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Straight Talk

Dishing With a Takedown Artist

Rob Kim/Getty

Holly Peterson cast a cold eye on the Park Avenue set in her bestselling novel ‘The Manny.’ Now she’s taken on publishing’s meritocratic strivers. And she’s just as frank face to face.

Holly Peterson’s life is an urban safari—she’s constantly observing (and then writing it all down), whether it’s how the machers of New York operate, something she gets to see firsthand power lunching with her father, Peter Peterson, founder of the Blackstone Group, or the strange behavioral codes of the Park Avenue set, her own environs and a species she detailed in her 2006 bestselling novel, The Manny, inspired by her own male nanny.In her new novel, The Idea of Him, Peterson has turned her attention to a different tier of New York society: the hardworking publicist and mother of two, Allie Crawford.


Dead and Beautiful

Joanna Ebenstein and Pat Morris

Rats, squirrels, and dead kittens in their Sunday best… A new book explores the fantastic anthropomorphic world of Walter Potter, one of the pre-eminent taxidermists of Victorian Britain.

Yes, those really are stuffed kittens dressed in finely detailed Victorian garb at a wedding, and that really is a squirrel at the club playing cribbage with a cigar hanging out of his mouth.Welcome to the weird and strange tableaux by the once well-known taxidermist Walter Potter, the subject a delightful new book, Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy, by Dr. Pat Morris and Joanna Ebenstein.The book details Potter’s work as one of the more prominent taxidermists of the Victorian Era, whose work became the foundation for a museum of oddities visited by millions during its existence, including the Bloomsbury Set and Queen Mary, and was covered by media outlets from as far afield as China.


The Original Selfies

Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Rembrandt and Kim Kardashian have something in common: Both showed off in images they created of themselves. A new book reveals the self-portrait’s fascinating and revealing history.

As history would have it, we all have a little Kim Kardashian in us—even masters like Velasquez. While the famed Spanish artist behind Las Meninas may not have been posting pictures of his rotund derriere on Instagram, he, along with many other well-known artists, were driven to create and disseminate portraits of themselves.While we may never know why Kardashian does it, knowing why artists like Rembrandt and Courbet did so is at the heart of art historian James Hall’s book, The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History.

In Brief

This Week’s Hot Reads: April 14, 2014

A 15th century slave’s monologue, a sheepherder’s confrontation with mysterious violence, and a clear-eyed look at the Mormon Church’s fraught origins.

The Expedition to the Baobab Tree By Wilma StockenströmEvery few years, a book comes along that I read only a few pages at a time, lingering over exceptionally well-crafted prose. In 2012, Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary, a searing monologue delivered by Jesus’s mother as you’ve never before encountered her, was one such novel. Now another monologue, also spoken by a woman who has experienced more than most can fathom, has left me entranced and devastated.

Scenic Routes

Crazy Cartography

Maps of places you’ve never been, maps of paper routes, maps of desktops: artists and writers conjure directions for heretofore uncharted Xanadus.

Maps are their own narratives of space. Who draws them, and who names them, holds immense power to determine not just Where You Are, but How Things Are. Subjective or empirical experience in conflict with the map’s own assertions can leave you nowhere, or somewhere unknown, as anyone who has tried to navigate, say, Venice by map will know. Have they purposefully drawn it up to bear no resemblance to its actual layout in order to confuse visitors into spending more money on alcohol and sequined masks?In 1957, Guy Debord created a psychogeographic map of Paris that countered the “official” maps of the city, its arrondissements spiraling neatly outwards from the center.

Detours of Delight

Maps to Get Lost In

Commission maps by imaginative people, and you can guarantee that not only will they send you on the scenic route but that they will redefine the scenic route while they’re at it. That’s what happened when a publisher asked 16 artists and writers to design a boxful of maps.

Son of Parkyakarkus

Albert Brooks, the Early Years

Paramount Pictures/Everett Collection

The comedian and filmmaker has been the smartest and funniest person in the room since he was in high school (maybe even earlier). Here he's profiled just after making his first film.

Albert Brooks’ second album, A Star is Bought, is the best comedy record most of you have probably never heart. It was never released on CD and it’s not available on ITunes. And that’s a shame because the record—which was made in collaboration with Harry Shearer—is one of the finest comedy albums ever made. Never mind that it was nominated for a Grammy or that it was in many ways a precursor to faux-documentary style of This Is Spinal Tap, it Albert in top form.

Ancient Texts

Jesus’s Wife: Still On the Lam


Scholars had concluded that a papyrus referring to Jesus’s wife was a clever forgery—until new evidence re-opened the case. Is there any way to figure out the truth?

In September 2012 Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School, announced the discovery of a new Coptic manuscript that she titled The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife (GJW).The revelation was met with a firestorm of media attention. The mobile-phone-sized scrap of papyrus contained the words “Jesus said to them, ‘my wife…’” before breaking off. In a subsequent line the fragment refers to a “Mary” and says that she “is worthy.” Worthy of what? To be a disciple? And, if so, is this about women priests? Is this Mary Magdalene? Do we finally have independent evidence to confirm the groundbreaking findings of The Da Vinci Code?In brief: nope.


The Week’s Best Longreads

The Daily Beast

From the hilarious season of China’s football league to the man to the Boston bombing survivor facing her 17th surgery, the Daily Beast picks the best journalism from around the web this week.

The Recovery PuzzleMonica Hesse, The Washington PostA new factory in Ohio struggles to match jobs to job-seekers.Year of the PigskinChristopher Beam, The New RepublicMy hilarious, heartbreaking, triumphant season with the American Football League of China.Is There Hope For Survivors of the Drug War?Monica Potts, The American ProspectCriminalized and discarded, falling at the bottom of every statistic, they want something better.Meet the Bag ManSteven Godfrey, SB NationHow to buy college football players, in the words of the man who delivers the money.

Popular Science

The Evolution of Jared Diamond

Joost van den Broek/Hollandse Hoogte/Redux

The author of ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel’ is out with an adaptation for young people of ‘The Third Chimpanzee.’ He also has some strong words for his critics.

It turns out the incident of the chimp who tore off his owner’s friend's face was more family feud than disgruntled pet.Much like the humans he documents who came to rule Earth, Jared Diamond is out with a new book sure to increase his rule in the classroom. Most students known Diamond from the PBS documentary based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel. Now, Diamond is out with a new edition of his popular book The Third Chimpanzee, this time adapted “for young people” by Seven Stories Press and Rebecca Stefoff.

‘You Never Know’

Baseball Books Bring the Heat

Walter Arce/Landov

Wrigley Field, Ted Williams, Nolan Ryan, Sabermetrics, the Pete Rose controversy—a fine new crop of baseball books looks at the old, the new and the very weird.

Sounds of leather hitting leather and leather smacking wood apparently also translate into sounds of pages turning as Major League Baseball (known around the planet as the “the Bigs,” ”Las Grandes Ligas) opens its 162 game regular season. Our National Pastime occasions a plethora of books and monographs dedicated to an array of baseball-related subjects. You can look to George Plimpton and Jacques Barzun for explanations about the attraction that baseball holds for writers.

Fallen Photog’s Gutsiest Shots

Chris Hondros/Getty

In honor of the late Getty photographer, a visual book featuring his most captivating images is released.

Growing Up Absurd

Giving It Up in H.G. Wells’s Home


Angelica Garnett's memoir of growing up amid the weirdness of Bloomsbury features the usual literary suspects, including Virginia Woolf, and not a few surprises.

The term "Bloomsbury" is a loaded one. Referring to the literary group of which Virginia Woolf and John Maynard Keynes were notable members, their unconventional approach to relationships, in addition to their contributions to art, literature, and politics, make for fun reading: Virginia Woolf's affair with Vita Sackville West (which inspired Woolf’s novel Orlando), the painter Dora Carrington's devotion to Lytton Strachey (despite him being a homosexual), and Virginia's sister Vanessa having a child with her friend and sometime lover Duncan Grant, despite the fact that she was married to Clive Bell.


Weed Made and Ruined My Family

Dokoupil Family

Tony Dokoupil’s childhood was the stuff movies are made of—or, in this case, books.

In his new memoir, The Last Pirate, Dokoupil describes growing up with one of the most successful pot barons of the Reagan era: his father. Smuggling Colombian weed through an old Florida fishing shack, “Big Tony” made his fortune just in time for “Little Tony,” to arrive. So began an early childhood of unprecedented luxury. Caribbean vacations, luxury yachts, exclusive swimming lessons, and the best private school in south Florida. It was a pace too fast to sustain.

Parent Problem

Dealing With Dad the Dealer


Big Tony Doukopil was a successful marijuana drug lord in the ’70s and ’80s. To his son, he was Dad. And then, as the son explains in an excerpt from his new book, it got complicated.

The following is an excerpt from "The Last Pirate: A Father, His Son, and the Golden Age of Marijuana" by Tony Dokoupil (Random House). Reproduced with permission.My father and I are separated by only an adjective—Big Tony, Little Tony—and when I was truly little we toured Miami with our seamless tans, windblown blond hair, and Lacoste swimsuits. My father liked daiquiris, virgin for me and an extra shot of rum in the straw for him.

Speed Read

Duke Lacrosse Flameout

It was a story that had it all: a stripper alleging sexual assault, privileged Duke jocks, and an overzealous prosecutor. The Daily Beast boils down the best parts of a massive new book on the case.

It was one of the biggest cases of schadenfreude in modern legal history: an American public bent on burning at the stake a group of athletes for an alleged sexual assault, only to have the case end in an epic flameout and unequivocal declaration of innocence.In 2006, three members of the Duke lacrosse team, Collin Finnerty, David Evans, and Reade Seligmann, were indicted on allegations that they sexually assaulted a stripper named Crystal Mangum in the bathroom of a house in Durham, N.


I Survived the Nazis. And Soviets.

Isolde Ohlbaum/laif

Norman Manea grew up doubly cursed: first he had to survive the Nazis and then the communist dictators in his native Romania. His dire experience forged a writer.

When Norman Manea was five years old, he was shipped to a concentration camp in Transnistria, Ukraine. In 1941 Jews from Northern Romania were deported there, via freight trains, on the order of Marshal Ion Antonescu, the country’s far-right dictator and an ally of Hitler. Technically, in the camp you were not killed, you were left to die slowly. Chronic starvation, overwork, disease, and freezing temperatures were as effective as the bullet, only slower and crueler.


Crime and Punishment Chicago Style

Jeff Haynes/Reuters

Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski, the author of the new Chi-Town collection of stories 'Painted Cities,' on the books that show real life in Chicago.

Sometimes you set out to find differences and all you find is how much we are the same, which is disappointing because in the big city, in Chi-Town at least, we thrive on differences: North Side vs. South Side, Cubs vs. Sox (White Sox rule), Pilsen vs. Little Village, Black vs. White. Our politics are set up this way. Our neighborhoods are set up this way. To read these five books about Chicago life is to become enlightened to the fact that there is another side to the “struggle,” namely that we are all in it.


‘Tracing the Blue Light’

Paul Fievez/BIPs/Getty

What is it like to realize you have no legs—and that’s why you’ve been left behind by your vacationing family? The author remembers in this excerpt from her acclaimed memoir.

I was almost four when it first occurred to me that no one else was missing legs. Flooded by questions without words to articulate them, I connected images with explanations. Those first confusing moments unravel in my mind like an old film. It begins with me being nudged awake by a waxy moon spilling silver-white light through the window as I sucked my thumb. But it wasn’t my window. I grabbed the bars to pull myself up and thought, “Where am I?” I held my breath and searched for clues.


Underwater Art Is a Sight to Sea

Jason de Caires Taylor

A new book explores the depths that one artist has gone to create work that not only calls attention to the depletion of coral reefs, but helps to build them back up.

Most artists spend their entire lives hoping to be exhibited at any number of the world’s reputable museums. But, Jason deCaires Taylor has spent the latter half of his professional career placing his sculptures where the majority of art-seekers wouldn’t normally think to look—at the bottom of the ocean. Over the past decade, Taylor’s works cast from real-life models and everyday objects have begun to appear off the coasts of Grenada, Greece, and Mexico.

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