Reading these now ….

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston: Farewell To Manzanar. I am interviewing Jeanne Houston tomorrow in person in Santa Cruz. Among other things, we’ll talk about the 40th anniversary of a memoir that  sold about a million copies, went through more than 60 printings, and forced generations of Americans (including countless thousands of young readers) to remember a shameful episode of World War II history.   I just read it for the first time a couple of weeks ago and was blown away by its combination of straight-up journalistic style and lyrical, fantastical flourishes. It is easy to see why the book has so much staying power. Hard to believe, but the mass relocation of an entire group of loyal Americans to Manzanar and other desert prison encampments took place a mere seven decades ago. Looking forward to our conversation, which you will be able to read in excerpted form in an upcoming issue of Catamaran Literary Reader.  Also reading: John Cowper Powys: Autobiography. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of these wise and crazy memoirs by authors who’ve steeped themselves in Old Testament imagery and Greek mythology; this is one of the wisest and craziest you’ll find anywhere, but first, you have to get your hands on a copy. Easier said than done. Mine came all the way from New Zealand courtesy of ILL. Speaking of wise and crazy memoirs steeped in classic imagery and New Testament references, I’ve always meant to read Edward Dahlberg’s Because I Was Flesh. Now I’m seizing the opportunity. Other recommended books:  Colette’s Break Of Day (memoir with fictitious elements, pretending to be a straight-up novel) and Report to Greco by Nikos Kazantzakis, if you’ve got a small block of free time. Newer books: Also, I am captivated by Helene Wecker’s The Golem and The Jinni, and will interview her very soon to talk about the origins of this book. I had a few nightmares over Kevin Powers’s lovely and horrifying novel, The Yellow Birds. More soon.

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