Writing saved Augusten Burroughs life. Literally. As anyone who's read his 2002 memoir, Running with Scissors, will attest, the guy has led a challenging life informed by a deeply dysfunctional childhood that included a broken family, drugs, alcohol and a sexual relationship with a man twice his age. Burroughs, who comes to town Saturday for the annual Books By the Banks conference, talks about his meteoric rise to literary fame.
Sandy Plunkett reverses the normal order of things. Instead of languishing through youth somewhere in Ohio, longing for New York, he did his languishing in New York's Upper West Side and came to southeast Ohio to find his creative home. The World of a Wayward Comic Book Artist reflects sketchbook/journals Plunkett has kept since 1992, by which time Athens, Ohio, was his town.
A benefit of our shortened attention spans is the re-emergence of the short story. That pleasurable form of fiction, sliced thinner than a novel but at its best equally compelling, for a decade or two languished out of fashion but returns full of ginger. In Out of the Mountains, Meredith Sue Willis gives her characters the juice of life. Some turn up in more than one story, prompting the pleasure of recognition.
On the basis of his memorable singles of the late 1960s — records like “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mony Mony” and “Crimson and Clover” — Tommy James still tours today. But in concert, where he mines a nostalgic crowd’s desire to relive the good times associated with those hits, he doesn’t get to tell the story of how remarkably strange and extraordinary those times were for him.
Vivian Kline is a Class A name-dropper. The names she drops — Nicholas Longworth, P.T. Barnum and sister poets Alice and Phoebe Carey among them — have the satisfying clunk of historical import and might mean most to history buffs. Although, if you’re not, this is a good place to begin.
You might already love Sun Green. You might already love her flowing blonde hair, her activist demeanor and her happy place, the Double E Ranch. She is the center of the Greendale “musical novel” and film, both written and produced by Neil Young.
David Simon's 'The Wire' garnered nearly unprecedented critical praise — by the end of its five-season run on HBO, some were calling it the best show to ever grace television — but drew a fraction of the audience of the cable outlet's other series 'Sex and the City' and 'The Sopranos.' Yet HBO stood behind Simon (and continues to stand behind him, offering his 'Treme' miniseries), a television iconoclast who'd rather walk away than betray the authenticity of his subject matter. Simon answers a few CityBeat questions before his June 7 talk at the Mercantile Library.
James Greer has led a curious life. He first surfaced as an editor and writer at Spin during the magazine's early-'90s apex, a period that coincided with the so-called "Alternative Rock" revolution. His just-published second work of fiction, 'The Failure,' is a fast and funny nonlinear riff on crime-noir novels that tells the story of Guy Forget who plans to rob a Korean check-cashing joint in order to fund a Web-based get-rich-quick scheme.
Because Patti Smith’s music can be so ferociously turbulent, and because of her Punk legacy, it’s easy to overlook her tender side — one that exudes a charitable, compassionate sweetness and undying loyalty to friends and family as well as awe at the magnificence of great art. Smith wasn’t so much a rebel against post-war middle-class America as a young woman in love with books and music who wanted to be surrounded by them as an alternative to the working-class life she felt awaited her.
Life before the internal combustion engine was no damn fun. That, along with a vague sense of disquiet, is the thrust of The Kingdom of Ohio, the debut novel of possibly former Portlander Matthew Flaming. Flaming builds his story on a solid foundation, filling his characters’ histories with concrete detail. It’s compelling stuff, satisfying despite the novel’s inconclusive and confusing denouement.
Richard Russo's latest, 'That Old Cape Magic,' returns to the novelist's longtime topic of choice: family, and all the endlessly fascinating narrative and dramatic tension that topic allows. Its very Russo-ian protagonist Jack Griffin is going through an existential crisis of sorts, set off by the death of his mother and the marriage of his only daughter.
In Jami Attenberg’s second novel, Catherine Madison is in her truck heading to Las Vegas. She’s leaving her small Nebraska town, her husband and her dysfunctional family. What she’s keeping is a suitcase full of money. From the start, we realize Catherine is running from something. She’s paying for motel and hotel rooms in cash and signs her maiden name in an attempt to cover her tracks.
It might be looked upon as a book of cocktail recipes for connoisseurs of underground history or perhaps a lurid history book for those looking for a harder ride than Gentleman Jack can offer. The Little Green Book of Absinthe: An Essential Companion with Lore, Trivia and Classic and Contemporary Cocktails has many faces — all with bloodshot eyes and all flavored with the mystique of the green fairy.
There’s a great moment in “Retreat,” a new short story by Wells Tower. Two brothers have been out deer hunting on a chilly island in Maine. They haven’t bagged anything and they’re wet and cranky. but just as they’re packing up for the day, one spies an enormous moose. He takes a shot and brings it down.
Cataloguing a thousand of anything is an impressive, likely painstaking task. If there’s anyone fit to amass a list of 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, it’s prolific comic scribe/industry observer Tony Isabella. Per the title, Isabella has the great fortune of not having to decide the thousand finest but rather the thousand that he finds compelling.