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For Chris O'Dowd, 'Of Mice And Men' Is More Than An American Story

NPR Books - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 5:20am

"All of us have chased the American dream so there's something very universal about it," the Irish actor says. O'Dowd and James Franco star in a new Broadway production of Steinbeck's novella.

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A Love Letter To Literature: Reading Gabo In 'The Paris Review'

NPR Books - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 6:27pm

Gabriel Garcia Marquez died Thursday. It would be hard to overstate the importance of his novels, but author Gustavo Arellano recommends getting to know him in a different medium.

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NPR Bestsellers: Paperback Nonfiction, Week Of April 17, 2014

NPR Books - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 5:03pm

Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers looks at everyday life in a Mumbai slum. It appears at No. 1.

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NPR Bestsellers: Paperback Fiction, Week Of April 17, 2014

NPR Books - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 5:03pm

At No. 5, Elizabeth Strout's The Burgess Boys follows a family fractured by tragedy.

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NPR Bestsellers: Hardcover Nonfiction, Week Of April 17, 2014

NPR Books - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 5:03pm

How Jesus Became God looks at how a Jewish preacher from Galilee was transformed into a deity. It debuts at No. 12.

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NPR Bestsellers: Hardcover Fiction, Week Of April 17, 2014

NPR Books - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 5:03pm

The late Peter Matthiessen's last novel, , debuts at No. 4.

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NPR Bestsellers: Week Of April 17, 2014

NPR Books - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 5:03pm

The lists are compiled from weekly surveys of close to 500 independent bookstores nationwide.

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The Grand Illusionist: A Tribute to Gabriel García Márquez

Lambda Literary - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 9:28am

“In reality the duty of the writer–the revolutionary duty if you will–is that of writing well.” So said Colombian novelist, screenwriter and journalist Gabriel “Gabo” García Márquez, who died April 17 at his home in Mexico City. He was 87. Considered to be the father of magical realism, García Márquez’s work was as readable as it was critically acclaimed. He was roundly considered to be the most important Spanish-speaking writer since Cervantes. News of his death brought immediate Twitter responses from heads of state, other writers and celebrities, as well as his millions of readers.

Upon awarding him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, the Swedish Academy of Letters declared, “Each new work of his is received by expectant critics and readers as an event of world importance.”

It was a most accurate assessment. García Márquez’s work resonated literarily as well as popularly. García Márquez’s melding of reality, Latin American history and the ineffable longing of dreams made his novels and stories compulsively readable and engaging.

There are books that are classics and there are books that must be read. García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is both and not surprisingly, also sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.

The eldest of 12 children, García Márquez grew up in Aracataca, a small town near Colombia’s Carribean coast, raised by his grandparents. It was, he would later write, a childhood filled with ghosts, which would influence his work. His tone, his sense of storytelling, he asserted, came from his grandmother. Like Truman Capote, who also was raised by female storytellers, García Márquez’s texts are emotional, passionate, open. His wasn’t the rough macho world of a Hemingway. The subtextual undercurrents are all riven by feeling, not avoidance of feeling. In an interview with the Guardian, García Márquez said of growing up with his grandparents, “It was an enormous house, full of ghosts. They were very superstitious and impressionable people. In every corner there were skeletons and memories. After six in the evening you didn’t dare leave your room. It was a world of fantastic terrors.”

He left that ghost world of Aracataca as a teenager, moving to Bogota where he would later study law before becoming a journalist. The post-war period–the late 1940s and early 1950s–were fraught in Colombia. A new civil-war situation like The Troubles in the 1960s and 70s in Northern Ireland pervaded the country. La Violencia as it was called was brutal, killing several hundred thousand people. The revisiting of that period is resonant in many of García Márquez’s works.

An ardent leftist, García Márquez’s politics infused his fiction and was the subject of his journalism. He railed against August Pinochet and after the death of Salvador Allende, pledged not to write again until Pinochet was toppled from power. He broke that vow early on, however, when he realized it was “self-censorship” in service to a dictator.

García Márquez’s anti-authoritarian politics infused all his fiction. But a singular flaw as both writer and leftist was his near-adoration of Fidel Castro. In the early years of the Castro revolution, 1959 to 1961, he worked for Castro’s official news service, Prensa Latina.

García Márquez was a staunch supporter of the dictator as well as a friend and reportedly showed all his work to Castro pre-publication. Lesbian writer Susan Sontag, herself a staunch leftist, was one of many who decried this support for Castro, noting with her characteristic bluntness, ”To me it’s scandalous that a writer of such enormous talent be a spokesperson for a government which has put more people in jail (proportionately to its population) than any other government in the world.”

Salman Rushdie, whose work owes much to García Márquez, wrote in the London Review of Books in 1982 that García Márquez’s “support of the Castro government may prevent him from getting his Nobel.”

García Márquez was denied a visa to travel in the U.S. for more than 30 years by the U.S. State Department. In 1995 President Bill Clinton invited him to Martha’s Vineyard, effectively ending the ban. In response to García Márquez’s death, Clinton said, “I was always amazed by his unique gifts of imagination, clarity of thought, and emotional honesty. I was honored to be his friend and to know his great heart and brilliant mind for more than 20 years.”

There are few writers like García Márquez where one can point to a single book and say it not only changed the author’s life, but also changed literature. There are, of course, Joyce’s Ulysses and Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. But Joyce went largely unremarked in his lifetime. And other classic writers whose work has since influenced myriad other writers–Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens all come to mind–chased recognition. But García Márquez achieved an astonishing level of fame upon the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1967.

Descriptions of the novel fail to do it justice.The arc between the real and the surreal, the hard reality of history and the fluidity of memory are charged like literary and linguistic ions in the hands of García Márquez as he builds the fictional setting of Macondo, as in this extraordinary passage:

The men on the expedition felt overwhelmed by their most ancient memories in that paradise of dampness and silence, going back to before original sin, as their boots sank into pools of steaming oil and their machetes destroyed bloody lilies and golden salamanders. For a week, almost without speaking, they went ahead like sleepwalkers through a universe of grief, lighted only by the tenuous reflection of luminous insects, and their lungs were overwhelmed by a suffocating smell of blood.

What searing, mellifluous language is that? García Márquez made the dystopian exquisite. And while he is often proclaimed as a visionary utopian, it was in fact the dystopian world he wrote about most frequently.

Likewise his work is often perceived as wholly heterosexual, the dynamics of love between men and women at the core of his novels. Surface readings of García Márquez have always focused on stories of unrequited heterosexual love. But deeper readings of the Nobel laureate reveal a far more complex panoply of eroticism. And it is the enduring relationships between and among men that propel most of the action of his novels. Men are together all the time while women are on the periphery, just out of reach, just out of context, doing the basic chores of life. Men and women, even as they often appear to be on equal footing in García Márquez’s stories, in fact live in different worlds. Men engage with each other in a homoerotic closeness that belies their sexual attraction to women.

Love in the Time of Cholera is as much a treatise on male bonding as it is on the fleeting nature of male-female romance. It is also very much a product of its time. It was the beginning of the AIDS era when García Márquez wrote this novel of a love affair and an epidemic. How metaphoric of an era.

In the novel, death is everywhere as the epidemic rages. But it isn’t just the disease, the cholera, el cholera taking lives with startling efficiency, it is also what the disease reduces people to–anger, rage, a plague that rends society. The protagonist, Florentino Ariza, is a poet and a profligate, as promiscuous as everyone was in the 1980s, although the novel begins a century earlier and ends in the 1930s. Yet García Márquez captures that exquisite sense of fear combined with urgency that sets love and life into bold relief in the midst of an epidemic, compared with the death all around. The action could just as easily have taken place in the club scene of 1980s New York City as this far different setting; the conceptualizing of how men react to disease and threat to the body, as well as rejection of the heart, is both universal and as achingly specific to our own AIDS epidemic as to be breathtaking in its acuity. As García Márquez writes, “Each man is master of his own death, and all that we can do when the time comes is to help him die without fear of pain.”

The celebration of the male body is as pandemic throughout Love in the Time of Cholera as the disease itself. As we watch Florentino’s exploits with his vast number of partners, his promiscuity is both literal and metaphoric. As the author writes midway through the novel, “Sex is the consolation you have when you can’t have love.” Conversely, García Márquez decries the machismo of the culture. It is, he declares, a “usurpation of the rights of others.” It crushes the lover.

In One Hundred Years of Solitude again we have the pivotal relationships between and among men, but the very pivot of the action that propels the multi-generational epic forward is the homosexual panic wrought by the incest that begets the story. Chronicle of a Death Foretold is perhaps García Márquez’s most startling book–a detective novel of sorts, the focus of which is the seduction/rape of a young woman, Angela Vicario, and the avenging of that by her family with an honor killing of the man who deflowered her. Nowhere does García Márquez define the chasm between men and women as he does here. The men are a cadre, a band, a world apart. Men understand each other, women understand men, but there is no real cognitive comprehension of women by men. And yet as García Márquez reveals again and again, the most fundamental relationships there are remain wholly between men and between women. Those relationships are where true understanding lies.

Themes of marginalization, repression, non-reproductive sexuality, unrequited love, men filled with an abundance of physical need–these are García Márquez’s stock-in-trade and they resonate within the context and shape of the author’s gorgeous, luminous, provocative language. One reads García Márquez as much for the way the words lilt together as for the content they create. One also reads for the worlds he devised in which the real and the surreal are the warp and weft of every relationship, be it to the world itself or individuals. Not surprisingly then, García Márquez said of writing that “What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”

García Márquez influenced many writers over the years, among them Salman Rushdie, fellow Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, Isabelle Allende and Manuel Puig, best known for his magical realist transgender tale, Kiss of the Spider Woman that is very much in the mode of García Márquez tales of unrequited love.

Of his Colombian roots he said Latin America was”a source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.”

García Márquez had recently battled pneumonia and had been suffering from dementia since 2012.

Peter Englung, permanent secretary of the Nobel committee said, “A great artist is gone, but his grand art remains with us. Most authors are only shadows, but Gabriel García Márquez belonged to those who cast a shadow, and he will continue to do so long after his death.”

It’s time to read One Hundred Years of Solitude again. It is a novel as resonant today as it was nearly 50 years ago when it was first published, by a writer who, more than anyone in recent memory changed the face of fiction and made us so much richer for his lush and vibrant literary legacy.

 

 

Photo via Knopf

Categories: Book News, LGBTQ

Book News: The Celebrity Of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

NPR Books - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 7:39am

Also: Exiled Romanian poet Nina Cassian has died; the real title of Hillary Clinton's forthcoming memoir; Gary Shteyngart retires from book blurbing.

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'During The Reign,' A Dissolving Family Retells Its History

NPR Books - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 7:03am

Joan Chase's 1983 debut During the Reign of the Queen of Persia is a careful, layered account of a troubled family in rural 1950s Ohio, narrated by a quasi-Greek chorus of daughters and cousins.

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Colombia Mourns Death Of Favorite Son: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

NPR Books - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 5:09am

Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 87, died on Thursday. He made Colombia synonymous with literature, particularly the dreamlike, whimsical story-telling known as magical realism.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren Writes Of A Worldview Shaped In Youth

NPR Books - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 4:14am

In her memoir, A Fighting Chance, Warren reveals a childhood brush with bankruptcy and reflects on hard-won political lessons.

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Writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Who Gave Voice To Latin America, Dies

NPR Books - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 4:51pm

The master of magic realism was the region's best-known writer. His novels were filled with miraculous events and characters; love and madness; wars, dreams and death. He died Thursday at 87.

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Nobel Prize-Winning Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dies At 87

NPR Books - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 4:47pm

The Colombian-born author of One Hundred Years of Solitude had been in failing health for some time.

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'Bintel Brief' And 'Hellfighters': American Stories, Powerfully Illustrated

NPR Books - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 2:49pm

Critic Maureen Corrigan recommends two graphic novels — one about a Yiddish advice column in the early 1900s and another about a regiment of African-American soldiers who fought during World War I.

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Book News: Did Amazon Unintentionally Create A Drug Dealer Starter Kit?

NPR Books - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 7:36am

Also: Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez's health is said to be stable but "very fragile"; Dave Eggers' new book is called Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?

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Lambda Literary Foundation Welcomes New Trustees

Lambda Literary - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 7:26am

The steady incursion of new skills and perspectives in the leadership of the Lambda Literary Foundation is vital not only to its growth but also to its connection to the community it serves. The Foundation is pleased to announce the addition of three new members to its Board of Trustees.

Sandra Nathan, of Marin County, California, has a long history of effective leadership, particularly in the nonprofit sector. She brings to the Board executive-level experience in areas as diverse as aging, LGBTQ issues, and communities of color. Ms. Nathan joined the Foundation Board due to her “deep passion and interest in LGBTQ literature,” noting “there is no other organization solely devoted to ensuring our voices are fully reflected. I am also a frustrated writer, and hope to slow down long enough to become an author in my own right. Having served on the boards of several national organizations, I hope to make a meaningful contribution by supporting the effective governance and growth of the foundation, and ensuring it has the resources to fully actualize its mission and vision.”

John Rochester, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, reads up to a dozen books a month, mostly LGBTQ. “As an avid reader of LGBTQ literature of all types and genre, I felt it was time to give back and share some of my non-literary talents with an organization that has helped provide me with such joy.” Along with his enthusiasm, he adds a rich experience in fundraising and community leadership, having earned a 2010 Point of Light Award.

Amy Scholder, a New York City resident, is a legendary figure in the world of independent publishing. “I look forward to deepening my relationship with the Lambda Literary Foundation, an organization that cares about LGBTQ diversity and creativity,” says Ms. Scholder, who brings to the Board a broad understanding of the current literary landscape.

The Lambda Literary Foundation is delighted to have these three talented, dedicated individuals join the Board of Trustees. Founded in 1989, the organization nurtures, celebrates, and preserves LGBT literature through programs that honor excellence, promote visibility, and encourage development of emerging writers.

Sandra Nathan

Sandra_NathanSandra Nathan currently serves as Vice President, Programs and Loans for the Marin Community Foundation in Novato, California. In a previous stint in philanthropy, she served as CEO of the Richmond(California) Community Foundation.

Professionally, Sandra has over 25 years executive level experience,which has included positions at the national level with organizations including AARP and the National Council on Aging; and within California’s cities and counties, including San Diego County, Santa Clara County, San Francisco County and the City of Oakland. During her stint at the national level, she worked diligently on social and economic justice issues facing older adults, and at the local level,ensured there are culturally sensitive services and supports for diverse populations, including LGBTQ and people of color. She pioneered in the development of the one of the first outreach programs to older adults at risk of HIV/AIDS and oversaw a strategic plan for older adults who are gay and lesbian.

Currently, Sandra also serves on the Board of Directors of Generations United, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Grantmakers in Aging.

John Rochester

John RochesterJohn Rochester is a Vice President, Portfolio Manager, Wealth Advisor for Morgan Stanley.  He currently serves as the Board President for Santa Fe Performing Arts – a children’s education, outreach and adult contemporary performing arts organization.  He has served on local community and national boards that address diverse issues such as health/social services, hunger, the arts, children’s education and several LGBTQ organizations.  John has received a number of awards for his charitable work including the National Volunteer of The Year for Colin Powel’s America’s Promise, The Alliance for Youth, What a difference a day makes as well as the Point of Light Award - the United States President’s Volunteer Service Award.

John received his Bachelor of Arts from Simpson College and has been actively involved in media and the performing arts his entire life.  In addition to continuously working in the financial industry for the past 27 years, John has been active in national print and video promotion and he hosted a nationally syndicated financial radio show from 1995 through 2007.  He currently resides with his husband in the town in which he grew up – Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Amy Scholder

Amy Scholder is the editorial director of the Feminist Press. She has been editing and publishing progressive and literary books for over twenty years.Amy Scholder Her visionary style has brought high visibility to her authors, and has been praised for its contribution to contemporary literature and popular culture. She has also served as editor-in-chief of Seven Stories Press, US publisher of Verso, founding co-editor of HIGH RISK Books/Serpent’s Tail, and editor at City Lights Books. Over the years, she has published the work of Sapphire, Karen Finley, June Jordan, Kate Bornstein, Kathy Acker, David Wojnarowicz, Dorothy Allison, Mary Gaitskill, Joni Mitchell, Kate Millett, Elfriede Jelinek, Muriel Rukeyser, Laurie Weeks, Justin Vivian Bond, Virginie Despentes, Ana Castillo, and many other award-winning authors.

Categories: Book News, LGBTQ

'Over Easy' Serves Up Savory Memories Of A Vintage Diner

NPR Books - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 7:03am

Mimi Pond's graphic memoir is a rose (or in this case aqua) tinted recollection of her time waitressing at a bohemian diner in Oakland in the 1970s. Reviewer Etelka Lehoczky says it's a sweet tribute.

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‘All the Heat We Could Carry’ by Charlie Bondhus

Lambda Literary - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 6:00am

All the Heat We Could Carry is a compelling, fierce, vivid, yet sometimes understated and curiously dry in tone, collection of poems by Charlie Bondhus, describing  life as a gay soldier in Afghanistan. Bondhus cultivates a theme of heat: sustained, transferred, endured, enjoyed or suppressed, whether in the desert, the bedroom, the front porch, or the end of a pier. His decision to cloak volatile, profoundly disturbing content may seem counter-intuitive, but is actually dead-on, as this kind of material demands a kind of nonchalance. Otherwise it might feel manipulative and purple. Overblown. There is a quiet precision to Bondhus’ poems, like sealing something dangerous, despairing or grotesque in a glass jar.

In a calmly perverse turn, Bondhus compares the deconstructing of a gun to a boy’s natural sense of curiosity and awe in ”Rifle Cleaning.” A man’s boyish appreciation for the phenomenal is twisted into a fascination for weaponry. “First, disassemble /into the major groups: /upper, lower, bolt carrier./ Handle each piece like a young boy/ unpacking a box of seashells, striped rocks, pine cones ; / marvel at how something this metal / could be so breakable. Think about the body.” Consider how the poem gropes for definition in the line: “marvel at how something this metal”. It’s as if the narrator is searching for the dividing line between the hard organic substance of natural treasures, and the fabricated skin of steel. When he says, “Think about the body,” a transformation is implied. The mundane task of maintaining one’s tools becomes a reflection, a reverie on what it means to assume the role of warrior, with its contained or subjugated humanity.

In the poems describing the narrator’s connection to a lover (perhaps partner) we sometimes gather the partner is also a soldier. Not all of Bondhus’ poems raise this issue of shared experience, though it’s implied that two men who have seen warfare, and understand the other’s difficulties. In “July” he paints a wry tableau of domestic tranquility. Two men manifest spousal validity by enduring the heat, on a day when the more cautious have chosen to stay indoors: “No one else on their porch; / it’s hot, and everything sticks / to everything. Still we resist / spending this golden day – / the clearest of the year- / behind curtains./” Further down, the protagonist mentions how “The neighbors got used to us/ a long time ago, but sometimes kids, / the more observant ones, stare.” Like so many of the poems in All the Heat, “July” is cunning in its subdued rhetoric. Bondhus takes a very ordinary scenario, reading books and drinking ice tea in the summer sunshine, and turns it into quiet defiance. Rather than evoking a confrontational stance, the contact he explores between lovers (both men) is detailed, but not lurid. In “At the Grappling Tournament” he considers how fluidly conflict can change to consortium: “…searching out the trick spot/ where muscle and bone fail/ while I knotted my arms about your shoulders, / in the soft violence of an embrace.”

Much of All the Heat submerges us in the subdued atrocities of the battlefield. In “A Quiet Day in Kandahar” the narrator describes a card game in which they are killing time, using a deck featuring delectable naked ladies. Bondhus carefully places this situation in context, creating a rare moment of relief from the devastation, relatively innocent fun tainted by ghoulish humor and mortality they need to forget. A steppe eagle appears, “…gliding on a heavy breeze which rolls into camp/ and scatters the cards, / every which way / filling the air/ with a flurry of tits and ass./ ….Two civilian casualties, Mendoza snickers, / dumping his cards on the table.” In another blindingly subtle piece, Bondhus has evoked the sad, cruel instruments necessary to survival as a soldier, the distraction, cynicism and frozen emotion required to simply function, from day to day. Everyone’s future is subject to calm, arbitrary fate.

It is challenging to find the words to adequately praise All the Heat We Could Carry. Charlie Bondhus takes excruciating, sometimes nightmarish, sometimes melancholy ordeals and makes them accessible, by the meticulous use of restrained, pointed, focused language. He taps into extraordinary subject matter by refusing to shift gears into something frantic or tawdry. The protagonist might be stuffing another soldier’s corpse into a body bag, or gathering firewood in the back yard, or tussling naked, joyously, with his flawed yet perfect boyfriend. He draws us into these scenarios with sharp, intense, yet nuanced wisdom. He refuses to assign blame, yet none of us are off the hook. All the Heat We Could Carry is a truly remarkable collection.

 

 

All the Heat We Could Carry
by Charlie Bondhus
Main Street Rag
Paperback, 9781599484365, 72 pp.
November 2013

Categories: Book News, LGBTQ

Watch the Trailer for the Second Season of ‘Orange is the New Black’

Lambda Literary - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 5:00am

Get ready to return to Litchfield prison. The trailer for the second season of the series Orange is the New Black was released this week, and things are looking particularly severe for the inmates this season.

Based on the bestselling memoir by Piper Kerman, the entire season will be released June 6 on Netflix.

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