Tag Archives: Bathsheba Monk

Bathsheba Monk gives good read

Bathsheba Monk gave a terrific reading at the bookstore yesterday, opening with a very funny standup routine and then doing a graceful segue into a chapter of her new novel, Nude Walker.  But you don’t have to take my word for it — read what happened from the lady herself.

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Bathsheba Monk, an Approved Author from 2008, has a new novel coming out and a spiffed-up Web site to go with it. You should check them both out. Bathsheba Monk is the real thing. And she better do a reading at my bookstore, or there’ll be hell to pay.

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Friday finds


Dissection is a new book showcasing the macabre photos medical students once made with their cadavers This review (which includes a slide show of some of the more striking and gruesome pictures) ponders the implications of how students felt free to make sport with what were mainly the bodies of the poor and the black. 

Craig Arnold, an American poet and academic living in Japan on a creative exchange fellowship, disappeared last month after setting off to hike up the slope of a volcano. Friends and supporters need help pressuring the local authorities to keep searching for him. 

Bathsheba Monk, an Approved Author for 2008, is in the home stretch on her novel-in-progress.  Naturally she’s thinking about other books she could have written a lot faster.

Winnie the Pooh and Swine Flu too! And Pogo offers some insights into party-switching and the workings of democracy.

Any work which can move me to disgust and psychic pain is worth high praise.” Amen, brother!

intellectuals1“Scialabba tries to get a handle on just what intellectuals do for civilization, by delving into the work of Great and allegedly Great Minds. In that latter category, critic Edward Said comes in for especially droll and scornful attack because of what Scialabba sees as the damaging legacy of his writing: that is, inspiring this current generation of academics into deluding themselves that they’re carrying out political work by teaching, say, post-colonialist critiques of Paradise Lost. If intellectual work matters, Scialabba implies, it has to matter in ways that run deeper than delusionary self-puffery.”

From Athenodorus to Zero the Ghost Detective, from Buffy Summers to Dagon Smythe, from Doc Savage to Dr. Silence — they’re the Ghostbreakers of page, screen and TV. But wait, you say — what about Fero, Planet Detective?

What your favorite Grateful Dead song says about you. Amusing article, but “Ripple” isn’t on the list so I must continue to stumble through life without the hard-earned wisdom and piercing insights of Slate writers to guide me. As for the songs that are on the list, I can’t hear “Dark Star” without nodding off, “Cosmic Charlie” without covering my ears, or “Truckin'” without going on a cross-country spree of random violence against hackysack players. But that’s just me.

Some West Dorset residents want to reopen the Three Cups Hotel, a pub reputedly once favored by J.R.R. Tolkien as he toiled on the manuscripts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Meanwhile, Tolkien tourists in the Oxford area can take a trip to The Eagle and Child, the pub that hosted meetings of The Inklings, the writers group that boasted Tolkien and C.S. Lewis among its members.

I said: ‘You’ve chosen to build a story around these characters who don’t speak. The only sound they make is like fat people having an orgasm,’” the 250-plus-pound [Bruce] Vilanch recalls. “In fact, I told [George] Lucas he could just leave a tape recorder in my bedroom and I’d be happy to do all the looping and Foley work for him.”

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Bathsheba smiles

Bathsheba Monk (one of my Approved Authors for 2008) says some very nice things on about my book The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America’s First Superhighway on her blog. That’s a treat for a Monday morning. The book is also the subject of an impending article in the recently launched Jersey City Independent, and I’ll post a link as soon as it appears.

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Approved authors 5

Between now and New Years Day I’m offering passages from some of the books I’ve read and enjoyed this year. Most of the books were published this year. Most of the books are by people I’ve had some contact with, whether e-mail or in person, but there are also authors who wouldn’t know me if they tripped over me in a doorway.  In short, they’re here because I enjoyed their books and I think you will, too.

NOW YOU SEE IT . . . STORIES FROM COKESVILLE, PA., by Bathsheba Monk, Picador, 2006.

bathshebamonkIn “Congratulations, Goldie Katowitz,” one of the 17 linked stories in Bathsheba Monk‘s first book, a young woman who has always imagined herself a writer begins to wonder if she can really pull it off. “It was true. Every time I tried to imagine the lives of people I knew, it was like creating fanciful, useless additions to structures that couldn’t support them. The whole thing crumbled.”

This is not a problem for Bathsheba Monk:

My parents had bought a detached home with three bedrooms on the north side of town three years ago: Frankie because he wanted more children; Connie to leave gritty downtown Cokesville behind. “You may have to work in ther mill,” Connie had told him, “but we don’t have to live in it.” The house was in a block of homes originally built for managers in the mill, but they had deserted them for the new development homes being built in the suburbs. The house needed some work, mostly cosmetic. Any repairs that had to be done, she had promised Frankie, she would learn how to do herself.

It pleased my mother no end that our neighbor in the house next door was a doctor, albeit one who had lost his admitting privileges to St. Luke’s, the local hospital, and who, I realize now, was an alcoholic. But still, a doctor! We were living with rich people. Behind our back fence was an old strip mine. Occasionally, it was still detonated to dislodge coal; and when that happened, the crab apples fell out of our trees and the holy statues on the dressers jumped. But Connie thought it was a natural setting, almost bucolic. “At least we don’t have to look at the smoke from the blast furnaces,” she said. Connie began drinking her morning coffee on the back porch, looking at the strip mine but seeing only the white birch trees and huckleberry bushes that grew through the slag. She was happy, I think. At least she smiled. She stopped smiling when the steelworkers’ union went on strike. She was not going to lose her beautiful home. She would go to work to save it herself.

“Well, I’m gonna try it, no matter what. Babba will have to help around here during the day,” Connie said to Frankie.

“Yeah, sure. Babba.”

They said some other things loudly, and soon, from my perch on the windowsill on the second floor, I heard the porch door slam and saw my father walk over to the bench in the backyard and put his beer down. He took his wooden clarinet out of its blue fur-lined case, screwed it together, wet his reed, and began to play. My father played with a local group, Jolly Joe Timmer’s Polka Band, for weddings and dances at the church, but when he was by himself in the garden, he played a different kind of music, and the songs he made up — wistful voyages up and down the scales — had no names.

That evening he sent seductive notes into the twilight to do his bidding, like Pan in the primeval forest. And soon my mother came out and sat beside him on the bench. I stood up on the windowsill and stretched, holding on to a limb of the big maple tree whose giant branches embraced my room.


I turned around to see Babba in my doorway. She sat down on my bed.

“Come in. Let’s read a story.”

I remember a drawing class in which the teacher spoke of using the light and shadings around an object to define that object, rather than simply drawing an outline and filling in the details. Now You See It . . . brings that teachers advice to mind.  Bathsheba Monk tells us about Annie Kusiak by shading in her coal-grimed hometown, her busy cast of relatives and friends, and the ways people find to escape their fates or, more often, sabotage themselves in the attempt. I had to will myself not to read all these short, salty stories in one sitting, but parcel them out and savor them a few at a time. The author has a novel coming out soon, and I look forward to reading that one, too.

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