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    The Story of Willie

    Nashville rejected him as a singer, but he turned out to be one of the best songwriters in history. This is how Willie Nelson—poet, author, activist, cowboy, outlaw, outcast, misfit, and everyman—became the enduring face of American music.
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    Color Comes to Life

    An iPad app lets you interact, literally, with Josef Albers’s theories of color.
  • Among the Islands

    5 Armchair Getaways

    Is winter weather keeping you inside? From the Pacific Islands to the American West, these books will take your far, far away.
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    Just Play It

    David Byrne has been performing all his life, so why not write about it? He talks to Malcolm Jones about 'How Music Works.'
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    A New Civil War Book Makes History Feel Fresh

    The last time the United States observed a major anniversary of the Civil War, the centennial celebration in 1961–65, things quickly fell apart. When the Civil War Centennial Commission held a national convention in Charleston, S.C., where the war began with the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861, it denied a black delegate admission to the convention’s segregated hotel.
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    Did You Know That 'True Grit' Is a Book Too?

    When Charles Portis published 'True Grit' in 1968, the novel became a critically praised bestseller. Then a year later the movie, starring John Wayne, came out, and after that no one even remembered there was a book.
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    Can Laura Hillenbrand Top 'Seabiscuit'?

    Laura Hillenbrand stumbled upon Olympic runner Louis Zamperini in the course of researching "Seabiscuit," her debut book about the celebrated racehorse. “Louie and Seabiscuit were famous runners at the same time in the ’30s,” she says. “They were both at their peak and both in California.”
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    The Trouble With the Nobel

    The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded today to Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer. Malcolm Jones writes the prize has way too much influence over what we read.
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    Director Arthur Penn, 1922–2010

    Arthur Penn, who died Sept. 28, the day after his 88th birthday, made some good movies in his life (Night Moves, The Miracle Worker) and succeeded almost every time he directed a Broadway play. But he never made anything as good as Bonnie and Clyde.
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    Books: A Room With No View

    Only a handful of authors have ever known how to get inside the mind of a child and then get what they know on paper. Henry James, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and, more recently, Jean Stafford and Eric Kraft come to mind, and after that one gropes for names. But now they have company. Emma Donoghue’s latest novel, "Room," is narrated by a 5-year-old boy so real you could swear he was sitting right beside you.
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    How Cecil B. DeMille Created Modern Hollywood

    In "Empire of Dreams," film historian Scott Eyman struggles to penetrate DeMille’s façade but never gets much beyond establishing that the filmmaker was an autocrat on the set and a kindly man at home (albeit one with three mistresses). Told at a breakneck pace, the book resembles nothing so much as a DeMille movie—gaudy, corny, and enthralling.
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    The Resurrection of Charlie Chan

    Who under the age of 50 remembers Charlie Chan? Like his more bloodcurdling kinsman, Dr. Fu Manchu, and like Stepin Fetchit, Amos and Andy, and many other racial stereotypes who once populated American novels and movies, he has been politically corrected out of the cultural landscape. Now a new book reinterprets his legacy.
  • Will Our Love Affair With Thrillers Ever Subside?

    The fiction bestseller lists are dominated by crime novels—a literary trend so overwhelming, it might be considered less a trend than a crucial element of life, like air or water. Will our love affair with thrillers ever subside?
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    Will E-Books Eliminate Physical Books?

    Amazon.com’s recent announcement that sales of e-books at the online megastore had overtaken sales of hardcovers came as no surprise. It had to happen sometime. But the news did conjure quite an interesting mental image: libraries that from now on will look smaller and less crowded.
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    R. Crumb Speaks ... Again

    R. Crumb is talking about himself again. On his Web site—he doesn’t run it but he does contribute—there’s a new interview conducted this summer called “Hey, I’m Still Here ...” Crumb fans will eat up every scrap. As for the uninitiated among you—and surely the bestselling status of Crumb’s recent illustrated version of the Book of Genesis earned him new legions—here’s a good place to start, Matey.
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    Faulkner's Voice Revealed in New Audiotapes

    In 50-year-old audio files from the University of Virginia, the titan of Southern literature speaks to online fans. And in a world where we have our attention tugged a thousand ways from Sunday, his spoken thoughts are more than worth hearing.
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    Gary Shteyngart's Satire to Admire

    Satire is hard. If you don’t think so, watch a whole episode of Saturday Night Live—I’ll even spot you: pick any year you like. So here’s a big hat tip to Gary Shteyngart for having the nerve to write a novel-length satire in Super Sad True Love Story.
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    Obituary: Harvey Pekar, 70, of 'American Splendor'

    Harvey Pekar, who died Monday at the age of 70, should be the patron saint of soreheads. Even when he got successful he stayed cranky, maybe because being a crank was what made him successful. Not even Pekar was fool enough to fuss with that formula. After the "American Splendor" series of comics came out starting in 1976, he was hailed as the bard of the common man, a sort of genius of ordinariness. He was nothing of the sort.
  • Cyndi Lauper Sings the 'Memphis Blues'

    The blues, like the novel, is always dead or dying, according to someone, somewhere. But somehow, time and again, both these old forms find a way to resurrect themselves. Still, if you were asked to name the best new blues album, would you pin it to Cyndi Lauper?