Ta-Nehisi Coates isn’t exactly sure why white people love his book so much. It is indisputable that they do love it, though; Coates’ Between the World and Me is a runaway bestseller and he is also the recipient of one of this year’s MacArthur Foundation “Genius grants.”
New releases this week include the much-hyped The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume I. Also out in nonfiction is President Obama’s picture book Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit), as reviewed by the New York Times, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, and, for hip-hop fans, Jay-Z’s memoir Decoded.
Year in Reading alumnus Thomas Mallon’s foreword to the new edition of John O’Hara’s 1940 novel Pal Joey is available in The Paris Review Daily. Mallon predicts that “ O’Hara’s moment for a really breakout revival—outdated enough to be exotic—may at last be upon us.”
Errol Flynn was unique. Quick with a quip, the Australian-born silver screen swashbuckler (and current Tumblr heartthrob) had such immortal lines as, “I like my whiskey old and my women young.” Fans have long been drawn to the actor’s incredibly interesting life—much of which was relayed in his posthumously published autobiography My Wicked, Wicked Ways—so the Cuban National Archive’s uncovering of previously lost footage from his film Cuban Story should excite many of them.
“I was absolutely horrified. Wouldn’t have known if not for a Russian reader who read both editions. Publisher in total breach of contract.” The Guardian reports that author VE Schwab was “devastated” to learn scenes from her fantasy series Shades of Magic have been excised from Russian translations for featuring queer characters. See also: a consideration of the commercial viability of LGBTQ lit.
Want a book blurb from Margaret Atwood? Expect a poem instead. Atwood has retired from the blurbing business and now declines in rhyming verse. “But now I am aging; my brain is all shrunk,/And my adjective store is depleted;/My hair’s getting stringy, I walk as though drunk;/ As a quotester I’m nigh-on defeated.” Pair with our essays on the blurbing blunder: a history of blurbs, blurbs as publicity stunts, and the fundamental question — to blurb or not to blurb?