Monday, September 9, 2019

Tabitha Vohn Takes it to the Toilet

Oh yes! We are absolutely running a series on bathroom reading! So long as it's taking place behind the closed  (or open, if that's the way you swing) bathroom door, we want to know what it is. It can be a book, the back of the shampoo bottle, the newspaper, or Twitter on your cell phone - whatever helps you pass the time...

Today, Tabitha Vohn takes it to the toilet. She is the recipient of the B.R.A.G Medallion and the Awesome Indies Badge of Approval for her novel, Tomorrow is a Long Time. She is a writer, poet, painter, musician, wife, daughter, and friend. She is an advocate of compassion for all living things. Her latest novel They Tried to Forget was just released in July. 

What Tabitha Vohn is Reading in the Bathroom

It all started with the Berenstain Bears. Anything to take a little girl's mind off of going #2!

Now (many moons later), I use my bathroom time to indulge in the kind of guilty pleasure reading that I would not otherwise allow myself: magazines! And recently--even more indulgent than that--old faves. Yeah, that's right; trips through my teenhood.

Jane magazine was my ultimate. It was unlike any fashion/celeb rag I'd encountered and, for a girl in the 90's whose choices were often limited to the likes of Seventeen, Vogue, or Glamour, it was pretty groundbreaking. It was hip before hipster was a thing. Sure, towards the end, it got kinda porn-y and scary, and I wasn't always onboard with their politics; but in early years, it was the bombdigity. Jane was that crazy, unstable, bohemian friend who was alluring and dangerous but you nevertheless wanted to be best friends with. I followed reporters into White Supremacy groups, Hooters (as a waitress), survivalist camps, polygamous groups, women in the Middle East forced to wear burqas...I heard about the music and film and fashion that the mainstream was not talking about. And I read interviews with celebs that were intelligent, thoughtful, and human.

So, for now, I'm enjoying climbing back through the rabbit hole. Maybe it's the comfort of the familiar; maybe a fierce denial of the present. For whatever reason, this trip down memory lane offers a delicious escape (even if it's just from thinking about #2). 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Jon Sealy Recommends F Scott Fitzgerald

It's been a while since we'd dusted off our Writers Recommend series, dear reader, a fun excerise where we ask writers to, well, you know.. recommend things. Like the books that they've enjoyed. To you. Because who doesn't like being recommended new and interesting books, right?! Think of it as a PSA. Only it's more like an LSA -Literary Service Announcement. 

This recommendation comes from Jon Sealy, publisher of Haywire BooksHe'll be on tour this month in North and South Carolina promoting the release of his latest novel The Edge of America, a stunning thriller set in 1980's Miami about greed, power, and the limits of the american dream.

Jon Sealy Recommends Tender Is the Night

Nearly everybody reads—or is assigned to read—The Great Gatsby at some point, but I’ve always thought Tender Is the Night to be a better novel: longer, richer, deeper, more true to life.

The story is about Dick and Nicole Diver, a glamorous couple living in the south of France. Dick is a successful psychiatrist and, as we learn, Nicole was his patient. He’d fallen in love with her, but he also believed the marriage would help keep her stable—would save her. Of course that kind of marriage is in trouble, and very quickly in the novel Dick becomes infatuated with a young actress. The marriage falls apart: Dick slides into alcoholism and slinks away, hoping for a comeback, while Nicole has her own affair and eventually re-marries.

In some ways, the plot of Tender Is the Night is preposterous—there are murders, affairs, and even a duel at one point—but these rough edges make it feel more lifelike. Life, after all, doesn’t fit neatly into a tidy story.

What really makes it a great book, however, is the way Fitzgerald plumbs into the secret heart of the marriage. On the surface, Dick and Nicole seem like a happy couple, the envy of their friends, but there are cracks in the faƧade. In one early scene, they host a party in their house, and one of the house guests comes out startled by something she’s witnessed in the bathroom. We don’t find out what she saw, but it’s likely related to Nicole’s mental illness.

One of the other guests admonishes her, “It’s inadvisable to comment on what goes on in this house,” which suggests at least some of Dick and Nicole’s friends sense something is amiss in the marriage. Over the next 200 pages, Fitzgerald explores just what is rotten at the core, and we witness the fascinating shift in power dynamics between them.

I loved The Great Gatsby when I first read it, but revisiting it now in early middle age, it reads like a young person’s book—dazzling, romantic, but with a simple story and a somewhat one-dimensional view of the world. Tender Is the Night is the work of an author who has been kicked around a little bit, and who sees life’s complexity for what it is. It’s the rare book, as Virginia Woolf might say, “written for grown-up people.”