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Tag: History (11-16 of 16)

The timely e-book: 'Truman Fires MacArthur' and Gen. Stanley McChrystal

mccullogh-mcchrystalImage Credit: Carolyn Kaster/Getty ImagesTiming is everything. With this mantra in mind, Simon & Schuster released an e-book Friday titled Truman Fires MacArthur, a historical account of the 33rd president’s dismissal of his famous Pacific general. The e-book publication came only 48 hours after Pres. Barack Obama sacked Gen. Stanley McChrystal over his comments in a controversial Rolling Stone article. The pamphlet-length e-book, culled from material in David McCullough’s 1993 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Truman, demonstrates a new use of digital technology: the timely back-catalog reissue.

Special editions of physical books have to be planned months in advance, but with no printing or distribution requirements, e-books can be turned around in a matter of days, making up-to-the-minute relevance much more feasible. Excerpts and titles that might normally be difficult to track down could see release within reasonable propinquity to the events they’re pegged to. It’s good to see a major publisher like Simon & Schuster making use of the unique abilities of e-books rather than just spending all its time trying to ensure the experience is as close as possible to that of traditional books. Are there any other back-list books that might be particularly apropos to current events? Maybe a re-release of Upton Sinclair’s Oil! in light of the BP fiasco, or a World Cup 2010 edition of The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick?

'Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne': An interview with writer Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison is currently writing a six-issue miniseries, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne (DC Comics), that some consider one of the comic-book events of the year. Being touted as an event-creator is something this 50 year-old, Scottish-born writer must be used to by now. Morrison’s knack for rich conversational dialogue and intricately knotted plotting has garnered raves since the 1980s for everything from his big hits (the current, superb Batman and Robin series) to cult favorites (the your-head-will-explode The Invisibles).

I spoke to Morrison about Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, the second issue of which has just arrived in comic-book stores. There’s also news about a BBC sci-fi TV project Morrison is working on. READ FULL STORY

Move over, Random House! Novel from Bellevue Literary Press wins Pulitzer

The 2010 Pulitzer Prizes were announced today, and the winners included a few surprises (although sadly, still no recognition for critic extraordinaire Jay Sherman). The prize for fiction went to Paul Harding’s Tinkers, a debut novel about a clock repairman recalling his childhood on his deathbed. The book comes from Bellevue Literary Press, a nonprofit publisher operating out of a tiny office at New York University’s School of Medicine since 2005.

The Pulitzers for history and biography went to, respectively, Liaquat Ahamed’s Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World, about the Great Depression and T.J. Stiles’ robber-baron bio The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Here’s the full list of those who won for books:

Fiction: Tinkers by Paul Harding

Poetry: Versed by Rae Armantrout

History: Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed

General Nonfiction: The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy by David E. Hoffman

Biography: The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles

It's Tudor chic: Hilary Mantel's 'Wolf Hall' wins the Man Booker Prize

41794007As predicted, Hilary Mantel’s historical novel Wolf Hall won Britain’s prestigious Man Booker Prize, it was announced today at an awards dinner in London. The book, which will be published in the U.S. on Oct. 13 by Henry Holt, is a sympathetic portrait of Henry VIII’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell, a Tudor-era figure who is often portrayed as less than heroic (most notably in Robert Bolt’s 1961 play about Thomas More, A Man for All Seasons). “Hilary Mantel has given us a thoroughly modern novel set in the 16th century,” said James Naughtie, chair of the judges for the Man Booker. “Wolf Hall has a vast narrative sweep that gleams on every page with luminous and mesmerising detail.” Mantel, a first-time Man Booker winner, collects £50,000 for the prize, along with the promise of a major sales boost. She reportedly spent five years writing the novel, and is now at work on a sequel. The only downside for Mantel: Adaptation of her book as a Showtime series seems highly unlikely.

Sarah Palin's new memoir: Gosh, that subtitle sounds familiar

going-rogue_lThere’s much about the career of Sarah Palin that is unique. The hockey mom in lipstick has fashioned herself as a maverick since sashaying onto the national political stage last year as John McCain’s running mate. More recently, the former Alaska governor and would-be G.O.P. standard-bearer has defied expectations by turning in her memoir just four months after her book deal was announced —  HarperCollins is rushing Going Rogue into stores Nov. 17. (Some credit for that accomplishment goes to the pol’s quick-typing co-author, Lynn Vincent.)

But there’s at least one aspect of Palin’s opus that seems familiar…perhaps too familiar. And that’s the subtitle: An American Life. Astute history buffs will remember that that was the subtitle of Ronald Reagan’s best-selling 1990 memoir, of course. But in recent years, the three-word phrase has been the default setting for biographies of a host of people who share only the same geographic accident of birth. I tracked down at least 20 examples, many of whose dust jackets appear below.

Some come attached to bios of great figures in history (Benjamin Franklin, Martha Washington, and Daniel Boone). Others accompany individuals who made a noteworthy contribution to their chosen fields (banker Andrew Mellon, filmmaker D.W. Griffith, and pediatrician Dr. Spock). But when your subtitle is shared by books on actor Burt Lancaster, golfer Ben Hogan, and Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia — as well as Garcia’s chosen instrument, the guitar — well, let’s just say your book title begins to look a whole lot less mavericky.


'A New Literary History of America': As big and good as the country itself


The huge, welcoming, exciting, just-published volume A New Literary History of America is a book with which to spend entire days and the rest of your life. It’s a collection of over 200 original short essays that range, as the editors, Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors write in their introduction, “from the first appearance of ‘America’ on a map to Jimi Hendrix’s rewrite of the national anthem,” from the founding of the nation up through Hurricane Katrina and the election of Barack Obama.

There are essays here on the Salem witch trials and on Tarzan; on the founding of the Hudson River School of painting and the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous; on The Book of Mormon and The Catcher In The Rye. The essays are written by well-known names (Jonathan Letham, Sarah Vowell, Richard Schickel, Gish Jen) and less famous but no less revelatory writers (I direct you immediately to Stephen Burt’s essays on poetry and to Dave Hickey’s acute “The Song in Country Music”). Where else are you going to read Camille Paglia on Tennessee Williams, Mary Gaitskill on Norman Mailer, and Walter Mosley on the hardboiled detective novel? Don’t you want to do that right now?

Much as he did as a writer in his discography for the 1979 anthology Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island — choosing and elaborating upon key recordings in a way that cohered as a history of rock music — so, as an editor here, Marcus has placed in chronological order other writers’ interpretations of key moments in American history, and ended up with a surprisingly complete yet completely surprising view of our nation’s progress. And its mistakes, its sins, its grand follies; its most fervent dreams, and its most livid realities.

Talk about an all-American value: You could read this 1,000-plus-page book forever and never use up its revelations and its pleasures.

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