Interview with Craig Brown author of “Hello, Goodbye, Hello”

 

 

 

 

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Craig Brown author of hello, Goodbye, Hello.

From “one of the funniest writers in Britain—wise, clever, hilarious, and a national treasure” (Helen Fielding, author of Bridget Jones’s Diary) comes this delightful book of “101 ingeniously linked encounters between the famous and the infamous” [The Observer (London) Best Books of the Year]. Can you imagine more unlikely meetings than these: Marilyn Monroe and Frank Lloyd Wright; Sergei Rachmaninoff and Harpo Marx; T. S. Eliot and Groucho Marx; Madonna and Martha Graham; Michael Jackson and Nancy Reagan; Tsar Nicholas II and Harry Houdini; Nikita Khrushchev and Marilyn Monroe? They all happened. Craig Brown tells the stories of 101 such bizarre encounters in this witty, original exploration into truth-is-stranger-than-fiction.

“Captivating… . A glittering daisy chain that reads like a mathematical proof of the theory of six degrees of separation… . Mr. Brown constructs portraits that have all the immediacy of reportage, all the fanciful detail of fiction. He has whipped up a gratifying summertime confection — funny, diverting, occasionally sad.”  —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“The book that made me laugh most was Craig Brown’s quirky game of biographical consequences.” —Julian Barnes, Times Literary Supplement “Books of the Year”

Craig Brown has been writing the Private Eye celebrity diary since 1989 and is a columnist for London’s Daily Mail. He has also written parodies for many publications, including the Daily Telegraph, Vanity Fair, The Times, and The Guardian. The author of several books of fiction and nonfiction, he lives in London.

Interview with Sadie Stein author of “Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Sadie Stein, author of Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story.

What does it take to write a great short story? In Object Lessons, twenty-one contemporary masters of the genre answer that question, sharing favorite stories from the pages of The Paris Review.

A laboratory for new fiction since its founding in 1953, The Paris Review has launched hundreds of careers while publishing some of the most inventive and best-loved stories of the last half century. This anthology – the first of its kind – is more than a treasury: it is an indispensable resource for writers, students and anyone else who wants to understand fiction from a writer’s point of view.

A repository of incredible fiction, Object Lessons includes contributions from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Daniel Alarcon, Donald Antrim, Lydia Davis, Dave Eggers, Mary Gaitskill, Aleksandar Hemon, Jonathan Lethem, Sam Lipsyte, Ben Marcus, Colum McCann, Lorrie Moore, Norman Rush, Mona Simpson and Ali Smith, among others.

Listen to Sam’s interview with Sadie on Podomatic or you can download the podcast on iTunes.

Interview with Justin Torres author of “We The Animals”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Justin Torres,  author of We The Animals.

Three brothers tear their way through childhood – smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from trash, hiding out when their parents do battle, tiptoeing around the house as their mother sleeps off her graveyard shift. Paps and Ma are from Brooklyn – he’s Puerto Rican, she’s white – and their love is a serious, dangerous thing that makes and unmakes a family many times.

Life in this family is fierce and absorbing, full of chaos and heartbreak and the euphoria of belonging completely to one another. From the intense familial unity felt by a child to the profound alienation he endures as he begins to see the world, this beautiful novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sly and punch-in-the-stomach powerful.

Written in magical language with unforgettable images, this is a stunning exploration of the viscerally charged landscape of growing up, how deeply we are formed by our earliest bonds, and how we are ultimately propelled at escape velocity toward our futures.

We the Animals [is] the kind of sensitive, carefully wrought autobiographical first novel that may soon be extinct from the mainstream publishing world…An affecting story of love, loss and the irreversible trauma that a single event can bring to a family. ~The New York Times

A novel so honest, poetic, and tough that it makes you reexamine what it means to love and to hurt.~O, The Oprah Magazine

Justin Torres grew up in upstate New York. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Glimmer Train, and other publications. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is a recipient of the Rolón United States Artist Fellowship in Literature, and is now a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. He has worked as a farmhand, a dog-walker, a creative writing teacher, and a bookseller.

Listen to Sam’s interview with Justin on Podomatic or you can download the podcast on iTunes.

“The Dressmaker” by Kate Alcott

I recently finished reading The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott and although it’s a story about the Titanic tragedy it’s not the usual take on the disaster. The Dressmaker focuses mainly on the aftermath of the ship’s sinking…an aspect of the story I knew very little about. The author uses verbatim testimony from the transcripts of U. S. Senate hearings that were held in an attempt to discover what exactly happened and who, if anyone, was at fault. The hearings also investigated the behavior of survivors and why the numbers were so skewed in favor of the wealthier passengers. Out of 2,223 people on board the Titanic, 706 survived and of that number 60 percent were from first class. Therein lies the story that Miss Alcott tells in The Dressmaker.

Tess Collins is an ambitious young woman desperately looking for a way out of her class restricted existence. She is a talented dressmaker and is determined to make her mark on the world…if only she can find a way. That opportunity arises when she meets famous fashion designer Lucile Duff Gordon just as she is about to board the Titanic and agrees to become the designer’s personal maid. Of course the disastrous sinking occurs only four days into the voyage and actually the author deals with the sinking and rescue in very quick measure. What happens when they eventually land in New York is when the story really begins to take shape.

A United States senator is determined to prove negligence on the part of the White Star Line and begins hearings in New York almost immediately. However, what begins to become apparent through the testimony of various survivors is how class and wealth determined to a great extent who lived and who did not. Reports of life boats being launched with 12 people aboard when they could have held upwards of 60 people, stories of half full life boats refusing to pick up survivors still in the water, and other horrendous acts of cowardice and malice were documented during the hearings. And Lucile Duff Gordon and her husband Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon find themselves smack in the middle of this maelstrom. Because of the negative publicity and fierce public outcry, the designer is forced into seclusion and Tess gets her chance to prove her value to Lady Gordon by taking over the preparations for the upcoming fashion shows.

But Tess’s allegiance to her employer is torn. She has developed a strong friendship with one of the surviving sailors from the ship and he was aboard Lady Gordon’s lifeboat. So he knows what really occurred that night and has hinted to Tess that her high regard for the designer may be ill placed. Poor Tess is truly stuck in the middle! She owes so much to Lady Gordon but finds it harder and harder to overlook what is becoming clear….Lady Gordon concerned herself with her own survival at the expense of many others.

There is another male suitor pursuing Tess during the story as well. He is a wealthy businessman, twice divorced, and I honestly found that relationship to be a little far-fetched. I didn’t think it added anything to the story except to give Tess another chance to show the reader what she was really made of. 

I enjoyed this book although I can’t say I loved it. I thought the writing drug a bit toward the end and it was fairly predictable. However, the information from the Senate hearings was fascinating and horrible at the same time. This was a side of the tragedy I was totally unaware of. Another interesting tidbit I discovered is that Kate Alcott is the pen name for Patricia O’Brien, a New York Times best selling author. Evidently because her previous novel had not sold well, her publisher passed on The Dressmaker as did 12 other publishing houses. Her agent decided to try another tactic and tried selling the book under the pen name, Kate Alcott. The book sold in three days!

~ Judy

Interview with Vaddey Ratner author of “In The Shadow of the Banyan”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Vaddey Ratner, author of In The Shadow of the Banyan.

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus.

Over the next four years, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labor, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of childhood—the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival.

Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.

“The humanity…shines through…in the author’s depiction of a pure, unbroken love between daughter and father and in Ms. Ratner’s portraits of the human will to survive.” ~ Howard French, The Wall Street Journal

“By countering the stark and abject reality of her experience with lyrical descriptions of the natural beauty of Cambodia and its people, Ratner has crafted and elegiac tribute to the Cambodia she knew and loved.” ~Booklist

Vaddey Ratner was five years old when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. After four years, having endured forced labor, starvation, and near execution, she and her mother escaped while many of her family members perished. In 1981, she arrived in the U.S. as a refugee not knowing English and, in 1990, went on to graduate as her high school class valedictorian. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Cornell University, where she specialized in Southeast Asian history and literature. In recent years she traveled and lived in Cambodia and Southeast Asia, writing and researching, which culminated in her debut novel, In the Shadow of the Banyan.

Listen to Sam’s interview with Vaddey Ratner on Podomatic or you can download the podcast on iTunes.


Interview with Don Lee, author of “The Collective”

In 1988, Eric Cho, an aspiring writer, arrives at Macalester College. On his first day he meets a beautiful fledgling painter, Jessica Tsai, and another would-be novelist, the larger-than-life Joshua Yoon. Brilliant, bawdy, generous, and manipulative, Joshua alters the course of their lives, rallying them together when they face an adolescent act of racism. As adults in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the three friends reunite as the 3AC, the Asian American Artists Collective together negotiating the demands of art, love, commerce, and idealism until another racially tinged controversy hits the headlines, this time with far greater consequences. Long after the 3AC has disbanded, Eric reflects on these events as he tries to make sense of Joshua ‘s recent suicide. With wit, humor, and compassion, The Collective explores the dream of becoming an artist, and questions whether the reality is worth the sacrifice.

“Heartbreaking, sexy, and frequently funny.”
—Stephan Lee, Entertainment Weekly

Don Lee is the author most recently of the novel The Collective. He is also the author of the novel Wrack and Ruin, which was a finalist for the Thurber Prize; the novel Country of Origin, which won an American Book Award, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and a Mixed Media Watch Image Award for Outstanding Fiction; and the story collection Yellow, which won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Members Choice Award from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. All of his books have been published by W. W. Norton.

He is a third-generation Korean American. The son of a career State Department officer, he spent the majority of his childhood in Tokyo and Seoul. In Tokyo, he attended ASIJ—the American School in Japan. He received his B.A. in English literature from UCLA and his M.F.A. in creative writing and literature from Emerson College. After graduating, he taught fiction writing workshops at Emerson for four years as an adjunct instructor, then began working full-time at Ploughshares. He was an occasional writer-in-residence in Emerson’s M.F.A. program and a visiting writer at other colleges and universities.

Listen to Sam’s interview with Don on Podomatic or you can download the podcast on iTunes.

This Week in the Bookshop – Tons of New Children’s Books

You would think that just having come back from Disney that I would be sick of all things kids but when I walked into the Bookshop upon my return and saw all of the new books we have in our beautiful children’s area I couldn’t help but get sucked in. 

Creative New Stories

Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes by James Dean and Eric Litwin

Pete is this really cool cat that has bright white shoes.  One day Pete goes for a walk and steps into all kinds of things that cause his white shoes to change color.  Being the laid back cat that he is Pete doesn’t let it get him down.  This book was a huge hit at our Storytime yesterday morning.

Little Sweet Potatoby Amy Beth Bloom and Noah Z. Jones

This is a sweet (pun intended) story about a little sweet potato that gets thrown out in the world and finds out that not everyone is sweet like he is.  He runs into all kinds of mean and silly plants before finally finding where he fits in.  This is an a cute picture book about appreciating others and oneself.

Twisted Classics

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaursas retold by Mo Willems

If you know and love Mo Willems (Knuffle Bunny, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and many more award winning children’s picture books) this story will not disappoint!  I found my self chuckling as I read along.  This is the story of Goldilocks retold with dinosaurs instead of bears.  The dinosaurs set a trap of chocolate pudding in the hopes of catching a chocolate-filled-little-girl-bonbon.  However, they forget to lock the back door and she gets away.  In true Mo Willems style this book is one that you will read to your kids again and again.

Goldilocks and Just One Bearby Leigh Hodgkinson

One day Bear gets lost and finds himself in the big, noisy city.  To escape all the noise he goes into a high rise apartment for a bit to eat and a brief rest.  While he is sleeping the owners of the apartment return home and find him.  Once bear opens his eyes he sees a familiar face, it is Goldilocks all grown up and the Mom of the family.  This is a cute take on the classic.

Historical Picture Books

First Mothersby Beverly Gherman and Julie Downing

Fun stories about the women behind the White House, the presidential moms.  Did you know that Abraham Lincoln’s mother was a wrestler?  With interesting facts and fun illustrations Gherman and Downing make learning history entertaining.

Electric Benby Robert Byrd

Any thing and everything you could want to know about Benjamin Franklin all in a picture book!  Living in Philadelphia (or nearby as we are here in the Bookshop) you cannot get away from the presence of Ben Franklin.  Byrd shares with youngsters the world of Ben Franklin through interesting facts and vibrant illustrations.

Beautiful AnimalBooks

The Conference of the Birdsretold by Alexis York Lumbard and illustrated by Demi

This 800 year old classic is retold with beautiful illustrations.  This story of a flock of birds looking for their king teaches the reader about conquering one’s faults and practicing the virtues of humility, patience, and courage.  Did I mention the beautiful illustrations?  This is definitely a book that you will want to have in your collection and as well as give as a gift.

Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animalsby Helene Rajcak and Damien Laverdunt

Did you know that there was a Pennsylvania Bison?  Where did all of the Passenger Pigeons go?  In this beautifully illustrated book Rajcak and Laverdunt share some strange and interesting animals that used to roam the earth.

These are just a few of the great new books we have so stop by and check them all out!