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  • 02/12/15--12:30: Musings For February

  • Musings For February

    The newsletter dedicated to the memory of Walter R. Brooks.

    By Michael Cart, Editor, “THE BEAN HOME NEWS”


    Greetings from frigid Indiana, where the temperature is cold but the heart is warm (or is that my acid indigestion?). Whenever I think of winter, I immediately recall the opening chapter of Freddy the Pied Piper.“It had been a hard winter. A foot of snow had fallen on the 3rd of December and another foot on the 10th, and then the mercury crawled down to ten below and stayed there until after Christmas. Then it warmed up just enough to snow some more. And the weather kept on like that for another six weeks. It was still that way on the morning of February 14th when Freddy, the pig, crawled out of his warm bed and went to his study window and looked out and said disgustedly: “Oh, my goodness sakes!”


    Oh, my goodness sakes, indeed. Poor Freddy had hoped that, it being St. Valentine’s Day, the mailman would be bringing him lots of valentines, ideally with money in them. But, as Walter tells us, “the mailman hadn’t been up the road past the Bean farm in over a week, and he certainly wouldn’t try to buck those drifts in his old Ford today, even to bring Freddy a valentine.”

    To make matters worse, the pig is practically sty-bound by the deep snow. But then inspiration visits: he will ski down to the cow barn, where, he has learned, Jerry the rhinoceros from the Boomschmidt Circus is waiting to see him. What he doesn’t know is that it has rained overnight and then frozen so the snow is slick as glass. “He put on his skis” (don’t ask me why a pig has skis but, come to think of it, he has a bicycle, too) “and stepped out on the snow. And it was a good thing that the skis were pointed towards the barnyard or goodness knows where he would have ended up. For the minute the skis touched the icy crust, they started. Freddy gave a yell of surprise and pushed backwards with the ski poles to keep from falling, and then the whole farm seemed to come whizzing up towards him, and though it was a still day the wind whistled in his ears; and then before he knew what had happened the dark square of the cow barn door rushed at him and swallowed him and there was a crash and a thump and he was sitting on a hard floor with a pain in his shoulder and a lot of comets and constellations whirling around his head. And when these cleared away he couldn’t see anything.”


    No, he hasn’t gone blind (though at first he thinks he has); his eyes are just shut!

    It doesn’t take very long thereafter for Freddy to learn why Jerry has walked all the way to the Bean farm from Virginia. Mr. Boomschmidt, in financial trouble, has had to close his circus. Worse, Freddy’s dear friend Leo the lion has gone missing. What’s a pig to do? Why, assume his persona as Freddy the famous detective, of course. And so he does. Just how he does it, is the stuff of this very funny adventure. But before he gets very far, there’s another weather-related problem to deal with: the horrible weather has driven mice into houses all over Centerboro. They’ve even infested the bank where they’ve chewed up half the important papers in the vault not to mention a whole package of five dollar bills (cha-ching!). It doesn’t take Freddy very long to come up with a scheme to rid the houses of their vermin (my apologies, Eek, Quik, Eeny and Cousin Augustus; I should have said “mice”) and, in the bargain, make enough money to save the circus. He will rent a good, tight barn where the mice can spend the winter, charging householders $5.00 a pop to entice the mice away. “Now Freddy could have moved the mice over into the barn quietly without any fuss, but that was not his way of doing things.” Instead, he takes out a big ad in the “Centerboro Guardian” with the headline “THE PIED PIPER OF CONTERBORO will free your town of mice Monday at 2 p.m.” At the appointed hour Freddy, resplendent in a pied piper costume that Miss Peebles (see Freddy and the Popinjay) has helped him fabricate, appears at corner of Main and Elm, pulls a tin fife out of his pocket and, tootling the first seven notes of “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” starts up Main Street. The mice have their instructions and so come tumbling out of the houses as Freddy passes, falling in line behind him, “dancing and squeaking.” This is a bit overwhelming for some of the more timid citizens and Old Mrs. Peppercorn is so scared she swarms up the trellis on Judge Willey’s porch and the fire department has to come to get her down.

    With that mission accomplished the portly pied piper – with $1,726.00 in his pocket – along with Jerry, Leo (who has been rescued by now), and Jinx head for Virginia to bail out the circus. They say a fool and his money are soon parted; now, Freddy is no fool but he is soon parted from his money. How he contrives to get it back provides one of the funniest scenes in the Freddy series. In fact, Pied Piper boasts two of the funniest scenes in the series: the other is the rescue of Leo from the clutches of the evil pet shop owner Gwetholinda Guffin.

    So do yourselves a favor: on one of these long winter evenings, curl up with a copy of Freddy the Pied Piper. You’ll thank me later.

    {buybutton id=17008/}

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    Presidents’ Day is more than just a long weekend. Originally a national holiday meant to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, it’s now a day that celebrates all our past U.S. presidents (although, it’s a shame we can’t have a day off for each and every one, isn’t it?).

    Here’s a list of books that offer an insider’s look at life at White House, told by bodyguards, White House ushers, ace reporters, and even the presidents themselves.

    {buybutton id=11919/}

    Upstairs at the White House

    For three decades, J. B. West, chief usher of the White House, supervised nearly every activity of the first family, conversing daily not just with the president, but his family members, guests, and heads of state. This New York Times bestselling book gives us an intimate and charming look at the life of America’s first families.

    {buybutton id=16234/}

    Through Five Administrations

    Colonel William H. Cook, one of four White House bodyguards assigned to protect President Abraham Lincoln, was not on duty the night of the president’s assassination. If he had been, history might have been entirely rewritten. This is his account of his next fifty years as a dedicated and key White House employee, serving seven different presidents.

    {buybutton id=13598/}

    Conversations with Kennedy

    Benjamin C. Bradlee and John F. Kennedy had an intimate friendship, probably the closest friendship between a journalist and a president that has ever existed. Conversations with Kennedy paints a very different picture of John F. Kennedy than the one the public is familiar with.

    {buybutton id=5882/}

    How the Good Guys Finally Won

    Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jimmy Breslin goes behind the scenes of the Watergate hearings and Nixon’s impeachment, one of the nation’s biggest scandals at the time.

    {buybutton id=6234/}

    Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox

    If you couldn’t get enough of PBS’s The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, this book is for you. James MacGregor Burns’ definitive biography of FDR is a must-read for fans of presidential history.

    {buybutton id=595/}

    The Wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt

    In this collection of speeches, articles, and letters, one of the most prolific U.S. presidents reflects on everything from life as the world’s most powerful leader to his daughter Alice. Did you know that Teddy was the first U.S. President to win a Nobel Peace Prize?

    {buybutton id=509/}

    The Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln

    From a small-town political leader to dealing with the country’s greatest internal crisis in history, Abraham Lincoln made one of the biggest impacts on the United States. This readable account examines Lincoln’s statements on politics, education, slavery and more.

    {buybutton id=599/}

    The Wisdom of Thomas Jefferson

    Not only was Thomas Jefferson a president, but he was also an inventor, an architect, and a scholar, just to name a few. Find out how this American renaissance man influenced and built a young nation.

    {buybutton id=529/}

    The Wisdom of FDR

    During a time of great peril, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s policies and decisions not only shaped U.S. history, but the world’s.

    {buybutton id=15537/}

    Remembering America

    Find out why one Goodreads reviewer has called Richard Goodwin’s personal account of 1960s American politics “an absolute must read for the political junkie.” Remembering America is a firsthand look at one of the most momentous decades in American politics.

    {buybutton id=15736/}

    Student's Guide to American Political Thought

    American politics can get complicated. It never hurts to brush up. After all, what are you going to say when someone asks you, “How ought we regard the beliefs and motivations of the founders, the debate over the ratification of the Constitution?” It’ll happen when you least expect it.

    {buybutton id=13591/}

    Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

    Completed just before his death, Grant’s memoir has been hailed as one of the most powerful and greatest American autobiographies.

    {buybutton id=12504/}

    First Hubby

    Both political satire and sexy romance, Roy Blount Jr.’s humorous novel chronicles the life of America’s first First Husband.

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    Several of this year’s Oscar-nominated films are based on the events of real larger-than-life people, yet they only skim the surface of the drama that transpired behind closed doors. The following books take you behind-the-scenes, revealing the true nitty-gritty details in the stories that inspired these acclaimed films.

    If you’ve seen Selma
    You’ll want to read Protests at Selma and Bearing the Cross by David Garrow

    It’s been argued in publication such as The New York Times that the depiction of President Lyndon B. Johnson in Selma is something of a “historical crime.” Rather than the reluctant civil rights follower the movie makes him out to be, it is speculated that L.B.J. was actually allies with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., not his enemy.

    Want the real story? In Protests at Selma and Bearing the Cross Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Garrow provides a detailed and intimate account of events leading up to and after the protests, and explores Martin Luther King Jr.’s strategies to achieve political change

    If you’ve seen Foxcatcher
    You’ll want to read Du Pont Dynasty by Gerard Colby

    Foxcatcher is only one tiny, maniacal sliver of the entire Du Pont family. While Foxcatcher focuses on the coaching aspirations and downward spiral into schizophrenia of John E. Du Pont, Colby’s Du Pont Dynasty delves even deeper into the insidious lives and dealings of the entire Du Pont clan. From war profiteering to the manufacturing of deadly gas and the cover-up of the poisoning of its own workers, the Du Pont name has been riddled in scandal for centuries. Yet, they remain a formidable influence that continues today.

    If you’ve seen Whiplash…
    You’ll want to read Making it in the Music Businessby Lee Wilson
    Whiplash is the story of a young student enduring emotional abuse from his prestigious music professor, thinking that this form of torture is his only path to becoming a great jazz drummer. In the ladder to success, obstacles come in many forms: agents, lawyers, management, and sometimes, your own mentors and band mates. Without clear terms and boundaries, the people closest to you can become your downfall. Making it in the Music Business is the crucial guide for anyone entering the music industry, ensuring that you don’t fall in your ascent into the limelight.

    If you’ve seen American Sniper
    You’ll want to read The Blood We Shed by William Christie
    Similar to American Sniper, rather than glorifying killing overseas, The Blood We Shed is a realistic fictional account of life in the marines and the struggles and trauma of veterans returning home. Written by a former marine vet, it doesn’t glorify the call of duty, but offers a real look at the funny, the tragic, the good, and sometimes the embarrassing life these men choose to pursue. They go through training, deployment, and combat together, but it isn’t until they return home, victorious, that things get worse.

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    Several of our staffers gathered in Brooklyn to try their hand at making dishes from Laurie Colwin's classic Home Cooking. The "chefs," seasoned and novice alike, will be sharing their experiences every Monday on the Open Road Media blog.

    Laurie Colwin ebook 

    I almost never cook, so when choosing a recipe, I needed to find something that would be relatively simple. I had never had chocolate bread pudding before, but I was a fan of regular bread pudding. I was also looking forward to making a dessert that didn’t come from a box. Yet it proved harder than I initially thought, since there was no actual recipe for the bread pudding in Home Cooking.

    Colwin writes, “any standard cookbook has a recipe for bread pudding” and adds her own adjustments. I discovered it’s really hard to find a “standard” recipe for bread pudding, and even more difficult to find one that will go well with chocolate. I settled on a combination of recipes from Alton Brown and Martha Stewart (both expert chefs, ironically).

    challah bread 

    In true Laurie Colwin form, the remainder of the recipe was mostly improvised except for the bake time and temperature. Once I had created my own recipe to follow, the process went smoothly. Learning how to temper eggs was pretty exciting for me; I consider this to now be the only “fancy” technique I know.

     egg yolkstempering eggs

    The dessert came out way more amazing than I ever thought it would, and I’m really looking forward to making it again and eating the whole thing myself.

    chocolate bread pudding

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    So you think it costs tens of thousands of dollars to own a piece of high-end art? You can actually own an Andy Warhol collectible for less than $100 and even become a patron of the arts (of sorts). If you’re an Andy Warhol fan, or just a fan of contemporary and pop art in general, you’re going to want to check out these five completely affordable Warhol-inspired pieces.


    Spring 2015 Converse All Star Andy Warhol Collection ($35 - $90)

    This spring, Converse, in partnership with The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, is launching its Spring 2015 Converse All Star Andy Warhol Collection. A blending of two pop culture icons, the collection features your favorite Converse sneaker designs with prints of one of Warhol’s most famous works: The Campbell’s Soup Cans. You can pick up your pair at selected Converse retailers or online.


    Candy Darling

    Beautiful Darling on DVD ($15.99)

    Candy Darling, one of Andy Warhol’s most provocative and alluring factory superstars, was a rising Hollywood starlet. Darling starred in two of Warhol’s films, Flesh and Women in Revolt, and appeared in films alongside Jane Fonda and Sophia Loren. Born James Slattery and raised in a cookie-cutter suburb of Long Island, Darling identified with a female identity at a young age, and by his early twenties had transformed into the true star he was meant to be: Candy Darling. Darling died of lymphoma at the age of twenty-nine, but her life is vividly remembered in Beautiful Darling, a documentary film by writer and director James Rasin, told through interviews and excerpts from her diary.


    Andy Warhol Uniqlo

    Uniqlo x MoMa Andy Warhol SPRZ NY clothing line: ($30 - $90)

    Everyone’s favorite wallet-friendly clothing brand, Uniqlo, has partnered with MoMa to bring you Warhol-inspired printed tees, jackets, and tote bags suitable for any budget. Now you can be decked out in Warhol all day, everyday. In addition, a portion of every purchase is given to The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the leading funders of contemporary art. Now you, too, can become a patron of the arts! For the entire Warhol line, visit Uniqlo’s SPRZ NY store.

    Incase iPad sleeve

    Incase MacBook and iPad sleeves ($59.95 - $79.95)

    Warhol isn’t just for clothing or your wall; it’s also for your tech. Incase features a collection of iPad and MacBook sleeves for fans of pop art. Choose your design at Incase’s online store.


    Brillo Box 

    Warhol Brillo Memo Block ($14.99)

    One of Warhol’s most famous works, Brillo Boxes, now comes to you in the form of a block. This block contains a “box” of a pad of papers (not a pad of… Brillos?). Check out the Warhol Store for this very meta piece of Warhol and other collectibles.

    Beginning today, you can collect Warhol memorabilia on your ereader, too. Open Road is thrilled to release Factory Books, a lively collection of memoirs, biographies, cultural criticism and fiction devoted to chronicling the world of Andy Warhol from its beginnings through his untimely death.

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    In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Bearing the Cross, author David Garrow draws from extensive interviews, FBI transcripts, and King's personal papers to create the most comprehensive book ever written about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The excerpt below is an exciting look at what the protests at Selma looked like to Dr. King right as they were taking place.

    Early Sunday afternoon King and a host of national dignitaries took the lead as more than three thousand marchers set out from Brown Chapel and filed across the Pettus Bridge. Scores of cameramen and hundreds of uniformed National Guardsmen looked on. Freedom songs rang out as the procession passed the site of Bloody Sunday and the Tuesday turnaround. By nightfall the marchers had covered seven miles and arrived at their first campsite, where the core group of three hundred bedded down while the remainder were bused back to Selma. After spending the night under two large tents and being treated to meals that were cooked in Selma and trucked out to the campsite, the marchers resumed the trek the next morning. Tight security protected the participants while they slept and as they marched, with teams of guardsmen ensuring that no armed segregationists lay in wait as they made their way toward Montgomery on the narrow, two-lane segment of Highway 80 that ran through rural Lowndes County. Large trees heavy with Spanish moss hugged the roadside, lending an air of foreboding to the procession and causing the marchers to hurry along the sixteen miles they had to cover to reach Monday night’s campsite. On Tuesday they walked eleven miles in heavy rain that made their next campground a muddy resting place.

    Martin King walked most of those miles on the first three days of the march, joining in the songs and chatting with fellow marchers while federal officials and SCLC aides saw to the procession’s administrative needs. A mobile home furnished King somewhat fancier resting quarters than the other participants. King appeared “terribly tired” to some of his compatriots, one of whom was struck by how King had “a kind of detachment.” “He seemed to kind of have his mind on something else all the time.” He “wasn’t anything like a leader in the sense of communicating with people with any freedom,” a surprised Pittsburgh theologian remembered. “He seemed to be a kind of a symbol, and an inspiring figure, but all the actual organizing and leadership was done by other people in his entourage.” King would not have quarreled with that judgment, and by the end of Tuesday’s hike his major concern was his badly blistered feet, a condition other marchers were also suffering. Wednesday morning King rested as the others set out on a sixteen-mile walk that would bring them to the western outskirts of Montgomery. At midday he flew to Cleveland for a fund-raising rally. Reporters noted that he “looked tired,” and King told his audience he would be returning to Alabama late that night for Thursday’s final march into Montgomery.

    Wednesday night the marchers were treated to an outdoor stage show by visiting entertainers at the procession’s final campground. Then, on Thursday morning, with an exhausted Martin King in the front rank, the huge column, its numbers swelled by thousands of local supporters and thousands of newly arrived out-of-state sympathizers, marched through Montgomery’s westside residential neighborhoods into the center of the city and up the gentle slope of Dexter Avenue to the Alabama state capitol. Coretta, Ralph and Juanita Abernathy, and a host of dignitaries joined King in leading the column up the avenue, past the red brick church he had once pastored, and into the plaza that lay between that little church and Alabama’s pure white capitol building. Only five years had passed since King had left Montgomery, but this magnificently triumphant homecoming seemed to suggest that most of a lifetime, and perhaps most of an age, had swept past in a small handful of years.

    Thousands of people—25,000, the best estimate said—most of them black, crowded into every available space within sight of the platform on the state capitol steps. The scene suggested that perhaps Alabama and America had changed in some very basic way since King had seen his vision in the kitchen nine years earlier. The old parsonage on South Jackson Street was two blocks away, and the crowd was filled with faces of old friends. This remarkable homecoming filled King with a profound sense of how much had happened in so brief a time and at a speed that, upon reflection, seemed breathtaking.

    Ready to find out what happens next? It's all detailed in Bearing the Cross, available now in ebook format. 

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    Elizabeth Cooke is a versatile writer and she’s published romances, historical dramas, humor, and non-fiction to prove it. But something unites all of these various endeavors. Cooke knows how to capture the chaos and messiness of family, whether in the homes of the glamorous WWI era nobility, frozen Greenland, or a hospital in modern Boston.

    Cooke had long wanted to write an upstairs-downstairs style period drama, and the popularity of Downton Abbey allowed her to write the recently popular Rutherford Park following the lives and loves of both the staff and noble family of the park during the tumultuous years of World War I.

    {buybutton id=17666/}

    But even before Rutherford Park, Cooke had a handle on period drama with The Ice Child. Masterfully mixing past and present, The Ice Child tells the interlocking stories of Sir John Franklin’s lost arctic expedition in 1845, and journalist Jo Harper’s modern day search for a missing archeologist. Complicating matters, Jo begins to obsess over both the 1845 expedition and the modern—and married—archeologist.

    {buybutton id=17663/}

    Cook shows off her diversity again in A Road Through the Mountains. This heartrending tale, set in the present, follows the aftermath of a terrible car accident that leaves mother and painter Anna Russell in a coma and her autistic daughter Rachel with a broken arm. Halfway across the world, botanist David Mortimer learns of the accident and decides to return to the woman who left him and the daughter he never knew he had. Together, he and Rachel hatch a plan to help bring Anna back.

    Check out Cooke’s other diverse works here!

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    Sandra KittRomance author Sandra Kitt has been taking risks in her writing and pushing the limits of what can be done with romance fiction since she picked up her first pen. She was one of the first to write romance stories with African American men and women, and in her words, these books "threw the publishing world into a panic." The publisher wasn't "sure there was an audience for love stories with people of color. They were afraid of offending their white readership (seriously!) and that the books would not sell."

    Sandra was inspired to prove them wrong and part of what inspired her were the books she read growing up. Here she shares the tales that stayed with her the most.


    By the time I was eight years old, I was practically living at my local library, escaping by reading into other worlds. Reading soothed me, released me from my day-to-day routines, and saved me. Like any voracious reader, I read anything I could get my hands on. I passed from one magical setting to another, but along the way I found myself absorbed in stories that stayed with me for a long time, sometimes for years.

    Babes in the WoodsThe very first of these stories, and it still haunts me, is a poem Babes In The Woods. It was about two very young children who’d, apparently, gotten lost in the woods. All day they held hands, wandering through the deep forest until, as it got dark, they fell to sleep under a tree where they were covered with leaves by birds. That was all I remembered until many years later I found the poem and realized there was far more to the story.

    The children had been stolen and left in the woods, never getting out of the forest and dying there, tenderly seen to by the forest creatures. To say I was devastated doesn’t nearly cover the range of emotions I felt as a young reader, where so many other children stories, at that time, had happy endings. But what ripped my heart open were the children being left all alone in an unknown place by grownups who should have protected them.

    Then, along came Toni Morrison with The Bluest Eye. Set in tThe Bluest Eyehe south in the middle of the last century, it tells the story of a poor Black girl being sexually abused by her own father, and with whom she has a child. As the reader I wanted the young teen to be rescued in some way or have her father die a cruel and lingering death as punishment for his utter indifference to his own daughter.

    But the young girl had her own means of endurance. She imagined that one day she would suddenly and miraculously have blue eyes. She knew that in her universe little white girls with blond hair and blue eyes were loved and protected, lived beautiful lives and could have anything they wanted. Having blue eyes would surely save her life, make her special. Since that was never to be, her life became an intolerable existence without hope, and an ultimate tragedy.

    Chasing RainbowsI had already begun writing my own stories by the time I found Esther Sager’s Chasing Rainbows, a contemporary novel with a romance, but not the kind of love story that follows usual conventions. While the developing romance was important, it was not the book’s main focus. The romance was soaked in deeper issues of alienation, loss, puberty, sacrifice, illness, and, yes, love. I was so engrossed in the story that, despite everything the author had prepared the reader for, when I got to the last page and did not get the ending I wanted, I began to cry uncontrollably.

    When I began writing I had no particular plan other than to write the kind of stories I wanted to read and the kind I wasn’t seeing in bookstores. Besides being romances, my stories were complex, emotional, and incorporated Fearless Men by Sandra Kittsocial issues as well as issues of race and being Black in America. I took daring risks and tried things that had never been done before in novels. Mostly no one noticed, but those who did assured me that I was writing what needed to be written. I was way ahead of the curve.

    Most of all what my books did was to make my readers feel, believe, think, and sympathize. My novels made them want to have more of the story. They were moved, they couldn’t forget, as I couldn’t, the stories that opened their hearts, made them remember, tore them up inside, left them sleepless, made them cry.

    I wanted to feel deeply about my own characters, just as I had reading as a child. The characters I wanted to root for are the ones I most want to read . . . and write. These are the ones that will stay with me forever.

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    Viva, one of the most famous of Andy Warhol’s Factory superstars, has written two semi-autobiographical novels, The Baby and Superstar, soon to be released as ebooks for the first time.

    To commemorate their new lives as ebooks, we talked with Viva about her stories and her inspiration.

    On the timing of Superstar:

    {buybutton id=17529/}

    At Marymount College in the late 1950s, if you didn’t want to be the subject of prurient gossip, your buttocks had to be contained into a nonmoving, monolithic shelf. Girdles and bras were mandatory. There was only one “bad girl” (who had had sex or was currently having it) that we knew of, in the entire school.

    Joe McCarthy, the senator who was accusing half of Washington and Hollywood of being ”commies,” was my mother’s hero. She spent her days writing letters to the editor about the Commie threat. Blacklisted writers, actors, and directors couldn’t get a job. The French still controlled Vietnam and the Korean War, referred to as a “Police Action,” was winding down. We didn’t have TV until I was around 12 and then it was two channels. The news was on once a day at 6:00 for an hour.

    When the Vietnam War was televised the country woke up.

    The 60’s and its mass rebellion were born. Superstar takes Gloria, a young, upper-middle class Catholic girl, from WWII to 1970. On the way she sheds her girdle and bra, not to mention her religion, to become an underground “Superstar” and is immersed a world of leftist politics, art, movies, Hollywood, sex, drugs and rock and roll.

    On her inspiration for Superstar:

    I came up with the idea for the book when the late Bill Targ, then the publisher-in-chief of Putnam, read the satire I’d have published in “The Realist.” It was about the Barrigan Brothers, Jesuits from LeMoyne College in Syracuse, who had poured ducks’ blood over the draft files for the Vietnam War. He asked me to write a book. The title was his idea.

    On her inspiration for The Baby:

    I was so amazed and overcome with love after I had Alexandra, my first baby, that I had to share it with the world of women.

    {buybutton id=17528/}

    Since I was the oldest of nine siblings, one would think that the love experienced by a mother wouldn’t have been such a surprise.  My mother revealing that she never picked me up when I cried on the advice of a then-popular doctor’s book should have been my first clue. That she continued to try and make me adhere to that since discredited advice was the real shocker.

    But my mother wasn’t the only one dishing out pathetic advice. The minute I set foot out of the house with Alex, busybodies came out of the sidewalk cracks. Traveling was even worse. Especially disconcerting was a Moroccan woman who proudly showed me her encrusted, molding baby bottle, her bound breasts, and her emaciated, swaddled baby.

    When Christopher Isherwood told me that anybody can write a first book (Superstar), the trick is to write a second, my mission crystallized. My agent sent a few chapters to Robert Gottlieb at Knopf and he sent the fabulous Regina Ryan to help me put it together.

    As I continued writing, I realized that maternal love brings out a myriad of seemingly opposite emotions; guilt, frustration, anger, even rage.

    Since everybody was referring to Alexandra as “The Baby;” i.e. “how’s the baby?,” “are you bringing the baby?,” “does the baby need anything?” etc., I decided to title it The Baby.

    Finding out more and her next project:

    All the reader has to do is google “Viva Hoffmann” to find dozens of sites about me, some of them completely inaccurate and others totally invented. I’m dealing with the most egregious of the totally invented in a memoir I’m working on.


    You can learn more about Viva on her author page

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    Theodore Sturgeon, who would have turned 97 this Thursday, February 26, had a motto that inspired his writing and his outlook.

    In fact, it was such a part of his oeuvre that it's been turned into a physical symbol in the Theodore Sturgeon Award.

    "Ask the next question."

    The "Q" with the arrow through it is handed out each year as the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, an award that recognizes exceptional short science fiction writing. But what does this mantra entail?

    As Sturgeon himself explained:

    "This guy is sitting in a cave and he says, 'Why can't man fly?' Well, that's the question. The answer may not help him, but the question now has been asked. The next question is what? How? And so all through the ages, people have been trying to find out the answer to that question. We've found the answer, and we do fly. This is true of every accomplishment, whether it's technology or literature, poetry, political systems or anything else. That's it. Ask the next question. And the one after that."

    We asked Theodore Sturgeon's family and fans what this special motto means to them. Read on to see how this simple phrase has inspired historical fiction, apocalyptic fiction, and yes, real world change.

    Noël Sturgeon (Theodore Sturgeon's daughter) on social change

    While it was, to Ted, about the human drive to innovate through questioning, I think it was more centrally about critical...

    questioning about social conventions, particularly those that limited sexual expression or legitimated social inequalities.

    One example of Ted's use of this technique is woven through the novel Venus Plus X, where he questions both gender and sexual conventions (particularly around expectations for women but also for men and about the "naturalness" of heterosexuality). The two stories “The World Well Lost” and “Affair With A Green Monkey” are other examples of asking the next question to challenge homophobia. More disturbing is the use of the technique, demonstrated rather didactically, to trouble accepted ideas about incest in the story “If All Men Were Brothers.” To me, the technique in that story is not taken far enough, as important questions of unequal power between parents and children go unrecognized. In general, Ted's view of the efficacy of asking the next question was often naive about relations of power, as though simply asking tough questions could bring about change. Yet, this technique, which in academia is called "critical thinking" and in movements is called "consciousness-raising," is undeniably a powerful tool of change. Certainly, those reading Sturgeon stories in the 1960s and 1970s along these lines were...

    inspired not just to think differently, but to act as well.

    James Morrow (Author of This Is the Way the World Ends) on apocalyptic fiction

    Although I tend to wield my satirist’s scalpel on behalf of blasphemy, heresy, and atheism, hoping somehow to ablate the tumor of theocratic thought from the minds of people who should know better, a secondary obsession runs through my oeuvre. I speak of the atomic bomb—a menace to which Theodore Sturgeon was likewise alive, as he demonstrated in such chilling and disturbing stories as “Thunder and Roses” and “Memorial.” Thus far my contribution to this discourse has included three Sturgeonesque thought-experiments. My novel This Is the Way the World Ends asks,

    “What if those hypothetical humans whose existences were canceled by Armageddon decided to put the perpetrators on trial for crimes against humanity?”

    My novelette “Martyrs of the Upshot Knothole” (collected in The Cat’s Pajamas and Other Stories) asks, “What if John Wayne, the quintessential Cold Warrior, was fatally—and ironically—poisoned by radioactive fallout while shooting The Conqueror in Utah (near the Yucca Flat proving ground)?” My novella “Shambling Towards Hiroshima,” which incidentally won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, asks, “What if the U.S. Navy had developed a Godzilla-like biological weapon in tandem with the Army’s Manhattan Project?” Even today, with the Cold War on hiatus, the threat posed by thermonuclear weapons is real and implacable, and I can think of no phenomenon more worthy of perpetual and impassioned conversation.

    If we do not relentlessly critique the legitimacy of such arsenals, whether in our own hands or those of our presumed enemies, we shall reach a point where people, being extinct, are no longer asking questions at all.

    Timothy Zahn (Author of A Coming of Age) on plotting a novel using questions

    Asking questions can be hazardous. You never know where you might end up going.

    For example:

    Many years ago, my wife and I were driving down I-24 in Kentucky on our way to a convention. Anna was in the back seat, trying to get our five-month-old to settle down to eat. He was being fussy, and I got to wondering,

    “What would happen if children were physically stronger than their parents?”


    Okay, how could that happen? Well, children’s muscles are typically smaller and weaker than those of adults, so it has to be something else? Telekinesis, maybe?

    Okay—telekinesis. So how come the adults don’t have it? What if it appears at, say, age five, and then disappears forever at puberty?

    So how do we control these kids?

    Well, what if the power grows in strength all the way through childhood? Then the older kids would be stronger than the younger ones and could keep them in line.

    In fact, what if during the last couple of years of power the kids are strong enough to lift themselves and actually fly?


    Now, what kind of society would you get from that?

    Well, the kids are a source of free power. They would do all the heavy lifting, and turn the flywheels that create electricity for their towns and cities. Maybe cops don’t carry guns, but have a preteen partner who provides the muscle when necessary.

    Of course, it’s not safe for the kids to live with their parents, not when they’re so much stronger. They would have to be raised under the supervision of the older kids, like in a combination boarding school/workhouse, with adults supervising the whole thing.

    But how do the adults control the older kids?

    Maybe by keeping a monopoly on learning and knowledge? Sure—scratch the “boarding school” aspect. The kids don’t go to school, of any kind, until they lose their power. They aren’t taught to read; in fact, they probably aren’t even allowed to learn to read. Reading is knowledge, and the adults need to keep that monopoly.

    Besides, the kids are too busy turning those flywheels and unloading trucks to waste time on books.

    And finally, what if there was a charismatic Fagin-type criminal who’s using kidnapped kids to commit crimes for him? What if there’s a scientist who thinks he may have found a way to prolong the power through adulthood, and needs a child to experiment on? And what if there’s a preteen girl who decides she wants to learn to read before she loses her power?

    No, you never know where asking questions will lead you.

    In this case, they led to my second novel: A Coming of Age.

    Ian MacLeod (Author of The Light Ages) on historical fiction

    Rather than asking the next question, a lot of my fiction seems to be...

    challenging questions we like to imagine we’ve already found the answers to.

    Did science really have to triumph over magic, for instance, in The Light Ages, and, much more specifically in Wake Up and Dream? What if the seemingly promising research being undertaken into telepathy in the early Twentieth Century turned out to be right? Even The Great Wheel, which is set in an imagined future, runs back the clock to a kind of Roman Catholic supremacy over Europe, while The Summer Isles asks how Britain would have responded to the stresses which caused Hitler’s rise in Germany. By looking at the way things didn’t or couldn’t turn out, by twisting the past or the future into surprising new shapes, it’s possible to question whether we really have the answers we think we have in this real, present world.

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    Today marks Texan Independence Day, the day when Texas split off from Mexico to become its own republic. Though Texas became a state less than 10 years later, Texans today still celebrate their independence--and their unique place as the only state to have been an independent republic--every March.

    Celebrate the Lone Star State with these quintessentially Texan titles, written by Texans and about Texans.

    1. What better way to celebrate Texas than with books about the Texan national pastime: Football. A classic for football fans everywhere, Peter Gent’s North Dallas Forty is partially based on Gent’s own experiences as a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys.

    On the field, the men who play football are gladiators, titans, and every other kind of cliché. But when they leave the locker room they are only men. Peter Gent’s classic novel looks at the seedy underbelly of the pro game, chronicling eight days in the life of Phil Elliott, an aging receiver for the Texas team. Running on a mixture of painkillers and cortisone as he tries to keep his fading legs strong, Elliott tries to get every ounce of pleasure out of his last days of glory, living the life of sex, drugs, and football.

    2. Not enough football? Try another classic Peter Gent The Franchise, based on the fictional NFL team the Texas Pistols.

    The Texas Pistols never should have been. The league had no business awarding a team to dying Park City, but it only took a little pressure—financial and otherwise—to bring the expansion franchise to town. At first, they’re worthless, playing in an empty stadium for slack-jawed fans, but the owners have a plan. Five years to financial security. Five years to complete domination of the sport. Five years to the Super Bowl. And it starts with Taylor Rusk.

    In Texas, football is life. But in Park City, it can mean death, too.

    3. Nothing gets Texan blood pumping like a good old fashioned tale of cowboys, family and revenge. You can’t go wrong with William Humphrey’s Texan classic Home From the Hill

    In the mesmerizing saga of a Texas family torn apart by passion and pride, Captain Hunnicutt is a charismatic war hero whose legendary hunting skills extends to the wives of his friends and neighbors. Humiliated by her husband’s philandering, Hannah grows to despise the captain and instead devotes herself to her son. Torn between his mother’s adoration and the need to win his father’s approval, Theron tries to become his own man, resulting in tragic consequences.

    William Humphrey’s dazzling debut novel, the inspiration for a major motion picture starring Robert Mitchum, is a masterpiece of twentieth-century American literature, as intense and thrilling as the Hunnicutts themselves.

    4. Plenty more family drama abounds in the east Texas tale Mother of Pearl, the humorous story of the McAlister clan.

    Mother of Pearl is the hilarious chronicle of a collection of bickering southern eccentrics whose family history is a parade of missteps, mishaps, and certifiable insanity.

    Like Faulkner in a funhouse, in Mother of Pearl, acclaimed author Edward Swift gives readers an extraordinary Southern gothic tale filled with unbridled dark humor, outrageous incidents, and wildly unforgettable characters.

    5. From Lyndon B. Johnson to Dwight D. Eisenhower, from Sam Houston to the Bush dynasty, Texans don’t tend to shy away from a little politics. Celebrate the signing of the Texan Declaration of Independence with the political classic The Gay Place, a behind the scenes look at gritty Texan politics in Austin.

    Set deep in the heart of Texas, The Gay Place consists of three interlocking novels—The Flea Circus, Room Enough to Caper, and Country Pleasures—each with a different protagonist. Unifying the stories is Texas governor Arthur Fenstemaker, a canny master politician modeled on Lyndon Johnson, for whom Brammer served as a press aide.

    Originally published in 1961, The Gay Place withstands the test of time—the themes of power, money, and family are eternally resonant. At once a political novel and a character study, Billy Lee Brammer’s classic stands among the best novels about the Lone Star state.


    Check out the rest of our novels celebrating Texas’ Independence Day below!





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    Best Picks for Book Club Discussions: Top Women’s Fiction


    Welcome to our series on book clubs! At the beginning of every month, we’ll present our top recommendations for your club, as well as tips on how to shape your discussion and fun extra stuff to keep the conversation going. Many of us here belong to book clubs, and Open Road even has its own employee reading group. We love nothing more than book talk. So tune in, and read on!


    As March is Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting our favorite novels for book clubs that are not only about women, but are written by top female writers.

    “Women’s fiction” is an incredibly broad term—here, we’re taking it to mean writing about female life experiences (can there be anything more wide-ranging?). These novels also happen to have as their authors accomplished writers such as Pearl S. Buck, Alice Hoffman, Alice Walker, and more. Between them, they’ve won the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and many other awards. Women’s History Month seems like an appropriate time to shine a spotlight on the breadth and depth of their work.

    Read on to find your new favorite novel about amazing women—by amazing women. (And you can also celebrate the fact you are saving money, because these titles are all on sale for $1.99 and up.)

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    Nine Womenby Shirley Ann Grau

    The nine namesake women of this collection come from all levels of New Orleans society, from the daughters of servants to affluent ladies. All, however, struggle with grief, longing, and hope. In many cases, these protagonists are struggling to accept the sudden loss of life and love in a land teeming with both.





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    Sappho’s Leap by Erica Jong

    As she stands poised at the edge of a precipice in the shadow of the sanctuary of Apollo, the greatest love poet who ever was or ever will be recalls the eventful fifty years that have led her to this moment. For Sappho, life has always been a banquet to be savored to the fullest, a strange and sensual odyssey that has carried her to the far corners of the ancient world. Through every grand affair and every wild adventure, she has remained forever true to her heart, her passion, and herself, right up to this, the end of everything.




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    Fortune’s Daughter by Alice Hoffman

    An enthralling tribute to the profound mysteries of motherhood and childbirth, in a city bracing for a cataclysm, two remarkable women cross paths and find their lives forever changed. Lila Grey, a fortune-teller, tells Rae Perry she is pregnant—but the other symbol she reads in Rae’s tea leaves, she refuses to reveal. From that moment forward, their fates are inextricably linked. While Rae searches for the strength to navigate an uncertain future alone, Lila sets out to resolve her history once and for all. 




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    Real People by Alison Lurie

    Janet Belle Smith’s husband doesn’t understand why she can’t write at home—or really, for that matter, why she must write at all—but for Janet, the reason is clear. Only in Illyria can she be herself. But as the writer mingles with her fellow artists—including a Marxist novelist, a Beat poet, a wild-man sculptor—she begins to fear that the “real” her isn’t who she expected, and Illyria is not the peaceful kingdom it appears to be. This creative paradise is rotting from inside out, and if Janet doesn’t move quickly, she’ll be trapped in the rubble when the walls come tumbling down.




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    An Unofficial Rose by Iris Murdoch

    A story of a father and son, both dissatisfied with their lives, and both in love with someone other than their wives. While the father, a widower, regrets never leaving his wife for his mistress, the son seeks any opportunity to escape his dull marriage. Written with Murdoch’s masterful blend of comedy and tragedy, An Unofficial Rose is a compelling story of love, regret, and the complexity of human relationships.




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    The Time Is Noon by Pearl S. Buck

    Considered to be one of Pearl S. Buck’s most autobiographical novels, The Time Is Noon was kept from publication for decades on account of its personal resonance. The book tells the story of Joan Richards and her journey of self-discovery during the first half of the twentieth century. As a child, family and small-town life obscure Joan’s individuality; as an adult, it’s inhibited by an unhappy marriage. After breaking free of the latter, she begins a stark reassessment of the way she’s been living—and to her surprise, learns to appreciate all that lies ahead.




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    The Three Button Trick and Other Stories by Nicola Barker

    Nineteen of her finest short stories have been compiled into one startling, delightfully readable volume. Whether describing erotic encounters behind clothing racks or a kleptomaniac with his organs on the wrong side, these stories never fail to surprise us, entertain us, and make us think. 





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    Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker

    In Tashi’s tribe, the Olinka, young girls undergo circumcision as an initiation into the community. Tashi manages to avoid this fate at first, but when pressed by tribal leaders, she submits. Years later, married and living in America as Evelyn Johnson, Tashi’s inner pain emerges. As she questions why such a terrifying, disfiguring sacrifice was required, she sorts through the many levels of subjugation with which she’s been burdened over the years.




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    Cashelmara by Susan Howatch

    When Edward de Salis travels to America after the death of his first wife, he is astonished to find himself falling in love with Marguerite, a young woman many years his junior. Full of hope for the future, he returns to his Irish estate, Cashelmara, but in nineteenth-century Ireland—a country racked by poverty and famine—his family eventually becomes trapped in a sinister spiral of violence that Edward could never have foreseen. Cashelmara follows the fortunes of three generations as they struggle to survive both the tragedies of history and their own chaotic lives. 




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    Reality and Dreams by Muriel Spark

    British film director Tom Richard won acclaim for his moments of pure creative inspiration. But when Richard is hospitalized after toppling from a crane during a shoot, he awakes not knowing what is real and what is not—and with no idea who to trust. Soon his wife, children, and friends are all undergoing crises of their own, from the breakup of a marriage to the loss of a job. As Richard fights to regain his health and stay centered amid the swirling chaos of his personal life, he must also wrest control of his film—his most prized pursuit—from those who seek to take it away.




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    Shine On, Bright & Dangerous Object by Laurie Colwin

    At the age of twenty-seven, Olly must begin again. She has lost an accomplice, but Sam’s parents have lost a son, and his brother, Patrick, has lost his best friend and the one person who truly understood him. The bonds of family are both a comfort and a burden to Olly as she tries to find a way to live with her grief and accept her role in her daredevil husband’s fate. Eventually she rediscovers her own sense of adventure, and with a newfound strength, she pursues a deep and abiding love that is the greatest surprise of her life. 




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    The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon

    Ruth loves her husband, Bobbo, a handsome, successful accountant. But Bobbo has fallen in love with Mary Fisher, a bestselling romance novelist who lives in a high tower overlooking the sea, pampered by her young, virile manservant. Mary is petite, dainty, and lovely. He tells Ruth about his affair and when Ruth reacts badly, he promptly moves out. In turn, Ruth decides to orchestrate a fiendish and masterful revenge.




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    If we were to ask you what comes to mind when you think of Ireland, we hope you are conjuring up more than four-leaf clovers, leprechauns, and a St. Patrick’s Day you can’t remember. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that, of course.


    But Irish heritage is so much more. In fact, the United States has dedicated the month of March to the appreciation of Irish Heritage. So we invite you to celebrate the Irish spirit with us, with one of their great traditions: literature.


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    The Love Objectby Edna O’Brien


    One of the most prolific authors, not just in Ireland, but the world, Edna O’Brien writes lyrically and passionately about women’s lives. In each story, the objects of each woman’s affections vary, but all are masterfully bound together by their love and longing. At once heartrending and captivating, The Love Object is an unforgettable exploration of isolation and romantic obsession.



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    The Collarby Frank O’Connor


    Over the course of his long and distinguished career, Frank O’Connor wrote many stories about priests. Some of his most iconic characters are men of the cloth, and few writers have portrayed the unique demands of the priesthood with as much empathy, honesty, and wit. This collection, edited and introduced by his widow, Harriet O’Donovan Sheehy, brings together the best of O’Connor’s short fiction on the subject.



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    The Railway Station Manby Jennifer Johnston


    Newly widowed, she spends her days painting in her glass-walled studio atop a hillside on Ireland’s northwest coast. From her perch she can study the rocks and dunes of the land sloping into the sea, the fishing boats rocking in the tide, and the railway station, abandoned for forty years, now being refurbished by Roger, an Englishman and veteran of the Second World War. Her friendship with Roger develops slowly, but in tandem with her growing affection for him is an intractable suspicion over his past. As the Troubles continue to settle over Ireland, Helen experiences sparks of happiness with Roger. Meanwhile, her son Jack, a radical living in Dublin, is increasing his involvement with an impassioned group of Irish guerillas, unwittingly setting in motion a series of events that lead to a shocking conclusion for both him and his mother.


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    The Pig Did It by Joseph Caldwell


    What the pig did—in Joseph Caldwell’s charmingly romantic tale of an American in contemporary Ireland—is create a ruckus, a rumpus, a disturbance . . . utter pandemonium. What the pig eventually does is root up in Aunt Kitty’s vegetable garden evidence of a possible transgression that each of the novel’s three Irish characters is convinced the other probably benefited from.

    How this hilarious mystery is resolved in The Pig Did It—the first entry in Mr. Caldwell’s forthcoming Pig Trilogy—inspires both comic eloquence and a theatrically colorful canvas depicting the brooding Irish land and seascape.


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    Sinby Josephine Hart


    Ruth calls herself a malevolent creature, ruled since childhood by hatred and envy for her adopted sister, Elizabeth. She grew up in Elizabeth’s shadow, always falling short of her goodness and generosity, constantly resenting her very presence in the family. As they grow old, Ruth sets out to destroy her without guilt or hesitation. Ruth will strike Elizabeth where she’s most vulnerable—she will steal her husband and send her collapsing into ruin. Written in Hart’s concise, striking prose, Sin is a powerful and compulsively readable exploration of hate—and the destruction and tragedy it begets.


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    The Ladies by Doris Grumbach

    In 1778 Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby left County Kilkenny for Wales to live together as a married couple. Both well born, highly educated Irish women, the Ladies of Llangollen, as they came to be known, defied all eighteenth-century social convention and spent half a century together in a loving relationship.

    Removed from the intrusive gaze of the world, the fictional Eleanor and Sarah retreat to their shared home to study literature and language and enjoy their solitude. In an imagined account, Doris Grumbach brings this gripping chronicle to new audiences.


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    Good Boys and Dead Girls by Mary Gordon


    Much acclaimed for her novels, Mary Gordon is also a brilliant and wide-ranging essayist. Gathering together twenty-eight of her forays into nonfiction, Good Boys and Dead Girlsprovides a richly autobiographical context for the themes that mark her fiction, such as Irish-American life, Catholicism, embattled families, and the redeeming power of art. Many of the pieces offer insights into artists and other writers: There are admiring accounts of Edith Wharton, Stevie Smith, and Ford Madox Ford, and a piquant critique of the depiction of women by certain celebrated male novelists.



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    An Act of Worshipby Kate Thompson


    For eco-warrior and journalist Sarah O’Malley, a temporary stint managing her sister’s holistic food store is the perfect escape. But her baggage is unavoidable: Haunted by the spirit of her dead lover, Duncan—who dispenses advice whether she wants it or not—Sarah becomes enmeshed in the mystery of a dying calf. Her search for answers brings her into contact with Malachy Glynn, the town butcher. The philosophical Malachy is the antithesis of everything Sarah believes in. But as their community descends into a quagmire of deceit and violence, Sarah and Malachy become unlikely allies in a quest for the truth.



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    The Childrenby Howard Fast


    Ishky is Jewish; Marie and Shomake are Irish; Ollie is Italian. All children of immigrants, they are confronted daily by the prejudice that rules in one of the world’s greatest urban centers: New York City. Living in slums, they must rely on each other to overcome hunger, disease, violence, and the bigotry of those who arrived before them. Fighting for a better life against the tide of poverty, the children must overcome their own city’s barbarism, or be consumed by it.



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    The Dublinersby James Joyce


    It took nine years for James Joyce to find a publisher for this vivid, uncompromising, and altogether brilliant portrait of Dublin at the turn of the twentieth century. Now regarded as one of the finest story collections in the English languageit contains such masterpieces as “Araby,” “Grace,” and “The Dead,” and serves as a valuable and accessible introduction to the themes that define Joyce’s later work, including the monumental Ulysses.


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    “‘Monster,’ the title poem, has enough energy in it to light a city block for 10 years. A terrifying, wonderful work.”—Marge Piercy 

    Today is International Women’s Day. The #askhermore and HeForShe campaigns are going strong, and feminists around the world are building better platforms to call for equality for women everywhere. Yet even today, the words of Robin Morgan’s famous (and infamous) poem “Monster” are more relevant than ever.

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    When “Monster” came out in 1972, it gradually gained surprising significance in the women’s movement. As Morgan herself says, “‘Monster’ was becoming a rallying cry for women, who made it their own: phrases, lines, stanzas, entire sections appeared on banners, posters, protest signs, buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and note cards . . . I was stunned and grateful that the poem had apparently unlocked and expressed the grief and rage suffocating so many women. Some called it ‘the anthem of feminism,’ and others termed it ‘the pledge of allegiance’ to the Women’s Movement.”

    Morgan has strived before and since to provide outlets for women throughout the world. Her Sisterhood Is Global Institute and National Museum of Women in the Arts continue to advocate for women throughout the world today.

    On this International Women’s Day, reread the poem that inspired so many women around the world to take a stand.


    Listen. I’m really slowing dying
    inside myself tonight.
    And I’m not about to run down the list
    of rapes and burnings and beatings and smiles
    and sulks and rages and all the other crap
    you’ve laid on women throughout your history
    (we had no part in it—although god knows we tried)
    together with your thick, demanding bodies laid on ours,
    while your proud sweat, like liquid arrogance,
    suffocated our very pores—
    not tonight.

    I’m tired of listing your triumph, our oppression,
    especially tonight, while two men whom I like—
    one of whom I live with, father of my child, and
    claim to be in life-giving, death-serious struggle with—
    while you two sit at the kitchen table dancing
    an ornate ritual of what you think passes for struggle
    which fools nobody. Your shared oppression, grief,
    and love as effeminists in a burning patriarchal world
    still cannot cut through power plays of maleness.

    The baby is asleep a room away. White. Male. American.
    Potentially the most powerful, deadly creature
    of the species.
    His hair, oh pain, curls into fragrant tendrils damp
    with the sweat of his summery sleep. Not yet, and on my life
    if I can help it never will be “quite a man.”
    But just two days ago on seeing me naked for what must be the
    five-thousandth time in his not-yet two years, he suddenly
    thought of the furry creature who yawns through
    his favorite television program;
    connected that image with my genitals; laughed,
    and said, “Monster.”

    I want a women’s revolution like a lover.
    I lust for it, I want so much this freedom,
    this end to struggle and fear and lies
    we all exhale, that I could die just
    with the passionate uttering of that desire.
    Just once in this my only lifetime to dance
    all alone and bare on a high cliff under cypress trees
    with no fear of where I place my feet.
    To even glimpse what I might have been and never never
    will become, had I not had to “waste my life” fighting
    for what my lack of freedom keeps me from glimpsing.
    Those who abhor violence refuse to admit they are already
    experiencing it, committing it.
    Those who lie in the arms of the “individual solution,”
    the “private odyssey,” the “personal growth,”
    are the most conformist of all,
    because to admit suffering is to begin
    the creation of freedom.
    Those who fear dying refuse to admit they are already dead.
    Well, I am dying, suffocating from this hopelessness tonight,
    from this dead weight of struggling with
    even those few men I love and care less about
    each day they kill me.

    Do you understand? Dying. Going crazy.
    Really. No poetic metaphor.
    Hallucinating thin rainbow-colored nets
    like cobwebs all over my skin
    and dreaming more and more when I can sleep
    of being killed or killing.
    Sweet revolution, how I wish the female tears
    rolling silently down my face this second were each a bullet,
    each word I write, each character on my typewriter bullets
    to kill whatever it is in men that built this empire,
    colonized my very body,
    then named the colony Monster.

    I am one of the “man-haters,” some have said.
    I don’t have time or patience here to say again why and how
    I hate not men but what it is men do in this culture, or
    how the system of sexism, power dominance, and competition
    is the enemy—not people, but how men, still, created that system
    and preserve it and reap concrete benefits from it.
    Words and rhetoric that merely
    gush from my arteries when grazed
    by the razoredge of humanistic love. Enough.
    I will say, however, that you, men, will have to be freed,
    as well, though we women may have to kick and kill you
    into freedom
    since most of you will embrace death quite gladly
    rather than give up your power to hold power.

    Compassion for the suicidal impulse in our killers? Well,
    on a plane ride once, the man across the aisle,
    who was a World War Two paraplegic,
    dead totally from the waist down,
    wheeled in and out of the cabin, spent the whole trip avidly
    devouring first newspaper sports pages
    and then sports magazines,
    loudly pointing out to anyone who would listen
    (mostly the stewardesses) which athlete was a “real man.”
    Two men in the seats directly behind me talked the whole time
    about which Caribbean islands were the best for whoring, and
    which color of ass was hotter and more pliant.
    The stewardess smiled and served them coffee.
    I gripped the arms of my seat more than once
    to stop my getting up and screaming to the entire planeload
    of human beings what was torturing us all—stopped
    because I knew they’d take me for a crazy, an incipient
    hijacker perhaps, and wrestle me down until Bellevue Hospital
    could receive me at our landing in New York.
    (No hijacker, I understood then, ever really wants to take
    the plane. She/he wants to take the passengers’ minds, to turn
    them inside out, to create the revolution
    35,000 feet above sea level
    and return to the takeoff country with a magical flying cadre
    and, oh yes, to win.)
    Stopping myself is becoming a tactical luxury,
    going fast.

    My hives rise more frequently, stigmata of my passion.
    Someday you’ll take away my baby, one way or the other.
    And the man I’ve loved, one way or the other.
    Why should that nauseate me with terror?
    You’ve already taken me away from myself
    with my only road back to go forward
    into more madness, monsters, cobwebs, nausea,
    in order to free you—men—from killing us, killing us.

    No colonized people so isolated one from the other
    for so long as women.
    None cramped with compassion for the oppressor
    who breathes on the next pillow each night.
    No people so old who, having, we now discover, invented
    agriculture, weaving, pottery, language, cooking
    with fire, and healing medicine, must now invent a revolution
    so total as to destroy maleness, femaleness, death.

    Oh mother, I am tired and sick.
    One sister, new to this pain called feminist consciousness
    for want of a scream to name it, asked me last week
    “But how do you stop from going crazy?”
    No way, my sister.
    No way.
    This is pore war, I thought once, on acid.

    And you, men. Lovers, brothers, fathers, sons.
    I have loved you and love you still, if for no other reason
    than that you came wailing from the monster
    while the monster hunched in pain to give you the power
    to break her spell.
    Well, we must break it ourselves, at last.
    And I will speak less and less and less to you
    and more and more in crazy gibberish you cannot understand:
    witches’ incantations, poetry, old women’s mutterings,
    schizophrenic code, accents, keening, firebombs,
    poison, knives, bullets, and whatever else will invent
    this freedom.

    May my hives bloom bravely until my flesh is aflame
    and burns through the cobwebs.
    May we go mad together, my sisters.
    May our labor agony in bringing forth this revolution
    be the death of all pain.

    May we comprehend that we cannot be stopped.

    May I learn how to survive until my part is finished.
    May I realize that I

    am a
    monster. I am


    I am a monster.

    And I am proud.

    0 0

    If you are going to read two mystery authors this month – Anne Perry and Dorothy L. Sayers are a great place to start.

    Anne Perry

    Anne Perry is the international bestselling author of over 50 novels including the popular Victorian Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mysteries. Perry's novels have hit bestseller lists around the world and she has more than twenty-five million books in print worldwide.

    Perry’s road to success is a long and varied one, having worked as a clerical assistant, in retail and fashion, as an air steward, ship and shore steward, limousine dispatcher and insurance underwriter. This was all before her first book was published.

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    Dorothy L Sayers

    Dorothy L. Sayers introduced the world to Lord Peter Wimsey with the release of her first novel Whose Body in 1923. This was followed up by 10 more in the series, cementing her success as one of the major female mystery writers of her time. The Los Angeles Times even called her "one of the greatest mystery story writers of this century."

    Sayers’ held numerous other jobs while writing her novels jobs including playwright, scholar, translator and copywriter at an advertising firm.

    The popularity of the Wimsey novels has been attributed to Sayers incorporating contemporary issues into her stories such as advertising, women's education, and veteran's health.

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    Want to find out more about our groundbreaking women mystery authors? Watch our video about pioneering female mystery authors.