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sussman2010Ellen Sussman’s last novel, French Lessons, was a national bestseller that charmed Francophiles and non-Francophiles alike. With Ellen’s new book, The Paradise Guest House, the reader is again taken away to an exotic locale. Only this book goes beyond a romantic travel story by plunging into the painful complexities of terrorism and its echoing aftermath.

Here are six questions for Ellen Sussman:

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You probably already know who Marion Winik is. She was a commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered for years. Her essays have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to The Sun to Ladies Home Journal, where she was, somewhat unbelievably, the advice columnist. Her first eight books have been featured on Oprah, The Today Show, Politically Incorrect and The New York Times Notable list. Her ninth, Highs in the Low Fifties, is a memoir of her dating life after her divorce from her second husband. Baltimoreans have been getting glimpses of these tales in her biweekly column Bohemian Rhapsody at BaltimoreFishbowl.com.

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By Ted McCagg

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photo+-+MakkaiIn her essay “Other Types of Poison” (in the July issue of Harper’s, released mid-June) novelist and short-story writer Rebecca Makkai explores the legacy of her Hungarian grandparents—well-known leftist Hungarian novelist Rozsa Ignacz, and her divorced husband, Janos Makkai, principal parliamentary author and proponent of Hungary’s infamous Second Jewish Law of 1939.

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Please explain what just happened.

We just stopped at a little gas station where they had homemade hamburgers. We think there’s a 50/50 chance that this is actually true.

I talked with writer Alexandra Chasin about her project Writing On It All on Governors Island, in New York Harbor (about three minutes from both Manhattan and Brooklyn by ferry).

From June 15 to June 30, artists, writers, and interested members of the public will collaborate in a series of unusual writing activities in an out-of-use house on the island.

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Within thirty-six hours of the release of the long-awaited fourth season of Arrested Development, reviews—not just of the first episode, but of the entire season—started appearing online. Reviewers watched the full eight-hour season in one or two sleep-deprived binges, then spent the remaining twenty-eight hours spewing out essay-like things, some in excess of 3,000 words, purporting to offer an authoritative viewpoint on the show. One gets the sense that many of these writers would proudly refer to their essay-like things as thinkpieces, which is internet shorthand for unfocused, poorly edited conglomerations of words designed to project the appearance of depth without actually providing any.

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Please explain what just happened.

Alanis Morissette came on the radio playing a hit from 1994, and then a very beautiful song came on.  It’s called “All I Want,” by Kodaline.  Pretty.

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Emily Rapp is the guest. Her new memoir, The Still Point of the Turning World, is now available from Penguin.

 

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Fiona Maazel is the guest. Her new novel, Woke Up Lonely, is now available from Graywolf Press.

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ElisabethDahlBaltimore-born Elisabeth Dahl has published short fiction, essays, and poetry but scored her debut novel, Genie Wishes, in an unlikely but emerging market for writers—middle grade (MG) fiction. Genie Wishes, which was released in April 2013 from ABRAMS/Amulet, is the story of Genie Haddock Kunkle, who, when the novel opens is starting fifth grade with her best friend, Sarah. Fifth grade brings a host of little earthquakes for Genie—she is elected class blogger and is forced to speak her mind to the entire fifth grade, a new girl—sophisticated Blair—joins their class, and worst of all, Blair and Sarah are becoming fast friends. As Genie approaches the first major crossroads of her young adult life, Dahl handles her with grace, charm, and quiet insight. I spoke with Elisabeth about the difficulties of transitioning from literary fiction to MG and why the books of our youth still hold such power over us.

Scott Nadelson is the guest. His new memoir, The Next Scott Nadelson: A Life in Progress, is now available from Hawthorne Books.

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Tupelo Hassman is the guest. Her debut novel, Girlchild, has just been published in paperback by Picador.


 
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benstickerMB: Have you ever heard the song “Ben” by Michael Jackson? If not already, I don’t know that I could recommend it in good faith. At the same time, if anyone could reprise the last line of the song, it’s you, in your voice. (“I’m sure they’d think again if they had a friend like Ben.”)

BP: I love that song so much, not only because of my name, but because it is about a filthy sewer rat. The ethereal flute-like piping of Michael Jackson’s voice is what I wish I sounded like, but I’ve been burdened with a subwoofer that sounds a little like a drunk Darth Vader imitating the ringside monologue of a professional wrestler.

Rob Roberge is the guest. His new novel, The Cost of Living, is now available from Other Voices Books. It is the April selection of The TNB Book Club.


 
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