17 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: May 2017

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Every month, the Writer’s Bone crew reviews or previews books they’ve read or want to read. This series may or may not also serve as a confessional for guilty pleasures and hipster novels only the brave would attempt. Here are their recommendations for May 2017:

  1. Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
  2. The Wrong Side Of Goodbye by Michael Connelly
  3. Marlena by Julie Buntin
  4. Janesville, An American Story by Amy Goldstein
  5. Little Victories by Jason Gay
  6. The River Of Kings by Taylor Brown
  7. American War by Omar El Akkad
  8. A Brutal Bunch Of Heartbroken Saps by Nick Kolakowski
  9. The Dinner Party by Joshua Ferris
  10. Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli
  11. The One-Eyed Man by Ron Currie
  12. Recitation by Bae Suah
  13. The Warren by Brian Evenson
  14. Unbearable Splendor by Sun Yung Shin
  15. Hothouse by Karyna Mcglynn
  16. Make: A Decade Of Literary Art
  17. Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar

Click on the links above for a detailed synopsis of each book, or follow the following link to see what the Writer’s Bone crew had to say: http://www.writersbone.com/book-recommendations/books-that-should-be-on-your-radar-may-2017

Short Stories: The Top 10 Classics

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Continuing on with our Writer’s Blog Short Story Week, Writer’s Edit put together a reading list of top ten classic short story recommendations. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, the short story emerged as a recognised and respected literary genre throughout the 19th century. What better way to celebrate this literary form than by returning to some of the great tales and classic authors who helped shape this genre into the literary gem it is today.

Here is the pick of the top ten ‘must-read’ short story classics!:

10. ‘The Signal-Man

Author: Charles Dickens Year: 1866

Written by one of England’s greatest novelists, ‘The Signal-Man’ is an eerie ghost story about a railway signal-man who is haunted by foreboding, spectral visions.

Favourite Line: “So little sunlight ever found its way to this spot, that it had an earthy, deadly smell; and so much cold wind rushed through it, that it struck chill to me, as if I had left the natural world.”

No doubt the best aspect of ‘The Signal-Man’ is the way Dickens establishes atmosphere. An example of this can be seen in the quotation above. Here, Dickens succeeds in creating a haunting, supernatural atmosphere by not only suggesting the narrator has “left the natural world”, but also by describing the setting much like a graveyard.

9. ‘The Happy Prince’

Author: Oscar Wilde Year: 1888

‘The Happy Prince’ is a melancholy tale, reflecting the style of a fairy-tale or fable – which is, after all, where short stories found their roots as a genre. The story looks at themes of love and sacrifice, wealth and poverty, and the nature of true beauty.

Favourite Line: At that moment a curious crack sounded inside the statue, as if something had broken. The fact is that the leaden heart had snapped right in two. It certainly was a dreadfully hard frost.”

This line is extremely effective and moving due to the dramatic irony of the narrator’s suggestion that it was merely the frost that had broken the prince’s heart. In contrast, the reader is able to recognise that it is the prince’s sorrow, and love for the poor, little swallow that has caused the “leaden heart” to snap in two.

8. ‘The Magic Shop

Author: H.G. Wells Year: 1903

The Magic Shop is a curious tale that follows a father and son’s experience of visiting a ‘genuine magic shop’. While the little boy explores the shop, seeing only joy and wonder, his father is confronted with much more sinister visions. The story therefore examines how we experience the world as children versus how we experience the world as adults. In doing so, ‘The Magic Shop’ forces the reader to consider whether innocence and evil truly exist in the outer world, or whether these are merely determined by our own perceptions.

Favourite Line: I felt him pull at something that clung to my coat-sleeve, and then I saw he held a little, wriggling red demon by the tail – the little creature bit and fought and tried to get at his hand – and in a moment he tossed it carelessly behind a counter… ‘Astonishing what people will carry about with them unawares!’”

The symbolic implication of this line seems to sum up the overall purpose of the story. The narrator, of course, believes the demon belongs to the magic shop, yet the shop owner claims that the narrator has been carrying the little devil around himself. This therefore begs the question – is evil born of our own perceptions?

7. ‘The Gift of the Magi

Author: O. Henry Year: 1906

‘The Gift of the Magi’ is a simple story about a young, married couple’s quest to find each other the perfect Christmas gift. In securing these ‘perfect gifts’, however, each partner is forced to give up something highly valuable, and precious to them, resulting in a rather unfortunate twist.

Favourite Line: But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest.”

This line is made all the more wonderful by the contradiction of the line immediately preceding it, which suggests that the couple were extremely “unwise” for giving up their greatest treasures. The delightful contradiction forces the reader to consider how the couple could be considered both “unwise” and yet also the “wisest of all”. In doing so, O. Henry invites the reader to recognise that, although the valuable sacrifices the couple make for each other ultimately reduce their gifts to irrelevance, their sacrifices were made out of love, and are therefore the most valuable gifts of all.

6. ‘Rip Van Winkle’

Author: Washington Irving Year: 1819

After falling asleep in the woods, the ‘henpecked’ Rip Van Winkle awakes to find his village deeply changed, and is startled to discover twenty years have passed. One of the greatest, classic short stories to emerge in America, ‘Rip Van Winkle’ takes a metaphorical look at the changing American Identity following the event of the Revolutionary War.

Favourite Line: I was myself last night, but I fell asleep on the mountain, and they’ve changed my gun, and everything’s changed, and I’m changed, and I can’t tell what’s my name, or who I am!”

Through this exclamation, uttered by Rip Van Winkle, Irving perfectly captures the crisis of identity he aims to represent. Through this line, more than any other, Irving portrays America as a nation that must struggle to map out its own, unique identity, after severing its ties from the previous monarch (much like Rip, after finding himself free of Dame Van Winkle).

5. ‘Désirée’s Baby

Author: Kate Chopin Year: 1893

Set in Louisiana, prior to the American Civil War (a time when slavery was still considered ‘lawful’), ‘Désirée’s Baby’ examines the injustices of racism and gender discrimination.

Favourite Line: “But above all,” she wrote, “night and day, I thank the good God for having so arranged our lives that our dear Armand will never know that his mother, who adores him, belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery.”

The sense of karmic justice in this final line leaves the reader feeling smugly satisfied. After expelling his wife and child from their home, merely for their mixed heritage, the reader takes great delight in discovering that it is Armand himself who is not entirely of white descent. Within this ending, Chopin highlights that all people are ultimately the same, and that not one of us, for any reason whatsoever, have the right to treat another person as less human than ourselves.

4. The Body Snatcher

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson Year: 1884

Inspired by the Burke and Hare murders of 1828, ‘The Body Snatcher’ is a gothic tale that follows two med students, involved in crimes of grave robbing, in order to keep their anatomy professor supplied with instructional cadavers.

Favourite Line: We were all startled by the transformation, as if a man had risen from the dead.”

What makes this line so intriguing is the way it seems to strongly foreshadow Stevenson’s grotesque, gothic ending.

3. The Yellow Wallpaper’

Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman Year: 1892

Flying the flag for feminism in this story, Charlotte Perkins Gilman provides an interesting and unsettling exploration of the oppression of women in nineteenth century society.

Favourite Line: At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candle light, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be.”

The rich symbolism of the emerging wallpaper pattern as we witness the narrator’s gradual descent into madness is definitely what makes this story so memorable and effective. It is clear to the reader that, just like the woman in the wallpaper, the narrator is being held prisoner by her husband, and is desperate to break free.

2. ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’

Author: Edgar Allan Poe Year: 1843

Of course, we couldn’t have a Classic Short Story list without including the ‘Father of the Short Story’ himself, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. It is always difficult to choose only one story from such a prolific writer, but in our opinion, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ serves as an excellent example of Poe’s prowess in the Short Story genre.

Favourite Line: “True! – nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”

What makes this story so memorable is Poe’s brilliant use of the unreliable narrator. From the very opening line (included above), the reader is given the strong sense that the narrator is not to be entirely trusted. The structure of the introductory line is erratic and disjointed, creating the impression of mad ramblings. In addition to this, the narrator plants the seed in the reader’s mind himself that he is, in fact, ‘mad’. Of course, the wonderful irony of this is that the narrator is attempting to convince the reader of his sanity, and yet with every sentence, the reader only becomes more and more certain of the opposite.

1. B24

Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Year: 1899

Anyone who has heard the name Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would know he is most famous for his hugely popular Sherlock Holmes stories. But perhaps not everyone realises what a talented, and prolific writer he truly was – particularly in the genre of the short story. The Sherlock Holmes stories themselves are, of course, exemplary of this. Of the sixty stories, chronicling the adventures of the consulting detective, fifty-six of them are short (and all sixty are well worth the read, if ever you get the chance). But for anyone who has ever wondered what this author can do outside of the Holmes stories, ‘B24’ is excellent in highlighting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a master of the short story.

Favourite Line: “I have only you to look to, sir, and if you will clear my name of this false accusation, then I will worship you as one man never yet worshipped another. But if you fail me, then I give you my solemn promise that I will rope myself up, this day month, to the bar of my windows, and from that time on I will come to plague you in your dreams if ever yet one man was able to come back and to haunt another.”

Spoken directly from the narrator to the reader at the end of the story, this line is extraordinary in a number of ways. By addressing the reader in this way (both here, and in the opening) Doyle personally drags the reader into the story and places a great deal of responsibility on his/her shoulders. In doing so, Doyle establishes an acute sense of realism in the tale, allowing the reader to feel as though the narrator can, in fact, extend beyond the page and come back to haunt them as promised. The line is also notable for the seed of doubt it places in the reader’s mind, that the narrator may be unreliable.

Written from the perspective of a thief, attempting to convince us he has been wrongly accused of murder, the assertion that he will hang himself if we, the reader, refuse to help him, makes us question the narrator’s sanity (much like the narrator in the Tell-Tale Heart). If the narrator is mad enough to hang himself if he is not listened to, perhaps the reader cannot trust his testimony after all? In this way, the reader is left wondering, do they really know who the killer is?

Keep an eye on Writer’s Blog for our upcoming third and final article, celebrating Short Story Week where we will cover how to write a short story of your own.

Via: http://writersedit.com/top-10-classic-short-stories/

 

The Books That Made Your Favourite Authors Want To Write

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It’s a question that’s asked by interviewers all the time: how did you become a writer? It’s kind of a lob, and for many authors, the answer is obvious. Reading made them into writers. What else? Besides actually, you know, sitting down and doing the work. But while many authors cite a lifetime love of the written word, or a storytelling acumen developed in the womb, or a childhood spent lost in libraries, some can point to a specific book and say: that one. That’s the book that made me who I am today – if only because it opened a door, or gave me permission, or even just a spark. Below, a selection of these: 30 recommendations plucked from interviews and essays the internet over. If you read them all, you’ll probably become a writer instantly!

Zadie Smith: Hurricane, Andrew Salkey

A Jamaican writer called Andrew Salkey… wrote a YA novel called Hurricanebefore YA was a term. I remember it as the book that made me want to write. He was the most wonderful writer for children. I just found what looks to be a sequel, Earthquake, on an old-books stall on West Third, and I intend to read it to my kids. He died in 1995.

Alain Robbe-Grillet: The Stranger, Albert Camus

The two most influential books of the war years were Sartre’s Nausea and Camus’s The Stranger. Other novels by the same authors—for example Sartre’s The Roads to Liberty or Camus’s The Fall—are of little interest. I feel that I decided to become a writer when I read The Stranger, which appeared in 1942, during the Occupation. It was published by Gallimard, a firm very much connected with the Occupiers. By the way, Sartre himself finally confessed that the Occupation hadn’t bothered him much. But my reading of The Stranger, as I explain in the Mirror, is very personal. The murder committed by Mersault was the result of a situation, which is the situation of relationship to the world.

Eileen Myles: Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

Do you remember what books you encountered, growing up in Massachusetts in the 1950s and 60s, that might have inspired you to want to become a writer?

The 50s is childhood up to age ten, so myths, sci-fi. Those didn’t make me want to be a writer. They made me want to do drugs or have adventures, travel. Maybe Little Women made me want to be a writer because Jo, the star of it, was a writer. I didn’t understand yet that that was the author. In the 60s I was a teenager. I liked Franny & Zooey, really everything by J.D. Salinger. I realized it was important who was talking. If you could tap into that you could get a flow going. Henry Miller came to me in the 70s. He said I didn’t ask to be born. He wrote in a complaining, American working class speech. He was from Williamsburg. It was ugly. It reminded me of Somerville, where I came from. He made it clear that an unprivileged American could be a writer and could have a lot to talk about. He switched constantly from speech to surrealism. That shift was important to me because an unstable self was what I had to use.

Jodi Picoult: Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

My favorite writer is Alice Hoffman; she’s brilliant. One of my favorite books in recent years was Yann Martel’s Life of Pi – I wished I’d written it, which is my highest form of compliment. The book that made me want to be a writer in the first place was Gone with the Wind – I read it and wanted to create a whole world out of words, too.

David Mitchell: The Earthsea Cycle, Ursula K. Le Guin

There was no single epiphany, but I recall a few early flashes. When I was ten I would be transported by certain books – Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy, Susan Cooper’s fantasy novels, Isaac Asimov – and burn to do to readers what had just been done to me. Sometimes that burning prompted me to start writing, though I never got more than a few pages down. A few years later I would indulge in a visual fantasy that involved imagining my name on the jacket of a book – usually Faber and Faber – and I’d feel a whoosh inside my rib cage.

Emma Donoghue: The Passion, Jeanette Winterson

The book that made me want to write was The Passion by Jeanette Winterson. It made me feel that historical fiction didn’t have to be fusty and all about bodices, that it could be a thrilling novel, which just happened to be set in 1800.

Tom Wolfe: Napoleon, Emil Ludwig

Regarding writing, was there any particular book that influenced you?

I was greatly struck by Emil Ludwig’s biography of Napoleon, which is written in the historical present. It begins as the mother sits suckling her babe in a tent. […] It impressed me so enormously that I began to write the biography of Napoleon myself, though heavily cribbed from Emil Ludwig. I was eight at the time.

Roxane Gay: Beloved, Toni Morrison (and a lot of other books)

My writing ambition was sharpened by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, an unapologetically political novel that reminds us of what it costs to be a woman in this world or the next. My ambition, that toward which I aspire to write, has long been guided by Toni Morrison, Beloved, and through her words, seeing how a novel can be mysterious and true, mythical and raw, how a novel can honor memory even when we want to look away or forget. My ambition has long been sharpened by Alice Walker, willing to tell the stories of black women without apology, willing to write politically without apology – Possessing the Secret of Joy, a haunting, gorgeous novel about female genital mutilation that keeps me transfixed and heartbroken and helpless each time I read it, because sometimes the only way to tell the truth is to tell a story.

Neil Gaiman: The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis was the first person to make me want to be a writer. He made me aware of the writer, that there was someone standing behind the words, that there was someone telling the story. I fell in love with the way he used parentheses – the auctorial asides that were both wise and chatty, and I rejoiced in using such brackets in my own essays and compositions through the rest of my childhood.

I think, perhaps, the genius of Lewis was that he made a world that was more real to me than the one I lived in; and if authors got to write the tales of Narnia, then I wanted to be an author.

Anne Lamott: Nine Stories, J.D. Salinger

What book made you want to become a writer?

You mean, besides Pippi Longstocking?

Nine Stories blew me away‚ I can still remember reading “For Esmé – With Love and Squalor” for the first time, and just weeping with the poignancy of the damaged soldier and the young girl. And “Teddy” – I still remember the moment when the little boy Teddy, who is actually a sadhu, tells the reporter on the ship that he first realized what God was all about when he saw his little sister drink a glass of milk – that it was God, pouring God, into God. Or something like that – maybe I don’t remember it quite as well as I thought. But it changed me both spiritually and as a very young writer, because both the insight and the simplicity of the story were within my reach.

Oh, and “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” and “Down at the Dinghy,” with the great Boo Boo Glass. And “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” – don’t even get me started…

***

For more fantastic recommendations from your favourite writers, check out the original post here: http://lithub.com/the-books-that-made-your-favorite-writers-want-to-write/

16 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: April 2017

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Every month, the Writer’s Bone crew reviews or previews books they’ve read or want to read. This series may or may not also serve as a confessional for guilty pleasures and hipster novels only the brave would attempt. Here are their recommendations for April 2017:

  1. Faces In The Crowd by Valeria Luiselli
  2. An Exaggerated Murder by Josh Cook
  3. No One Is Coming To Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts
  4. The Wanderers by Meg Howrey
  5. What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
  6. The Whore’s Child by Richard Russo
  7. The Stand by Stephen King
  8. The Art Of Fielding by Chad Harbach
  9. Mad Men And PoliticsCo-Authored And -Edited By Lilly Goren
  10. Dark Money by Jane Mayer
  11. The Good Assassin by Paul Vidich
  12. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
  13. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  14. The Spy by Paulo Coelho
  15. Humans Are Underrated by Geoff Colvin
  16. Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner

Click on the links above for a detailed synopsis of each book, or follow the following link to see what the Writer’s Bone crew had to say: http://www.writersbone.com/book-recommendations/16-books-that-should-be-on-your-radar-april-2017

Book Review: The Lonely Hearts Hotel | Heather O’Neill

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A detailed review by Naomi Frisby of The Lonely Hearts Hotel written by Heather O’Neill, which has been long-listed for the Baileys Prize – warning this review does contain spoilers, and by the sounds of the reactions of the Baileys Prize shadow panel, it’s a Marmite book – you will either love it or hate it.

Read more here and decide what you think: https://thewritesofwoman.wordpress.com/the-lonely-hearts-hotel-heather-oneill

9 Writers on the Books that Inspired Them

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There are books that stay with you during important times in your life. A great book can get you through a bad breakup or a bad high school (though, that actually might take a whole series).

The authors behind your favorite books were drawn to literature and writing by their own literary all-stars, and besides gaining comfort and pleasure, they’ve found and honed the skills utilized in their own novels.

These nine authors received their all-important titles from family and friends, during their childhoods and while dealing with the milestones of adulthood, and each owes a debt to those inspirational writers. See them here: http://mashable.com/books-that-inspired-writers

Author Interview: Chevy Stevens – Never Let You Go

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Chevy Stevens’ debut, STILL MISSING, won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel in 2011. She has followed up that enormous success with one gripping psychological thriller after another, including ALWAYS WATCHING and THOSE GIRLS.

Stevens’ latest, NEVER LET YOU GO, introduces readers to Lindsey Nash, who leaves an abusive relationship and tries to start a new life with her young daughter, Sophie – but will learn years later that it is almost impossible to escape one’s past.

In this interview, conducted by Bookreporter.com’s Rebecca Munro, Stevens reveals why this book got such a late start; describes the challenges she faced in alternating the story’s points of view between Lindsey and Sophie; explains how she ensured that Andrew, the abusive ex-husband, wouldn’t be a cliché; and offers a few tantalizing details about her next novel, her first to be set outside of Canada.

Read the interview here: http://www.bookreporter.com/authors/chevy-stevens/news/interview-031617