>The 9th Annual Massachusetts Book Award winners were announced yesterday, recognizing the best books from the previous calendar year by Massachusetts authors or which have strong Massachusetts themes.
Geraldine Brooks won the top Fiction Award for People of the Book (Viking, 2008). Congratulations also to Honor Award winners Stephanie Grant for Map of Ireland (Scribner, 2008) and Roland Merullo for American Savior (Algonuqin, 2008).
The top Nonfiction Award went to Moying Li for Snow Falling in Spring (FSG, 2008), an “all ages read that traces the author’s coming of age in China during the Cultural Revolution and her eventual emigration to the U.S. in her 20s.”
See a list of books published by Massachusetts authors in 2008 at The Massachusetts Center for the Book.
>Two women — one nearing the end of life and one whose child was stillborn — write about death. These two moving memoirs are as clearsighted and honest as Joan Didion’s A Year of Magical Thinking.
Diana Athill, a book editor for fifty years and author of two other memoirs, writes about her outlook on life from the vantage point of age 89.
All through my sixties I felt I was still within hailing distance of middle age, not safe on its shores, perhaps, but navigating its coastal waters. My seventieth birthday failed to change this because I managed scarcely to notice it, but my seventy-first did change it. Being “over seventy” is being old; suddenly I was aground on that fact and saw that the time had come to size it up. (Somewhere Towards the End, p. 13)
Former librarian Elizabeth McCracken is the author of a collection of short stories and two novels, The Giant’s House and Niagara Falls All Over Again. She and her husband were living and writing in France during her first pregnancy which had been gloriously trouble-free until the very end; their child, a boy, died before he could be born.
I don’t want to wear my heart on my sleeve or put it away in cold storage. I don’t want to fetishize, I don’t want to repress, I want his death to be what it is: a fact. Something that people know without me having to explain it. I don’t feel the need to tell my story to everyone, but when people ask, Is this your first child? I can’t bear any of the possible answers.
I’m not ready for my first child to fade into history. (An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, p. 15)
>Childless and mildly disatisfied after 12 years of marriage, Laura Rider tells her husband Charlie–a sexual Energizer bunny–no more sex; she’s had enough for a lifetime. Laura, who doesn’t fit in with the tennis-braceleted women in her small Midwestern town, begins to nurture her secret fantasy of writing a romance novel, despite having written nothing besides a monthly gardening email newsletter. Her affable husband strikes up a friendship with Laura’s idea of the ideal woman, Jenna Faroli, who has just moved to town with her husband, and here’s where things in this little novella start to get hairy. Is Laura just using the blossoming romance between handsome Charlie and intellectual Jenna as fodder for her novel, or is Laura actually propelling the affair forward? How far will a writer go for a good plot and interesting characters, and where do
writers get their ideas, anyway?
This quirky novel leaves you wondering.
A recent New Yorker article, Show or Tell, talks about creative writing programs and whether writing can be taught. It reminded me of the week-long writer’s workshop Laura Rider attends: Show or Tell: newyorker.com
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