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TUESDAY, JUNE 22, 2010
mybooks JEFF BURTON
Bret Easton Ellis on ‘Imperial Bedrooms,’ his sequel to ‘Less Than Zero’ Why violence in his work is a tired topic (for him, anyway) For Bret Easton Ellis, it turns out that you can go home again. Twenty-five years after he burst onto the literary scene with “Less Than Zero,” a novel that encompassed the bleak ennui of an ’80s Los Angeles, Ellis is back living in his hometown and has returned to “Zero’s” cast of characters in the just-released sequel, “Imperial Bedrooms.”
Nice author photo! It seems to sum up your L.A. life.
So long, ‘Earl.’ Hello, ‘Memphis’ PAGE 13
Good cheese in the Slope
‘Zero’ This shot — which Ellis wanted to sum up his L.A. life — took two days.
East Coast vs. West Coast Now a California resident, we asked the onceinfamous New Yorker if he ever missed living here.
“No, I don’t. Every now and again there is a pang. I’ll read something somewhere about a party or see a Patrick McMullan photo and think, ‘Oh yeah! I would have gone to that.’
And then I think, ‘Thank God I don’t have to go that,’” he says. “It was a great run, 17 really fun years. The party just ends for some people.” METRO/DR
Every single author photo I have has been carefully choreographed. I wanted this one to look older and douchier than that louche young man in a loosened tie I took when I was 21 for “Less Than Zero.” This one took two days to pull off. So in 30 years, your author photo will be in a nursing home?
[Laughs] One day. Or hey, maybe in the next two years. What will happen at tonight’s reading?
I want it to be a much more interactive experience. Talking about why I wrote the book is not that interesting. So I’ll open a dialogue with the audience. I want to hear what they have to say. That’s much more interesting. Why the title “Imperial Bedrooms”?
When I first began thinking about the book and the characters of “Less Than Zero” and the sexual exploitation that happens, I thought of the Elvis Costello song. It’s really as simple as that. The use of violence — especially against women — is always a light-
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ning rod for your work. And in “Imperial Bedrooms” it is, again, pretty shocking. Are you ever surprised by how many fans you have when your writing can be so dark?
Maybe that’s why I have so many fans. Really. Do people only respond to sympathy and lightness? If that were the only thing people liked, then 80 percent of the literary canon wouldn’t have been read. It’s a tired complaint — the violence in my work. Look, this is how I feel. I’m writing within a fictional context. [The violence] isn’t something I am thinking about when I’m having dinner. DOROTHY ROBINSON
If you go Bret Easton Ellis in conversation with Andrew McCarthy Tonight, 7 p.m., Barnes & Noble 33 East 17th St.
www.metro.us TUESDAY, AUGUST 17, 2010
drama queen Philippa Gregory continues her streak of best-selling historical royal novels with ‘The Red Queen’ If you thought the life of Princess Diana was something, you’ve never learned about Lady Margaret Beaufort
rom Anne Boleyn to Princess Di, our obsession with the private lives of royal women has spanned centuries. Historical novelist Philippa Gregory not only understands our fascination, she benefits from it greatly. With her quick turnaround and an education in history and 18th century literature, Gregory has launched a hugely profitable writing career based on fictionalizing the lives of the monarchy. She tackled Anne Boleyn in “The Other Boleyn Girl,” Katherine of Aragon in “The Constant Princess,” and now, after her best-selling novels on the Tudor dynasty, Gregory is focusing on The Cousins’ War series with 2009’s “The White Queen” and the justreleased “The Red Queen.” “In the period I’m writing about, royalty and those around them regarded themselves as higher than ordinary humans,” says Gregory. “It’s the same reason we love them today — they are fabulously dramatic and glamorous.” “The Red Queen” presents the life of Margaret Beaufort, a woman who plotted, schemed and used marriage to secure the throne for her son. But how does a stuffy British queen who died over 500 years ago have as sensational a life as depicted in “The Red Queen?” “Oh, easy,” Gregory responds. “She’s a woman of immense personal confidence and incredible determination.” And that’s just one woman — Gregory has centuries of backstabbing royals to cover. “English history is very long,” she laughs. “I’m going to die before I run out of queens to write about.”
2 Inside: The Word
Judging from this engraving of Beaufort from 1490 (above), maybe there’s been just a bit of dramatic license taken with at least her looks on the cover of “The Red Queen,” left.
Bieber: Adorable Twitter terrorist PAGE 11
Crowded crowns The queen of royal fiction Gregory is certainly at the top of her game (“The Red Queen” debuted at No. 2 on The New York Times best-seller list), but the market is getting crowded. This year alone has seen the release of “For a Queen's Love: The Stories of the Royal Wives of Philip II (A Novel of the Tudors),” “The Three Crowns: The Story of William and Mary,” “Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine” and dozens more, but Gregory is diplomatic about her competition: “[Historical fiction] is having a real renaissance and I’ve been a part of that. That’s been really interesting to see.”
Get her chic look and fine tunes PAGE 12
What life is like out on the Fringe Fest PAGES 14-15
www.metro.us TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2010
mybooks Author Ken Follett on the worldwide launch of ‘Fall of Giants,’ which will have a million copies released today in the US alone The story behind the beginning of his ambitious new trilogy
One million and counting K
“Fall of Giants” is the ﬁrst in a projected trilogy that will follow the fortunes of ﬁve families across multiple nations during the monumental events of the 20th century.
Why he must be ‘Giant’ “I didn’t want to go back to writing thrillers and didn’t want to do another medieval story and I’ve al-
ways liked to change. It’s a good idea for me to move to fresh subjects. So I thought, ‘What can I write about that would give me the sweep of history and cataclysmic
events that I had in “World Without End”?’ I thought about the 20th century and how it’s our history — where we come from — and I got excited about it.”
en Follett seems pretty at-ease for a man who is about to have a million copies of his book “Fall of Giants” released today. “Oh, it’s only a million in the U.S.,” he corrects us when we asked if his nerves are rattled by the enormity of having so many copies of his work going to the reading public at once. “There are several million more translations being released simultaneously worldwide — I haven’t actually counted how many.” If Follett is a man who doesn’t seem modest, that’s OK. He can afford to be confident — the British writer has sold more than 100 million copies of his fiction, which includes both popular thrillers such as “Eye of the Needle” and “The Key to Rebecca,” and historical pop fiction including “The Pillars of the Earth” and “World Without End.” “Fall of Giants” has Follett once
“I had such a wonderful success with ‘World Without End’ that I wanted the same again. I guess I’m greedy for acclaim, it seems.” KEN FOLLETT
again returning to historical fiction. “I had such a wonderful success with ‘World Without End’ that I wanted the same again. I guess I’m greedy for acclaim, it seems,” he laughs.
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For this grand scope of historical fiction — “Fall of Giants” tops out at 1,008 pages and is the first of a trilogy that will follow the families all the way through the Cold War — Follett had to do his research. “That task is to make the history clear and quite simple to the reader. That doesn’t mean I can get away with a superficial knowledge. I have to understand it quite profoundly to give them an accurate picture of what happened. But the history is the background. At its core, it’s a novel about characters and their personal destinies; the wonderful, great, historical events are just the background.”
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2011
Your novels are all on such divergent topics. What makes you not only write about something but also do the vast research required?
I think an artist should challenge themselves and grow; I’ve never been limited in any way. I am just interested in many, many things and see them as grist for writing. It’s just the way my life works. In life, there is always a story. My work just reflects that. DOROTHY ROBINSON
The far-reaching fiction of T.C. Boyle
He has written books on everything from illegal immigration in ‘The Tortilla Curtain’ to the loves of Frank Lloyd Wright in ‘The Women’ Now he tackles the environment in the lively ‘When The Killing’s Done’
.C. Boyle is a whirling dervish of an interview. At points hilarious, self-deprecating and slightly smug, he is the embodiment of his prolific, fascinating writing career that includes fictionalizing the loves of Frank Lloyd Wright in the best-selling “The Women” to Dr. Alfred Kinsey in “The Inner Circle” to a hippie commune in “Drop City.” And now he focuses that famed Boyle energy into his latest, “When the Killing’s Done,” a widereaching novel about two rival environmental groups fighting over how to best preserve the wild Northern Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. In writing about such a distressing topic as the state of the Earth and the irreversible harm we’re causing the environment, how do you stay upbeat?
If you go T.C. Boyle readings: Tonight, 7 p.m. Barnes & Noble —Upper West Side, 2289 Broadway Wednesday, 7 p.m. Book Court 163 Court St. Brooklyn, NY
Well, I am terribly depressed. But art is a way to not be depressed. I have a kind of negative view of where our species is headed but I can make art to distract myself. The hardest thing to do is to present two sides and allow the reader to enter those without being lectured at and creating a story to explore for fun. You are so well-versed in the biodiversity of the Northern Channel Islands. How much research did you have to do?
Anything to do with ani-
Boyle’s “When The Killing’s Done” tackles the dark side of “utopian longing in America.”
mals and the environment is fascinating to me. Reading about it is my hobby, not research. It’s the way women read fashion magazines or men read about sports. I read about animals.
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A poet achieves rock-star status
BRILLIANT! IT’S HIGHLY ENTERTAINING FROM START TO FINISH.” Ben Lyons, E!
“RUSSELL BRAND AND HELEN MIRREN ARE THE PERFECT COMBINATION.” Chris Parente, THE CW
Meet the ‘phenomenon’ that is Billy Collins — a man who has made poetry popular (again) He discusses his latest book ‘Horoscopes for the Dead’ and how life is always viewed ‘through the lens of death’ © BARBI REED
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Collins’ newest book is “Horoscopes for the Dead.” He reads Sunday at the Harvard Book Store at 4 p.m. The event is sold out.
Even if you’ve never heard of another contemporary living poet, you’ve probably heard of Billy Collins. Sure, there are the accolades — he was the U.S. poet laureate for three years and more than a million copies of his books are in print — but Collins wouldn’t have taken hold of the public consciousness if his poems weren’t such charming creations — accessible, clear and perfect meditations on the American existence. In the press notes for “Horoscopes for the Dead” they call you a phenomenon. Twice. Why is it such a miracle that a poet can be popular and actually sell books?
Well, that’s a big question. It certainly has to do with competition these days compared to the 19th century. Poetry was a very common part of education. Once, to be truly educated, you’d have to write a few sonnets. And now poetry
“A good poem is like a pair of ﬂannel pajamas. Comforting.” BILLY COLLINS
has been marginalized through the allure of other media that are a little more glamorous. And I guess the other reason is because of high school. How so?
If your first introduction to poetry is something that is 200 or 400 years old, you are trying to digest something that is written in almost a different language. You can see how that would cause great anxiety. I think poetry should be taught backwards. Give them some contemporary poems they can catch on the first bounce — seduce them that way and then move backwards to more demanding poems.
– PETER TRAVERS
“Horoscopes for the Dead,” like the title suggests, is a meditation on life and mortality. Were you ever worried that it would be seen as too morbid?
[Laughs] When I write, I never think, “OK, people, let’s get some more death poems out there.” All of my books have the shadow of mortality falling across the page. It’s really more of a following of a convention in lyrical poetry, where poetry is obsessed with mortality. It’s not any personal obsession. If you go to a restaurant and sit down and touch the beautiful flowers and you find out they’re silk, they really aren’t that beautiful anymore, right? That’s because they aren’t dying. Life gives their beauty an intensity; it’s the same with human life. And with poetry, life is seen through the lens of death. DOROTHY ROBINSON
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TUESDAY, AUGUST 9, 2011
Rescued from the book graveyard
An author is receiving an unexpected second chance this summer after being out of print for nearly 20 years The rare story of ‘Tony and Susan’
Wright, pictured right, was an English professor at the University of Cincinnati and author of seven novels, all of which fell out of print. Eight years after his death, his masterpiece, “Tony and Susan,” is being reissued to worldwide acclaim.
In the news
Writer? It’s time to explore Book Country Most how-to books on the creative process tell writers to stay far away from the time-suck that is the Internet. But Book
Austin Wright is having a year most authors can only dream of. Not only is his book, “Tony and Susan,” a best-seller in Britain, but this week, a major U.S. publisher is publishing the work in the states with a printing of 10,000 copies in hardcover. Too bad he’s not around to witness it: Wright died in 2003 at the age of 80. Here is the very odd backstory to “Tony and Susan”: The thriller was first released in 1993 to a small publishing house. It garnered critical acclaim, but
The plot So why did all of these editors fawn over “Tony and Susan” enough to resurrect it? Because it’s just so good. Set up as a novel-within-anovel, “Tony and Susan” follows Susan Morrow, a mild-mannered college teacher, as she reads a manuscript her ex-husband mails her, a chilling thriller of murder and revenge.
it failed to gain traction with readers. However, over in England, editor Ravi Mirchandani, who read the original manuscript two decades ago, just couldn’t forget it. So he decided to investigate what happened to “Tony and Susan” and discovered the book was out of print. The staff at his publishing house loved it, they acquired the rights to it and went on to sell worldwide rights in 15 languages. “I’ve never had this happen,” says Jamie Raab, Publisher of Grand Central, who bought the rights for
U.S. publication for its re-release. “I read the book and thought it was amazing. I wanted to be a part of introducing it to a much larger audience.” Raab knows the whole tale is bittersweet. “Unfortunately, [Wright] is not around to appreciate it and to enjoy its success,” says Raab. “But it’s just a seamless book and works on so many levels. I just had to try to get it out there.”
on his work,” says Molly Barton, president of the site. “It makes the whole process less intimidating.” Book Country also focuses on reciprocity. Members are allowed to upload work only after they’ve provided reviews for three other works. “All the reviews are
moderated. And reviews by established members will weigh more than reviews by newer members,” Barton says. “This way, a writer cannot ask his friends to give his own work a raving review. This maintains the integrity of our website.”
Country, a new online platform, lets new writers get exposure, motivation and, most importantly, feedback. Focused on the genres of romance, fantasy, science fiction, thriller and mystery, members can upload a work in progress, explore and provide notes
about work already posted, and participate in discussions about the business and craft of writing. “Traditionally, a writer has to have a full manuscript before reviews are possible. With Book Country, he just has to upload a few chapters and he will be able to get feedback
The photos in picture are from previous editions of Photo Challenge.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2011
Smoke ’em if you got ’em Artist Daniel Clowes on his latest graphic novel Meet Andy, his cigarette-wielding teenage superhero
ven if you’re not a graphic novel aficionado, you probably know the work of Daniel Clowes. A frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine, Clowes has written two movies based on his comic works, “Ghost World” and “Art School Confidential.” In his latest book, the bold, zesty “The Death-Ray,” Clowes follows a 1970s teenager named Andy, who, with a puff of a cigarette, discovers his special powers. And once Andy gets his hands on a special ray-gun, Clowes turns the traditional superhero story on its masked head.
A kid who smokes a cigarette to discover his secret powers is subversive — and brilliant.
It seemed like, in a way, the most taboo thing that could ever happen in a work of art. If you had a movie where a kid smokes a cigarette, it is less likely it would be made than if he injects serum into his arm with a needle or takes blotter acid to attain super powers. Nothing makes you more of an outcast than portraying smoking in a positive light. [Laughs]
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Are you a smoker?
No. And I can’t stand to be around people who smoke. My dad even died of lung cancer. But you can’t say there isn’t a certain adolescent appeal to smoking. And he needed a way to discover his powers. So … What is it about the secret super hero story that’s so attractive to artists?
I read superhero comics as a kid and was really attracted to the way they looked; the early Marvel comics especially seemed so charged with electricity. I read them until I was 12 or 13 or so and then I lost interest. They suggest this rich world of imagination, but
Catch Daniel Clowes in conversation with fellow graphic novelist Seth tonight at 7 at Housing Works, 126 Crosby St., www.housingworks.org.
‘Pop!’ goes the ‘Death-Ray’ “I have a small collection of small toy ray guns, and the one in the book is based on what I had as a kid,” says Clowes of the inspiration behind Andy’s weapon of choice. “I like their sound effect — how something that can be so destructive just makes a little ‘pop’ sound.”
they never quite live up to that as you’re reading them. I just wanted to create a story that seems to have some depth and resonance but also uses the iconography of the old super hero comics. And, sure, I do feel some primal attraction to that costumewearing kid in a dark urban environment. DOROTHY ROBINSON
Sign-up for Metro’s annual Global Photo Challenge. Submit your photos and enter for a chance to win as the best local, national and Global Photo Challenge Photographer of 2011! You could win a new lens, camera or even a trip to anywhere in the world. Plus, this year when you submit your photos you’ll have the opportunity to make money for your work!
Go to metrophotochallenge.com