One shelf I haven't yet filled is my writer's writer shelf. Few authors get on this one. To me, a writer's writer is someone who teaches, wows and comforts all at the same time. I learn from these intensely talented folks (the teaching.) I am also knocked on my ass by them (the wowing.) And in a strange way, I reconnect to my own writing through them (which is comforting, and maddening, and a few other things.) That's likely a lame way to describe it, but it's as close as I'm going to get without using a French bakery analogy.
One more disclaimer before I talk about the latest addition to my writer's writer shelf. Books set in or written about the southern United States are not my favs. Harper Lee may have written the greatest novel of the twentieth century, but she also instigated a literary attitude toward writing about the people of the south that is now about as applicable as calling someone from New York City a seersucker-suited carpetbagging Yankee.
You will not find any outdated stereotypes in Rosina Lippi's Tied to the Tracks. Instead, you'll discover Ogilvie, Georgia, a Monet of a small college town, populated by all manner of southern kin and kind. John Grant, son of Ogilvie's equivalent of gentry, is about to marry a much-loved local beauty; Miss Zula Bragg, the town's fearsome literary giant, has at long last decided to permit a film to be made about her long and colorful life, and Angie Mangiamele, Jersey girl and owner of Tied to the Tracks film productions, is coming to town to make the documentary about Miss Zula. Angie also happens to be John's ex-lover. When Angie and her crew arrive in Ogilvie, the real fun begins.
This novel has so much in store for the reader: romance, intrigue, humor, new lovers and old secrets, old lovers and new secrets. There are characters you love and characters you'd love to run down in the street and back over a few times. John and Angie and Miss Zula are the heart of the story, but the town of Ogilvie and its fascinating residents as well as Angie's crew are right there, too. That's what makes this such a marvelous work: nothing is forced, nothing is faked, and yet nothing is left unattended. That is the southern way, folks.
I generally read books quickly, but the writing of Tied to the Tracks made me ride my brakes from start to finish. My deference to the novel's many charms, surprises and pure delights, but also to the storytelling itself, so splendid that you slow down simply to enjoy it. I also admire the great care the author took with crafting this novel, because while you can't see that on the page (it reads smooth as peach skin) it shines through between the lines.
You all don't have to take my word for it, of course. In comments to this post, name someone or something that teaches, wows and/or comforts you by midnight EST on August 24, 2006. I'll pick three names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned copy of Rosina Lippi's Tied to the Tracks. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something at PBW in the past.