Born to Be Hurt

I hope I'll always retain a fan's enthusiasm, Sam Staggs declares at the beginning of Born to Be Hurt, his love letter to director Douglas Sirk's 1959 classic Imitation of Life. "Look what happens to those who don't: Their writings convince you that movies are punishment." Staggs, author of All About All About Eve, is nothing if not enthusiastic. Every page of his book is brimming with passionate devotion to the film that gave top billing to Lana Turner -- who serves up a campy performance as actress Lora Meredith -- but is remembered for the plot surrounding Lora's African-American nanny, Annie, and her light-skinned daughter, Sarah Jane, who rejects her mother and passes for white. Staggs' breathless interviews with Juanita Moore, who played Annie, and Susan Kohner, who played Sarah Jane, greatly enrich the book, but the author doesn't stop there, turning up information on seemingly every other member of cast and crew. He also recounts the turbulence behind the scenes: The film was Turner's first following the murder of her gangster boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato, at the hands of her teenage daughter (a shaken Turner apparently became so hysterical filming Annie's funeral that her on-set hairdresser slapped her and then hugged her, a scene that itself sounds straight out of a sudsy melodrama). In dissecting the cult favorite, which was reviled by reviewers upon its release but has since been reappraised, Staggs manages to bring in Thoreau, Nietzsche, and Shakespeare, making this infectious book as over-the-top as, well, a Douglas Sirk film.

April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.