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Silk and Lace

The Tricky Business of Sex

Goldmund Lukic/Getty

Novelist Amy Tan talks about her new novel, ‘The Valley of Amazement,’ set in a Shanghai courtesan house, how she researched Chinese history, and learning how to write about sex.

Amy Tan has a wicked sense of humor. She’s attained sensational literary success; her novels The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, and The Bonesetter’s Daughter have defined the Chinese-American immigrant experience. But she’s also a master of the deadpan spoof, as in a YouTube video she made for this year’s Ecco/Harper Collins sales conference. Sitting at the grand piano in her spacious living room, she talks about everything her new novel, The Valley of Amazement, is not.


The Macabre Maestro

Nigel Beach

Celebrated filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro (‘Pan’s Labyrinth’) released an eye-opening new book, ‘Cabinet of Curiosities,’ containing sketches and diary entries for his myriad projects. Del Toro opened up to Marlow Stern about his relationship with James Cameron, Justice League and Marvel projects, collaborating with Kanye, and more.

You know a Guillermo Del Toro film when you see one. It’s a dazzling mélange of ghastly creatures, ornate sets, and beauteous viscera. The work of a true artist.Now, the Mexican auteur behind movies like Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Pacific Rim has provided a gateway into his macabre mind with the release of the tome Guillermo Del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions. The hardcover book contains never-before-seen sketches, notes, and illustrations—all of which are housed at his own personal museum, which he’s dubbed “Bleak House”—affording readers a rare glimpse into his singular cinematic process.

Speed Read

Double Down: Juiciest Bits

Scott Olson/Getty

The 2012 election may not have had Sarah Palin, but as John Heilemann and Mark Helperin discovered in Double Down, there was still plenty to talk about.

There’s been a lot of coverage of Jon Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s Double Down follow-up to their gangbusters hit Game Change. From the red flags raised by vetters of Chris Christie, to the Obama team thinking about swapping Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, to the relationship between Obama and Bill Clinton—these anecdotes have been everywhere. In addition to those stories, here are some more of the juiciest bits from the dishy new book.Just tell me you love me.

Read This

What to Read This Fall

Ed Andrieski/AP

Our friends over at Byliner asked a few of their favorite authors—Sebastian Junger, Maile Meloy, Mary Karr—to share what books they’re reading and rereading this fall.

Mary Karr, author of The Liars’ Club, Cherry, and Lit:George Saunders’s Tenth of December is the best book of stories since Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son. The title story may be the best American story since Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” or O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” This is a writer bursting open a genre and working at the top of his game. The stories are also morally useful. Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure is his best book to date and a wrenching memoir of immigrant agony and the deep schisms a family in stress can foster.

Da Bears

Football’s Greatest Hit

Bob Langer/Chicago Tribune via Landov

For the 1985 Chicago Bears, one hit made their season—and the team—against Lions quarterback Joe Ferguson. It was the kind of hit everyone remembers, and one that it is illegal today.

Every now and then, a single play captures the spirit of a team. It can stand for an entire season. If you want to learn about the ‘85 Bears, you can talk to old players and old coaches about tactics, or you can simply say, “tell me about the Ferguson Hit.”The Bears underperformed in the weeks following the Miami game—Chicago’s only loss that season—stumbling through the remainder of their schedule with workmanlike wins over the Colts and the Jets.

Dissenting Opinion

How I Write: Richard Posner

Nathan Weber/The New York Times, via Redux

America’s most cited legal scholar, Judge Richard Posner, talks about his compulsive writing, what’s guaranteed to make him laugh, and his passion for cats.

Describe your morning routine.I don’t really have any routines. Well, if I’m at home or in the office I have a desk and a computer. And I write. I’ve never thought in terms of any particular routine. There are a lot of interruptions, emails and so on. Whenever I have free time, I write. Judicial opinions or academic stuff. I don’t have any quota of words. I understand full-time novelists, say, they will want to do a certain amount of words a day in order to finish a book.

Greenwich Village Blues

The Real Life of Llewyn Davis

Alison Rosa

Behind the forthcoming Coen brothers’ film about folk musician Llewyn Davis lies a remarkable memoir by Dave Van Ronk—the man who made folk cool before Bob Dylan.

It’s easy to see why the Coen brothers were drawn to the life of folksinger Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002) as the inspiration for their new movie Inside Llewyn Davis. He is a figure that resembles many of the filmmakers’ main characters: earnest to a fault, intelligent but guileless, captive to large and inexplicable forces, and, in the end, never quite capable of expressing himself as clearly or as loudly as he would like. But, also like a Coen brother’s character, he was at the center of amazing things; he was one of the lynchpins of the Greenwich Village folk movement of the 1960s.


Tyson’s Hard Knock Life

The Ring Magazine/Getty

When you’re the heavyweight champion of the world life is just more complicated. From his absurd sex life to the 62 cars to bankruptcy, here are the 7 best parts from Mike Tyson’s memoir, “Undisputed Truth.”

Mike on the MakeIn a sport not lacking for imploding superstars, Mike Tyson squandered his natural talent like few boxers have before or since. However, his memoir makes clear that he was lucky to even have been alive to make his professional debut at 18. His mother was an alcoholic, and he grew up in a brothel. His childhood was spent committing petty thefts and violent muggings. He was first arrested at age 10 for stealing a credit card; he had already at gained a reputation as a skilled street fighter, and by thirteen was fighting grown men for money.


The Six Greatest Survivors


The adventurer and extreme television presenter Bear Grylls shares some of his favorite tales of survival, taken from the new book True Grit. He explains what makes a hero.

Bear Grylls’ first brush with death came early. At the age of eight he and his father became disorientated up a mountain in Cyprus during a storm; they spent a day and a night exposed to the elements before finding a path to safety. “It scared me to the core but also there was a magic, the simplicity that this was a battle,” he told the Daily Beast.The battle against the elements would continue for the next two decades which saw Grylls crush three vertebrae in a parachute accident in Africa, lead an expedition through the Northwest Passage, and become one of the youngest people to scale Mount Everest.

Read All About It

Moving It Forward

Library of Congress

Abraham Cahan, an overlooked legend in 20th century American journalism, finally gets his due in a new biography by Seth Lipsky. He recounts his editorship of the Forward and his political twists and turns.

At a time when too many biographers chronicle their subjects’ lives in excessive detail, producing massive, meandering volumes that can usefully double as doorstoppers, it’s a pleasure to read Seth Lipsky’s brisk, cogent book. Lipsky paints in broad strokes, passing swiftly through the decades as he focuses on the significance of Abraham Cahan’s work at the Forward, the legendary Yiddish-language daily that he led for half a century. Unabashedly based on secondary sources, most long out of print, The Rise of Abraham Cahan provides a welcome opportunity for a new generation to discover this titanic figure in 20th-century journalism.

Bible 101

America’s Wrong About Jesus

Fred de Noyelle / Godong

A new poll finds that 26 percent of Americans believe the Jews killed Jesus. They’re historically ignorant, but they do read their Bible—that is who the New Testament blames, after all.

A poll released last week by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reports that twenty-six percent of the American public continues to believe that “Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.” Although the number has dropped from 31% in 2011, the ADL described it as “surprisingly large.”In many ways it is strange that anyone continues to think this. In the wake of World War II a number of Christian leaders and organizations issued formal statements on this topic.


JFK: ‘War Is a Dirty Business’


In a frank and fatalistic letter to Inga Arvad, with whom he had an intense affair, the WWII hero wrote down his feelings about war.

In 1941 and 1942, John F. Kennedy had an intense romantic affair with Danish journalist (and Hitler’s guest during the 1936 Olympic Games) Inga Arvad, who was married at the time. The affair ended when Kennedy went to the Pacific to serve during World War II, and in 1943 he became a war hero after his boat, PT-109, was rammed by the Japanese, and he rescued his crew by towing them with a life-jacket strap clenched between his teeth. Shortly after, he wrote one of his most candid letters to Arvad, whom he nicknamed Binga.


A Girl's Story, Like Their Own

In 'Survival Girls', Ming Holden introduces us to a remarkable group of Congolese refugees who use theater to tell a story of survival.

In 2011, Ming Holden traveled to Kenya and founded a theater group for Congolese refugee girls in the slums of Nairobi. Her new book about the experience, Survival Girls, traces her journey and the stories of the remarkable young women who joined her project. (Incidentally, all proceeds of the book go to the Survival Girls themselves, and Hillary Clinton and Anne-Marie Slaughter are reported to be fans.) Below, an excerpt from Holden's non-fiction novella introduces us to the sweet, spirited refugees she encountered in her theater workshop: *** “What do you do when you're feeling squeezed?” I asked the girls as we began the next workshop.

Read ‘Em

This Week’s Hot Reads

This week: a book about men in all sorts of ways, a writer’s 1940s New York, a rain drenched Irish tale of murder and pursuit, and a novel filled with trash.

The Book of Men Edited by Colum McCann, Tyler Cabot, and Lisa Consiglio In this collection, edited by Colum McCann and the editors of Esquire and Narrative 4, there are all kinds of men. Heroes. Cowards. Creeps. War correspondents and wanna-be lovers. Husbands and dreamers and sons. There are all kinds of women, as well. Mothers and lovers, convicts and authors. Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, and Khaled Hosseini are just a few of the writers who have contributed ideas about what is it means to be a man to The Book of Men; so are Edna O’Brien, Tea Obreht, Amy Bloom, and seventy-four other writers from countries around the world.


Randi Zuckerberg’s Reinvention


An excerpt from Randi Zuckerberg’s new book, ‘Dot Complicated,’ describes how she went from Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘ridiculous sister’ to the brains behind Facebook’s marketing strategy.

In the early days of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg’s older sister moved from New York City to Menlo Park help grow the start-up. She spent years finding her role in the company amid a community of coders and the long shadow of her sibling.  In this chapter, excerpted from her upcoming book Dot Complicated (HarperOne, Nov. 5), she describes trading a capella antics for team-building leadership.And so I came to California and to Facebook.I officially joined on September 1, 2005.

Reliving Dallas

Could This Have Saved JFK?

Random House

Fifty years ago Jim Lehrer was in Dallas as a young reporter. Now he’s written a novel that explores what might have happened if the Secret Service had kept the bubble top on JFK’s limo.

On that fateful day fifty years ago, newsman Jim Lehrer waited at Dallas’ Love Field for Air Force One to arrive with President and Mrs. Kennedy. He was assigned to cover the arrival and to stay there until Air Force One left. Love Field had an open telephone line by the fence where he could talk to Rewrite. Copy then was called in by phone, and the Times-Herald, an afternoon newspaper, was on deadline, adding to the time pressure. “My big episode came when the rewrite man told me while we were testing the line that Air Force One had just left – it was coming from Fort Worth (a short flight), and he wanted to know if the bubble top was up on the limo,” Lehrer recalled.

An Ancestor's Perilous Voyage

A quarter of a million Indian women boarded ships as indentured servants in the 19th century, bound for the West Indies. Gaiutra Bahadur's new book follows their precarious sea-crossing and life in the New World.

In Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture, author Gaiutra Bahadur traces the journey of her great-grandmother from India to the West Indies as an indentured sugar plantation laborer, whose kind were called "coolies" by their colonial masters. After the abolition of slavery, the British transported more than a million indentured Indians to a more than a dozen colonies from 1838 to 1917, a traffic that was a third the size of the British slave trade.

Moral Lessons

Martin Luther's Ego


Thanks to Martin Luther’s defiant stand against the Catholic Church we have a politics and religion of ego—and figures like MLK Jr. stand on his shoulders.

“I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.” —Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, April 18, 1521“I had expected to vote against Senator Kennedy because of his religion. But now he can be my President, Catholic or whatever he is… He has the moral courage to stand up for what he knows is right.” —Martin Luther King Sr., from the pulpit of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, October 31, 1960, the day his son Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tangled History

JFK & The Rule of Threes

Getty (2); Corbis

On November 22, 1963, three towering figures of the 20th century died. John F. Kennedy is the one that we all remember, but let’s consider the others.

Do you remember what you were doing the day Aldous Huxley died? Or C.S. Lewis? You don’t think so? Well, the odds are that if you were old enough to be laying down memories at the time, you do. Because it was also the day President Kennedy was assassinated.The indelible experience of hearing the news is captured well in the opening scene of Frederick Forsyth’s thriller The Odessa File, as the announcement interrupts a song in mid-bar on our German hero’s car radio.

Love and War

Failed Soldiers, Better Lovers

Hemingway and Fitzgerald desperately wanted to be great soldiers but neither one could pull it off. Both of them found love in the service, though, that too turned out tragically.

Quick literary trivia question. Which hard-drinking modernist writer of legendary fame served in the U.S. Army during World War I?Hint: it’s not Ernest Hemingway. As a young man, Hemingway tried to enlist but was barred from service because of a defective eye. However much he would later look down on his frenemy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, for being someone who “for his actions in civil life as a criterion… would probably have been re-classified or shot for cowardice,” Fitzgerald is the only one of the two who could boast—not that he did, at least on this account—of wearing his country’s uniform in wartime.

How I Write