Stuttgart Library by Lieven Van Melckebeke via Creative Commons
A guest post by Maggie Libby Davis
In a class a few semesters ago, our professor asked the timeless and, in my mind, answerless question: “What is your favorite book?” I don’t want to name a favorite. My favorite book today might change tomorrow, and what if I haven’t read my favorite book yet? It’s too much pressure. My professor pushed for an answer, offering at she thought was a lifeline with, “What book do you reread, over and over, just because you must, because your mind demands to hear the story again?”
Reread? Was she crazy? Who had time to reread when there were so many still to read the first time? Don’t misunderstand: I’ve read books multiple times. Dr. Seuss books, Judy Blume books, Lucy Maud Montgomery books. But in my adult reading career? No.
It’s time for our annual look back at the 1980s, to see whether the bestselling novels of the era have stood the test of time, or if they were starting to show their age (and their shoulder pads). In between watching Back to the Future and trying out New Coke, here’s what American readers were enjoying in 1985.
Readers of the 1980s loved a multi-decade saga and The Class well and truly fitted the genre. Written by Erich Segal, the author of Love Story, The Class follows the intertwined fates of five fictional members of the Harvard Class of 1958, culminating with their class reunion in 1983. Described by Publisher’s Weekly as “an absorbing page-turner” The Class is filled with all the tragedies, turmoil and dramatic turning points one might expect from a popular fictional novel of this era.
Danielle Steel’s recipe of romance, suspense and high drama has made her one of the world’s bestselling authors, with current estimates indicating her novels have sold well over 650 million copies around the world. In Family Album, her 18th novel in 12 years, Steel tells the story of Faye Price, from World War II to the present day. Writing in Christian Science Monitor, reviewer Jaye Wilson said “like the heroines in earlier Danielle Steel books, Faye Thayer embodies the ‘fantasy, recovery, escape, and consolation” which Tolkien describes as necessary constituents of a good fairy tale. Victorious in her new challenge, Faye seems as well to represent an updated, flip side of the old Horatio Alger characters who inspired the pre-Yuppie generation of men in gray flannel suits (whose sisters were still being silver-spoon fed on the old version of Cinderella’s tale).”
Paddy O’Reilly is an Australian writer of fiction, non-fiction and screenplay. Her latest novel, The Wonders, is published in the United States this week by Washington Square Press. Here she shares an insight into her writing process.
Allow me to introduce you to one of the ways I spend my writing time – observing chickens. My two chooks are called Toni and Guy. I named them after a hairdressing firm in honour of their excellent plumage.
When I’m writing, I often find it necessary to spend time with Toni and Guy. I feed them from my hand and listen to their snuffly nose breathing as they peck at the seeds. I watch as they travel the morning yard, inspecting the grass for bugs that have landed in the night and not yet made their escape. The girls accompany me as I pass through the garden pulling weeds; or tickling a male flower’s stamen with a feather from Toni and Guy’s coop then transferring the collected pollen to the pistil of a female flower; or nipping the laterals off a plant; or harvesting tomatoes and zucchini and peppers into the basin I carry around each morning in summer.
As I pick my way through my garden tasks, they meander in my wake, tilting their heads to see better because their vision is alien to mine. Chickens can see ultraviolet light. They have better motion-sensing ability than me – they know a crow is in the sky well before I have any idea. When I want to see something close up, I lower my head and look with both eyes. When the girls want the same thing, they often tilt their head sideways to focus the fovea of a single eye, which we humans cannot do. But at night their vision falters. I have to make sure they are protected from predators who can clearly see their sleeping bodies in the dark.
We asked some of our wonderful contributors what were the best books they read in 2014. Here are their responses:
I’m on the final pages of Yvonne Owuor’s Dust, which has brought an excitement and a brokenness I cannot yet name. Earlier I read Maaza Mengiste’s Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, a novel that reads like a dream inserted in Ethiopia’s history. The new book by David Levi Strauss, Words Not Spent Today Buy Smaller Images Tomorrow is a touchstone for me as a fledgling art critic – how do I write with conscience and clarity about photography? Two books of poems, Tade Ipadeola’s The Sahara Testaments and Dami Ajayi’s Clinical Blues, though different in style, highlighted for me what is at stake in Nigerian poetry. They contain a certain fire, an urgency to name things properly. Finally I have held myself to the standards and vision of two novels: The Hour of the Star, Clarice Lispector’s last book, and Seiobo There Below, Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s newly translated book.
Emmanuel Iduma is co-publisher and creative director of Saraba Magazine. His debut novel, Farad, was published in 2012 by Parresia Publishers.
Publishing is the process of getting the author’s story out of her or his head and into the hands of a reader. Zoe Sadokierski
A guest post by Zoë Sadokierski
Authors don’t write books, they write manuscripts. Publishing is the process of getting an author’s manuscript into the hands of a reader, by materialising it – giving it form, as a book. This may be printed (a codex) or digital (an ebook).
I produced the illustrations in this post for a Sydney Writers Festival talk in 2012. All publishing houses have different protocols and cultures; this overview is based on my experience as an in-house book designer at Allen&Unwin (2003-2006), and as a freelance designer for a range of Australian publishers over the past decade.
The author enters a publishing house with a manuscript. Zoe Sadokierski
The author’s manuscript is either solicited (the publisher asks them to write it) or unsolicited (the author writes it, then shops for a publisher). Being rejected is awful and publishing contracts are complicated, so many authors employ an agent to negotiate a deal with a publisher.