Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling novelist Jane Smiley celebrates the novel--and takes us on an exhilarating tour through one hundred of them--in this seductive and immensely rewarding literary tribute. In her inimitable style-exuberant, candid, opinionated-Smiley explores the power of the novel, looking at its history and variety, its cultural impact, and just how it works its magic. She invites us behind the scenes of novel-writing, sharing her own habits and spilling the secrets of her craft. And she offers priceless advice to aspiring authors. As she works her way through one hundred novels--from classics such as the thousand-year-old Tale of Genji to recent fiction by Zadie Smith and Alice Munro--she infects us anew with the passion for reading that is the governing spirit of this gift to book lovers everywhere.
The luminous novella and stories in The Age of Grief explore the vicissitudes of love, friendship, and marriage with all the compassion and insight that have come to be expected from Jane Smiley, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres. In "The Pleasure of Her Company," a lonely, single woman befriends the married couple next door, hoping to learn the secret of their happiness. In "Long Distance," a man finds himself relieved of the obligation to continue an affair that is no longer compelling to him, only to be waylaid by the guilt he feels at his easy escape. And in the incandescently wise and moving title novella, a dentist, aware that his wife has fallen in love with someone else, must comfort her when she is spurned, while maintaining the secret of his own complicated sorrow. Beautifully written, with a wry intelligence and a lively comic touch, The Age of Grief captures moments of great intimacy with grace, clarity, and indelible emotional power.
THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres "Rousing . . . Action-packed . . . A gripping story about love, fortitude, and convictions that are worth fighting for. " --Los Angeles Times A NEW YORK TIMES NO TABLE BOOK "POWERFUL . . . Smiley takes us back to Kansas in 1855, a place of rising passions and vast uncertainties. Narrated in the spirited, unsentimental voice of 20-year-old Lidie Newton, the novel is at once an ambitious examination of a turning point in history and the riveting story of one woman's journey into uncharted regions of place and self. " --Chicago Tribune "[A] grand tale of the moral and political upheavals igniting antebellum frontier life and a heroine so wonderfully fleshed and unforgettable you will think you are listening to her story instead of reading it. Smiley may have snared a Pulitzer forA Thousand Acres. . . but it is with Lydia (Lidie) Harkness Newton that she emphatically captures our hearts. . . . The key word in Smiley's title is Adventures, and Lydia's are crammed with breathless movement, danger, and tension; populated by terrifically entertaining characters and securely grounded in telling detail. " --The Miami Herald "SMILEY BRILLIANTLY EVOKES MID-19TH-CENTURY LIFE. . . . Richly imagined and superbly written, Jane Smiley's new novel is an extraordinary accomplishment in an already distinguished career. " --Atlanta Journal-Constitution "A SPRAWLING EPIC . . . A garrulous, nights-by-the-hearth narrative not unlike those classics of the period it emulates. In following a rebellious young woman of 1855 into Kansas Territory and beyond, the novel is so persuasively authentic that it reads like a forgotten document from the days of Twain and Stowe. " --The Boston Sunday Globe "CONSISTENTLY ENTERTAINING, FILLED WITH ACTION AND IDEAS. " --The New York Times Book Review "ENGAGING . . . [A] HARROWING ADVENTURE . . . This picaresque tale presents a series of remarkable characters, particularly in the inexperienced narrator, whose graphic descriptions of travel and domestic life before the Civil War strip away romantic notions of simpler times. . . . Smiley has created an authentic voice in this struggle of a young woman to live simply amid a swirl of deadly antagonism. " --The Christian Science Monitor "A fine historical novel that describes a fascinating time and place . . . It is both funny and subtle, rich in ideas . . . Smiley has created a better all-around piece of fiction than any of her previous work, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Thousand Acres. " --The Wall Street Journal "Smiley is a writer of rare versatility who travels widely in her creative endeavors. She proved her mastery of both short fiction and the novel with three sterling works (The Age of Grief,Ordinary Love and Good Will, andA Thousand Acres); her fondness for history had already been established wit hThe Greelanders. In 1995, she successfully extended her repertoire to comedy with the hilarious academic satireMoo. What her new novel shares with all these works is its authorial intelligence. " --The Boston Sunday Globe
Gerald Middleton is a sixty-year-old self-proclaimed failure. Worse than that, he's "a failure with a conscience." As a young man, he was involved in an archaeological dig that turned up an obscene idol in the coffin of a seventh-century bishop and scandalized a generation. The discovery was in fact the most outrageous archaeological hoax of the century, and Gerald has long known who was responsible and why. But to reveal the truth is to risk destroying the world of cozy compromises that, personally as well as professionally, he has long made his own.One of England's first openly gay novelists, Angus Wilson was a dirty realist who relished the sleaze and scuffle of daily life. Slashingly satirical, virtuosically plotted, and displaying Dickensian humor and nerve, Anglo-Saxon Attitudes features a vivid cast of characters that includes scheming academics and fading actresses, big businessmen toggling between mistresses and wives, media celebrities, hustlers, transvestites, blackmailers, toadies, and even one holy fool. Everyone, it seems, is either in cahoots or in the dark, even as comically intrepid Gerald Middleton struggles to maintain some dignity while digging up a history of lies.
In this brilliant novel, Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling author Jane Smiley delves into the domestic drama of the Robison family. While seventy-seven-year-old Ike Robison is dying in his bedroom upstairs, his wife defends the citadel of their marriage against an ill-considered, albeit loving, invasion by their three middle-aged daughters and their twenty-three-year-old granddaughter. Amply fulfilling the expectations raised by Smiley's other celebrated works,
The verdant pastures of a farm in Illinois have the placid charm of a landscape painting. But the horses that graze there have become the obsession of a woman who sees them as the fulfillment of every wish: to win, to be honored, to be the best. Her ambition is the galvanizing force in Jane Smiley's first novel, a force that will drive a wedge between her and her family, and bring them all to tragedy. Written with the grace and quiet beauty of her Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, "A Thousand Acres".
Yearly anthology of the best short stories of 1995, selected by Jane Smiley.
They were six friends from the Midwest who moved to New York in the Seventies with high hopes of making a big-time splash in the music industry. Though the dream faded, the bonds between this tightly-knit group did not. Or so it seemed. For one brilliantly sunny day, solid, dependable Alice Ellis discovers the grisly murder of two of the group, shot dead in an apartment to which any number of friends, acquaintances and strangers had easy access - with a set of duplicate keys. Suspicion falls on all of the friends as their infidelities, lies and shocking secrets begin to rise to the surface. In this clever and unusual thriller, Jane Smiley examines the aftermath of a murder with wit, stealth and the remorselessly precise eye of an expert emotional psychologist. Clap hands for a rarity: an amusing, incisive and sharply written study of Sixties leftovers couched in an excellently wrought thriller format. Smiley has perfectly caught the mood and desperation of a generation floundering somewhere between adolescence and the menopause that other more smug, ponderous studies such as 'The Big Chill' have failed to pin down. TIME OUT This may be the anatomy of a murder but more important and far more compelling is the anatomy of friendship, betrayal and the bittersweet smell of near-success. A first-rate cliffhanger. NEW YORK TIMES The suspense of this unusual mystery comes from Smiley's quietly gripping revelations of character. At the heart of the book is a piercing dissection of the friendship between Susan and Alice, a relationship whose limpid surface hides ancient complexities of feeling and memory. Alice's candour and Susan's ambiguities lead them into unsettling discoveries, all in the course of solving a particularly crafty and cold-blooded crime. SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
Gee Whiz is a striking horse, and only part of that is because of his size. He is tall, but also graceful, yet his strides big but precise. At the same time, he keeps his eye on things, not as if he's suspicious, but as if he's curious.When Abby is confronted with an onslaught of reminders of just how little of the world she has seen, she finds herself connecting with Gee Whiz's calm and curious nature, and his desire to know more. Her brother receives a draft notice to Vietnam, her friends return for the holidays with stories from their boarding school in Southern California, and the wise, lovable Brother Abner opens her eyes with tales of his many years spent traveling. At the same time, her beloved Jack and True Blue are both faced with opportunites to broaden their horizons away from the ranch. Will she let them go, with hopes that she might one day do the same?
A Pulitzer Prize winner makes her debut for young readers. Jane Smiley makes her debut for young readers in this stirring novel set on a California horse ranch in the 1960s. Seventh-grader Abby Lovitt has always been more at ease with horses than with people. Her father insists they call all the mares "Jewel" and all the geldings "George" and warns Abby not to get attached: the horses are there to be sold. But with all the stress at school (the Big Four have turned against Abby and her friends) and home (her brother Danny is gone - for good, it seems - and now Daddy won't speak his name), Abby seeks refuge with the Georges and the Jewels. But there's one gelding on her family's farm that gives her no end of trouble: the horse who won't meet her gaze, the horse who bucks her right off every chance he gets, the horse her father makes her ride and train, every day. She calls him the Ornery George. From the Hardcover edition.
Jane Smiley brings her extraordinary gifts--comic timing, empathy, emotional wisdom, an ability to deliver slyly on big themes and capture the American spirit--to the seductive, wishful, wistful world of real estate, in which the sport of choice is the mind game. Her funny and moving new novel is about what happens when the American Dream morphs into a seven-figure American Fantasy. Joe Stratford is someone you like at once. He makes an honest living helping nice people buy and sell nice houses. His not-very-amicable divorce is finally settled, and he's ready to begin again. It's 1982. He is pretty happy, pretty satisfied. But a different era has dawned; Joe's new friend, Marcus Burns from New York, seems to be suggesting that the old rules are ready to be repealed, that now is the time you can get rich quick. Really rich. And Marcus not only knows that everyone is going to get rich, he knows how. Because Marcus just quit a job with the IRS. But is Joe ready for the kind of success Marcus promises he can deliver? And what's the real scoop on Salt Key Farm? Is this really the development opportunity of a lifetime? And then there's Felicity Ornquist, the lovely, feisty, winning (and married) daughter of Joe's mentor and business partner. She has finally owned up to her feelings for Joe: she's just been waiting for him to be available. The question Joe asks himself, over and over, is, Does he have the gumption? Does he have the smarts and the imagination and the staying power to pay attention--to Marcus and to Felicity--and reap the rewards? Good Faithcaptures the seductions and illusions that can seize America during our periodic golden ages (every Main Street an El Dorado). To follow Joe as he does deals and is dealt with in this newly liberated world of anything goes is a roller-coaster ride through the fun park of the 1980s. It is Jane Smiley in top form.
When eighth grader Abby Lovitt looks out at those pure-gold rolling hills, she knows there's no place she'd rather be than her family's ranch--even with all the hard work of tending to nine horses. But some chores are no work at all, like grooming young Jack. At eight months, his rough foal coat has shed out, leaving a smooth, rich silk, like chocolate. As for Black George, such a good horse, it turns out he's a natural jumper. When he and Abby clear four feet easy as pie, heads start to turn at the ring--buyers' heads--and Abby knows Daddy won't turn down a good offer. Then a letter arrives from a private investigator, and suddenly Abby stands to lose not one horse but two. The letter states that Jack's mare may have been sold to the Lovitts as stolen goods. A mystery unfolds, more surprising than Abby could ever expect. Will she lose her beloved Jack to his rightful owners?Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley raises horses of her own, and her affection and expertise shine through in this inviting horse novel for young readers, set in 1960s California horse country and featuring characters from The Georges and the Jewels.From the Hardcover edition.
"HAUNTING. " --The New York Times Book Review Jane Smiley, the Pultizer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres, gives us a magnificent novel of fourteenth-century Greenland. Rich with fascinating detail about the day-to-day joys and innumerable hardships of remarkable people, The Greenlanders is also the compelling story of one family--proud landowner Asgeir Gunnarsson; his daughter Margret, whose willful independence leads her into passionate adultery and exile; and his son Gunnar, whose quest for knowledge is at the compelling center of this unforgettable book. Echoing the simple power of the old Norse sagas, here is a novel that brings a remote civilization to life and shows how it was very like our own. "TOTALLY COMPELLING . . . FASCINATING . . . In the manner of the big books of the nineteenth century, in which complex family and community matters unravel--Dickens, Dumas, Tolstoy--The Greenlanders sweeps the reader along. . . . Jane Smiley is a true storyteller. " --The Washington Post "A POWERFUL, MOVING STUDY OF HUMAN FRAILTY AND THE EPHEMERAL NATURE OF COURAGE AND LOVE. " --USA Today "WONDERFUL . . . A HISTORICAL NOVEL WITH THE NEARNESS OF CONTEMPORARY FICTION. " --The New Republic "[AN] EPIC MASTERPIECE . . . SPELLBINDING. " --Newsday
#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK"A WISE, SPIRITED NOVEL . . . [IN WHICH] SMILEY PLUMBS THE WONDROUSLYSTRANGE WORLD OF HORSE RACING." --People"ONE OF THE PREMIER NOVELISTS OF HER GENERATION, possessed of a masteryof craft and an uncompromising vision that grow more powerful with eachbook . . . Racing's eclectic mix of classes and personalities providesSmiley with fertile soil . . . Expertly juggling storylines, sheinvestigates the sexual, social, psychological, and spiritual problemsof wealthy owners, working-class bettors, trainers on the edge offinancial ruin, and, in a typically bold move, horses." --The Washington Post"A NOVEL OF PASSION IN EVERY SENSE . . . [SHE DOES] IT ALL WITH APLOMB .. . WITH A DEMON NARRATIVE INTELLIGENCE." --The Boston Sunday Globe"WITTY, ENERGETIC . . . It's deeply satisfying to read a work of fictionso informed about its subject and so alive to every nuance and detail .. . [Smiley's] final chapters have a wonderful restorative quality."--The New York Times Book Review"RICHLY DETAILED, INGENIOUSLY CONSTRUCTED . . . YOU WILL REVEL IN JANESMILEY'S HORSE HEAVEN."--San Diego Union-TribuneChosen by the Los Angeles Times as One of the Best Books of the YearFrom the Trade Paperback edition.
In this extraordinary memoir, one of the best young writers in America today transforms into a work of art the darkest passage imaginable in a young woman's life: an obsessive love affair between father and daughter that began when Kathryn Harrison, twenty years old, was reunited with a parent whose absence had haunted her youth.Exquisitely and hypnotically written, like a bold and terrifying dream, The Kiss is breathtaking in its honesty and in the power and beauty of its creation. A story both of taboo and of family complicity in breaking taboo, The Kiss is also about love -- about the most primal of love triangles, the one that ensnares a child between mother and father.From the Hardcover edition.
From one of our most acclaimed novelists, a David-and-Goliath biography for the digital age.One night in the late 1930s, in a bar on the Illinois-Iowa border, John Vincent Atanasoff, a professor of physics at Iowa State University, after a frustrating day performing tedious mathematical calculations in his lab, hit on the idea that the binary number system and electronic switches, combined with an array of capacitors on a moving drum to serve as memory, could yield a computing machine that would make his life and the lives of other similarly burdened scientists easier. Then he went back and built the machine. It worked. The whole world changed. Why don't we know the name of John Atanasoff as well as we know those of Alan Turing and John von Neumann? Because he never patented the device, and because the developers of the far-better-known ENIAC almost certainly stole critical ideas from him. But in 1973 a court declared that the patent on that Sperry Rand device was invalid, opening the intellectual property gates to the computer revolution. Jane Smiley tells the quintessentially American story of the child of immigrants John Atanasoff with technical clarity and narrative drive, making the race to develop digital computing as gripping as a real-life techno-thriller.From the Hardcover edition.
"DELECTABLY ENTERTAINING. . . . An uproariously funny and at the same time hauntingly melancholy portrait of a college community in the Midwest."--The New York TimesNestled in the heart of the Midwest, amid cow pastures and waving fields of grain, lies Moo University, a distinguished institution devoted to the art and science of agriculture. Here, among an atmosphere rife with devious plots, mischievous intrigue, lusty liaisons, and academic one-upmanship, Chairman X of the Horticulture Department harbors a secret fantasy to kill the dean; Mrs. Walker, the provost's right hand and campus information queen, knows where all the bodies are buried; Timothy Nonahan, associate professor of English, advocates eavesdropping for his creative writing assignments; and Bob Carlson, a sophomore, feeds and maintains his only friend: a hog named Earl Butz. In this wonderfully written and masterfully plotted novel, Jane Smiley, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres, offers us a wickedly funny comedy that is also a darkly poignant slice of life."FAST, HILARIOUS, AND HEARTBREAKING . . . Not for a minute does Moo lose its perfect satiric pitch or its pacing. . . . Don't skip a page, don't skip a paragraph. It's going to be on the final."--People"SMART, IRREVERENT, AND WICKEDLY TENDER . . . Moo suggests a mix of Tom Wolfe's wit and John Updike's satiny reach . . . Engaging."--The Boston Globe"ENTERTAINING . . . Displays a wicked wit and an unerring eye for American foibles . . . Stuffed with memorable characters, sparkling with deliciously acid humor, Moo is a rare bird in today's literary menagerie: a great read that also makes you think."--Chicago Sun-TimesFrom the Trade Paperback edition.
"Smiley's stories lucidly explore the complexities of contemporary sexual and domestic life... the emotional and moral complexity that she uncovers in the characters of these resonant novellas confirms Jane Smiley's singular talent. ORDINARY LOVE AND GOOD WILL is an extraordinary achievement." THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD. ORDINARY LOVE: At a reunion with her grown children, a woman recalls the long-ago affair that ended her relationship with their father--and changed all their lives irrevoccably. GOOD WILL: Despite the carefully self-sufficient life he has designed for his small family, a man discovers that even the right choices have unexpected consequences--sometimes heart-breaking ones.
Abby Lovitt doesn't realize how unprepared she is when she takes her beloved horse, True Blue, to a clinic led by the most famous equestrian anyone knows. The biggest surprise, though, is that Sophia, the girl who never makes a mistake, suddenly makes so many that she stops riding. Who will ride her horse? Abby's dad seems to think it will be Abby. Pie in the Sky is the most expensive horse Abby has ever ridden. But he is proud and irritable, and he takes Abby's attention away from the continuing mystery that is True Blue. And then there's high school--Abby finds new friends, but also new challenges, and a larger world that sometimes seems strange and intimidating. She begins to wonder if there is another way to look at horses, people, and life itself. Accompanied by the beautiful imagery of 1960s Northern California, Abby's charming mix of innocence and wisdom guide us through Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley's latest middle-grade horse novel.
Jessica Mitford was a member of one of England's most legendary families (among her sisters were the novelist Nancy Mitford and the current Duchess of Devonshire) and one of the great muckraking journalists of modern times. Leaving England for America, she pursued a career as an investigative reporter and unrepentant gadfly, publicizing not only the misdeeds of, most famously, the funeral business (The American Way of Death, a bestseller) and the prison business (Kind and Usual Punishment), but also of writing schools and weight-loss programs. Mitford's diligence, unfailing skepticism, and acid pen made her one of the great chroniclers of the mischief people get up to in the pursuit of profit and the name of good. Poison Penmanship collects seventeen of Mitford's finest pieces--about everything from crummy spas to network-TV censorship--and fills them out with the story of how she got the scoop and, no less fascinating, how the story developed after publication. The book is a delight to read: few journalists have ever been as funny as Mitford, or as gifted at getting around in those dark, cobwebbed corners where modern America fashions its shiny promises. It's also an unequaled and necessary manual of the fine art of investigative reporting.
A riveting new novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winner that traverses the intimate landscape of one woman's life, from the 1880s to World War II.Margaret Mayfield is nearly an old maid at twenty-seven in post-Civil War Missouri when she marries Captain Andrew Jackson Jefferson Early. He's the most famous man their small town has ever produced: a naval officer and a brilliant astronomer--a genius who, according to the local paper, has changed the universe. Margaret's mother calls the match "a piece of luck."Margaret is a good girl who has been raised to marry, yet Andrew confounds her expectations from the moment their train leaves for his naval base in faraway California. Soon she comes to understand that his devotion to science leaves precious little room for anything, or anyone, else. When personal tragedies strike and when national crises envelop the country, Margaret stands by her husband. But as World War II approaches, Andrew's obsessions take a different, darker turn, and Margaret is forced to reconsider the life she has so carefully constructed.Private Life is a beautiful evocation of a woman's inner world: of the little girl within the hopeful bride, of the young woman filled with yearning, and of the faithful wife who comes to harbor a dangerous secret. But it is also a heartbreaking portrait of marriage and the mysteries that endure even in lives lived side by side; a wondrously evocative historical panorama; and, above all, a masterly, unforgettable novel from one of our finest storytellers.From the Hardcover edition.
These sagas and tales were written down after The Norse and Icelanders became Christian. They were not Christian during the time of the stories. The writing merely preserves the oral story telling tradition. Truly a way of knowing a lost world.
Jerusalem in 1945 is a city in flux: refugees from the war in Europe fill its streets and cafés, the British colonial mandate is coming to an end, and tensions are on the rise between the Arab and Jewish populations. Felix Latimer, a recently orphaned teenager, arrives in Jerusalem from Baghdad, biding time until he can secure passage to England. Adrift and deeply lonely, Felix has no choice but to room in a boardinghouse run by Miss Bohun, a relative he has never met. Miss Bohun is a holy terror, a cheerless miser who proclaims the ideals of a fundamentalist group known as the Ever-Readies--joy, charity, and love--even as she makes life a misery for her boarders. Then Mrs. Ellis, a fascinating young widow, moves into the house and disrupts its dreary routine for good. Olivia Manning's great subject is the lives of ordinary people caught up in history. Here, as in her panoramic depiction of World War II, The Balkan Trilogy, she offers a rich and psychologically nuanced story of life on the precipice, and she tells it with equal parts compassion, skepticism, and humor.
A glorious new novel from the Pulitzer Prize winner: a big, smart, bawdy tale of love and war, sex and politics, friendship and betrayal--and the allure of the movies. With Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron as her model, Jane Smiley takes us through ten transformative, unforgettable days in the Hollywood hills. It is the morning after the 2003 Academy Awards. Max--an Oscar-winning writer/director whose fame has waned--and his lover, Elena, luxuriate in bed, still groggy from last night's red-carpet festivities. They are talking about movies, talking about love, and talking about the war in Iraq, recently begun. But soon their house will be full of guests, and guests like these demand attention. There is Max's ex-wife, "the legendary Zoe Cunningham," a dazzling half-Jamaican movie star, with her new lover, the enigmatic healer, Paul (fraudulent? enlightened?). Max's agent, Stoney, a perhaps too easygoing version of his legendary agent father, can't stay away, and neither can Zoe and Max's daughter, Isabel, though she would prefer to maintain her hard-won independence. And of course there is the next-door neighbor, Cassie, who seems to know everyone's secrets. As they share their stories of Hollywood past and present, watch films in Max's opulent screening room, gossip by the swimming pool, and tussle in the many bedrooms, the tension mounts, sparks fly, and Smiley delivers an exquisitely woven, virtuosic work--a Hollywood novel as only she could fashion it, told with bravura, rich with delightful characters, spiced with her signature wit. It is a joyful, sexy, and wondrously insightful pleasure.
A successful Iowa farmer decides to divide his farm between his three daughters. When the youngest objects, she is cut out of his will. This sets off a chain of events that brings dark truths to light and explodes long-suppressed emotions. An ambitious reimagining of Shakespeare's King Lear cast upon a typical American community in the late twentieth century, A Thousand Acres takes on themes of truth, justice, love, and pride, and reveals the beautiful yet treacherous topography of humanity.
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