Monday, January 18, 2016

A Blog in Three Sections: 1) This Week's Event 2) Daniel Reads "One Child" 3) Daniel reads Marian Thurm's New Short Story Collection.

1. Events this week!

We've just got one event this week! It turns out that our evening with John Hagedorn, author of The In$ane Chicago Way, conflicted with an important community meeting. Fortunately, we we able to reschedule Professor Hagedorn for Friday, February 19, 7 pm. Cross out and remark your calendars!

On Thursday, January 21, we're cosponsoring the first event of 2016 at the Lynden Sculpture Garden. The Women's Speaker Series, produced by Milwaukee Reads and cosponsored by Bronze Optical, presents Jennifer Robson, the historical fiction writer who has already written After the War is Over, and Somewhere in France. Robson is a phenomenon in Canada, where she recently had two titles on the Toronto Star top ten.

Renée Rosen, who most recently visited the Lynden Sculpture Garden for her novel, White Collar Girl, offered this praise: "Robson is a master of evoking atmospheric detail that transports readers back in time and place. I loved every page!"

Tickets are $25, $20 for Lynden members, and include admission to the event, a copy of her new novel, Moonlight Over Paris, and light refreshments provided by MKE Localicious. You can register on the Lynden website or call them at (414) 446-8794. The sculpture garden is located at 2145 W. Brown Deer Rd. in River Hills. For folks who are in the Chicago area, Robson will also be at Andersons on January 20 and Women and Children First on January 22.

2. Daniel reads, part I

While recently visiting my sister Claudia, I brought her some books for her library. Since she teaches Chinese, one of the titles I brought along was One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment, by Mei Fong. But than for some reason I finished the two books faster than I expected and made her a deal - I would temporarily ungift One Child and send it to her later.

The book was meant to come out later in the spring and while they moved it up, I wondered if the finished copy was edited to reflect China's recent acknowledgement that they were going to formally end this experiment.  Per Fong, they had already pierced holes in the policy, so that for example, rural and ethnic minorities were not subject to the restriction, nor were families where both parents were only children. That said, Fong's book, which is more of an overview of the policy and its implications than a continuous narrative, shows that the implications over this policy will last well into the future.

Here's my rec for One Child: "In the 1980s, following the disastrous Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward, China came up with a new social engineering experiment to drive economic goals. The one-child policy was created to better allocate resources, and many think it helped China create its amazing growth spurt over the last thirty years. But Mei Fong, a former writer for The Wall Street Journal, looks at all the complications that ensued, from an inverted pyramid, where a smaller and smaller working class has to care for retirees (women retire at 50!) to a generation with the largest male-to-female ratio in the world. With a one child policy, the country’s traditional preference for sons has created numerous untenable situations. The Sichuan Earthquake of 2008 created huge numbers of parentless couples, many of whom were sterilized. And what about the Chinese adoption boom of the 1990s? Were those babies really orphans, or were many out-of-plan infants sold to adoption agencies? And now with the policy scheduled to end, what will happen to the enormous infrastructure in place to enforce it? Fong’s survey is informative and engaging, with a touch a memoir; the author herself was a Han Chinese born in Malaysia, and she is one of five kids, all girls." (Daniel Goldin)

3. Daniel reads, part II

Back in the day when I could read 15 books a month and was carefree regarding what I read (as opposed to now, when 50-75% of my reading is driven by event programming), I was a voracious devourer of short stories. It was not unusual for my favorite book of the month (for of course I rated them) to be a collection, like Francine Prose's Women and Children First (do you think Prose read at the Chicago store when her book came out?), which I liked more than many of her novels. I still think about how Pittsburghy the stories of Sharon Dilworth were and immediately had to look up the name of her first collection, which was Women Drinking Benedictine.

Along with these writers was Marian Thurm, one of those writers I was always cheering on, but just couldn't seem to get a break, as she changed publishers with almost every book. Hey, at least she was published! Amusingly enough, three of her first four books were published by Viking, Random House, and Bantam, which are now all sister imprints. The fourth was at the Ann Patty-led Poseidon Press, which published the first book of Thurm's that I read, These Things Happen. I was a Poseidon Press groupie in those days, and am amused that the Wikipedia entry is only concerned with the fantasy and horror, though I must admit publishing George R.R. Martin early in his career is worth a shout out.

Admittedly I was more of a fan of the short stories than the novels, at least until The Clairvoyant came along, which I loved. Alas, it never actually came out in a trade paperback, moving from a Zoland hardcover to a Harper mass market. I kept waiting for them to convert it to trade, but I don't think it did well enough for them to try.

I was very excited to see Today is Not Your Day come from Sixoneseven books. We'd previously hosted an event with their author Douglas Trevor, author of Girls I Know.

Here's my rec for Today is Not Your Day: "With the next generation of New York writers decamped to lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and even Queens, it’s almost nostalgic to read about the foibles of characters coping with life on the Upper West and East Sides. It’s particularly nostalgic for me, and not just because I spent a lot of time in those neighborhoods when I was younger, but also because Marian Thurm was one of my favorite short story writers of the 1980s, and reading her stories was like meeting up with an old friend. At this point, Thurmites are dealing with divorce and death, like the widow who questions when she and her boyfriend show up to Dad’s funeral in Crocs, but could t her grudge really be that her daughter has never finished reading the book she wrote many years ago? In another tale, teenage girls who’ve perfected acting act work the last nerve of their aunt, only she’s not thrilled when their birth mom is discovered at Roy Rogers, on the road to straightening herself out. Note that a story partly set at Roy Rogers has me suspecting these stories aren’t all freshly minted. Think Laurie Colwin, Cathleen Schine, or the contemporary work of Alice Mattison, not the older Brooklyn immigrant tales. And now that I know that they exist, I’m off to hunt down the two novels she wrote under the pseudonym Lucy Jackson." (Daniel Goldin)

So it turns out that Thurm did publish two books with one publisher, St. Martin's, only it was under the pseudonym. But I should note she did also did two books with Bantam. And keeping with her track, it turns out her next novel comes from Permanent Press. It's called The Good Life and comes out in April. So far I've hand-sold one copy of Today is Not Your Day, to my friend John, who was another reader of Thurm from way back.

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