It’s that time of year again – when we in the United States celebrate those men who committed (in the immortal words of Nicholas Cage) high treason against the King of England. In their honor, in honor of the fourth and in lieu of the ubiquitous fireworks image – here are 4 non-fiction books about the Great Republic that have lingered on my TBR pile despite the fact that I’ve been dying to read them. (International Lit, you are a harsh mistress!). Click on the covers to find out more.
It’s Monday! What Am I Reading? I wish I could say something more exciting than this… but I’m working my way through A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m under halfway in… and I’m still waiting for something to happen. Anything. A meteor from the sky might liven things up a bit. What is getting me through is the sheer beauty of the writing and… well, that’s about it. I will finish this book. My hope is that at some point it will turn around and blow me away. It’s happened before.
While I should have been reading my Byatt I finished Homer & Langley. It’s a refreshing, well written and a nicely thought out book. The review will be up by Thursday night. I’m pleased to say that this was a wonderful intro to E.L. Doctorow and predict a long and beautiful relationship ahead of us.
Tuesday I’ll be posting an interview I did with another blogger (which is why I’m waiting until Thursday to post my review of Homer & Langley). Definitely come back to check it out. Stop by at Bookduck in the meantime. She leans towards YA and some adult fiction, mainly in the historical and fantasy genre. She also has great taste in music.
And the best thing about my Monday? It’s telling you about what I did on Sunday! The 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival!
A free yearly event, the Brooklyn Festival features new and emerging figures in literature – as well as some not so new favorites like Edwidge Danticat, Jonathan Ames, Pete Hamill and Steven Millhauser (to name just a few). The authors participate by giving readings, taking part in panel discussions and signing their books. And next year I intend to do all that – attend the panels, listen to the readings and have my books signed. This year I was weak… I couldn’t tear myself away from the tables!
Everywhere you turned there was something to see. Several small presses are represented – the ones that put out the great books that don’t always make it to the shelves of your local B&N, let alone get put on the feature table. There were the literary reviews and magazines (Bookforum, The Paris Review & The New York Review of Books), and tons of new writer anthologies. They even had a children’s section with readings and authors who took questions – exactly like they do for the adults. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face when I heard an author announce very seriously to the crowd, “The question is: Why was the cow silly?”.
The Brooklyn Book Festival (and other festivals of its kind) is a great opportunity to see what’s going on outside of the bestseller list. It’s also a chance to connect with authors and publishers. So, here’s a sample of what I got to take home. (Remember: this is just the stuff I found interesting and put in my tote. I’ll be posting reviews in the upcoming weeks with my final thoughts).
- The Coral Press is an independent press dedicated to a fiction genre they call musical fiction. They gave out a nice sampler of six of their novels. You can check them out at www.coralpress.com. The website features musical accompaniments to their novels.
- This Republic of Suffering: Death & the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin was a freebie courtesy of the people from The National Book Award. I’ve always had an interest in the American Civil War, so while it doesn’t sound all that upbeat I’m looking forward to giving it a try. But here’s a question thats been troubling me: Why doesn’t the National Book Award get the attention of, say, the Booker Prize or the Pulitzer? There are some great books that have won over the years… and this year is their 6oth Anniversary. To celebrate they’re opening voting for the best of the best to the public (voting begins September 21st). On September 30th they post their 5 Under 35 (which I’m assuming is their shortlist?) for 2009. Click here to see their website. Sheesh, people, it’s time we got serious about our own awards! The British bookies make ODDS on the Booker!
- Museum Legs: Fatigue & Hope in the Face of Art by Amy Whitaker (who was kind enough to sign my copy) is a new book by a new author published by a new press. Hol Art Books specializes in books by authors writing about the visual arts. They also have a nice selection historical writings, including pamphlets put out for the International Exhibit of Modern Art in 1913. Definitely a niche market, but an interesting one I’d like to learn more about.
- Amphibian is a novel by Carla Gunn published by Coach House Books. This is one of those books I can’t wait to start. The nine-year-old hero’s name is Phineas William Walsh and he’s an environmentalist. And I quote from the description on the back cover: “So, when a White’s tree frog ends up in an aquarium in his fourth grade classroom, it’s the last straw, and he and his best friend, Bird, are spurred to action.” Tell me, what’s not to like???
And my #1 score of the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival (drumroll)…
- The Alchemaster’s Apprentice by Walter Moers and published by The Overlook Press. Moers is a German author and this is his fifth book published in the U.S. It’s the fourth that takes place in Zamonia (and yes I’ve read the other three). It’s about a Crat. It’s fully illustrated. It makes me want to learn German just because I know there are books of his that haven’t made it into English yet. If you like J.K. Rowling, you’ll like Moers. Not because this is anything remotely like Harry Potter…it’s probably the farthest thing from Hogwarts. You’ll have to take my word for it: Moers is just fun… and in terms of his books there’s no one out there writing anything like them. Click here to see.
So there’s just a taste of what followed me home. For the rest of the month I’ll be posting bits and pieces of the rest of it.