WALKING THROUGH WALLS: A Memoir
It was unusual enough that a Jew who fled pogroms in Poland should become the go-to guy for Miami home décor. But Lew Smith’s life took an even stranger turn in the 1960s. By the end of the decade, he had become a psychic healer under the tutelage of spirit guides. All this makes for a good story. And more than 20 years after his father’s death, artist Philip Smith wrote it.
PAST IMPERFECT opens with its anonymous narrator, a member of the minor aristocracy, being contacted by Damian Baxter, an ex-friend from Cambridge whom he hasn’t seen in decades. Thus begins a journey that contrasts the naïve debutantes and would-be debonair beaux of the London Season of 1968 with their surprisingly altered (or not) selves 40 years later.
Chris Welles Feder
IN MY FATHER'S SHADOW: A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles
From the moment I saw IN MY FATHER'S SHADOW: A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles in the Algonquin Books fall catalog, I knew that I must read the book and speak to author Chris Welles Feder. As the daughter of actor Lionel Stander (a contemporary of Welles), I wanted to learn how Feder managed to survive with—and more often, without—a famous, larger-than-life father...
Narrated by an actor with an aristocratic pedigree, Snobs is a delicious social satire set in 1990s England, in which a beautiful middle-class young woman claws her way into British society by marrying a dim-witted earl. Julian Fellowes talks with Bella Stander about mental toughness, second chances and the tribulations of the acting life...
Edward P. Jones
THE KNOWN WORLD
Edward P. Jones's first novel, The Known World, begins a few years before the Civil War with the death of Henry, a black man whose father had worked his way out of slavery and bought his wife's and then son's freedom. Instead of modeling himself after his righteous and principled father, though, Henry apes his former master and comes to own a plantation and slaves...
Gretchen Moran Laskas
THE MIDWIFE'S TALE
You'd never know from her generic Northeastern accent that Gretchen Moran Laskas is an eighth-generation West Virginian. But in her first novel, The Midwife's Tale (Dial Press), the mountain voices come through loud and clear--especially that of early 20th century narrator Elizabeth Whitely, the last of a long line of midwives...
David L. Robbins
With so many new books being published in the U.S. each year-122,000 according to a recent tally-I know that, despite my best efforts, there are always going to be great ones that get away. I missed Scorched Earth by David L. Robbins (Bantam Books) when it came out in hardcover last year, but am thanking my lucky stars that I caught it in paperback...
THE VERB 'TO BIRD'
The verb "to bird" has long been one of my pet linguistic peeves. When I mentioned it to a friend, he agreed, "It's like using 'summer' as a verb." Putting on a grandly airy tone, he said, "Oh yes, we summer on The Vineyard." We both rolled our eyes and snickered...
THE LAST GIRLS
Published to wide acclaim last fall, Lee Smith's latest novel, The Last Girls, follows four middle-aged women (and one husband) on a steamboat cruise down the Mississippi. They have convened in memory of their late classmate at a Virginia women's college, who inspired them to take a raft trip down the river in 1965. From the genial, chatty and at times wickedly funny tone of the novel, I pictured the author as fun and easy to talk with, and she does not disappoint...
Paula Marantz Cohen
JANE AUSTEN IN BOCA
December 2002/January 2003
When Cohen visited her snowbird in-laws in Boca Raton, Fla., for the first time a decade or so ago, she observed that "the enclosed world of like-minded people was very similar to the world of Jane Austen," she says...
BLUE LATITUDES: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before
Tony Horwitz doesn't suffer from sea sickness-except when he goes out to sea, he wryly confesses in the first few pages of BLUE LATITUDES: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before (Henry Holt). The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Confederates in the Attic set out to follow 18th century English explorer James Cook along some of his trailblazing routes...
THE COUNT & THE CONFESSION: A True Mystery
Scene: A phony Polish aristocrat who sells forged art is found shot dead on a couch at his estate outside Richmond, Va., an apparent suicide. Cast of characters: His gentle lady friend, aka "Mouse"; her feisty attorney daughter; the Other Woman, pregnant with the dead man's child. Then there's the hardboiled police detective who convinces Mouse that she repressed her memory of being at the crime scene-and thus gets her convicted of murder, even though she subsequently recants her taped "confession."...
I DWELL IN POSSIBILITY: Women Build a Nation 1600-1920
Once upon a time when I was in fifth grade, I wondered aloud to Ronnie, a boy in my class, why our history book only told about men. "That's because women never did anything," he sneered. I responded with some withering retort like "They did so!" but I had no proof beyond my unshakeable conviction. If only there had been Donna Lucey's I DWELL IN POSSIBILITY: Women Build a Nation 1600-1920 back then!...
I receive dozens of review copies of new books each month and have no problem putting many of them aside; some forever. But once I started reading WHITEGIRL (Dial Press) by first-time novelist Kate Manning, I couldn't stop...
T. R. Pearson
OK, so there's this "trash" guy Clayton. You know the type: lives alone in a filthy, crumbling old house way out of town, doesn't bathe, eats only junk food, watches cable porn 24-7 by way of a gargantuan satellite dish, channels a long-dead Antarctic explorer and predicts the future in random, cryptic bursts. Wait a minute…Where did those last two items come from?...
AMERICAN CHICA: Two Worlds, One Childhood
Marie Arana, editor of Washington Post Book World, is the type of woman I love to hate. She's beautiful, slim, impeccably tailored and apparently ageless, with gloriously thick hair and the graceful bearing of a ballet dancer (as a teen she planned to be "the next Margot Fonteyn"). She also plays the piano, used to sing opera, has degrees in Russian, Chinese and linguistics, and even speaks in complete sentences, for crying out loud...
OF BEETLES & ANGELS: A True Story of the American Dream
December 2001/January 2002
"I don't look back on my past and say I was amazing, or different from other kids," says Asgedom, 24. "Sometimes people think that the American dream isn't true, but I think it's still possible," he affirms. "If you work really, really hard and have that burning desire in your heart, you can do well in this country, regardless of your background"...
PLANTATION FEASTS & FESTIVITIES
Willow Grove Inn proprietor Angela Mulloy got the idea to do a book when guests started asking her for recipes. However, at first, "there was no such thing as a recipe here. We did everything by feel and touch. Then I started writing things down"...
Lorraine Johnson-Coleman loves bread. "Nothing smells like Southern bread," the NPR commentator and author of Just Plain Folks declares. And who could argue? So it seems only natural that when Johnson-Coleman wanted to tell stories of the many ethnic groups that are at home in the South, she should do so by focusing on bread...
BIG CHERRY HOLLER
Like Ave Maria Mulligan, the narrator of Big Stone Gap and the newly published Big Cherry Holler (both from Random House), Adriana Trigiani grew up in Wise County feeling like a "ferriner." In the late 1960s her family moved from all-Italian Roseto, Pa., to Big Stone Gap in "poverty-stricken Appalachia," as the Small Business Administration described it, so her father could open a garment factory...
JOURNEY ON THE JAMES
Earl Swift is as low-key and wryly humorous in person as he is in print. From mid-September to early October 1998, the staff writer for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, accompanied by photographer Ian Martin, traversed the entire length of the James River-at first on foot, then in a canoe and ultimately (and reluctantly) in a kayak...
THE FISHER KING
Paule Marshall is a shining example of the truth of the old adage, "Slow and steady wins the race." Her most recent novel, The Fisher King (published by Scribner), was nearly 10 years in the making...
Shannon Lanier & Jane Feldman
JEFFERSON'S CHILDREN: The Story of One American Family
December 2000/January 2001
"Who is your family?" muses 21-year-old Kent State student Shannon Lanier. "Does it mean someone that has the same blood, or someone who loves you and has raised you your whole life? Family doesn't mean that all our skin tones match; that we all have to look alike. Family means so much more than whether our blood even matches"...
THE ISLAND OF LOST MAPS: A True Story of Cartographic Crime
When I was in Chicago this past June at the publishing industry's main trade show, a Random House sales manager shoved an advance reader's copy of THE ISLAND OF LOST MAPS: A True Story of Cartographic Crime into my hands. "You have to read this book!" he enthused. "It's our lead title for fall." I started reading it on the way back to my hotel a little later and was immediately captivated--so much so that I passed up a desperately needed nap and returned to the convention center to have author Miles Harvey autograph my copy...
blackboard of shame