Unfold Yourself

Today in the US, we see children’s book writer, Dr. Seuss, a champion for “I AM I,” being canceled by those who echo Shakespeare’s Iago: “I am not what I am.”

The Wor(l)d Matters

From the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, including a speech by Martin Luther King and architectural drawings for the World Trade Center.

Ode To Highway 61

Acclaimed actress Jessica Lange is also a visual artist, behind the camera. Her recent book Highway 61, filled with soul and melancholy, documents the fabled highway from Minnesota to Louisiana. Lange noted that “long stretches of 61 are empty, forlorn as if in mourning for what has gone missing — the hometowns, the neighborhoods, family farms, factories and mills.” Photographs from the project can…

California Cool

Those smitten by “Mid-Century Modern” will find plenty to like in “California Captured” (Phaidon, 2018), a book of photographs by Marvin Rand (1924-2009), documenting the work of architects whose buildings help mythologize a place and time.

Roth’s Legacy

“Is it me? Is it me  Me Me Me! It has to be me—but is it!” Philip Roth, The Conversion Of the Jews (1959) Philip Roth (1933-2018) made identity issues — particularly Jewish identity — the centerpiece of his oeuvre, and with it behavior that ultimately undid the ‘self’ he sought to achieve. Many of the disgraced men in recent times followed Roth’s notions of…

‘Unfold Yourself’

It’s become fashionable for ‘elite’ schools in the U.S. to dump Shakespeare from their curriculum, and with it the lessons to avoid bad behavior and tragic-waste outcomes (To be rather than not to be). But judging by the way things are (not), most parents and teachers didn’t get those lessons either.


Lee Child in action on the sidelines of Thrillerfest XII.

Thoreau and His Journal

This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal, billed as “the most comprehensive exhibition devoted to the life of one of America’s most influential authors and thinkers, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862),” is at the Morgan Library and Museum through September 10. “All this is perfectly evident to the observant eye, thus each wind is self-registering.” Thoreau (last journal entry)

Antiquarian Book Fair

The New York Antiquarian Book Fair runs through March 12 at the Park Avenue Armory.

Charlotte Bronte at The Morgan

Celebrating the two-hundredth anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s birth, The Morgan has assembled an exhibition of material related to her life (1816-1855) from its own archives and those in England. The centerpiece of the show, which runs through January 2, 2017, is a portion of the original Jane Eyre manuscript.  

‘Golden Chain’

“As you know from the congressional inquiry, two years before the attack, bin Laden threatened the kingdom with revolution unless al-Qaeda’s operatives were given access to and support from the Saudi’s agents in the U.S. The old king capitulated.” Senator Bob Graham, Keys to the Kingdom, (Vanguard Press, 2011) The ‘principles’ underlying the U.S./Saudi relationship are not only unsound but evil, with decades of…

NY Antiquarian Book Fair

The 2016 New York Antiquarian Book Fair is at the Park Avenue Armory through April 10. “In nature’s infinite book of secrecy A little I can read.” Shakespeare, Anthony & Cleopatra

Last Day

Last day for Left Bank Books. Photographs: Stephen Wise

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

“Dear dear! How queer everything is today! And yesterday things went on just as usual. I wonder if I’ve changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same person when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is, ‘Who in the world am I? Ah,…

Book Expo America

This year’s BEA, May 27-29 at the Javits Center, welcomes China as the “global market forum guest of honor.” BookCon follows on May 30-31. Photographs: Stephen Wise

Glasnost in the 21st Century

With book culture in America disappearing, a recent book sale in NYC featured an interesting juxtaposition. One vendor had signed first edition copies of memoirs by George H.W. Bush and “Hillary” for $175 each. Across the aisle a vendor was selling a first edition signed Mikhail Gorbachev volume for $900.

‘Shabby Volumes’

The United States continues to be a place where new things need to look old, and old things (and people) need to look new. For example, this 2003 copy of Thomas Jefferson—Basic Writings has a dust jacket made to look old (see brown spots). It sits next to a 1940 first edition copy of William Faulkner’s The Hamlet, considered by many to be an important work in American literature—but…

‘Havel A Life’

Twenty-five years ago (Nov. 17)  the peaceful Velvet Revolution brought an end to Communist rule in the former Czechoslovakia, and led to play right and dissident leader Vaclav Havel (1936-2011) becoming President. Mr. Havel’s former Press Secretary, Michael Zantovsky, is out with a book that some are calling the definitive biography of Havel. He was interviewed about the book by David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, before an…

21st Century Classics

“Classic. A book which people praise but don’t read.” Mark Twain Photograph: Stephen Wise

‘The Nixon Defense’

John Dean, White House Counsel for Richard Nixon (1970-73), was hawking his latest book: The Nixon Defense on the Upper West Side this evening. It seems an odd title for the book given Dean’s role in the Watergate break-in, and the subsequent bringing down of the Nixon White House. Mr. Dean recounted confronting Nixon with the news that a “cancer” had formed on his Presidency, and…

Modern Masterpieces

Gatsby to Garp at the Morgan Library & Museum through September 7, 2014

‘A Lethal Chamber’

The 1895 psycho-thriller “The King in Yellow,” by Robert Chambers, is making a comeback. Climbing to #7 on Amazon’s list last week, the book seems to have struck a chord with young people, but not the book selling elites. None of the vendors at the recent Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair had a copy for sale. Most hadn’t even heard of the work. One…

‘The Blood Telegram’

Gary J. Bass presented his book, “The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide” (Knopf, 2013), to a mostly South Asian audience, last evening at the Aicon Gallery in NYC. LE Observation: The immorality of Nixon/Kissinger realpolitik in 1971, vis-a-vis Pakistan and Bangladesh, is being invoked by ‘human rights’ activists — intent on justifying immoral interventions in places like Libya, Egypt and Syria, as…

Beneath the Covers

Attending Book Expo America in recent years — one couldn’t help but feel a sense of emptiness, even nothingness, as American society disintegrates under a torrent of egos and algos. That said there were signs of life this year especially from some self-published authors we met, including Gary Heyward author of Corruption Officer: Perp With a Badge. Trends Hybrid Authors (traditional and self-published) are…

Eat, Pray, Sign

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of best-seller Eat, Pray, Love, is coming out with a new book later this year — The Signature of All Things. She signed galleys for the trade today at BEA. Janis Ian, Carole Radziwill and Andrew McCarthy signing their latest works for bloggers. Photographs: Stephen Wise

Reading Mexico

Mexico is the guest of honor at this year’s BookExpo America. An inaugural reception was held 5/29 at America’s Society in NYC. Top: Rafael Tovar y de Teresa, Director of CONACULTA; Carlos M. Sada, Consul General of Mexico in New York Bottom: Felipe Ehrenberg, artist; Mauricio Marcin, curator Photographs: Stephen Wise

‘To Read’

IDPF Digital Book at BookExpo America welcomed Otis Y. Chandler of Goodreads, along with noted author Malcolm Gladwell and Brad Stone, author and senior writer, Bloomberg Businessweek. Goodreads, recently acquired by Amazon.com, helps people find books and “bond through sharing magical experiences,” according to Mr. Chandler. Messrs. Stone and Gladwell both have books coming in October 2013 — The Everything Store and David and Goliath,…

Night of the Confessor

Tomas Halik (right), author of Patience With God, spoke this evening at the Czech Center in Manhattan. Fr. Halik worked as a psychotherapist during the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia and at the same time was secretly ordained as a Catholic priest and active in the underground church. In his book Night Of The Confessor (Image Books 2012), Fr. Halik  writes: “I would like to…

Brain On Fire

New York Post reporter Susannah Cahalan, at a Barnes & Noble event last evening, presenting her book: Brain On Fire — My Month Of Madness. Commentary: The only boundaries and taboos in American society are those restricting an honest exploration into the root causes of her pathologies.

Robert Motherwell

Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) was one of the preeminent Abstract Expressionists and a spokesperson for that generation of artists. A 3-volume set dedicated to Motherwell’s life and work has been published by Yale University Press. It is described as the “definitive resource on Robert Motherwell’s paintings and collages, featuring previously unpublished materials and documentation of nearly 3,000 works.” In 1948 a group of Abstract Expressionists…

The Art of War

Harper Collins Publishers held a launch party for The Art of War, a grapic novel, this evening at White Cube in New York. From the press release: The graphic novel adapts Sun Tzu’s iconic strategy text into a thriller set in a violent near-future when financial markets are militarized and China is the world’s dominant economy. Written and storyboarded by Kelly Roman and illustrated by…

Who are the Betrayers?

David Major, president and founder of The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies (CI Centre) and retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent, addressed ThrillerFest VII, 7/13. The title of his talk was: Insider’s View of Betrayal. “I want the world to remember the betrayers forever.” David Major July 13, 2012 “I’m going to…try to get Hoover and the Secret Service together…They (the FBI) had the stuff…

Thrillers & Women

Thriller readers are increasingly women, and not just Republican women. British author Lee Child, seen here at ThrillerFest 2012, is big with the ladies (looking for a “he-man” as one put it). His character, Jack Reacher, is being played by Tom Cruise in an upcoming film based on One Shot (2005). David Morrell (lower photo) is the award winning author of First Blood, the…

ThrillerFest VII

The 7th ThrillerFest is underway in NYC. The annual confab brings together readers, authors, and aspiring authors of Thriller novels — along with agents and industry luminaries to nurture and expand the genre.

To Kill a Mockingbird

“‘Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie.” Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). During the week when sales of Fifty Shades of Grey broke 20 million copies in the U.S., we were able to get just $2 (from Strand in…

Barack Obama — The Back Story

David Maraniss talked about his just released biography of Barack Obama this evening in New York. He commented that the “venom in the modern political world” had dissuaded him from pursuing the project for a while, but then decided to follow his philosophy, which is “go where there is.” He said his research for the book had taken him around the world — over 40,000 miles. His…

‘Traitors & Allies’

Anthony Beevor, the British historian, is out with a new book: The Second World War. The work begins in August 1939 with Russian General Zhukov’s defeat of of the Japanese at Khalkhin Gol on the Mongolian-Manchurian border. Mr. Beevor pays particular attention to the Eastern Front, which he said resulted in 90% of the German casualties. WWII has been called ‘the good war’ by some…

The Illustrated Man (1920-2012)

They were waiting for him. Skeleton, Midget, Balloon, Yoga, Electra, Popeye, Seal Boy. The freaks, waiting in the middle of the night, in the dry grass…The freaks stood over the sprawled Illustrated Man, holding their tent stakes loosely. Finally they rolled him over on his stomach. Blood ran from his mouth. They ripped the adhesive from his back. They stared down for a long moment…

Independent Book Sellers

Ann Patchett, best-selling author and independent book store owner, received the Most Engaging Author Award at this year’s American Booksellers Association Luncheon. The ABA has 1900 independent book store owners as members. After years of store closings, the last two years have seen an uptick in membership and store openings. There are reports of former Borders employees opening their own stores in locatations that had been…