Category Archives: publishing

The Monday Book: SONGS FOR THE MISSING by Stewart O’Nan

I am a sucker for great characters. This story follows a family whose oldest daughter disappears. It sounds like a thriller.

What it really is, becomes a psychological study of grief and priorities in a working class family that has to slowly, VERY slowly, come to grips with uncertainty. Their bottom line? You don’t accept uncertainty. You break yourself into pieces to end it. And it still might not end.

The writing is tight and an odd juxtaposition of almost newspaper style and lyricism. I found myself pausing at times to enjoy his construction, which is saying something when the characters are so well done. Moments like this not-all-together-flattering opinion of the landscape. The sins of the Midwest: flatness, emptiness, a necessary acceptance of the familiar. Where is the romance in being buried alive? In growing old?

Dad won’t give up; he gets in the police’s way and follows up even the most ridiculous leads – because how do you evaluate ridiculous when you’re desperate?

Mom is coping quietly, at home, and drinking way too much and trying to protect her younger daughter–including protecting the child from her, the mom. She recognizes way too many things and keeps quiet about them as her husband leaves and returns, seeking leads. And as her younger daughter tries so hard to not become the adult in the family. Their relationship is fascinating.

And Lindsay, the 15-year-old accepts that part of her life has disappeared and part of it is on hold and anything she is going to have from here out is going to be a combination of fight and negotiation, with herself as much as with the world around her that really needs her to be the dutiful grieving little sister. Except, not too much grieving, because, hope. Her older sister may yet be found.

It’s a vibrant character study hidden inside a thriller plot. I thoroughly enjoyed Songs for the Missing.

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The Monday Book

The Folk River – Fraser Bruce

Previewed by Jack Beck

I’m married to an author, so it’s hardly surprising that I’ve seen many books as they have gestated.

This one is different, though, because it’s by an old friend who isn’t my wife – –

It is a book that is still in the making, although I (along with many others) have had some input. Fraser wanted to write about a particular period of history in which I played a part – the early days of the emergence of folk song clubs in Scotland in the 1960s.

He started researching and found that many of the accepted stories about those days weren’t really true. Time had played tricks with folks’ memories and an alternative history was beginning to emerge. So he took on the important, but enormous task of writing the real one, by talking directly to the people who had been there and were still around. I was honored to be one.

As I write this the manuscript is being proofed and tidied by another old friend and the finished book should be published later this year.

My contribution has been mostly providing information about the early days of the local folk club in my home town of Dunfermline which started in 1961 and has continued right up to the present.

Many people have supplied Fraser with firsthand accounts of other clubs that sprang up all over Scotland in the early 1960s. It’s clear that the work he has done on this over the last year has been very time consuming but he tells us that he is pleased with the outcome.

The emergence of these Scottish clubs mirrored what was happening in the US and England around the same time, but there was a particular ‘flavor’ to the scene in Scotland.

While my contribution and communication with Fraser has been entirely electronic, I know that earlier last year he traveled all over the country gathering insights from dozens of people.

In addition to the proofing of the text, Pete Heywood of Living Tradition magazine is assembling and scanning a large number of photos which will augment the book.

The book will be welcomed not only by the folk who were part of the story, but also those who have emerged since and kept the folk river flowing. In the words of Hamish Henderson “the carrying stream”.

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Filed under between books, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, publishing, reading, Scotland, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch