Saturday, February 27, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
We hope you can join us tomorrow night to hear Meg Mullins read from her recently published second novel, Dear Strangers. The novel tells the story of the Finley family in 1982, awaiting the arrival of the baby boy they're due to adopt. Oliver, just seven, is eager for another playmate to join him and his sister, Mary, in their idyll of swimming pools, climbing trees, and playing tag. But the father dies suddenly and everything changes. Mrs. Finley, newly widowed, decides she cannot proceed with the adoption alone.
Twenty-one years later, Oliver believes he has finally found the brother his family was meant to adopt. Along the way, he also finds Miranda, an eccentric, charming photographer whose subjects are consenting strangers in their own homes after dark. Oliver and Miranda's love story collides with catastrophe when their worlds intersect in ways they could never have predicted.
A luminous, moving portrait of grief and atonement, romance and longing, Dear Strangers unearths the possibilities of hope and renewal in the unexpected bonds forged with family and strangers alike.
As she was writing this book, Mullins lost both her father and her brother. "Personally, I was sorting through a lot of issues of family and loss and obviously it seeped into the book. Writing is a job in which it's particularly unrealistic to leave your personal life behind."
Mullins lives in New Mexico with her husband and two children. Dear Strangers is her second novel. Her first novel, The Rug Merchant, was based on a story that appeared in The Best American Stories 2002. It tells the story of the unlikely romance between an Iranian immigrant and an American college student in New York City, after a chance encounter at JFK airport.
Chance meetings play a big role in both of these novels. Mullins says, "I am a big believer in chance. I love and fear the possibilities of chance. This globe is full of people who might be unknown to us now, but in an hour or a month or a year, may turn out to be the person who changes our life forever."
One of the things she learned from Jonathan Franzen while studying at Columbia was the "mundane yet profound" notion that "if you're not having any fun writing it, nobody's going to have any fun reading it."
Please join us Friday night at 7 to hear Meg Mullins read from and talk about her new novel, Dear Strangers.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Are you a John Banville fan? I have this weird thing about not reading Irish writers (except I love nonfiction written by Nuala O'Faolain, if I'm listening to her read it). But I think Mr. Banville is going to be the one to put a stop to that foolishness with his latest novel, The Infinities, which he describes as an attempt to blend Greek drama with Shakespearean burlesque.
In 2005 Banville won the Booker Prize for The Sea, which I came very close to reading -- in fact I bought it. (I'm telling you, it's just weird this Irish thing I have. Something about potato famine overload. But it's time for it to end.) In all he's written seventeen other books, although three are crime novels written under the pen name Benjamin Black (Christine Falls, The Silver Swan, and Elegy for April - the latter to be published in April, appropriately enough).
But I think Banville's new novel, just published this week, is going to woo me in. The Infinities tells the story of Adam Godley, a word-class mathematician who is dying, with his family gathered around him. Also gathered around him are several Greek gods, meddling in the family's goings-on.
To some extent, Banville's new book is a gloss on the German Romantic playwright Heinrich von Kleist's retelling of the story of Amphitryon. But since I'm not familiar with either Kleist or Amphitryon on any respectable level (it pains me to admit this), that's not the big draw. Here's a fuller description of the book:
"On a languid midsummer’s day in the countryside, old Adam Godley, a renowned theoretical mathematician, is dying. His family gathers at his bedside: his son, young Adam, struggling to maintain his marriage to a radiantly beautiful actress [Helen]; his nineteen-year-old daughter, Petra, filled with voices and visions as she waits for the inevitable; their stepmother, Ursula, whose relations with the Godley children are strained at best; and Petra’s “young man”—very likely more interested in the father than the daughter—who has arrived for a superbly ill-timed visit.
"But the Godley family is not alone in their vigil. Around them hovers a family of mischievous immortals—among them, Zeus, who has his eye on young Adam’s wife; Pan, who has taken the doughy, perspiring form of an old unwelcome acquaintance; and Hermes, who is the genial and omniscient narrator: 'We too are petty and vindictive,' he tells us, 'just like you, when we are put to it.' As old Adam’s days on earth run down, these unearthly beings start to stir up trouble, to sometimes wildly unintended effect. . . .
"Blissfully inventive and playful, rich in psychological insight and sensual detail, The Infinities is at once a gloriously earthy romp and a wise look at the terrible, wonderful plight of being human—a dazzling novel from one of the most widely admired and acclaimed writers at work today."
Today I read an interview with John Banville by Anne K. Yoder, on The Millions. It was fascinating. She asked him "Why is there such a focus on death in a novel concerned with the infinite?" And he responded thusly:
"Well first of all, all of the science is just what we call cod science here. It’s fake. And the book is not really concerned with quantum physics and those things, which is very frightening for all of us. It’s a human comedy. We may be amused and fascinated and enthralled by scientific theories but we have to live through our days in the world, and we have to face death, and death is what gives life it’s flavor. I’m absolutely convinced of this. I mean, most of the philosophers have recognized that. Spinoza says the wise man thinks only of death but all of his meditations are a meditation upon life. Which is true. Death is not the point. Life is the point. But death is the beginning of what gives life its point....Life at its simplest is very simple. We spin the most extraordinary intellectual conceits and emotional conceits but in the end, it’s quite simple. We want to be happy. We want to be delighted."
Here are some other comments by Banville from the interview with Yoder:
"Constantly in my work is the tension between the life of the mind and life in the world—the physical life, the life that we want to lead, the Helen side of things, that wonderful, erotic (and I mean erotic in the whitest sense of the word), that sensual sense of being in the world, as against the desire to speculate and to think and to make theories. Old Adam professes to have this dismissive attitude toward his son, but he’s sort of puzzled by his son because his son is the one who is living in the world. And the son, of course, is the one who believes in the possibility of good and the possibility of the simplistic and the possibility that the simple life might be as valuable, and perhaps even more valuable, than the life of the mind, the great thinker. It is a comedy."
"There’s no message. I constantly say one of my absolute mottos is from Kafka, where he says the artist is the man who has nothing to say. I have nothing to say. I have no opinions about anything. I don’t care about physical, moral, social issues of the day. I just want to recreate the sense of what life feels like, what it tastes like, what it smells like. That’s what art should do. I feel it should be absolutely gloriously useless."
"It’s the old argument which I’ve been writing, I suppose, all my life—which is more important, or are they equally important, the life of the mind or life in the world?"
"If I’m anything I’m a post-humanist. I don’t see human beings as the absolute center of the universe. I think one of our tragedies and maybe our central tragedy is that we imagined that at some point in evolution we reached a plateau where we were no longer animal. That we had left the animal world and became pure spirit unfortunately tied to this physical body that we have to carry around. This seems to me a very bad mistake. We should admit our physicality. We have lost contact with the animals, which I think is a disaster. I think we should realize we are immensely intricate animals, but we are animals still and we should not lose sight of that."
"Even in my darkest books, my characters are trying to live as well as they can, and to live as rich a life as is possible. That’s what art is for—it’s to say to people, look, the world is an extraordinarily rich place. Look at this extraordinary place we’ve been put into, this world."
And, finally, this comment, which I found absolutely enchanting: "Once you have the names, all the characters right, then you’ve got the book. And in my other life, as a book reviewer, I always know a book is flawed when the names don’t suit the characters. There’s no science to this, there’s no way of saying why a character is suited to a certain name, or vice versa, but it’s simply true....You can tell when a novelist is not comfortable with the material if he gets the names wrong. But that’s the mystical thing, because I don’t know how it works."
I don't know about you, but I'm stoked to read The Infinities. And then I'm going to go back and read The Sea. Really. I mean it. And this all has nothing to do with my Scottish ancestry. Really. I mean it.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Five books published in 2009 have been selected as finalists for the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, America's largest peer-juried fiction prize. The judges considered almost 350 novels and short story collections submitted from more than 90 publishing houses. The winner will be announced on March 23 and will be feted, along with the other four nominees, in a ceremony on May 8th in Washington, DC. Here are the five finalists:
- Sherman Alexie, for War Dances (Grove Press)
- Barbara Kingsolver, for The Lacuna (Harper)
- Lorraine M. Lopez, for Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories (BkMk Press)
- Lorrie Moore, for A Gate at the Stairs (Knopf)
- Colson Whitehead, for Sag Harbor (Doubleday)
Some of my favorite authors are on this list!
Friday, February 19, 2010
The book tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black GI, who finds herself living in Portland, struggling with issues of grief and identity. Living with her African American grandmother, Rachel finds herself for the first time in a mostly black community, after being raised by her mother to think of herself as white. In her book, Durrow tackles issues of racial polarization, gender, family, identiy, and loss, all presented in an incredibly moving and original voice.
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky was named a winner of the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, a biennial award given to a previously unpublished work of fiction, written by a US citizen, that addresses issues of social justice. The Bellwether Prize was established by Barbara Kingsolver. The previous winner of the Bellwether Prize was Mudbound, by Hilary Jordan.
Durrow, who is also the daughter of a white Danish mother and an African American Air Force father, is a graduate of Stanford University, Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, and Yale Law School. She co-hosts a weekly podcast, Mixed Chicks Chat, about being racially and culturally mixed and is the co-founder and co-producer of the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival, an annual free public event that celebrates stories of the Mixed experience.
I recently had the pleasure of talking to Heidi at the Winter Institute, a meeting for booksellers, and filmed a short clip of Heidi talking about why Portlanders will enjoy this book. We've already sold several copies of her novel, and she'll be stopping by to sign copies while she's here. I always enjoy reading books that are set in Portland and recognizing various landmarks -- a little bonus to a good read! You can also listen to an interview with Heidi by Dmae Roberts on KBOO.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The National Book Critics Circle is blogging about the finalists for its 2009 awards, focusing on a different finalist each day until the award ceremony in New York City on March 11th. You can check out the NBCC blog here, and you can the list of finalists -- including local author Debra Gwartney, a finalist in the autobiography category -- here. Today's posting features poetry finalist Rachel Zucker and her book Museum of Accidents.
Swedish detective fiction is hot! New on our shelves today: the latest from Henning Mankell: The Man from Beijing. Mankell has already made a name for himself as the internationally acclaimed author of the Kurt Wallander series. [The BBC series starring Kenneth Branagh as Kurt Wallander, which I wrote about earlier, was a big hit. The second series of three books, starting with Faceless Killers and again starring Branagh, began airing on the BBC last month.]
The Man from Beijing has all the excitement of Mankell's other books but is a brilliant new departure: an explosive, stand-alone mystery of international scope. It opens with the death of nineteen people in the Swedish hamlet of Hesjövallen — a red ribbon found at the scene is the only clue. The ensuing investigation leads to the highest echelons of power in present-day Beijing, and to Zimbabwe and Mozambique. I've heard from fans of Mankell's Wallander books that this is Mankell's best book yet, so I hope you'll give it a try.
Please join us tonight at 7 pm to hear two terrific Oregon poets -- and Oregon Book Award winners -- read from their latest works. Reading tonight are Penelope Scambly Schott and Henry Hughes.
Penelope has worked as a donut maker in a cider mill, a home health aide, and an artist's model. For several years she was an English professor at Rutgers University and Raritan Valley Community College, until moving to Oregon, where she teaches poetry workshops, writes, paints, hikes, and grades papers. Penelope won the 2008 Oregon Book Award for Poetry for her book A is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth, published by Turning Point. She has received many awards and fellowships throughout her career, two of the most recent being the 2009 Ronald Wardall Prize, which resulted in the publication of the chapbook Under Taos Mountain, The Terrible Quagmire of Magpie and Tia, by Rain Mountain Press, and the 2009 Sarah Lantz Poetry Book Prize, by Calyx Press, which will result in the October publication of Crow Mercies. Penelope also participates in The Cool Women Poets group of New Jersey, a themed poetry performance group that has produced four anthologies and, most recently, a CD entitled "Cool Women Collect Themselves."
Tonight Penelope will read from Under Taos Mountain and Six Lips, her newest collection (Mayapple Press). Colette Inez says the writing in Six Lips is "insightful, sure footed, possessed of an unerring ear for the music of language," going on to say "This is the work of a poet writing in full stride. Praise be."
Henry Hughes, an associate professor of English at Western Oregon University, won the 2004 Oregon Book Award for his first book, Men Holding Eggs (Mammoth Books), which was praised by poet Li-Young Lee for its gorgeous, masterful writing. Henry grew up on Long Island, received his PhD in English from Purdue, and moved to Oregon in 2002. Before teaching at WOU, he also taught at Hofstra University and the Beijing Foreign Studies University.
Besides his writing, teaching, and literary criticism, Henry is an avid traveler and fisherman, and he has his open water SCUBA certification. Tonight Henry will read from his recently published collection Moist Meridian, published by Mammoth Books.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Head's up: I'm coming to the store at 2:30 pm today, and I'm bringing a freshly baked batch of my chocolate chip cookies with me. What a deal! Buy a great new book, and get a yummy (in my humble opinion) homemade cookie still warm with melty chocolate goodness -- for free! No nuts were used in the baking of these cookies, with the possible exception of the baker.
Book Three in the compelling YA dystopic trilogy by Suzanne Collins will be released August 24th. Mockingjay follows the bestselling books The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, which tell the story of a futuristic North America that has become Panem, a TV-dominated dictatorship run from a city called the Capitol, exploring the idea "What happens if we choose entertainment over humanity?"
The Hunger Games are an annual fight-to-the-death for young combatants from each of the 12 districts in Panem -- think "Survivor" only with teenagers and instead of getting kicked off the island you get killed. The books feature intense action, love stories, a wry sense of humor, the exploration of big ideas, and a main character with the not-so-mellifluous name Katniss (sometimes called "catnip"). In Catching Fire, the air of rebellion is spreading through Panem, and Katniss finds that personal acts can affect others and create unintended consequences she is powerless to stop. One reviewer described Catching Fire as "Stephen King meets Dr. Zhivago." I wrote about the first two books earlier.
If you haven't read the first two books in The Hunger Games Trilogy yet, I strongly recommend them. They are interesting and entertaining, thought-provoking and well written. You can get the first two done in time to read Book Three when it hits the store in August!
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Dark Scribe Magazine has just announced the winners of the Third Annual Black Quill Awards. Among the winners this year are Dark Places by Gillian Flynn and Drood by Dan Simmons for Dark Genre Novel. Dark Scribe is a web-based magazine about "the books that keep you up at night." Previous winners in this category include Stephen King for Duma Key and Joe Hill for Heart-Shaped Box. (Did you know that they are father and son?) I'm not a big reader of books that scare me enough to keep me awake at night -- life is scary enough for me -- but I know a lot of people are, and I've heard great things about both of this year's winners.
Dark Places is Flynn's second crime thriller, following her debut novel Sharp Objects. Seven-year-old Libby Day's mother and two sisters are murdered, and her brother is convicted of the crimes. Twenty-five years later, the truth doesn't seem so straightforward after all.
Drood, narrated by Wilkie Collins, imagines a frightening sequence of events that prompts Collins's friend and fellow author, Charles Dickens, to write The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Dickens's last, uncompleted novel. Simmons's next novel, Black Hills, comes out near the end of this month and tells the story of a Lakota Sioux and General Custer.
While you're out shopping for Valentine's Day goodies, don't forget to share a little love with yourself! There are so many wonderful new books just hot off the presses, as well as the "oldies but goodies." Whether you're looking for an intellectual challenge, a new world to escape into, or just some light reading to pass the time, we've got you covered!
Valentine's Day is just around the corner (Sunday, in fact). We invite you to come see all of the delightful (and in fact delicious, in some cases) options at Broadway Books to bestow upon your sweetie(s)! While you're here, be sure to check out the two fabulous Valentine thank-you posters in our windows created by the appreciative students at Sitton Elementary School.
In December, Broadway Books and our wonderfully generous customers (yes, that's you!) teamed up to give students at Sitton a wonderful collection of new books for their school library, as well as a shopping spree for Sitton's librarian, Diane Newton-Prior, to fill in the gaps. We were delighted to receive from the happy kids these two gorgeous heart-felt AND heart-filled posters, and we quickly put them up on our windows for all to view.
Until you can make it down to the store in person, here's a couple of snapshots to give you a taste. And watch the blog for a soon-to-launch video......
Thank you to all who helped make this gift to Sitton such a generous one! Instilling a love of reading in kids and giving them great books to read feels great, doesn't it?