Tuesday, August 2, 2011

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 29! Penultimania!

Whatever will the dozens of you think about after this challenge ends tomorrow?  It's so sad.  And what about all of the categories not covered by this formal 30 day challenge list?  How about favorite prison book?  Or the weirdest place you've read a book and what that book was?  Best book given to you as a gift?  We may need to create a whole new month's worth of categories.....Gianna will kill me.

Anyway, here it is, Day 29: The Book You're Currently Reading


This is the hardback cover.
UT Press cover to come.
I am currently re-reading a really wonderful book called Welcome to Utopia by Karen Valby. I always say this book surprised me because I had no expectation that I would like it. What I should say now is that this book keeps surprising me because I had no idea how much this book would end up meaning to me and so many of the people who have read it. I sold this book in hardcover when I was with Random House and when I left I took this book with me. The University of Texas Press will publish this in paper this May. I also took two boxes of paperclips, one manila folder, a stapler, and four Girl With a Dragon Tattoo shirts (actually I just found these in my garage). The paperclips are extremely handy but Welcome to Utopia is the best thing I took by a long shot.

Karen Valby was given an assignment by Entertainment Weekly to find a town that had not been impacted by pop culture. Utopia, Texas – population…a few hundred (they have no one to record the official population) – by the time Valby arrived in 2006 some pop culture had found its way but much of this town had remained untouched, and what was changing wasn’t going easily.

What I love most about this book is that there are so many moments, real moments, in these Utopians' lives that great novels are made of. Fathers, sons, ranchers, money, race, small towns vs. cities, war, humor, death and women...it’s all here. This book has heroes. Utopia sends its share of soldiers to the military, and yes heroes all, but the woman I think about so often is Kathy Wiekamp.  She saw three of her four boys go off to war along with her brother. Yet day in and day out, one foot in front of the other Kathy walks on; even after the tragic news of her oldest's death in Afghanistan she must keep going. Here is a beautiful scene from Welcome to Utopia as Jeff Weicamp is brought home:

When the limo rolled down Ranch to Market Road 187 into Utopia, every child in school, from pre – K to twelfth grad, stood silently on the sides of the road holding up American flags. The notice board in the town square was wrapped in ribbons, its simple block letters promising WIEKAMP FAMILY YOU HAVE OUR PRAYERS AND SYMPATHY. Toddlers wearing nothing but bathing suits and Velcro-tabbed sneakers held their parents’ hands and on whispered commands gave pudgy-fingered salutes. Tearful mothers of all the local young men and women who were stationed overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan held their breath as they watched the limo pass. And the dozens of old veterans who call Utopia home held their caps and cowboy hats to their hearts, their naked foreheads exposed to the merciless sun.

Can you imagine if your town did that?


Richard Mason,
hot author
I'm finishing a novel coming in the spring season for 2012 called The History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason.  The book tells the story of Piet Barol, a Dutch tutor who takes a job in a wealthy family's home in order to teach--and help to cure--the musically gifted son tortured by obsessive compulsive disorder.  The real meat of the book, however, deals with Piet's conquest of the Amsterdam in turn of the century (20th, not 21st) social circles, wooing the staff members and daughters of his employer, and ultimately seducing his wife.  There's a strong flair of the bawdy underground Victorian novel here.  Piet's conquests and adventures are, um, titillating.  In a different time, The History of a Pleasure Seeker would be the book you hide between your mattress and box springs.  Mason has written a vibrant, joyful novel with echoes of books like Brideshead Revisited, Tom Jones, and even Patricia Highsmith's Ripley.  Oh, and Richard Mason is easy to look at, too.


  1. Thinking about re-reading Utopia myself. What a wonderful book.

    Actually reading The Marriage Plot and The Barbarian Nurseries, both of which are excellent, so far.

  2. Utopia was/is a great read. Coming from a small town like Utopia myself, it hit a lot of nerves. I can't wait for the paperback edition to come out.