Giddying up

Cover for PurityAvid readers know that nervous start you get when you find out a favourite author has written a new book but you didn’t know about it. Or perhaps that’s just me. Addiction is the a-word that applies, not avid.

Anyway imagine my dismay when I noticed that Jonathan Franzen has a new book and I did not know about it. Which means there are four people ahead of me on the Holds list for Purity

So in order to help my fellow addicts (I mean avid readers) I am alerting you to the following books by popular authors on order at Christchurch City Libraries. Get your name down now and avoid disappointment. You’ll never be higher on the list.

Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell. Fiction or thinly veiled fact about Sex and the City? “If you think that you’re just cray-cray” says Bushnell. You be the judge.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Eat Pray Love. And Read.

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman. Paris, Pissaro, passion. Good old Alice.

The story of the lost child by Elena Ferrante. The fourth in the Neapolitan novels.

Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash. He’s not as popular as he should be. Now is the time to redress that.

Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs. Her 18th outing. She must be doing something right.

All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani. Adriana’s take on the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Cover of Killing MonicaCover of The marriage of oppositesCover for Speaking in BonesCover of Above the waterfall

The Red Garden doesn’t disappoint

Cover image of "The red garden"I’ve just finished reading The Red Garden, the latest offering from Alice Hoffman. She’s one of my go-to authors; I can always rely on her to tell a satisfying story. Over the years the topics she writes about have become darker, but her words still retain a magical quality. Reading one of her novels or short story collections is like reading a fairytale by the Grimm Brothers. The pages are full of characters, events, and places both delightful and haunting.

The Red Garden is one of those novels made up of many different stories, seemingly separate but actually connected in subtle ways.  Set in the fictional small town of Blackwell, Massachusetts, Hoffman takes you on a journey through time, introducing you to characters, some earthy, some ethereal, whose lives are intertwined by a shared history.

While this is not my favourite book of her’s (I think The Ice Queen wins that award), I did really enjoy it. Like all of Hoffman’s work, the plot was thoughtful and interesting. I liked how it took me back 300 years when Blackwell was first founded by a group of ill-prepared but daring pioneers, and then describes how the town evolves as houses are built, travelers put down roots, strangers fall in love, and so on. As time goes on, generations live and die, their past irrevocably linked to their children’s future.

Love Alice Hoffman, but read everything she’s written? Try these read-alikes:

Who else do you think writes like Alice Hoffman?

Bookish brawlers

I love it when nerdy writers pull off their glasses, push up their ink-stained sleeves and start a really good fisticuffs. Of course most of these brawls don’t actually result in physical confrontation, although a notorious few have, but in lieu of fists, authors and their critics are very well-placed to bandy vitriolic but sometimes beautifully chosen insults.

Well-known recidivist offender, author Alice Hoffman, last month dragged authorial peevishness out of the dark-ages by tweeting her bile. She had taken particular exception to a mixed review of  her latest title The story sisters: a novel. She called the reviewer Roberta Silman “a moron” and encouraged her fans to phone or email Silman to tell her what they thought of “snarky critics”. Later Hoffman issued a remarkably unapologetic apology and shut down her Twitter account, stroppy mare…

Hoffman has also been on the receiving end of  “writer rage” after American Pulitzer prize winning writer Richard Ford and his wife got sniffy when Hoffman wrote “nasty things” about his novel Independence day; they peppered a copy of Hoffman’s then latest book with bullets and mailed it to her. An entirely reasonable and measured response there Mr and Mrs Ford (of course I’m lying but I wouldn’t want to incite the wrath of gun-toting novelists).

Back in 2004 Mr Ford became infamous for spitting on unsympathetic reviewer Colson Whitehead at a literary party. Whitehead advised other reviewers considering writing anything unfavourable about Ford’s work to invest in a “rain poncho”. Colson Whitehead is now a published novelist himself and no doubt primed and ready to fly into a towering, spitting, shooting rage at the first sign of a negative review.

Martin Amis has claimed that “Literary feuds went out of fashion with the Salman Rushdie fatwah” but still managed to get down and dirty calling Tibor Fischer “a creep and a wretch. Oh yeah: and a fat arse”. Fischer, predictably, had panned Amis’s novel Yellow dog describing it as “not-knowing-where-to-look bad”. Amis has previously feuded with former buddy Julian Barnes and more recently with Marxist historian Terry Eagleton.

The miracle is, I suppose that any of them even find a minute between trading insults to pen a prize-winner or bestseller.

All juicy literary feud information gratefully received…