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Named one of the country’s top young novelists by Granta this year, David Haynes is a funny, frank writer whose second novel, Live at Five, explores inner-city life and the news media. Mother Jones asked Haynes what he’d been reading and listening to lately. Here’s what he had to say about the upcoming CD release of the sound track from the current Broadway smash Rent (Geffen Records, 1996):

“Believe the hype: The score of Rent brings the energy and syntax of rock ‘n’ roll to the Broadway stage while doing what Broadway has always done best: matching catchy melodies with witty lyrics that tell a good story. If you haven’t heard, this is the late Jonathan Larson’s retelling of Puccini’s La Bohème, set in the East Village among an appealing crew of struggling artists and other counter-cultural types.”

Also recommended by Haynes:

In Theory of War (New York: Fawcett Book Group, 1994) by Joan Brady, a young white boy is sold into servitude following the Civil War, and his family is affected for generations. Based on a true story, Brady’s book is not an “It happened to us, too!” tale. Rather, it is a moving retrieval of a lost bit of American history — and a poignant reminder that history and tribal memory are more tenacious than some might hope.

Slyly political, Geoff Ryman’s novel Was (New York: Penguin, 1993) dissects one of the great icons of Americana — The Wizard of Oz. They’re all here: Dorothy, Toto, Judy, any number of witches, L. Frank Baum himself — and a lost and melancholy fan dying of AIDS. An engaging head trip that ultimately critiques the way we Americans tell our stories.

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