This Saturday when you drop by your local bookstore you may run into your favorite (or new favorite or not!) author when millions of happy authors get to be booksellers for a bit. Here in Northampton Susan Stinson will be guest bookselling at Broadside Books — who have sold a couple of hundred copies of her historical Northampton novel Spider in a Tree.
Who’s coming to your store?
Take a deep breath. Hold it. Read a book. Let it go. Feel better? Dead? Not sure? Me neither.
Paul Di Fillippo read Delia Sherman’s Young Woman in a Garden and in this month’s Asimov’s points out a serious flaw: “The only flaw in this collection is that there are not more stories on the table of contents. You need this in your library.”
Check out this video and article by Laura Newberry as Susan Stinson gives her Bridge Street Cemetery tour and they talk about the new cemetery preservation efforts.
“Humanity’s a frog being slowly boiled in a saucepan” says Deborah Walker in the latest in Michael J. DeLuca’s series of contributor interviews for LCRW 33.
M.E. Garber (“‘Doomed’ is such a bleak term. Are we ‘doomed’ if we have to live differently than we have in the past? If we have to adapt to radically changing situations? If many of us on the planet die, while others struggle onwards? I think not, and yet others would argue yes. Then again, as I said earlier, I’m a bit of a closet optimist.”)
Nicole Kimberling: “I forgave the trees for their indiscriminate air-based sperm-cell distribution. After all, they can’t help it.”
Giselle Leeb: “I worked in the Karoo, a semi-desert, counting plants for a botany lecturer during three of my summer holidays, and that’s when I discovered a conscious love of the earth.”
Mon 29 Sep 2014 - Filed under: Not a Journal., Benjamin Parzybok, Greer Gilman, Monstrous Affections, sick as dog but not eating sick ok, Susan Stinson, Ysabeau S. Wilce | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin
Well, last week I caught a bug going round and was laid low. So low! Am still so low am very unimpressed with self. Hoping this week will improve but am still mostly horizontal. Sleep. Such a lovely thing.
This week: hilarity!
Still not well.
Unimpressed x 2.
Also: the our office building (which I have been to since last Monday…) is undergoing some kind of electrical reconnect and will have no power on Tuesday and Wednesday. If I had the energy, I’d find it ridiculous. Now, makes me want to nap.
Throw your name in the hat for a copy of Ysabeau S. Wilce’s forthcoming collection, Prophecies, Libels, and Dreams.
READINGS! (first posted here)
Ted Chiang (Stories of Your Life and Others), 10/2, 10 am
Who and What Will Get to Think in the Future?
Future Tense, Washington, DC (livestream will be available)
Susan Stinson (Spider in a Tree), 10/8, 7 pm
Reading at Grace Episcopal in Amherst, Mass.
Greer Gilman, (Exit, Pursued by a Bear), 10/11
Slater Memorial Museum, Norwich CT
Benjamin Parzybok (Sherwood Nation), 10/15, 7 pm
Elliot Bay Books, Seattle, WA
M. T. Anderson, Sarah Rees Brennan, Joshua Lewis, Kelly Link, Gavin J Grant (Monstrous Affections), 10/22, 7 pm
Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
Ysabeau S. Wilce (Prophecies, Libels, and Dreams), 10/25
SF in SF, San Francisco, CA
Sarah Rees Brennan, Alice Sola Kim, Joshua Lewis, G. Carl Purcell, Kathleen Jennings, Kelly Link, Gavin J. Grant (Monstrous Affections), 10/28, 7 pm
McNally Jackson, NYC
Handy Small Beer calendar here.
Susan Stinson’s Spider in a Tree is still catching readers — it’s not quite a Great Awakening, but the novel delves so deeply into life in the 1740s that once immersed, it’s hard to leave.
Apropos of some upcoming reviews and so on, Susan just posted her latest Library as Incubator post just went up, a lot of which is about researching Spider in a Tree at the Forbes Library here in Northampton. It’s 5 of the 6 part series she been doing for them and here is a link for the whole series to date. Click through for som great pictures of the library and the librarians!
Susan’s book got a mention in this interview David Moore carried out with Richard Bailey, associate history professor at Canisius College where they touched on one of the lesser known facets of Jonathan Edwards’s life, his ownership of slaves:
Moore: It is not well known that Jonathan Edwards owned slaves. How should we think of Edwards in light of this reality?
Bailey: I am not 100% certain how to answer this question, David. I am glad that this fact about Edwards is becoming more commonly known and I am glad that my book can have something to do with that fact.
But how to think of Edwards? Well, Jonathan Edwards is certainly more than simply a slave owner. He is an important figure in the development of American evangelicalism and the modern missions movement. He is one of America’s most prominent philosophers and theologians. He certainly ought to be remembered for those sorts of legacies. But he also was a purchaser of human flesh. He actively defended and participated in the slave trade. And I’d argue he must be remembered for that, as well. I think that is what it means to take on the virtual amnesias of our pasts.
The one way I would encourage people NOT to think of Jonathan Edwards is as “a man of his time.” That sort of phrase doesn’t really mean anything; rather, it is a way of not thinking about Edwards. And I hope people will continue to think about him, relying of the historical work of George Marsden in Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale University Press, 2003) or the recent novel by Susan Stinson, Spider in a Tree (Small Beer Press, 2013) to get a more complete picture not only of the man, but also of the society and culture of which he was a part. [continues]
I’m very happy to note that Wikipedia has been updated to change the embarrassingly written section covering his slave ownership and presently just states “In 1747 Edwards took in a slave, “a Negro girl named Venus”. He purchased the girl for 80 pounds from a man named Richard Perkins of Newport.” Although this does still seem connected to the next sentence “The Edwards opened their home to those in need on a regular basis.”
Taking in slaves does not equal looking after those in need! I don’t really know how to read the change history on Wikipedia—I looked at, but I can’t make sense of it—but there have been a lot of changes in the last few months and I’m glad that this part of Edwards’s and his family’s and the town’s life will be further examined.
Mon 3 Feb 2014 - Filed under: Not a Journal., Angelica Gorodischer, Bestsellers, Elizabeth Hand, Howard Waldrop, Kij Johnson, Nathan Ballingrud, Sofia Samatar, Susan Stinson, Ted Chiang, Ursula K. Le Guin | 2 Comments| Posted by: Gavin
Congratulations to all the authors on the 2013 Locus recommended reading list. It’s always fun to peruse the list and see, for whatever reasons, what rose up and what didn’t. It’s especially nice to have links to all the online short stories and novellas and so on, thanks Mark et al!
- Sofia Samatar, A Stranger in Olondria
- Nathan Ballingrud, North American Lake Monsters: Stories
- Angelica Gorodischer (trans. Amalia Gladhart), Trafalgar
- Howard Waldrop, Horse of a Different Color: Stories
And you can go and vote in the Locus awards poll here. I have some reading to do before I vote. Votes for Small Beer authors and titles are always appreciated, thank you!
In sales, once again our celebration of Ursula K. Le Guin’s fantastic short stories were our best sellers for the year. However, if we split the two volumes into separate sales, Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others would climb a notch to #2. But! Counting them as one means we get another title into the top 5: Elizabeth Hand’s late 2012 collection Errantry: Strange Stories. We really should release more books at the start of the year, as those released at the end have much less chance of getting into the top 5.
According to Neilsen BookScan (i.e. not including bookfairs, our website, etc.), our top five bestsellers (excluding ebooks) for 2013 were:
- Ursula K. Le Guin, The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin
- Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others
- Kij Johnson, At the Mouth of the River of Bees
- Susan Stinson, Spider in a Tree
- Elizabeth Hand, Errantry: Strange Stories
Last year it was all short stories all the time, this year Susan Stinson’s historical novel Spider in a Tree jumped in (I’d have said sneaked in if it was #5, but since it’s at #4, that’s a jump!). Susan’s book is still getting great reviews, as with this from the Historical Novel Review which just came out this week:
“The book is billed as “a novel of the First Great Awakening,” and Stinson tries to do just that, presenting us with a host of viewpoints from colonists to slaves and even insects. She gives an honest imagining of everyday people caught up in extraordinary times, where ecstatic faith, town politics and human nature make contentious bedfellows. Although the novel was slow to pull me in, by the end I felt I had an intimate glance into the disparate lives of these 18th-century residents of Northampton, Massachusetts.”
As ever, thanks are due to the writers for writing their books, all the people who worked on the books with us, the great support we received from the independent bookstores all across the USA and Canada, and of course, the readers. We love these books and are so happy to find so many readers do, too: thank you!
Wed 18 Dec 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., 2013, Alan DeNiro, Amalia Gladhart, Angelica Gorodischer, Greer Gilman, Howard Waldrop, Peter Dickinson, Sofia Samatar, Susan Stinson | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin
Sometimes I miss Badreads, the community reading site that AFAIK closed down earlier this year. I haven’t yet really migrated to LibraryThing (there’s that part ownership thing) or any of the others. I certainly liked seeing what other people were reading and keeping up with what I was reading.
Now, who knows what I read? I barely do. Although I really enjoyed the most recent issue of Pen America. Not just because they reprinted two stories from Three Messages and a Warning either. The whole thing was great, from the forum on teaching writing (Dorothy Allison, Paul La Farge . . . and Elissa Schappel’s heartbreaking piece) to the poetry by Ron Padgett (“Advice to Young Writers”) and two graphic narratives (comics!) by the fab David B. and Jean-Pierre Filiu (translated by none other than Edward Gauvin!) and Brian Evenson and Zak Sally. Anyway, you want a good magazine? Go read it.
I joined Pen a couple of years ago (teenage me: so proud!) and now Kelly’s a member, too. Are you a writer or editor? Do you care about intellectual freedom? If you can swing it, sign up here!
Ok, so, Small Beer: What have we been up to this fine year almost done and gone?
2 issues of LCRW! A record! Well, for recent years. We are planning 2 more for 2014. Phew!
A banner year for Weightless, yay!
And the New York Times just gave a great review to one of our final books of the year, Howard Waldrop’s new collection. I always think our books are so good that they all should be on NPR, in the WaPo, the LA, NY, St. Petersburg, Seattle, and London Times, etc., etc., so sometimes I surprised when they aren’t. I know: different strokes for different folks and all that, although really I think since all our books are so good they should overcome any reader prejudices. (“Short stories! Pah!”) The real reason they’re not reviewed anywhere? All the papers and magazines find it hard to justify reviewing half a dozen or more books from the same publisher. Right? Right!
BTW: if you would like to order Small Beer books (we have many signed copies!) to arrive in time for the holidays, please select Priority Mail. We are shipping until 5 pm on Thursday December 19th this year.
Here’s a picture of all the books we published this year and below, a little bit more about each book.
CRY MURDER! IN A SMALL VOICE
What, another chapbook? That’s two in two years! The last one we did was in 2004 (Theodora Goss) and the next one should be 2014. Woo! This one is a dark, dense and intense serial killer story with Ben Jonson, detective and avenging angel.
“A jewel of a novella.”—Strange Horizons
The darkest book I expect we will ever publish! Bleak? Check. Monsters? Check? Fabulous, fabulous writing? Check!
“Matched to his original ideas and refreshing refurbishments of genre set pieces, Ballingrud’s writing makes North American Lake Monsters one of the best collections of short fiction for the year.
“The beauty of the work as a whole is that it offers no clear and easy answers; any generalization that might be supported by some stories is contradicted by others. It makes for an intellectually stimulating collection that pulls the reader in unexpected directions. The pieces don’t always come to a satisfactory resolution, but it is clear that this is a conscious choice. The lack of denouement, the uncertainty, is part of the fabric of the individual stories and of the collection as a whole. It is suggestive of a particular kind of world: one that is dark, weird, and just beyond our ability to impose order and understanding. These are not happy endings. They are sad and unsettling, but always beautifully written with skillful and insightful prose. It is a remarkable collection.”
Flying out the door in our town (Broadside Books alone has sold 140+ copies!) and now all over the country. Jonathan Edwards, we hardly knew ye. Until Susan brought you and your family and your town back to life.
“Ultimately, ‘Spider in a Tree’ is a lesson in what not to expect. Stinson eludes the clichés usually associated with religious extremism to peel away the humans underneath. We speak of a loving God, who asks us to embark upon a deadly war. We most easily see the sins in others that we are ourselves guilty of. Every ambition to perfect ourselves has a very human cost. As we reach for what we decide is the divine, we reveal our most fragile human frailties. Words cannot capture us; but we in all our human hubris, are quite inclined to capture words.”
—The Agony Column
A STRANGER IN OLONDRIA
We still have a few hardcovers of this left, unlike most other places. Some reviewers have really got this book including Jane Franklin in Rain Taxi who just gave it a huge excellent review. Yes, it’s a fantasy novel. Yes, it’s fantastic. Sofia sure can write.
“Sofia Samatar’s debut fantasy A Stranger in Olondria is gloriously vivid and rich.”
—Adam Roberts, The Guardian, Best Science Fiction Books of 2013
“For its lyricism, its focus on language, and its concern with place, it belongs on the shelf with the works of Hope Mirrlees, Lord Dunsany, and M. John Harrison — but for its emotional range, it sits next to books by Ursula K. Le Guin or Joanna Russ.”—Jane Franklin, Rain Taxi
Angélica Gorodischer. Translated by Amalia Gladhart.
Our second Gorodischer—and we have high hopes of a third and maybe even a fourth! This one is a discursive, smart, self aware science fiction. Don’t miss!
“Perhaps the strangest thing about these tales is how easily one forgets the mechanics of their telling. Medrano’s audiences are at first reluctant to be taken in by yet another digressive, implausible monologue about sales and seductions in space. But soon enough, they are urging the teller to get on with it and reveal what happens next. The discerning reader will doubtless agree.”
—Review of Contemporary Fiction
HORSE OF A DIFFERENT COLOR: STORIES
We keep getting letters from Waldrop fans who are so pleased he has a new book out: and that after 40 years he’s in the New York Times! Spread the joy!
“What’s most rewarding in Mr. Waldrop’s best work is how he both shocks and entertains the reader. He likes to take the familiar — old films, fairy tales, Gilbert & Sullivan operettas — then give it an out-of-left-field twist. At least half the 10 tales in his new collection are prime eccentric Waldrop . . . as he mashes genres, kinks and knots timelines, alchemizing history into alternate history. In “The Wolf-man of Alcatraz,” the B prison movie rubs fur with the Wolf-man; “Kindermarchen” takes the tale of Hansel and Gretel and transforms it into a haunting fable of the Holocaust; and “The King of Where-I-Go” is a moving riff on time travel, the polio epidemic and sibling love.
“Among the most successful stories is “The Horse of a Different Color (That You Rode In On),” an improbable confluence of vaudeville (two of the main characters perform in a horse suit) and the Arthurian Grail legend that manages to name-check Señor Wences, Thomas Pynchon, “King Kong” and more as Mr. Waldrop tells of the Ham Nag — “the best goddamned horse-suit act there ever was.” It’s certainly the best horse-suit-act story I’ve ever read.”
—New York Times
TYRANNIA AND OTHER RENDITIONS
Alan’s second collection marries absurdity to with politics and heart. Every writer is unique. Alan? Alan is like a superhero made up of the best parts of half a dozen of our favorite writers. Read these two excerpts to see why: “Tyrannia”, Walking Stick Fires [excerpt].
“Most of Tyrannia‘s rambunctious, immensely entertaining stories — seven of them science fiction — blend bizarre speculations with intermittent humor. When there isn’t humor, there’s weirdness — often extreme weirdness, funny in its own right. Fair warning: what I’m about to describe might not always make sense. That’s in the nature of this highly unconventional collection.”
—Will George, Bookslut
We added Reading Group Questions to the former and the latter includes an author interview carried out by none other than Sara Paretsky. These two sort of mysteries are filled with bon mots, memorable characters, and the strangeness of the 1950s, 1970s, and 1980s. There is nothing as haunting as the last line of The Poison Oracle.
“Dickinson’s crime novels are simply like no other; sophisticated, erudite, unexpected, intricate, English and deeply, wonderfully peculiar.”
—Christopher Fowler, author of The Memory of Blood
Susan Stinson (Spider in a Tree) is the sole reader at a fundraiser/party at Food for Thought Books in Amherst tomorrow night at 6 pm. Hope to see you there!
And on the same night over on the other coast, Sofia Samatar (A Stranger in Olondria) is reading in Los Angeles:
December 19, 2013
The Empty Globe
behind Full House Restaurant (963 N. Hill St., Chinatown, Los Angeles)
Sofia Samatar, Lily Robert-Foley, and Xina Xurner (Marvin Astorga & Young Joon Kwak).
I don’t know when we’ll get there but I can’t wait to visit Malvern Books which just opened in Austin, Texas.
In book biz news, I’m very happy to see that Publishers Weekly chose American Booksellers Association chief Oren Teicher and the ABA board as their Person of the Year. I worked at the ABA as a BookSense (now IndieBound) content coordinator for two years and I love the ABA and their mission. It’s been great to see the indies change the narrative in the last couple of years: they’re building sales, opening stores, and illustrating every day that they are vital cornerstones to downtowns (and middle-of-nowheres!) everywhere.
Sofia Samatar has an excellent entry in Bull Spec’s series, “The Hardest Part,” on Chapter 7 of A Stranger in Olondria. She also has a lovely, weird story, “How I Met the Ghoul,” in the new issue (#15) of Eleven Eleven.
Our local library has a lovely interview in the new issue of their newsletter [pdf] with Susan Stinson on writing her novel Spider in a Tree. Below is a picture of Susan reading at the KGB Bar (where she read the infamous “bundling” scene!) in New York City and another of her among many happy friends.
Susan has one more reading coming before the year ends: December 15, 5 p.m. Bloom Readings, Washington Heights, NYC
Are you curious about how a manuscript becomes a book? Get ye to the Porter Square Bookstore tonight! Susan Stinson and Kelly Link read and talk about the writing and editing of Susan’s novel Spider in a Tree.
Here’s the info from the bookstore website:
Our Next Event
“Stinson reads the natural world as well as Scripture, searching for meaning. But instead of the portents of an angry god, what she finds there is something numinous, complicated, and radiantly human.”
Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home
“Through an ardent faith in the written word Susan Stinson is a novelist who translates a mundane world into the most poetic of possibilities.”
Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones
Susan Stinson is the author of three novels and a collection of poetry and lyric essays and was awarded the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize. Writer in Residence at Forbes Library in Northampton, Massachusetts, she is also an editor and writing coach.
Kelly Link lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she and her husband, Gavin J. Grant, run Small Beer Press and publish the zine Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.
Porter Square Books
Porter Square Shopping Center
25 White Street
Cambridge, MA 02140
We are located in the Porter Square Shopping Center on Massachusetts Ave., about two miles north of Harvard Square and directly across from the Porter Square station commuter and subway stop. Click here for a map.
First, tomorrow, the lovely (well, in the USA), 11/12/13, we celebrate publication day of Howard Waldrop’s Horse of a Different Color: Stories.
On Wednesday there are two readings for you to drop all and get your plane tickets for. How will you decide which to go to? Flip a coin?
For those nearer Massachusetts, Susan Stinson will be reading from Spider in a Tree at 8 pm at Amherst Books in Amherst. The Concord Monitor just chimed in with a lovely review thatcaptured the same sense of surprise I found in myself when I was grabbed by this novel of life in 1740s Northampton:
Massachusetts author Susan Stinson’s Spider in a Tree: a Novel of the First Great Awakening surprised me. I knew the basic history of the period, including a bit about Jonathan Edwards, and frankly, thought it dull. But Stinson takes readers into Edwards’s home, into the lives of his family, their slaves, neighbors, relatives, and yes, even the spiders and insects of colonial Northampton, Mass. Suffering and joy, religious ecstasy and secular sorrow, the conflict between formal theology and individual conscience all make vivid fodder for Stinson’s story, which follows Edwards’s trajectory from 1731, during the religious revival that gripped New England, to 1750, when his congregation dismissed him.
and you can read an interview with Susan on Bookslut.
For those in the middle or left side of the country, Alan DeNiro is also reading on Wednesday night. He is reading at 7 pm at SubText: a Bookstore in St. Paul, MN. Alan’s second collection, Tyrannia and Other Renditions comes out next week and you can read an excerpt from “Walking Stick Fires” on tor.com.
Make your choice!
8 pm, Amherst Books, Amherst, Mass.
7 pm, SubText: a Bookstore, St. Paul, Minn.
Since Sherman Alexie first threw the Indies First idea out into the world, more than 375 authors have signed up to try their skills at handselling books at 300 bookstores.
Sofia Samatar, author of A Stranger in Olondria, will be Borderlands Books in San Francisco from 1-4 pm and Kelly Link will be at the Harvard Book Shop in Cambridge (where you can get Three Zombie Stories).
Some companies want to be your always and everything, these shops want to find you a good book. Ok, maybe sell you a mug, too!
Why are we posting this? Because we love the indie bookshops!
ETA: And Nathan Ballingrud will be at the excellent Malaprop’s in Asheville!
We hear there’s an excellent review of Nathan Ballingrud’s book coming up in Locus which reminded me that a great interview (and a story) with Nathan just went up. Which reminded me about two more good interviews. Luckily it’s lunchtime here on the East Coast (today aka the East Ghost), a great time to sit down and enjoy an interview with your brains/candy/sweets/actual lunch:
Nathan Ballingrud at the Weird Fiction Review:
I think of horror as the literature of antagonism, and this is why it’s so valuable to us. For me – and of course I speak entirely of my own preferences – a good horror story is upsetting. It does not reinforce the status quo. It’s an act of hostility to some cherished assumption, whether it’s the durability of familial bonds, the presumed benevolence of God, or even the basic decency of our own hearts. Horror fiction should harshly interrogate everything that makes us feel content. It’s the devil’s advocate of literature. We absolutely need that, and that’s why it abides, whether we call it horror, or Gothic, or strange, or weird. It’s all an interrogation.
Kelly Link at Gigantic:
I think I’ve hit a point with TV shows, maybe less so with books, where as soon as I have an idea of where the show is going, I would rather be doing something else. I’m not really so interested in shows that are realistic, or what passes for realistic depictions of how men are figuring out to be men, if the women are secondary characters: which rules out Mad Men, Breaking Bad.
Susan Stinson at Lambda Literary:
All of the characters in the book are outside of my time. As a white woman writing across lines of racial identity, I know that I have built-in biases that I’ve acquired from the culture. I think we all do, and that’s one of the legacies of slavery. I didn’t know when I started writing the book that Jonathan Edwards was a slave owner. Once I knew that, it became clear that I needed to enter as deeply as I could into the minds and lives of the characters who were slaves in the household. Anything else would be a terrible omission based on fear. Several characters in the book are slaves. Jonathan Edwards owned slaves, a historical fact that Edwards enthusiasts sometimes ignore. So, I did my best.
Great, huge article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette about Susan Stinson and her 10-years-in-the-writing novel Spider in a Tree.
What the interwebs version does not show is the lovely picture of Susan and her book.
Two more items about Susan today, one good, one not so!
The not so good news: we shipped some copies of Spider in a Tree to Susan in California for her readings this week. When she told me they hadn’t arrived I checked with UPS and saw something I’d never seen in the “Activity” column: Train derailment(!). Hope all is well but I do not know if we will ever see those books again! Hmm.
The second, much better item, was an interview with Susan by her good friend Sally Bellerose on Lambda Literary. I’ve read a lot of interviews with Susan and I enjoyed this one the most!
Here’s an excerpt from the article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette to go on with:
The experience led Stinson, who works as a writing coach and has published three previous novels, to begin lengthy research on Edwards, on local history, and on daily life in Colonial America. One of the novel’s most interesting aspects is its portrait of a very different Northampton, with its abundant meadows and crops, its dusty (or muddy or icy) roads, and a smelly tannery, for some reason located in the center of town, just down the street from the Edwards house.
Edwards himself is something of an absent-minded professor, a man who lives a good deal of the time in his head, writing for hours and often neglecting his appearance. He’s fascinated by science and nature, both charming and perplexing his wife in one scene in which a spider crawls onto his finger: “He was regarding the spider almost tenderly … with the look of a boy scratching the nose of his first horse. He was dear to her, but so strange.”
If you use Wikipedia as your source you will get a very strange take on slave ownership in the article about the preacher Jonathan Edwards:
In 1747 Edwards took in a slave, “a Negro girl named Venus”. He purchased the girl for 80 pounds from a man named Richard Perkins of Newport. Edwards was well known for such acts of charity and hospitality (from Glaros, A History of New England, 1997, no longer in print).
Edwards paid a whole year’s salary for the slave and then she worked for the family and was never freed. Slave owning has never been defined as an act “of charity and hospitality.” Who did this? Eeek?
Wikipedia. Needs editing!
“As a Puritan preacher who suspends listeners above the sulfurous fires of hell, Jonathan Edwards commands center stage in this compelling historical novel. With mesmerizing narrative gifts, Stinson exposes readers to the full force of Edwards’ brimstone sermonizing. But she also lets readers hear Edwards’ voice in other registers, giving compassionate reassurance to his troubled wife, extending tender forgiveness to a despairing sinner, reflecting pensively on how God manifests his wisdom in a lowly spider. But the Edwards voice that most readers will find most irresistible is his inner voice, laden with grief at a young daughter’s death, perplexed at his spiritual status as master of a household slave. . . . An impressive chronicle conveying the intense spiritual yearnings that illuminate a colonial world of mud, disease, and fear.”
Kirkus did not love the book. C’est la vie! Publishers Weekly gave it a very strong review and picked it as an Indie Sleeper. And Library Journal also just reviewed the book this week:
“Famous theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703–58) comes to life in this mid-18th-century story of the First Great Awakening, a revivalist movement that swept Protestant Europe and the American Colonies. . . . Weaving together archival letters, historical detail, and fictional twists, Stinson vividly resurrects this emotional historical period prior to the American Revolution.”
The book is flying off the shelves in the Pioneer Valley and now we are seeing it beginning to be picked up regionally and nationally. Yesterday Susan read at the Yale Divinity School (where Edwards studied—check that photo above!) and tonight she is reading at the Stockbridge Library (where Edwards also lived) and with luck she will get either to sit at or take a photo of Edwards’s desk.
The she is off to California—the most open of the events is at MCC-San Francisco before coming back here for readings at Amherst Books, Porter Square (with Kelly!), and KGB Bar and the Book Reading Series in NYC. Busy times!
October 15, 6:30 p.m. Stockbridge Library, Stockbridge, Mass.
October 23, 12 p.m., American Studies, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA
October 24, 4 p.m. Religion, Politics, and Globalization Program, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
October 25, 7 p.m. MCC-San Francisco. Reading and reception,150 Eureka Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
October 30, 2 p.m. reading, talk, Q&A, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
November 13, 8 pm. Amherst Books, Amherst, Mass.
November 18, 7 pm. Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass. (with Kelly Link)
November 21, 7 p.m. Drunken Careening Writers series, KGB Bar, NYC (with Holly Hepp-Galvan and John Schuyler Bishop)
December 15, 5 p.m. Bloom Readings, Washington Heights, NYC
Author photo courtesy: Jeep Wheat.
What a day! And tomorrow well be celebrating in style at First Churches here in Northampton, Mass., with Susan (and you, we hope!). The church (“a large stone Gothic cathedral”!) is at 129 Main St. and the reading is at 7 p.m.
On this day that part of the government has stepped away from its duties and shut down the government, it is a relief to read the history of the church:
“The American Baptist and United Church of Christ congregations joined together in June of 1988 to become The First Churches. The First Church of Christ of Northampton, is the oldest congregation in our city and was established in 1661. The First Baptist Church in Northampton was founded under the leadership of Rev. Benjamin Willard in 1826. Now, both churches share in worship, fellowship, educational classes, programs, and mission and act as one congregation.”
Two groups working together. It can be done!
Today has been a long time coming for Spider in a Tree. Susan has been writing this novel for ten years. It is a strong, fabulous book about life in 1740s Massachusetts and the frictions between belief and work, neighbors and preachers, church and town. Jonathan Edwards and his (large!) family are at the forefront but also their slaves—how could people who called themselves godly own slaves? It was a different time, a different mindset, very hard to comprehend from here. Susan does a wonderful job of putting the reader into the heads of many of the people who actually lived in this town back then. I’ll put a small taste of it below.
Hope to see friends and neighbors tomorrow at First Churches. The reading is the first in Forbes Library’s local reading series and Broadside Books will be there with the book—as well as tickets for Susan’s Bridge Street Cemetery Tour on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 1 p.m. But, mostly, congratulations to Susan for this fabulous book and thank you for sending it to us!
Chapter 1: June 1731, Newport to Northampton
The girl saw a tall, gaunt man look up from a slice of raisin pie (she had baked it, perfecting her hand with cold water crust) when she walked into Captain Perkins’s parlor with Phyllis close behind her. She could see that he was the one doing the buying. Phyllis put a hand on the small of her back to position her near the table where the men sat. The girl stared at the oozing, dark-flecked pie from which the buyer had spooned a tiny bite.
“Mr. Edwards, this is Venus.” Captain Perkins spoke smoothly. “I kept her as the pick of the lot when I unloaded most of the cargo in the Caribbean on my last voyage. I got a shipment of very good allspice, as well.”
“Impressive,” murmured someone.
The girl held her hands clasped and her back straight, but her legs were trembling. Phyllis kept a hand on her back. She had said that there would be others in the room, come to witness the sale over pie and rum punch. The girl barely took them in.
She raised her eyes and found Mr. Edwards looking at her face. She felt locked out of her own mind, both numbed and spinning, but she held his gaze. This was improper, but he kept looking himself, steadily, into her eyes. He was, perhaps, twice as old as she was, so still young. He had on a black coat with a beaver hat resting on his knee. She could see that he was a stranger, and his collar marked him as a preacher. Whatever else he might be, as a person to exchange glances with, he was uncommonly intense.
Captain Perkins spoke up from his chair. “She’s a dutiful girl. And she’s already had the small pox.”
. . .
Hey, tomorrow is publication day for Susan Stinson’s Spider in a Tree!
There will be stories in the newspapers, stories on the radio, streamers flying from the windows when Susan bikes through town, and readers’ mind blown as they consider the way 18th century theologians could also be . . . slave owners. Weird? Very weird.
Here’s one story about Susan’s graveyard tour (tickets still available!) Springfield Republican: “Writer Susan Stinson of Northampton honors theologian with Bridge Street Cemetery tours”
and here’s the info on Wednesday nights launch night.
There was a huge, great story about Susan Stinson in the Springfield Republican yesterday, “Writer Susan Stinson of Northampton honors theologian with Bridge Street Cemetery tours,” which included a couple of photos from a cemetery tour Susan took the author, Cori Urban, on. We’re going on the tour on Oct. 5—tickets available from Broadside Books (Hope to see you there!)
Bridge Street Cemetery was established in 1663. After the town voted that no more burials should take place next to the Meetinghouse, a portion of a 10-acre lot on the far edge of town, known as the “minister’s lott” at Pine Plain, was allocated for use as a burial ground, according to the website for Historic Northampton Museum and Education Center. In 1680, the bodies of those previously buried were moved to Bridge Street Cemetery.
The approximately 20-acre cemetery is an active non-denominational city cemetery.
A well-known theologian, Edwards has significant ties to the cemetery. He was minister at what is now First Churches in downtown Northampton from 1727-1750. Solomon Stoddard, his grandfather; Jerusha Edwards, his daughter; and other members of his family are buried in the cemetery.
Susan was also on the radio in Northampton on Bill Newman’s WHMP show:
Smith College food service employees speak out! Then, Susan Stinson on on her new book, “Spider in a Tree;” Rev Peter Ives & Annie Turner on Pope Francis.
The first interview with the Smith College food service employees is very much worth listening to. Smith College doesn’t see that it has an obligation to pay a living wage and hires lots of people into 32 hour jobs instead of full-time (defined by Smith as 37.5 hours/week) workers. Hmm. Hope the Smith College students take up with the employees.
Also, Susan will be on Writer’s Voice on October 2nd (the same day as her book launch!) and in the meantime Writer’s Voice Associate Producer Drew Adamek, in addition to the final episode in “The River Runs Through Us” series with artist and historian Russell Steven Powell, also includes highlights—including an interview with Susan—from previous episodes in the series.
We’ll be celebrating Susan Stinson’s book launch and reading at First Churches here in Northampton, Mass. Yes, this is a book set in Northampton written by a Northampton author and published by a company whose offices are in Easthampton, but whose principals live in Northampton. It’s a local book for local people! Well, in the sense that everyone is local somewhere.
Susan’s reading also kicks off the Forbes Library Local History/Local Novelists 2013/14 Reading and Lecture Series—the whole series info is below—and is leading a cemetery tour on Saturday, October 5 at 1 pm.
Hope to see you there!
October 2, 7 pm
First Churches, 129 Main St., Northampton, Mass.
|October 2||Spider in a Tree book launch
First Churches, 129 Main Street, Northampton
co-sponsored by Small Beer Press, Broadside Books and First Churches
|November 6||Celebration of Local Novelists, Part 1
John Clayton, novelist, Mitzvah Man
Marisa Labozzetta, novelist, Sometimes It Snows in America
Karen Osborn, novelist, Centerville
|December 4||Hampshire County Memories: Historic Local Photographs
Faith Kaufmann and Dylan Gaffney, Forbes Library Special Collections
|January 8||Journalists as Fiction Writers
J.R. Greene, author, The creation of Quabbin Reservoir: The death of the Swift River Valley
Maryanne O’Hara, novelist, Cascade
Gail Thomas, poet, No Simple Wilderness: An Elegy for Swift River Valley
Charles Coe, author, All Sins Forgiven: Poems for My Parents
Kevin Quashie, author, The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture
Jane Wald, director, Emily Dickinson Museum
|May 7||Celebration of Local Novelists, Part 2
Deborah Noyes, novelist, Plague in the Mirror
Jacqueline Sheehan, novelist, Picture This
Hilary Sloin, novelist, Art on Fire
Susan Stinson readings & events:
October 2, 7 pm, Launch party & reading, First Churches, Northampton, Mass. Sponsored by Forbes Library and Broadside Books.
— Writer’s Voice interview, WMUA
October 5, 1 pm, Bridge Street Cemetery Walking Tour. Tickets now available from Broadside Books.
October 14, 12 p.m. Edwards Room, Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Mass.
October 15, 6:30 p.m. Stockbridge Library, Stockbridge, Mass.
October 23, 12 p.m., American Studies, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA
October 24, 4 p.m. Religion, Politics, and Globalization Program, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
October 30, 2 pm, reading, talk, Q&A, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
November 13, Amherst College, Amherst, Mass.
November 18, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass.
November 21, 7 pm, Drunken Careening Writers series, KGB Bar, NYC (with Holly Hepp-Galvan and John Schuyler Bishop)
December 15, 5 pm, Bloom Readings, Washington Heights, NYC
Updated: October 2, 2013, is, by general agreement, a Wednesday, not a Tuesday. Oops!
On October 5th at 1 pm, Susan Stinson will be giving a walking tour of Bridge Street Cemetery in Northampton. Tickets are $5 and are available at Broadside Bookshop, 247 Main Street, Northampton MA 01060, 413-586-4235.
Walking in this cemetery inspired Susan’s forthcoming novel, Spider in a Tree. (Don’t miss the launch party at First Churches (129 Main St., Northampton) on October 2nd at 7 pm!)
“Stinson restores personhood and complexity to figures who have shriveled into caricature. . . . the payoff is not just the recovered history but the beautifully evoked sense of lives lived under the eye, not only of prying neighbors, but of God, with all the terror and possibility that entailed.”
Read the whole thing here.
If you’re in Western Mass., don’t miss Susan’s launch party/reading on October 2nd and then the her cemetery tour (tickets available at Broadside Books) on October 5th. We’re still adding events, but here’s what we have at the moment:
October 2, 7 pm, Launch party & reading, First Churches, Northampton, Mass. Sponsored by Forbes Library and Broadside Books.
October 5, 1 pm, Public Cemetery Tour. Tickets will be available this autumn.
October 8, Amherst College, Amherst, Mass.
(Late October: San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley)
December 15, 5 pm, Bloom Readings, Washington Heights, NYC
Susan Stinson writes about meal at Bela, one of about “forty-odd restaurants, bakeries, ice cream parlors and bars” that are “currently displaying poems by local poets as part of the Nourish the Body/Nourish the Soul project organized by Rich Michelson, Northampton’s Poet Laureate.” Susan has a poem, “Garden,” posted on the front door or Bela. Out of towners, you can read it here.
Susan is a force of nature (keep up with her here) and fittingly will be reading at Shape&Nature Press’s Summertime Reading and Music Party! along with many other readers on June 2nd 5-9pm, at Bishop’s Lounge in Northampton, 4th floor. They promise 8 amazing readers, 4 rockin’ musicians, and a raffle—which will include some books of ours.
Hey, go read the poem.