Thursday, October 22, 2020

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell -- BOOK BEGINNINGS

 


BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS

I almost forgot to post this evening because I have lost all sense of what day of the week it is. Do you ever get so absorbed with work that you lose all sense of time? 

Well that's me these days. I've been working seven days a week to get all these Boy Scout sex abuse claims filed before the November 16 bankruptcy deadline. Since I work at home during coronavirus times, one day blends into the next. 

But I remembered! It's time for Book Beginnings on Fridays. Time to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading this week -- or the book that caught your fancy. Share a link to your post below. Please use the #bookbeginnings hashtag on social media so we can find each other. 

MY BOOK BEGINNING


In the first place, Cranford is in the possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses above a certain rent are women.

-- Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. 

Victober continue! I love the tradition of reading Victorian literature in the month of October, as I discussed last week. I finished The Old Curiosity Shop and started Cranford. I've never read a book by Gaskell and thought I'd start with this short one before I tackled something long, like North and South

I'm a little more than halfway through and I like it. It is not nearly as funny as Dickens, but enjoyable. It definitely shows signs of having been published in installments stretching over a few years. It is more like a series of disconnected short stories or sketches than a novel. 

What I like best is how much it reminds me of E.F. Benton's Mapp and Lucia books written in the 1920s and 1930s, roughly 75 years later. 

YOUR BOOK BEGINNINGS

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THE FRIDAY 56

Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.

MY FRIDAY 56

I wonder what the Cranford ladies did with Captain Brown at their parties. We had often rejoiced, in former days, that there was no gentleman to be attended to, and to find conversation for, at the card-parties.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Lori Tobias, Author of Storm Beat: A Journalist Reports from the Oregon Coast - AUTHOR INTERVIEW

 

Journalist Lori Tobias has covered the Oregon coast for the last 20 years, writing about small towns, fishing, tourism, crimes, good times, tragedies, and storms -- lots of storms. Her new memoir Storm Beat (2020, OSU Press) tells her own story, the story of life along Oregon's 300 miles of rugged coastline, and what's its like to be a working reporter as newspaper industry declines.


Lori talked with Rose City Reader about Storm Beat, life on the Oregon coast, and the story that didn't make it into her book:

How did you come to write your new book, Storm Beat?

Early on in this beat, I experienced odd coincidences and personal interactions that planted the idea that one day it might make for a book – especially given the setting of the Oregon coast, which I think is much loved and unlike anywhere else in this country.

What is your favorite part of being a journalist in a coastal and rural community?

The authenticity of the people and lifestyle.

What were you least prepared for when you moved to the Oregon coast?

The dark winters.

Can you tell us any stories that didn't make it into the book you wish had?

I am so glad you asked that. There are several, but one that stays with me is an armed robbery at a lounge in Florence. It was early in the morning and the staff was just getting the place ready for opening. A guy came in through the back, threatened to kill everyone, tied them up in the office and took all the money in the safe. When he left, they untied themselves, but it turned out he was still there. He tied them up again. This happened three times. He was very convincing about his intent to kill anyone who didn’t obey his commands, adding if anyone else – like a vendor – showed up, he’d kill them all. Finally, he was gone. The manager looked out front and there was the carpet cleaner. He’d arrived only moments after the robber left. I didn’t include it in the book because I tried to include only stories in which there was information that had not run in the paper.

Who do you think would enjoy your book?

People who live in the Pacific Northwest, armchair travelers, journalists, and fans of memoir.

What is your favorite review or compliment you received about your book?

So far, I’ve been blessed with some pretty amazing reviews and comments. I’ll share a few favorite lines:
  • “… Tobias tells us her story in such a way that you feel like you’re listening to a good friend. And in the end, you understand why she did it—and maybe you wonder what price she paid doing it."
  • “You are about to meet an honest to the core, compassionate and relentless reporter.’’
  • “The author is emotional, self-effacing … and vulnerable by opening up in the most intimate way. I was transfixed. I used to think of journalists as unemotional — only the story mattered. This book changed my life about how I think about them.”
  • “Lori Tobias’ eyes and ears for a good story and her crisp writing pull you into every encounter. I laughed out loud and also shed some tears …”
Did you think of turning your own experiences as a journalist into fiction and writing the book as a novel? Or maybe a series of novels?

I went back and forth on fiction vs. memoir. But in the end, I couldn’t find a good reason to fictionalize it as I had all the material necessary to write it as memoir. And in truth, fiction is much harder for me.

What did you learn from writing your book – either about the subject of the book or the writing process – that most surprised you?

Honestly, I’ve been writing for so long, I’m not sure there are any surprises.

If you could have one person you admire (living or dead) read your book, who would it be?

Michelle Obama

Who are your favorite authors and what kind of books do you like to read? 

I love memoir, but also read a ton of fiction. Favorites: Alexandra Fuller, Ann Patchett, Richard Ford, Mary Karr, Lynn Schooler. I’m not a big non-fiction reader, but I find Laurence Gonzales’ work fascinating.

What are you reading now? 

Monogamy by Sue Miller (another favorite). Just finished The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue and am about to start Pale Morning Light with Violet Swan by Deborah Reed.

What is the most valuable advice you’ve been given as an author? 

Persevere.

What’s next? What are you working on now? 

Well, I’m married to a power lineman (newly retired). When we were young, we did what’s called in the trade, “tramping,” — those are the linemen who follow the big construction jobs, the storms, disasters. We did that for 15 years, moving from Alaska to Pennsylvania to Connecticut, Seattle, southern Oregon (which is how we discovered the Coast) to Denver and at last, to the Coast. It’s called A Tramp Book, and while it’s about linework, it’s also about becoming who I am. A journey, both physically and emotionally.


THANK YOU, LORI!

STORM BEAT IS AVAILABLE ONLINE IN PAPERBACK OR KINDLE.


Monday, October 19, 2020

A Batch of New Books for MAILBOX MONDAY

 

Mailbox Monday logo

Another week, another stack of books that found their way to my house. How about you? What new books came your way?

book cover for A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream by Yuval Levin

A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream by Yuval Levin. 

I saw Levin speak at a webinar a few weeks back and was impressed with his ideas. I want to read his new book, which has nice blurbs from both sides of the aisle.

book cover for Dudes Rush In by Lynne Downey

Dudes Rush In by Lynne Downey. This debut novel takes us back to 1952 Arizona, the heyday of Dude Ranches, when war widow Phoebe McFarland leaves her settled life in San Francisco to spend six months on her in-laws' ranch.

book cover for She Said God Blessed Us: A Life Marked by Childhood Sexual Abuse in the Church by Gail Hovey

She Said God Blessed Us: A Life Marked by Childhood Sexual Abuse in the Church by Gail Hovey. This memoir discusses the often overlooked issue of sexual abuse of girls by women. 

I'm interested to read Hovey's story. I've worked with hundreds of abuse survivors and only three or four of my clients have been women molested when they were girls by adult women. It's not that the abuse doesn't happen, but I think there are a lot of reasons teen girls do not recognize the relationship is abusive or exploitive. When they do, they are more likely to get counseling than call a lawyer like me. So this is an area of child abuse I don't have much experience with and want to learn more. 

book cover for Beloved Prophet 2020: The Abridged Love Letters of Kahlil Gibran and Mary Haskell, and Her Private Journals

Beloved Prophet 2020: The Abridged Love Letters of Kahlil Gibran and Mary Haskell, and Her Private Journals, edited and arranged by Virginia Hilu and Dalton Hilu Einhorn.

This is a new edition of Beloved Prophet, the correspondence between Kahil Gibran and his closest female friend and one-time fiancé, Mary Haskell. This edition has been pared down about 40% to make it more accessible to a general audience, editing out the parts of interest to academics.

Education for Liberation: The Politics of Promise and Reform Inside and Beyond America’s Prisons, edited by Gerard Robinson and Elizabeth English Smith

Education for Liberation: The Politics of Promise and Reform Inside and Beyond America’s Prisons, edited by Gerard Robinson and Elizabeth English Smith

Yes, this one is pretty wonky. I'm developing an amateur's interest in prison reform and want to learn more about the ideas floating around out there. 




MAILBOX MONDAY 

Join other book lovers on Mailbox Monday to share the books that came into your house last week. Visit the Mailbox Monday website to find links to all the participants' posts and read more about Books that Caught our Eye.

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, and Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.


Saturday, October 17, 2020

Karen Wolff, Author of The Green Years -- AUTHOR INTERVIEW

 


The Green Years by Karen Wolff is the story of Harry Spencer, a boy growing up in South Dakota in the 1920s, who has to find his own path after his father returned from WWI a broken man. Wolff Wolff turned to fiction writing after a career in academia. Her family history inspired The Green Years.


Karen talked with Rose City Reader about her book, inspiration, and the surprising history of the KKK in the Midwest:  

You dedicate The Green Years to the memory of your father. Is any of the story based on your own family history?

My father was the inspiration. He entertained us with stories of his childhood -- how he learned to swim when he was thrown into Brule Creek, how he and his friends put a buggy on a church steeple at Halloween. I treasured his sense of humor, but I wanted my book to be more than a series of anecdotes. I wanted to create a protagonist who was imbued with that same love of fun as my dad, but one who was also invested with with big dreams and ambitions.

I came to love Harry as if he were my own son. One of my challenges was to make him a real boy, capable of devilment and selfishness, when my maternal instincts wanted him to be a paragon of behavior.

The story takes place in in South Dakota in the 1920s. What drew you to this setting for your novel?

I chose it because that is where my father grew up. It is a part of the country I know well and love.

What is your professional background? How did it lead you to writing books?

I began writing fiction after a career as a music educator and administrator, most recently as dean of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance at the University of Michigan. I have always loved to write and won a national poetry contest while still in high school. Several of my non-fiction articles and speeches have appeared in journals and trade magazines. As a musician, I was appointed by President George Bush to the National Council of the NEA for six years.

What did you learn from writing your book – either about the subject of the book or the writing process – that most surprised you?

The research for the book led me in so many new directions: I knew nothing of the WWI museum in Kansas City or how electrical lines were installed. I met a Model T owner at a Greenfield Village Model T festival who showed me how to drive that car.

One of the strangest anomalies to occur in South Dakota in the 20’s was the arrival of the Ku Klux Klan. This organization whose primary mission of white supremacy took root in a state that was, except for Native Americans, nearly 100 percent white. There it directed its animus toward Catholics and the foreign born, especially Jews who were few in number. It also sided with Prohibition on the “dry” side. In my story the fact that Granddad Didier was French born and a “wet” made him an easy target for the Klan. This was delicious material for a novelist and allowed me to show the tensions among the Klan, the “wets” and the “drys” and their effect on a growing boy.

Did you know right away, or have an idea, how you were going to end the story? Or did it come to you as you were in the process of writing?

I had a general idea that I wanted a father/son reconciliation but didn’t know the details until I was writing it.

What sort of reader do you think would enjoy your book the most?

Readers of all ages who seek relief from our currently disordered world by reading about characters who reflect old-fashioned values and themes. I have been pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm of seniors who read my book. It recalls for them the time of their parents or grandparents.

Who are your three favorite authors right now?

Geraldine Brooks comes to mind. Hilary Mantel and James McBride as well.

What kind of books do you like to read? What are you reading now?


I read many novels, oftentimes on audio where the narrator can really make the book come alive. I recently listened to The Overstory by Richard Powers and The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. Currently I’m reading Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson who is a stunning, amazing writer.

What is the most valuable advice you’ve been given as an author?

As Miles Davis once said, what isn't played is what's really at the heart of great music. The silence is as important as the sounds. A writer’s task is one of withholding and revealing, deciding what to say and what to leave out. When to show, and when to tell, and when to simply trust the reader to discover what is there in the silences between the words.

What’s next? Are you working on your next book?

My next book is titled The Deviant and will be out next year. Serendipitously, it is set in the same place in South Dakota as The Green Years. It is a true crime story about two girls who disappeared on their way to a graduation party. Currently, I am working on a collection of short stories set at a fictional university.


THANK YOU, KAREN!

THE GREEN YEARS IS AVAILABLE ONLINE AND THERE IS A KINDLE EDITION.




Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Old Curiosity Shop on BOOK BEGINNINGS for Victober

 


BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS

Time to get cozy with a Victorian novel! I’ve been looking forward to Victober since last October! Who else? 

Until I got into bookstagram more, I didn't know Victober was a thing, but it makes so much sense. The idea is to read books in October written during the Victorian Period (Queen Victoria reigned from June 1837 to January 1901). Chilly, windy, rainy, spooky October is the perfect time to switch from summery beach reads to hefty, moody melodramas. And nobody did hefty, moody melodramas better than the Victorians! 

If you need inspiration, the Daily Telegraph's 1899 List of “100 Best Novels in the World” (that’s right, from 1899) has plenty. The list is not limited to the Victorian era, or even to the 19th Century. But you will find lots of Victorian books on it. 

Are you participating in Victober this year? What are you reading? I’m reading The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. If I finish, I hope also to read Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Please share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading or featuring this week. Add a link to your post below. If you share on social media, please use the #bookbeginnigns hashtag so we can find each other. 

If you don't have a blog, feel free to play along by leaving a comment with the opening sentence from you book, along with the title and author. 

MY BOOK BEGINNING

Night is generally my time for walking.

That's a pretty short opening sentence for a book that's over 600 pages long! 

The Old Curiosity Shop is one of the 50 classic books I picked for my Classic Club list. Anyone can join the Classics Club and pick 50 classic books to read over the next five years.


YOUR BOOK BEGINNINGS

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THE FRIDAY 56

Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.

MY FRIDAY 56
Near the door sat Miss Sophy, still fluttered and confused by the attentions of Mr. Cheggs, and by her side Richard Swiveller lingered for a moment to exchange a few parting words.
"My boat is on the shore and my bark is on the sea, but before I pass this door I will say farewell to thee," murmured Dick, looking gloomily up on her.

That's more Dickensonian! I'm halfway through and find the main story of Little Nell and her grandfather tedious. But the side characters like Dick Swiveller, whether villains or angels, make it worthwhile.




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