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Posts Tagged ‘literary fiction’

Giveaway Opportunity: THE HOPE FACTORY by Lavanya Sankaran

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Sankaran_The Hope Factory Book clubs and readers are raving about The Hope Factory by debut novelist Lavanya Sankaran:

“I will definitely recommend it to my book club.” -Wanda T.

“The storytelling is first rate. I hated to see the book end.” -Barbara B.

“The writing is lovely.” -Betty M.

“The Hope Factory contains everything on my literary wish list.” -GoodReads

With humor, intelligence, and masterly prose, Lavanya Sankaran’s debut novel brilliantly captures the vitality and danger of a newly industrialized city and how it shapes the dreams and aspirations of two very different families.

Anand is a Bangalore success story: successful, well married, rich. At least, that’s how he appears. But if his little factory is to grow, he needs land and money, and, in the New India, neither of these is easy to find.

Kamala, Anand’s family’s maid, lives perilously close to the edge of disaster. She and her clever teenage son have almost nothing, and their small hopes for self-betterment depend on the contentment of Anand’s wife: a woman to whom whims come easily.

But Kamala’s son keeps bad company, and Anand’s marriage is in trouble. The murky world where crime and land and politics meet is a dangerous place for a good man, particularly one on whom the well-being of so many depends.

Rich with irony and compassion, Lavanya Sankaran’s The Hope Factory affirms her gifts as a born storyteller with remarkable prowess, originality, and wisdom.

Enter below for your chance to win!

A Letter to Book Clubs from Janice Steinberg

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Steinberg_The Tin HorseDear Readers,

I recently encountered the appealing idea of “watershed books”–books that get you through a rough time. In a study in Britain, people said they chose classics like Pride and Prejudice and One Hundred Years of Solitude. My watersheds were also classics–the noir mystery novels of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, which I read out of a desire to identify with tough, fearless protagonists.

Alas, reading noir fiction did not make me tough. Among the hard-boiled men and fast women, there was just one, very marginal character with whom I felt a kinship: an unnamed woman in Chandler’s The Big Sleep. Philip Marlowe, the detective, wants information about a sleazy Hollywood bookseller. He enters a legitimate bookstore and flashes a badge at the woman working there, and she and Marlowe engage in crisp intellectual parrying, in which she gives as good as she gets.

The woman is reading a law book, which is intriguing in itself in a novel published in 1939. And she’s described as having “the fine-drawn face of an intelligent Jewess,” a phrase that struck me with its profound sense of otherness, as if she lived in a very different Los Angeles than Marlowe. And I felt hungry to know more about this nameless woman. What was her story? What was her Los Angeles?

Like many novelists, I love doing research, and I began by exploring the second question: what was her Los Angeles? I discovered Boyle Heights, a neighborhood east of downtown that, in the 1920s and 30s, was the Jewish part of L.A. As I was researching, I started hearing the woman’s voice in my mind–not as the young woman in the bookstore but as a vibrant, opinionated octogenarian. She was talking to a young person–an archivist? So she’d had a life, perhaps related to the law book she was reading, that merited archiving. And I gave her a name: Elaine Greenstein.

Then came the difficult question: what was her story? I’m an outliner by nature. I like to know where I’m going. But Elaine’s story resisted my attempts to lay it out in advance. And if that pushed me into a disorienting limbo, it was also liberating. When I started writing about Elaine’s childhood, what came out first was her grandfather’s story. I discovered that she lived within a fabric of stories, some of dubious veracity, and ultimately that led to the idea at the core of the book: that we construct our reality and give meaning to our lives by the stories we tell–and believe–about ourselves. In a sense, they’re our personal watersheds.

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Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, interviews Téa Obreht about The Tiger’s Wife

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

JenniferEgan9780307477477Jennifer Egan is the recipient of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, which was also awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is the author of The Keep, Look at Me, The Invisible Circus, and the story collection Emerald City. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, GQ, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Ploughshares, and her nonfiction appears frequently in The New York Times Magazine. She lives with her husband and sons in Brooklyn.

The following is an excerpt. To read the complete interview, click here.

JE: One of the central powerful relationships in the book is between Natalia and her grandfather: it’s not the type of relationship we usually see as the primary relationship in a novel.  Could you talk a little about that grandparent-grandchild relationship, your feelings about it in your own life and how it became central in this novel?

TO: I grew up with my grandparents on my mother’s side, and they essentially raised me.  As a kid, you resist the idea of your own parents having had lives and pasts of their own.  Snuff me out if I’m wrong here, but I see that as something prevalent in your novel A Visit From the Goon Squad: a sense of the parent-child relationship being very tense and of children not wanting to live in their parents’ shadow.  When you’re growing up, the lives of your parents aren’t that fascinating, but there is this fascination with grandparents.  Because of that great amount of time that has passed between their youth and yours, and the fact that they lived entire lives before you even got there, you can’t really deny their identity as individuals prior to your existence they way perhaps you can with your parents.  There’s also an awareness that the world was very different when they were living their lives.

JE: Animals play such an enormous role in the novel: the tiger, the dog, Sonia the elephant, Dari?a who seems to be part-human, part-bear. You write so movingly about animals that I found myself close to tears every time you wrote about the tiger from the tiger’s point of view.  Do you have a strong connection to animals in your life?  How is it that animals end up figuring so enormously in this story?

obreht_teaThe Tiger's Wife NBA sealTO: I’m definitely, it turns out, the kind of person who’s a total National Geographic nerd.  I’m there for all the TV specials.  As I’ve gotten older I think my awareness of the natural world and animals’ relationship to people – both culturally and biologically – has grown.  It was fun to write from the point of view of the tiger, and emotionally rewarding, but I think the animals also serve almost as markers around which the characters have to navigate.  I don’t think that was something I did consciously, it just sort of happened.  There is something jarring about seeing an animal out of place: there’s a universal feeling of awe when you see an animal, particularly an impressive animal, out of place.

JE: There are really two worlds in the book which mingle and sometimes intersect: there’s the present day political, medical, scientific situation in which Natalia operates, and then there’s this more mystical, folkloric world of the grandfather’s past.  How did these define themselves in your mind?  Was it hard to move between them?

TO: Pretty early on in the writing I realized that mythmaking and storytelling are a way in which people deal with reality.  They’re a coping mechanism.  In Balkan culture, there’s almost a knowledge that reality will eventually become myth.  In ten or twenty years you will be able to recount what happened today with more and more embellishments until you’ve completely altered that reality and funneled it into the world of myth.

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Watch a video: Téa answers questions about The Tiger’s Wife
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Téa Obreht answers questions about The Tiger’s Wife

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Read Tea’s interview with Jennifer Egan
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George Bishop, author of LETTER TO MY DAUGHTER, on writing from a woman’s point of view

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Letter to My DaughterDuring visits to bookstores and book clubs, I’ve often been asked by readers how I was able to write Letter to My Daughter from a woman’s point of view. Obviously, I’m not a woman, and I don’t even have a daughter. So how did I manage to get inside the narrator’s head and skin, both the adult Laura (who’s anxiously awaiting word from her runaway daughter) and the teenage Laura (who’s falling in love for the very first time)? How did I realistically portray what she felt and thought at two very different moments in her life?

First of all, I should admit that what I’ve done isn’t that unusual in fiction. Look at any novel written in the standard omniscient third person (he said, she said, they said), and you’ll see that the author likely speaks through a whole world of characters who do not share his or her gender, let alone age, nationality, race, or profession. James Patterson does this. Dan Brown does this. J. K. Rowling does this. (Stephanie Meyer doesn’t.)

Still, I understand how readers might wonder how a writer can pull off this kind of ventriloquist act. For me, the challenge lies not so much in capturing the larger emotions of a person or situation, but in rendering the smaller idiosyncratic thoughts and gestures of a character.

bishop_georgeThink of universal feelings such as hope, fear, fury, jealousy, love. I’m convinced that people everywhere, no matter their gender, no matter their environment, experience these feelings the same way. The frustration felt by a billionaire Wall Street banker unable to close a deal is the same as the frustration felt by a Mumbai rickshaw driver who’s stuck in traffic and can’t get to his fare. In Letter to My Daughter, it wasn’t that difficult for me to wiggle into these broader feelings that Laura has—her anguish, her regret, her joy. I know those feelings. We all do.

The hard part, though, is in getting the particulars right. What features, for example, does a fifteen-year-old girl notice when she looks at a boy she admires? I’m pretty sure they’re not the same features that a boy notices when he looks at a girl. Or how does a teenage girl react when she’s being grounded by her parents—her actions, her thoughts, her arguments—as opposed to how I might have reacted in a similar situation when I was a teenager?

This is where the real work of fiction writing comes in. For me, the only way to accomplish it is through deep and careful imagining. I try to put myself in that person’s skin and see, hear, and feel what they see, hear, and feel, from the inside out, as it were. The danger always, the lazy way to do it, is to write from the outside in—to sketch a generalized picture of “a teenage girl having a fight with her parents,” for instance, by using what we’ve all seen before in books or movies or on TV.

Of course, writing from the inside out of a character is still no guarantee that I, or any writer, will get the details right. But when, by happenstance and deep imagining, this kind of writing succeeds, the result is that we as readers forget for a moment who we are, who the writer is, and even where we are, and for a few blissful pages we’re able to disappear completely into a different body in a different world.

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