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Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore.  Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement.  Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events and read their books.

n dawidoff

Since we were just given the last minute opportunity to feature an exciting author, we are inserting a bonus post this month featuring Nicholas Dawidoff, author of Collision Low Crossers: A Year inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football, among other works.  (This book was extremely well reviewed by  for the New York Times last month.)  Mr. Dawidoff also writes for The New Yorker and has been a Guggenheim, Civitella Ranieri and Anschutz distinguished fellow.  He lives with his wife and son in Brooklyn.

Mr. Dawidoff will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, January 22nd to discuss Collision Low Crossers.  As part of his research, for an entire year he lived with the New York Jets, from early-morning quarterback meetings to edgy late-night conversations. He had a security code, a locker, and a desk in the scouting department.  As a special treat during his Norwich Bookstore visit, Mr. Dawidoff will be joined by Tom Powers, his friend and mentor, who will interview him on the process of investigative reporting for this book and how he was able to gain access to the Jets.

Reservations are recommended. Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to reserve your seat.

1.What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

Most of every NFL game is “played” during the week in private team facilities where coaches create and then teach the game plan to their players. These game plans are complex and remain forever secret outside the team, so the essence of the sport is inaccessible to those who watch it.  Furthermore, the game as played live is so fast that the nuances are difficult to follow.  That players wear masks is one of many more features of the sport that has created a distancing effect.  Football is now the single most popular entertainment in America, and yet those who watch it don’t really see it.  These are also among the reasons that football, in contrast to the more intimate sport of baseball, has always been a challenging subject for writers.  By all but living with an NFL team, I hoped to bring people who liked football–and people who might–closer to this big, mysterious public spectacle.

As I just wrote in the latest of the weekly New Yorker essays about football that I’ve been contributing to the magazine leading up to the Super Bowl, the most insightful books about the game are not really football books per se.

  • A football team has many familial elements (surrogate) and so Ian Frazier’s wonderful study of America through the prism of his own forebears, Family, was often on my mind as I wrote.
  • Planning a football game is an immersive, time-consuming, often-frustrating creative act, and the book that most captures the experiences of those game-planning NFL coaches I knew as they sought to build something they considered tactically beautiful was James Lord’s account of having his likeness painted by one of the world’s great artists–A Giacometti Portrait.
  • Finally, John Williams’ vivid study of buffalo hunters on the Kansas and Colorado prairies, Butcher’s Crossingis a classic American novel that captures many qualities of football from the earned intuition necessary to master an arduous and risky landscape to the book’s penetrating reflections on the nature of profound failure.
  • When I began my project, the consensus would be that the best football book ever written was George Plimpton’s Paper Lion, which came out fifty years ago.  Paper Lion remains a timeless book because it teems with portraits of interesting people who are placed in tension-filled and often very funny moments of narrative conflict.    

Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds.jpg2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

So many!  Who wouldn’t want to pun with Shakespeare (and once and for all prove that he alone did it all?!)  Who wouldn’t want to share, well, tea, with Virginia Woolf (and tell her, in the most deferential way, that all was not lost, she’d soon mean so much to many readers, perhaps especially women like my own mother.)  Coffee in a thermos aboard a river raft with Twain? (Tom Sawyer remains among my favorite books.)  Coffee (with a little snort of bourbon splashed in) with Faulkner?  How to decide? Okay! I choose Samuel Johnson in an eighteenth century London coffeehouse. Not only was he the greatest non-fiction prose writer of his time, he remains (because of Boswell’s Life of Johnson) literature’s peerless conversationalist. And there’s even slim possibility that this most humane of writers would enjoy it.  As he said, “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone.

3. What books are currently on your bedside table?

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore.  Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement.  Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events.

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Today’s post features Douglas Bauer, recipient of the Public Library Foundation of Iowa’s Outstanding Writer award, and winner of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in both fiction and creative nonfiction.  He lives in Boston and teaches literature at Bennington College.

Mr. Bauer will visit the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Friday, October 11th to read from his book — What Happens Next? Matters of Life and Death. A review by Margot Livesey, of this memoir in the form of essays, states, “Doug Bauer circles his own life, that of the farm boy who discovers cities, and those of his parents who didn’t, with piercing intelligence and lucidity.”  Please call 802-649-1114 or e-mail info@norwichbookstore.com for more information or to make a reservation to hear Mr. Bauer on October 11th.

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1.What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today,  and why?
There are of course so many more than three. So in that spirit I’ll say:
1. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. I read it in high  school.  I was in the thrall of Scout’s narrative sensibility, at once  preternaturally wise and yet as confused by life as her age would  dictate.  And she’s unwittingly so damn funny in places.
2. Beyond the Bedroom Wall, by Larry Woiwode.  This novel showed me that writing about  life in small towns on the Great Plains — in other words, my native  terrain — could be as compelling, complex and mysterious as any other landscape, urban or rural, physical or psychological.
3. Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell.  I’m sure it’s  sentimental to the point of indigestion, and I don’t know how old I was when I read it.  Nine? Ten? But I remember lying on the couch, utterly absorbed, brought to tears several times by the ill treatment of the horse, and experiencing my ten-year-old’s version of the hold that story can have on you, when the world on the page becomes the world.
2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?
That’s tricky.  In some sense it implies the  understandable wish to meet genius.  But genius is so often intimidating.  I can’t imagine enjoying a cup of coffee with, say, Shakespeare, or  Tolstoy.  I mean, what would one say after, “Would you mind passing the sugar?”.  Chekhov, on the other hand, no mean genius to be sure, seemed from all I’ve read about him, from biographers and his own letters, to be a man of such surpassing humanity and daily kindness that I could fathom teleporting myself back to an outdoor table at his villa and feeling comfortable enough to have a conversation.  I might even feel so comfortable I’d  feel emboldened to say, “Anton? Stick to the short stories”.
   
3.What books are currently on your bedside table?
Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel. I read and was pretty much astonished by her earlier Thomas Cromwell novel, Wolf Hall. So now I’m reading the second of what purports to be a trilogy.

The Wapshot Chronicle and The Wapshot Scandal, by John Cheever.  The  grace of Cheever’s prose and his relentless wit, leavening the barrenness and confusion of contemporary life as he saw and lived it, these two facets are among the many I adore in Cheever’s work.

Underworld, by Don DeLillo. The opening of this novel is a brilliant novella  devoted to the famous 1951 New York Giants/Brooklyn Dodgers playoff  game, which ended when the Giants’ Bobby Thompson hit a home run–“The shot heard round the world.” — that  barely cleared the very short Polo Grounds left field fence.  I’m just beginning a novel that has a historical baseball element in it and I wanted to see what I might steal from DeLillo’s.

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They say no man is an island but sometimes you just really want to read a book that takes place on one. All three titles below (plus a bonus review) meet that criteria. So with leaves falling all around and temperatures dropping, curl up and set sail with a good story that transports you to several very different islands in some faraway oceans, both real and some imagined. Have a nice trip, take a bookmark, and don’t forget to catch the ferry home when you’re done reading.

The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman (July 2012). As its title suggests, this story takes place far out to sea on a remote Australian island where Tom, a lighthouse keeper, and his wife Isabelle are stationed. Everything changes one day when a rowboat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying baby. Having tried for years to conceive a child, this offering from the sea seems to be the answer to Isabelle’s prayers. Despite Tom’s reservations, she convinces him they should claim the baby as their own. They name her Lucy and the drama is set in motion as the reader learns of the effect that decision will have on many families as well as on future generations.  This is a book about profound love, loss, and how choices shape our lives. Stedman’s writing is excellent, believable, and “unputdownable”. I loved the landscape of this book, from the windswept rock out in the ocean to the western coast of 1920’s Australia where there were fortunes to be made and rugged individuals carving out a country in the post WWI era. I will remember this book and its characters for a long time. Highly recommended. ~Lisa Cadow

The Vanishing Act by Mette Jacobsen (September 2012). This book, too, is set on a tiny, yet unnamed island with only a handful of quirky inhabitants – and it’s story is also shaped by a body washing up on shore. It’s been a year since Minou’s mother disappeared, walking out of the front door of their cottage in her best dress with an umbrella in hand never to be seen again. Minou doesn’t quite believe that she’s dead and spends much of her days reconstructing her memory, considering her beautifully painted murals, remembering her role in the island’s circus, and trying to solve the mystery of where her mother could be. When Minou finds the body of a boy on the beach, she and her father, a fisherman and philosopher, carry it back to their house and carefully watch over it until a boat can arrive to remove it to the mainland. In the meantime, the two tell the boy their secrets, wishes, and thoughts. A novel of love and loss, and healing, Vanishing Act reads has a timeless, dreamlike s quality to it and reads like a fable or an old-fashioned fairy tale. The writing is excellent, the concept unique, and the overall effect truly poetic. Very different. Very good. A GEM.~Lisa Cadow

 Both these books reminded us of perhaps the most famous of all stories about bodies being washed up on shore – Shakespeare’s The TempestIn this play, a storm washes the live bodies of noblemen onto an island populated by Prospero, a sorcerer and Miranda, his daughter. The tempest that brought the newcomers to this island unveils a tempest of betrayal, secrets and love. ~ Lisa Christie

 

Mama Day by Gloria Naylor (1989) – This island post seemed like the perfect time to revisit a book that I read so very long ago and loved. This gem?  Mama Day – the tale of an island off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina that is part of neither, but whose pull is powerful even on those who leave – uses plain but powerful prose to create a memorable and engrossing novel.  Woven around the stories of a young couple – George and Cocoa who meet and love in New York City and Cocoa’s great-aunt Mama Day – Mama Day explores notions of family, community, and love, with a little voodoo sprinkled in.  Over twenty years after publication the book still resonates; as the Washington Post proclaimed in their review years ago – “This is a wonderful novel, full of spirit and sass and wisdom, and completely  realized.”  ~ Lisa Christie

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Don’t worry, there still remains time to put those now waning but still (!) extra daylight hours to good use with Part Two of our Summer 2012 Picks.  As in the last Book Jam post, our criteria remain that summertime reads should optimally:

1) Not require too much work from the reader (hence our title – “Summertime and the Reading is Easy”);

2) Be placed in an “estival” – just a fancy word for having to do with summer – setting;

3) Elicit a chuckle or two.

So with these in mind, some further suggestions from us to inspire your summer reading. Have fun riding the waves, hiking those mountains, swinging in hammocks and turning those pages.

For a Summer Setting:

 The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home by George Howe Colt (2003). This is an “oldie-but- goodie” as it was published in 2003 but it’s lost none of its ability over the past decade to deliver a dose of summer nostalgia and insight into the meaning of vacation, memory, and family dynamics. The reader can practically feel the breezes from Buzzard’s Bay fluttering across the pages of this memoir of a family and it’s beloved beach house. Author Colt masterfully tells not only the story of a multi-generational experience in this eleven bedroom shingled behemoth on the shores of Wings Neck, Cape Cod but also of the history and psychology of summer pilgrimages since the time of Thoreau. Sadly, the time has come for the Colts to sell this treasure as the upkeep and maintenance has become too much of an expense and complications for the fourth generation to bear. A true classic to keep  on the bookshelf next to the bowls of sea glass and piles of shells. ~Lisa Cadow

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan (2011). You can’t get any closer to the beach than with this novel that illustrates how a summer home can fill the hearts and minds of the family that inhabits is pine walls for half a century. Sullivan does an excellent job creating three generations of female characters whose hopes, dreams, and fears collide on the coast of Maine one year in late June. Young Maggie is pregnant, Ann Marie seemingly has it all but feels lonely and aimless in her empty nest, and matriarch Alice is still haunted by a night that changed the course of her life over sixty years ago. Need I say it? Maine is a great beach read. ~Lisa Cadow

For a Chuckle:

The Pigeon Pie Mystery by Julia Stuart (04 August 2012) – As with Ms. Stuart’s previous book – The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise – quirky and oh-so British characters drive the plot of this novel. In Pigeon Pie, Princess Alexandrina is left homeless and penniless by the sudden death of her father, the Maharaja of Brindor. Luckily, there are “grace-and-favor homes” in Hampton Court Palace for downtrodden royalty and Queen Victoria offers one to the Princess. Though the Palace is rumored to be haunted, initially all is well, the princess is befriended by three eccentric widows, the dampness of the quarters can be withstood with a stiff upper lip, her favorite servant – Pooki – comes along, and, well, they have a roof overhead. However, all gets complicated when Pooki bakes a pigeon pie for a picnic and the truly, truly insufferable General-Major Bagshot dies after eating a piece or two or three. When the coroner finds traces of arsenic in his body, Pooki becomes the #1 suspect. However, the Princess is not going to lose her dearest friend and unique discoveries and encounters abound. Bonus for reading it this summer?  The London setting will enhance any Olympic watching. ~ Lisa Christie

For when you need to escape your family vacation with a great book about one as dysfunctional as your own”

Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (May 2011) – I know the other Lisa reviewed this for our previous Shakespeare inspired post, but this may have been my favorite read this summer, so I am putting it in here as well. What caught my attention in a way that differed from the other Lisa’s?  As someone who has always been slightly fascinated by the influence of birth order on personality development, I loved that aspect of this fun, well-written book. It’s plot? Three diverse and interesting twenty-something sisters and their lives when they each return (for their own unique reasons) to their hometown to live for awhile with their parents. Why are they back home? Due to various failures of their post-collegiate lives to meet their desires, and a need to deal with their Mom’s cancer. Bonus? The Shakespeare references. ~ Lisa Christie

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And with this list, we sign off for the entire month of August to read more books ourselves and to find some superb new selections for you.

May you all have great, just can’t put this book down moments during your end-of-summer reading. See you after Labor Day with some great new selections.

~Lisa and Lisa

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AIDS & Literature (Plus More Details about Grassroot Soccer and Its Work to Eliminate HIV/AIDS)

Our earlier post, “Africa: Part One,” was inspired by Grassroot Soccer (GRS) and listed important, memorable books set in Africa.  GRS uses the game of soccer to educate, inspire, and mobilize communities to stop the spread of HIV and create an AIDS free generation, focusing most of its work in Africa.

Now, in an attempt to better understand the AIDS epidemic which has so effected that continent, we recommend two books that angle in on this devastating disease.  Please note that in the titles we’ve paired below, AIDS is depicted as an illness afflicting homosexual white men and both are set (or begin) several decades ago in the United States.

The typical HIV/AIDS patient today is very different.  According to the GRS web site (2008 report by UNAIDS):

  • Worldwide, 33 million men, women, and children are infected with HIV.
  • 2.7 million became newly infected in 2007 (roughly 7400 every day)
  • 45% of all new infections occur among 15-24 year-olds.
  • Less than 40% of young people have comprehensive HIV/AIDS knowledge.
  • 67% of people living with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa.

But no matter who HIV/AIDS afflicts and no matter where they live, the disease and its effects on sufferers and their families remains the same. We believe the following selections will help the reader better understand AIDS and the history of the epidemic through though the lens of literature.

In One Person by John Irving (May 2012) – There are books that you read that are just great stories and keep you turning pages because it is important to discover what happens next.  There are books that while you are reading them remind you of places you have been and people you have encountered.  There are books that remind you people can be amazing, and that progress in improving the way humans treat one another is possible.  There are books that inspire you to ponder what you can do to help the world be a better place.  There are books that illustrate the power of literature to make one think.  This book did all of these things for me.

The story of William/Bill Abbot/Dean, a boy growing up in a rural Vermont town housing an all-boys academy, having “crushes on all the wrong people” is a novel at its best.  Narrated by a 70-ish year old Bill, as he reflects upon his life, the plot covers his life from his early teens to present day.  You watch him navigate high school, live as an adult, and learn about the mysteries surrounding his birth.  Warning –the mysteries about and the coincidences surrounding his father are among the weaker plot points in the novel; so please breeze by them in order not to miss the power of this book.

I enjoyed most of the characters populating this novel, even those of a less savory nature.  I smiled at the fact that great literature (i.e., Madame Bovary, The Tempest, works by James Baldwin and the Bronte sisters) is an important aspect of the plot.  And yes, because of Bill’s bi-sexual identity and his multiple partners, and the span the novel encompasses, you know from the first page that AIDS will impact his life as an adult in the 1980s. That knowledge does not ruin the plot and the pages dealing with that epidemic are among the most powerful in this book.  To say much more would give too much away.  Please read it an enjoy. ~ Lisa Christie

And the Band Played On: Politics, people and the AIDS epidemic by Randy Shilts (1987) – When first published, this book dramatically changed and framed how AIDS was discussed.   Shilts’ expose revealed why AIDS was allowed to spread unchecked while most institutions ignored or denied the threat, and he is often harsh in his reporting.  While the data and the portraits of the AIDS epidemic differ tremendously today (e.g, infected women; the epidemic on the African continent), this powerful story of AIDS when it became part of the US conversation about sexually transmitted diseases, remains important.  A 20th anniversary edition (2007) is available, and a movie based upon the book can be viewed on DVD. ~ Lisa Christie

BONUS PICK: For those readers looking for insight into the epidemic today, our friend Rob Adams at Grassroot Soccer also recommends Tinderbox: How the West Sparked the AIDS Epidemic and How the World Can Finally Overcome It by Craig Timberg and Daniel Halperin. This book discusses how Africa became the epicenter of this disease and why the implications for the world are vast. Neither Lisa has yet finished his recommendation, but we are grateful we have started this important book.

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “Three Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam in the week leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events.

We are thrilled to welcome Vermont author Howard Frank Mosher. He hails from the state’s gorgeous Northeast Kingdom. A gorgeous part of this country where one of the Lisas from this Book Jam has placed some superb yurts to which she often travels to read uninterrupted.  So, we truly appreciate his sense of place. His latest – The Great Northern Express: A Writer’s Journey Home, chronicles a book tour taken shortly after being diagnosed with cancer.

HOWARD FRANK MOSHER is the author of ten novels and two memoirs. He was honored with the New England Independent Booksellers Association’s President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts and is the recipient of the Literature Award bestowed by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His novel A Stranger in the Kingdom won the New England Book Award for fiction and was later made into a movie, as were his novels Disappearances and Where the Rivers Flow North.

Mr. Mosher will be appearing at the Norwich Bookstore on Wednesday, March 28th at 7 pm.  Call (802) 649-1114 to reserve your chair, but hurry as always, because seating is limited and this one comes with a slide show so seats will fill faster than usual as there will be fewer seats available.

1. What three books have shaped you into the author you are today, and why?

Huckleberry Finn, Great Expectations and To Kill a Mockingbird.  I love coming-of-age novels.  These are the three that have most influenced me because of their memorable characters. Though the main characters are somewhat older, I love Henry IV, Part One and Pride and Prejudice for the same reason.

2. What author, living or dead, would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

Probably Mark Twain. He might tell me a story I could steal and use.

3. What books are currently on your bedside table?

I’m reading Robert Olmstead’s wonderful new novel, The Coldest Night (due April 2012) and What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.  Just finished State of Wonder, The Art of Fielding, and Stephen Greenblatt’s Shakespeare biography, Will in the World:How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare.

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “Three Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam in the week leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events.

We’re thrilled to welcome New York Times Best Selling Author Jodi Picoult, author of the new novel Lone Wolf , to the Book Jam’s “Three Questions”.

As part of the Norwich Bookstore’s author visits, Jodi will kick off her latest book tour at Simon Pierce in Quechee, Vermont  on February 28th at 9 am.  She will read from and discuss her newest book, Lone Wolf, a story about an estranged brother and a sister who must decide the fate of their father -a wildlife biologist famous for living with a pack of wolves – who lies in a coma in a New Hampshire hospital. This book explores the bonds of family love, the protection and strength they are meant to offer, and the intersection between medicine and moral choices.

For more information about the bookstore, upcoming speaker engagements or to reserve a seat, simply click on the following link for The Norwich Bookstore. But hurry because seats for this event are almost full! And this one’s a little different than usual: the $36.00 fee includes entry to the event, a signed copy of Lone Wolf, and light refreshments. We hope many of you are able to make it to this exciting book launch party!

Now, Jodi’s responses to our three questions.

 

 

1. What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

Gone with the Wind- made me want to be a writer and create a world out of words;  The Great Gatsby - my first experience with an unreliable narrator, and ever since then, I’ve loved exploring the discrepancy between what the reader knows and what the narrator knows; The Sun Also Rises - the parity of language that is Hemingway’s hallmark always reminds me that less is more; and that there are times words fail us when we try to describe moments of great emotion.

 

 

2. What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

Shakespeare.  I swear, I sometimes think that man created all the stories in the world.  We just recycle them.  Plus – getting Romeo and Juliet to speak for the first time in a sonnet…?  BRILLIANT.

 

 

 

 

3. What books are currently on your bedside table?

The Good Father by Noah Hawley (an advance reader’s copy as the book is due in March 2012), and Amy Hatvany’s Outside the Lines.

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