Category Archives: Book Clubs

Interview at Midwestern Gothic

Thanks for editor Audrey Meyers for her salient and insightful questions, my interview was published today at Midwestern Gothic magazine:

http://midwestgothic.com/2017/03/interview-robert-vaughan/

I also want to thank editors-in-chief and founders Jeff Phaller and Robert James Russell. I had the honor of my work appearing at MG in two of their early print journals, and also Kathy Fish and I were interviewed for our book, RIFT, at the MG website in 2016. Midwestern Gothic has expanded into the book business (MG Press) and offer “The Lake Prize” for Midwestern authors to enter. Be sure to check them out, especially if you live in the VAST MIDWEST!!!

I’m reading Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women. Love it so far!

What are you reading? Any words about it?

Also, an image from last night’s Red Oak reading at Comedy Sports (which was fantastic). Me wearing my all-new Ron L. Kibble wearable art hoodie (Ron painted the amazing cover of FUNHOUSE). Thanks RON, and thanks Jonnie for the shot:

The Arrival of FUNHOUSE, my 5th book

My new book, FUNHOUSE, has emerged from the dark recesses of a playground. Unknown Press, and Bud Smith made this wonderful experience possible.

I want to deeply thank Ron L. Kibble for his tremendously powerful cover art!(www.ronkibbleart.com).

FUNHOUSE has four sections: Balloon Darts pierces short fiction; Hall of Mirrors “Another Brick in the Wall, part 4” delights with 26 kids in a classroom, and art sketches by Bob Schofield; Tunnel of Love Divas, “And the Winters Cannot Fade Her” proposes prose poems, layout, and graphic design by Eryk Wenziak; and  Ferris Wheel churns short stories of a more traditional length.

I want to thank Michael Gillan Maxwell and Rob Parrish for their extensive edits. And to Robert Scotellaro, Megan Giddings, and Len Kuntz, three writers whose work always brings me awe and joy- your blurbs are exquisite! Many thanks to you all!

Mostly I have to thank Bud Smith, who’s UNKNOWN PRESS also published RIFT and many other amazing books during its run. Thanks Bud. So honored to create another book together.

From Bud Smith: “You can PayPal me $14 at budsmithwrites@gmail.com and I’ll mail you the book direct. Otherwise FUNHOUSE is available on Amazon, for a couple extra dollars. Thank ya over the moon.”

Amazon direct link: https://www.amazon.com/Funhouse-Robert-Vaughan/dp/099830901X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486394686&sr=8-1&keywords=funhouse+robert+vaughan

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John Madera of Rhizomatic Public Relations assembled an extensive list of “The Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2017” and FUNHOUSE was mentioned by John. He also asked me, and several other independent writers for their own lists at Big Other. Thanks, John: https://bigother.com/2017/02/04/most-anticipated-small-press-books-of-2017/

2016 Reading List

As a writer, it’s a given that one reads. Some of my favorite childhood memories are discovering new books. That excitement has never gone away. And, so although it’s not quite the year end, I wanted to post my annual 2016 reads here:

My 2016 reading list:

I’m Not Supposed To Be Here and Neither Are You- Len Kuntz

Kinda Sorta American Dream- Steve Karas

The New York Stories- Ben Tanzer

A Fractured Mind- Robert B. Oxnam

Bone Black- Bell Hooks

Robert Altman- Mitchell Zuckhoff

Haints Stay- Colin Winette

Mira Corpora- Jeff Jackson

Lithium for Medea- Kate Braverman

In Paran- Larissa Shmailo

lined up like scars- Meg Tuite

The Sound of Gravel- Ruth Wariner

Hotels of North America- Rick Moody

The Astonished Universe- Helene Cardona

Literary Outlaw: William S. Burroughs- Ted Morgan

Keith Haring Journals

Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art- Nancy Princenthal

The Gods Are Dead- Joanna Valente

Sex and Death- Ben Tanzer

Dear Mr. You- Mary-Louise Parker

Your Sick- Elizabeth Colen

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh- Michael Chabon

Did you Ever Have a Family- Bill Clegg

Portrait of An Addict- Bill Clegg

Atlas of Remote Islands- Judith Shalansky

Short Cuts- Raymond Carver (re-read)

Ordinary People- Judith Guest (re-read)

The Art of Memoir- Mary Karr

Updike- Adam Begley

This Must Be The Place- Sean Doyle

Rimbaud- Edmund White

Secret Historian- Justin Spring

Space, in Chains- Laura Kasischke

No Stopping Train- Les Plesko

What Belongs to You- Garth Greenwell

The Narrow Door- Paul Liscky

I’m From Electric Peak- Bud Smith

The Queen of the Night- Alexander Chee

It Starts With Trouble: William Goyen and the Art of Writing- Clark Davis

Lynch on Lynch, edited by Chris Rodley

Purity- Jonathan Franzen

Life on the Loose- Cari Taylor-Carlson

Not Nothing- Ray Johnson

Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery- Richard Selzer

A Manual for Cleaning Women- Lucia Berlin

Ninety-Nine Stories of God- Joy Williams

Potted Meat- Stephen Dunn

The Argonauts- Maggie Nelson

Communion & Other Stories- Curtis Smith

The Girls- Emma Cline

Cowboys and East Indians- Nina McConigly

Grief is the Thing with Feathers- Max Porter

Night Sky With Exit Wounds- Ocean Vuong

The Professor’s Quarters- Albert Degenova

Porcelain- Moby

Be Cool- Ben Tanzer

Rain Check- Levi Andrew Noe

Notes on my Dunce Cap- Jesse Ball

Cronenberg on Cronenberg- David Cronenberg

Life in Suspension- Helene Cardona

The Vig of Love- Bill Yarrow

Trier on Von Trier- ed. by Stig Bjorkman

Intersex- Aaron Apps

What we Know So Far- Robert Scotellaro

Ozone Journal- Peter Balakian

The Vegetarian- Han Kang

Measuring the Distance- Robert Scotellaro

Compression Scars- Kellie Wells

Joe Gould’s Secret- Joseph Mitchell

Bukowski in a Sundress- Kim Addonazio

The Reactive- Masande Ntshanga

Floating- Anne Pierson Wiese

The Loved Ones- Sonya Chung

New Jersey Me- Rich Ferguson

Bad Motel- Robert Scotellaro

Salute the Wreckage- Clint Margrave

Find Me- Laura Vandenberg

The Consumation of Dirk- Jonathan Callahan

Rhapsody of Fallen Objects- Robert Scotellaro

Sing the Song- Meredith Alling

Deer Michigan- Jack C. Buck

Here Comes The Sun- Nicole Dennis- Benn

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you have a chance to “hole up” with a good book during these last weeks of 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Press for RIFT

Hi friends!

Happy Solstice! It’s been a busy time of year, as the end of 2015 draws closer. Our last roundtable at Red Oak was on Friday, and we had a festive lunch at Saint Francis Brewery to honor another venerable year of writing, and honest feedback, and support.

Cover with blurbs

And then these lovely first mentions, news and reviews about RIFT, and made Kathy Fish smile. And me giggle. So grateful:

First, my brother Sheldon Compton at Revolution John: https://revolutionjohn.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/the-world-set-shaking-kathy-fish-and-robert-vaughans-rift/

Joseph Spuckler at Evil Cyclist: https://evilcyclist.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/book-review-rift/

David Abrams at The Quivering Pen: http://www.davidabramsbooks.blogspot.com/2015/12/a-year-of-reading-best-book-cover.html

Dennis Mahagin (“Ancient Bassist”) at Amazon (among all the other amazing reviews!): http://www.amazon.com/Rift-Robert-Vaughan/dp/0996352600/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1449355153&sr=8-1&keywords=RIFT+RObert

Sheldon “Lil Joe” Compton, part 2: http://bentcountry.blogspot.com/2015/12/my-top-ten-books-of-2015.html

My dear sister, Cheryl, at CurTales: https://curtalefarm.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/rift-a-book-review/

Loren Kleinman at THE HUFFINGTON POST: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/loren-kleinman/a-rift-in-the-clouds-an-i_b_8824102.html

Steph Post with two part RIFT interview, here’s Kathy Fish: http://stephpostauthor.blogspot.com/2015/12/rift-part-one-interview-with-kathy-fish.html

Steph Post with two part RIFT interview, with me: http://stephpostauthor.blogspot.com/2015/12/rift-part-two-interview-with-robert.html

Steph also included RIFT here: http://stephpostauthor.blogspot.com/2015/12/stephs-super-awesome-2015-end-of-year.html

I have to say, it’s been a wild ride so far! I want to give thanks to everyone who has purchased, reviewed, and said gracious or kind comments to Kathy and me. RIFT took the same gestation time as making a child: nine or so months! It would never have been possible without Satchi, Bud Smith, my siblings, Kathy (of course) and so many more contributors. Please help us spread the word. Get a copy of RIFT for a friend. Read more! Happy holidays.

 

 

RIFT and more

Hello friends!

We are nearly there. Here is the latest images of my new book, RIFT, short fiction co-authored by Kathy Fish:

Cover with blurbs

Thanks for the cover image, Casey McSpadden! : www.caseymcspadden.com.

Also the creative blurbs from Ron Carlson, Daniel Handler, Lidia Yuknavitch, Michael Martone, Megan Mayhew Bergman, Robert Lopez, Michael Seidlinger, Ryan Ridge, Jensen Beach, xTx, and Luke Goebel.

Odd to think, I was just in Denver (again!!) for the F-BOMB Flash Fiction reading event. Here are some images from that magical evening

IMG_9545IMG_9535

KF RIFTLeah Rogin-RoperRV Rift

Our fearless host, Meg “Marge” Tuite, and featured readers: Len Kuntz, Kathy Fish, Leah Rogin-Roper and me. Kathy and I read new pieces from RIFT!!! Thanks to Nancy Stohlman, and the Denver Flash community for a great night!

Then rushed back to Milwaukee, to a busy Thursday, shipping over 150 copies of RIFT to the Nervous Breakdown Book Club:

TNB booksIMG_9576

Thanks Bud Smith, publisher at Unknown Press, and Brad Listi founder of Nervous Breakdown, and Jonathan Evison, book club selection guy!

And finally, both Kathy Fish, and my first stories in RIFT were published, in perfect “teaser” timing, for the arrival of RIFT. Here is Kathy’s “A Room With Many Small Beds at Threadcount Magazine: http://threadcountmag.com/issue-5-fall-15/kathy-fish/.

And here is my “Galloping Into The Future” at The Airgonaut: https://theairgonautblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/21/galloping-into-the-future/

I hope you enjoy them! More information forthcoming about RIFT, how to order, and also about the fiction writing course that Kathy and I are teaching at Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, August 20-26, 2016.

 

 

 

 

RIFT cover and more

Hello Friends!

Fall is in full bloom, the leaves danced off the trees all day yesterday!

My next book, RIFT, co-written with Kathy Fish, is nearly here. We have a new cover:

RIFT cover

Thanks designer, Casey McSpadden: http://www.caseymcspadden.com

Also, here is what some writer folks are kindly saying about RIFT (so far):

“RIFT made me laugh my face off, cry my guts out, and remember why writing matters: stories save us from our idiotic but lovable selves.”- Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Small Backs of Children (HarperCollins, 2015)

“These stories made me not sit still. They turned me around and turned me around.” –xTx, author of Today I am a Book (CCM, 2015)

“The stories in RIFT are peculiar and exciting and riveting and mournful and veer into places I hadn’t noticed in my peripheral vision. You know, like life.” Daniel Handler, author of We Are Pirates (Bloomsbury, 2015)

“These stories by Kathy Fish and Robert Vaughan are rich, textured, and physical – they smart with tension and possibility. RIFT is peppered with appealing, complex characters and atmospheric details.” – Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Almost Famous Women (Scribner, 2015)

“Each vivid piece in RIFT, this sharp collection, clutches the reader suddenly — needing to offer its secret with the urgent elegance of the very best short short fiction.” Ron Carlson, author of Return to Oakpine (Penguin Books, 2014)

 

If you are interested in receiving an Advanced Review Copy of RIFT, please contact our publisher, Bud Smith at Unknown Press.

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I am also getting all the last minute information together for my upcoming week long workshop called Poetry & Fiction: Writing from the Well of Diverse Genres, October 18- 25 at The Clearing in Door County. I am gaining so much excitement as the week draws closer.

Any pumpkin picking plans in your Fall schedule? Hay rides? Bonfires? Star-gazing?

 

Robert G. Vaughan Recognized by Strathmore’s Who’s Who Worldwide Publication – PR.com

What a terrific surprise to wake up to this news yesterday:

Source: Robert G. Vaughan Recognized by Strathmore’s Who’s Who Worldwide Publication – PR.com

Happy Weekend everyone!

January 2015 Book Raffle

Hi friends! Are you ready for the fun to begin? It’s January, and our book raffle will be Luke B. Goebel’s Fourteen Stories, None of Them Are Yours. This linked collection of short stories is stellar, and one lucky individual will get this book for FREE!

Unknown

And here’s Luke with his other half, Jewely:

Portland-writer-Luke-B.-Goebel-e1419287286691

If you are curious, and want to know more about this talented writer, GOOGLE HIM! Or click this link for an article about Luke B. Goebel’s Chaos Theories – Page – Interview Magazine.

There is also Brad Listi’s December Other People podcast with Luke Gobel here: Episode 338 — Luke B. Goebel | OTHERPPL WITH BRAD LISTI.

Long story short, this guy is one to watch. All you have to do to enter the drawing is to like this post (on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr). Or re-post, or comment. Share the word. Free book? AND A DAMN GREAT ONE.

Happy New Year, everyone! Play safe, love one another, revere yourself.

 

Three for Tuesday: Bill Yarrow, Darryl Price and Alex Pruteanu

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was super, and that you have some peace among the upcoming hectic holiday season. Because I travelled last week, we have three fantastic writers who selected two books each this week. Enjoy!

TWO FOR TUESDAY- BILL YARROW

Seven Dada Manifestos- Tristan Tzara

Picasso said his art was “a sum of destructions.” I love that phrase for the way it cracks opens up a world we think we know. Some of my favorite reading is S.O.D. literature—think Tristram Shandy, Jacques the Fatalist and his Master, The Marriage and Heaven and Hell, Crotchet Castle, Max Havelaar, The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, Ulysses, Tropic of Cancer, How It Is, The Innerworld of the Outerworld of the Innerworld, Flaubert’s Parrot….

So my first choice for Robert’s blog this week is Tristram Tzara’s “Seven Dada Manifestos,” a fabulous work difficult to find. I first came across it in Robert Motherwell’s outstanding anthology The Dada Painters and Poets and I still remember how shaken with excitement I was after I read it. It is to poetry what stock is to soup. Fun, experimental, shocking, unsettling, unreasonable, innovative, suggestive, and cleansing . Or, as Tzara explains, “A manifesto is a communication made to the whole world, whose only pretensions is to the discovery of an instant cure for political, astronomical, artistic, parliamentary, agronomical and literary syphilis.”

I love explication, exegesis—the art of making things clear. Brown’s Life Against Death, Herrnstein Smith’s Poetic Closure, Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism, Booth’s The Rhetoric of Fiction, Hirsch’s Validity in Interpretation, Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, Sacks’ Musicophilia, Grandin’s Animals in Translation, among others, have opened my eyes. For me, education is about making connections, so works that help me make connections are the works I most revere.

http://www.amazon.com/Seven-Dada-Manifestos-Tristan-Tzara/dp/B0037VIAP6/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1416673075&sr=8-4&keywords=Tristan+Tzara+Seven+Dada+Manifestos

Paperback: Riverrun (1981)

Tristan Tsara

Understanding Comics- Scott McCloud

My second choice is Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics (with his Making Comics a close second). This is a book about comic books in the form of a comic book, but it is so much more. You want to read the best book on comic art? This is it. You want to read the best book on art in general? This is it. You want to read the best book on the nature and potential of film? This is it. You want to read the best book on how to write fiction? How to write poetry? This is it. A book in which manifold connections abound and explode. ESSENTIAL reading.

http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Comics-Invisible-Scott-McCloud/dp/006097625X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416673203&sr=8-1&keywords=scott+mccloud+understanding+comics

Paperback: 224 pages (William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition April 27, 1994)

Scott McCloud

Bill’s Bio: Bill Yarrow is the author of The Lice of Christ (MadHat Press, 2014), Incompetent Translations and Inept Haiku (Červená Barva Press, 2013) and Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX, 2012). His poems have appeared in many print and online magazines including Poetry International, RHINO, Contrary, DIAGRAM, Gargoyle, and PANK.

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TWO FOR TUESDAY: DARRYL PRICE

Colorless Tsuruku and His Years of Pilgrimage- Haruki Murakami

The best book I have had the immense pleasure of reading recently, and one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life, is the new Haruki Murakami novel called, Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage. Murakami elevates this profound work of literature into the rarefied realm of true and beautiful works of art. It is brilliant. It is at once a fascinating, interesting and moving story, but beyond that it is an experience that reverberates deeply into both your heart and mind always. A masterful work of word genius on every level.

http://www.amazon.com/Colorless-Tsukuru-Tazaki-Years-Pilgrimage/dp/0385352107/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416352390&sr=8-1&keywords=colorless+tsukuru+tazaki+and+his+years+of+pilgrimage

Paperback (Kindle, Hardcover): 400 pages (Knopf, August 12, 2014)

Murakami

 

Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years- Volume 1- Mark Lewinsohn

The other book I’d like to make your readers aware of is Mark Lewisohn’s terrific new book on the Beatles, simply called Tune In–All these Years-Volume 1. It is simply the best book out there about the Beatles written to date, and by that I mean it has the most accurate information available in it. It is beautifully told and written and deeply researched. There are so many boxes of books about this band that a book should be written on all the glut of books, the good, the bad and the ugly. But to get back to the point, this particular book does what so many other books and authors have failed to do, that is to talk about the music, and to make that the centerpiece of any conversation first. So many of the other books leave out the fact of the music or just gloss over it in an offhand kind of way. This of course is highly insulting to the band, its fans and to readers of every stripe. We would not be having a conversation about the Beatles still if the music didn’t warrant it. In so many of the older books they are so very quick to point out how humanly fallible the four Beatles were, but then fail to mention, oh yeah, and while this or that thing was happening to them in their lives they just happened to write a few masterpieces to go along with it all–which the whole world seemed to embrace to such a degree that it (their songs, their music) became a part of everyone’s daily approach to life. Beatle music sound-tracked us (those who were there) as we all grew and changed- for decades at a time. So I was happy to discover that Mark’s approach was all about getting the facts right, and inserting the musical main reasons that these facts are even worth being told again now. Can’t wait for Volume Two!

http://www.amazon.com/Tune-Beatles-All-These-Years/dp/1400083052/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416424214&sr=8-1&keywords=Mark+Lewinson

Paperback: 944 pages (Crown Archetype: First U.S. Edition- Oct. 29, 2013)

The Beatles

Darryl’s Bio: Darryl Price has published dozens of chapbooks, and his poems have appeared in many journals.

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TWO FOR TUESDAY: ALEX PRUTEANU

Gravity’s Rainbow- Thomas Pinchon

This is the most difficult book I’ve read in my life. Pynchon’s heavy work here is also the most polarizing I’ve ever known a book to be. People either give him up within the first 30 pages, labeling him a hack/lunatic/incomprehensible scheister, or work through the novel (like me) and are rewarded along the 800-page life-changing saga with the most remarkable and complex set of ideas, digressions, characters, and narrative ever they’ve come upon. I hesitate to even call this a novel. It is…at times an advanced course in engineering, propulsion, guidance, and physics. It is a slapstick silent comedy film along the lines of Buster Keaton’s or Harold Lloyd’s work. It is a philosophical meditation on humanity and war, a rhyming, naughty limerick, a drug-fueled hallucination marked by outrageous acts such as coprophagia and an unforgettable trip via a filthy toilet into the sewage pipes long before Trainspotting stole the idea outright and brought it to a new generation of readers. Listen, Pynchon was “edgy” a good 27 years before Irvine Welsh and Danny Boyle impressed you. Gravity’s Rainbow is a profound, brilliant, immense journey transgressing boundaries between high and low culture, literary propriety and profanity, and between hard science and metaphysics. This book was so important to me and affected me in such a heavy, great fashion that during the two months I read this work, I rearranged my daily life in order that I could come home and engage myself in Pynchon’s world. There were many times when ordinary details and daily chores were neglected in favour of reading this brilliant work. When I finished, I came away not only an inspired writer but a more complete (if astounded) human being.

Amazon.com: Gravity’s Rainbow (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) (9780143039945): Thomas Pynchon, Frank Miller: Books

Paperback, 776 pages; Penguin Classics, Deluxe Edition (Oct. 31, 2006)

Pynchon

2666- Roberto Bolano

Bolano’s imagination has always reminded me of our quickly ever-expanding universe. There are no limits to what this great writer can conjure, no boundaries—physical or metaphorical. This massive, posthumously released work redefines the idea of The Novel and its form. In his usual, self-interrogating way, Bolano’s 2666 is an ambitious, landmark master statement to, for, and on humanity. The novel consists of five sections, each with an autonomous life and form. These five long sequences—each a book’s length in itself—interlock to form an astonishing whole, in the same manner that fruits, vegetables, meats, flowers, and books connect in the amazing paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo to form a human face. “The Part About the Crimes” (pt. 4) is a massive display of genial, blunt power of documentary compilation. It’s grinding. It’s crushing. It’s harrowing. And it’s pure and beautiful. After nearly 300 pages of brutal, lyrical, poetic gravity in this section, the reader is rewarded with the oasis-like final part. I felt a sort of physical lift reading part 5…something I’ve only felt once in my life, in a state of trance almost, while listening for the first time to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” With this novel, Bolano has proven what literature can do, how much it can discover, and how purely it can indict our often disastrous, violent footprint left on this world. In fact, Bolano has proven it can do anything, including giving a name to the un-nameable, un-speakable, transgressive acts committed by human beings.

2666: A Novel: Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer: 9780312429218: Amazon.com: Books

Paperback, 912 pages, Picador; reprint edition (Sept. 1, 2009)

Bolano

Alex’s Bio:  Alex is author of novella Short Lean Cuts: Alex M. Pruteanuavailable at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, and So & So Books (Raleigh, NC). He is also author of Gears, a collection of stories from Independent Talent Group, Inc. (Gears: A Collection: Alex M. Pruteanu). He has published fiction in NY Arts Magazine, Guernica Magazine, [PANK], Specter Literary Magazine, and others. He recently finished his first novel, The Sun Eaters.

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There are two books I read during Thanksgiving week, and really enjoyed both. One is Lauren Haldeman’s Calenday (poetry). I had the great fortune of reading with Lauren in the recent MONSTERS of Poetry event in Madison. The other book is Our Secret Life in the Movies by Michael McGriff and J.M. Tyree (stories). What did you read Thanksgiving week? What are you reading now? Both of these books, and being with so much family made me feel extremely grateful for everyone who is in my life. So, thanks!

HaldemanOur Secret Life in the Movies

Two For Tuesday: Gay Degani and Kathy Fish

Another Tuesday, and I could barely sleep last night! Two of my favorite people, not to mention writers. One of the many things I enjoy about this new column is the wide ranging choices that astound me every week. Rest assured, this week is no different. I hope you have fun with these selections by two of the kindest, talented writers that I know. Thanks, Gay and Kathy!

TWO FOR TUESDAY: GAY DEGANI

Dumas’ Two Counts- Alexander Dumas

Sometime earlier this year, I listened to Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo on CD, the two-part library edition. Full of adventure, betrayal, lost love, and surprise, it was a revelation. The week I plugged into this story, I cleaned out the refrigerator, ironed an overflowing basket of clothes, pulled the weeds taking over my potted plants, went on long rambling walks, all because I didn’t want to stop being a part of this swashbuckling19th century French novel.

How could I not have read this book before? Well, it’s long. Penguin Classics; Unabridged edition (May 27, 2003) puts it at 1276 pages. Sitting down to read a tome this long is way too daunting in today’s busy-busy world. That’s why I strap on my ugly fanny pack and tuck headphones into my ears. I can multi-task!! And I’m so grateful because The Count picked me up and carried me off, surprising me with his misfortunes and singular brand of justice.

Don’t all readers love it when books make them gasp in disbelief? After a lifetime of reading and listening to books, this doesn’t happen to me very often. As a writer, I’ve trained myself to see clues, understand structure, and anticipate the twists and turns, but Dumas astonished me time and again. Surprise is always a most delicious treat.

Count of Monte Cristo, Library CD edition: http://www.amazon.com/Count-Monte-Cristo-Blackstone-Collection/dp/1433215772/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416023790&sr=1-8&keywords=the+count+of+monte+cristo+on+CD

Count of Monte Cristo, Penguin Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Count-Monte-Cristo-Penguin-Classics/dp/0140449264

Paperback, 1276 pages, (Penguin Classics, Unabridged edition- May 27, 2003)

Count of Monte ChristoPenguin version

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo- Tom Reiss

Then, I recently discovered another audio book at my public library, Pulitzer Prize-winning The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss and the surprises continued to mount up. I had some vague memory that Alexandre Dumas (the author of The Count of Monte Cristo) was of mixed race, but I didn’t realize the rest of the story, that his grandfather was the ne’er-do-well elder son of French aristocrat and a slave in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti).

When the old Marquis died, Alexandre Dumas’s grandfather returned to France to claim his fortune and title, bringing with him his son Thomas-Alexandre Dumas (he sold his other children). The “Black Count” was this Thomas-Alexandre Dumas and it is from his life, his hardships and his triumphs as a general in the French Revolutionary army that Alexandre Dumas drew his inspiration for “Monte Cristo.”

From Reiss’ biography, I began to understand the differences between the French attitude toward race and slavery and the attitudes held by the U.S. I also learned more about the French Revolution as well as the craft of writing, how Dumas incorporated the stories he’d been told by and about his father into his own work.

I’m surprised when I discover there are seemingly inadvertent patterns to my reading. Time and time again I will pick one engrossing story only to find another shortly thereafter that somehow links perfectly with the first one. It’s my subconscious at work, I suppose, but too often I choose books blindly, especially audio books, having to take what’s on the shelf, but they often dovetail one into the other, giving me a richer look into history or into the human heart or both.

Paperback (or audio, Kindle, Hardcover): 432 pages, Broadway Books, reprint edition (May 14, 2013).

The Black Count: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Count-Revolution-Betrayal-Cristo/dp/0307382478/

Tom Reiss

Gay’s Bio: Gay Degani’s suspense novel What Came Before is available in trade paperback and e-book (What Came Before – Kindle edition by Gay Degani. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com). She is founder and editor-emeritus of EDF’s Flash Fiction Chronicles, content editor at SmokeLong Quarterly and blogs at Words in Place where a complete list of her published work can be found. She’s had three stories nominated for Pushcart consideration and won the 11th Annual Glass Woman Prize. She has written a novella, The Old Road, as part of Pure Slush’s 2014-A Year in Stories project and is working on the prequel to What Came Before.

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TWO FOR TUESDAY: KATHY FISH 

Nine Stories- J. D. Salinger

Everybody has read The Catcher in The Rye. It was much later that someone recommended Nine Stories to me. I studied psychology in college, not literature, so I was late to a lot of great fiction and poetry. It wasn’t until I started writing that I read Salinger’s short stories. No matter how many times i dip back into this book, I remain astonished at how good they are. How perfect they are. I learned so much from this book. I’m convinced that nobody does dialogue better. Salinger makes it look easy and effortless. When his characters talk to each other in these stories, it just flows naturally and yet, his dialogue does an incredible amount of work in the stories. Voice, characterization, back story, the advancement of plot–all accomplished in a simple phone conversation between mother and daughter or a seemingly playful back and forth between a man and a child. Salinger’s physical descriptions of his characters are actually rather scant, but I see them. I see them so clearly because of how they talk. And also, their small gestures that carry so much weight. Every character in every story is so alive, so fully realized. Salinger doesn’t explain much in these stories. He doesn’t have to. I always go back to this book when I”m stuck and need inspiration. The thing about these stories, though, is that they’re so perfect as to almost make you want to close your laptop forever and try your hand at something, anything else. Almost, but not quite. What I’ve learned from Nine Stories is that stories are about people, and that people sad and funny and bewildering and full of secrets. You start with fascinating people, fully realized, and story takes care of itself.

Paperback: 320 pages (January 30, 2001)

http://www.amazon.com/Nine-Stories-J-D-Salinger/dp/0316767727/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416275117&sr=8-1&keywords=nine+stories+by+j.d.+salinger

Nine Stories

The Shipping News- E. Annie Proulx

Mention this novel and there’s always a mixed response. Some people really hate it. The strange, fragmented sentences. That harsh, forbidding setting. All the shitty things that happen to poor, passive, lumbering Quoyle. I absolutely loved it. It’s another book I’ve read multiple times. I love Proulx’s diction, her brilliant descriptions, they way her characters talk. I love the harshness. How setting in this book is indeed another character. How Quoyle is pushed around and molded into the man he eventually becomes. Or rather, how his presence molds the people around him somehow. It’s a relentlessly sad, dark, odd book. And again, I love how Proulx is not afraid of words. Fresh, strange, arcane words. I read this book with such pleasure. And I learned so much about writing from reading this book. Proulx loves her characters in all their imperfect humanity. Quoyle is so moving in his loneliness and desire to connect. I can tell you that I never fail to cry when I read the final amazing paragraphs:

“Quoyle experience moments in all colors, uttered brilliancies, paid attention to the rich sound of waves counting stones, he laughed and wept, noticed sunsets, heard music in rain, said I do. A row of shining hubcaps on sticks appeared in the front yard of the Burkes’ house. A wedding present from the bride’s father.

For if Jack Buggit could escape from the pickle jar, if a bird with a broken neck could fly away, what else might be possible? Water may be older than light, diamonds crack in hot goat’s blood, mountaintops give off cold fire, forests appear in mid-ocean, it may happen that a crab is caught with the shadow of a hand on its back, that the wind be imprisoned in a bit of knotted string. And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery.”

Paperback: 352 pages, (Scribner, June 1, 1994)

http://www.amazon.com/Shipping-News-E-Annie-Proulx/dp/0671510053/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416275233&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Shipping+NEws

The Shipping News

Kathy’s Bio: Kathy Fish’s stories have been published or are forthcoming in The Lineup: 25 Provocative Women Writers (BLP), Slice, Guernica, Indiana Review, Denver Quarterly, Elm Leaves Journal, and elsewhere. She is the author of three collections of short fiction: A chapbook of flash fiction in the chapbook collective, A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women, Rose Metal Press, 2008 (A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness), Wild Life, Matter Press, 2011 (Wild Life | Matter Press) and Together We Can Bury It, The Lit Pub, 2013 ( The Lit Pub • Kathy Fish’s Together We Can Bury It). She blogs at http://kathy-fish.com/.

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Recently I listened to Brad Listi’s Other People podcast with Frederick Barthelme (Episode 327 — Frederick Barthelme) who’s new book, There Must Be Some Mistake, is available from Little, Brown & Co. Frederick is such a sweet man, so self-depracating, and I was fascinated by his reflections on growing up in this amazing American southern literate family. I also recalled one of my favorite collections, which had an enormous impact on me. I devoured it the first time I flew between New York and Los Angeles. Then read it again on my return flight. (And sorry, Frederick, but this one is by your older brother, Donald). And a second book which really spoke to me around the same time was Black Tickets by Jayne Anne Phillips. ‘Nuff said!”

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Overnight to Many Distant Cities- Donald Barthelme (Overnight to Many Distant Cities: Donald Barthelme: 9780399128684: Amazon.com: Books)

Black Tickets- Jayne Anne Phillips (Black Tickets: Stories: Jayne Anne Phillips: 9780375727351: Amazon.com).

What books were instrumental in your youth? Were there any that made you want to write? Or want to take action? Thanks again, for another fun Two for Tuesday. Now get your pen moving!