After 20 years of nonstop change, it’s not surprising that Philadelphia has begun to produce a literature of transformation and loss.
Three recent books speak directly to this topic — Justin Coffin’s Fishtown Forget Me Not, Thomas Devaney’s Getting to Philadelphia, and Nathaniel Popkin’s Everything is Borrowed…
In Popkin’s Everything is Borrowed, the desire to chronicle the past becomes a disabling obsession for the novel’s main character, Nicholas Moscowitz. That’s a real problem since he’s an architect and has been commissioned to design a project in Queen Village.
Yet he can hardly look at the site without seeing the people and buildings that once populated it. The book features several real-life sites, including a former synagogue on Sixth Street where the Star of David was chiseled off during an apartment conversion. As Moscowitz conflates the city’s past with moments from his own past, he is forced to come to terms with what it means to impose your own mark on a place. Popkin’s latest novel, The Year of the Return, is set in 1976, the year of the Bicentennial, and also uses Philadelphia as a backdrop for reconciling the past and present.
In a new column, Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron comments on often-ignored aspects of the city's long construction boom. Journalists write about the grand (and not so grand) new buildings, but they have neither the space nor the time to keep track of what's been lost. "As you walk down the street," Saffron notes, "the absence of a familiar signpost will hit you out of the blue. When did that little repair shop close? What happened to all the Toynbee tiles that used to be embedded in Center City streets? Where did the guy who was always smoking on his front stoop go?" And she goes on to say that the job of tracking such subtractions has fallen to writers and poets. One of them is our author Nathaniel Popkin:
It took a while, but Kirkus Reviews has finally published its assessments of our two most recent books:
On HOMING: "Vividly detailed, present-tense prose … filled with adolescent angst, sadness, fears for his future, and anger at his parents.… The author has found peace, but pain and a sense of great loss permeate these pages. A thoughtful, moving account."
On BUSARA ROAD: "Sanders presents an engagingly written story with a dramatic historical underpinning.... A sensitive and vivid coming-of-age account in a compelling setting."
The bird is on the wing! Yesterday Mark Lyons launched his exceptional memoir HOMING to a standing-room-only crowd at Mt. Airy Nexus.
By the end of the event, the stock of books was sorely depleted, as were the chocolate cake, pepperoni roll-ups, and red wine. (Plenty of carrots and celery remained, however. Our readers must gravitate toward the decadent.)
If you're not in the photos here, you'll have another chance soon: Mark will be reading at Narberth Bookshop on Thursday, December 5, 7 p.m. If you love celery and carrots, we'd especially like to see you, since your cohort was underrepresented the first time.
Miriam Seidel, author of The Speed of Clouds, is appearing this weekend at PHILCON as a panelist: How climate change will change the climate of science fiction (Friday at 5 pm); Alternative history in the age of alternative facts (Saturday at 1 pm); and Compassionate Representation (Saturday at 10 pm). She will also do a reading (Sunday at 1 pm). Crowne Plaza Cherry Hill, Cherry Hill NJ.
Nathaniel Popkin will be in the Bay Area in early November promoting his new novel, The Year of the Return, published by Open Books. Check out the book on Amazon but, if possible, buy it instead at one of his readings:
The first copies of HOMING have arrived!
If you're unsure whether the pigeon is coming or going, you'll have to read the book to find out.
(The truth is, it's both coming and going. Complex and riveting story.)
Plans are shaping up for the West Coast tour by David Sanders, author of BUSARA ROAD. Here's a flyer from Alley Cat Books in San Francisco, where he'll be on Oct. 24.
The event is called "Freedom," appropriate for a novel about an independent boy discovering a newly independent country. If you're in SF on that day, help the cat escape! More info at the event page here.
Next month our author David Sanders brings his celebrated novel Busara Road back to his childhood stomping grounds on the West Coast. So far, stops are planned in San Francisco, Seattle, and Pacific Grove. See his website for details. If you're near any one of these cities, we hope you can stomp with him.