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Who is Elena Ferrante? An interview with the mysterious Italian author

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Do you know Elena Ferrante? The Italian author’s urgent, blistering fiction has made her something of a cult sensation here in America. I myself had never heard of her until this summer, when I dove deep into her Neapolitan series, an intoxicatingly furious portrait of enmeshed friends Lila and Elena, bright and passionate girls from a raucous neighborhood in working class Naples. Ferrante writes with such aggression, and such unnerving psychological insight about the messy complexity of female friendship, the real world can drop away when you’re reading her. “My work is sometimes a struggle,” says Ann Goldstein, Ferrante’s long-standing Italian translator. “It’s very intense and very disturbing and sometimes I have to walk away from the words. But then when I’m done I sort of think ‘Wait, where are those people? My life is now empty.’”

The third installment of the series, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, which catches up with Elena and Lila in their roiling 20s, was published in America this week and Ferrante is subject of rapturous odes in everywhere from Vogue to The New York Times. And yet, despite all the accolades and attention, no one really knows Elena Ferrante because “Elena Ferrante” doesn’t exist. READ FULL STORY

David Levithan to release musical-novel spinoff to 'Will Grayson, Will Grayson'

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Jazz hands at the ready!

Tiny Cooper, described as “the world’s largest person who is really, really gay,” stole our hearts when he debuted in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, the 2010 YA novel co-written by The Fault in Our Stars author John Green and Every Day author David Levithan. Four years later, Levithan is giving us a closer, more razzle-dazzle glimpse at the larger-than-life character with the full script of the musical Tiny was working on in Will Grayson. So meta!

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story (March 2015) will tell of Tiny’s birth up to his ongoing quest for true love, complete with “big, lively, belty” musical numbers. We talked to David Levithan about what exactly a “musical-novel, novel-musical” entails and how he pulled it off. READ FULL STORY

Diana Gabaldon: Books of My Life

The breathlessly anticipated eighth installment of Diana Gabaldon’s sweeping Outlander series has finally hit shelves. In honor of the publication of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, we talked to Gabaldon about her favorite books.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your favorite book as a child?
DIANA GABALDON: You got me. I learned to read at age 3 and never stopped, so there are dozens of books I remember fondly from childhood: Alice in Wonderland, Daddy Long-Legs (which was not about a spider), all the OZ books, all of the biographies for “young people” that the local library had, Man-Eater (which was about tigers), The Moon-Spinners… Now, I do recall going to kindergarten, being given a copy of See Dick Run, flipping through it and tossing it on the table, saying — aloud, I was not a tactful child — “Who wants to read that?”

What is your favorite book that you read for school?
I don’t think I ever consciously separated “school” books from any others; I just read anything that came across my path. I do recall loving All Quiet on the Western Front, and I know I read it in a schoolroom, but I think I was in the sixth grade at the time, so it probably wasn’t assigned reading.

What’s a book that really cemented you as a writer?
Personally, I learned to read at the age of three, and have read non-stop ever since. You can read a lot of books in 59 years. I’m sure that every single book I’ve ever read has had some influence on me as a writer, whether negative (I’ve read a lot of books with the mounting conviction that I would never in my life do something like that) or positive.

Is there a book you’ve read over and over again?
Yes, hundreds of them. Most recently, I’ve re-read Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series (for the third time) as additional enjoyment of his new volume in that series, The Magus of Hay. Great stuff!

What’s a classic that you’re embarrassed to say you’ve never read?
Can’t think of any. I’ve read a lot of classic literature from assorted cultures, and always glad to read more when one comes across my path — but why be embarrassed by the fact that flesh and blood has limits? Nobody’s read everything.

What’s a book you’ve pretended to have read?
I don’t usually do this, but if it’s small-talk in a social context, I’ll just nod and smile when someone mentions a book I’ve not read, and let them talk about it, in case it’s something I might want to read.

What’s a recent book you wish you had written?
Oh, Pandaemonium, by Chris Brookmyre! Just fabulous — such a layered, beautifully structured, engaging, intelligent book. I love all Chris’s stuff, but this was remarkable.

What’s a movie adaptation of a book that you loved?
Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King; beautiful, lovely adaptation, and very faithful, too. And The Last of the Mohicans, which is somewhat more flexible, but still a good adaptation and a terrific movie. Good soundtrack, too.

What’s a book that people might be surprised to learn that you loved?
About half of what I read, probably. I really will read anything, from nonfiction to comic books, and like it all.

If there were only one genre you could read for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Probably mystery and crime. That genre unfailingly provides a coherent structure and guarantees moral content, which you need for a truly good book, while having enough flexibility for almost anything the writer wants to do.

What was the last book that made you laugh out loud, and what was the last one that made you cry?
Well, it was the one I was writing — Written in My Own Heart’s Blood — so I don’t know if that counts.

Do you read your books post-publication?
Absolutely! It wasn’t a Book when it left my hands, and it’s a huge thrill to open the package and find one, all fine and crisp and smelling new. I carry it around for days, fondling it at stop-lights and reading it in lines.

What are you reading right now?
Oh, let’s see… Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd and Deanna Raybourn’s City of Jasmine and rereading Shilpa Agarwal’s Haunting Bombay.

Joshua Ferris on the books he loves and loathes

Joshua Ferris, best known for his 2007 comic novel And Then We Came to the End, has an excellent new novel out, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. Ferris talked to EW about some of the books that impacted him as an author and person — as well as some books and authors he considers overrated. READ FULL STORY

Take a first look at Jason Segel's first novel 'Nightmares!'

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We always knew that Muppet lover and Dracula musical writer Jason Segel was a giant kid at heart, and now he’s planning to tell stories directly aimed at a very young audience. The first novel from the former How I Met Your Mother star will hit shelves Sept. 9, and EW has the exclusive first look at the cover of Nightmares!. Read on for more on Segel’s own weird nightmares, the first screenplay he ever wrote, and his experiences reading Infinite Jest while preparing to play David Foster Wallace in an upcoming biopic. READ FULL STORY

'Arrow' producer Marc Guggenheim breaks down his book 'Overwatch' and teases a sequel

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As an executive producer on CW’s Arrow, Marc Guggenheim knows how to pull off an awesome cliffhanger. Which is why anyone who has come to the ending of his new book, Overwatch, about a lawyer who finds himself unraveling a CIA conspiracy, was probably left wondering, ‘…and now what?!’

We thought the same thing and set out for some answers.

“I think the two reasons I really want to do another novel is because I have [a] story to tell,” Guggenheim says of his in-the-works sequel. “And then the second reason, quite frankly, is that I feel like I learned so much [during the first book], I want to put that knowledge to use.”

Below, Guggenheim opens up about the Overwatch follow-up and which characters will (and won’t!) be returning.

[In other words, book spoilers below.]  READ FULL STORY

Carol Leifer talks life in TV sitcoms, from 'Seinfeld' to 'Devious Maids'

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Veteran TV writer Carol Leifer has tapped her storied Hollywood career as fodder for a new memoir, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying. She talks to EW about what it takes to succeed in an industry that’s so tough it isn’t funny. Jennifer Armstrong reports.

Carol Leifer’s career could be a mini-lesson in modern TV history. She started as a stand-up but segued into sitcoms by writing for her buddy Jerry on Seinfeld. From there, she talked her way onto the staff of The Larry Sanders Show, co-created The Ellen Show with future Arrested Development master Mitch Hurwitz, created her own sitcom (Alright Already), and even dabbled in reality in The Celebrity Apprentice‘s third season. READ FULL STORY

'Speak' turns 15: Author Laurie Halse Anderson on the book's life and legacy

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Tell Laurie Halse Anderson that her 1999 young adult novel Speak changed your life, and she’ll respond with a warm, heartfelt “thank you!” Sure, she gets this sort of thing all the time — but as Anderson will say, with a friendly chortle, “I’ve never gotten it from you before.” READ FULL STORY

Octavia Spencer in conversation with Nate Foster of 'Five, Six, Seven, Nate!' -- EXCLUSIVE

Get ready for a cuteness overload. Thirteen-year-old Nate Foster (of Tim Federle’s Better Nate Than Ever and the newly released sequel Five, Six, Seven, Nate!) recently took a break from rehearsals for E.T.: The Broadway Musical to interview Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, author of The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit. Spencer imparts wisdom and wit that will enlighten us all, whether or not we’re budding Broadway stars. READ FULL STORY

See the cover of 'Brutal Youth,' the debut novel by EW's Anthony Breznican -- EXCLUSIVE

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You probably know Anthony Breznican as EW’s expert Oscar prognosticator and breaker of movie news, but now he’s writing about an entirely different world in his debut novel (see the exclusive cover above). Not your average coming-of-age story, Brutal Youth centers on Peter Davidek, an incoming freshman at Saint Michael’s, a shambolic Catholic school that attracts both delinquents and the dogmatically religious. Immediately faced with a violent episode at the school, Peter takes up allies against the bullies and corrupt faculty and learns that instead of growing older and wiser, going bad might be the only way to survive.

Keep reading for more from Breznican about Brutal Youth (coming June 10).

READ FULL STORY

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