Out this week: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti; Compass by Mathias Enard; The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck; Simulacra by Airea D. Matthews; and the Later Essays of Susan Sontag. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
Much fuss was made about Barack Obama’s ex-girlfriends this week, as an excerpt from David Maraniss’ forthcoming Barack Obama: The Story was published in Vanity Fair. Of course, we sophisticated book readers care less about the man’s old flames than we do his literary pursuits, right? That’s why Mr. President’s analysis of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland” is so interesting.
"Kill ‘Em and Leave is [James] McBride’s own testament to [James] Brown’s philosophy. It’s a stunningly unorthodox book, indifferent to the conventions of biographical nonfiction ... The book is a hybrid of forms, largely a telling of Brown’s life story and partly a telling of McBride’s search for that story, with digressions about the author’s own life, essayistic ruminations on Brown and his music, and free, looping riffs that have the energy of improvisation." On James McBride's unusual, unorthodox biography of the unusual, unorthodox James Brown.
This essay on the proliferation of gossip in journalism is adapted from Joseph Epstein's Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit. In it, Epstein discusses the problem of "how straight-up, no-apologies public gossip has infected standard, or what once might have been called respectable, journalism."
Of more than 23,000 front-page articles that appeared in The New York Times between 1939 and 1945, only 26 were about the Holocaust. Watch a powerful 18-minute mini-documentary about "how and why the genocide of Jews was neglected and euphemised by the Times, and by extension, the American people." Pair with our piece about the German traditions of the Denkmahl and Mahnmahl, two different kinds of memorials with subtle, yet important distinctions.
Sad that Breaking Bad is over? Bryan Cranston might have a new TV show on the way, and it was inspired by The Dangerous Book for Boys, he said in an interview for The New York Times "By the Book" series. While you wait, check out our article on what to read after you've finished watching Walter White's saga.
"[G]uess what, spending hours of your spare time plowing through some dense and symbol-laden carnival of affectation and ambiguity only makes you resentful of the publishing industry that pushed the book on you in the first place." Alex Balk at The Awl takes the piss out of recent studies that have suggested reading literary fiction might make us better people. Writer John Vaillant, whom we interviewed last year, might disagree.