Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Freebie: A Graywolf Threebie--Red Plenty by Francis Spufford, The Life of an Unknown Man by Andreï Makine and The Legend of Pradeep Mathew by Shehan Karunatilaka

Congratulations to James Stolen, winner of last week's Friday Freebie: The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows by Brian Castner.

This week's book giveaway is a triple-scoop treat from Graywolf Press: Red Plenty by Francis Spufford, The Life of an Unknown Man by Andreï Makine and The Legend of Pradeep Mathew by Shehan Karunatilaka.  We're well past the middle of summer and by now your "beach reads" are probably depleted.  While Graywolf books aren't exactly light brain food on the order of 50 Shades of James Patterson, they're a lot healthier for you--full of 8 essential literary vitamins and minerals.  So whether you're going to the beach, the forest, or the in-laws in Wisconsin, why not skip the junk food and pack a 'wolf (or two or three) in your luggage?  This week's Friday Freebie serves up some tantalizing international cuisine.  Blurbs and publisher's jacket copy follow.

Nick Hornby, writing in The Believer, called Red Plenty "a hammer-and-sickle version of Altman’s Nashville, with central committees replacing country music.  [Spufford] has one of the most original minds in contemporary literature."  What it's about: Strange as it may seem, the gray, oppressive USSR was founded on a fairy tale. It was built on the twentieth-century magic called “the planned economy,” which was going to gush forth an abundance of good things that the lands of capitalism could never match. And just for a little while, in the heady years of the late 1950s, the magic seemed to be working. Red Plenty is about that moment in history, and how it came, and how it went away; about the brief era when, under the rash leadership of Khrushchev, the Soviet Union looked forward to a future of rich communists and envious capitalists, when Moscow would out-glitter Manhattan and every Lada would be better engineered than a Porsche. It’s about the scientists who did their genuinely brilliant best to make the dream come true, to give the tyranny its happy ending. Red Plenty is history, it’s fiction, it’s as ambitious as Sputnik, as uncompromising as an Aeroflot flight attendant, and as different from what you were expecting as a glass of Soviet champagne.

The Observer praised The Life of an Unknown Man thusly: "Like all [Makine's] work, this novel has a wonderful flavor of a contemporary Chekhov with a splash of Proust.  What starts out an intimate account bursts out into something more ambitious and universal. Ultimately it's a haunting story, beautifully told."  What it's about: In The Life of an Unknown Man, Andreï Makine explores what truly matters in life through the prism of Russia's past and present.  Shutov, a disenchanted writer, revisits St. Petersburg after twenty years of exile in Paris, hoping to recapture his youth. Instead, he meets Volsky, an old man who tells him his extraordinary story: of surviving the siege of Leningrad, the march on Berlin, and Stalin's purges, and of a transcendent love affair. Volsky's life is an inspiration to Shutov--because for all that he suffered, he knew great happiness. This depth of feeling stands in sharp contrast to the empty lives Shutov encounters in the new Russia, and to his own life, that of just another unknown man.

Jamil Zaidi at The Elliott Bay Book Company raved about The Legend of Pradeep Mathew by saying, "This is one of the most astonishing novels I've read in a long, long while. The Legend of Pradeep Matthew transcends fiction archetypes and takes on a rhythmic, breathing, life force of its own. Just when you think you've got the story pegged, it refracts in a direction you didn't expect towards a conclusion that doesn't seem possible. Yes, there is cricket in this novel, but there is much, much more. To refer to The Legend of Pradeep Mathew as a book about cricket is a sin tantamount to calling Moby Dick a book about a whale. I have not felt that tingle at the back of my neck since my first experiences with Murakami and Bolano."  What it's about: Aging sportswriter W.G. Karunasena's liver is shot. Years of drinking have seen to that. As his health fades, he embarks with his friend Ari on a madcap search for legendary cricket bowler Pradeep Mathew. En route they discover a mysterious six-fingered coach, a Tamil Tiger warlord, and startling truths about their beloved sport and country. A prizewinner in Sri Lanka, and a sensation in India and Britain, The Legend of Pradeep Mathew is a nimble and original debut that blends cricket and the history of modern Sri Lanka into a vivid and comedic swirl.

If you'd like a chance at winning a copy of all three books, all you have to do is email your name and mailing address to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on Aug. 2at which time I'll draw the winning name. I'll announce the lucky reader on Aug. 3.  If you'd like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week Quivering Pen newsletter, simply add the words "Sign me up for the newsletter" in the body of your email.  Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning?  Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter.  Once you've done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying "I've shared" and I'll put your name in the hat twice.

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