new england literary news

No shortage of van den Berg

Paul Yoon
Laura van den Berg.

No shortage of van den Berg

Not only does Boston-area writer Laura van den Berg have a short story in two of the premier annual anthologies, but her stories have been singled out as exemplars. “Opa-locka” about a pair of sisters who, down on their luck, hire themselves out as detectives, is among the 20 stories in “The O. Henry Prize Stories 2014” (Anchor), edited by Laura Furman, and is one of three stories selected as a juror’s favorite. “It’s a deceptively skilled story, ambitious in a superbly sneaky way,” juror Joan Silber wrote.

Van den Berg’s “Antarctica” is “The Best American Short Stories 2014,” edited by Jennifer Egan. In her introduction, Egan wrote, “If there was a single factor that decided whether a story ended up in my ongoing pile of contenders, it was its basic power to make me lose my bearings, to envelop me in a fictional world.” One of the stories she cites as bearing this power is van den Berg’s.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is releasing its “Best American” series of books on Tuesday.


The author of two acclaimed story collections, van den Berg has a debut novel, “Find Me” (Farrar, Straus, Giroux), coming out in February.

Poems of Lady Liberty

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In “Seeing Annie Sullivan” (Cedar Hill), Cambridge poet Denise Bergman explored the early life of Helen Keller’s teacher. In her new book, “A Woman in Pieces Crossed a Sea” (West End), Bergman examines another kind of female freedom fighter. Her poems chronicle and muse on the Statue of Liberty, moving from its creation in Colmar, France, to Bedloe’s Island, N.Y., where it sat in crates for a year: “The first nail is clawed from the crate,/ The foreman in charge/ pockets that nail, liberty’s release,/ liberty in the remaking.’’

Bergman will read from the book at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 at Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Cambridge.

She also is one of three poets who will kick off the New England Poetry Club’s fall reading series at 7 p.m. Monday in the Harvard-Yenching Common Room 136, 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge. That evening she will read from another book published this year, “The Telling” (Cervena Barva), about a child’s mistaken memory.

Also on the bill is Len Krisak, a former “Jeopardy!” champion whose “Afterimage” (Measure) examines the wonders of Horace and Ovid, Clark Kent, and the TV quiz show that boosted his bank account. Rounding out the program is Steven Riel whose “Fellow Odd Fellow” (Trio House) looks at the challenges of being gay and pays tribute to Kitty Carlisle, Robert Goulet, Lena Horne, Cyndi Lauper, and Tennessee Williams.

Updike update


The late John Updike’s signature “Olinger Stories,” published as a paperback original 50 years ago and out of print since around 1970, is getting a new life on Tuesday. Knopf is publishing a hardcover edition of the stories Updike once said are the ones he’d choose to represent himself. The 11 stories follow the life of one character from the age of 10 through manhood in the small Pennsylvania town of Olinger, loosely based on Updike’s hometown. The stories arose out of the details of his own life, as he wrote, “the only child, the small town, the grandparental home, the move in adolescence to a farm.”

Coming out

 “Slowing Time: Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door”by Barbara Mahany (Abingdon)

 “Dancing with Myself”by Billy Idol (Touchstone)

 “Nora Webster”by Colm Tóibín (Scribner)

Pick of the Week

Andrea Jones of Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick, Vt., recommends “A Sudden Light” by Garth Stein (Simon & Schuster): “A 14-year-old boy trying to patch his family back together and a centuries-old ghost drive this novel’s explorations of the connections between the living and the dead, parents and children, and what it means to be stewards of the land.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@