Recent Work By Marion Winik

Kate Christensen 4 KB copyI fell in love with Kate Christensen’s fiction for the smart but deeply flawed characters, the vibrant settings, the good old-fashioned plot twists and, of course, the prose, once described by Janelle Brown in the San Francisco Chronicle as “visceral and poetic, like being bludgeoned with an exquisitely painted sledgehammer.” Always in the mix, lusciously omnipresent, was food and booze, flavoring the titles (In The Drink, The Epicure’s Lament) and served generously through the scenes. There was no doubt the author was deeply involved with eating and drinking.

Goldman, Francisco author photo credit - Mélanie MorandI fell in love with the writer Francisco Goldman in 1992 when I read his semi-autobiographical first novel The Long Night of White Chickens, in which a young man who is half Central American and half American Jewish becomes obsessed with the political murder of a Guatemalan woman he has adored since childhood. Since then Goldman has published the novels, The Ordinary Seaman (1997) and The Divine Husband (2004), a nonfiction book, The Art of Political Murder (2007), and the very autobiographical Say Her Name.

Laura-Fraser-authorI probably don’t have to tell any reader of The Nervous Breakdown that it’s harder than ever to publish a book through traditional corporate channels. And certain categories — like collections of essays — have become virtually extinct, a situation which affects me directly. When I started out telling personal stories as a commentator on NPR in the 1990s, there was a lot of interest in the essay — publishers were looking for the next David Sedaris. These days, though venues have opened up online for individual pieces, and we continue to see themed anthologies  on various aspects of parenting, eating, divorce, travel, etc., it’s very rare to find a collection of essays between covers by anyone other than, well, David Sedaris.

JessicaBlau“Quentin Tarantino meets HBO’s Girls.” Kirkus Review’s thumbnail description of Jessica Anya Blau’s new high-energy, crazy-fun novel, The Wonder Bread Summer, out today from Harper, struck me as perfect. (I had been thinking Pineapple Express myself, only set in the 80s and for women.) Now Nick Hornby has signed up to lead the fan club in this review in The Believer. So in honor of her publication this week, I’m turning the tables on the lady behind the Six Question Sex Interview, whom I am also proud to claim as friend, neighbor, muse and skin care advisor.

HamidIn the summer of 2011, for a review marking the tenth anniversary of the attacks, I read thirteen novels with 9/11 plots, from Jonathan Safran Foer to  Julia Glass, from Jess Walter to Claire Messud. My favorite was Mohsin Hamid’s Booker-nominated contribution, The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a slim, clever allegory with a large ambition — it wants to make you understand something about the experience of Islamic people in the Middle East and in the United States. Like Hamid, its narrator is a Pakistani who has lived in the U.S. but is now back in Lahore. This speaker delivers the entire story as a monologue over dinner to an American visitor whose voice is never heard but who may have a gun.