I Want to Tell You a Story … Cassandra on the Island

I want to tell you a story.

Let’s begin like this- I wrote a novel for my thesis when I was working for my Master’s at the University of Southern California and I made the head of the department cry.

I had few interactions with this professor. I like to think he liked me, he personally asked me to take a few advanced courses and met with me now and then to discuss agents and my writing, but we were of different worlds. How else do you explain the meeting of a poet and a novelist? We use the same words, but for a novelist it is about the meaning, where for the poet it is about the music beneath it.

To graduate, I needed people to sign off on my thesis. I had one from a fiction professor (I can’t remember his name now) and the head of the department promised to be the second… and he delayed… and he delayed.

I was working on campus, which was fine for me since I didn’t have to drive anywhere and there was a Carl’s Jr on campus and I was a little addicted to their crispy chicken sandwich (I don’t need to say more about that here). But on this day, instead of waiting in the outrageously long line of students and eating that awesome sandwich, I decided to bother the delaying professor. He was in his office and knew why I was there when I walked in. He didn’t make eye contact with me and promised to start the book that afternoon, shrugging me off.

I had to accept that answer and leave.

That night I received a call after 9 PM. It was him and he was crying. He kept saying the word “beautiful.” He talked to me about the book for over an excited hour, asking about why I did certain things, what they meant. He was figuring out different tricks I did in the writing in between his emotional outbursts.

It is not often a writer gets to speak to a moved reader the second after they finish their book, but I was having that experience here, and it was with someone that surrounds himself with books and writers! This is legit, right?

He wasn’t planning to read the book straight through, he said. He was planning to finish, maybe skim bits. He skims, he said. He skims most books from students, he said… but here he didn’t. And once he started he couldn’t stop.

He told me what he loved, what made him laugh and what made him cry.

He asked if he could share the book with others, and I said that was fine. He said I didn’t have to worry about my thesis, and he couldn’t wait to buy the book in print… and then he was off the line.

Now… let me be clear… I’m not telling you this story about a crying professor to brag. I’m telling you this because it was the first time I truly felt like a novelist. Continue reading

Advertisements

Book Review: Burr by Gore Vidal

BurrA new book review today! This time I am taking on the classic work of historical fiction, Burr by Gore Vidal. If you love the musical Hamilton, you will love this book.

You can check out my other book reviews (both for WKAR’s Current State and this website) here.

If you want to check out Burr for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Burr by Gore Vidal

Historical fiction is a dangerous genre.

In the wrong hands it can change a person’s perception of a real event or historical figure, tainting the truth for readers and the public. Debates and controversies in our world have been created out of less! But in the right hands it can inspire a reader to see something from a new light, possibly break out of their normal mindset. Easily the most dangerous, and possibly exciting, historical fiction I have ever read is Burr by Gore Vidal. In it, Gore Vidal tries to make a hero out of Aaron Burr, one-time vice president and killer of Alexander Hamilton.

HamiltonI discovered the book when my family (including my kids) became obsessed with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s fantastic musical, Hamilton. While Hamilton puts many of the heroes of the American Revolution in the wonderful glow of the spotlight; Gore Vidal instead adds a lot of filters and a smoke machine. In Burr, Vidal seems to take a glee out of spoiling our history and understanding around the American revolution. This is not your normal 1776.

In Burr, George Washington is an incompetent general more worried about his image and politics as compared to victories. Alexander Hamilton is shady and driven by power. Even French military hero Marquis de Lafayette comes out as a little bit of a buffoon. Only Aaron Burr steps forward as a hero, and possibly the true father of our country.

Aaron Burr is the voice of reason and all of the decisions he makes are for the good of the country. He rarely thinks of his own self-interest, as he weaves each of his plots that he is certain will help grow the new country he loves. Everything seems to make sense from his perspective, but history will never know.

The novel Burr is told through the voice of Charles Schuyler, one of the few fictional characters in it. He spends his time hobnobbing with the political elites, dating questionable women, and meeting with important members of the New York literary circle, including Washington Irving. Charles is determined to write a book on Aaron Burr and is able to get him to open up and share his experiences. It is through those recollections that both the book and the character do not hold back. For Aaron Burr has a strong opinion about everyone in our revolutionary history and few walk out of his recollections unscathed.

I can’t help but imagine Vidal smiling throughout the writing of this book. Most of it seems to be built out of the rumors and gossip of that period as compared to what our historians will focus on. It is because of this fact that I find the book so dangerous. Yet, even I, a fan of nonfiction and Ken Burns documentaries felt a sense of horror and scandalous pleasure in the reading of it.

Even without Vidal’s wonderful writing, Aaron Burr is a fascinating and complicated character just waiting for a novelist’s pen. Besides the duel with Hamilton, he was once tried for treason, was quite the lady’s man, and was almost President of the United States. The question though is he an American hero? Vidal tries to present him as one and I can’t help but think the idea is a little… well… brilliantly dangerous.

New WKAR Book Review: Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

Current StateOn WKAR’s Current State, I reviewed the new novel by Anna Quindlen. I really enjoyed Miller’s Valley and it’s obvious to me why it is doing so well with the market (and readers).

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-anna-quindlens-millers-valley

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

If you want to check out Miller’s Valley,  you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this pageContinue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson

Current StateI have always been obsessed with Shakespeare and his work. In many ways, I was exactly the target audience for Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson. Today, I reviewed this Shakespeare-inspired novel on WKAR’s Current State.

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-howard-jacobsons-shylock-my-name

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

If you want to check out Shylock Is My Name, you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this pageContinue reading

NEW WKAR Book Review: The Sandman Overture by Neil Gaiman

Current StateI loved the original run of The Sandman by Neil Gaiman and I couldn’t wait to talk about it and Overture (the new chapter in the adventure) on Current State.

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-neil-gaimans-overture

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

If you want to check out Overture, you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this page.

I hope you enjoy my review of this fantastic series. Continue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Purity by Jonathan Franzen

Current StateToday on WKAR’s Current State, I bravely took on reviewing the new novel by Jonathan Franzen, Purity. I hope you will check it out.

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-jonathan-franzens-purity

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

If you want to read Purity for yourself, you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this pageContinue reading

NEW WKAR Book Review: A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball

Current StateNew book review today on WKAR’s Current State. This time I take on the new literary fiction by Jesse Ball, A Cure for Suicide.

You can listen to my new review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-jesse-balls-cure-suicide

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

If you would like to check out A Cure for Suicide (and you should) you can find it on Amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this page. Continue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Sweet Forgiveness by Lori Nelson Spielman

Current StateRecently on WKAR’s Current State, I reviewed the new novel by bestselling author Lori Nelson Spielman. It is called Sweet Forgiveness. In the past on the show, I also reviewed Spielman’s first book, The Life List (you can check out that review here).

You can listen to my new review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-reviewlori-nelson-spielmans-sweet-forgiveness

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

You can find the novel on Amazon.com here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this pageContinue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme

Current StateRecently on WKAR’s Current State, I reviewed Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme.

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-farran-smith-nehmes-missing-reels

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

You can find the novel on Amazon.com here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this page. Continue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Gregory Maguire’s Egg and Spoon

Current StateHey I was on the radio again! This time on WKAR’s Current State I review the new young adult book by Gregory Maguire, Egg & Spoon.

You can listen to my review online here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-gregory-maguires-egg-and-spoon-wkar

You can also read my book review below.

If you want to check out this new book by Gregory Maguire, you can find it on Amazon.com here. You can check out my past reviews via this page on my site.

I hope you enjoy my new book review! Continue reading