Please welcome Martha McPhee to Top Ten Land.
Barry Unsworth, a Top Ten contributor, has died of lung cancer. He was 81.
The New York Times reports: “Unsworth, considered one of the foremost historical novelists in English, was known for rich, densely textured fiction that conjured lost worlds — those of the Trojan War, medieval Europe and the Napoleonic age, among many others.
Our newest list comes from Lionel Shriver, who was reared in Raleigh, N.C. and now lives in London and Brooklyn.
John Irving’s 13th novel, “In One Person,” opens with a very funny scene about a young man whose efforts to check out a book are complicated by his lust for his local librarian.
While most readers will focus on the character’s aching tumescence, we Top Tenner’s have but one question: What book is he trying to check out?
We can also guess the answer, because it is one of Irving’s very books (pip, pip, hooray!).
Diana Abu-Jaber is the newest member of the Top Ten Family. She is a versatile writer of memoir, fiction and essays whose work focuses on the nexus and tension between identity and culture – a natural topic for Diana, the daughter of an Irish Catholic mother and Jordanian Muslim father.
Ann Patchett has offered an eloquent response to the Pulitzer committee that decided not to award a prize in fiction this year. She writes:
"Reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of sound-bite thinking, and staying within the world of a novel gives us the ability to be quiet and alone, two skills that are disappearing faster than the polar icecaps.