Books: The trouble with publishing accused harassers; Ernie, Bert and authorial intent; the Brown family dynasty; and more book news

JK Rowling once surprised readers by telling them that all along, without mention in her books, one of her "Harry Potter" characters was gay.
(Justin Tallis / AFP/Getty Images)
Books Editor

Welcome! It’s sunny here in El Segundo. I’m Carolyn Kellogg with not one but two essays from Critics at Large this week, because it has been a big week for cultural questions in the world of books. Let’s get started.


Critic at Large Laila Lalami looks at two big recent essays from men accused of sexual harassment, broadcasters Jian Ghomeshi (in the New York Review of Books) and John Hockenberry (in Harper’s). “The decision to give prime space to accused predators may seem puzzling, but it has a lot to teach us about which stories are valued in the culture and which are not,” Lalami writes. She discusses an interview with the editor of the New York Review of Books, Ian Buruma, who found Ghomeshi’s story appealing, and ran it on the cover of an issue titled, “The Fall of Men.” Buruma, as you may have heard, subsequently left his position as NYRB editor, all in the space of a week.

Jian Ghomeshi exits a Toronto courthouse in 2016.
(Carlos Osorio / Toronto Star via Getty Images)


Ernie and Bert are gay, a former writer for “Sesame Street” said this week. No they’re not, said Frank Oz, the puppets’ creator. Who gets to decide? And how much does it matter? That’s what Critic at Large John Scalzi asks in this clever and insightful essay about the characters we love and author intent.

Ernie and Bert at the Skirball Cultural Center's "Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited."
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)


Reaching the top of the fiction list is “French Exit” by Patrick deWitt, who spoke with The Times about the book (and more) on the eve of its publication.

Entering the nonfiction list at No. 2 is “Fear: Trump in the White House” by veteran journalist Bob Woodward. Simon & Schuster announced this week that it’s the publisher’s fastest-selling book ever, with 1.1 million copies sold nationwide in its first week.

You can find all the books on our bestseller lists here.

A customer looks at "Fear" by Bob Woodward at Costco in Alhambra.
(Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)


Miriam Pawel’s book “The Browns of California” looks at the family dynasty of Pat and Jerry Brown, the father-son governors who could hardly have been more different if they’d been from different parties. It’s not just a history, writes reviewer Nathan Deuel, because Pawel shows that “the Brown family and its home state of California [are] so key to understanding where America is and where it might be headed.”

Pat Brown and Jerry Brown circa the 1970s.
(Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.)


Stormy Daniels’ book “Full Disclosure” will be out Oct. 2, but the British newspaper the Guardian got hold of a copy and revealed some of its dirty parts — those about Donald Trump. The adult film actress says her alleged encounter with the not-yet-president was “the least impressive sex I’ve ever had.”

In print this week is Walton Muyumba’s review of “One Person, No Vote,” scholar Carol Anderson’s devastating portrait of voter disenfranchisement in America. The book, Muyumba writes, “is history as old-fashioned, coldblooded jeremiad: a lamentation about American democracy in crisis.”

A polling station at Miami Beach City Hall open for early voting on Aug. 13, 2018. Florida is "an electorally dark place for 1.7 million citizens," Anderson writes.
(Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)

Thanks for reading!