In your story in this week’s issue, “Wide Spot,” a local politician travels to a small town in Montana, where he discovers an old friend from his glory days as a musician. What inspired the subject matter? I lost track of a gifted, reckless friend from California many years ago. Given his hazardous life style, I wondered if he was still living. I had last seen him in a small Montana town, and I visited there recently. When I mentioned his name to a local rancher, he replied, “He’s still here.” This seemed unlikely, but, a few days later, at the checkout counter in a grocery store, I thought the person in front of me looked familiar, though it had been forty years since I’d last seen him. I peered over his shoulder as he wrote a check for his purchases. It was him. Is the town of Wide Spot (or Prairiedale, as it becomes known) based on a particular place in Montana? Or is it emblematic of many places? A little of both. Many prairie towns … [Read more...] about Thomas McGuane on Small-Town America
RED AT THE BONE Is there a more fraught, vilified figure in American letters — in worldwide letters, perhaps — than the mother who abandons a child? To be a mother who goes away, physically or emotionally, is widely considered to be a mother who turns monstrous, a towering figure who inflicts enduring, ne plus ultra pain upon the offspring she leaves behind. But what if that departure isn’t necessarily monstrous; what if the wound of maternal abandonment could be not only alleviated, but also, perhaps, healed by other kinds of love? This possibility underlies Jacqueline Woodson’s much anticipated, profoundly moving novel “Red at the Bone.” Woodson has written more than two dozen books, many of them award-winning; in 2014, she won the National Book Award for young people’s literature for her memoir, “Brown Girl Dreaming.” She is also a four-time National Book Award finalist and a two-time N.A.A.C.P. Image Award winner, a beloved … [Read more...] about A Bluesy, Sweetly Aching New Novel From Jacqueline Woodson
The career of the French-Canadian writer Marie-Claire Blais had precocious and auspicious beginnings. She published her first novel, “La Belle Bête,” in 1959, when she was just twenty years old. Translated into English by Merloyd Lawrence as “Mad Shadows,” the book is a faintly gothic portrait of a forsaken girl, and her mother’s obsession with her idiot brother—the “beautiful beast” of the title. The novel offers an incisive rendering of family dynamics; it is also disarmingly brutal, with a tragic ending that suggests that all beauty is false and that life’s only truth is suffering. Margaret Atwood, Blais’s exact contemporary, later wrote, “The book made me very uneasy, for more than the obvious reasons: the violence, the murders, suggestions of incest and the hallucinatory intensity of the writing were rare in Canadian literature in those days, but even scarier was the thought that this bloodcurdling fantasy, as … [Read more...] about Will American Readers Ever Catch on to Marie-Claire Blais?
In a recent interview, the writer Malcolm Gladwell said that one of his goals as an author is “to get people to take human psychology seriously and to respect the complexity of human behavior and motivations.” Gladwell, who has been a staff writer at The New Yorker for more than two decades, could offer a master class in the analysis of human behavior and the complexities of our decision-making processes. Over the years, he has written about topics as varied as the neurological causes of violent crime, the evolution of criminal profiling, the invention of the birth-control pill, and the psychology behind religious fanaticism. He has also written six books, including “The Tipping Point” and “Blink.” His latest book, “Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know,” is a provocative look at the detrimental ways in which we often misconstrue the motivations and intentions of others. This week, we’re … [Read more...] about Sunday Reading: The World of Malcolm Gladwell
1. A Better Man by Louise Penny. The 15th book in the “Chief Inspector Gamache” series. The search for a missing girl is imperiled by rising floodwaters across the province. 2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. A woman who survived alone in the marsh becomes a murder suspect. 3. The Girl Who Lived Twice by David Lagercrantz. Mikael Blomkvist helps Lisbeth Salander put her past behind her in the latest installment of Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” series. 4. The Dark Side by Danielle Steel. Painful childhood memories surface for Zoe Morgan when she has a child of her own. 5. The Inn by James Patterson and Candice Fox. A former Boston police detective who is now an innkeeper must shield a seaside town from a crew of criminals. 6. One Good Deed by David Baldacci. A World War II veteran on parole must find the real killer in a small town or face going back to jail. 7. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. Two boys respond to horrors at a Jim Crow-era … [Read more...] about Bestsellers: Sept. 15