Planning on writing a prison scene? Worried your characters might sound a bit unrealistic? Then see if you can get your hands on the Bonne Terre dictionary. Written by inmates at a prison in Louisiana, the dictionary includes such idiosyncratic terms as “boat,” meaning a plastic bed, and “pumpkin,” meaning a new inmate.
What’s the deal with all of the novels about famous writers? Perhaps it has to do with the fact that, according to Heller McAlpin at The Literary Hub, “there’s a special frisson of pleasure in reading about writers’ early struggles when you know what the future holds for them—which in the case of most of these authors is posthumous literary acclaim beyond their wildest dreams.”
One Romanian woman may have committed “a barbarian crime against humanity” by incinerating a collection of seven famous paintings – including Picasso’s “Harlequin Head,” Monet’s “Waterloo Bridge, London,” and Gauguin’s “Girl in Front of Open Window.” Her excuse? It was in order to protect her son – a skilled art thief – from prosecution.
Bibliophiles will rejoice at The New York Times‘s current travel section, which is entirely book-dedicated. The staff lead with “Temples for the Literary Pilgrim,” which profiles jaw-dropping bookstores, cafés, and restaurants around the world; Ann Patchett provides a U.S. based bookstore pilgrimage; seven writers, including Geraldine Brooks and Ta-Nehisi Coates, reflect on their personal favorites; and Jennifer Moses writes about traveling as a bookworm. Might we also recommend this literary travelogue by Kate McCahill from our archives?
“In the morning, before we left, we presented my aunt with a gift from Indonesia, a package of luwak, one of four in Bon’s duffel. Civet coffee? she said, bemused. We were already savoring cups of coffee at her table, brewed in her coffee press from Arabica beans of her own supply.” An excerpt from Year in Reading alumnus Viet Thanh Nguyen’s forthcoming novel appears in the new issue of Ploughshares.