Monday, October 29, 2012

Memoir: old, new, borrowed, one blue

I've read three fab memoirs over the past few weeks:

First, With or Without You by Domenica Ruta.  This is the story of a girl growing up in Danvers, MA with a mother who was a drug addict, eccentric, and (at one point) surprisingly brilliant business woman.  While nothing in this story is quite so outlandish as to put it in the Jeanette Walls/Glass Castle category, this makes it more accessible and real.  Ruta could be the kid at the end of your street, the one  you wonder about with the mother who screams and smokes a lot. And the writing is so good that the author feels like a friend sharing her story over coffee.  This belongs on your TBR pile when it comes out in March!

Then came Brain on Fire.  I'm squeamish about medical stories, but this was captivating: New York Post writer Susannah Cahallan began having strange symptoms--forgetting things, personality shifts--that eventually led to a seizure, hospitalization, and an mystery brain illness that left her a shell of her former self.  This is the story of the miraculous series of discoveries and bold decisions that led her back. Again, great writing.  This one is available in November.

And finally, a book I'm reading for the third or forth time: Heather King's Redeemed.  This is King's second memoir (the first, Parched, is about her recovery from hard-core alcoholism, and the third, Shirt of Flameis a chronicle of the year she spent following the teachings of St. Therese of Lixieux).  I love all three, but Redeemed is my favorite because she covers so much ground: her faith life, her struggles in love, the death of her father, why she declined chemotherapy when diagnosed with breast cancer, the loneliness of writing (the loneliness of life).  Do yourself a favor and get a copy now (along with an extra to give to a friend.  Trust me on this!)

I'll leave you with this bit I underlined twice, a funny reflection about life as a writer:

"It's an impossible line of work.  Nobody but a pathological martyr, loner, alcoholic, drug addict, sexually conflicted, chronically depressed social misfit and/or religious fanatic could possibly stay with it long enough to write a single decent page."

Her candor cracks me up and reassures me, all at the same time.  It makes me want to write.  Thanks to Domenica, Susannah & Heather for reminding me why it's worth it to wrestle with all those words.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Book surprises from NEIBA 2012

I often tell people that the best part of the annual conference of the New England Independent Bookseller's Association is discovering new authors (and that the worst part is that I still can't spell "independent" without 2 or 3 tries).  But that's a bit of a fib.  I love finding out about books I wouldn't have come across otherwise.  But even better is finding a new book from an author I already love and getting to read it (and blog about it) early.

The #1 "Squee!" moment came when I saw Randy Susan Meyer's new novel, THE COMFORT OF LIES.  I gasped out loud when I saw the advance reader copy. I can't rave enough about her debut, THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTERS, and I've been looking forward to her follow-up ever since she announced the deal.  Randy is a Boston author (yes, that makes me adore her a bit extra) and someone I love to run into at events here in town. I'm excited to have her latest to tuck into my purse and devour in all those extra moments when I can squeeze in a bit of reading.  (Out in hardcover in February 2013.)

I was also psyched to grab a copy of Pulitzer winner (I include that because if I ever won the Pulitzer...or even the award for best former baton twirler from my hometown...I'd want to be introduced that way forever) Richard Russo's memoir, ELSEWHERE.  He is one of the funniest authors I've heard speak, so I'm excited to see how his "in person" voice translates to the page as he tells his story.  (Due out next month.)

And finally...Jen Lancaster has a new novel!!!  I've been offline for most of the summer, so I had no idea this was coming.  And any new publication from Jen is a party for me.  She's hilarious, and I'm looking forward to seeing what she's cooked up in HERE I GO AGAIN.  (January 2013)

Hope this inspires you to catch up on your reading so there's room on your TBR pile.  All the links here are from Porter Square Books, our local indie bookstore here in Cambridge.  Order from them...they rock.

More soon :)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Adventures in Books

photos courtesy of
I spent this morning at the annual gathering of the New England Independent Bookseller's Association  (I think that's my turquoise elbow there on the right side of this picture).  It was my second time at the show, and I am delighted to report that I came home with a bag full of books covering a head-spinning array of genre & subject matter. Expect some fab book blogs in the next few months!

Aside from the wonderful new additions to my TBR shelf (yes, it's a shelf now... to keep so many pages in a pile would be architecturally unwise) this morning's event was also an interesting peek into the changing world of publishing.

The show was smaller this year.  Publishing houses that last year had four tables of new titles this year had only two.  And perhaps most telling was this: Last year, when I asked representatives "What titles are you most excited about?" they pressed countless books into my hands with impassioned descriptions that caused me read all sorts of stories I'd never have selected on my own.

This year, I started off with the same question.  A couple of reps answered with enthusiasm.  But they only had one title they were excited about, and perhaps another they'd mail me if I'd leave my address (and they meant it: to a one, they were gracious enough to write down the information, which was fantastic).  But there were also times when my question--and even my presence--was met with little more than a blank stare, followed by a firm head shake if my hand reached for a title that was only for show (the line between the books you're allowed to take and those you can't touch is always a bit fuzzy).

I'm still thinking over what this means, and where the encouraging news is in the midst of all this change.  (I'm determined to find the fabled boy who comes upon a barn full of poop and declares, "There's GOT to be a pony in here somewhere!")  I love publishers, authors, bookstores...the whole shebang, so it's tough to see this downturn in such undeniable terms. But I don't think this story is over yet.

Especially if this guy (who handed me a soda that would both poison me and save me from the zombie apocalypse) has anything to say about it!