APPRECIATION: SHELBY FOOTE, VOICE OF THE SOUTH

If Foote, who died last week at 88, had never written "Shiloh," his terse, unsentimental novel about the 1862 Civil War battle, he might not have gone on to become the best-known narrative historian of the Civil War.

Big Brother Is Watching

George Orwell spent five years as one of the British Empire's policemen in Burma in the '20s. The experience provided him with the raw material for his novel "Burmese Days" as well as several of his best essays.

FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES

You can't read James Frey's memoir "My Friend Leonard" without thinking, this guy Leonard is unbelievable. He's a Las Vegas mobster, a high-level bookie, a bon vivant who can charm young hipsters and stodgy parents, a loving friend who's always there when you need a savvy sounding board, and an expert on just about any kind of visual art you care to mention.

A HIGH-STAKES DEBUT

Elizabeth Kostova is so squeamish that she has never read a Stephen King novel. It's not that she's afraid of scary stories; she just doesn't like gore. So when she began her novel about Dracula, "The Historian," she promised herself that "I would only spill a cup of blood in the whole book." She pauses to do a little silent calculating and then smiles. "I don't think I exceeded my limit by much." But if Kostova's debut novel is short on gore, it is far from bloodless.

THE VIEW MASTER

The world according to Lee Friedlander is an unmistakable place. The combination of intention, point of view and subject matter is so distinctive that you could pick one of his photographs out of a lineup every time, though the variety of his work still manages to stun.

DYSFUNCTION JUNCTION

If Dede Wilsey's outrage overshadows her stepson Sean's accomplishments as a memoirist, he has himself to blame. "Oh the Glory of It All" is his account of growing up as the rich, spoiled product of a famously broken home.

DINE NOW, SIGN LATER

Sitting in the Denver Airport one morning in January, waiting for a plane to take him to Los Angeles, Jim Fergus could have passed for a traveling salesman, right down to the carry-on and the frazzled look of a man who was out late entertaining clients.

BOOKS: CONJURING UP DARK CLOUDS

Robert Oppenheimer had a changeling's face. Seen straight on, he was beguilingly handsome. Seen from the side, he was almost goofy looking. He was slue-footed and a klutz around machines.

Chasing Kubrick

One of my personal markers of the importance a movie has for me is whether I can remember where I saw it. According to this system, about half of Stanley Kubrick's movies rank right up at the top.

BOOK: HOW YOU FOLLOW A HIT

Sue Monk Kidd has a little trouble with success. Specifically, she still can't quite believe that her first novel, "The Secret Life of Bees," has sold 3-1/2 million copies since it appeared in 2002. "For a long time, I couldn't truly believe it had happened," she said in a recent interview at her home outside Charleston, S.C.

PUTTING IT ALL ON THE TABLE

Eating lunch with Ruth Reichl at a New York City sushi restaurant, you can see right off why she's so good at what she does. When the former food critic for The New York Times and current editor of Gourmet magazine confronts a bowl of soup, she takes her time inhaling the aroma and contemplating the arrangement of ground shrimp and mushroom with eel on top.

HEAVENLY METAL

When William Joyce met Chris Wedge in 1996, they hit it off right away. They had been introduced by an executive at Twentieth Century Fox who thought the studio's Blue Sky computer-animation division might be the shop to turn Joyce's children's book "Santa Calls" into a movie.

REBIRTH OF THE BLUES

For most of his career, the jazz piano player Jason Moran, who is only 30, has been hailed as one of jazz's most thoughtful performers. The sheer clarity of his playing dispels, if only for a few minutes, the buzzing confusion of ordinary reality.

Still Truckin'

The most astonishing fact in "Crumb," Terry Zwigoff's 1994 documentary about the underground comic book artist Robert Crumb, was that Crumb was the closest thing to normal in his own family.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD WAR

War is hell. But you knew that. The surprising thing is how many different ways there are to say so. Nick Arvin and Donn Pearce are both able novelists, and both cover the same ground--Europe in the closing days of World War II--but their visions could not be more different.

PASSING FOR MUSLIM

The story of a Jew masquerading as a Muslim sounds like a bad joke. But the story of Lev Nussimbaum, who became Essad Bey and then Kurban Said, is hauntingly true.

THE CALL OF THE WILD

Reading Haruki Murakami's latest novel, "Kafka on the Shore," is a little like listening to a kid make up a story at a campfire. It begins with a 15-year-old boy, running away from home in Tokyo.

Strange Trip

Reading Haruki Murakami's latest novel, "Kafka on the Shore," is a little like listening to a kid make up a story at a campfire. The kind in which one thing leads to another with no apparent logic, where the monsters come over the side of the ship and fight the pirates but don't get to kidnap the princess because she's already escaped in the spaceship, and on and on.

TRANSITION

SHIRLEY CHISHOLM, 80 Although she served New York's 12th Congressional District for seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Chisholm did not want to be remembered as the nation's first black congresswoman or as the first African-American to run for president. "Shirley Chisholm had guts" was her idea of an epitaph.

WHAT LIES BENEATH

Do not judge this book by its dull, arty cover. Do not be put off by the oh-so-literary title (what were they thinking--the author, his editor, his publisher?).

WRESTLING WITH ANGELS

Preachers get cheated in American fiction. Hawthorne wrote about them, and so did Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis and J. F. Powers. But as anyone who grows up in a clergyman's home can attest, most laymen, writers included, shy away from men and women of the cloth.

DE-LOVELY DE KOONING

It is easy to think of Willem de Kooning as the poster boy of modern art. So much of his life--the bohemian existence in Greenwich Village, the poverty, the womanizing, the alcoholism--fits the cliche of the turbulent artist struggling to reinvent himself and his art.

TAKE THE CANNOLIS

"The Godfather" is like "The Wizard of Oz"--one of those stories that have become so embedded in the culture that their dialogue and characters can be strewn through our conversations without explanation.

VOICE OF AMERICA

Born in 1909, Johnny Mercer was nearly a generation younger than the giants of the golden era of 20th-century popular song. He hit his stride just when Broadway was beginning its slow decline and TV was eclipsing radio.

AUDUBON: ALLURING TO US--STILL

Americans have been rediscovering John James Audubon with generational regularity since his death in 1851. The first biography, by his widow, was published in 1869, and this year there are three excellent new biographies: William Souder's "Under a Wild Sky," Duff Hart-Davis's "Audubon's Elephant" and, most recently, Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Rhodes's "John James Audubon: The Making of an American." One of those very American figures, like Johnny Appleseed or Daniel Boone, who slip and slide...

SNAP JUDGMENT: BOOKS

A Bit on the Side, By William TrevorA man breaks off a longtime affair because he can't abide being the object of speculation. Over a long night, a lout's widow slowly and softly reveals how he has destroyed her happiness.

Delectable Detective

Alexander McCall Smith gets away with a lot. He not only writes novels from a female perspective--he writes best- selling novels from a female perspective.

FAME AND MISFORTUNE

AS HIS 11TH VOLUME ARRIVES, KIDS' AUTHOR LEMONY SNICKET TAKES ON NEWSWEEK'S MALCOLM JONES AND MAKES LEMONADE

AN EMPIRE OF STORIES

Turkey is a novelist's dream, or perhaps a land dreamed by a novelist. A border country between Europe and the Middle East, it has for centuries been so many things to so many people--Christians, Muslims, Armenians, Greeks, Kurds and, of course, Turks--that it has become a place where fantasies and realities collide like tectonic plates.

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