Category Archives: Books

Holiday Gift Guide 2016: The Year’s Best Celebrity (Auto)Biographies (Part Two)

In Such Good Company (Crown Archetype, $28), Carol Burnett pulls back the curtain on the 25-time Emmy-Award winning show that made television history, and she reminisces about the outrageously funny and tender moments that made working on the series as much fun as watching it. Carol delves into little-known stories of the guests, sketches and improvisations that made The Carol Burnett Show legendary, as well as some favorite tales too good not to relive again. While writing this book, Carol rewatched all 276 episodes and screen-grabbed her favorite video stills from the archives to illustrate the chemistry of the actors and the improvisational magic that made the show so successful. This book is Carol’s love letter to a golden era in television history through the lens of her brilliant show. Get the best seat in the house for “eleven years of laughter, mayhem, and fun in the sandbox.”

Grammy and Academy Award–winning songwriter Carole Bayer Sager shares the remarkably frank and darkly funny story of her life in and out of the recording studio, from her fascinating (and sometimes calamitous) relationships to her collaborations with some of the greatest composers and musical artists of our time. While her professional life was filled with success and fascinating people, her personal life was far more difficult and dramatic.
In They’re Playing Our Song (Simon & Schuster, $28), Sager tells the surprisingly frank and darkly humorous story of a woman whose sometimes crippling fears and devastating relationships inspired many of the songs she would ultimately write. The book will fascinate anyone interested in the craft of songwriting and the joy of collaboration, but Sager’s memoir is also a deeply personal account of how love and heartbreak made her the woman, and the writer, she is.

Seventeen-time all-star; scorer of 81 points in a game; MVP and a shooting guard second only to Jordan in league history: Kobe Bryant is one of basketball’s absolute greatest players, a fascinating and complicated character who knew when he was a mere boy that he would be better than Jordan on the court. The debate about whether he achieved that is a furious one–but Kobe has surpassed Jordan on the all-time scoring list and has only one less championship than Jordan (5 to Jordan’s 6). He is set to retire after the 2015/16 season, just in time for Roland Lazenby’s Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant (Little, Brown and Company, $32) Provocative stories mixed with good old-fashioned basketball reporting make for a riveting and essential read for any hoops fan.

She inspired songs—Leon Russell wrote “A Song for You” and “Delta Lady” for her, Stephen Stills wrote “Cherokee.” She co-wrote songs—“Superstar” and the piano coda to “Layla,” uncredited. She sang backup for Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, and Stills, before finding fame as a solo artist with such hits as “We’re All Alone” and “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher.” Following her story from Lafayette, Tennessee to becoming one of the most sought after rock vocalists in LA in the ’70s, Delta Lady (Harper, $25.99) chronicles Rita Coolidge’s fascinating journey throughout the ’60s-’70s pop/rock universe. A muse to some of the twentieth century’s most influential rock musicians, she broke hearts, Delta Lady is a rich, deeply personal memoir that offers a front row seat to an iconic era, and illuminates the life of an artist whose career has helped shape modern American culture.

Call her a woman of letters. Mary Astor detailed her marital affairs as well as the many, many, many dalliances of some of Hollywood’s biggest names. The studio heads, longtime controllers of public perception, were desperate to keep such juicy details from leaking.  With the complete support of the Astor family and unlimited access to the Mary Astor estate, Joseph Egan has painted a portrait of a great film actress in her most challenging role; an unwilling but determined mother battling for her daughter regardless of the harm that her affairs and her most intimate secrets would do to her career, the careers of her friends, or even Hollywood. The Purple Diaries: Mary Astor and the Most Sensational Hollywood Scandal of the 1930s ( Diversion Publishing, $16.99) is a look at Hollywood’s Golden Age as it has never been seen before, as Egan spins a wildly absorbing yarn about a scandal that threatened to tarnish forever the dream factory known as Hollywood.

“Casanova” is a synonym for “great lover,” Over the course of his lifetime, he claimed to have seduced more than 100 women, among them married women, young women in convents, girls just barely in their teens, and in one notorious instance, his own illegitimate daughter. Yet the real story of this remarkable figure is little known. He was intellectually curious and read forbidden books, for which he was jailed. He staged a dramatic escape from Venice’s notorious prison, the only person known to have done so. He then fled to France, where he invented the national lottery that still exists to this day. He crisscrossed Europe, landing for a while in St. Petersburg, where he was admitted to the court of Catherine the Great. He corresponded with Voltaire and met Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte, assisting them as they composed the timeless opera Don Giovanni. A figure straight out of a Henry Fielding novel: Erotic, brilliant, impulsive, and desperate for recognition, Casanova was a self-destructive genius. Casanova: The World of a Seductive Genius (Simon & Schuster, $32.50) is a witty, roisterous biography exposes his astonishing life in rich, intimate detail.

The curtain has gone up on the complete memoirs of playwright Neil Simon, now with a new introduction and afterword. Neil Simon’s Memoirs (Simon & Schuster, $35) combines Simon’s two memoirs, Rewrites and The Play Goes On, into one volume that spans his extraordinary five-decade career in theater, television and film. Rewrites takes Simon through his first love, his first play, and his first brush with failure. One touching section is as he describes his marriage to his beloved wife Joan, and writes lucidly about the pain of losing her to cancer. The Play Goes On adds to his life’s story, as he wins the Pulitzer Prize and reflects with humor and insight on his tumultuous life and meteoric career.
Now, with the whole story in one place, Neil Simon’s collected memoirs trace the history of modern entertainment over the last fifty years through the eyes of a man who started life the son of a garment salesman and became the greatest—and most successful—American playwright of all time.

Claude Monet is perhaps the world’s most beloved artist, and among all his creations, the paintings of the water lilies in his garden at Giverny are most famous. Monet intended them to provide an asylum of peaceful meditation. Yet, as Ross King reveals in Mad Enchantment (Bloomsbury, $30), his magisterial chronicle of both artist and masterpiece, these beautiful canvases belie the intense frustration Monet experienced at the difficulties of capturing the fugitive effects of light, water and color. They also reflect the terrible personal torments Monet suffered in the last dozen years of his life. The book tells the full story behind the creation of the “Water Lilies,” as the horrors of World War I came ever closer to Paris and Giverny, and a new generation of younger artists, led by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, were challenging the achievements of Impressionism.

It’s widely known that Oscar Wilde was precociously intellectual, flamboyant and hedonistic—but lesser so that he owed these characteristics to his parents. Oscar’s mother, Lady Jane Wilde, rose to prominence as a political journalist, advocating a rebellion against colonialism in 1848. She opened a salon and was known as the most scintillating hostess of her day. She passed on her infectious delight in the art of living to Oscar, who drank it in greedily. His father, Sir William Wilde, was acutely conscious of injustices of the social order. But Sir William was also a philanderer, and when he stood accused of sexually assaulting a young female patient, the scandal and trial sent shockwaves through Dublin society. As for Oscar, the one role that didn’t suit him was that of Victorian husband, as his wife, Constance, was to discover.  In a major repositioning of our first modern celebrity, The Fall of the House of Wilde (Bloomsbury, $35) identifies Oscar Wilde as a member of one of the most dazzling Irish American families of Victorian times, and places him in the broader social, political, and religious context.

He’s best known for his wistful movie scores, with “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” from the Toy Story soundtrack leading the pack. He’s been nominated for 20 Academy Awards, and has twice won Oscars for Best Original Song. But Randy Newman was also a quintessentially American pop powerhouse before he turned his formidable talents to scoring films. A songwriter since the age of 17, his earliest compositions were recorded by ’60s luminaries like The Fleetwoods, Gene Pitney, Jackie DeShannon and the O’Jays. Yet very little has been written about his personal life, including his marriages and his diagnosis with Epstein-Barr virus. Maybe I’m Doing It Wrong: The Life of Randy Newman (Overlook, $28.95) is a primer for newcomers to his work and a rewarding handbook for the aficionado.

Yes, it’s her, again. Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep (Harper, $26.99) explores her beginnings as a young woman of the ’70s grappling with love, feminism and her astonishing talent. Michael Schulman brings into focus Meryl’s heady rise to stardom on the New York stage; her passionate, tragically short-lived love affair with actor John Cazale; her marriage to sculptor Don Gummer; and her evolution as a young woman of the 1970s wrestling with changing ideas of feminism, marriage, love, and sacrifice.Featuring eight pages of black-and-white photos, this captivating story of the making of one of the most revered artistic careers of our time reveals a gifted young woman coming into her extraordinary talents at a time of immense transformation, offering a rare glimpse into the life of the actress long before she became an icon.

Mary Martin was one of the greatest stars of her day. Growing up in Texas, she was married early to Benjamin Hagman and gave birth to her first child, Larry Hagman. She didn’t make a dent in the movie industry and was lured to New York where she found herself auditioning for Cole Porter and his new show “Leave It to Me!”. After she sang the bawdy “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”, she ended up on the cover of Life magazine. Six years later, she became the Toast of Broadway. Her personal life was just as interesting: In NYC, she met and married Richard Halliday, a closeted upper-class homosexual who adored her and interior decorating. There were rumors about Martin, too, being in a lesbian relationship with both Janet Gaynor and Jean Arthur.  Savor the stuff in David Kaufman’s Some Enchanted Evenings (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99)

Still known to millions primarily as the author of The Lottery, Shirley Jackson has been curiously absent from the mainstream American literary canon. A genius of literary suspense and psychological horror, Jackson plumbed the cultural anxiety of postwar America more deeply than anyone. Now, biographer Ruth Franklin reveals the tumultuous life and inner darkness of the author in Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (Liveright, $35). Placing Jackson within an American Gothic tradition that stretches back to Hawthorne and Poe, Franklin demonstrates how her unique contribution to this genre came from her focus on “domestic horror.” Based on a wealth of previously undiscovered correspondence and dozens of new interviews, the tome―an exploration of astonishing talent shaped by a damaging childhood and turbulent marriage―becomes the definitive biography of a generational avatar and an American literary giant.

On May 25, 1977, a problem-plagued, budget-straining, independent science-fiction film opened in a mere thirty-two American movie theatres. Conceived, written and directed by a little-known filmmaker named George Lucas, Star Wars reinvented the cinematic landscape, ushering in a new way for movies to be made, marketed, and merchandised. And if that wasn’t game-changing enough, Lucas went on to create another blockbuster series with “Indiana Jones,” and completely revolutionized the world of special effects, not to mention sound systems. His work and legacy have led to a rash of innovation and democratization in film and television. Brian Jay Jones does a splendid job detailing Lucas’ fame and fortune in George Lucas: A Life (Little, Brown and Company, $32).

Why were Americans so attracted to John F. Kennedy in the late ‘50s and early ’60s . . . was it is glamorous image, good looks, cool style, tough-minded rhetoric and sex appeal? As Steve Watts argues in JFK and the Masculine Mystique: Sex and Power on the New Frontier (Thomas Dunne Books, $29.99), JFK was tailor made for the cultural atmosphere of his time. He benefited from a crisis of manhood that had welled up in postwar America when men had become ensnared by bureaucracy, softened by suburban comfort, and emasculated by a generation of newly aggressive women.  By examining Kennedy in the context of certain books, movies, social critiques, music, and cultural discussions that framed his ascendancy, Watts shows us the excitement and sense of possibility, the optimism and aspirations that accompanied the dawn of a new age in America.

For too long Tippi Hedren’s story has been told by others through whispered gossip and tabloid headlines. In Tippi: A Memoir (William Morrow, $28.99), she sets the record straight, recalling how a young and virtuous Lutheran girl from small-town Minnesota became a worldwide legend as one of the most famous Hitchcock girls, as an unwavering animal activist, and as the matriarch of a powerful Hollywood dynasty that includes her movie star daughter Melanie Griffith, and rising star Dakota Johnson, her granddaughter. Hedren digs deep into her complicated relationship with the man who discovered her talent, director Alfred Hitchcock, the benefactor who would become a repulsive and controlling director who contractually controlled her every move. She speaks openly about the dark pain she endured working with him on their most famous collaborations, The Birds and Marnie. Filled with 16 pages of beautiful photos, Tippi is a rare and fascinating look at a private woman s remarkable life no celebrity aficionado can miss.

In a career that has spanned more than 60 years, Robert Wagner has witnessed the twilight of the Golden Age of Hollywood and the rise of television, becoming a beloved star in both media. During that time he became acquainted, both professionally and socially, with the remarkable women who were the greatest screen personalities of their day. I Loved Her in the Movies (Viking, $tk) is his intimate and revealing account of the charisma of these women on film, why they became stars, and how their specific emotional and dramatic chemistries affected the choices they made as actresses as well as the choices they made as women. Among Wagner’s subjects are Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Gloria Swanson, Norma Shearer, Loretta Young, Joan Blondell, Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell, Dorothy Lamour, Debra Paget, Jean Peters, Linda Darnell, Betty Hutton, Raquel Welch, Glenn Close, and the two actresses whom he ultimately married, Natalie Wood and Jill St. John.  As fun and entertaining as RJ himself.

Was it magic? In Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales (Simon & Schuster, $26),  Penn Jillette tells how he lost 100 pounds with his trademark outrageous sense of humor and biting social commentary that makes this success story anything but ordinary.  Topping 330 pounds and saddled with a systolic blood pressure reading over 200, he knew he was at a dangerous crossroads: If he wanted to see his small children grow up, he needed to change. And then came a former NASA scientist and an unconventional innovator, Ray Cronise, who saved Penn Jillette’s life with his wild “potato diet.” Penn describes the process in hilarious detail, as he performs his Las Vegas show, takes meetings with Hollywood executives, hangs out with his celebrity friends and fellow eccentric performers, all while remaining a dedicated husband and father. Presto is an incisive, rollicking read.

We have never forgiven Maggie Smith for stealing Liza Minnelli’s Oscar (look it up), but Michael Coveney’s biography shines a light on the life and career of a truly remarkable performer, one whose stage and screen career spans six decades. From her days as a West End star of comedy and revue, Dame Maggie’s path would cross with those of the greatest actors, playwrights, and directors of the era. Whether stealing scenes from Richard Burton, answering back to Laurence Olivier, or playing opposite Judi Dench in Breath of Life, her career can be seen as a “Who’s Who” of British theater. The book, written with the actress’ blessing and drawing on personal archives as well as interviews with immediate family and close friends, is a portrait of one of the greatest actors of our time.

Born a Crime: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Spiegel & Grau, $28) is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life. His name is Trevor Noah. The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty.

Felix and Oscar? No way. The oddest couple was Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor. Donald Bogle skillfully recreates the moving narrative of Taylor and Jackson’s experiences together and their intense emotional connection, without shying away from the controversies that swirled around them. Through interviews with friends and acquaintances of the two stars, as well as anonymous but credible sources, Elizabeth and Michael: The Queen of Hollywood and the King of Pop―A Love Story (Atria, $26) emerges as a tender, intimate look at this famous odd couple and a treasure to their millions of fans.

The first book from Ruth Bader Ginsburg since becoming a Supreme Court Justice in 1993—a witty, engaging, serious, and playful collection of writings and speeches from the woman who has had a powerful and enduring influence on law, women’s rights, and popular culture. My Own Words (Simon & Schuster, $30) offers Justice Ginsburg on wide-ranging topics, including gender equality, the workways of the Supreme Court, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera, and the value of looking beyond US shores when interpreting the US Constitution. Throughout her life Justice Ginsburg has been (and continues to be) a prolific writer and public speaker.

In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Super Bowl’s halftime show. The experience was so exhilarating that Bruce decided to write about it. That’s how this extraordinary autobiography began. Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to these pages the same honesty, humor and originality found in his songs. Born to Run (Simon & Schuster, $32.50) will be revelatory for anyone who has ever enjoyed Bruce Springsteen, but this book is much more than a legendary rock star’s memoir. This is a book for workers and dreamers, parents and children, lovers and loners, artists, freaks, or anyone who has ever wanted to be baptized in the holy river of rock and roll.

Unlike The Boss, Stephen Foster still has no (real, true) fame. The subtitle of a new bio,  The Life and Songs of Stephen Foster: A Revealing Portrait of the Forgotten Man Behind “Swanee River,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and “My Old Kentucky Home”  (9Rowman & Littlefield, $45) says it all. He died in poverty, in New York’s Bellevue Hospital, three days after falling in his Bowery bathroom and severely cutting his throat on the broken basin. His last words? “I’m done for.” A friend found his alcohol-ravaged body at the local morgue, a body whose purse contained 38 cents and a scrap of paper on which the words “dear friends and gentle hearts” were written . . . possibly the opening line to a new song.

Cerphe’s Up:  A Musical Life with Bruce Springsteen, Little Feat, Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, CSNY, and Many More (Carrel Books, $34.99) is an incisive musical memoir by Cerphe Colwell, a renowned rock radio broadcaster for more than forty-five years in Washington, DC. Cerphe shares his life as a rock radio insider in rich detail and previously unpublished photographs. His story includes promotion and friendship with a young unknown Bruce Springsteen; his years at radio station WHFS 102.3 as it blossomed in a new free-form format; hanging out with George Harrison, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, John Entwistle, Jackson Browne, and many more; testifying on Capitol Hill with friend Frank Zappa during the “Porn Rock” hearings; and managing the radio syndication of both G. Gordon Liddy and Howard Stern.

In 2015, the U.S. women’s national soccer team won its first FIFA championship in 16 years, culminating in an epic final game that electified soccer fans around the world. It also featured a gutsy, brilliant performance by team captain and midfielder Carli Lloyd, who made history that day, scoring a hat trick—three goals in one game—during the first 16 minutes. But there was a time when Carli almost quit the sport. In 2003 she was struggling, her soccer career at a crossroads. What Carli lacked were fitness, mental toughness and character. Despite all the naysayers, the times she was benched, moments when her self-confidence took a nosedive, she succeeded in becoming one of the best in the world. The candid When Nobody Was Watching: My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26) candid reflection on a remarkable turnaround will take readers inside the women’s national team and inside the head of an athlete who willed herself to perform at the highest levels of competition.

To have been alive during the last 60 years is to have lived with the music of Paul Simon. The boy from Queens scored his first hit record in 1957, just months after Elvis Presley ignited the rock era. As the songwriting half of Simon & Garfunkel, his work helped define the youth movement of the ’60s. On his own in the ’70s, Simon made radio-dominating hits. He kicked off the ’80s by reuniting with Garfunkel to perform for half a million New Yorkers in Central Park. Five years later, Simon’s album “Graceland” sold millions and spurred an international political controversy. And it doesn’t stop there. Peter Ames Carlin’s Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon  (Henry Holt, $32) is a revelatory account of the life of beloved American music icon, a story replete with tales of Carrie Fisher, Leonard Bernstein, Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, Shelley Duvall, Nelson Mandela, drugs, depression, marriage, divorce and more.

Holiday Gift Guide 2016: The Year’s Best Celebrity (Auto)Biographies (Part One)

After he died in the backseat of a Cadillac at the age of 29, Hank Williams, a frail, flawed man who had become country music’s first real star, instantly morphed into its first tragic martyr. Having hit the heights with simple songs of despair, depression, and tainted love, he would, with that outlaw swagger, become in death a template for the rock generation to follow. Mark Ribowsky’s Hank: The Short Life and Long Country Road of Hank Williams (Liveright, $35) examines Williams’ music while also re-creating days and nights choked in booze and desperation. Ribowsky traces the miraculous rise of this music legend from the dirt roads of rural Alabama to the now-immortal stage of the Grand Ole Opry, and finally to a sad, lonely end on New Year s Day, 1953. But unlike those other musical giants who never made 30, no legacy endures quite like that of the “Hillbilly King.”

Bram Stoker, despite having a name nearly as famous as his legendary undead Count Dracula, has remained a puzzling enigma. Now, in Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula (Liveright, $35), David J. Skal exhumes the inner world and strange genius of the writer who conjured an undying cultural icon. Stoker was inexplicably paralyzed as a boy, and his story unfolds against a backdrop of Victorian medical mysteries and horrors: Cholera and famine fever, childhood opium abuse, frantic bloodletting, mesmeric quack cures, and the gnawing obsession with “bad blood” that informs every page of Dracula.

From his time as a session guitarist in the ’60s, working with legendary rock groups like The Kinks and The Who, to his time with the Yardbirds and his eventual founding on Led Zeppelin and his post-Zeppelin career, No Quarter (Overlook, $35) is a rich, insightful telling of Jimmy Page’s story. It has all the sex and drugs you’d expect from a rock icon, but Page is widely considered to be a mysterious figure and Martin Power’s biography will shed light on the man who made music.

Historian Betty Boyd Caroli spent seven years exploring the archives of the LBJ Library, interviewing dozens of people, and mining never-before-released letters between Lady Bird and Lyndon Johnson. The result? Lady Bird and Lyndon: The Hidden Story of a Marriage that Made a President (Simon & Schuster, $18) They married with a tacit agreement: This highly gifted politician would take her away, and she would save him from his weaknesses. The conventional story goes that Lyndon married Lady Bird for her money and demeaned her by flaunting his many affairs, and that her legacy was protecting the nation’s wildflowers.
But Caroli shows that she was also the one who swooped in to make the key call to a donor, to keep the team united, to campaign in hostile territory, and to jump-start Lyndon out of his paralyzing dark moods.

Described by his friend Richard Burton as “the most original actor to come out of Britain since the war,” Peter O’Toole was also unpredictable with a dangerous edge he brought to his roles and to his real life. With the help of exclusive interviews with colleagues and close friends, Peter O’Toole: The Definitive Biography (Thomas Dunne Books, $28.99), paints the first complete picture of this complex and much-loved man. The book reveals what drove him to extremes, why he drank to excess for many years and hated authority, but it also describes a man who was fiercely intelligent with a great sense of humor and huge energy. Giving full weight to his extraordinary career, this is an insightful, funny and moving tribute to an iconic actor who made a monumental contribution to theatre and cinema.

On August 16, 1952, Ian Fleming wrote to his wife, Ann, “My love, This is only a tiny letter to try out my new typewriter and to see if it will write golden words since it is made of gold.” He had bought the golden typewriter as a present to himself for finishing his first novel, Casino Royale. “It marked in glamorous style the arrival of James Bond, agent 007, and the start of a career that saw Fleming become one the world’s most celebrated thriller-writers. And he did write golden words. Before his death in 1964 he produced 14 best-selling Bond books, two works of non-fiction and the famous children’s story Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. Fleming’s output was matched by an equally energetic flow of letters. He wrote constantly, to his wife, publisher, editors, fans, friends and critics; his letters also reflect his friendship with such contemporaries as Raymond Chandler, Noel Coward and Somerset Maugham. Enjoy The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters (Bloomsbury, $30).

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Palmer and his yellow lab, Mulligan, riding around his home in … what else? a golf cart!

Arnold Palmer is considered the most important golfer in history. As a follow-up to his 1999 autobiography, Palmer takes stock of the many experiences of his life in A Life Well Played (St. martin’s Press, $22.99), bringing new details and insights to some familiar stories and sharing new ones. He offers advice and guidance, sharing stories of his career on the course, success in business and the great relationships that give meaning to his life. This book is Palmer’s gift to the world–a treasure trove of entertaining anecdotes and timeless wisdom that readers will celebrate and cherish.

Breaking bad, reading well. In his riveting memoir A Life in Parts (Scribner, $27), Bryan Cranston traces his zigzag journey from his chaotic childhood to his dramatic epiphany, and beyond, to mega-stardom and a cult-like following, by vividly revisiting the many parts he’s played. With great humor, and much humility, Cranston chronicles his unlikely rise from a soap opera regular, trying to learn the ropes and the politics of show business on the fly. Discussing his failures as few men do, describing his work as few actors can, Cranston has much to say about innate talent, its benefits, challenges, and proper maintenance, but ultimately the book is about the necessity and transformative power of hard work.

Derailed in the ’70s by mental illness, drug use and the shifting fortunes of the band, Brian Wilson came back again and again over the next few decades, surviving and thriving. In I am Brian Wilson (Da Capo Press, $26.99), he weighs in on the sources of his creative inspiration and on his struggles, the exhilarating highs and the debilitating lows. Whether he’s talking about his childhood, his band mates or his own inner demons, Wilson’s story, told in his own voice and in his own way, unforgettably illuminates the man behind the music, working through the turbulence and discord to achieve, at last, a new harmony.

This is the story of the Beatles’ harrowing rise to fame: Focusing on that seven-year stretch from the time the boys met as teenagers to early 1964, when the Fab Four made their momentous first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. From the boys’ humble beginnings in Liverpool, to the cellars of Hamburg, When They Were Boys: The True Story of the Beatles’ Rise to the Top (Running Press, $24.95) includes stories never before told, including the heartbreaks and the lucky breaks. Included are an eyewitness account of that first meeting between Lennon and McCartney, the inside story of how Ringo replaced Pete Best, an exploration of the brilliant but troubled soul of manager Brian Epstein, and the real scoop on their disastrous first visit to Germany and the death of Stu Sutcliffe.

Amy Winehouse died at 27. With a worldwide fanbase and millions of record sales to her name, she should have had the world at her feet. Instead, in the years prior to her passing, she battled addictions and was often the subject of tabloid headlines. Amy’s mother, Janis, knew the real Amy as no one else did. In Loving Amy: A Mother’s Story (Thomas Dunne Books, $26.99) Janis reveals the full story of the daughter she loved. As the world watched the rise of a superstar, then the freefall of an addict to her untimely death, Janis simply saw her Amy, the girl she’d given birth to in 1983; the girl she’d raised and stood by despite her unruly behavior; the girl whose body she was forced to identify two days after her death-and the girl she’s grieved for every day since.

 

Holiday Gift Guide 2016: The Year’s Best Coffeetable Books (Part Two)

Something so hot it’s Frozen! Featuring nearly 20 pop-ups from bestselling artist and pop-up guru Matthew Reinhart, Frozen: A Pop-Up Adventure (Disney Publishing, $40), is an eye-popping work of art revisits the enduring story of FrozenElsa and Anna’s remarkable adventure lives on in a magnificent display of paper engineering and artistic devotion. Frozen Pop-Up is a vibrant tribute to these beloved characters and teaches readers of all ages to let it go.


Audrey: The 50s
(Dey Street, $45) is a 
stunning photographic compilation showcasing Hepburn’s iconic career in the ’50s, the decade that solidified her place as one of the world s greatest stars in film and fashion. The tome is crammed with photos during the early days of her career, and in fashion photo shoots by top photographers who adored and immortalized her. Also on call: Beautifully restored advertisements, fan magazine layouts, international film posters and lobby cards.

X marks the spot. Again. Celebrate the return of one of the greatest sci-fi shows of all time with a new, revised edition of The Complete X-Files (Insight Editions, $39.99), a detailed guide featuring exclusive material from the brand-new season. Returning after more than a decade off the air, the 10th season of The X-Files promises to be one of the most anticipated television events of 2016. The book takes readers into the show’s creator Chris Carter’s never-before-seen archives with explanations of unsolved plots, breakdowns of popular episodes, a discussion of the FBI’s paranormal investigations bureau and other insider information.

The Art of Archer (Dey Street Books, $29.99) is a comprehensive, fully illustrated and highly visual guide to everything behind-the-scenes of the award-winning animated series. Bonus!
There’s a foreword by Christian Slater. Featuring concept art, exclusive interviews, script excerpts and the never-before-released original pitch for the series, this amazing collection offers an utterly unique view of the Archer creative process.

For the first time in more than 40 years, the United States Military Academy has authorized a new military history series that will bear the name West Point. That text has been updated repeatedly, but now it has been completely rewritten and The West Point History of the Civil War (Simon & Schuster, $55) is the first volume to result in a new series of military histories authorized by West Point. The book combines the expertise of preeminent historians commissioned by West Point, hundreds of maps uniquely created by cartographers under West Point’s direction, and hundreds of images, many created for this volume or selected from West Point archives.

Missed the red-hot exhibition on the visionary work and fervent imagination of director Guillermo del Tor? Fret not. Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters: Inside His Films, Notebooks and Collections  (Insight Editions, $29.99) is the perfect accompaniment to the exhibition, which focuses on del Toro s creative process, including the well-defined themes that he obsessively returns to in all his films, the journals in which he logs his ideas, and the vast and inspiring collection of art and pop culture ephemera that he has amassed at his private man cave, Bleak House. Filled with imagery from the exhibit, including favorite pieces of art that del Toro has chosen for the exhibit, and pertinent journal pages, the book will further delve further into the director s world through exclusive in-depth interviews and commentary from notable figures in the art world.

Since its founding, West Point has taught its cadets the history of warfare, and since 1847 it has done so through a singular text, The West Point History of Warfare. That text has been updated repeatedly, and now through a unique partnership with West Point graduates, the text has been completely rewritten. Volume 1 concluded with the midpoint of World War II in 1942; now the  latest edition The West Point History of World War II, Volume 2 (Simon & Schuster, $55) begins, covering all aspects of the war.  As with previous volumes, the book boasts rich, full-color illustrations with unique tactical maps created by expert cartographers in collaboration with West Point’s military historians, as well as dozens of graphics uniquely created for this volume and hundreds of historical images, many of which are from the West Point archives.

Explore the greatest art from over two decades of Marvel’s Deadpool comics with the Deadpool: Drawing the Merc with a Mouth  (Insight Editions, $45), a nifty (and deluxe) book celebrates more than 20 years of Deadpool comic art, showcasing iconic covers, stunning panels, and other amazing art from the Marvel Comics archives. 91pyas30ehlFilled with stunning art that showcases Deadpool’s off-the-wall comics career, from his origins in the pages of The New Mutants to his outlandish adventures with the Deadpool Corps and his team-ups with Marvel Comics A-listers such as Spider-Man and Wolverine, this book is a visually striking journey into Wade Wilson’s bizarre world. The book also comes with an exclusive print of the Reilly Brown cover art.

A New History of Animation (Thames & Hudson, $85) guides readers through the history animation from around the world. Topics covered include optical toys and magic lanterns; early cinema, magic, and the foundations of the animation industry; the relationship of comics to early animation; animation as a modern art in ’20s Europe; the emergence of the major US studios; animation style at Disney, Fleischer, and Warner Bros., types of comedy; animation during wartime; stop-motion; working directly on film; youth audiences and animation in the ’60s; early television animation; Book Coveradvertising; games; animation from Eastern Europe; the Disney renaissance; creator driven television series; the development of college programs; short films and festivals; the rise of computer-generated animation;  franchising; Hayao Miyazaki and others in the Japanese animation industry.  The book contains 460 color illustrations, ranging from studio productions to independently produces shorts, visual effects, paintings, studio documentation and more.

A beautiful, comprehensive volume of Bob Dylan’s lyrics, from the beginning of his career through the present day—with the songwriter’s edits to dozens of songs, appearing in The Lyrics: 1961-2012 (Simon & Schuster, $60) for the first time.
The Lyrics is a comprehensive and definitive collection of Dylan’s most recent writing as well as the early works that are such an essential part of the canon.41rib8fmsl Well known for changing the lyrics to even his best-loved songs, Dylan has edited dozens of songs for this volume, making The Lyrics a must-read for everyone from fanatics to casual fans.

The star and stunning beauty whose adventurous life and mysterious death still keeps the public searching for answers gets her just due in Natalie Wood: Reflections on a Legendary Life (Running Press, $35), the first family-authorized book on the actress. Featured are original writings by Natalie’s husband Robert Wagner and daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner; reminiscences by Natalie s friends and fellow celebrities;51eckyrfhjl informative essays on the star’s most important films; and a Natalie Wood Fashion Timeline, showcasing Wood s embodiment of each major fashion trend from the mid-’50s to the early ’80s. Most illuminating of all is a lengthy excerpt from a never-before-published text entitled Private Person: Public Property that Natalie hand-wrote in 1966, revealing the star s own thoughts on life, love, family, and her films.

It’s time to get off the beaten path. Inspiring equal parts wonder and wanderlust, Atlas Obscura (Workman, $35), celebrates more than 700 of the strangest and most curious places in the world. Talk about a bucket list: Here are natural wonders the dazzling glowworm caves in New Zealand, or a baobob tree in South Africa that’s so large it has a pub inside where 15 people can drink comfortably. Not to mention the Great Stalacpipe Organ in Virginia; Turkmenistan’s 40-year hole of fire called the Gates of Hell; a graveyard for decommissioned ships on the coast of Bangladesh;917e6bdwegl eccentric bone museums in Italy; or a weather-forecasting invention that was powered by leeches, still on display in Devon, England. The book revels in the weird, the unexpected, the overlooked, the hidden and the mysterious. It is a book to enter anywhere, and will be as appealing to the armchair traveler as the die-hard adventurer. Anyone can be a tourist.

No sounds of silence in this delightful book boasting the lyrics of Paul Simon. Welcome Lyrics 1964-2016 (Simon & Schuster, $35). Consequently, this presentation of all Simon’s songs in chronology (fortunately including all the numbers from Simon’s musical The Capeman, on which he collaborated with 71n1xwghvfl-1Nobel laureate Derek Walcott) is a pleasure to read straight through, like a novel or a biography, although it isn’t autobiographical, for quite often the singer of a song isn’t Paul Simon. Perhaps it’s you?

Holiday Gift Guide 2016: The Year’s Best Coffeetable Books (Part One)

Ancient Skies, Ancient Trees (Abbeville Press, $49.95) Staking out some of the world’s last dark places, photographer Beth Moon uses a digital camera to reveal constellations, nebulae, and the Milky Way, in rich hues that are often too faint to be seen by the naked eye. 61fkf2c-dxl
These magnificent images encounter great arboreal specimens, including baobabs, olive trees, and redwoods, in such places as South Africa, England and California.

 

This tome will fit you to a T.  The World Atlas of Tea (Firefly Books, $35) covers tea from the ground up, including why the soil in China makes different tea than the soil in India. Tea mixologist Krisi Smith explains what a tea drinker needs to know to appreciate teas of all descriptions. 81ht-jfnkylShe follows tea from the plantation to harvesting and processing to how to make the perfect cup. The book is illustrated throughout with beautiful color photographs taken in the field. Another savor sip:  Black tea is the most popular but green tea sales are growing rapidly–more than 60 percent in ten years–driven by its proven health benefits.

There’s nothing Mickey Mouse about her. Indeed, Minnie Mouse is a friendly (and constant) reminder to girls of all ages to live confidently and express themselves. In the luscious volume The Art of Minnie Mouse (Disney Publishing, $40), Disney artists, designers, illustrators and animators from around the world reimage their favorite MM styles and portray them in a variety of mediums. Minnie’s earliest incarnation, her classic red polka-dot look, and trendy modern styles are all newly incarnated in water color, pastel, oil paint, colored pencil, mixed media, and computer graphics pieces that range from the traditional to the unconventional. The book also features a never-before-published comprehensive filmography of Minnie’s animated appearances as well as a visual timeline of her career milestones.

All life depends on water and we are running out of it, but where exactly is the water and where is it going? Water: Exploring the Blue Planet (Firefly Books, $49.95) is essentially a map of water. It features astonishingly detailed photographs that reveal the watery health of the Blue Planet. The photographs are produced by the highest caliber satellite and remote-sensor imagery that current technology allows.

You can’t hurry love. Nor can you hurry through the music that defined an era. From The Jackson 5 and Diana Ross and the Supremes; from Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson, Berry Gordy and his right-hand man, Barney Ales, built the most successful independent record label in the world. Motown not only represented the most iconic recording artists of its time and produced countless global hits, it created a cultural institution that redefined pop, and gave us the vision of a new America. In Motown: The Sound of Young America (Thames & Hudson, $60), the first official visual history of the label, new research, a dazzling array of images and unprecedented access to the archives of the makers and stars of Motown lend new insight to the legend.

There’s not a prayer of a chance book lovers, art aficionados and fans of fans could dismiss the importance of The Art of the Bible: Illuminated Manuscripts from the Medieval World (Thames & Hudson, $95). For two millennia the Bible has inspired the creation of extraordinary art. Within this history illuminated biblical manuscripts are among the best tools for understanding early Christian painting and artistic interpretations of the Bible. This extensively illustrated new book, compiled and written by two internationally renowned experts, transports readers, by way of 45 featured manuscripts, across the globe and through 1,000 years of history. Passing chronologically through many of the major centers of the Christian world. Scot McKendrick and Kathleen Doyle shed light on some of the finest but least-known paintings from the Middle Ages, and on the development of art, literature and civilization as we know it.

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Saint Sebastian Jusepe de Ribera, a Prado treasure

The Museo del Prado is the main Spanish national art museum; it houses one of the world’s finest collections of European art, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and is unquestionably the best single collection of Spanish art. Founded as a museum of paintings and sculpture in 1819, it also contains important collections of other types of works.
Can’t afford a trip? Opt for the lavish and hefty The Prado Masterpieces (Thames & Hudson, $125). This magnificent book is the first of its kind to be published in association with the Prado, covering the collection from ancient sculpture to the nineteenth century.

Katsushika Hokusai was a Japanese artist born in 1760 whose legacy remains, some 150 years after his death, as important as ever. His work influenced Impressionism and Art Nouveau, and a range of contemporary artists working today. Realized in jewel-like colors, Hokusai’s simple views of everyday scenes in Japan, his sense of balance and harmony, and his highly stylized but ever-changing techniques seem to capture the spirit and traditions of his homeland. Hokusai Pop-Ups brings this stunning art to life. The six pop-ups will delight and dazzle!

Havana. Just saying the name evokes images of bright Caribbean colors, American cars with fins from the ’50s, and once-glorious buildings fallen into ruin. Now that this socialist island country is open once more, this picture will soon change. Now is the time to pause for a moment and take a closer look at Cuba’s capital city with Havana (teNeues, $65). Bernhard Hartmann starts on the streets, showing us cafes, shops, and boxing clubs, but he also takes us behind the facades of the mansions, whose well-worn charms immediately captivate the viewer. Crumbling plaster, cracked walls, worn stair treads―we see all of this in the pictures, and yet these places are vibrant and alive. Traces of bourgeois life, dignified and stylish, survive despite the adversity, masterfully captured in brilliant photographs.

Enriched by extensive photographs, drawings and diagrams, Paul Farrell’s exploration of the history and function of tugboats ranges from river to harbor to sea, from the first steam-powered craft to contemporary, hyper-specialized vessels. With clarity and clear affection, Farrell illuminates how physics, design, and experience intersected as both boat and purpose were refined. From the deck layout of a nineteenth-century sidewheel tug to the mechanics of cable towing to the operation of an anchor-handling supply vessel, Farrell offers a comprehensive tribute to these beloved workhorses of the sea. All aboard Tugboats Illustrated: History, Technology, Seamanship (W.W. Norton, $49.95).

The legacy of Frank Sinatra’s work stands apart from many of his contemporaries, who essentially based their performances on an extension of a core character type. Sinatra also respectfully challenged contemporary ideals of acting technique. While being humble enough to learn from his peers, he kept his acting style fresh and instinctual, and earned an Oscar at a time when many actors were either classically trained or coached in the “Method.” In The Cinematic Legacy of Frank Sinatra (St. Martin’s Press, $35), David Wills pairs more than 200 first-generation photos with reflections on Sinatra from co-stars and work associates, and including contributing essays by his children Nancy Sinatra, Tina Sinatra and Frank Sinatra, Jr. 

Over  the course of his near-decade at HGTV, Vern Yip has counseled thousands of people on beautifying their homes on limited budgets. He has become a trusted advisor for people wanting to create functional and beautiful living spaces. In Vern Yip’s Design Wise: Your Smart Guide to a Beautiful Home (Running Press, $27.50), his debut design book, Vern introduces his design by the numbers approach,  revealing the optimal measurements that are integral to making a room feel right. Discovering these simple standards will help every reader bring flow and balance to a home, and give them confidence to develop a personal aesthetic. Vern’s key design principles will make any house a true home.

Ten years ago, an unknown 16-year-old released a self-titled debut country album. A decade later, Taylor Swift has reached record-breaking, chart-topping heights. A 10-time Grammy winner, Swift has been hailed for her songwriting talent, crossed effortlessly from country to pop, and established herself as a musician who can surprise, delight, and inspire, all while connecting with her fans in a way that only she can. Taylor Swift: This Is Our Song (Simon & Schuster, $28), a fan-generated celebration of Swift’s first decade as an artist, collects the best writing and images from the past ten years in one gorgeous volume.

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Gift Guide 2016: The Year’s Best Recipe and Food Books (Part One)

There’s nothing quite like the sound of a steak hitting a perfectly seasoned cast-iron pan. No beefing here. Chef Rachel Narins demystifies the caring for cast iron with Cast-Iron Cooking (Storey Publishing, $12.95) a friendly, accessible introduction to the properties, perks and full range of possibilities that come along with this classic cookware.922676cookingcastiron_cover From stove top to oven to campfire to grill, this affordable, long-lasting material is unmatched in its versatility and the tasty tome will teach readers how to take full advantage of it,  from breakfast to dinner to dessert. Full-color photos bring the recipes to life, and tips for outdoor cooking make this a book that will travel to many a campsite or hunting cabin. Narins will leave readers confident and eager to pull their pans off the shelf and get cooking.

Air-frying is the hottest trend in the kitchen . . . fantastic fried taste and texture with up to 80% less fat! Although they are called air fryers, they also roast and bake, making them an indispensable kitchen appliance. Camilla Saulsbury brings her extensive recipe development skills to 175 Best Air Fryer Recipes (Robert Rose, $24.95), and has created recipes exclusively designed for and guaranteed to perform
in an air fryer. airfryeradvancecoverBy cooking with circulated super-heated hot air, you’ll create an amazing variety of recipes—from classics to modern-day favorites. From Classic French Fries and Beer-Battered Fried Fish to Buttermilk Fried Chicken, you’ll get all the fantastic flavor without the fat. Imagine being able to enjoy Old-Fashioned Cake Donuts and Coconut Shrimp without the guilt! Not to mention being able to indulge in desserts like Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge Cake and Bananas Foster.

Knives & Ink (Bloomsbury USA, $24) is as sharp as a butcher’s knife and as fresh as some hand-grown radicchio. Chefs take their tattoos almost as seriously as their knives; from gritty grill cooks in backwoods diners to the executive chefs at the world’s most popular restaurants, it’s hard to find a cook who doesn’t sport some ink.9781632861221 Bestselling illustrator Wendy MacNaughton and book editor Isaac Fitzgerald reveal the stories behind the tattoos that chefs proudly wear, along with their signature recipes. Like the dishes these chefs have crafted over the years, these tattoos are beautiful works of art. Knives & Ink delves into the wide and wonderful world of chef tattoos and shares their fascinating backstories, along with personal recipes from many of the chefs.

The French way to savor dessert? It’s a petite treat: Two delicious bites, just a taste, of a sable, madeleine, petit four, nougat, caramel or other dessert that packs a sweet punch. With the tiny desserts featured in Les Petits Sweets: Two-Bite Desserts from the French Patisserie (Running Press , $18), you can have a dessert-tasting party to try them all. _35Classic French techniques explain each recipe from start to finish, and lots of variations yield nearly infinite flavor combinations, all illustrated with full-color photography. Go ahead, have dessert first. Oui!

There’s always something sweet in the oven at Honey & Co., the tiny restaurant in London where the day is marked by what comes out of the pastry section. In the morning, sticky buns are stuffed full of cherries and pistachios; loaves of rich dough are rolled with chocolate, hazelnuts, and cinnamon.s-l400 Lunch is a crisp, crumbly shell of pastry filled with spiced lamb or burnt eggplant, and at teatime there are cheesecakes and fruitcakes, small cakes, and massive cookies-so many treats that it’s hard to choose one. And after dinner? Poached peaches with roses, something sweet and salty drenched in orange blossom syrup, or maybe even a piece of fresh marzipan. Dig in and taste the treats that fill Golden: Sweet & Savory Baked Delights from the Ovens of London’s Honey & Co. (Little, Brown and Company, $30).

Bestselling author, vegan goddess and comfort food queen Isa Chandra Moskowitz is back with The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook: Entertaining for Absolutely Every Occasion (Little, Brown and Company, $32) to prove that making festive vegan food for any occasion can be easy, delicious . . . and superfun. 91g8kyvjlvlGone are the days of stressing over how to please family and friends with different dietary needs. Isa provides everything you need to get your party started, from finger food and appetizers to casseroles, roasts, and dozens of special sides. Then comes a throng of cakes, cookies, cobblers, loaves, pies, and frozen treats to make you feel like the best dang vegan cook in the world.

Prepare a feast fit for a warchief with World of Warcraft: The Official Cookbook (Insight Editions, $35), a delicious compendium of recipes inspired by the hit online game from Blizzard Entertainment. s-l400-2Presenting delicacies favored by the Horde and the Alliance alike, this authorized cookbook teaches apprentice chefs how to conjure up a menu of food and drink from across the realm of Azeroth. Featuring food pairings for each dish, ideas for creating your own Azerothian feasts, and tips on adapting meals to specific diets, this otherworldly culinary guide offers something for everyone. Each chapter features dishes at a variety of skill levels for a total of more than one hundred easy-to-follow recipes for food and brews.

Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South (Little, Brown and Company, $40) is a great cookbook, a perfect pictorial storybook and a a hefty tome that could help you keep in shape between cooking. 61xlr7h3islVivian Howard, star of PBS’s A Chef’s Life, celebrates the flavors of North Carolina’s coastal plain in more than 200 recipes and stories, proving that the food of Deep Run, North Carolina—Vivian’s home—is as rich as any culinary tradition in the world. Organized by ingredient with dishes suited to every skill level—from beginners to confident cooks—Deep Run Roots features time-honored simple preparations alongside extraordinary meals from her acclaimed restaurant Chef and the Farmer. Home cooks will find photographs for every single recipe. Fried Yams with Five-Spice Maple Bacon Candy, anyone? A perfect bookend: Season 4 of A Chef’s Life (PBS Distribution), in which Vivian wrangles up sweet spring onions with special help from The Avett Brothers, and then turns a roster of watermelon, sunchokes, field peas, and more into new-fashioned fare. She even cooks up rabbit, which she calls ‘the meat of the future’ makes the menu. That’s all folks!

Grab your friends and get cooking in the land of Ooo with Adventure Time: The Official Cookbook (Insight Editions, $29.99), featuring recipes from all your favorite characters and kingdoms. In the Founders’ Island Library, Finn discovered the remains of an old cookbook filled with dishes such as “lasagna” and “boiled eggs.”919poqkywzl And he was pretty sure that the cookbook had belonged to his mom at some point. Weird. So Finn took it upon himself to fill up the book with as many crazy delicious food ideas as he could. And since that only filled around six pages, he recruited Jake, Marceline, Princess Bubblegum, and the other citizens of Ooo to help complete the cookbook. There was pouring! There was mixing! There was a pasta-related Wizard Battle!

Is there anything more romantic that the primal rush of slurping a raw denizen of the sea? With yummy text by Rowan Jacobsen and lavish four-color photos throughout by renowned photographer David Malosh, The Essential Oyster (Bloomsbury USA, $35) is the definitive book for oyster-lovers everywhere, featuring stunning portraits, tasting notes, and backstories of all the top oysters, as well as recipes from America’s top oyster chefs and a guide to the best oyster bars. _35Spotlighting more than a hundred of North America’s greatest oysters, the book introduces the oyster culture and history of every region of North America, as well as overseas. There is no coastline from British Columbia to Baja, from New Iberia to New Brunswick, that isn’t producing great oysters. For the most part, these are deeper cupped, stronger shelled, finer flavored, and more stylish than their predecessors. Some have colorful stories to tell. Some have quirks. All have character.

We won’t clam up about another nifty book about oysters: Oysters: A Celebration in the Raw (Abbeville Press, $24.95) is true to its title from start to finish. Chapter One is a primer on all things oyster. Chapter Two introduces readers to legendary oystermen and women from around the country.71f6zqvauol Chapter Three offers exquisite photographs of more than fifty varieties of North American oysters, along with flavor profiles and ”merroir.” The book concludes with highlights from the oyster timeline, depictions of oysters in art through the ages and stories of oysters as aphrodisiacs, and parses oyster myths and metaphors. The book also features an oyster glossary and resource list. It is the only book of its kind—a definitive visual companion to this iconic, much loved mollusk.

True rye bread―the kind that stands at the center of northern and eastern European food culture―is something very special. With over 70 classic recipes, The Rye Baker: Classic Breads from Europe and America  (W.W. Norton, $35) introduces bakers to the rich world of rye bread from both the old world and the new. 616cmhxfgglAward-winning author Stanley Ginsberg presents recipes spanning from the immigrant breads of America to rustic French pains de seigle; the earthy ryes of Alpine Austria and upper Italy; the crackly knäckebröds of Scandinavia; and the diverse breads of Germany, the Baltic countries, Poland and Russia. Rounding out this treasury are reader-friendly chapters on rye’s history, unique chemistry, and centuries-old baking methods.

Damn Fine Cherry Pie: And Other Recipes from TV’s Twin Peaks (Harper Design, $24.99) is a damn fine collection of 75 mouthwatering recipes, inspired by iconic scenes and characters from David Lynch’s groundbreaking cult classic series Twin Peaks—returning to television in 2017 with 18 new episodes on Showtime.  81rsin8i6zlThe show has also impacted popular culinary traditions; there are Double R Diner copycat diners, pop-up dining experiences, doughnut-eating contests, and David Lynch’s signature coffee. Now, fans hungry for a Twin Peaks fix can sate their appetite with this quirky cookbook that pays homage to the show. Lindsey Bowden, the founder of the Twin Peaks festival in the UK, has gathered dozens of recipes inspired by its most memorable scenes and characters, including Percolator Fish Supper, the Log Lady’s Chocolate and Chestnut Roulade, and the Double R Diner’s famous Cherry Pie.

James Pattersion’s bestselling young adult fantasy novels hit the big-screen with a “Maximum Ride”

James Patterson is pretty prolific. And pretty rich.

Based on the phenomenal bestselling young adult fantasy novels by their author, Maximum Ride takes flight on DVD on December 6 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.  Patterson’s book series spent 144 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, has sold more than 20 million books worldwide and has spawned 11 Manga comics.

The film brings to life the extraordinary journey of six DNA-enhanced young orphans with the ability to fly who are on a mission to rescue the youngest of their flock while discovering the diabolical, scientific secrets of how they came to exist.  Their leader is Max, wise beyond her years, who must summon all her courage and acumen to outmaneuver the brutal half-human/half-wolf creations known as “Erasers”, confront her own inner demons and ultimately face a stunning betrayal.

Maximum Ride boasts a sensational cast of up-and-coming talent including digital influencers such as Allie Marie Evans, Patrick Johnson, Lyliana Wray, Luke Gregory Crosby, Gavin Lewis, Tetona Jackson, Zayne Emory,  Carrie Wampler and Peter O’Brien.

The film ran into trouble in early 2012, when Catherine Hardwicke quit as the film director. When asked about the odds of a movie still being made, Patterson claimed he was “very hopeful as opposed to mildly depressed”. Trouble continued with the death of screenplay writer Don Payne on March 26, 2013. Two years later, the plans geared into a maximum ride and the flick was made.

 

Bette Midler to star in an all-female version of “Ben-Hur”? Watch out Jack Huston!

We know the story well: Ben-Hur is the epic story of Judah Ben-Hur, a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother Messala, an officer in the Roman army.

The story’s highlight still remains the chariot race: Both the 1925 silent film version, starring gay icon Ramon Navarro as Ben-Hur, and the 1959 blockbuster with dead gun advocate Charlton Heston, remain memorable with Biblical proportions. (Three were two other adaptations of the 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace: The 1907 silent film starring Herman Rottger and the 2003 animated film with Ben-Hur voiced by Heston. Wallace’s tome is in public domain: How about an all-female take, with Bette Midler as Bennette-Her?)800px-ben-hur-1925

A new version  hit theaters earlier this year, starring Jack Huston in the title role. Paramount Pictures’ and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures’ breathtaking action-adventure arrives on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD December 13, from Paramount Home Media Distribution.  The film arrives two weeks early on Digital HD November 29.

BEN-HUR is the epic story of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell), an officer in the Roman army. Stripped of his title, separated from his family and the woman he loves (Nazanin Boniadi), Judah is forced into slavery. After years at sea, Judah returns to his homeland to seek revenge, but finds redemption. Based on Lew Wallace’s timeless novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, the film also stars Rodrigo Santoro, Ayelet Zurer, Pilou Asbaek, Sofia Black D’Elia and Oscar winner Morgan Freeman.

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We treat you the the entire 1907 film, below.

The Ben-Hur Blu-ray Combo Pack with Digital HD features over an hour of bonus content including an in-depth look at the creation of the film’s spectacular chariot race, an exploration of the story’s legacy and enduring relevance, behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast, deleted and extended scenes, music videos from Andra Day, For King and Country and Mary Mary and more. In addition, for a limited time, the Blu-ray Combo Pack will include a $10 movie card that can be applied to the purchase of a ticket for any movie in theaters.

The combo pack includes access to a Digital HD copy of the film as well as the following:

Blu-ray

  • Feature film in high definition
  • Ben-Hur: The Legacy
  • The Epic Cast
  • A Tale for Our Times
  • The Chariot Race
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes
  • Music Videos

DVD

  • Feature film in standard definition

 

 

Taking a fresh (and often funny) look at “Movie Comedians of the 1950s”

We’ll make it fast. Wes D. Gehring makes it funny.

With his new book Movie Comedians of the 1950sDefining a New Era of Big Screen Comedy (McFarland, $39.95), Gehring takes a detailed look at just how the ’50s were a transitional period for film comedians; for example, the artistic suppression of the McCarthy era and the advent of television often resulted in a dumbing down of motion pictures. Cartoonist-turned-director Frank Tashlin contributed funny, but cartoonish, effects through his work with Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope. A new vanguard of comedians appeared without the stock comic garb or make-up-fresh faces not easily pigeonholed as merely comedians, such as Tony Randall, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Some traditional comedians, like Charlie Chaplin, Red Skelton and Danny Kaye, continued their shtick, though with some evident tweaking.

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The book provides insight into a misunderstood decade of film history with an examination of the “personality comedians.” The talents of  Martin and  Hope are reappraised and the “dumb blonde” stereotype, as applied to Judy Holliday and Marilyn Monroe, is deconstructed.

“Beyond a general revisionist look at 1950s film comedy, the goals of the work were to knock down Lewis’ perspective that Martin was just a straight man, to undercut the dumb blonde stereotype, and to examine game-changing TV, often via the neglected Frank Tashlin” says Gehring. “I really think I provided important new insight on Tashlin by reading his films through his children’s books.”

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The underrated Holliday. Begin a new chapter in your film fandom and read about her genius.
Those born yesterday and the some who like it hot will enjoy the the introductions to the funny girls and boys.

Judith Jubliee! McNaught Madness! Giving thanks for the debut of 14 Judith McNaught E-Books and you can win them!

Call it McNaught Madness.  Today marks the debut of 14 E-books titles by Judith McNaught. If you previously read any of these amazing titles, revisiting them in E-Book is not “All for Naught,” as each E-Book will contain original, new content (a letter) from Judith McNaught.

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To celebrate this abundance of new material from McNaught, we kick off McNaught-E November today with an excerpt for Whitney, My Love ($2.99 special price November 1–December 4, 2016). Please check back on McNaught-E Mondays (every Monday in November) to enjoy additional excerpts for the other 13 E-Books.

Promo Code Giveaway!
For McNaught-E Cyber Monday (11/28) we will announce the winner of 14 promo codes, one promo code for each title. Enter to win today! You can enter on all blogs on the tour listed below, but you can only win once.

S&S | iTunes | Amazon | Nook | Google Play

Let New York Times bestselling author Judith McNaught who “is in a class by herself” (USA TODAY) sweep you off your feet and into another time with her sensual, passionate, and spellbinding historical romance classics, featuring her “unique magic” (RT Book Reviews)!

We can’t think of a better way to begin a new JM chapter in your life than by offering you an excerpt from Chapter One of all her E-Books! Whitney, My Love is the excerpt for today.

A bit on Whitney, My Love: A saucy spitfire who has grown into a ravishing young woman, Whitney Stone returns from her triumphant time in Paris society to England. She plans on marrying her childhood sweetheart, only to discover she has been bargained away by her bankrupt father to the arrogant and alluring Clayton Westmoreland, the Duke of Claymore. Outraged, she defies her new lord. But even as his smoldering passion seduces her into a gathering storm of desire, Whitney cannot—will not—relinquish her dream of perfect love. Rich with emotion, brimming with laughter and tears, Whitney, My Love is “the ultimate love story, one you can dream about forever” (RT Book Reviews).

Now savor an excerpt from Whitney, My Love . . .

As their elegant travelling chaise rocked and swayed along the rutted country road, Lady Anne Gilbert leaned her cheek against her husband’s shoulder and heaved a long, impatient sigh. “Another whole hour until we arrive, and already the suspense is positively gnawing at me. I keep wondering what Whitney will be like now that she’s grown up.”

She lapsed into silence and gazed absently out the coach window at the lush, rolling English countryside covered with wild pink Foxglove and yellow Buttercups, trying to envision the niece she hadn’t seen in almost eleven years.

“She’ll be pretty, just as her mother was. And she’ll have her mother’s smile, her gentleness, her sweet disposition . . .”

Lord Edward Gilbert cast a skeptical glance at his wife. “Sweet disposition?” he echoed in amused disbelief. “That isn’t what her father said in his letter.”

As a diplomat attached to the British Consulate in Paris, Lord Gilbert was a master of hints, evasions, innuendoes, and intrigues. But in his personal life, he preferred the refreshing alternative of blunt truth. “Allow me to refresh your memory,” he said, groping in his pockets and retrieving the letter from Whitney’s father. He perched his spectacles upon his nose, and ignoring his wife’s grimace, he began to read:

“ ‘Whitney’s manners are an outrage, her conduct is reprehensible. She is a willful hoyden who is the despair of everyone she knows and an embarrassment to me. I implore you to take her back to Paris with you, in the hope that you may have more success with the stubborn chit than I have had.’ ”

Edward chuckled. “Show me where it says she’s ‘sweet-tempered.’ ”

His wife shot him a peevish glance. “Martin Stone is a cold, unfeeling man who wouldn’t recognize gentleness and goodness if Whitney were made of nothing else! Only think of the way he shouted at her and sent her to her room right after my sister’s funeral.”

Edward recognized the mutinous set of his wife’s chin and put his arm around her shoulders in a gesture of conciliation. “I’m no fonder of the man than you are, but you must admit that, just having lost his young wife to an early grave, to have his daughter accuse him, in front of fifty people, of locking her mama in a box so she couldn’t escape had to be rather disconcerting.”cover-whitneymylove1

“But Whitney was scarcely five years old!” Anne protested heatedly.

“Agreed. But Martin was grieving. Besides, as I recall, it was not for that offense she was banished to her room. It was later, when everyone had gathered in the drawing room—when she stamped her foot and threatened to report us all to God if we didn’t release her mama at once.”

Anne smiled. “What spirit she had, Edward. I thought for a moment her little freckles were going to pop right off her nose. Admit it—she was marvelous, and you thought so too!”

“Well, yes,” Edward agreed sheepishly. “I rather thought she was.”

*  *  *

As the Gilbert chaise bore inexorably down on the Stone estate, a small knot of young people were waiting on the south lawn, impatiently looking toward the stable one hundred yards away. A petite blonde smoothed her pink ruffled skirts and sighed in a way that displayed a very fetching dimple. “Whatever do you suppose Whitney is planning to do?” she inquired of the handsome light-haired man beside her.

Glancing down into Elizabeth Ashton’s wide blue eyes, Paul Sevarin smiled a smile that Whitney would have forfeited both her feet to see focused on herself. “Try to be patient, Elizabeth,” he said.

“I’m sure none of us have the faintest idea what she is up to, Elizabeth,” Margaret Merryton said tartly. “But you can be perfectly certain it will be something foolish and outrageous.”

“Margaret, we’re all Whitney’s guests today,” Paul chided.

“I don’t know why you should defend her, Paul,” Margaret argued spitefully. “Whitney is creating a horrid scandal chasing after you, and you know it!”

“Margaret!” Paul snapped. “I said that was enough.” Drawing a long, irritated breath, Paul Sevarin frowned darkly at his gleaming boots. Whitney had been making a spectacle of herself chasing after him, and damned near everyone for fifteen miles was talking about it.

At first he had been mildly amused to find himself the object of a fifteen-year-old’s languishing looks and adoring smiles, but lately Whitney had begun pursuing him with the determination and tactical brilliance of a female Napoleon Bonaparte.

If he rode off the grounds of his estate, he could almost depend on meeting her en route to his destination. It was as if she had some lookout point from which she watched his every move, and Paul no longer found her childish infatuation with him either harmless or amusing.

Three weeks ago, she had followed him to a local inn. While he was pleasantly contemplating accepting the innkeeper’s daughter’s whispered invitation to meet her later in the hayloft, he’d glanced up and seen a familiar pair of bright green eyes peeping at him through the window. Slamming his tankard of ale on the table, he’d marched outside, grabbed Whitney by the elbow, and unceremoniously deposited her on her horse, tersely reminding her that her father would be searching for her if she wasn’t home by nightfall.

He’d stalked back inside and ordered another tankard, but when the innkeeper’s daughter brushed her breasts suggestively against his arm while refilling his ale and Paul had a sudden vision of himself lying entangled with her voluptuous naked body, a pair of green eyes peered in through yet another window. He’d tossed enough coins on the planked wooden table to mollify the startled girl’s wounded sensibilities and left—only to encounter Miss Stone again on his way home.

He was beginning to feel like a hunted man whose every move was under surveillance, and his temper was strained to the breaking point. And yet, Paul thought irritably, here he was standing in the April sun, trying for some obscure reason to protect Whitney from the criticism she richly deserved.

A pretty girl, several years younger than the others in the group, glanced at Paul. “I think I’ll go and see what’s keeping Whitney,” said Emily Williams. She hurried across the lawn and along the whitewashed fence adjoining the stable. Shoving open the big double doors, Emily looked down the wide gloomy corridor lined with stalls on both sides. “Where is Miss Whitney?” she asked the stableboy who was currying a sorrel gelding.

“In there, Miss.” Even in the muted light, Emily saw his face suffuse with color as he nodded toward a door adjacent to the tack room.

With a puzzled glance at the flushing stableboy, Emily tapped lightly on the designated door and stepped inside, then froze at the sight that greeted her: Whitney Allison Stone’s long legs were encased in coarse brown britches that clung startlingly to her slender hips and were held in place at her narrow waist with a length of rope. Above the riding britches she wore a thin chemise.

“You surely aren’t going out there dressed like that?” Emily gasped.

Whitney fired an amused glance over her shoulder at her scandalized friend. “Of course not. I’m going to wear a shirt, too.”

“B-but why?” Emily persisted desperately.

“Because I don’t think it would be very proper to appear in my chemise, silly,” Whitney cheerfully replied, snatching the stableboy’s clean shirt off a peg and plunging her arms into the sleeves.

“P-proper? Proper?” Emily sputtered. “It’s completely improper for you to be wearing men’s britches, and you know it!”

“True. But I can’t very well ride that horse without a saddle and risk having my skirts blow up around my neck, now can I?” Whitney breezily argued while she twisted her long unruly hair into a knot and pinned it at her nape.

“Ride without a saddle? You can’t mean you’re going to ride astride—your father will disown you if you do that again.”

“I am not going to ride astride. Although,” Whitney giggled, “I can’t understand why men are allowed to straddle a horse, while we—who are supposed to be the weaker sex—must hang off the side, praying for our lives.”

Emily refused to be diverted. “Then what are you going to do?”

“I never realized what an inquisitive young lady you are, Miss Williams,” Whitney teased. “But to answer your question, I am going to ride standing on the horse’s back. I saw it done at the fair, and I’ve been practicing ever since. Then, when Paul sees how well I do, he’ll—”

“He’ll think you have lost your mind, Whitney Stone! He’ll think that you haven’t a grain of sense or propriety, and that you’re only trying something else to gain his attention.” Seeing the stubborn set of her friend’s chin, Emily switched her tactics. “Whitney, please—think of your father. What will he say if he finds out?”

Whitney hesitated, feeling the force of her father’s unwaveringly cold stare as if it were this minute focused upon her. She drew a long breath, then expelled it slowly as she glanced out the small window at the group waiting on the lawn. Wearily, she said, “Father will say that, as usual, I have disappointed him, that I am a disgrace to him and to my mother’s memory, that he is happy she didn’t live to see what I have become. Then he will spend half an hour telling me what a perfect lady Elizabeth Ashton is, and that I ought to be like her.”

“Well, if you really wanted to impress Paul, you could try . . .”

Whitney clenched her hands in frustration. “I have tried to be like Elizabeth. I wear those disgusting ruffled dresses that make me feel like a pastel mountain, I’ve practiced going for hours without saying a word, and I’ve fluttered my eyelashes until my eyelids go limp.”

Emily bit her lip to hide her smile at Whitney’s unflattering description of Elizabeth Ashton’s demure mannerisms, then she sighed. “I’ll go and tell the others that you’ll be right out.”

Gasps of outrage and derisive sniggers greeted Whitney’s appearance on the lawn when she led the horse toward the spectators. “She’ll fall off,” one of the girls predicted, “if God doesn’t strike her dead first for wearing those britches.”

Ignoring the impulse to snap out a biting retort, Whitney raised her head in a gesture of haughty disdain, then stole a look at Paul. His handsome face was taut with disapproval as his gaze moved from her bare feet, up her trousered legs, to her face. Inwardly, Whitney faltered at his obvious displeasure, but she swung resolutely onto the back of the waiting horse.

The gelding moved into its practiced canter, and Whitney worked herself upward, first crouching with arms outstretched for balance, then slowly easing herself into a standing position. Around and around they went and, although Whitney was in constant terror of falling off and looking like a fool, she managed to appear competent and graceful.

As she completed the fourth circle, she let her eyes slant to the faces passing on her left, registering their looks of shock and derision, while she searched for the only face that mattered. Paul was partially in the tree’s shadow, and Elizabeth Ashton was clinging to his arm, but as Whitney passed, she saw the slow, reluctant smile tugging at the corner of his mouth, and triumph unfurled like a banner in her heart. By the time she came around again, Paul was grinning broadly at her. Whitney’s spirits soared, and suddenly all the weeks of practice, the sore muscles and bruises, seemed worthwhile.

*  *  *

At the window of the second floor drawing room overlooking the south lawn, Martin Stone stared down at his performing daughter. Behind him, the butler announced that Lord and Lady Gilbert had arrived. Too enraged at his daughter to speak, Martin greeted his sister-in-law and her husband with a clenched jaw and curt nod.

“How—how nice to see you again after so many years, Martin,” Lady Anne lied graciously. When he remained icily silent, she said, “Where is Whitney? We’re so anxious to see her.”

Martin finally recovered his voice. “See her?” he snapped savagely. “Madam, you have only to look out this window.”

Bewildered, Anne did as he said. Below on the lawn there stood a group of young people watching a slender boy balancing beautifully on a cantering horse. “What a clever young man,” she said, smiling.

Her simple remark seemed to drive Martin Stone from frozen rage to frenzied action as he swung on his heel and marched toward the door. “If you wish to meet your niece, come with me. Or, I can spare you the humiliation, and bring her here to you.”

With an exasperated look at Martin’s back, Anne tucked her hand in her husband’s arm and together they followed Martin downstairs and outside.

As they approached the group of young people, Anne heard murmurings and laughter, and she was vaguely aware that there was something malicious in the tone, but she was too busy scanning the young ladies’ faces, looking for Whitney, to pay much heed to the fleeting impression. She mentally discarded two blondes and a redhead, quizzically studied a petite, blue-eyed brunette, then glanced helplessly at the young man beside her. “Pardon me, I am Lady Gilbert, Whitney’s aunt. Could you tell me where she is?”

Paul Sevarin grinned at her, half in sympathy and half in amusement. “Your niece is on the horse, Lady Gilbert,” he said.

“On the—” Lord Gilbert choked.

From her delicate perch atop the horse, Whitney’s eyes followed her father’s progress as he bore down on her with long, rapid strides. “Please don’t make a scene, Father,” she implored when he was within earshot.

I make a scene?” he roared furiously. Snatching the halter, he brought the cantering horse around so sharply that he jerked it from beneath her. Whitney hit the ground on her feet, lost her balance, and ended up half-sprawling. As she scampered up, her father caught her arm in a ruthless grip and hauled her over toward the spectators. “This—this thing,” he said, thrusting her forward toward her aunt and uncle, “I am mortified to tell you is your niece.”

Whitney heard the smattering of giggles as the group quickly disbanded, and she felt her face grow hot with shame. “How do you do, Aunt Gilbert? Uncle Gilbert?” With one eye on Paul’s broad-shouldered, retreating form, Whitney reached mechanically for her nonexistent skirt, realized it was missing, and executed a comical curtsy without it. She saw the frown on her aunt’s face and put her chin up defensively. “You may be sure that for the week you are here, I shall endeavor not to make a freak of myself again, Aunt.”

“For the week that we are here?” her aunt gasped, but Whitney was preoccupied watching Paul help Elizabeth into his curricle and didn’t notice the surprise in her aunt’s voice.

“Good-bye, Paul,” she called, waving madly. He turned and raised his arm in silent farewell.

Laughter drifted back as the curricles bowled down the drive, carrying their occupants off to a picnic or some other gay and wonderful activity, to which Whitney was never invited because she was too young.

Following Whitney toward the house, Anne was a mass of conflicting emotions. She was embarrassed for Whitney, furious with Martin Stone for humiliating the girl in front of the other young people, somewhat dazed by the sight of her own niece cavorting on the back of a horse, wearing men’s britches . . . and utterly astonished to discover that Whitney, whose mother had been only passably pretty, showed promise of becoming a genuine beauty.

She was too thin right now, but even in disgrace Whitney’s shoulders were straight, her walk naturally graceful and faintly provocative. Anne smiled to herself at the gently rounded hips displayed to almost immoral advantage by the coarse brown trousers, the slender waist that would require no subterfuge to make it appear smaller, eyes that seemed to change from sea-green to deep jade beneath their fringe of long, sooty lashes. And that hair—piles and piles of rich mahogany brown! All it needed was a good trimming and brushing until it shone; Anne’s fingers positively itched to go to work on it. Mentally she was already styling it in ways to highlight Whitney’s striking eyes and high cheekbones. Off her face, Anne decided, piled at the crown with tendrils at the ears, or pulled straight back off the forehead to fall in gentle waves down her back.

As soon as they entered the house, Whitney mumbled an excuse and fled to her room where she flopped dejectedly into a chair and morosely contemplated the humiliating scene Paul had just witnessed, with her father jerking her ignominiously off her horse and then shouting at her. No doubt her aunt and uncle were as horrified and revolted by her behavior as her father had been, and her cheeks burned with shame just thinking of how they must despise her already.

“Whitney?” Emily whispered, creeping into the bedroom and cautiously closing the door behind her. “I came up the back way. Is your father angry?”

“Cross as crabs,” Whitney confirmed, staring down at her trousered legs. “I suppose I ruined everything today, didn’t I? Everyone was laughing at me, and Paul heard them. Now that Elizabeth is seventeen, he’s bound to offer for her before he ever has a chance to realize that he loves me.

“You?” Emily repeated dazedly. “Whitney Stone, Paul avoids you like the plague, and well you know it! And who could blame him, after the mishaps you’ve treated him to in the last year?”

“There haven’t been so many as all that,” Whitney protested, but she squirmed in her chair.

“No? What about that trick you played on him on All Soul’s—darting out in front of his carriage, shrieking like a banshee, and pretending to be a ghost, terrifying his horses.”

Whitney flushed. “He wasn’t so very angry. And it isn’t as if the carriage was destroyed. It only broke a shaft when it overturned.”

“And Paul’s leg,” Emily pointed out.

“But that mended perfectly,” Whitney persisted, her mind already leaping from past debacles to future possibilities. She surged to her feet and began to pace slowly back and forth. “There has to be a way—but short of abducting him, I—” A mischievous smile lit up her dust-streaked face as she swung around so quickly that Emily pressed back into her chair. “Emily, one thing is infinitely clear: Paul does not yet know that he cares for me. Correct?”

“He doesn’t care a snap for you is more like it,” Emily replied warily.

“Therefore, it would be safe to say that he is unlikely to offer for me without some sort of added incentive. Correct?”

“You couldn’t make him offer for you at the point of a gun, and you know it. Besides, you aren’t old enough to be betrothed, even if—”

“Under what circumstances,” Whitney interrupted triumphantly, “is a gentleman obliged to offer for a lady?”

“I can’t think of any. Except of course, if he has compromised her—absolutely not! Whitney, whatever you’re planning now, I won’t help.”

Sighing, Whitney flopped back into her chair, stretching her legs out in front of her. An irreverent giggle escaped her as she considered the sheer audacity of her last idea. “If only I could have pulled it off . . . you know, loosened the wheel on Paul’s carriage so that it would fall off later, and then asked him to drive me somewhere. Then, by the time we walked back, or help arrived, it would be late at night, and he would have to offer for me.” Oblivious to Emily’s scandalized expression, Whitney continued, “Just think what a wonderful turnabout that would have been on a tired old theme: Young Lady abducts Gentleman and ruins hisreputation so that she is forced to marry him to set things aright! What a novel that could have made,” she added, rather impressed with her own ingenuity.

“I’m leaving,” Emily said. She marched to the door, then she hesitated and turned back to Whitney. “Your aunt and uncle saw everything. What are you going to say to them about those trousers and the horse?”

Whitney’s face clouded. “I’m not going to say anything, it wouldn’t help—but for the rest of the time they are here, I’m going to be the most demure, refined, delicate female you’ve ever seen.” She saw Emily’s dubious look and added, “Also I intend to stay out of sight except at mealtimes. I think I’ll be able to act like Elizabeth for three hours a day.”

*  *  *

Whitney kept her promise. At dinner that night, after her uncle’s hair-raising tale of their life in Beirut where he was attached to the British Consulate, she murmured only, “How very informative, Uncle,” even though she was positively burning to ply him with questions. At the end of her aunt’s description of Paris and the thrill of its gay social life, Whitney murmured, “How very informative, Aunt.” The moment the meal was finished, she excused herself and vanished.

After three days, Whitney’s efforts to be either demure or absent had, in fact, been so successful that Anne was beginning to wonder whether she had only imagined the spark of fire she’d glimpsed the day of their arrival, or if the girl had some aversion to Edward and herself.

On the fourth day, when Whitney breakfasted before the rest of the household was up, and then vanished, Anne set out to discover the truth. She searched the house, but Whitney was not indoors. She was not in the garden, nor had she taken a horse from the stable, Anne was informed by a groom. Squinting into the sunlight, Anne looked around her, trying to imagine where a fifteen-year-old would go to spend all day.

Off on the crest of a hill overlooking the estate, she spied a patch of bright yellow. “There you are!” she breathed, opening her parasol and striking out across the lawn.

Whitney didn’t see her aunt coming until it was too late to escape. Wishing she had found a better place to hide, she tried to think of some innocuous subject on which she could converse without appearing ignorant. Clothes? Personally, she knew nothing of fashions and cared even less; she looked hopeless no matter what she wore. After all, what could clothes do to improve the looks of a female who had cat’s eyes, mud-colored hair, and freckles on the bridge of her nose? Besides that, she was too tall, too thin, and if the good Lord intended for her ever to have a bosom, it was very late in making its appearance.

Weak-kneed, her chest heaving with each labored breath, Anne topped the steep rise and collapsed unceremoniously onto the blanket beside Whitney. “I-I thought I’d take . . . a nice stroll,” Anne lied. When she caught her breath, she noticed the leather-bound book lying face down on the blanket and, seizing on books as a topic of conversation, she said, “Is that a romantic novel?”

“No, Aunt,” Whitney demurely uttered, carefully placing her hand over the title of the book to conceal it from her aunt’s eyes.

“I’m told most young ladies adore romantic novels,” Anne tried again.

“Yes, Aunt,” Whitney agreed politely.

“I read one once but I didn’t like it,” Anne remarked, her mind groping for some other topic that might draw Whitney into conversation. “I cannot abide a heroine who is too perfect, nor one who is forever swooning.”

Whitney was so astonished to discover that she wasn’t the only female in all of England who didn’t devour the insipid things, that she instantly forgot her resolution to speak only in monosyllables. “And when the heroines aren’t swooning,” she added, her entire face lighting up with laughter, “they are lying about with hartshorn bottles up their nostrils, moping and pining away for some faint-hearted gentleman who hasn’t the gumption to offer for them, or else has already offered for some other, unworthy female. I could never just lie there doing nothing, knowing the man I loved was falling in love with a horrid person.” Whitney darted a glance at her aunt to see if she was shocked, but her aunt was regarding her with an unexplainable smile lurking at the corners of her eyes. “Aunt Anne, could you actually care for a man who dropped to his knees and said, ‘Oh, Clarabel, your lips are the petals of a red rose and your eyes are two stars from the heavens’?” With a derisive snort, Whitney finished, “That is where I would have leapt for the hartshorn!”

“And so would I,” Anne said, laughing. “What do you read then, if not atrocious romantic novels?” She pried the book from beneath Whitney’s flattened hand and stared at the gold-embossed title. “The Iliad?” she asked in astonished disbelief. The breeze ruffled the pages, and Anne’s amazed gaze ricocheted from the print to Whitney’s tense face. “But this is in Greek! Surely you don’t read Greek?”

Whitney nodded, her face flushed with mortification. Now her aunt would think her a bluestocking—another black mark against her. “Also Latin, Italian, French, and even some German,” she confessed.

“Good God,” Anne breathed. “How did you ever learn all that?”

“Despite what Father thinks, Aunt Anne, I am only foolish, not stupid, and I plagued him to death until he allowed me tutors in languages and history.” Whitney fell silent, remembering how she’d once believed that if

she applied herself to her studies, if she could become more like a son, her father might love her.

“You sound ashamed of your accomplishments, when you should be proud.”

Whitney gazed out at her home, nestled in the valley below. “I’m sure you know everyone thinks it’s a waste of time to educate a female in these things. And anyway, I haven’t a feminine accomplishment to my name. I can’t sew a stitch that doesn’t look as if it were done blindfolded, and when I sing, the dogs down at the stable begin to howl. Mr. Twittsworthy, our local music instructor, told my father that my playing of the pianoforte gives him hives. I can’t do a thing that girls ought to do, and what’s more, I particularly detest doing them.”

Whitney knew her aunt would now take her in complete dislike, just as everyone else always did, but it was better this way because at least she could stop dreading the inevitable. She looked at Lady Anne, her green eyes wide and vulnerable. “I’m certain Papa has told you all about me. I’m a terrible disappointment to him. He wants me to be dainty and demure and quiet, like Elizabeth Ashton. I try to be, but I can’t seem to do it.”

Anne’s heart melted for the lovely, spirited, bewildered child her sister had borne. Laying her hand against Whitney’s cheek, she said tenderly, “Your father wants a daughter who is like a cameo—delicate, pale, and easily shaped. Instead, he has a daughter who is a diamond, full of sparkle and life, and he doesn’t know what to do with her. Instead of appreciating the value and rarity of his jewel—instead of polishing her a bit and then letting her shine—he persists in trying to shape her into a common cameo.”

Whitney was more inclined to think of herself as a chunk of coal, but rather than disillusion her aunt, she kept silent. After her aunt left, Whitney picked up her book, but soon her mind wandered from the printed page to dreamy thoughts of Paul.

That night when she came down to the dining room, the atmosphere in the room was strangely charged, and no one noticed her sauntering toward the table. “When do you plan to tell her she’s coming back to France with us, Martin?” her uncle demanded angrily. “Or is it your intention to wait until the day we leave and then just toss the child into the coach with us?”

The world tilted crazily, and for one horrible moment, Whitney thought she was going to be sick. She stopped, trying to steady her shaking limbs, and swallowed back the aching lump in her throat. “Am I going somewhere, Father?” she asked, trying to sound calm and indifferent.

They all turned and stared, and her father’s face tightened into lines of impatience and annoyance. “To France,” he replied abruptly. “To live with your aunt and uncle, who are going to try to make a lady out of you.”

Carefully avoiding meeting anyone’s eyes, lest she break down then and there, Whitney slid into her chair at the table. “Have you informed my aunt and uncle of the risk they are taking?” she asked, concentrating all her strength on preventing her father from seeing what he had just done to her heart. She looked coldly at her aunt and uncle’s guilty, embarrassed faces. “Father may have neglected to mention you’re risking disgrace by welcoming me into your home. As he will tell you, I’ve a hideous disposition, I’m rag-mannered, and I haven’t a trace of polite conversation.”

Her aunt was watching her with naked pity, but her father’s expression was stony. “Oh Papa,” she whispered brokenly, “do you really despise me this much? Do you hate me so much that you have to send me out of your sight?” Her eyes swimming with unshed tears, Whitney stood up. “If you . . . will excuse me . . . I’m not very hungry this evening.”

“How could you!” Anne cried when she left, rising from her own chair and glaring furiously at Martin Stone. “You are the most heartless, unfeeling—it will be a pleasure to remove that child from your clutches. How she has survived this long is a testimony to her strength. I’m sure I could never have done so well.”

“You refine too much upon her words, Madam,” Martin said icily. “I assure you that what has her looking so distraught is not the prospect of being parted from me. I have merely put a premature end to her plans to continue making a fool of herself over Paul Sevarin.”

 

 

 

City Theatre stages another winner: “Bryan Cranston in Conversation with Tracy Brigden”

We have always been spreading the news that Tracy Brigden is a major force in Pittsburgh . . . and that City Theatre (of which TB is Artistic Director) is right next to her. We are now pleased that a new chapter joins their stages: City Theatre and Classic Lines Bookstore will be hosting Bryan Cranston in Conversation with Tracy Brigden. The afternoon with the acclaimed Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor (his portrayals of LBJ and Trumbo remain forever etched in our minds) is on November 20, beginning at 4 p.m. Expect he and she to have a conversation about art, his life and career. fzeneioi

Tickets for Bryan Cranston in Conversation with Tracy Brigden go on sale, October 31, at 10 a.m. and are $35. Each ticket includes a copy of Cranston’s autobiography A Life in Parts signed by the author. Seating is general admission. City Theatre season subscribers can save on per-ticket fees by calling the box office to order. Tickets can be purchased by calling 412-431-2489 or at CityTheatreCompany.org.

His memoir is riveting memoir. The actor traces his zigzag journey from his chaotic childhood to mega stardom by vividly revisiting the many parts he’s played, on camera (think astronaut, dentist, detective, candy bar spokesperson, President of the United States) and off (paperboy, farmhand, security guard, dating consultant, murder suspect, dock loader, son, brother, lover, husband, father).unnamed-1

Discussing his failures as few men do, describing his work as few actors can, Cranston has much to say about innate talent, its benefits, challenges and proper maintenance, but ultimately A Life in Parts is about the necessity and transformative power of hard work. Savor that during his preteen years, he encountered a young Charles Manson while riding a horse at the Spahn Ranch. (This happened about a year before the nightmare.)

Expect a Sunday with Bryan in the Theatre to be blessing . .  and not because Cranston was ordained as a minister by the Universal Life Church, performing weddings at $150 a pop to help his income.

More information to remember: Classic Lines is an independent bookstore located at 5825 Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill. Owned by Dan Iddings, a former librarian, the bookstore welcomes readers of all ages, from babies to baby-boomers, with a selection of books that cross all borders, in a cozy, casual setting.