Friday, October 19, 2018

Book Beginning: The Towers of Trebizond

BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS

THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON FRIDAYS FOR BOOK BEGINNING FUN!

Thanks for your patience! I thought I had a post scheduled and apparently I didn't. Operator error!

MY BOOK BEGINNING



"Take my camel, dear," said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.

The Towers of Trebizond by Rose McCaulay. I've been looking forward to this comedy classic for a long time!




Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

FACEBOOK: Rose City Reader has a Facebook page where I post about new and favorite books, book events, and other bookish tidbits, as well as link to blog posts. I'd love a "Like" on the page! You can go to the page here to Like it. I am happy to Like you back if you have a blog or professional Facebook page, so please leave a comment with a link and I will find you.

TWITTER, ETC: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book  Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.

YOUR BOOK BEGINNING






Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Teaser Tuesday: The Book of Dirt by Bram Presser



With the occupation had come a shift in the atmosphere of Biskupcova Street. Eyes no longer met, trust was undermined.

-- The Book of Dirt by Bram Presser. Australian author Bram Presser creates his grandparents' Holocaust story out of family history, imagination, old photographs, and ephemera in this heart-warming first novel.



Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by The Purple Booker, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Mailbox Monday: Art & Thrillers

Two completely different books came into my house last week: a new art book and a new thriller.


-- Mary Chomenko Hinckley: Material Evolution. Mary’s blue coyote looks pretty awesome prowling the urban forest of my front yard!

PORTLAND EVENT TONIGHT: Mary will be “in conversation” with Paul J. Karlstrom, discussing Art in the Era of Artificial Intelligence: “An exploration of the imposition of technology on nature and the artist’s response.”

⭐️ PNCA - Pacific Northwest College of Art: TONIGHT, October 15, 2018 at 6:00 PM





-- Absolute Proof by Peter James. In a break from his Roy Grace police series, this Dan Brown-like "code" thriller has the hero chasing clues to find absolute proof of the existence of God.

I'm listening to the audiobook read by Hugh Bonneville and he makes the story come alive.





Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday, a weekly "show & tell" blog event where participants share the books they acquired the week before. 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 graciously hosted by Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, and Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Author Interview: Bram Presser


Australian author Bram Presser's new novel creates his grandparents' Holocaust story out of family history, imagination, old photographs, and ephemera.


Bram recently answered questions for Rose City Reader about his new book, Holocaust memory, and writing in general.

How did you come to write The Book of Dirt?

My grandparents never spoke about their Holocaust experiences so, growing up, we constructed comfortable narratives around their survival. A few years after they died, a newspaper article was published claiming that my grandfather had been selected by the Nazis to be the literary curator of Hitler’s Museum of the Extinct Race. I became obsessed by this story, and by the realization of how little I actually knew about a man who I had loved so deeply, so I set off to find out what had actually happened. From there it spiraled out of control in the most intriguing possible way.

Your book is called a novel, but reads in part like memoir and uses historical documents. How much is your family’s actual history and how much is fiction?

That’s a difficult question to answer. The book is essentially the story of my search to find their stories set against a reimagining of what happened. I’d say the search narrative is almost exactly as I experienced it, except for some minor changes for timescale and the like, plus one major invention to set up the whole dirt part of the book. The reimagining is probably more historically accurate than I had first thought, given that it is built on documents, photos, records and stories I was told. So, it is a dramatization of either what happened, or my best guess based on the evidence. But there is also a strong magical realist thread that weaves its way through the story and that is pure creative license. I am really enamored of Czech and Jewish myth and legend, as well as the fable as a storytelling device, so it was inevitable that they would make a strong showing in whatever I write. Also, I found that writing my family as fictional characters gave me a stronger sense of who they were and how their experiences might have actually felt. There is an essential truth in fiction that I wanted to find that a simple historical excavation could not possibly provide.

How did you choose the title?

I came up with it very early on in the process. After reading the newspaper article, I was struck by the idea of my grandfather finding a hollowed-out book with a pile of dirt inside that might have been the golem’s heart. So initially the title was literal. As I dug deeper, travelling the world, collecting whispers, anecdotes, documents, even gossip – a lot of it what we would colloquially call “dirt” – it seemed even more appropriate. Moreover, the golem seemed the perfect metaphor for writing about my grandparents (or anyone you’ve known and loved) – the idea that I was creating them from the clay of evidence and breathing life back into them with words.

Who is your intended audience and what do you hope your readers will take away from your book?

I hope anyone interested in memory, identity and the way we tell stories will find something in it to engage and challenge them. Although it is set in the context of the Holocaust, I don’t think of it as a Holocaust book. It’s more about how we much we can really know the people we love, and the way in which we recreate their lives every time we think about them.

Your use of black and white photographs and ephemera throughout the book remind me of Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald, another novel about the search for family taken to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Were you inspired by Sebald?

Yes and no. My greatest inspiration, stylistically, was the Croatian novelist Daša Drndić who came to be a mentor of sorts through the writing of The Book of Dirt. Sebald is the gold standard for documentary fiction and helped me to understand the use of image and object as a narrative device but Drndić takes it to an almost hyper level in her novel Trieste. Reading that was my lightbulb moment when I realized how this story ought to be told. It’s interesting that you mention Austerlitz, though, because recognizing the similarities in style and the Theresienstadt angle, I actually had to consciously ensure that they weren’t too alike, especially given that we were working from a lot of the same source material.

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

Working on this book, I found myself regularly surprised by what I found. Understanding the camps as more than just death factories, but places where people made lives in horrific circumstances, and built tight, often transient communities was quite inspirational. On a personal level, learning that my great grandmother, Františka (my grandmother’s mother), who I knew when I was a kid – she was a tiny, crumpled old Czech woman – was an incredible hero who risked everything to keep her family alive just blew me away. She was a convert, so she wasn’t taken to the camps, and she did so many incredible things from back in Prague to make sure her daughters survived. I set out to write about my grandfather, but it was Františka that stole my heart and really became the focus of the book.

What do you think people today can learn from the stories of Holocaust survivors?

Decency, humanity, resilience, courage, the importance of fighting for what is right and nipping intolerance in the bud. The understanding that perfectly functional societies can devolve into murderous dysfunction (or hyper-function), that perfectly ordinary people can do terrible things, that hatred and division can lead to catastrophe.

Do you think it is important to keep Holocaust memory alive and why?

Absolutely. Ever more so at the moment, where violent division seems to be the political norm across the globe. We’re only seventy-five years on, and so many of what I’d have hoped were the lessons of the Holocaust seem to have been thrown by the wayside. Hatred and scapegoating is being normalized. It feels as if we’re already on the path of the famous “First they came for the socialists…” poem. Now is the time to stand up and fight against the tide of fascist populism.

Who are your three (or four or five) favorite authors? Is your own writing influenced by the authors you read?

Wow, where to begin? I’d probably give you a different answer every time you asked me, but today I’ll say Franz Kafka, Jesse Ball, JM Coetzee, Magda Szabo and Daša Drndić. I’m not sure how overtly they influence me, but it’s hard not to at least want to write the kind of book you like reading, which will be informed by those authors you love most. Oh, except Drndić. She absolutely influenced me.

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

I tend to mostly read difficult, surreal literary fiction. I like to be challenged, both intellectually and morally, by what I read. I also love books that dare to experiment with form, that try something new, even if it doesn’t necessarily work. Then there’s my predilection for what I call “literary sorbet,” books that I can just devour without thinking too much, just for the fun of it.

At the moment I’m reading Rachel Kadish’s The Weight of Ink and Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plows Over the Bones of the Dead.

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

No book is ever finished, just published. Be prepared to let it go.

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

I have a few books on the go, though haven’t committed to any of them yet as the project. Two are stylistically similar to The Book of Dirt in that they are based around true events and blur the fact/fiction divide. Then I have a linked series of speculative fiction novellas. And a kids’ book. But after spending eight years working on The Book of Dirt I’m mostly enjoying just taking a bit of a break and being a stay-at-home dad to my eighteen-month-old daughter. Just quietly, it’s way better than writing.


THANKS BRAM!

THE BOOK OF DIRT IS AVAILABLE ONLINE, OR ASK YOUR LOCAL BOOK SELLER TO ORDER IT!


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Book Beginning: A Deadly Wind: The 1962 Columbus Day Storm by John Dodge

BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS

THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON FRIDAYS FOR BOOK BEGINNING FUN!

MY BOOK BEGINNING



An unexpected phone call and a blog post ten days later from a well-known Pacific Northwest weather scientist became the two key ingredients that motivated me to write this book on the deadly 1962 Columbus Day storm.

-- from the author's Preface to A Deadly Wind: The 1962 Columbus Day Storm by John Dodge.

On October 12, 1962, a windstorm slammed the Pacific Northwest coast, with wind gusts reaching 127 mph in Portland. Dozens of people died and hundreds were injured. Over 50,000 homes were damaged. And the storm leveled enough timber to build 1,000,000 homes, which spurred the Asian log export market and the Oregon wine industry. Journalist John Dodge tells a lively and detailed story of this catastrophic storm and its lasting effect on the region.




Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

FACEBOOK: Rose City Reader has a Facebook page where I post about new and favorite books, book events, and other bookish tidbits, as well as link to blog posts. I'd love a "Like" on the page! You can go to the page here to Like it. I am happy to Like you back if you have a blog or professional Facebook page, so please leave a comment with a link and I will find you.

TWITTER, ETC: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book  Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.

YOUR BOOK BEGINNING




Monday, October 8, 2018

Mailbox Monday: Son of Amity by Peter Nathaniel Malae

I got one new book last week. What books came into your house?



Son of Amity by Peter Nathaniel Malae. This novel of gritty, small town life-on-the-edge just came out this week. It looks grim but good.






Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday, a weekly "show & tell" blog event where participants share the books they acquired the week before. 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 graciously hosted by Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, and Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Book Beginning: Stet: An Editor's Life by Diana Athill

BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS

THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON FRIDAYS FOR BOOK BEGINNING FUN!

MY BOOK BEGINNING



Some years ago Tom Powers, an American publisher who is also a writer and historian, kindly told me I ought to write a book about my fifty years in publishing.

Stet: An Editor's Life by Diana Athill. This is my book club's pick for November. Acclaimed editor Diana Athill, who turned 100 last December, offers a behind the scenes look at literary life.




Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

FACEBOOK: Rose City Reader has a Facebook page where I post about new and favorite books, book events, and other bookish tidbits, as well as link to blog posts. I'd love a "Like" on the page! You can go to the page here to Like it. I am happy to Like you back if you have a blog or professional Facebook page, so please leave a comment with a link and I will find you.

TWITTER, ETC: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book  Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.

YOUR BOOK BEGINNING




Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Author Interview: Theresa Griffin Kennedy



Author Theresa Griffin Kennedy is a native Portlander who has written an earlier nonfiction book about Portland's history of corruption and a book of poetry. Burnside Field Lizzard, a short story collection, is her first book of fiction.


Theresa recently answered questions for Rose City reader about her new book, writing, and "domestic noir":

How did you come to write the stories in Burnside Field Lizard?

These five stories are about women who are tossed away, devalued and fighting to survive, even if survival is only possible through deviancy. As a low income mother and college student in my middle 30’s living in NE Portland, I witnessed struggling women every day. Strung out, hungry, confused, lost and without hope: I wished I could help them but couldn’t do much more than give them spare change, a warm greeting and shampoo or soap samples from the motels where I cleaned. Their stories never left me.

What is the significance of the title? Does it have a personal meaning for you besides its connection to the title story?

A "Field Lizard" is woman of loose morality or in some cases a prostitute. My brother taught me that. Burnside Street is a road in Portland, Oregon that after so many decades of murders and evil deeds, carries a dark feeling of jeopardy within its intersections. This title expresses my truly place-based writing. The soul of old Portland resides in these pages.

What is the significance of the cover image?

The cover image was originally created from a cell phone photo my daughter took in 2016 which was then recreated by my graphic designer Gigi Little, by taking her own photo of a like ensemble of similar objects and toying with color. The image seems a perfect reflection to me of both the throwaway culture of small plastic objects and the "plastic" nature of new Portland covering up the "dinosaurs" of old Portland. All while giving a nod the the significance of the bar scene in the history of debauchery and human connection in this old western town.

You are a native Portlander. How much of your stories are drawn from their location and
your knowledge of it?

All my stories are in some way about Portland. I’ve lived here my whole life and know nearly every inch of the city. I value writing about things with which I’m familiar because the intimate details of a city's geography produces authority. As a lifer, I have an complex love/hate relationship with my hometown that might perplex newcomers. However, when you can go back fifty years in your recollection of a city, you have both a richer and broader understanding of a town.

You describe your stories as “domestic noir.” What do you mean by that?

Domestic noir, according to Julia Crouch, "takes place primarily in homes and workplaces, concerns itself largely with the female experience, is centered around relationships and takes as its base a broadly feminist view that the domestic sphere is a challenging and sometimes dangerous prospect for its inhabitants.” I'm influenced by domestic noir writers such as Gillian Murphy and Darcey Steinke. I didn’t write the stories in Burnside Field Lizard with the idea that I’d be promoting or defending women – it just happened that way. With a very real war being waged against women in this country and elsewhere, it’s important to me to present women as strong, complex and as the survivors they are, however damaged.

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

I have limited work experience. Originally, I went back to college in 2001 to become a parole officer but instead, pivoted to writing. It helped that my father, Dorsey Griffin was also a writer and author. I wouldn’t be a writer if not for my father’s unwavering support. The social act of writing and expressing myself through the written word is the way I make sense out of a violent and confusing world. My first inclination is to express and then to feel heard.

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

Writing this book, I discovered my deep anger about the plight of women in our society. This discovery came on as a slow burn, taking a while for me to digest. The emotional impact of my fury at how women are treated, particularly in our current governmental administration, is one of my most important realizations. On another note, I also learned that I can write a killer sex scene: graphic sex writing in literature doesn't scare me. It can be ugly; it can be explicit and still emotionally moving at the same time.

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

The best advice I've gotten from writer friends is not be afraid. Notably, that message has come from men writers rather than women writers. JD Chandler and Tom Hansen have reminded me to just tackle what I want, to not worry about the approval of the establishment or the powers that be. So, disregarding the fear of what others might think is probably the most important thing I’ve been told – that, and reading every available teaching to expand my awareness of plot mechanisms, vocabulary, grammar and overall understanding of the bigger picture of a story or a novel. I'm not a writer who puts out three novels a year. I work at each sentence and continue to take writing classes as I go.

Who are your three (or four or five) favorite authors? Is your own writing influenced by the
authors you read?

Number one: Darcey Steinke. There is just something about her writing that is so unique and her playfulness with language is unforgettable. Next, Daphne Du Maurier, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Toni Morrison, and most passionately, Portland author, Lidia Yuknavitch. Other than my draw to domestic noir, I would not say my writing is strongly influenced by anyone.

My older verbiage was once called “pedantic” and frankly, I took it as a compliment because my stylistic formality draws a more striking contrast to my character's difficult sets of circumstances. While my parents were college educated, I grew up low income, the seventh of nine children. We were exposed to literature all the time and my mother was always correcting our English. It was an odd upbringing, but I wouldn’t trade it now for anything in the world. I suppose this was the strongest influence on my writing style.

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

I read constantly and sometimes as many as four books simultaneously. Right now I’m reading FEAR by Bob Woodward and Dora: A Headcase by Lidia Yuknavitch. The contrast is wonderful and they’re both absolutely amazing.

You are active on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. From an author's perspective, how
important are social networking sites and other internet resources to promote your book?

Instagram is much more fun than Facebook, so now I’m hooked! It can be a burden sometimes to feel obligated to check in and create a post or update. But it’s also a source of enjoyment. I've weathered a lot of drama through social media but the positive has outweighed the negative and it's simply the best way to promote yourself as a writer.

Do you have any events coming up to promote your book?

There will be a launch party at CRUSH in the month of October, date TBA! Follow me on Twitter for details.

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

About ten months ago, I began writing my first novel, Talionic Night in Portland. A TV assignment editor becomes involved with a grade school custodian and they fall in love. They traverse a very class conscious town in a morbid comic love story with Portland as the backdrop, during 2005. Following my current domestic noir release, I'd call this one comic noir. It's been a lot of fun to write. Talionic Night in Portland will be available in early 2019.

I’m also finishing a book of intimate personal narrative essays from my life called We Learned to Live in that Castle: Stories. These stories document my teen years in foster care and the sexual awakening that occurred while I was constantly moving from one foster home to another, my years as an isolated single mother in the early 2000’s, a rape I experienced as a child in 1979 when I was thirteen, and the suicide of my first love, a boy I desperately loved. We Learned to Live in that Castle: Stories will also be available in 2019.


THANKS THERESA!

BURNSIDE FIELD LIZARD IS OUT THIS WEEK! ASK YOUR LOCAL BOOK SELLER TO ORDER IT.


Monday, October 1, 2018

Mailbox Monday: The Shame of Losing by Sarah Cannon

What books came into your house last week? I got a brand new memoir from a PNW writer.



The Shame of Losing by Sarah Cannon. Days before she turned 33, Sarah's husband suffered a traumatic brain injury at work that changed everything about her marriage and the life they had planned.




Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday, a weekly "show & tell" blog event where participants share the books they acquired the week before. 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 graciously hosted by Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, and Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Book Beginning: The Book of Dirt by Bram Presser

BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS

THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON FRIDAYS FOR BOOK BEGINNING FUN!

MY BOOK BEGINNING



In the region of T, not far from the city of U, there once stood a village that had been in Poland, then Hungary, then Subcarpathian Ruthenia, then Czechoslovakia, then Slovakia, then Hungary again, then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, then the Ukraine and now cannot be found on any map.

-- The Book of Dirt by Bram Presser. Presser weaves family history with fiction, historic photos and documents to recreate his grandparents' Holocaust story.




Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

FACEBOOK: Rose City Reader has a Facebook page where I post about new and favorite books, book events, and other bookish tidbits, as well as link to blog posts. I'd love a "Like" on the page! You can go to the page here to Like it. I am happy to Like you back if you have a blog or professional Facebook page, so please leave a comment with a link and I will find you.

TWITTER, ETC: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book  Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.

YOUR BOOK BEGINNING




Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Author Interview: Beth Benedix


Beth Benedix is the author of Ghost Writer: A Story About Telling a Holocaust Story. While she was ghostwriting a memoir for a holocaust survivor, he urged Beth to write her own story about what it was like to confront the challenge of telling someone else's history when it "swelled beyond its own boundaries."


Beth recently answered questions for Rose City Reader. Find out more about the author of Ghost Writer and get to know the woman behind the book.


Before we get to your book, Ghost Writer, can you introduce us briefly to Joe Koenig?

Yes, of course. Joe is such a remarkable man, and I just hope I’ve been able to do him justice in the book. His story of survival during the Holocaust is itself extraordinary—by the time he was seventeen, he had lost his entire family, been imprisoned in four camps (including a work camp that he snuck into, intuiting that he would be safer inside than alone in the rural outskirts of Czestochowa, Poland), and survived two death marches. To me, it’s the way he lives in the midst of this story, the way he lives without dwelling, that I find so breathtaking. In the book, I describe him as the epitome of swagger—which, to me, is the quality of creating your own boundaries, setting your own course, defining the world in your own terms. Joe’s intuition is everything—he moves in the space of his own boundaries—somehow always knowing what next step to take. I find the way he approaches his life to be so… healthy, so affirmative. For him, it’s all about family and love. Throughout the writing of the book, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the best way to describe him was as a philosopher, in that he seemed to be describing a way of being and moving through the world. But his philosophy is the most embodied, authentic and down-to-earth I’ve ever seen, and I came away holding him up as a model of yes-saying. It’s a way of being in the world that I would very much like to emulate.

How did ghostwriting Koenig’s memoir lead to writing your book, Ghost Writer: A Story About Telling a Holocaust Story?

Well, technically, I never really did ghostwrite Joe’s memoir. I tried to do this—in the form of a third person narrative of his story of survival (included in the book), which I provided to Joe’s family. But even the original third person narrative had elements of my first-person attempts to nail down the story, to frame and contextualize the narrative I was hearing. I don’t actually consider myself a ghostwriter, in that I knew from the beginning that whatever form the book would eventually take needed to be a departure from standard ghostwritten accounts. The title is a nod to that departure... in separating the two terms (ghost and writer), the emphasis is on all of the “ghosts” that loom over the telling of the story, that intrude into this narrative that resists closure.

Who is your intended audience and what do you hope your readers will gain from your book?

I’m very much hoping to start a conversation with as diverse an audience as possible about what it means to tell another person’s story—about the obligations and limitations of memory and the ways in which telling our stories, and listening to the stories of others, brings us together. I wrote this book, specifically, because I feel there is an urgency to collect Holocaust survivors’ stories before there are no longer survivors left to tell them. But I also feel, generally, that there is an urgency to change the way we tell these stories—and all stories of survival and memory. I very much wanted to disrupt the monological strain, the one-directional mode, that so often dominates survivor testimony. It’s the dialogue, the back-and-forth, the moments of encounter and recognition that most authentically preserve and pass on memory, I’ve come to find.

I see my audience as people who are interested in Holocaust narratives and history, and, more broadly, as people who are interested in process-driven narrative non-fiction. I hope readers will come away feeling like they have met a remarkable man, and considering the possibility that memory-collecting is a raw, unscripted and sometimes messy affair.

Do you have recommendations for other books about the Holocaust or Holocaust survivors?

Elie Wiesel’s Night and Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz are two memoirs that I find extremely powerful. In both cases, there is a stark beauty in the prose that conveys the immediacy of the horror they’ve experienced. I go back to Night again and again.

Nicole Krauss’s novel, The History of Love, is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. The relationship at the center of the book between a Holocaust survivor and a young girl in many, many ways influenced my sense that these stories told now must be about convergence, about paths crossing. This is how we remember, how we preserve memory.

Other books that deeply influenced my thinking are Henry Greenspan’s On Listening to Holocaust Survivors and Peter Haas’ Morality After Auschwitz: The Radical Challenge of the Nazi Ethic. John K. Roth’s vast body of work has shaped my studies and approach, and is a must for anyone who is thinking about the philosophical and theological implications of the Holocaust.

Do you have recommendations for other books about writing and storytelling?

Oh, my goodness, there are so many! The ones that most heavily influenced my writing are self-conscious memoirs with narrators who are talking deliberately about process and second-guessing themselves along the way. My two biggest influences are Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and David Harris-Gershon’s What do you Buy the Children of the Terrorist who Tried to Kill your Wife? Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted is also a favorite—I love the fragmented quality of her writing and the way she uses original documents to frame her story.

Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir and Stephen King’s On Writing are two books on the craft of storytelling that speak the most to me.

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

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that writing this book was a life-changing experience for me. Everything feels different now, more applied, more high stake. I’ve learned from Joe (am trying to learn) the art of perspective, of recognizing what matters and what doesn’t. About the writing process—I’ve learned that it really is a process. The book was nine years in the making, and in many ways I feel I’m still circling around the subject. It will never feel done to me, and I’m surprised to learn that I am completely okay with that lack of closure.

What is your work background? How did it lead you to writing this book?

I am a professor at DePauw University. My background is in comparative literature, with an emphasis on Modern Jewish writers, religious studies, and philosophy. Comp Lit is by nature an interdisciplinary field, one that doesn’t fit neatly into any particular category, and it allows a great deal of freedom to explore connections and intersections among ideas and genres. It’s kind of a marginal, liminal space, a space I feel really comfortable in. Looking back, I think this background—maybe my being drawn to Comp Lit in the first place—was key to my being able to conceive of Ghost Writer in the way that I did. It’s an assumption of the field (and one that I very much share) that no single lens will ever capture the thing in front of you—it’s about the constant shifting of lenses, the collecting of multiple perspectives, the perpetual circling around the subject. This is how I always imagined the book needed to take shape, with the process itself at the center of the story.

I also teach a good deal of writing in my classes, and work closely with all of my students to help them to find the arc of the stories they want to tell. I love these conversations, because they always begin with the questions that each student has about the material we’re reading, the things each student finds most compelling and worth puzzling through, and each conversation always starts with my just sitting and listening closely to their narratives, collecting their thoughts, and helping them to identify patterns in their thinking. I think perhaps I really honed this approach through my relationship with Joe, through our interactions that involved listening more than anything. And in the process of these conversations with students, so, so many shapes and story arcs and approaches emerged. It has begun to make an embodied sense to me that writing is always an act of listening, shaping, and re-shaping. It has been a tremendous gift to learn from my students and to be able to share what I’ve learned from the process of writing this book with them.

What do you like to read? What books are on your nightstand right now?

I am a huge fan of Kafka, Nietzsche, Murakami, and all things dark and existential. Right now, I’m reading two wonderful collections of short stories, one by Lesley Nneka Arimah, What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, the other by Helen Oyeyemi, What is Not Yours is Not Yours.

My favorite books of all time are Lolita, The Stranger, Madame Bovary, and Dara Horn’s The World to Come. The book on my nightstand (which has been there for a while) is my friend’s copy of roscitrea-20Beezlebub’s Tales to his Grandson (it’s slow going but I very much want to get through it!).

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

My friend, Tom Chiarella, novelist, longtime writer for Esquire and freelance journalist once told me: “You can start any piece of writing with the word ‘so’”—as in, “so, I’m sitting here with these interview questions trying to come up with perfectly-crafted answers…” It throws your audience immediately into the world you’re trying to throw them into, establishes a kind of intimacy, and lets people know exactly where you’re coming from. It’s all about transparency, revealing your thought process. I don’t know how many times this little gem saved me from the paralysis of the blank page, or how many times I shared it with my students to help them get started on their own projects.

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

Right now, I’m working on marketing this book and gaining an audience. It’s a welcome transition, this crossing-over from academic writing to a general audience, and I’m very much hoping to have the opportunity to meet and talk with people and to hear what they think about Ghost Writer. I’m waiting for the next writing project to announce itself to me.

In the meantime, I’m busy being a mom, teaching, directing a nonprofit organization I founded called The Castle that brings integrated arts and project-based learning experiences into public schools in Putnam County, IN, and gigging as much as possible with my band, Black Market Vinyl. Joe taught me, among many other things, to grab every moment, which I’m trying to do.


THANKS, BETH!

GHOST WRITER IS AVAILABLE ON LINE, OR ASK YOUR LOCAL BOOK SELLER TO ORDER IT!



Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Teaser Tuesday: Valley of Genius by Adam Fisher



Steve Wozniak: The story of Apple is a little misunderstood. It's not like Steve and I did it ourselves.

-- Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley (As Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom) by Adam Fisher.

Fisher compiled thousands of hours of his own interviews with everyone from Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to the founders of Facebook, then trimmed them down into a compelling oral-history of Silicon Valley.



Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by The Purple Booker, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Mailbox Monday: Memoir, History, and Historical Fiction

What books came into your house last week? Three interesting volumes came my way:



Stet: An Editor's Life by Diana Athill. This memoir of her life in publishing by legendary editor Diana Athill (alive at 100) is my book club book for November.



A Deadly Wind: The 1962 Columbus Day Storm by John Dodge. This is a new, comprehensive history of Oregon's most famous storm. OSU Press launched a Facebook group, here, for people to share stories and photos from the storm.



The Book of Dirt by Bram Presser. This is Presser’s first novel, inspired by his own family’s history of surviving the Holocaust.





Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday, a weekly "show & tell" blog event where participants share the books they acquired the week before. 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 graciously hosted by Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, and Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.



Thursday, September 20, 2018

Book Beginning: Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach

BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS

THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON FRIDAYS FOR BOOK BEGINNING FUN!

MY BOOK BEGINNING


Dear Alice, Each morning I am awakened by the sound of a tinkling bell.

-- Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach. Each chapter of this memoir starts with the text of a postcard the author sent home to herself while she spent a year in Europe, away from her job as a popular Baltimore journalist.





Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

FACEBOOK: Rose City Reader has a Facebook page where I post about new and favorite books, book events, and other bookish tidbits, as well as link to blog posts. I'd love a "Like" on the page! You can go to the page here to Like it. I am happy to Like you back if you have a blog or professional Facebook page, so please leave a comment with a link and I will find you.

TWITTER, ETC: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book  Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.

YOUR BOOK BEGINNING







Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Teaser Tuesday: The Girl Inside Me: Poems by Javelin Hardy



There is a little girl inside of me
Trapped, afraid and wanting to be set free.
But I'm 33 now --
What is this little girl doing inside of me?

-- From the title poem in The Girl Inside Me: Poems by Javelin Hardy. Hardy draws on her training and background as a counselor to tell her own story of recovery from abuse in this beautiful book of poetry and historic photographs.



Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by The Purple Booker, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Mailbox Monday: Philip Roth

What books came into your house last week? I filled in my Philip Roth TBR shelf with two of his books I haven't read yet.

Roth is one of my favorites and I plan to read all of his books, hits and misses. I’ve read 12 of 31 so far, according to the list I keep here on the blog (see Favorite Authors tab above or list in right column).



Reading Myself and Others, a collection of essays about reading and writing.

The Dying Animal, the last book in his David Kepesh trilogy. The trilogy starts with The Breast, which I haven't read and is generally panned. I read the second one a few months ago, The Professor of Desire, and thought it was great.

I know a lot of women don't like to read Philip Roth, or the other male writers of his generation. I do. I tend to prefer "mid-century" (20th) authors both sexes because I'm drawn to books with hefty plots, omniscient third-person narrators, and a minimum of experimentation. And I like to read books by male authors because I like men and want to understand them. They don't think the same way my women friends and I do!

Which authors do you love so much you want to read all their books? How do you keep track?





Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday, a weekly "show & tell" blog event where participants share the books they acquired the week before. 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 graciously hosted by Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, and Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Favorite Author: Benjamin Black


Benjamin Black is the pen name of Irish author John Banville. Writing in his own name, Banville won the Booker Prize in 2005 for The Sea, which I loved, but I've only read one of his other novels and don't plan to undertake reading all of them any time soon.

The mysteries he writes as Benjamin Black, on the other hand, enchant me. In particular, his Quirke series puts me under a spell so I feel like I'm right there in 1950s Dublin. That may partly be due to the audiobook reading by actor Timothy Dalton who does such a superb job on the first three.

Banville's Benjamin Black books are below. In addition to the Quirke series, he has written two stand-alone mysteries and a Philip Marlowe novel. Those I have read are in red. Those on my TBR shelf are in blue.

Quirke series


The Lemur (2008)
The Black-Eyed Blonde, a Philip Marlowe novel (2014)
Wolf on a String (2017) (published in the UK as Prague Nights)



NOTE: Updated September 15, 2018

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Book Beginning: Valley of Genius by Adam Fisher

BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS

THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON FRIDAYS FOR BOOK BEGINNING FUN!

MY BOOK BEGINNING



I grew up in what is now known as Silicon Valley. Only in retrospect does it seem like an unusual place.

-- Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley (As Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom) by Adam Fisher.

This is a fascinating book, even for someone like me who has no connection to the high tech world of Silicon Valley, other than my iPhone.



Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

FACEBOOK: Rose City Reader has a Facebook page where I post about new and favorite books, book events, and other bookish tidbits, as well as link to blog posts. I'd love a "Like" on the page! You can go to the page here to Like it. I am happy to Like you back if you have a blog or professional Facebook page, so please leave a comment with a link and I will find you.

TWITTER, ETC: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book  Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.

YOUR BOOK BEGINNING




Wednesday, September 12, 2018

What Are They Reading? Rules of Civility by Amor Towles


Authors tend to be readers, so it is natural for them to create characters who like to read. It is always interesting to me to read what books the characters are reading in the books I read. Even if I can't say that ten times fast.

Usually, the characters' choice of books reflects the author's tastes or, I sometimes think, what the author was reading at the time. But sometimes the character's reading material is a clue to the character's personality, or is even a part of the story.

This is an occasional blog event. If anyone wants to join in, grab the button, put up a post, and leave leave a comment with a link to your post.


Katey Kontent, the narrator and heroine of Towles's debut novel, spends a lot of her free time reading and discussing books. Her favorite is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, which she reads over and over. Katie is the daughter of Russian immigrants, grew up in New York City, and uses her smarts and wit to build a career and find her own place in high society. It is understandable that she would be drawn to Pip's complicated story of personal growth.



When Katey's personal life becomes most confusing, she develops a taste for Agatha Christie. By 1938, when most of the novel takes place, Christie had published 30 books, and two came out in 1938. In one of the best scenes in Towles's book, Katey settles in for Christmas Eve 1938 alone, with a 10-pound ham from her boss, a bottle of bourbon, and the newly-released Hercule Poirot’s Christmas.



The title, Rules of Civility, comes from another book, George Washington's Rules of Civility (& Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation), a list of 110 maxims that Washington had written in his own handwriting as a school boy. Katey finds a well-thumbed copy of the George Washington book in protagonist Tinker Grey's apartment and later buy's a secondhand copy for herself. There is an appendix in the Towles book listing the 110 rules.



I loved Rules of Civility as much as I did Towles's second book, A Gentleman in Moscow. I can't wait to see what he writes next.



Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Teaser Tuesday: The Storyteller's Secret by Sejal Badani



I remember my own baby pictures where a large black dot figured prominently on my temple.  Mom explained to me once that the black mark was the best way to protect a child against God's eyes. 
-- The Storyteller's Secret by Sejal Badani. The narrator is Jaya, a New York journalist traveling to India to recover after miscarriages and divorce. While there, she learns the story of her grandmother, a school teacher in the 1930s, during the British occupation.





Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by The Purple Booker, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.



Thursday, September 6, 2018

Book Beginning: The Storyteller's Secret by Sejal Badani

BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS

THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON FRIDAYS FOR BOOK BEGINNING FUN!

MY BOOK BEGINNING



I was five years old when I begged my mother for a dog.

The Storyteller's Secret by Sejal Badani. Jaya, a New York journalist, has traveled to India to recover from personal heartbreak and uncover her family's past secrets. The story moves between Jaya's present day experiences and those of her grandmother in the 1930s, during the British occupation.

The Storyteller's Secret has all the makings of a Book Club favorite.





Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

FACEBOOK: Rose City Reader has a Facebook page where I post about new and favorite books, book events, and other bookish tidbits, as well as link to blog posts. I'd love a "Like" on the page! You can go to the page here to Like it. I am happy to Like you back if you have a blog or professional Facebook page, so please leave a comment with a link and I will find you.

TWITTER, ETC: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book  Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.

YOUR BOOK BEGINNING




Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Teaser Tuesday: I Know Now by Cinda Stevens Lonsway



Something magical just happened. I feel different, altered, changed.

-- I Know Now: A Woman's Healing: Violence to Victory, Trauma to Truth by Cinda Stevens Lonsway. This memoir is the story of Cinda's survival after a violent attack at age 19, her struggle to heal from that trauma when she became a mother, and the "sacred insight" she finally found.




Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by The Purple Booker, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Mailbox Labor Day Monday: Transcendental Concord

My friend Kirsten Rian wrote the concluding essay in a new, hauntingly beautiful book of art photography documenting the Transcendentalists of Concord, Massachusetts. She surprised me the other day with a copy of this lovely new book.



Transcendental Concord, photography by Lisa McCarty, texts by Kirsten Rian and Rebecca Norris Webb, published by Radius Books.

PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: Transcendental Concord documents the spirit of Transcendentalism, the literary and philosophical movement that arose in the mid-19th century. While the circle of Transcendentalists in New England was wide, at its center was a core group that lived in Concord, Massachusetts. Bronson Alcott and daughter Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau lived within a few miles of each other for nearly 20 years, regularly meeting in each other’s homes and on the paths of Walden Woods to discuss their writings and beliefs. In the course of a year and in every season North-Carolina based photographer Lisa McCarty photographed the sites where these Transcendentalists lived and wrote in Concord. McCarty’s parallel reverence for the natural world is evident in her photographs which point to large and small variations in environment, season and light. McCarty uses long exposures and camera movement in order to capture these variations. Transcendental Concord pays homage to Transcendentalism not only in capturing a shared landscape, but in McCarty’s technique: her keen observation of natural phenomena and openness to experimentation and chance.

What books came into your house last week?



Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday, a weekly "show & tell" blog event where participants share the books they acquired the week before. 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 graciously hosted by Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, and Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.

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