Monthly Archives: September 2011

Fallada Lives on in ‘Every Man Dies Alone’

Cover ImageAfter finishing Hans Fallada’s Every Man Dies Alone, I needed some time to sit and really think about the book. In itself, the story is extremely powerful, but the fact that Fallada lived, breathed and navigated the ruthless currents of Nazi Germany brings a frightening credibility to the tension of this novel.

Otto Quangel is considered a simple man by all those around him. He quietly heads to the factory each morning, efficiently runs his lines, and methodically returns to his gray flat in the same manner. His wife Anna awaits, laying low and fretting in spades for the safety of his daily return.

Otto and Anna have lost their Germany. They are quiet people by nature, but speak sparingly due to the invisible eyes that are always watching. Neighbors are turning. People are hiding. Death and corruption are everywhere. Nazi rule has spread, and with it the trepidation and horror of rumored camps and prisons.

The strength of Every Man Dies Alone, however, lies not so much in the depiction of the torturous treatment and silencing at the hands of the Nazis, but rather in Fallada’s shrewd ability to convey the thrill of fear, and the enormity of risk, as the Quangel’s conspire to take a stand.

If you could muster the courage, how would you stand up to such a staunch and brutal regime? Would you mobilize a coup or a riot? Or would it be something more covert like an underground press or subversive leafleting? What if you were just an everyday man who could hide behind an everyday routine like Otto – would you take any action at all?

I would be cheating you of a magnificent read if I provided any plot spoilers. You should know that Every Man Dies Alone is based on the brave, true story of a couple who decided to resist, and in so doing, showed that the smallest of actions often provide incredible, unintended results. Through the deft skills of Hans Fallada, their small story resounds decades later.

Of Note: Hans Fallada (nee Rudolph Ditzen) wrote Every Man Dies Alone in a feverish twenty-four days, soon after the end of World War II and his release from a Nazi insane asylum. He did not live to see its publication.* Informative sections of Fallada and his life among the Nazi system is provided in the Melville House Publishing paperback version.

– Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer

*taken from book jacket

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Filed under Authors, Book Reviews, Every Man Dies Alone, Hans Fallada

Hot Authors on Tap at Baldwin Public Library

Cover ImageOne of the biggest bummers of Borders closing its doors is that it provided a great spot for hosting big-title events where readers could get up close and personal with the authors they love to read. However, we all know that the closing of one door often leads to the opening – or awareness – of another, and it’s none other than our very own public libraries that continuously provide top-notch programming and events.

As always, Baldwin Public Library has a number of fantastic author events planned, and this October is shaping up to be a stellar month. Author Jaimy Gordon will be at the BPL on October 2, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. for a book talk and signing of her novel Lord of Misrule. Dr. Gordon, who is a professor Western Michigan University, won the 2010 National Book Award for Lord of Misrule, which offers a gritty glimpse into the seedier side of small-time horse racing.

Cover ImageAlso on tap is author Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of the recently released novel Once Upon A River. Campbell’s American Salvage was a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction and a 2010 Michigan Notable Book as well. Campbell will appear at Baldwin Public Library on Sunday, October 9 at 2 p.m. Cover Image

Appearing with Campbell is Chicago author Samuel Park. Park’s debut novel, This Burns My Heart, is both romance and literary drama set in 1960’s South Korea and has been called “quietly stunning,” “smart,” and a “visceral romance.”

It is of note that both Gordon and Campbell live in Michigan and have brought much recognition to the incredible literary talent that resides right here in our state. In addition, Wayne State University Press received some well-deserved applause as publisher of American Salvage.

Naturally, Book Beat Bookstore will be stationed at all events with available copies on hand for purchase and signing. A Night Light Revue reader recap: Gordon’s book is a stretch for traditional readers, but I thought it was excellent and strongly recommend the title. I have yet to read American Salvage, but Once Upon A River now sits on my list of all time favorites. I haven’t read Park’s book yet, but you can link here for a full review.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries and universities. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Links

-Christopher Walton’s article:  Critics are raving over Kalamazoo author Bonnie Jo Campbell’s new novel

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Book Beat Owner Honored With Bookwoman Award

Colleen Kammer is receiving some well-deserved recognition from the Women’s National Book Association. Kammer has been selected as the recipient of the WNBA Detroit 2011 Bookwoman Award for her many contributions as bookseller and owner of the independent bookstore Book Beat in Oak Park.

The WNBA, which was established in 1917, is a national organization of women and men who work with and value books. The Detroit Chapter of the WNBA initiated the Bookwoman Award in 1991 to honor Michigan women who have made significant contributions to libraries, reading, writing, literacy or publishing.

“The Detroit Chapter shares the mission of the WNBA:  to promote reading and support the role of women in the community of the book,” states the Detroit Chapter site. Members of the Detroit Chapter live throughout lower southern Michigan and represent a variety of book-related professions including writers, librarians, publishers, booksellers, and editors. (via)

Kammer’s Book Beat is a literary landmark that offers fantastic author events, book clubs, art, readings and signings. The Book Beat also hosts many book related events throughout the area at venues such as libraries, community houses and schools. More importantly, independent booksellers like Kammer offer first-hand knowledge of their wares and offer great leads to titles of any interest.

There’s nothing like an indie, and for that alone Colleen Kammer deserves her award. Kammer will be honored on Thursday, September 22, 2011 at a special celebration at Sweet Lorraine’s in Southfield.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Links

History of Book Beat bookstore

– The WNBA partners with organizations such as The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress to promote literacy through national and chapter-based initiatives.

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The Lure of “Post 9/11 Literature”

Cover ImageFor obvious reasons, there’s much ado regarding 9/11 bouncing about these September days. Be it pictures, odes or song, a variety of artistic mediums are sought out and used in an attempt to lance the overwhelming emotions caught up in the dark day – that for almost a decade now – blots our calendar each year.

As an avid reader I naturally look to the language and prose of others in my attempt to sort through the chaos of history’s events. Acting as philosophical aides if you will, the angles and perspectives of differing authors ultimately give me a better grasp on how I choose to interpret something as horrific as 9/11. Simply? I turn to books.

The term “post-9/11 literature” is often tossed about and seems loosely tagged to titles. Though it seems straightforward, I personally find the term confusing so decided to turn to those in the know for some solid answers and title suggestions pertaining to the genre.

“‘Post-9/11 literature’ is a slippery fish,” shared writer/reviewer Mark Athitakis in a recent email. “While it ought to mean fiction that directly addresses the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, there actually aren’t many books that would qualify under that definition.”  Athitakis points to Don DeLillo’s “Falling Man,” Claire Messud’s “The Emperor’s Children,” and Ken Kalfus’ “A Disorder Peculiar to the Country” as titles that “attempt to depict the effect of the day’s events on individuals.”

Athitakis believes the meaning of “9/11 literature” has expanded “almost by necessity” due to its broad arch, and now bends to include “books about Muslim terrorists but not necessarily the 9/11 hijackers (Updike’s “Terrorist,” Andre Dubus III’s “The Garden of Last Days”), the effect of 9/11 on domestic life years after (Sue Miller’s “The Lake Shore Limited,” Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”), debates about media and democracy after 9/11 (Amy Waldman’s “The Submission”), American intelligence’s response (Ward Just’s “Forgetfulness”), and so on.”

Whether a book Is/Is Not 9/11, there is still a vast array of titles out there that yearn to capture the energy and angst surrounding the terrorist attacks. Earlier this week NPR wondered if Amy Waldman’s ‘Submission’ Could Be America’s Sept. 11 Novel? Guardian has compiled a list of the 20 best 9/11 books, while the New York Times notes the ongoing publishing push in the article, 9/11 Books Released Into a Sea of Others.

Regardless of one’s interest in “post 9/11 literature,” it is fascinating to bear witness to the birth of a genre – to have experienced the attacks and appreciate the attempts of others to make sense through the device of story. “I think years from now we’ll look back at this first decade’s worth of novels as a great venting of anxiety and confusion,” wraps Athitakis, “—there is no “9/11 novel,” but there clearly is a desperate effort to get one’s hands around it, to see if fiction can address its emotional and political effects.”

*Support your local bookstores, libraries and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Links

Mark Athitakis’ American Fiction Notes

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Michigan Voices Represent at 2011 Kerrytown Bookfest

It’s that wonderful time of year again! Since Borders has more or less closed their doors for the last time, why not embrace and relish our own literary greatness at this year’s Kerrytown Bookfest?

The Bookfest will take place in Ann Arbor again this year on Sunday, September 11th, with events beginning at 11:00am. While the date itself has grave undertones, the Kerrytown Bookfest is a time to celebrate indie bookstores, amazing authors and the remarkable talent and perseverance of the written word in Michigan.

This year proves to be something special due to the fact that much of the country has decided to sit up and take notice of the flourishing literary voices pouring forth from Michigan. Authors and poets such as Jaimy Gordon, Laura Kasischke, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Michael Federspeil, William Whitbeck, M.L. Liebler, Jeff Vande Zande, Jack Dempsey and Doug Stanton are just a sampling of those who will represent at Kerrytown this year.

Regardless of your literary appetite, the Bookfest has offerings for people of all genres.  The full events schedule offers children’s programs, book making workshops, illustrator samplings, indie bookstore displays, panel discussions and of course, books.

Michigan acts as host and home to a rapidly growing, ever-thriving literary community. The Kerrytown Bookfest is a great way to hear from Notable authors and those whose work we admire while making connections with readers and writers who share a passion for fine literature.

Kerrytown Bookfest takes place on Sunday, September 11, 2011. Travel directions, event times, speakers and more can all be found on the Kerrytown Bookfest homepage.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

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