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#b#Lauren B. Davis#/b#, “Against a Darkening Sky,” Harper Avenue, a division of Harper Collins. www.harpercollins.ca.
Many writers in the greater Princeton community know Lauren B. Davis as the facilitator of a popular writers’ workshop called Sharpening the Quill. Davis also puts her teaching into practice, the most recent example being her new novel, “Against a Darkening Sky,” set in Northumbria, a seventh-century medieval kingdom in what is now northern England and southeast Scotland.
Davis’s novel tells the story of a seeress and healer whose life and beliefs are threatened by the coming of Christianity and a young monk who is following the teachings of Christ, but who is at odds with the Roman church. “Full of magic and mystery,” says the publisher’s statement, “Davis’s new work explores what happens when one’s experience and beliefs clash with those of the people in power.”
Born in Montreal, Davis lived in France from 1994 to 2004 and then moved with her husband, Ron, to Princeton. She is also the author of the bestselling novels “The Stubborn Season,” “The Radiant City,” and “Our Daily Bread,” which was named a best book of the year by both the Globe and Mail and the Boston Globe. Her novel “The Empty Room” was named a best book of the year by the National Post and the Winnipeg Free Press. Davis is also the author of two story collections, “Rat Medicine & Other Unlikely Curatives” and “An Unrehearsed Desire.”
Davis is enthusiastic about the creative process, as she notes in a recent post on her website, www.laurenbdavis.com: “Sometimes other writers talk to me about the futility of the artist’s life, particularly at a time when the digital world seems to be steamrollering over publishing, when it’s harder and harder to make even the most meager living, when it’s so difficult to attract the attention of readers, who have the attention span of goldfish in a vast sea of shiny things.
“But the world is the way it is. Besides, creating is something we do because we can’t NOT do it. We are saner creating than not creating, which is all the affirmation I need to go on.”
#b#Tony Rothman#/b#, “Firebird,” Wildside, www.amazon.com
‘The world is moving towards alternative energy. Two giant laboratories, one in France, one in Texas, are engaged in a contest to give mankind a limitless source of energy — fusion, the energy source of stars,” according to the press material for “Firebird,” one of two novels out this year by Tony Rothman.
Rothman, a Lawrenceville resident, is not only a prolific writer, with 11 books and seven plays to his credit. He is also a physicist, with B.A. in physics from Swarthmore College in 1975 and a Ph.D. from the Center for Relativity at the University of Texas, Austin, in 1981.
His area of specialization is cosmology, the study of the early universe, and he has written about 60 scientific papers on that subject. While a graduate student Rothman studied Russian at Middlebury’s Summer Language School and at Leningrad State University. After leaving Texas he did post-doctoral work in cosmology at Oxford, Moscow, and Cape Town. Rothman has been on the editorial board of Scientific American (1988-1989). From 1990 to 1992 he was a lecturer at Harvard. He has also been on the faculty at Bennington, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bryn Mawr College, and from 2005-2013 he was a lecturer at Princeton University. During 2014 he taught again at Harvard.
“Firebird” is a novel that blends physics and the dramatic. From the publisher’s description: “At the Controlled Fusion Research Center near Austin, scientists have constructed a machine they call Prometheus to challenge ITER [the Europeans’ machine]. When the director of the Austin lab attempts to achieve fusion on the day of Prometheus’ dedication, a near-fatal accident ensues, and in an instant the rivalry between ITER and CFRC becomes a race to change the future of the world. But was it an accident, or sabotage?”
Tony Rothman, “The Course of Fortune,” iBooks, J. Boylston & Co., www.ibooksinc.com.
Rothman’s three-volume novel marks the 450th anniversary of the Great Siege of Malta, one of the most monumental and fiercely fought battles in history. In 1565 as many as 40,000 Turks and corsairs invaded the island of Malta, which was defended by 600 Knights of St. John and another 6 to 8,000 soldiers and untrained Maltese irregulars. After nearly four months of the most ferocious and ingenious fighting imaginable, the Turks gave up, having lost 15 to 20,000 men.
Rothman says he wanted to give the background to the siege and so his story is a long one, being published in three volumes simultaneously. Its action spans 15 years during the mid-16th century — as the Ottomans and Christians vie for control of the Mediterranean. The novel’s protagonist is a young Spaniard who flees his homeland in search of adventure, soon finds himself in the company of the Knights of Malta and gets more than he bargained for. He unwittingly becomes a participant in a chain of escalating and often horrific events, which eventually climax at the Siege.
“I viewed Malta as a microcosm of that epoch — the Renaissance, the beginning of our modern world,” Rothman says, “and since it was the Renaissance I felt obliged to be interested in everything — customs, food, religion, superstitions, medicine, the inklings of modern science. And although I hope ‘Course of Fortune’ is an exciting, commercial book I also wanted to make it as historically accurate as possible.
“I was lucky to have found an advisor in Malta’s leading historian who freely shared with me his own research before publication and supplied all kinds of rare material. He suggested that I read Giacomo Bosio’s history of the Knights of Malta, which was first published in 1588, only 23 years after the Siege. The old Tuscan dialect would have been impossible for me, but I found a microfilm of an early 17th century French edition and taught myself to read it. If I learned that an event took place at 3 p.m. on a certain Sunday, that’s when it takes place in the book. I even checked astronomical ephemeris for lunar positions. So I actually think my account is the most detailed and accurate in English, despite the fact that it is a novel.”
#b#Dana B. Lichtstrahl#/b#, “Jackson’s Love: An unfolding reflection . . .” Lightbeam Books. www.danalichtstrahl.com.
Lichtstrahl, a Princeton resident, calls herself an author, facilitator, and innovator. “For more than 20 years,” she says, “I’ve explored the art and science of communication and expression. The field of ‘human identity’ has been a passion. My educational trainings for adults and kids unlock each participant’s full-potential, bettering their internal dialogue, bettering their external life; a win-win for all.”
Her first novel features a quirky cast of characters that include a single, middle-aged woman, a dog who dies, a man who appears in what seems to be a reincarnation of the dog, and a mattress, which never actually talks but which does have a name, Nirvana.
As one online reviewer wrote, “What makes this all so compelling is the fresh voice of the author. She shares her emotional angst and her wisdom in such a flowing, intimate style — you feel like you’re her girlfriend sitting at the kitchen table — happy for the juicy gossip and also amazed and amused at all places her mind likes to wander. Happy to have a friend who so habitually wonders about everything. And then there’s the surprise ending. Sweet!”
#b#The Agricola Cookbook#/b#, Josh Thomsen and Steve Tomlinson, Burgess Lea Press, www.burgessleapress.com.
The impetus for this book comes from the New Hope-based Burgess Lea Press, which approached Thomsen, then the chef at Agricola, the Witherspoon Street restaurant owned by Jim Nawn, and Tomlinson, the chief farmer at Nawn’s Great Road Farm, about compiling a collection of the restaurant’s most popular recipes.
The resulting Agricola Cookbook, out this month in a stunning, hardcover edition, shows you how to make the dishes that Thomsen and his long-time chef de cuisine, Manlee Siu, popularized during their three years at the restaurant. (Thomsen and Siu recently left Agricola to work at the Eau Palm Beach Resort in Florida.)
Among recipes in the book that have been on Agricola’s menu since opening day are the kale, roasted cauliflower and pickled pumpkin salad, and a mushroom, spinach, and cracked-egg flatbread.
Says the publisher: “Taking its name from the Latin for ‘farmer,’ Agricola is a community-minded eatery in Princeton, New Jersey, offering locally sourced food in a warm, stylish atmosphere. It’s a farm-supported restaurant with its heart in the right place — and now a cookbook with 100 inspired recipes, including Sweet Corn Soup with Bacon and Smoked Paprika Oil, Flatiron Steak with Green Garlic Gremolata and a kale salad so good it puts other kale salads to shame.
“Despite its official nickname, the Garden State, New Jersey is still in the early stages of its farm-to-table scene. The people behind Agricola are out to change all that. Along with its own 112-acre Great Road Farm supplying the restaurant with a variety of seasonal produce, chicken, and eggs, Agricola supports New Jersey foragers, specialty growers, and local family farms. Farmer Steve Tomlinson takes us for a tour around the farm, sharing his wisdom and insight from a handful of seeds to bushels of full-grown squash.”
Burgess Lea specializes in books by excellent chefs and their restaurants that work with small-scale family farms. All after-tax profits on book sales are donated to organizations devoted to hunger relief, farmland preservation, and culinary education. Burgess Lea’s president is Buz Teacher, co-founder, former publisher, and CEO of Running Press Book Publishers. His wife, Janet Bukovinsky Teacher, is a James Beard Award-winning cookbook editor. She has been an editor at Food & Wine, and senior editor and restaurant critic at Philadelphia Magazine.
#b#Susan N. Wilson#/b#, “Still Running.” www.amazon.com.
Google Susan N. (Susie) Wilson and you will discover that she was the point person during the controversial days in the late 1970s when New Jersey instituted a mandated sex education policy in the public school system. Wilson, a Princeton resident who was then on the state Board of Education, later became executive director of Answer (formerly the Network for Family Life Education), at Rutgers University to direct the program’s operations and to help schools implement the policy. As a consequence, she writes in a Huffington Post article, “I became much more involved in all issues of reproductive and sexual health, especially for teenagers. Every day of my almost 25 years at Answer reinforced my belief in the efficacy of prevention as the first step toward solving problems like teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS.”
That’s Google. Read her 402-page memoir and you discover that Wilson was no probably no more qualified than anyone else to become the “sex ed lady” of New Jersey. But she was clearly destined to be exactly the kind of mover and shaker who could see through such a controversial proposal to make sex education a mandated part of the state’s educational curriculum.
Her mother was Katherine (Kay) Neuberger, a powerhouse in the New Jersey Republican Party in the 1960s and ’70s who became chairman of the New Jersey State Board of Higher Education, and helped her daughter win a spot on the state Board of Education — the position from which Susie Wilson was drawn into the sex education fray.
Wilson’s husband, Don, was a Life Magazine correspondent who took a leave of absence to work on the 1960 Kennedy presidential campaign and later worked in Washington in the Camelot days and became good friends of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy. As Susan Wilson writes in her memoir, the Kennedys “changed my life, showing me how to be bolder and do more for the world’s poor.”
If Wilson had any doubts about writing her own memoirs, she only had to re-read the foreword of her husband’s 2004 memoir, “The First 78 Years,” in which he credited her role in his own success. “Her life has been dedicated to helping others, particularly teenagers, and perhaps she will write a memoir herself someday. I hope she does because I didn’t do her justice in this effort.”
#b#Chris Hedges#/b#, “Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt,” Nation Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group. www.perseusbooks.com.
A Princeton resident, Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for the Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, the Dallas Morning News, and the New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.
Hedges was part of the New York Times reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed books and a senior fellow at the Nation Institute in New York City and has taught at Columbia, NYU, and Princeton. He currently teaches inmates at a correctional facility in New Jersey.
In “Wages of Rebellion” Hedges investigates the underlying causes of revolution, rebellion, and resistance. As the website publicaffairsbooks.com says, “Drawing on an ambitious overview of prominent philosophers, historians, and literary figures, he shows not only the harbingers of a coming crisis but also the nascent seeds of rebellion. Hedges’ message is clear: popular uprisings in the United States and around the world are inevitable in the face of environmental destruction and wealth polarization.
“Focusing on the stories of rebels from around the world and throughout history, Hedges investigates what it takes to be a rebel in modern times. Utilizing the work of Reinhold Niebuhr, Hedges describes the motivation that guides the actions of rebels as ‘sublime madness’ — the state of passion that causes the rebel to engage in an unavailing fight against overwhelmingly powerful and oppressive forces. For Hedges, resistance is carried out not for its success, but as a moral imperative that affirms life. Those who rise up against the odds will be those endowed with this ‘sublime madness’.”
“From South African activists who dedicated their lives to ending apartheid, to contemporary anti-fracking protests in Alberta, Canada, to whistleblowers in pursuit of transparency, ‘Wages of Rebellion’ shows the cost of a life committed to speaking the truth and demanding justice. Hedges has penned an indispensable guide to rebellion.”
#b#Paul Halpern#/b#, “Einstein’s Dice and Schrodinger’s Cat: How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics.” Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group. www.perseusbooks.com.
Quantum mechanics is not something most of us would get into arguments about, but Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrodinger are not like most of us.
As Paul Halpern, professor of physics at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and the author of 14 popular science books, notes in his latest book, neither of these legendary physicists was ever satisfied with the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics and both objected to the randomness of that interpretation. Einstein famously noted that God does not play dice with the universe. Schrodinger created the fable of a cat that was neither alive nor dead to highlight the absurdity of the standard theory.
In “Einstein’s Dice and Schrodinger’s Cat,” Halpern shows how the two men searched — futilely — for a Theory of Everything, first as collaborators and then as competitors.
#b#Larry Kidder#/b#, “The American Revolution in New Jersey: Where the Battlefront Meets the Home Front,” Rutgers University Press, rutgerspress.rutgers.edu.
Larry Kidder got excited about history as a boy in Indiana, when he lived next door to a 19th-century farm house that had been a stop on the Underground Railroad. “That got me thinking, I live on a site where some stuff was happening that was really interesting in the past, and that kind of thing really got me started on history,” Kidder says.
After graduating from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in history and earning his master’s degree there in 1969, he eventually ended up teaching in New Jersey, the last 32 years of his career at the Hun School in Princeton until he retired in 2011.
Needless to say, Kidder soon discovered that some interesting “stuff” had happened in New Jersey, as well.
Kidder has been a volunteer interpreter and historian for Howell Living History Farm in Hopewell for more than 25 years. He is a member of the Washington Crossing American Revolutionary War Round Table, the Association for Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums, and serves on the New Jersey Living History Advisory Council and the Crossroads of the American Revolution Advisory Council.
He previously wrote “A People Harassed and Exhausted: The Story of a New Jersey Militia Regiment in the American Revolution,” published in 2013, also for the Rutgers University Press.
#b#Raphael Allison#/b#, “Bodies on the Line: Performance and the 60s Poetry Reading.” University of Iowa Press. www.uiowapress.org.
As the publisher asserts, this book by the Princeton-based Allison “offers the first sustained study of the poetry reading in its most formative period: the 1960s.”
“Raphael Allison closely examines a vast archive of audio recordings of several key postwar American poets to explore the social and literary context of the sixties poetry reading, which is characterized by contrasting differing styles of performance: the humanist style and the skeptical strain. The humanist style, made mainstream by the Beats and their imitators, is characterized by faith in the power of presence, emotional communion, and affect. The skeptical strain emphasizes openness of interpretation and multivalent meaning, a lack of stability or consistency, and ironic detachment.
“By comparing these two dominant styles of reading, Allison argues that attention to 60s poetry readings reveals poets struggling between the kind of immediacy and presence that readings suggested and a private retreat from such performance-based publicity, one centered on the text itself . . .
“In deconstructing assertions about the role and importance of the poetry reading during this period, Allison reveals just how dramatic, political, and contentious poetry readings could be. By discussing how to ‘hear’ as well as ‘read’ poetry, ‘Bodies on the Line’ offers startling new vantage points from which to understand American poetry since the 1960s as both performance and text.”
Allison has published numerous articles on 20th century American poets, including James Schuyler, David Antin, and Muriel Rukeyser. He has taught at Bard College, Harvard University, and Barnard College. He currently teaches at Princeton University. Allison’s wife is Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith, an assistant professor of creative writing at Princeton University,
Keith O’Shaughnessy#/b#, “Last Call for Ganymede: Poems.” Grolier Poetry Book Shop. www.grolierpoetrybookshop.org.
A resident of Princeton, Keith O’Shaughnessy teaches literature, creative writing, and composition at Camden County College. He is the author of Incommunicado, winner of the inaugural Grolier Discovery Award, sponsored by the poetry book shop on Harvard Square. He has published three chapbooks — “Carnaval,” “The Devil’s Party,” and “Snegurochka” — all with Pudding House Press.
A 1994 graduate of Columbia, O’Shaughnessy was profiled in the spring, 2011, issue of the Columbia magazine:
“It’s an improbable story — O’Shaughnessy grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, the son of a prominent lawyer, and attended the elite Lawrenceville School and Columbia. Now 40, graying at the temples, and unconventionally handsome, he is finishing his dissertation on Shakespeare at Drew University. He still lives in Princeton, and still dresses preppily, in natty sport coats with pocket squares and colorful scarves. (‘He looks like he just walked out of a Scott Fitzgerald novel,’ his friend and poetry mentor Rachel Hadas says.)
“But for years O’Shaughnessy has commuted every weekday to Camden, where he teaches five English courses per semester at Camden County College. He says he feels more at home among its first-generation college students than he does at writers’ conferences or cocktail parties. He used to drink and smoke but doesn’t do either anymore; mostly, he just teaches and writes.”
Writes Hadas: “Immersing us in the worlds of classical mythology, Dante, and Shakespeare, the poems of ‘Last Call for Ganymede’ do not rely on description or allusion. Rather, Keith O’Shaughnessy inhabits and animates Phaedra, Cleopatra, Beatrice, and many others, and does so with lyric precision and crackling wit. The poems in this collection are like filigreed lightning.”
#b#Sarah Blake, “Mr. West,”#/b# Wesleyan University Press, www.wesleyan.edu/wespress/
Sarah Blake’s first book, “Mr. West,” is an unauthorized lyric biography of the rap star Kanye West.
As her publisher says, the collection “covers the main events in superstar Kanye West’s life while also following the poet on her year spent researching, writing, and pregnant. Blake’s esthetics take her work from prose poems to lineated free verse to tightly wound lyrics to improbably successful sestinas as she considers race, media, and pop culture in this daring debut collection.”
Blake, who lives outside of Philadelphia, attended the College of New Jersey, where she studied mathematics and creative writing. She received her masters in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin. In 2008 she returned to New Jersey to work as the poetry festival assistant for the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. In 2010 she helped to create the Poetry Trail at the D&R Greenway Land Trust in Princeton.
Blake is the founder of the online writing tool Submittrs, an editor at Saturnalia Books, and a recipient of an NEA Literature Fellowship. Her poetry has appeared in Boston Review, Drunken Boat, FIELD, and The Threepenny Review.
#b#Ricardo Barros#/b#, “Figuring Space,” 70-page monograph with 40 photographs and video. www.ricardobarros.com.
The Brazilian born Barros has degrees in civil engineering and worked at the New Jersey Department of Transportation before becoming a professional photographer in 1996, thereby fulfilling a dream that had been sparked in junior high school.
“I wandered into the darkroom and saw an image emerge in a developing tray from a white piece of paper in that amber light — it was beautiful, magic! I was drawn to it because I thought it was like alchemy,” he told writer Pat Summers for an article posted at newjerseynewsroom.com.
As that online article says, Barros “also experienced a defining moment with photography in high school, when he saw an exhibition by Paul Strand. ‘I was looking at his photographs and my knees began to shake. I didn’t understand what was happening.’
“That, Barros says, was when he ‘realized the power of esthetics.’ Till then he had been mostly interested in the mechanical aspects of the photographic process, the technology, the craft. But slowly, he remembers, ‘the esthetic qualities of photography began to overtake the technical’.”
In this most recent project Barros uses the human figure to probe the meaning of space. “Until we encounter a boundary, or until it is replaced with something else, space is completely invisible to us. We perceive space only when it ends,” Barros writes in his artist’s statement.
Barros provides photography services to clients throughout the United States. He has exhibited his work in Brazil, China, and Romania. Barros’ personal work is in the permanent collection of 11 museums, including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo (MASP), Brazil, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Fogg Art Museum, and the DeCordova Museum.