BETWEEN THE LINES

What I've been reading. And loving.

March 28, 2012

Tags: reviews, Banks, Quadland, Bernier

Every few months I like to write about some of the books I've been reading, especially those from debut authors or small presses, the books you may not hear about elsewhere. Today, I want to share three novels that I enjoyed immensely, and think you will too.

GROWING UP DELICIOUS by Marianne Banks is a totally yummy and satisfying read. I'm fascinated and captivated when authors are able to use humor to illuminate important (and often not so funny) events. That's what Banks does in her debut novel about coming out, going home, and revising your personal history in the process. This book made me laugh out loud, and weep, and I wish I could read it again for the first time. (Bella, 2012).

In OFFSPRING, Michael Quadlandís second novel, the yearnings of a Vietnam vet, a transgendered person, and a volatile actress intersect wildly as each character searches for a way to fit into an unwelcoming world. The characters are quirky but utterly authentic in this fast-paced story of reproductive adventures, bookstore culture, and the deep longings of the outsiders among us. With humor and enormous empathy for their circumstances, Quadland weaves his charactersí histories seamlessly into the story, challenging the readerís preconceptions and prejudices along the way. Offspring is an excellent read Ė a page-turner Ė with characters I will not soon forget. (Red Hen, 2012).

The third novel won't be out until June, but is well worth the wait. Nichole Bernier's debut novel, THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH D. asks the question: What happens to your journals, the place you share your secret life, if you die suddenly? After Elizabethís sudden death, Kate inherits a trunk of her close friendís journals and brings them on vacation to read. This is the summer after 9/11, a time of intense re-examination of both national and personal safety. As Kate discovers Elizabethís secrets, she questions both their friendship and her own choices and yearnings. This book is tender and compelling. And it made me wonder what I should do with the dozen dusty journals in the bottom of my closet. (Crown, 2012).

Can fiction change the world? Should it even try?

March 21, 2012

Tags: politics, political fiction

I know. I know. This topic is likely to make you roll your eyes, unless youíre one of the 8.9% of writers who are Ė like me Ė obsessed with it. Another 35% believe that art is for artís sake alone: spectacular sunsets, striking metaphors, startling insights about the human condition, but donít step too close to the line. Over that line lurk propaganda, didacticism, partisanship, the literary equivalents of activist judges. The other 56.1% donít care and have already clicked away. (Disclosure: these statistics are made-up.)

Seriously though, you canít live in my family without believing in the power of literature to effect change. My father-in-law Abel Meeropol (a.k.a. Lewis Allan) wrote the anti-lynching song ďStrange Fruit,Ē often quoted as the most important protest song of the 20th century. (more…)

Life Imitates Art

March 14, 2012

Tags: novel, real life

A couple of months ago I started a new novel. One of the first scenes I imagined took place in a grocery store, much like the chain store where I shop when Iím too lazy to drive to the food coop. In the scene, an older woman with early dementia is doing her weekly shopping with the help of her teenage granddaughter. The older woman is furious when the bagger, texting on his cell phone rather than paying attention to her veggies, smushes the lettuce. She throws a large onion at him and is hauled off to the managerís office.

Today, in that market, there was no bagger, just me and the cashier. (more…)

Reflecting on AWP 2012 and literary sisterhood

March 6, 2012

Tags: AWP, literary sisterhood

Iíve been home two days now from the AWP annual conference (Association of Writers and Writing Programs). For me, the conference started slow this year. The panels I attended on Thursday and Friday werenít very useful and I didnít feel inspired. I started to wonder if the panels were just an excuse for writers to get together with far-flung writer friends. I loved hanging out with Janice and Jean and Rosellen and Carol and Marie and Margaret and Jeanne, and with folks from Red Hen Press and Stonecoast MFA. I bought and started reading fellow Red Hen author Michael Quadlandís brand new novel, Offspring. (Itís a wonderful read; check it out). But the chaos and noise of 10,000 writers was overwhelming. And not in a good way. (more…)