I came from a theater background, and books are creating theater in the minds of others, or so I believe!
• Heather Graham •
Claire Vaye Watkins is on a literary award roll. In November she was named one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35,” and her short story collection, Battleborn, was included on many best of 2012 lists (including ours).
Yesterday, she collected two more awards. Beating out the likes of Junot Díaz, she won The Story Prize, which is awarded for the best short story collection of 2012 and comes with a prize of $20,000. She was also named a One Story 2013 Literary Debutante, who will be feted at the One Story Literary Debutante Ball in Brooklyn on June 6.
This morning she was named a recipient of the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award—given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters—honoring “a young writer of considerable literary talent for a work published in 2012″ and accompanied by a prize of $10,000.
The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen by Matt Lee and Ted Lee is our Top Pick in Cookbooks! If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting Charleston, South Carolina, you know how good the food is. Writes Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt, “Good food, even great food, isn’t ‘trendy’ here, it’s an integral and celebrated part of Lowcountry life.”
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
The old Lowcountry cookbooks have dozens of recipes for different ways you can make rice a base for various sauces and stews. There are rice waffles and rice breads, rice cakes and rice croquettes. When we ran across the croquettes in Mrs. Samuel G. Stoney’s Carolina Rice Cookbook (1901), we immediately thought of arancini—addictive fried rice balls often served with tomato sauce as an appetizer or a snack in Italy. We don’t know for sure whether rice croquettes ever came into contact with the tomato sauce from an earlier Lowcountry cookbook, Sarah Rutledge’s 1847 The Carolina Housewife.
What? You’re thinking, Italian tomato sauce in the South? In the nineteenth century?
Sì, sì. In fact, the archives at Middleton Place has the very copy of The Carolina Housewife owned by Paolina Bentivoglio Middleton, the Italian woman who married Sarah Rutledge’s cousin, Arthur Middleton (grandson of the Arthur who signed the Declaration of Independence), in Rome in 1841. The book contains annotations throughout, written in Paolina Middleton’s own hand, and in the margin of the recipe on page 90 for “Tomato Sauce” are the words, Mio recetto. We—and more important, Barbara Doyle, the archivist at Middleton Place—are fairly certain that this means the recipe was contributed to Sarah Rutledge’s cookbook by her cousin.
In any event, the rice croquettes found in the old books tend to be rather monastic affairs of egg and milk and not much else, so we find they take well to the cross-cultural dressing up. Here, we’ve torqued the seasoning of the rice balls themselves with country ham and scallions; and the garlicky, spicy sauce (which cooks in the time it takes to form and fry the rice croquettes) is the perfect dunk for the croquettes. Or, if you prefer, you can pour the sauce over them the way you would meatballs. Leave out the country ham, and you have a knockout vegetarian dish.
Buon appetito, y’all! Continue reading
You may be asking yourself, Who is Charles Cutter? A librarian who held positions at Harvard College Library and the Boston Athenæum library, Cutter (1837–1903) developed the Cutter Expansive Classification system, parts of which are still in use today. He was a founding member of the American Library Association and is also a member of the Library Hall of Fame. (Yes, there’s such a thing.)
In 1883, Cutter published an infamous article imagining what visiting a library 100 years in the future—in 1983—would be like. In this eerily prescient excerpt describing a reading room, he talks of a “key-board” connected by a wire to the librarian’s desk:
From the newspaper basement a lift took us to one of the reading-rooms. These rooms were narrow, to ensure perfect light at every desk. The windows ran to the very top of the room and occupied more than half the wall space. The desks had every convenience that could facilitate study; but what most caught my eye was a little key-board at each, connected by a wire with the librarian’s desk. The reader had only to find the mark of his book in the catalog, touch a few lettered or numbered keys, and on the instant a runner at the central desk started for the volume, and, appearing after an astonishingly short interval at the door nearest his desk, brought him his book and took his acknowledgment without disturbing any of the neighboring readers.
Read the fascinating article in its entirety here. And let’s wish the imaginative author a Happy Birthday!
The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma
Viking • $26.95 • ISBN 9780670026005
Published March 21, 2013
In Kristopher Jansma’s debut novel, an unnamed narrator wants to grow up and be a writer someday, but as he warns us in the opening chapter, “I’ve lost every book I’ve ever written.” In college, he meets the brilliant, bizarre Julian, who becomes his rival in writing, and the devastating and perpetually cool Evelyn, the actress who (of course) he can never have. In a mix of genre and style, our writer-narrator rewrites the story over and over again, telling stories of writers writing his own story, revisiting the threesome’s relationship again and again. When their relationship explodes, our narrator struggles to become a man and a writer entirely on his own.
In vignette-style chapters, our unnamed narrator wrestles with the misery of writing and his strange relationships to both his friends and to fiction. He never gains any sort of depth, and neither do his supporting players. He does makes small transformations, but his trajectory moves from one unfortunately typical personality to the next—first naive, then intolerably pretentious, etc. It toys with some Fitzgeraldian themes (rich people) with characters that feel a little Fear and Loathing or Withnail and I—but its postmodern stab doesn’t really land.
What this book does have going for it are some interesting ruminations on the scope and purpose of storytelling, as well as the role of the storyteller. Ultimately, in the Leopard world, storytelling is just a series of lies and plagiarism:
I’d been pondering my chosen vocation—to write fiction and to slant the truth—to tell lies, for a living. But I wasn’t good enough at it. No one believed me. And then my mind wandered back to little Deshawn, sitting at his desk avoiding the roaches, filling in those little Scantron bubbles with his yellow number-two pencil. He’d said that taking tests was like evolution in action—only instead of the brightest and most capable students suriving, it seemed that victory fell to those who could scam the test, learn the rhythms of the answers, the tenor of trick questions, take educated guesses, and budget their time. The teachers had stopped teaching science and English and started teaching them how to pass the test. Was it gaming the system? Or was it an evolutionary necessity?
The real novelists make you believe, as you read, that their stories are real. You hold your breath as Raskolnikov approaches his neighbor with a raised ax. You weep when no one comes to Gatsby’s funeral. And when you realize you are being so well fooled, you love the author all the more for it. Up in front of my students each day as Professor Timothy Wallace, I discovered the thrill of getting away with the manufacturing of reality. I had a way not only to pay the bills, but to become a better purveyor of make-believe. I had put myself into an evolutionary situation wherein my failure to deceive would result in disaster. Wherein I’d be forced to risk everything. Where I’d be rewarded for my successes at dishonesty. And the reward was that I barely though of my old life anymore.
The writing is vivid, and the characters, while flat, don’t bore. For readers who like to consider the construction of fiction, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards could make a good fit as a study of what does and does not work.
What are you reading today?
Remember our February cover?
Of course you remember our February cover. Namely, you remember our February cover model and our not-so-subliminal suggestion to . . . read with him.
You would not believe the number of questions we got about this cover. So many, in fact, that we’ve considered a centerfold. (Kidding.)
Where did we find him? Did we get to go to the photoshoot? Does he work at BookPage? Sadly, no, no and no. While he was the first male model to be featured solo on the cover of BookPage, we did not get to throw a party and invite him. And he did not read to us aloud from our favorite book as we fell asleep.
Nevertheless, he will never be forgotten. And we’re not the only ones who will forever cherish their time with the February issue. Elizabeth Timmins from Muehl Public Library in Seymour, Wisconsin, wrote us:
“BookPage is always popular with our patrons. But wow, did we ever get a ton of comments on the February 2013 issue because of the male model on the cover. In fact, we only had one copy left. We laminated the cover of that copy and have it posted in the women’s bathroom. (We are a small library in a small community that has a great sense of humor.) I thought this might make you laugh. Have a great day!”
So for you lucky patrons in Wisconsin,
using the restroom laminate means never having to say goodbye.
Any other BookPagers enjoy the February man candy? Share your stories in the comments below.
Attention romance lovers! Harlequin announced this morning that they’ve signed #1 New York Times best-selling author Sylvia Day to a whopping seven-figure, two-book deal.
Afterburn (August 15, 2013) will be the first book in Harlequin’s new ebook series published in conjunction with Cosmopolitan magazine. Cosmo Red Hot Reads will feature strong, contemporary female characters representative of the magazine’s readership. Day’s second ebook in the series, Aftershock, will follow on November 15, 2013, along with a two-in-one paperback edition of the duo.
Of the collaboration, Day says, “My stories are known for featuring fun, fearless Cosmopolitan-type heroines as well as delicious, dangerous heroes synonymous with Harlequin. Afterburn and Aftershock will be no exception.”
According to the announcement, two Cosmo Red Hot Reads ebooks ($3.99 each) will be released to eager readers every month.
What do you think, romance readers? Could there be a more perfect match than Harlequin and Cosmo? While you’re impatiently waiting for August to roll around, check out our interview with Day about last year’s bestseller Bared to You.
Adam Roberts, the self-taught cook behind amateurgourmet.com, has hung out with 50 of America’s best chefs to learn their secrets and adapt their recipes, resulting in his book, Secrets of the Best Chefs.
What I like most about Roberts’ book is it, as our reviewer says, “gives you access to the wisdom and knowledge that will make you confident in the kitchen and ready to find and trust your own inner chef.”
Here’s the book trailer featuring Roberts:
Are you ready to find and trust your inner chef? Will you read Secrets of the Best Chefs?
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, about the challenges that women face in the workplace, has certainly struck a chord with many people. Though her critics say Sandberg is out of touch with working parents who don’t have the same advantages (or salary) as she does, she also has plenty of supporters who find her advice very useful. As a working mother myself, I’m grateful that Sandberg is opening up a conversation about what women and working parents can do to improve their leadership skills and the quality of their lives, both at home and on the job. As our reviewer writes,
“A baker’s dozen years into the 21st century, despite all the strides women have made toward equality (and despite being half the population), the female gender remains starkly underrepresented in leadership roles. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is a rallying cry for both genders to continue the hard work of previous generations toward a more equitable division of voice, power and leadership.”
Lean In goes on sale today. Will you pick it up?
Self-publication continues to be a road to success for authors, especially genre authors. Of course, last year’s success of 50 Shades of Grey is the ultimate example, but authors like Amanda Hocking, Lisa Genova and Brunonia Barry are among those who have been discovered and signed for big money by traditional publishers after first self-publishing their work. Still, the phenomenon is sufficiently rare to count as a news story—it’s a desire path, not a four-lane highway.
The latest author in this mold is 37-year-old Hugh Howey, whose dystopian sci-fi novel Wool was first published as a series of e-novellas on the Kindle platform. As buzz built, the project attracted the attention of agent Kristin Nelson, who signed Howey, sold the book in 24 countries and accepted an offer for the film rights from 20th Century Fox (Ridley Scott will direct). In an intriguing twist, the pair held out on accepting a print deal in order to allow Howey to retain rights to digital distribution, and finally reached an agreement with Simon & Schuster that is rumored to be in the high six figures. S&S is publishing Wool in hardcover and trade paper edition simultaneously—meanwhile, Howey is still selling the book and its sequels in installments on his site. Perhaps setting a precedent for the future?
Our sci-fi reviewer Michael Burgin found Wool completely original and totally worth the hype—a book that “reminds the reader how fulfilling a steady diet of small surprises, deftly delivered, can be.” Check out his full review here.
Ruth Ozeki’s wonderfully inventive third novel, A Tale for the Time Being, is our March cover story and quite possibly her best work of fiction to date. There are already whispers of this one making the BookPage Best Books of the Year list. . . .
This week, two lucky BookPage readers will find out what we’re so excited about!
Readers who are fascinated by the fiction medium will get a kick out of this genre-bender as Ozeki inserts herself as a character in the story. She finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox on a beach, and inside is the diary of a Tokyo teen, Nao. Read our interview with Ozeki, where she talks about things like “the membrane between fiction and nonfiction.”
TO ENTER: In the comments, share the title of the most imaginative work of fiction you’ve read.
CONTEST DETAILS: Two (2) winners will be chosen by random.org from among entries received by 5 pm CST on Friday, March 15. Each winner will receive one (1) copy of the book listed above. Prizes must be shipped to a North American address, and Rhode Island residents are not eligible. (Full contest rules here.) Good luck!
ETA: Congratulations to our winners, Pearl and Sharon! Thanks to all who entered! Contest is now closed.