Monthly Archives: January 2014

Lit at Lark – Building a Literary Community

Last night I attended a reading series, “Lit at Lark,” where I discovered four debut novelists who read from their works and talked about their writing process. It was an intimate event,  held in a side room at the Lark Café, with standing room only by the time we arrived. After the reading, and a brief Q and A, the authors mingled with the crowd.

Henriette Lazaridis Power read from, The Clover House, which tells the story of a Greek American woman who travels to Greece in the early naughts to claim an inheritance and in the process learns about a family secret her mother has kept from her.

Carley Moore read from a work-in-progress, but her young adult book, The Stalker Chronicles, came out in 2012 and tells the story of a high school girl working to overcome a her label as a stalker.

Helen Wan read from The Partner Track, a novel about an Asian American female lawyer, Ingrid, who is on track to be the first minority female partner in a large Wall Street law firm. I found her excerpts to be funny and moving as Ingrid negotiates the culture of her firm.

And Rachel Cantor read from A Highly Unlikely Scenario, which came out last week and has already been reviewed in the Times. It’s a speculative novel, set in the near future, with a main character, Leonard, who works as a “listener” at a pizza company.

It was fun to discover these writers, and this reading series, which brings authors to the Kensington/Ditmas area of Brooklyn. And in honor of MLK Day, I want to give a shout out to the series’ curator, Amy Shearn, for the community she is building with this series. Thank you, Amy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Hanging Judge, by Michael Ponsor

Hanging_Judge

The Hanging Judge

By Michael Ponsor

Open Road Media, 2013

376 pages

This debut novel is a legal drama centering around a capital case in Massachusetts.

After a drive by shooting ends in the death of both a drug dealer and an innocent bystander, Clarence “Moon” Hudson, an African-American man with a checkered past and a new wife and baby, is accused of both murders. Although Massachusetts does not have the death penalty, the US attorney’s office uses RICO statues to try the murders as a federal death case. Judge Norcross presides over the case, the first Massachusetts judge on a death trail in many years. Norcross and Moon are two of many characters–including the defense counsel (Bill Redpath), the assistant US attorney (Lydia Gomez-Larsen), the judge’s clerks, cops, witnesses, the victims’ families and Moon’s family, who are turned upside down by the charges. Interwoven in the novel is the story of two Irish men, who in the 19th century were accused of, an executed for, a murder they did not commit and for which they were later exonerated by Governor Dukakis.

I don’t read a lot of legal dramas, but I picked up this book because my late father was a legal researcher who spent his life trying to prove that there was discrimination in the way the death penalty was applied. I had not seen a lot of novels that explored the same subject and I was curious. This book is well paced and Ponsor builds suspense around the trial. As the evidence against Moon is collected, I was not sure if he was guilty or not. Ponsor, a judge himself, also does a really good job at showing the weight of working on a capital case for both attorneys and the judge. No one wants to be the person who participates in a trial where an innocent man is killed. And yet at the same time, the novel shows how our legal system is as much a show of believability as it is a quest for “truth.” This book is a good look at the legal system and a well-paced legal drama.

I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

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Big Books, part two

Fireworks

Happy New Year!

I want to start the new year by looping back to the post I made about big books in November. There is a larger appetite for a long read than I expected and comments made to that post made me realize that big books have deep roots for readers of sci fi/fantasy as well as non-fiction.

Reading The Goldfinch reminded me of the pleasures of a long book and how it transports you into another world, how it is almost like a companion on a trip. I want to share excerpts from a comment posted about the power of the big book. I thought these comments summed it up well and the book referred to, Hilary Thayer Hamann’s Anthropology of an American Girl, is a debut novel that came out a couple years ago, clocking in around 600 pages. Thanks TB for this insightful comment:

“Anthropology of an American Girl was longer than most I’ve read in a while. And reflecting on that I think I’d like to read another, in the midst of so much that is fleeting …a good big book doesn’t get lost in the flurry. In fact it will keep me still long enough and noticeably so (yes the physicality of it is essential), a choice must be made to stop and read rather than reading everywhere in the cracks of life, but to choose to read rather than run out with it in my bag, and that is lovely. It got my attention like a close friend, the same kind of space as writing a paper letter, and the quality of that kind of time is so different from the way I’ve come to read that it felt like returning to an old house…”

I liked how she talked about the physicality of a long read, how it is a way to slow us down in our over-saturated world, and how reading a long book feels familiar, as if we are returning to an older, less hurried self. I felt all of those things while engrossed in The Goldfinch and have a new fondness for the big book. Thanks for all your comments on that topic.

Next up, I’m reviewing The Hanging Judge, by Michael Ponsor, a legal drama about a capital case, after which I will review a couple of memoirs.

To a fruitful year of reading, books long and short!

Photo Credit: By Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez via Wikimedia Commons

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