I was hooked from the minute I picked up Francine Prose’s Anne Frank: The Book, The Life and The Afterlife (HarperCollins, $24.99). I knew the story of Anne’s short life, though I hadn’t read The Diary of a Young Girl. I was intrigued by Prose’s assertion that the Diary be considered as literature, with a capital L, and its author as a writer, not just a victim. This book, which has touched millions in its half century, chronicles the experience of eight people hiding  in a few small rooms because they were Jews in Nazi-occupied Holland. Prose tells three stories here. One concerns Anne’s revisions; she wrote and redrafted as many as ten pages a day. She wanted her account to live on. Prose also tells the remarkable story of how the journal survived; tossed aside as worthless papers while the obvious valuables were looted, the diary lay forgotten until Otto Frank returned. Then there’s the story of the diary’s U.S. publication. Rejected by most major publishers, it languished unwanted until a young editor named Judith Jones read it. She couldn’t put it down. That was enough to persuade Doubleday to publish it.

Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9780061430800
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - October 5th, 2010

To read Michael Slater’s new biography of Charles Dickens (Yale Univ., $35) is to feel distinctly lazy. Like the steam-powered empire of which London was the heart, Dickens’s writing life was a marvel of industry and innovation.  Sometimes working on one novel in the morning and another in the afternoon, in a desperate sprint to turn in installments ahead of printers’ deadlines, he made time to found several periodicals, propitiate his publishers, spearhead social campaigns, and produce increasingly elaborate theatricals.  His letters, which Slater quotes generously, demonstrate that Dickens found time for elaborate comic conceits and raillery (pretending to be desperately in love with a young Queen Victoria, for instance), as well as providing advice and practical assistance to less established writers, including a young Edgar Allan Poe. Slater also offers new insights about how a keen sense of childhood neglect shaped all of Dickens’s relationships, the most passionate and enduring of which was with the reading public he helped to create.

Charles Dickens Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9780300170931
Availability: Backordered
Published: Yale University Press - May 31st, 2011

Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) was born in the Ukraine but became one of Brazil’s most admired modern writers. Her novels are steeped in Spinoza and Jewish mysticism, yet she was also a popular newspaper advice columnist. She earned a law degree, married a diplomat, and lived in Europe and the U.S., all the while writing fiction that was rich, strange, and even shocking. To produce such a remarkable writer required an incredible set of circumstances, and Benjamin Moser’s fascinating  Why This World (Oxford Univ., $29.95) looks back to the years before Lispector’s birth for the sources of her art. Her family barely escaped the pogroms in their small village of Chechelnk. Lispector, though an infant when the family fled to Brazil, always felt a particular guilt: her mother contracted syphilis as a result of a gang-rape by Russian soldiers, and her parents tried the folk remedy of conceiving a baby as a cure. Needless to say, her mother’s condition worsened and she died when Clarice was seven. Such nightmares haunt Lispector’s work, as do passion, mysteries, and the quest for authentic identity.

Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector Cover Image
$21.95
ISBN: 9780199895823
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Oxford University Press, USA - May 2012