Novelist and book marketer M.J. Rose has a brilliant idea. Today is the day Dan Brown's new novel is out. Rose has started "buy+Brown" which suggests other books that you could buy in addition to Dan Brown's while you're in the bookstore (because why only buy one book?). My buy+brown suggestion is BEFORE I FORGET by Leonard Pitts Jr. I really loved this novel. I gobbled it up like turkey and dressing and greens and sweet potato pie (weather has turned fallish here in Colorado, which makes me think Thanksgiving). This book has so many great characters that you will root for and laugh with and cry over. Buy it. Buy it today even if you're planning to skip THE LOST SYMBOL. If you buy it and hate it, send me your receipt and I'll send you a copy of something else. How's that for a recommendation?
Leonard Pitts Jr. is also the next author I want you to meet. But before I introduce you to Pitts, what would you suggest for buy+Brown?
About Leonard Pitts Jr.
Leonard Pitts, Jr. is already a major voice in contemporary journalism, as his column (which won the 2004 Pulitzer for commentary) is syndicated to more than 200 papers. His writing is clear, simple, and direct, accessible but also engaged with truly urgent and substantive concerns. Both Jamie Foxx and Don Cheadle have expressed interest in bringing this work to the screen.
About BEFORE I FORGET
Before I Forget is the story of Mo Johnson, a faded soul star of the ’70s who learns he’s developed early-onset Alzheimer’s. Taking stock of his life, he’s overwhelmed with regrets. Most have to do with his 19-year-old son, Trey, who’s been involved in a stickup gone bad, and with his own father, Jack. When Mo learns Jack is dying, he takes Trey on a cross-country road trip to L.A., where Mo grew up and Jack still lives. As Mo tries to connect with the increasingly tuned-out Trey, he realizes that the grief and anger he carries over his own father have everything to do with his struggles with his son. Before I Forget is both an in-depth anatomy of fatherhood and an absorbing, brilliantly plotted piece of fiction—a multigenerational road story that spans rural Mississippi in the ’40s, swinging South Central L.A. in the ’50s, the soul music scene of the ’70s, right up to present-day L.A., Vegas, and Baltimore. In this sweeping, ambitious yet accessible first novel, Leonard Pitts, Jr. steps forward as a major new voice in American fiction. His writing reveals a profound understanding of the difficulties facing black men as they grapple with their role as fathers—as well as the crucial importance of fulfilling that role.
My Q&A with Leonard Pitts Jr.
White Readers Meet Black Authors: Describe your work for someone unfamiliar with it. What's your writing style like? What subjects/themes do you explore?
Leonard Pitts Jr.: I think good writing is analogous to good jazz: rhythmic, spontaneous and improvisatory. That’s usually what I’m going for. And I tend to write about a lot of things, but probably the theme that fascinates me most is prejudice in its many forms (e.g., anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny).
WRMBA: What's your latest novel about? What inspired this story?
LP: “Before I Forget” is the story of a dying man attempting to connect with the father he hates and the son he barely knows before time runs out. The story was inspired out of my own questions/concerns over how well or poorly I was doing as a father to my own kids. I think every conscientious parent goes through second (and third) thoughts. I wanted to toy with that theme and take it to an extreme.