Sunday, April 29, 2007

Claire Zulkey

Claire Zulkey edits the blog, where she often runs interviews.

She is getting her Master's in Creative Writing from Northwestern University. Her work has appeared in ElleGirl, the Chicago Tribune, Glamour and Modern Bride. She also wrote a very short humor book called Girls! Girls! Girls!

I recently asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I've been a starter and stopper a lot lately when it comes to books and I'm ashamed of it. I have a good excuse, though -- I'm working on my thesis for grad school so simply don't have time to read that much. Most often these days you'll catch me reading The New Yorker, but I'm also slowly making my way through The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon. That too is actually for my thesis, not because mine's about depression but I was curious about the nonfiction/memoir structure that Solomon uses. It's not really a fast read because it's about depression. For about a week I was convinced I was clinically depressed. My mom bought me Joshua Ferris' Then We Came to the End recently for my birthday so I'm looking forward to starting on that sooner or later.
See what's the latest at

Now, about that kangaroo....

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 27, 2007

Laura Wiess

Laura Wiess is the author of Such a Pretty Girl and other books.

I recently asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m in research mode right now, exploring a variety of books that have suddenly intrigued me. This urge to delve into a batch of unrelated subjects has happened before, and I’ve learned to indulge it because I never know what’s going to strike a chord.

From the stack: A Gentle Plea for Chaos by Mirabel Osler, A Life Shaken: My Encounter with Parkinson’s Disease by Joel Havemann, Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams by Lyle Leverich, Hunting Humans: The Rise of the Modern Multiple Murderer by Elliot Leyton, The Home: A Memoir of Growing Up in an Orphanage by Richard McKenzie and Woodswoman by Anne LaBastille.

For pleasure, I’m reading Sherman Alexie’s Flight, and waiting impatiently for A.M. Jenkins’ Repossessed, due out June 1, 2007.
Visit Laura Wiess' website, her LiveJournal blog, MySpace page, Amazon blog, and the "Welcome to the Asylum" blog.

Published in January 2007, Wiess' Such a Pretty Girl has been accumulating a long list of positive reviews and endorsements.

Read a brief excerpt from the novel.

Also see:
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wendy Werris

Wendy Werris is the author of An Alphabetical Life: Living It Up in the World of Books.

Last week I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Even for someone as eclectic as me, the books I'm reading right now are a very strange mix of genres and sensibilities.

There's the new Laura Lippman novel, What the Dead Know, and as one who's new to her work I'm pleasantly surprised by Lippman's almost poetic style of characterization. It's branded a mystery, but the narrative and characters are so boldly drawn that it rises well above the genre. I'm enthralled.

Next up is Mario Batali's cookbook, Molto Italiano, which has sensational photos throughout of the chef's favorite regional dishes. I'm one of those folks that loves reading cookbooks and recipes, and Batali's offerings are geared toward the peasant in all of us! Try his take on pasta Bolognese (which I made with pork instead of veal), pour yourself a glass of wine and put a book in front of you for good company.

In my case it was Ken Gire's The North Face of God. A writer friend gave it to me when I was going through a rough patch, and it's turned out be the perfect antidote to my skepticism about "Christian" books. Gire draws liberally on C.S. Lewis, Wendell Berry and various poems published in the Atlantic Monthly to explain his theology, and I'm finding it most amenable.

Finally, I'm eyeing my copy of Jeanette Walls' The Glass Castle near the top of the stack on my nightstand. It's my next priority, and I'm looking forward to it.
Michael Connelly on Werris's book: "The best memoirs are those in which you connect with the world by connecting with one life. An Alphabetical Life is one of those. It is a powerful and poignant book."

Visit Werris's online journal and official website, and check out the Page 69 Test results for An Alphabetical Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Frank Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer's online biography notes that he "is a survivor of both polio and an evangelical/fundamentalist childhood, an acclaimed writer who overcame severe dyslexia, a home-schooled and self-taught documentary movie director, a feature film director and producer of four ('pretty terrible') low budget Hollywood features, and a best selling author of both fiction and nonfiction. Frank’s three semi-biographical novels about growing up in a fundamentalist mission include Portofino, Zermatt, and Saving Grandma.”

Baby Jack, Schaeffer's novel about "the Marines, sacrifice, God, the class division between who serves and who does not," was published in October of 2006. Visit Schaeffer's website to learn about these and other books, and to read some of his commentary in leading forums.

When I asked him last week what he was reading, his response was quick and to the point:
I'm reading Ten Days In The Hills by Jane Smiley and loving it. Having been in the movie business I can say that she gets it right!
Read more about Smiley's novel.

Visit Schaeffer's website, and read the Page 69 Test entry for Baby Jack.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Andrew Pyper

Andrew Pyper is the author of three novels, a collection of short stories, and assorted essays and criticism.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
Usually, my reading habits are against the grain: forgotten classics, obscure titles noticed in foreign reviews, pulp fiction you wouldn’t want your serious colleagues to catch you reading in a doctor’s waiting room (which, very recently, one did). The sort of books that are definitely – defiantly – not the newest TV Book Club pick or prestigious prize winner. Which, as it turns out, the latest book I finished has turned out to be. My excuse? I started reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road before it was selected by Oprah and took home the Pulitzer.

It’s interesting to me that a novel like The Road – a brutal, post-apocalyptic story of hopeless survival scavenging – has reached the highest levels of both mainstream endorsement (Oprah) and ivory tower honour (the Pulitzer). It certainly isn’t a cheering read, and offers no political posture that might make it palatably affirming for the Book Club Class. Nor is it stylistically anywhere near McCarthy at the showy top of his game (still, for my money, Blood Meridien). And yet, I find myself agreeing with both the Oprah producers and Pulitzer jury. The Road is actually a book that so many other books claim to be. It is unforgettable.

During my reading of The Road, and since I’ve finished it, the world around me has been altered. Perhaps forever altered. The empty distractions of our lives, the puffed debates of culture, the bluster and spin of politics, the ongoing and self-aware destruction of the planet in any number of theatres: how blind all of it has made us. Not blind to the small wonders of life (the literary novel’s standard epiphany), but to the fact that we may so easily and so soon not have a world at all.

I won’t say anything more about how Cormac McCarthy creates such a shattering effect – this isn’t a book review, and the truth is, I’m not sure how he does it. What I’ll leave you with is what The Road left me with: the assurance that novels can do so much more than simply help pass the time. They can make us taste what time is left to us.
Andrew Pyper's collection of short stories, Kiss Me, was published to acclaim in 1996.

His first novel, Lost Girls, was a national bestseller in Canada and a Globe and Mail Notable Book selection in 1999 as well as a Notable Book selection in the New York Times Book Review and the London Evening Standard. The novel won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel and is an Otto Penzler pick on

Pyper's second novel, The Trade Mission was published in Canada, the U.K., U.S., the Netherlands and Germany. It was selected by the Toronto Star as one of the Ten Best Books of the Year.

Outside of his fiction writing (where his work has been published in a variety of journals, such as The New Quarterly, The Malahat Review and Toronto Life), Andrew is a regular contributor of essays and criticism to Canadian magazines and newspapers, including the Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen and Saturday Night.

Pyper's third novel, The Wildfire Season, was published in 2006 to wide acclaim.

Read the entry for The Wildfire Season at "My Book, The Movie" and see how the Page 69 Test served it.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 23, 2007

Terri Witek

Terri Witek holds the Art & Melissa Sullivan Chair in Creative Writing at Stetson University.

Last week, I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I am at that most exciting of moments for a reader — the breathing out between books. During this time I dip into old favorites: Roland Barthes’ The Pleasure of the Text and Mark Strand’s The Weather of Words. I also finger thrift store finds: a 1936 edition of the stenographer’s bible Gregg Shorthand with its now mysterious symbols and a great 1961 book, The Synonym Finder (by J.I. Rodale and Staff), which reminds us that “fib” was once both “bosh” and “moonshine.” I read online about the habits of the cedar waxwings who, for the last week, have been swooping into our loquat trees late in the afternoon.

But these are delaying tactics. For the last year I have been reading with Brazilian new media artist Cyriaco Lopes, whose works are often site-specific and almost always participatory. This collaborative reading began quite casually — we both read Dracula at about the same time and began to talk about its weird and wonderful status as separate first person journal entries. We moved on to A Hora da Estrela by Clarice Lispector — I spoke Portuguese for one year in high school as an AFS student, and this book brought both the language and my benighted 17 year old self back into my head with such force I could hardly talk about it rationally. At some point we went into the For Sale room in our university library and each chose a book for the other to use somehow — I gave him Darwin’s account of his voyage to Brasil, he gave me a book of astrological charts. And at another point we read one of the greatest books I have ever encountered in any language: Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis. The 19th century Portuguese was so hard I read it both Portuguese and English — a double reading which turned out to have something to do with the narrator’s deep game. This suggested Henry James: we read What Maisie Knew and have just finished the first book Cyriaco ever read in English, The Aspern Papers. The week between the James books I brought in Elizabeth Bishop’s great poem, “Crusoe in England.”

It is very interesting to have two hands (two languages, two genders, two ages, two Americas) ranging over the book shelf. What’s next? Dracula argues that a woman narrator will get the next bite…
Terri Witek's books include The Carnal World (2006), Fools and Crows (2003), Courting Couples (winner of the Center for Book Arts Prize 2000), and Robert Lowell and Life Studies: Revising the Self (University of Missouri Press, 1993).

Her poems have been published in The New Republic, Poetry, The Threepenny Review, Shenandoah, The Ohio Review, Slate, and other venues, and her articles have appeared in American Literature and Shenandoah.

Read, or listen to her read, her poem, "Civil Twilight," in Slate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Wyn Cooper

Wyn Cooper has published three books of poems: The Country of Here Below, The Way Back, and Postcards from the Interior, as well as a chapbook, Secret Address. His poems, stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Crazyhorse, Agni, Verse, Fence, and more than 60 other magazines.

In 1993, “Fun,” a poem from his first book, was turned into Sheryl Crow’s Grammy-winning song “All I Wanna Do.”

I recently asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I am reading Chilly Scenes of Winter by Ann Beattie, and loving every page. Ms. Beattie came to a music gig I was doing in Atlanta last month with the novelist Madison Smartt Bell, I befriended her, and have even gotten her to agree to come to the Brattleboro Literary Festival here in Vermont, which I help run. I have mostly read her stories in The New Yorker over the years, but had never tried one of her six novels. I decided to start with her first one, which takes place in 1975, the year I graduated high school and went away to college. The characters are so real I almost think I'll run into one of them at a nearby bar. The speech patterns of each character are different, just as in the real world. So many fiction writers put the same words in the same order in the mouths of each of their characters ... but not Ann Beattie.

I'm also reading The Cosmos Trilogy by Frederick Seidel, one of the more outrageous poets writing these days. He's finally been getting some attention lately, which he may or may not be happy about, as he refuses to give readings and has never been affiliated with any institution except maybe his publisher, FSG. Here is a stanza from his poem "Letter to the Editors of Vogue:"

I am drinking gasoline
To stay awake
In the midst of so much
Wyn Cooper's poems are included in 25 anthologies of contemporary poetry, including The Mercury Reader, Outsiders, and Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms.

He has also cowritten songs with David Broza, David Baerwald, and Bill Bottrell. In 2003, Gaff Music released Forty Words for Fear, a cd of songs based on poems and lyrics by Cooper, set to music and sung by the novelist Madison Smartt Bell. It has been featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition and World Café, and has been written about in Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Observer, and elsewhere. Songs from the cd have been featured on 4 tv shows.

The 6th annual Brattleboro Literary Festival will take place September 28-30, 2007. Brattleboro Literary Festival is a three-day celebration of those who read books, those who write books, and of the books themselves. Located in downtown Brattleboro, Vermont, the Festival includes readings, panel discussions, and special events, featuring emerging and established authors. All events are free.

The Page 69 Test: Wyn Cooper's Postcards from the Interior.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 20, 2007

Bill Crider

Bill Crider is a prolific author: his most recent book is Murder Among the Owls, the 14th volume in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery series.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
The recent death of Donald Hamilton led me to re-read a couple of his novels, Murderers' Row, from the Matt Helm series, and Line of Fire, a standalone that I admire quite a bit. In fact both these books are terrific and a reminder of just how good Hamilton was.

After finishing those two, I picked up The Watchman by Robert Crais. Joe Pike takes center stage in this one, and he's backed up by Elvis Cole in a reversal of the usual situation in books where those two appear. I moved from there to The Matter of Paradise by Brown Meggs because Meggs was recommended by Ed Gorman on his blog.

Ed also recommended the two books I'm currently reading, both of them memoirs of the writing life. I'm about three-quarters of the way through Donald Bain's Every Midget Has An Uncle Sam Costume, and I've just begun Richard Wheeler's An Accidental Novelist. I'm a sucker for books about writers and writing, so I'm really enjoying these.

That about covers it, for the moment.
Bill Crider has been a generous friend to the CftAR blogs.

He contributed Page 69 Test items for A Mammoth Murder and Murder Among the OWLS as well as an excellent entry for "My Book, The Movie."

Visit Crider's website and his blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Robert Bennett

Robert Bennett, Nathaniel L. Nathanson Professor of Law and the former Dean of the Northwestern University School of Law, is a scholar in the field of constitutional law and a professional arbitrator. He served as President of the American Bar Foundation and of the Chicago Council of Lawyers.

His most recent book is Taming the Electoral College.

His reply to my recent query about what he has been reading:

I saw an old friend recently who at eighty remains one of Chicago's most active and engaged citizens. He reported that he had cancelled his subscriptions to daily newspapers. He glances at them at the office on occasion and reads the New York Review of Books regularly, but has moved the focus of his daily reading to books, largely dealing with history. And that doesn't keep him from an active involvement in the life of the city, and indeed the nation. I'm sorely tempted. The New York Times takes up a good deal of my evenings, and articles and books related to work the reading time during the day. To be sure, a good deal of that gives me great pleasure, sometimes even unexpected, as in the case of the book manuscript I recently reviewed for a publisher seeking the traditional outside stamp of approval. I'm not ready to make my friend's leap yet, but part of me admires his bold move.

In any event, I find that I have to steal the time for more purely pleasurable reading. Like my old friend, that often takes the form of reading about history, particularly the American version. Lincoln holds fascination for many these days, and he certainly does for me. I recently read James Simon's Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney, and I'm now well into Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals. Goodwin's book in particular is delightfully written and full of interesting stories and insights about Lincoln, to be sure, but also, to my special delight, the "rivals," about whom I knew too little.

The Page 69 Test: Taming the Electoral College.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Jeffrey Bean

Jeffrey Bean is the 2006-08 Axton Fellow in Poetry at the University of Louisville.

His poems appear or are forthcoming in Quarterly West, Southern Poetry Review, Willow Springs, The Laurel Review, The Eleventh Muse, Sycamore Review, New Orleans Review, Slate, and elsewhere.

Recently, I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I love reading literary magazines. I collect them like comic books. I love the way they smell. And, since AWP was just over a month ago, I’m still happily thumbing (and sniffing) my way through the fresh stack of lit mags I lugged home from the book fair. My favorites so far have been the latest issues of Lyric, Willow Springs, and The Laurel Review.

I’m organizing a literary festival here at the University of Louisville, Split the Lark: The Border of Poetry and Music, and I’ve been reading some fascinating books by the festival participants. Right now, I’m finishing up Jazz Text, a scholarly work by Charles O. Hartman about the connections between jazz and poetry, and a book of poems called Gender Studies by my colleague Jeffrey Skinner. I especially like the section of that book called “Bill Evans and the Birds of Appetite,” a series of sonnets in the voice of the late jazz pianist Bill Evans. I find the poems incredibly moving, partly because Bill Evans is one of my all time favorite musicians, and partly because the language is so taut and musical, fresh and surprising.

I’ve also always got a classic going, some book in the I’m-embarrassed-to-admit-that-I-haven’t-read-that-one category. This week, it’s Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
Jeffrey Bean is the first place winner of the 2005 Atlantic Monthly Student Writing Contest for poetry and a recipient of a 2005 AWP Intro Journals Project Award.

Read, or listen to Bean read, his poem in Slate, "Major Third."

Read his poems in the Fall 2006 issue of Willow Springs, "Encyclopedia of the Wheat," and "March," from New Orleans Review.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Eric Rauchway

Eric Rauchway, a history professor at the University of California, Davis, is the author of Murdering McKinley: The Making of Theodore Roosevelt's America and, more recently, Blessed Among Nations: How the World Made America.

His reply to my recent query about what he has been reading:
Like a lot of people I have several books open at once. I'm currently teaching Kevin Boyle's Arc of Justice, which uses a murder trial to discuss attitudes toward race and justice in America of the 1920s (something I tried to do for America of the early 1900s with Murdering McKinley). It's an excellent book; the portraits of Clarence Darrow, James Weldon Johnson, and Walter White are especially good, as is that of the principal defendant, Ossian Sweet. I hope the students like it.

I've also been reading Ann Hagedorn's Savage Peace, Heather Cox Richardson's West from Appomattox, and David Silbey's War of Frontier and Empire.

I wish I could say I've been reading a nice fat novel for fun, as that's often what I do, but at the moment, I've got no such thing going. Maybe it's time I took a break for something like that....
Rauchway's current research project:
I am currently working on a book titled "The Gift Outright: The West, the South, and America, 1867-1937." At 1865, Americans seeking to realize their ambition of a continental nation had to win the West and to reconstruct the South. The U.S. Congress sketched a plan for each region, channeling resources to the development of these sections. Within two decades of their implementation, both plans failed on their merits, and backfired politically too. Through the New Deal, these failures, and both parties' scramble to establish dominance in the newly incorporated sections, shaped the nation.
Rauchway is a regular participant at the scholars' group blog, "Open University."

The Page 69 Test: Blessed Among Nations: How the World Made America.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Steve Kronen

Steve Kronen's poetry has appeared in The New Republic, The American Scholar, Poetry, Agni, APR, The Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Slate, and The Threepenny Review.

Recently, I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I've been reading (actually, listening to) The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. Grant wrote them while painfully dying from throat cancer (years of cigars) hoping to finish the book before he succumbed, and so provide for his family. Mark Twain helped Grant publish the Memoirs under better terms than Grant had arranged for himself. The book's a revelation. Grant's memory is prodigious and minutely detailed. But even better is the writing itself - an exemplar for anyone wishing to write well. The same mind that redirected the floundering Union armies is evidenced in his clear, impeccable prose. Despite Grant's first-row witness to slavery and carnage, he remained trusting of others and was snookered in a number of business scams that plagued both his personal and political life. He died in 1885 upon the book's completion, a bestseller and in print since its publication.

I'm also reading Paul Muldoon's Horse Latitudes and his Oxford Lectures, The End of the Poem. The lectures meditate on single poems by various poets - Yeats' "All Souls' Night," Stevie Smith's "I Remember," etc, - and, consequently, end up serving as guides to Muldoon's own poems. That is, his own subterranean connections, [small c] catholic themes, his varied diction are all explicated/projected on the poem at hand, and we are made privy, via Muldoon's prose, to the strategies that inform his own poems. The lectures are, like his poems, frustrating, wild, exhilarating, and insightful.

The Canterbury Tales are great fun and by their very organization lend themselves to sporadic reading. I've been jumping in and out of Oxford University Press' David Wright translation to help me when I get lost in the original. Actually, I've several translations laid out reading the same passages rendered by different translators, relishing the varying flavors. Slow-going, but I've no deadline.

I also dip into David Ferry's beautiful translation of The Odes of Horace. And always, I go back to my 'triple pillars of the world': Donald Justice's Collected Poems, Richard Wilbur's Collected Poems - 1943-2004 (Waywiser edition), and Anthony Hecht's Collected Earlier Poems (Knopf) and Collected Later Poems (Waywiser).
Kronen has been a fellow at Bread Loaf, and the Sewanee Writers' Conference, received two Florida Arts Council grants, and the Cecil Hemley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. His first book, Empirical Evidence, won the Contemporary Poetry Series prize and was published by the University of Georgia Press in 1992. Splendor, his most recent book, was published by BOA Editions in May 2006.

Visit Steve Kronen's website and read some of his poems that are available online.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Douglas G. Greene

Douglas G. Greene recently received the George N. Dove Award from the Detective/Mystery Caucus of the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association.

Greene is the owner of Crippen & Landru, publisher of short story collections of both classic and contemporary mystery authors, and a professor of history at Old Dominion University. He is also the author of the Edgar Award-nominated John Dickson Carr: The Man Who Explained Miracles (1995) on locked-room mystery master Carr.

I recently asked him what he was reading. His reply:
Right now, I am reading the 4 volumes of Dorothy L. Sayers's letters. An extraordinarily talented and complex woman. How, for example, could she desperately want to marry a Jew and have his children, yet have a great deal of anti-Jewish prejudice?
Here is the Wikipedia entry on Dorothy L. Sayers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 13, 2007

Rebecca Kaiser Gibson

Rebecca Kaiser Gibson is an accomplished writer and poet; she teaches at Tufts University.

Recently, I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Well thank you for asking! It made me stop in the middle of what is usually an uninterrupted and not particularly considered stream of picking up and putting down this book and that. So here is what I've been reading the last day or two, in addition to poems and comments by my students - and more or less why and what I've discovered.

I am happily surprised by the fresh angle of commentary on Isabella Stewart Gardner and her acquaintances in Patricia Vigderman's new book, The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner, which I only discovered because I went to a bookstore reading in New Hampshire. To take one self-glorifying woman and circle around her and into the world as she wandered it, interspersed with and shaped by the very titles of her collection.

I'm reading Hayden Carruth's Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey with much delight.

In between I'm picking up various books about Switzerland. The one on my right, by Lina Hug and Richard Stead was written in 1902 and chats merrily about the discovery of lake dwellings from the bronze age that had just been discovered, by accident in the mud of a dried lake outside Zurich! My other book about Switzerland spills hundreds of names of playwrights and poets and artists and thinkers I in my benighted state of knowledge had no idea were Swiss.

For several weeks I've been dipping into CD Wright's remarkable Deepstep Come Shining. Suddenly her new book, One Big Self: An Investigation, arrived in the mail. So that's tomorrow.

Last week I read Dale Peterson's about Jane Goodall, nonstop, couldn't put it down. So much detail about such an astonishing life - and Dale is delicate and deft in his almost invisible commentary.

I am also reading A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature by Jacqueline Goldsby - a complex and mind altering book.

And that's it, not counting The New Yorker.
Rebecca Kaiser Gibson has had work published in Agni, Field, The Harvard Review, The Boston Phoenix, Mothering, Antigonish, Northwest Review and Verse Daily, MARGIE, and in Slate, and forthcoming in an anthology called Cadence of Hooves.

She has published two chapbooks of poetry through Roundy Wells Press, Admit the Peacock and Inside the Exhibition.

She has written reviews for The Boston Review of Books and Pleiades.

Read -- or listen to her read-- her poem, "Clearing the House," in Slate.

Read more Rebecca Kaiser Gibson poems.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Diane Shipley

Diane Shipley "co-edits books site Trashionista, contributes to TV Scoop and Catwalk Queen and talks about herself, evil hairdressers and fake window cleaners (don’t ask) at When she can be persuaded to stop blogging, she writes freelance articles on a variety of topics."

I learned about Shipley when she blogged at the Guardian about Maureen Dowd's odd report from a visit to a New York bookstore.

Last month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I was recently unfortunate enough to spend six weeks without the internet (which is when I discovered that four days offline is my limit) and with very patchy TV reception, so I read twenty-four books. My favourites included About Alice, Calvin Trillin's poignant and understated tribute to his late wife and muse, and Kalisha Buckhanon's Upstate, a modern day Romeo and Juliet told in the form of letters between two teenage lovers, one of whom is in jail… yes, upstate. It's fantastic.

Now I'm home and back online, my reading rate has slowed considerably. I'm halfway through Mommies Who Drink, in unbound proof (because it's not out in the UK yet) – an interesting way of reading a book which means you can't really turn back and check stuff, you just have to keep ploughing ahead. The book's a little disconnected but I'm enjoying it.

I've also just read the first twenty pages of a book I've had for ages: Fashion Babylon. I promised it to my friend Helen and I'm seeing her in a few weeks so want to finish it soon! Already I can tell it's a deliciously gossipy book, a great read – the fun will be trying to guess which designer and model the anecdotes are about, as everything in the book really happened, but the main players have been disguised…. Helen's a fashion expert so hopefully she can fill me in!

Finally, and God knows when I'll have chance to read it (but I must) I've just bought a second-hand copy of Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White, because for years everyone's been saying how great it is. At 800 plus pages, I'm not quite sure when I and my toppling pile of books for review will fit it in … hopefully sometime this year!
Diane Shipley's riposte to Dowd, "In Defence of Chick Lit," opens:

For a genre that's supposedly just about sex, shoes and shopping (more on that misconception later), chick lit certainly stirs up controversy. Maureen Dowd recently realised it's not 1994 and expressed shock at the number of books in the shops with pink covers - pink signifying literary unworthiness, clearly.

I always find that the people who criticise chick lit, both in the press and to my face (when they discover I edit a chick lit website) are those who know the least about it. [Read on]

A follow-up article supplied proof to back up her claim "that good chick lit was not the contradiction in terms that some people think."

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 9, 2007

Moira Crone

Moira Crone lives in New Orleans and is the author of four books of fiction, most recently the novel-in-stories What Gets Into Us.

Her stories have appeared in New Stories From the South on five occasions, and in magazines such as The New Yorker, Mademoiselle, TriQuarterly, Ploughshares, and many others.

Last month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I am reading the first truly comprehensive anthology of New Orleans voices addressing the experience of the storm for individuals and artists, of which I am one. There have been many books of essays about what New Orleans was before the storm, and many journalistic accounts of the devastation and its many political causes and consequences. But this book is something new: a compendium of thoughtful voices (over eighty different ones here, and many photographers.) that speaks to what was lived and what has come after, and what could come after.

The writers and photographers, the poets and essayists, professionals and peace officers, address the emotional and cultural, historical and artistic impact the events have had-both on their personal lives and, so far as they can see, which is pretty far, upon the community and the city as a whole. These materials were gathered in summer of 2006, which was the first time people could pause for breath. The result is a true city of the book, full of long ago and current history, memory, poems and fictions. It is tragic and hilarious, sad and full of hope. I laughed out loud at Richard Katrovas's "transvestite;" I nodded in recognition when Chris Wiltz described how months after the storm, people flocked to see a play based on her book about a great madam. I wept when photographer Harold Baquet described how, as he fled the city, driving through a throng of hungry, thirsty, desperate people, he had failed to recognize his nephew who called out to him weakly on the bridge. His nephew didn't wave -- he told him months later that was too dehydrated and exhausted to raise his hand in the crowd.

There are over fifty poems, a few stories, (full disclosure, one is mine) a wonderful array of essays, and over thirty interviews from people in every walk of life-from young free-lance medics to composers to photographers to police officers, to mystery writers, to jazz musicians, to entrepreneurs of culture.

This bright book of a city, of its lives, has come in the mail from its editor, the incredibly resourceful Charles Henry Rowell, in the guise of Volume 29, No. 4 of Callaloo. Callaloo is generally known as a premier literary journal specializing in African American literature. It is published by Johns Hopkins University Press. This issue is called American Tragedy: New Orleans Underwater. It does not concentrate on any single ethnic group or social group -- it fulfills the editor's stated intention admirably: "To present aspects of U. S. American culture and creativity in their full richness." At over five hundred pages, thick as that dictionary you got for college and couldn't ever throw away, it depicts the devastation and the start of the resurrection of a place -- it's a little like a dictionary, actually, one with a single, but incredibly complex definition: New Orleans, après le deluge. See also: taking stock, starting over, re-creation of.
Visit Moira Crone's website, and read her Beliefnet essay on Hurricane Katrina, being a refugee, and keeping our hearts open to those in need.

--Marshal Zeringue