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  • Miwa Messer 11:00 am on 2018/04/04 Permalink
    Tags: behind a mask, christine mangan, , discover great new writers, helen oeyemi, joan lindsay, , my cousin rachel, , , tangerine, the icarus girl, the little stranger   

    Tangerine Author Christine Mangan Shares 5 Gothic Novels to Read Now 

    With nods to The Talented Mr. Ripley and the gothic novels of Daphne Du Maurier, Christine Mangan’s Tangerine sent shivers down our spines. Tangier, 1956, a city on the verge of revolution—isolated and overwhelmed, trapped in a loveless marriage, this is not what Alice expected for her post-collegiate life. But when a lost friend returns…

    Tangerine had the booksellers who read for our Discover Great New Writers program on the edge of their seats—and craving more gothic stories, so we asked Christine what we should read next.

    Haunted mansions, wind-swept moors, supernatural occurrences. I have always loved Gothic tales and the tropes that define them—so much so, that I spent four years researching and writing about eighteenth-century Gothic literature for my postgraduate degree. And while I’ll always be a fan of Ann Radcliffe, Eliza Parsons and other contemporary authors of that time, my absolute favorite Gothic stories pick up a bit later, beginning in the nineteenth century with the Bronte sisters. Below is a list of Gothic tales that, while less well-known than Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, are still just as delightfully Gothic.

    Behind a Mask, by Louisa May Alcott
    Most people don’t tend to associate Alcott with the Gothic, but her work prior to Little Women revels in the type of gothic tales that Jo March is known for. This novella is the story of the ultimate femme fatale, Jean Muir, who disguises herself as a young, innocent governess in order to ingratiate herself into the Coventry family home—and later, as the owner of the Coventry estate.

    My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne du Maurier
    A particular favorite of mine, this novel contains all the very best Gothic tropes: wild landscapes, a mysterious death, and an unforgettable femme fatale. The novel begins as the narrator, Philip, learns that his recently married Uncle Ambrose has died while traveling abroad in Italy. A good portion of the novel is then spent with Philip preparing to meet his Uncle’s new wife, though Rachel herself doesn’t make an appearance until halfway through. Despite his best intentions to hate her, Philip finds himself becoming more and more enthralled with his Uncle’s widow—there’s just the pesky little question of whether or not she had something to do with Ambrose’s death.

    Picnic at Hanging Rock, by Joan Lindsay
    Set in the early 1900s, this Australian Gothic tale begins with a picnic taken by an All Girls’ Boarding School at Hanging Rock, in celebration of Valentine’s Day. What is meant to be an innocent outing quickly turns tragic as three girls and a teacher go missing, without any clues as to what has happened to them. Empathizing the Gothic wilds of the Australian landscape, the novel details the far-reaching effects that the missing girls have on the lives of those involved. Tip: In order to avoid spoilers, don’t read the forward (or any other information) until after you’ve finished the novel.

    The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters
    Waters’ fifth novel follows the Ayres family in the years after WWII as they struggle to retain a semblance of the life that they once led. Told from the point of view of Dr. Faraday, an outsider who has always envied the lives of those in the mansion, this gothic tale explores questions of class in a postwar England as it examines the family ensconced in their now crumbling mansion, haunted by ghosts of the past.

    The Icarus Girl, by Helen Oyeyemi
    Questions of identity abound in this Gothic tale of doubling. At the heart of the novel is Jessamy Harrison, a troubled eight-year-old girl who can’t seem to make connections with anyone around her, until a family trip to Nigeria where she meets TillyTilly. Ecstatic to have finally found a friend, things take a sinister turn as Jess begins to question her new friend’s intentions—and whether or not she is, in fact, real.

    Tangerine is on B&N bookshelves now.

    The post <i>Tangerine</i> Author Christine Mangan Shares 5 Gothic Novels to Read Now appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Miwa Messer 2:45 pm on 2018/03/27 Permalink
    Tags: , discover great new writers   

    Announcing the Discover Great New Writers Summer 2018 Selections 

    The booksellers who sit on the selection committee for our Discover Great New Writers program really knocked it out of the park with our Summer 2018 list. Here are fifteen novels and seven standout works of nonfiction that wowed us and broke our hearts (sometimes in the same sentence); twenty-two books publishing between April and August that we can’t stop thinking about, because the writing is just that sharp and snappy and good and the narrative voice just that unforgettable.

    (And this is the same team of booksellers who tapped Spring ’18 picks The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin; The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn; Heart Berries, by Teresa Mailhot; and Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover, so…)

    If you love stories about family and identity, start with Fatima Farheen Mizra’s stunning debut, A Place for Us, a beautiful story of love, identity, and belonging. In July, road trip with unexpected—and delightful—company in America for Beginners, by Leah Franqui. Lucy Tan’s What We Were Promised is a luminous debut novel that asks: What happens after the American Dream fails and the prodigal son returns home, family in tow? Set against a backdrop of unspeakable violence in 1990s Colombia, and told from the perspectives of two young girls, Fruit of the Drunken Tree is inspired by the author’s own life. Tommy Orange’s There, There is fierce and wild and wonderful, digging deep into a world few have encountered, that of Native Americans on urban soil.

    Journalist Alex Wagner’s family history is complicated, but her memoir Futureface is smart, sharp, and wonderfully wry. Tessa Fontaine’s worst nightmare is coming true: her mother is dying, but what Tessa does in response is an incredible call to face your fears in The Electric Woman. Darnell L. Moore’s beautiful and deeply honest memoir about his own coming of age and coming out, No Ashes in the Fire, had us in tears more than once. Like Paul Kalanthi’s When Breath Becomes Air, The Inward Empire is an incredible, and elegantly written, story of life and death and fatherhood. New York of the 1970s and ’80s looms large in fiction and in movies, but for Amanda Stern, her panic disorder loomed even larger; Little Panic is a memoir of mental illness written with a gentle hand and terrific sense of humor.

    What if your friends (and frenemies) are your family? There is, as one of our bookseller reviewers said, “WOW on every page” in The Ensemble, the story of four friends bound by their art and their ambition in this striking debut. Do you miss Friday Night Lights? Stephen Markley’s debut novel, Ohio, plunged us into small-town America, in a story of four classmates returning to their Rust Belt hometown in the wake of the Great Recession that shocked and amazed us. Social Creature is Gossip Girl meets The Talented Mr. Ripley, a Tangerine (Discover Spring ’18) for the digital age, but it’s not the only thriller we’re featuring for Summer 2018. Bearskin, by James A. McLaughlin, is a classic slow-burn story of man vs. nature and a perfect blend of gorgeous prose and narrative tension. Sex Money Murder is a heart-stopping true story of gangs and drugs and justice that reads like a crime novel by Richard Price.

    We love the impossible and the improbable, magical and haunting stories like The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry; The Book of Speculation, by Erika Swyler; and The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden. In What Should be Wild, by Julia Fine, Maisie is a girl born with an extraordinary power, and when her father disappears, she sets off into the wild woods to find him. The Poppy War is a cinematic story that reads like a fantastic mashup of Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy and the best Shaolin action film and features a smart, sharp heroine. If you only had 100 words a day, what would you do to be heard? Mark your calendars now for August 21st and Christina Dalcher’s Vox.

    In the midst of a terrible drought, the bees are dying, and a woman opens her failing farm to outsiders in hopes of saving it. But like The Lightkeepers, by Abby Geni; Euphoria, by Lily King; and State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett, nothing is quite what is seems in The Honey Farm. If you loved A Man Called Ove, don’t miss the wildly imaginative and darkly comic novel Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, which features matter-of-fact Maud Drennan and her elderly charge, Mr. Flood. Dear Mrs. Bird is straight-up comedy, a coming of age with heart, in which a young woman becomes a secret advice columnist in WWII-era London.

    And, there’s this, the memoir that made us want to pull up stakes and move to France: Killing It: An Education, by Camas Davis. It is, as one Discover reader said, “Eat, Pray, Love with pigs.”

    We hope you love the Summer 2018 Discover picks as much as we do.

    The post Announcing the Discover Great New Writers Summer 2018 Selections appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Miwa Messer 4:15 pm on 2018/02/22 Permalink
    Tags: , discover great new writers, , , tara westover   

    Educated: A Memoir Author Tara Westover Shares The Books That Taught Her the Most About Writing 

    It’s no exaggeration to say that Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club set the world on fire when it was first published in 1995; a national bestseller for over a year, the darkly comic story of Mary’s East Texas childhood made memoir as we know it today, well, a thing. Then came Jeanette Walls with The Glass Castle in 2005, a powerful account of the author’s unconventional, impoverished childhood that went on to spend a total of 261 weeks atop the New York Times bestseller list. Joining those books in 2012 was Cheryl Strayed’s massive, massive hit, Wild, winner of our Discover Award.

    To this trio of indelible voices add Tara Westover and her profound, deeply inspirational debut, Educated: A Memoir, a Spring 2018 Discover Great New Writers selection. This is storytelling at its finest: emotionally honest and frank, beautifully written, driven by a narrative velocity that had the Discover selection committee readers holding their breath. Tara is unsparing—of herself, her family, and her community—as she recounts her extraordinary journey from an Idaho junkyard to a master’s program at England’s Cambridge University and doctoral program at Harvard. Tara might still be living and working with her family on an Idaho mountain had things continued as her parents—and she herself—once imagined; she only began to think of leaving after her older brother turned violent. This shockingly original story is not only a testament to the power reading has to change a person’s trajectory, but also an intensely honest and often heartbreaking story of one young woman’s decision to save her own life.

    We can’t wait for readers everywhere to meet Westover. Here, she shares her own picks for the life-changing books that taught her about writing.

    So here’s the thing: some people grow up reading all kinds of literature, so by the time they think about writing a book, they have, it seems, read a whole library. I was not one of those people. I grew up in a family where reading was very much encouraged; however, the texts to hand were most often scriptures or sermons (those weren’t the only books in the house, but they made up the bulk of what I read). After that, I read academic papers and textbooks until I was twenty-eight, which is the age when I decided to write my own book and realized that, sadly, I really hadn’t read enough of them.

    Luckily, there isn’t any magic combination of books that a person needs to read to learn how to write. There is no definitive list. Writing is like painting: every book you read gives your prose a different hue, a new color with which you can paint your words. These are the books I found most helpful in painting mine.

    Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
    Austen’s writing is elegant—every sentence seems designed with the care of an architect—but what I found most instructive about it was the pace of it, and the careful construction of the plot. All the characters are just where they need to be, doing just what they need to do, for the story to unfold. Jane must become ill so Lizzy can visit her, so she can become trapped at Netherfield long enough for Mr. Darcy to fall in love with her. Mr. Collins must visit, and during that visit he must be utterly ridiculous, augmenting the ridiculousness of Mrs. Bennet, so Mr. Darcy can display his outrageous pride and insult Lizzy when he proposes. And ultimately, Mr. Wickham must run away with Lydia so Mr. Darcy has the opportunity to put away his pride and do the thing which is most distasteful to him, in order to help Lizzie, in order to prove himself to the reader. There is a rhythm to the unfolding of these events that is so perfect as to be reminiscent of the ball at Netherfield.

    The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    From Toni Morrison, I first began to comprehend point of view and the importance of finding the right narrator for a story. The Bluest Eye is about a young girl, Pecola, who is used sexually by her father and becomes pregnant, but while much of the novel is told in the first person, the first person is not Pecola but another girl her age, named Claudia. This allows the reader to see Pecola as peripheral, to see her brushed aside by other characters with swifter bodies and louder voices. Since that brushing aside is part of the tragedy of Pecola and what happened to her, this point of view is powerful, more powerful than if the story were told by Pecola. We get a sense of sadness, even of regret, from the narrator of Claudia, who is telling this story as an adult, that the child Claudia does not seem to feel. To her child self Pecola is a nuisance; to her adult self, Pecola is a regret. This layering of perspectives creates tension and adds a richness to the atmosphere of the story. 

    Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, by David Sedaris
    I read “Loggerheads” when I was first trying to wrap my head around the concept of the “short story,” and what I took from it was the classic principle that sometimes the best narratives are not about what they seem to be about; they are about something else. “Loggerheads” seems to be the story of some baby turtles the author and his friend Shaun found on a beach, then slowly starved to death. In the story’s structure, the turtles are in the foreground. They set the pace of the story. But the emotional punch comes not with the death of the turtles, and not with the death of Shaun’s father, but with the revelation, some eighteen years later, that Shaun’s father had drunk himself to death, and Shaun had never told the author. You could read these parallel stories any number of ways: you could make the turtles into metaphors, or take them more literally as straightforward evidence of the boys’ cruelty. However you choose to conceptualize it, the story of Shaun and the author is enhanced by situating the two together. For me, the two narratives come together powerfully on the final page, when the author goes to a library to research turtles and discovers the following: “A female might reach four hundred pounds, and, of all the eggs she lays in a lifetime, only one in a thousand will make it to adulthood. Pretty slim odds when, by ‘making it,’ you mean simply surviving.”

    The White Album, by Joan Didion
    Joan Didion taught me that I cannot write like Joan Didion. The first time I read “On Self-Respect,” Didion’s voice seemed so strong it was overpowering—it echoed in my head as if God were speaking the words. I tried for a time to write like Didion, but the results were dreadful. It wasn’t that the mimicry was wrong, although it certainly was. Actually, some of the worst sentences I wrote were those that, on a technical or grammatical level, were closest to hers. But they sounded false, like the words themselves were in disguise, somehow impersonating other words. In time I accepted the reality that, although I admired her writing very much, so much it thrilled me to read it, hers was not a voice I could imitate in my search for my own. I was looking for something else. Funnily enough, once I’d found it, I realized that more and more of Didion began creeping into my writing in ways I loved.

    The post Educated: A Memoir Author Tara Westover Shares The Books That Taught Her the Most About Writing appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Miwa Messer 3:30 pm on 2018/02/09 Permalink
    Tags: discover great new writers, , , , , the stories behind the stories   

    Burns on the Page: Jamie Quatro and Lily King in Conversation 

    But this story begins where others end: a boy and a girl in love, a wedding, a happily-ever-after.

    Jamie Quatro’s debut novel, Fire Sermon, is a magnetic—and provocative—story of love and obsession, and the complexities of marriage; a map of one woman’s emotional, psychological and spiritual desires, and the decisions those desires inform. The booksellers who handpick titles for our Discover Great New Writers program fell immediately in love with Fire Sermon, thrilled to have found a novel that so perfectly captures imperfect—messy, even—interior lives from so many different angles.

    Not unlike Lily King’s dazzling fourth novel, Euphoria, a feverish, brooding tale that threatened to stop our hearts—while keeping us reading late into the night. (A little over a decade ago, we lingered over the pages of The Pleasing Hour, Lily’s extraordinary debut—a coming of age story so assured in character and voice that we gave it our 1999 Discover Award.)

    So here are Jamie and Lily on finding the balance between the said and the unsaid, the art and craft of writing, and marriage—including what happens when the two people in a marriage are not, in fact, experiencing the same marriage… 

    LK: Fire Sermon truly burns on the page. I tore through those pages—enthralled, shocked (and it takes a lot to shock me), mesmerized. I’d love to know what it felt like to write it.

    JQ: Ha, I love that I shocked you! And funny you should ask what writing it felt like. It felt like cheating—because it was cheating. Instead of working on the novel I was “supposed” to be writing, I was sneaking off to write these urgent prose poems and letters and prayers. When I had 100 pages of material I sent them to my agent. She read the pages and told me to keep up the affair.

    LK: That’s so funny. Once it was official did the passion cool a bit? Or did you just write the whole thing in a state of white heat?

    JQ: The fire-in-my-belly was still intense, but for a different reason: I wanted to make my deadline. I worked at my kitchen table all day every day while the kids were in school. It was exhausting and when I took breaks I felt completely disconnected from reality. It was like being slightly drunk. I’d leave to pick up my son from school and think, I shouldn’t be driving in this state. Unfortunately I seem to work best in these pressure-cooker conditions. What about you? Do you tend to write in giant intense bursts? Or are you one of those disciplined writers I envy, the thousand-words-a-day-no-matter-what type? (And I’m also curious what parts of the novel shocked you?)

    LK: That’s amazing. I’m intrigued by the short-term pressure cooker situation. I have read that Ishiguro piece in the Guardian many times, about how he wrote the first draft of Remains of the Day in four weeks. He called it the Crash, and he shut himself up in a Harry Potter-esque cupboard all day and night and never answered the phone or looked at the mail. His fictional world became the true reality, as it sounds like it did for you. I’ve only done that for a few days at a time, and I need to leave the house and stay somewhere else to do it, but I fantasize about doing a Crash a lot. I have only written a few stories under that kind of deadline pressure, never a novel. I find my creative bursts to be unpredictable, and most of the time I’m just showing up to the job every day and trying to push it a little further along. I used to say I couldn’t fix a word count because I needed to pick up my kids at school no matter what, but now one’s in college and the other drives herself so I have no excuses. But I still write slowly.

    I think what shocked me in Fire Sermon most was the husband and their relationship. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say that it hurt to read those scenes, physically hurt. Did it hurt to write it? I suppose the biggest question it raises for me is, “Is any religion that requires adherence to its rules in that situation humane or loving or just?” Help me into the complexity of that, because I see it as a GET OUT OF THERE situation.

    JQ: The Crash! Yes, that’s a bit how it was, though it would have been more charming in a Cupboard-Beneath-the-Stairs, with letters delivered by owls and magical visits from a big-eared house elf.

    And right, those scenes that shocked you are intense. Drafting them actually felt highly technical. How do I say just enough to communicate what’s happening, but no more? Too much detail will drive readers away; not enough will make them scratch their heads. This is always my struggle writing about physical intimacy. You can’t use the vocabulary, and the sex has to be about something other than the sex. You have to say it without saying it, you know?

    Do you find writing sex scenes—whether the sex is good or meh or ugly—technically challenging? Have some been more difficult for you than others? Do you have any tips or suggestions—things you’ve learned along the way?

    LK: You achieved the perfect balance between the said and the unsaid in those scenes.

    I find writing sex scenes in which both people are actually enjoying themselves much more difficult than writing bad sex. Bad sex has humor or menace to it, and you can use the vocabulary in ways that only make it more awful, and it’s fun. But the writing of good sex? Blech. I get out of those situations very quickly. It’s a death trap. Good sex is all about the tension beforehand anyway, as you capture so well in this novel.

    Before Fire Sermon you published a highly acclaimed collection of stories (I Want to Show You More). Did you find that your process changed from short to long? Did old habits have to die?

    JQ: I agree with you about writing good sex. Get out of there fast. Though I think of James Salter’s sex scenes in Light Years and A Sport and a Pastime… how does he do it? The perfect lines of dialogue, maybe? The small brushstrokes of physical detail?

    As for novels versus stories: in the initial drafting phase, working on the novel felt much the same. One sentence leading to the next. I began to notice the difference as the word count grew. I started having to do things I’d never done with stories. I made a timeline and charted my characters’ ages and physical locations year by year. The revision stage was also challenging. I realized that if I changed something on page 125, it would require adjustments back on pages 7, 23, and 64. And the change on 64 would mean I had to cut pages 82-85. And so forth.

    I know some writers have a form they feel is most “native” to their abilities, and I do think mine is the story form. Did you start out as a novelist? Do you have a form—story, poetry, essay—you like best?

    LK: Like so many of us, I started out with stories. In high school I took creative writing for two semesters and we had to have a three-and-half-page short story on the teacher’s desk every Monday morning. I kept writing stories in college, after college, in grad school. But the moment grad school was over I got an idea for something that couldn’t fit in a story, and I figured I had to try to write a novel. I always have a few short stories going, and I very much want to finish a collection after this novel I’m working on, but I’ve put most of my writing energy into novels since my early thirties. I can’t say it’s a natural fit—they can often feel like a forced march at certain points—but I do like the great puzzle of it, and the slow process of solving it.

    Speaking of puzzles, I loved how you described Fire Sermon in a recent interview. You said it was about “Illicit sex, marital fidelity, loss of virginity, childbirth, parenting, sex toys, marital rape, poetry, 9/11, digital eroticism, dogs and cats, Harry Potter as therapy, the intersection of Buddhism and Christianity, the sexually ecstatic as a pathway to God.” Who doesn’t want to read that book?

    One of the biggest tensions in the novel is marriage. Maggie and Thomas are married but they are not in the same marriage. They are not playing by the same rules. She is in a position not unlike a heroine of a different time, Dorothea Brooke or Anna Karenina, though the constraints are different, seemingly more internal. She has autonomy, but she is still stuck. Why did you choose to wrestle with this beast of a topic now?

    JQ: While I was drafting the book, I didn’t know why I was writing about the things I did. I only felt a sense of urgency. I couldn’t not write it. Now that it’s come into the world at this particular cultural moment, I hope Fire Sermon might become part of the ongoing dialogue related to the sexual empowerment of women. We’re all talking about male gatekeepers and the abuses of power in the workplace. Women are stepping forward with grace and courage to speak out against harassment by men in positions of power. But what about sexual coercion and abuse within marriage? It happens. Are we talking about it? And what about religious married women, in which traditional gender roles and prohibitions related to extramarital sex might inhibit their courage to speak up?

    I believe it’s a crucial time for women to be writing frankly and openly about female sexual longing and transgression in general. The assumption that male artists can write about sex and infidelity but female artists should be more demure is passé, even dangerous. If we’re going to continue the path toward re-claiming and restoring gender equality, we must be allowed the same imaginative expression, on the page, as our male counterparts.

    LK: It really is a novel that opens up a lot of doors for discussion and debate. And I love how while you provoke the reader intellectually, the book is working on a visceral, physical level, too. Often you get one or the other in a novel.

    Tell me when you started writing and why.

    JQ: I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t writing! I began writing and illustrating short stories in second grade (I know this because my mom saved them all) and in sixth grade I won the state Young Authors’ Festival for a sci-fi piece called “In Pac-Man” about a boy who gets sucked into Pac Man and becomes one of the ghosts in the maze. The teacher published the story for the class and had everyone read and discuss it. I will never forget the visceral high: I had a readership! To quote James in Fire Sermon (who is alluding to Denis Johnson’s “Car Crash While Hitchhiking”): I’ve gone looking for that feeling ever since.

    I took the English track in college and grad school, but eventually found my way into the MFA program at Bennington. Having other people—professionals—take me seriously as a writer was crucial. It’s one of the biggest reasons I think MFA programs can be beneficial. Do you have an MFA? What do you think about MFA programs in general? Do you recommend them to your students?

    LK: I do have one. I didn’t even know about them when I graduated from college, which was probably good because it gave me most of my twenties to work a ton of different jobs and recognize that this writing thing was not going away. Somehow I got wind of these programs and their scholarships and stipends and I sent off a bunch of applications. I went to Syracuse and I have never regretted it. The feedback, the writing friendships, the academic environment—it’s all been invaluable to me. I met one of my very dearest friends there, Laura McNeal, and she influenced me to the core in terms of style, subject, language, and writing practice—the seriousness with which you have to approach it. What I learned through reading her work and watching her level of commitment changed me permanently as a writer. What is most valuable about the MFA is often the community of nascent writers you build which can sustain you for decades afterward, so I do often recommend the experience to students.

    Has there been a person who has influenced you like that? And where do you go for inspiration? There can come a moment when I am at my desk and realize that I need step away, sometimes for a day, sometimes longer, to replenish, to remember the basics—why I like to write, why I chose to write this particular book. Do you have moments like that and if so, what do you do and where do you turn to get reignited?

    JQ: David Gates was my first workshop teacher at Bennington, and I’ve never worked with a better line editor. His eye is spot-on. I learned everything about self-editing from him. He was able to show me how much superfluous language I was using, how many stupid ticks and clichés (I will never write “blinked his eyes” or “shrugged her shoulders” again!) He is also one of those generous writers who help other aspiring writers. To this day I know he’ll read a draft if I ask him too—and he’ll give it a ferocious edit. The British novelist Samantha Harvey has also had a big influence on me. We met at the MacDowell Colony in 2009 and have been close friends ever since. Her reading tastes, her writing habits—the seriousness of approach you say you learned from Laura McNeal—Sam is brilliant. I’m enormously lucky to have her example and presence in my life.

    And for inspiration I almost always turn to poetry. Jack Gilbert is my go-to, along with Sharon Olds and Marie Howe. I studied poetry at Princeton—if I’d finished, my PhD would have been in the British Romantic movement—and I often find myself returning to Wordsworth and Keats and Shelley. I re-read Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” while I was drafting Fire Sermon. The wedding of opposites leading to a kind of divine awakening…that probably explains something, though I’m not sure what.

    LK: Are there other things you turn to apart from books to clear your head?

    JQ: Spending time with Scott and my kids, going to a film, hanging out with friends. Running and yoga both clear my head, though in different ways. In yoga I don’t have space for thought, I’m so focused on my breathing and the flow of postures, whereas when I’m running my body is on auto-pilot, so my thoughts roam. I often solve story problems during long runs.

    Lately my favorite head-clearing activity is taking my golden retriever puppy, Luna, to the new dog park/beer garden downtown. It’s called Play-Wash-Pint. We sit in lawn chairs or play corn hole or ladder ball while our dogs run around like mad. There’s a real sense of community among the dog owners, and of course it’s a joy to watch the dogs interact. Luna has bonded with a French bulldog named LeRoy. The two of them are inseparable. The dog park experience is therapy, really.

    The post Burns on the Page: Jamie Quatro and Lily King in Conversation appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Miwa Messer 2:00 pm on 2018/02/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , discover great new writers, , , , , , , , , ,   

    The Immortalists Author Chloe Benjamin Shares 5 Slightly Cracked Love Stories 

    If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life? Chloe Benjamin’s dazzling novel, The Immortalists, asks big questions about life and death and love and family. If you loved Erika Swyler’s fantastic novel The Book of Speculation as much as we did, you’ll love this incredible story of destiny vs. choice as much as the booksellers who handpick books for our Discover Great New Writers program do.

    And because we love the way Chloe—and her characters—see the world we asked her to riff on the flip-side of Valentine’s Day. So here are her recommendations for ever-so-slightly-cracked-love-stories:

    I’m always game for a good love story—even better if it’s slightly cracked. After all, love stories don’t feel entirely human if they don’t have a sliver of something else: pain, awkwardness, humor, surprise. These reads are proof that forging a bond with another person isn’t for the faint of heart.

    The Book of Strange New Things, by Michel Faber
    When Faber’s novel opens, pastor Peter Leigh is about to leave his wife, Bea, for the mission of a lifetime: he has been chosen to minister to an alien population on a planet called Oasis, which has been newly colonized by humans via a mysterious company called USIC. What follows is a deliciously imaginative and ultimately heartbreaking exploration of morality and faith—as well as the story of the longest long-distance relationship in human history. The Book of Strange New Things has everything I love in a novel: an epic sweep; an atmospheric setting; creative, clever worldbuilding; and characters you remember long after you turn the last page.

    Fire Sermon, by Jamie Quatro
    Quatro’s second book and first novel burns as brightly as its title promises. The story of an affair that begins in the mind and ends in the body, Fire Sermon is an exquisite, raw and often shocking exploration of female desire and embodiment. Quatro fearlessly explores the dynamics that lead Maggie, a Christian and academic, out of her marriage. Fire Sermon is committed to rigorous inquiry: of God, of our partners, but especially of ourselves.

    Euphoria, by Lily King
    Inspired by the extraordinary life and contributions of Margaret Mead, Euphoria follows a trio of anthropologists in 1930s New Guinea. Don’t be fooled: this somewhat academic premise, which becomes gripping in its own right, belies the novel’s steam and electricity. Soon, a love triangle develops between American Nell; her charismatic but combustible husband, Fen; and successful, fragile Andrew Bankson, who comes unexpectedly into their orbit. King brilliantly illuminates the ethical questions that intensify as the trio becomes embedded with the Tam, a fictitious local tribe—and with each other.

    A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro
    The rise of Galentine’s Day has shown us that romantic relationships aren’t the only ones that deserve celebrating this month. A Study in Charlotte, the first novel in Brittany Cavallaro’s Charlotte Holmes series, charts the complicated friendship between the great-great-great-granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes and the great-great-great-grandson of John Watson as they solve crimes at boarding school. It’s delicious crossover YA, perfect for teenage girls who are sick of reading about boy geniuses—as well as those navigating the kind of friendships that challenge our definition of the term.

    A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
    You might have read this one, as it was one of the breakout books of 2015—but if you haven’t, consider it bookmarked. A Little Life might not seem like the kind of book you read in honor of Valentine’s Day; it is, in part, a brutal and horrific look at the legacy of abuse. But it is also an emphatic celebration of the love that sustains Yanagihara’s four central male characters. InA Little Life, friendship is profound and sustaining, sometimes equal to—but ultimately deeper than—any romantic attachment.

    The post The Immortalists Author Chloe Benjamin Shares 5 Slightly Cracked Love Stories appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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