rule, and equal rights. And he flirted with eugenics in his later years, although it was never a racially based eugenics. So arguments can be made for and against this proposition. Of course Nietzsche was established as a precursor of National Socialism by Nazi philosophers and ideologues, but we should remember that some party members found it difficult to integrate him into their outlook. We should also recall that Nietzsche in his own time was vehemently opposed to any collective undertaking, whether it was on the right or the left of the political spectrum. It is difficult to know how he would have reacted to the rise of fascism in Germany several decades after his death. One of the main points of my book is that speculation of this sort is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 23, 2015

Emily Holleman

Emily Holleman is a Brooklyn-based writer. After a two-year editing stint at where she had to worry a lot about politics, celebrities and memes, she returned to her true passion: fiction. She's currently working on a set of historical novels that reimagines the saga of Cleopatra from the perspective of her younger sister, Arsinoe. The first of these, Cleopatra's Shadows, is currently available from Little, Brown.

From the author's Q & A with Alexandra Schwartz at Salon:

Tell me how you got interested in this: Were you interested in trying to find a different way of approaching Cleopatra or did you start at a point of interest with her sisters?

I started at a point of interest with her sisters. I was reading Stacey Schiff’s book about Cleopatra right before going to Egypt with my family. Toward the beginning, there’s this mention of Arsinoe, and Stacey Schiff describes her literally in a footnote, something like, “Very little is known about Arsinoe’s motivations but that hasn’t stopped even the most illustrious historians from trying to figure them out,” and then quotes something from [a] French guy who’s like, “If Arsinoe hadn’t been jealous of Cleopatra, she wouldn’t have been a woman, let alone a Ptolemy.” [A] very pre-World War II French historian thing to say about her motives.

That really caught my eye: this idea that all women must be by default jealous of any sort of sexual successes [of their peers]. He, of course, was talking about Cleopatra’s relationship with Caesar, which is much later than what we cover in this book. That was what really intrigued me: the idea of taking this woman whom we see always from the perspective of her lovers, from the perspective of Rome, and flipping that on its head and looking at it through the eyes of her sisters whom we now have completely...[read on]
Visit Emily Holleman's website.

Writers Read: Emily Holleman.

The Page 69 Test: Cleopatra's Shadows.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Joseph S. Wilson & Olivia Messinger Carol

Joseph S. Wilson and Olivia Messinger Carol are co-authors of comprehensive new bee guide, The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees. From their Q & A at the Princeton University Press blog:

In the introduction to your book, you discuss the many misconceptions surrounding bees–what ‘myth’ do you find yourself most often dispelling?

OC & JW: It used to be that every time we told folks what it is that we studied, they would try to find common ground with us by relating a story about that one time that they had been stung by a bee (the truth is, only female bees are even capable of stinging, and they are not very aggressive. In all the many years of collecting bees and handling them–sometimes hundreds in a day, we’ve been stung less than two dozen times). Anymore, though, people skip telling us about being stung and ask: “So how bad off are the bees?”

How bad is the bee decline, really?

OC: The truth is that 1) we don’t really know because 2) its complicated. Its complicated because there are so many species of bees. If one kind is in decline, we really can’t assume that all 30,000 kinds around the world are. Or because some are in decline in the eastern United States doesn’t mean that western populations of that same species are too. We can guess that many of the landscape alterations we’ve made in the U.S. are not beneficial (replacing midwestern prairies with monocultures of corn and soy, fragmenting desert areas with parking lots and strip malls, perhaps even our unchecked use of insecticides), but the actual impact is largely unknown. Systematic bee surveys were seldom conducted 100 years ago, so we don’t have solid baseline data against which to compare current population levels. And at least some bee species seem to naturally vary 10 to 100-fold from year to year based in part on floral bloom and weather.

We do know for certain that for several years honey bee populations appeared to be dropping dramatically and the reasons for that are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Amy Ellis Nutt

Amy Ellis Nutt is the author of Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family. From her Q & A with David Ebershoff:

David Ebershoff: What first drew you to the story of Nicole Maines and her family? Tell me about the first time you met them?

Amy Ellis Nutt: There were several aspects to the story and the Maines family that hooked me right away. First of all, Nicole and her brother Jonas were still young teenagers and, in many ways, the family’s journey was still unfolding. As a journalist, that was exciting. Because the science of gender identity is still being learned, I also felt that Nicole and Jonas being identical twins gave me a perfect opportunity to explore the importance of this intermediate territory between nature and nurture called epigenetics: how our environment (even the environment of the womb), contributes to who we are, even when our DNA is identical, as it is in the case of Nicole and Jonas. What cinched the deal for me was meeting the family for the first time. They were all warm and generous, funny, honest, and articulate, and they welcomed me into their home. On her laptop, Nicole showed me videos she was making for school, Jonas told me about writing songs on the guitar. They were clearly creative kids, with their own personalities, but with an obvious love for each other as well as their parents.

This is Nicole’s story, of course, but it’s also her family’s story. I think of it as the biography of a family. What was it like to write a book with four central characters? How did you research their lives?

It’s true, Becoming Nicole is about a family, about four people, not just one, and I felt that this kind of story had not yet really been told. I think Wayne and Kelly were also keenly aware of this, and the importance for the wider world in sharing the lessons of their lives in raising a transgender child and her identical twin brother. At the same time, they were—are—extremely...[read on]
Visit Amy Ellis Nutt's website.

The Page 99 Test: Shadows Bright as Glass.

Writers Read: Amy Ellis Nutt (April 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's newest novel is The Heart Goes Last. From her Q & A with Mike Doherty at Salon:

In the Maddaddam books, a pandemic wipes out so much of humanity; you carefully set out the details, whereas in “The Heart Goes Last,” the reason for society’s collapse is rather vague.

I think we pretty much do know what it was — it’s the same thing that happened in 2008, so it’s a financial collapse rather than a physical [one]. People did end up on their front lawns and living in their cars, and that is apparently ongoing.

Do you see Positron/Consilience as a logical extension of current for-profit prisons?

The problem with for-profit prisons is that you need an endless supply of prisoners to make it profitable, so there’s no incentive to make it such that criminality is actually reduced. Ultimately you want more criminality; at the very least, you want to be able to define criminality in such a way that enough people get put in prison so you can make a profit out of them. There’s also a clause in the U.S. constitution that says you can’t use slave labor — except when convicted criminals are involved. So all of that is going on right now; [the book offers] just a little twist on it.

You write about people who have the power to change others’ lives by wiping out and changing data, which seems a relatively new development in literature —

Forgery is very old. Think of it as a new form of forgery. What you’re doing is altering perceived reality and substituting a false version of it, and that can have good uses. For instance, a lot of people wouldn’t have escaped Nazi Germany if...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 19, 2015

Arnie Bernstein

Arnie Bernstein is the author of Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this book, and how did you research it?

A: Like all good stories, this one started at the movies. In 2009 I went to see Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. For your readers who aren’t familiar with the story, it’s a WWII revenge tale about a group of Jewish American soldiers who are parachuted into Nazi-occupied France, then go terrorizing the countryside killing the enemy.

After hooting and hollering and enjoy the movie with the happiest ending ever (people who’ve seen the movie know what I mean!), I got curious about what the real stories were of Jews who fought back during the Hitler era.

There were lots of good stories out there, and it made for interesting reading. I kept coming across the stories of the German-American Bund, their leader Fritz Kuhn, and the many disparate groups that fought the Bund in the streets and in the courts.

The people involved were incredible larger than life figures: New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, his right hand man Thomas Dewey (then a prosecutor), Walter Winchell, members of HUAC [the House Un-American Activities Committee], and the biggest names of the Jewish underworld.

The stories existed in little bits and pieces in various histories and a few academic studies, but there was no book devoted to telling this story fully.

This was one of those moments in history that seemed to have fallen between the cracks and was forgotten. But it was so rich and so full of fascinating...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Arnie Bernstein's website.

Writers Read: Arnie Bernstein.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Katherine Howe

Katherine Howe's latest novel is The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen.

From her Q & A at MissHeard magazine:

Hello Katherine! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your newest novel.

It’s my pleasure! Thank you so much for inviting me. I’m a novelist who writes historical fiction with a slight magical twist, often about witches or ghosts or spookyish things like that. My newest novel, THE APPEARANCE OF ANNIE VAN SINDEREN, is a contemporary ghost story that never uses the word “ghost.” It’s about a 19 year old boy named Wes who goes to NYU for a summer film program. While there he meets a mysterious girl named Annie. She has strange hipster hair, and strange hipster clothes, and Wes can’t really figure her out. Then at the end of Part I she shows up in his locked dorm room in the middle of the night shaking him awake and begging him for help.

The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen is special to me because it blends two narratives- a contemporary teenage boy, and a girl from the past. Do you have to do anything special to write from these greatly different perspectives?

Thank you. I don’t know what this says about my mental health (or lack thereof), but I find it fairly easy to move between different characters’ points of view. In a way I find historical perspectives easier to imagine than contemporary ones, because the constraints on the historical point of view are...[read on]
Writers Read: Katherine Howe (February 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 16, 2015

John Klima

John Klima is the author of the new book The Game Must Go On: Hank Greenberg, Pete Gray, and the Great Days of Baseball on the Home Front in WWII.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What were some of the reasons Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to support the continuation of baseball through World War II?

A: Public morale, public relations, something people could feel connected to during the war. Roosevelt saw it as a political device to connect himself to something people loved and didn't want to lose during the war.

He also saw the practical value of baseball as a social institution and a worthy piece of the domestic wartime economy.

Q: Two of the people on whom you focus in the book are Hank Greenberg and Pete Gray. Why did you select them?

A: I like right-handed power and guys who can run. Actually because they represented the two ends of the wartime baseball spectrum -- the guy who had it all and the guy who had nothing -- each giving themselves to the war effort in different ways.

Greenberg was the highest paid player in baseball, the most feared right-handed power hitter in the game, and he did not want to be seen as a guy who used baseball to get out of his duty.

Gray was ridiculed all the way up because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Wallace Stroby

Wallace Stroby’s The Devil’s Share is the latest novel featuring one of the most compelling anti-heroes around today, heistwoman Crissa Stone. From the author's Q & A with MysteryPeople’s Scott Montgomery:

MPS: This was the novel where it appeared Crissa had changed a bit without completely putting my finger on it. At what place do you see Crissa in her life?

WS: I think over the course of the books, what’s been happening – though I don’t think I knew it at the time – is that she’s gradually been surrendering her illusions about where her life’s going. In Cold Shot to the Heart, the first book, she’s actively trying to build a “normal” life for herself – buying a house, trying to get her lover/mentor out of prison, attempting to reunite with the daughter she gave up. At the end of that book, most of her hopes go up in smoke – literally. In Kings of Midnight, she comes to accept the fact that her lover, Wayne, is likely *never* going to get out of prison, and that she’s basically on her own. She’s harder and colder in the third one, Shoot The Woman First, but her relationship with the young daughter of a slain partner thaws her a bit. In The Devil’s Share, she’s in the driver’s seat, picking the team, planning the heist, etc. In one sense, she’s become Wayne.

MPS: You have a great character in Hicks, and his relationship with Crissa is what makes the book for me. What did you want to explore with it?

WS: I wanted to finally give Crissa – who’s been pretty isolated and lonely in the previous books – a relationship with someone who was...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his novels at the official Wallace Stroby website and The Heartbreak Blog.

The Page 69 Test: Gone 'til November.

The Page 69 Test: Cold Shot to the Heart.

The Page 69 Test: Kings of Midnight.

The Page 69 Test: The Devil's Share.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson is the author of four highly acclaimed novels: Housekeeping (1980), Gilead (2004), Home (2008), and Lila (2014).

From her conversation with Barack Obama as published in The New York Review of Books:

The President: I’m going to shift gears for a second. You told me that when you started writing it just kind of showed up in some ways. When you started writing your novels, that it was just forced upon you and that you didn’t map it out. Tell me about when you were writing Gilead and Home and some of my favorite books, how did you decide, I’m going to start writing about some old pastor in the middle of cornfields?

Because by that time you had gone to the East Coast, you had traveled in France.

Robinson: The Midwest was still a very new thing for me. I got a voice in my head. It was the funniest thing. I mean, [I’d] been reading history and theology and all these things for a long time. And then I was in Massachusetts, actually, just [waiting to spend] Christmas with my son[s]. They were late coming to wherever we were going to meet, and I was in this hotel with a pen and blank paper, and I started writing from this voice. The first sentence in that book is the first sentence that came to my mind. I have no idea how that happens. I was surprised that I was writing from a male point of view. But there...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Angus Deaton

Angus Deaton is the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Economics Department at Princeton University. He is the author of five books, including the 2013 The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality.

From his 2014 interview with Rebecca Rolfes for The GailFosler Group:

Q: So what is it that you see as the dark side of inequality?

A: In terms of health, for example, it’s really disturbing to many of us that so many poor people still smoke when we have known for years that smoking is bad for you. Another case is the large racial inequality in breast cancer mortality rates between black and white women.

But what worries me most about income inequality is that it can turn into political inequality. If the very wealthy use their wealth to influence the political process, then the rest of us suffer. That is the danger. People who are healthy aren’t going to undermine the health of the unhealthy. But the super-rich can undermine the political process to their own benefit and harm the rest of us. Studies show that politicians are much more responsive to their rich constituents than their poor constituents.

My book uses the example of the prisoner of war camp in the movie The Great Escape. If some people get out of the prisoner of war camp and some don’t, that’s a good thing — at least some people have escaped. Some people have done well, and we congratulate them. But we worry that others will never get out.

And if those who got out turn around and collaborate with the captors to prevent others from escaping, that’s a very bad thing. It’s partly corruption but it’s also things that are perfectly legal. If trade groups lobby Congress to pass laws to protect their products from competition for instance, that’s an example of those who have gotten ahead collaborating with the powers to block off progress for those who are coming behind.

Economic growth requires creative destruction, as Joseph Schumpeter wrote. Each new generation of fundamental technology sweeps away what came before. If Blackberry had the power to go to Congress and make iPhones illegal, that illustrates the point. People from the previous generation have a lot of incentive to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 12, 2015

Patricia Abbott

Patricia Abbott is the author of more than 125 stories that have appeared online, in print journals and in various anthologies. She is the author of Monkey Justice and Home Invasion and co-editor of Discount Noir. She won a Derringer award for her story "My Hero."

Abbott's new novel is Concrete Angel.

From her Q & A at MysteryPeople:

MysteryPeople: What about the idea of Concrete Angel appealed to you as a first book?

Patricia Abbott: I really liked the idea of flipping the plot of Mildred Pierce. But how exactly to do it? When I read about a mother and daughter being convicted of various incidents of fraud and other small crimes and that the daughter claimed her mother made her do it, that seemed like the right fit. How could a mother make her daughter (in her twenties, in this case) commit numerous crimes over many years? I needed more insight into their situation. And then I remembered a childhood friend whose mother had enormous power over her because of her dependence on her mother. It was just the two of them in a pretty scary world. That was also somewhat the setup in Mildred Pierce (after a younger daughter died). Except in that case, Mildred’s extreme love for Veda made her the victim of her monstrous daughter. In Concrete Angel, it’s Christine’s love and dependence on her monstrous mother that sets things into motion. And since that childhood friend lived in my native city of Philadelphia I could set it there. This made it work because...[read on]
Visit Patricia Abbott's website.

The Page 69 Test: Concrete Angel.

Writers Read: Patricia Abbott.

My Book, The Movie: Concrete Angel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 11, 2015

John Norris

John Norris is the author of Mary McGrory: The First Queen of Journalism. He lives in Washington, D.C.

From his interview with Scott Simon for NPR:

SIMON: ... Tell me the Lyndon Baines Johnson story, if you could, please.

NORRIS: So during LBJ's administration, Mary was at home in her apartment one night. And she got a call from someone saying that he was with the Secret Service and the president planned to stop by. Mary was immediately convinced that it was one of her colleagues or friends pulling her leg. But when she opened her door and saw two Secret Service men standing by the elevator, she furiously began to tidy up her apartment and prepare for an impromptu visit from the commander-in-chief. Lyndon came in, they had a drink or two and Lyndon professed his great affection for her, Mary, I'm crazy about you, and made clear that he wanted to sleep with her. And in a way that was prototypically Lyndon Johnson, also said, I know you love the Kennedys, and now you should love me, which has to be about the worst pick-up line...

SIMON: (Laughter).

NORRIS: ...That I've ever heard in my life. And certainly the worst pick-up line for Mary.

SIMON: Why is there - at least I can't come up with somebody who is quite like Mary McGrory, male or female, that's a columnist now. Or am I wrong?

NORRIS: You know, I think that the one thing...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at John Norris's Facebook page, Twitter perch, and website.

My Book, The Movie: Mary McGrory.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Louise O. Fresco

From a Q & A with Louise O. Fresco, author of Hamburgers in Paradise: The Stories behind the Food We Eat:

What’s new in this book?

Human history has been one of continuous scarcity. The abundance of food that has emerged for the majority of the world population in the last decades is so unique that we have not yet learnt to deal with it. We are still scared that there will not be enough, and that we will destroy our environment. Scarcity is our default mode, and that of our bodies, hence our difficulties to balance our diets and to reduce our ecological footprint. Abundance is a triumph of science and trade; it allows us to shed our fears of shortages. But the book argues that we require new ways of thinking, to reign in our needs (for example of meat) while producing food sustainably for all, with new methods (for example through recycling or using algae). The book demonstrates in detail that there is not one perfect way to produce and consume food, but that we always have to balance the trade-offs between different goals, such as large scale production (i.e. low food prices) and biodiversity. What is best depends on our goals and our insight in unintended side effects (we may like to see free roaming chickens but they may be more prone to disease that way).

Can you explain the title Hamburgers in Paradise?

The title refers to a thought experiment: if Eve were alive today, what food would she offer Adam as a temptation? Paradise as a metaphor also refers to the landscapes on our planet, the collective Garden of Eden which, according to some views, we have irreversibly destroyed through...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 9, 2015

Camille Griep

Camille Griep lives just north of Seattle with her partner, Adam, and their dog Dutch(ess). Born in Billings, Montana, she moved to Southern California to attend Claremont McKenna College, graduating with a dual degree in Biology and Literature.

She has since sold short fiction and creative nonfiction to dozens of online and print magazines. She is the editor of Easy Street and is a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. She is a 2012 graduate of Viable Paradise, a residential workshop for speculative fiction novelists.

Griep's first novel is Letters to Zell.

From her Q & A with G.G. Silverman:

GGS: Camille, please tell everyone what Letters to Zell is about, and what inspired you to write it.

CG: Thanks so much for having me here! I so appreciate having the chance to talk writing with you and introduce my very first novel.

At its core, Letters to Zell is the story of three women navigating the expectations of early to mid adulthood. When their mutual friend Zell (Rapunzel) moves away to chase her dream of opening a unicorn preserve, the remaining three princesses grapple with their own hopes and dreams.

Letters to Zell is a project born of a confluence of several events, but mostly my own self-examination. After I took some time off work to write full time, I grappled a lot with expectations. People said the strangest things. Choosing to be childless was a recipe for comments when I was working, but choosing to be childless and working as an artist seemed, for some, to be the epitome of self-indulgence. And I wondered how many other women dealt with those sorts of attitudes on an ongoing basis.

I had expectations for myself, too. What kind of woman would I turn into if I traded my Coach handbags for canvas totes? What kind of partner would I be not contributing to the household income for a few years – should I cook and clean and shop and feel guilty for doing those things while writing and feel guilty while writing for not doing those things.

I also had a lot of people tell me they’d like to...[read on]
Visit Camille Griep's website.

The Page 69 Test: Letters to Zell.

Coffee with a Canine: Camille Griep and Dutchess Marie Siefker-Griep.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sudhir Hazareesingh

Sudhir Hazareesingh's new book is How the French Think: An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write, "All great nations think of themselves as exceptional. France's distinctiveness in this regard lies in its enduring belief in its own moral and intellectual prowess." How did this belief come to be, and how does it manifest itself today?

A: French universalism has its historical roots in its Catholic tradition, in the golden age of classicism in French art and literature, which also coincided with the absolute monarchy of Louis XIV: this was the era when French language and culture were dominant across Europe.

From the Enlightenment onwards this cultural power also expressed itself through philosophy: France became the primary source of republican and revolutionary ideals about liberty and equality, which spread across the world.

This tradition is still alive today in the French way of thinking about citizenship, which stresses the importance of common values and active engagement with the public realm. After the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, four million men and women took to the streets across France.

Q: In the book, you discuss the importance of the salon. What role did the salon play in the development of French intellectual life?

A: The salon was a privileged arena for the development of cultural and philosophical ideas, particularly in the 18th century.

In a time when critical political ideas could not always be expressed openly, the salon provided a safe space where intellectual interaction could take place. It also gave openings to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Lynn Cullen

Lynn Cullen's new novel is Twain's End.

From a Q & A at her website:

This is the second novel in which you have delved into the life of a major American literary figure. How has the experience of writing Twain’s End compared to that of writing, Mrs. Poe?

My aim as a novelist has always been to examine some of the difficulties we face as humans through the lens of the lives of misunderstood or marginalized historical figures. I’ve been less interested in writing novelized biographies of my famous characters than in using their experiences to write stories that make readers think. Although I work hard at not bending the facts that I uncover during my research, ultimately, I am a novelist, not a biographer. To this end, I seek the unknown in my characters’ personal lives so that I can tell a fictitious story within these gaps.

Twain’s End was a departure for me in that I made less use of these gaps in the known facts than usual, largely because there were fewer gaps. As I did for Mrs. Poe and all my novels, I visited the site of every scene in the book to give the settings an authentic feel. I familiarized myself with Mark Twain’s works, like I did with Poe’s, to get a feel for their thinking. But for this book, I had the added advantage of having access to Isabel Lyon’s diary, written during her years with Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain. Between her observations and Twain’s writings and quotes, I had much more primary source material from which to construct a novel than I’ve ever had. My challenge, therefore, was to connect the dots in the material, draw my conclusions, then illustrate my theories. Samuel Clemens and Isabel Lyon’s real lives were so fraught with the extremes in hardship, success, pain, and joy, that my main mission became...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Lynn Cullen's website.

My Book, The Movie: Mrs. Poe.

The Page 69 Test: Mrs. Poe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Margaret Eby

Margaret Eby is a journalist and critic who writes about books, movies, music, television, and various cultural ephemera. She currently works as the features and essays editor at HelloGiggles, an incubator for young women journalists. Her new book is South Toward Home: Travels In Southern Literature.

From Eby's Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write, “Southern writing at its loftiest is a literature of opposition.” Can you say more about why you feel that to be the case?

A: It’s a literature of opposition in many ways. Confronting stereotypes of what it’s like to live in the South with the specific lived experience of these authors, and the opposition of perceived ideas of what it’s like to live in these places.

Most of these writers were not overtly political, with some exceptions, but all had stakes in the South, and they all cared deeply about the political situation in the South, in the civil rights movement, and expressed it in different ways.

Richard Wright expressed it openly. Eudora Welty wrote a beautiful short story, "Where Is the Voice Coming From?", after Medgar Evers’s assassination. They were writing to oppose the complacency of the clich├ęs of the place they grew up in.

Q: You note that your choice of authors to include was “a personal one.” What about these authors especially appealed to you?

A: The original list I had going in of my favorite authors was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 5, 2015

John Banville

John Banville's many books include The Sea, which won the 2007 Man Booker Prize, The Infinities, The Blue Guitar, and several crime novels under the pseudonym Benjamin Black.

From his January 2015 Q & A at his publisher's blog:

Tell us the first thing you do in the morning.

Well now, take a wild guess.

And the last thing you do at night.

Take another wild guess.

What was the last book that made you cry?

Oddly, it was John Updike’s Rabbit at Rest. The death of Rabbit Angstrom affected me deeply, I’m not sure why. I told Updike I had wept at the close, and he remarked with cool irony that he hoped Rabbit’s going wasn’t sadder than the death of Little Nell.

One book you wish you had written.

Molloy, by Samuel Beckett, or almost anything by...[read on]
Learn about the book John Banville most wants his kids to read.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Steven Lubet

Steven Lubet is the Williams Memorial Professor of Law and Director, Bartlit Center for Trial Strategy at Northwestern University School of Law. His books include Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial.

Lubet's his new book is The "Colored Hero" of Harper's Ferry: John Anthony Copeland and the War against Slavery.

From the author's Q & A at the Cambridge University Press blog:

Your book traces the life of John Anthony Copeland, Jr. How did you discover the story of such a little-known historical figure?

I first encountered John Copeland when researching my earlier book, Fugitive Justice, about resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Four chapters in that book covered the Oberlin Rescue and focused on the subsequent trials of the rescuers. Copeland was indicted for his role in the rescue, but he was never arrested and therefore did not appear at the trials. I made a mental note to return to his story, which ultimately led to three years of research into his life.

Tell us a bit about Copeland and his place in American history.

African-American resistance to slavery took three forms: flight from the slave states, rescue and support for fugitives, and eventually armed resistance. John Anthony Copeland was one of the few people who engaged in all three. As a child, he fled North Carolina with his parents, eventually settling in Oberlin, Ohio. As a young man, he was one of the leaders of the Oberlin Rescue, in which a fugitive was wrested from the grasp of slavehunters. And of course, he joined John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, in their failed attempt to...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial.

The Page 99 Test: The "Colored Hero" of Harper's Ferry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Dale Russakoff

Dale Russakoff is the author of The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write, “What [then-Newark Mayor Cory] Booker, [New Jersey Governor Chris] Christie, and Zuckerberg set out to achieve in Newark had not been accomplished in modern times—turning a failing urban school district into one of universally high achievement.” Why was Newark selected for this project, and how successful do you believe it’s been so far?

A: Newark was selected because Cory Booker and Chris Christie got together and decided they wanted to make this a national model, and they would need a philanthropist to fund it. It was selected because Cory Booker is an effective fundraiser. He was able to sweep Mark Zuckerberg off his feet.

From what I understand, people close to Zuckerberg and to Booker said there wasn’t a lot of due diligence Zuckerberg put into this. He was pretty wowed by Booker and Christie. It was his first act as a philanthropist.

He had never been to Newark. He thought at the time that you actually could go to an urban district and come up with a model, and solve the educational issues and apply them to [other] cities and change education in America.

That’s how a startup works, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 2, 2015

Theresa Brown

Theresa Brown, BSN, RN, works as a clinical nurse in Pittsburgh. Her most recent book is The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients' Lives.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I sort of agree with Sheila, in your book, who is disheartened that a doctor tells she has a 20 percent chance of surviving an operation. She prefers not to know. I wonder if there is a way to tell which patients want to know and which don’t? Would or could a hospital ever ask beforehand? I realize that knowledge is power, but isn’t there also a mind-body link? In your experience, do optimistic patients do better than ones who are more negative about their chances?

A: This is a hard question, because for a patient to consent to a treatment or operation they have to give “informed consent,” which means they understand the risks. However, learning that the odds are not in one’s favor can create anxiety and fear, which is fundamentally disempowering. As I portray in my book, if the patient’s nurse can soothe worries about risk that can really help, but nothing can totally take away anxiety about a risky operation. In terms of recovery, though, I haven’t seen that optimism or pessimism makes a difference in how people do, at least not when...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book is Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

From her Q & A with Elizabeth Day at the Guardian:

You say in Big Magic you were a fearful child. Are you braver now?

I was born a really fearful kid, really anxious, supersensitive. Other words you could use would be “a pain in the ass”. I grew up with a mother who was really strong. It was an interesting collision of these two characters. My mother’s biggest fear was raising daughters who wouldn’t be able to take care of themselves. She knew bad things happened to women who waited for other people to do stuff for them.

We did have this pretty serious battle of wills when I was younger. A psychologist might take issue with her tactics – she certainly wasn’t about embracing vulnerability, talking out my feelings. It was: “Too bad, you have to do this.” More like a coach.

In adolescence, I got bored of being that person who kept trying to prove her weakness and fragility. What a weird battle: to be trying to defend your weakest point! It came to a point where I thought, I don’t want to die on that hill. I owe my mother only everything and nothing more than that.

Do you think women in particular find it harder to take creative risks because they’re too worried about failing?

Sure. In fact, I think it’s possibly the greatest obstacle to women participating in a more vibrant and robust way. Certainly, there’s good old patriarchy and misogyny but...[read on]
Learn about five books that changed Elizabeth Gilbert.

--Marshal Zeringue