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Douglas Coupland on Being a Visual Artist, the ‘Torture’ of Interviews, and Unintended Side Effects

Douglas Coupland built a reputation as an author-futurist nonpareil with his first novel, Generation X: occasionally glib or fuzzy but often prescient, never dull, and certainly never idle. Today the former art student spends more time on visual work, including large public projects all over Canada and his own line of furniture. Currently preparing for his first big solo survey in his native Vancouver — where he lives in wooded mid-century splendor with his architect partner and acres of Pop Art — Coupland also happens to have a novel out. Worst. Person. Ever. follows the bizarre exploits of a nasty cameraman named Raymond Gunt. Sent to Kiribati to film an awful reality show, this evil amalgam of Larry David and Mr. Bean endures misfortunes hilarious, disgusting, and well-deserved. Coupland spoke by phone about that, the “torture” of interviews, and much more with Boris Kachka.

"He has a circus around him always, and he’s always giving out limbs." »

  • Posted 4/14/14 at 3:37 PM
  • Awards

Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch Wins the Fiction Pulitzer

Donna Tartt’s much anticipated and then much acclaimed novel The Goldfinch has won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Annie Baker's The Flick won the drama prize, Alan Taylor's The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 won the history prize, Megan Marshall's Margaret Fuller: A New American Life won the biography/autobiography prize, Vijay Seshadr's 3 Sections won the poetry prize, Don Fagin's Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation won the general nonfiction prize, and John Luther Adams's Become Ocean the music prize.

9 Tidbits From Rob Lowe’s New Memoir, Love Life

Rob Lowe’s second memoir, Love Life, is more notable for what isn’t there than what is. For instance, there’s no mention in the just-published book of the infamous sex tape he filmed with an underage teen, the nanny lawsuits, or if he ever got anything in return for sending a nude photo of himself wrapped in a toy snake to Andy Warhol. What Rob Lowe, now 50, does want you to know, however, is that he’s older and wiser and loves his family — especially his wife, Sheryl — very, very much. At times, he seems a little bit like his character Chris Traeger from Parks and Recreation: buoyantly optimistic with a belief that hard work and dedication are the ultimate determinants for success. Still, there are plenty of anecdotes from the 259-page memoir that Lowe fans will enjoy, including why he turned down Grey's Anatomy and behind-the-scenes tales from the set of the short-lived Lyons Den.

Jewel didn’t like kissing him. »

Bette Midler on Soph, Janis Joplin, and Her Early Years in New York City

In her 1980 book A View From a Broad (re-released last week), Bette Midler wrote what she hoped would be the last word on playing the Continental Baths, the infamous gay bathhouse where she got her New York beginnings: "I did not perform in the middle of a steam room, but in the poolside cafe next to the steam room ... And by the way, I never laid my eyes on a single penis, even though I was looking really hard." That being said, then, the Divine Miss M has a lot more to say about the less-explored early parts of her career, which she shared with Vulture during a recent conversation.

"Pirate Jenny," oh my God! That was the song I got all my jobs with. »

Life in Pictures: Jackie Collins

For the latest edition of "Life in Pictures," photographer Tim Hailand followed 76-year-old romance novelist Jackie Collins for seven hours in Beverly Hills (during which she wore four different blazers). Click through the gallery ahead for a day filled with drugstore splurges, gossipy lunches, and shirtless men.

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  • Posted 4/4/14 at 5:30 PM
  • Books

There’s a New Kazuo Ishiguro Novel Coming in 2015

It's called The Buried Giant, and plot details are scarce (it's "something of a departure," says Knopf — illuminating). But anyway, Kazuo Ishiguro's first novel since 2005's Never Let Me Go will be published in spring 2015. Don't forget how to read before then.

The Complete Works: Ranking All 64 Stephen King Books

To mark the 40th anniversary of Carrie, Stephen King's first novel, published on April 5, 1974, Vulture is re-running our comprehensive ranking.

This week, Stephen King releases his latest novel, Doctor Sleep, the sequel to his third novel, The Shining. It is his 64th book, if you count novels, nonfiction, and short-story collections, and we are using its publication as an excuse to look back over nearly 40 years' worth of his work and make the tough, ruthless calls to rank them all — no cop-out ties allowed. Read on to see our choices, and then weigh in with your own rankings below.

  • Posted 4/3/14 at 5:15 PM
  • Memoirs

Bryan Cranston to Write a Memoir on Breaking Bad Years

According to the New York Times, Bryan Cranston will be penning a memoir about his time on Breaking Bad. In his words: "[I'll] tell the stories of my life and reveal the secrets and lies that I lived with for six years shooting Breaking Bad." The book will be published by Simon & Schuster imprint Scribner and released in the fall of next year. Just make sure you inscribe the copy you give to friends and family with: "To my other favorite W.W. It's an honour working with you. Fondly G.B."

Max Brooks on His New Graphic Novel, The Harlem Hellfighters

Max Brooks is best known for writing World War Z, a fictional oral history of a zombie outbreak that sets itself apart from other undead lit via its detailed imagining of what geopolitics and military strategy might actually look like if a hellish plague of lurching, man-eating monsters overtook Earth. Brooks’s ability to mix the incredible and the plausible is on display again in his latest project, The Harlem Hellfighters, a research-driven graphic novel (illustrated by Canaan White) about the remarkable 369th Infantry Regiment, an all-black unit of the New York National Guard that saw heavy action in France during World War I. Brooks spoke with Vulture about the Hellfighters, the inspiring words of LeVar Burton, and what might have motivated thousands of black men to volunteer to fight for the ideal of democracy at a time that their own allegedly democratic country gave them barely any rights at all.

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Eleanor and Park Is Getting a Movie

Honestly, it is sort of surprising that it took this long? But yes, last year's most beloved YA book — about a romance between 16-year-olds who don't really fit in (and therefore really love the Smiths) — will be made into a movie. Rainbow Rowell, the author, will write the screenplay herself; Dreamworks hopes to start filming in 2015, which gives you plenty of time to start reading. Two years, basically. You can do it!

Where Does The Grand Budapest Hotel Take Place? We’ll Show You

The Grand Budapest Hotel doesn't actually take place in Budapest; rather, it's set in Zubrowka, a fictional European country dreamed up by Wes Anderson. If you'd like to know more about the setting, as well as the bygone era between the wars when the film takes place, you're in luck: Anderson's team has put together a new vignette, exclusive to Vulture, that conscripts The Grand Budapest Hotel's Tom Wilkinson for a lecture on Zubrowka and progress that culminates with a very necessary lyric sheet for Zubrowka's national anthem ("The spirit of Zubrowka will not be abated/Your glory and grandeur will forever be stated!"). It's all in support of The Society of the Crossed Keys, a brand-new book of Anderson-selected writings from the Austrian author Stefan Zweig, whose life and work inspired The Grand Budapest Hotel. Study up: This will all be on the next test.

Pop-Culture Parenthood: Ron Suskind on How Disney Films Helped His Autistic Son

In 1993, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ron Suskind moved to Washington, DC with his wife Cornelia and sons Walter, 5, and Owen, 2, to embark on his career as a national-affairs reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Soon after the move, Owen stopped speaking. Distant and agitated — he would soon be diagnosed with regressive autism — Owen sought comfort in Disney movie classics. The Suskinds would come to embrace this focus as his special affinity and Ron would eventually write about it in his new book Life, Animated (out this week), a departure from the works on presidents and power for which Suskind is well-known. Vulture spoke to him about the process.

"Every autistic-spectrum kid has an affinity – Disney, anime, maps, train schedules." »

  • Posted 3/26/14 at 8:00 AM
  • Excerpt

How John Updike Turned Everything in His Life to His Advantage in Fiction

In the late spring of 1983, when John Updike’s reputation as a writer had reached a pinnacle with Rabbit Is Rich (which won all three major book awards and earned him a second Time cover), a journalist named William Ecenbarger pitched an idea to the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday magazine. The reporter wanted to write about the relationship between Updike’s fiction and the geography of Berks County, Pennsylvania—what Updike called, with possessive emphasis, “my home turf.” Ecenbarger planned to visit the city of Reading, where Updike was born; Shillington, the small town on the outskirts of Reading where he lived until he was 13; and Plowville, 11 miles into the countryside, where he languished in frustrated rural isolation until he left for college. From these three places Updike had drawn the material that launched his career: Plowville became Firetown, and Reading became Alton (or Brewer in the Rabbit tetralogy), and beloved, small-town Shillington was reborn as Olinger, with a long O and a hard g, as in “Oh, linger.”

Given a green light by his editor, Ecenbarger dutifully sent an interview request to Updike’s publisher. No reply was forthcoming, but then Ecenbarger hadn’t expected one. Thanks to a series of uncompromising pronouncements on the subject—“I really think being interviewed a great waste of time and energy, with results that generally leave you feeling embarrassed, or at least that you should clean your fingernails,” he later said—Updike had gained an unwarranted reputation for being media-shy. Undaunted, Ecenbarger drove down to Shillington to have a poke around and do some research in the town’s public library. No sooner had he begun quizzing the reference librarian about the famous local author than he felt an insistent tug at his sleeve. An elderly lady was at his elbow, peering at him through large tortoiseshell glasses. “I know all about him,” she said simply. “He’s my son.”

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Quiz: Can You Tell These YA Stories Apart?

Perhaps you have noticed that YA movies, like those in any other genre, have certain shared similarities. Perhaps you have made yourself an expert in these tropes. You can tell the one with the sorting hat from the one with the sorting ceremony; you know which werewolf is up to no good and which can be trusted. But can you tell them all apart? Prove it, with Vulture's extremely angsty but ultimately rewarding YA story quiz! For each question, please click as many as apply.

Chasing Katniss: Divergent Author Veronica Roth Builds Her Dystopian Empire

This profile originally ran in October 2013.

On March 31, 2010, 21-year-old ­Veronica Roth wrote a blog post titled “You + $$$ = ?” Roth was a creative-­writing major at Northwestern who planned to support herself as a proof­reader after graduation. The exercise on her frequently updated blog was about imagining success: What would she do if she suddenly had the resources of ­Stephenie Meyer or J. K. Row­ling? Roth’s answers were unapologetically practical—buy a house in Wisconsin, invest, donate to charity—and her wildest dream involved jumping into a pool of mini-marshmallows. Mostly, the aspiring young-adult author just wanted to work. “Day jobs? Pshh. Who needs them? If I could set up a nice little room in which I could write all day and supply myself with infinite tea, I’d be pretty much good.”

Two weeks later, Roth sold her first book, a dystopian YA novel about a society segregated by moral virtues. »

Here Is Jason Segel As David Foster Wallace

Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg were filming The End of the Tour*the upcoming film adaptation of David Lipsky's Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace — at the Mall of America, and so, courtesy of a passerby, here is your first look at Segel's DFW.

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  • Posted 3/13/14 at 2:30 PM
  • Books

Listen to Jason Schwartzman and Katy Perry Read a Story From B.J. Novak’s One More Thing

Is following your dreams always a good thing? In “The Ambulance Driver,” B.J. Novak’s favorite short story from his debut collection One More Thing, an expert life-saver decides what he really wants to do is sing, and he asks two friends for guidance. “I think it’s strange and empty that we prioritize following your dream over everything else in our culture. I think it’s a truly, deeply wonderful thing, but it’s hardly the only thing,” Novak tells Vulture. To help narrate the story for the audiobook, Novak cast his Saving Mr. Banks co-star Jason Schwartzman and Katy Perry as the driver’s pals, a classroom of 826LA writing students as the group of singing kindergarteners (“Like everyone else in Hollywood, they’re playing younger,” Novak said), and his brother Jesse Novak on guitar. Listen to the entire story here:

"My dad thought it was kind of a sellout." »

Watch Bob’s Burgers Star H. Jon Benjamin Play an Old-School Video-Game Warrior, Fixing Wi-Fi

There's nothing quite like the pixelated grandeur of early fantasy video games. But you know what Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda were always missing? A voice-over artist with the gravitas and majesty to tell the tale at hand. And no one has a voice quite like H. Jon Benjamin, star of Bob's Burgers and Archer. Lo, this day is a day for much rejoicing, as Benjamin has lent his enchanted pipes to an exclusive animation from Vulture and McSweeney's, entitled In Which I Fix My Girlfriend's Grandparents' WiFi and Am Hailed As a Conquering Hero. Done in the style of an early-'90s fantasy game, it's adapted from Mike Lacher's hit McSweeney's humor piece of the same name, and follows the harrowing tale of a bold warrior who confronts unbelievable obstacles (a faulty router, clutter behind some furniture, a power outlet) to save his lady's grandparents from an apocalyptic crisis (they can't access USAToday.com). Watch and be inspired to great deeds.

The original text piece is featured in The Best of McSweeney's Internet Tendency, which hit shelves last week. »

Anne Rice Is Bringing Back Lestat

A.k.a. the undead human played by Tom Cruise in 1994's Interview With a Vampire. Rice's new book is called Prince Lestat and, according to Rice, it "is all about Lestat and all about the vampires … how they are coming to terms with everything that's happened to them, how Lestat is dealing with the demand from all sides." The book will be published in October, just in time for your topical Halloween costume.

  • Posted 3/11/14 at 8:00 AM
  • Books

How Benjamin Kunkel Went From Novelist to Marxist Public Intellectual

One day in late January, the novelist, n+1 editor, and now self-taught Marxist political economist Benjamin Kunkel left Buenos Aires and flew to Rio. He’d been living in Argentina more on than off since the recession hit, an enviably high-minded take-the-money-and-run expat in the frothy wake of his novel Indecision, and his travel schedule was like a con man’s, always shifting. In Rio, he met the leftist playwright Wallace Shawn and his girlfriend of 40 years, the short-story goddess Deborah Eisenberg, who were staging a one-night-only performance of Shawn’s The Designated Mourner for the benefit of Glenn Greenwald, the national-security-state crusader and Edward Snowden accomplice, who lives there. Not to benefit; for the benefit of. Greenwald couldn’t feel comfortable coming to New York to see the play, which describes the death of liberal culture at the hands of reactionary forces, so they took the entire Public Theater production to him—“A show of solidarity,” Shawn says. Kunkel calls it “a stunt.” But he says it lovingly, admiringly. “Maybe everything the left does is.”

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