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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.