Tag Archives: novels

Review: Collection of Capote’s early stories for his fans

“The Early Stories of Truman Capote” collects 14 short fiction pieces by the writer, including some that were published in his high school newspaper in Greenwich, Connecticut, when he was a teenager.

Capote is best known for his novel “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which was immortalized by a Hollywood film starring Audrey Hepburn, and by his nonfiction book “In Cold Blood,” a gripping novelistic account of the murder of a Kansas farm family and their killers. Many Capote fans may also be familiar with his memorable, poignant short story, “A Christmas Memory,” about a little boy’s holiday with an aging cousin amid poverty, love and loss.

If you’re expecting short fiction gems of that caliber in this collection, however, you’ll be disappointed. Most of the plots in these stories don’t seem quite fully realized; others feel derivative or formulaic, lacking the originality of Capote’s later works. But here’s the good news: The stories in the new edition are extremely readable, and as a window on the young writer’s emerging voice and creativity, they are worthwhile. 

Capote’s ability to conjure a time, place and mood with just a few sentences is remarkable. A Gothic tone and sense of foreboding seems to hang over every scene as his characters, whether children or grown-ups, confront their personal demons. Some stories involve truly life-threatening terrors like snakebites or escaped convicts in the woods; others merely describe the everyday heartbreak faced by individuals who feel, for whatever reason, alone and unloved.

Listening to most: Top books on Audible.com

Audible.com best-sellers:


1. The Martian by Andy Weir, narrated by R.C. Bray (Podium Publishing)

2. Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, narrated by Haley Joel Osment, Tatiana Maslany, Kate Mulgrew and a full cast (Audible Studios) 

3. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, narrated by Neil Hunt (Recorded Books)

4. Save Me by Nicholas Sparks, narrated by Christopher Ryan Grant (Hachette Audio)

5. The Survivor by Vince Flynn and Kyle Mills, narrated by George Guidall (Simon & Schuster Audio)

6. Pretty Girls by Karen Slaughter, narrated by Kathleen Early (Blackstone Audio)

7. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, narrated by Christina Moore (Recorded Books)

8. If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch, narrated by Tai Sammons (Blackstone Audio, Inc.)

9. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R. R. Martin, narrated by Harry Lloyd (Random House Audio)

10. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney, narrated by Kristoffer Tabori (Blackstone Audio, Inc.)


1. The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, The Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World by Edward Dolnick, narrated by Alan Sklar (Audible Studios)

2. Why Not Me? By Mindy Kaling, narrated by Mindy Kaling, Greg Daniels and B.J. Novak (Random House Audio)

3. The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki, narrated by Paul Boehmer (Tantor Audio)

4. Rising Strong by Brene Brown, narrated by the author (Random House Audio)

5. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, narrated by the author (Penguin Audio)

6. Killing Reagan by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, narrated by Robert Petkoff and Bill O’Reilly (Macmillan Audio)

7. Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson, narrated by the author (Macmillan Audio)

8. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, narrated by Emily Woo Zeller (Tantor Audio)

9. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance, narrated by Fred Sanders (Harper Audio)

10. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, narrated by Andrew MacMillan (Simon & Schuster Audio)

What will you be reading this fall? New books from Selznick, Franzen, Kaling and more

Brian Selznick and Edwidge Danticat, authors of two of the fall’s most anticipated works for young people, both know something about living in multiple worlds.

Selznick has been traveling, in his mind, among movies, printed books and digital texts. He worked on drawings for The Marvels, a 600-page adventure across the centuries that alternates between text and illustrations, while adapting his novel Wonderstruck for a planned feature by Todd Haynes. He has also finally allowed his distinctively illustrated stories to be released as e-books, and upon completing The Marvels thought of how he could convert it for digital readers.

“The challenge is always to make the story feel like it can only be told in the medium it appears,” Selznick says. “When I’m creating a new story, it always begins as a book, but once it’s finished, figuring out how to adapt it to other media is a fun challenge.

“In the end, storytelling is storytelling, and each medium has its own demands and opportunities unique to it.”

Danticat’s Untwine is narrated by the teen daughter of Haitian immigrants as she recovers from a serious car crash. Untwine was a switch in style for Danticat (best known for such adult works as the novel The Dew Breaker and the memoir Brother, I’m Dying). It was also a journey back to a younger self.

“I had to ask a lot of questions and do a lot of observing. Each story requires you to inhabit a character and I had to come as close as possible to becoming the narrator,” Danticat says.

The next few months will feature books for all ages by authors of all ages — from a new Rookie Yearbook by teen star Tavi Gevinson to a memoir by the 100-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner Herman Wouk — with a few Nobel laureates in between.

Wouk, a published author for nearly 70 years, shares his rare perspective in Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author. Near contemporaries also have books out. The Rev. Billy Graham, 96, collaborated with son Franklin on Where I Am. A.E. Hotchner, 95, writes of his late friend Ernest Hemingway in Hemingway in Love. Stan Lee, 92, tells his story in words and illustrations in Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir.

Punk and New Wave music are old enough that some of the leaders are writing memoirs, from Elvis Costello and Chrissie Hynde to Patti Smith and Carrie Brownstein. A classic rock ‘n’ roller, John Fogerty spares no one in Fortunate Son, while the man who helped discover such Fogerty heroes as Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, is the subject of Peter Guralnick’s Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Actors also are looking back, including Debbie Reynolds, Burt Reynolds (no relation) and Drew Barrymore. Mindy Kaling offers the latest on her life in Why Not Me? Mary-Louise Parker addresses friends, family members, lovers and other men in Dear Mr. You, a series of intimate and polished essays that have received blurbs from Mary Karr and Leslie Jamison. Jesse Eisenberg’s humor pieces, many of which ran in The New Yorker, are collected in Bream Gives Me Hiccups.

The fall is publishing’s prime showcase for literary fiction, with novels by Jonathan Franzen, David Mitchell and Elena Ferrante, along with works from Nobel laureates Patrick Modiano, Orhan Pamuk and Kenzaburo Oe. Posthumous work is coming from Lucia Berlin and Oscar Hijuelos, and the writings of the late Primo Levi are being issued in a three-volume set, with an introduction by Nobel winner Toni Morrison.

David Lagercrantz continues the late Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series with The Girl in the Spider’s Web and Anthony Horowitz has written a new James Bond novel, Trigger Mortis. J.K. Rowling resumes her alternate life as crime writer Robert Galbraith with Career of Evil. George R.R. Martin explores the back story of Westeros in A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. Margaret Atwood, author of such dystopian novels as The Handmaid’s Tale, conjures more nightmares in The Heart Goes Last.

“It’s getting easier (to create dystopias),” said Atwood, whose new book features a community of rotating prison inmates. “You’re just putting together a mosaic of what’s around you, putting together things that are already happening somewhere or have happened and seeing what this mix produces.”

Current events will be reviewed from the left by David Brock in Killing the Messenger: The Right-Wing Plot to Derail Hillary and Hijack Your Government and from the right in Exceptional, by former Vice President Dick Cheney and daughter Liz Cheney. Chelsea Clinton’s It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going! is a primer for civic engagement. Her mother, presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton, contributes a foreword to Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose, by Melanne Verveer and Kim K. Azzarelli.

Other nonfiction releases include memoirs by Gloria Steinem and Donna Karan and a biography of former President George H.W. Bush by Pulitzer winner Jon Meacham. Stacy Schiff, whose books include the best-selling Cleopatra and the Pulitzer-winning Vera, looks back to the 17th-century witch trials in The Witches: Salem, 1692.

“The similarities between the oral culture of that time and the Internet are approximately 100 percent,” Schiff says. “Something is mentioned once and suddenly it’s everywhere. It’s amazing the way slanderous news travels. And what we say is indelible. That’s what happened in the 17th century. Witchcraft accusations wouldn’t go away.”

Author Vendela Vida and the art of pretending

Answering questions in a Casablanca police station, hoping to retrieve a missing backpack, author Vendela Vida was overcome by her feelings of good fortune.

“Halfway through the interview it just occurred to me that this was the entree into the novel,” says Vida, whose new book, “The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty,” begins with a stolen backpack in Casablanca.

“I was so excited I think the detectives were really confused. I was having such a great time. I was taking notes in my head of the environment, what the detectives looked like.”

Her book just published and papers otherwise in order, she is drinking iced tea at an outdoor cafe in Greenwich Village during a warm afternoon, a setting you are unlikely to find in a Vida novel. “The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty,” blurbed by Lena Dunham among others, is Vida’s fourth work of fiction and continues her exploration of American women in crisis in foreign countries, whether Turkey in “The Lovers” or the Finnish region Lapland in “Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name.”

The narrator is not named in “Diver’s Clothes,” but she does assume other identities as the disappearance of her belongings leads her to pretend that she’s a New York Times writer, to falsely claim that a backpack belonging to another woman is hers and to take on work as a stand-in for a famous actress in a Hollywood production set in Morocco. The book’s title refers to a Rumi poem about simultaneous presence and absence, being part a hunt for which you are the prey.

Vida, 43, has been productively fibbing since writing down her tall tales as a child. In her first book, the nonfiction “Girls on the Verge,” she writes of taking on a new name (Kate Wintersen) and background as she participates in a sorority rush at UCLA. In “Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name,” the narrator confesses, “Travel is made for liars. Or liars are made for travel.”

“Everyone has that sensation when they get on a plane that you’re going to arrive in another country and … ‘What if you were someone different?’” Vida said. “There’s always a part of transforming your identity when you’re in a new place. So if you push that to the maximum extreme, it’s actually, what if you take on a new identity completely?”

Writing itself is a kind of escape for Vida, whether the internal charade of imagining a life different from her own to the distance she sometimes travels to finish a book. Around a decade ago, after the birth of the first of her two children (her husband is fellow author Dave Eggers), she began writing in motels, fully separating “the fictional world” in her mind from the real world of diapers and feedings.

“The only way I could feel undistracted by the serious emotional pull of my family was to physically remove myself from hourly concerns,” Vida, a San Francisco native who still lives in the Bay Area, explained in an email following the interview. “Also, because I would miss my family so much when I was ‘away’ (meaning in a motel a mere 45 minutes from home), it was extra incentive to not waste time; I would get more done in the course of 24 hours than I ordinarily could in a week.”

While working on novels, she resists reading fiction, but finds a movie that somehow informs the book’s story. Her chosen film for “The Diver’s Clothes” was Michelangelo Antonioni’s “The Passenger,” a 1975 release starring Jack Nicholson as a family man who deliberately goes missing. For “The Lovers,” in which a widow revisits the Turkish village of her honeymoon, Vida thought of Roberto Rossellini’s classic “Voyage to Italy,” about a troubled and childless couple.

“I still have this image in my mind from the film of a woman who can’t have children walking down the street and seeing babies in prams everywhere,” Vida wrote in an email. “I imagined Yvonne, the widow in ‘The Lovers,’ having a similar sensation: She goes through the world and sees lovers everywhere around her.”

Harper Lee prize: Finalists named for best legal fiction

Three books have been named as finalists for the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. 

The trio was announced earlier this month by the University of Alabama School of Law and the American Bar Association’s magazine ABA Journal.

The prize annually recognizes a work of fiction focused on lawyers’ role in society. It was created five years ago to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The finalists are: :Terminal City” by Linda Fairstein, “My Sister’s Grave” by Robert Dugoni and “The Secret of Magic” by Deborah Johnson.

The winner will receive their award at a ceremony on Sept. 3 in conjunction with the Library of Congress National Book Festival.

Four judges and a public vote through the ABA Journal website will determine the winner.

Erdrich wins Library of Congress fiction prize

Novelist Louise Erdrich will be honored with the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction this year.

Erdrich is the author of such acclaimed novels as “Love Medicine,” “The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse,” “The Plague of Doves” and her current novel, “The Round House.”

Librarian of Congress James Billington announced the recipient of the fiction prize earlier this week.

Erdrich will receive the prize pn Sept. 5 at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

Billington says Erdrich has had a remarkable string of novels in which she portrayed her fellow Native Americans like no other writer has, by exploring the cultural challenges that native and mixed-race Americans face.

On her Facebook page, Erdrich thanked those who congratulated her on the award. And, she wrote, “It seems that these awards are given to a writer entirely different from the person I am — ordinary and firmly fixed… Given the life I lead, it is surprising these books got written. Maybe I owe it all to my first job — hoeing sugar beets. I stare at lines of words all day and chop out the ones that suck life from the rest of the sentence. Eventually all those rows add up.”

Erdrich is the third winner of the fiction prize, following E.L. Doctorow last year and Don DeLillo in 2013.

On the Web …


Review: Dennis Lehane writes gripping finale to crime trilogy

Dennis Lehane’s thrilling trilogy about organized crime in the early 20th century is more than a look at gangsters and their ways. Without glorifying the illegal, Lehane’s “World Gone By” examines how crime works on one’s soul and what it means to know that the life you’ve chosen must give way to the next breed of criminals in this, the gripping finale.

“World Gone By” is also a textbook guide on how to end a series as Lehane smoothly guides his characters and plot to a smooth finish in this series that began with “The Given Day” (2008).

The novel picks up the story of Joe Coughlin in 1942, a decade after the events in the Edgar Award-winning “Live by Night” (2012). Now a widower, Joe has transitioned from a feared gangster to a leader among the criminals in Tampa, Florida, and, to the outside world, a respected businessman who socializes with the mayor and heads several successful charities.

Joe’s influence among the strata of the underworld’s white, black and Latin criminals and area politicians gives him even more power to hide his illegal activities in plain sight.

Then word reaches Joe that there is a contract on his life. His attempts to find the killer _ and who initiated the contract _ take him through every crevice of his world, both those of gangsters and upstanding citizens.

Lehane balances Joe’s devotion to his son, Tomas, with his ruthlessness in dealing with his enemies. Enhancing the complex plot are scenes that show the mob’s growth during World War II, including its clandestine deals with the U.S. government and its influence on the Batista regime in Cuba. Lehane also depicts Florida in the 1940s, when urban sprawl was a fantasy and Ybor City was the district for Tampa’s Latin population.

Joe is the main character of “World Gone By,” but Lehane doesn’t make him a hero. Joe loves being a gangster, following no rules, even “bringing the beacons of the city into contact with her demons and making it all seem like a lark.” He isn’t seeking, nor does he want, redemption, but he wouldn’t mind some peace of mind.