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GALLERY & The STACKS - Back Issues

ON MY NIGHTSTAND Summer 2013

Books by local authors

June is National Audiobook Month

and the maiden voyage of our new AUDIOBOOK SECTION

scroll down for Eyes vs. Ears: On "Hearing" Great Literature by Stinson Beach author Jeb Harrison

 

Dancing on the River
Dreaming
Woodacre
Incensed
HACK

 

 

How it all began...

Tales from Two Valleys
Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows

Non-fiction by Eddy Starr Ancinas

Nestled amidst California’s High Sierra Peaks, two valleys have captured the imaginations of mountain explorers and skiers since the 1930s. In this account, local author and longtime skier Eddy Starr Ancinas shares the histories of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows as they’ve never been told before, including the stories of John Reily, Wayne Poulsen and Alex Cushing, the visionaries whose dreams and determination forever transformed North Lake Tahoe. Squaw made a name for itself on the world stage thanks to its surprise nomination as host of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Meanwhile, just one mountain apart, Alpine was built with the support of local skiers and Bay Area families. Today, a new chapter unfolds as the distinct philosophies behind Squaw and Alpine unite under common ownership.

Eddy Starr Ancinas, descendent of a California ski and mountaineering family, first skied at Badger Pass in Yosemite in the 1940s before following many California skiers to Sugar Bowl and on to Squaw Valley when it opened in 1948. She was a guide for the International Olympic Committee in Squaw Valley at the 1960 Olympics, where she met her husband, a member of the Argentine Olympic Team. They raised their family in Alpine Meadows, where he was a ski coach for the Lake Tahoe Ski Club. During the ’70s and ’80s, they owned and operated ski shops (Casa Andina) in both Alpine and Squaw. Eddy has been a contributor to Skiing Heritage magazine and has published an article on the 1960 Olympics for The Atlantic. Currently, she is a board member of the future Squaw Valley Olympic Museum and Sierra Ski Heritage Center. She and her husband live between the two valleys.
This new book is available at local stores and online at www.historypress.net   Paperback   •   160 pages   •   $19.99  •  February 20, 2013

 

Mark Susnow keeps "Dancing on the River"

Non-fiction

"In Dancing on the River, Mark Susnow gives us a clear road map towards self-discovery, one that’s easy to follow with profound yet simple and practical techniques. After reading, you will feel empowered to embrace the inevitable twists and turns that life will present along the way. This is a must read for those of us who are ready to tune up our minds, bodies, and spirit."
Sherri Baptiste, author of Yoga with Weights for Dummies (Wiley Publishers)

Incensed By Cary Sparks

Incensed takes a sly look at the predicament of balancing true spiritual yearning with the foibles of the human ego, even for those supposedly far along the path to enlightenment. Graphic artist Michaela Thomason is distraught when the arrogant owners of hot new restaurant Eighth (as in eighth chakra) proclaim her “not spiritual enough” to design their menus, sending her scrambling for instant higher consciousness. On her quest, Michaela crosses paths with: workshop junkie and incense salesman Rennie Morrow, whose worldly desire to be a famous meditation teacher conflicts with his inner yearning for enlightenment; Dorothea Light, seminar leader and author, who’s either a true healer or an utter narcissist; a sangha of Maserati-driving Tibetan monks; and a host of other sentient beings, all searching for spiritual answers to a worldly existence. See excerpt from the oh-so-Marin-chuckle-out-loud Incensed in middle of Review.

Bio: Cary Jane Sparks lives in Mill Valley with her husband, son, and Thunder the cat. While organizing numerous workshops and conferences for her business, she’s encountered an entertaining and inspiring variety of seekers and teachers, upon whom absolutely none of the characters in Incensed are based. 

 

Dreaming Mill Valley By Christie Nelson is a cautionary love story of dreamers, innocents and fools set in Mill Valley and San Francisco in 1974, a restless time of social experimentation and political protest in the era of free love when love was hardly free.

In this new standalone novel, Christie Nelson brings back impetuous and obsessive Jess McCarty, from her first novel, Woodacre; her friend Annie Morrison—a mother who precariously balances painting and motherhood; Stewart Merch—a transplant from Michigan looking for his future; and Daniel Gessler—a Bolinas surfer and law-school dropout. See the characters earlier development in Nelson's prequel novel Woodacre.

Christie Nelson is a native San Franciscan and graduate of Dominican University. 
Elaine Petrocelli of Book Passage chose her first novel, Woodacre, a love story of two people perfectly wrong for each other, as a “Best Summer Reading” book. Her short stories have been published in Bust Out, literary journals, and featured on Fog City Radio. My Moveable Feast, a memoir, was produced by San Francisco Center for the Book. Dreaming Mill Valley, her second novel, reflects her fascination of place and exploration of contemporary characters in search of identity.     
She lives with her husband in Gerstle Park in the 1880 Brewmeister’s House of the former San Rafael Brewery.

 

HACK by Jeb Harrison: “Perception is more important than reality” is one of the oldest unspoken governing truths of Hollywood. In HACK, Jeb Harrison reveals how this rule also applies to the art world, and its painters, agents, and collectors, with comic and bittersweet results. Struggling painter Henry “Hack” Griffin’s brief reunion with his long time unrequited love, Hadley Scofield – and with a complex, charmingly off-beat character like Hadley, the reality is always far more complex – sets in motion a series of ever-escalating ruses that eventually exposes how all the characters in the novel are unable to perceive what is real from that which they so strongly want to be real. Harrison creates a topsy-turvy carousel of disguises, mistaken identities, lies, half-truths, misunderstood motivations, and perhaps even a fable (in the form of a quasi-mythic homeless man) then sets it spinning until it ensnares all of the characters who inhabit the Bay Area’s “see-or-be-art-scene” – from bisexual ex-wives and Marin County divorcees to gay Scottish make-up artists and a rich music video producer and his ex-WWF bodyguard. Harrison gives each of these characters enough credibility to convey that he’s obviously met and known their real counterparts in his life, and an equal amount of hyperbole that makes them both funny and sad, often at the same time. Reading HACK is like a weekend getaway in Marin County: a very enjoyable way to spend your time." – Stan Chervin, screenwriter of Moneyball

 

Put a farmer’s market on your back porch

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NEW SECTION: AUDIOBOOK REVIEW

Introduction

Hello, I'm Jeb Harrison. In the last several months I've listened to audiobook versions of Cheever, Updike, Dostoevsky, Dickens, Flaubert, and more contemporary works by Junot Diaz, Jonathan Franzen and Denis Johnson. See my review of a classic novel below and my interviews with voice actors\narrators Paul Costanzo and Simon Vance in the Salon.

The Mill Valley Literary Review turns the spotlight on audiobooks in this issue with interviews of local, and eminently accomplished, voice actors: Simon Vance of Concord and Paul Costanzo of San Rafael. And in the interest of making it more fun to become well read, we've included a review of the audio rendition of the Gustave Flaubert classic, Madame Bovary.

Jeb Harrison has had a long career in business and the arts where he has written everything from commercials to eulogies to commercial interactive CD-ROMs, played music in sleazy dives and concert halls, and painted hundreds of canvasses of his beautiful Marin County, California home. His debut novel, Hack, has just been released by Harper
Davis and his blog, “Adventures in Limboland”, chronicles a
rogue’s gallery of colorful characters both real and imagined as they
engage in a cornucopia of wild and nefarious exploits.

 

 

“Get Caught LIstening”

June, as I learned recently, is "Audiobook Month", which the Audio Publishers Association launched in 2008 with the rallying cry “Get Caught Listening.” Audiobooks, like everything digital, have mushroomed in popularity in recent years, doubling the number of new titles every few years. To the digiterati, the most visible provider is Audible.com, which in 2008 became yet another arrow in Amazon’s quiver of all-things-published. Audible's content includes over 100,000 titles by more than 1200 different providers, amounting to over 1,000,000 hours of audio programming, Now, with Audible’s “Whispersync for Voice”, we can enjoy reading and listening simultaneously on their Kindle, or switching back and forth without having to jog through the audio file to find our place. Very cool when, engrossed in a book, you suddenly realize you’re out of butter and have to drive 100 miles to the nearest store, you can simply plug your smartphone into your car system and never miss a word.

I can't remember my first audiobook experience (known then as "books on tape"), though I do remember that my folks were wild about them to the point where they preferred to make their winter pilgrimage to Palm Desert by car, for the sole reason of listening to the latest Tom Clancy or John Grisham thriller. Naturally I wasn't about to validate their enthusiasm, so it wasn't until I had a brood of my own and we found ourselves sitting in hotel parking lots long after we had reached our destination, to find out how Hermione managed to be in two places at once or what happened when the dementors showed up in the middle of a quidditch match. Several years and dozens of audiobooks later I realized that a well-performed audiobook could make my family and I want to drive forever, where a poorly performed audiobook made us want to drive off the road. I also found that listening to a great voice-actor's rendition of a classic (Dostoevsky, for example) that we might have avoided out of sheer hippie principal was a perfectly acceptable and much more fun way to become "well read." What a wonderfully liberating discovery!

About a year ago, The New Yorker published an article by essayist John Colapinto entitled "The Pleasures of Being Read To" to which I must humbly admit I have nothing of profound value to add except one perhaps salient personal experience: I can remember my Grandmother reading "The Five Chinese Brothers" to me like it was yesterday, thereby proving Mr. Colapinto's claims regarding the indelibility of the voice of the storyteller on the ears of the listener.  You’ll probably find the voices of many audiobook narrators as imprinted on your ears as some of your favorite singers, actors, or baseball announcers. I think the talents of these great voice actors are overlooked and undersung, and I’ll bet that once you catch the audiobook bug you’ll see...or hear...what I mean.

 

Eyes vs. Ears: On "Hearing" Great Literature

Music to My Ears by Jeb Harrison

Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert –– Penguin Classics

Whether reading a heavy, leather-bound volume, reading an e-book, or listening to an audiobook, it’s probably impossible for the 21st century adult reader to experience Madame Bovary without feeling the weighty presence of the millions of words written about the novel, about Flaubert, about each and every character, and probably about Emma’s favorite positions in the sack, the meadow, the carriage, the arbor, the riverbank, the kitchen, the billiards room. Flaubert, everything he wrote, said, touched, ate, and thought has been so thoroughly analyzed that the challenge, as I imagine it is for all readers of the classics, is to at least temporarily stow all of that information in a lockbox and enjoy the story.

       

The 21st century fiction writer could probably spend as much time researching as actually reading the story. Once I started looking into the background I felt like I had fallen into a black hole that at another point in my life I would have jumped into but in these overly busy circumstances must avoid. However, even with all of the sideshow, I became completely engrossed in the world Flaubert created around the story of Madame Bovary, and I read nary a single word.

       

For those that prefer perhaps a tamer, more civilized bucket list, having Madame Bovary read to you might be worth including. There is nothing to lose and much to gain by listening to a great voice talent read (Kate Reading* narrates the Penguin Classics version). Flaubert’s vision is conveyed so naturally and in such an accessible, believable tone that the translated writing – the choice of words, the construction of the sentences, the grammar – all of it - is hardly noticed at all. This, of course, is the genius of Flaubert, and testimony to the achievement of his goal: “… to write the novel ‘objectively,’ leaving the author out of it.” (K.L. 61, Introduction by Lydia Davis)            

The compare/contrast studies have grown exponentially since the advent of books-on-tape in the early seventies to downloadable .mp3 files today. And the “one-click-away” proximity of these studies through Google and other search engines make idle theorizing and conjecture seem sort of lazy and irresponsible. A query of “reading versus listening to books” turns up 298 million Google results. I could cite scientific white papers ad infinitum about the studies that demonstrate why “hearing” a book, in certain circumstances, is more memorable than reading a book. For example a recent article on the PsychCentral blog cites a study that indicates that reading interferes with imagery.

“Reading and imagining both require visual representation. It appears that when the visual bits of our brain are busy taking in the written word, there’s less of them available for creating an image of the content.” (“Audio Books vs. Book Books: Which Does the Brain Prefer?” By Sophia Dembling Psychcentral November 2012)

In the case of Madame Bovary, Flaubert himself wondered what it would be like to “give psychological analysis the rapidity, clarity, passion of a purely dramatic narration.” And if we agree with translator Lydia Davis about Flaubert’s intentions, we get a better feeling for the importance of the sound of the work:  “What he is trying to achieve in this book, instead, is a style that is clear and direct, economical and precise, and at the same time rhythmic, sonorous, musical, and ‘as smooth as marble’ on the surface, with varied sentence structures and with imperceptible transitions from scene to scene and from psychological analysis to action.” (K.L. 133 Introduction by Lydia Davis)

 

These rhythmic, sonorous, musical qualities can only be heard, and, once heard, perhaps felt in someplace else in mind or body. That doesn’t necessarily mean that in order to hear these qualities we must be listening to someone else. We could conceivably experience these characteristics by listening to the voice in our own head, presupposing that reading does in fact produce the mental equivalent of voice.**

Again, in the case of Madame Bovary, the difference between listening to a professional narrator read and actually reading the words on the page is quite profound. While the reading experience can be powerful, when I read I find myself stopping to think about things, going back, looking up translations, pausing to conjure an image in my head, re-reading and re-reading again. You really can’t practically do any of these things when you’re listening to an audiobook, especially while you’re driving. Even rewinding a story on an iPod is a dangerous proposition.

       

Of course the success of an audiobook is highly dependent on the quality of the narrator. Kate Reading* has narrated 234 audiobooks now available on Amazon. She has received three “Earphones Awards” and has been named by AudioFile magazine as a "Voice of the Century". And so it was no surprise when I found myself completely entranced by her reading. In Madame Bovary, she assumes different dialog voices for each of Flaubert’s many characters (not all narrators do this) and in so doing creates an image in the listener’s mind. Homais is proud and bellicose, Emma is generally soft and earnest. Charles sounds like more of a dullard than he probably is, being a doctor. Rodolphe’s voice is dark and scheming while Monsieur Leon sounds like he just smoked some wickedly strong dope.

 

Imagine the scene at the agricultural fair, with Rodolphe fawning over Emma as if he might start kissing her all over at any moment, interspersed with the official announcements of awards for agricultural advancements for things like manure, and Reading’s tone quickly switching between Rodolphe’s earnest entreaties, Emma’s stunned, stilted expressions, and the pronouncements of the judges at the podium. I like to assume that Reading pulled this off in a live performance, vs. a slick editing job in post production piecing it all together. She alternates between the tones of each character so fluidly that your mind darts around the scene, now imagining Rodolph and his silly excesses, then Emma’s flushed response, then the stiff prefect’s assistant making an award announcement.

 

When Flaubert’s omniscient narrator gets into a character’s head, it is very clear when reading the text. But when listening, the transition from objective narrator to the thoughts of a character can be tricky. The audiobook narrator must create subtly different inner voices for each character to indicate that we are seeing a particular scene through their eyes. Reading is masterful at this. She follows Emma’s manic-depressive swings: she is slightly breathless, anxious when Emma is in her mania, and sadly sighing, despondent, and resigned when Emma is depressed. When in Rodolphe’s head, Reading’s  voice is cool, calculating, flippant, and dismissive.

 

Thus our audiobook narrator imbues the tone of the character into those passages of exposition that are directly related to their psychology of the characters. Much of the novel, after Emma becomes the focal point, is about her reacting to the world around her as well as her inner self.

“Then her physical desires, her cravings for money, and the fits of melancholy born of her passion, all merged in a single torment; and instead of putting it out of her mind, she clung to it more, provoking herself to the point of pain and seeking every opportunity to do so. She was irritated by a dish badly served or a door half open, lamented the velvet she did not have, the happiness that eluded her, her too-lofty dreams, her too-narrow house.” (K.L 2003)

 

Passages such as these are read if not entirely in Emma’s voice, then with a hint of her overall tone. Similarly, when Rodolphe is preparing to write his goodbye letter to Emma, Reading takes on a voice that clearly signals we are seeing the world through his eyes:

“Indeed, these women, flocking into his thoughts all at the same time, impeded and diminished one another, as though leveled by the sameness of his love. And picking up fistfuls of the disordered letters, he amused himself for a few minutes letting them fall in cascades from his right hand into his left. At last, bored, sleepy, Rodolphe carried the tin back to the cupboard, saying to himself: “What a load of nonsense! . . .”

Which summed up his opinion; for his pleasures, like schoolchildren in a schoolyard, had so trampled his heart that nothing green grew there, and whatever passed through it, more heedless than the children, did not even leave behind its name, as they did, carved on the wall.” (K.L. 3667)

       

Every time I listened I was transported to the “July Monarchy” and the era of Louis-Phillip, “The Citizen King”. And although it would be impossible for an educated 21st century “realist” to conjure such a character as Emma Bovary without acknowledging that she suffers from what it now a universally recognized mental illness called “depression”, more specifically “bipolar disorder”, it would equally be difficult to create a young middle-class mother, moreover the wife of a doctor, who would go untreated for her obvious illness. Thus does Emma’s disastrous loss of control become even more tragic when viewed through the 21st century lens, for we can’t help but wonder “if only Homais had some lithium!”

       

Like many of the characteristics of Madame Bovary, the audio version paints Emma’s misfiring neurons in stark relief. Indeed there’s nothing she can do about it and she ends up dying from the condition. I can only say that it’s testimony to Flaubert’s awesome powers and skills that today, 158 years later, I care about what happens to Emma Bovary.

       

*The late Herb Caen, long-time humor columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, would have labeled Kate Reading’s name a “namephreak”. As in “isn’t it freaky that a woman with the last name ‘Reading’ should end up being a ‘reader’…”

.**If I remember the Evelyn Wood speed reading theory correctly, it is when we produce this voice inside our heads that we read very slowly. If we want to digest massive quantities of printed information quickly, we must turn off the voice in our head and learn to “batch process” words like we would process a visual image. Digesting Madame Bovary in such a fashion would mean to miss much of Flaubert’s stated intent.

 


 

Tiburon Library B&N Saroyan? hmm, OK Depot

MORE LOCAL AUTHORS we have met:

Seaglass- Stinson Beach Poems, The Marvelous Journals, Fight Song, Hand Me Down

Claudia Chapline poetry Gilbert Mansergh Joshua Mohr Melanie Thorne

SEA GLASS by CLAUDIA CHAPLINE, Stinson Beach Poet - see her poem "On the Roads" in The Gallery sidebar.
Since 2009 she has written an arts column for the West Marin Citizen. Her awards include the 2011 Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition 2011 Honorable Mention and the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Northern California Women’s Caucus for Art. She has published five chapbooks and numerous articles on California arts.  Her poetry has been published in Marin Poetry Center Anthologies, the Petaluma Poetry Walk Anthology, Beside the Sleeping Maiden: Poets of Marin, and many small press journals such as Convuvulus, Mariposa and Estero. Born in Oak Park, Illinois. info@cchapline.com

Hand Me Down by Melanie Thorne. (from her website) A debut novel named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2012, given a “compelling” 3.5/4 stars from People, and described by Publisher’s Weekly as “an intriguing first outing by a talented new writer.” Also praised by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Associated Press, and Daily Candy, and nominated for a 2013 YALSA Alex Award, Hand Me Down is about a series of family betrayals that separates two sisters and propels them on a journey of broken promises and dangerous secrets as they search for a safe home. Pam Houston says, “Hand Me Down is a compelling, intelligently contemporized version of a traditional coming of age story,” and John Lescroart calls the novel, “sad, strong, evocative as hell, and all together terrific.” http://melaniethorne.com/

FIGHT SONG by Joshua Mohr: (from book jacket) When his bicycle is intentionally run off the road by a neighbor's SUV, something snaps in Bob Coffen. Modern suburban life has been getting him down and this is the last straw. To avoid following in his own father’s missteps, Bob is suddenly desperate to reconnect with his wife and his distant, distracted children. And he's looking for any guidance he can get.

Bob Coffen soon learns that the wisest words come from the most unexpected places, from characters that are always more than what they appear to be: a magician/marriage counselor, a fast-food drive-thru attendant/phone-sex operator, and a janitor/guitarist of a French KISS cover band. Can these disparate voices inspire Bob to fight for his family? To fight for his place in the world?

A call-to-arms for those who have ever felt beaten down by life, Fight Song is a quest for happiness in a world in which we are increasingly losing control. It is the exciting new novel by one of the most surprising and original writers of his generation.
Paperback, 272 pages, 2013 Soft Skull Press

The Marvelous Journals of Miss Virginia Pettingill
by Gilbert Mansergh
from HarperDavis website

“What will be, will be,” grownups sagely tell Miss Virginia Pettingill three years after surviving the flu epidemic and WWI. But as much as she loves Gloucester, Massachusetts, the short, precocious school girl sees bigotry, bullies, sexism and pollution all around her, and she is determined to make things better.  So Virginia begins writing a weekly journal of what seventh grade is like for a single child raised to be talented and “ladylike” by her suffragette mother, and to hunt, play baseball and smoke cigars by her doctor father. Aided by her best friend, Tibby Bloomberg, and the boys from her neighborhood baseball team, Virginia spends the year using creativity, skill, determination, and friendships to change things for the better in America’s busiest fishing port. 

Gilbert Mansergh is a prolific non-fiction author, syndicated film columnist, NY Times affiliated movie blogger, and producer/host of Word By Word: Conversations With Writers radio show on Sonoma County’s NPR station, KRCB-FM. The Marvelous Journals of Miss Virginia Pettingill is his fictionalized account of true stories told to him by his mother of her formative years. Learn more about Gil at: http://www.gilmansergh.com/

Publication Date: 8/2012

HOME | THE LITERARY LATTÉ | ON MY NIGHTSTAND | LITERARY REVIEW & EVENTS | SALON - INTERVIEWS, Submission, Contact Staff

GALLERY & The STACKS - Back Issues

 

 

On My Nightstand © by J. Macon King

© MillValleyLit. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any material without permission is strictly prohibited.

All writing, submissions, and comments are the views of the respective authors and interviewees do not necessarily reflect the views of MillValleyLit or Editorial staff.

King photo in his library: Perry King

Christie Nelson Photo credit: Dedalus Hyde

uncredited photos: J. Macon King

Some typewriter shots (like the cool red one): Vintagetypewritershoppe.com