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Thursday, Jan 26, 2012
Clare Tomalin's timely biography focuses on how the man who wrote both heroes and villains so well found elements of both in himself.

In the last chapter of her biography, Claire Tomalin speaks of one of Dickens’ earliest biographers: his daughter, Katey (Kate Perugini). “Katey spoke out,” Tomalin tells us, “as no one had done before, mixing love and anger, but clear in what she said.” Tomalin speaks in voices of both love and anger, but for the most part, succeeds in narrating a clear-eyed view of a man whose great fault was that almost no one in the real world could captivate him the way a creature of his own imagination could. Most of the real people to whom he did show consistent attention and affection were either unattainable in some way, or themselves set him up on such a pedestal that it was impossible for him to turn away such adoration.


This explains his neglect and eventual dismissal of his wife, Catherine, with whom he had ten children, who was rarely documented to have spoken a bad word about him, and of whom Katey Dickens said, “My poor mother was afraid of my father. She was never allowed to express an opinion—never allowed to say what she felt.” In Tomalin’s biography, Catherine appears as a model housekeeper and loving spouse, content to serve as a prop to Dickens for years while he set first one and then another of her sisters on pedestals far above her (he wanted to be buried next to one of her sisters, and the other was his housekeeper even after he divorced Catherine).


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Friday, Dec 16, 2011
The best way to compliment a writer, as a writer, is to recognize, with neither regret nor resignation, that on your best day you will always stand in awe of what they achieved.

The best way to compliment a writer, as a reader, is to recommend their work to others. That I wholeheartedly do, and have done.


The best way to compliment a writer, as a writer, is to recognize, with neither regret nor resignation, that on your best day you will always stand in awe of what they achieved.


Reading and responding to the Hitch is ceaselessly inspiring and seldom less than exhilarating. More, it is an instigatory experience: it compels you to get involved more deeply with the world around and inside you. Reading any worthwhile writer is an act of celebration, a shared reaction to the act of creation. More, it is an exercise in how to write, read, think and live.


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Wednesday, Nov 30, 2011
by Mary McNamara - Los Angeles Times (MCT)
Agatha Christie believed in storytelling and did not confuse it with decanting the contents of her interior life and stretching it out along a contrived plot tarted up with simile, symbolism and encyclopedic information about secret societies.

LOS ANGELES — Last summer, while browsing in a used bookstore in San Luis Obispo, Calif., I discovered something I thought no longer existed — an Agatha Christie novel I had not read. Anyone monitoring my vital signs would have thought I had discovered the next Gnostic gospel or a lost play of Shakespeare’s. Clutching it tightly as if someone might snatch it from me, I quickly bought it. I promised myself I would take my time, savor the experience and read only a few pages at a time. Instead, I finished it the next day.


Now it resides beside its sisters in my Agatha box, a crate at the foot of my bed. I don’t own all of the 66 mystery novels and 14 short-story collections that Christie wrote, but I have most of them and I read them over and over again, in rotation, throughout the year.


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Friday, Sep 9, 2011
by Susan Carpenter - Los Angeles Times (MCT)
“The Decemberists will be pretty quiet for a bit,” said Colin Meloy, adding that it will be a few years before fans see another record. In the meantime, Meloy plans to give this series of at least three books, which begins with Wildwood, his full attention.

LOS ANGELES — A baby is snatched by crows. His sister treks into the woods to find him and is followed by one Curtis Mehlberg, “son of Lydia and David, resident of Portland, Ore., comic-book fan boy, persecuted loner.”


Wild adventures ensue.


If the story sounds like modern-day folklore from the band the Decemberists, it is, in a way. The sturm und drang just isn’t set to a catchy blend of the band’s bouzouki and harmonized vocals. It’s the premise of a new book series for middle-grade readers from the Decemberists’ front man, Colin Meloy, and his illustrator wife, Carson Ellis.


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Thursday, Aug 25, 2011
by Cary Darling - McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
In the second decade of the 21st century, some of the most compelling contemporary crime-fiction novels are either set in or coming from Africa.

We sure have come a long way since Out of Africa and The Flame Trees of Thika.


In the second decade of the 21st century, some of the most compelling contemporary crime-fiction novels are either set in or coming from Africa. Much as Scandinavia became associated with the genre a few years back—thanks in large part to Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy—Africa may become a new capital of literary crime.


Cape Town’s Roger Smith, who writes with the brutal beauty of an Elmore Leonard in a very bad mood, is at the forefront. His 2009 debut, Mixed Blood, has been optioned for a film starring Samuel L. Jackson and directed by Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger). His second book, Wake Up Dead, is also going Hollywood, with director Mark Tonderai (Hush) attached.


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