Hubert's Freaks: The Rare Book Dealer, the Times Square Talker, and the Lost Photos of Diane Arbus

If collecting is an art form, then a collector - like many a troubled artist -- also may have his demons. Such is the conclusion of Gregory Gibson's account of collector Bob Langmuir's picaresque pursuit of a trove of lost photographs by Diane Arbus. Like Arbus, Langmuir was an aficionado of the "Old, Weird America" -- Greil Marcus's name for the semi-mythical demimonde of hucksters, tattooed vampires, and petty thieves who haunt the edges of American culture. As a collector, Langmuir graduated from old records to rare books to photographs and ephemera. He's primed for the score of a lifetime when he picks up the archive of Hubert's Dime Museum and Flea Circus, a Times Square sideshow, for a song. Entranced by the window it opens up on the world of its performers; only later does he realize that the archive include lost photographs by Diane Arbus, taken while she documented "American rites, manners, and customs" on a Guggenheim fellowship. But the very qualities that serve Langmuir so well as a collector -- his intensity, fervent imagination, and talent for jive-talking -- vex his relationships and confound his hopes; as Gibson's narrative unfolds, the question of whether Langmuir will survive the struggle within himself becomes every bit as compelling as the story of Arbus's rediscovered photographs. In the tradition of Joseph Mitchell and A. J. Liebling, this is a fine and riveting profile of troubled artists and the traces they leave behind.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.