19 November 2010

Featuring . . . What He's Poised to Do by Ben Greenman

This Friday and every Friday for the next several months I'll be featuring a book in the Harper Perennial Imprint. Some were recently published, some will be released later this year, all are worth a closer look.

Today's book is a little difficult to categorize. What He's Poised to Do is a collection of stories in which Ben Greenman explores the epistolary form by using written correspondence as a linking style. This is the summary from the publisher's website:

Ben Greenman is a writer of virtuosic range and uncanny emotional insight. . . . The stories in this new collection, What He's Poised to Do, showcase his wide range, yet are united by a shared sense of yearning, a concern with connections missed and lost, and a poignant attention to how we try to preserve and maintain those connections through the written word.

From a portrait of an unfaithful man contemplating his own free will to the saga of a young Cuban man's quixotic devotion to a woman he may never have met; and from a nineteenth-century weapons inventor's letter to his young daughter to an aging man's wistful memory of a summer love affair in a law office—each of these stories demonstrates Greenman's maturity as a chronicler of romantic angst both contemporary and timeless, and as an explorer of the ways our yearning for connection informs our selves and our souls.
The focus on relationships is what first drew me to this collection, but when I realized that Greenman was using letters as the major form of communication among characters, I knew I had to look closer. When I started reading reviews, here is what I found:
  • From the LA Times: "Greenman long has displayed a dazzling command of the language and a boundless imagination. . . . This slender volume is astonishing precisely for its depth of emotional engagement."
  • From The Literary Lotus: "[Greenman's] stories are at once weighty and genuine and light and breezy, as he subtly nudges hefty themes of permanence and transience, meaning, isolation and connection."
  • From Pop Matters: "[T]hese stories are, on the whole, so playfully inventive and they so accurately encapsulate the gulf that exists in male-female interaction, that I want to run out onto the balcony of my apartment and yell from there how snazzerific, how terrificadelic, how ├╝bertastic this book is to the people gathered below."
One of the unique aspects of Greenman's What He's Poised to Do is that it is, in a way, still being created, and you (yes, you!) can contribute if you're so moved. The companion blog Letters with Character is place where "readers [can] interact directly with literary characters." Greenman encourages you to write a love letter to your Mr. Darcy, tell Snipe what you really think of him, give advice to Anne Shirley, or warn Romeo not to drink the poison.

Currently there are 210 letters written to characters who have appeared across a broad range of genres and time periods. Take a look and think about participating.

Ben Greenman also has a personal website where you can learn more about him and his other books.

This book was featured as part of my Spotlight on the Harper Perennial imprint. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. See the alphabetized review index to see what others are saying. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.

What He's Poised to Do at Powell's
What He's Poised to Do at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780061987403


Sandy Nawrot 11/19/10, 6:33 AM  

Very creative idea! And I like short stories AND letters. Great feature (well, they're all great).

Anonymous,  11/19/10, 9:25 AM  

I remember seeing this book cover on The Olive Reader website and something about it just captured my attention. I'm so glad to read your review. The Letters with Character website sounds great, I'll have to head over there.

Gayle 11/19/10, 11:57 AM  

Hmmm. I want to read this. I tend to avoid stories because I love losing myself in novels, but this sounds excellent.

bermudaonion 11/19/10, 6:02 PM  

This sounds interesting! I can't wait to read a review.

Stephanie 11/19/10, 9:35 PM  

This one sounds really good and pretty different as well.

Rebecca Rasmussen 11/20/10, 11:13 AM  

I love the idea of readers being able to write letters to their literary favorites. I am blushing to think about what I might say to my Mr. Darcy.

Melissa 11/20/10, 11:42 AM  

I have this out from the library right now, and this makes me want to get to it sooner, rather than later!

Jenners 11/20/10, 3:50 PM  

I'm intrigued by the writing letters to literary characters bit. It sounds like a genius idea. I need to get me one of those one of these days!

Veens 11/21/10, 7:20 PM  

I love epistolary format of writing .. and this is so cool.

I am sure I will like this and I have read good reviews of the author's books.

Unknown 11/22/10, 1:26 PM  

I enjoy short stories and have felt that letter writing is a lost art and something I still enjoy doing, but I don't get many letters in reply anymore!

I'm looking forward to your Friday reviews of Harper Perennial Imprints. Ben Greenman and this book are going on my list and I will hopefully add many others.

~ Amy

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