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Monday News: Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies, Mark Twain as mentor, fascinating history of paperbacks, and the 2014 Peeps Show

Monday News: Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies, Mark Twain as mentor, fascinating...

Writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Who Gave Voice To Latin America, Dies – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, and innovator of the style known as magical realism, is dead at 87. Garcia Marquez had recently been ill, so his death was not a complete surprise, but he remains a literary star of intense magnitude, not only for his talent and his literary contributions, but also for the way his voice and his presence influenced Latin American literature and politics.

Garcia Marquez was part of a Latin American literature boom in the 1960s and ’70s, along with Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes and Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, with whom Garcia Marquez differed sharply in his political beliefs. The Colombian got his leftist leanings from his grandfather, and they shaped his writing.

“I write mostly about the reality I know, about the reality of Latin America,” Garcia Marquez said. “Any interpretation of this reality in literature must be political. I cannot escape my own ideology when I interpret reality in my books; it’s inseparable.” –NPR

Mark Twain, Writing Coach and Role Model – Speaking of literary influences, this essay on Twain by Ben Tarnoff is, I think, quite relevant for the current writing and publishing climate, as Tarnoff writes it. Twain was a writer who understood the value of commercial fiction as a business enterprise, in part because he was an investor of varying success, and often needed the money writing brought him to support himself and his family. But Twain was also a journalist and a man who wrote like someone who could do little else (he would literally write page after page, tossing each to the floor as he finished, writing too quickly to stop). A nice little read.

At first I had pictured Twain’s time as a less precarious one for writers. I was surprised to discover that he lived through a publishing upheaval much like our own, when rising literacy, an expanding population, and improving printing methods were conspiring to create a crowded media landscape. In 1776, the country had only thirty-seven newspapers. In 1861, the year Twain went to Nevada, it had more than five thousand. These papers formed a kind of analog Internet. A few big nodes in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia predominated, but smaller papers took root in all corners of the country, networked by telegraph wires and railroad tracks and post roads, churning out everything from jokes to novels to partisan screeds. –Daily Beast

How Paperbacks Transformed the Way Americans Read – There is so much of value in this article, I wish I could quote the whole thing. a history of the paperback (mass market, “pulp,” and beyond), for those who think that digital is the only true book revolution, this history is mandatory reading. Pocket Books and Penguin led the way in the 1940s, with books that sold for a quarter and could be produced quickly and in great numbers. By 1944, Pocket had sold a hundred million copies, and Penguin needed to keep up. Initially they were largely re-publishing books from the UK, so the Ballantines (Ian and his 19-year-old wife), who were in charge of US operations for Penguin, started putting out new books with illustrated covers, shocking Allen Lane, who had hired Ian Ballantine to handle the US market.

After the war, Lane was horrified to see his prestigious Penguin logo stamped on such tawdry covers. In 1945, he forced the Ballantines out. Lane expected his new hires, German publisher Kurt Enoch and American Victor Weybright, to fall in line with his refined sensibilities, but they too failed him. Graphic (and sometimes lurid) illustrations were necessary for the American market, Weybright argued. “The general intention of our covers is to attract Americans, who, more elementary than the Britishers, are schooled from infancy to disdain even the best product unless it is smoothly packaged and merchandised,” Weybright wrote to Lane. –Mental Floss

Peeps Show 2014 winners and finalists – Everyone Peeps might be my favorite; what’s yours? –Washington Post

REVIEW:  Demon’s Curse by Alexa Egan

REVIEW: Demon’s Curse by Alexa Egan

Dear Ms. Egan:

Based on the entirely unoriginal cover and blurb, I had pretty low expectations of this book because of my aversion to historical set paranormals so I was a bit surprised that I did enjoy parts of it. I liked the tone and voice in the book but felt somewhat unmoored during much of the book as I tried to figure out the world construct.

Demon’s Curse by Alexa EganSet in 1816, Cormac Cúchulainn Flannery “Mac” is an Imnada, a shifter, who was cast out of the clans when he and three other shifters were caught by a Fae curse that forced a shift upon them. When one of their cursed brothers dies, Mac overhears his purported mistress, Bianca Parrino, vow to keep the dead man’s secret. Mac is concerned that this Convent Garden actress, Bianca, poses a threat to the surviving shifters and pursues her.

Bianca has no idea that her dead friend is a shifter. Rather, she caught her friend nude with another man and presumes that the two are lovers. However, rumors arise that Bianca has had a hand in her friend and former lover’s death and is forced to leave the stage until the rumors die down.

When Mac approaches her, she becomes swept up in Mac’s search for a cure to the curse and an age old fued between the Fae and the Imnada.

As out clan, Mac and his friends were considered pariah and therefore could have no prospects for a real life. No relationship or family could be theirs because no Imnada woman would have them. But the Imnada have been subject to purges by the Other (fae blooded) and the Imnada numbers are dwindling rapidly. In response to the purges, strict rules have been instituted that forbids interrelations and exposure with individuals not Imnada.  The sentence for those who obtain knowledge of the out clans is death and the sentence for the clan members who violate these rules is death or banishment.

One of my biggest problems is how unevenly the worldbuilding was unspooled. I spent at least 50% of the book unclear as to how exactly the curse affected the shifters. The main part of the worldbuilding is dumped on the reader in two large chunks. First, in the prologue and second in a dream sequence of some sort when a friend of Bianca’s tells her of how the feud between Imnada and the Others began. The second is kind of sprung on us and for all the Fae and Imnada’s desire for secrecy, they certainly don’t hesitate to share with others their origins and magic.

The story shifted from pursuit of the cure and a murder mystery of sorts and the romance between Bianca and Mac simply exists in between some heated glances and a couple of impassioned but surprising kisses. Despite the confusing world building and the lack of real romantic development, I enjoyed the two main protagonists.

Mac’s desire to return home was poignant. He spent his youth wanting to escape the clans, feeling it was restrictive and now that he is older, he wants nothing more than to return to his family but that is what is foreclosed to him. Bianca is a survivor who endured an abusive husband and built a life for herself as an actress. She’s got nerves of steel and a quick mind.

But every time the story moved into more trite territory such as showing the villain having incest sex or Bianca’s past sexual abuse being soothed by the magic peen, my interest in the story began to wane.

I was left wondering why Bianca is given the sexual dysfunction edit.  Was it to show how magical Mac was? With all the magical issues and running for their lives, searching for a cure, why include the sexual trauma arc?  Was it to build up Bianca in the story because she wasn’t a shifter or Fae? Wasn’t it enough that she had an abusive ex husband and felt like a normal family life was foreclosed to her due to her position in society?  Or that she was helping to solve the dilemma of the curse based on her botany background?

I was much more interested in the plot thread about how family and kinship can be developed and that all that Mac, Bianca and other “out clan” people desired could be obtained if only they would shift their perspective.  As Mac’s feelings deepen for Bianca and as he gets to know other out clanners, his loyalty for those people strengthen.  The juxtaposition between Mac’s wishes to return home to the clans and an outclanner’s young son straining at the household rules to remain silent and hide away was also well done, driving home the point of the impetuousness of youth versus desires of adulthood:

Jory’s gaze returned to the flames, the light hollowing the toughened angles and lines, making his eyes glow dull. “Life is risk. Play it too safe and it’s no longer living, just surviving.”

I’m interested in seeing where the next book in the series takes me in this series. I hope for a little more romantic development but I like the characters and the writing.  C

Best regards,

Jane

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