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Tuesday, Sep 8, 2009

Ian McEwan came to mind tonight while watching the Dodgers-Padres game on TV. God knows how baseball and a British novelist intersect but such are the wanderings of the human mind.


I have had a troubled relationship with the dark and sometimes macabre novels of Ian McEwan. I first read his Booker Prize-winning novel Amsterdam (1998) while recuperating from my first bout of severe psoriasis in 2000. In those days I was bed-ridden with punishing lesions afflicting eighty percent of my body and seeping into my bones and piles of library books was my only refuge from the pain.


I read some good ones back then: James Houston’s fictional chronicle of the Donner Party’s ordeal, Continental Divide; Ron Hansen’s stirring stigmata drama, Mariette in Ecstasy; the riveting biography, Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life by Richard Ben Cramer, and Bruce Wagner’s devastating L.A. satire, Still Holding.


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Wednesday, Apr 22, 2009

On April 21, 1910, author Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, died in Redding, Connecticut


Mark Twain was the heavyweight champion in a time when giants roamed the earth and our color commentary was written in ink. Twain, along with Melville and Hawthorne, represents the holy trinity of 19th Century American fiction: the great white hope. But Twain was arguably the archetypal American writer; certainly that was William Faulkner’s assessment. And if Faulkner says Twain was the “father of American literature” than Twain is the father of American literature, end of discussion. Even still, he was more than that. A lecturer, a satirist, critic, commentator; a genuine public figure and ambassador for the well-examined life.


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Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009
Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman


Laura Lippman is the creator of the popular, award-winning Tess Monaghan novel series. Laura was a reported for many years at the Baltimore Sun, following on from her father, respected Sun journalist, Theo Lippman. Jr. Her latest book is a collection of short stories entitled Hardly Knew Her. Laura also recently contributed to the Poe anthology, In the Shadow of the Master: Classic Tales by Edgar Allan Poe and Essays. edited by Michael Connelly.


Laura Lippman is today’s Re:Print Special Guest, here to answer another Five Questions About Edgar Allan Poe.


Describe your first Poe experience.
I think it was in a Classic Comic! The Gold Bug. But it got me to look up the real thing.


What would you consider Poe’s greatest work, and why?
That’s tough because I haven’t read everything. But while I owe my career to his fiction, if I had to read just one facet of Poe’s work, it would probably be his poetry. It’s quite beautiful.


Hardly Knew HerAuthor: Laura LippmanHarperCollinsOctober 2008, 304 pages, $23.95

Hardly Knew Her
Author: Laura Lippman
HarperCollins
October 2008, 304 pages, $23.95


How has Poe’s work shaped you as a reader/writer?
All crime writers owe Poe a debt. Granted, if he hadn’t “invented” the modern-day detective story, perhaps someone else would have. But he did, and every mystery writer follows in his footsteps.


Which of your own works owes the largest debt to Poe and why?
Easy as A-B-C is an out and out homage to Poe, a modern-day version of The Cask of Amontillado.


If you were hosting the celebrations for Poe’s big day, how would have your guests celebrate?
I would cancel the party and ask my guests to make a donations to a nonprofit that supports the arts and young writers. Poe struggled so to make a living. Those writers who really want to honor his memory should make sure they are helping other writers. On Poe’s birthday, in fact, I’ll be teaching at a writers workshop.


Laura Lippman is online here.


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Monday, Jan 26, 2009

Yesterday marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, fondly known as the Bard of Scotland. Celebrations around the globe toasted the poet and lyricist responsible for bringing Scottish poetry to the world and Auld Lang Syne to us on New Year’s Eve—‘Hogmanay’ on his home turf.


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The Daily Record detailed some of the events taking place in Scotland to celebrate the day, while the BBC News provided a summary, accompanied by a photo of an actor reciting some of Burns’ poetry outside the poet’s family home in his birthplace of Alloway, Scotland. On NPR’s All Things Considered program, there was an interview with Alison Jones, the winner of the “Robert Burns World Federation Secondary Schools Competition Festival” for reciting his poetry.


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Traditionally, Burns’ anniversary is celebrated with haggis and whisky, and this year is a special landmark, with gatherings likely taking place in every city where those of Scottish descent reside, as well as those who feel, rather than share, that connection in their blood. The makers of The Famous Grouse whisky certainly planned ahead, crafting 250 bottles of a 37 year-old whisky which are now being donated for charity fund-raising efforts around the world. Though he only made it to his own 37th birthday, Burns’ legacy has withstood the test of time, and his influence has been felt for over two hundred years in poetry and song, from Scots Wha Hae to Tam O’Shanter. If you missed the celebration yesterday, feel free to raise a glass tonight.


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Thursday, Jan 22, 2009
A Matter of Justiceby Charles ToddHarperCollinsDecember 2008, 336 pages, $24.99

A Matter of Justice
by Charles Todd
HarperCollins
December 2008, 336 pages, $24.99


Charles Todd is the pen-name used by mother and son writing team, Charles and Caroline Todd. They are the authors of 11 books featuring Scotland Yard inspector, Ian Rutledge. Separating the Todds’ detective hero from others within the genre is his secret: Rutledge is haunted by a young soldier he was forced to execute during the First World War. Rutledge is back in A Matter of Justice, released last month. In this new work, Rutledge must piece together the clues to solve the murder of Private Harold Quarles, found brutally murdered at his estate. Quarles, Rutledge discovers, made a horrible choice following a attack on a military train during the Boer war. He’s hardly the most admired man in his community, and the suspects are many. Rutledge must sort though the rabble, while sorting out his own demons.


Charles and Caroline Todd are today’s Re:Print Special Guests here to answer Five Questions about Edgar Allan Poe.


Describe your first Poe experience.
Caroline Todd: My father read The Gold Bug to me when I was seven and our beach day was rained out. I read it to Charles when he was eight or so. I wondered if he, as a boy, would picture it differently, and he did—he remembers the action while I remembered the deciphering of the code.

What would you consider Poe’s greatest work, and why?
Charles Todd: I’d say Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter. They were the first mystery stories, and all mystery writers owe Poe a debt for creating a fascinating detective. That’s why the symbol of Mystery Writers of America is the bust of Poe. 
Caroline Todd: I have to agree. But I love his poems as well, and the lyricism with which he wrote them.

How has Poe’s work shaped you as a reader/writer?
Charles Todd: As a reader? Probably his use of words has had the greatest influence, aside from his detective stories. And as a writer, that’s true also. Use of language is an important tool, and when you grow up reading good books and poetry, this becomes a yardstick for your own work. 
Caroline Todd: Because my father and mother read to us as children, I still hear their voices as I read Poe now, and the fascinating thing is that when I write, I hear the voices of characters in my head as if they too were being read aloud. It’s a marvelous way to edit yourself as a writer, and I recommend it.


Charles and Caroline Todd

Charles and Caroline Todd


Which of your own works owes the largest debt to Poe and why?
Charles and Caroline Todd: The second book in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series required us to write a body of poetry for a woman who is dead and possibly a murderess. The clues to finding the killer are in the slim volumes she’d written under a man’s name, and our readers had to see what Rutledge was seeing in order to following his thinking. That’s playing fair. If we hadn’t had a background in poetry and a sense of the use of words to convey feeling and atmosphere, especially Poe’s, we could never have created [fictional character and poet] O.A. Manning’s works.

If you were hosting the celebrations for Poe’s big day, how would have your guests celebrate?
Caroline Todd: There’s a Park Ranger in the Poe House in Philadelphia who did an impersonation of Poe for the Delaware Valley Sisters in Crime chapter. We’d invite her because she’s so believable, and ask her to greet our guests.
Charles Todd: And we’d ask each guest to bring something representative of their favorite story or poem. I think because of the shadows in Poe’s life and his early death, it would be interesting to celebrate by candlelight and mark major events of each decade in a moveable feast of courses, and a few words from “Poe” himself as we acknowledged each stage. Anybody know where we could find a cask of Amontillado? 


Charles and Caroline Todd are currently on tour around the country. Visit their website for details.


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