My Facebook author’s page is not all about me

I promise it isn’t. It’s filled with links to book reviews, writing how-to, author interviews, obituaries, books being made into films, and other books and authors’ subjects. There are usually five or six links there per day, so it’s not overpowering. This blog usually has a link there as well

Today I included a link to the rather scandalous film “Deep Throat,” one of those anniversaries, looking back in time kinds of articles. So far, Facebook hasn’t told me the link doesn’t meet community standards. There’s also a review of Two Nights in Lisbon and an article about the disturbing biographies of children’s book authors.

At any rate, if you follow authors and books, I hope you’ll stop by and take a look. If you find something you really like once or twice a week, count yourself lucky!

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of a bunch of stuff. Click on his name to find out what.

Review: ‘Whereabouts’ by Jhumpa Lahiri

If you sharpen a knife for too long, you ultimately have nothing left. This novel treads closely to that eventuality. Lahiri has removed everything readers look for in a work of fiction, presenting us with a plotless, episodic story told in short chapters out of which most of the unnamed, middle-aged female protagonist’s soul has been honed away.

Nonetheless, each rather mundane moment, hanging as it does between engagement and lack of engagement with the world packs a punch that can be likened, perhaps, to a velvet hammer or the piercing shiv that remains of the original knife. The overall effect is reminiscent of a child standing that the ocean’s edge, eager to plunge into and experience the water and yet content to stand in the littoral zone between land and sea–or, in the character’s case–between stubborn loneliness and interaction with others.

Her father is dead and her relationship with her mother is strained. Yet she meets others, casual friends and/or acquaintances on the street, even lovers sometimes, without undue suffering. In fact, she tentatively seeks others out but stands back from total or long-term commitment.

There is hope here even though everything human seems transitory, like leaves that will soon be blown away by the wind. And yet, she waits and ages.

Four of Five Stars

–Malcolm

‘The Things We Write’ is now available in a paperback edition

You should assume I’m biased when I say this is a beautiful book. What an honor to be part of it. Now it’s out in paperback, supplementing the PDF and e-book editions.

From the Publisher

Seven Thomas-Jacob Publishing, LLC authors bring you 15 of their short stories, excerpts, and poems. Sometimes offbeat, always captivating, the selections include historical fiction, magical realism, crime, psychological suspense, literary fiction, coming of age, and poetry for both children and adults. The works are grouped by author name, not genre, ensuring a surprise each time you turn the page.

Poet Scott Zeidel contributed the cover art. You can also see his artwork on the cover of his collection of poems, Welcome, and in his wife Smoky Zeidel’s book Who’s Munching on my Milkweed.

Malcolm

Remembering ‘Pay Dirt!: San Francisco, The Romance of a Great City’

My late uncle Maury B. Campbell edited this lavish, spiral-bound love letter to San Francisco in 1949. As a child, I was a little scared of the old prospector on the cover but found myself drawn to the photographs inside. If you search for the book on Google, you’ll find it for sale (used) for $30 to $50.

Like Tony Bennet, I left my heart in this town and saw Pay Dirt as a book of dreams about the place where, one day, I would return. After all, the Campbell family could be found in multiple cities throughout the Bay Area where I was born.

The book comes to mind today because there was a thread about it in Facebook’s “San Francisco Remembered” group that my brother Barry and I follow. I said something like “nice to see the book edited by my uncle showing up here.” Barry did me one better, he posted the news release that came out when the book came out. That was a surprise to everyone but me (since I know Barry has scanned in copies of everything).

The book was, I believe, well received by the city’s movers and shakers and is in demand today by people who love Frisco. As for me, I went back a few times and briefly had an apartment there in the Mission District when my ship was in port in Alameda. The J Church streetcar ran past my front door (and still does). I looked at real estate values lately and see that the three-flat building where my aunt lived is now valued at over a million dollars. That’s why I never went back for good.

But, I digress; The news release begins like this:

After all these years, how nice to see people are still talking about it and looking for copies.

Malcolm

Looking forward to Jhumpa Lahiri’s new novel ‘Whereabouts’

I’m a huge fan of this author and have read most of her work. But this novel will be a first, in a way, because she wrote it in Italian and did the English translation herself. That’s rather unusual. In part, I want to see if her novel flows differently than The NamesakeThe Lowland, and Interpreter of Maladies. 

I’m impressed with anyone who can learn a new language and gain enough skill and fluency to write a book using it.

Lahiri, who grew up in the States was born in England to Indian parents. So, her native language is Bengali, though she doesn’t speak it well. At the same time, she didn’t feel that much at home in English even though she handled it well enough (!) to win a Pulitzer Prize and be shortlisted for other awards even though she once said that in both Bengali and English she felt like “a linguistic exile.”

Learning Italian wasn’t easy, even after she moved to Italy. Finally, she found people willing to speak nothing but Italian to her and to correct her mistakes as though she were a child. It worked.

From the Publisher

Exuberance and dread, attachment and estrangement: in this novel, Jhumpa Lahiri stretches her themes to the limit. In the arc of one year, an unnamed narrator in an unnamed city, in the middle of her life’s journey, realizes that she’s lost her way. The city she calls home acts as a companion and interlocutor: traversing the streets around her house, and in parks, piazzas, museums, stores, and coffee bars, she feels less alone.

We follow her to the pool she frequents, and to the train station that leads to her mother, who is mired in her own solitude after her husband’s untimely death. Among those who appear on this woman’s path are colleagues with whom she feels ill at ease, casual acquaintances, and “him,” a shadow who both consoles and unsettles her. Until one day at the sea, both overwhelmed and replenished by the sun’s vital heat, her perspective will abruptly change.
 
This is the first novel Lahiri has written in Italian and translated into English. The reader will find the qualities that make Lahiri’s work so beloved: deep intelligence and feeling, richly textured physical and emotional landscapes, and a poetics of dislocation. But Whereabouts, brimming with the impulse to cross barriers, also signals a bold shift of style and sensibility. By grafting herself onto a new literary language, Lahiri has pushed herself to a new level of artistic achievement.

The reviews are good, so I have high hopes for this one.

Malcolm

Kentucky library bill potentially jeopardizes our freedom to read

from PEN America

Bill Allows County Executives to Reject Appointees Recommended by Library Boards and Appoint Whomever They Want

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(New York)– PEN America has issued the following statement in response to a new bill passed by the Kentucky Legislature, Senate Bill 167, which would, in effect, politicize county library boards, allowing county executives to reject recommended appointees and take control of the boards through political appointees. The bill becomes law in January 2023.

In response, Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression programs at PEN America, stated: “Though often unheralded as such, public libraries are the beating heart of democracy, making access to the universe of knowledge and information open and equitable for all. At a moment when book bans are sweeping the nation, this effort to hand power to politicians to wield vast control over libraries in Kentucky should be viewed as a massive alarm bell. These attempts to politicize decisions about what information the public can access and what books they can or can’t read, pose a direct threat to the freedom to read.”

Under the bill, county library boards would make initial recommendations of appointees for the boards. Previously, the county judge or executive was required to choose from among the library boards’ recommendations. Under the new law, the county judge/executive can reject all the recommended names and reject the next set of recommendations from the state Department of Libraries and Archives, and then appoint whomever they want.

Senate Bill 167 appeared dead last week following a veto from Governor Andy Beshear and not enough votes from the state House of Representatives. But it was revived by supporters through an override vote and passed on Tuesday.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Upcoming Title: ‘A Black Woman’s West – the life of Rose B. Gordon’

A Black Woman’s West: The Life of Rose B. Gordon, by Michael K. Johnson, 256pp, will be released on April 22 by the Montana Historical Society Press. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon. As a member of the society, I look forward to the release of important new books by the MHS Press.

From the Publisher

Born in the Barker mining district of central Montana Territory, Rose Beatrice Gordon (1883-1968) was the daughter of an African American chef and an emancipated slave who migrated to the West in the early 1880s. This book tells the story of the Gordon family―John, Anna, Robert, Rose, John Francis Jr., George, and Taylor―and pays tribute to Rose, who lived most of her life in White Sulphur Springs. In her youth, Rose excelled academically and distinguished herself as a musical performer. As an adult, she established her economic independence as a restaurant owner, massage therapist, and caregiver. She also made a place for herself in the public sphere through letters to the editor and eventually through a regular newspaper column for the Meagher County News―a remarkable undertaking at a time when Black women in America were largely denied a public voice. As a Black woman in the West, Gordon’s life was ordinary in terms of its day-to-day struggles but extraordinary in its sum.

Editorial Review

“The story of a single life, well told, always amounts to more than the sum of its parts. Critically, Johnson allows the lives that Rose Gordon and her family led in White Sulphur Springs to stand on their own. But through Rose’s story, he recovers a much wider history of Montana’s society and culture that is seldom told. As a book meditating on race, belonging and the meaning of home, A Black Woman’s West has much to say to all students of Montana and Western history.” – Anthony W. Wood, author of Black Montana

Author

Michael K. Johnson is a Professor of American literature at the University of Maine at Farmington. His previous works include Black Masculinity and the Frontier Myth in American Literature, Hoo-Doo Cowboys and Bronze Buckaroos: Conceptions of the African American West and Can’t Stand Still: Taylor Gordon and the Harlem Renaissance.

Malcolm

Free Gift from Thomas-Jacob Publishing

The anthology Things We Write was released today by Thomas-Jacob Publishing.

Seven Thomas-Jacob Publishing, LLC authors bring you 15 of their short stories, excerpts, and poems. Sometimes offbeat, always captivating, the selections include historical fiction, magical realism, crime, psychological suspense, literary fiction, coming of age, and poetry for both children and adults. The works are grouped by author name, not genre, ensuring a surprise each time you turn the page.

You can download your free copy as a PDF, MOBI (Kindle), or EPUB (other e-readers) file from my publisher’s website catalog here.

My contributions are a new short story “The Smokey Hollow Blues” and an excerpted short story, “Haints in the Woods” from a previous Thomas-Jacob collection. Both stories feature characters many of you have read about in my Florida Folk Magic Series, Eulalie (the conjure woman) Willie (Eulalie’s husband), Lena (the magical cat), and Pollyanna (a sneaky helper who kicks butt and takes names).

I hope you enjoy the collection.

Malcolm

Briefly noted: ‘A Delayed Life: The true story of the Librarian of Auschwitz’ by Dita Kraus

After reading Antonio Iturbe’s The Librarian of Auschwitz, the well-researched and agonizing novel based on the true story of Dita Kraus, I was happy to discover that Dita Kraus is still with us, apparently as sharp and feisty as ever at 92.

She has her own website here where she sells her delicate paintings of flowers, a few of the books mentioned in Iturbe’s novel, and provides a link to her own memoir A Delayed Life: The true story of the Librarian of Auschwitz which was published in 2020.

Look at the book with Amazon’s look inside feature, and you’ll find some amazing writing, pragmatic, incisive, and bluntly honest, as this excerpt shows:

From the Publisher

The powerful, heart-breaking memoir of Dita Kraus, THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ

Dita Kraus was born in Prague in 1929 – in her powerful new memoir she writes about her childhood before the war and then during the Nazi-occupation that saw her and her family sent to the Jewish ghetto at Terezín and from there to Auschwitz and then Bergen-Belsen.

Dita writes powerfully and unflinchingly about the harsh conditions of the camps and her role as librarian of the precious books the prisoners had managed to smuggle past the guards. She also writes about the liberation of the camps and her chance meeting with fellow survivor Otto B Kraus after the war.

Part of Dita’s story was told in fictional form in the Sunday Times bestseller THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ by Antonio Iturbe.

I am so impressed with this fine lady, that I ordered the book immediately. Perhaps it will fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge about her. If I had her persistence and bravery and dedication, I could move mountains–that’s pretty much what she did in the family unit school at Auschwitz-Birkenau when she was fourteen years old in this unholy place:

Malcolm

So, how’s ‘Run, Rose, Run’ by Patterson and Parton doing?

When the novel was released on March 7, it began its life at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. It’s currently at number five on Amazon with 11,207 ratings with a 4.5 average. The companion album by the same name, Parton’s forty-eighth solo studio album, a mix of bluegrass and country, is described as high energy with a lot to like. Meanwhile, “Variety ” reports that a movie deal is already in the works with Reese Witherspoon’s company. The whole project appears to be doing well.

Amazon Description:

From America’s most beloved superstar and its greatest storyteller—a thriller about a young singer-songwriter on the rise and on the run, and determined to do whatever it takes to survive.
Every song tells a story. 
She’s a star on the rise, singing about the hard life behind her. 
She’s also on the run. Find a future, lose a past. 
Nashville is where she’s come to claim her destiny.  It’s also where the darkness she’s fled might find her.  And destroy her. 
Run, Rose, Run is a novel glittering with danger and desire—a story that only America’s #1 beloved entertainer and its #1 bestselling author could have created.

Not a lot of detail there, but then I guess when you have Patterson and Parton working together, you really don’t need a lot of detail. Just mention the surprising co-authorship of the book, and sales will follow.

The last line of the book’s Kirkus review is an apt summary of what’s going on here: “The fairy-tale characters and details of the country-music scene are so much fun you won’t mind the silly plot.”

The Publishers Weekly review ends about the same way, “Never mind that the mystery element runs a distant second to the story of AnnieLee making good in Nashville. Parton fans will relish this timeless fairy tale, which displays the singer’s lively way with words and draws liberally from her experience in the music business.”

All About Romance begins its review this way: “Run, Rose, Run is just as charming as everything else connected to musician/actress/philanthropist Dolly Parton. Though it’s mostly a character study about three different personalities making their way through the Nashville scene than a thriller, the suspense element adds a nice bit of variety to the proceedings. It’s a fun, quick read in spite of its length – a page-turner with brief chapters.”

According to Book Marks, “Parton’s co-authorship of Run, Rose, Run may not suggest literary finesse, but she is able to supply an authenticity in the details of the American music business to match (in her own way) the political insights previously provided by Clinton.” (Bill Clinton and Patterson, another unlikely combination of authors, previously teamed up on The President is Missing and The President’s Daughter.)

I have not read Run, Rose, Run because I’m waiting for the price to come down, but I have read The President is Missing and can see the synchronicity of the thriller details from Patterson and the Presidential details from Clinton. I expected the same combination of skills/backgrounds in the Parton and Patterson collaboration.

I think the book will be easy on the eyes and a run-read if you like country music. That’s my guess because we all love Dolly.

Malcolm

P. S. I sent Jim an idea about a guy with a paper route who’s being targeted by mob enforcers from a competing newspaper but haven’t heard back yet.