Displaying articles for: October 2011

Mr. Fox

Helen Oyeyemi's vulpine tale finds frustrated novelist St. John Fox entertaining his supernatural Muse in the form of an all too flesh-and-blood woman named Mary, whose attempts to instruct and enlighten her protégé engender marital discord with Daphne, Fox's mortal wife. Thorne Smith and Jasper Fforde might look approvingly on this intrusion of literature and goddesses into life.

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The Best of Archy and Mehitabel

The rollicking, ribald, free-verse exploits of alley cat Mehitabel and cockroach-incarnated poet Archy have passed in and out of the public's attention since their debut nearly a century ago, in the pages of the New York Evening Sun. This new assemblage of their ruminations and exploits will insure that a whole new crop of readers can embrace the hijinks of the sensitive-souled bug and his randy feline pal.

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Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary's Life

If, as Churchill famously said, Russia was "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma," then at the dark core of the whole package resided the ever-unknowable Leon Trotsky. But Joshua Rubenstein's new biography goes a long way toward explicating the other Soviet founding father, delving deep into Trotsky's childhood to locate the formative experiences that rendered him a flawed, charismatic leader who had the misfortune to run afoul of Stalin.

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Lucky Break

British novelist Esther Freud (Hideous Kinky) turns her unflinching (but not uncaring) gaze on the life of the young actor -- with all its vanity and passion, lofty dreams and crushing blows. The author's talent is such that you'll care more about her three main characters, who meet as drama students and find varying levels of success, than you ever thought possible.

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The Boat to Redemption

When his father's ancestry is called into question during China's Cultural Revolution, a boy must leave his home on the shore and live among the boat people. Su Tong (Raise the Red Lantern) won the 2009 Asian Man Literary Award for this poignant coming-of-age tale in which a young man learns to navigate innocence and experience, land and sea, shame and pride.

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The Tigress of Forlì

In this thrill-a-minute, jaw-dropping biography of Caterina Sforza (1463–1509), female ruler of the province of Forlì, Elizabeth Lev puts us in the shoes of a Renaissance woman wielding unprecedented power. Following Sforza from her youth in the Milanese court through assassination-plagued marriages and a deadly rivalry with the Borgias, Lev charts a bloody, survivalist career for her heroine that will both appall and inspire.

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The Journals of Spalding Gray

In works such as Swimming to Cambodia, Spalding Gray turned the raw substance of his life into autobiographical monologues that poignantly balanced existential despair with mordant humor. But his journals, begun when Gray was 25, divulge even more about the man who seemingly left it all onstage, revealing an artist wildly ambivalent about his celebrity, whose protean depression would eventually lead him to commit suicide in 2004. Here, Nell Casey fills in the portrait of the man we came to love, but perhaps never really knew.

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Take This Man

French author Alice Zeniter is no late bloomer, publishing her first novel at age 16. Now 22, she brings us the story of Alice and Mad, two childhood friends of different backgrounds (she is white and French; he is neither) preparing to marry in order to prevent one of them from being deported. A revealing take on race and youthful rebellion, loyalty and personal growth from a lively new voice in contemporary French fiction.

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The Pursuit of Italy

Historian David Gilmour takes a revisionist view of the past two centuries when he argues in this new volume that the unification of Italy was a mistake, a yoking-together of many disparate strains never meant to huddle under one national umbrella. To bolster his thesis he introduces the reader to a wealth of famous figures, beautifully delineated historical moments, and slice-of-life, human-interest stories.

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Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin

At age 75, with new comedic material still flowing freely, Calvin Trillin shows no signs of halting his droll observations on modern life. But he and his fans can certainly be afforded a look backwards at his past four decades of brilliant humor writing, sampled in this hefty new volume. Poems, essays, and song lyrics vie to generate laughs aplenty, each barbed with a small quill of hard-earned wisdom.

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Elizabeth and Hazel

Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan have been united for decades by a single iconic image. In it, Bryan, who is white, angrily confronts Eckford, who is black, as she tries to enter Little Rock's all-white Central High School in September 1957, one of the handful of students known as the Little Rock Nine. David Margolick examines how this historic moment, captured when each was only 15, forever changed these women's lives, charting their complex relationship, from antagonists, to friends, to wary acquaintances.

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Some of My Lives

Rosamund Bernier's glamorous life has brought her into close contact with artists like Picasso and Matisse, musicians like Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland, and fashion luminaries like Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld. To mark her 95th birthday this month, the former Vogue European features editor, who went on to co-found the French art magazine L'Oeil and lecture frequently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is releasing a lively, conversational memoir chockablock with intimate anecdotes about her famous cohorts.

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Spencer Tracy

Iconic screen presence Spencer Tracy is the worthy subject of this in-depth, masterful account of his life. A bastion of solidity, simplicity, and competence in his films, Tracy proves to have been rather different away from the lens, a conflicted mix of faithfulness, passion, self-doubt, and bad behavior that James Curtis documents unflinchingly yet with immense empathy.

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The Taste of Salt

Martha Southgate's fluidly composed novel follows Josie, an African-American marine biologist who, despite her successes, cannot break free from the ties that tether her to her family, struggling with generations of addiction. This powerful narrative earns its oceanic themes, as it washes over the reader with tidal force.

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Fenway 1912

The one-hundredth anniversary of the construction of Boston's Fenway Park inspires this glowing, vivid account by Glenn Stout of the first Red Sox season in their new, architecturally cutting-edge headquarters. Never the biggest or most glamorous of fields, Fenway nonetheless has sheltered its share of glory and prowess, all of which emerge in this rich rendition of the 1912 season that culminated in the Sox facing World Series rivals the New York Giants.

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The Other Walk

One of America's finest literary critics brings us 45 short autobiographical pieces meditating on the necessity and delight of quiet contemplation in a busy existence. With topics ranging from a cherished photo of his son to the majesty of the Roman Colosseum, Sven Birkert's thoughtful and elegant pensées reveal the enchantment awaiting anyone who slows down long enough to look.

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What I Hate

An alphabetical list of the things we love about Roz Chast's wonderfully wry cartoons would stretch from the absolutely amazing way she captures everyday anxiety to the zig-zaggy line she employs to evoke a parade of zany characters. Here, the New Yorker staff cartoonist offers a hilarious compendium of the horrible and the merely irritating that makes us love her all the more.

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Deadline Artists

If the daily newspaper ever completely dies, then so will the reign of the great columnists, writers who used to enter our houses every morning, as familiar and welcome as good neighbors. This anthology collects representative work from the journalistic pantheon that stretches from Mark Twain to Maureen Dowd.

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My Dyslexia

As a boy, Philip Schultz struggled with words. He was 11 before he learned to read -- with great effort -- and his teachers dismissed him as a poor student, exiling him to "the Dummy Class." How did this kid go on to become a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet? After his son’s diagnosis finally shed light on his own learning disability, Schultz wrote this graceful memoir, offering a beguiling look inside the dyslexic mind.

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Eisenhower: The White House Years

Was Eisenhower the Leave It to Beaver president of myth? Or did the ex-General and war hero possess surprising depths and prowess? Jim Newton stands firmly in the latter camp, focusing on Eisenhower's years in office and revealing the majestic catalogue of his official accomplishments, from overseeing the creation of a national highway system to shepherding the USA's atomic arsenal to beating down the rancid politics of McCarthyism. 

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The Unraveling

Despite being one of the younger countries on the globe, Pakistan has accumulated an astonishing amount of turbulent history in the last half century, whose Gordian Knot is cut brilliantly here by State Department veteran John R. Schmidt. Examining Pakistan's emergence as a regional hot spot , Schmidt shows us why this country remains so vital to international affairs.

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Wunderkind

As a gifted piano student, Konstantin struggles to hold on to beauty and bravado among the bleakness and brutality of late-Cold War Bulgaria, where his talents are rigidly cultivated even as his independence is stifled. Nikolai Grozni tells the semi-autobiographical story of a place and time that, like childhood or a moving passage of music, exists now only in memory.

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Steve Jobs

"And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on," Steve Jobs once said about his coming of age. The news of his death has touched many of us who benefited from that curiosity and intuition for so long. As we remember his astonishing life of innovation, we look forward to Walter Isaacson's new biography of the man whose vision transformed the way we connect to the world, to each other, and to our selves.

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The Outlaw Album

In his first collection of short fiction, Daniel Woodrell returns to the Missouri Ozarks of his haunting "country noir" Winter’s Bone -- recently adapted as a ruggedly powerful film. These brief, explosive tales are like muzzle flashes in the night, momentarily illuminating a rogues gallery of characters who would be the “bad guys” in any other book. But Woodrell -- whose early novel, The Ones You Do, was a B&N Discover Great New Writers selection -- assembles these short takes into a compelling mosaic of life on the wrong side of the tracks.

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Plan B

Always have a backup plan. Cliché? David Kord Murray, author of the influential Borrowing Brilliance, thinks not. Even the most careful strategy isn't as good as the one that expects to change course -- and can thus improve on the original concept in unexpected ways. Examples abound, from Wal-Mart and Facebook to Eisenhower's nimble approach to D-Day.

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Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain

The autobiography of famed actor Hal Holbrook, best known for his portrayal of Mark Twain on stage and screen, reveals a man who overcame both material and spiritual hardships to reach a level of self-knowledge and composure rare in any individual. At age 86, Holbrook inhabits a vanished era in our nation's past when he recounts his childhood, evoking the early- and mid-twentieth century America that was closer to Twain's time than we are to it.

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Odd Bits

Those of us who turn green at the idea of eating spleen, nibbling neck, or tearing into a testicle, yet think nothing of devouring a perfectly prepared prime rib or burger, would do well to read Jennifer McLagan's culinary tribute to an animal's less-loved parts. With recipes like Headcheese for the Unconvinced, Minted Tripe and Pea Salad, and Sweetbreads with Morels and Fresh Fava Beans (paging Dr. Lecter), you may soon find yourself gobbling brains like a zombie.

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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…

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