1967 -- A New Life

In a 1963 letter to his friend Rosemarie Beck, written while he was still planning his novel, Malamud said that he had originally wanted to do a book about Sacco and Vanzetti but had decided he could not match the power of the true story:

…so I settled for a combination of a blood ritual incident in pre-Soviet Russia, plus something like the Dreyfus incident. A man is put in prison, and there he must suffer out his existence with what he has and, in a sense, conceive himself again. It is, as you see, my old subject matter.

In a letter written at about the same time to his brother, Malamud confessed that his setting, pre-WWI Russia, was giving him problems: “You can imagine it takes a lot of nerve to write about a place as though one knew it. The result is that I often approach the writing with a kind of dread.” Biographer Philip Davis (Bernard Malamud: A Writer’s Life, 2007) tells us how Malamud got the title for his story of Yakov Bok, handyman:

When he was writing A New Life [his 1961 novel] in Oregon, Malamud had sometimes taken a room in the Frontier Hotel, on Second Street, Corvallis, where he could write all day undisturbed. There from a second-floor window he could see the sign of the local hardware shop of “Jim the Fixer.” It [his new novel] was to be the story not of some big-time operator who could fix everything, but an odd-job man who could mend or affect little.

July 22: On this day in 1941, on his twelfth wedding anniversary, Eugene O'Neill presented the just-finished manuscript of Long Day's Journey into Night to his wife, Carlotta.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.


What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.