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Sunday, August 31st, 2014

I’m very happy to announce that Porter Square Books, my local indie, now does international shipping! So those of you outside the US who wanted a signed and/or personalized copy of The Song of Achilles, Porter Square can now ship you one.  If you’re interested, the details are here.

I’m a few months late on posting this, but here is a piece I wrote for Waterstones’ Writer’s Year series.  It’s about the Bailey’s Prize (formerly the Orange Prize), my mom and tractor driving.

On to the events:

Thursday, September 11th 2014, 7PM, Newtonville Books, Newton, MA.
The terrific Newtonville Books has invited me to lead their September Celebrity Book Club.  We’re going to be talking about one of my all-time favorite reads, Watership Down. Richard Adams’ tale of epic adventure and friendship among a band of rabbits is gripping, poignant and complex. Read it for the first time, or read it again; either way, come join us to discuss!

September 19th 2014, 7:30PM, Newton North High School, Newton, MA
As I mentioned in my previous post, Newton director Melissa Bernstein is staging the second part of The Song of Achilles on September 18th, 19th and 20th.  I’ll be doing a talkback after the show on Friday the 19th. (Bonus: if you come to the Watership Down event above, you’ll have a chance to meet Melissa as well).

October 2nd 2014, 7:15PM, LA Library, Los Angeles, CA
I’m also thrilled to be doing an event in California on October 2nd for the LA Library’s ALOUD series. I’ll be talking about Homeric adaptation with novelist and Classicist Zachary Mason, who wrote the terrific Lost Books of the Odyssey.

October 28th 2014, 7PM, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
Finally, I’m going to be at Porter Square books interviewing Eimear McBride, author of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, which won the 2014 Bailey’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize).

 

 

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Last spring Newton director Melissa Bernstein staged the first half of The Song of Achilles.  It was a pleasure and honor to see the actors bring these characters so vividly to life, and I remember being particularly impressed that, despite knowing it was coming, I jumped when Thetis appeared for the first time. In these days of CGI everything, it was a reminder of just how much magic good directors and actors can make with makeup, a few lights, and a sound cue.

So, I’m thrilled to announce that Melissa and her team are back with Part II!  The production, The Song of Achilles: Troy, stages the second half of the book, and goes up this September, Thursday the 18th, Friday the 19th and Saturday the 20th at 7:30 PM. I will once again be doing a talkback with the cast after the show on Friday the 19th, so if you come, please say hello!

Tickets are available through Melissa’s website, The Newton Theatre Company, where you can also find more details about the show.  As before, the production is co-produced with Newton North High School, and features Boston-area actors of all ages. All proceeds go towards covering the school’s theater operating costs.

Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Many months ago, I did an event at the fabulous Newtonville Books, in Newton MA, where I had the good fortune to meet local theater director Melissa Bernstein, who expressed an interest in doing a non-profit, staged reading of “The Song of Achilles.”  As a theater lover and director myself, I was thrilled, especially when I saw her passion for the project. I am delighted to announce that after months of hard work by her and her cast, this event, now officially “The Song of Achilles: A Staging” goes up in Newton this weekend!

The production, which tackles the first half of the novel, is produced in collaboration with local high school Newton North, and features Boston-area actors of all ages. Here are the performance dates and times:

Thursday, March 27th, 7:30 PM: Acts I and II (taking Achilles and Patroclus through their time with the teacher Chiron).

Friday, March 28th, 7:30 PM: Acts III and IV (following Achilles and Patroclus from Chiron until just before sailing to Troy).

Saturday, March 29th, 3:00 PM-9:00 PM: Acts I-IV all together, including an intermission with free dinner.

I’ll be doing a talkback after Friday’s performance with Melissa, and will also be in the audience on Thursday and Friday, and possibly Saturday as well.  So if you come, please say hello!

More information on the show and reserving tickets can be found here—all proceeds go to cover the school’s theater operating costs. Hope to see you there!

 

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

I am thrilled to announce that xo Orpheus: Fifty New Myths, is officially out! It’s edited by the wonderful Kate Bernheimer, and offers fifty new takes on myths from lots of different traditions. Aside from my own GALATEA, you’ll find stories by Aimee Bender, Kevin Wilson, Joy Williams, Zachary Mason, Kelly Braffet and Owen King, and Max Gladstone–who does a terrific retelling of an episode from the Mahabharata. The collection has already gotten a rave review from Booklist. Myth-lovers, rejoice!

Cover for xo Orpheus: Fifty New Myths, edited by Kate Bernheimer

 

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Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

I noted in my last post that I was yearning for crisper weather. The Reykjavik International Literary Festival definitely granted my wish! Iceland offered gorgeous blue skies, but the wind was regularly blowing at 50 miles an hour, and it hailed several times. Also, there was a sandstorm.

Crazy weather aside, I had a terrific time at the festival, which is a true haven for book lovers, and was also delighted to get to meet everyone at my wonderful Icelandic publisher, Salka, led by Hildur Hermóðsdóttir. I particularly enjoyed the cover they did for the Iceland edition, translated by Þórunn Hjartardóttir. It uses one of my favorite statues–Menelaus supporting Patroclus’ dead body, currently in Florence:

Cover of Icelandic edition of The Song of Achilles, Salka Press. Translated by Þórunn Hjartardóttir.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the way, Iceland is just as beautiful as everyone says, routinely offering vistas like this:

Glimpsing the Bifrost at Skogafoss waterfall. Sadly, no Heimdall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also learned about Iceland’s annual Christmas-season “book flood” a lovely tradition where everyone gives each other books for the holidays. My kind of place!

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Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Delighted to announce that Library Journal gave my short story Galatea a starred review!  The full text is here (my review is the last on the page).

In other news, The Guardian chose The Song of Achilles for their August book club, which included the chance to answer reader questions live for an hour.  I had a great time and have never typed so fast in my life!

I’m also excited to be heading off to the Reykjavik Literary Festival next week, where I’m doing a reading and a public interview, and also taking part in the (gulp) Literary Death Match.  (More details on times and places for all those on my appearances page.)  One of my favorite books of the past year, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, is set in Iceland, and will definitely be coming with me.  If you haven’t read it yet, I absolutely recommend it.

As I was typing the date for this post, I realized with shock that exactly two years ago today The Song of Achilles was published for the first time by Bloomsbury in the UK.  I can still remember just how nervous and thrilled I was holding the hardback in my hands.  I can also remember being worried that it would never find an audience. But thanks to the loveliness and generosity of publishers, booksellers, and especially readers, it did.  I am so grateful–thank you.

I wish you all a very happy start to September.  After the heatwaves and humidity here in Cambridge, I admit to being eager for crisper weather!

 

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Tuesday, August 12th, 2013

My new short story, GALATEA, based on the story of the sculptor Pygmalion, is debuting today in the US as an e-book single from Ecco, and is already out in the UK as a Kindle single with Bloomsbury.  In the myth, Pygmalion falls in love with his own statue, and prays to the goddess Aphrodite for her to be brought to life.  His wish is granted and the two marry.  It’s a story that has inspired a number of retellings and adaptations including, most famously, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, which became My Fair Lady.

US e-book single cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve always been fascinated by this odd myth, because it has so many resonances: the artist’s obsession with his or her own work, yearning for an unrequited love and, disturbingly, the fact that only a woman you create yourself is worthy of being your wife.  It was this last idea that inspired my own version, which is narrated by Galatea, the statue-woman herself. In following this path, I was drawing primarily on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which Pygmalion is so disgusted by the women in his town that he begs the goddess to make his stone statue real, because only she is pure and perfect enough to be his wife.

By the way, I originally wrote the story for a myth anthology forthcoming from Penguin called XO ORPHEUS, edited by the terrific Kate Bernheimer, which has over fifty retellings of favorite myths.  A definite must for myth-lovers!

UK Kindle Single Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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April 9th, 2013

As a child, there were two places I always felt at home, the library and the bookstore. The hours I spent in them were unreservedly joyous; for me, there was no greater treat than being surrounded by stories. As an adult, the same love remains. I can’t pass a good-looking bookstore without going in and, as the lovely librarians at my local branch can testify, I’m there at least once a week and usually more.  So I was especially excited to learn that The Song of Achilles was recently shortlisted for two awards, one associated with libraries in the US and one with independent bookstores in the UK.

Every year, the Massachusetts Center for the Book and the Massachusetts Library Association team up to nominate books for The Massachusetts Book Awards. The books all share either a Massachusetts subject, or an author who hails from Massachusetts, or both. I’m thrilled to announce that The Song of Achilles was shortlisted for the Fiction category! I was especially pleased to be there beside wonderful authors like Max Gladstone whose book Three Parts Dead I have raved about in previous posts.

I’m equally thrilled to announce that The Song of Achilles has been shortlisted for the Independent Bookseller Award in the UK, with an absolutely blow-your-mind list that includes some of my favorite books of the last year: Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki and Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. I am honored to be in such company!

I am so moved to have been included on these shortlists and so grateful to all the librarians and booksellers who have encouraged me, not only as a reader, but also as a writer. In the past year and a half I’ve had the good fortune to visit so many outstanding independent bookstores and libraries, and in every case what makes them so outstanding is the people: the passionate and enthusiastic sellers and librarians whose tireless advocacy makes the world of books go round. I’m so grateful for all the support they’ve given my work and very glad for this opportunity to say: thank you for everything.

March 8th, 2013

Cambridge is once again snow-bound, and it seemed like a good time to post some updates on the last few months which have been excitingly action-packed. As some of you may know, I had the opportunity to attend not just one, but three literary festivals in India in the past few months.

Me, hat, and the sunny view from Jaipur’s Amer fort. Don’t be fooled: temperatures were in the 40′s and 50′s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first was the Times of India Literary Carnival in Mumbai, where I had an event with the brilliant scholar Arshia Sattar, one of the pre-eminent translators of the Ramayana, moderated by the dynamic and gracious Devdutt Pattanaik who is as enthusiastic as I am about mythology. We discussed ancient Greek and Indian epic in front of a delightfully passionate audience. As I’ve mentioned previously, I love reading both the Ramayana and Mahabharata, and always find it fascinating to see the similarities and differences between their stories and the stories of the Iliad and Odyssey.

The hero Rama and his loyal brother Lakshmana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Iliad and Ramayana share an earnest, young hero who makes some disastrous decisions (how disastrous, in the case of Rama, is still debated), while the Odyssey and Mahabharata share an emphasis on trickery and mischief, personified by Odysseus and Krishna respectively. One of my long-time ambitions has been to learn Sanskrit so I can read these texts in their earliest versions, and this has only made me more determined to do so.

Next up was the grand dame of Indian Literary gatherings, the Jaipur Literature Festival, founded by the amazing William Dalrymple. It was an absolutely wonderful time, filled with brilliant panels and enthusiastic audiences. I found myself scrambling to cram in every session that I could, and still felt like I missed half of all the literary riches on offer. The many memorable events included a lecture by the delightful Oxford professor, Faramerz Dobhoiwala, on his non-fiction book The Origins of Sex, which offers insights into how the Enlightenment led directly to the sexual revolution. I also loved the packed event on The Jewish Novel, with Linda Grant, Gary Shteyngart, Howard Jacobson and Andrew Solomon. Four very different voices, all fascinating. A few days later, I had the pleasure of hearing Andrew Solomon again, this time on the “Literature of Love and Longing” panel, which focused specifically on LGBT voices in literature. My own events were likewise a treat, since I got to share the stage with Devdutt for a second time, and lots of other literary luminaries, including the historian Tom Holland, Linda Grant, Jeet Thayil and Lawrence Norfolk. All of the festival’s events were taped and are available on Jaipur’s website, which I highly recommend.

The Man Booker International party, at the Jaipur city palace. Not pictured: elephants and camels, greeting us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, of course, I couldn’t mention Jaipur without mentioning the fabulous parties in the evenings, including the Man Booker International Prize celebration in honor of its newly shortlisted authors.  There were a number of names I didn’t know on the list, something I hope to remedy soon, but I always cheer to see Marilynne Robinson recognized, and Lydia Davis as well.

Aside from the bookish pleasures of the trip, I very much enjoyed getting to tour around Rajasthan. The forts and palaces were gorgeous, and I took particular delight in Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh fort which has a small but excellent museum. Some of its highlights included an ornate peacock howdah, or elephant seat, as well as a gallery of paintings from the miniature school. Also, a vivid collection of daggers, including the one in the center below, which has a special spring-loaded three-prong blade which leaps apart after you’ve stabbed someone, to provide maximum damage. Yikes.

Display of Indian katars or “push daggers” including the three-bladed nasty mentioned above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jaipur itself also has a wealth of historical sites, including the Amer fort and an amazing astronomical installation called Jantar Mantar. Built by the Maharajah Jai Singh II in the 1700′s, it features a huge sundial that tells time to within TWO SECONDS. The shadow falls on the curved wall which is marked with numbers.

The huge sundial at Jantar Mantar, in Jaipur. The shadow falls on the curved wall, which is marked with figures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there were the gorgeous temples. I particularly loved Ranakpur, a beautiful Jain temple which has 1,444 columns, all of them different. The marble carvings are absolutely beautiful, and I couldn’t resist this demon-head at the entrance.

Demon-head at entrance to Ranakpur Temple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last of the three was the Kolkata Literary Meet, where I shared an event with the artist and author Amruta Patil, whose graphic novel Adi Parva is the first in a series of planned works retelling the Ramayana. It’s excellent.

It was an unforgettable trip and I’m so grateful I had the chance to go. Next up: a post on the wonderful students I had the pleasure of meeting in California, as well as some exciting news about hats. (Yes, hats). I hope that those of you in the current snowbelt are safe and snug. Happy almost-spring!

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Back in December, some lovely readers had gotten in touch wondering about getting signed copies of The Song of Achilles for holiday gifts.  I spoke to the wonderful people at Porter Square Books, my local indie, worked out a plan for making it happen and posted the news on my website.  What I didn’t expect was the astonishing and moving number of responses that we got, and I wanted to offer this late but very heartfelt thank you.  It means so much to me that my book was something people wanted to give to their loved ones as a gift, and stopping by Porter Square to inscribe the books was one of the treats of my holiday season.

Since then, readers have been in touch asking if they can still order signed copies and, after discussing with Porter Square, we’ve decided to make the offer permanent. So it’s now official!  Signed, personalized copies of The Song of Achilles are available year-round, and in ordering them you’re also supporting a terrific indie bookseller. Here’s how you get one: 1) Follow this link for the paperback, or this one for the hardback and place your order. 2) In the “order comment” section of the order form, please say that you’d like it signed by me, and include the name of the recipient and any personal message you’d like me to add.  And yes, ordering one for yourself is okay!

I feel so grateful to have such wonderful and supportive readers.  Thank you!

UPDATE, August 2014: Porter Square Books now ships internationally!