The "Great Lakes Review" celebrates its best-of 2016 issue at Literati


Editor John Counts stakes out the territory for the Great Lakes Review.

Despite the journal's name, Great Lakes Review editor John Counts is "wary of getting too deep into whether our region has its own distinct regional voice akin to American Southern literature," he said. "That question is probably best dealt with in academic dissertations. But I will say we believe great writing is something that rises above its setting."

On April 28 at Literati Bookstore, Great Lakes Review will host an event that celebrates the release of a printed collection of 2016 stories and poems that rose above their settings.

Michigan short story writer Philip Sterling), Ohio poet Justin Longacre), and Illinois poet Jessica Walsh will join Counts for an evening of readings and discussions.

We talked to Counts about how independent journals champion “riskier” writing, that elusive Midwest voice, and the role of Great Lakes-area writers during a political climate that could threaten the region's ecosystem.


Fabulous Fiction Firsts #634 & #635

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #634

In Marlena * *, Julie Buntin's "(s)ensitive and smart and arrestingly beautiful debut" (Kirkus Reviews), 15 year-old Cathy (now calling herself Cat), arrived at Silver Lake, a small rural community in Northern Michigan with her newly divorced mother and older brother, determined to shed her good-girl image and reinvent herself, and was immediately drawn to the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena, her next door neighbor.

Over the course of the coming weeks, the girls turned the untamed landscape of their desolate small town into a kind of playground - skipping school, running feral as Marlena introduced Cat to a new world of drinking and pills and sex and also friendship, the depth of which neither girl has experienced before. Within the year, Marlena was dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby.


Roxane Gay returns to Ann Arbor for her new book, "Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body"


Roxane Gay's new book is a memoir that was difficult to write.

Prolific author Roxane Gay returns to Ann Arbor with a Literati Bookstore-hosted event on June 16 at Hill Auditorium. Tickets were just announced in the Literati newsletter, and the seats are likely to fill up fast. If you're wondering why, here's a quick overview of Gay.


U-M grad and NYT best-selling author Elizabeth Kostova gets dark in "The Shadow Land"

Elizabeth Kostova, The Shadow Land

Elizabeth Kostova's The Shadow Land investigates grief, complicity, and communism.

Bestselling author Elizabeth Kostova (The Historian) may now be touring to promote her newest novel, The Shadow Land, but when she arrives in Ann Arbor to appear at Nicola’s Books on Monday evening, she may feel like she’s back home.

Why? Because after Kostova earned a spot in the University of Michigan’s renowned MFA program in creative writing, and graduated, she stayed in Ann Arbor until her family moved to Asheville in 2009.

“I’d intended to just stay (in Ann Arbor) for two years, then go back east and resume teaching there,” said Kostova. “But I loved it so much there that I ended staying. My family was there almost eight years. It was a great place to be for a while.”


Fabulous Fiction Firsts #633

An April 2017 LibraryReads, Kate Eberlen's engaging debut Miss You * brings to mind One Day by David Nicholls, where two souls that are meant to be, crisscross each other for years without connecting, after a chance meeting as 18 year-olds.

Tess and (An)Gus first met in a dim church in Florence and bumped into each other on the Ponte Vecchio while on holiday, before heading off to university in London.


Fabulous Fiction Firsts #632

Author Caite Dolan-Leach's clever title for her debut Dead Letters * references the obvious, but also its alternate definition.

Graduate student Ava Antipova made her way home to upstate New York when news of her estranged twin Zelda's death reached her in Paris. They have not spoken for 2 years after a bitter betrayal.

Arriving at Seneca Lake where the family's failing vineyard Silenus, was located, Ava immediately stepped into caring for their ailing mother and estranged father who long ago, abandoned them for a sunnier vineyard, wealthier wife, and a younger family in California. Almost immediately, even before the Police suspected foul play, Ava began receiving cryptic emails and social media messages from Zelda.

Arranged in 26 chapters, each beginning with a letter of the alphabet and recounting the games the twins played as children, Zelda led Ava on a scavenger hunt, delivering "a lock-room mystery with flavors of Perec", which as it became increasingly obvious, was also a taunt for the Edgar Allan Poe scholar (subject of Ava's dissertation) and the OuLiPo Movement - writers obsessed with mysteries and literary games.

"In this, her startling debut novel, Dolan-Leach nimbly entwines the clever mystery of Agatha Christie, the wit of Dorothy Parker, and the inebriated Gothic of Eugene O’Neill." (Kirkus Reviews)

For readers who enjoyed Sister by Rosamund Lupton, and The Widow by Fiona Barton.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts, full archive


Gift of Character: David Pratt launches "Wallaçonia" at Common Language

David Pratt

David Pratt's latest novel, Wallaçonia, is about honesty and perserverance.

We all feel isolated during adolescence. But Jim Wallace, the main character in Ann Arbor-based author David Pratt’s new book, Wallaçonia, does something about it.

Feeling alienated from his own world, Jim imagines his parents’ yard and woods as his private country -- the titular Wallaçonia. But as we all must do, Jim grows up and realizes he has to leave behind not only his secret place but certain assumptions he made about himself.

Bookseller Pat Baxter asks Jim to work at his store with him over Christmas break. Jim at first feels conflicted about working for the openly gay Baxter. But when Jim’s father makes fun of Baxter, Jim takes a stand by working for him. He feels he should stand by this man and be an ally to Baxter. Through the course of the book, Jim realizes that is more than an ally -- he is gay himself.

“The book is more about the 'how' than the 'what,'” Pratt said. “Jim has some of the same insecurities as Pat and it was important to me to have a setting where they could talk and get to know each other.”


Author Events: April 2017

April 2017 Author Events

Photo by Nino Carè/Pixabay

What does having an amazing university, a plethora of fantastic local independent bookstores, and a pretty slam-bang public library system (if we do say so ourselves) bring to a town?

Authors. Lots and lots of authors.

Authors big and small, renowned writers and first-time novelists, crafters of poetry, prose, fiction, and nonfiction often grace the Ann Arbor region with lectures, discussions, readings, and book signings. The fact that so many awesome authors want to come speak here and meet their southeast Michigan readers is a testament to how voraciously we devour books here in Washtenaw County.

In fact, so many authors pass through the area that sometimes it can be hard to keep track of who is speaking and when and where. To help guide you, Pulp curated a highlights list of April 2017 author events.


Turning Up the Volume: Lindy West at Literati

Lindy West at Literati

Feminist icon and author Lindy West packed Literati Bookstore on March 23.

On March 23, the upper level of Literati Bookstore was standing-room only. People were sardined into corners, craning their necks to get better views, balancing on tiptoes. They were eager. Lindy West -- journalist, comic, and internet personality -- was about to read from her bestselling memoir, Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman. As she approached the podium, the at-capacity room erupted in applause.

Shrill chronicles West's journey from painfully shy child to (over-)exposed public figure, and the trials, tribulations, and triumphs it took to get there. It's also a hilarious, poignantly honest expose of self-discovery. But most of all, it's a bildungsroman for an age dominated by internet culture, social media, and the rampant sexism that infiltrates both.

West began her career writing for The Stranger, Seattle's alternative press, where she became a viral sensation for her barbed wit and acerbic criticism of pop culture. Soon, though, those unapologetically candid columns made her a target of the monolithic, anonymous ire of the internet, which descended on her en masse. They attacked her relentlessly, threatened her life, her family; they harassed her for being herself, for being outspoken -- for being visible.

But West only got louder, drowning out the incessant, white-noise cacophony of her trolls by becoming a role model for those who exist outside "the norm."


Fabulous Fiction Firsts #629, #630 & #631

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #629

Beijing journalist Lijia Zhang's debut novel Lotus is inspired by her grandmother's deathbed revelation that she was sold into prostitution at an early age.

Set in contemporary Shenzhen, China’s “City of Sins”, Lotus is one of the "ji" (Chinese word for chicken, a derogatory name for prostitutes) working at the Moonflower Massage Parlor. Originally from a impoverished village in northern China, she allows her family to think she waitresses in an upscale restaurant, sending her earnings home to support her family and to send her younger brother to university.

Knowing the shelf life of someone in her situation is finite, Lotus casts her eye among her regulars -- Funny Eye, Family Treasure -- hoping for a more permanent arrangement. In the meantime, she befriends Hu Binbing, a quiet and reclusive photojournalist who is hoping his documentary project on the lives of the "ji" will bring him the deserved recognition. But once his photographs of Lotus are published in a national magazine, his standing in the Communist party as well as their relationship is threatened.

"'A Newborn Calf Isn't Afraid of Tigers' is a typical chapter title in Lotus... Readers will find the entire text rich in Chinese proverbs, as well as folk wisdom of a more prosaic variety. Characters employ sage sayings in spoken form, as a kind of parlor game, and the author scatters aphorisms liberally throughout the narrative, with an effect that is both charming and thought-provoking....Some first novels, especially those birthed in creative writing classes, go heavy on self-consciously poetic language ...The images Zhang gives us, in contrast, are uncomplicated, concise and touching" (NPR)

"Pretty Woman but without all the glitz" (Library Journal).