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Archive by author: Return
Jul 23, 2021

The author of the book behind TV smash The Undoing talks about her new novel The Plot, a thriller about plagiarism – and how she fell for Hugh Grant

In January 2020, the American novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz was “all in all, not in a great place”, despite the runaway success of the HBO series The Undoing, based on her novel You Should Have Known. She was extremely anxious about a new virus in China that she was reading about (she reads a lot of books on epidemiology). “I was pretty much the only person I knew at that point who was really freaking out,” she says cheerfully from her bedroom in upstate New York, her dog Sherlock snoozing serenely beside her. “And I was really freaking out. It felt like we were in the opening chapters of Stephen King’s The Stand.” She was also furious about the first impeachment of President Trump, the outcome of which seemed all too clear. “I think if I had been scared without being angry, or I had been angry without being scared, it wouldn’t have been so combustible, but I was both.”

More personally, she was exhausted by wrestling with the second draft of a novel that was refusing to come together. She was so nervous about a meeting with her editor, who had already turned the book down once, that she forced her husband, the Pulitzer prize-winning Irish poet Paul Muldoon, to come with her. He waited in a nearby coffee shop while she went off to her publishers in a state of “total meltdown”. Her editor still didn’t think the book was ready, but suddenly an idea “just popped” into Korelitz’s head, and she began outlining a story that she barely knew herself. “I’d gone into that meeting unable to sell one novel and apparently I had left with a two-book deal, which I’ve never had before.”

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Jul 23, 2021

Widespread Panic by James Ellroy; People Like Them by Samira Sedira; Razorblade Tears by SA Cosby; The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell; and Whitethroat by James Henry

King of macho noir James Ellroy has taken time out midway through his second LA Quartet for a standalone novel, Widespread Panic (William Heinemann, £20). Star of the show is Fred Otash, a real-life police officer turned PI and collector of celebrity scuttlebutt for Confidential magazine, who died of a coronory in 1992. Using pile-driving alliteration – Old English epic meets 50s scandal rag – Otash recounts from purgatory his life in postwar Hollywood when, fuelled by a potent cocktail of Dexedrine and Old Crow bourbon, he dug and (for a suitable fee) sometimes reburied dirt on the real-life stars of the day. He also embroiled himself in their lives, arguably breaking his own rules (“I’ll do anything short of murder. I’ll work for anyone but the Reds”) in the process. The various plot strands include arranging Rock Hudson’s marriage blanc, protecting Jack Kennedy’s political career and turning police informer, but these are only a few landmarks in a sleazy landscape of dirty laundry, some already well aired, some less known and some invented. Cynical, relentless, and – to Ellroy fans, at least – familiar territory, but well worth the read.

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Jul 23, 2021
“The culture shock of defeat is my archetypal image,” the photographer Shomei Tomatsu (1930–2012) once said. “No matter where I go, I carry the shadow of war.” And Daido Moriyama (born in 1938), whom Tomatsu mentored, declared: “I wanted to go to the end of photography.” The two artists, relatively close in age, began their […]
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Jul 23, 2021
“I was concerned an actual apocalypse might arrive while my novel about a fictional one was still in copyediting.” Geoff Rodkey on accepting the realities of civilization-ending calamity. | Lit Hub On the opposite of hapless: Arika Okrent explains why negative descriptors tend to outlast their positive counterparts. | Lit Hub Nick McDonell talks to […]
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Jul 23, 2021

The author on his envy of Philip Pullman’s world, imitating Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and struggling with Don Quixote

The book I am currently reading
Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun. He has pulled off the most extraordinary thing, of putting the reader inside an artificial mind. He makes it look so easy.

The book that changed my life
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. I read it right before my final department exams (art history) in my senior year in college and was so smitten that I attempted to imitate its style on my exam answers, with predictable results. This book might be the reason I’m not an art historian.

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Jul 23, 2021
In the 1940s and 50s the Book Review’s pages were full of ads for books on the extraterrestrial and dystopian.
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Jul 23, 2021
I recently had the chance to talk with ecologist, professor, activist, and writer Carl Safina about his most recent book, Becoming Wild. It’s a precise and lyrical account of his investigations into three non-human cultures—sperm whale, scarlet macaw, and chimpanzee. In the company of some of the world’s foremost biologists, Safina sails and bushwhacks his […]
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Jul 23, 2021
Open Source is the world’s longest-running podcast. Christopher Lydon circles the big ideas in culture, the arts and politics with the smartest people in the world. It’s the kind of curious, critical, high-energy conversation we’re all missing nowadays. * We know their songs, not so much what they were going through, those Black women artists […]
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Jul 23, 2021
Some words seem to only have a grumpy, negative version. A person can be uncouth, unkempt and ruthless, but why can’t they be the opposite? In fact, at one time they could be. Some of these unpaired negative words were formed on the Old English layer of the language, when couth meant “known,” as well […]
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Jul 23, 2021
Hosted by Andrew Keen, Keen On features conversations with some of the world’s leading thinkers and writers about the economic, political, and technological issues being discussed in the news, right now. In this episode, Andrew is joined by Maureen Farrell, author of The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion, to […]
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Jul 23, 2021
Founded in October 2009 by Rebecca Fitting and Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, Greenlight Bookstore is an independent bookstore in Brooklyn, New York. Combining the best traditions of the neighborhood bookstore with carefully curated, community-minded events, Greenlight has earned a reputation as a literary destination. Greenlight has continued to serve its community during the COVID-19 pandemic with […]
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Jul 23, 2021
It’s not that hard to describe. “Grief is like a bomber circling round and dropping its bombs each time the circle brings it overhead” is C.S. Lewis’ evocation of it. At a time when we are all living with “disenfranchised grief” as a recent article has it, what can we learn from works of literature to […]
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Jul 23, 2021
It’s not like I wasn’t aware of the risk. Back in 2019, when I started writing Lights Out in Lincolnwood—a dark comedy about a privileged-but-hapless family’s attempts to navigate the sudden collapse of their wealthy New Jersey suburb’s entire technological infrastructure—I had a nagging sense that I should finish it as fast as possible, because […]
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Jul 23, 2021
I once interviewed Michael Chabon. To prepare, I read nearly every book he’d ever written. His latest novel was Moonglow, and I spent days absorbed in its pages. In that novel, readers get a cinematic depiction of the extraordinary life of Chabon’s grandfather, a World War II soldier and engineer obsessed with rockets, as narrated […]
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Jul 23, 2021
In this episode of New Books Network, G.P. Gottlieb talks to Karen Salyer McElmurray about her novel Wanting Radiance (UP of Kentucky, 2020). Fifteen-year-old Miracelle Loving hears the gunshot that kills her mother and runs to hold her while she dies. She spends the next two decades roaming, fortune telling and picking up odd jobs. Then, […]
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Jul 23, 2021

Twelve essays drawing on years of research into artificial intelligence ask challenging questions about humanity, art, religion and the way we live and love

In Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, a scientist creates life and is horrified by what he has done. Two centuries on, synthetic life, albeit in a far simpler form, has been created in a dish. What Shelley imagined has only now become possible. But as Jeanette Winterson points out in this essay collection, the achievements of science and technology always start out as fiction. Not everything that can be imagined can be realised, but nothing can be realised if it hasn’t been imagined first.

Take artificial intelligence. For now AI is a tool that we train to address specific tasks such as predicting the next Covid wave, but plenty of people have imagined that it could be something categorically different: a multitasking problem-solver whose capacity to understand and learn is equal or superior to ours. Many labs are working on this concept, which is called artificial general intelligence (AGI), and it could be a reality within decades. That’s how far imagination in technology has brought us. What can the artistic imagination add?

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Jul 22, 2021

A marvellous, confounding debut that moves from eerie Vietnamese forests to rundown zoos and crowded nightclubs


The twin spectres of colonialism and sexualised violence lurk in the humid Vietnamese air as two-headed snakes slither underfoot in Violet Kupersmith’s marvellous and confounding debut novel. Build Your House Around My Body is structured around the disappearance of 22-year-old Winnie, a Vietnamese American who arrives in Saigon in 2010 to teach English and ostensibly reconnect with her heritage. Yet the self-effacing, anxious Winnie seems more intent on drowning her inhibitions in meaningless sex and lukewarm beer. She feels an affinity neither with her expat colleagues nor the locals, but with the stray dogs who roam her street, “rangy and keen jawed and encrusted with ticks ... mixed breeds, like she was, and dirty like she was too”. Neither white nor Asian enough to feel comfortable with either designation, Winnie’s biracial identity renders her a perpetual outsider burdened by microaggressions and self-loathing.

Interwoven with Winnie’s story are spooky vignettes taking place in the days and decades before and after her vanishing. In some of the novel’s most thrilling and original sections, we follow ghost hunters from the Saigon Spirit Eradication Co in 2011, encounter a Vietnamese French schoolboy left on a mountain as the Japanese launch their coup in 1945, and meet a trio of childhood friends in the early 90s – the bland brothers Tan and Long, who pine for the headstrong and rather caricaturish Binh.

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Jul 22, 2021

Once There Was a Bear by Jane Riordan and Mark Burgess will channel the original books’ voice and pictorial style using details from Christopher Robin’s real life

The story of how Winnie-the-Pooh went from a Harrods toy shelf to the home of Christopher Robin and the Hundred Acre Wood is set to be told for the first time, in an official prequel to AA Milne’s original stories.

Winnie-the-Pooh: Once There Was a Bear has been written in the style of Milne by children’s writer Jane Riordan, with illustrations by Mark Burgess emulating the original drawings of EH Shepard. It is the first prequel to Milne’s books and poetry about the bear, and has been authorised by the estates of both Milne and Shepard.

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Jul 22, 2021
Suggested reading from critics and editors at The New York Times.
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Jul 22, 2021
Crown is publishing “Renegades: Born in the USA,” a book adaptation of the podcast conversations.
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Jul 22, 2021

Often the best ideas come from people who are not politicians – like the footballer’s campaign to feed hungry children, writes MP Jess Phillips

The accusation that someone is “playing politics” has become a regular slur among my political opponents. Most recently, Natalie Elphicke, who succeeded her husband as MP for Dover while he was under suspicion of sexual offences, accused Marcus Rashford of “playing politics”, suggesting that his desire to speak up about hungry schoolchildren had harmed his football skills and taken his eye off the ball.

The suggestion here is, of course, that politics is solely the pursuit of politicians and that when other people get involved, they are merely acting out a childish game. In fact, Rashford plays politics considerably better than Elphicke, because unlike her, he has led campaigns that galvanised a million people and changed government policy, and has a direct line to the prime minister. I’ll wager he is also better at kicking a ball. Two nil to Rashford.

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Jul 22, 2021
An unknown genius with a trunk full of poems: Richard Zenith on the mysteries and identities of Fernando Pessoa. | Lit Hub Biography “For so long, I have been trying to make sense of my body, my gender, all of this that has been dropped into my lap.” Matt Mitchell on building his own intersex canon of […]
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Jul 22, 2021
Juan Gabriel Vásquez sees his new story collection, “Songs for the Flames,” as part of a thriving literary landscape in Colombia because, he said, “places in conflict produce fiction.”
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Jul 22, 2021
“Better to Have Gone,” by Akash Kapur, recounts the haunting, heartbreaking history of Auroville, an intentional community in southern India where he and his wife were raised.
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Jul 22, 2021
In her best-selling thriller, “The Last Thing He Told Me,” a Silicon Valley wife learns the truth about her missing husband.
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