Tag: Three Pines

Three Pines

And the Award Goes To…

The shortlist for the inaugural Staunch Book Prize, “created to make space for an alternative to the overload of violence towards women in fiction” and “awarded to the author of a novel in the thriller genre in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered,” was recently announced. The award’s creators wanted to honor “stories in which female characters don’t have to be raped before they can be empowered or become casual collateral to pump up the plot” and that don’t “celebrate the cunning (often, charming sexiness/astonishing brutality) of serial rapists and the dogged brilliance of detectives” at the expense of female characters too often portrayed as two-dimensional victims. The shortlist for the 2018 prize, to be awarded this month, includes a political conspiracy thriller, a psychological thriller, an art caper, a thriller about the immigrant crisis, and a satire about terrorism. In the spirit of new literary awards, I asked my fellow Missdemeanors, “What prize would you create and what would the eligibility criteria be?” Here are their answers. RobinMine is easy. It would be the Amazing Grace Award, which was a nickname for Grace Hopper. Without her, computers would still take up an entire room and do only one thing at a time, so my criteria would be most inventive use of real technology for sinister purposes. Bonus points for flipping the bit, so to speak, to use that same technology to catch the criminal. TraceeI’d hand out the Tolstoy award, in honor of Count Leo Tolstoy. The criteria for this award:  a work of fiction that captures a broader historic theme with dramatic breadth and unity. The committee would prioritize works set in contemporary life.Thinking about Tolstoy, I feel the urge to re-read a few favorite parts of War and Peace. Although with the ice raining down I might be better served to visit another great Russian author, Boris Pasternak and the winter scenes in Doctor Zhivago. SusanI’d hand out an Ove award, named for Fredrik Bachman’s curmudgeonly hero. The criteria would be a work of fiction that shows me the interior life of a character I might have overlooked. MicheleI’m creating The Penny, after Louise Penny for her superb creation of Three Pines. The criteria for winning The Penny would be a work of fiction in which the author creates a setting for her story where, although not conflict free, the reader may retreat to find comfort and solace in times of turmoil. It sure worked for me after November 2016. TraceeI love all of these! CateI would create The Ripley, for the most unlikeable character that you can’t help but root for. The award would be in the spirit of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. Alternative name: The Dexter. PaulaOoh, a very good question and such lovely answers.I’d have to say the LATE BLOOMER AWARD, for writers publishing their first novel after age 50…or 60…or…. MicheleAs a writer who received her Medicare card the same month that I got my first publishing contract, I love the LATE BLOOMER AWARD! AlisonI love all the answers. I’ll add the SEDARIS AWARD for writers, like David Sedaris, who are so funny it’s impossible to read an entire chapter without laughing out loud. It’s named in honor of Me Talk Pretty One Day, which I read while taking Amtrak from Philadelphia to New York. I thought I could sit in the “quiet car” while reading, but I ended up leaving the silent section of the train because I absolutely, positively, could not stifle the eruptions of full-on belly laughs coming from my own belly. AlexiaI’d create the ELBA AWARD (named after Idris Elba, of course) for a crime fiction novel that doesn’t pigeon-hole characters of color and characters from other marginalized groups into narrow, stereotypical roles and narratives. There’d be a sub-category, named the JACKSON (after Samuel L.) for the fictional crime film that had a character of color or other marginalized character appear in the most unexpected role. What award would you create? What would you name it? Who could win? Comment here on the blog or join the discussion on Facebook.  

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A voyage into a fictional universe. I'm in.

Lazy summer days are a time to dream. What if dreams and reading merged and it was possible to transport yourself to any fictional place? If I had a chance to literally dive into a fictional locale and spend a few days I’d pick Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels. The settings are fictional London and – more importantly – classic novels including Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice.  Fforde does a fantastic job of making the well-known fictional settings come to life and at the same time allowing the reader to experience them as an outsider. The characters are trapped in the role but the reader isn’t! What fun to be there and participate in the novels from the sidelines. What fictional setting would you join?  SUSAN: This is probably not a huge surprise, but I’d go with Agatha Christie’s St. Mary Meade. I love living in a small village, and of course, I’d love to know Miss Marple. I feel like you have more room to be yourself, oddly enough, in a place where everyone knows you. People know who you are, so you don’t have to pretend to be someone else, if that makes. I drew on that in writing the village Maggie Dove lives in.      ALEXIA: Tough question. So many places to choose from. I agree with Susan; St. Mary Meade sounds cool. Midsomer County to meet DCI Barnaby is on the list, despite the body count. I’d like to visit Nero Wolfe’s brownstone to see his orchid collection. Wonderland and the Looking Glass world make the itinerary. Alice was my first literary hero. I still love her adventuresome spirit. I’d love to meet the Cheshire Cat and go to a mad tea party. But, if I have to pick only one fictional place to visit, I choose the Mos Eisley space cantina so I can hang out with Han Solo and Chewbacca and score a ride on the Millennium Falcon.  PAULA: I’d go to Castello Brown, the real-life 15th century castle in Portofino, where Elizabeth von Arnim set her 1922 novel The Enchanted April.It’s been my dream to rent a villa on the Italian Riviera for a month and invite all my friends and thereby set the stage for my own enchanted April. Someday….       CATE: I’d visit Macondo in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude. It’s warm (a must), all the locals have interesting family gossip, and there are magical yellow butterflies.  “At that time, Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs.”      ROBIN:  Derry, ME. An awful lot of sinister events occur in Stephen King’s bucolic creation. Runner up would be Santa Theresa, CA, Sue Grafton’s coastal community. I would love to have coffee with Kinsey Milhone and regale her with technical investigation techniques developed after the ’80’s.  MICHELE: I am also a fan of books set in English and Irish villages. I often try to visit the locations of books I have read when traveling. I made my husband look for Barberry Lane in San Francisco after our entire family devoured Armisted Maupin’s six book series “Tales of the City.” But right now, I would love to be transported to Louise Penny’s Three Pines village just over the Vermont border in Canada, even though it is nowhere near an ocean, my usual requirement. Three Pines is a fictional village that embraces the imperfections in people where friendships become like family bonds. Of course, it is not without conflict and bodies fall as routinely as the snow. You know what it means to “belong” if you’re lucky to live in Three Pines. TRACEE: I think you should ALL reconsider Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels….. once you are in them the rules allow transport to anything that has ever been written, including the not so glamorous text of a washing machine label. Here’s to fictional travel!

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Postcard from Three Pines

I’ve been in Three Pines, where Louise Penny sets her Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series, for about six weeks now. I’ve suffered through several long winters, endured a few hot summers, and relished as many perfect springs and autumns in that short time. On January 20th (the date is no coincidence), I fled to this village in Canada just above the Vermont border, a place safe and filled with hygge. The Oxford Dictionary defines hygge as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”            Oddly, it hasn’t matter that in each of the twelve books I’ve read during my sojourn, a murder has occurred because Louise Penny has created Armand Gamache, whom I grew to trust and revere. I knew each time I opened a new book that  Chief Inspector Gamache would ultimately expose the murderer, along with a few lessons about the human condition. The murders were much less disturbing than never-ending alerts on my telephone or the incessant chatter on television about what the daily disaster was back on the home front.            I fell into Three Pines like it was the puffy feather duvet my grandmother had washed so many times you couldn’t tell what the original colors were. I tried to pace myself, remembering there are only twelve books so far. I gobbled chapters faster than the characters devoured croissants, omelets, and chocolate chip cookies. I imagined drinking whisky, beer, and countless bowls of café au lait with my new friends, even though I have never had anything but dark roast black coffee my entire life.            I was drawn to the roaring fireplaces in the bistro with mismatched chairs and sofas waiting for me to plop down into with a good book. I knew I would find no shortage of reading material in Myrna’s bookstore and that Olivier would bring me a glass of red wine with a bowl of nuts without being asked.I hoped I would be invited to another of Clara’s potluck dinners where I might be treated to beef bourguignon, warm apple pie, and a glimpse of Ruth, the crusty foul-mouthed poet who always brings her pet duck to village affairs. Poetry is part of the normal conversation in Three Pines among many of my new friends, while some prefer cussing, or a combination of both.            I’d finish one book in the Gamache series, vowing to take at least a few days off before starting another. But I didn’t want to leave Three Pines knowing what awaited me when I hit  the “on” button on the remote control. So I hit the “purchase the next book in this series” button instead.            I worried a little about what would happen when I ran out of books and could not longer descend from the great lookout above the valley into Three Pines, which is uncharted on maps. Was there a twelve-step program for my addiction? To prepare for my withdrawal, I read a little about Louise Penny’s background and learned she created the series and the setting after 9-11 because she wanted to provide a place where readers felt safe and comforted, offering them a cast of characters who would feel like friends.            And that may have been the biggest gift from my retreat to Three Pines. What I learned is how powerful good writing can be. It doesn’t have to be dark, disturbing, provocative, or revolutionary, although many of the Gamache books include these elements. Good writing need only reach the heart and soul of the reader. What writers have reached your heart and soul? Save

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