Thursday, August 25, 2011

Finalists for Literary Peace Prize

The finalists for this year's Dayton Literary Peace Prize have just been announced. The winners will be honored in a ceremony in Dayton, Ohio, on November 13th.

Here are the finalists for fiction:
  • The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee (Riverhead)
  • How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu (Riverhead)
  • Beneath the Lion's Gaze by Maaza Mengiste (Norton)
  • The Gendarme by Mark Mustian (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam)
  • Kapitoil by Teddy Wayne (HarperCollins) [Note that Kapitoil is one of twenty books available in Google eBook form for only 99 cents until the end of August through our website.]
Here are the finalists for nonfiction:
  • Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978 by Kai Bird (Scribner)
  • Little Princes by Conor Grennan (HarperCollins)
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (Random House)
  • For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question by Mac McClelland (Soft Skull Press)
  • In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance by Wilbert Rideau (Knopf)
  • The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (Random House)
The Dayton Literary Peace Prize honors writers whose work uses the power of literature to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding. Launched in 2006, it is the only literary peace prize awarded in the United States. As an offshoot of the Dayton Peace Prize, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize awards a $10,000 cash prize each year to one fiction and one nonfiction author whose work advances peace as a solution to conflict and leads readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions, and political points of view.

Last year's winners were Marlon James for The Book of Night Women, a novel exploring the history of slavery in Jamaica in the eighteenth century, and Dave Eggers for Zeitoun, his eye-opening true story of the experiences of one family in New Orleans in the days following Hurricane Katrina. Past winners are Richard Bausch, Benjamin Skinner, Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, Brad Kessler, Mark Kurlansky, Francine Prose, and Stephen Walker.

An annual lifetime achievement award is also bestowed upon a writer whose body of work reflects the Prize's mission. This year's honoree is Barbara Kingsolver, who will receive the first-ever Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award. The award, formerly known as the Lifetime Achievement Award, was renamed in honor of the late Richard C. Holbrooke, the celebrated US diplomat who played an instrumental role in negotiating the historic 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the war in Bosnia. The award will be presented to Kingsolver at the November ceremony by journalist Kati Marton, Holbrooke’s widow. Previous honorees include Studs Terkel, Elie Wiesel, Taylor Branch, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and Geraldine Brooks.

You can find links to all of this year's finalists as well as last year's winners on our website.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Crossing Africa. Now and Then. Reading Tonight!

We're excited to be hosting Portland-based author Julian Smith tonight to read from his book Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure, now available in paperback.

In 1898, the dashing British adventurer Ewart “The Leopard” Grogan was head-over-heels in love, but he needed the approval of his beloved’s skeptical, aristocratic stepfather. To prove his worth, the 24-year-old Cambridge dropout set out on an epic quest to become the first person to walk the length of Africa.

A little over a century later, journalist Julian Smith also found himself madly in love with his girlfriend of seven years, but terrified by the prospect of a lifelong commitment. Inspired by Grogan’s story, Smith decided to face his fears of marriage by retracing the explorer’s amazing but now mostly forgotten 4,500-mile journey for love and glory through the lakes, volcanoes, savannas, and crowded modern cities of Africa.

Crossing the Heart of Africa is the unforgettable account of twin adventures, as Smith interweaves his own contemporary journey with Grogan’s larger-than-life tale of charging elephants, cannibal attacks, deadly jungles, and romantic triumph. The book won the 2011 Outstanding Book Award for Memoir/Autobiography from the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Julian Smith is an award-winning writer specializing in travel and science. His articles and photographs have appeared in Smithsonian, Wired, Outside, National Geographic Traveler, New Scientist, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and US News & World Report. He is the author of travel guidebooks to El Salvador, Ecuador, Virginia and the Four Corners, and has won the country’s top travel writing award from the Society of American Travel Writers.

With a background in the natural sciences, including a BA in biology and an MS in wildlife ecology, Smith helped launch and edit Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, an international peer-reviewed scientific journal. He has taught writing, editing, and literature at the College of Santa Fe and the Gotham Writers Workshop.

The reading starts tonight at 7 pm, and it's sure to be exciting. Hope you can join us!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The 2012 Oregon Book Awards

Been dreaming of joining the ranks of such literary luminaries as Willy Vlautin, John Daniel, Ehud Havazelet, Scott Nadelson, Robin Cody, Lee Montgomery, and other Oregon Book Award winners? Well, first you have to write a really good book. If you've done that, and your book was published between August 1, 2010 and July 31, 2011 AND you are an Oregon resident, perhaps your book should be nominated for an Oregon Book Award. Awards are presented in the following genres: Poetry, Fiction, General Nonfiction, Creative Nonfiction, Children's Literature, Young Adult Literature, and Graphic Literature. The deadline for nominating a title is 5 pm on Friday, August 26th.

As part of the Oregon Book Awards, Literary Arts also offers three special awards that recognize significant contributions to Oregon's literary culture:

  • The Charles Erskine Scott Wood Distinguished Writer Award is presented to an Oregon author in recognition of an enduring, substantial literary career.
  • The Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award is presented to a person or organization in recognition of significant contributions that have enriched Oregon's literary community.
  • The Walt Morey Young Readers Literary Legacy Award is presented to a person or organization in recognition of significant contributions that have enriched Oregon's young readers. 
For information on the guidelines submission process for these three awards and the general book categories, go to the Literary Arts website. To see what books have been nominated thus far, you can go to the Literary Arts blog, Paper Fort. There are some great books in the running already!

We've Got SoCal Sunshine and SoCal Poetry

Please join us tonight as we welcome poet Brendan Constantine from California, who will read from his second collection of poetry, Birthday Girl with Possum.

Constantine is the second child of two working actors and is named for Irish playwright Brendan Behan. For as long as he can remember, he's been making things up. He has been teaching poetry in Southern California schools and colleges for the past seventeen years. He also regularly brings poetry workshops to foster and eldercare centers and homeless shelters and has worked with the Alzheimer's Poetry Project.  He is currently poet-in-residence at The Windward School and Loyola Marymount University Extension. In 2002, Constantine was nominated for Poet Laureate of the state of California.

Known for his dreamy abstraction and the emotional ferocity of his work both on the page and on the stage, Constantine continues to explore "the illusion of knowledge" and the "facts of our dreams" in his newest collection, Birthday Girl with Possum, in which he blends classic and colloquial diction, pop culture and historical references, and multiple approaches to writing ("odes, codes, lectures, letters, tests and attendance sheets").

His work has appeared in numerous journals, most notably Ploughshares, Ninth Letter, The Los Angeles Review, The Cortland Review, RUNES, and LA Times Bestseller The Underground Guide to Los Angeles. New work is forthcoming in Rattle, 2River View, and Verse Wisconsin. His first collection, Letters to Guns, was published in February 2009 by Red Hen Press. Here's what one reviewer had to say about that collection:

"In the hands of Brendan Constantine poetry is a weapon. That much is obvious. But one never knows, his poems will explode with bullets or flowers because Constantine is both guerilla fighter and beguiling jester. Melancholy, hysterical, literary, musical-- the insights, like the forms (epistles, odes, annotated poems), of Letters to Guns are unpredictable, innovative and above all gripping. I am as helpless as anyone looking down the barrel of a gun. These poems are dangerous fun!

Constantine holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Hollywood at Bela Lugosi’s last address.

Please join us tonight at 7 pm for what is sure to be a lively evening of poetry and entertainment.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Some Enticing New Books for You

I mentioned a while back that Tuesdays are when many of the publishers release their new titles. This Tuesday was a particularly exciting one for me, as we received the paperback editions of two especially wonderful nonfiction books. Let's Take the Long Way Home is a beautifully written memoir by Gail Caldwell that tells the story of her friendship with fellow writer and dog lover Caroline Knapp. It will take your breath away. And even though I already own the hardbound edition of this book, I'm tempted to buy a second copy in paperback because the new cover is gorgeous. (Who says you can't judge a book by its cover???)

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee, is exactly what the subtitle says, a biography of cancer -- from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it, to a radical new understanding of its essence. The book includes an appearance by Brian Druker at OHSU and his work with chronic myeloid leukemia, or CML. The Emperor of All Maladies won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction this year, and was named a Top Ten Book of 2010 by The New York Times, Time magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, Entertainment Weekly, and O, The Oprah Magazine -- which gives you some idea of its broad range and appeal.

Recently one of our regular customers came in, someone who reads a great deal of very good narrative nonfiction, and he gave this book the highest possible marks. That's good enough for me! The book is going on my list. And now it's out in paperback!

Our cup continued to runneth over yesterday with wonderful new fiction titles as well, including a debut novel in hardcover that I've been eager to read: The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson, who is also the author of a short story collection (Tunneling to the Center of the Earth), which received an Alex Award from the American Library Association and the Shirley Jackson Award. The Family Fang is about a family of four: performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang and their two (now grown) children Buster and Annie Fang. You have to be intrigued by a book with this comment from Ann Patchett on the cover: "A comedy, a tragedy, and a tour-de-force examination of what it means to make art and survive your family. The best single world description would be genius."

Some of the paperback fiction titles we received yesterday were Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman, Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, and To the End of the Land  by David Grossman -- a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

Our shelves are well stocked with much to tempt you. Come see for yourself! While you're here you can see Kate's fabulous new ocean-themed front window display. Oh, and we're starting to get new 2012 calendars (egad!!) too, including a nifty new one based on one of my favorite books of last year, The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe, by Theodore Gray.

Friday, August 5, 2011

All Things Forest Park on August 9th

On Tuesday, August 9th, at 7 pm we are excited to be hosting Marcy Cottrell Houle, who will read from and talk about the recently revised edition of her wonderful book, One City's Wilderness: Portland's Forest Park, published by Oregon State University Press.

One of the largest city parks in the world -- and certainly America's premier urban forest --  Forest Park stretches 7.5 miles long by 1.5 miles wide along the eastern slope of Portland's West Hills, encompassing 5157 acres and offering up eighty miles of trails. Because the northernmost section has not been fragmented by multiple roads or developed uses, it has remained nearly pristine, providing critical breeding habitat for many native wildlife species.

From its inception in 1903 and creation in 1948, Forest Park has been a refuge for both people and wildlife and an integral part of the environment of Portland. In 1903, the Municipal Park Commission of Portland contracted with the Olmsted Brothers landscape architectural firm to make a park planning study. John C. Olmsted -- nephew and adopted son of Frederick Law Olmsted, popularly known as the father of American landscape architecture and designer of, among many places, New York's Central Park and the site of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 -- came to Portland to research the area. Among the suggestions made in the Olmsted Brothers' report was that the area that is now Forest Park be acquired for a park of wild woodland character. In their report the brothers stated (with great foresight) that along the hills northwest of Portland "there are a succession of ravines and spurs covered with remarkably beautiful primeval woods....It is true that some people look upon such woods merely as a troublesome encumbrance standing in the way of more profitable use of the land, but future generations will not feel so and will bless the men who were wise enough to get such woods preserved."

Sadly, that suggestion was not carried out -- at least not immediately. In the early 1900s, developers envisioned massive subdivisons in what is now the park, platting thousands of lots alongside a network of imaginary roads. One of the developers built what is now known as Leif Erickson Drive in 1915. In its first year a landslide closed the road, and the owners of the vacant lots were assessed the repair costs. Thankfully for us park lovers, the vast majority refused to pay, and hundreds of lots were forfeited.

Even with much of the land now belonging to the city, it wasn't until 1944 when movement toward a park really got going, thanks in great part to the efforts of  the man with the interesting nick name: Garnett "Ding" Cannon, a Portland businessman and ardent advocate for an urban wilderness park. On September 25, 1948, a total of forty-two hundred acres of forest land was formally dedicated as Forest Park.

And that's just the history! In her book, Houle also covers the park's geology, watersheds, vegetation, wildlife, and trail system, incorporating checklists and wonderful color photographs of plants, mammals and birds found in the park and with fully half of the book devoted to the trails of Forest Park, with detailed descriptions, maps, and GPS coordinates for twenty-nine hikes diverse in length, steepness, and challenge.

Houle, a native Portlander, is an author and wildlife biologist who has hiked and studied Forest Park for thirty years. She has written two other books, Wings for My Flight: The Peregrine Falcons of Chimney Rock and The Prairie Keepers: Secrets of the Zumwalt, and has received several writing awards, including the Oregon Book Award in 1991 for Wings for My Flight.

Over the years since Houle first wrote her book about Forest Park, and through subsequent editions, at least one truth has held fast: the importance of a place like Forest Park in her life. "Forest Park's spectacular beauty and naturalness continue to impart peace and renewal. For me and for many, its wildness refreshes and inspires spirits grown weary from the fast-paced existence of modern life." Forest Park has always faced challenges over the years, and that continues today, as we must decide what we want Forest Park to be: a recreation capital or a forest wilderness?

We hope you will be able to join us Tuesday night to talk about our shared treasure, Forest Park: "Appreciate it, protect it, and pass it on."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Longlist for 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

The finalists and winners of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction are usually some of my favorite reads. The recently announced 2011 longlist offers one former Booker Prize winner, two previous shortlisters and one longlister, four debut novelists, and three publishers new to the prize. Most exciting of all, this year's longlist has a local writer! Well, he's actually a Canadian (born in British Columbia), but he and his family live in Portland.

That local author is Patrick DeWitt, whose nominated title is the recently published novel The Sisters Brothers, starring henchmen Eli and Charlie Sisters and paying homage to the classic Western while transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de fource as the Sisters brothers travel from Oregon City to a gold-mining claim outside Sacramento. DeWitt's first novel was Ablutions: Notes for a Novel, a grim story about a bartender at a Hollywood watering hole and its down-and-out regulars.

The longlisted titles were chosen by a panel of five judges chaired by author and former Director-General of MI5, Dame Stella Rimington. "We are delighted by the quality and breadth of our longlist," said Rimington, "which emerged from an impassioned discussion. The list ranges from the Wild West to multi-ethnic London via post-Cold War Moscow and Bucharest."

Alan Hollinghurst, nominated this year for The Stranger's Child, won the Booker in 2004 for The Line of Beauty. He was also shortlisted in 1994 for The Folding Star. Sebastian Barry and Julian Barnes, longlisted this year, have also been shortlisted in the past, and Carol Birch was longlisted in 2003.

 The 2011 shortlist of six authors will be announced September 6th, with the winner announced on October 18th. Not all of the books are available in the US, although some are forthcoming.Check out our website for the full list.

Monday, August 1, 2011

George Estreich to Read from Memoir

We hope you can join us Tuesday night (August 2nd) at 7 pm to hear Corvallis author George Estreich read from his recently published memoir, The Shape of the Eye: Down Syndrome, Family, and the Stories We Inherit.

When his younger daughter, Laura, was born, her appearance presented a puzzle: did the shape of her eyes indicate Down Syndrome, or the fact that she has a Japanese grandmother? In this powerful memoir, Estreich tells his daughter's story, reflecting on her inheritance -- from the literal legacy of her genes, to the family history that precedes her, to the Victorian physician John Landon Down's diagnostic error of "Mongolian Idiocy." Against this backdrop, Laura Estreich takes her place in the family as a unique child, quirky and real, loved for everything ordinary and extraordinary about her.

The Shape of the Eye is predominantly about raising his youngest daughter. But, in the author's words, it is also about "fly-fishing, heart surgery, family, the history and meaning of “Mongolian idiocy,” genetic engineering, prenatal diagnosis, what it’s like to be stared at, feeding a child with a tube, made-up signs for French fries, and the way Down syndrome can become sort of ordinary."

Tracy Daugherty, author of the Oregon-Book-Award-winning biography, Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme, described the book as "a splendid, stimulating, and extremely moving account of what it means to be a family, what it means to be human.” Physician and writer Abraham Verghese (Cutting for Stone, My Own Country: A Doctor's Story, and The Tennis Partner: A Doctor's Story of Friendship and Loss) says, “This is a poignant, beautifully written and intensely moving memoir, and I think only one writer in the world, George Estreich, could possibly have pulled this off. It will become part of the canon of narratives that are studied and taught in medical humanities courses.” Kim Edwards, author of The Memory Keeper's Daughter said "The Shape of the Eye taught me a great deal. It is a story I found myself thinking about long after I'd finished the final pages.

Estreich's first book was a collection of poems, Textbook Illustrations of the Human Body, which won the Rhea and Seymour Gorsline Prize from Cloudbank Books in 2003.

He was born in New York City and received a BA from the University of Virginia and an MFA in poetry from Cornell. After years of teaching freshman composition, he quit to become a full-time stay-at-home dad. He and his wife, an associate professor in the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University, have two daughters and a dog named Jet.

Please join us on Tuesday if you can!