The Writer's Life
Reading with... David Bell
|photo: Glen Rose Photography
David Bell is the author of Bring Her Home and Since She Went Away. He's an associate professor of English at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky., where he directs the MFA program. He received an M.A. in creative writing from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a Ph.D. in American literature and creative writing from the University of Cincinnati. Somebody's Daughter (Berkley, July 10, 2018) is his eighth novel.
On your nightstand now:
Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser. Not only is Jessica a talented writer, but she's also become a friend. (I overlook the fact that she roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers.) Her first novel, Almost Missed You, was excellent, and her second promises more of the same. Who could resist a story about a night of wine drinking around a fire pit going wrong?
Favorite book when you were a child:
King Arthur and His Knights by Mabel Louise Robinson
I read and re-read this book in grade school. What more could you ask for as a 10-year-old? Knights, swords, friendship, betrayal, wizards, magic, love. It has everything!
Your top five authors:
Stephen King because he's Stephen King. And because when I first started reading grown-up books, he showed me how important characters are to a great story. We remember the killer clowns and haunted cars, but none of it would have mattered if King didn't make us all care deeply about the characters.
Octavia Butler because she combined big, important ideas with rich, fantastic storytelling. Her books and stories are the perfect marriage between the compelling and the thoughtful. I also heard her speak once, and her journey as a writer inspires as well. Every beginning writer should listen to her.
Elmore Leonard because I read his books over and over again, and they taught me about plot and character and language and voice. And to this day I could re-read any one of them and learn something new. One of the biggest influences on my progress as a suspense writer.
Tom Clancy because his books are big and compelling and they mix politics, war and spycraft like nobody else. He created a distinctive world and wrote with an idiosyncratic voice. I wish he'd stuck around to write more, but what we have will be read for a long, long time.
Ursula Le Guin because "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is one of the greatest short stories ever written. Because everything she wrote was literary and compelling and bursting with wisdom and ideas. A master of science fiction and fantasy.
Book you've faked reading:
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.
Let's just say I (ahem) faked reading a number of books in graduate school, but this is the one I faked the most. Because it's the longest and the densest and the least coherent. Don't tell my exam committee.
Book you're an evangelist for:
South of the Big Four by Don Kurtz.
A brilliant, compelling book about a guy who returns to his hometown and farms the land that used to belong to his family. Great characters, loads of plot and a stunning ending. If there were any justice in the world, this book would be considered a modern classic. Because it is.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Bloodstone by Karl Edward Wagner.
The cover shows a giant man in a loincloth holding a sword and flying in front of the moon. What young man wouldn't want to read about such a hero? And, by the way, the writing is excellent. Wagner is a master of both fantasy and horror.
Book you hid from your parents:
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins.
I don't know why I picked this up in the public library when I was about 14. Maybe because the cover showed a nearly naked woman with giant thumbs? But inside I found lively writing, hilarious social commentary and a bizarre cast of characters. This was a book that showed me a very different world than the one I was living in. I'll never forget it because of that. And, no, Mom and Dad wouldn't have understood. That was the point.
Book that changed your life:
Looking for Rachel Wallace by Robert B. Parker.
When I first started contemplating writing suspense novels, I read a number of Parker's books. They're all tightly plotted and concisely written. And they're also all about something more than just the resolution of the mystery. Parker's books say something. For my money, Rachel Wallace is the best of the bunch. I read it again and again, using it as a textbook for my own writing.
Favorite line from a book:
"When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon." --from The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley
Not only is The Last Good Kiss a great mystery novel that also subverts and comments on mystery novels, it opens with what has to be the greatest first line of any book I've ever read. How could you read that sentence and not keep going?
Five books you'll never part with:
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Is it the greatest vampire novel ever written? The greatest zombie novel ever written? The greatest post-apocalyptic story ever told? Yes, yes and yes. Much imitated but never equaled. A true classic that's as fresh today as it was 60 years ago.
Indian Country by Dorothy M. Johnson
A couple of these stories became classic movies: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and A Man Called Horse. All of these stories are excellent glimpses into our frontier past. Clear, sharp writing and heartbreaking characters. Johnson deserves a wider audience.
Hondo by Louis L'Amour
My dad loved Louis L'Amour, and I think this is L'Amour's best book. The tough and sentimental story of a man befriending a young boy and then falling in love with the boy's mother. The basis for a really good movie starring John Wayne, but always an amazing book to be read again and again.
Collected Stories by Flannery O'Connor
Nearly every story in the book--and it's a thick book--is memorable and can be considered a classic. O'Connor's characters are so human and so flawed and so heartbreakingly, darkly funny. These are stories I return to again and again, both as a writer and as a teacher.
Imaro by Charles Saunders
Charles Saunders deserves a wider audience as well. His hero, Imaro, came along in the '70s and showed us all something very different--fantasy set in Africa featuring a Conan-like hero and inspired by both history, myth and legend. If you loved The Black Panther, then you should really read anything by Saunders.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.
I read this book as soon as it came out, and it blew my mind. Amazing characters that seemed to jump off the page, a rich story about the closing of the west and powerful, vivid writing. I've read the book a few times since then, but nothing can replicate that first time when I was about 15, devouring all 800 pages during an Ohio summer. A great book.
Fight No More
"Too often the future was somewhere else, a land where you might find yourself one day," thinks the protagonist in the opener to Lydia Millet's wise and darkly comic story collection Fight No More. The real estate agent comes to this realization moments after the near-death of a client--he had tried to drown himself in the pool of a house she was showing him and his friends. "Easy to tell yourself the future could be staved off and nothing had to change: the present would stretch in a band of gold along the horizon, bright line joining the earth and sky."
These thoughts become a theme that snakes through each story in this interlocked collection. Each piece is set in Los Angeles and examines what it means to find, live in or leave a home. For these characters--all of them a part or living in the orbit of the same broken family--the future is hard to imagine. For some, divorce or depression has made the days ahead too painful to think about. For others, youth has blinded them to the possibility that someday their actions will have consequences. Millet's cast is richly drawn, each with a complex inner world.
Most of the protagonists are female, whose problems arise from difficult men. But there's nothing flat or predictable about their relationships, romantic or otherwise. Instead, their stories are rife with emotional complexity and surprising twists. Satirical, brutal and often poetic, Fight No More
is a collection by a PEN Award-winning writer working at the peak of her powers. --Amy Brady
, freelance writer and editor
Discover: Lydia Millet offers a dark and witty story collection about contemporary home life in Los Angeles.
$24.95, hardcover, 224p., 9780393635485
We Begin Our Ascent
Joe Mungo Reed
The narrator of Joe Mungo Reed's We Begin Our Ascent is Solomon, a professional cyclist 12 days into the Tour de France. By the time he is introduced, Solomon and his teammates are well acclimated to the rhythm of the race, their performance manically monitored by Rafael, their directeur sportif. Racing is Solomon's life; he thinks people must see him as part man, part bicycle. It is only because of his wife, Liz, and their baby boy that Solomon can imagine a life beyond racing.
Reed swiftly draws the reader into the fascinating mechanics of the race, the heart-pulsing rush of daily mountain ascents and descents, the graceful, unified movement of cyclists through the narrow lanes of villages and mountain valleys. The cyclists grab water bottles and food as they ride, cheered on by fans as they forge ahead at breakneck speed. This is indeed a breathtaking inside scoop, a close-up view of racing as most of us will never experience it.
Hanging over the sport of competitive cycling, though, is the murky world of performance-enhancing drugs. Solomon and his teammates are already medicated to the hilt with pain killers and sugared up on energy bars and sweetened water. The only thing that matters is getting their team leader, Fabrice, to the finish line in as little time as possible. Too far along to object consciously, Solomon is simultaneously repelled and seduced by Rafael's efforts to push the team to the brink of their abilities. Reed's exciting debut compassionately illustrates the life-altering impact of treacherous competition. --Shahina Piyarali
, writer and reviewer
Discover: This fast-moving sports novel features a professional cyclist and his team's push to win the Tour de France.
Simon & Schuster,
$26, hardcover, 256p., 9781501169205
The Myth of Perpetual Summer
Susan Crandall weaves a compelling, heartbreaking saga and a sensitive portrait of mental illness in her 12th novel, The Myth of Perpetual Summer. In the wake of family tragedy, Tallulah James left her Mississippi hometown at age 17, determined never to look back. But when her baby brother Walden is accused of murder nine years later, Tallulah leaves her carefully constructed life in San Francisco to see if she can help him. Her journey back home unleashes a flood of memories, and as she tries to build a case for Walden's defense, Tallulah is forced to reckon with her family's ghosts.
Crandall (Whistling Past the Graveyard
) tells the story in Tallulah's voice, shifting between the adult Tallulah's return to Mississippi in 1972 and her growing-up years in the early 1960s. The child of two brilliant, mercurial parents whose volatile relationship caused tongue-wagging in town, Tallulah coped by caring for her younger twin siblings and relying on her staunch Southern grandmother. But Granny James's pride and Tallulah's own strong will were no match for her family's brokenness. Crandall deftly explores the fault lines created by Tallulah's parents and the events that led her to flee and build her own life in California. Walden's murder charge is only a pretext for the far more interesting story of a young woman struggling to come to terms with her family's past and face her own future. Laced with sweet tea and pimiento cheese, Crandall's novel is as Southern as it is satisfying. --Katie Noah Gibson
, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams
Discover: Susan Crandall's latest novel is a heartbreaking Southern family saga and a sensitive portrait of mental illness.
$16, paperback, 368p., 9781501172014
The Perfect Couple
In The Perfect Couple
, Elin Hilderbrand
) dishes up a mysterious and superbly crafted whodunit, wrapping it around a story of domestic bliss gone awry.
As is her trademark, Hilderbrand sets her novel in Nantucket--assembling a large cast of characters who gather on the island for the sultry July wedding of 20-somethings Celeste Otis and Benjamin Winbury. Celeste is a shy, down-to-earth, middle-class zoologist whose parents have what she considers the perfect marriage. Her caring and attentive, well-to-do businessman fiancé, Benji, is the offspring of a successful mystery novelist mother and a notoriously philandering father. With Celeste's mother battling cancer, the Winburys generously offer to host the event at their posh beachfront estate, Summerland. But on the morning of the wedding, the body of the maid of honor--the bride's best friend--is found floating in the surf. Was her death accidental or the result of foul play?
Hilderbrand peels back layers of her suspenseful story by tracing the details of a suspected murder investigation, chronicling Benji and Celeste's relationship and revealing the hidden lives and agendas of others. As the Nantucket chief of police probes wedding attendees for answers, the integrity of many comes into question, along with Celeste's true feelings for her husband-to-be. A rapidly snowballing plot shifts suspicions as Hilderbrand displays a riveting grasp on insidious domestic rivalries and the secrets embedded in the human heart that can lead to unexpected, shattering consequences. --Kathleen Gerard
, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Discover: Turmoil erupts at a posh Nantucket beachfront estate when a member of a wedding party is found dead on the morning of the nuptials.
$28, hardcover, 480p., 9780316375269
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Witchmark, C.L. Polk's debut, introduces a magically infused world reminiscent of early 20th-century England, with gas-lit rooms, cloaks and carriages.
Dr. Miles Singer has created a life for himself mostly devoid of magic. Having fled his powerful family as a young man, he joined the Aeland army, went to war against the Laneeri, and now works in a veterans' hospital. But in a world where most witches are sent to asylums, supposedly for their own safety, Miles must be careful about how--and where--he uses his magical gifts. When a handsome gentleman brings a poisoned journalist into the hospital for treatment, this careful balancing act becomes increasingly hard to maintain--especially as his feelings for the gentleman evolve. And when his sister, a member of the elite magical class, shows up on his doorstep, he is drawn right back into the world he fled so long ago.
Polk's worldbuilding is done with finesse; information on the magical systems at play in Aeland are revealed smoothly and as appropriate to the story. But the magic is only the smallest part of what makes Witchmark
the impressive novel that it is. The subtle ways Polk builds her characters, reveals the systems under which they live and unwinds a complicated, twisting plot with both personal and political implications are testaments to her skill as a storyteller. She builds toward a satisfying yet unpredictable conclusion, but with just enough wiggle room that these beloved characters may make appearances in future installments--which would be a welcome treat. --Kerry McHugh
, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm
Discover: A debut fantasy novel introduces a gas-lit world where most witches are banished to asylums--unless they are of the wealthy ruling class.
$15.99, paperback, 320p., 9781250162687
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
Antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo writes that white fragility--the defensive reactions of white people when they are challenged racially--is "triggered by discomfort and anxiety, it is born of superiority and entitlement." She dissects the phrase and its cultural implications to try to explain why it's so hard for many white people to talk about racism.
Carefully breaking down many of what she considers myths created by whites--such as claims of color-blindness, meritocracy and the belief that humans are objective beings--DiAngelo shows that racism is embedded in the culture. It isn't just a black-and-white issue of explicit hate or violence; she argues that all people are now born into an institutionalized system of racism and have no say about whether they will be affected by it. They are, however, responsible for their role. And for the white populations, this is unsettling; it disrupts the white equilibrium. To defend themselves from racist implications, they often react with anger, denial and withdrawal, instead of examining their behaviors and attempting to change them. This protective instinct shuts down the conversation and stops any advancement in race relations.
DiAngelo handles this potentially explosive topic with care and tact, even using examples of her own racist actions, but she is also forthcoming about its complexity and challenges. Efforts to make white people "comfortable" in the conversation erect further barriers to change. White Fragility
is a book everyone should be exposed to. With any luck, most who are will be inspired to search themselves and interrupt their contributions to racism. --Jen Forbus
Discover: An antiracist educator illuminates society's role in the modern adaptation of racism, showing how even well-meaning white people contribute to it.
$16, paperback, 192p., 9780807047415
Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World's Most Famous Detective Writer
On December 21, 1908, Marion Gilchrist, an elderly, wealthy spinster, was murdered in her flat in Glasgow. The police were immediately on the case, which featured a missing diamond brooch and the eyewitness account of Nellie Lambie, Gilchrist's maid. Within days, the police identified Oscar Slater as the culprit. Slater--"gambler, foreigner, Jew"--was convicted despite shifting eyewitness testimony and dubious evidence, and sentenced to life at Peterhead, Scotland's most notorious prison. It took nearly two decades for justice to prevail, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the mind behind literature's most clever detective, Sherlock Holmes, was the man for the job.
In Conan Doyle for the Defense, Margalit Fox (who has penned more than 1,200 obituaries for the New York Times) reconstructs one of the 20th century's most notable miscarriages of justice. Slater, having "managed to become a sterling embodiment of everything that post-Victorian Britain had been taught to fear," stood little chance of a fair trial. Criminology, which identified criminals "before the fact," lingered from the 19th century. It was criminalistics--"scientific, rationalist, exquisitely abductive"--embodied by Conan Doyle and his creation Sherlock Holmes that would free Slater from his wrongful conviction.
Fox paints vivid portraits of Slater and Conan Doyle through correspondence and court transcripts. Befitting a crime novel of the era, Slater's plea for help was written on a tiny scroll that fellow prisoner William Gordon hid in his dentures upon release from Peterhead. While criminal justice has undoubtedly advanced since the early 1900s, Slater's presumed guilt because of his "otherness" is unfortunately still all too familiar today. --Frank Brasile
Discover: Sherlock Holmes may be fictional, but in real life, author Arthur Conan Doyle used Holmesian logic to free a German Jew wrongly convicted of a crime in Scotland.
$27, hardcover, 352p., 9780399589454
Health & Medicine
Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through the World's Strangest Brains
Science journalist Helen Thomson's first book, Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through the World's Strangest Brains, draws inspiration from the late Oliver Sacks in its empathetic portraits of people whose brains shed light on neuroscientific thought. Thomson seeks to revive the classical case study in all of its humanistic detail, forgoing bloodless objectivity for quirky explorations of the subjects' personalities. Thomson introduces the reader to Bob, whose memories never seem to fade; Rubén, who sees colorful auras when he looks at people; and Matar, who perceives himself turning into a tiger. Thomson uses these outlying cases to reflect on the typical functioning of the brain, explaining aspects of the brain that are relatively well understood, as well as delving into more obscure territory.
In surveying the unusual, Thomson reminds the reader that there are many perspectives on reality--perspectives that can shift with surprising ease, as can personalities. When writing about Luke, who developed pedophilic urges due to a tumor, Thomson concludes: "We tend to think of our personality as something that is steadfast and strong, but in truth it can rapidly desert us." Along with this discomfiting thought comes appreciation for the staggering variety of human experience. Sylvia's persistent auditory hallucinations, for example, come in the form of musical passages that she mostly tries to ignore. The case studies described in Unthinkable
vary in degree from benign to frightening, but each serves as a useful entry point into a fascinating field of study. --Hank Stephenson
, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Discover: Unthinkable presents a series of fascinating case studies in the tradition of Oliver Sacks, pairing anecdotes with scientific explanations.
$27.99, hardcover, 288p., 9780062391162
Northland: A 4,000-Mile Journey Along America's Forgotten Border
It takes a lot more than the vague "from sea to shining sea" description to establish one of the world's longest national borders. As Maine native Porter Fox (Deep) learns in his journey along the Canada/United States border, it took nearly 150 years to lay monument markers along the western 49th parallel boundary line. In the east, however, much of the border roams through lakes, rivers, bays and canals--Fox's travel by kayak or freighter could just as easily put him in one country as the other. Northland is an account of his journeys along the northern edge of the United States, and includes a healthy dose of the history of early explorers and Native American resettlements in the northern Great Plains.
He begins in tiny Lubec, Maine, the easternmost town in the United States, originally "populated by bootleggers, businessmen, snake-oil salesmen, fishing families, smugglers, shipbuilders, and frontiersmen." Following the route of many explorers, he makes his way to the St. Lawrence River and into the Great Lakes. From the western tip of Superior to the Pacific Ocean, however, Fox trades his kayak and life jacket for a good truck and camper. Supposedly nailed to the 49th parallel as the "longest straight border in the world," up close, the boundary squiggles around and the highway gets diverted through various Indian reservations, mountain ranges, lakes and dense forests.
touches on various political disputes related to Native American issues, oil and gas production, and fishing and water rights, it is more an engaging travel memoir. Like the meandering border itself, Fox wanders down whatever path catches his interest. --Bruce Jacobs
, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe
, Wichita, Kan.
Discover: In an enlightening travel memoir, journalist Porter Fox takes us on a trek along the often remote, often loosely marked border between the United States and Canada.
$26.95, hardcover, 272p., 9780393248852
Children's & Young Adult
My Year in the Middle
Lila Quintero Weaver
When sixth-grader Lu Olivera discovers an unexpected passion for running, she also finds a potential friend in fellow speedster Belinda Gresham. Unfortunately, 1970s Red Grove, Ala., is not an easy place for this friendship. Although public schools have officially become integrated, Lu, an immigrant from Argentina, and Belinda, a black girl, are not supposed to "mix," according to the culture of the community. School may be desegregated, but their classroom reflects the reality of the racial status: "White kids sit on one side and black kids on the other." Lu is "one of the few middle-rowers who split the difference," not belonging clearly to either group. The kids in the middle rows "believe in equal rights and all that good stuff," and this "makes [them] weirdos in some people's eyes." Everyone in the class is closely following the upcoming primary election in which ex-governor and segregationist George Wallace is trying to reclaim his old position from the current moderate governor, Albert Brewer.
Based on true events in Lila Quintero Weaver's own 1970s childhood as an Argentinian immigrant in a small Alabama town, My Year in the Middle
is a moving story about finding one's center in the midst of overwhelming external pressure. Lu is believable as a girl who is afraid to "stick [her] neck out too far." And she's genuinely likable as a girl who wants nothing more than to find a friend who shares interests and a sense of humor, even if she doesn't share a skin color. Weaver writes vividly about the spaces in the middle, between black and white. Any reader who has struggled to find a safe and happy place between polarities will appreciate Weaver's deep understanding of just how difficult--and rewarding--this can be. --Emilie Coulter
, freelance writer and editor
Discover: 1970s Alabama is a tough place to develop a mixed-race friendship in this beautifully written novel about real-life events in the painful era of school segregation.
$15.99, hardcover, 288p., ages 8-12, 9780763692315
Three months ago, Grant Franklin Tavish V caused a fatal car accident and he has been "choking under the weight of it all" ever since. His senator father insists upon making the situation disappear, but Grant's guilt makes him want somehow to right his wrongs. The high school senior embarks on a solo cave excursion--it's a male tradition in his family, but he has no intention of returning. When a spontaneous collapse traps him and four other teens underground, though, he agrees to help them get out. But someone--or something--doesn't want the teens to survive the ordeal.
The Unfortunates by Kim Liggett (The Last Harvest) is a riveting psychological thriller that explores guilt as felt by an unreliable, paranoid narrator. Grant hears whispers, sees shadows and is convinced someone is following him, but he questions whether any of it is real: "something pushes me, or my knees give out." Grant sees threats that aren't there ("Maybe it's all in my head, or hypothermia setting in"), but then admits he could be experiencing what is called "the rapture," an extreme reaction to darkness that makes a person "see things... hear things." And his biggest tell: he can't remember what happened after he got out of the car the night of the accident. Grant's unpredictable thoughts and reactions to his perceived reality convince the reader not to trust anything he says, thinks or does, making the book an eerie, compulsive read.
This plot-twisting, adrenaline-boost of a novel will keep readers turning the pages until its astonishing reveal. --Lana Barnes
, freelance reviewer and proofreader
Discover: In this psychological thriller, a guilt-ridden teen tries to redeem himself by helping a group of friends escape a cave collapse.
$18.99, hardcover, 224p., ages 14-up, 9780765381002
I'm Not Missing
Ever since Syd showed up in Miranda's third grade class in Las Cruces, N. Mex., the two girls have been best friends. They became even closer the summer before high school, when Syd's mother left rehab and "hightailed it to Colorado." Miranda could relate, as her own mom had taken off seven years earlier. Syd and Miranda performed a symbolic ritual of "honor and blood," swearing "to never stray from the other, and to never go after [their] mothers." Then, in the middle of senior year, Syd vanishes. She had been waiting to hear about her early admission to Stanford as the culmination of an elaborate Escape Plan, and suddenly she is "[g]one, not missing," and it's "as if Syd had never existed."
Miranda is forced to recognize "a basic truth about [her] life": content all these years to exist in the shadow of Syd's "superstar light," she has no idea "what to do or how to be or even what to look at" without her best friend by her side. Rather than walk alone past Nick, the boy she's been in love with for three years, the one who stood her up for prom, she skips class. But Nick has a secret that involves both Syd and Miranda, and he reaches out to her to talk.
Though Miranda is no closer to discovering where Syd has gone, she begins to discover herself. In her debut novel, poet Carrie Fountain writes with grace and fluidity as she reveals twists and turns that are fresh and surprising. Miranda's sweet romance with Nick proceeds in realistic fits and starts as the pair earnestly navigates the rough terrain of love and betrayal. By the end, readers will almost certainly feel hopeful about the prospects of Fountain's very real, very compelling characters. --Lynn Becker
and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI
Discover: High school senior Miranda's best friend suddenly runs away, leaving her alone to deal with life and love.
$18.99, hardcover, 336p., ages 12-up, 9781250132512
American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin
Terrance Hayes (How to Be Drawn
) has reached a new level in his work as he delivers 70 sonnets that reflect what it means to be a black American. It's important to note that these poems were composed during President Trump's first 200 days in office and encapsulate not only historical moments of adversity toward black people, but also the present-day dialogue of Black Lives Matter.
Hayes writes, "Are you not the color of this country's current threat/ Advisory? ...Are you not a flame of hollow Hellos & Hell Nos,/ A wild, tattered spirit versus what?" He addresses the recently murdered and their murderers, creating poetry from the names of shooting victims.
Emmett Till, Jimi Hendrix, Toni Morrison and many others make their way into his lyrics as he ponders what it means to be black, in love, doing drugs, having sex. He studies the insidious way racism still pervades the culture, whether through lyrics in a rap song sung by a white woman in the privacy of her car or the Confederate statues that still stand in many places. Hayes's complex use of language, his ability to slant rhyme and to build a staccato tempo enhances these sonnets. The effect is musical, beautiful and haunting, a thorough meditation on black America and the culture that surrounds it, in all its myriad variations. --Lee E. Cart
, freelance writer and book reviewer
Discover: Terrance Hayes crafts a visceral and evocative look at black America through verse.
$18, paperback, 112p., 9780143133186