MARGIN: Exploring Modern Magical Realism
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23 August 2006
RE: MR News Extra + Commentary: In Defense of Gunter Grass
Topic: August 2006


You can help Southern libraries restore collections devastated by last year's hurricanes. Scroll below for details.


[8.24.06]—Birthdays: Jorge Luis Borges; AS Byatt; Jean Rhys


[08.22.06]—The Quill Award nominees have been announced, and among them, you'll find the following titles of interest to magical realism fans:

A Dirty Job: A Novel by Christopher Moore [for Best General Fiction]
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin [for Best Young Adult/Teen Novel]
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo [for Best Children's Chapter Book]
The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snickett [for Best Children's Chapter Book]
The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue [for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Novel]

The Quill Award (via Reed Business Information and NBC) is an industry-qualified “consumers choice” awards program for books, honoring the best adult and children's books annually in 20 popular categories. You can vote for your favorite nominated titles here until September 30.

[08.16.06]—The Man Booker long list nominees have been announced. However, The Museum of Unconditional Surrender by Dubravka Ugresic, which we reported in the June edition of Margin as a People's Choice nominee, did not make this list.


[08.15.06]—Here's a fun interview from the Lit-Blog Co-op with fabulist writer Michael Martone, author of the book, Michael Martone. [No, there is not an echo in here!]
LBC Podcast
LBC discussion of Michael Martone


[08.22.06]—New out in hardback this week: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: 25 Stories by Haruki Murakami (Knopf) [source: Shelf Awareness]

[08.22.06]—New out in digital this week: Flashes Of The Other World by Julie Ann Shapiro (Pulp Bits) [source: The Open Press]

[08.22.06]—You can read an excerpt from An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter by Cesar Aira (Chris Andrews, translator) here.

[08.21.06]—DaVinci Code-aholics might want to check out Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, if they haven't already. Here's a quick review by Ken at the blog Neth Space to get started.


[08.23.06]—South African director Teboho Mahlatsi's new short film Sekalli Sa Meokgo (Meokgo and the Stickfighter) will be screened at this year's Venice Film Festival [Aug 30-Sept 9]. Sekalli sa Meokgo is a magic realism story about Kgotso, a recluse stickfighter living high up in the Maluti Mountains outside Lesotho.

[08.21.06]—Oddities of interest at the consistently magical blog, include milk-drinking statues in India and chocolate drippings in the shape of the Virgin Mary in California.

[08.18.06]—Santa Barbara-based producer Susan Stewart Potter and writer-director Simon Monjack have raised $20 million to produce a film version of DM Thomas's challenging novel, The White Hotel. But Jeffrey Wells for the blog Hollywood Elsewhere asks: Can it be done? According to the blog, seven other producers, including David Lynch and Emir Kusturica, have not been able to do it themselves. Wells suggests the story is cursed.


For those who do not already know, magical realist author Gunter Grass recently confessed to serving briefly in the Nazi Waffen SS in 1945, which has raised a tremendous amount of controversy worldwide. ||| Read about it here

In Elizabeth Kiem's op-ed piece for The Morning News, she testifies on Grass's behalf. Below, you'll find my response to that piece, which was printed in the TMN letters section this morning.

"Dear TMN,

Today’s 'Not an Open Letter' by Elizabeth Kiem speaks for so many of us who understand how the world works in shades of gray.

I was sad and disappointed to learn about Grass’s secret when I first read about it. It was the same knee-jerk response that so many others continue to express. But I pulled myself back from that abyss; what we need in this world is more understanding and less rush to judgment, after all. The howling critics that remain rooted in their absolute positions clearly have forgotten all the horrible mistakes they also made when they were young and stupid.

Let me point out that “horrible” is not solely defined by the Holocaust, but by the many daily indiscretions we have all contributed to in the fall of our own collective humanity. A child born without a father but with a drug addiction. A careless lane change that sets off a chain-reaction car accident. A gambling challenge that puts an entire family into straits of financial despair. The signature on a business proposal, which lays to waste the livelihoods of thousands of working-class people. These are all horrible things, are they not?

So is one innocent if one didn’t do any of these things? Maybe the question should be this: Is one innocent if he or she didn’t try to prevent any of these things? Inaction is, in and of itself, another kind of crime against humanity. Only the youngest children are innocent. What have any of us done today to make the world a better place?

Writing The Tin Drum made the world a better place.

Who Grass is in the August of his life versus those months preceding April of 1945 needs to be remembered with perspective. Kiem has done so with a kind of raw compassion not normally expressed so publicly. I thank The Morning News for publishing her eloquent editorial in the same spirit that I honor Grass for his honesty.

Opening up dark matters means a little light can shine. I thank God for beacons.

Tamara Kaye Sellman"

Let me know what you think.

SPECIAL NOTICE: You can help Southern libraries restore collections devastated by last year's hurricanes

As reported in the August 9 edition of Shelf Awareness, Southern libraries are still in desperate need of books and funds to replenish collections ravaged by last fall's hurricane season. Many libraries in New Orleans were already underfunded, so the losses from Katrina have not been recovered fully; insurance and FEMA monies have been of limited help; and a reduced tax base (one understated and dismal effect of hurricane devastation) means local governments have fewer resources than ever for library support. This means that libraries in the South must rely on private and public efforts to aid in their restoration.

How can you help? Buy a copy of our anthology, Southern Revival: Deep Magic for Hurricane Relief.

For a $10 (or more) donation, you receive a handsome, collectible edition of an anthology of creative writings from authors who have some intrinsic tie to the South.

The writing is amazing and high in quality; the subject matter is compelling (lovelorn women transforming into oak trees, a creation myth of the Mississippi Delta, living kudzu, "widdershins," the mythic Ivory Bill woodpecker); and the artwork is stunning and evocative: block reliefs by award-winning artist Stephen Alcorn and images from dedicated Katrina photographer and chronicler Jack A. Neal of Mississippi.

Best of all, 100% of all donations collected for this anthology go directly to Book Relief.

Book Relief, the division of First Book which has made library recovery a priority in the hurricane-ravaged South since fall 2005, is the charity we chose to benefit when we released the anthology last April. We urge you to read their anniversary reflection on their commitment in "Looking Back on Book Relief: One Year Later".

The Book Relief initiative has distributed more than 2.5 million books to schools, libraries organizations and individuals throughout the Gulf Coast since September 2005. And yet, they are only halfway done. Their commitment is to distribute 5 million new books to the region.

As you've probably guessed, they've been one busy charity. Last June, they joined Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu and civil rights activist Ruby Bridges to recognize the State Library of Louisiana for its tireless efforts in helping First Book to distribute 1 million new books, as part of their Book Relief initiative, to children and adults affected by the 2005 hurricanes in Louisiana. On that day alone, First Book distributed 70,000 new books, donated by Strictly By-The Book and YES Solutions across the Gulf Coast.

Next week, they'll be distributing 170,000 more books in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. [Volunteer to help with that distribution]

This month in particular will be a particularly busy time for the charity. Not only are they marking the anniversary of Katrina (and keeping their fingers crossed there won't be added devastation this fall), but they have played a key role in assisting in the reopening of many schools and libraries that remained closed for the entire 2005-2006 school year.

But their work doesn't end there. Upcoming distributions are schedule for Bernice, LA and New Orleans, and Book Relief expects to extend its efforts well into 2007.

Please consider purchasing a copy of Southern Revival to help out this outstanding, hardworking charity. There are yet a handful of copies left and we'd really like to sell every one of them. Click here to start the process. It's that simple. You'll be glad you did.

At this time, we'd like to take a moment to thank all the good people who have helped to put these anthologies before the reading public. We at MARGIN could not have done this on our own. We'd also like to thank The Georgia Review and The North American Review for their generous donation of advertising space so that we could get the word out, as well as Eagle Harbor Books in Bainbridge Island, WA for keeping SOUTHERN REVIVAL stocked on their shelves. And thanks go out to so many of our readers, who have, by buying copies of the anthology, significantly helped to distribute First Aid to the hearts and minds of our Southern neighbors. This is perhaps the best reason of all for buying your copy of SOUTHERN REVIVAL.

Posted by at 10:20 AM PDT
Updated: 23 August 2006 10:33 AM PDT
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