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FILE - In this Aug. 20, 2007, file photo, author Harper Lee smiles during a ceremony honoring the four new members of the Alabama Academy of Honor at the Capitol in Montgomery, Ala. Lee, author of "To Kill a Mockingbird," said she never gave her approval to a new memoir that portrays itself as a rare, intimate look into the lives of the writer and her older sister in small-town in Alabama. "Rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood," Lee said in a letter released Monday, July 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Rob Carr, File)

‘The Mockingbird Next Door’

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What ever happened to Harper Lee? The Alabama native was 34 when her first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was published in 1960. This tale of childhood innocence and racial injustice in the Depression-era South won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, was adapted for an award-winning film with Gregory Peck and became a staple of high school English curricula. But Lee shunned publicity and never published another novel, fueling occasional rumors that her friend Truman Capote — a childhood neighbor in the small town of Monroeville — had written or helped write Mockingbird. Lee went silent, but To Kill a Mockingbird endures, an American classic. …

Gordimer Grasped The Power Of Writing

Friday, July 18, 2014

Nadine Gordimer, who died Sunday at age 90, understood the power of writing as a moral force. Not only in terms of literature (although that too) but also politically, in a country — apartheid-era South Africa — where such commitment carried a high price. We think of Gordimer as an international figure, winner …

An American Commons: Photographic Study Celebrates Public Libraries 

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Public Library: A Photographic Essay, by Robert Dawson, Princeton Architectural Press, 192 pages, $35 Long before I could define philanthropist, I held Andrew Carnegie in the highest esteem. When I asked, at 10, why “Carnegie” was carved into the stone over the pillared portico of the Solvay Public Library in my upstate …

How a Mob Got Away With Killing Joseph Smith

Friday, April 25, 2014

“American Crucifixion” by Alex Beam; PublicAffairs (336 pages, $26.99) In 1844, when Illinois was the wild, wild west, an armed mob stormed a jailhouse and assassinated an American religious leader. And got away with it. The story of Mormon founder Joseph Smith’s death 170 years ago receives a …

Going It Alone: Authors Discuss Their Decision to Abandon Traditional Publishing

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Newport News, Va. — “I should write a book.” We’ve all heard that statement before from friends or family or co-workers. We might even have said it ourselves. We all have stories to tell, whether real or fictional. …

Five-Colleges Book Sale Sets Attendance Mark

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lebanon — About halfway through Day One of the annual Five-Colleges Book Sale Saturday, book dealers Frank and Sue O’Brien were whittling through large stacks of books that they had plucked from tables around Lebanon High School, choosing …

Garcia Marquez Was More Than Magical Realism

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a charmer. The great Colombian novelist, who died Thursday, called Mexico City home for much of his life, and it was there that I met him, at a chi-chi Mexican restaurant where he agreed …

Imagining Adeline: Family Diary Inspires Plainfield Woman’s Novel

Friday, April 11, 2014

In 2009, Helen Taylor Davidson of Plainfield sat down with the diary of her great-grandmother Adeline Elizabeth Hoe with the intent of transcribing it. That would have been ambitious enough, but she went a step further. She dove …

An Atheist Grapples With a Mystical Encounter

Friday, April 11, 2014

Barbara Ehrenreich never meant to write a memoir. “It seems very self-involved,” she says by phone from her home in Arlington, Va. “I have anxiety about it.” That anxiety is heightened at the moment because her new book, Living With a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the …

Matthiessen: Best Fiction ‘Will Always Matter’

Friday, April 11, 2014

Peter Matthiessen, who died Saturday at age 86 of complications from leukemia, was complex, even contradictory, in the most compelling sense. Born into privilege, he attended Hotchkiss boarding school and Yale and founded the Paris Review in 1953 with George Plimpton and Harold L. Humes. Yet he later …

Author Peter Matthiessen Dies at 86

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Associated Press Peter Matthiessen, a rich man’s son who spurned a life of leisure and embarked on extraordinary physical and spiritual quests while producing such acclaimed books as The Snow Leopard and At Play in the Fields of …

A ‘Night’ From Another Time

Sunday, March 30, 2014

New York — Before his mother became the model for Blanche DuBois of A Streetcar Named Desire and his sister the inspiration for Laura Wingfield of The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams drew upon a college girlfriend — if …

Belated Tribute To a Fine Poet

Friday, March 28, 2014

Somewhat belatedly, I want to add my voice to the rightful chorus of tribute to poet Maxine Kumin, who died Feb. 6 at 89. She lived in New Hampshire, about an hour and a half to my southeast, and I had known, admired and greatly liked this marvelous …