The Art of Memoir


Mary Karr is known for her series of memoirs about her difficult childhood. In this new book about how to write a memoir, she quotes from some of the best works in the genre including McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, and Wild: from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by a former student of hers, Cheryl Strayed.

What exactly is a memoir? The name is very descriptive. It’s a work based on memory. But it’s not the same as an autobiography for it concentrates on a specific period of life and is centered by a theme. For instance, Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit chronicles a teenager’s adoption into a strict fundamentalist family, her adopted mom’s mistreatment of her, and her eventual rebellion from this way of life. It’s a memoir about a young woman discovering her true self.

Karr has plenty of what she considers the prime ingredient for a memoir—voice. She defines voice as “not just a manner of talking, It’s an operative mindset and way of perceiving…” You could describe Karr’s voice as sassy, informal, sometimes even, badass. Read more »

Prestigious Man Booker Prize Announces Short List


It's that time of year again when the Man Booker Prize whittles its choices down to a manageable six. The Man Booker Award, begun in 1969, is one of the most prestigious literary awards.

It was formerly limited to writers from the UK and Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe. In a move many British writers recented, last year it was opened to Americans for the first time. Many Brits felt that the Yankees would take over it.

This year two U.S. authors have been short-listed: Anne Tyler and Hanya Yanagihara.

Anne Tyler known for her quirky characters, humor, and emphasis on family and travel has written twenty novels and won many awards. On the other hand, this is Hanya Yanagilhara's second novel. Hanya is of Hawaiian ancestry. Her novel tells the story of four college friends through middle age.

The winner will be announced on Oct. 13th. If you're looking for a good read, any of these titles should prove rewarding.

Here is the complete list with writer's country of origin also included:

Marlon James (Jamaica)         A Brief History of Seven Killings

Tom McCarthy (UK)              Satin Island

Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria)     The Fishermen

Sunjeev Sahota (UK)           The Year of the Runaways

Ann Tyler (US)                    A Spool of Blue Thread

Hanya Yanagihara (US)        A Little Life



Gellhorn: A Twentieth-Century Life


“I was never deeply interested in being a child.” Twentieth-century war correspondent and novelist, Gellhorn always said these words would open her autobiography if she ever wrote one.

Unfortunately, she never did but Moorehead’s deeply researched biography of the writer is so rich with Gellhorn’s work, family life, love affairs, and travels that probably not even Gellhorn could have gotten it down with such precision.  Also, Moorehead provides a rich tapestry of historical and cultural information for the nine decades of Martha’s life.

During WW 11, the military refused to give her a pass to Normandy for the German invasion, so Martha sneaked aboard a troop ship and hid in the bathroom until they were well at sea.

Her father, an ex-German doctor settled in St. Louis and married Edna, an intelligent member of the local upper class. Both parents were half Jewish. One of the fascinating things in this book is to discover the lifelong extremely close connection between mother and daughter. Read more »

Between You & Me: confessions of a comma queen


Are you a grammar aficionado? Do you love learning the ins and outs of different jobs? Do you like reaffirming that your grammar and punctuation is spot-on, or why and how it has strayed from the path of correctness?  If so, Mary Norris’s Between You & Me is exactly right for you. 

Norris describes her life before and during her thirty year tenure at The New Yorker as a copy writer with the detailed knowledge to make sure that the correct word, usage and punctuation is always employed. To accomplish that, her best tool (other than her comprehensive knowledge of grammar) was her noteworthy stash of No. 1 pencils. What an odyssey it was to keep a supply of the best proofreading pencil in the world. And those in a perfect working state.  Solution: a passionate epistolary correspondence with one manufacturer of the yellow-painted rods.

With humor and great descriptive ability Norris describes her first jobs, as a foot checker at a public swimming pool (checking for Athletes foot before swimmers entered the pool), and milkman—make that milkwoman--a job those under fifty may not even know existed. Later, she went to graduate school in literature, and  moved to New York where she took a few lowly desk jobs before she scored an interview at America’s most prestigious literary magazine, The New Yorker. Read more »

How Artists Work


Do you believe creative artists should be disciplined? Honor routines?  Sit (or stand) at their desks, go to their studio every day? Or do you think they should be free spirits? Explore the world? Pound the pavements; hike in the woods? Visit coffee shops and saloons and meet people? Write or paint or compose as the feeling strikes them? Perhaps after delving into this book of 161 summaries of artists’ routines, you will change your mind.

It’s surprising how many of these creative spirits rise at sunbreak and commence work quickly. This book gets into the nitty gritty. Did you know that Beethoven made his own coffee every day? He routinely counted out sixty coffee beans.  He also loved to bathe before a sink, splashing pitchers full of water over himself, but unfortunately, this water spilled on the floor and dribbled downstairs to his landlord’s place,  forcing the owner to put a concrete base under the great composer’s sink. The esteemed composer’s servants also had a laugh-fest each time he bathed because he did so while “bellowing up and down the scales.” Read more »

Ensure Excellence at School and Work with the Testing & Education Reference Center

ImageIt's been said that luck is simply the place where preparation meets opportunity. Thanks to the Testing & Education Reference Center, available through the Library's website, you can prepare for many of life's best opportunities—free.

Whether you're studying for entrance exams like the ACT, SAT, or GRE, or preparing for a career Read more »

The Count 2012

Book ReviewsEvery year VIDA Women in Literary Arts conducts a survey to count female author representation in major literary periodicals.  This survey isn't about quality or good reviews, but just about the representation, number of reviews or general press coverage that women authors are getting.  The results can be viewed through a wide variety of lenses, but the graphs are admittedly a little shocking.

It would be interesting to know how the publishing numbers break down, but a quick peek at the New York Times Best Sellers hardcover list of the top 16 titles shows an exact 50/50 female to male representation.  Which to me (unsing completely unscientific methods) shows that books written by women are just as popular or being read in the same numbers as books written by men.  Read more »

Fighting Words

Fighting WordsNot only do I spent a lot of time reading books, but I spend a lot of time reading about books. I recently ran across Flavorwire's article 'The 30 Harshest Author-on-Author Insults In History' and I have to admit that I laughed out loud. Collected here are real quotes from authors about authors - disparaging in a cruel but also often funny way.
My favorite? Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac - "That's not writing, that's typing." Ha!
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The Writing Circle

The Writing CircleThis novel examines the writing process itself especially that nerve-wracking period when an author first shares her work with other people. Nancy writes for a medical newsletter for a living; how ironic, she often thinks, that a doctor's daughter researches articles about prostate health, skin cancer, even empty nest syndrome, and then makes pronouncements about them in the voice of a medical practitioner rather than her own. Her novel is a deeply personal story, one that imagines her father's life beginning with the night he watched a couple say good-bye to their newborn daughter. Nancy has waited until after her father's death to imagine his story. And as in all fiction, the bare biographical facts are merely a springboard to the tale, not its actual foundation.
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