Gods in Alabama

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Sunday Thoughts and Links

I really dug this write up of a visit by Edward P. Jones to a Seattle high school, where he talked to some kids about being a writer. I’m fascinated by Jones’ persona. He’s not a hermit, but neither is he a part of the more public contemporary literary crowd, all of whom seem to be associated with the same causes and who enjoy this sort of literary pseudo-fame while at the same time making a bit of a show about shying away from it. Of course I’m overgeneralizing here, but I’m sure you can think of some writers who might fit that description. I suppose my larger point is Jones seems to me to be a writer who, in an earlier time, would have only achieved fame late in his career or even posthumously, and I’m just really glad that he has gotten the acclaim that he deserves.I saw the movie Fever Pitch last night and enjoyed the way last year’s baseball season was woven into the story so well. It also made me very curious to read Nick Hornby’s novel by the same name, in which the protagonist is a rabid soccer fan. I’m not a big Hornby fan, but I’m very curious to see if they managed to swap out the sport at the center of the story while keeping the same overall feeling. Quite a feat if they managed to do a good job of it. One thing is clear though, trying to slap a movie tie-in cover on Hornby’s book wouldn’t have worked very well.Rodger Jacobs has set up a blog to track entries in his “Fitzgerald in Hollywood Short Fiction Contest.”Chicagoist looks at books “with local ties.” I’ve read All This Heavenly Glory and Gods in Alabama, but the third book The Week You Weren’t Here by Charles Blackstone sounds interesting.

Upcoming Books: Seth Greenland, Amy Hempel, Joshilyn Jackson, A.L. Kennedy

Just out is The Bones, the debut novel of playwright and screenwriter Seth Greenland. The title of the novel refers to washed-up shock comic Frank Bones who tries to resurrect his career by calling on a now-successful sitcom writer acquaintance of his from years ago. The reviews are starting to come in on this one, and the sound pretty good. The Bones is described as “savagely funny” in the San Francisco Chronicle, which goes on to say that “Greenland elegantly avoids the usual Hollywood novel trap — he doesn’t dumb down or patronize his characters, and he provides them with pitch-perfect dialogue, the clipped, faux-avuncular patois of the tribe.” Greenland also merits a profile by David Ulin in the LA Times. And to top it off Greenland has a guest column up at TEV today. Check it out.Amy Hempel has a new collection of short stories out called The Dog of the Marriage, which was well-reviewed in the LA Times. To whit: “Short on dramatic incident, the stories risk running out of steam. Mostly they don’t, propelled by Hempel’s wit, language and love of fur. Moving through the collection, the reader grows increasingly intimate with Hempel’s sensibility. The women she speaks through feel mortality penetrating aliveness at all times, but rather than being shocked, they find that inevitable and funny.” “Beach Town” one of the shorter stories in the collection can be found here.The number one Booksense pick for April is Joshilyn Jackson’s debut novel, Gods in Alabama. Jackson has a truly endearing blog called Faster Than Kudzu in which she publicly works through her first-time-author anxiety and excitement. (aside: I have to say that I love the recent trend of authors doing these sorts of blogs. It really does make me more likely to want to read their books.) Gods in Alabama is the story of Arlene Fleet, who has fled Possett, Alabama, and made a deal with God to stay on the straight and narrow so long as He makes sure “the body is never found.” As I look around the Web, the buzz on this book is nearly deafening, and there seem to be expectations of this one being a big seller.A.L. Kennedy’s fifth novel, Paradise is getting some unabashedly good reviews. Publishers Weekly says “jaw-droppingly good,” and I love this take on Kennedy from Richard Wallace in the Seattle Times: “In my household, when you review a book by A.L. Kennedy, you better keep a close watch on the merchandise. For when the time comes for double-checking the quotes you’ve chosen to include in your review, you can’t find the book. That’s how readable she is.” The review goes on to describe the book as “a stunning depiction of alcoholism, as funny as it is sad, as ironic as it is romantic.” If you must make up your own mind, an ample excerpt is available here.

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