November 2, 2012

We Apologize ...

We just wanted to put up a note here.

We very much still believe in this blog, and if we were able to we would continue it.  We all believe strongly in the purpose of the Native Home of Hope.

Unfortunately, however, it was just too much and we too few.

Rest assured, however, if we can find a way in the future to pull it off, we'll be back!

~ The Editors

September 19, 2012

A Conversation with David and Jean Abrams


Jean and David Abrams on their wedding day (courtesy David Abrams)

Three weeks ago I invited myself over to David and Jean Abrams’s house for dinner and an interview. David’s first novel Fobbit was getting ready to enter the marketplace, and I thought I would write a friendly piece for a new blog. I rarely read fiction, and I am not interested in war. What I was really after was an insider’s view of their marriage, during which the writing of Fobbit took place.

David is gracious, so of course he accommodated me. He was happy that I wanted Jean there as well.

I arrived promptly at 6 p.m. to find David bustling about the kitchen in his work clothes, making dinner, cell phone wedged between shoulder and ear. Jean poured us a glass of cool white wine.

I sporadically follow David’s blog posts, and I enjoy his sense of humor. It’s edgy, and often not proper. Not bound by that moral straightjacket that causes one to worry what people might be thinking.

Then there’s the non-fiction. The stories of his father, his wife, the birth of their children. This writing wrapped around the arteries of my heart, pulled tight, and sent me to my knees in literal pain.

I am the person in between an acquaintance and a friend. I have known David and Jean socially for a few years. We have a shared interest in the preservation of Butte, Montana, where we live. But you come to feel you know someone much better than you do by being connected through social media. And both David and Jean have blogs that will pull you in and make you feel right at home.


Butte, Monana (via)


And right at home I was. I had an inkling of guilt at this point, knowing full well David had gotten up at his usual 3:30 a.m. to write, review, and blog. He then put in a bit more than his usual 8-hour day, with apologies to me for getting home late.

He’d been fielding calls all day and spent 3 hours in interviews for his book. A long-lost relative had called to congratulate him, and he’d been interviewed by NPR’s Morning Edition. And other national outlets that I can’t remember because I was getting more intimidated by the moment.

I suggested a “conversation” rather than an “interview.” And after David changed out of his work clothes at the insistence of both of us, we went out on the deck to eat and chat.

David talked at length about the excitement of this moment, about the buzz preceding the actual release of his book a week away. It was, he said, a moment in time to cherish for it would never happen again. There is only one first book.

Jean was enjoying the moment as well. Having been by David’s side his entire thirty-year writing life, Jean had this to say:

“I just wondered when everyone else would realize what a great writer he is.” (Large swig of wine)

I believe that time has come.

“I just wondered when everyone else would realize what a great writer he is.” ~ Jean Abrams
Anyone that writes knows it is a one-person show. It’s been called “lonely,” but I don’t agree. No one else can take credit for those hours spent alone in your mind, or in David’s case, the basement of his beautiful historic bungalow. But the support that the other person contributes to that endeavor, that process, is invaluable. A simple “I believe in you” that allows you to follow your dream despite the day to day struggles of life.
 
I am always intrigued by relationships such as David and Jean’s where I witness this kind of support first hand. It is – don’t gag – a fairy tale I still believe in and strive for at the age of fifty.
 
David and Jean did talk a lot about their life together, and this is the nutshell version.
 
They married young, not long after meeting. They knew they were meant to be together. David pursued an English degree, Jean had their children. They were still very young. They had agreed that Jean would raise the children and David would provide. He kept his word though he was unable to provide enough through a writing career. So he went into the Army. There were many moves and time spent apart, but Jean raised the children and David worked. All the while he continued to write. Eventually he was deployed, and you can read all about that in his book Fobbit. The children were all raised successfully, and after twenty years in the Army, David retired. David and Jean moved to Butte, Montana, where they fell into the “More house for less money” trap and bought a gorgeous Craftsman home. David took on another full-time job and kept writing. Jean started an amazing business called Backyard Bungalow. They spend every evening together, enjoying fine food and drink. They do not like to spend the night away from each other.
 
That’s a condensed version of their life together. It might read kind of boring because it is not fraught with drama. 
 
And now, after almost thirty years of marriage, raising a family, lots of writing, and lack of proper sleep – success has arrived.
 
It is easy when someone “succeeds” to have no idea of the tidal push and pull that has kept them grounded through the process. 
 
I’m talking about the reader now. You, the reader, will only begin to know David by reading his book, perhaps meeting him at a book signing. I’m just giving you a little heads-up on the layers that make up this man.
 
"David is humble, gracious, and astounded at this good fortune. And Jean – well, Jean is just ready."
Remember that he is a methodical writer. Remember he has been writing for thirty years. Remember that his success has been excruciatingly long in arriving. Remember there is no guarantee. Remember his family always came first.
 
David is humble, gracious, and astounded at this good fortune. And Jean – well, Jean is just ready.
 
There has been a congratulatory letter from the Governor of Montana, reviews in various weekly magazines, online magazines, interviews on radio, and television. Last week, right here in Butte, Montana, the official launch of the Fobbit book tour took place. Both David and Jean were radiant. It’s real now, and the entire town is cheering.
 
If you are lucky to live in one of the towns or cities where David will be promoting his book, please go. And don’t just go to buy a book. Go to meet him.
 
Do not be fooled by the author photo on the back jacket. He is no tough guy. He has the face of a kindergartner on his first day of school and the same sense of wonder.
 
Maybe you can envision him in the Army in wartime. I still can’t. 
 
I’m still a little bit embarrassed that I was brazen enough to invite myself into their home during this busy time when everyone wants a piece of David Abrams.
 
The piece I got was the one I suspected I’d get: confirmation of a genuinely kind person, a loving husband and father, a hard worker and a kick-ass talented writer.
 
Oh – and by the way: He’s a great cook!
 
 
 
 

 Nicole von Gaza lives in Butte, Montana, where she runs a tour company, a stained glass studio, and a gift shop and tries to find time to write. She has lived all over the West and tries hard not to work too long at one job. She has been published, but it's been a while and all she knows is that it was in Alaska. Her website is www.uptownbutteworks.com and her blog is buttehub-bub.blogspot.com and contains no posts as yet.

September 17, 2012

Happenings, Week of September 17

This week is full of book-related events, not least of all the Library of Congress National Book Festival.  As always, please please let us know of your book events!


Week of September 17


MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 17

Courtney Miller Santo, The Roots of the Olive Tree, 7:30 p.m., Powell’s Books on Hawthorne, Portland, OR


TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18

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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19

Betty Jones, A Child’s Seasonal Treasury, 7:30 p.m., Capitola Book Cafe, Capitola, CA

Shann Ray, American Masculine, Natalie Diaz, When My Brother Was Aztec, and Bill Wetzel, contributor The Acorn Gathering,7:30 p.m., Casa Libre en la Solana, Tucson, AZ

Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins, 4:30 p.m., Purdue University, Rawls Hall, Room 2058, West Lafayette, IN

Lidia Yuknavitch, Dora: A Head Case, 7:00 p.m., Elliott Bay, Seattle, WA


THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 20

Brush Creek Presents, co-sponsored by Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, the University of Wyoming Art Department, and the University of Wyoming MFA, 5 p.m., Visual Arts Building, Laramie, WY

Cheryl Strayed, or Dear Sugar, Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things, Do Lectures, Campovida, Hopland, CA

Lysley Tenorio, Monstress, 9:15 p.m., Cork International Short Story Festival, Cork, Ireland

Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins, Wabash College, Crawfordsville, IN

Yuvi Zalkow, A Brilliant Novel in the Works, 7 p.m., Annie Bloom’s, Portland, OR


FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

David Abrams, Fobbit, 7:30 p.m., Tattered Cover Colfax, Denver, CO

Alyson Hagy, Boleto, 7 p.m., Old Firehouse Books, Fort Collins, CO

La Jolla Literary Festival, a 17-speaker event that includes Mitch Albom, Ridley Pearson, and James Bradley, Sherwood Auditorium, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, CA

Cheryl Strayed, or Dear Sugar, Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things, Do Lectures, Campovida, Hopland, CA


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22

CAConrad, A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon, 5 p.m., Night Heron Books, Laramie, WY

La Jolla Literary Festival, a 17-speaker event that includes Mitch Albom, Ridley Pearson, and James Bradley, Sherwood Auditorium, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, CA

Library of Congress National Book Festival, National Mall, Washington, DC

Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried, Writers in the Woods, Sierra Nevada College, Lake Tahoe, NV

Cheryl Strayed, or Dear Sugar, Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things, Do Lectures, Campovida, Hopland, CA

Lance Weller, Wilderness, 10 a.m., Northwest Bookfest, Kirkland, WA


SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23

La Jolla Literary Festival, a 17-speaker event that includes Mitch Albom, Ridley Pearson, and James Bradley, Sherwood Auditorium, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, CA

Three Ways to Look at a Landscape,” a benefit for youth literacy and leadership program Adventure Risk Challenge sponsored by Bona Fide Books, with Janet Smith, Sue Kloss, and Michelle Murdock, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sagehen Field Creek Station, near Truckee, NV

Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis, Under Wildwood, Baghdad Theater, Portland, OR (tickets Etix.com)

Library of Congress National Book Festival, National Mall, Washington, DC

Gregory Spatz, Inukshuk, with Eric Sasson, Margins of Tolerance, 7 p.m., KGB Bar Sunday Night Fiction, New York, NY

Cheryl Strayed, or Dear Sugar, Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things, Do Lectures, Campovida, Hopland, CA

September 14, 2012

We'll Be Back ...

Sorry we were slackers this week!  We'll be back next week - never fear.

September 11, 2012

Happenings, Week of September 10

This week of happenin' Happenings!  Be there or be square.  And as always, let us know what's happening in your world.


Week of September 10


MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 10

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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11

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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12

Michelle Alexander with Liliana Segura, 7 p.m., Lannan Foundation, Lensic Performing Arts Center, Santa Fe, NM


THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13

David Abrams, Fobbit, 7 p.m., Barnes & Noble, Billings, MT

Cheryl Strayed, or Dear Sugar, Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things, Toronto, Canada

Lance Weller, Wilderness, 7 p.m., Tacoma Public Library, Tacoma, WA

Lidia Yuknavitch, Dora: A Head Case, with Chelsea Cain, Kill You Twice, 7:00 p.m., Broadway Books, Portland, OR


FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14

Casper College/ARTCORE Equality State Book Festival and Literary Conference, featuring Pat Frolander, Zak Pullen, Cat Urbigkit, Kendra Spanjer, Karla Oceanak, Alyson Hagy, David Romtvedt, Linda Hasselstrom, Rebecca O’Connor, Renee d’Aoust, Brian Turner, Matt Daly, Claudia Mauro, W. Dale Nelson, and Luis Carlos Montalvan, Casper College, Casper, WY

Celebration of Writers at Valhalla, 7 p.m., from Tahoe Writers Works, with Stefanie Freele, Steve Robinson, Tim Hauserman, and Suzanne Roberts, Valhalla Grand Hall at the Tallac Historic Site, South Lake Tahoe, CA (tickets $10)

Ivan Doig, The Bartender’s Tale, 7:30 p.m., Powell’s City of Books, Portland, OR

Alyson Hagy, Boleto, Equality State Book Festival, Casper, WY

Lance Weller, Wilderness, 7 p.m., Elliott Bay, Seattle, WA


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 15

~ ~ ~

Book Launch




A Growing Season, by Sue Boggio and Mare Pearl

Hailed by Booklist as "Two talented authors who vividly bring to life the beauty of New Mexico and its people", Sue Boggio and Mare Pearl return to Esperanza, New Mexico, where a devastating drought threatens the farming community's survival. Vultures circle in the form of developers who see failing farms as ripe pickings for a bedroom community for Albuquerque. Court battles pit the endangered silvery minnow against the farmers as the once mighty Rio Grande shrinks from its banks even as demand for its precious water increases.

Abby Silva and her adopted son Santiago must heal from the violence of the past to claim their futures. CeCe and Miguel Vigil care for CeCe's octogenarian Jewish parents, whose long-distance disapproval of their marriage is now played out under their own roof, threatening their once solid union. Their daughter Rachel finally confronts the Jewish half of her ethnicity through her grandparents, Holocaust survivor Zeyde Mort, and irrepressible Brooklyn Bubbe Rose.

In A Growing Season, Esperanza is an American community at the crossroads. A place where people are struggling to preserve a traditional way of life and bring it into the future despite overwhelming odds. A place where cultures must cross divides if all are to thrive. Where love is risked, secrets are revealed, past wounds healed, compromises become victories and somehow, standing together despite their differences, good, brave people prevail.



 1963. President Kennedy was assasinated. All the adults were distracted and sad. The TV sets in Iowa began to show a war brewing in Southeast Asia. Sue's parents sold the house she had come to consciousness in, a lovely little green cottage with a grove of pine trees perfect for forts and secret gardens. They moved a mile west into a new subdivision where all the trees were so puny they had ropes attached to stakes to hold them up in the wind.
      
It was lonely in the new neighborhood. Sue was ten and her little sister was only six and therefore boring. She walked two blocks to the new grade school she would be attending. Along the way, any kids she saw stared at her and she stared right back. They were all younger and therefore boring. She thought about the Beatles. They were the only interesting thing in her life. When she had seen them on Ed Sullivan she felt something she had never felt before. It was joy and sadness mixed together and it became hard to breathe. Afterward, on the commercial break, she found she had squeezed her fists so tightly her fingernails had made little cuts in her palms.

By the school there was a house with a girl in the yard who looked about her age. She had wavy long dark hair and she held the collar of a mean looking dog. They looked at each other and knew each other at first sight.

Mare was short and kind of round and Sue was tall and skinny. Mare was Lennon and Sue was McCartney. Jewish and WASP. Brash and funny, reserved and serious. Mare taught Sue how to giggle and Sue taught Mare how to think deep thoughts. They played Beatle music non-stop and spent every minute they could together. They started their sentences with "What if" and then let their imaginations run wild with scenarios in which they would meet John Lennon and Paul McCartney and impress them with their sarcastic wit and maturity. These 'what ifs" became stories, with dialogue, plots with twists and surprise endings. They harmonized to Beatle songs and Mare learned guitar.

To read the rest of their entertaining biographies, go to their website.

Buy A Growing Season at IndieBound or at Amazon


~ ~ ~


Sue Boggio and Mare Pearl, A Growing Season, 3 p.m., Bookworks, Albuquerque, NM.

Casper College/ARTCORE Equality State Book Festival and Literary Conference, Casper College, Casper, WY

Alyson Hagy, Boleto, Equality State Book Festival, Casper, WY

Ruben Martinez, Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New Old West, 5 p.m., Skylight Books, Los Angeles, CA

Claire Vaye Watkins, Battleborn, 7 p.m., Alumni Bookfair & Festival, OSU Bookstore / Barnes and Noble, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio


SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 16

Junot Diaz, This Is How You Lose Her, 7 p.m., Baghdad Theater, Portland, OR

September 10, 2012

Happenings Delayed

We apologize.  Due to technical difficulties, Happenings will not be posted until tomorrow.  Until then!

September 7, 2012

Book Review: The Executioner's Song, by Norman Mailer

Reviewed by David Abrams




For the moment, let’s set aside the fact vs. fiction argument raging on either side of Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song and face up to one simple fact: this is one damned good book. Some folks have even called it a “masterpiece.” I’m not about to talk anyone out of the “M” word.

If you’re one of those who insists on arranging books according to fiction and non-fiction, then you’d better shelve Mailer’s “true-life novel” somewhere in the middle. Using a novelist’s technique of fabricated dialogue and compressed events, Mailer writes with such force and energy that it fully deserves its trophy-case of literary prizes, including the Pulitzer.

Mailer (who first burst onto the scene with The Naked and the Dead in 1948) has always rankled both critics and readers with his sprawling literature. Some readers lose patience with his wordy prose; some critics say he’s just plain bombastic. I say he’s just plain good.

By the time you make it to the end of The Executioner’s Song, you’ll either hate him or love him—Mailer does not allow any namby-pamby in-between. I’ve read The Executioner’s Song twice—the first time in 1981, two years after its publication and four years after Gary Mark Gilmore’s death by Utah firing squad; the second time was at the turn of our century. The interval of nearly two decades did little to dim my enthusiasm for this book (which I prefer to classify as “embellished journalism”).
 
Gary Gilmore (via)
 
When Gilmore was arrested, tried and convicted of killing two Mormon men in Provo, Utah, one hot July night in 1976, I was living about 500 miles away. Up in Wyoming, I followed the whole murder case on the evening news. Back then, the viciousness of Gilmore’s crime (shooting decent Americans in the head with little provocation) was big news. Our society had yet to see the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, the Night Stalker, Columbine High School, or whatever sad shooting you’ll find in the headlines tomorrow. Gilmore, with his movie-star good looks and piercing gaze, was the Monster Next Door.
 
After his conviction, things really took a turn for the bizarre. Gilmore was given the death penalty.  Rather than fight with a series of appeals and pleas for gubernatorial pardons, Gilmore told the state he wanted to die. Never before had someone pursued his own death sentence. The media swooped in on the penitentiary and the rest of the world held its breath to see if Gilmore would eventually change his mind. He didn’t. And that’s partly what makes this book so fascinating: the character (if a real person can be called a character) of Gary Mark Gilmore. He is, in fact, so complex that even a tough-guy writer like Norman Mailer has difficulty getting inside his heart and head to find out what made the Monster Next Door tick.  (Unlike Truman Capote who burrowed deep—some say too deep—into his In Cold Blood killers.)
 
But Mailer gives it his best shot and the result is a big, whopping book composed of bite-sized vignettes—most of them only a paragraph long—making the pages fly past at the speed of cinema.  The book tracks the lives of Gilmore, his girlfriend Nicole, his Mormon relatives, his victims and the media circus that set up camp outside the state penitentiary. The Executioner’s Song is divided into two parts: "Western Voices" (the crimes and the trial) and "Eastern Voices" (the deathwatch and execution). Of the two, the first is much more fascinating and suspenseful—a result, probably, of our morbid fascination with all things bloody and twisted. Some of the second half is tedious, especially the long stretches with Lawrence Schiller, pseudo-journalist and self-promoter who is the only writer allowed to share Gilmore’s last moments (Mailer cut a deal with Schiller to use his notes and tape recordings for this book). Still, I was actually moved by Gilmore’s final walk toward the firing-squad chamber. By that point, he almost had my sympathy.
 
The book is huge in both size and scope, but Mailer always finds the right words to describe even the smallest of events.
 
The book is huge in both size and scope, but Mailer always finds the right words to describe even the smallest of events. Here, for instance, is the moment the entire book has been leading to—the execution by firing squad:
 
When it happened, Gary never raised a finger. Didn’t quiver at all. His left hand never moved, and then, after he was shot, his head went forward, but the strap held his head up, and then the right hand slowly rose in the air and slowly went down as if to say, “That did it, gentlemen.” Schiller thought the movement was as delicate as the fingers of a pianist raising his hand before he puts it down on the keys.

I have just one word for a passage like that: Wow.  Okay, maybe one other word:  Masterpiece.


Reviewer David Abrams is the author of Fobbit, a comedy about the Iraq War (Grove/Atlantic) that Publishers Weekly called “an instant classic.” His short stories have appeared in Esquire, Narrative, Salamander, Connecticut Review, The Greensboro Review, The Missouri Review, The North Dakota Review, and other literary quarterlies. He earned a BA in English from the University of Oregon and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.He retired from active-duty after serving in the U.S. Army for 20 years, a career that took him to Alaska, Texas, Georgia, the Pentagon, and Iraq. He now lives in Butte, Montana, with his wife. His blog, The Quivering Pen, can be found at: www.davidabramsbooks.blogspot.com. (Author photo courtesy Lisa Wareham Photography.)


Buy Fobbit at IndieBound or at Amazon.