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Hachette Authors Take Their Case To Amazon's Board Of Directors

NPR Books - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 5:16am

The authors want Amazon's board to intercede in the dispute between the publisher and the online retailer over the price of e-books. Amazon continues to impede sales of Hachette books.

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Book Review: 'The Moor's Account'

NPR Books - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 4:22pm

In The Moor's Account, Laila Lalami tells the story of a 16th Century expedition in the New World from a slave's perspective.

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Three Poems by Catherine Pond

Lambda Literary - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 11:00am

This week, three poems by Catherine Pond.

 

RIDING THE BUS BACK TO OXFORD

I wish I was a lesbian, she said. I tried, you know.
I nodded, I know. She turned towards the window

and closed her eyes. Her hair, still damp from rain,
was darker than usual. Behind her, a field

was revealing itself: grey heather along the road,
an abandoned house, green wheat

where the water began. I’m sorry, she said.
I just miss him. Later, she woke from a nap

to the sound of rain and touched her head gently
to my shoulder. Don’t get sick of me, she said.

 

RADAR

In the dream, someone else dies,
not her.
I steer through a flush of moss,

plow along the soft shoulder.
In real life,
I take a lover. A man this time.

Pick up, please. It’s me again.
Stationary morning, I stand
in the field,

one arm extended to
the kestrel, the blue-
grey wing that won’t come down.

 

ALPENGLOW

She speaks of Tel Aviv with nostalgia
yet follows me here, north of New York, by
train.

Out on the lake, I tell her about Cascadia,
why I won’t go near the west coast. I have
so many

fears. My breasts rise like gelatin when I lie
flat on my back, pressed against the netting.
One

eagle soars in the alpenglow, almost
brushing the clew of the sail. I cannot see
all of

Sacandaga, Pleasant, and Fawn Lakes,
but I feel their shadow, their dim cordillera
bearing

down on me, where the only visible star
middles in its flow, dangling like every
other

distant body.

——

CATHERINE POND grew up in Alpharetta, Georgia and in the Adirondacks. She is Assistant Editor of Salmagundi Magazine and holds an MFA from Columbia University.

Photo Credit: Anna Morrison

Categories: Book News, LGBTQ

‘Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a Man’ by Thomas Page McBee

Lambda Literary - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 9:47am

Thomas Page McBee’s Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a Man is not a memoir—though, in all likelihood, it will often be characterized as such, in a testament to both the limits of cultural understandings of nonfiction and of transgender storytelling. In reality, Man Alive is a gem of creative nonfiction, and an excellent example of what distinguishes that often nebulous genre. As Lee Gutkind, one of the explicators of the form, explains on the site for his journal, Creative Nonfiction:

Creative nonfiction is like jazz—it’s a rich mix of flavors, ideas, and techniques [...] The word “creative” refers to the use of literary craft, the techniques fiction writers, playwrights, and poets employ to present nonfiction—factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid, dramatic manner.

Like jazz. Compelling. Vivid. Dramatic. One would be hard pressed to find better words to describe McBee’s tale. His choice of structure is at the core of these effects. The book is broken into very short chapters, a scene or two each: just enough space to explore one conversation, one memory, one encounter, and then cut off the narrative right when the reader craves more. This technique mimics the fragmented quality of McBee’s own journey toward self-realization as he suffers the post-traumatic anxieties of two pivotal events: his father’s sexual abuse of him as a child, and his near-death encounter with a mugger. As he puts it at one point, “There are the facts of what happened, but the story is in parts.”

McBee’s tale shoots forward and backwards in time, suggesting that we make sense of life’s occurrences in a less-than-linear fashion. He shows us masterfully how the narrative flow, the maintenance or disruption of a tone and feeling, and the curious resonances between things that happen years apart are most crucial to delivering a story that is somehow truer to life than a simple re-telling could ever be. He writes with constant movement, his foot pressing the proverbial accelerator to the floor; he picks words and metaphors with the eye of a poet, and with an ear for what will evoke the constant, electric flux of our animal bodies.

To pick just one of countless striking images: he describes facing the threat of another man’s approach, saying, “I’d peacock through a warzone before I’d admit to that [frightened] twitch.” In other scenes he describes how “my body spangled back to life,” of “the warble between the shape in my mind and the one in the mirror,” of “that bird feeling: a flutter in my chest,” of other men’s “sinew, their slang, their beautiful bristle,” of his own “teen-boy swagger, scars like smiles across my chest, and a body I was just beginning love” that accompanied “me and my reflection and my hungry ghosts [as] I steered my rental through the swampy South with my cap pulled low.”

McBee may jet between a past and a present, between boyhood and manhood, but the timeframes are carefully circumscribed. Much of Man Alive’s focus is within a specific period: McBee’s late twenties, a pivotal moment when his need to understand the roots of his father’s abuse, his own marriage, his acceptance that he is a man and will undergo a gender transition, and his own reckoning with the strange mercy of his mugger all come to a head. He draws on the power that builds when a writer focuses onto one of life’s pivots, rather than diluting a grander “memoir” with backstory and extraneous imagery. McBee’s writing is tightly controlled, each sentence crafted into an impact point.

As mentioned earlier, Man Alive doesn’t just offer the reader insight into the creative nonfiction genre, but into trans storytelling as well. About three-quarters of the way through the book, McBee tells us, “I could feel myself trapped in the wrong story and the right body.” This is, to say, that he’s consciously in conversation with the “transgender memoir” genre. It’s a clever reimagining of a paradigm writers have often used to make metaphorical meaning of the subjective, felt experience of being transgender: “trapped in the wrong body.” Here, McBee—and indeed, in retrospect, we realize his entire tale—is questioning why and how his body, which he has fought dearly to stay attached to after facing horrific violences, should be considered the faulty gasket.

When trying to comprehend what is happening to, and through, oneself, why not question the narratives one has been handed to make sense with?

This is an approach increasingly utilized within transgender knowledge production, one spearheaded by transgender people themselves. It brings to light questions about previous entries into the trans nonfiction canon, asking: Is it necessary, when writing a trans protagonist, to describe in detail a medical transition, to “confess” conflicted feelings of body confusion? Has it even been internalized into a communal consciousness, into something resembling a trans storytelling requirement?

Among the many other trans personal narratives published this past year, perhaps half have followed this more conventional information-and-inspiration sharing tack, and can be best described as “transition memoirs.” McBee, on the other hand, is among a growing strand of trans literature—alongside recent releases that include, to name a couple, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s The End of San Francisco (also from City Lights Publishers) and Beatriz Preciado’s Testo Junkie (Feminist Press)—that considers transition alongside, and often secondarily, to other key events. Revealing the gory details of a medical transition are often wholly beside the point or, in the case of Preciado, transformed from an object of scrutiny to its own subjectivity, its own category of analysis. It’s something that interacts complexly and illuminates other themes, but is not the narrative’s focal point.

The focus of Man Alive, rather, is held within its first sentence: “What makes a man?” Its uncertainty, its yearning, its deceptive simplicity, its focus on mythical meanings rather than physical ones, its potentially dark undertones, and its potentially liberating ones chart their course through an early adulthood that is indebted to, yet so much more, than an outward, bodily shift from “female” to male.

 

 

Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a Man
By Thomas Page McBee
City Lights Publishers
Paperback, 9780872866249, 172 pp.
September  2014

Categories: Book News, LGBTQ

Book News: Agent Denies That Oscar Pistorius Is Writing A Memoir

NPR Books - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 7:38am

Also: writers ask Amazon's board to end battle with Hachette; notable books coming out this week.

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A 'Lasciviously LA' Lunch With Crime Novelist James Ellroy

NPR Books - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 5:08pm

Ellroy's new novel, Perfidia, follows the Los Angeles police response to a brutal murder on the eve of Pearl Harbor. In a vintage steakhouse, the author discusses the book and his tech-free lifestyle.

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Call for Submissions: Lesbian Erotic Fiction and Nonfiction

Lambda Literary - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 10:01am

Strange Flesh Press

We’re an exclusively lesbian (femslash, F/F) micropress dedicated to providing compelling stories about women who hunger for other women.

We have a vision. We feel erotic fiction is the toughest genre to write well and the last to be acknowledged as legitimate. As a subgenre, lesbian erotic fiction is even more marginalized. We’re changing that by publishing erotic stories you remember long after you…finish.

We’re looking for ebooks, stories, and nonfiction web content. All fiction should contain explicit sex. We’re open to a range from easy porn fantasies to transgressive erotica. Whatever you write, just convince us, excite us. Make us feel. We offer single payment for shorts and web content and a generous contract for accepted royalty-based ebooks.

We’re not just another digital press. We’re special. Why? Because:

1. We’re looking for a different kind of story
2. We’re looking for a specific length of story
3. We’re a micropress, so we’re exceedingly picky
4. We value authors, so we’re exceedingly generous
5. We pay royalties + payment for ebooks, buy stories, and pay for blog content
6. We believe in transparency and clarity, so contacting us with questions is appreciated

Please see our guidelines for fiction and nonfiction content here.

Categories: Book News, LGBTQ

‘The Paying Guests’ by Sarah Waters

Lambda Literary - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 9:46am

Earlier this year, when Lambda crowd-sourced #abooksavedmylife, one of the first books I thought of was Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet. Fourteen years ago, just before I started questioning my sexuality, I was having lunch with my best friend in New York City when she fished a battered copy of Tipping the Velvet out of her enormous purse and handed it to me. You, she said, her eyes bright, are going to love this book. As ever, she was right.

I’ve been devouring Sarah Waters’ novels ever since. Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith are lesbian classics, and her gothic ghost story, The Little Stranger, was short-listed for the Orange Prize and named one of 2009’s best books by Salon.com. Three of her novels have been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and several of them have been New York Times’ bestsellers. To call her work smart and sexy and entrancing would only begin to sum it up.

Waters’ sixth and newest novel, The Paying Guests, tells the story of Frances, an unmarried woman in her late 20s living with her mother in south London. It’s 1922, and London is on the brink of major change. The Great War has ended, social mores are uneasily shifting, the class systems are in upheaval, and for Frances and her mother, life has been utterly changed: their money and their men are gone, their family house on Champion Hill is in the process of falling apart; in order to pay their mounting bills, they take in lodgers (called, in this genteel society, “paying guests”). The lodgers, Lilian and Leonard, are of the clerk class, and from the first sentence, the first scene, there is necessary tension in this new situation. The tension builds in a slow simmer over the first part of the novel as Frances, a bleeding heart, opinionated, “cross-grained” lesbian, realizes her attraction to Lilian. Once that attraction is consummated, the tension amps quickly to rapid boil. France and Lilian’s connection drives this book, and the frantic release of their love is soon followed by an act of sheer, if unintentional, brutality, which sets into motion a series of heart-wrenching, misguided, and complex actions and revelations.

Waters is an ace storyteller and a remarkable re-builder of the past. The Paying Guests is a page-turner with a twisting plot, but it is also a psychologically intense examination of what it is like to live with a secret and grapple with consequences, the altering power of fear, how humans make sense of tragedy and guilt, and ultimately, the innate human desire to live, even in the most dire circumstances. There is, in the final third of the book, a very strong emphasis on sensationalism—the rise of tabloid culture and voyeurism; what Frances calls “the loathsome glamour of it all”—but like all of Waters’ work, this examination of cultural shifts never feels expository. The pacing of The Paying Guests is impeccable, and as the story winds toward a heart-racing climax, it tightrope-walks questions of guilt and innocence, life and death, without ever moralizing.

The Paying Guests is full of ruins, and ruins are important here—as always, Waters nails her metaphors, weaving them into the story effortlessly—the class system of post-WWI Britain is crumbling, the house on Champion Hill is crumbling, Lilian and Leonard’s marriage is crumbling, everything, it seems, is crumbling. And everyone in this book, from Frances and Lilian to the most minor character, is running around trying to hold it all together. It is heartbreaking and terrifying to watch the horrible transformations of this narrative unfold.

Despite her return to lesbian protagonists, The Paying Guests has a different feel than Waters’ earlier novels. The shift is subtle, but this newest is rather sober; the romance between Frances and Lilian, while all consuming and vividly emotional, never veers into that breathy, first-kiss-butterflies territory. The story is imbued with emptiness and absence; even in its most hopeful moments—and there are a few here—a kind of bleakness lurks frighteningly nearby.

It is impossible not to get lost in Waters’ novels—her worlds are spectacularly and vividly drawn—and The Paying Guests is no exception. Brilliant and complex, dark and honest, this book is a must read.

 

 

The Paying Guests
By Sarah Waters
Riverhead Books
Hardcover, 9781594633119, 576 pp.
September 2014

Categories: Book News, LGBTQ

Millennial Generation Likes Old-Fashioned Technology: Books

NPR Books - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 7:48am

NPR's Lynn Neary speaks with Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center about a new study that looks at the reading habits of millennials.

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Sprinting Toward Epiphany: Talking With A Songwriter Turned Novelist

NPR Books - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 7:48am

NPR's Lynn Neary talks storytelling with John Darnielle, the creative force behind the indie-folk band The Mountain Goats and author of the new novel Wolf In White Van.

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In The Quest To Make A Difference, 'A Path Appears'

NPR Books - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 7:48am

Everyone wants to "make a difference" but the question is: how? Journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn set out to find the answer in their new book, A Path Appears.

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A Fresh Take On Dystopia In 'Chimpanzee'

NPR Books - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 5:29am

Dystopian literature usually focuses on global ills — climate change, GMO food, nuclear war. But Darin Bradley's new novel takes off from an economic collapse and the plight of student-loan debtors.

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A Fresh Take On Dystopia In 'Chimpanzee'

NPR Books - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 5:29am

Dystopian literature usually focuses on global ills — climate change, GMO food, nuclear war. But Darin Bradley's new novel takes off from an economic collapse and the plight of student-loan debtors.

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Categories: Book News

In Margaret Atwood's Latest, The Past Is Powerfully Present

NPR Books - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 5:09pm

Her new collection, Stone Mattress, features characters still shaped by events in their youth. She's also working on a project that's all about the future: a book that won't be read for a century.

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A Cheerful Mortician Tackles The Lighter Side Of Death

NPR Books - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 4:55pm

Caitlin Doughty has built a following on YouTube by humorously discussing the morbid elements of her profession. In her new book, she explains that she's been interested in death since childhood.

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Wendy Davis Tells Of Her Own Difficult Abortions In 'Forgetting'

NPR Books - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 10:40am

A champion of abortion rights, the Texas gubernatorial candidate reveals she terminated two of her pregnancies — once because her life was endangered.

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The 'Witch With No Name' Rides Into The Sunset, In Style

NPR Books - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 10:03am

Kim Harrison bids farewell to her long-running Hollows series of urban fantasies in spectacular fashion; reviewer Amal El-Mohtar calls Witch "a rollercoaster ride of interlocking shenanigans."

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Franklin Expedition Find May Reveal 'The Horror Of The Darkness'

NPR Books - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 7:39am

One of the ships from a failed expedition to the Arctic in the 1800s was recently discovered. NPR's Wade Goodwyn talks to Dan Simmons, who wrote a best-selling fictionalized account of the disaster.

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Peter Thiel In 'Zero To One': How To Develop The Developed World

NPR Books - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 7:39am

NPR's Wade Goodwyn talks to investor and Paypal cofounder Peter Thiel about his new book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.

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'The Dog': Dubious Dealings In Dubai

NPR Books - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 5:36am

There are no winners in Joseph O'Neill's new novel The Dog, just a long downward spiral into stalemate as the nameless narrator flees a bad breakup and gets mired in shady financial dealings in Dubai.

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