Fresh out of graduate school, Holly Mattox is a young, newly married, and spirited poet who moves to New York City from Minnesota in the early seventies. Hoping to share her passion for words and social justice, she decides to teach poetry at the Women’s House of Detention on Rikers Island, only minutes from Manhattan. There Holly meets a woman who will change her life forever: Polly Lyle Clement, an inmate who claims that she is a descendant of Mark Twain and is capable of channeling his voice. As Holly is caught up in the drama of her students’ lives, her identification with their despair leads her to lose all perspective on the nature of justice. And when she is drawn into an affair with a fellow poet, Holly risks all that is familiar and conventional in her life.
Praise for Channeling Mark Twain:
National Book Award Finalist
“Muske-Dukes takes vast chances with both her voice and her subject matter, and ends up with a work strongly based on reality, but unquestionably elevated into the wondrous realm of art.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“This is a novel that asks all the right questions–about writing, about life, about our common humanity.” –The Times-Picayune
“A gripping story complete with a politically charged narrative, sexual tension and vividly drawn characters.” –Time Out New York
“Riveting . . . a powerful story.” –The Washington Post
“Muske-Dukes shows us there is something magical and mighty in the connections that art can forge among human beings.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review
“[An] elegant work of prose.” –People (four stars)
“Deeply rewarding.” –The Wall Street Journal
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
About the Author
Carol Muske-Dukes is professor and founder of the graduate program in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California and also teaches at Columbia University. She is the author of three novels, including Life After Death, and seven poetry collections, including Sparrow, a National Book Award finalist, and An Octave Above Thunder, nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her collection of essays on Hollywood, Married to the Icepick Killer, was named a Best Book of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle. Muske-Dukes is the recipient of many awards, among them a Guggenheim fellowship. A former poetry columnist for the Los Angeles Times Book Review, she has reviewed and written extensively for The New York Times. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Muske-Dukes lives in New York City and Los Angeles.