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"Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to 'Citizen Kane' by Patrick McGilligan; Harper (832 pages, $35) (Harper Collins)

New Book Details Orson Welles’ Rise to Fame

Sunday, November 29, 2015

One of Orson Welles’ more famous fiascos — and there were a few — is titled “It’s All True.” That title can never be applied to Welles himself. You’d be hard-pressed to find a figure in American arts around whom more stories swirl with varying degrees of truthfulness — in part fueled by the Kenosha, Wis., native’s own love of tale-telling. So in Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to ‘Citizen Kane’ film historian Patrick McGilligan takes a different approach: Trust (sort of), but verify. The result is a richly detailed, often nuanced study of Welles’ life and work from …

Author Revisits Salem in ‘The Witches’

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Stacy Schiff has read more Cotton Mather treatises than any modern soul should have to endure. The shocker is, she did so eagerly. “You know you’re a goner,” said the prizewinning nonfiction author, “when your idea of a great book is a Puritan sermon.” Schiff spent much of the past several years immersed in Colonial New England life during its most infamous period …

A Biography on Malcolm X’s Biographer

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Alex Haley was a working freelance writer, not an ideologue. Yet he wrote two of the 20th century’s chief texts of African-American consciousness: The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the saga Roots. The latter was adapted for a blockbuster TV miniseries watched by a reported 130 million viewers. In Alex Haley: And the …

Felicia Day Loves the Internet, Despite Trolls

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Felicia Day is well aware that not everyone knows who she is. Those are the people who aren’t immersed in the gaming culture, who haven’t spent wide swaths of their lives playing World of Warcraft, or watching her …

National Gallery’s Show of Photobooks Follows in Footsteps of Robert Frank

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Washington — From the earliest days of photography, images were collected in albums, the way a botanist might save pressed flowers. All that changed in 1959 with the publication of Robert Frank’s photobook The Americans. With this collection …

Didion Bio Offers Little Beyond Her Own Writing

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion by Tracy Daugherty; St. Martin’s Press (752 pages; $35) Someday someone will write a biography worthy of Joan Didion, an author known for her razor-sharp insights and crystalline style. …

A Look Inside Hemingway’s Cuban Estate

Sunday, August 23, 2015

When he was not writing letters or working on the books that earned him the Nobel Prize, Ernest Hemingway wrote notes, in pencil, on his walls and in the margins of many of the 8,000 books in his …

There’s Time Left For More Reading During The Summer

Thursday, August 13, 2015

In the better-late-than-never category we turn to summer reading. Yes, it’s still summer, it’s still warm, and there’s still time to bring a book to a beach, lake, campsite, state park or town green. It’s true that the summer seems to have raced by, and that Labor Day …

Ghostwriter Hilary Liftin Brings Hollywood Perspective to Her First Novel

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hilary Liftin knows what it’s like to be a star — well, kind of. The publishing industry veteran has been writing about celebrities for years as a ghostwriter for A-listers such as Tori Spelling, Mackenzie Phillips and Miley Cyrus. Liftin, who studied English at Yale University, spent 10 …

‘The Fellowship’ Details the Literary Lives of the Inklings

Thursday, August 13, 2015

There’s a kind of fan who will see a book title that includes the words Tolkien, Lewis and Inklings and hunger for every last detail. If you are that kind of fan, this may be your kind of …

Jennine Capó Crucet Talks About Miami, Writing Elsewhere

Thursday, August 13, 2015

You may be tempted to assume that Lizet, the college student at the heart of Jennine Capó Crucet’s new novel, is a thinly disguised version of Crucet. After all, there are similarities: They’re the same age. They’re both …

A Quiet Mastery

Friday, July 31, 2015

They are all still happily picking, after all these years. Picking, snacking, and kuplunking their way up the rocky, spruce-dotted slopes of Blueberry Hill. Little Sal looks much the same as she did in 1948, appealingly androgynous, both …

Jimmy Carter Holds Ideals Close at 90

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jimmy Carter let me down. Not with his book A Full Life: Reflections at 90 — a warm and detailed memoir of his youth followed by a clear-eyed assessment of the issues he tackled as president and afterward …