Nominees for the National Book Award are out. First up, the longlists of 10 contenders each in fiction, non-fiction, poetry and young people's literature. In two weeks, these lists will be shortened to the five finalists. Here's a look at the fiction longlist, with brief summaries.
Mark Brazaitis' Sherman, Ohio, invites comparison to Winesburg and Knockemstiff, the small Ohio towns immortalized in fiction by Sherwood Anderson and Donald Ray Pollock. Except Sherman residents in Brazaitis’ “The Incurables” don't feel trapped, like Anderson and Pollock's characters. Far from it. Here are their stories.
If you're looking for that one final good book to read on the patio or take on vacation these dog days of summer, "Break the Skin" by Lee Martin just might be the one. The gathering of lovelorn, irrational characters in a Midwest small-town setting create the perfect, relaxed page-turning draw.
Three years ago, Ohio author Donald Ray Pollock received widespread acclaim for his fictional debut, "Knockemstiff," a collection of short stories some likened to a modern-day Winesburg, Ohio, or what the New York Times quaintly referred to as "Winosburg, Ohio". His new novel is out this month, and it's another fine walk on the dark side of Ohio.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Joe Thorndike worked as an editor in Henry Luce's publishing empire, including as managing editor of Life magazine. In the 1950s he went on to be one of the founders of American Heritage and Horizon magazines. The last year of his life, 2005, he struggled with Alzheimer's while living in his Cape Cod home. His son John took care of him and wrote this memoir.
How this collection of linked short stories found its way to my reading table.
You never know what you'll find at the Dayton Book Fair, and that's the fun of it. It's held this time every year in the Montgomery County Fairgrounds Coliseum. I went and had a blast.
The New Yorker, May 18, 2009, published a poem by Ohio author Ian Frazier claiming he's turning 40 "in just a couple of days." Of course, Frazier, a humorist, is spoofing the reality of 58. He was born in 1951 and graduated from Harvard in 1973.
I had the privilege to join Ohio writer Erin McCarthy at a juvenile correction facility today, where she spoke in the library to 10 teen-aged girls. She gave the girls copies of the book "Demon Envy" and left copies of "Speed Demon" with the librarian. Erin McCarthy (who writes under the name Erin Lynn for her young adult books) and the girls engaged in a lively conversation about writing, getting published and books.
Carol Ann Duffy was named Poet Laureate of Britain today, according to the New York Times. She's the first female Poet Laureate to be named to this esteemed U.K. position held for centuries by men. The Independent reports Duffy was considered 10 years ago but passed over for concern that "Middle England" may not be … Continue reading A first: Britain’s new female Laureate
You may be feeling the imminent arrival of R. L. Stine. He's coming to Columbus for the 3rd annual Ohioana Book Festival on May 9. R. L. Stine is the famed Ohio author of the Fear Street and Goosebumps book series for kids. He's also authored many other scary books, including the Rotten School series. R. L. Stine's website claims The … Continue reading Got goosebumps?
NPR's All Things Considering offered a list of novels that won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and likely would provoke a perplexed "huh? who?" Here's that list. It includes three Ohio authors: Louis Bromfield, Josephine Johnson and Conrad Richter. Johnson's novel Now in November is not forgotten by me -- it's one I've given as a gift, … Continue reading Forgotten Pulitzer-winning novels
Michael Dirda reviews Jayne Anne Phillips Lark and Termite in the current New York Review of Books (April 30, 2009). His exceptional analysis of this dreamy, multi-narrated novel unravels the complexity that IMO makes the story less accessible to all readers. Anyone who's already read the novel or who plans to read it will find … Continue reading A super son nevertheless: Michael Dirda
Paul Lawrence Dunbar come to mind? Not as well known yet writing during the same time period, Elliott Blaine Henderson hit my radar when a book dealer handed me one of his collections, Humble Folks, published in 1909. I had no idea who Henderson was but fell in love with his photo in the book and also in … Continue reading Breathing the most fascinating and admirable characteristics of race