“Tartt’s fictional world has always been one of opposing extremes: preciousness and sensationalism, the rarefied coterie of students in The Secret History and the bloody violence they get mired in, the gracefully declining aristocratic Southern family in The Little Friend and the near-feral trailer trash around them. In this novel, creepy lowlifes — hitmen, conmen, fakers — are opposed to beglamoured art-lovers. Fervent pages pay throbbingly emotional tribute to the latter and art’s power to soar above death and corruption. But no amount of straining for high-flown uplift can disguise the fact that The Goldfinch is a turkey.”

That is part of Peter Kemp’s scathing review in The Sunday Times of Donna Tartt’s recent blockbuster novel The Goldfinch.  It made him a finalist for the Hatchet Job of the Year Award.  Tartt, despite a number of negative reviews, went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.  So, what does that say about critics?  Evgenia Peretz has a few thoughts on that subject.

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When I think of actor Hal Holbrook I automatically think of him portraying Mark Twain.  He’s good at it – so good that the 89 year old actor has been delighting audiences with Twain’s witty remarks for 60 years.  Now there is a documentary about this remarkable partnership titled Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey.

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Uncle Tom's Cabin

In a 1996 article in Harper’s Magazine author Jane Smiley made the case for replacing Twain’s venerable novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with one written by his next-door neighbor when he lived in Hartford, Connecticut.  His neighbor’s name was Harriet Beecher Stowe, and her most famous novel was Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

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Mental Floss recently highlighted 19 rare recordings of famous authors.  You should definitely check out the clip of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle describing how he came to write the Sherlock Holmes stories.  You will also notice his Scottish brogue.  I was disappointed to see that the clip of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, was not actually a clip of them talking.  But all in all, these clips are worth hearing.

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Famous authors have disastrous personal relationships just like the rest of us.  Flavorwire highlights some of the most dramatic of them all here.  My favorite is that of the egotistical Ernest Hemingway who met his match in the indomitable Martha Gellhorn.

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Can bookstores actually change your life?  BuzzFeed thinks so, and presents 17 bookstores that will do just that.

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Little Women

There are bookworms in literature just as there are bookworms in real life.  The Guardian has chosen its 10 candidates for top bookworms in literature.

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The next edition of the live author interview program In-Depth on Book TV (C-SPAN2) will air Sunday, July 6, 2014 from noon to 3:00 p.m. ET.  The featured guest will be writer and scholar of religions Reza Aslan.  Recently Aslan, a Muslim, was criticized by some for writing Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

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All Quiet

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will spotlight some movies during July that may interest you.  First, the movies on each Friday night in July will be related to World War I which began in Europe 100 years ago.  One of my favorite novels is Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front.  The 1930 movie based on that novel will be featured on Friday, July 11th.  Another notable book-turned-into-a-movie is James Hilton’s Random Harvest which will air on Friday, July 25th.

And on July 21st TCM will present five movies based on Agatha Christie’s works.  The movies are And Then There Were None, Evil Under the Sun, Murder, She Said, Ten Little Indians, and Witness for the Prosecution.

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