Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Matthew Quick: Writer on the horizon

Matthew Quick has the interesting distinction of seeing all six of his novels optioned for film. One of them, "Silver Linings Playbook," is familiar to most movie-goers. 

A resident of Holden, Mass., Quick's most recent novel is "The Good Luck of Right Now." That book, too, has been optioned for film by DreamWorks.
A writer since his teen years, Quick wasn't published until age 34. But he's won several prestigious book awards and has finally attained a primary goal in his life: becoming a full-time writer. For several years, he taught literature and coached high school soccer, the kids nicknaming him "Q," a moniker that has stuck.
On Feb. 11, "The Good Luck of Right Now" was released by HarperCollins, his U.S. publisher. Little Brown & Co. publishes his Young Adult books—three so far for teens ("Sorta Like a Rock Star," "Boy21," and "Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock." His books are published internationally.

He's writing this summer, but says he loves seeing the finished product, once the writing is complete. "It's very exciting to put it ("The Good Luck of Right Now") into the world. It's still wonderful to me to open up a finished book when I have received by box of new books. A book tour is a nice time to celebrate and mark the occasion of finishing another story. Most writers will tell you it's almost like giving birth." DreamWorks is busy with the book adaptation for film.

Although he keeps writing (his next book is in the wings), Quick finds book tours a wonderful distraction. 
"The schedule involves traveling every day on airplanes, cars and trains. For me, it's hard to write fiction when I'm not alone in a room. I love talking with people (about the book) but writers mostly sit alone in a room all day by themselves. When they're thrust into society, as they are on tour, it takes a different kind of energy."

"The Good Luck of Right Now," is written as a series of letters to actor Richard Gere. Author Garth Stein ("The Art of Racing in the Rain") calls it: "the greatest feel-good misfit road story." The protagonist is Bartholomew Neil, a middle-aged man who lives with his mother and is poorly equipped to find his own way in life. When she dies, he finds a "Free Tibet" letter from Gere in his mother's underwear drawer and sets out to find the answers to life from Gere (do we see a starring role there?).

Quick likes that his books are finding their way into film. He's open to looming opportunities to do screenplays, saying, "I will probably try that at some point." In the meantime, he's happy to be living in Holden with his wife, novelist and pianist Alicia Bessette.

Finding the best women's writing ...

Donna Tartt just won the Pulitzer for "The Goldfinch." The book clubs were already reading her.
Are you also aware of Zadie Smith, Louise Erdrich, Alice Walker, Annie Proulx and Lorrie Moore? Claire Messud, Dorothy Allison, Edwidge Danticat, Toni Morrison, Alice Munro?
Theirs are contemporary voices  with whom we should be familiar. They display a wide range of brilliance and insight into the emotions and lives they reveal.
Yet, beyond those women we studied in high school or college—dwelling within a list dominated by male writers—too few readers are aware of female writers, contemporary or not, beyond Eudora Welty, Harper Lee, the Brontes and Jane Austen.
Book clubs do their part, but does the general public read modern women writers—aside from those who write mysteries, romances and self-help books? There are doubts, and they're pinned on gender disparity in the literary review and book promotion process. While romance writers are acknowledged as being super self-promoters, writers in non-specific genres, like literary fiction, memoir or women's fiction, are having to learn those ropes. The industry has let them down, and so have the critics.
For all that women comprise a huge sector of the reading public, there's a significant gap between male and female writers in the areas of recognition, criticism, and—in some magazines and journals—publication, whether of fiction or nonfiction.
This reality contrasts shamefully with the high proportion of female readership and book club membership. Women may be great readers, but when it comes to how they're viewed in the literary world, respect is lagging.
Argue what you will, the numbers don't lie.
Vida, an organization for women in literary fields, completed a three-year evaluation that revealed the disparity in 2013: while publication rates are roughly equal, far fewer books written by women are reviewed at literary publications, such as the New York Review of Books and the New Yorker. They, and other publications purporting to serve the reading world, use a notably smaller percentage of women reviewers as well. (Susan Sontag and Dorothy Parker, whose reviews were sparkling, are gone, though fiction author Joyce Carol Oates and historical writer Doris Kearns Goodwin are still active reviewers.
According to the study, women are not represented more than 25 percent (often less) at  respected magazines like Harper's, the Paris Review and the Times Literary Supplement. (Interestingly, the Boston Review achieved near-equal ratio of female to male authors reviewed. Kudos.)
Vida's study is engendering change. With the recent addition of more women to the editing staffs at major publications, such as The Atlantic and the New York Times Book Review, we are apt to see better representation. Others are following suit; the National Book Critics Circle is making gender equity a focus—for how long, we'll see.
Do a quick survey with male and female friends. What percentage of books by women do you read? Ask male friends or spouses. You may be surprised. Some people read male authors far more often. This may only be because of awareness: although the awards process often recognize female excellence, the promotion and reviewing barrier remains high.
The upshot of all this has been the birth of a grassroots effort to promote publication of women authors, as well as more reading of their work, both here and in Great Britain, where the ratio is similar. Numerous groups are exploring the idea. At #Readwomen2014, a Twitter exploration started in England by Joanna Walsh allows followers to endorse books written by women and alerts them to literary festivals celebrating female authors this year. Several American literary journals, such as Glitter Train, have announced a focus on female contributions to literature during 2014. Male editors are among those prioritizing a better look at women writers. Libraries and book festivals are joining in the year's dedication by including segments dedicated to reading more books by women. Blogger Michelle Dean at Flavorwire even lists 50 books written by women for others to read.
By the way, for a straightforward, amusing look at gender perception, consider Cordelia Fine's "Delusions of Gender."

Area book groups:

The evening Classics Book Group will discuss Thomas Hardy's "Far from the Madding Crowd" at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, May 22, in Gale Free Library's program room. On June 26, a poetry share is planned.

Carrie Grimshaw, director at the Merriam-Gilbert Public Library in West Brookfield, says the book group there will discuss Dodie Smith's "I Capture the Castle," at 4 p.m., May 29 and "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Solzhenitsyn at 4 p.m., June 26.

Crawford Library in Dudley's book group meets June 5 to discuss "Becoming Finola" by Suzanne Strempek Shea.

For traveling book groups: 
Mac Griswold, author of "The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island," will be guest author at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, 77 Forest St., Hartford, Conn. The free event  begins at 7 p.m., June 25. Sylvester Manor has been in the same family for 11 generations, and "The Manor" is its story, steeped in both family history and the slavery era. Griswold is a historian and author who writes for several publications, including The New York Times, The Wall St. Journal and "Travel & Leisure." Register at 860-522-9258, ext. 317.

Your ideas and comments are welcome at