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  • Tara Sonin 4:00 pm on 2018/04/13 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , anne tyler, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , the madness of love, the marlowe papers, , , , , , , ,   

    25 Romances for Shakespeare Fans 

    Between fairytales, Jane Austen, and revivals of favorite TV shows from yesteryear, retellings of classic stories for today’s readers are all the rage. Shakespeare is no exception! Here are twenty-five books you’ll love if you’re a fan of the Bard.

    Miranda and Caliban, by Jacqueline Carey
    Jacqueline Carey has the unique ability to blend beautiful prose, lush world building, and lots of fascinating character development. This retelling of The Tempest stars Miranda and Caliban: the daughter of the play’s main character Prospero, who has taken them to an island for mysterious reasons…and the slave described as a monster by his master. Carey reimagines them as star-crossed lovers caught in a web of powerful people they can’t escape.

    As I Descended, by Robin Talley
    A gender-flipped, YA version of Macbeth? Sign me up! Meet Maria and Lily; inseparable, in love, and desperate to carve out a future for themselves when they feel it is in jeopardy. Maria wants to win the Cawdor Kingsley prize, but to do so, they have to get Delilah, the star student, out of the way. When Lily comes up with a plan to do so, things get bloody.

    I, Iago, by Nicole Galland
    Why did Iago insert himself into Othello’s life, causing devastation to everyone he loved? To learn the truth, you have to go back. In this clever retelling, Iago’s past is explored—as is his role in the society he exists within, as a co-conspirator in the act of convincing a man to murder the woman he loves.

    A Thousand Acres, by Jane Smiley
    Larry Cook is retiring, and his land should go to his daughters—but his youngest, Caroline, refuses to accept his offer. King Lear is a story about pride, family, and revenge, and this retelling brings that to life. Buried family secrets are brought to the surface, and in the end, none of its members will be the same.

    The Third Witch, by Rebecca Reisert
    Macbeth begins with three witches, and this novel delves into the story of one of them. Gilly decides to do whatever necessary to ruin Macbeth’s life, including dressing like a boy, sneaking into the castle, and inserting herself into his business. But by putting Macbeth and his wife in her sights, has she unwittingly risked herself?

    Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler
    A comedy, for a change of pace! The Taming of The Shrew gets the contemporary treatment when Kate, generally dissatisfied with her life, gets thrown another curveball: her father wants her to marry his assistant, Pytor, without whom his scientific research would be lost, to keep him from being deported. Hilarity ensues.

    Hag-Seed, by Margaret Atwood
    We return to The Tempest with a retelling from the author of The Handmaid’s Tale. A meta-twist on the retelling stars an artistic director of a theater putting on a production of the namesake Shakespeare play itself…but when he is betrayed, Felix winds up alone, missing his lost daughter, wishing for the day vengeance can be his. When an opportunity to teach a theater course in a prison arises, Felix sees his chance to put on his play, and put out the people whom he thought he could trust.

    If We Were Villains, by M.L. Rio
    Sometimes we forget, but Shakespeare’s plays were put on by actors…and this interesting novel combines a narrative fit for the Bard himself with the theatrical backdrop. Oliver Marks has been in jail, but no one knows the real truth of why. He was once an actor surrounded by other talented performers, but something took a turn for the dangerous in their final year at the conservatory. What is the truth? Who is the villain? Only Oliver knows, and you must decide if you believe him.

    Fool, by Christopher Moore
    The court jester always stands on the sidelines, seeing all. In this novel, Lear’s jester is named Pocket, and the story unfolds from his point of view. While their family falls apart, the fool finds a way to make you laugh despite the tragedy that inevitably approaches.

    A Wounded Name, by Dot Hutchinson
    Hamlet is about the titular character, but in this retelling, Ophelia gets the star treatment. At Elsinore Academy, Ophelia sees ghosts that even medicine cannot banish. She finds comfort in the late headmaster’s son, Dane, but together, their connection proves tragic.

    The Queens of Innis Lear, by Tessa Gratton
    This book isn’t even out yet, but I’m so excited about it I had to include it! A magical fantasy inspired by King Lear? Yes, please! Three queens battle for the rights to the throne: one, who sees revenge for her mother’s death, another determined to get an heir to secure her position, and a third who sides with her father, determined to protect him from their war.

    The Princes in the Tower, by Alison Weir
    If you’re a fan of Shakespeare’s Richard III, you will love this historical fiction novel that envisions what occurred when Richard infamously made two young princes disappear since they were a threat to his crown.

    The Marlowe Papers, by Ros Barber
    If you love Shakespeare, you should know his greatest frenemy: Christopher Marlowe. Some call him a competitor, others a collaborator…and in this novel, Marlowe reveals the truth about his death…or rather, the death he faked so he could escape being a convicted heretic. And of course, the greatest forgery of them all: that he continued to write plays in Shakespeare’s name. A rich, imaginative novel about a time mired in mystery.

    The Secret Life of William Shakespeare, by Jude Morgan
    For all of his works and his enduring legacy, William Shakespeare is still something of an enigma. This novel unravels the mystery behind his childhood, his marriage, the death of his son, and much more.

    Shylock is My Name, by Howard Jacobson
    The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare’s slightly more obscure plays (but one of my personal favorites.) About family, betrayal, faith and revenge, this story is re-interpreted for the present day where Simon Strulovitch takes the place of Shylock. His daughter Beatrice has fallen for an athlete with anti-semitic views despite the fact that she is Jewish, and eventually, Strulovich is driven to seek revenge.

    Darling Beast, by Elizabeth Hoyt
    This romance takes place in the theater, so of course Shakespeare would approve! An actress has fallen on difficult times while trying to take care of her young son. When she meets another inhabitant of the theater, a Viscount with a violent past, they both turn to one another to bring themselves out of the darkness of the wings and into the bright light of center stage.

    One Perfect Rose, by Mary Jo Putney
    Stephen has just been diagnosed with a devastating illness. Wanting to waste no time, he decides to leave the responsibilities of his life behind and travel, meeting a theater family and falling for their daughter, Rosalind. But even as they grow to love one another, Stephen knows that his curtain call is approaching…

    Exit, Pursued by a Bear, by E.K. Johnston
    This YA retelling of The Winter’s Tale involves the aftermath of one girl’s rape while at cheerleading camp. Hermione feels that she’s doomed to fulfill the legacy of every senior class in her school: a girl ends up pregnant before graduation. But instead, with her family, friends, and the community rallying around her, she defies expectations and makes the best choices for her future.

    Saving Juliet, by Suzanne Selfors
    Traveling back to Shakespeare’s time thanks to an accident of magic, Mimi and her acting partner on Broadway, Troy Summer, find themselves in the time of the Montagues and Capulets. There, she meets the real Juliet, and finds herself tempted to intervene and save the star-crossed lovers before tragedy strikes.

    New Boy, by Tracy Chevalier
    Othello takes a trip to the 1970’s in this gripping retelling. Osei is a diplomat’s son, used to traveling and never fitting in. But here, he fits with Dee, a popular girl in school…to Ian’s dismay. Many things remain the same, such as the investigation of racism, pride, and revenge. The twist? All of the characters are eleven years old, and what happens during school will change their lives forever.

    Wiliam Shakespeare’s Star Wars, by Ian Doescher
    See the story of Star Wars through a Shakespearean lens, with the Jedis, Sith Lords, and captive princesses all told through a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s play format as though it were being performed for Queen Elizabeth herself.

    Juliet Immortal, by Stacey Jay
    Here’s the truth: Juliet didn’t kill herself. Romeo murdered her to get something for himself: immortality. But in this re-imagining of the classic tragedy, Juliet may get the last word. Granted eternal life, she spends her centuries fighting back against Romeo—and that fight will become even more dangerous when she meets someone else she loves.

    Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey
    Was Richard III as evil and cunning as history remembers him? Or was he misunderstood, forced into a difficult position by the circumstances of the time? This novel stars a Scotland Yard detective determined to find out the truth behind one of history’s most enigmatic and infamous figures.

    The Madness of Love, by Katharine Davies
    Twelfth Night is part comedy, part drama, and so is this novel about a girl named Valentina who misses her twin brother after he’s abandoned her to go traveling. She decides to disguise herself as a boy and travel after him, even if it means having to help a man she may have feelings for in his plan to find happiness with the girl he’s loved since he was young. Unrequited love, mistaken identity, and more collide.

    When You Were Mine, by Rebecca Serle
    Ah! Another character gets their turn in the spotlight. Serle’s When You Were Mine is a modern take on Romeo & Juliet, but focuses on the character of Rosaline. Remember her? She’s the girl Romeo was smitten with before meeting Juliet. In Serle’s reimagining, Juliet and Rosaline (or Rose), are former BFFs, and Rob (Romeo) and Rose have finally, finally shared a kiss. But when Juliet moves back into town, she steals Rob away from Rose, who is absolutely crushed. You get to watch literature’s most famous love story through the eyes of Rosaline, the broken-hearted, jilted former flame…and then the downward spiral Juliet sets herself on.

    What are your favorite Shakespearean retellings?

    The post 25 Romances for Shakespeare Fans appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 4:00 pm on 2018/04/13 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , anne tyler, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , the madness of love, the marlowe papers, , , , , , , ,   

    25 Romances for Shakespeare Fans 

    Between fairytales, Jane Austen, and revivals of favorite TV shows from yesteryear, retellings of classic stories for today’s readers are all the rage. Shakespeare is no exception! Here are twenty-five books you’ll love if you’re a fan of the Bard.

    Miranda and Caliban, by Jacqueline Carey
    Jacqueline Carey has the unique ability to blend beautiful prose, lush world building, and lots of fascinating character development. This retelling of The Tempest stars Miranda and Caliban: the daughter of the play’s main character Prospero, who has taken them to an island for mysterious reasons…and the slave described as a monster by his master. Carey reimagines them as star-crossed lovers caught in a web of powerful people they can’t escape.

    As I Descended, by Robin Talley
    A gender-flipped, YA version of Macbeth? Sign me up! Meet Maria and Lily; inseparable, in love, and desperate to carve out a future for themselves when they feel it is in jeopardy. Maria wants to win the Cawdor Kingsley prize, but to do so, they have to get Delilah, the star student, out of the way. When Lily comes up with a plan to do so, things get bloody.

    I, Iago, by Nicole Galland
    Why did Iago insert himself into Othello’s life, causing devastation to everyone he loved? To learn the truth, you have to go back. In this clever retelling, Iago’s past is explored—as is his role in the society he exists within, as a co-conspirator in the act of convincing a man to murder the woman he loves.

    A Thousand Acres, by Jane Smiley
    Larry Cook is retiring, and his land should go to his daughters—but his youngest, Caroline, refuses to accept his offer. King Lear is a story about pride, family, and revenge, and this retelling brings that to life. Buried family secrets are brought to the surface, and in the end, none of its members will be the same.

    The Third Witch, by Rebecca Reisert
    Macbeth begins with three witches, and this novel delves into the story of one of them. Gilly decides to do whatever necessary to ruin Macbeth’s life, including dressing like a boy, sneaking into the castle, and inserting herself into his business. But by putting Macbeth and his wife in her sights, has she unwittingly risked herself?

    Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler
    A comedy, for a change of pace! The Taming of The Shrew gets the contemporary treatment when Kate, generally dissatisfied with her life, gets thrown another curveball: her father wants her to marry his assistant, Pytor, without whom his scientific research would be lost, to keep him from being deported. Hilarity ensues.

    Hag-Seed, by Margaret Atwood
    We return to The Tempest with a retelling from the author of The Handmaid’s Tale. A meta-twist on the retelling stars an artistic director of a theater putting on a production of the namesake Shakespeare play itself…but when he is betrayed, Felix winds up alone, missing his lost daughter, wishing for the day vengeance can be his. When an opportunity to teach a theater course in a prison arises, Felix sees his chance to put on his play, and put out the people whom he thought he could trust.

    If We Were Villains, by M.L. Rio
    Sometimes we forget, but Shakespeare’s plays were put on by actors…and this interesting novel combines a narrative fit for the Bard himself with the theatrical backdrop. Oliver Marks has been in jail, but no one knows the real truth of why. He was once an actor surrounded by other talented performers, but something took a turn for the dangerous in their final year at the conservatory. What is the truth? Who is the villain? Only Oliver knows, and you must decide if you believe him.

    Fool, by Christopher Moore
    The court jester always stands on the sidelines, seeing all. In this novel, Lear’s jester is named Pocket, and the story unfolds from his point of view. While their family falls apart, the fool finds a way to make you laugh despite the tragedy that inevitably approaches.

    A Wounded Name, by Dot Hutchinson
    Hamlet is about the titular character, but in this retelling, Ophelia gets the star treatment. At Elsinore Academy, Ophelia sees ghosts that even medicine cannot banish. She finds comfort in the late headmaster’s son, Dane, but together, their connection proves tragic.

    The Queens of Innis Lear, by Tessa Gratton
    This book isn’t even out yet, but I’m so excited about it I had to include it! A magical fantasy inspired by King Lear? Yes, please! Three queens battle for the rights to the throne: one, who sees revenge for her mother’s death, another determined to get an heir to secure her position, and a third who sides with her father, determined to protect him from their war.

    The Princes in the Tower, by Alison Weir
    If you’re a fan of Shakespeare’s Richard III, you will love this historical fiction novel that envisions what occurred when Richard infamously made two young princes disappear since they were a threat to his crown.

    The Marlowe Papers, by Ros Barber
    If you love Shakespeare, you should know his greatest frenemy: Christopher Marlowe. Some call him a competitor, others a collaborator…and in this novel, Marlowe reveals the truth about his death…or rather, the death he faked so he could escape being a convicted heretic. And of course, the greatest forgery of them all: that he continued to write plays in Shakespeare’s name. A rich, imaginative novel about a time mired in mystery.

    The Secret Life of William Shakespeare, by Jude Morgan
    For all of his works and his enduring legacy, William Shakespeare is still something of an enigma. This novel unravels the mystery behind his childhood, his marriage, the death of his son, and much more.

    Shylock is My Name, by Howard Jacobson
    The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare’s slightly more obscure plays (but one of my personal favorites.) About family, betrayal, faith and revenge, this story is re-interpreted for the present day where Simon Strulovitch takes the place of Shylock. His daughter Beatrice has fallen for an athlete with anti-semitic views despite the fact that she is Jewish, and eventually, Strulovich is driven to seek revenge.

    Darling Beast, by Elizabeth Hoyt
    This romance takes place in the theater, so of course Shakespeare would approve! An actress has fallen on difficult times while trying to take care of her young son. When she meets another inhabitant of the theater, a Viscount with a violent past, they both turn to one another to bring themselves out of the darkness of the wings and into the bright light of center stage.

    One Perfect Rose, by Mary Jo Putney
    Stephen has just been diagnosed with a devastating illness. Wanting to waste no time, he decides to leave the responsibilities of his life behind and travel, meeting a theater family and falling for their daughter, Rosalind. But even as they grow to love one another, Stephen knows that his curtain call is approaching…

    Exit, Pursued by a Bear, by E.K. Johnston
    This YA retelling of The Winter’s Tale involves the aftermath of one girl’s rape while at cheerleading camp. Hermione feels that she’s doomed to fulfill the legacy of every senior class in her school: a girl ends up pregnant before graduation. But instead, with her family, friends, and the community rallying around her, she defies expectations and makes the best choices for her future.

    Saving Juliet, by Suzanne Selfors
    Traveling back to Shakespeare’s time thanks to an accident of magic, Mimi and her acting partner on Broadway, Troy Summer, find themselves in the time of the Montagues and Capulets. There, she meets the real Juliet, and finds herself tempted to intervene and save the star-crossed lovers before tragedy strikes.

    New Boy, by Tracy Chevalier
    Othello takes a trip to the 1970’s in this gripping retelling. Osei is a diplomat’s son, used to traveling and never fitting in. But here, he fits with Dee, a popular girl in school…to Ian’s dismay. Many things remain the same, such as the investigation of racism, pride, and revenge. The twist? All of the characters are eleven years old, and what happens during school will change their lives forever.

    Wiliam Shakespeare’s Star Wars, by Ian Doescher
    See the story of Star Wars through a Shakespearean lens, with the Jedis, Sith Lords, and captive princesses all told through a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s play format as though it were being performed for Queen Elizabeth herself.

    Juliet Immortal, by Stacey Jay
    Here’s the truth: Juliet didn’t kill herself. Romeo murdered her to get something for himself: immortality. But in this re-imagining of the classic tragedy, Juliet may get the last word. Granted eternal life, she spends her centuries fighting back against Romeo—and that fight will become even more dangerous when she meets someone else she loves.

    Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey
    Was Richard III as evil and cunning as history remembers him? Or was he misunderstood, forced into a difficult position by the circumstances of the time? This novel stars a Scotland Yard detective determined to find out the truth behind one of history’s most enigmatic and infamous figures.

    The Madness of Love, by Katharine Davies
    Twelfth Night is part comedy, part drama, and so is this novel about a girl named Valentina who misses her twin brother after he’s abandoned her to go traveling. She decides to disguise herself as a boy and travel after him, even if it means having to help a man she may have feelings for in his plan to find happiness with the girl he’s loved since he was young. Unrequited love, mistaken identity, and more collide.

    When You Were Mine, by Rebecca Serle
    Ah! Another character gets their turn in the spotlight. Serle’s When You Were Mine is a modern take on Romeo & Juliet, but focuses on the character of Rosaline. Remember her? She’s the girl Romeo was smitten with before meeting Juliet. In Serle’s reimagining, Juliet and Rosaline (or Rose), are former BFFs, and Rob (Romeo) and Rose have finally, finally shared a kiss. But when Juliet moves back into town, she steals Rob away from Rose, who is absolutely crushed. You get to watch literature’s most famous love story through the eyes of Rosaline, the broken-hearted, jilted former flame…and then the downward spiral Juliet sets herself on.

    What are your favorite Shakespearean retellings?

    The post 25 Romances for Shakespeare Fans appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Monique Alice 5:35 pm on 2016/06/20 Permalink
    Tags: anne tyler, , , , , the bard revisited,   

    The Taming of the Shrew Gets a Modern Makeover in Vinegar Girl 

    Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl is the latest in Hogarth’s series of Shakespearean classics retold by contemporary authors. With Vinegar Girl, Tyler (The Amateur Marriage) gives us her take on that classic tale of dating disagreeably, The Taming of the Shrew.

    In case it has been a while since you last cracked open the 10th-grade English mainstay, here’s a quick refresher: Renaissance-era Italian noblewoman intimidates area suitors with her intelligence, attractiveness, and impressive command of sarcasm. Younger sister is also attractive but decidedly less opinionated, ergo suitors are smitten. Father decrees older sister must marry before younger sister, as anything else would be unseemly. Younger sister’s suitors put heads and coin purses together to pay off a gentleman brave enough to woo (and hopefully marry) older sister; battle-of-the-sexes-style hilarity ensues.

    From 16th-century Padua, Tyler has updated the setting for Vinegar Girl to a modern-day Baltimore suburb. Kate Battista is a 29-year-old preschool assistant who lives at home with her father, Louis, and her 15-year-old sister, Bunny. Kate is no-nonsense, quick-witted, and beautiful, with interests that include gardening and calling things as she sees them. Louis Battista is a research scientist who is brilliant in his lab but hapless in his own home, relying on Kate to take care of the cooking, finances, and anything else that doesn’t involve correlations or genetic testing. Since the girls’ mother passed away when they were young, Kate also bears most of the responsibility for parenting Bunny. At 15, Bunny is many things Kate is not: approachable, earnest, and exceedingly popular with the boys. Most of Kate’s Bunny-related duties involve chasing would-be paramours away and enforcing curfew—while Bunny would just as soon see her take a long vacation.

    Kate’s in a place in life that will be familiar to anyone who didn’t have it all figured out before age 30. She likes her job…sort of. She doesn’t dislike living at home. Yet it’s clear she hasn’t really chosen to end up where she has, it just kind of…happened. She feels unfulfilled and left behind, as though everyone but her got a memo about what they were supposed to do with their lives. Kate is stagnant, doing the same tasks and following the same routine, day after endless day. So, naturally, something (or someone) has to enter the scene and shake things up.

    That someone is Pyotr Scherbakov, a handsome, good-humored research assistant in her father’s lab. At first, Kate can’t figure out why her father is suddenly tripping all over himself to push the two together, especially since she finds Pyotr somewhat boorish and patronizing (even if he can be a little charming sometimes). Then, the update: instead of it being her sister’s scheming suitors trying to push two lovers together, it’s Kate’s own dad, who’s trying to save Pyotr from deportation. All they need is for Kate to agree to a sham marriage. The only problem? Kate’s having none of it. What follows is a story about how two people with big personalities can bring out the worst and the best in one another.

    Although Vinegar Girl keeps the spirit and tone of the bard’s classic tale, Tyler has smartly reshaped it to be more egalitarian than the original. For one, Kate (happily never referred to as a shrew) is the actual focus of the novel—everything is told from her point of view. We feel her hurt at being treated like she’s invisible simply because she has her own mind and refuses to act the way society dictates she should. Conversely, we see through Kate’s eyes the way men struggle to live up to society’s expectations of rigid masculinity, even when they’re desperate to show their true emotions. Also, the sisterly relationship between Kate and Bunny gets a good deal more attention than that of The Taming of the Shrew’s Katherina and Bianca. The result is a loosening of the stereotyping of both, as seen through their and the reader’s eyes.

    With its combination of Shakespeare’s classic plot and Tyler’s easy, fluid style, audiences are treated to a lively, fun reimagining of a timeless tale. Vinegar Girl reminds us that, while most flies might prefer honey, some can’t seem to resist a little vinegar.

     
  • Heidi Fiedler 5:00 pm on 2015/05/28 Permalink
    Tags: anne tyler, annie barrows, , , , , , , , , mary ann shaffer, , , , sun and sand, the poisonwood bible   

    The Summer Beach Read IQ Test 

    The best beach reads feel like a cross between a drowsy nap after a champagne brunch with your girlfriends, and a galloping cross-continental bullet-train ride you don’t want to get off. A compelling plot and delicious details are the perfect treat to devour during a summer weekend, whether you’re away at the beach or taking a staycation in your backyard. But how much do you remember after reading these literary popcicles? Test your beach-read basics by identifying the quotes below. (Hint: They were all written by women!) If you get more than five right, you’re a sun goddess. While away another afternoon by the waves. Fewer than five? For shame! Skinny dipping awaits! (Wait, is that a penalty?)

    1. “Listen. Slide the weight from your shoulders and move forward. You are afraid you might forget, but you never will. You will forgive and remember.”

    2. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.”

    3. “This is why you must love life: one day you’re offering up your social security number to the Russian Mafia; two weeks later you’re using the word calve as a verb.”

    4. “I’m beginning to think that maybe it’s not just how much you love someone. Maybe what matters is who you are when you’re with them.”

    5. “Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.”

    6. “I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.”

    7. “I’ve learned that some broken things stay broken, and I’ve learned that you can get through bad times and keep looking for better ones, as long as you have people who love you.”

    8. “Not everything has to have a point. Some things just are. ”

    9. “‘I can bear pain, myself,’ he said softly, ‘but I couldna bear yours. That would take more strength than I have.'”

    10. “It was good, and nothing good is truly lost. It stays part of a person, becomes part of their character. So part of you goes everywhere with me. And part of me is yours, forever.”

     

    Answers:

    1. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

    2. Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding

    3. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple

    4. The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler

    5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

    6. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt

    7. Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner

    8. Summer Sisters, by Judy Blume

    9. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

    10. The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher

    How many did you get?

     
  • Jeff Somers 5:30 pm on 2015/05/14 Permalink
    Tags: anne tyler, , , , , ,   

    Inside Baseball: Five Novels Where Making the Main Character a Writer Worked 

    If there’s great big red flag in fiction, it’s making your main character a writer. Making him not just a writer but a novelist is a flag so big and red it’s practically a hot air balloon rising off the page. Why? Because as the old adage goes, writers write what they know, and if they’re writing about being a writer, they obviously know very, very little.

    But not always. Talent, vision, and purpose can make anything work in a brilliant novel, even decisions about character and voice that would be questionable in lesser works. Here are five novels featuring a writer as the main character that cleverly avoid the usual pitfalls (chief among them, making that character a Mary Sue).

    Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon
    Grady Tripp is a wonderfully messy character, an author struggling to finish his second novel amid some incredibly (and steadily worsening) chaos in his personal life. As he frets over his novel, his wife’s departure, his mistress’s pregnancy, and the strange student who embroils him in a bizarre caper, Grady can’t seem to see just how much of the chaos he’s responsible for.

    Why It Works: Grady is a writer, yes, but the story is about not being able to finish (or even control) a writing project. His haplessness is winning.

    The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler
    It’s a wonderful conceit: Macon Leary is a travel writer who doesn’t want to go anywhere or try anything new. And the story isn’t so much about his writing, but rather about relationships. While the metaphor of Travel Writer Who Fears the Unknown Meets Eccentric Woman Who Challenges Him is a bit obvious (though used well here), this is a story that lives in the wonderful character details Tyler creates, for Macon and the free-spirited woman who entices him, as well as Macon’s odd siblings.

    Why It Works: Because the improbably named Macon barely even thinks about his profession.

    Misery & The Shining, by Stephen King
    Stephen King has a tendency to make his characters writers of one stripe or another. He tends to get away with it because he has always maintained a grasp of the non-writer’s life as well, peppering his works with well-described characters and points of view that have nothing to do with novelists. But in Misery and The Shining he manages what few can: he weaves the profession into the plot itself, making it essential that his protagonists be writers.

    Why It Works: The aforementioned essentialness, but also because he mocks the creative process: Paul Sheldon writes his best work during his ordeal with an insane superfan, and Jack Torrance’s entire output at the (possibly) haunted hotel is one infamous line, repeated endlessly.

    Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote
    People focus on the (admittedly amazing) character of Holly Golightly so much they forget she’s not the narrator: that’s actually the unnamed writer she dubs “Fred.” He narrates the novel’s events, slowly falling in love (despite being fairly obviously homosexual) with the hilarious, charming, beautiful, and tragic Holly, a girl who earns her living entertaining rich men—it’s not quite prostitution (depending on your reading), but close enough. What’s interesting is that Capote barely sketches the narrator as a writer. His profession is briefly mentioned, then forgotten.

    Why It Works: Because you can’t take your eyes off of Golightly.

    The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, by Stephen R. Donaldson
    Donaldson’s classic epic fantasy has a main character who is not only an author, but successful enough that he doesn’t need to do much more. But his profession is almost beside the point. What really defines Covenant is his leprosy (a disease pretty surprising to find in a modern book), and then, once he visits the supernatural (and possibly imaginary) Land where he is a strange messiah figure, his Wild Magic. Donaldson subtly forces you to wonder how much of Covenant’s experiences in the Land are in his mind, and whether he is in fact the Creator he meets at the story’s conclusion—the ultimate writer.

    Why It Works: Because so much incredibly wild stuff happens so quickly, it’s easy to simply forget Covenant has any sort of real-world life.

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