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After several years of silence and seclusion in Beetlecreek's black quarter, a carnival worker named Bill Trapp befriends Johnny Johnson, a Pittsburgh teenager living with relatives in Beetlecreek. Bill is white. Johnny is black. Both are searching for acceptance, something that will give meaning to their lives. Bill tries to find it through good will in the community. Johnny finds it in the Nightriders, a local gang. David Diggs, the boy's dispirited uncle, aspires to be an artist but has to settle for sign painting. David and Johnny's new friendship with Bill kindles hope that their lives will get better. David's marriage has failed; his wife's shallow faith serves as her outlet from racial and financial oppression. David's unhappy routine is broken by Edith Johnson's return to Beetlecreek, but this relationship will be no better than his loveless marriage. Bill's attempts to unify black and white children with a community picnic is a disaster. A rumor scapegoats him as a child molester, and Beetlecreek is titillated by the imagined crimes. This novel portraying race relations in a remote West Virginia town has been termed an existential classic. It would be hard, said The New Yorker, to give Mr. Demby too much praise for the skill with which he has maneuvered the relationships in this book. During the 1960s Arna Bontemps wrote, "Demby's troubled townsfolk of the West Virginia mining region foreshadow present dilemmas. The pressing and resisting social forces in this season of our discontent and the fatal paralysis of those of us unable or unwilling to act are clearly anticipated with the dependable second sight of a true artist." First published in 1950, Beetlecreek stands as a moving condemnation of provincialism and fundamentalism. Both a critique of racial hypocrisy and a new direction for the African-American novel, it occupies fresh territory that is neither the ghetto realism of Richard Wright nor the ironic modernism of Ralph Ellison. Even after fifty years, more or less, William Demby said in 1998, "It still seems to me that Beetlecreek is about the absence of symmetry in human affairs, the imperfectibility of justice the tragic inevitability of mankind's inhumanity to mankind." William Demby is the author of The Catacombs and Love Story: Black. He lives in Sag Harbor, N. Y. James C. Hall, a professor of African-American Studies and English at the University of Illinois, Chicago, is the author of the forthcoming book, Mercy, Mercy, Me: African-American Culture and the American Sixties, and editor of Langston Hughes: A Collection of Poems.
When two European scientists unexpectedly inherit an Indian rajah's fortune, each builds an experimental city of his dreams in the wilds of the American Northwest. France-Ville is a harmonious urban community devoted to health and hygiene, the specialty of its French founder, Dr. Francois Sarrasin. Stahlstadt, or City of Steel, is a fortress-like factory town devoted to the manufacture of high-tech weapons of war. Its German creator, the fanatically pro-Aryan Herr Schultze, is Verne's first truly evil scientist. In his quest for world domination and racial supremacy, Schultze decides to showcase his deadly wares by destroying France-Ville and all its inhabitants. Both prescient and cautionary, The Begum's Millions is a masterpiece of scientific and political speculation and constitutes one of the earliest technological utopia/dystopias in Western literature. This Wesleyan edition features notes, appendices, and a critical introduction as well as all the illustrations from the original French edition.
Escaping his ghosts, AIDS widower David Masiello accepts a one-year position at a Western medical clinic in Beijing. Lonely but excited, he sets out to explore the city—both its bustling street life and its clandestine gay subculture.
David chronicles his adventures in China as he wrestles with cultural dislocation, loneliness, and sexual and spiritual longing. After a series of both comic and poignant encounters with gay Chinese men, he meets Bosheng, a handsome young artist. Though the attraction is strong, a difficult courtship ensues, during which Bosheng returns to his ancestral village to marry the girl his parents have chosen for him. Eventually, and quite unexpectedly, David and Bosheng reconnect and share an idyllic spring together. As the year ends, David must decide whether to say goodbye or face the uncertainties of a long-distance relationship.
Gambone’s novel is peopled with a host of wonderfully memorable characters: Owen, David’s forthright best friend back home; Auntie Chen, the clinic’s office mom, who wants to fix David up with a girlfriend; Stewart, David’s Beijing roommate, a graduate student doing research on Peking opera; Jiantao and Guoyang, two lovers who lecture David on the fleeting quality of American romance; and Tyson, the Australian doctor with a Chinese girlfriend, who hopes to teach David that love doesn’t need any explanations or justifications.
The Work of Elmore Leonard
Widely known as the crime fiction writer whose work led to the movies Get Shorty and Out of Sight, Elmore Leonard has a special knack for creating cool characters, which for him means characters who are good at what they do. The dope dealers, bookies, grifters, financial advisers, talent agents, shady attorneys, hookers, models, and crooked cops of Leonard's world may be nefarious, but they are generally confident, skilled, and composed, and they cope without effort or thought. In Being Cool, Charles Rzepka draws on more than twelve hours of personal interviews with Leonard and applies what he learned to his close analysis of Leonard's long life and prodigious output: 45 published novels, 39 published and unpublished short stories, and numerous essays written over the course of six decades. Leonard's writing methods and style epitomize how he conceives "being cool." Rzepka delineates the stages and patterns that characterize the author's creative evolution. Like jazz greats, Leonard forged an individual style immediately recognizable for its voice and rhythm, including his characters' rat-a-tat recitations, curt backhands, and ragged trains of thought. Taking being cool as the highway through Leonard's life and works, Rzepka finds plenty of byways to explore along the way.
A Modern Edition
Jonathan David Gross is a professor of English at DePaul University and the director of the DePaul Humanities Center. He previously edited The Sylph (Northwestern, 2007) and Emma; or, The Unfortunate Attachment (2004), both by Lady Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. He is the author of Byron: The Erotic Liberal (2001), and edited Byron’s "Corbeau Blanc": The Life and Letters of Lady Melbourne (1997).
No one steps up to life’s banquet, holds out her tray, and orders, “Grief, please!” But as a child, Candy Pekkala was served a heaping helping of it. Every buffet line has a dessert section, however, and when a cousin calls with a Hollywood apartment to sublet, it seems as though Candy is finally offered something sweet. It’s good-bye to Minnesota and hello to California, where a girl who has always lived by her wits has a real chance of making a living with them. With that, the irrepressible Lorna Landvik launches her latest irresistible character onto the world stage—or at least onto the dimly lit small stage where stand-up comedy gets its start.
Herself a comic performer, Landvik taps her own adventurous past and Minnesota roots to conjure Candy’s life in this strange new Technicolor home. Her fellow tenants at Peyton Hall include a female bodybuilder, a ruined nightclub impresario, and a well-connected old Romanian fortune-teller. There are game show appearances and temp jobs at a record company and an establishment suspiciously like the Playboy Mansion, and of course the alluring but not always welcoming stage of stand-up comedy. As she hones her act, Candy is tested by humiliation, hecklers, and the inherent sexism that insists “chicks aren’t funny.”
Written with the light touch and quiet wisdom that have made her works so popular, this is classic Lorna Landvik—sometimes so funny, you’ll cry; sometimes so sad, you might as well laugh; and always impossible to put down.
The stories in Better Than War encompass narratives from a diverse set of Iranian immigrants, many searching for a balance between memories of their homeland and their new American culture. The everyday life of each character subtly reflects viewpoints that are simultaneously Iranian and American, of all ages and circumstances. These stories deal with family, friends, relationships, urban life, prison, school, and adolescence. They also contain powerful messages about what people want, need, and deserve as citizens and human beings. For instance, in the story “Better Than War” a young Iranian boy must overcome the fear of asking an American girl on a date. His friend tells him there is no shame in pouring your heart out to someone you like. The boy must realize that expressing emotion and sorrow is worth the embarrassment because it shows loved ones that you are better than hatred—and especially better than war.
All Iranian immigrants, young or old, carry with them a vivid past in their contemporary life. These histories help provide perspective, thankfulness, and virtue to their families and friends. Vossoughi’s Better Than War is about growing up, coming of age, and raising children in America while still remembering the importance of retaining Iranian pride.
Between the Flowers is Harriette Simpson Arnow's second novel. Written in the late 1930s, but unpublished until 1997, this early work shows the development of social and cultural themes that would continue in Arnow's later work: the appeal of wandering and of modern life, the countervailing desire to stay within a traditional community, and the difficulties of communication between men and women in such a community.
Between the Flowers goes far beyond categories of "local color," literary regionalism, or the agrarian novel, to the heart of human relationships in a modernized world. Arnow, who went on to write Hunter's Horn (1949) and The Dollmaker (1952)—her two most famous works—has continually been overlooked by critics as a regional writer. Ironically, it is her stinging realism that is seen as evidence of her realism, evidence that she is of the Cumberland—an area somehow more "regional" than others.
Beginning with an edition of critical essays on her work in 1991 and a complete original edition of Hunter's Horn in 1997, the Michigan State University Press is pleased to continue its effort to make available the timeless insight of Arnow's work with the posthumous publication of Between the Flowers.
Leonard Bi Tirga, son of a poor peasant, is a studious pupil. Due to shortage of finances, he has to leave school to make ends meet and pursue his studies. Leonard becomes a sweatshop labourer. As a young labourer, his life like that of his peers is hard. The pay rate is low and the work is hard. With his friends, they engage in trade union activism. A series of complicated and trying events reinforces their conviction to militate. Thus, Leonard and his friend Camille become Union leaders. Leonardís character trait and uprightness explains the book title, Bi Tirga. In the Moore language, this means a well educated, honest, hardworking, courageous and well-behaved youth.