Marisa Atkinson Marisa's Comments (member since Mar 25, 2010)

Marisa's comments from the Graywolf Press group.

(showing 61-80 of 244)

Sep 10, 2010 03:43PM

31817 Hi everyone,

How is it Friday already? And whatcha reading over the weekend?
Sep 03, 2010 08:54PM

31817 Hillary, I'm so glad you're enjoying Chimamanda Adichie's work! I haven't read her two novels yet, just her story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. I've heard Half of a Yellow Sun is her best work, though, so I think you're in for a good weekend read!

Lori, one of my coworkers is reading Room: A Novel. It seems eerie and creepy, but also incredibly powerful. It really intrigues me so I'll definitely have to check it out.

I have to update my weekend reads. I'm still planning to spend some time with the two mentioned above, but I just saw an amazing movie trailer for Never Let Me Go and then remembered I already have the book! So I got sucked into the first 60 pages or so of that. I'm definitely hooked.
Sep 03, 2010 08:44AM

31817 Another Friday is upon us!

I'll be taking Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs up north with me, with a side serving of Easy for You , the debut story collection by Shannan Rouss.

What about you? Anyone have any new recs?
Aug 27, 2010 01:04PM

31817 Weekend reads, anyone? I've just silmultaneously started The Poisonwood Bible and A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore. Am also finishing up the HILARIOUS Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour by Rachel Shukert. If anyone has a copy of her first collection, Have You No Shame?: And Other Regrettable Stories , I'd love to borrow or trade for it!

What are you all reading?
31817 In awards news out of the UK, Maile Chapman's Your Presence Is Requested at Suvanto has been named to the longlist for the Guardian's First Book Award!

Congrats, Maile!
31817 I can't believe I didn't post this last week! It's so very exciting!

Jessica Francis Kane's The Report has been named to the shortlist for the Center for Fiction's Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize!

Congratulations, Jessica!
Aug 26, 2010 10:14AM

31817 UPDATE: Because it's been a very busy August, we're going to extend the reading period for this month's book club selection, Mattaponi Queen , through to Friday, September 10th. This should give everyone a little more time to read the book and post their first impressions, discussion questions, and questions for Belle Boggs.

Happy reading!
Aug 26, 2010 10:14AM

31817 UPDATE: Because it's been a very busy August, we're going to extend the reading period for this month's book club selection, Mattaponi Queen , through to Friday, September 10th. This should give everyone a little more time to read the book and post their first impressions, discussion questions, and questions for Belle Boggs.

Happy reading!
Aug 26, 2010 10:14AM

31817 UPDATE: Because it's been a very busy August, we're going to extend the reading period for this month's book club selection, Mattaponi Queen , through to Friday, September 10th. This goes for submitting your questions for Belle as well!

This should give everyone a little more time to read the book and post their first impressions, discussion questions, and questions for Belle Boggs.

Happy reading!
31817 Hi everyone,

Submit your suggestions for October's Graywolf Press Book Club selection here. I'll take suggestions until Friday, September 10th. At that point, all suggestions will be added to a group poll and group members will be able to vote on their favorites until Friday, October 1st.

All Graywolf books that will be published by October 1st are eligible! Check out the group's bookshelf if you need help narrowing down your favorites.
31817 UPDATE: Because it's been a very busy August, we're going to extend the reading period for this month's book club selection, Mattaponi Queen , through to Friday, September 10th. This should give everyone a little more time to read the book and post their first impressions, discussion questions, and questions for Belle Boggs.

Happy reading!
31817 M: You're currently working on your latest Graywolf book, Blackboard, which is all about schools and education. How has writing about schools been different than writing about bookstores? Have you discovered any similarities in these seemingly different themes?

L: I was drawn to writing Blackboard not because of schools and education, but because of the classroom, that common space we have all shared. The subtitle is "the life of the classroom." In many ways, then, it's similar to Yellow-Lighted, where my focus was always on the bookstore, rather than the history of publishing and books. I'm fascinated by spaces, drawn to investigate them, and how the space creates what happens in it. All the rest--the big picture stuff--coheres around the space. And isn't this how we experience the world--first what is in front of us, what surrounds us, and then the bigger ideas coming out. While I was never a great student, at least through my sophomore year of high school, I still loved going to school, being in the classroom. And in studying the classroom, I found that it was similar to the bookstore in this way: it's a place where the body is mostly at rest, but the mind is enflamed. We are still there, present as bodies, but our minds are the more active elements.

What was so different, though, was the sheer size and scope of it. I knew that the classroom was a bigger topic than the bookstore, but wow, I had no idea of the extent of that difference. We had classrooms before we had bookstores, and even if you never set foot in a bookstore, chances are quite good that you've been in a classroom--a nearly universal setting. And then as I furthered the study, I found that so much more was involved--how education was shaped in various countries, the full extent to which it affects our lives, and how, perhaps more than ever, in an age of dwindling public funds, it matters to the world's overall well being. Monumental. It was much more challenging a project than I'd imagined.

M: In The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop you touch on some personal history, as well as some of your favorite bookstores. Will you include a bit of personal history in Blackboard? Is there a favorite teacher or classroom experience that impacted your life in a meaningful or significant way?

L: In many ways, I've tried to take a similar approach to the subject of the classroom, by including shards of my own memory. I did this in Yellow-Lighted not because my own career as a bookseller was so fascinating or dramatic--it wasn't--but as a way of trying to engage the reader in her own memories and perceptions of bookstores, a way of staying in that common place. I hope the same is true of Blackboard--I want the reader to come away thinking of her own classrooms, not mine. And for most of us, because school is such a pervasive part of our first two decades, there's much to be gleaned from revisiting it.

I was the most fortunate of students. I went to school in a time and place--California, the sixties and seventies, when there was a great public will to create the best schools, and the money to back that will. I had wonderful teachers--seriously--every year of my school life. But particularly in high school, when I had one, if not more than one, great, truly great teacher every year. Fortunate. Oh, I had some teachers that were boring, sure, but no one that was cruel or arbitrary. However, it doesn't really matter, for school and its teacher, by the simple fact that they occupy so much of our lives, shape us, for good or ill.

A simple story: It was through my sophomore English teacher, the amazingly creative Paula Jouthas--we read "Mad" magazine in her Satire class--that I was forced to read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. It was this book that opened, in a few short pages, the entire world of reading and writing to me. A book report. Imagine that. But that is only one small moment in long line of such moments.

M: You also write middle grade novels, for 10-14 year olds (Steinbeck's Ghost just came out in paperback, and The Haunting of Charles Dickens is forthcoming this fall). How is writing for kids different from writing for adults? How is it the same? Why have you made the decision to write for both audiences, and how do you balance the two as a writer?

L: At my first bookstore job, Upstart Crow, I worked with a group of incredible booksellers, all women, who loved and admired, and knew the value of the best in kids' lit, from picture books to young adult novels. They made sure that I knew this, too, and tutored me in it. So I've been reading kids' lit, as an adult, with great admiration and envy, for decades. It's something I've always wanted to do, and seems to me now that this is where my writing has always been headed. I've written three now--Mark Twain and the Mysterious Stranger will come out in 2011--and am going to write many more.

What amazes me about the best kids' lit is that it's as sophisticated and accomplished as the best adult lit. And you can't bullshit at all. Kids as readers, especially middle-grade readers, will tackle any of the most complex issues and ideas and language and characters you can throw at them. But they won't put up with showing off, or yadda yadda, or just plain dull. It's an absolute blast to write to this challenge, striving for both complexity and directness at the same time. Adult readers will often pretend to admire something, simply for the cool factor; kids will call you on it.

When I sit down to write, once the book's planned out, I really don't make any distinctions. The book is more determined, not by the readership, but by the main characters. If the characters are 12 or 13, then a certain course has been predicted. But otherwise, there's no difference. I'm simply trying to write the best book I can at the time. There's no need to balance, the balance is always there.

M: I think that covers all of my questions, Lewis! Thank you so much for participating in this exclusive interview for the Graywolf Press Goodreads Group members. Anything else you'd like to say to our members before we close?

L: Thanks for reading. And keep on reading, anything you can and anything you wish to. Reading is essential to our being human.

Readers, don’t forget to check out Lewis’s brand-new website:!
31817 Hi Graywolf friends,

Below is my exclusive interview for the Graywolf Press Goodreads Group with Lewis Buzbee, author of July's Graywolf Press Book Club selection, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop . Please note that the interview was a bit too long to fit into one discussion post, and has been split into two parts. Don't forget to read Part 2 here.



Marisa: Hi Lewis! I wanted to start by asking you a question I first posed to our Goodreads group members: What is your all-time favorite bookstore, past or present, and why? Additionally, have you discovered and become enamored of any new bookstores since The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop was published in 2006?

Lewis: My favorite bookstore of all time is, was, and probably ever will be, City Lights in San Francisco. It's easy enough to say that location has a lot to do with it--the heart of San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, on a corner that gives you an incredible view of SF's skyline; and across the street is Tosca, the best martini in town; all of this adjacent to Chinatown, its bustle and color. But it's the books. Not only is the selection thorough, it's surprising. Every time I go there I find something I've never seen before. I find everything I want and a few things I need. A few blocks up the street is Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store, home of outrageously good meatball foccacias. A perfect outing in SF--Tosca, City Lights, Mario's.

I've seen so many great bookstores since Yellow-Lighted was published, I'd be hard-pressed to name one that stuck out. I mean, it's a feast, why be picky. But I will venture my newest favorite, which is a bit of a rediscovery for me. Browser Books is in San Francisco, on Fillmore Street, and it's a small neighborhood shop, cramped and overstocked and filled with nooks and crannies to hide in. It's a rare kind of shop so hard to find anywhere anymore. I've known Browser since my sales rep days, but in the past year or so, I've begun going again, with my family, and we're all enchanted with the place. Not only does it have a great selection and a lovely atmosphere, but it just smells like a bookstore ought to. It's like walking into the past, in a way, and then they have what you're looking for, too.

M: What about bookstores abroad, any favorites there? It seems a new website or article pops up every week highlighting amazing bookstores throughout the world (check out the Guardian's list of the top ten bookstores in the world, for example). One of the most interesting bookstores I've been to is McNally Robinson, which is housed in a mall (!) in Winnipeg, Canada.

L: Alas, seeing new bookstores abroad requires going abroad, and darn, that's not happened recently. Except this. In Yellow-Lighted I wrote about the Double Hook in Montreal, a great little store, that sadly went under. But it was immediately replaced by Babar's, which was their second children's-only store in the area. I always love to see old bookstores replaced by new. Here in San Francisco, when A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books closed after 30 years, it was immediately replaced by Books, Inc., a wonderful local chain. The same was true with one of the Kepler's locations, a new Books, Inc. there, too. Something very satisfying about that, knowing that locals still have a place to browse and graze.

I know the Guardian's list and pix. Oh, it's such pornography for book geeks. Who wouldn't love that. The one shop that didn't make it there was The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. This store was opened a few months after Yellow-Lighted came out, and the owner, Hereward Corbett, wrote to ask my permission to use the name. Thrilling. The store is doing great, and they now have a second. You can see pix of it, and read more about it online. And if you go, tell him I sent you. I can't wait to see it myself.

M: I had no idea that there is an actual Yellow-Lighted Bookshop! The next time I'm in Gloucestershire I'll be sure to drop in and mention your name. I feel like that's a pilgrimage you'll have to make at some point in the future.

Speaking of "pornography for book geeks," have you seen yet? Do you happen have any book-obsession website recommendations for our readers?

L: You know, it's funny, but I don't. It just seems to me that, being the book geek that I am, the best way for me to indulge that obsession is primarily. Meaning, I think I'd rather go to a bookstore, or better yet, stay home with a book. The only sites like that I visit come from other folk who e-mail them to me. I suppose, in the end, it's the difference between pornography and the real deal. I'm most apt to go with the real deal. I mean, I've got all these books to read...

I'm always surprised at how many blogs and other e-writings are about the death of the printed book, and isn't it a shame, and why can't people read more?...etc. Not that these pieces aren't enjoyable, but it seems to me that if you really are concerned about the death of the printed book and bookstores, and all the rest of the doom that gets spread around these days, well, it seems the best thing to do would be to stay home and read a book instead of blogging about it.

M: The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop was just released as an e-book (with a special e-pendix included for the edition). So I have to ask: Do you have an e-reader yourself? If so, what e-reader do you use, and do you find that it's cut down on the amount of printed books you read and buy?

L: When Graywolf told me they were making Yellow-Lighted into an e-book, even they thought it was weird. As did I. I mean, it's pretty much nothing but an ode to the printed book and the people who make and sell it. But it was kind of cool, too. I mean, I have to be realistic about the landscape--the internet is here, the e-book is here, and all my wishing for a "simpler past" ain't gonna change that. So, it's exciting to be a small part of the changes. As a writer, I'm always happy to find new readers, and I suppose one hope I have is that the readers of the e-book of Yellow-Lighted might find themselves drawn back into bookstores. That would be nice.

For the e-book of Yellow-Lighted, I wanted to write a new chapter on e-books, and so did a lot of research about where they stand at this moment--a moment that changes by the minute. I also borrowed a Kindle from a friend and spent the weekend with it. Here's the thing: it works. After I forgot the machine I was reading it on, I fell into the book--The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh. I got lost in that book, as we readers like to say. And sure, it was awkward because this was a machine I'd never used before, whereas I'd been using the book-machine my whole life. I know I'd get used to it. But I don't have any plans to use an e-reader, not now. I like books as objects too much.

But I might get one someday. It'll be interesting to see what kinds of books appear that mesh with the e-reader technology, how to make the most of that technology. The book does what it does and perfectly. We don't yet know what the e-reader can do.

M: The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop has been translated into Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and Polish, and sells very well in the UK. Why do you think the book has had such a wide appeal across languages and cultures?

L: I think the answer is a simple one: people love bookstores, no matter the language or the place. To write and read and publish is a major thread in human civilization, and one thing I discovered in the research I did for Yellow-Lighted is how prevalent, how saturated, our world is in the hunger for printed matter. There is one way of looking at this history that says that writing and books in fact created who we are, not merely a reflection of who we are.

I also knew, from my years as a bookseller, that there are a huge number of people who love bookstores, simple as that. This is good for all of us who do love bookstores. I don't know what the future will hold, but I strongly believe bookstores will be a part of it. It's interesting to note the resurgence of the vinyl LP in the music world. This last year was the first year in almost 25 years when vinyl LPs outsold CDs. Yes, it has something to do with downloaded music, but it also speaks to our desire to have objects in our lives that don't come off a computer. I don't think we're quite ready to plug the computer into our brains and lock ourselves in life-sustaining pods. One of the best things about bookstores is that you've got to go out into the world to get to one. I hope we'll always want to do that.

M: Now that we've made clear our grand love for the bookstore, I have to ask: If you could have been a bookseller in any time period, which time period would you choose? And, of course, why?

L: I know this will sound a little narcissistic, but I feel so very fortunate to have sold books in the last decades of the twentieth century. First of all, there's the whole hot and cold running water issue, and the antibiotics issue, all of that. But more seriously, it was a glorious time in publishing and bookselling. In the ‘70s and ‘80s in particular, and into the ‘90s, the growth of great independent bookstores was phenomenal, and the publishing world responded to that. There was a greater variety of books being published, far more literary than in previous decades, there were so many bookstores, so many great ones, to sell all those books. It was a freewheeling time, especially here in the Bay Area, and we sold lots of great books to lots of great readers. I imagine that those days are gone for good, so I'm glad I was a part of that.

I do, however, have a soft spot in my heart for those bookshops in Dickens's London. The cramped and sooty ones, the ones that were on every corner, sometimes five to a corner. I suppose this is because I have an irrational love of such Dickensian scenes (see hot and cold running water, antibiotics, and the lack of them), the cozy, toy-like quality I glean from reading Dickens. But also because this was a time before "media," when books were our best and often only source for information and imagination out of the great wide world.
Aug 20, 2010 01:45PM

31817 Sara - One Day is probably one of my favorite novels of the year. I wish I could read it again for the first time! (I'm beginning to believe we have very similar reading tastes...what other British novels circa 1990 can you recommend??)
Aug 20, 2010 11:06AM

Aug 19, 2010 07:45AM

31817 Want to know more about Belle Boggs, author of this month's Graywolf Press book club selection, Mattaponi Queen? Check out the recent profiles of Belle at The Daily Beast, Poets & Writers , and Shelf Awareness.

Check out the playlist that influenced Belle's collection at Largehearted Boy.

Finally, don't forget to bookmark Belle's always delightful and charming blog.
Aug 17, 2010 10:06AM

31817 Belle Boggs, author of August's book club selection, the award-winning short story collection Mattaponi Queen , has generously agreed to answer our members' questions!

Submit your questions for Belle to this forum from now until Tuesday, August 31st. Belle's answers will be posted the following week!

Thanks to Belle for participating in this month's Graywolf Press Book Club, and happy reading to all!
Aug 17, 2010 09:52AM

31817 Hillary, these are such great jumping-off points for our discussion of Belle's book. The great thing about having an international forum like Goodreads for discussion, is that we'll wind up having readers for which the landscape of Belle's collection is both familiar and foreign. We'll hopefully see impressions from both sides.

As for your point about "open" endings, I think we should put that to the other members of the group. For those of you that have had a chance to start in on Mattaponi Queen , what do you think? Do you feel the endings have been ambiguous? Do you look for more solid endings/closure in short stories or do you like the sense of wonder and mystery that Hillary describes?
31817 Sara - Everything Will Be All Right sounds amazing and right up my alley. I've added it to my TBR list (so you should consider this a virtual shoved-into-my-hands moment). Does she have any other novels or short stories you would recommend?

Dan and Lewis - How have I never heard of David Huddle? He certainly sounds prolific and versatile. I guess that's why we have lists like these--so we can promote those that have somehow, inexplicably, slipped under the radar. And, of course, connect to fellow fans that come out of the woodwork...

Psst, Dan! Look for more work from Percival Everett in the fall of 2011!
Aug 17, 2010 09:41AM

31817 Hi everyone,

I know I'm late with the weekend reads (I was out of town without internet access!), but now we can talk about what we did read this weekend.

I was up at our family cabin and had copious amounts of time to read. I nearly finished Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour by Rachel Shukert (hilarious!), and made serious progress on The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (beautiful! remarkable!).

What about you?

topics created by Marisa