We’ve moved!

February 25, 2010

The Book Case will now be published here.

Update your RSS feeds and bookmarks — we look forward to seeing you all at the new URL.

Sharyn McCrumb heads back to the mountains

February 25, 2010

Fans of Appalachian literature, take heart—after 7 years, Sharyn McCrumb is returning to her acclaimed Ballad series on June 22 with The Devil Amongst the Lawyers.

From the catalog:

In 1934 all the national publications sent their star reporters to remote Virginia to cover the trial of Erma Morton: a beautiful 21-year-old year old mountain girl with a teaching degree, accused of murdering her father–a drunken tyrant of a man.

One of the journalists—18-year-old Carl—tells it like he sees it, earning the wrath of his citified cohorts, who are writing the backwoods crime story they think people want to read, rather than the truth. Will his sister, Nora, who has the “sight,” be able to save Erma—and Carl?

We’ve said before that McCrumb “is just the author to unearth the facts, sprinkle them with a little mountain magic and bring them to life in her fiction.” (from an interview for Ghost Riders).  The Devil Amongst the Lawyers should bring more of the same.

Big PEN/Faulkner news for a Nashville writer

February 24, 2010

When the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction finalists were announced yesterday, the names were recognizable—even predictable: Barbara Kingsolver, Lorrie Moore, Colson Whitehead and Sherman Alexie. But the fifth finalist, Lorraine M. López, nominated for Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories, stood out from the crowd.


While I didn’t recognize the title of the story collection, I thought I recognized the name: I had an English professor named Lorraine López as an undergraduate at Vanderbilt.

Turns out Professor López is not only an incredible teacher (her Latino literature class remains one of my favorites) but a greatly talented writer. I love this description of Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories, from fellow writer and critic Heather Sellers: “An amazingly original Flannery O’Connor/Loretta Lynn collision, this collection lets us witness the indomitable spirit and forces us to take pure joy in all we really ever have a chance at: flawed, gorgeous, weird, rollicking, screwed survival.”

Published in November 2009 by BkMk Press (at the University of Missouri, Kansas City), Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories is sure to get a lot of attention in the coming weeks—and we couldn’t be happier for its gracious and gifted author.

Lorraine M. López was kind enough to humor a former student—and took time out of her busy teaching/writing schedule to talk with BookPage today.

When did you find out you were named a finalist for the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction? What was your initial reaction?

My editor at the Press, Ben Furnish sent me an email saying he’d been contacted by the PEN/Faulkner Prize administrators who wanted my contact information, and soon afterward, I had an email telling me to call the director of the Prize. I called right away and she congratulated me for being a finalist for the award. I’m a low-key person, so I’d make a terrible game show contestant. I don’t whoop and holler. I think I said, “Wow,” but quietly. I don’t think I was able to take it in fully for the first 24 hours or so. I’m still processing the news, which is unbelievably wonderful, the kind of thing I wouldn’t even dare to dream. And when I saw the list of the other finalists, I went into super-fan mode, and I grew excited all over again with the anticipation of meeting these writers and hearing them read at the ceremony in May.

Read the rest of this entry »

The new Mattie Ross

February 24, 2010

When I went home to Arkansas in December, conversation on more than one occasion drifted toward the Coen Brothers’ new movie adaptation of Charles Portis’ 1968 novel True Grit, which opens on Christmas Day 2010.

Why are they re-making the film that won John Wayne his only Oscar? Were any locals auditioning for the role of 14-year-old Mattie Ross? Had anyone had a sighting of Portis, the novel’s reclusive author, who lives in Little Rock? And why on earth weren’t the Coens shooting the movie in Yell County, Arkansas, where the novel takes place? (Instead it’s being shot in New Mexico, which has high film incentives.)

Hailee Steinfeld

For a while we’ve known that Jeff Bridges will be Rooster Cogburn, the U.S. marshal who journeys with Mattie on the search to find her dad’s killer (played by Josh Brolin). Matt Damon will play Texas Ranger La Boeuf. But yesterday, Variety reported that newcomer Hailee Steinfeld has been cast in the all-important role of Mattie, who narrates the novel. Although the John Wayne version plays up the role of Cogburn, the Coens plan to focus on Mattie’s point-of-view in their adaptation.

There’s little information available about Steinfeld online, such as her age or hometown.

True Grit fans: Can you see her as Mattie?

What we’re reading Wednesday: Husband and Wife

February 24, 2010

Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart
Harper, May 2010

Sarah and Nathan are just your average American couple: still in love after more than 10 years together, they have a toddler daughter and an infant son; Nathan is a novelist poised for commercial success with the release of his new book, Infidelity. But when Sarah learns that the book isn’t all drawn from Nathan’s imagination, what they thought they knew about their relationship is called into question.

Leah Stewart (Body of a Girl, The Myth of You & Me) is an acute social observer, and her take on this oldest of stories is worth reading. Told from Sarah’s perspective, the novel puts readers in her place and asks them to consider the temptations and trials of a longterm relationship.

“Do you still love me?” I asked, as though I was just now following up on what he’d said as we got in the car. Two hours ago it wouldn’t have crossed my mind to ask this question. Now I heard how tremulous my voice sounded when I did. I stared at his profile. The corners of his mouth turned down, as in a child’s drawing of a sad face.

“Of course I do,” he said, but this time he didn’t sound sure, and I said so. “It’s just . . .” He shot a look at me, gripped the wheel with both hands. “Sometimes, part of me wishes I didn’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“I wish I could say I didn’t love you, or we were unhappy, or I was in love with her. At least then I’d have a reason for doing what I did.”

“Yes,” I said. “That would be much better.” “You’re gazing at me adoringly!” I used to cry, when I caught him looking at me, and he’d deny it, and then I’d insist that he was, that he was freaking me out, and I’d pretend to flee his presence, and he’d chase me and tickle me and fix me with wide eyes, a goofy smile, and say, “I love you, I love you, I love you, you can’t get away.”

“Let me go!” I’d shriek, laughing and squirming. “Let me go!”

“I’m sorry,” he said now. “I don’t know what I’m saying. I don’t really mean any of that. I love you. I just feel so bad.”

I said nothing, though what I wanted to say was, Yes, you love me, you do, and how could you ever for one moment wish that away?

‘Bad Mother’ author returns to fiction with ‘Red Hook Road’

February 24, 2010

I don’t know yet if I’m taking a vacation this summer, but if it happens, Ayelet Waldman’s latest will be tucked in my suitcase. Red Hook Road is being published in July 13. It’s her first novel since 2006’s Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, which interviewer Alden Mudge called “sharply observed, completely absorbing and sometimes wickedly humorous. Like Lionel Shriver and Zoe Heller, Waldman has a gift for creating flawed, and therefore human, characters. You may not always like them, but you root for them.

Red Hook Road sounds a little more dramatic than Love, which centered on the not-so-unusual dilemma of a stepmother struggling to accept her role. In an interview with Amazon, Waldman says that Red Hook Road was inspired by a newspaper story—a young couple, killed in a car crash on their way to their wedding reception. On her twitter feed, she describes it more succinctly: “Abt 2 families in Maine, connected & divided by tragedy and hope. Hey, just pulled that outa my butt. Pretty good!”

Late-in-the-month February fiction is here

February 23, 2010

On Monday, we’re posting the March print edition of BookPage online—but until then, here’s a preview of a few new books I’m particularly excited about. Best of all, each one comes out today! Browse the summaries below, then head to a bookstore or library. Which book will you read first?

John Banville won the Man Booker Prize for his latest novel, The Sea, and today you can read The Infinities—which BookPage columnist Robert Weibezahl describes as “a glimmering world that hovers between the lives of humans and the manipulations of the playful Olympian gods, exploring deep and ageless themes of love, loss and the meaning of time.” If that doesn’t hook you, how about this: Weibezahl calls Banville a “magical writer” with a “superlative gift for limning the essence of our own humanity in all its ungodly imperfection.” Read a full review of The Infinities.

Embezzlement, murder, blackmail, Celtic myth and a mysterious show woman? These elements come together in Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show, Frank Delaney’s passionate tale of a boy’s coming-of-age in Ireland of 1932. Ben McCarthy must go on a quest to bring his father back from the circus, where he’s escaped to fall in love with Venetia Kelly. Delaney weaves Ben’s personal tale with Irish history—and the result is an “inventive, amazing work” writes Arlene McKanic in BookPage. Read a full review of Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show

Elaine Beale’s Another Life Altogether has been regarded as a debut, although the author did publish a murder mystery in 1997 (now out of print). In any case, I’m glad that Beale is back. Her new novel deals with psychological development, the challenges of fitting in as a teen and a quirky family; it’s a worthy story filled with action and emotional drama. Read a full review of Another Life Altogether.

Any other recent releases you can’t wait to read?