NOVEL LAND

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 and, of course, Turks--that it has become a place where fantasies and realities collide like tectonic plates.

HIGH ART

Sometimes Art Spiegelman has a little trouble figuring out who he is. Especially when he travels, he says, "it's really an identity crisis. You know that form you fill out when you get on an airplane going abroad?

AN EYE WITHOUT EQUAL

Few people have led more storied lives than Henri Cartier-Bresson, who died last week at the age of 95. Born rich into a family of French thread merchants, he trained as a painter enamored of the surrealists.

SNAP JUDGEMENT: BOOKS

Country of Origin by Don LeeIt's 1980, and Lisa Countryman, an exotic young American, goes missing in Tokyo. She had been working as a hostess at an exclusive bar, claiming to be doing research on Japanese women for her dissertation.

BOOKS: BEACH PAPERBACKS

Everybody knows "beach reading" is a contradiction. Too much sand, sun and glare. But if you insist on it, bring along one of these.The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard.

WAITING FOR THE MOVIE

You don't usually go to government reports for arresting prose. But consider this sentence: "Indeed, at the current rate of loss, literary reading as a leisure activity will virtually disappear in half a century." Yikes.

A 'SMILE' WORTH THE WAIT

I'm sitting in a huge sound-stage in Burbank, Calif., and I've got a serious case of the willies. First off, I still can't believe what I'm seeing: Brian Wilson, fronting a 10-piece band, poised to launch into a rehearsal of "Smile." This is so surreally unbelievable--like an acid flashback to something that never actually happened.

THE TWELFTH BOOK OF REVELATION

Beverly Reynolds got to the Christian Supply Store in Spartanburg, South Carolina, at 5:30 p.m. Along with 900 other fans, she was waiting in line recently to buy a signed copy of "Glorious Appearing." The 12th volume in the "Left Behind" series, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B.

DIVING INTO A MYSTERY

When the seeker dropped anchor out in the Atlantic miles off the New Jersey coast in the fall of 1991, the 13 wreck divers on board were simply looking for their idea of a good time.

CLINTON: SELLING HIMSELF

Bill Clinton's keynote address to Book Expo America earlier this month in Chicago was a reminder that nobody sells Clinton like Clinton. Promoting his autobiography, "My Life," to the annual convention of the nation's publishers and booksellers, he began by saying, "People tell me books like this are boring and self-serving.

Bumpy Road Ahead

Experience teaches us that when we are approached on the street by a man carrying a sign announcing the end is near, we should do two things: give the guy a wide berth and don't believe a word he says.

Snap Judgment

BOOKS GB84 by David PeaceHere. He. Goes." Too many paragraphs in Peace's book begin this way. Such postmodern cant has no place in a work by one of Granta magazine's 2003 Best of Young British Novelists.

Fiction: New Snack Attack

Tom Perrotta's new novel, "Little Children," appeared in March to glowing reviews. The critics loved his darkly comic story of what happens to a quiet suburb when a convicted child molester moves back to town.

War Wounds

Alexandra Fuller remembers precisely the moment that "Scribbling the Cat" got tricky. "I was sitting in the Denver airport three years ago," she said in a phone interview from outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where she lives with her husband and two children.

HAUNTING QUESTIONS

It's easy to see why Nuruddin Farah's name keeps coming up as a likely recipient of a Nobel Prize in Literature. He has the good fortune--from a writer's point of view--of being a native of Somalia, a Third World country whose recent past has been cursed first by dictatorship, then by civil war.

A BLEAK BOOK YOU CAN'T PUT DOWN

It's easy to see why Nuruddin Farah's name keeps coming up as a likely recipient of a Nobel Prize in Literature. He had the good fortune--from a writer's point of view--of being a native of Somalia, a Third World country whose recent past has been cursed first by dictatorship, then by civil war.

THE TWELFTH BOOK OF REVELATION

Beverly Reynolds got to the Christian Supply Store in Spartanburg, S.C., at 5:30 p.m. last Tuesday. Along with 900 other fans, she was waiting in line to buy a signed copy of "Glorious Appearing," the 12th volume in the "Left Behind" series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B.

A LOVABLE POOL SHARK

In an "ACKNOWLEDGMENTS" section at the end of "Something Rising (Light and Swift)," author Haven Kimmel thanks the book clubs that read and discussed her first two books, the memoir "A Girl Named Zippy" and the novel "The Solace of Leaving Early." That made me flinch, because I don't want to think of Kimmel as a writer who has issues that you can dissect and parse over jug wine and crackers.

No Master, No Commander

Avast! the armada of recent books on global exploration and seafaring disaster has swelled far beyond the limits of a mere trend. It is now a genre unto itself.

Finding Humor In The Crudeness

Rude, immature, inappropriate--"Vernon God Little," DBC Pierre's Man Booker Prize-winning debut, seems to bring out the schoolmarm in critics. I mean, I'd call it all those things, and I like the book.

Heading In A Novel Direction

Anyone who has ever met a famous person knows the feeling: it's weirdly like meeting someone you've met already. So when you meet Jimmy Carter, know this going in: most of what you thought you knew is true.

L.A. Noir, In The Rough

Lionel Walk, whose nick-name supplies the title for Pete Dexter's dazzling new novel, "Train," caddies at an exclusive Los Angeles country club in the early '50s.

Love, Death And Light

Everything I do is arduous," Sally Mann says as she coats a glass plate with collodion and ether, just the way photographers did it 150 years ago. "Why do I do that?

Riffing On The Blues

One night in 1903, W. C. Handy was standing on a railroad platform in Tutwiler, Miss., waiting for a train, when he heard a man playing a guitar using a knife for a slide on the strings.

Why Didion Is Still Great

Recently a friend of mine told me that she'd grown tired of reading Joan Didion. Almost immediately, she corrected herself, saying that this wasn't always true, that sometimes Didion still got her excited and that she was such a masterful writer that even the stuff you didn't like was always admirable.

Midnight Ramblers

It's not surprising that Keith Richards is the most interesting talker in "According to the Rolling Stones," the band's own oral history and coffee-table photo book.

Adventurous Spirit

His name was George Hamilton Milligan IV, but he was better suited to his nickname: Joe. A warm spirit, Milligan craved adventure--sky diving, bungee-jumping, snowboarding and scuba diving his way through life.

Books: The Next Jonathan?

Word on the literary street is that Jonathan Lethem could be the next Jonathan Franzen. Franzen had his success with "The Corrections," a sprawling literary novel about America.

Love, Death, Light

"Everything I do is arduous," Sally Mann says as she coats a glass plate with collodion and ether, just the way photographers did it 150 years ago. "Why do I do that?

SECONDHAND PROSE

Some people check stock quotations to see how their investments are doing. I look at used-book prices online. I've never been a collector, but over the years a few novels that I've hung on to simply because I liked them have, ah, matured in value.

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