Shelf Awareness for Friday, November 11, 2016

Little Brown and Company: This Bird Has Flown by Susanna Hoffs

St. Martin's Press: Hello Stranger by Katherine Center

Dundurn Press: Chasing the Black Eagle by Bruce Geddes

W by Wattpad Books: Hazel Fine Sings Along by Katie Wicks

St. Martin's Press: The Girls of Summer by Katie Bishop

Soho Crime: The Rope Artist by Fuminori Nakamura, transl. by Sam Bett

Flatiron Books: Once Upon a Prime: The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature by Sarah Hart

Grand Central Publishing: Goodbye Earl: A Revenge Novel by Leesa Cross-Smith


Changes in the Works for Oakland's DIESEL, A Bookstore

A change of ownership, name and business model are potentially in the works for DIESEL, A Bookstore's location on College Avenue in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, Calif. Under the proposed plan, current store manager Brad Johnson would become owner of the renamed East Bay Booksellers through a transition contingent upon the success of a community lending initiative that has an open-ended timeline.

Brad Johnson

Johnson, who has worked at the bookstore for four years, told Shelf Awareness this morning that if the lending program doesn't reach its goal, East Bay Booksellers "simply doesn't exist, but DIESEL most certainly does. (This is not a rescue operation. That's why I emphasize that things have not yet changed.) The present owners see a chance with me to sell it to someone whose values align with theirs, to 'keep it in the family,' as it were. But in the event East Bay Booksellers does not officially happen, DIESEL continues to be. It's an experiment (an exciting one, in our eyes)."

John Evans, co-owner with Alison Reid of DIESEL stores in Oakland, Larkspur and Brentwood, noted: "We are ready to pass the torch to him to carry on this rich and storied tradition, in this wonderful neighborhood that has sustained us, and that we have helped to sustain as well." 

In a press release announcing the project, Davis wrote: "Drawing from the inspirational success of Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, the Community Lender program differs from crowdfunding models like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo by inviting loans of $1,000 or more to East Bay Booksellers, which are legally administrated through a simple loan document and promissory note that insures repayment in quarterly payments over five to ten years. Repayment begins one year after the new store's opening date, which is still to be determined, allowing East Bay Booksellers to hit the ground running with a short grace period."

More details about the community loan program and transition will be discussed at an informational meeting at the Rockridge store immediately following Customer Appreciation Day on Sunday, November 20 at 5 p.m.

"Good bookstores are not only profitable businesses, but are proven cultural institutions," Johnson observed. "The industry trends agree. Over the past seven years, independent bookstores have defied the reports of their demise, with the American Booksellers Association reporting a 27% increase in the number of independent bookstores."

Parallax Press: Radical Love: From Separation to Connection with the Earth, Each Other, and Ourselves by Satish Kumar

Bookseller Chloe Eudaly Wins Portland, Ore., City Council Seat

In what Oregon Public Radio called "a stunning upset," Chloe Eudaly, owner of Reading Frenzy bookstore, won a seat on the Portland City Council, defeating incumbent Steve Novick, making her the first challenger to defeat a city commissioner since 1992.

Chloe Eudaly

OPD said that Eudaly "built a strong grassroots campaign tapping into the fear and frustration of Portland residents displaced by rapidly rising rents and home prices." Eudaly wants an immediate rent freeze, an end to no-cause evictions and some kind of rent control. She was endorsed by Willamette Week, the Portland Mercury and former Mayor Tom Potter.

Eudaly won after raising $85,000 for the campaign, compared to Novick's $422,000. She told OPR: "I'm scrappy and resourceful. I come from a very grassroots do it yourself background, so we were able to make those dollars stretch farther than a candidate running a typical campaign. We were out connecting with individuals, and not courting a relative few big-money donors."

Eudaly's campaign manager, Marshall Runkel, said that social media, particularly Facebook, helped the effort. (She created a Facebook group, The Shed, where people have shared stories about struggles in the rental market.)

Founded 22 years ago, Reading Frenzy focuses on independent, small press and self-published titles, and is home to Show & Tell Press and Minikin Gallery.

William Morrow & Company: The God of Good Looks by Breanne Mc Ivor

Post-Election: Six Titles; Bezos vs. Trump; Diverse Books


The New York Times recommended six titles "for those trying to understand the political, economic, regional and social shifts that drove one of the most stunning political upsets in the nation's history on Tuesday." For its critics' and reviewers' comments on these titles, click here.

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).
Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild (The New Press)
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance (Harper)
Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? by Thomas Frank (Metropolitan Books)
The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics by John B. Judis (Columbia Global Reports)
White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg (Viking)


The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a record high yesterday with certain sectors jumping dramatically since the election, particularly bank and financial, drug, military and manufacturing stocks on speculation that they will benefit under a Trump Administration. Among the losers in the past two days most notably were utilities, real-estate firms and tech stocks, and among the tech stocks, Amazon has fared unusually badly, losing 6% of its value in two days, closing yesterday at $742.38 a share.

Earlier in this year, President-Elect Trump and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos battled back and forth on social media and in TV interviews. Trump accused Amazon of not paying taxes (!) and charged that Bezos was using the Washington Post as a kind of tax shelter and to attack politicians who might do anything about Amazon's tax situation. He added that Amazon has "a huge antitrust problem" and that "if I become president, oh, do they have problems. They're going to have such problems." Bezos suggested that Trump take a one-way trip into outer space on one of his Blue Origin rockets.

Now Bezos is apparently trying to mend high-altitude fences. Yesterday he tweeted, "Congratulations to @realDonaldTrump. I for one give him my most open mind and wish him great success in his service to the country."


In a letter, Ellen C. Oh, president and CEO of We Need Diverse Books, wrote: "Now more than ever We Need Diverse Books. We must stay strong. We must be willing to continue to work hard and fight for all of our rights. There will be immediate dangers for many in our communities, in particular the immigrant, Muslim, and LGBTQ communities. We must support them and stand by their side. And we must continue to do everything we can to diversify children's literature with own voices. For there is no doubt in my mind that the lack of good representation in children's books that could be good windows into other lives, is a key reason for the complete lack of empathy in much of the populace. Imagine if these same people had read Last Stop on Market Street or Brown Girl Dreaming or Better Nate than Ever or American Born Chinese. What if they'd read All American Boy? I can't help but think that some of them might have made a different decision had they only been exposed to diversity at a young age.

"What this proves more than anything is that representation is not only important for marginalized children, but they are equally, if not more important for white, straight, cis-gendered, able bodied kids to read. The lack of diverse books in children's books has a direct correlation to what we have seen happen this week. And while it is too late to fix what has already happened, we can and must do better for our future generations. We must work harder to diversify the publishing industry. We must work harder to mentor new marginalized voices, we must work harder to promote and distribute diverse books by own voices authors...."

Shelf Awareness Job Board: Click Here to Post Your Job

New B&N Bookstore for Youngstown State University

A stand-alone Barnes and Noble bookstore "is on its way to Fifth Avenue at Youngstown State University, scheduled to open during the 2017-18 school year," the Jambar reported, noting that the university "heard bids and presentations from multiple companies before deciding to choose Barnes and Noble for the stand-alone store." It will replace the campus bookstore in Kilcawley Center.

Cleveland's Guide to Kulchur Closing

Guide to Kulchur bookstore and co-op in Cleveland, Ohio, which relocated last year to a larger space, is closing this Sunday. Cleveland Scene reported that owner and curator RA Washington announced the decision on his Facebook page, describing the move as an "emergency measure" due to financial concerns.

"We've fought to keep the doors open," he wrote, "and now we must close them in an effort to continue our work bringing Books 2 Prisoners all over Ohio, and to continue the amazing work of GTK Press, which in its first year published 15 books of nonfiction, poetry and fiction... and collaborated with the City Club to publish a document of dialogue called A Race Anthology: Dispatches and Artifacts from a Segregated City."

Washington expressed his gratitude to "our staff, volunteers and community members for their tremendous efforts and sacrifices, I can not thank you all enough. Your tireless commitment to the mission, and your talent speaks volumes. I am honored to know you, and look forward to the work we do together in the future."

Obituary Note: Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen

Music and literary legend Leonard Cohen, "the Canadian poet and novelist who abandoned a promising literary career to become one of the foremost songwriters of the contemporary era," died last night, the New York Times reported. He was 82. Adam Cohen, his son and producer, said: "My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records. He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humor."

In addition to his renowned musical accomplishments, Cohen published his first poetry collection, Let Us Compare Mythologies, in 1956, while he was still an undergraduate, followed over the years by titles like The Spice-Box of Earth, Flowers for Hitler and Book of Mercy. "Other collections would appear sporadically throughout Mr. Cohen's life, including the omnibus Poems and Songs in 2011," the Times noted. In 2006, he published Book of Longing, a poetry collection that composer Philip Glass "set to music and then took on tour, with Mr. Cohen's recorded voice reciting the words and Mr. Glass's ensemble performing the music." Cohen also wrote the novels The Favorite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966), the latter of which eventually sold more than three million copies worldwide.

Cohen's best-known song "may well be 'Hallelujah,' a majestic, meditative ballad infused with both religiosity and earthiness," the Times wrote, adding that "some 200 artists, from Bob Dylan to Justin Timberlake, have sung or recorded it. A book has been written about it, and it has been featured on the soundtracks of movies and television shows and sung at the Olympics and other public events."

In the liner notes for the music anthology The Essential Leonard Cohen, author Pico Iyer wrote: "The changeless is what he's been about since the beginning. Some of the other great pilgrims of song pass through philosophies and selves as if through the stations of the cross. With Cohen, one feels he knew who he was and where he was going from the beginning, and only digs deeper, deeper, deeper."

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
The Wisdom of Morrie:
Living and Aging Creatively and Joyfully
by Morrie Schwartz, edited by Rob Schwartz
GLOW: Blackstone Publishing: The Wisdom of Morrie: Living and Aging Creatively and Joyfully by Morrie Schwartz, edited by Rob Schwartz

Twenty-five years ago, Mitch Albom immortalized his former college professor in Tuesdays with Morrie, the blockbuster memoir that shared Morrie Schwartz's profound insights about life as he was dying of ALS. In The Wisdom of Morrie, Rob Schwartz, Morrie's son, resurrects his father's voice, sharing Morrie's philosophical wisdom and humor about the aging process--what can be an emboldening period filled with meaning and purpose. "This book is invaluable to anyone interested in improving their quality of life," says Rick Bleiweiss, head of new business development at Blackstone Publishing. "Readers who enjoy[ed] The Last Lecture and When Breath Becomes Air will expand their awareness and find new ideas and insights into living more fully." Schwartz's musings are timeless, and inspirational for readers of all ages. --Kathleen Gerard

(Blackstone Publishing, $25.99 hardcover, 9798200813452,
April 18, 2023)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Image of the Day: Danticat, Wing at 'Fort Collins Reads'

Edwidge Danticat (left) visited Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, Colo., while she was in town for the Fort Collins Reads event. With her is children's book author Natasha Wing, who is holding a signed copy of Danticat's picture book Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation (Dial).

Happy Fifth Birthday, Parnassus Books!

Congratulations to Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn., which is celebrating its fifth birthday this weekend with events, discounts, giveaways, prizes, snacks, champagne and cake.

On Facebook yesterday, Ann Patchett and Karen Hayes addressed the birthday as well as the week's other news: "Thank you. From all of us. For coming through these doors seeking community and offering friendship--not just this week, when so many of us need it--but every day for the past five years. We are grateful to be part of a literary family that's inclusive and kind, full of good, curious people. As we celebrate our five-year anniversary this month, we think back on the past and look forward to the future with our deepest gratitude to you, book-lovers."

Karen Hayes and Ann Patchett

In a photo-rich blog post, Parnassus Books noted: "It was November of 2011 when two women in Nashville did what everyone said was impossible (or at least crazy): they opened a bookstore while bookstores everywhere were closing. Introduced by mutual friend Mary Grey James, novelist Ann Patchett and publishing veteran Karen Hayes became friends and business partners when they decided to work together to fill the hole left by Nashville's shuttered bookstores. They named their new venture Parnassus Books.

"Five years later, not only is the store still here, it's thriving. And all of us here have you to thank. That's right, book-lovers, our special holiday is coming up: the anniversary of the day we came into each other's lives. Let's reminisce."

Italy's 18-Year-Olds Getting €500 'Cultural Bonus'

The Italian government has launched an initiative to give a €500 (about $546) "cultural bonus" to young people on their 18th birthday, the Bookseller reported, adding that the money can be spent on "books, concert tickets, theatre tickets, cinema tickets, museum visits and trips to national parks." They can spend their voucher through an app called 18app.

The project "is designed to give young people a direct say where funds to promote culture will go, not bureaucracy. No distinction will be made between highbrow and pop culture," the Bookseller wrote. Prime minister Matteo Renzi had announced the program in November 2015, 10 days after the Paris attacks.

Personnel Changes at Sourcebooks

Beth Oleniczak has been promoted to marketing manager, libraries, at Sourcebooks. She had been marketing specialist.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Three Veterans on Fresh Air

Fresh Air:
Brian Castner, author of The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows (Anchor, $15, 9780307950871).
Robert Kotlowitz, author of Before Their Time: A Memoir (Anchor, $14.95, 9780385496032).
Kayla Williams, author of Love My Rifle More than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army (Norton, $14.95, 9780393329223).

PRI's Living on Earth: Jonathan F. P. Rose, author of The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life (Harper Wave, $29.99, 9780062234728).

Sunday Today: Anna Kendrick, author of Scrappy Little Nobody (Touchstone, $26.99, 9781501117206).

Movies: Boxcar Children: Surprise Island; A Little Piece of Light

Martin Sheen and J.K. Simmons have joined the voice cast for The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island, an animated feature produced by Legacy Classics, Shout! Factory, Albert Whitman & Company, and Blueberry Pictures.

The movie, based on the popular series of chapter books, is currently in production. Directed by Dan Chuba and Mark Dippé from Chuba's screenplay, it also stars Joey King, Carter Sand, Gil Birmingham, Griffin Gluck, Stephen Stanton and Talitha Bateman. Additional voice cast members will be announced at a later date.

As part of a long-term, multifaceted co-production and film distribution partnership between Shout! Factory and Legacy Classics for a slate of new family movies, The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island is the first of three new animated features adapted from several bestselling titles in the book series, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2017.


Rosario Dawson (Iron Fist, Sin City) will play activist Donna Hylton in a film based on her memoir A Little Piece of Light. Deadline reported that "Dawson and Hylton are currently looking for a female screenwriter to adapt the book as well as a female director."

"This is a project for women, by women, of women," said Dan Pearson, who is repping the material and Hylton's life rights through his D4 Entertainment. "That's how it's got to go. Donna says, 'Your voice is my voice. My voice is your voice. And together our voice is powerful.' " Frank Weimann at the FolioLit literary agency is working with Pearson.

Books & Authors

Awards: Waterstones Book of the Year Finalists

Finalists have been named for the Waterstones Book of the Year award, which "provides us with the opportunity to showcase the titles we absolutely adore. It is an accolade voted purely by booksellers and we are fiercely independent in our selection." The winning title, which will be announced December 1, receives "committed backing from our talented booksellers and shops across the entire country." The final decision will be made by a Waterstones panel headed by managing director James Daunt. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts I & II by J.K. Rowling
The Optician of Lampedusa by Emma Jane Kirby
The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter story, illustrated by Quentin Blake
Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher De Hamel
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Reading with... Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

photo: Stephen Voss

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee has written features and essays on espionage, cyber crime, science and medicine for the New Yorker, the New York Times MagazineNational GeographicWired and other U.S. magazines. Bhattacharjee spent 11 years as a staff writer at the weekly journal Science, writing about neuroscience, astronomy and other topics in research and science policy. His work has been anthologized in the Best American Science and Nature Writing series. Bhattacharjee's first book, The Spy Who Couldn't Spell, was just published by New American Library.

On your nightstand now:

Deep Cover by a former D.E.A. agent named Michael Levine. The book was published in 1988, but I discovered it recently. It's a fascinating inside look at the American war on drugs.

Favorite book when you were a child:

My aunt gifted me a book of stories from Greek mythology when I was in sixth grade. I remember reading the stories many times over, including the one about Icarus flying too close to the sun, despite being warned not to by his father.

Your top five authors:

I've loved reading Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde. In recent years, I've mostly read nonfiction. I've really enjoyed David Grann. Richard Dawkins and Oliver Sacks are two other favorites.

Book you've faked reading:

In my 20s and 30s, many of my friends would ask me if I'd read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. I got so tired of being chastised for not having read the book that I began avoiding the question. I should read it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

A couple of years ago, I was very impressed with The Skies Belong to Us by Brendan Koerner. The book is a fascinating account of an era of airplane hijackings in the United States that might have been all but forgotten but for Koerner's work. I love dramatic nonfiction, and this is one of the best I've read in the last five years.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I've never done that, but I recently came across a cover that made me want to buy the book: Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life by James Hawkes.

Book you hid from your parents:

My mother would scold me if I read comics during the school year, and so I'd hide them inside my textbooks. I could then read them while pretending to study.

Book that changed your life:

When I was in college, I was deeply influenced by The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant. It opened my mind to various ways of thinking.

Favorite line from a book:

"We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?" --Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder by Richard Dawkins

Five books you'll never part with:

The Best of Ogden Nash, which never fails to cheer me up. I'd never give away James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small, which showed me how good writing can bring an unfamiliar world to life for readers. I wouldn't give up my World Atlas, for one thing that's still hard to do on the Internet is open up a detailed map of a country or an entire continent and get absorbed in it. Neither would I part with a version of the Ramayana that my brilliant nephew, Dyuman Bhattacharya, wrote when he'd just entered middle school. And I'll always hold dear a Bangla picture book my mother used to read to me when I was a child, about a puppy and a kitten that were best friends.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. It infused a sense of adventure and wonder about the natural world that I'd love to experience again.

Book Review

Review: The Magdalen Girls

The Magdalen Girls by V.S. Alexander (Kensington, $15 paperback, 304p., 9781496706126, December 27, 2016)

Set in 1962 Dublin, Ireland, The Magdalen Girls by V.S. Alexander revolves around three girls from different families committed by their parents to life at the Sisters of the Holy Redemption convent. Teagan Tiernan is accused of seducing a priest, Nora Craven is believed to have thrown herself at the boys, and Lea is a bit odd and had no place to live with her stepfather once her mother died. Denied contact with the outside world, forced to work in the hot and humid laundry with the other Magdalens or repair torn lace, the girls form an alliance and plot to escape their holy prison, but their keepers are diligent in their endeavors to flush the sins from these new charges.

Filled with authentic details, Alexander's story evolves through multiple voices, including that of the Mother Superior, Sister Anne, who has her own past sins to atone for and who believes punishment is the best way to show love. The beginning is slow, yet Alexander methodically builds the details of the dreary and demanding existence that has become daily life for these girls who had dreams and ambitions like other 16-year-olds.

"The smells of bleach and detergent that Teagan had detected when she arrived filled her nostrils. The long rectangular room contained sinks, washers, dryers, laundry baskets, ironing boards, and washing supplies. Rows of fluorescent lamps hung from the ceiling in their tent-like enclosures and cast their harsh light on the appliances and tile floor. A large bank of barred windows, some partially belowground and overlooking a trench, ran the length of the room.... Teagan covered her mouth with her hands. The Sisters of the Holy Redemption already had plans for her. How horrific could this nightmare become? Her dreams of university, of making a life for herself, lay in tatters."

As the girls' friendship progresses and their desperation to escape grows, the story quickens, racing toward an ending that is both incredibly sad and hopeful. Because the novel is historically accurate (the last Magdalen laundry closed in 1996), the events depicted are particularly distressing, forcing readers to be engrossed and horrified by what the Catholic Church and other secular and religious entities did to rehabilitate "fallen" women, who needed the grace of God to be saved from their sinful lives, no matter how true or untrue. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Shelf Talker: A fictionalized account of life for wayward girls in the Magdalen Laundries of the Catholic Church points out the inhuman treatment these young women endured in the name of God.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: A Day for Eugene Mirabelli

You think that their
dying is the worst
thing that could happen.

Then they stay dead.

--From "Distressed Haiku" by Donald Hall

Grief is a funny thing. I thought about beginning this column with the previous sentence, then decided not to, then decided I would after all because grief is funny, as in perplexing and mystifying and singular. Anyone who has experienced deep personal loss understands this, but an occasional reminder somehow always has the power to stun and haunt anew. This happened to me recently during a bookstore author event.

November 4 of this year was proclaimed Eugene Mirabelli Day in Albany, N.Y. In her proclamation, Mayor Kathy M. Sheehan noted that in his most recent book, Renato After Alba--a sequel to his 2012 novel Renato, the Painter (both published by McPherson & Co.)--the 85-year-old author "touches upon universal aspects of human existence by creating lovably flawed characters who subtly express the full range of human emotion and experience, from great joy to crushing loss, from deep love of life to rage against the inevitability of death. All written with clarity and cleverness and craft."

As part of the celebration, the Book House at Stuyvesant Plaza hosted an event last Friday, with renowned author Joseph Bruchac interviewing Mirabelli. I stopped by the bookstore to learn more about Renato Stillamare before--and after--Alba, but what I heard was something extraordinary about how one writer mourns... and works.

When I read Mirabelli's two novels back to back not long ago, I was struck by how intricately, and intimately, woven together they were, despite being in many ways quite different reads. Renato, the Painter's narrator is a 70-year-old scoundrel of an artist, still hungry for fame and not particularly averse to temptation. In the sequel, Renato is 12 years older and trying to reorient himself after the loss of his beloved wife, Alba, a striking presence in the first book and a stunning absence in the second. The borderline between these two novels is life and death.

"Anybody who's written a first-person novel knows that you're going to be identified with the narrator," Mirabelli told his audience. "My wife died after I'd written the book that precedes it. She had read everything in that first Renato book. We were about to go down and see the publisher, in fact, when she passed away. And I had a great sense of revulsion against that Renato, the Painter because I knew instinctively that people were going to identify me with him and I hated the idea. I took the galleys of the book and threw them in the garage, which is usually the stop that precedes being thrown away entirely. And it took about a year before the publisher and I got together and went ahead with that publication."

Joseph Bruchac, Bruce McPherson & Eugene Mirabelli

Although he acknowledged that he could have written a memoir after his wife's death, Mirabelli recalled that "for two or three years I didn't feel like writing at all. And my friends said, 'Oh you're a writer, you'll write.' That was the last thing on my mind. I did after a few years come to the point where I wanted.... not to write so much, but I wanted to have the feeling I used to have when I did have a piece of work I was writing. I really liked that feeling and wanted it back again.

"And sooner or later I did write a short story and another short story, but whenever I sat down to write my head was suddenly filled with death, and it became apparent finally that I couldn't write anything unless I wrote something about death. Something about grief. So the question was what.... And one of the things that had happened to me during that early period, very early, was the recognition that what happened to me, which astonished me, was happening to people every day. All over the globe. I wasn't unique at all. Grief is a strange emotion.... But grief is something you've never felt unless somebody you love has died. It's a remarkably unique emotion.... One of the curious things is how similar people's experiences can be while being unique in all the details."

Mirabelli added: "It's funny, or ironic that when I wrote Renato, the Painter, I decided that I wanted to write a really life-affirming book. At the end of that book, everybody who could possibly get pregnant is pregnant. I wanted that. Renato is a deeply flawed, but very creative person. I think it's a life-affirming story.... I didn't intend to write this book. No one would ever intend to write a book like Renato After Alba. But when I did start to write it, it was kind of weird... I went back to Renato, The Painter and there were all sorts of things that I found in the book that made sense in this book. And I don't know how that happened, but it just happened."

His publisher, Bruce McPherson, told me: "I've been working with Gene for about five years, and, for whatever reason, I think he's been an underrated and unjustly overlooked author for too long. Renato Stillamare is a remarkable creation, the literary offspring of a comic tradition dating at least from Fielding's Tom Jones through Joyce Cary's The Horse's Mouth and Donleavy's The Ginger Man, with a touch of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces. But for all of his irrepressible life force and cranky artistic sprezzatura in Renato, the Painter, Renato is most completely realized and fully human in Renato After Alba, where he ultimately overcomes terrible suffering with wonderment toward life and creation. I now see the two books as necessary to one another, a perfect balance."

Grief is a funny thing.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

Powered by: Xtenit