October 10, 2013 by Reader's Connection
A fellow who works with my wife had a terrible experience at a funeral, last year–things were handled in a selfish way that left some people out–and right away I thought of Alice Munro’s story “Haven,” which I’d recently read in a magazine and which appears in Munro’s 2012 collection Dear Life. The narrative includes some horridly short-sighted behavior at a funeral.
I wondered whether my wife should mention the story to her friend, but you never know if that’s a good idea.
Alice Munro was awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature, today. Her stories tend to involve people in rural Canada–though they sometimes move to cities–and she has written almost exclusively in short story form. Peter Englund, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, was interviewed about Munro, and at one point the interviewer used the phrase “small people, big feelings,” to describe Munro’s central subject matter.
Robin Bradford, our fearless fiction Selector, was thinking of putting together a list of Munro titles that I could use in my post, but discovered that we have “around 90 items in our catalog under her name.” And we have titles in all sorts of formats. Dear Life, for example, is also available as an audiobook on CD, a downloadable audiobook, and in large print
The View from Castle Rock, which Mr. Englund describes as one of his favorites, a mixture of family history and fiction, is available not only as a regular book (is that what I call them?) but also as a downloadable e-book, an audiobook on CD, and in large print.
I’m not a rabid Munro fan, but I always enjoy her stories, and one often stumbles upon them–at least seventeen of them have appeared in annual editions of The Best American Short Stories since 1979. I loved “A Real Life” when I first encountered it in Louise Erdrich’s 1993 Best American selection, and it is included in Munro’s collection
Open Secrets, which is also available as a downloadable ebook.
Do what Robin did. Look for alice munro as an author in our catalog. You’ll be given the chance to witness epochal moments in small, out-of-the-way lives.
October 10, 2013 by Reader's Connection
Here are ten books that were scheduled for October or late September publication, and have been picked as favorites by librarians around the country.
The Rosie Project: A Novel by Graeme Simsion
Don Tillman, a brilliant geneticist, thinks that having women fill out a six-page, double-sided questionnaire before a date is logical and reasonable. Rosie Jarman, an impetuous barmaid, thinks Don should loosen up and learn to live a little. Follow the unlikely pair in this laugh-out-loud, feel-good story of unexpected joys, discovery and love. — Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI
Longbourn: A Novel by Jo Baker
Using Pride and Prejudice’s familiar setting and characters, Baker tells a very different story of family, love and self-discovery. Bold and intelligent, Sarah is an orphaned housemaid whose days are filled with hard, body-punishing work. Baker doesn’t sugar-coat. A beautiful, uplifting novel full of mystery, hope and romance. Highly recommended for Austen fans and historical fiction readers. — Jenifer May, Secaucus Public Library, Secaucus, NJ
The Lowland: A Novel by Jhumpa Lahiri
Spanning the oceans from India to Rhode Island, this is a story of brothers and allegiances, mothers and challenges, families and turmoil. Lahiri fleshes out her characters and events with such exquisite prose that I find myself rereading sentences just for the experience of their impact. Another literary triumph for Lahiri! — Jeanne Altman, Darien Library, Darien, CT
Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois
College student Lily Hayes is an accident waiting to happen. While studying abroad in Buenos Aires, she becomes the prime suspect in her roommate Katy’s murder. DuBois’s haunting story captures a family shattered by their young daughter’s imprisonment. A well-written novel highly recommended for book clubs. — Karen Kilbride, Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis, MN
We Are Water by Wally Lamb
Annie Oh, a newly famous artist, sends her family into a tailspin when she announces her intention to marry her powerful gallerist, Viveca. While Annie’s husband Orion is devastated by the loss of his wife of 27 years, her children’s responses range from delight to denial. Good writing and distinct characters, personalities and voices. — Katie Karkheck, Valley Cottage Library, Valley Cottage, NY
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Fans of The Secret History will rediscover the Tartt they loved back in 1992. 9Readers who love the novelist for her richly developed, dark, multi-layered characters and thoroughly researched topics will not be disappointed. Tartt pulls together many threads of a story across a long span of pages and into a complete masterpiece. – Kim Dorman, Princeton Public Library, Princeton, NJ
The Tilted World by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly
The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 is the backdrop for one of my favorite historical novels of the last few years. Bootleggers, revenuers, an orphaned child, extreme weather, a disintegrating marriage and romance. There are no dull characters or moments in this beautifully-written story. — Janet Lockhart, Wake County Public Libraries, Cary, NC
Ojito, a former New York Times reporter, chronicles the events leading up to the 2008 murder of an undocumented Ecuadorian immigrant on Long Island, detailing the reactions of family and community members, government officials, civic leaders and public library staff. A nuanced and in-depth look at hate crimes, and a powerful story that deserves to be told. –Anne Lee, Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement by Nick Saul & Andrea Curtis
Nick Saul chronicles his years spent as director of The Stop, a community food center in Toronto, Ontario that reinvented itself by starting several innovative programs to combat poverty and hunger while building community in the process. Read this book and be inspired to create change in your own neighborhood! — Melissa DeWild, Kent District Library, Comstock Park, MI
Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgway
Ridgway has taken the ‘partner cops’ and ‘troubled cops’ sub-genres to new levels. Hawthorn is a haunted man with a callous worldview. Child is his apt foil: humane, funny and insightful. Set in contemporary London, the story draws readers quickly and completely into a complex, seedy world of crime, madness and despair. — Margaret Donovan, Cary Memorial Library, Lexington, MA
October 9, 2013 by Reader's Connection
The winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature will be announced tomorrow. We look back, now, to some of the works by Mo Yan, the Chinese novelist and story writer who won the prize last year.
Click on his name to see all of his titles at the library. Many of these are in the original Chinese, but here are reviews of a few English translations. (The publication dates listed are those of editions in English.)
This novel is every bit as rambunctious and bizarre as the summary will suggest. The story begins in Hell, whose placid sadistic calm is disturbed by the bitter complaints of Ximen Nao, a prosperous landowner arrested and executed when Chairman Mao’s policy of “land reform” required the seizure of Nao’s property. Unable to extract the stubborn Nao’s confession of wrongdoing, Lord Yama (aka Satan) agrees to “send him back” to earth. But Nao finds he isn’t himself, as he lives through successive reincarnations as a donkey, ox, pig, dog and monkey during a half-century of the Cultural Revolution, up to the beginning of the new millennium . . . [Yan] makes broadly comic use of himself as a meddlesome, career-oriented hack whose versions of important events are, we are assured, not to be trusted. — Kirkus Reviews
Big Breasts & Wide Hips (2004)
. . . the elaborate, fleet and episodic plot-is arresting and satisfying. The book opens as two creatures struggle to give birth: Shangguan Lu, the beleaguered mother of seven daughters, and the family donkey, who ends up getting the wealth of aid and sympathy from Lu’s mother-in-law. It’s a revealing scene that effectively lays out the themes of Mo Yan’s brutal, inspired work and suggests the significance of its title: in a harsh environment like rural China where survival is not guaranteed but a privilege fought for every day, humans, and especially women, have only their bodies and their animal instincts to depend on, with fate often stepping in to play a cruel hand. However, this doesn’t stop the daughters of grimly resolute Lu from developing into a clan of steely-eyed women who throughout the book make choices and meet destinies that are at turns heartening, vicious and breathtaking. Most of the book is narrated by Jintong, the weak and spoiled son who breast-feeds well into childhood, provoking derision and disgust from his sisters. His lack of stature makes him a compelling narrator, a frontline observer who is invested in the outcomes but always something of an outsider. — Publishers Weekly
The Republic of Wine (2000)
You may think you’re watching Twin Peaks on Chinese television halfway through this rumbustious melodramatic satire by the internationally acclaimed author. The story opens in straightforward fashion, as a middle-aged government inspector, Ding Gou’er, is sent to a remote northeastern province to investigate allegations of cannibalism and other misbehavior in a booze-ridden Shangri-La known as “Liquorland.” Ding’s increasingly bizarre misadventures, which involve a sybaritic mining mogul (a wonderfully drawn Falstaffian villain) nicknamed ’Diamond Jin” and a ferociously amorous “lady trucker,” are wittily juxtaposed against author Mo Yan’s surreal ongoing correspondence with Li Yidou (a native Liquorlander), an importunate wannabe writer who sends the baffled novelist copies of his own short stories: haywire narratives which ingenuously dramatize Li’s own political opinions, sexual fantasies, and paranoid delusions . . . Mo Yan has heretofore looked like China’s Maxim Gorky; it now seems he may also be his country’s Evelyn Waugh or Groucho Marx. — Kirkus Reviews
October 8, 2013 by Reader's Connection
Barbara Shoup, Director of the Indiana Writers Center, is interviewed about the Indy Author Fair coming up on October 26th.
Owen Keane Returns. And Terence Faherty Appears at Indy Reads Books. (And at Franklin Road Library.)
October 7, 2013 by Reader's Connection
I have four favorite failed seminarians. Two are personal friends, and I won’t dwell on them. One is Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow, who after dropping out of the seminary became a barber and sometime gravedigger in Port William, Kentucky. And fourth but not least is Terence Faherty’s Owen Keane, who, post-seminary, became one of America’s most interesting sleuths.
Owen hasn’t been featured in a novel for fourteen years, but he’ll return when Faherty’s new novel Eastward in Eden is published. To celebrate the event, Faherty will appear at Indy Reads Books on Sunday, October 27th at 3:00 p.m. Come, meet the author, and get a book signed.
Indy Reads Books (a Facebook link, here)
911 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46202
And gazing farther into the future: Faherty will appear at the Franklin Road Library to lead a discussion of Eastward in Eden on Monday, December 2nd at 6:30 p.m.
Library Journal reviews the book:
Adrift and depressed in the summer of 1997,Owen Keane heads to Kenya, at the urging of a mutual friend, to help out Father Philip Swickard, a former seminary classmate. Father Swickard has been quite vocal with his opinions, and his priestly stature doesn’t give him immunity in Kenya’s unsettled political climate. Locally, the recent appearance of a mysterious man claiming to be the reincarnation of a long-dead chief, Wauki (killed in the late 1800s by the British), has heightened tension. Then there’s a sword that’s been stolen from a retired British schoolteacher, a longtime resident . . . Owen listens, solves the mystery, and rediscovers purpose in his life. VERDICT Readers are transported immediately into Kenya’s border region by Faherty’s graceful prose. His unhappy protagonist may be uncertain, but he’s profoundly curious.