Saturday, June 27, 2020

Kevin T. Myers - Author Interview

headshot of Kevin T. Myers, author of novel Hidden Falls

Kevin T. Myers has worked as a stand-up comic, comedy writer, journalist, editor, speechwriter, and media liaison, among other jobs. He grew up in Massachusetts and now lives in Portland, Oregon where he works at a spokesperson for Reed College. 

Myers's new novel Hidden Falls launches July 15 from Beaufort Books. It is available for pre-order now.

book cover of Hidden Falls by Keven T. Myers

Kevin talked with Rose City Reader about his new book, Hidden Falls, its New Bedford setting, and what books he likes to read:

How did you come to write Hidden Falls?

When I began Hidden Falls, I was emerging from a dark time when I was processing a lot of old trauma through my writing. I set out to write the book I wanted to read to help lift me out of that place. At the time, my guilty pleasure (read: obsession) was reading the missed connections classifieds. It was a carnival midway of ideas, emotions, magical thinking, hope, optimism, denial, and sometimes depravity. Mostly it was filled with romantic souls exposing their secret desires to the world in hope of finding a connection. So, I started to write a comedic love story whose protagonist was pursuing a relationship through an ad he found.

I don’t write following an outline, and somewhere along the way my protagonist, Michael Quinn, went lookin’ for trouble. The original story almost necessitated that Michael be an unreliable narrator. As I dug deeper into why he was so lacking in self-awareness, his backstory became more interesting to me than what I was writing. Had I not had that false start, I don’t think Michael would have been as interesting, and I don’t think the book would be as fun.

The setting of New Bedford, Massachusetts, is key to the story because the location shaped the personalities of many of the characters. Why did you choose New Bedford?

Well, nobody had ever written a decent book connected with New Bedford. I was going to begin with the line, “Call me Michael.” Kidding. The story of Hidden Falls was invented whole cloth. It is also deeply rooted in the milieu of New England’s lower middle class, where I was raised. As I get older, I find myself becoming more appreciative of what I think was a pretty unique upbringing. In the first draft, Michael was from my hometown of Peabody, Massachusetts, but when the story started taking on elements of crime, I decided to change it to New Bedford. Not because of how it would reflect on the city, but because illegal gambling was so prevalent in Peabody that I didn’t want people to mistake the book for a memoir.

I chose New Bedford because I think it is the archetype of the kind of New England town I wanted to write about. The once great centers of now dead American industries. At one time, Peabody was to leather tanning what New Bedford was to whaling. The towns’ high school teams are named the Tanners and Whalers. We took great pride in an era and trade we never knew. It’s part of our heritage. The people from my hometown have a special bond that’s not easily explained. There’s also a connection to sports, professional and otherwise, that a lot of people who have never been exposed to that environment don’t understand. I wanted to explore those themes and I thought New Bedford was a great place to do that.

Your book is a mix of family drama and gangster story, kind of Richard Russo meets Elmore Leonard. Did you plan it that way or did the story take a turn as you went along?

The writer/director Judd Apatow said Hidden Falls was like Dennis Lehane meets David Sedaris; a theme seems to be developing that I’m really enjoying. I read Russo’s Straight Man around the time I started Hidden Falls. I never thought it influenced my book, but now you have me wondering. To answer your question, the book evolved into what it became. The characters lead me into the family drama and gangster stuff. I was about 30,000 words into what I was calling Missed Connections when it really became a different book. I went back and threw out most of it and reworked a few things. The rewrite was very intentional. I added some characters and gave others more of a voice.

The idea of combining genres was inspired by the French New Wave. I studied filmmaking in college and became fascinated by the idea of altering the construction of a film’s reality as it progresses. In Hidden Falls I wanted the narrator, Michael Quinn, to gradually ease readers from his workaday life in Portland to his extraordinary life in New Bedford without hitting readers over the head. That’s why there is an emphasis on Michael’s internal dialogue. His Portland concerns don’t go away, they just change perspective as he falls deeper into the realities of his life in New Bedford.

What do you admire most about your protagonist Michael Quinn? What is his least endearing trait?

I think what I admire most is that Michael is his willingness to take in new information, learn from it, and adapt his behavior as a result. He’s slow on the uptake, for sure, but he eventually gets there. His least endearing trait is still endearing when it’s not infuriating. He has a little Walter Mitty in him, but his fantasy life is more functional than fantastic. Michael is an editorial writer for the fictional Portland Daily, and his lack of self-awareness expresses itself in his columns; they are more aspirational than accurate when he’s writing about his own life.

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

I learned to trust my process and my instincts. I’ve been writing for a very long time, but only started writing novels about 10-years ago. My first manuscript was never published. I read it recently and totally understand why. It was very stiff. I made all the obvious choices. It was like I was imitating someone else’s writing. With Hidden Falls, I just listened to my own voice and gave the characters freedom to explore. My first manuscript was written while I was in a writing group and it reads like it was written for the group’s approval rather than my own creative expression. To be clear, that was my fault, not their influence. There were some really good writers in that group, but I think I was more concerned with impressing them, or at least not embarrassing myself—I lacked confidence as a writer at that time. What surprised me was following my process and trusting my instincts brought Hidden Falls to places that I didn’t foresee.

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

My resume looks like a shotgun blast. I started out my adult life as a standup comic and comedy writer in Hollywood, including writing for the Archie comic strip. I was an agent for syndicated newspaper columnists, like Hunter S. Thompson and Ann Landers. Then I wrote screenplays and directed a low budget feature film. I sold newspaper ad space and wrote movie reviews for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire and became the first editor of their website. I was a bartender. I moved to Alaska and did communications for the Sierra Club; trained as a bagel maker; was the morning news anchor for the pop radio station. I was the general manager and editor of the Capital City Weekly, which all lead to my first job in Higher Education at the University of Alaska Southeast. Now, I’m the director of communications for Reed College.

I’ve always tried to move in a direction that would sharpen my skills as a communicator, and my career choices have given me a lot of life experience from which to draw.

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

I don’t know that I’ve ever been given a single piece of advice about being an author that was all that valuable. The most useful advice came from my standup days—it’s some version of find your voice. There are no tricks or shortcuts, you have to put in the work. I was talking about this recently with a group of writers. I’ve been to scores of readings and lectures by wonderful, talented, and successful writers; but it’s seldom you hear the same piece of advice twice. All the contradictory counsel leads me to believe that the best advice is to find what works for you.

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

This is a tough one. I do think I my writing is more influenced by specific books rather than certain authors, but there are writers who blow me away like, Ishmael Beah. Radiance of Tomorrow has stayed with me from the moment I first picked it up. It’s so beautifully written. It’s filled with love and hope while navigating the most horrific setting imaginable. In some ways it’s like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, I couldn’t put it down, but I didn’t want to read on. Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery was the first piece of writing that I have carried with me my whole life, and I love The Haunting of Hill House for very different reasons – it’s funny, quiet, and meticulous in its exposition of a mind unraveling. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was the book that made me want to be a writer. I also love Kurt Vonnegut, Peter Rock, Dennis Lehane, and David Eggers.

What are you reading now?

I recently finished Peter Rock’s, The Night Swimmers, which I highly recommend, and now I’m about halfway through Peter Stark’s Astoria. Evidently, I’m going through a Peter phase.

What do you do to promote your book? Do you use social networking sites or other internet resources?

I have a website that has links to some of my other writing and some of the nice things people have said about Hidden Falls. I also have an author Facebook page where I have recorded a few readings from the book.

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

Well, I bought a Ferrari with my anticipated royalties from the book. So, there’s that. I’m working on a novel manuscript that’s set during the late ’70s in my hometown of Peabody, Massachusetts. The story takes place as the last of the factories are folding up and leaving town. The protagonist is going into his freshman year of high school and desperately wants to make the varsity basketball team—but the book is really about coping with sexual abuse in an environment of toxic masculinity.



Thursday, June 25, 2020

Arzak + Arzak and Create Beautiful Food at Home: BOOK BEGINNINGS

It's Friday! Time to share the first sentence (or so) of the book capturing your attention right now. For me, two new cookbooks have captured my attention.

Please share your Book Beginning on Friday by adding the link to your post below, or leaving a comment telling us where to find you on social media. Or just leave a comment with the opening sentence and name of the book.

Please use the hashtag #bookbeginnings so we can find each other.


Arzak + Arzak by Juan Mari & Elena Arzak (Grub Street Books)

Arzak has been a household name in Spain since the 1970s and Juan Mari Arzak, who presides over the family restaurant, is the innovative force behind its rise to the upper echelons in the world of culinary art.

-- from the Introduction by Gabriella Ranelli.

Restaurante Arzak in San Sebastian is legendary. It has had three Michelin stars, the most awarded, since 1989. I’ve never been to Spain, San Sebastian, or Arzak. But I am fascinated by San Sebastian and Restorante Arzak since I watched an episode of Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain when he visits Arzak and tours San Sebastian with Juan Mari. Juan Mari is the third generation of chefs at his family's eponymous restaurant. He has shared chef duties with his daughter Elena for 20 years.

This new cookbook is half a history of the New Basque cuisine that Juan Mari pioneered, and half featured recipes from the last ten years. The photographs throughout are stunning. I will most likely never cook out of this book, but I will read it cover to cover.

Creating Beautiful Food at Home by Adrian Martin (Mercier Press)

Food is something that keeps me up at night. I dream of the perfect, balanced recipe.

Adrian Martin is a young, popular Irish chef. His new cookbook takes reasonably easy to make at home recipes and makes them look very, very fancy. His breezy explanations and the lovely photographs have me convinced.


Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Thumb-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.


Please also share a teaser from page 56 of your current book on The Friday 56, hosted by Freda on Freda's Voice.


From Arzak + Arzak:

During the development process, a dish's foundation may depend on a specific ingredient or technique that fascinates the team, but something keeps it from coming together. Time marches on, the search continues until a new element arrives, if it ever does. 

From Create Beautiful Food at Home:

Mushroom soup made from wild mushrooms has the most extraordinary, intense flavour. Don't be afraid to mix and match the mushrooms here. 


Weekend Cooking is a weekly blog event hosted by Marg at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader. Beth Fish Reads started the event in 2009 and bloggers have been sharing book and food related posts ever since.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Tina Egnoski - Author Interview

headshot of author Tina Egnoski

Author Tina Egnoski writes poetry and fiction. Her first novel, Burn Down This World, came out this year from Adelaide Books. She is a native of Florida and now lives in Rhode Island where she works in the Liberal Arts Division at the Rhode Island School of Design.

book cover of Burn Down This World by Tina Egnoski

Tina talked with Rose City Reader about Burn Down This World, what inspires her, and books she loves: 

How did you come to write Burn Down this World?

I blame it on Jane Fonda! Seriously. But first, let me step back and give you a quick overview of the book. It centers on Celeste and Reid Leahy, siblings raised in a military family who come-of-age in the South in the late 1960s, at the height of social change and national unrest over the Vietnam War. As students at the University of Florida in the early 1970s, they’re active in antiwar demonstrations. Those activities, which begin as peaceful and soon turn violent, eventually tear the sister and brother apart. The braided narrative tells the story of their history, as well as their reunion after years of estrangement.

The events of the novel were inspired by real anti-Vietnam War demonstrations that took place at the University of Florida in May of 1972. I’m an alumna of the university, although I didn’t attend during the time of the protests. I did, however, work for a time in the university archives.

Now, here’s the Jane Fonda connection. While working in the Photograph Collection, I found a picture of her giving an antiwar speech on campus in 1971. She’s at a podium on a wooden platform at Graham Pond. Students are crowding around the pond and, in the background, many are hanging out of dorm windows. I was fascinated by that picture. It stuck with me. Years later, when I decided to write about student activism, the picture was readily available online. I used it as a jumping-off point.

Jane Fonda giving anti-war speech at University of Florida in 1971

You describe the story as having a "braided narrative." Describe what you mean.

A braided narrative is typically a structure with two or more plotlines interwoven throughout story. This structure allowed me to move between what I call the “present tense” of the story—when Celeste and brother reunite in 1998—and the past tense of the story—the year they spent together in college. The timelines run parallel and each story informs the other. It can be a challenging structure—a bit of a balancing act. I had to give the reader just enough information in each storyline to keep her/him engaged without revealing too soon the twists-and-turns so pivotal to the plot.

Both story lines take place in Florida, one at the University of Florida in 1971-72 and one during the wildfires of 1998. What drew you to these settings for your novel?

Both settings are ripe for drama. While I wasn’t living in Florida in 1998, my mother was. I experience the wildfires through my daily telephone conversations with her and news reports she shared. She did finally have to evacuate. I was lucky to have a sister who lived close by could assist her with that process. It was a scary time, with so many lives, homes, and businesses danger.

In terms of the early 1970s, that time period was futile ground, and not only because of Vietnam War protests. So much was happening. At the University of Florida that academic year, the first African American student body president was elected and the student newspaper was kicked off campus for publishing a list of abortion clinics. I simply couldn’t write about it all. I tried, but the narrative became overrun with subplots. I had to narrow my focus to the protests.

Tell us why you gave Jim Morrison from the Doors a cameo in your new book.

Music is such a powerful connector of people. I knew early in the writing process that the music of the 60s and early 70s would be an important backdrop. The Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, The Doors: these were iconic rock bands of the time. You can’t think of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young without thinking of the song “Ohio.”

As for Jim Morrison, well, he and I do share a birthplace. I couldn’t let that personal tidbit go unmentioned. Aside from that, I loved the idea that for Celeste music isn’t just background. Her love of The Doors brings her closer to her brother at an otherwise contentious time in their lives.

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

I began writing at a young age. When I was in my teens, I wrote very, very, very bad love poetry. In high school, I appeared to be industriously taking notes while my teachers lectured, but really I was writing poetry. Everyone assumed I was a diligent student. In reality, I was a daydreamer, more interested in the language and structure of poetry than history or algebra or biology. I turned to fiction while in college.

I studying writing at Emerson College. It was in that program that I began the novel, but in a much different form. It was about Celeste and Reid and their estrangement, but I hadn’t yet figured out the cause. I set it aside for several years. In that time, I had a son and wrote three other books. Then, in 2013 I rediscovered that picture of Jane Fonda and knew I had found the heart of my story.

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

There are number of writers who have influenced my writing. In terms of classics, I love James Baldwin, the Brontë sisters, Zora Neale Hurston, Fitzgerald, Flaubert, Toni Morrison, and Edith Wharton. I also write short stories, so I admired short fiction writers like John Cheever, Lauren Groff, Flannery O’Conner, and Alice Monroe.

The one book I re-read every few years is Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying. The reason I love that book so much is because it was one of the first books I read that spoke frankly and from a feminist point of view about love, sex, family, family dysfunction, politics, psychotherapy, literature, and religion. In other words—it has it all!

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

I love contemporary literary fiction. Authors I read and admire include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tracy Chevalier, Karen Joy Fowler, Ian McEwan, Claire Messud, and Zadie Smith.

Recently, I finished The Snakes by Sadie Jones and The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo. Two of the best books I read in 2019. Both are well-written, engaging, with meaty family dysfunction at the center. And what’s better in fiction than a messy family saga?

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

Perfection kills creativity. It’s been said many times, many ways, and it’s true. I have to battle perfectionism with every piece I write. I’ve also had to learn when to let go and send out a story. No creative endeavor is ever going to be perfect. When I deem it “good enough”—and that’s a tricky judgement call—I let it go by submitting it to a journal or press.

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

I’m working on a collection of short fiction. The stories are historical in nature and focused on writers who have a connection to Florida. For instance, I read recently about the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and a trip she took to South Florida in 1936. After checking into a hotel on Sanibel Island, she walked down to the beach. Just as she hit the sand, the hotel caught fire. She lost the only copy of a manuscript she was working on. She was able to rewrite the manuscript from memory and the book, Conversation at Midnight, was published in 1937. That’s the kind of fact I love to turn into fiction.



Saturday, June 20, 2020

Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World by Kathryn Aalto: REVIEW

I was lucky to grow up in a time and place that allowed little kids to roam. From the time I was five and "old enough" to walk to Kindergarten by myself, my parents considered me old enough to wander my neighborhood by myself. And I did. My memories of childhood summers in Nebraska are a series of explorations, alone or with a best friend, of back yards, the enormous neighborhood park, and, once we got bikes, nearby farms, woods, and creeks. I could spend a whole day alone with a book in the woods. Or spend several days in a row with a friend playing on the Platte River. We were ten.

Despite my early adventures, I didn't grow up to be a rugged outdoor enthusiast. These days, my idea of camping is a cabin at a National Park. But those childhood wanderings taught me a love for the natural world and instilled a yearning for exploration, often solitary. Kathryn Aalto's new book, Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World, appeals to both parts of my character.

Aalto set out to rebalance the perception that nature writing is entirely the realm of white male authors. Writing Wild honors women writers whose work has helped readers connect to the natural world from the Romantic poets to today. The book is a collection of Aalto's biographical sketches of 25 influential women writers, drawing on excerpts of their work; select bibliographies; notes on other women poets and prose authors; and ancillary material, all beautifully illustrated by Gisela Goppel.

The book is not an anthology of nature writing; it is an introduction to women nature writers. A few are probably familiar, like Annie Dillard or poet Mary Oliver. Others are new to me and likely new to most readers. The book, of course, does not include every woman who has written about nature. As Aalto described:

Think of these pages as a glance backwards and a look forward, as well as a celebration of women who bring a different dimension to nature writing, rather than a compendium of every woman who ever wrote about the natural world.

Following each five- to seven-page biography, Aalto inserts either the featured author's bibliography or information about three related authors. For example, after the opening essay on Dorothy Wordsworth, Aalto includes a paragraph each on three other women writers under "More About Mountains": Dorothy Pilley, Helen Mort, and Cheryl Strayed. After the essay on Amy Liptrot, she offers three suggestions for "More Recovery Narratives": Sue Hubbell, Olivia Laing, and Jessica Lee.

You can see from these examples that Aalto broadly defines "nature writing." She includes writers of natural history, environmental philosophy, country life, scientific writing, gardening, poetry, memoir, fiction, and meditation. The writing of the women featured spans more than 200 years and many genres, not all easily categorized.

Read and be inspired. I was.


The 25 women featured in Katheryn Aalto's Writing Wild are:

Dorothy Wordsworth

Susan Fenimore Cooper

Gene Stratton-Porter

Mary Austin

Vita Sackville-West

Nan Sheppard

Rachel Carson

Mary Oliver

Carolyn Merchant

Annie Dillard

Gretel Ehrlich

Leslie Marmon Silko

Diane Ackerman

Robin Wall Kimmerer

Lauret Savoy

Rebecca Solnit

Kathleen Jamie

Carolyn Finney

Helen MacDonald

Saci Lloyd

Andrea Wulf

Camille T. Dungy

Elena Passarello

Amy Liptrot

Elizabeth Rush

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison - BOOK BEGINNING

It's time for Book Beginnings on Fridays! Time to share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are featuring this week.

Post a link to your post below. Or put your book beginning in a comment. You can also participate on social media -- just leave a comment to tell us where to find you.

If you post or crosspost on social media, please use the #bookbeginnings hashtag so we can find each other.


Two days before the shooting a chartered planeload of Southern Negroes swooped down upon the District of Columbia and attempted to see the Senator.

-- Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison.


Juneteenth is set in 1950s and is the story Adam Sunraider, a race-baiting senator from a New England state. When he is wounded in an assassination attempt, he shocks all who know him by asking for Hickman, an elderly black minister. The story unfolds that Sunraider, known as a child by the name Bliss, was raised by Reverend Hickman in a joyful black Baptist community steeped in religion an music, a community much like the one Ellison grew up in himself.

Ralph Ellison is best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1952. He started writing Juneteenth in 1954, bit it was still incomplete at his death in 1994 and was published posthumously in 1999. His wife Fanny worked with his literary executor John Callahan to edit the book in preparation for its publication. Callahan was a friend of Ellison's, a leading scholar of his work, and my favorite college professor in my undergraduate days.


Juneteenth, the holiday, is getting a lot of attention this year. So I thought Ralph Ellison's book of the same name would be a good choice to highlight on June 19, the date Juneteenth is celebrated.

Juneteenth is an unofficial national holiday and an official state holiday in Texas. It marks the date in 1865 that that the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas to read the official order proclaiming that slaves in Texas had been freed. President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation almost two and a half years earlier, and the American Civil War had ended in April of 1865, but it took a long time for the news to get to Texas.


Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Thumb-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.


Freda at Freda's Voice hosts The Friday 56 where participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of their current book. Please visit her blog to link your post and find other participants.

They relaxed in their chairs, the whiskey between them. Only the air-conditioning unit hummed below their voices. 
Happy Father's Day to all of you celebrating with your dads this weekend!

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Spiral Shell: A French Village Reveals Its Secrets of Jewish Resistance in World War II by Sandell Morse - MAILBOX MONDAY

One book made it's way to my house last week. How about you?

The Spiral Shell: A French Village Reveals Its Secrets of Jewish Resistance in World War II by Sandell Morse (from Schaffner Press).

When she was 71, Morse got a fellowship to travel to France to write a memoir about her family. Over the next five years, she dug into the history of the village of Auvillar, got to know its people,  and learned about their role in the French resistance during WWII.

Her book, The Spiral Shell, is a memoir about her family history, her reconnection with her Jewish heritage, and the story of what she learned about Auvillar's past.


For author Sandell Morse what started out as a research project became an unexpected rediscovery of identity and faith. In this haunting memoir, she uncovers long silenced stories of bravery and resistance among the civilians of a small town in France during WWII, and in turn finds deeper meaning and understanding of her own Jewish heritage. After the war, as the author describes, “truth went underground” and the stories of those who resisted and escaped were left buried and unheard. Morse gradually befriended and gained the trust of several individuals who shared their stories of bravery and resistance during that harrowing time. In a narrative that unfolds and overlaps both past and present, the author in turn discovers truths about her own life and Jewish history, denied her in childhood, and that she now more fully comprehends in light of the brave and selfless actions of those who chose to fight against bigotry, oppression, and genocide.


Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, and Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf host Mailbox Monday every week where participants share the books they got the week before. Please visit and play along!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

One Last Lunch: A Final Meal with Those Who Meant So Much to Us, edited by Erica Heller: Book Beginning

Another Friday is here and another opportunity to share the first sentence (or so) of the books we are reading.

What book has captured your attention this week? Please share the opening lines on your own blog or social media. Add a link to your post below. If there is no link, leave a comment to let others know where to find your post.

Of course, you can simply leave your Book Beginning in a comment below. Please include the title and author.

Please use the hashtag #bookbeginnings so we can find each other on social media.


To imagine lunch now with my father, Joe Heller, it would have to be in spring.

-- One Last Lunch: A Final Meal with Those Who Meant So Much to Us, edited by Erica Heller. This wonderful collection of essays is available now from Abrams Books.

Erica Heller, a writer and the daughter of Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22, gathered essays from 49 people all imagining a final meal with a loved one who has passed away. Contributors include children, friends, acquaintances, professional colleagues of writers, actors, and other well known personalities, such as Julia Child, Paul Newman, Prince, and Nora Ephron.

You can read my recent interview with Erica Heller about One Last Lunch here.


Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Thumb-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.


Freda at Freda's Voice hosts The Friday 56, a perfect tie in with Book Beginnings. Join her to share a two-sentence teaser from the book you are featuring this week.


We lolled on the divans like pashas, while George brought us coffee on a brass tray and sat down to fill us in on our lunch. It turned out that Burroughs was withdrawing from a heavy heroin habit and was being looked after by his friends, among them Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, all of whom were living in a nearby ratbag hotel on rue Git-le-Coeur.

From the essay by Aviva Layton imagining a last lunch with William Burroughs. That is a serendipitous Friday 56 for me because I just this morning finished reading Burroughs' magnum opus, Naked Lunch. I read Naked Lunch as one of my picks for my 2020 Reading Classic Books Challenge -- my LGBT pick since June is Pride Month.

Sometimes you just find Storyline Serendipity!

Monday, June 8, 2020

Billy (the Kid), The Book of V., and Straight White Male: Mailbox Monday

Did you get any new books last week? It was a tumultuous week. Some of us were peeking out from our corona lockdowns for the first time. Others were taking to the streets in protest. Others were still under stay at home orders, following events online or staying as offline as possible.

I can understand pretty much every reaction to current events. I don't agree with all reactions or all events, but I try to understand. And then I mull. I did a lot of mulling last week.

And I acquired a few books, as always happens. Book shopping is my retail therapy. And I get a book here and there from authors or publishers, as I did last week. So there are always books wandering my way. Thank goodness.

Last week, three new books came into my house. Do any look good to you? How about you? What new books came your way last week?

Billy (the Kid) by Peter Meech. This alternate history imagines that Billy the Kid survived Pat Garrett's bullet and, in 1932, is a retired dentist living in Pueblo, Colorado. But when bootleggers start a war, the once-famous outlaw finds himself in the middle of the action, and fighting for his last chance at romance to boot.

The Book of V. by Anna Solomon. This is my book club pick for June. We've been meeting by Zoom, which isn't as fun as meeting in person, but it isn't bad. I don't miss not sitting in Portland traffic for an hour trying to get across town by 6:00. And no one has to worry about driving home after drinking wine. Not that our book club ladies drink wine. Yeah, right!

Straight White Male by John Niven. Oh my! OK, so I ordered this in May, before Pride Month and protests made it probably the least popular book of last week. I didn't dare post it on social media for fear of being banned for life.

I ordered it when I saw it had been short listed for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for best comic literature. It lost out to Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubyn, which may be the funniest book I've ever read, so if this came close, I had to have it.


Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, and Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf host Mailbox Monday every week where participants share the books they got the week before. Please visit and play along!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Empires by John Balaban and Creole Son by E. Kay Trimberger: Book Beginnings

It's Friday, time for Book Beginnings! Time to share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are featuring this week. What are you reading? What are you planning to read this weekend? What books are sitting on your desk that you have aspirations to read? Hmmmmm . . . . That hits close to home!

Please share your posts with a link below. Or play along on social media and leave a comment with your opening lines or a way to find you.

If you post or share on social media, please use the #BookBeginnings hashtag so we can enjoy each other's company.

Yes, I have several books stacked on my desk that look great and I'd like to spend some time with them. I hope this weekend will give me a chance. Here are two of them:


After most of the bodies were hauled away
and while the FBI and Fire Department and NYPD
were still haggling about who was in charge, as smoke cleared,
the figures in Tyvek suits came, gloved, gowned, masked,
ghostly figures searching rubble for pieces of people,
bagging, then sending the separate and comingled remains
to the temporary morgue set up on site.

-- from "A Finger," the first poem in  Empires by John Balaban (Copper Canyon Press).

This eighth book of poetry from Balaban looks at key moments in history when culture shifts and imperial eras come to an end. Viking traders, Washington crossing the Delaware, a Romanian Jew waiting for the Nazis, and 9/11, all inspire Balaban's verse.

Mine is not the story of how an adopted son finds his birth parents and turns his life around.
-- Creole Son: An Adoptive Mother Untangles Nature and Nurture by E. Kay Trimberger (LSU Press). In 1981, Kay Trimberger became the single white mother of an adopted biracial son she raised in Berkeley, California. After watching him grow into a troubled youth struggling with addiction, Trimberger helped Marc reconnect with his biological Cajun and Creole biological relatives.

Trimberger's new memoir explores how biological heritage and the environment adopted children are raised in interact to shape adult outcomes. She hopes her book will provide support to all parents with troubled offspring. She also suggests a new model for adoption that creates an extended, integrated family of both biological and adoptive relatives.


Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Thumb-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.


Freda's Voice hosts The Friday 56, which is a natural tie in with this event. 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.


One evening he spotted a mule dear
ambling up a hillside path
and he followed it to higher ground
as a huge moon rose off the ridge
and he caught the scent of pine needles.
So he kept on until dark, reaching a ledge
overlooking Phantom Lake and the ghost town.

Our success at building a community sustained the household during these childless years. Our home hosted political meetings, study groups, consciousness-raising sessions, and book talks on feminist and progressive issues.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Books in the Attic: Mailbox Monday

I discovered a forgotten box of books in the attic!

Maybe this isn't exactly an adventure. It's not like I found a matching set of first edition Jane Austen or anything. And it's not like my attic is the romantic, trunk-filled garret of children's books.

My attic is really the top floor of my house, where my home office is. But confessing that I found a box of books I bought at the Friends of the Library store last December and then forgot about in holiday hubbub doesn't sound very exciting. It sounds like real life - messy and disorganized.

These are my "new to me all over again" books in the attic:

French Lessons by Ellen Sussman. The novel takes place in one day, as three Americans spend the day in Paris with their French tutors. Sounds like an interesting premise.

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn. A novel that imagines what would happen if the Queen went on a little trip by herself.

A Pig in Provence by Georgeanne Brennan. An ex-pat memoir by a woman who moved to the south of France in the late 1970s with her husband and young child.

The White Russian by Tom Bradby. A murder mystery set in St. Petersburg in 1917, the last days of the tsars.

Radiant Angel by Nelson DeMille, the 7th book in the John Corey series, although I can't keep them straight.

The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett. Historical fiction about an antiquarian bookseller searching for the true identity of Shakespeare.

What looks good? What books did you get, or find, last week?

There were other books in the box. But they aren't for me. I bought them for my mom and my sister, intending to give them to them for Christmas, I'm sure. My sister's birthday is this week, so now she will get them for her birthday instead. We are planning to see each other for a six feet a-PARTY, since Portland is still shut down for coronavirus.

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

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...