Monday, February 28, 2005

The Appeal of Impropriety
image: Doubleday BooksToo Beautiful for You: Tales of Improper Behavior by Ron Liddle (Doubleday $19.95)
These delightfully evil stories will have you snickering, gasping, gagging, shaking your head and laughing. Guaranteed to appall and fascinate, these 11 deliciously distasteful tales will make you want to wipe your hands after putting it down.
Liddle's tribute to "improper behavior" is as fresh a concept for a collection of stories as I've ever heard, but even better, he has the literary talent to exploit it in full. more
Liddle gives us an uncomfortably close view of unpleasantness in many forms, while satirizing everyday hypocrises. Full of visceral images, cutting wit and beatiful language, these stories are surprising on many levels.
In "The Window" a man seeking to fake a suicide attempt gets more than he bargains for when he crosses paths with an irate office worker; "What the Thunder Said" offers a hot and sweaty look at a man having an affair with his mother-in-law, whom he dislikes intensely; in the screamingly funny "The Long, Long Road to Uttoxeter" is maimed in an accident but his lost limb is the last thing on his mind. The thoroughly appalling "Headhunter Gothic" starts with a man picking up a nurse while his wife is giving birth elsewhere in the hospital, and goes downhill from there; "Fucking Radu" offers up a cornucopia of monstrous people who seem all-too familiar; in the unexpectedly hilarious "Ring, Ring, goes the Bell" a high school principal and a homicidal student have a little talk.
Liddle, an associate editor of The Spectator in the UK, has served up a perfectly horrid little collection. And I mean that in the best possible way.
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Not Your Average Schoolteacher
image:HarperCollinsClever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley, the Spy Who Ushered in the McCarthy Era by Lauren Kessler (Perennial $14.95)
Elizabeth Bentley was descended from Puritans. Her mother's family, the Turrills, practically founded the town of New Milford Connecticut, where she was born. She attended Vassar on scholarship and went on to become a teacher at Foxcroft, an elite boarding school. Somewhere, Bentley's life took an unexpected detour: By the 1940s she had become the handler of one of the largest Russian spy networks in America, using sources at the highest levels of the U.S. government. When she turned on the Russians in 1945 and told her story to the FBI, she became infamous as "The Red Spy Queen" and the hearings resulting from her revelations kick-started the McCarthy Era. more
This fascinating biography recounts Bentley's life and describes her conversion to communism during the depression when she lived in New York City. Bentley's membership in the party morphed into espionage when she volunteered to spy on an employer (the Italian Embassy), and then when she was recruited and trained in more serious espionage by a Russian higher-up who would become her lover.
Born in New Milford Connecticut to a school-teacher and a businessman from Massachusetts, Bentley spent her early childhood in Connecticut. When she was seven, her parents left behind a large extended family and deep roots to follow her father Charles to various towns and various jobs (it is unclear why he left the newspaper job after only a year). Elizabeth remained a good student, but was always a loner, the fate of the new kid in town. Elizabeth Bentley would remain a loner, graduating from Vassar without making a single friend. Both her parents died before she started teaching at Foxcroft. In spite of the large family she and her parents had left behind in Connecticut, it appears neither Bentley nor her parents ever had contact with them again after they moved away. Why? The author makes much of Bentley's feelings of loneliness and isolation when she arrives back in New York from her Italian sojourn. Bentley is unemployed and barely able to scrape by at that point, and it would be natural for her to reconnect with her relatives (granparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) during those tough times, but Bentley considers herself adrift and alone, and the author never addresses or explains the absent family connection. This is a major hole in Bentley's story, because the author contends that Bentley's feelings of loneliness and isolation led her to join the communist party. The politically radicalized young Elizabeth wasn't destined to become a suburban housewife, but surrounded by family she probably would have exercised her beliefs very differently.
Nevertheless, this well researched and compelling tale succeeds as both biography and history -- full of sex, politics and intrigue, it recounts the private and political life of a woman who commits extraordinary crimes against her country, and also provides an intimate look at the rise of communism in America during and after the Depression, and the circumstances that lead to the McCarthy era.
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Dispelling Dark Forces
image:Broadway BooksThe Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us
by Martha Stout, ph.d. (Broadway Books $24.95)
This enlightening and disturbing book examines the unsettling statistic that four percent of Americans are sociopaths. If that doesn't sound like much, consider this: "There are more sociopaths among us than people who suffer from the much-publicized disorder of anorexia, four times as many sociopaths as schizophrenics, and one hundred times as many sociopaths as people diagnosed with a known scourge such as colon cancer," writes Stout. more
For most of us, the word sociopath conjurs up images of serial killers like Ted Bundy or Hannibal Lecter, but this is not always accurate. Sociopaths are not always murderers, explains Stout, but they always wreak emotional havoc in the lives of others because they feel no guilt, shame or remorse or empathy. Sociopaths have no conscience.
As a psychologist at Harvard Medical School who specializes in treating victims of emotional trauma, Stout says that many of her patients are victims of sociopaths in their families, whose emotional lives are shattered. "In helping my patients and their families cope with the harm done to their lives, and in studying their case histories, I have learned that the damage caused by the sociopaths among us is deep and lasting, often tragically lethal, and startlingly common," she writes. Helping people identify and avoid sociopaths and their destructive behavior is her motivation for writing this book.
After explaining just how a lack of conscience works, Stout offers checklist on how to recognize sociopaths (which you'll be applying to all the difficult people in your life, just to see) and offers case histories of sociopaths and their victims she has treated. From the destructive and self-involved CEO to the fake psychologist to the mean old lady to the killer whose daughter is Stout's patient, the case histories are the most compelling part of a truly compelling narrative. While the exposition at the end is a bit redundant, this is a riveting and necessary book.
Buy this book!

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Good Life
imgage:simonsays.comThe Accidental Hunter by Nelson George (Touchstone $13.00)
When a hot R&B singer is abducted from his car, security consultant D. Hunter is hired to deliver the ransom. That's just the beginning of this stylish mystery set in New York's music scene. Hunter owns a security firm that serves the sports and music worlds, and you'll be wondering who is who in this authentic portrayal of the famous at play and in danger.While on the trail of a mysterious biker gang, D. is asked to guard a singer while she works on her transition from pop tart to hip-hop hottie, and an unexpected attraction ensues. When he does act on the attraction between them, it is very troubling that D. doesn't share his HIV-positive status with the singer, but it is probably more true-to-life that anybody cares to admit. Kudos to the author for making D.'s health just a fact. It has affected his health and routine in small but important ways, but has no bearing on anything else. As maneuvers through the A-list maze of agents, lawyers hangouts and hangers-on, it's hard to tell friends from enemies, but D. does just fine.
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Love, Death & Politics
image: simonsays.comThe Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory (Touchstone Books $24.95)
Historian and author Philipa Gregory again delivers a gripping story surrounding the relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and the love of her life Sir Robert Dudley. more
Sir Robert and the Queen were childhood friends who met at the court of her father, King Henry VIII. In the turmoil that followed Henry's death, Elizabeth and Dudley were both imprisoned in the Tower of London by Queen Mary, Elizabeth's half-sister, and feared execution. So they had much in common and became even closer after Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1558. In appointing Dudley Master of the Horse and to the Privy Council, she assured him a prominent place at court and near her. Although Sir Robert was married to Amy Robsart, a woman in Norfolk, his relationship with Elizabeth was well known, as was the fact that they had discussed marriage. Gregory cleverly weaves what is known and what is unknown to offer a scenario to explain a mysterious death that has remained unsolved for centuries.
From the intimate perspective of four main players in the drama, builds an emotionally intimate page-turner filled with suspense. For Queen, Dudley, Robsart and Sir William Cecil, Elizabeth's closest advisor, a dangerous political situation and a painful emotional situation come to a head, resulting in a sudden death of Amy Robsart. The convenience of Lady Dudley's death immediately casts suspicions on Sir Robert and the Queen as well. Although an inquest ruled the death an accident, what really happened? Let Gregory tell you.
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Females with Bad Intentions
image:twbookmark.comDangerous Women Otto Penzler, ed. ($24.95 Mysterious Press)
This short-story collection celebrating very, very bad girls was edited by the venerable Otto Penzler, owner of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, and godfather of the city's mystery scene.
The 17 contributors are a Who's Who of crime and suspense fiction, each of whom weaves a disquieting tale of a dame up to no good. The powerfully written tales stay with you long after the lights are out. more

The opening story "Improvisation" by Ed McBain starts with the proverbial guy walking into a bar. Two women later he's dead; The collection has two standouts: Joyce Carol Oates' "Give Me Your Heart" a stunning tale of a woman scorned, so infused with paranoia it will give you goosebumps, and Jeffrey Deaver's "Born Bad" a tale of an alienated mother and daughter with a jaw-dropping twist.
Nelson DeMille's "Rendezvous" is a tense and blood-soaked tale of an encounter with a beautiful but deadly adversary during the Vietnam War. Walter Moseley's "Karma" is searing and violent in the traditon of Hammet. Ian Rankin's "Soft Spot," is a delightfuly improper and S.J. Rozan's "The Last Kiss" takes the idea of a woman on a mission to new heights.
All in all, a deliciously unpleasant compilation about the "fairer" sex.
Buy this book!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Second-Chance Love
image:penguinputnam.comMy Boyfriend's Back by Donna Hanover (Hudson Street Press $23.95)
You may have already seen Hanover, former First Lady of New York City, in one of her many television appearances promoting this book. As the appealingly cornball title suggests, it's about re-connecting with old loves, as she very happily did.
She recounts meeting her highschool sweetheart, Ed Oster more than thirty years after they broke up. They were married shortly afterwards.
As Hanover and Oster told their story of rekindled love to friends and acquaintances they discovered that they were part of a growing trend. more
Internet use has lead many couples to find each other again after years apart. After recounting the story of her reunion with Oster, Hanover tells the similar stories of a variety of couples who have found love in the same way.
Among the lovers is the actress Carol Channing, who reconnected with her highschool sweetheart and married him. They are both in their eighties.
Hanover describes the appeal of rekindled love as being the familiarity and trust which has already been established, thus making these relationships safer (most of the time) than starting over with someone completely new.
The stories of what broke the couples apart the first time around are as compelling as the reunions. Wars, families, bad timing, and in one case, stolen letters are all cited as having caused break-ups. This one is only for the seriously romantic.
By this book!

Monday, February 07, 2005

Bookblog Interview: Linda Fairstein
Linda Fairstein is a former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney in the Sex Crimes Unit and a New York Times best-selling author of seven crime novels featuring prosecutor Alexandra Cooper and NYPD Detective Mike Chapman. Fairstein's books are each centered around a city landmark or neighborhood and include alot of New York history along with the mystery. Her latest, Entombed, centers around a town house in Greenwich Village where Edgar Allan Poe once lived. In a recent interview, Fairstein talks about her new book, her research, food, what's coming up in her next book, and comments about the killer in most notorious case she prosecuted, the "Preppy Murder Case." more

There is so much historical content in your books - it's apparent you know the city and you love it. How much research do you do?
Tons of research. I first had a lot of access to parts of the city through the job (as prosecutor) I just love taking parts of New York that all of us think we know from the externals, and unlayering them, getting behind the scenes. So I really began in earnest in the second book, Likely to Die , because I set in a hospital that looks a lot like Bellevue and it was a where in fact there was a doctor was murdered during the night one night working in her office. So I love the idea of getting inside or behind what we think of as the most benign places in the city, that are populated by thousands of people every day, the hospital, that are bigger than the population of most towns in America. And from there I went to art museums and art galleries in Cold Hit and The Dead House was just a building that fascinated me on Roosevelt Island. With Entombed, both the physical places and then just the volumes of research about his life -- it caused me to re-read all of his works. I knew many of the short stories and most of the poems but I didn't know about the the other ten volumes of literary criticism and essays he'd written. So I got immersed again in Poe which was a great delight and then read biographies of Poe. Some really contemporaneous to his life and time, which were very different perspective from those written now, about 150 years later.

How did you decide to write about Poe for this book?
I read Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle as what were I considered by first real adult books at the age of 11 or 12. And I've always loved Poe not only the short stories but the poetry. And about four years ago I read newspaper stories that NYU was buying the little tenement that he lived in on Third Street to tear it down and build a law school. There was a lot of involvement by Mystery Writers of America and other groups who did not want the house torn down. It was of no architectural significance, it wasn't a landmark building for any other reason, but Poe lived there briefly before moving up to the Bronx. And I became fascinated. In many Poe stories he liked to entomb people, he liked to bury them alive. And he often said in his books that that was the most primal fear we all have, that we are going to be buried alive and that we are going to die a horrible death scratching our way out of something. So for weeks I would have this what if. What if they tear down this house that Poe lived in and find a skeleton? So it started with this very silly "what if" but I couldn't get it out of my head. The lawsuit went on and the writers' groups lost it and in fact the building was demolished. And I bought one of the bricks. The Mystery Writers of America bought a lot of the original 18th-century bricks and they put little brass plaques on them and for $40 they were selling them. So I bought a couple and put them on my writing desk for inspiration and it started me re-reading Poe stories. During which my husband said - my husband is from the Bronx - that he grew up near Poe Park-- I didn't know that. So we went up to the Bronx one day together and there is indeed, a little city park, and in it is a little white clapboard farm house [Poe Cottage] where he lived. And he used to walk every day in the botanical gardens. So I began to spend a lot of time researching there about places Poe had been, and that took me deeper into it. So that was great for Alex and Mike and it was great to be able to work so much of Poe's life into the book and it was great for the reader to learn there was that much of a connection with New York.

What are your favorite Poe Poems and stories?
My two favorite poems are The Raven and Annabel Lee. I love the sweetness of Annabel Lee. My favorite stories are The Cask of Amontillado and The Tell-tale Heart.

I love the way you write about food!
That's one of the things that's fun. I mean [Alex] has to eat somewhere, and why create fictional places when there are all these great places in New York? Alex shares with me the trait or the problem that she doesn't cook and then of course professional lifestyle - I rarely got out of that office before 7:30 or 8:30 at night. And so it is normal to be eating out three or four nights a week to be eating out somewhere and the rest of the eating taking out - deliveries, that great luxury of New York. And so [I write a lot about] Promola, my favorite Italian restaurant in the city, its consistently good food, it's wonderfully comfortable - I walk in - they used to see me walk in with detectives or my husband and they'd always find a corner for me. The humorous side is that now, since I've put them in every book, they have - my husband calls it my shrine to myself - they've got all my book jackets framed on the wall next to my favorite table. So it's fun to go in. When I'm writing I can create the scene and the mood depending on the day and the date or who she's with so that's a lot of fun.

There's always a point where Alex has to handle a false accusation from some teenager. How true to life are those scenes?
Dead-on accurate. These scenes come almost directly from cases. I mean, I never wrote the dialogue down, but I can recreate it in my head in a flash. In my non-fiction book and in many of my speeches it's something I refer to often. False reporting, or a real incident but lying about some aspect of it, is a very serious problem in sexual assault cases. It's a minority, its fewer than ten percent of the reports that come in, but it happens. That's what makes it so ugly for real victims because somebody encounters one person who lied and tends not to want to believe the next one. And so I enjoy putting these scenes in, for their realism and for the fact that this actually occurs. Here's Alex working on somebody's death or somebody's serial rape and in the middle of it, there's a person who's sucking the energy out of the police department and Alex and her colleagues with a false report. It shows how dangerous they are. And so I do try and put one in every book. One of the things that I dislike about crime fiction in books, in television and movies, is that the characters get the "real case" the skeleton in the basement, and all else stands still for them, there's no other new cases, that's what they work on day and night 'til they solve it. And that's just not real life, not in any police department not for Alex or any other prosecutor. The reality is you have the big case but you still have your datebook full of appointments from the week before, that you haven't seen yet, witnesses in an on-going case you haven't talked to, and by the way your beeper is still going off, the phone continues to ring, cases continue to happen and I mean nobody [has just one major case]. And so I just like showing that all this is going on. And Michael Connolly said when he wrote to me - because he spends a lot of time researching with police - he was so gracious to say that he really likes that in my books. And I like that too because it's real and its so rare that you see it in fiction.

What is happening in the future with Alex and Mike romantically?
I get more mail from fans and readers about that question than about anything else. [laughing]. And I'm very concerned about it because readers sense that she is beginning to understand - she hasn't said it out loud yet - that her feelings for [detective] Mike Chapman go deeper than this pal-around friendship they have. And I think she's keenly aware or probably going to express it soon that she's very worried about what becomes of their professional relationship, which they've had for ten years. Which certainly she can't work with him anymore, because the first time she would put him on the witness stand there would be the defense attorney who says, where'd you spend the night last night or are you doing this because alex cooper asked you to do it and were you in bed with here or are you doing this just so you could win the case. So it raises just enormous problems in the professional context. Since she doesn't age real time, since in each of these seven books there are just three months between books for her unlike the rest of us, I'm hoping readers will be patient while she tries to figure this out.

Are you working on your next book?
I'm well on the way [with the next book]. The next one takes Alex and Mike into the theater world in New York. Broadway - I'm doing the same thing - unlayering stories about broadway theaters, the Metropolitan Opera House, where, in fact, there was a murder in 1980 while there were 4,000 people sitting in the audience. It fascinates me that somebody, with a completely full audience and 400 employees backstage, disappears between acts and never comes back, and the orchestra played on and nobody even missed her. It takes me into the Metropolitan Opera House, the City Center and then a lot of theaters like the Belasco, which are supposed to have ghosts. The research just fascinating history of who lived in them and what terrible things have happened.

Robert Chambers, the killer in the most notorious case you prosecuted, was released last year and re-arrested days later on drug charges. Any thoughts?
Many times before he was released many people asked me if I thought he would kill again. His killing again wasn't [going to be] the problem. He's been addicted to drugs since he was 13. We proved that during the trial with records - He was kicked out of school at 13 for stealing a teacher's wallet and sent to his first attempt at rehab. And in jail, in 15 years of state prison when he had chances to be in detox programs, and there are good ones in prison, he chose not to, and was charged more than 15 times in fifteen years with drug infractions, of people smuggling drugs into him, that caused him to do most of his jail time in solitary. So if that wasn't a wake-up call to him - if killing a friend wasn't a wake-up call to him, nothing is. I don't meant this answer to sound like I have a crystal ball, but all of us who knew him, the detectives, the Levins [the victim's parents], the people who worked on the case, we all knew he'd be back [in prison] and the problem would be drugs. It's not brilliant of me, and it's not a crystal ball, it's just a sad fact about him.
Goodbye Geisha Girl
Out by Natsuo Kirino (Vintage Books $12.95)
Natsuo Kirino is the grande dame of Japanese Crime fiction and has written over 40 books, but this is her first title translated into English. What took so long?
This is really two novels: an outstanding suspense thriller and a scathing indictment of inequities of Japanese society. Kirino serves up a dark, violent and sophisticated thriller on par with the best of Val McDermid and Ruth Rendell, with some Pulp Fiction moments thrown in. more

Kirino portrays a side of Japanese society outsiders rarely see in this Tokyo noir. Four friends, working-class women who work the night-shift at a box lunch factory, become embroiled in a murder when one of them kills her abusive husband. The situation escalates when Masako, the most level-headed of the four, says she will help the terrified and hapless murderer Yayoi, dispose of the body. She soon realizes that effective disposal will mean...dismemberment. That's when the other two get involved. Why whould anyone in their right mind participate in something like this? Money. Through this horrible act the four women can find a way out of circumstances they each find unbearable, which they withstand in quiet despair or desperation. For each of them, the dead man is their last chance of escape, each from a different hell.
When a police investigation starts, the pressure fractures the friendship between the women, and when a gangster is accused of the crime, things get really ugly. Not to be missed.
Read an interview with Natsuo Kirino here.
Buy this book!
The Tell-tale Bones Entombed by Linda Fairstein (Scribner, $26.00)
Fairstein once again mixes her potent cocktail of crime and history, this time following the trail of Edgar Allan Poe in New York City. Faistein should really be given the key to the city. As a prosecutor, her exceptional work in trying cases was often the stuff of headlines. As a writer, she has carved out a franchise in the over-crowded mystery genre combining the city's oft-ignored history in each of her procedurals. more
Infused with the authenticity of her experience as a prosecutor, Fairstein's books offer a unique and infatuating perspective on the city.
New York prosecutor Alexandra Cooper is in the midst of investigating a brutal rape when a human skeleton is discovered walled in the basement of a brownstone owned by the NYU School of Law.The investigation into the skeleton's identity and the circumstances of the death start from an unlikely source: 19th century writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe, who lived in the house being demolished by the law school, and had a definite uh, thing about being buried alive. Both investigations move forward at a breakneck pace as Cooper and her partners in law and order Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace follow the Poe trail from the brownstone where he lived up to the Bronx where he moved to what is now Poe Cottage and the Bronx Botanical Gardens, where he lived and wandered while his young wife wasted away from an illness, and where an unknown group called The Raven Society keeps its documents. As the skeleton's identity is confirmed, Poeian themes of revenge and retribution from permeate the death, although the victim was no scholar. Interveaving suspense with her trademark historical background, fans of Poe will find this Cooper adventure to be a tour de force, full of the same themes in Poe's stories.Meanwhile, as they zero in on the identity of the rapist, who is determined to be a serial attacker from the past, Cooper and Chapman pull off the screamingly fantastic apprehension of the suspect just in the nick of time.
Buy this book!

Stocks, Bonds and Confusion
For Love and Money: A Novel of Stocks and Robbers by Leslie Glass (Ballantine Books $23.95)
A funny thing happened on the way through the plot here. It seems to have evaporated out from under the narrative. One major plot point is left dangling and unresolved, and since it involves murder, it's pretty hard to ignore. Another fades away and is never pursued. Another is resolved in a ludicrous and unbelievable fashion. This is neither mystery nor romance nor chick-lit, but an unsatisfying amalgam of all three forms, each half-developed. more

The flaws are a shame because Annie Custer, the protagonist of the story, is easy to like and sympathize with. She is a harried stockbroker with a deadbeat husband and two daughters running amok (actually just one runs amok, the other one almost never leaves her room). Then her maid quits. Then her best friend asks a favor. Carol, the best friend, asks Annie to handle her parent's opening of a brokerage account with a pile of stashed stocks and bonds they've had hidden in the house for years. Carol's mother is ill and she wants the funds put away and accounted for before something happens. She asks Annie to go to their house and remove the stock certificates, bonds, whatever else and open an account for them. Although it's illegal for her to remove anything from anywhere, Annie reluctantly agrees after she's assured that the parents' accountant will also be present. Of course the unthinkable occurs. By the time the certificates are being inventoried at Annie's firm later that day, a quarter of a million dollars in bonds is missing. Intriguing questions arise all through the story but are never answered, which makes this an exercise in frustration. The money belonged to Mrs. Teath (Carol's mom); why did Mr. Teath have it hidden away for years without telling anyone where it was? Where did Mrs. Teath get the money? It is mentioned that the money may have come from her father, who was either a mobster or a bootlegger or both -- and we will never know because the matter is never mentioned again. Where did the jewelry come from? Why didn't Carol confront her father about taking her mother's inherited (from whom? when?)jewelry after her death? Why is Mr. Teath saying his wife has cancer when she does not? Why is he never questioned by anyone when she dies of what seems to be starvation? Why doesn't Carol care that her mother was murdered? Why are the missing bonds more important than a murder? Why does Annie decide to stay with her husband and move to Florida? Why bother reading this?
Buy this book!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Glory Days of Australia's Pulp Fiction
Once upon a time these mass-produced books featuring lurid covers and lots of sex and violence were produced by an endless supply of writers, who were often burned out by the relentless deadline of one book a month. The Sydney Morning Herald takes a look back at the heyday of it's pulp fiction industry, and interviews the only woman who wrote the often banned books at the time, K.T. McCall.
"Gonzo" Writer Hunter S. Thompson Commits Suicide
The author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the infamous drug and alcohol-fueled trip to cover an anti-drug conference is a classic. Thompson was one of the founders of the egocentric "gonzo" journalism style, in which writers put themselves in the center of the story.
Russian Authorities Seize Pushkin Poems; Labels them Pornography
In an attack of literary schizophrenia, Russian police in Ivanovo, outside Moscow, have seized copies of literary giant Alexander Pushkin's early poetry, reports The Scotsman newspaper. Prosecutors and literary experts are "studying" the volumes of poetry to decide whether they constitute pornography, which is banned in Russia, or erotic literature which is allowed. If the volumes are found to be pornographic, booksellers could face jail time.
Pushkin (1799-1837) is to Russian literature what Shakespeare is to English literature. Not only are students required to study his works and learn quotations, but "allusions and quotes are sprinkled throughout everyday speech."
Lucien Carr Dies; Introduced Beat Writers
Journalist and editor Lucien Carr, who first brought together the Beat Poets succumbed to cancer Friday at his home in Washington, D.C. he was 79, reports AP. As a student at Columbia University in the 1940s, he befriended and introduced the three poets and writers who ignited the beat poetry movement in America in the 1950s: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg and William S. Burroughs.
Carr served two years in prison after stabbing a friend to death in 1944 while fending off "an unwanted homosexual advance." After he had dumped the body in the Hudson River, Kerouac and Ginsburg persuaded Carr to turn himself in. Carr went on to work as an editor for UPI.
He is survived by three sons, including Caleb Carr, author of The Alienist.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Found in Translation
Forget Condi, the translation of Alaa Al Aswany's The Yacoubian Building into English is the latest attempt to ease relations between the U.S. and the Arab world, reports China's Weekend Standard. Since the events of September 11, there has been a move toward increasing cultural awareness and understanding on both sides.
Biographers Suffer Privacy Decision
James Campbell writes a fascinating piece about the impact of a court decision in New York regarding writer Richard Wright's correspondence which ruled that a writer's letters are property of the writer (not the recipient) and are considered private because they were never meant for publication. In the aftermath of this decision, biographers of writers in particular are suffering.
In some cases, authors come to an agreement with the author's relative or estate, but Campbell was unable to reach an agreement with James Baldwin's sister and she refused permission to reprint any of his letters. Unfortunately his manuscript was written and quoted extensively from Baldwin's letters. "I was forced to extract the quotations from the text and liquefy them, so that they blended with my own prose. Baldwin's aphoristic sayings, his frantic and often funny accounts of his quarrels and complexes, his money worries and lovelorn complaints, all had to be told in my words, not his.
Bernard Stone, Founder of London's fabled Turret Bookshop, Dies
The Turret Bookshop opened in the 1960's, was the kind of place where the owner would offer you a glass of wine as you walked in. Bernard Stone, bibliophile made it the kind of safe haven/comfort zone where poets and writers and readers could spend hours talking about books, and sipping the ubiquitous cocktail, reports the UK's timesonline. Through the years he became friend, mentor and publisher to many established poets and writers, sometimes lending them money until the advance check arrived. Stone died on February 4 at 84.
New Booker International Prize Nominees Announced
The Man Group, plc. which sponors the UK's most prestigious literary award, The Man Booker Prize, this year inaugurates a new international literary lifetime achievement award (of sorts), the Man Booker International Prize. The £ 60,000 prize will be awarded once every two years. "This new prize goes a step further in highlighting one writer's continued creativity, development and overall contribution to world fiction," states the Booker International Prize website. The writers can be from anywhere in the world, but their works must be available in English. The eighteen contenders include four Nobel laureates: Gabriel García Marquez (Colombia), Nagib Mahfouz (Egypt), Günter Grass (Germany), and Saul Bellow (Canada), as well as the Muriel Spark (Scotland), Tomás Eloy Martinez (Argentina), Margaret Atwood (Canada), Stanislaw Lem (Poland), John Updike (U.S.) and others. Get the complete list with bios and works here. The winner will be announced in London in June.
First Lady Gets Peek at First Book
During their European visit, First Lady Barbara Bush and the President stopped in Mainz, Germany, home of Johannes Gutenberg, the man who developed the first printing press and printed the first book, known as the Gutenberg Bibles. Mrs. Bush requested a peek at the centuries old bible which is one of only six in the world. It was opened to her favorite passage in the bible, Psalm 91, reports the Dallas Morning News. But you don't have to fly to Germany to see the Gutenberg Bible, just click here.