Avid 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.
Denise Mina and Ron Rash were two discoveries for me at Wellington Writers and Readers 2012. Two different writers setting their books in very different places, but seeing them together examining the importance of place in their novels was a real treat. For a start I could listen to their accents all day, but what they were saying was just as good as how they said it.
Although the fabric of their landscapes is far apart, from Rash’s rural Appalachian Mountains to Mina’s gritty, mean streets of suburban Glasgow, they are connected by a strong sense of history.
According to Mina, Scottish people are obsessed by history; it’s a part of being poor. Rash’s Southerners are poor too, less mobile than other Americans with roots running deep into the history of the place they live in, where something as long ago as the Civil War can be very near.
Both writers distiguished between local colour and regional writing. Local colour is concerned with what makes an area different, while regional writing is universal, looking out from the inside. We tend to think of things being neutral if they are set in New York or London, but that is exactly what they’re not. It’s not true that New York is never regional and that London doesn’t have an accent.
When I thought about books with a strong sense of place the first that came to mind was Winter’s Bone, set in the Ozarks and written by Daniel Woodrell, who happens to be a friend of Ron Rash’s. Woodrell’s Ozarks are a long way from suburban Christchurch and Ree Dolly may be moving through a very particular landscape, but what keeps her searching is universal – love for her family.
What books would you recommend for their strong sense of place?
One of the great things about writers’ festivals is stumbling across a writer you’ve never heard of. 11 a.m. on the first day of Writers and Readers Week at the New Zealand International Arts Festival 2012 and the temptation was to hit one of the coffee bars.
I’m very glad I decided to take a punt and hear Appalachian writer Ron Rash instead. Not only did I learn I’d been saying Appalachian wrong all these years (Rash said it with what sounded like a T in it, as in Appalatchian, rather than a Y, as in Appalaychian), but I found another writer to add to my endless ‘For Later’ shelves.
A poet, short story writer and novelist whose family has lived on or around the same patch of land for 200 years, Rash was very entertaining (a Southern accent never hurts, I find). It can be a mixed blessing to be a Southern writer as there’s often an unspoken ‘just’ before the Southern, but being in the company of William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote and Tennessee Wiliams is some consolation.
The cove, his latest novel, is set in one of the German internment camps set up in the U.S during the First World War, examining what it means to be a patriot. Other novels include Serena, with a main character who is a cross between Medea and Lady Macbeth, and One foot in Eden, which is shaped like a tragedy although the reader never really knows where it is going.
Rash’s short readings of his work really whetted my appetite to check it out further. The moral of the story? Always go for literature over caffeine.