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Librarians-Turned-Novelists (05/24)
Douglas Westerbeke, author of the debut novel A Short Walk Through a Wide World, did not start his career as an author. In fact, he is a librarian in Ohio, at one of the largest libraries in the United States. After spending the last decade on the local panel of the International Dublin Literary Award, he decided to try his hand at ...
Real-Life Inspirations for Daughters of Shandong (05/24)
Eve J. Chung's debut novel Daughters of Shandong focuses on the mother and daughters of a landowning family who flee China for Taiwan as a result of the Communist revolution in the late 1940s. Chung has spoken about how she was motivated to write the book by her maternal grandmother's experiences of that period of history.

However...
Miranda July: The Essential Works (05/24)
Miranda July is an artist who works successfully in multiple mediums, perhaps equally well-known for her films and her fiction. Born in 1974 in Barre, Vermont, and raised in Berkeley, California, July dropped out of college in her early twenties and moved to Portland, Oregon, where she began exploring performance art before becoming a ...
David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens (05/24)
Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Demon Copperhead is largely based on Charles Dickens' novel David Copperfield.

Charles Dickens (1812–1870) wrote 15 novels during his career, the eighth of which he ponderously dubbed The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone ...
Romance of the Three Kingdoms (04/24)
Strike the Zither tells the story of Zephyr, a brilliant strategist working to help warlordess Xin Ren gain the throne of the realm. As she outsmarts foes human and supernatural alike, Zephyr must acknowledge her fate and decide how far she's willing to go to see Ren on the throne. Zither is a tale of strong females fighting for their...
In Memoriam A.H.H. by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (04/24)
In Alice Winn's brilliant World War I novel, In Memoriam, the main characters often quote poetry by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892). Among others cited is one of his best-known works: In Memoriam A.H.H.

The subject of the poem is Arthur Henry Hallam, whom Tennyson met at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1829. The two young men were ...
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (03/24)
In A Country You Can Leave by Asale Angel-Ajani, teenage narrator Lara characterizes her mother Yevgenia's reading habits as something akin to a religious experience. She describes coming upon her at a time when she was utterly absorbed by Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls: '...a book she had read before, only this time she was reading the ...
Mark Twain's Publication of Ulysses S. Grant's Memoirs (01/24)
As recounted in Jon Clinch's The General and Julia, Samuel Clemens (who wrote under the alias Mark Twain) met President Ulysses S. Grant in the White House, introduced by a senator from Nevada. When the men crossed paths again after the end of Grant's presidency, they developed a friendship. Clemens frequently encouraged Grant to ...
George Orwell and 1984 (01/24)
Sandra Newman's novel Julia is based on George Orwell's classic work of fiction 1984, retold from the point of view of the protagonist's lover. Who, though, was George Orwell, and how did 1984 come to be?

Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair on June 25, 1903, in Bengal, India. His father, Richard, was employed in the India ...
Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) and Our Town (12/23)
In Ann Patchett's novel Tom Lake, the main character fondly remembers starring in a production of Thornton Wilder's Our Town. This is Wilder's best-known play, which debuted in 1938 to mixed reviews but earned him a Pulitzer Prize that same year, making him the only writer to have received the award in both fiction and drama.

Born in ...
"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Edgar Allan Poe (11/23)
In Jane Smiley's A Dangerous Business, the story 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue' by Edgar Allan Poe becomes an important point of reference for main character Eliza as she and her friend Jean investigate a series of murders in 1850s Monterey, California. As Eliza examines the facts and circumstances surrounding the killings, her thoughts ...
Author Homes in Massachusetts (10/23)
One of the topics explored in Dayswork by Chris Bachelder and Jennifer Habel is Herman Melville's home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Arrowhead, which he went into significant debt to purchase but where he spent what seem to have been the happiest and most productive years of his life. Dayswork additionally mentions the homes of Nathaniel ...
Hemingway's Islands in the Stream (10/23)
The Birdcatcher by Pulitzer finalist Gayl Jones features numerous allusions to literary figures and artists. The narrator, Amanda, is a writer, and her friend Catherine, who has repeatedly tried to murder her husband, is a sculptor. While contemplating Catherine's relationship with her husband, Ernest, Amanda references the work of an ...
New York Review Books (09/23)
Susie Boyt's Loved and Missed was first published in the United Kingdom in 2021; two years later, it has been published in the United States by New York Review Books, which specializes in both contemporary literature and obscure classics and embodies what it calls an 'eclectic, adventurous spirit.'

Since 1999, New York Review Books has...
The Poetry of Shane McCrae (09/23)
As Shane McCrae documents in Pulling the Chariot of the Sun, he was born to a black father and a white mother. He lived alternately with both parents for three years until his maternal grandparents convinced his father to let him visit them for the weekend. When his father went to pick him up at the agreed time, the house was empty: '...
A Chilling Rise in Book Bans in the United States (09/23)
Celeste Ng's novel Our Missing Hearts is set in an alternate present in which the U.S. government has passed the Preserving American Culture and Traditions Act, which regulates, among other things, cultural influence deemed not sufficiently American. The main character's mother is a Chinese American poet whose works have been banned under...
Françoise Sagan (09/23)
In Yiyun Li's novel The Book of Goose, narrator Agnès Moreau recollects entering a surprising phase as a 14-year-old author in post-World War II France when a book that she was secretly assisted in writing by her best friend, Fabienne, became a hit and a public curiosity. Fictional Agnès describes the real-life French author ...
Book Translation (08/23)
In Maud Ventura's novel My Husband, we get a glimpse into the main character's work as a book translator. Translated books give readers the chance to step into the shoes of characters living in different countries and cultures. When it comes to American books in translation (like this English-language version of Ventura's novel, ...
Tiny Reparations Books (08/23)
LaToya Watkins' debut novel Perish is published by Tiny Reparations Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House launched in July 2020 with the goal of highlighting diverse voices that are often shut out of mainstream publishing. The project is a joint venture by Christine Ball, senior vice president of the publishers Berkley and Dutton, and...
Literary Late Bloomers and Prizes Honoring Their Achievement (08/23)
Tessa Hadley, author of After the Funeral and Other Stories, did not have a book published until age 46. In interviews, she has been frank about the fact that her first four or five novels, written in her twenties and long since discarded, didn't measure up. 'I am so glad I didn't publish a debut novel at 25, because [the books] were dead...
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (08/23)
The power of a book is unquantifiable, depending on who reads it. When the character Margo Finch in Laura Sims's How Can I Help You catches her new colleague, Patricia Delmarco, fondly touching a particular title on the shelf at the Carlyle Public Library, it pulls her deep into a world where fantasy and reality often overlap.

Fans of ...
Eat a Bowl of Tea by Louis Chu (07/23)
In her book Orphan Bachelors, Fae Myenne Ng recalls her life-changing discovery of Louis Chu's 'defiant, subversive novel' Eat a Bowl of Tea (1961), now considered a classic of Asian American literature, which depicts Manhattan Chinatown bachelor society in the late 1940s.

The novel begins with two friends living in this milieu, Wang ...
The Imaginary Worlds of Childhood (06/23)
MapIn Patti Callahan Henry's The Secret Book of Flora Lea, Hazel Linden, 14, and her sister Flora, 5, are evacuated to Oxfordshire during Operation Pied Piper in World War II. To help Flora through the trauma of war and evacuation, Hazel creates a secret magical woodland world called Whisperwood and the River of Stars, to which she and Flora...
The House of the Seven Gables (06/23)
In We Do What We Do in the Dark by Michelle Hart, the main character, Mallory, visits the House of the Seven Gables, a historic landmark in the town of Salem, Massachusetts that inspired a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne. She does so following a conversation with a character known only as 'the woman,' with whom she had an affair years ...
The Life and Literature of Tullia D'Aragona (05/23)
As Naoíse Mac Sweeney explains in her book The West: A New History in Fourteen Lives, the fusing of Greco-Roman roots into a common 'Western' narrative took off during the Renaissance, and some of the most illustrative examples of this process came from an unlikely source—a female poet and courtesan named Tullia D'Aragona.

...
The Therapeutic Value of Walt Whitman's Poetry (05/23)
Ann Napolitano's novel Hello Beautiful is the story of four sisters contending with life and loss, love, death and forgiveness, and finding different ways to cope with hardship. The characters go through mental and physical rehabilitation and therapy, and make a string of rash decisions as they try to find a way to deal with the ups and ...
Books and Movies Inspired by Strangers on a Train (05/23)
If the premise of Nora Murphy's The Favor — two unconnected strangers conduct revenge by proxy in what should be a perfect crime — sounds familiar, that might be because of its parallels to the plot of a classic book and film.

Strangers on a Train might be best known as a 1951 noir film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, but ...
Short Story Writing: Practice for Publishing Novels? (05/23)
Maggie Shipstead was known as a novelist before releasing her first short story collection, You Have a Friend in 10A. A number of its stories date back 10 or more years, though, some having been written while she was a student at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. The individual stories originally ...
Cover Art for Young Adult Fantasy Novels (04/23)
The cover of the young adult fantasy novel Nightbirds by Kate J. Armstrong reliably hints at the promise and magic of the story that lies within while also seeking to differentiate itself in a saturated market. Not only is the artwork attractively rendered, but it shows the emotion and supernatural abilities of the character Matilde with ...
The Origins of Female Protagonists in Children's Literature (03/23)
Bridget (known as Biddy), the protagonist of H. G. Parry's The Magician's Daughter, grows up on the magical, hidden island of Hy-Brasil, with only her father, the mage Rowan O'Connell, and his familiar, a rabbit named Hutchincroft. She is greatly influenced by the stories of heroines she reads about in her father's library...
True Crime (02/23)
Sarah Weinman's Scoundrel: How a Convicted Murderer Persuaded the Women Who Loved Him, the Conservative Establishment, and the Courts to Set Him Free sits squarely in one of today's hottest genres: true crime. Consumers of the genre may crave the rush that comes from real-life crime stories, especially ones that prove the cliché that...
Don Quixote: The First Modern Novel (02/23)
In Vladimir, Julia May Jonas's debut novel, Don Quixote is something of a minor motif. The protagonist and her husband—both English literature professors at a liberal arts college—are fans of the work and have even retraced the famous character's journey through Spain. Late in the novel, the protagonist's husband, who has been...
The Iliad (01/23)
In Call Me Cassandra by Marcial Gala, the main character is visited by the Greek goddess Athena and instructed to read a Cuban edition of the Iliad, the epic poem attributed to the ancient Greek poet Homer and maintained through centuries of oral tradition.

The poem focuses on certain events towards the end of the Trojan War, including...
Beyond the Book: Claire Keegan and the Art of Short Fiction (11/22)
Claire Keegan is a writer’s writer — lauded by the likes of William Trevor, who chose her first short story collection, Antarctica (1999), for the William Trevor Prize; Hilary Mantel, who gave her second short story collection, Walk the Blue Fields (2007), the Edge Hill Short Story Prize; and Richard Ford, who awarded Foster ...
What Is Autofiction? (11/22)
As a concept, autofiction can seem like an oxymoron. Short for autobiographical fiction, the term was coined in the 1970s by French writer Serge Dubrovsky, and it quickly became something of a buzzword in the publishing world. This blend of two seemingly disparate forms is best described as a fictionalized account of real-life events, ...
How Short Can Stories Get? (10/22)
Hey, wait! Where are you going? This isn't going to be a long article. I promise!

In fact, it may well be as short as a piece of flash fiction, which sounds like a creation for the age of Twitter, but actually goes much further back. At least as far back as around 600 BCE when many of the tales attributed to Aesop are believed to have ...
Death in Venice: Book vs. Film (10/22)
Which is better — the book or the film? That question is often debated when a much-loved book is turned into a movie. Death in Venice — the novella written by Thomas Mann and published in 1912 — is perhaps the author's best-known work, not least because it was made into a film by the great Italian director Luchino ...
Birchbark Books (09/22)
Tookie, the protagonist of The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, works in a Minneapolis bookstore called Birchbark Books, which is owned by Erdrich herself both in reality and this work of fiction. As is shown in the novel, where the author appears as a minor character, the store serves the local community and carries a wide selection of ...
The Brothers Karamazov (09/22)
The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang is a modern reimagining of the novel The Brothers Karamazov (1879) by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881). The plot of Dostoevsky's book centers around a family of three brothers — Dmitri, Ivan and Alexei (aka Alyosha) — and the murder of their father, Fyodor Karamazov. As Dmitri ...
Abdulrazak Gurnah (09/22)
Abdulrazak Gurnah, the Tanzanian-born British author of Afterlives, is the 2021 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and the first Black writer to win it since Toni Morrison in 1993. He was awarded the prize 'for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf ...
The Real-Life Work of Rabih Alameddine (09/22)
In The Wrong End of the Telescope, Rabih Alameddine creates a character that appears to be a stand-in for himself, described from the perspective of the novel's narrator, Mina. Mina paints the character as a friend of hers who has written essays about his experiences with refugees as well as fiction. The author's real-life work parallels ...
Q&A with Jackie Polzin (08/22)
Jackie Polzin talks about her debut novel, Brood, and how her own experience caring for chickens contributed to it.

First of all, why chickens?

When I was 30, my partner and I got chickens. They were my first pets since childhood. I compensated by giving them a lot of attention, and that attention inspired the book. I knew I could ...
Toni Morrison's Playing in the Dark (08/22)
The novelist Toni Morrison (1931-2019), author of The Bluest Eye, Beloved and many other famous works, is often considered one of the greatest and most influential American writers. However, as Elaine Castillo draws attention to in How to Read Now, Morrison is known mostly for her novels and less for what is arguably one of the most ...
Franz Kafka and "The Hunter Gracchus" (08/22)
In Joy Williams' Harrow, two characters discuss Franz Kafka's 'The Hunter Gracchus,' a short story written in 1917 and published posthumously in 1931, along with a document that was marked as a fragment, which appears to be an addendum to the story.

Franz Kafka was born into a well-to-do Jewish family on July 3, 1883 in Prague. He had ...
The Legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft (06/22)
Although the word 'feminist' did not enter popular political discourse until over a century after her death, the published works of Mary Wollstonecraft show her to be one of the world's pioneering feminist writers. As Love and Fury explores in some detail, the events of Wollstonecraft's life were crucial in cementing her ideologies and ...
Literary Dublin (06/22)
The backdrop of Sally Rooney's Beautiful World, Where Are You is the city of Dublin and its environs. Rooney herself lives in this UNESCO City of Literature, a metropolis that boasts a flourishing literary scene and an impressive inventory of influential authors, poets and playwrights. The streets of the vibrant capital are infused ...
Creative Writing MFA Programs (05/22)
The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is a graduate-level degree earned by students who seek to pursue work as authors, editors, playwrights, or to teach at the college level. As of 2019, there were more than 200 Creative Writing MFA programs according to Poets & Writers' MFA Index, of which 158 were full-time residency and 64 low-...
Exophonic Authors (04/22)
Jhumpa Lahiri wrote her novel Whereabouts in Italian, a language she learned in adulthood, and later translated it into English. Many authors have at some time made the decision to become exophonic (to write in a language other than one's native tongue), whether for personal, artistic, practical or political reasons.

The author who is ...
Contemporary Retellings of Classic Stories (02/22)
Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor is a feminist reimagining of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic American novel, The Great Gatsby (1925). Instead of retaining Nick Carraway as the narrator, Cantor retells the story from the viewpoints of the novel's women. Daisy Buchanan, Jordan Baker and Catherine McCoy were all secondary characters ...
Monstrously Powerful: Patriarchy and the Demonization of Women (01/22)
In a letter addressed to readers in The Gilded Ones, Namina Forna writes that the book is 'at its heart…an examination of patriarchy. How does it form? What supports it? How do women survive under it? And what about people who don't fall into the binary? Who thrives and who doesn't?' Deka and all the women of Otera live in a society...
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