Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Good Book Year

Pages written since last post: Are you freakin' kidding me?


I’m not sure if everyone has heard, but this country is experiencing an economic downturn. The publishing industry is experiencing a full-on melt down. Fortunately for readers, the great, cumbersome, archaic beast that is publishing moves exceedingly slowly (think: Ice Age), so the effects of today’s economy may be felt in, oh, 2012 or beyond. Meanwhile, we are having a PAAAAR....TY! I say again, Woooooo!

Look at what just arrived on my doorstep:

Pat Conroy’s SOUTH OF BROAD . His first book in– can it be??– fourteen years. It had better be good.
Richard Russo’s THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC
, his first since Pulitzer Prize winning EMPIRE FALLS . Again, no pressure there.

Barbara Kingsolver’s ANIMAL VEGETABLE MIRACLE
. This is one of the few authors that I collect. She doesn’t publish every year, but I’ve never met a Kingsolver book I didn’t love.

Margaret Maron’s SAND SHARK. What can I say? I love the Judge Knott mysteries, which are set just up the road from me in North Carolina. Thank you for publishing this year!

And, already making my hit list:

THE RELIABLE WIFE by Robert Goolrick.
The opening scene of this book has to be the quintessential example of building dramatic tension: The train is late. Why? Because our hero ordered a mail-order bride. Why? Because he wanted sex. Dark, hot,writhing-in-the-night sex. Now the whole town is staring at him. Because the train is late. Because his bride is traveling by private car, which made the train late. He has an image to uphold. But the train is late. And it’s all his fault. Because he wanted sex. Meanwhile, his mail-order bride is tossing her prostitute-garments out the window and assuming the demeanor of a Reliable Wife. And if you think that’s the only twist, boy are you in for a surprise or two! Well done, well done.

THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This may be my favorite book of the year, perhaps the decade. But it does inspire me to give a seminar on choosing titles. I have never once recommended this book to anyone by its correct title– hint, hint to the author/publisher for future projects. Otherwise, I was utterly and completely enchanted, from opening sentence to last. I simply loved this book.

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett. I grew up in the South in the 1960s. My mother did not have Help, but my grandmothers did. I thought I knew both sides of the story. I didn’t have a clue. THE HELP was deeply disturbing, heartwarming, enlightening, brave. I was changed, having read it.

HANDLE WITH CARE by Jodi Picoult. What can I say? Every time I read Jodi Picoult I say that this book will be my last. Her books are formulaic, predictable, and absolutely irresistible. Jodi Picoult has the courage to ask the hard questions: What if the only way you could get the money you needed to care for your special-needs child was to swear in court that you wished she had never been born? I say, You go, girl!

I have only skimmed the surface of my extraordinary book year (so far) but want to close with an homage to Blake Snyder, who passed away far too young this year. His book SAVE THE CAT is a guide to dramatic form that was the result of his outrageously successful career as a screenwriter and, in my opinion, will never be surpassed. If you have ever cast a wistful eye toward a career as a story teller, this is the book you need to start with.

And, guys– you won’t BELIEVE what’s coming this fall!

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