Dripping with tasty anecdotes, literary tales, and great food, this joyful book is delightful.

THE TRAVELING FEAST

ON THE ROAD AND AT THE TABLE WITH AMERICA'S FINEST WRITERS

Have skillet, will travel; or, one writer’s “pilgrimage of gratitude and generosity.”

In his latest, fiction and nature writer Bass (For a Little While: New and Selected Stories, 2016, etc.) pens an entertaining and love-infused gastronomical memoir. In his mid-50s and recovering from an agonizing divorce, the author decided there was no better time to give payback to the authors who had mentored him over the years and to recharge his writing battery. He wanted to see them in person and cook them a luscious meal—including wild game from his Montana freezer—as a way to say thanks. Joining him along the way were students he was mentoring. The on-and-off, three-year journey began on Long Island, where he visited “one of my greatest literary heroes, Peter Matthiessen,” who was struggling with leukemia. “Readers can enter his work from any direction and become lost, in the best way, changed forever,” writes Bass, who admires his “life of artistic as well as political integrity.” He also visited the “good witch of Manhattan,” Amy Hempel, and they talked about the renowned writer and editor Gordon Lish, “captain fiction,” who edited Hempel, Bass, and Raymond Carver in the 1980s. Next up is Idaho and Denis Johnson, the “hermit, the recluse,” who was also ill (he died in 2017). Bass is a huge fan of his prose, “often lean, sizzling like a wire stripped of its protective coating.” In Arizona, he stayed with Doug Peacock, “my most cherished mentor.” There’s a trip to meet the “funniest man in the world,” David Sedaris (London), and the “old man of the mountains,” John Berger (French Alps). Other destinations include Gary Snyder, Barry Lopez, Tom McGuane, Joyce Carol Oates, and the homes of Mississippians Eudora Welty and William Faulkner.

Dripping with tasty anecdotes, literary tales, and great food, this joyful book is delightful.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38123-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

A MEMOIR

In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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