Posts Tagged ‘authors’

Stiles, Mayor are National Book Award finalists

Congratulations to San Francisco’s T.J. Stiles, whose nonfiction book The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt has just been named among five finalists for the National Book Award. Here’s the New York Times review of the book, from May. Trivia: according to his website, Stiles is also a karate black belt.

Joining Stiles is Adrienne Mayor and her book The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, also a nonfiction finalist. Mayor is currently a visiting professor at Stanford.

The whole list of finalists is here.

Writers to see and hear

Sarah WatersTipping the Velvet author Sarah Waters will appear at Books Inc., 601 Van Ness, Wednesday at 7:00 pm to promote her new novel The Little Stranger.

The same night at 6:00 pm, Michelle Tea’s RADAR series at the SF Public Library Main Branch [map] features authors Orson Wagon (A Hole in the Rubber), Ricky Lee, and Sarah Fran Wisby appear, along with performance artist Krylon Superstar. That’s free, and there’s always cookies.

And on Thursday, Robert Arellano appears at City Lights [map] reading from his new novel Havana Lunar. Also appearing are Maggie Estep (Alice Fantastic) and Achy Obejas (Ruins). No cookies, but you’re in North Beach, there’s plenty to eat.

Yiyun Li’s powerful new novel "The Vagrants"

The Vagrants, the first novel by Chinese-American author Yiyun Li — who lives in Oakland and teaches at UC-Davis, and whose 2005 debut story collection A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, garnered much critical praise — is set in 1979 in a provincial Chinese town, where a former Red Guard is being executed as a counter-revolutionary. The novel looks at how this event affects a wide range of people in the town, from poor ragpickers to a powerful, popular radio announcer who knew the condemned as a girl.

As the townspeople witness the condemnation of Gu Shan and its aftermath, each reacts differently. Those who knew her suffer breakdowns or plot to overturn her condemnation; others scheme to take advantage of the situation; still others are preoccupied with the barest details of survival. Li’s large cast of characters are drawn with great precision and insight, and she employs a sweeping, omniscient point of view to illuminate their fears, desires, and crushed hopes. Along the way, the lives of all the characters are touched by the brutality of poverty or of the Chinese police state.

The Vagrants is the best literary novel I’ve read in a long time, and I was excited to be able to interview the author, after the jump.

Li will be appearing around the Bay Area in February to promote the book. See her listing of tour events.

Click to read the interview

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