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new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Fest of Italian books and culture; fiction and old photos

Books fest in the North End

I Am Books, a diminutive independent bookstore with an Italian focus in Boston’s North End, has organized a two-day festival taking place for the first time Nov. 2 and 3 in Cambridge.

IDEA Boston is a celebration of Italian books, authors, and culture, and the festival will include a number of panel discussions, a film screening, music, workshops, and a variety of presentations. Panel topics include “Why Study the Italian Classics,” “Getting Italian Americans into Print,” “Italian Jewish Writers: Emancipation, Persecution, Memory,” and “The Elena Ferrante Phenomenon,” with Michael Reynolds, editor-in-chief of Europa Editions, Ferrante’s English-language publisher.

Other highlights include the Caldecott-winning illustrator Tomie dePaola, local writer and actress Marianne Leone, and Mary Ann Esposito, creator and host of the longest running cooking show on television, “Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito.’’ The festival takes place in the Dante Alighieri building, 41 Hampshire St. For a complete schedule and ticket pricing, visit ideaboston.com.

Finding ghosts in the photographs

Brookline-based Rose Metal Press, which specializes in books that live in between genres, is putting out an enticing collection this week calledGhostographs: An Album’’ by Maria Romasco Moore. The book pairs antique photographs with fiction — tiny short stories, character sketches — putting flesh on images, answering the questions that rise when we’re faced with photos from long ago: Who was this person? What is this place? And Moore succeeds in asking even more than that: Who were we before and who now and tomorrow? The accompanying photos are faded, frayed-edged images found in a chocolate box at an antique market when Moore was a child, and peopled with troublemakers, lots of aunts, a strong and wide-cheeked woman named Mabel who wears a coat “made of the skin of something,” maybe bear, but “probably the skin of the night sky.” With an atmosphere somewhere between Edgar Lee Masters’s “Spoon River Anthology’’ and the short stories of Kelly Link, Moore’s book glows with good light and strange haunt.


New poems from Myles

Eileen Myles’s recently released collection, Evolution’’ (Grove), marks the Cambridge-born writer’s first book of new poems since 2011, and it moves with Myles’s propulsive and eye-wide energy and attention. The lines, often short, a word or two or three, have a conversational pulse, a listen-to-this thrust, forthright, funny now and then, and most of all alive. The pieces are both intimate — candid talk of sex and exes, of the poet’s mother, siblings, friends — and political; they are attuned to the specific horror and absurdity of this moment. This is a voice from here, critical, attentive, exultant: “The ripple/of experience is the/only beauty here.


Coming out

Northwood’’ by Maryse Meijer (Catapult)

Death and Other Holidays’’ by Marci Vogel (Melville House)

The Naked Woman’’ by Armonía Somers, translated from the Spanish by Kit Maude (Feminist)

Pick of the week

Kristen Bezner at Belmont Books, in Belmont, recommends The Seas’’ by Samantha Hunt (Tin House): “A modern fairy tale about a girl (who may or may not be a mermaid) growing into uneasy womanhood and being torn between staying in her small town waiting for her disappeared father to return, and running away into a larger world with the man she loves. This story is a siren song that will call to the parts of your heart that have never wanted more than to drift away on the ocean tides to a new home.”


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Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.