Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Freebie: Gregory Maguire and Ben Greenman

I'm offering up two books for this week's giveaway: Gregory Maguire's The Next Queen of Heaven and Ben Greenman's Celebrity Chekhov.

In The Next Queen of Heaven, Maguire takes a slight departure from his Wicked world in a tale set well outside the boundaries of Oz.  Booklist said of the novel:  "Quickly but delightfully read, Maguire’s new novel has as its canvas the entire little town of Thebes in Upstate New York.  His natural compassion for people’s quirks gives his razor-sharp satire on small-town life a comfortable bed on which to rest.  Maguire looks backward in time, to the advent of the new millennium in 2000.  His theme is that, at this significant historical moment, town characters, including the church-lady Leontina Scale and her profanity-spewing daughter and the gay choir director, now face having their personal choices being called into question but eventually seeing the disparate pieces of their lives reconciled. Amusing entertainment but with a serious side as well."  The Washington Post review called it a "and warmhearted exploration of the sacred and the profane."

Ben Greenman's short story collection Celebrity Chekhov is also a departure from the norm.  The author of What He's Poised to Do and several other works of fiction takes 19 stories by the Russian master and mashes them up with celebrities like "former friends Nicole and Paris" and "talk show host Dave."  This might just be literary reinvention at its finest hour.  In his introduction, Greenman writes:
If we should trap these celebrities inside Chekhov's stories, is it possible that their insides--the inner lives that are elided by the tabloids, paparazzi and the Internet--might be liberated?  That a story of straying husbands and nervous wives like "Bad Weather" might move us more as an accurate, even revealing portrait of a contemporary golfer named Tiger rather than the tale of a lawyer named Kvashin?  That a tragicomedy of young love like "At the Barber's" might be enhanced if it starred the singer, actor, and stage parent Billy Ray Cyrus rather than the locksmith Erast Ivanitch Yagodov?  It should be specified--stressed, even--that the famous personages transplanted into these pages are in no way intended to reflect the actual lives of the actual talk-show hosts, actresses, golfers, and singers whose names they share.  No celebrities were harmed in the making of this book.
I should also note that these two covers are among my favorite designs of the year.  A good cover can often make a big difference in how I approach what's inside.  Me, I can't wait to start reading these two books.

If you'd like a chance at winning both The Next Queen of Heaven and Celebrity Chekhov, all you have to do is correctly answer this question:

What two things does Gregory Maguire hate most about writing?  (The answer can be found on this page)

Email your answer to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  In order to give everyone a fair shake in the contest, please e-mail the answer, rather than posting it in the comments section.  The contest closes at midnight on Nov. 11, at which time I'll draw the winning name.  I'll announce the lucky reader on Nov. 12.

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