Sunday, May 15, 2005

Judy Walker of UNCC reviews Noel Snyder's The Carolina Parakeet: Glimpses of a Vanished Bird in today's Charlotte Observer:

"The author takes the reader back to diaries and journals of early naturalists like John James Audubon and William Bartram, as well as to writings of 'common folk' who shared their daily lives with the birds. Snyder also interviewed men and women who had childhood memories of the birds. Finally he applies current scientific knowledge to interpret the primary documents and interviews."

Robert Messenger writes lovingly and at length of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series(recently "bound into a beautiful five-volume edition") and dreads the publication of stepson Nikolai Tolstoy's first volume of the novelist's life:

"I doubt that Patrick O’Brian was a happy man. He seems to have escaped from bitterness at his own life to the world of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. He found what he needed there. It is why he began writing the unfinished, untitled twenty-first volume in the Aubrey/Maturin series in 1999. His second wife, Mary, died in March 1998 and, looking to leave his now lonely house in France, he took up rooms at Trinity College, Dublin. He had been awarded an honorary degree in 1997, and the provost made it possible for him to live in college. He finished Blue at the Mizzen (1999) there, which he had announced would be the series’ last book. But, feeling isolated in Dublin and worried by the media attention from the unauthorized biography, he began a new novel, taking refuge where he had always taken it." (via Sheila Variations)

An interview with Margot Livesey:

"I just was thinking a little bit as we were talking about the issue of readability and how, perhaps like quite a number of writers, I always have slightly mixed feelings about the word 'literary.' On the one hand when I'm told I write literary fiction it sounds like a compliment. You know, the sentences are working at a higher level. And on the other hand I worry that it makes it sound like the novel is less readable and less appetizing somehow -- more like hard work, more like doing one's homework. I'm really quite aware of how many demands there are on a reader's attention, and how many books there are competing for a reader's attention, and I do think quite hard about how to reward the reader's attention and how to keep it. And I think that comes partly out of my lifelong love affair with the great Victorian novels I grew up reading. You know, when I read things like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, I didn't think I was reading 'good' books or 'literary' books, I just thought I was reading fantastic stories about people I cared about, like friends or neighbors. And that still remains a great ambition of mine, to write that kind of fiction."

And a review of Hilary Mantel's latest, Beyond Black:

"This is a dark, dark book, but it's fun to read because at heart it's a celebration of the joys of saying exactly what's on your evil little mind. The heroine might be speaking for the author when she tries to explain to Colette why the hideous Morris is her guide, and why the fiends have come to call: ''Ever since I was a little kid,' she says, ''I've been trying to have nice thoughts. But how could I? My head was stuffed with memories. I can't help what's in there. . . . And so when you have certain thoughts -- thoughts you can't help -- these sort of spirits come rushing round. And you can't dislodge them. Not unless you could get the inside of your head hoovered out.' That's the distinctive voice of Hilary Mantel, building from a soft, polite whisper to an explosively funny image -- the comic metaphor that makes life, if not worth living, at least worth writing."

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