Just in time for National Poetry Month - that's April - comes what has to be a truly unique, and possibly crazy, poetry experience. "Moonrise at Stiltsville: A Literary Evening" involves some of South Florida's best-known poets - Mia Leonin, Campbell McGrath, Jesse Millner and Michael Hettich - reading under what presumably will be moonlight at one of the seven remaining Stiltsville houses.
You arrive by boat, naturally, which departs from Shake-a-Leg Marina, 2620 South Bayshore Drive in the Grove, at 7 p.m. on April 18. Tickets are a whopping $75 and must be purchased by April 15, but listen, if you've never been to Stiltsville, you might want to get out there before the next hurricane washes these last few homes away. You get a great view of the Miami skyline, too. The boats are expected to return around 10:30 p.m.
Call Dade Heritage Trust at 305-358-9572 if you're interested.
I'm not a sci fi reader, but those who love the stuff know he's the author of more than 100 books - now that's prolific - and the co-creator of 2001: A Space Odyssey, a movie I have never quite figured out the appeal of but that sci fi fans of all shapes and sizes and ages adore. (What's up with those apes at the beginning? I mean, what the hell?) Still, I believe I did read a short story by him in high school which may or may not have been called The Nine Billion Names of God, and from what I remember it was pretty good.
If any sci fi readers could put him in proper perspective, I'd be grateful.
Anthony Minghella died Tuesday at 54, and while he was best known as a director (winning an Oscar in 1996's The English Patient, which as everybody knows is the greatest film ever made), I feel the need to point out what a superb writer he was.
The English Patient is based on Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel, but its transformation to film is a thing of beauty. Minghella wrote the screenplay, with an assist from Ondaatje himself, and said that it was excruciating to leave out so much of the gorgeous novel. It bothered him greatly to excise so much of Kip's (the Indian sapper) story, but decisions had to be made, and he made every single one of them correctly.
Minghella was the first person I ever interviewed for The Herald, at the Borders bookstore in Fort Lauderdale, in person, long before most people knew who he was (I did, if only for Truly Madly Deeply, which, combined with the powerful allure of blond highlights in Sense and Sensibility, caused me to fall deeply in love with Alan Rickman, an ailment that persists to this day. I kept wanting him to strangle Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd.)
What I liked best about Minghella - he was funny and lively and friendly - was his absolute passion for Ondaatje's novel. It was clear that it had moved him and that he loved it and was also thrilled to have been able to adapt it to the screen. (I also suspect he had a little crush on Juliette Binoche, but really, who wouldn't?)
Minghella just wrapped the first film of Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Who knows what other wonders he would have gone on to produce? Film lovers, especially those equally in love with books, will miss him like crazy.
Spent part of the weekend re-reading Interpreter of Maladies; it's been so long since I read it, and allegedly I'll be talking to Jhumpa Lahiri in a couple of weeks (her new collection of stories, Unaccustomed Earth, comes out April 1). Now this isn't a surprise but: What a truly fine collection of stories.
Duh, Connie, you say.The book won the Pulitzer Prize. But it is shocking to remember this was Lahiri's first published work. And I believe I read it several years ago right after I finished Andrea Barrett's Servants of the Map, which had blown me away, and so while I really liked Interpreter I was distracted by the Barrett stories.
The title story is wonderful, but the one that still gets me is the collection's first story, A Temporary Matter, about a husband and wife enduring an hour of darkness each night while repairs are made to an electrical line in their neighborhood. It's heartbreaking. That's all I'm going to say. One's heart also breaks and expands over the young Indian woman having an affair with a married man in Sexy, and the young couple bickering over what to do with the Christian religious statues they keep finding in their new home in This Blessed House. I've always said my favorite Lahiri is her great novel The Namesake, but now I just don't know anymore.
In honor of St. Patrick's Day, let's hear from Ken Bruen, whose excellent, nasty, violent novel Cross continues his excellent, nasty, violent series about alcoholic ex-cop Jack Taylor in a Galway you won't recognize if you've only seen the tourist posters.
"...was it just me or was the country getting crazier? Religion, however heavy its hand, had for centuries provided a ballast against despair. Mired in more and more disgrace, the people no longer had much faith in the clergy providing anything other than tabloid fodder. It probably explained why every new-fangled cult had managed to find a congregation in the city. Even the Scientologists had an office. We were expecting Tom Cruise any day."
Cross, I think, is my favorite of the Taylor novels (there are six). This one involves a crucified boy, disappearing dogs and - enticingly - the possibility that the tormented Taylor may actually leave Ireland for the USA. It's a fast read, bleak and gloomy as an Irish winter day. I'm sure the Galway Tourism Board doesn't applaud Bruen's view of the city, but I do.
Willing is not the sort of novel we've come to expect from Scott Spencer, but that makes it all the more interesting. Spencer (Endless Love, Waking the Dead, National Book Award finalist A Ship Made of Paper) writes about romantic drama from the male perspective, and in a way, he does that here, too. But Willing, about a jilted freelance writer who finds out his girlfriend is having an affair, is satire, sharp and funny. It's as if Spencer is actually making fun of the sort of characters he's famous for: self-absorbed men who let desire and passion rule their lives. (Sound like anybody you know?)
In Willing, though, Avery Jankowsky doesn't merely mope about his predicament. He heads off on an international sex tourism jaunt and...well, you're just going to have to read the book to find out what happens to him. But it's safe to say that there's a ton of material ripe for satire in this plot , and Spencer seems to have a good time mining it.
You can read my review here.
I am fond of telling people I don't care for serial killer thrillers, and yet, I just finished Linda Fairstein's new book and enjoyed it thoroughly, serial killer and all. Killer Heat, like her other novels, is narrated by Manhattan District Attorney Alex Cooper, who is investigating the rape/murders of several young women and, at the same time, re-prosecuting a 30something year old case of assault. For good measure, some Latin gang members are out for revenge on her, too.
Fairstein, who ran the Sex Crimes Unit for the Manhattan DA's office for more than 20 years, cooks up a page-turning blend (yes, I really just wrote that) of legal twists, action and forensic science. Usually I'm happy to find suspense novels that excel in one of those areas. Fairstein also throws in a fair amount of NYC history, which is interesting, and I also get a big kick out of Alex's joined-at-the-hip friendship with cop Mike Chapman. By now, a less patient author would've had these two in the sack, but Fairstein seems to understand the sort of bonds that must form between professionals who see crimefighting as their raison d'etre.
That's not to say, Ms. Fairstein, that I'll be disappointed if they eventually hook up. Just so you know.
And just so you know: I interviewed Ms. Fairstein a year ago or so and she could not have been more fun to talk to about everything from how DNA testing changed modern criminal prosecutions to how Christopher Meloni from Law & Order SVU (on which she has been a consultant) should play the crazy, diaper-wearing astronaut's love interest if they ever made a movie about that particular story.
(On a completely different note, I discovered all sorts of...interesting photos of Mr. Meloni on the Interwebs, most of them from Oz, but I decided to stick to this more SVU appropriate one in order to at least temporarily keep my job).
Australian author David Rollins and his publicists have come up with what seems like a surefire way to lure readers to his books (military fiction is the best way I can describe it, though his publicity material indicates that his books are funnier than you'd expect in this genre). He's sponsoring a contest in which readers make a video (two minutes max) telling us why they like his books. Post that on YouTube, and you're under consideration for the Grand Prize (500 bucks and a signed set of Rollins' books).
The 20 most popular videos will be posted on his website, and readers can vote for their favorites. Prizes will also be given away randomly on the site, so keep an eye out. The contest runs through June 8, 2008; Rollins' latest novel The Death Trust hit stores last September.
Unless you're like me and don't have an iPhone...anyway, Penguin Press has jumped into the reading + technology fray by making the first chapters of all its latest novels available to download for free.
By March 17 there will be 50 titles available online, and the publishing house plans to upload the first chapters of every fiction title each month (no word on the nonfic titles yet). You can download the chapters on Blackberries, computers. phones, etc., to see if you like the story enough to buy the actual book and read the rest. Or I suppose you could just read the first chapter of every novel that comes out; maybe that would be entertaining enough.
Click here if you want to start downloading.