Literati – Reason to Celebrate

If you haven’t had the pleasure of entering Literati Bookstore in the heart of Ann Arbor, I suggest you make the trip. Recently recognized as PW Bookstore of the Year, the little bookstore that could continues to thrive. Opening shortly after the demise of Borders, Literati has firmly settled into the Ann Arbor community winning the hearts of readers, writers, and upstairs coffee drinkers alike. Though the space is small, the love and knowledge of literature is large. Link to Literati Bookstore for events and information. To hear Literati’s story, see the video below.

* Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer

Author Taylor Stevens Aims to Thrill with “The Informationist”

Cover Image“I have no desire to make a political statement or to educate. It’s like, if you enjoy it, that’s awesome. That’s enough for me.”

So states debut author Taylor Stevens in an interview piece in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram* earlier this week. Stevens recently released her first thriller “The Informationist” to high praise, and seems to have no agenda other than aiming to please.

The Informationist is a fast-paced thriller fueled by the high-octane character of information specialist Vanessa “Michael” Munroe. Munroe is inevitably being compared to Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander, but Stevens’s heroine Munroe seems to be holding her own. The New York Times calls The Informationist an “accessible, crisply told tale” and notes that Ms. Stevens “has a knack for both evocative details” and “strangely compelling character traits.”

The past life of Stevens is evocative in its own right, and those interested in the book will easily get snagged by her incredible bio. Admittedly, I knew nothing of the author’s past until I caught the blurb under Stevens’s picture on the jacket. “Born into the Children of God, raised in communes across the globe, and denied an education beyond the sixth grade, Taylor Stevens broke free of the cult in order to follow hope and a vague idea of what possibilities lay beyond.”

If sensation sells then Stevens should be in great shape. Not only is her book supposedly full of intrigue, but her life story is as well. Stevens was born into a cult known as the Children of God, which is now called The Family International. Stevens hopes, however, to downplay that side of her life which left her deprived of an education and locked away with no food for her attempts at writing at just fifteen years of age.

Fiction is tough to push and much is being made of Stevens’s past, which is no doubt generating added interest in The Informationist. However, Stevens seems to be straightforward in her interviews and pragmatic in her approach. “I hope that people feel it is worth their money and their time, which is even more valuable than money,” the author says in the Star piece, “But what I hope ultimately matters most to people is the fact that I can tell a good story.”

News sources indicate that Taylor Stevens will release her second Vanessa Munroe installment, The Innocent, sometime next year and has been contracted for a third book as well.

-Support your local bookstores, universities, and libraries. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Information/Links

The Informationist Trailer – Part 1

The Informationist Trailer – Part 2

The Informationist Trailer – Part 3

Orringer’s ‘Invisible Bridge’ a Mighty Draw

Cover ImageWhen I picked up The Invisible Bridge, my understanding was that it involved love, Paris, architecture, and many other reader bon bons. I knew that war was involved, but was under the impression that it was used more as backdrop than as the premise of the story. That said, I usually steer clear of books addressing the Holocaust in any direct way. For me, to read of the devastation and incalculable loss is so profoundly numbing that I can’t move far enough past the actual historic events to meet the novel’s characters. So, it was to my great surprise that Julie Orringer carried me through my prior resistance on the back of her debut novel ‘The Invisible Bridge.’

While reading the book, I wasn’t sure if it was one that I could recommend. Tipping the scales at about 600 pages, ‘Bridge’ is definitely an an emotional and timely investment. As fluffy summer reads and the latest paperbacks beckon, a hard-covered doorstopper doesn’t hold much appeal. However, the more time that passes since I’ve finished the book, the more enamored I have become.

Julie Orringer brings an emotional beauty to the stark barbarism of war-torn Europe and creates a deep, passionate empathy through her strong prose and characters. Crafting heartfelt ruminations like that of Orringer’s main character Andras, Ms. Orringer envelops the reader into the family dynamic while providing an intimate perspective and an invested urgency to survive:

“One and a half million Jewish men and women and children: How was anyone to understand a number like that? Andras knew it took three thousand to fill the seats of the Dohany Street Synagogue. To accommodate a million and a half, one would have had to replicate that building, its arches and domes, its Moorish interior, its balcony, its dark wooden pews and gilded ark, five hundred times. And then to envision each of those five hundred synagogues filled to capacity, to envision each man and woman and child inside as a unique and irreplaceable human being… each of them with desires and fears, a mother and a father, a birthplace, a bed, a first love, a web of memories, a cache of secrets, a skin, a heart, an infinitely complicated brain – to imagine them that way, and then to imagine them dead, extinguished for all time – how could anyone begin to grasp it?”

Orringer has a penetrating commitment to dialogue that fortunately overrides the high rate of coincidence in the story. While some encounters and reunions are a bit of a stretch, they are redeemed and quickly resolved by Orringer’s swift ability to engage the reader’s emotions over any tendency to criticize. In essence, the story wins out every time.

FYI: Julie Orringer was a Helen Herzog Zell Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Michigan

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Namaste in the USA

Cover ImageAs I poured my coffee this morning I was wondering what literary blurb of interest I could quickly post before heading out to work. Coffee in hand, I sat before my loyal laptop and hit the stamp icon to see what detritus had been deposited under cover of night.

Amidst the exhausting coupons was an email detailing info about a rather exotic trip to India from a local Yoga studio. I linked over and absorbed the fantastic pictures with a bit of unease as I thought about the privilege that shoulders such a jaunt (no, I won’t be going). Though I’m no yogi, I do like the occasional stretch and existential trip it provides. Yet reading is more my bag, so while I might be a rookie in the pose-holding department, I’ve read enough yoga theory to at least hold my own in the esoteric conversation.

At it’s very base yoga is a state of mind, right? Can’t we shake the yoke and shed our skins right here at home instead of tromping off to Timbuktu-whoknowswhere? This was my increasingly caffeinated thought process as I saw a far less provoking email from NPR’s Book Notes. I happily clicked it open and guess what? The feature piece was titled ’The Great Oom’: Yoga’s Wild Ride to Respectability.

Author and journalist Robert Love is featured on NPR’s All Things Considered for his latest book titled, The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America. Years of research in the making, The Great Oom chronicles the life of Pierre Bernard (nee Perry Baker) and the unlikely journey of yoga originating right here in our own backyard. That’s right people, N-e-b-r-a-s-k-a. I highly suggest giving this a listen whether you are into the craze or not because it’s nothing short of fascinating. Namaste.


*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Links

-Check out what I believe to be Love’s site: Omnipotent Oom

-NYT Book of the Times piece: Iowa Swami Who Beguiled the Jazz Age


Though I am loyal to the Detroit Free Press, we are having some trouble with our relationship right now. It’s not as serious as our brief break-up back in March, when I was told that our daily morning coffee dates would be cut from seven days to three. Or as devastating as staring into the strange eyes of a screen rather than pouring over those familiar rustling, black-inked, sweet crinkling, nostalgia inducing pages. But it is serious enough for me to mention it.

Unless I missed something, and I would hope that someone would tell me if I did, I didn’t see ANY literary events (or a section at all for that matter) listed in this week’s PLAY section. Lots of music. Lots of movies. Even theater. Helllooooo! No book events? With the Kerrytown BookFest on Sunday? Can there really be such scant literary interest in this area of entertainment? Don’t people know that literature is to the eye as music is to the ear? Am I alone here?

I know that bibliophiles have carried the reputation of being somewhat nerdy and perhaps even a tad strange, but didn’t we leave that back in elementary school? Come on, Michigan holds some serious signatures in its mittened fist: Elmore Leonard, Thomas Lynch, Tom Bissell, Pete Dexter, Jeffrey Eugenides, Mitch Albom, Michael Moore, Terry McMillan and Steve Hamilton just to name a few. Even Wayne Dyer is from Detroit for cripes sake…and those are just the biggies. Flying under the radar are incredible poets, playwrights, and screenwriters, so how can there NOT be a literary section in PLAY!?!

Forgive me, I digress. My dear, sweet Free Press, your book section is shrinking, and I know it’s not your fault. It happens as we age. However, if this is going to work…if we are going to work, then there are going to have to be some changes. Relationships are all about communication, so I am opening up those lines and reaching out to you. If you care about us at all, you are going to have to work on this…on us.

-By Megan Shaffer