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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.

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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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