Back in September 2019, local sci-fi/fantasy author Sarah Pinsker launched her first novel, A Song for a New Day, with an event at the Ivy Bookshop. An award-winning author of short science fiction and fantasy, Pinsker’s short stories have been translated into many languages and are collected in Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea. In addition to being a successful author, Pinsker is also a singer/songwriter with three albums and a local darling rock band called the Stalking Horses.
Calling all readers who have enjoyed recognizing Charm City landmarks in the novels of Anne Tyler – Matthew Norman’s entertaining new domestic comedy, “Last Couple Standing,” is Baltimore to the bone. While Tyler’s characters traditionally shop at Eddie’s on Roland Ave, Norman’s crowd has moved to the suburbs, so shop at Graul’s. But they frequently come into town for scenes at Bar Vasquez (where they reminisce about when it used to be Pazo), the Greene Turtle, Bond Street Social, Towsontown Mall, the Ivy Bookshop, the Under Armour store, the Senator Theatre, Tark’s, and more. And they don’t need a GPS to get around. “In the city, Falls Road is as congested and annoying as any other street in Baltimore. In the suburbs, though it opens up into a scenic highway through horse farms, like you’re time traveling.”
“The best thing that ever happened to my writing life was breaking my ankle,” Baltimore author Laura Bogart proclaimed in 2015. At the time of the accident, Bogart, now 37, was writing mainly nonfiction, and she’d already met with success as an essayist. Her personal reflections on a range of hot-button topics—sizeism and feminism, politics and pop culture—often went viral on Salon. (She’s now a featured writer at The Week and a contributing editor at DAME).
In 2015, popular Baltimore novelist Jessica Anya Blau (The Trouble With Lexie, The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, etc.) decided to try her hand at something completely different — ghostwriting. After working behind-the-scenes on a few books, including a bestselling memoir of child abuse and dysfunction, she was offered the opportunity to collaborate on a very different project – the memoir of a sorority girl from the University of Southern California who ended up working for the CIA and the FBI. An ex-spy named Tracy Walder, then a high school teacher in Dallas, was ready to tell her story.
It’s hard to do much better in describing Malka Older’s unusual new collection, “…and Other Disasters,” published by Baltimore-based Mason Jar Press, than sci-fi king Bruce Sterling, who commented that Older is like “a psychoanalyst in a planetary refugee camp.”
The Baltimore Book Festival returns two months later than usual, now merged with Light City into a 10-day event called Brilliant Baltimore. Most of the book festival events take place over the first weekend, Friday, Nov. 1 to Sunday, Nov. 3, with a few evening events through Wednesday.
The location has changed–take a look at the map on the website before heading over. Almost all of the staged events and the book sales are in the Columbus Center, the big glass building on Pier 5. The CityLit stage is in the Pier 5 Hotel, and the exhibitors are still at tables encircling the harbor. The Children’s stage and the Comic Pavilion are over there too, in their traditional spots.
“Savage Appetites” is a book about women who love crime, or at least stories about crime, and author Rachel Monroe is one of them. “I was a teenager storming with hormones when I pulled Helter Skelter off my parents’ shelf,” she writes. “When I learned that the Columbine killers’ journals were online, I read those, too.”
Monroe’s debut work of narrative nonfiction opens at Opryland in Nashville, where she’s attending CrimeCon, a fan gathering hosted by the “all crime, all the time” cable network, Oxygen. The conference is attended almost exclusively by women, the main consumers of the true-crime genre. She stands in front of a Wall of Motives, where attendees have stuck post-its with their reasons for being there–“justice and rage,” “morbid curiosity and sisterhood,” “cupcakes and patriarchy battling,” “fear and revenge”–and thinks about her own.
Judith Krummeck’s new book, “Old New Worlds” (Green Writers Press, 360 pp., $24.95), occupies a unique spot on the spectrum of creative non-fiction. Half the book is actually historical fiction about her great-great-grandmother, Sarah Barker, who immigrated with her missionary husband, George, from England to the wilds of South Africa in the early nineteenth century. The other half is a memoir about the author’s own immigration from South Africa to the U.S., and her quest for the facts of Sarah’s life on which she based her imaginative story.
What you’ll notice first about non-binary Baltimore writer Tyler Mendelsohn is what they notice. Their writing has an innocence, a freshness to it–as if they’ve landed from another planet and are taking notes. Their eye lingers on things we take for granted, like the way words sound like other words, the literal meaning of clichés, the psychological acuteness of the syntax of their three-year-old niece. They love to trace the connections formed by coincidence, or what we earthlings call coincidence, as when they read two books and in both there is a pet named Karenin, or how the number 8 is the symbol for infinity and turns up in infinite contexts.
Q&A with environmental journalist Tom Pelton, on the health of the Chesapeake and his book ‘The Chesapeake in Focus’
Even if the story about the person who fell off a party boat into the Inner Harbor and died the next day is an urban legend, we all know the Chesapeake Bay is in trouble. I just googled: the last three headlines in the Baltimore Sun on the topic have been “Chesapeake Bay’s weakened federal partner takes another hit,” “Chesapeake Bay’s grade drops to a D+ in 2018 report card,” and ” ‘Code red’ for the Chesapeake Bay.”
Whether you’re a nature lover, an oyster and crab maven, a sailor, or just a citizen of this region, it’s a good time to take look at Tom Pelton’s 2018 book, “The Chesapeake in Focus” (Johns Hopkins University Press), a sweeping narrative that leverages the author’s decades of environmental reporting to create a multi-faceted portrait. Pelton’s combination of nature and travel writing, personality profiles, political analysis, and scientific storytelling will be familiar to listeners of his public radio program, “The Environment in Focus.”