October 20, 2014 by Reader's Connection
Through the month of November, the Indiana Writers Center will be presenting workshops for writers.
Workshops on writing mysteries, on writing speculative fiction, and on just getting started, are scheduled at a number of library branches.
Click on the workshop titles to see the schedules.
This is of course an introduction to writing fiction about murders. Some of the basic tools for constructing a mystery novel will be explored: the genre expectations and boundaries, setting, characters, suspense, opening scenes, plot and pacing. Attendees will be doing some writing.
Have you been thinking about writing for a long time? Would you like to connect with other writers in the Indianapolis area? This class will offer writing exercises, and there will be lively conversation about writing and the writing life.
Oh, no! Your blogger has found another excuse to post his selfie!
Speculative fiction is the genre of possibility. If you’d like to write some variety of horror or fantasy or science fiction or some other spec genre (?), this class will clarify what speculative fiction is, along with world-building and exploring the marketplace.
October 17, 2014 by Reader's Connection
I admit, I had never read one of Philippa Gregory’s books before now. Surprising, considering how fascinated I am with that period in British history and watching the many film adaptations that have been made from her novels. Indeed, my impulse to pick up The King’s Curse stemmed from having seen the Starz film adaptation of her novel The White Queen. The King’s Curse is the fourth in that series, spoken in the voice of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury.
Her connections to the throne were significant. She was niece to kings Edward IV and Richard III; a cousin to Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII; a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon; and a governess to Princess Mary. As such, Margaret often had a front-row seat to the volatile ruling of the Tudors until her untimely end by Henry VIII. As a Plantagenet, Margaret’s life under Tudor role constantly hung in the balance, hovering on the fringes of the court’s inner circle and heavily dependent on the king’s favor. Her story is a prime example of the uncertainty of the time she lived in and how one false step could be a person’s last.
Gregory’s portrayal of Margaret was fascinating and creates a compelling story. Indeed Gregory’s impressive bibliography reflects her attempts to weave the real person into her character as much as she could. As such, the reader can envision that Margaret could at times have been feeling similar thoughts and feelings to those that Gregory associated with her- the anger, the arrogance, the helplessness, the frustration, the sorrow, the fear, at the actions of the throne. There was a rich complexity and pragmatism woven into her character- neither saint nor sinner, resilient yet unbending in her beliefs, arrogant yet compassionate, loyal yet rebellious. The book also shows off Margaret’s reputed intelligence, using the resources she had in both good times and bad to survive and stay in the king’s favors. Unfortunately, her luck eventually ran out, and she was arrested and executed for treason. But, considering she managed to avoid execution from a blood-thirsty king until she was 67, she was obviously a woman who did her best to live her life and stay off the King’s radar as much as possible.
But I digress. In all, this was a compelling and interesting read about the Tudor rule and a satisfying addition to the series. The Tudor rulers are a fascinating lot, and one can appreciate the karmic irony that despite Henry’s VIII misogynistic and obsessive machinations for a male heir, his most successful progeny was his second daughter Elizabeth, who became one of the most powerful rulers in British history. The only quibbles I had with this story were with the length. Honestly, it could have much shorter as the middle was uneventful and boring, and did not provide any additional relevance to the story other than an accurate chronology of her life. Moreover, the reader was constantly reminded of two points- that she was a Plantagenet and that her young brother was executed on orders by Henry VII. These reminders were overly used, and eventually eye-rolling. Cutting out some of those references would not have taken anything away from the story.
October 16, 2014 by Reader's Connection
The winner of the Man Booker Prize and the finalists for the National Book Award have been announced.
From bestselling Australian writer Flanagan comes a supple meditation on memory, trauma, and empathy that is also a sublime war novel. Initially, it is related through the reminiscences of Dorrigo Evans, a 77-year-old surgeon raised in Tasmania whose life has been filtered through two catastrophic events: the illicit love affair he embarked on with Amy Mulvaney, his uncle’s wife, as a young recruit in the Australian corps and his WWII capture by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore. Most of the novel recounts Dorrigo’s experience as a POW in the Burmese jungle on the “speedo,” horrific work sessions on the “Death Railway” that leave most of his friends dead from dysentery, starvation, or violence. While Amy, with the rest of the world, believes him dead, Dorrigo’s only respite comes from the friends he tries to keep healthy and sane, fellow sufferers such as Darky Gardiner, Lizard Brancussi, and Rooster MacNiece. Yet it is Dorrigo’s Japanese adversary, Major Nakamura, Flanagan’s most conflicted and fully realized character, whose view of the war–and struggles with the Emperor’s will and his own postwar fate–comes to overshadow Dorrigo’s story, especially in the novel’s bracing second half. Pellucid, epic, and sincerely touching in its treatment of death, this is a powerful novel. — Publishers Weekly
National Book Award finalists in the fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature categories can be viewed at the National Book Award site, where you can also see the longlist titles that got dropped. I’m sad about Spencer Reece’s The Road to Emmaus and Nigel Hamilton’s The Mantle of Command.
If you click on the Lila cover art, you go to the NPR treatment of the finalists, which is interesting in part because NPR originally goofed up when writing about Marilynne Robinson’s fiction, and because the comments about the goof start off with one by Andrew Halberstadt, who may be my nephew Andrew.
Okay, that isn’t interesting to you.
The National Book Award winners will be announced on November 19th.
October 15, 2014 by Reader's Connection
Sitting in his Montana jail cell, killer John Gload tells deputy Valentine Millimaki how at age fourteen he committed his first murder–killed a woman in her home, walked out, stopped after a while to eat an apple.
“About two miles later I sat down on a railroad berm to catch my breath. It was an interesting moment. By the time I ate that apple, I didn’t feel a thing about that woman.” He rolled his eyes up to regard Millimaki, his hands still open on his knees in a sort of offertory pose. “Val, I knew right then I’d never in my life have to do a regular day of work again.”
Gload is 77 years old, now, and the law has finally caught up with him. Millimaki is low deputy on the totem pole and is stuck with the graveyard shift at the jail, where Gload, for some reason, takes a liking to him. The deputy is a troubled man, himself, with a marriage coming apart, and the two of them form a strange bond.
I’m sure you’ll agree that Kim Zupan’s The Ploughmen sounds like a wonderful holiday gift. Anyone who likes dark crime novels might enjoy it, but I have to include a WARNING FROM THE SURGEON GENERAL: ANY READER WHO IS ALLERGIC TO OVERWROUGHT PROSE IS LIKELY IS LIKELY TO ENTER A COMA WHILE READING.
The tops of the hills behind the house were softly aflame with scarlet sunset. I grumbled while reading sentences like that, and there are a lot of them. But since reading The Ploughmen I’ve read a better-behaved crime novel, a “smart, literary mystery,” according to its cover blurb; and the characters from that book have already slipped my mind, whereas Gload and Millimaki stay with me.
Have I mentioned the deputy’s other low-man duty, searching for missing persons, which leads him on harrowing, poetic quests? I loved the book, despite my grumbling, and may reread it. Let’s close with a passage that works for me. Millimaki’s wife is a nurse, and he is on his way to a party that he doesn’t want to attend.
On the sandy bluff the surgeon’s house where he was to meet his wife appeared fortresslike against the dusk, its roofline a complex topography of hips and gables and Dutch hip dormers and a phallic tower with a dome of hammered copper which at that hour beaconed its russet affluence to the working-class homes on the river below. From the hilltop eminence the prefabs and double-wide trailers looked like shoe boxes or children’s blocks set haphazardly beside a papier-mâché stream. The department made calls with equal frequency to the homes of the wealthy for spousal abuse and ODed teens and skeletal anorexic wives on the roadway in their teddies strung out and waving handguns at the passing cars. Millimaki had discovered fairly quickly that the problems of the rich were much the same as those of the unrich, though in the savage glare of the booking-room lights their sportswear and excellent dental work made for more attractive photographs.
October 13, 2014 by Reader's Connection
The Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts at the Jewish Community Center will run from October 28th through November 15th. Here is a list of the scheduled appearances by authors. Click here for the whole schedule, which includes dance and films and panel discussions.
All of the author appearances begin at 7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct 28
Hank Phillippi Ryan, author of Truth Be Told
$8.00 / $5.00 for JCC members
Boston Register news reporter Jane Ryland is covering a human interest foreclosure story when she stumbles onto several murders committed in recently foreclosed homes. Investigating further, Jane becomes entangled in one dangerous situation after another. In the meantime, the reporter’s clandestine love interest, Boston police detective Jake Brogan, is actively pursuing answers to a 20-year-old unsolved murder. The cold case turns personal as Jake consults case files written by his deceased grandfather, a former police commissioner, to determine if the individual confessing to the crime is truly the killer. As Jane and Jake each gets closer to the truth, they find their lives and their romantic connection precariously hanging in the balance. Danger and intrigue surround them both as they desperately seek closure. The third entry in the “Jane Ryland & Jake Brogan” series packs a powerful punch, and offers a clever mix of mystery, corruption, and romance. Mystery enthusiasts will want to drop everything and binge-read until the mind-boggling conclusion. — Library Journal
Monday, November 3rd
Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of Got Religion?: How Churches, Mosques, and Synagogues Can Bring Young People Back will join with a panel of local religious leaders in a discussion of why young people are dropping out of the religious traditions and how this trend can be reversed.
$8.00 / $5.00 for JCC members
The millennial generation is stuck in a condition called emerging adulthood; that is, these twentysomethings are delaying the traditional markers of growing up, leaving home, becoming financially independent, getting married, and having children. The reasons for this condition are varied–the new technology, the economic downturn that has affected them disproportionately as well as a combination of radical individualism and a general distrust of institutions, and, some believe, the intransigent attitudes of organized religion. One of the primary by-products is low church attendance or little to no religious affiliation among millennials. Unlike other people who have studied this group, though, Riley is more optimistic. In this short but compelling volume, she adopts an ecumenical approach, profiling religious communities–Jewish, Mormon, Catholic, Evangelical, Muslim–with an emphasis on how religions can work together to bring young people back into the fold. Millennials, she insists, are looking for a community with a sense of purpose. A thoughtful and appealing book that addresses an important topic with commonsense solutions. — Booklist
Tuesday, November 4th
Allen Salkin, author of From Scratch : Inside the Food Network
$8.00 / $5.00 for JCC members, BUT you can bring five cans of tomato products for Second Helpings to receive free admission.
The Food Network has risen from obscurity and ridicule in the early ’90s to become a powerhouse of cable television, transforming chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Paula Deen into celebrities and changing food culture forever. With a light wit and balanced perspective, Salkin, a former food and media reporter for the New York Times, presents the definitive history of the network from inception to the present day. Food Network devotees will delight at the inside knowledge of internal scandals, the intriguing biographies of their favorite star chefs, and an exclusive look at the ever-shifting lineup of executives and parent companies . . . Salkin moves deftly between periods in the channel’s development, garnishing the narrative with frequent quotes from influential personalities to add depth. — Publishers Weekly
Wednesday, November 5th
Peter Eisner, author of The Pope’s Last Crusade : How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI’s Campaign to Stop Hitler
$8.00 / $5.00 JCC members
Notwithstanding the spate of current works on the tragic shortcomings of Pius XII during World War II, journalist and producer Eisner refocuses the spotlight in this relevant study on his predecessor, who did speak out against anti-Semitism and the threat of Nazism–though he was silenced by an untimely death in 1939. Pius XI . . . had been deeply moved by an American Jesuit priest’s 1937 book Interracial Justice, about his work among poor Maryland blacks, and summoned the author, Rev. John LaFarge, to the Vatican in 1938. In his 80s, Pius XI had a serious heart condition, yet the growing Nazi menace demanded action: The year before, Pius had issued an important encyclical, With Deep Anxiety, slamming the Nazis for racist policies and oppression of Catholics; now, aware he was on death’s door, Pius was determined to go further in a new message he urged LaFarge to write swiftly and in secret. Eisner traces LaFarge’s work in Paris over the summer of 1938 and his missteps in confiding in the pope’s Superior General Ledochowski as a go-between, a shadowy figure who allowed the document to languish while the pope grew more ill. Ledochowski, like the pope’s secretary of state Cardinal Pacelli (the future Pius XII), believed that the pope was imbalanced and that communism (and Jews) was the menace, not Nazism. Eisner closes with excerpts from LaFarge’s powerful encyclical and the chilling suggestion of what might have been the outcome had it been published. An exciting reminder of how Vatican machinations continue to haunt history. — Kirkus Reviews
Thursday, Nov 6th
Scott Cowen, author of The Inevitable City: The Resurgence of New Orleans and the Future of Urban America
$8.00 / $5.00 JCC members
After Hurricane Katrina, most of Tulane University lay paralyzed and underwater. Cowen, president of Tulane at the time, led a charge to dramatically refashion the university, and the surrounding city, with a mission of social service and responsibility. In forthright and upbeat fashion, Cowan details the development of that mission, and the sometimes-controversial renewal plan he helped steer with civic and business leaders. Facing unprecedented devastation and a shockingly slow and inadequate government response, Cowen and company were forced to make “hard call” that often met with resistance from, among others, members and representatives of an understandably suspicious population of poor, mostly African-American residents. The university soon restructured and mobilized its academic departments, such as the School of Architecture, bringing services and expertise to blighted areas of the city, and encouraging undergraduates (via a new academic requirement) to actively engage neighborhoods through the Center for Public Service. Part memoir, part leadership study, the book offers 10 principles for rebuilding American cities. Given Cowen’s central role in the regeneration of New Orleans, this is a bird’s-eye view that’s sure to appeal to policy makers, activists, and corporate managers. In addition, Cowen acknowledges historical patterns that feed both the city’s character and the frictions it faces as a diverse but still unequal society.– Publishers Weekly
Wednesday, Nov 12th
Annabelle Gurwitch, author of I See You Made an Effort : Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50
$11.00 / $8.00 JCC members (Light refreshments are being served on this “Ladies Night Out,” which I think accounts for the higher price.)
Actress and writer Gurwitch offers up a rollicking collection of essays detailing the hazards encountered when a woman approaches 50. Whether she is extrapolating on the symptoms of perimenopause, attending a concert with her teenage son, assessing fashion for older women, or realizing the mistake of Googling “age-related conditions” on the Internet, Gurwitch tackles all of it all with aplomb. Her witty writing allows for deft exploration of even the most sensitive and intimate subjects while still finding the humor in her situation. She admits aging gracefully is best achieved with a bit of help, although it proves to be a zero-sum game with effects that fade quickly. “I’ve filled, frozen and ultrasounded, all in the name of what is often referred to as maintenance.” Gurwitch’s essay about becoming a member of the sandwich generation and caring for her aging parents is heartfelt and makes her aware of what the future holds. “This must be another milestone that lies ahead for me: the day when you speak to and of your doctors more frequently than your friends.” These essays contain a devilish good dose of fun and more than a dash of agita for those approaching and beyond the half-century mark. — Publishers Weekly
Thursday, November 13th
Rabbi Amy Eilberg, author of From Enemy to Friend : Jewish Wisdom and the Pursuit of Peace, will be joined in conversation by Dr. David M. Craig, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at IUPUI.
$8.00 / $5.00 JCC members
Eilberg, the first woman ordained as a rabbi in Conservative Judaism, has produced a practical guide to fulfillment of the Jewish religious commandment to “pursue peace”–not just for personal piety, but to become an effective peacebuilder in the world. Her work addresses both interpersonal conflict and the process of fostering dialogue between groups with deeply entrenched differences. Eilberg provides insight into the basic causes of division, beginning with biochemically based human reactions to fear, and includes her own understandings on peace and conflict theory. The book draws upon, among others, classical Jewish texts and the theology of later Jewish (e.g., Martin Buber) and non-Jewish religious thinkers. Eilberg also offers a peacemaking discipline according to the principles of Mussar, a system of Jewish moral discipline which began in the 10th century C.E., yielding a personal practice that can prevent, and remedy, animosity between oneself and others. Articulate and accessible to both scholars and laypersons, the book includes a rich account of Eilberg’s own experience, building peace between Jews, between Jews and Palestinians, and through interreligious dialogue. — Publishers Weekly