Mark Twain’s New Book – WSJ.com (via Eclectic Buzz)

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Well, tomorrow is Mark Twain’s birthday, so I figured it would be appropriate to post this–and it’s also interesting to read about his previously unpublished works being released!

A collection of unpublished works reveals musings on dentists and the devil By JEFFREY A. TRACHTENBERG Mark Twain would have been amused by the publication of his newest book, “Who Is Mark Twain?” a collection of 24 previously unpublished stories and essays that officially goes on sale Tuesday — the 99th anniversary of the humorist’s death at age 74. Mark Twain, photographed in 1901, sitting on the deck of a ship.After all, as Twain wrote in his … Read More

via Eclectic Buzz

“Talking Shop,” or “I’m a writer, too!” (via Intergalactic Writers Inc.)

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"Talking Shop," or "I'm a writer, too!" I always get really excited when I find out someone writes. The second they let that fact slip, I'm gazing at them, trying to detect a flicker of kinship in their face, vibrating with the possibility that I've found another one! Writing, particularly in the early days, is a relatively solitary endeavour. Paradoxically, or perhaps consequentially, it's also an endeavour with a huge sense of community. I haven't personally met most of the writers I … Read More

via Intergalactic Writers Inc.

A Good Narrator is Hard to Find* (via Ramona DeFelice Long)

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A Good Narrator is Hard to Find* “An honest man is always a child.” This quote is attributed to the Greek philosopher Socrates, who also is credited with saying, “I know that I know nothing.” We are going to conveniently ignore that second quote because a) to put it in the vernacular: He’s Socrates; if he knows nothing, dude, where does that leave the rest of us?;  and b) the first quote fits the topic of my last post: Why do readers trust a child narrator? There’s another sayin … Read More

via Ramona DeFelice Long

The truth about Hunter S. Thompson (via scholarship@kkc)

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As a fan of Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas and Thompson’s writing style in general, I found this to be interesting to read to gain more insight on his life.

The truth about Hunter S. Thompson It wasn't a reckless obsession with liquor, drugs and gunplay that made the late Hunter S. Thompson the undisputed king of Gonzo journalism, his wife says. Instead, it was old-fashioned principles such as working hard and telling the truth, enlivened by the glee Thompson took from learning and from being right. Hunter S. Thompson, author of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and other books, died in 2005. "I don't deny his lifestyle, because his li … Read More

via scholarship@kkc

The Cigar Maker – Review by Marc Schuster

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As author Mark McGinty notes in the acknowledgments of his second novel, The Cigar Maker owes a stylistic debt to influences ranging from such literary luminaries as James Ellroy, Mario Puzo, and William Shakespeare to such epic film trilogies as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Lord of the Rings. Indeed, “epic” is perhaps the best word to describe this dense and moving novel, for it has both the multigenerational sweep of works like John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and the social awareness of John Dos Passos’ USA Trilogy. All of this is to say that for his sophomore literary outing, McGinty has done nothing short of producing the great American novel.

Part of what makes The Cigar Maker both “great” and “American” is that the novel is steeped in the immigrant experience. Shortly after the sinking of the USS Maine, a young father named Salvador Ortiz moves his family from Cuba to the United States and goes to work making a living for himself as a cigar maker. The Florida city in which he finds himself, moreover, is a hotbed of political and criminal industry, and it isn’t long before Ortiz — who wants nothing more than to provide for his wife and children — becomes embroiled in the the town’s machinations. In this regard, The Cigar Maker also reads like a literary version of Martin Scorcese’s Gangs of New York with a Cuban flare. That is, it’s a historical tale of class struggle with a distinctly humane focus in that the story of the Ortiz family mirrors not only the story of American workers but the story of America itself.

None of this, of course, is to say that The Cigar Maker presents an overly rosy picture of the American dream. Ortiz struggles daily just to get by, and he endures more setbacks than triumphs throughout the novel. Yet he never gives up, and keeps fighting for the greater good because, more than anything, he is a man of great conscience — a rarity, perhaps, in the current postmodern literary landscape, but a breath of fresh air as well.

Though The Cigar Maker is largely a historical novel, the issues it touches upon are as relevant today as they were a century ago: labor relations, immigration, and the nation’s involvement in foreign wars chief among them. What’s especially striking about The Cigar Maker, however, is that it doesn’t treat these issues as discrete phenomena; rather, it explores the interconnectedness of all three. In so doing, the novel reminds us that although we are all in many ways beholden to the vast machinery of forces beyond our control, we are all, nonetheless, creatures of conscience and are all, thus, responsible for doing what we can to shape the world into the place we want it to be.

Painstakingly researched and lovingly crafted, The Cigar Maker is a serious and significant novel about the American experience. The writing is beautiful, the characters lively, and the settings awash with visceral historical detail. An excellent book on all counts.

Read more reviews of books from small and independent presses at Small Press Reviews.