Famous Drownings in Literary History by Kevin Haworth

Publisher: CCLaP Publishing

What exactly does it mean to be young, Jewish and creative in 21st-century America? How do you reconcile a quiet life in the Midwest with a parallel life in Israel? And how do you fit in a five-year-old son with an interest in frilly dresses? Ohio professor and celebrated cultural essayist Kevin Haworth answers these questions and more in this, his debut full-length essay collection; and the answers are part Sloane Crosley, part Philip Roth, with a dash of Malcolm Gladwell’s intelligence and a pinch of Denis Johnson’s poetic style. 

Already the winner of a pre-publication grant from the Ohio Arts Council, from a former winner of the Samuel Goldberg Prize for Jewish fiction, this will be right up the alley of those who enjoy “The Believer” and “This American Life,” a charming but darkly tinged look at circumcision, terrorist bombers, the Catskills in the ’70s, and all the other confusing things that make up the life of post-9/11 Jewish American parents and artists.
My Thoughts:
Another great offering from CCLaP!
I’m a curious girl. It’s one of the reasons why I love to read. Information please! Besides the fact that this is wonderfully written it also satisfied my WANT TO KNOW ALL THE THINGS personality. 
When I find myself researching the topics brought up in a book I know it’s a winner. While reading this I whipped out my phone and started hunting for more information about the Dreyfus Affair. Not long after that I was reading all that I could find on the Hawks Nest Tunnel Disaster.
Famous Drawings in Literary History is intelligent, moving, and humorous. An admirable collection of essays, this is a book that I highly recommend.
Around the time of my near drowning I learned how to read. I read early and often and to the exclusion of most other normal childhood activities. I spread my books all over the floor like all children do and swam from one to the other in our small Brooklyn apartment. ~Kevin Haworth

Be sure to read this interview with the author 

Kevin Haworth’s first novel, The Discontinuity of Small Things, was awarded the Samuel Goldberg Prize for best Jewish fiction by a writer under 40. It was also recognized as runner-up for the 2006 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His collection of non-fiction essays, Famous Drownings in Literary History, was released by CCLaP in 2012, and won Kevin a pre-publication grant from the Ohio Arts CouncilA two-time resident of the Vermont Studio Center, he is also a winner of the David Dornstein Prize for Young Jewish Writers and the Permafrost Fiction Prize. His fiction and nonfiction appear in Sentence, ACM, Poetica, Permafrost, and others. He lives in Athens, Ohio with his wife, Rabbi Danielle Leshaw, and their two children, Zev and Ruthie. He teaches writing and literature at Ohio University

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Black Venus by James MacManus

Publication Date: May 2013

Source: Thank you to Veronica Grossman from Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc.


For readers who have been drawn to The Paris Wife or Woody Allen’s Midnight in ParisBlack Venus captures the artistic scene in the great French city decades earlier, when the likes of Dumas and Balzac argued literature in the cafes of the Left Bank. 

Amongst the bohemians the young Charles Baudelaire stood out—dressed impeccably thanks to an inheritance that was quickly vanishing. Still at work on the poems which he hoped would make his name, he spent his nights enjoying the alcohol, opium, and women who filled the seedy streets of the city.  

One woman would catch his eye—a beautiful Haitian cabaret singer named Jeanne Duval. Their lives would remain forever intertwined thereafter, and their romance would inspire his most infamous poems—leading to the banning of his masterwork Les Fleurs du Mal and a scandalous public trial for obscenity.  

James MacManus’s Black Venus recreates the classic Parisian literary world in vivid detail, complete with not just an affecting portrait of the famous poet but also his often misunderstood, much-maligned muse.

A vivid novel of Charles Baudelaire and his lover Jeanne Duval, the Haitian cabaret singer who inspired his most famous and controversial poems, set in nineteenth-century Paris.

My Thoughts:

I knew little about Charles Baudelaire and Jeanne Duval. It was a pleasure to get to know them in Black Venus. They were a seductive and intriguing couple that needed one another. Sadly they also annihilated one another. Their tempestuous relationship is at the heart of this novel.

Jeanne Duval was essential to Baudelaire’s poetry. Without her there would have been no Les Fleurs du Mal. The literary significance of that work cannot be understated.

About the Author

Baudelaire was charged with obscenity after Les Fleurs was published. Reading about the trial in which he was accused of creating an offense against public morals was compelling.

Certain books inspire me to learn more about the people and the settings contained therein. This was one of those books. I found myself looking up the clothes, the people, and the relationships described in Black Venus because I wanted more. That, to me, is a sign of a great book.

Black Venus is a bewitching and illuminating read that I highly recommend.