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Internationally Acclaimed Author Zadie Smith Can Sing Too, Which Is Totally Fair and Is Definitely Fine With You

Most people have upward of zero talents for which the world would or should ever recognize them. As she revealed at T Magazine's "The Greats" party at New York City's Carlyle Hotel this week, British author Zadie Smith is also an incredible vocalist, which is good and doesn't fill you with any kind of wild jealousy. In a recent T Magazine interview, the White Teeth writer discuses being a cabaret singer to support herself while a student at King’s College in England. Meanwhile, you worked at a Subway. Next month Smith will kick off an 18-stop book tour to support her highly anticipated novel Swing Time, due out November 15, and the instructor of your Intro to Tap class will ask you to drop the course because you are "bumming everybody out."

  • Posted 10/20/16 at 12:36 PM
  • Books

Jonathan Lethem on His New Novel, Cultural Appropriation Controversies, and Dylan’s Nobel

Aside from being a best-selling novelist and former recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, Jonathan Lethem not long ago found himself in the additionally enviable position of being a free man. In 2014, while on sabbatical from his professorship at Pomona College and having just published two ambitious efforts — the multigenerational, far-left family saga Dissident Gardens, and the career-spanning collection The Ecstasy of Influence — Lethem accepted an invitation to spend a few months the American Academy in Berlin. “When I was there,” says Lethem, “I realized that after detoxing from Dissident Gardens and The Ecstasy of Influence, I was in a very cleared-out place; there was nothing obligatory in my situation. And I wanted to reflect that in my next book. I wanted to write a book just for me.” The result is Lethem’s noirish new novel A Gambler’s Anatomy, which concerns, among other things, high-stakes backgammon, psychic powers, and toe-curling descriptions of experimental facial surgery. 


S.E. Hinton: No, The Outsiders Didn’t Have Any Gay Lovers

It's fall, and that means the school library is definitely open, and middle-school students across the country are reading the classic young-adult book The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Meaning, a younger generation empowered by Twitter and unencumbered by stupid things like heterosexism is reading the book with fresh eyes. So naturally, one young reader had a question about whether the characters Dallas and Johnny Cade were actually gay lovers. Both of them are street toughs, and Dallas, the coolest, baddest-ass greaser of them all, is especially protective of Johnny, who comes from a home filled with abuse, alcoholism, and neglect. Was this a gay relationship that couldn't be explicitly rendered as such back when the book was first published in 1967? Well, the reader thought to ask the author, S.E. Hinton, on Twitter:


It Feels Great to Successfully Call Out Sexism in Media (and Jonathan Franzen)

In 2010, New York Times best-selling author Jennifer Weiner famously used Twitter to shed light on the sexism surrounding the rave reviews of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. The following is an excerpt from her new memoir, Hungry Heart, where she describes using Twitter as a force for good. The book is out now.



19 Wonderful Short Books and Stories to Read Now

This week we're providing a series of Vulture Hacks: expert advice, gear guides, and recommendations to help you maximize your entertainment experience.

Enjoyable as it is to immerse yourself in an inches-thick work of fiction, having the time — and focus — to do so is increasingly becoming a luxury. In order to keep you turning pages in between Netflix binges and DVR purges, we've assembled a list of excellent books that will take you less than a day to read — each of them 200 pages or fewer. (For more time-efficient entertainment, check out our list of the 53 best movies under 90 minutes.)

These are not the Best Novellas of All Time, because lists of that sort are readily accessible, and you probably read many of those books in grade school, anyway. Rather, these are some of the most entertaining and mind-opening stories, novellas, essays, and short treatises from the recent past. The works vary by degrees of digestibility — some can satisfy your cravings within an hour, while others may take a full day to absorb — but every one of them will leave you glad that you made the time for it.


The Twin Peaks Character Backstories We Learn From Mark Frost’s New Novel

Spoilers ahead for Mark Frost’s new novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks.

Throughout the course of Twin Peaks’s 30 episodes, David Lynch and Mark Frost crafted a series that was known equally for its anomalous plot and its damn fine coffee and cherry pie. What began with the seemingly normal murder case of homecoming queen Laura Palmer soon transformed into a narrative of a far more otherworldly, sinister nature. Along the way, we were able to get to know a bit about the various residents of the eccentric Northwestern town, although some of their backstories were never fully explored. In Frost’s new novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks, out today, the series’ co-creator expands on the layered history of the town, going as far back as Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition to explain all of the mysteries that encompassed Peaks’s populace. Below, we've compiled 11 backstories about characters in the Twin Peaks universe that we now know more about.


5 Loose Ends From the Twin Peaks Finale That Mark Frost Ties Up in His New Novel

Spoilers ahead for the series finale of Twin Peaks, as well as Mark Frost’s new novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks.

The second-season finale of the seminal, kooky TV drama Twin Peaks — which later turned out to serve as the show’s series finale — capped off with inarguably one of the most frightening ending scenes in television history. Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), now possessed by the demonic entity known as BOB after narrowly escaping the Black Lodge, calmly squeezes a tube of toothpaste into a bathroom sink before smashing his head into a mirror, where BOB’s diabolical reflection stares back at him. (In the process, he coins a chilling catchphrase: “How’s Annie?”) Aside from that nightmare-inducing sequence and its unknown aftermath, though, there were other potential plotline outcomes to unpack: What happened with the explosion at the bank? Were Ben’s injuries life-threatening after Doc Hayward whacked his head against a fireplace? Did Leo ever escape Windom’s pesky tarantula trap?

In his new novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks, series co-creator Mark Frost gives us an extensive and fascinating look at the history of the northwestern town and fills in some characters' backstories. In the process, he also clears up a few questions about what happened after the events of the finale. Here are five new things we learned from the book, though we’ll have to wait until the third season begins on Showtime next year to find out how it all turned out.


  • Posted 10/13/16 at 5:55 PM

Writing Lyrics With Bob Dylan Is Weird

Carole Bayer Sager was one of the most prolific songwriters of the 1970s, working with artists like Neil Simon, Carole King, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and today's winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Bob Dylan. The following is an excerpt from Bayer Sager's new memoir They’re Playing Our Song in which she describes a 1986 writing session with Dylan. 



Reese Witherspoon Attempts to Fill Gwyneth Paltrow’s Incredibly Slender Shoes With a New Lifestyle Book

While Gwyneth Paltrow is currently untangling herself from her lifestyle brand, Reese Witherspoon is jumping into hers with both feet, like leaping off a rope swing into a lazy Tennessee river. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actress will publish a tome teaching readers "the secrets to Southern women's signature style, grace and charm" through personal essays, photos, and lifestyle tips. It's the natural next step after releasing your clothing line's brunch collection. More importantly, Reese's new lifestyle book, which is due out in 2018, will be the perfect thing to help you win back your ex, only to eventually teach you that you are an independent woman who loves the book for you.

  • Posted 10/13/16 at 10:40 AM
  • Memoirs

Elton John Is Writing His First-Ever Memoir, Finally Caving to Nostalgia

Not to be excluded from today's wild and weird Nobel Prize news, Sir Elton John has announced that he's finally writing his memoir. The autobiography, John's first-ever book, will be co-written with the Guardian's music critic Alexis Petridis and published by Henry Holt in 2019 — because it takes at least three years to pack decades of a "crazy life" into one must-read. According to John, he long avoided reflecting on his past for the sake of nostalgia, but even he knew that someday he'd have to tell all. “I’m not prone to being a nostalgic person. I’m often accused of only looking forward to my next gig or creative project. It’s come as quite a surprise how cathartic I am finding the process of writing my memoirs. As I look back, I realize what a crazy life I have had the extreme privilege of living,” John said in a statement. “I have grown up in a period of extraordinary change in our world — and have had the joyful honor of rubbing shoulders and working with so many of the people at the heart of these changes. My life has been one helluva roller coaster ride and it’s still lumbering on. I hope readers will enjoy the ride too.” Grab a cuppa, because scalding hot English tea will be served.

  • Posted 10/12/16 at 5:03 PM

Who Nominates Writers for the Nobel Prize?

The Nobel Prizes are always shrouded in secrecy, the prize for literature, which will be announced tomorrow morning, no less than the rest. But we do know something about the process. An international set of dozens of nominators send their recommendations to the 18-member Swedish Academy, and the academy selects a shortlist of finalists and makes a recommendation for the award to the Nobel Committee for Literature, which makes the final decision. The selection of journalist and oral historian Svetlana Alexievich last year was surprising to many outside Russia, including myself, but she was a Ladbroke’s favorite, at least in part because it was public knowledge that she had been nominated by Ural Federal University, in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia.


Elena Ferrante Translator Ann Goldstein Comments on the Author’s ‘Totally Unnecessary’ Outing

The recent outing of beloved and notoriously private Italian author Elena Ferrante has critics and onlookers divided. But one person unequivocal in her position is Ann Goldstein, New Yorker copy chief and the translator of several of Ferrante’s books, including the immensely popular Neapolitan Novels. At a New Yorker Festival event today, Goldstein commented on the recent unmasking of the author by journalist Claudio Gatti, calling the revelation “totally unnecessary” and “somewhat vindictive” before taking questions from the audience. You can read a transcript of Goldstein’s statement below.


  • Posted 10/7/16 at 4:47 PM
  • Beyonce

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Doesn’t Think Beyoncé’s Feminism Is Flawless: ‘Her Style Is Not My Style’

When Beyoncé quoted Chimananda Ngozi Adichie's TED Talk "We Should All Be Feminists" in "Flawless," Adichie and her work suddenly became the focus of massive international attention. Though, as the author points out in a new interview with Dutch paper De Volkskrant, she was already pretty famous, and bristled at the implication that she should be publicly thankful to the musician. Beyoncé had of course asked permission to quote Adichie, and, as Adichie points out, "With this song she has reached many people who would otherwise probably never have heard the word feminism, let alone gone out and buy my essay." But the Americanah author doesn't entirely agree with Beyoncé's politics, even as she is enthusiastic about her political engagement. "Her style is not my style, but I do find it interesting that she takes a stand in political and social issues, since a few years," Adichie said. "She portrays a woman who is in charge of her own destiny, who does her own thing, and she has girl power. I am very taken with that." Adichie continues:


8 Books You Need to Read This October

Each month, Boris Kachka offers nonfiction and fiction book recommendations. You should read as many of them as possible.


  • Posted 10/3/16 at 5:56 PM

If You Want to Know Who Elena Ferrante ‘Really’ Is, You’re Asking the Wrong Questions

Secrets are difficult to keep until they’re forgotten entirely, and it strikes me that the revelation of the person (or people) behind the pen name Elena Ferrante was inevitable. What we’ll never know is whether Ferrante would have someday done it herself if it hadn’t (allegedly) been done for her by Claudio Gatti over the weekend, in Il Sole 24 Ore and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and on the blog of The New York Review of Books. Given its rarified reputation, that last one was an odd place for anglophone readers to learn that financial records and real-estate purchases point to Anita Raja as the author of Ferrante’s works, but no matter where the two-part article was published first we would have read about it in the newspapers, too, soon enough.


  • Posted 10/3/16 at 12:00 PM
  • Books

Talking to Nell Zink About Hefty Advances, Millennial Prudishness, and Her Pen Pal Jonathan Franzen

Nell Zink has an enviable problem. “I’ve been working hard to find ways to spend money,” she told me a few months ago over risotto in Princeton, New Jersey. Raised in Virginia and living in Germany, the suddenly celebrated 52-year-old novelist had been invited to give her only Stateside reading in the break between her second novel, Mislaid (longlisted for the National Book Award), and her third, Nicotine, which is out this week. Princeton was a pretty good place to spend Ecco’s $425,000 advance. “I blew a hundred bucks at Lululemon” — she wore a stretchy gray shirt with cutouts for the thumbs — “and like 60 bucks on books” — Elif Batuman’s The Possessed, Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class — “and if I did that every day, let me think …” It would have taken seven years to blow it all on paperbacks and athleisure.


Alexandra Kleeman’s Intimations Is a Dizzying and Surreal Collection of Stories

The best of the stories in Alexandra Kleeman’s collection Intimations unfold in dreamlike settings that are more than a little dangerous. There are sharp teeth, axes, and claws and not a few pools of blood. But Kleeman’s scary stories have a gentle comic edge. She has a gothic imagination and a wit keen to the absurdities of American culture — particularly its dietary vices and media horror shows. She can do realism, but not without a few screws coming loose. 


Is This the Real Identity of Elena Ferrante?

One of the most delicious modern literary mysteries is the identity of Elena Ferrante, whose Neapolitan novels have become a global sensation and turned her into an official Literary Girl Crush. People have tried before to unmask Ferrante, who has intimated that if her identity were revealed she would stop writing. The latest outlet to attempt to answer the question of Ferrante’s identity is the New York Review of Books, in anticipation of the release of Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey. Reporter Claudio Gatti writes,Far from the daughter of a Neapolitan seamstress described in Frantumaglia, new revelations from real estate and financial records point to Anita Raja, a Rome-based translator whose German-born mother fled the Holocaust and later married a Neapolitan magistrate.” Included is a photo of Raja herself. Is this the mysterious Ferrante? If so, will this finally put to rest that a man wrote the novels that have riveted women around the world?


  • Posted 9/29/16 at 12:14 AM
  • On Key

DJ Khaled Fails Upward As Locksmith With New Book Unavoidably Called The Keys

Already a philosopher and a poet, DJ Khaled is giving long-form a try. Khaled announced his first book, titled The Keys (hard to believe he hasn't already used that one), on Wednesday. The Keys looks to be a personal-advice treatise of sorts, featuring "mogul talk" with successful people who can probably afford many things with keys, including Jay Z, Rick Ross, Puff Daddy, L.A. Reid, Lyor Cohen, and Arianna Huffington. Khaled put forth his mission statement on Instagram, explaining: "THEY🚷tried to hide the keys from me when I was coming up. Now I’ve mastered the keys and I want to let everybody know that these are keys from my perspective. This book will help you follow your vision as long as you have passion, dedication, blood, sweat and tears, and especially ignore when THEY try to bring you down." Of course, since this is DJ Khaled we're talking about, his advice book is also bound to be highly motivational — Khaled continued: "We the best !!!" And so, with Khaled's latest key -hain adornment, a new kingdom is come.


  • Posted 9/28/16 at 11:51 AM
  • Books

Dan Brown Is Writing Another Robert Langdon Book; Tom Hanks to Remain Working Forever

With the upcoming Inferno nearly exhausting Hollywood's precious reserves of Robert Langdon novels, Dan Brown has stepped in to replenish this rare natural resource. Publisher's Weekly reports that Brown is working on a fifth book about the adventures of the Harvard symbologist, called Origin, to be released next year. According to Doubleday, the book will follow Langdon as he explores "the dangerous intersection of humankind’s two most enduring questions, and the earth-shaking discovery that will answer them." Humankind's third-most-enduring question, of course, was already answered by Ashton Kutcher.


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