Tag Archives: margaret atwood

Preorders for the New Year

I’m judging by this cover

As much as I love looking back on a year of good solid reading, I like looking forward to one to come even better. And although I cannot begin to say how 2013 is going to turn out, publishing and reading wise, from here, it’s looking pretty great. With the first month of the year nearly gone (2013 is flying already!), it seemed high time to highlight what we can look forward to in the next eleven. I find if I’m not preparing for new releases, they’ll inevitably disappear into the gaping black hole that is my TBR list. So without further discussion, here are 10 2013 releases I’m excited about:

Truth in Advertising, John Kenney – January 22:  A book blogger I follow describe it by saying, “Truth in Advertising is what would happen if Mad Men had sex with Jonathan Tropper,” and that was enough for me.

I drink with men sometimes too

Drinking with Men, Rosie Schaap – January 24: I read a review of this memoir on NPR and thought it’s easygoing bar stories sounded right up my alley.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, Anne Therese Fowler – March 26: I’m a huge fan of the Jazz Age/Lost Generation era. Huge. Ask anyone that attended my wedding (it was 20s-themed, right down to the guests’ attire). So naturally, a bit of fact-based fiction starring the first American flapper is at the top of my list this year. Bonus points for an incredibly gorgeous cover.

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, Mary Roach – April 1: I’ve read and loved everything else Mary Roach has written, and I’m hearing stellar things about this one as well. Her dry, footnote-filled popular science books are extremely informative and hysterically witty.

graphic awesomeness

Odds Against Tomorrow, Nathaniel Rich – April 2: I know very little about this book, and that’s okay. I glimpsed the words “Empire State Building,” “apocalyptic,” and “thriller,” and that was enough to make it on the list.

The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker: The Dublin Years, Elizabeth Miller – April 4: This one’s not going to be a bestseller or a favorite of the masses, but I like Stoker a lot, not to mention he’s a character in the book I’m currently outlining.

Call Me Zelda, Erica Robuck – May 7: See above, re: fact-based fiction about Zelda Fitzgerald.

glorious Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman – June 18: I’m really late to the Neil Gaiman party. I’ve read only 2 of his previous works (in the middle of the 3rd), but I am officially on board for this one. I expect I’ll have more of his novels behind me by the time June rolls around too. He is a sharp, imaginative example of quality writing in the modern age. I’m really looking forward to a new book.

Seven for a Secret, Lyndsay Faye – August 15?: I can’t find much information about the true release date of this one. I only know of it because I practically stalk Lyndsay Faye and her Twitter feed. Her third novel is a sequel to last year’s The Gods of Gotham, which takes place in 1860s Manhattan and is an incredibly cool read.

MaddAddam, Margaret Atwood – September 3: Margaret Atwood is a major oversight of mine. I’ve read her nonfiction work on writing, but I am going to be actively going at her fiction bibliography this year. This new novel is the last in a trilogy, preceded by Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. I’m pretty sure Maggie A can do no wrong, so I’m catching up on the trilogy and then jumping headfirst into this new one.

There are also a few books that I’ve been hearing a lot about, ones that bloggers and critics are currently reading and forming opinions on, but I’m not entirely convinced yet. Sometimes even the best of us need to be talked into spending time with a book. I’m waiting to read a little more about these (or in some cases, read the author’s earlier work) before I make any serious preorder commitments, but I’m watching closely:

letters that are actually essays

The Blue Book, A.L. Kennedy – March 12
Life After Life, Kate Atkinson – April 2
All That Is, James Salter – April 2
Letters to a Young Scientist, Edward O. Wilson – April 15
Inferno, Dan Brown – May 14
Transatlantic, Colum McCann – June 4
Doctor Sleep, Stephen King – September 24

Also just heard about the plans for an Amy Poehler memoir in 2014. Here’s to looking forward to all the books and the future in general too.

P.S. What have I missed?! Feel free to let me know.

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In Flanders Fields

handwritten by the poet himself

 A few weeks ago, I read Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing. I hadn’t read anything by the well-known contemporary Canadian author before, but I did see her speak last spring at a humanities symposium my university sponsored. She was magnificent. I bought one of her books to be autographed, and while I’ve always heard great things about classics like The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake and Cat’s Eye, and even been recommended The Blind Assassin and Lady Oracle, it was the subtitle Writer on Writing that caught my eye. Negotiating with the Dead was a fascinating study on the psychology and thematic elements that occupy a writer’s thoughts and give meaning to a writer’s life, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone who fits even vaguely into the category of “writer,” but that is not the end purpose of this post.

In the last chapter of the book, Atwood reprints the famous WWI poem “In Flanders Fields.” I had not thought of these few verses in quite a long time, but I’m very glad that Negotiating with the Dead brought them back into the forefront of my memory. I’ve found myself reciting – almost chanting – the few lines I know by heart several times since I read the book… McCrae’s words have stuck with me. And so I have copied them here, along with a little background on the author and the history of the poem for those unfamiliar:

Canadian poet John McCrae was a medical officer in both the Boer War and World War I. A year into the latter war he published in Punch magazine, on December 8, 1915, the sole work by which he would be remembered. This poem commemorates the deaths of thousands of young men who died in Flanders during the grueling battles there. It created a great sensation, and was used widely as a recruiting tool, inspiring other young men to join the Army. Legend has it that he was inspired by seeing the blood-red poppies blooming in the fields where many friends had died.

In Flanders Fields
By Lt. Col. John McCrae

the poppies in Flanders fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie 
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 
In Flanders fields.

This poem was actually first known to me in high school when my chamber choir sang a haunting and beautiful musical arrangement of it by Paul A. Aitken. The composition needs no other introduction; hear a heartrending choral rendition of the piece here:

10 Books to Start Off 2011

apropos for this writer

1. Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing, Margaret Atwood – I bought this book at a Humanities Symposium at school. Margaret Atwood was the keynote speaker and graciously agreed to sign books after her address. I have never actually read anything by Atwood, but I understand her influence on the world of literature. I picked up this book because it seemed most appropriate for me, as a writer myself. Atwood’s speech was enchanting, mesmerizing in its eloquence, fascinating in its scope.  I can’t wait to read all of her works, starting of course,  with this one.

not exactly what you think

2. How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, Pierre Bayard – A friend mentioned this book to me during a conversation in which I was lamenting over the never-ending list of books I want to read and the finite amount of time I have in which to read them. I think the title (or its translation into English) is misleading though. From what I can tell of the book, it is actually a psychological study of novels, their themes, and our experiences which allow us to discuss them generally but intelligently, a meditation on what it might mean to read or not read.

judge this book by its cover

3. Shannon, Frank Delaney – One look at this book should convey every reason that it is on my list. First of all, it is Irish, in origin and in content. Second of all, Frank Delaney is magnificent. I’ve read past works and even had the rare pleasure of attending a signing event and discussion of Tipperary, one of his earlier novels. His words are poetry, his mind like lightning. His works are published faster than I can keep track, and each is more poignant and lovely than the last. I suggest both Ireland and Tipperary, and nonfiction work like Simple Courage: A True Story of Peril on the Sea.

so 20th century

4. World’s Fair, E.L. Doctorow – This novel is said to be somewhat autobiographical of the brilliant Doctorow, chronicling the life of a Jewish boy named Edgar growing up in the Bronx in the 1930s. I read and loved Ragtime, another of his nostalgically historical stories of old New York, years ago after performing in the musical adaptation during high school. Doctorow’s work is insightful and imaginative, realistic and evocative. I love reading novels that take place in that era in our history, and World’s Fairs have always fascinated me.

lots of Lower East Side

5. The Great Riots of New York, J.T. Headley – This book, along with one or two others, was the inspiration for Scorsese’s 2002 film Gangs of New York, which happens to be a great favorite of mine. My boyfriend and I are both quite infatuated with immigrant Manhattan, primarily the Five Points area (now part of the Lower East Side) and mid-19th century, and it was upon his recommendation that I borrowed this one from his library. Give me the Natives and the Dead Rabbits, the violence and the desperation. And I’ll take an intro by the talented Pete Hamill too.

very important subjects

6. The Search for God and Guinness, Stephen Mansfield – This book’s subtitle reads “A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World.” It is the amazing and true story of how the Guinness family used its wealth and influence to touch millions. I heard the author speak at a school convocation and was inspired to read his book. Conveniently enough, he brought 100 copies to give away to the students, and I came away with one. I’m starting this one as soon as I finish my current novel because I’ve already talked about 4 people into reading it after I finish.

a possible new fav

7. Home, Marilynne Robinson – Marilynne Robinson is author of my all-time favorite novel. While I adore everything by Conan Doyle, F. Scotty, Jane Austen, and Muriel Barbery, Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead holds the highest place in my mind among all the books I’ve read. Home is the most recent of her three novels, released in 2008, a companion novel to Gilead, and the only one that I haven’t read, but I have a few of her collections of essays on my reading list as well, primarily The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought.

supposedly awesome

8. Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón – This novel has been on the periphery of my literary scope for some time now. The cover is familiar to me, and I can name quite a few of the author’s other works, but I failed to make Shadow of the Wind a priority until a good friend of mine (with a knack for reviewing books) positively rhapsodized it. To quote her, the novel is “set in Barcelona in 1945” and “tells the story of a city pulling itself back up from the horrors of both a civil war and a world war,” which is right up my alley. The story is translated from Spanish and is a NYT bestseller.

long name, short book

9. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – This is a book of letters that begins in post-war London and Guernsey Island that is both light-hearted and nostalgic, charming and traditional. The authors are related – aunt and niece – but their work is coherent, historical, and genteel… or so I’ve read. I bought this book a few years ago on the recommendation of a friend, and it’s on this list on the more urgent advice of another friend. Apparently, I’d love it. Well, it’s top of the list now, ladies.

yay, Middle Earth

10. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien – To my utter shame as a self-proclaimed Lord of the Rings super-fan, I have never read The Hobbit. My boyfriend, also a LOTR nerd, finally put his foot down on the issue and voided all my excuses by giving me a deluxe illustrated copy of the book as a graduation present. I know how remarkable Tolkien’s writing is and how much of an impact his words have had on me in the past. It is time. (Also because there’s so much buzz about Peter Jackson and pre-production of The Hobbit movie(s)!)