Jacket Copy
Books, authors and all things bookish
Scenes from the Brooklyn Book Festival

There's something about late September in New York. The air is clear, the heat of August dissipated like a summer blanket put away. In Little Italy, the San Genarro Festival stretches south from Houston Street like a line of living history; in the Bronx, the Yankees try to keep their playoff hopes alive.

And then there is the Brooklyn Book Festival, which on Sunday for the ninth time took over Columbus Park and Borough Hall -- a testament both to the city and to reading, which are inextricably connected in my mind.

I grew up in New York, and became a reader (and a writer) in the city, which is one of the many reasons I love the Brooklyn Book Festival; it's like a piece of my imagination come to life. For one day, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., tens of thousands of readers, writers, booksellers and publishers gather in celebration of the written word.

This year's participants included Roz Chast, Jeffery Renard Allen and Roxane Gay. Late in the afternoon, Jonathan Lethem talked with Jules...

Read more
Gabriel Garcia Marquez e-books coming soon

Nine books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez will be released as English-language e-books for the first time. American Spanish-speakers will get twice as much Garcia Marquez: 18 of his works will be released as e-books in Spanish.

Garcia Marquez, who died in April at age 87, was a beloved writer whose work is known worldwide. He was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize for literature and was known for bringing fantastic elements into literary fiction, a genre labeled "magic realism."

Publisher Vintage will release the first-ever e-book editions of Garcia Marquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera," "Chronicle of a Death Foretold," "The General in His Labyrinth," "Living to Tell the Tale," "News of a Kidnapping," "Of Love and Other Demons," "Strange Pilgrims," "The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor" and "Memories of My Melancholy Whores." 

The English-language rights to Garcia Marquez's best-known novel, "One Hundred Years of Solitude," are held by another publisher; it is not yet out as an e-book.

However, it...

Read more
'Wizard of Oz' creator L. Frank Baum to be subject of biopic

The wizard behind "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" will soon be getting his own movie. Author L. Frank Baum, who created Dorothy Gale, the Cowardly Lion and the Wicked Witch of the West, is the subject of a script that's just been picked up by New Line Cinema.

The film will focus on Baum's early years. The author was given to daydreaming as a child, and pursued several careers before finding success with his "Oz" books: he bred poultry, owned an import store and worked as a traveling salesman.

Baum was also a controversial figure. He was an early advocate of feminism and women's suffrage, perhaps because of the influence of his mother-in-law, Matilda Gage, an early feminist historian. "Gage certainly encouraged her son-in-law to publish the stories he told his children," writes Michelle Dean, although Gage died before the first "Oz" book was released.

The biopic, tentative titled "Road to Oz," was scripted by Josh Golden. The Hollywood Reporter notes that Golden's screenplay is a finalist...

Read more
Celebrate Banned Books Week with the 10 most-challenged books

Every year kids go to school or the library and bring back books that make some parents raise their eyebrows. Such language! Boy wizards! Sexual situations! Underpants!

There are formal complaints lodged -- more than you might expect in 2014. The American Library Assn. keeps an annual tally, and rather than hide those books away, it brings their challenges out in the open. 

This week is Banned Books Week, observed at libraries and bookstores nationwide. They celebrate books that long ago were the focus of legal battles over censorship, like "Lady Chatterley's Lover" by D.H. Lawrence, Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" and James Joyce's "Ulysses," as well as the most-banned and challenged book of the last year.

This year, Dav Pilkey makes the top 10, again, topping the list at No. 1. Never mind that his "Captain Underpants" series about two fourth graders and their silly superhero has sold tens of millions of copies -- it still makes parents and guardians crazy. Their official complaints include...

Read more
Literary journalist Gail Sheehy on her 'Daring' career

In her new memoir, "Daring: My Passages," literary journalist Gail Sheehy describes her struggles and triumphs as she made an imprint on the world of journalism starting out in the 1960s when it was a "man's world." At the heart of the memoir is the deep love she shared with the late Clay Felker, her mentor and editor at New York magazine.

Sheehy has written 16 books, including the groundbreaking nonfiction book "Passages," which sat on the New York Times bestseller list for three years and was named by the Library of Congress as one of the 10 most-influential books of our time. Sheehy is one of the original contributors to New York magazine and has been a contributing editor to Vanity Fair since 1984. Sheehy will be reading and signing her memoir at New Roads School at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Through your writing you have encouraged women to take risks and dare. Why do you think this tendency to hold back still exists so strongly among women?

I think we still have the hangover of being...

Read more
10 bookish movies coming in September

September is full of bookish film adaptations, with movies made from kids books, an international bestseller, a bestselling mystery and a couple of heart-stopping YA thrillers, of course. Here's what's in theaters, and what's coming soon.

Things are starting off with "The Maze Runner," adapted from the young adult novel by James Dashner. Opening wide this week, "The Maze Runner" follows a group of teens in a dystopian world, and the maze they confront. Our review finds it part "Lord of the Flies," part "Hunger Games" and part "Survivor."

There is another "The Hunger Games" installment coming, but not right away. "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1" doesn't arrive until Nov. 21. Here's the trailer.

Also out now are several film adaptations aimed at adults. "The Drop" is a Brooklyn gangster drama by Dennis Lehane ("Mystic River"), starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and James Gandolfini in his final role.

Lawrence Block's bestselling Matthew Scudder series is the basis for the thriller...

Read more
Riding with Easy Rawlins in Walter Mosley's 'Rose Gold'

In last year's "Little Green," we witnessed the literal rebirth of Walter Mosley's streetwise and down-home detective Easy Rawlins as he emerged from a two-month semi-coma into a strange new world — L.A.'s version of 1967's Summer of Love — and hunted down a lost black teenager in the city's hippie enclaves. Now, in "Rose Gold," his 13th adventure, set just afterword, Easy is charged with locating the heiress to a munitions fortune, Rosemary Goldsmith, who may have been kidnapped by an ex-boxer possibly turned revolutionary leader.

After 20 years as a private investigator, Rawlins is uniquely able to navigate the city's evolving landscape. He understands the shifting ethnic makeup of its neighborhoods, from East Los Angeles to Watts to the Hollywood Hills, as well as the codes of conduct that operate in each of them — no simple feat. Mosley's novels don't simply take place in the city or in just one section of the city; they are the city and its residents revealed through plot,...

Read more
'The Case Against the Supreme Court' pushes for reforms

Erwin Chemerinsky has made an exemplary career out of teaching, writing and lecturing about the U.S. Supreme Court. And though he has strongly liberal views, he is widely admired for his ability to explain the work of the court in a way that is thoughtful, clear and fair.

But in his new book, he says he regrets having painted "a generally favorable picture" of the court for generations of law students. "I discovered in my own mind I have been making excuses for the Court," says Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine Law School. "The Supreme Court is not the institution that I once revered."

With the mission to set the record straight, he weighs the court's role in America's history and pronounces it a failure. Rather than stand up for "liberty and justice for all," the court has regularly stood with the powerful and against the weak. The justices have ruled for slave-holders, segregationists, corporate bosses and the very wealthy, he writes, and ignored the rights of workers, consumers,...

Read more
Detroit's first free Write a House goes to Brooklyn poet

Nevermind the headlines about water shutoffs and a high-profile murder trial. Casey Rocheteau, a 29-year-old Brooklyn poet, will be packing up her things to move to Detroit in November.

She's the first winner of the Write a House Project, launched last year to give free homes to writers who commit to live and work in Detroit.

"I think of Detroit [as] this very sort of working-class city that is a hub of creativity," Rocheteau told the Detroit Free Press. "I'm thinking of a city that is currently undergoing this regeneration. It's a city that's seen a lot and taken a lot of abuse."

The project purchased a home in foreclosure, partnered with another local nonprofit to make major repairs  and invited writers to apply to be its writer-in-residence. Three hundred fifty did.

Rocheteau, who has published one poetry collection and has another on the way, emerged as the winner from a diverse list of 10 finalists. Former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins, one of the contest's judges, said of her...

Read more
Nicholas Carr's latest anti-technology rant, 'The Glass Cage'

With his 2010 bestseller, "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains," Nicholas Carr emerged as one of the Information Age's chief scaredy-cats.

But why stop at terrifying people about the Internet? Carr's new book, "The Glass Cage: Automation and Us," expands the field of his paranoia to computers in general rather than just the kind we use for looking things up on Wikipedia.

Carr has two angles of attack: One is the familiar warning that robots are going to take all the jobs and leave us to starve; the other is that we are becoming so reliant on computers to automate even the most complex mental tasks that we are going to forget how to think.

There's little point in rehashing the case against robots (Luddites, the smashing of machines, etc., are all brought in, as usual). Yes, machines are favored by the Man because they are always satisfied with their working conditions and never demand a raise. But back in 1954, union leader Walter Reuther decocted the true economic...

Read more
Prince Charles to be part of marathon Dylan Thomas reading

Well, his is the Prince of Wales.

Prince Charles will participate in a marathon reading of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas' work in October to celebrate the centenary of his birth, the BBC reports.

During his life and some time after his death in 1953, Thomas' reputation was colored by his bad behavior and heavy drinking. Yet as those criticisms faded, he has become a celebrated and beloved poet.

There have been many events celebrating 2014 as Thomas' centenary, but the October celebration in Swansea, his birthplace, will be the biggest.

The marathon reading will take place for 36 nonstop hours leading up to Thomas' 100th birthday, Oct. 27, ending at 11 p.m., the time he was born. The reading will include poems, letters, short stories and his play, "Under Milkwood."

Prince Charles, the royal patron of the Dylan Thomas 100 festival, has recorded the poem "Fern Hill," which is slated to be played in October.

"For National Poetry Day, I was very glad, if somewhat hesitant -- to be able to record...

Read more
Blame and forgiveness in David Bezmozgis' 'The Betrayers'

What does the novelist do in the face of history? Such a question, notes David Bezmozgis in his essay "The Novel in Real Time," once made Philip Roth worry about contemporary fiction, which he feared might be overwhelmed by "our absurd and almost unaccountable reality."

Bezmozgis' new novel "The Betrayers" is a case in point: the story of an Israeli politician who, on the losing side in a dispute over settlements, flees Tel Aviv with his young girlfriend for Yalta, in the Ukraine, where as a boy he spent a glorious summer with his parents.

In the real world, of course, Israel exploded in conflict in recent months, as did the Ukraine. On the one hand, this means "The Betrayers" couldn't be more timely, but on the other, timeliness is not what fiction does. As Bezmozgis (a New Yorker "20 Under 40" writer who has written one previous novel, "The Free World," as well as the collection "Natasha") acknowledges, "I felt frustrated that world events conspired to undermine my design for the...

Read more