Category Archives: publishing

The Monday Book – Americans in Paris

Jack gets to do the Monday book review this week –

paris

Americans in Paris – Charles Glass

Some years ago I met up with a fellow Scot and close friend who was in the middle of a French adventure. We met in Vichy on Bastille Day and helped the locals celebrate into the wee small hours. The following day we took a train down through the Massif Central to Bordeaux, sharing our compartment with an elderly couple. As we passed through various small towns they pointed out walls where ‘resistantes’ had been shot, but also where immediately after the war ‘collaborateures’ had also been shot. Vichy, of course, was the Capital of the collaborating French government under Marshal Petain.

So Glass’s book which chronicles the experiences of a wide range of US citizens in the lead up to, and during world war two and who lived in Paris during that time was a fascinating read.

There are a number of intertwining stories throughout – The American Hospital, Shakespeare and Company bookstore and the political machinations of the Vichy government are the main ones. The hospital and the bookstore somehow managed to continue, even after the US declared war on Germany. They become important waystations for escaping British and American soldiers and airmen, and their directors took enormous risks.

The writing is engaging and based on well documented research.

I knew very little of the tensions within the Vichy regime or between it and the German government, far less the attitude of the US towards Petain and Laval and their rivalries. Glass’s book, therefor, filled in many gaps in my knowledge.

Although I found the many personal stories of individuals intriguing, I think it was reading them within the broader political and wartime context that really caught my attention.

I thoroughly recommend this to anyone with an interest in France, Paris or the politics of the period.

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The Book to get you through COVID 19 quarantine: Parker Bauman’s TINY RIGHTEOUS ACTS

My friend Parker is an immigration rights attorney who recently wrote a fictionalized account of her experiences. This is her blurb and information. If you’re looking for something to do inside over the next week, you can download her book easily from the usual suspects.

CORRECTED full cover traAfter years of witnessing horrors inflicted upon women fleeing abuse in their home countries, human rights attorney Charlotte “Lottie” Fornea is approaching burnout at warp speed. Sure, she could do therapy, but the need to do something more burns like acid in her soul.

 

Her self-prescribed remedy is as dangerous as it is simple. Form a low-profile little nonprofit, and use its financial support to wreak high-profile humiliation upon those who shield themselves behind five thousand years of male-dominated baloney.

 

On the strength of her convictions and her faith, Lottie quietly slips in and out of her targets’ countries, each success filling her with fierce enjoyment…until a slight mishap in Afghanistan brings her in close contact with co-conspirator Ishmael Mahmud, a man as unforgettable as he is mysterious.

 

Escaping unscathed is no reason to draw a sigh of relief. She’s getting anonymous threats…and no good tidings of justice served will protect her when the stalker chooses to strike.

A link to GOOGLE BOOKS for Bauman’s: https://books.google.com/books/about/Tiny_Righteous_Acts.html?id=V5ChzAEACAAJ

 

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Baby Yoda’s Existential Writer Questions

84298025_3089609634383413_6129584940381110272_oWriters are known for seizing moments, protecting our writing time, drilling it out from between day jobs and family commitments and other stuff.

So when I had one half-day free during a two-week trip for work covering conferences, meetings, and funding seminars, how did I use it?

I speed-watched The Mandalorian on my friend’s Disney Plus account.

To my credit, I watched 8 episodes in about 2 hours, because I didn’t bother with the fight scenes and plot development, so it’s not like I wasted time. No, I went straight to the important bits, when Baby Yoda wiggled his ears or let his little eyes shine.

I fell in love with the little green guy the minute the memes started. In fact, when the semester began I embedded an Easter Egg in my syllabus asking students to make a Baby Yoda meme that reflected something they’d learned from the syllabus. That. Was. Fun.

What’s funny online is how many people are so very aware that the little green guy is nothing more than a Disney plot to sell the most plush toys ever. And the response of many a hardened cynic is the same: fine, here, take my money. We’re good.

He is soooooooo cute. And I’m sure the whole plot would be as meaningful as Disney ever makes it, but in the interest of preserving time, a writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do. Now, with my cuteness load at full strength, I can get some writing done. Thank you, Baby Yoda.

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The Monday Book: FEATHER IN THE STORM by Emily Wu and Larry Englemann

wuI enjoy memoirs from China and India specifically. Dunno why, but I always have. This book is about growing up during Mao’s bloody Red Cultural Revolution. And it captures the lunacy of political stupidity over evil so well.

For the first time, I found myself reading the very prosaic descriptions of horrible events as daily life, and contemplating what it would look like in America. For instance, the turning of students against professors during the denunciation periods, when things like falling in love, wearing glasses, and reading Shakespeare made you a bad person. And once the students had gone crazy with frenetic energy and youthful zeal, and realized they were next for being bad people, did they learn anything from the experience? It is easy to whip up zeal. It is hard to reason. It is harder to reason when reason itself is suspect.

I also loved the descriptions of people assigned authority by the regime as true believers, going through houses to confiscate contraband and actually taking everything of value. True believers are few and far between, but stupidity masks many abilities to take advantage of situations.

Wu and Englemann use simple prose to tell a complicated story, and there are sometimes gaps in how someone got somewhere, but the stories are compelling. The death of the author’s best friend’s mother will stick with me. Wu is a compelling character in her own narrative. And I love a character-driven narrative.

There is also the moment when as a child the author realizes she has to print a cartoon denouncing her own father. The anti-intellectualism of the times is fascinating to compare to how liberal and conservative are being thrown around in America these days.

For the first time, I feel like I read a memoir of the Cultural Revolution as a prep manual. Bummer. But it is a great read.

 

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The Monday Book: The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle

The Tortilla Curtain

Apart from today, the 1990’s were perhaps the most disputatious time for immigration in America. Ronald Reagan had signed a controversial amnesty bill in 1986, and in the nineties, Bill Clinton commissioned a study of the immigration problem chaired by former Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Jordon. Immigration was at the forefront of the national conversation. Against this backdrop, T. C. Boyle wrote The Tortilla Curtain image(Penguin, 1995).

The story juxtaposes the lives of two people: Delaney, a white suburban middle-class California writer, and Candido, an illegal immigrant with his pregnant wife. The two lives cross paths when Delaney hits Candido with his car on a winding California canyon road. Candido is seriously hurt but refuses medical attention, as he is illegal and subject to deportation. Delany gives him a $20.00 bill as compensation for almost killing him.

The book is quaint in some ways, prescient in others. It takes place at a time when the term “wetback” was still used in polite conversation; before sanctuary cities, before MS13, before the Wall, before the movie Sicario, when immigrants were actually “in the shadows,” forced to hide from the law and doing  stultifying and often dangerous odd jobs for slave wages to scrape by.

Though Boyle has a knack for laying out both sides of the argument, there is no doubt where his sympathy lies. There’s no mistaking the allusion to Madonna and child, as Candido and his pregnant wife wander around the California canyons seeking shelter. Instead of a barn, she has her child in a tool shed. Candido is more Job than Joseph, as nearly all his efforts to support his wife are either fruitless or end in catastrophe.

While Candido and his pregnant wife dig for food in dumpsters, Delaney is planning his sumptuous Thanksgiving meal. Meanwhile, his neighbors complain about the Mexican invasion. They even build a wall to insulate themselves while at the same time leaving out food for the coyotes who eat their neighbor’s dogs and cats.

Through a series of coincidences Delaney and Candido cross paths several times, ending in a final cataclysm where Boyle seems to be saying that no matter our differences, we are joined by a common humanity.

The book is a sobering reminder that, as anyone who has recently watched a re-run of All in the Family knows, even after a quarter of a century we are still arguing about the same things.

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I Finishes my Book, I Cleans my House

f2f262695ba52a8387ccb4c57703b3daIt is as inevitable as it unexplainable. As soon as the book is finished, I clean house. Perhaps it’s because there’s a lot of build-up while one is ignoring all the little surrounding things during that last push of editing and adding things.

Whatever the reason, the day after I push send, I’m in the bathroom with a toothbrush, tackling grout-esque problems.

Perhaps this ritual marks the passage from writing to marketing; you finish the part everyone thinks is cool, and you start the part that makes people edge away from you at parties. Make lists of festivals, make a nuisance of yourself on Facebook, Vimno, Instagram, and whatever other platforms somebody invented over the weekend.

But it never fails: Push send Friday, spray every surface in the house down Saturday, rip out contents of closets and cupboards, and dusty corners, stack your t-shirts by color, alphabetize the pantry, everything.

It’s like reclaiming space, but with benefits. My spice rack is organized by genre: Indian top shelf, Italian center, and the fundamentals at the foundation. Purged packaged food  lines the counter. “This is what I couldn’t fit back in after I separated the boxes by size, so this is what we’re eating this week,” I tell Jack.

He nods and smiles and finds an outdoor project. He’s seen it before and knows how this plays out.

Call it ritual, or clearing the path for what comes next, call it what you will, because it will happen. My home will be shiny-tidy this weekend and there will be a purge of useful boxes that weren’t and squished plastic containers that didn’t survive storage.

It doesn’t last long, but it’s fun while it lasts.

HIGH HOPES: Prescribers and Therapists Explain how they Fight Substance Abuse comes out from McFarland Press this summer. The title is still in edits, so if you have a suggestion, let us know.

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The Monday Book: The Dylanologists by David Kinney

Jack gets to write the Monday book post because Wendy is deadlining-

dylan

Wendy had some meetings a few day ago in Johnson City TN, so I tagged along. We had an excellent buffet lunch at Sahib Indian Restaurant in honor of my birthday, and then I hit some thrift stores after dropping her at the first appointment.

For our Scottish friends that’s charity shops. You never know what you’ll find, although the book sections tend to be predictable and not particularly exciting.

But in one of them I found a happy surprise! Regular readers will know I am an avid Bob Dylan fan, and here was a book I had not read.

The Dylanologists is a delightful examination of a slew of ardent fans of Bobby Zimmerman, and although I am a big fan myself, I’m not in their league. These are folk with extensive archives of memorabilia and bootleg recordings, some of whom run blogs and websites. They trek to Hibbing (Dylan’s hometown) to New York City and to anywhere else that has any connection to their hero.

Given the number of books about Dylan, including his own ‘Chronicles’, I wasn’t sure what to expect but Kinney has produced a fascinating and well researched book. He manages to negotiate a trail between the fans, their obsessions, and the known history of the man himself.

Of course Bob is notoriously reclusive and is well known to protect his privacy while continuing to re-invent his public persona, so these obsessive fans can never hope to end their various quests. Some are trying to find the ‘real’ Dylan, while others seem to use him to find their ‘real’ selves!

If you’re a fan, like me, and have read all the other books, like me, then this could maybe broaden your understanding of Bob Dylan and possibly yourself too.

 

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