Some fans of famed author Harper Lee celebrated the release of her second book, Go Set a Watchman, in Iowa City on Monday night.
At 10 p.m., FilmScene, 118 E. College St., held a screening of the 1962 movie To Kill A Mockingbird and after the film finished, audience members were then handed out a first printing, hardcover edition of Go Set a Watchman courtesy of Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St.
Wrestling is not easy, but neither is life, Dan Gable said. This is one of the many lessons he hopes readers take away from his new book, A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable.
“This book, to me — it says a wrestling life, but it’s more than wrestling,” he said. “It’s about total life and how you have to work through struggles, and that’s kind of like a wrestling match. It’s not easy.”
Economics is not just about goods and services that we enjoy as consumers. It's more fundamentally about productivity -- that is, how the use of land, labor, capital and other inputs that go into producing the volume of output determines a nation's wealth. Decisions about how to use those inputs may be more important than the resources themselves. There are countries, such as Japan and Switzerland, that have far greater wealth than countries -- for example, Uruguay and Venezuela -- that are far richer in natural resources.
What message are you trying to convey with the front cover of your new novel, Ambitions?
It’s creepily existential, right? The people in the background, who are shoving those huge boulders up a hill: they refer to the myth of Sisyphus, whom the Gods have condemned to do just that, over and over—only to have the stone roll back down, every time.
Meanwhile, in the foreground, you see the man who narrates most of this story, glancing back at them out of the corner of his eye—maybe with disapproval, maybe with amused toleration, maybe with some little scheme brewing in his head—and who knows? Maybe he’s working on a boulder of his own, at the same time. Note also how your eye is drawn to the man's ear. That's appropriate because that's how this story comes to be told: That character has his ear turned to everything that's going on around him, and many of the characters have his ear, so to speak.
How did you arrive at the title, Ambitions?
One of the points of the story is that each of us has one thing or another that we want above all else, and each of us for a different reason, and we’re all striving for it in one way or another. Those are the boulders we keep shoving up the hill, and who’s to know whether that boulder will ever get to the top and stay there? In this novel, you’ll meet two women who want above all to sing opera professionally. There’s a young man who wants to be a brilliant novelist, and another whose ambition is simply to realize the “American Dream”: a nice home, a nice business, and a nice family. And then there’s another character whose ambitions aren’t well formed, who spends the whole book trying to figure out who she is and what she wants.
What sort of reader will Ambitions appeal to?
Ambitions is a philosophical and a psychological novel. It looks at the individual’s role in society at large and within a family or an extended family. It talks about the importance of the arts, religion, ethics, and personal morality. It’s a soap opera, but a sophisticated soap opera. The book has an ensemble cast, with lots of subplots, all of them intricately interwoven. It has a lot to do with family dynamics, because the story is mainly about the complicated relationships that two parents and their three children have with each other, as well as the people outside of their family who become part of their drama.
It turns out that this very respectable-looking family is actually a train-wreck in the making, and you won’t be able to turn away from it. You might say that this is an intellectual’s version of Keeping Up With The Kardashians or Real Housewives Of New Jersey. You’ll see a lot of people behaving badly.
What was your inspiration for Ambitions?
I once read this light-hearted, generally humorous work about a family that was held up to the reader as “just plain folks,” a sort of “everyfamily.” Unpretentious, likable, even admirable people. But as I got further and further into that story, the more I disliked most of the characters. The family had a really messed-up set of values; most of their friends were just as bad; they actually ended up doing considerable harm while telling themselves that they were so decent, generous, and morally upright. So I asked myself, “What if I told a similar story, but told it from the point of view of a minor character who observes this family, comments on them, sometimes mocks them, and sometimes tries to control the damage that they do?”
What are some books we might be reminded of when we read Ambitions?
In some ways you might compare this story to Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, since so much of the conflict among the family members is a result of their being so different in their desires, outlooks, and behaviors. The narrative voice might remind you of Karamazov, too, or of The Great Gatsby. It’s a “neighbor” novel: one where the narrator interacts with the main characters. Ambitions is narrated by a character who usually refers to himself in the third person—but sometimes he’ll step back from the narrative and address the reader directly, asking, “What do you suppose was really going on here?” or saying, “Now, that incident is especially interesting to me, for this reason.”
You might also be reminded of Stephen King’s Carrie, or Bram Stoker’s Dracula, because much of the narrative is epistolary: It’s revealed in the form of emails from one character to another. The youngest child of the family—Christine Wainwright—tells a big chunk of the story in this way. She’s a high school kid, and she writes her emails in a sort of teenybopper lingo. I had lots of fun writing that, but I had to be careful to keep it appropriate to a girl her age, and so her narrative becomes gradually more adult, and better thought-out, as she matures.
This book contains a few shout-outs to Vance Bourjaily’s novel, Now Playing At Canterbury: Both books take place in the town of State City, Iowa, which looks a lot like Iowa City, and some of the action revolves around the State University School of Music.
Who are some other writers who influence your fiction in general, and in what ways do they influence you?
William Makepeace Thackeray always influences me. I love the way he illustrates the good qualities of his “bad guys” and the bad qualities of his “good guys.” Flannery O’Connor’s way of weaving her Catholicism into her stories has influenced me too, even though I’m an atheist. One character in Ambitions is a devout Catholic, and her religion informs her attitudes and behavior. Another of my favorite authors is George MacDonald Fraser, who had no great literary pretentions: He just wrote really good bodice-rippers. Another author who has influenced me, in an opposite sense, is Ernest Hemingway. He knew how to tell a story but I find his characters shallow and contrived. His outcomes, ditto. He’s my model of the author I don’t want to be.
What surprised you about the process of writing Ambitions?
I had so much fun writing in those different voices: that was the happiest surprise. The main narrator is an older man, an odd character in the sense that he’s rather formal and flowery in expressing himself, but he’s sometimes pretty blunt, and he cusses a lot. Then there’s Christine, who’s this slightly goofy, slightly petulant girl, but more insightful than you’d expect. Christine’s vocal coach, Tanya Cucoshay, also relates a little of the story. She’s an operatic soprano and a bit of a drama queen, and that comes through in her narrative. Then there’s Christine’s much-older brother, David, who writes a novel-within-a-novel. It’s not easy to deliberately write bad fiction!
Do you hope your readers will take a certain message, or more than one, from this book?
The narrator keeps saying, “Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux,” which means, “You have to imagine that Sisyphus is happy.” He stole that line from Albert Camus, who suggested that in order to get through life, you sometimes just have to embrace its absurdity and its futility. That’s one message, but I’m sure each reader will find others.
Are you working on another book?
Two more, immediately. I’m translating a French “true crime” book, and it will hit the shelves in 2015. Then I’ll complete my next novel, which is called Hard-Wired. It will also be set in State City, Iowa, but decades earlier than Ambitions: the 1960s. This will be a political/sociological novel in which I take that older man who narrates Ambitions, and show him as a teenaged boy who becomes radicalized, so to speak, in a way that you might not expect. I’ve got concepts for at least two more novels after that, and ideas for others occur to me all the time.
Ambitions is Joseph Dobrian’s second novel. He’s also the author of the satirical Willie Wilden and a best-selling collection of essays, Seldom Right But Never In Doubt. For more information, go to: http://www.josephdobrian.com/
Dobrian’s Book Débuts At Prairie Lights: Portrays ‘City Of Music’
IOWA CITY, Iowa—Novelist, essayist, and journalist Joseph Dobrian will celebrate the publication of his new novel, Ambitions, with a reading at Prairie Lights Books, at 15 South Dubuque St., here. The event will take place on Friday, November 7, at 7:00 P.M.
Ambitions (Rex Imperator, 426 pps., trade paperback, $17.95, ISBN 978-0-9835572-3-4) is family drama, set in the fictional but recognizable town of State City, Iowa, and on the campus of State University there. It tells the story of Christine Wainwright—a teenaged girl who blossoms into a potentially world-class singer—and her troubled relationship with her family. Parallel plot lines deal with Christine’s two adult siblings: David, an up-and-coming novelist who has married into the richest family in town; and Melissa, a schoolteacher facing a career crisis and a choice between two romantic suitors.
Author Joseph Dobrian explains that State City is Iowa City with a twist: Instead of having been designated by UNESCO as a “City of Literature,” State City is a “City of Music,” and State University’s School of Music is world-renowned. The book contains shout-outs to another Iowa City novel: Vance Bourjaily’s Now Playing At Canterbury.
Dobrian, 58, grew up in Iowa City and moved back here in 2010 after spending almost all his adult life in New York City, where he built his career as a freelance journalist and political activist. He has become a familiar presence downtown and on campus, with his old-fashioned way of dressing and his contrarian opinions.
“My first novel, Willie Wilden, was set in New York State,” he says, “but I moved back to Iowa because I missed the lifestyle, and for the next few years I’ll be working on novels that celebrate the people, history, and various cultures of Iowa. They’ll probably include some plot lines based on real historic incidents. I have several ‘State City’ novels planned. Ambitions is set in the 2000s, but my next one will revisit the 1960s, because that was such an interesting time to be growing up in a university town.
“Prairie Lights Books is one of the world’s most famous independent bookstores, and it’s been the ambition of a lifetime to give a reading there. This will be the third time I’ve done it, and the thrill isn’t any less than for the first time.”
For more information, go to www.josephdobrian.com
(CNN) -- No tricks here, just the treat: In honor of Halloween, J.K. Rowling is delving into the back story of one of "Harry Potter's" more twisted Hogwarts professors.
On Rowling's Pottermore website, the best-selling author has crafted a story about the life of Dolores Umbridge, whom fans will remember for her toad-like appearance, her hair bows and the gruesome way she chose to punish students.
It turns out that Umbridge was inspired by a real person. There was a teacher of Rowling's whom she "disliked intensely on sight," and it seems the feeling was mutual.
Amber Portwood, star of the hit reality TV show Teen Mom on MTV, has recently launched her memoir Never Too Late on Amazon.com. The book discusses some very difficult points in her life, including her stints on the MTV shows 16 And Pregnant and Teen Mom as well as her struggle with drug addiction and her 17 months in prison.
Portwood revealed in an interview with MTV News that she wrote the book because she thought it was an important step to connecting more closely with her fans. “I had been thinking about writing a book since my stay in prison. I felt it was time when I got out to actually do it. I think my book is able to give strength and determination to those who are struggling,” she said.
Report: Costco Is Removing Conservative Author’s Bestselling Book From Its Stores Nationwide | TheBlaze.com
Costco Wholesale, the second-largest retailer in the United States, has apparently decided to remove all copies of Dinesh D’Souza’s bestselling book, “America: Imagine a World Without Her,” from its stores nationwide, WND reports. The decision to yank the book, if true, would coincide with the theatrical release of D’Souza’s new film of the same name last week.
Scott Losse, an inventory control specialist in the book department at the Costco Wholesale’s Issaquah, Washington, corporate office, reportedly confirmed that a nationwide “pull-order” was issued for D’Souza’s book. All copies are now reportedly required to be removed by July 15.
J.K. Rowling is publishing a second crime novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraithin June. Rowling quietly released the mystery novel The Cuckoo's Calling last year as Galbraith, but her identity was leaked to Britain's Sunday Times. The second Galbraith novel, The Silkworm, also will feature private investigator Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott, but this time they are investigating the death of writer Owen Quine. According to a book description on the Galbraith website, Quine "has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives — so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him. And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before." Rowling originally chose to write under a pseudonym so she could "work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback," but it's fair to say that that won't be the case this time around.
On the first level, it is a story about the protection of good people by an armed citizen. The action starts at a small church during the beginning of a Sunday service. When a mentally disturbed person walks into the entryway, he begins shooting members of the church. Another member of the congregation rushes to protect.
From that point on, you will not want to stop reading.
There are more levels, and the best fiction can bring an event, an environment, alive for the reader. Once the story takes you into its world, you can feel the emotion and the forces that are acting on the characters. Once you are there, watching and feeling the events and the options available to the characters, you can then think and feel how you will act in similar circumstances.
This book will take you to additional important levels – law, politics, human nature – using protective force in a modern democracy.
Firearms And The World. When a person considers purchasing a firearm for protection, there are the usual steps to gain proficiency. These include mastery of the mechanical operation of the firearm, tactical training in its effective use, and the legal conditions for its utilization in defense.
Good training from a competent instructor is important, as well as reading books on those topics.
An Essential Book. Now, there is one more book that should be mandatory reading if one is considering legally carrying a firearm to protect oneself, family, and friends. This book takes you into the world of defending others, and all the social and political dangers that are waiting for the protector who acts to save others.
If you have not purchased this book, do it today and read it.
If you bought it, but put it aside for later, read it TODAY. Then, urge your spouse, significant other, and post-high school children to read it SOON.
And, then purchase additional copies for your relatives and close friends.
Reviewed by Pilgrim444
To purchase Mercy Shot, go to www.scsherman.com