Thirty-eight letters written from the To Kill a Mockingbird author to a friend from 2005-2010 are up for auction this week, including Harper Lee‘s reaction to Barack Obama‘s inauguration. See also: this close reading of the birds themselves.
In 1952, John Steinbeck wrote that Al Capp, the cartoonist and Lil’ Abner creator, might well have been the best writer working in the world at the time. In the Times, Andy Webster reviews a new biography of Capp, which reveals that underneath it all lay “a toxic chip on his shoulder.”
Fans of British comedic polymath and Apple fanboy Stephen Fry might be interested to know that the first season of Kingdom, Fry's recent three-season British television series is available on Hulu. (Seasons 2 and; 3 are available on DVD in the US, but Season 1, mystifyingly, is not.) The series follows the doings of empathetic, small town Norfolk solicitor Peter Kingdom (Fry) and his gently eccentric fellow residents of the seaside town of Market Shipborough (actually Wells-Next-the-Sea). It's soothing, cozy stuff.
New this week stateside is buzzed-about Booker shortlister Room by Emma Donoghue. Also out: Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, a new collection by "20 Under 40" lister Yiyun Li; Sigrid Nunez's post-apocalyptic Salvation City; and a McSweeney's-published memoir Half a Life by Chang and Eng author Darin Strauss.
In the Tank, the blog of the New America Foundation, has a new interview up with Konstantin Kakaes, author of the latest e-book from The Millions. Among other things, he talks about what he would do if he ran NASA -- "bring back a piece of Mars" -- and mentions that the Voyager spacecrafts will keep sending signals back to Earth until at least the year 2025.
In an article for Vanity Fair, Meredith Turtis argues that "perhaps fiction... can change the place women have in history," by giving forgotten figures new lives as characters with fascinating stories to tell. She cites Paula McClain's just-released Circling the Sun, about a trailblazing female aviator, and Megan Mayhew Bergman's Almost Famous Women, which could have been included based on the title alone. Her argument pairs well with our own Hannah Gersen's review of Jami Attenberg's Saint Mazie, a novel that fictionalizes the life and voice of a very real "Bowery celebrity."