R. I. P. -- The Authors Thread

Discussion in 'Books' started by Val1, May 8, 2012.

  1. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintanence, dies at the age of 88

    http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-...maintenance-author-robert-m-pirsig-dies-at-88


    Pirsig wrote just two books: Zen (subtitled "An Inquiry Into Values") and Lila: An Inquiry into Morals.

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    Zen was published in 1974, after being rejected by 121 publishing houses. "The book is brilliant beyond belief," wrote Morrow editor James Landis before publication. "It is probably a work of genius and will, I'll wager, attain classic status."

    Indeed, the book quickly became a best-seller, and has proved enduring as a work of popular philosophy. A 1968 motorcycle trip across the West with his son Christopher was his inspiration.

    Christopher Lehmann-Haupt reviewed Zen for The New York Times in 1974. "[H]owever impressive are the seductive powers with which Mr. Pirsig engages us in his motorcycle trip, they are nothing compared to the skill with which he interests us in his philosophic trip," he wrote. "Mr. Pirsig may sometimes appear to be a greener‐America proselytizer, with his beard and his motorcycle tripping and his talk about learning to love technology. But when he comes to grips with the hard philosophical conundrums raised by the 1960's, he can be electrifying."

    Pirsig was born in Minneapolis, the son of a University of Minnesota law professor. He graduated from high school at 15 and enlisted in the Army after World War II. While stationed in South Korea, he encountered the Asian philosophies that would underpin his work. He went on to study Hindu philosophy in India and for a time was enrolled in a philosophy Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago. He was hospitalized for mental illness and returned to Minneapolis, where he worked as a technical writer and began writing his first book.



    He was also teaching a full time load of comp classes at the future Iniversity of Illinois at Chicago, which combined with a full load of grad classes and a new family, likely contributed to the breakdown.
     
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  2. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Prize winning novelist Denis Johnson, author of Jesus' Son and Tree of Smoke, dies of liver cancer at 67

    http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-...hor-of-jesus-son-and-tree-of-smoke-dies-at-67

    Denis Johnson, the author behind the seminal collection Jesus' Son, has died at the age of 67. A protean stylist who made a career of defying readers' expectations, he crafted fiction, poetry and reportage that was often as unsparing as it was unconventional.

    ....
    "Denis was one of the great writers of his generation," FSG's president and publisher, Jonathan Galassi, said in a statement Friday. "He wrote prose with the imaginative concentration and empathy of the poet he was."

    "Brutally honest and painfully beautiful" — that's how novelist Nathan Englander described Johnson's work in 1992's Jesus' Son, a brief, unvarnished set of interwoven stories that focus on the desperate lives of {heroin} addicts​


    And a pretty good commemoration just popped up at the NYT site

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/26/...on&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0

    There is a fierce, ecstatic quality to Mr. Johnson’s strongest work that lends his characters and their stories an epic, almost mythic dimension, in the best American tradition of Melville and Whitman. In the interlinked stories in “Jesus’ Son” (1992), the narrator traverses the United States, moving through a grim, fluorescent-lit landscape of rundown bars and one-night cheap motels, and meeting a succession of misfits as alienated and desperate as himself — people who often seem like crazy, drug-addled relatives of the lost souls in Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio” or strung-out exiles from a Lou Reed album.

    ....
    Plots in Mr. Johnson’s books tend to be tangled, melodramatic affairs — often highly indebted to famous works by Conrad, Graham Greene and Robert Stone — and in his lesser books, like “Already Dead: A California Gothic” (1997), his writing can devolve into portentous philosophizing, larded with New Age and Nietzschean intonations.

    But in his masterworks — “Fiskadoro,” “Jesus’ Son,” “Tree of Smoke” and his harrowing debut novel, “Angels” (1983) — his incandescent language channels his characters’ desperation. Here, his prose possesses both the steel and the lyricism of his verse, and is perfectly attuned to capturing the surreal proceedings in Johnsonland, where hallucinatory imaginings bleed into daily life, where reality itself can seem like a fevered nightmare.

    “What I write about,” Mr. Johnson once said, “is really the dilemma of living in a fallen world, and asking: ‘Why is it like this if there’s supposed to be a God?’”​

     
  3. Val1

    Val1 Member+

    Arsenal
    Mar 12, 2004
    MD's Eastern Shore
    Club:
    Arsenal FC
    Michael Bond, creator of Paddington Bear, has passed away at age 91.

    download.jpg

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/books/michael-bond-dead-paddington-bear.html


    "For Mr. Bond, the story began on Christmas Eve 1956, when he was working as a BBC TV camera operator. On his way home, he stopped by Selfridges department store and spotted a toy bear alone on a shelf. “It looked rather forlorn,” he told the London newspaper The Sunday Telegraph in 2007. He took the bear home as a stocking stuffer for his wife and soon began writing a story about it. After 10 days he had a completed novel, which William Collins & Sons bought for £75."


    The dirty secret to Paddington, though, is that he is, of course, an illegal immigrant....


    RIP, Mr Bond.


     
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  4. Val1

    Val1 Member+

    Arsenal
    Mar 12, 2004
    MD's Eastern Shore
    Club:
    Arsenal FC
    images.jpg

    Sue Grafton

    Grafton passed away a couple of days ago at age 77. Grafton was the author of the Alphabet Series of cozy/procedural mysteries starring female private eye, Kinsey Millhone. The first book was A is for Alibi and she made it all the way to Y. I guess people are speculating whether the estate/family would hire someone to ghostwrite the last book, but that's already been shot down. Grafton also, apparently, forbade her books from being made into movies or an English mystery series.

    I loved this series. I probably came into the series about the time G was published, and I devoured the first half dozen. Then, for the next half dozen, I eagerly awaited their forthcoming, almost like Harry Potter fans waiting for book 7. The series got a little tiresome at the end, and I probably stopped reading around U or V. But it was good fun while it lasted. I don't think I've read 20 books by any other author...

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/29/obituaries/sue-grafton-dies-best-selling-mystery-author.html
     
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  5. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Ursula Le Guin, 88

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/23/...column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news


    Photo
    [​IMG]
    Ursula K. Le Guin in an undated photograph. Her best-known books have been translated into many languages. CreditMarian Wood Kolisch
    Ursula K. Le Guin, the immensely popular author who brought literary depth and a tough-minded feminist sensibility to science fiction and fantasy with books like “The Left Hand of Darkness” and the Earthsea series, died on Monday at her home in Portland, Ore. She was 88.

    Her son, Theo Downes-Le Guin, confirmed the death. He did not specify a cause but said she had been in poor health for several months.

    Ms. Le Guin embraced the standard themes of her chosen genres: sorcery and dragons, spaceships and planetary conflict. But even when her protagonists are male, they avoid the macho posturing of so many science fiction and fantasy heroes. The conflicts they face are typically rooted in a clash of cultures and resolved more by conciliation and self-sacrifice than by swordplay or space battles.

    Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. Several, including “The Left Hand of Darkness” — set on a planet where the customary gender distinctions do not apply — have been in print for almost 50 years. The critic Harold Bloom lauded Ms. Le Guin as “a superbly imaginative creator and major stylist” who “has raised fantasy into high literature for our time.”

    In addition to more than 20 novels, she was the author of a dozen books of poetry, more than 100 short stories (collected in multiple volumes), seven collections of essays, 13 books for children and five volumes of translation, including the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu and selected poems by the Chilean Nobel Prize winner Gabriela Mistral. She also wrote a guide for writers.​

     
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  6. BalanceUT

    BalanceUT RSL and THFC!

    Oct 8, 2006
    Appalachia
    Club:
    Real Salt Lake
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I have tried twice to read Wizard of Earthsea. The first time I quit part way through. The second time, several decades later, I managed to get through, but I didn't really like it.

    I would appreciate a recommendation on what of hers I should read if I found Earthsea's characters too brooding and implausible (Yes, I used that word with SF/Fantasy genre. For me, I have to believe the characters and I never believed the characters in that book).
     
  7. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Hopefully someone else will turn out: There was a scholar whose name I can't remember* who wrote a great book** on genre fiction, one in which he compared the genres to food. In so doing ,it allowed him to come up with an analogy using cravings, intolerances and allergies.

    I have a strong allergy to the fantasy genre. But her book Steering the Craft: A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Seas of Story is really good.

    *Thomas J. Roberts, **The Aesthetics of Junk Fiction. Amazon's description is good...

    Thomas J.Roberts reassesses so-called junk fiction and the motives and experiences of its learned readership to reveal that there are rewards in junk fiction not found elsewhere in literature. Traditional images of junk fiction and its readers are inadequate, Roberts argues. The writing is too often judged by scholarly literary criteria that ignore the conventions of junk fiction genres and significant aspects of the readers' experiences. Not surprisingly, books by authors such as Louis L'Amour and Ross Thomas are seen as fictions that failed to make the grade as high literature - fare for readers doomed by a limited capacity to respond to good fiction. While Roberts rejects these summary dismissals, he finds that the well-worn defenses of popular fiction's worth are just as invalid. Junk fiction doesn't really provide fun, escape, and raw material for day-dreaming, he contends, and readers don't indentify with junk fiction heroes and heroines in a Mitty-like fashion. Nor do they read it because the stories end happily or according to their expectations. Roberts profiles learned readers of popular fiction and also those who read learned fiction or junk fiction exclusively. He identifies major types of readers and books, shows how these divisions work for learned and junk fiction, and then places these reader and book types in a variety of associations within the realms for "bookscapes" as he calls them, of learned and junk fiction. Junk fiction is a bookscape that has weak individual texts, but is strong and dynamic when viewed as a literary system. By contrast, learned fiction is a bookscape dominated by monumental texts, inexhaustibly rewarding but frozen now in time and incapable of evolving. Learned fiction is studied rather than read. Junk fiction is read by a process Roberts calls thick-reading. Its readers are always aware of the changing patterns and rules governing a book's genre, and see that, however slightly, each new story changes its own genre. In a sense junk fiction readers are not reading books, they are reading whole genres and listening to the stories talking to one another inside those genres.​

     
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  8. BalanceUT

    BalanceUT RSL and THFC!

    Oct 8, 2006
    Appalachia
    Club:
    Real Salt Lake
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Thank you for this very helpful perspective. I feel I've just read the introduction to a graduate level course in something I might call, "The Landscape of Fiction".

     
  9. Val1

    Val1 Member+

    Arsenal
    Mar 12, 2004
    MD's Eastern Shore
    Club:
    Arsenal FC
    #109 Val1, Jan 25, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2018
    I'm not sure that characterization is Le Guin's strong suit. The Left Hand of Darkness (mentioned in Wankler's post) is interesting and it is a world you'll think of often, but come to mention it, I don't remember the characters very well. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is... postmodern. It's a short story about a utopia that is powered by the misery of a single child, and some people choose to leave Omelas so as to not be a part of that slavery. I don't remember any characters from that, either.

    I don't think Le Guin is SF, per se. She has some more fantastical settings but she seems more philosophical than anything else. I think she's more akin to Margaret Atwood than anyone else. But what do I know? I read both Wizard of Earthsea and A Wrinkle in Time one summer and I've confused Madeleine L'Engle and Ursula Le Guin ever since.

    EDIT: Here's what one fanboy had to say about Omelas: http://archive.is/9ZogE
    Spoilers abound, though.
     
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  10. BalanceUT

    BalanceUT RSL and THFC!

    Oct 8, 2006
    Appalachia
    Club:
    Real Salt Lake
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Thank you for this, it helps me to understand why I am not such a fan. I tend to enjoy characters, I guess, characters that make sense to me. I'll stop this to not derail the RIP nature of this thread. Y'all have helped me get over my 'but I don't really like this tremendously lauded author'.
    I love Atwood, by the way.
     
  11. EvanJ

    EvanJ Member+

    Manchester United
    United States
    Mar 30, 2004
    Nassau County, NY
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    Manchester United FC
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    United States
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  12. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Nobel Prize Winner V. S. Naipaul, 85

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/11/...column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news



    In many ways embodying the contradictions of the postcolonial world, Mr. Naipaul was born of Indian ancestry in Trinidad, went to Oxford University on a scholarship and lived the rest of his life in England, where he forged one of the most illustrious literary careers of the last half century. He was knighted in 1990.

    Compared in his lifetime to Conrad, Dickens and Tolstoy, he was also a lightning rod for criticism, particularly by those who read his portrayals of third-world disarray as apologies for colonialism.

    Yet Mr. Naipaul exempted neither colonizer nor colonized from his scrutiny. He wrote of the arrogance and self-aggrandizement of the colonizers, yet exposed the self-deception and ethical ambiguities of the liberation movements that swept across Africa and the Caribbean in their wake. He brought to his work moral urgency and a novelist’s attentiveness to individual lives and triumphs.

    Mr. Naipaul personified a sense of displacement. Having left behind the circumscribed world of Trinidad, he was never entirely rooted in England. In awarding him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001, the Swedish Academy described him as “a literary circumnavigator, only ever really at home in himself, in his inimitable voice.”

    Yet his existential homelessness was as much willed as fated. Although he spent his literary career mining his origins, Mr. Naipaul fiercely resisted the idea of being tethered to a hyphen, or to a particular ethnic or religious identity. He once left a publisher when he saw himself listed in the catalog as a “West Indian novelist.” A Hindu, though not observant, Mr. Naipaul was a staunch defender of Western civilization. His guiding philosophy was universalism.

    “What do they call it? Multi-culti? It’s all absurd, you know,” he said in 2004. “I think if a man picks himself up and comes to another country he must meet it halfway.” It was the kind of provocative statement that won him both enemies and admirers over the years.​

     
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  13. Goodsport

    Goodsport Moderator
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  14. Val1

    Val1 Member+

    Arsenal
    Mar 12, 2004
    MD's Eastern Shore
    Club:
    Arsenal FC
    Russell Baker -- Two Time Pulitzer Winner

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    I know Russell Baker best for his wonderful memoir, Growing Up, and his time as host of Masterpiece Theatre. I don't read many memoirs, so this may be faint praise, but Growing Up is the finest memoir I have read. I never understood the appeal of Angela's Ashes and why it was so hugely popular. Ashes is bleak and depressing while Growing Up is filled with a charm and humor the Frank McCourt could only dream of. I made both my kids read Growing Up setting it alongside with the standard high school canon. As much as I loved this book, I hated it, too. It was the memoir my dad should have written. They had similar upbringings in midwest Depression America.

    https://www.cjr.org/first_person/russell-baker.php

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/22/business/media/russell-baker-dead-pulitzer.html

    (This second article is as gracious an obituary as I've read.)

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  15. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    From the NYT obit...


    In 1975, after The Times’s food editor and restaurant critic Craig Claiborne reported in gastronomic detail on a $4,000 31-course epicurean repast for two, with wines, in Paris, Mr. Baker wrote “Francs and Beans,” describing his own culinary triumph after coming home to find a note in the kitchen saying his wife had gone out.

    “The meal opened with a 1975 Diet Pepsi served in a disposable bottle,” he wrote. “Although its bouquet was negligible, its distinct metallic aftertaste evoked memories of tin cans one had licked experimentally in the first flush of childhood’s curiosity.” And on to a “pâté de fruites de nuts of Georgia”: “A half-inch layer of creamy-style peanut butter is troweled onto a graham cracker, then half a banana is crudely diced and pressed firmly into the peanut butter and cemented in place as it were by a second graham cracker.”​


    That's Baker in a nutshell.

    There are two copies of Growing Up in my county's library system. They're both checked out. There are 8 holds on them.

    Pretty good for a book from 1982.
     
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  16. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Poet W. S. Merwin, 91

    https://hosted.ap.org/thetimes-trib...5/ws-merwin-prize-winning-poet-nature-dies-91

    NEW YORK (AP) — W.S. Merwin, a prolific and versatile poetry master who evolved through a wide range of styles as he celebrated nature, condemned war and industrialism and reached for the elusive past, died Friday. He was 91.

    Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. poet laureate, Merwin completed more than 20 books, from early works inspired by myths and legends to fiery protests against environmental destruction and the conflict in Vietnam to late meditations on age and time.

    . . .

    William Stanley Merwin was born in New York City in 1927. He soon moved to Union City, New Jersey, living for years on a street now called "W.S. Merwin Way," then to Scranton, Pennsylvania.

    In a long, autobiographical poem, "Testimony," he remembered his father as a weary, disappointed man, subsisting on "pinched salaries" and "traveling sick with some nameless illuminating ill." His mother was orphaned early in life and grieved again when her baby, a boy she meant to name after her father, died "when he had scarcely wakened."

    In a household as grim as an abandoned parking lot, the way out was pointed by words, which seemed to float around Merwin like magic bubbles. He would try to memorize scripture he heard his father recite and fairy tales his mother toll him. By age 13, he was already composing hymns.​

     
  17. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Giant of Fantasy Literature, Gene Wolfe, 87

    https://www.tor.com/2019/04/15/gene-wolfe-in-memoriam-1931-2019/

    The science fiction and fantasy community has lost a beloved icon. We are extremely sad to report that author and SFWA Grand Master Gene Wolfe passed away on Sunday, April 14, 2019 after his long battle with heart disease. He was 87.

    Gene Wolfe was born in New York on May 7, 1931. He studied at Texas A&M for a few years before dropping out and fighting in the Korean War. After his return to the US he finished his degree at the University of Houston. He was an engineer, and worked as the editor of the professional journal Plant Engineering. He was also instrumental in inventing the machine that cooks Pringles potato chips. He pursued his own writing during his editorial tenure at Plant Engineering, but it took a few years before one of his books gained wider notice in the sci-fi community: the novella that eventually became The Fifth Head of Cerberus. The whole tale was finally released as three linked novellas in 1972 . . .

    . . .

    Wolfe went on to write over 30 novels, with his best best-known work, The Book of The New Sun, spanning 1980-1983. The series is a tetralogy set in the Vancian Dying Earth subgenre, and follows the journey of Severian, a member of the Guild of Torturers, after he is exiled for the sin of mercy. Over the course of the series the books won British Science Fiction, World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Locus, Nebula, and Campbell Memorial Awards. In 1998 poll, the readers of Locus magazine considered the series as a single entry and ranked it third in a poll of fantasy novels published before 1990, following only The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

    Wolfe’s fans include Michael Swanwick, Neil Gaiman, Patrick O’Leary, Ursula K. Le Guin, and many, many more, and he was praised for his exciting prose and depth of character. Asked by editor Damon Knight to name his biggest influences, he replied: “G. K. Chesterton and Marks’ [Standard] Handbook for [Mechanical] Engineers.” In 2015 The New Yorker published this profile of Wolfe by Peter Bebergal, in which the two discussed his decades-long career—it’s well worth a read.​


    Met him once when he dropped in on a professor when I was at UIC. Had a great discussion with this guy who I didn't know from Adam on "Magical Realism" who convinced me that "Magical Realism" is just a literary, pretentious way of saying "fantasy."
     
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  18. riverplate

    riverplate Member+

    Jan 1, 2003
    Corona, Queens
    Club:
    CA River Plate
    [​IMG]

    Herman Wouk, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Master of Sweeping Historical Fiction, Dies at 103
    - Washington Post
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/loca...673edf2d127_story.html?utm_term=.26af278e59e6

    Herman Wouk, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the Navy drama “The Caine Mutiny,” whose sweeping novels about World War II, the Holocaust and the creation of Israel made him one of the most popular writers of his generation and helped revitalize the genre of historical fiction, died May 17 at his home in Palm Springs, Calif. He was 103.

    Mr. Wouk penned a dozen novels, a handful of plays and several nonfiction books over the course of his nearly 60-year career. A meticulous researcher, he specialized in stories of personal conflict set against the backdrop of compelling historical events, including “The Caine Mutiny” (1951), “The Winds of War” (1971) and “War and Remembrance” (1978). The latter two became ABC miniseries in the 1980s starring Robert Mitchum that averaged tens of millions of viewers over the course of their broadcast.

    In a form that the author would echo in other novels, “The Winds of War” and its sequel, “War and Remembrance,” trace World War II through the experiences of one family. “The Winds of War” follows Navy officer Victor “Pug” Henry and his relatives from the German invasion of Poland to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, where its sequel begins and then proceeds to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

    “The Caine Mutiny: A Novel of World War II” in 1951 brought Mr. Wouk his first critical and popular success, including the Pulitzer. The book centers on a power struggle aboard the destroyer-minesweeper Caine, culminating in a young lieutenant seizing control of the vessel from the paranoid Capt. Queeg after the crew thinks it faces imminent danger. The action culminates in a court-martial for the lieutenant. Although the novel raised questions of authority and duty versus personal freedom, the naval community embraced it. Queeg also became one of the most memorable characters of the day, a man who relieved his stress by obsessively rolling steel bearings in the palm of his hand.

    Time magazine called “The Caine Mutiny,” which sold more than 5 million copies worldwide and was translated into 17 languages, the “biggest U.S. bestseller since ‘Gone With the Wind.’ ” A 1954 film adaptation of the novel, starring Humphrey Bogart as Queeg, became a popular hit, earning Bogart an Academy Award nomination.
     
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  19. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Tony Horwitz, most famous for Confederates in the Attic and for the book he was currently promoting. I hope mone of our DC area posters were planning on going to Politics and Prose to hear him tonight

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/tony-...s-in-the-attic-spying-on-the-south-dead-at-60

    The former Wall Street Journal reporter was on tour with his latest book, Spying on the South—about his travels in the U.S. South in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election—and was scheduled to appear at Washington’s Politics and Prose bookstore on Tuesday night. Among Horwitz’s books are Midnight Rising, about the abolitionist John Brown; A Voyage Long and Strange, which retraced the modern path and legacy of Christopher Columbus and other early explorers in the Americas, and Baghdad Without a Map. He is survived by his wife, the writer Geraldine Brooks, and their two sons.​

     
  20. Ismitje

    Ismitje Super Moderator
    Staff Member

    Dec 30, 2000
    The Palouse
    Club:
    Real Salt Lake
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    United States
    Fresh Air re-ran a 1998 interview with him today, recorded at the time Confederates in the Attic was released. Very interesting.
     
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