C. Morgan Babst
Lush with the scents of ligustrum, a fallen magnolia, an evening breeze off the Mississippi River, New Orleans author C. Morgan Babst’s debut novel, “The Floating World,” sings the world of aftermath—of devastation, desire, the city’s dead. Here is the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, above and beyond the ruptured levees, inside the psyche of a family wrought with longing and despair at the sight and reek of their drowned home. The five members and three generations of the Boisdoré family reveal this story in ribboning, intersecting storylines, emphasizing the truth of the novel’s epigraph from Virgil’s “Aeneid”: “Each must be his own hope.”
Bay Area author, alumna of Harvard, Radcliffe, and UC Berkeley, Hilary Zaid surprises, and her debut novel, “Paper is White,” is indeed an astonishing and successful surprise. Balancing weighted subjects with blue skies and beautiful slices of cake, with wedding arrangements and secret encounters, Zaid measures out humor with generosity, hope with passion, even grief with impossible understanding. Through narrative spun in first person, lead character and heroine Ellen Margolis finds her way in late 90s San Francisco, where elderly Holocaust survivors reveal their stories, relationships grow close and become divided, and the past lies like a wedding veil across the future.
"I surprised myself... by appearing at eight o'clock, outside the mosque... The beauty of the morning was another surprise: it reminded me of my earliest experiences of America. New York was my first introduction to the possibilities of light, crashing through gaps in curtains, transforming people and sidewalks and buildings into golden icons, or black shadows, depending on where they stood in relation to the sun. But the light in front of the mosque... this light was something else again. It buzzed and held you in its heat, it was thick, alive with pollen and insects and birds, and because nothing higher than one story interrupted its path, it gave all its gifts at once, blessing everything equally, an explosion of simultaneous illumination."
- from SWING TIME, by Zadie Smith
“Sleep, sleep, sleep," my mother says. But I cannot help thinking about waking the next morning. To the white and pink light, to the green-winged pigeon’s murmuring, to the breathing of my brothers, to my uncle already speaking his mind to the pig. To rolling from my sleeping, my twisted covers, my corner mattress. To touching one toe to the floor, my own luck for the new year.
- from "Waking" - Rappahannock Review, Issue 2.1, Winter 2015
Last year the fiction editors of Rappahannock Review accepted my story "Waking," and later they asked if I'd agree to an interview. Of course, I said yes, knowing how much this would help me think about the larger project of which the story is a very small, yet important part. I loved responding to the thoughtful questions, which moved from inspiration for the piece to its quiet acts of rebellion. The interview is now live at Rappahannock's Contributor Spotlight.
Heat, sand, salt.
Wearing next to nothing.
Drinking iced gin laced with lime and tonic from tall sweating glasses.
In the meantime, nearly a winter's worth of work!
A brand-new website: karinceciledavidson.com. Right here! The old one vanished, and this one is not only pretty, but powerful. THUNDER ON A THURSDAY, my blog, is still ready and willing. The STORIES page lists my publications and awards, and the INTERVIEWS page lists all Newfound Journal interviews, as well as an archive of all the Hothouse interviews from the Poppy Series. Under the GALLERY page, I've added story snippets with photos and links, along with images that inspire me. Plus the typical things: my bio is found in ABOUT and you can get in touch via CONTACT. Very soon, I'll add an EDITING page which will offer manuscript consultation and editing services for short stories, chapbooks, story collections, and novels. Many winter hours were spent building this author website, with special thanks to Nicolette Swift for guiding me, redirecting the old domain to the new one, and designing the sweet little moon snail favicon that sits aside the web address. A round of applause to F. Anne Michel for the cover photo as well! I'm happy to have this work behind me, so I can get back to another kind of creating!
And that would be THE NOVEL. In the final stretch of revisions. Certainly and thankfully, the snow and ice will keep me inside and at the desk. And my reward for reaching the last chapter, the last page, the last word? Summer! Heat, sand, and salt, especially the brine of the ocean. Until then, head down, inside the writing, coming up for air only to catch my breath and dive in again. Until the work is finally done.