OUR TRAGIC UNIVERSE by Scarlett Thomas

What makes Scarlett Thomas’ writing stand out is her gift of largesse–the narrator’s generosity combined with a brainy appeal that tunneled fluidly into my psyche. She is plainspoken and warm and yet finely cultivated. Thomas introduces esoteric principles as if it were the natural state of things. She can talk about Derrida and Darwin in a way that is effortless, intuitive. Her protagonist’s voice is addictive and honest; indeed, Meg’s thoughts mirror the everyday banter inside my head. Like an overlapping image in pictures, her voice became my voice.

August 30, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Contemporary, Literary, Unique Narrative, y Award Winning Author


Struggling writer and coffee barista, Ian Minot, is frustrated and depressed. For one thing, he just can’t seem to write the kind of stories that will get the publishing world’s attention. After all, Ian knows, his life isn’t as glamorous as his Romanian’s girlfriend’s Anya Petrescu, whose travails under Ceausescu, has landed her an attractive publishing contract. In a snide reference to the New Yorker’s 40 Under 40 list, Ian points out that “Anya had recently been named one of American Review’s ‘31 Most Promising Writers Under 31.’ This year, I was too old to qualify,” he adds.

August 26, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Humorous, Literary, New York City, Thriller/Spy/Caper

MENTOR: A MEMOIR by Tom Grimes

Writer, teacher, and philanthropist, Tom Grimes, wrote this memoir about his friendship with Frank Conroy and his struggles with writing and publishing. Grimes opens his narrative in 1980’s Key West, where he’s striving to write publishable work while earning money as a waiter. After applying to the Iowa Writing Workshop MFA program, he heard Frank Conroy speak at a seminar in Florida. Later, he approached him offstage with enthusiastic questions about writing and the workshop. Conroy, who had recently become Director at Iowa, dismissed him. He ambled right past Tom to talk to a friend, waving him off that his chances of acceptance were slim to zip (in so many words). His confidence punctured, Tom went home to tear up—really, he gutted—Conroy’s celebrated memoir, STOP-TIME. He tossed it in the garbage and wiped his hands of Frank Conroy.

August 1, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Non-fiction

THE NOBODIES ALBUM by Carolyn Parkhurst

THE NOBODIES ALBUM is about pondering those things said that might have been stated differently. Specifically, the protagonist, Octavia Frost, is a prolific author who is rewriting the last chapters of all her novels. Each final chapter – the original one and the rewritten one – tells us more about the writer’s life and her spectacular griefs and losses. We enter a free-fall with her and watch her life wash away before our eyes.

July 2, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, California, Contemporary, Family Matters, Reading Guide, Unique Narrative

DEAR MONEY by Martha McPhee

Martha McPhee is the real deal. DEAR MONEY is engrossing, intelligent, playful, and timely. And it would be a shame if it did not get the high readership it deserves.

In this Pygmalion tale of novelist turned bond trader, India Palmer is — well, very much like the author herself. She’s a critically acclaimed writer of four books and has just completed her fifth. She and her husband — a gifted but not-so-rich sculptor — are close friends with a wealthy couple who live luxuriously in NYC’s tony Tribeca area. In India’s attempt to “keep up with the Joneses,” she discovers that “one goes broke in a thousand small ways: birthday presents, house presents; ballet classes; lessons in general; theater subscriptions…dinners out…”

June 6, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Contemporary, New York City, Reading Guide


Clarissa Burden is having a bad day. It’s hot, her marriage is stuck in a bad place, her writing is even worse. A two-time bestselling novelist, she hasn’t written a decent sentence in thirteen months. Instead she pours her mental creativity into fantasizing about the accidental (but not necessarily unwelcome) death of Iggy, her verbally abusive artist husband, sixteen years her senior. After seven years of marriage, Iggy largely ignores Clarissa and instead focuses his attention on photographing and sketching young, pretty nudes in Clarissa’s back garden. He hasn’t touched his wife in years. He resents and scorns her commercial success even as he milks the financial benefits. Things are not good.

May 2, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Contemporary, Florida