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Amazon Asks: Jerry Bruckheimer

Jerry-Bruckheimer-headshot_photo-credit-Greg-Williams_250H WhenLightningStrikes

I knew Jerry Bruckheimer was a huge name in the film industry, but I didn't realize just how big until I started looking into the new book about his career, Jerry Bruckheimer: When Lightning Strikes - Four Decades of Filmmaking.  Besides producing iconic film favorites like Flashdance and Top Gun, there's also Black Hawk Down and the string of hits that make up the Pirates of the Caribbean movies with Johnny Depp (who wrote the foreword for the book).

There are many more feature films to his credit, and he's also produced the hit television series' The Amazing Race and the CSI franchise.  Bruckheimer wrote the introduction for this book, but we also had the chance to ask him a few questions of our own about his life and career:

Seira Wilson: What was your favorite film growing up?

Jerry Bruckheimer:  That would have to be David Lean's The Bridge on the River Kwai. The film was an amazing combination of epic war adventure and intimate drama, which raised some important questions of the true meaning of heroism.

 SW: What on-location spot did you most enjoy, and why?

JB: I'm not evading the question when I say that every single one of them is special in their own way.  Whether a beautiful natural location or a gritty city, you come away with wonderful memories of filming in them, and the people you meet along the way.

SW: Do you have a specific genre of books you like to read?

JB: I really enjoy history, biographies and spy novels.

SW:  Do you tend to read biographies of people in show business?

JB: I do enjoy reading biographies of people in the entertainment business, because they always seem to have lived such interesting lives, and I can learn something from their experiences.

SW: The book, Jerry Bruckheimer: When Lightning Strikes-Four Decades of Filmmaking is a biography of sorts for your career in the industry--has this been something you’ve thought about putting together for a long time?

JB: Not at all, putting such a book together never really occurred to me.  But when the idea was presented, we thought it could be a really fun book for movie fans, and also people interested in photography.  It gives them a chance to relive some memories of our films, and perhaps get an inside look at the work which has gone into them by so many great directors, writers, actors, and crew members. They're the ones who make me look good.

SW:  What do you find most interesting about working in television that is different from motion pictures?

JB:  Both are fun to do, but I'm always amazed how much faster the development process is in television rather than feature films.

SW: What’s your most memorable moment working in Hollywood?

JB: Putting my hand and footprints in wet cement in front of the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, alongside some of the greatest names in movie history.  It was very humbling and a great honor.  

SW: What’s the last movie you saw?

JB: That's easy. It was a rough cut of "Beware the Night," our new paranormal thriller starring Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Joel McHale and Olivia Munn and directed by Scott Derrickson, which is opening for the fourth of July holiday in 2014.  

SW: What’s the last movie you saw as a regular audience member?

JB: The last movie I saw with a regular audience was Thor, but I see movies that way as often as I can.

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Bernard Cornwell, Author of "The Pagan Lord," Muses on the Path to Christianity

51Ru+zFMMPLEditor's note: Bernard Cornwell's The Pagan Lord is the seventh book in his Saxon Tales series, which started in 2004 with The Last Kingdom. Cornwell recently sent us this essay, in which he examines the spread of Christianity through Europe. It's not the typical Christmas story, but it will be an interesting read for some of our readers.

He was the ‘red ravager’, described as ‘cruel from a child’, a warlord, a rapist, a thief, a murderer and an inveterate enemy of the church.  He is also one of our greatest heroes, so how did King Arthur turn from being a villain into a shining exemplar of Christian chivalry? The answer is syncretism, the merging of religious beliefs. The early saints’ lives of the Celtic church depicted Arthur as a murderous pagan, but unable to eradicate him from popular legend the church simply recruited him so that instead of searching for Bran’s cauldron he pursues the Holy Grail, and instead of being a persecutor of Christians he becomes their champion.

We live in a world of syncretism. The names of January, March, April, May and June all derive from pagan gods, as do the names of our days. We knock on wood, avoid sitting thirteen to dinner, give presents at Christmas and millions believe their destiny is foretold by the stars. Christianity attempted to eradicate such paganism, yet the old heathen names, traditions and beliefs persist like junk DNA in our cultural genome. How on earth did that happen? 

A better question might be why our European ancestors became Christian in the first place. A believer would surely answer that the manifold truth of the religion prevailed over ignorant superstition, but the very persistence of those superstitions suggests that the answer is not quite that simple.  A Roman, before the era of Christianity, would have accepted that there were many gods and seen nothing strange in worshipping one, two or even three hundred of them, but he or she would have found it very odd indeed to be told there was only one god, and that this sole deity was, above all things, jealous.  So how did an intolerant monotheism win out against the tolerant polytheism that had prevailed for so long?

CornwellOne answer is that Christianity proved more profitable. There is a telling story about King Edwin of Northumbria, a powerful pagan who ruled what is now northern England and southern Scotland in the 7th Century. He probably worshipped the Norse gods like Thor and Woden, but at some point he encountered a Christian missionary who suggested that success in war and material prosperity would follow a conversion. Edwin put that to the test and god came through with a battlefield triumph and massive amounts of plunder. The king’s chief pagan priest told Edwin that the old gods had never shown such favor and that Northumbria should therefore convert, which it duly did. The story echoes the experience of Constantine, the Roman Emperor who converted because the Christian god gave him victory over Maxentius. It is a common enough tale. In the early 10th Century a Viking named Hrolf took land in what is now Normandy and the treaty confirming his possession insisted he became a Christian. ‘Paris,’ Henry IV of France declared when he changed from Protestant to Catholic, ‘is worth a mass.’  The Duchy of Normandy (which led to the throne of England) proved well worth a mass too.

The early Christian missionaries targeted such rulers. The17th century Treaty of Westphalia brought peace to war-torn Europe with the famous settlement of cuius regio, eius religio which we might translate as ‘his state, his religion’.  That, of course, decided between Catholic and Protestant, but it applied in early mediaeval Europe too. Convert the king and the king would put pressure on his subjects to conform. Pope Gregory the Great, the 6th Century pontiff, had no qualms about advising Christian magnates to put up their tenants’ rents if they resisted conversion. There is a deal of self-interest here. Christianity managed to persuade ruler after ruler that material wealth and martial victory would be theirs if they changed religion, but plainly the Christian god was not going to give every ruler victory nor spread the wealth evenly, so a second lure was needed; magic. The Christians disdained to call it magic, though if we saw someone hang their cloak on a sunbeam, as Saint Brigid did, we might be forgiven for suspecting trickery. The early church annals are replete with such miracles; the dead are raised, the sick healed, crops saved, and wonders performed, all proving that Christian magic was far more powerful than pagan sorcery. And persecution of rival sorcery went on well into the seventeenth century, as the people of Salem learned to their discomfort.

51PrYqbtDHLYet the church never entirely defeated paganism. They co-opted it when they could by building their churches on the sites of pagan shrines and transmuting pagan celebrations into Christian feasts. Samhain, the Celtic day of the dead when food and drink were put at the door to avert vengeance, was turned into Halloween’s trick or treat.  The Venerable Bede, writing sometime around 700 AD, recorded the spring-time feast celebrating Eostre, a goddess of fertility. Some scholars contend that the name Easter refers to a point of the compass, but Bede, closer than they to the struggle between Christianity and paganism, makes the connection explicit. Easter, Christianity’s most joyous and sacred festival, is named for a pagan goddess, while the giving of Christmas gifts is most likely a holdover from Saturnalia, the Roman midwinter celebration.  So people had to be seduced into the new religion by proof that it was more profitable than the old, and by co-opting the old when it proved too powerful to destroy.

There is a common Christian complaint that crass materialism undermines our spirituality, but perhaps the complainants should remember that such materialism was used to spread the gospel in the first place. And, to ask Yeats’s famous question, what rough beast is slouching toward Bethlehem to be born? Look for a beast that offers wonders and, more importantly, material benefits. But whatever comes Wednesday will still remain Woden’s day and Thursday will forever belong to Thor. The pagan gods are with us still.

Bernard Cornwell was born in London and now lives in the United States. In addition to his hugely successful Sharpe novels, he is the author of the Starbuck Chronicles, the Warlord trilogy, the Grail Quest series, the Alfred series, and the Saxon Tales series.  His newest novel is The Pagan Lord (Harper, January 7, 2014).

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Sara Says: All I’ve Missed in 2013


I know: you don't pity me. My life is all about reading, so what's to complain? On the other hand, for a reader like me -- and, I suspect, all of the members of our wonderful editorial team, as well as many, many of you booklovers out there -- the one thing we hate most is MISSING a book. Just plain not seeing, not knowing about, or not getting to something you've meant to get to -- something that others have read (or not) and praised (or even not). Herewith, then, are the novels I'm packing in my holiday bag next week. (Stay tuned for my New Year's wish-list, coming soon.)


SomeoneI love Alice McDermott, always have and always will. (Charming Billy's a favorite). So how on Earth did I miss Someone, her latest novel and, according to my brilliant sister, who reads way more and better than I do, one of her best. This "deceptively simple" tale of an ordinary woman who has vision problems (literally and figuratively) is first up for the plane ride pre-Christmas.






People in the Trees The People in the Trees has been called "challenging," and while I admit that scares me a little, I'm fascinated by anything called a cross between Norman Rush's Mating, Ann Patchett's State of Wonder, Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible, and Peter Matthiessen's At Play in the Fields of the Lord. That, and it has a very weird and compelling cover.






Good Lord Bird A confession. I predicted that The Good Lord Bird would win the National Book Award for fiction, and to everyone's astonishment (including mine, sort of) I was right. But I hadn't read it. (I was basing my vote on the fact that The Color of Water, the author's memoir, was one of the great, successful but somehow still undersung books of its generation.) So I'm going to deny my usually perverse nature -- I hate to read a book AFTER it is an official award-winner -- and read this by New Year's.





The Mole The Mole is Peter Warner's fictional memoir about a modest Canadian spy in Washington, D.C., from the 1950s to the 1980s. They say it's clever, and moves quickly, and, you know, for a Homeland addict now off her third season feed, I need that.

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Graphic Novel Friday: Holiday Buying Guide

Yikes, was everyone else aware that the holiday buying season is almost over? The good news: there are plenty of good-looking comics to give as gifts. The bad news: there isn’t a lot of time! Here are a few noteworthy, stand-out books that would make perfect presents for the comics reader in your life.

For the music buff: The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story by Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson, and Kyle Baker: The cultural fascination with the Fab Four will never wane so long as new stories continues to be unearthed and told. Here, The Beatles’ manager and visionary, Brian Epstein, receives his due in this dreamy, eccentric graphic novel. There are three editions of this book, depending on how “fab” you want to get: standard hardcover edition (and digital edition), a collector’s edition (with bonus materials), and a limited edition (only 1,500 copies) with a slipcase, bonus materials, and a signed tip-in sheet by writer Tiwary.

For the goofball: Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh. This famously bizarre and manic webcomic is finally available as a collection (with new stories!) and it does not disappoint. Amazon editor Mari Malcolm had this to say in her glowing review: “Neurosis has rarely been so relatable and entertaining.” Brosh captures her childhood and adult awkwardness in deceptively simple illustrations, allowing for a universal appeal and accessibility. Parp!

For the lit major: This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz was already a critical hit when it first published in September 2012, but this new slipcased edition incldues illustrations by beloved indie artist Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets). There are full-page illustrations for each story, and Hernandez's deep, economical lines perfectly suit Diaz's layered tales [Hope I find this one under the tree!]. Speaking of layered stories, if your special someone does not yet have a copy of The Sandman on his or her shelf, now is the time to remedy such a void with The Sandman Omnibus Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman. Presented in a sturdy, richly detailed hardcover (with over 1,000 pages), this is the gift edition to make any Grinch’s heart swell.

For the history buff: The Boxer Rebellion is told from two perspectives in Boxers & Saints (Boxed Set) by Gene Luen Yang. Appearing on many Best of the Year lists (including ours), Yang’s ambitious examination of the human condition as told through one of the most controversial moments in Chinese history is not as daunting a read as it sounds. Rather, this is a treasure, both in narrative and packaging.

For the superhero fan: Daredevil Vol. 1 by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera and Hawkeye Vol. 1 by Matt Fraction and David Aja: Two street-level heroes received fresh starts in 2013, and these handsome hardcovers collect their very accessible, humorous and visually inventive stories. They both belong on the shelves of any super-fan. (For more on Hawkeye, see our Omni spotlight.)

For the adventurer: Say that special someone in your life has a thirst for the wild, then Dark Horse Comics has two gigantic releases that will sate the thirstiest of readers. The first is Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan: The Sunday Comics, 1931-1933 by Hal Foster—and it’s a doozy! It weighs almost eight pounds and its format is newspaper-sized, making this an object special enough to shout from the treetops. The second tome is The Colossal Conan, a massive, 13-pound (!) omnibus that collects all of writer Kurt Busiek’s run with Robert E. Howard’s iconic character. At over 1,200 pages, even the most voracious appetites will be in the shadow of this beast.

Happy Holidays, Omni readers! 


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The Top Five Humans of New York

HONY-OMNIBrandon Stanton's thousands of not-quite-candid street portraits of New Yorkers (and accompanying captions, usually from the subjects themselves) have made his Humans of New York blog both poignant and extremely popular--as well as garnering him recognition as one of Time magazine's 30 People Under 30 Changing the World. His book of the same title collects 400 of his best portraits, telling small stories that are outsized in their humor, candor, and humanity. It was also our number one pick for the best books of the year in Photography.

Here are Stanton's own top five favorite images, accompanied by his own words. Click on the images to see larger versions, and learn more about Humans of New York. It also makes a wonderful gift for any of the humans in your life.




1) Ironically, some of the best quotes come from the people who have the least amount of time to talk to me.  She told me: "I can't talk, because these shadows are changing every second."  Normally I'm a bit downtrodden if I'm unable to interview a subject, but I thought her 'brush-off' was the perfect complement to the photo.  Centralpark-4847


2) I always cite this photo as representing the most emotional interaction that I've ever had on the street.  I came across this 100 year old woman just south of Central Park.  She was walking in a rainstorm with a very bright umbrella.  After I took her photo, I got under the umbrella with her, and asked her for one piece of advice.  She said: "I'll tell you what my husband told me when he was dying.  I asked him: 'Mo, how am I supposed to live without you?'  And he told me: 'Take the love you have for me and spread it around.'"


3) I was walking through Chelsea one morning when I noticed someone rolling around in the middle of the street.  Of course I started running toward the scene, and when I arrived, I found this drag queen.  Apparently she had been performing a song at a nearby bar, and at the climax of her performance, ran into the street and threw her tips into the air.  I joke that this photo captures more elements of New York than any other I've taken.Edit-8986 


4) I love this photo because of the variety of expressions that I managed to capture.  I found these kids in the Lower East Side, making the most of a hot summer day.  Right before I took the photo, one of the kids leaned a little too far forwards and started spilling water from the pool.  This created a variety of different responses from his fellow swimmers.Les-4598 


5) The young boy seemed so unwilling to participate in the portrait, that at first it seemed like a photo would be impossible.  But his shyness ended up coming through beautifully, creating a portrait of the relationship between mother and son.IMG_1560


 Learn more about Humans of New York.



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Best of the Year in Science Fiction & Fantasy ... plus Horror

It's been an amazing year for Science Fiction & Fantasy. We saw the conclusion of a truly epic epic fantasy series, father and son horror writers cleverly nodding to one another, a self-published ebook phenomenon turned hardcover release, and much, much more. What follows are three of my favorite genre reads of 2013.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

It's the short story that refused to stay small. Neil Gaiman weaves a gorgeous coming of age tale, filled with all the wonder and magic we've come to expect from him. But it's the autobiographical elements, the moments that came from his memory rather than his pure imagination, that give this tale its true heart. Learn more
The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

There's something to be said for subtlety. Wecker's debut isn't what we typically think of when we think of the fantasy genre. It's more of alternate history that happens to revolve around two incredibly real-feeling and memorable fantasy beings. Months later, the story continues to move me. Learn More

N0S4A2 by Joe Hill

Imaginative, original, creepy as hell, and referentially genius, N0S4A2 is a new horror gem. Hill delivers true suspense, keeping us locked within the confines of his characters -- showing the story, never telling it. And what characters they are! Vic, a young girl we grow with throughout. Manx, a man so twisted he cameos as an abstract threat in Stephen King's Doctor Sleep. Personalities and special powers are all precise and powerful, even for those we barely get to know. Hill nailed this! Learn More
See all 20 books on the Sciece Fiction & Fantasy Best of the Year list

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Paul Pope on "Battling Boy"


Paul Pope does not write kids' stuff. The comic artist/writer is best known for his Eisner Award-winning Batman series, Batman: Year 100, a gritty dystopian take on the Dark Knight. But Pope's first foray into comics for younger audience isn't strictly kids' stuff either. Battling Boy introduces us to the city of Acropolis, where a young boy must step up and become the hero for a people under siege from a band of monsters, demons, and all sorts of unsavory types. Battling Boy has so much here for both kids and adults alike, and it's why we picked it as one of the Best Books of 2013 in Comics & Graphic Novels.

Pope talked to us about writing for a younger audience, imagining Acropolis, and what's next for the series.

Why did you want to write a comic for teens?

I saw a dearth of really good science-fiction/adventure comics written for a young audience, featuring superheroes the age of the young readers themselves. Battling Boy is good for anybody around nine or older. Also, writing something literally "all ages" was an appealing challenge for me. Most of my twenty years in comics has been in making comics which would be considered R-rated, or at least aimed for adults. As we've been touring the States and Canada for Battling Boy--and soon, UK and France--I am meeting readers as young as ten years old, who are new to graphic novels, and take Battling Boy at face value, and also readers as old as early '60s, people who grew up on Golden and Silver Age comics, who can see all the classic themes and tropes and even cliches I am trying to infuse into Battling Boy.

What differences did you find in the creative process writing for a younger audience?

Actually, the process is pretty much the same as with my other books, although because of the scale of this one, the script had to be much tighter than any others before, even my Batman Year 100 book. I'm not able to really work in my preferred process lately, which is to work straight thru for two or three days, taking a break only to eat and sleep, then take a day off to rest and do other stuff. Since there is so much more management and outside activities I need to engage in for Battling Boy, I find I am trying to work in shorter bursts of daily focused work. No days off lately. I work up thumbnails from my main script, then move to pencils and finally, inks using a brush. My new studio has no internet, which was a move I made to preserve creative concentration. I have an assistant who scans the art for me and does some production work like that.

I loved Acropolis--which is both gritty and hostile but also brightly colored and full of imagination. What inspired the city?

Around the time I was starting work on this book, I had a chance to visit Napoli and Capri, in southern Italy, and I realized I wanted this city to feel Mediterranean, with the volcanic rocks and the blue-green/terra cotta colors. I also wanted the city to feel like a war-torn city, like what we see out of Baghdad or Beirut, a city under siege, half standing and half in tatters. I wanted it also to feel a bit like the old Flash Gordon serials, with the pre-WW2 science and Deco architecture. I definitely didn't want this to be New York or Tokyo or something and see a huge monster scale the Empire Building again, which has been done to death.

Generally speaking, comics feature too few strong, interesting female protagonists, but this is something that young adult novels do very well. Did YA literature influence Aurora at all?

Aurora is sort of based on my sister, who was a headstrong and determined tomboy as a kid. I really like tomboys, and wanted a tough girl to be Battling Boy's foil. It was only later I realized she fits into a mold that is well established for YA fantasy/science-fiction heroines. I wanted to have a girl who is the inheritor of all the power and secrets of an Iron Man or Indian Jones-type hero, whereas Battling Boy is the son of a Warrior God and Goddess. So together, Aurora and BB are like the inheritors of, on the one hand, science, and on the other, magic, or at least an ancient mythic tradition.

When will we see the next installment of Battling Boy?

The next book in the expanded series is The Rise Of Aurora West, a second series focusing on Aurora, which ties back into the larger Battling Boy series. This is next fall, co-written by myself and JT Petty, and drawn by David Rubin. I couldn't be happier than to have David on the book. He was my top pick, and I knew I wanted a European artist on the book (David is from Spain). We are coding the two series with lots of story elements and visuals and characters which appear in both series. I am currently working on the second Battling Boy book, which I am writing and drawing on my own, and it will be appearing sometime within the year following Aurora. After that, there is the second Aurora book. So :01 and I are working to expand Battling Boy into a universe of stories which interconnect. It's all very exciting and challenging.

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"Who Doesn't Love an Umlaut?": An Interview with Ben Schott


Anyone who has trouble with l’esprit de l’escalier—that feeling when you come up with the perfect comeback, about twenty minutes too late—should consider keeping one of Ben Schott’s inimitable books close to hand at all times. They’re catalogs of those aspects of the human condition that you’ve always wondered about but have never been able to find in a traditional reference work. See, for instance, his comprehensive list of all of the injuries Evil Knievel ever suffered in Schott’s Sporting, Gaming, and Idling Miscellany; his guide for giving after-dinner toasts in Food and Drink Miscellany; and a page of information on Buckingham Palace’s supplier of bagpipes.

In his latest, Schottenfreude, Ben Schott takes a more continental approach: looking at the unique ability of the German language to come up with (often multisyllabic) words for just about any facet of the human condition. We asked him about his new book.

First, I know that you typeset your own books, so design and layout are obviously things you think about very carefully. Schottenfreude is about 9 1/2" by 5", similar to comic strip collections or photography albums, and a big departure from your pocket journal-sized Miscellanies. What does that convey about this book?

The curious shape of Schottenfreude was dictated by the length of the new German words inside. In some cases, these are more than a little elaborate. The longest word in the book is the majestic "Kraftfahrzeugsinnenausstattungsneugeruchsgenuss" – a 47-letter monster that means "new car smell." Of course, not all of the words are so unwieldy. One of my favorites is one of the shortest: "Mahlneid" – a handy term for "Coveting thy neighbor’s restaurant order." I take real delight in designing my books to make them unique and curious object. None has given me more pleasure to create than Schottenfreude.

I was surprised to find references not only to literature and pop culture, but also to philosophers like Michael Oakeshott and mathematicians like Euclid—you even cite a dentistry journal in one entry. Do you have difficulty marshalling such a wide array of knowledge, especially in more specialized fields?

Researching Schottenfreude was like taking a footnote for a walk. An idea would unearth a footnote, which would lead to another idea, and another footnote … and so on. For example, I wanted to create a German word for “repeatedly catching and avoiding people’s gazes when approaching them down a long corridor.” This prompted a memory from a book by the sociologist Erving Goffman, which led to a quote by the writer Cornelia Otis Skinner, which reminded me of something I read in Alexander Solzhenitsyn. So, I skimmed through all of the Solzhenitsyn books I own, until I found it.

Near the end of The First Circle, Solzhenitsyn describes how the guards of Moscow's Lubyanka prison used to “click” their tongues, as if? calling a dog, to signal down the long corridors they had a prisoner under escort. Why? Because, “one prisoner must never be allowed to encounter another, never be allowed to draw comfort or support from the look in his eyes.”

Such miscellaneous notes are central to Schottenfreude and the German words inside. It's in these notes we discover that the word Dreikäsehoch (“three cheeses high”) describes a child no taller than three wheels of? cheese stacked one atop another. That Casanova hated sleeping in strange beds. And that one of the architects of Vienna’s State Opera house killed himself? in 1868, after Emperor Franz Joseph mildly criticized the design. Schottenfreude delves into every nook of the human condition: childhood and death, wealth and debt, joy and sorry, wisdom and error, loathing and lust. And the references cited are equally diverse: from William Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Marcel Proust to Nelson Mandela, Eminem, and Justin Bieber.

Had I a magic wand, I would host a party for everybody I quote in the book. I can't guarantee that Noël Coward would adore Friedrich Nietzsche, or Immanuel Kant befriend Piers Morgan. But I suspect H.L. Mencken would bond with Charles Dickens, and Tom Stoppard with P. G. Wodehouse. And I would have a blast.

The subtitle of the book is "German words for the human condition." German has the stereotype of being a very straightforward, technical language—are you trying to combat that with Schottenfreude?

It is no accident that English turns to German in times of emotional turmoil. From Angst to Zeitgeist, the German language has a proven ability to express the inexpressible. In part, this is because German can create compounds that don't sound as silly as some English puns.

But there is also something about the language of Freud, Nietzsche, Goethe, and Schopenhauer: a seriousness tempered by humanity; a weight that is not burdensome. German has profundity, formality, and sesquipedalian magnificence.

Also, who doesn't love an umlaut?

Since you are a meticulous cataloguer, is there a secret or master index of all the information contained in the book? For example, do you know how many times that you use the phrase "portmanteau-portmanteau," cite Monty Python, or talk about another language that, unlike English, has a close match to the German word in question?

There are all sorts of hidden jokes and curiosities dotted through Schottenfreude which, I hope, readers will stumble upon. So, this is an ideal book for fans of "Schmutzwortsuche" – "Looking up rude words in the dictionary." (And if you look that word up…)

While I read entry 72—Abgrundsanziehung, "toying with the (non-suicidal) idea of jumping from a height"—I thought about an interview with Umberto Eco, where he said that the act of listing has "an irresistible magic" to express the inexpressible. Is that something you've found while compiling this book?

There is indeed something magical about lists. Lists offer clarity and the tantalizing prospect of order in a world overwhelmed by chaos. To create a list—and to write a book like Schottenfreude—you must dismantle an idea and explore it in detail, before reassembling it in a new and, hopefully, unexpected form. For example, I created the word "Fingerspitzentanz" to describe those pleasing things we do with the tips of our fingers. (It translates as "fingertips-dance".)

But the fun began when I started thinking of examples of such quotidian legerdemain:

  • Locating and unpicking a frayed end of? tape.
  • Tightening a minuscule screw.
  • Removing a recalcitrant sticker in one unbroken peel.
  • Fingertipping something off? a high shelf.
  • Unhooking a bra.
  • Inserting a USB plug right-side up, first time.
  • Jiggling on your fingertips, say, half? a toasted bagel while transferring it to a plate.

…and 24 others before I ran out of space.

Finally, is it safe to assume that you're a formidable player of Balderdash?

Is that a crisp $20 I see in you hand?

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The Best Children's Books of 2013

This year we looked at even more children's books because, let's face it, there are some really special books for kids of all ages--Sense and Sensibility: Opposites Primer, anyone? Ab-so-lutely.  Here are the Best Books of the Year lists by age, and you can see the list for Teen & Young Adult here.

These are the titles that took the number one spot for each age range:

Humans of New York Rocket's Mighty Words by Tad Hills
Rocket has popped up in a couple of earlier picture books, but this oversized board book appeals to a variety of ages.  Babies and toddlers will enjoy the bright colors and learning to say simple words while Rocket learns to spell them. Little bird's teaching also gives preschoolers and kindergarteners a chance to practice their letters and early spelling skills. A perfect choice for households with little ones that are a couple of years apart.    Baby-Age 2
The Day the Crayons Quit The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
I still crack up every time I read this book.  The story's sense of humor--crayons who write letters to the boy who uses them--plays equally well to kids and adults and can be read repeatedly without my wanting to poke an eye out. The Day the Crayons Quit is also great for kids reading on their own because the personalities that come through in each crayon's letter offers an opportunity to explore the nuance of feelings behind the words ranging from whining to praise to peace making.   Ages 3-5
My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish

My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O'Hara
When his big brother gets a real chemistry set for his birthday, Tom knows the sibling torment is about to get worse.  How much worse is part of the hilarity, and first and second graders with teenage brothers and sisters will likely relate to this family dynamic.  Readers are sure to enjoy the turn of events when Tom's pet goldfish comes out of his chemistry set experience supercharged with hypnotic powers and a thrist for revenge. A really fun way to get both boys and girls excited about reading chapter books.  Ages 6-8

Counting by 7s

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Willow is a 12-year-old genius and outsider who focuses on her passions--nature and diagnosing medical conditions--and her family.  When she is suddenly orphaned, her world turns upside down and so begins her moving story of transformation and connection.  Counting by 7s is a story that lingers long after you read it, with memorable characters and beautiful writing that speaks directly to your heart.   Ages 9-12

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How I Wrote It: Paul Lynch, on "Red Sky in Morning"

Paul Lynch's darkly beautiful and grimly funny Red Sky in Morning is the kind of story where a man drains blood from a heifer's sliced-open neck, mixes it with oats for breakfast, then pins the cow's vein back together. It's the kind of story where a man catches an eel, bashes it's head, then eats it raw. The kind of story where the threat of bloody violence is always nearby.

Lynch's Coll Coyle, a frightened and frightening man, flees his home after a murder. At his heels, across the bleak Irish landscape and ultimately across the Atlantic, lurks his diligent hunter--even more ruthless than Javier (of Les Miserables). Gorgeously written--like an Irish version of Daniel Woodrell--this is the kind of story where vengeance becomes a raw, animalistic obsession. Lynch displays a bold, unique voice, and a flair for poetic brutality. 


My writing desk — Paul LynchWho did you write this book for?

I wrote this book for myself. I wanted to write a book that I would like to read. There is no point writing a book to please others. Sometimes, I like to imagine the perfect reader--the reader who not just understands what I am about, but soaks up every word as if it were written for them. I have been fortunate in that I have got to meet such readers now and again. 

What’s the first line and what does it say about the book?

“Night sky was black and then there was blood, morning crack of light on the edge of the earth.” The ideal first sentence contains within it an intimation of the whole book. That’s what I was hoping for.  


I have a black, battered Ikea desk. I keep on it my Collins dictionary, my Roget’s thesaurus, stacks of books and notes, my laptop and printer. There are little notes posted to myself all over the place. I particularly like the catchphrase of Leonardo Da Vinci, taped to a book: Ostinato Rigore! (Which means, pretty much, Relentless Rigor). The wall to my right is a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookshelf rammed with books. While I read almost all my newspapers online, I’m not a big fan of e-books because I like to see what I’ve read and remember it. Books are a way of making memory physical. On very cold days, I’ll move to an armchair beside the fire and write there. Sometimes, if the light is really good, I’ll write at the kitchen table. Anywhere but in bed.


I need my trusty Mac laptop to write. I can’t work with anything else. I’m used to the feel of the keys. I also like, more than anything else, Apple’s Pages. I’ve tried other software but it doesn’t work for me. I write in Times New Roman, 12 point, and arrange the margins so that the screen looks like a page from a book. This spurs me on to make the writing as perfect as I can make it.


Large parts of Red Sky in Morning were written listening to Wayne Shorter’s classic 1965 album Speak No Evil. I find that jazz loosens up the deep place of my mind, lets me find my own strange rhythms. Generally, I find the knottier the jazz, the better. Anything with singing is a distraction. Listening to classical music tends to have the unconscious effect of making my writing too smooth.


Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. I’m not quite Balzac, but I can’t start without a strong espresso. After an hour and a half or so, I need another. Nothing else, mind, and certainly not alcohol. Can’t imagine anything more ridiculous than drink-writing.


I read continually and don’t understand writers who say they don’t read while working on a book. For a start, a book takes me about two years to write, so there’s no way I am depriving myself of reading during that time. Another thing is that reading other writers is continually inspiring--reading great writers reminds you how hard you have to work. Most  mornings, before I start, I’ll read a passage from a great poet, or some Shakespeare. It’s a little hamstring stretch before going on a run.


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YA Wednesday: Books to Read in 2014

2014 is shaping up to be a year of big YA books and I'm getting excited about some of the reading ahead.  A new book from one of my favorite authors, the second book in a hot series, and the final book in three much-loved trilogies--it's all coming in the first half of the new year. Here are some of the books I can't wait to start--what are you looking forward to reading next year?

GodsAndMonsters200 Panic200 Cress200 HollowCity200  









Hollow City by Ransom Riggs - January 14,2014
I'm a huge fan of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and I've been bugging Riggs' publisher about this book ever since.  My patience (well, sort of...) has paid off and I'm reading this now--it's got the same wonderful old-fashioned creepy feeling and promises to have unusual black and white photographs, just like the first book. Looking forward to seeing where it all goes...

Cress (Lunar Chronicles trilogy) by Marissa Meyer - February 4, 2014
Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood have never looked so bad ass as they do in Cinder and Scarlet. Now Meyer adds a Rapunzel character to the mix in Cress and this should be a Blade Runner-style fairytale to savor.  Queen Levana is still set on making Emperor Kai her own, and the three ladies (and their male counterparts) are just as determined to stop her...

Panic by Lauren Oliver - March 4, 2014
Her first stand alone YA novel since Before I Fall, a small town hosts a dangerous high school rite of passage where one player can win big if they handle the fear and make it through the game.  Panic looks like it's going to to be a page-turner of suspense, fear, friendship, and self-discovery--plus I kind of love that this isn't the start of a series or trilogy but instead a book I am just meant to enjoy until The End. 

Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy) by Laini Taylor - April 4, 2014
Ack. I really don't want this trilogy to end.  I was hoping this would be a case where a planned trilogy turns into a six-book story arc, but no such luck... That said, I am dying to know what happens between Karou and Akiva, and the collision of the angel world and the human one, so as soon as I can get this in my hot little hands I plan to go MIA until I finish it.

Ruin and Rising - Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo - June 3, 2014
Things were looking pretty bleak at the end of Siege and Storm so I'm expecting that in the final book of the Grisha trilogy some major transformations are going to take place and startling secrets revealed between Alina and The Darkling.  The first book, Shadow and Bone, got me hooked so I'm really hoping the last book will end it all on an equally high note.

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Best of the Year in Nonfiction

Top three questions that customers asked me during the incalculable hours I spent standing behind the registers in bookstores:

Q. I was in here about a month ago and you had a book on the corner of this table. Do you still have it? I think the jacket was blue.

A. [No answer. Suggest the latest John Grisham/Sue Grafton/James Patterson book, whichever was closest to blue.]

Q. Do you have that book that was on TV?

A. Yes.

Q. Where do you keep the nonfiction?

A. Everywhere, man.

Nonfiction, man. It is defined by what it is not. It's both meaningless and whatever you want it to be (except fiction). Somehow, it is also my favorite category. Here is a closer look at three of our picks for the best books of the year in Nonfiction.

Thank You for Your Service Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel

How do you make war personal? It’s not easy, especially when writing about a war that the public has basically given up on (or was never that interested in to begin with). Descriptions of violence that most of us will never see can lose their potency and trail off toward the abstract; it happens in even the best novels and nonfiction. But what David Finkel has done is to follow the troops home from Iraq to cover their “after-war.” Their struggles and suffering back in the States are easier for us to relate to, and Thank You For Your Service is an absolutely mesmerizing account of the pain and hope that they carry from day-to-day. Learn More
Pilgrim's Wilderness

Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier by Tom Kizzia

When Robert "Papa Pilgrim" Hale, his wife Country Rose, and their 15 children moved into the old mining outpost of McCarthy, Alaska, they were welcomed as kindred--if eccentric--souls by the ghost town's few residents. But after purchasing an old mining claim in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Hale chafed against the regulations that came with being a inholder, and the humble hermit became a lightning rod for property-rights activists in Alaska and beyond. Expanding on his original reporting for the Anchorage Daily News, Kizzia has written a nearly unbelievable tale of narcissism and religious mania, building toward a denouement reminiscent of Night of the Hunter and Robert Mitchum’s own creepy and deranged preacher. This book somehow flew under the radar this year, but everyone who's taken my recommendation on it has had their mind blown. Learn More

Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer and the African Adventure that Took the Victorian World by Storm

Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer and the African Adventure that Took the Victorian World by Storm by Monte Reel

In 1856, the gorilla was still the quasi-mythical njena of the Western imagination: a savage, bloodthirsty beast dwelling deep in the forests of equatorial Africa. Paul Du Chaillu set out to bag one in the name of science--and as a shortcut to academic credibility--but he could not have foreseen that he and his stuffed specimens would become unlikely pawns at the center of the burgeoning debate over Darwin's theory of evolution. In the meantime, Du Chaillu's reputation as a death-defying killer of monsters granted him celebrity status and lifted the often bewildered hero to rarified levels of London society. With the unlikeliest of heroes at its center, Between Man and Beast is a fast-paced and fun blend of adventure and history. Learn More

NB: Though Between Man and Beast is now available in paperback (and I've linked to it here), I've used the hardcover image for its awesome depiction of an angry gorilla bending a rifle barrel in half.

Read more in our free Best Books of 2013: Reader's Guide, which you can download now for your Kindle. It features interviews, essays, excerpts, and other fun extras about the year’s top 20 titles: Donna Tartt talks about her eating habits while writing The Goldfinch; David Finkel discusses the emotional impact following the 2-16 infantry battalion in Thank You for Your Service; and much more.

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Sara Says: Oprah's New Book Club Pick is Same Old Song, Only Better


When Oprah Winfrey announced today that Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings would be the newest selection in her Book Club 2.0, you could almost hear a symphony of hands slapping foreheads all over town. "Duh," was a typical first reaction: OF COURSE Oprah would choose this novel about the lifelong relationship between a white Southern girl/woman and the slave she was "gifted" by her mother on her thirteenth birthday. It's about race, it's about strong women and it has a strong theme of redemption: all favorites of the media queen. (Not to mention that the author, Sue Monk Kidd, wrote The Secret Life of Bees, a 2002 novel also about Southern women and race, which was a huge best seller, but not an Oprah pick, for some reason.)

Book Club 2.0But I submit that for all its familiarity, The Invention of Wings is as much a new kind of Oprah pick as it is variation on the tried-and-true.

Let me back up here to say that for three years, from 2009 to 2012, I was the Books Editor at O, the Oprah Magazine, and was involved in the launching of the new book club in June 2012. The book was Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and while it had been a very successful memoir before Oprah picked it, it went higher and stayed longer on the best seller lists for months afterwards--O influence or coincidence, you decide. And while it's true that I had a hand in Oprah getting her hands on the book, the fact is that dozens--and I do mean dozens--of people, publishing professionals and not, regularly pitch her with ideas. (Really, I think the guys in the convenience stores near her homes have probably made suggestions as has anyone who has had a significant battle with weight.)

So here's the story: Oprah picks what she reads and what she likes. She doesn't automatically take anybody's word for any book. (Trust me: This much I know is true.) She needs to feel it herself. And so while I don't know how Kidd's book got to her, I have no doubt that she read every word of it and that she alone made the decision to feature it. She's a true book nerd that way, and I bet she wouldn't even mind my calling her that.

But back to Kidd's wonderful book, which I have to admit I approached with trepidation, fearing a sentimental take on this now-much-discussed topic; I don't need to name the books in recent years that addressed black/white relations in a somewhat cartoony fashion. But I was happily surprised. Based loosely on the story of Sarah Grimke, a pre-civil war South Carolina daughter of a slaveholding family who became an ardent abolitionist and all-around champion of women's rights, it doesn't have a cardboard character anywhere in its 300+ pages. Not Sarah Grimke herself, not her given slave Hetty aka Handful, not Denmark Vesey, a revolutionary and charismatic free black man. These are characters that could be stock, straight out of central casting, but in Kidd's hands, they're way more complicated than that.

Oprah, of course, has picked many similarly sophisticated books -- even Jonathan Franzen would have to agree with that, now that two of his novels were chosen!--but what makes this one particularly contemporary is, ironically, that it has a historical basis. This is the mood of the day: it's why Loving Frank (a novel loosely based on Frank Lloyd Wright and one of his lovers), The Women (ditto, but more lovers), The Paris Wife (Hemingway and one wife) and many many others have succeeded so well of late. We don't want just a good yarn anymore, it seems, we want a story that can teach us something, preferably about somebody we have heard of (I knew vaguely of the Grimke sisters before I cracked this book) who also happens to be somebody who can teach us something.

I think this was a great pick that does both what you would expect an Oprah book to do--be socially conscious and accessible--and something more. Sure, it's about a very specific period and very specific people. But it's also, like more and more novels of recent years, a novel that educates you without preaching: about history, about relationships, about life.

This article was first published on Huffington Post

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Oprah's Book Club 2.0: "The Invention of Wings" by Sue Monk Kidd

The_Invention_of_Wings3Oprah Winfrey has announced her next pick in Oprah's Book Club 2.0!

The book is The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees.

Set in the early 19th century, The Invention of Wings revolves around two women: Hetty "Handful" Grimke, a slave girl living in Charleston, and the Grimke's young daughter, Sarah. The book begins on Sarah's eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten-year-old Handful. 

Based on the real life Grimke sisters, who defied great odds to help launch the abolition movement in the United States, this is a marvelous novel. The story spans thirty five years, as the lives of Handful and Sarah become intertwined in a complex dance of two women striving for lives of their own, shaping each other's destinies, marked by guilt, estrangement, and the search for authenticity in defiance of social norms.

Here's Oprah herself on The Invention of Wings:



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It's All Good: A Look at the Goodreads Choice Awards

Every year the good people at Goodreads ask their readers to vote in a variety of categories--culminating in early December with the announcement of the Goodreads Choice Awards winners--and every year the program seems to get bigger and bigger. During the season when anyone with any book authority (including the Amazon Editors) comes out with a Best-of list, the Choice Awards truly represent the people's choice.

Here's a look at some of the winners.

  • BrownKhaled Hosseini's wonderful And The Mountains Echoed was the top pick in fiction. For the record, the Amazon Editors ranked it at #2 in our Best Books of 2013.
  • Dan Brown's Inferno was one of the top sellers of the year at Amazon, so it's no surprise that it landed at #1 in Mystery & Thrillers.
  • The Choice Awards winner in Historical Fiction was another favorite of the Amazon Editors. Kate Atkinson's Life After Life was our top pick for Best Books of the Year So Far (which came out in June). It's nice to see that the people agree.

You can see all the Goodreads Choice Awards winners here.

Let us know what your favorite read of the year was.


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Best Books of 2013: Business & Investing

BOTY13_B&IA lot of fine business books were published this year. Big Data helped to popularize one of the catchiest business terms of the year. Who Owns the Future? stirred our thoughts on the relationship between technology and culture. But one book really took the prize.

Before that, some other highlights:

Even two famous basketball coaches got into the game:

Sandberg._V374013687_But the 500 pound gorilla of the year in business books was Lean In, in which Sheryl Sandberg urges women to stop apologizing for their success, while encouraging women (and men) to re-examine their business and home relationships. Not only was it one of the top business books of the year, it was one of the top books of the year. Maybe it's more like an 800 pound gorilla.

For more on Lean In, see Sara Nelson's Some Things You Might Not Know About Sheryl Sandberg.

For more on the Best Books of 2013, go Read More

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Graphic Novel Friday: Interview with Mike Mignola (Part Two)

In Part One of our interview with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, we discussed the recent original graphic novel, The Midnight Circus, and his narrative influences. In Part Two of our spirited conversation, we explore the forthcoming Hellboy in Hell storyline, the changing status quo of his universe—where Mike gently corrects my understanding about a particular character—and our favorite new vampire film. 

Alex Carr: While young Hellboy begins his adventures in The Midnight Circus, his career, as we know it, ends in Hellboy in Hell. What awaits him in Hell?

Mike Mignola: A lot of family stuff; I’ll say some old “friends” with quotations marks around it; a lot—a lot of stuff [laughs]. The first volume of Hellboy in Hell is really settling him into Hell. We get a tour of that world—not the complete world, but Hellboy gets shown around a bit. We get to see a little bit of how my version of Hell works. And most important, we see that by Hellboy appearing in Hell, major changes have happened with the guys who have been running Hell. Hellboy gets in there and throws a pretty big rock in that pond.

There are some major changes that happen, and really, after that first volume I want to focus on doing smaller stories for a while and go back to my spin on fairy and folk tales. My long-term goal with Hell—we’ll see the Greek underworld, we’ll see the sort-of Asian underworld of Hell so I can do Asian-related fairy tales and folklore and use the creatures from those mythologies.

AC: There’s an apocalyptic theme running through your entire universe at the moment. We’ve got Hellboy in Hell, and in B.P.R.D. there’s a multi-year arc called Hell on Earth. Why so grim?

MM: You know, things do look pretty grim, but I think there are more laughs in Hellboy in Hell than there are in B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth. I think Hell is getting nicer and Earth is getting worse [laughs]. Once we figured out what we were doing, the whole point of the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. stuff has always been evolution. The kind of evolution we’re seeing on Earth is nasty evolution—part of this kind of evolution is that you have to wipe out what was there before you can replace it. In B.P.R.D., a lot of the old ways of doing things are being replaced, and people are going to struggle against things like, you know, giant monsters coming down to re-pave the planet. Human beings are going to try to stop that. Can they do it? I don’t know. Everything is changing, and there’s a lot of destruction that goes along with it.

AC: Amidst all these changes, two characters remain unaffected so far: Lobster Johnson and Lord Baltimore. These are more peripheral characters in your universe—

MM: Baltimore is a totally unrelated series from Hellboy. Do you mean Witchfinder?

AC: I’m sorry. I thought Lord Baltimore fit in there somewhere—

MM: No, no. If, in fact, World War I came to a screeching halt because vampires starting overrunning the world, people would reference that.

AC: [Laughs]

MM: Baltimore is another kind of apocalyptic book.

AC: Thank you for the correction, Mike.

MM: I hope it doesn’t hurt sales! If people think it’s a part of the Hellboy universe, maybe that’s why it sells as well as B.P.R.D. [laughs]. And that’s fine.

AC: They’re all resonating with readers, and when you create characters, be they leads or peripheral, is there a thread you recognize that makes for particular favorites among fans?

MM: I wish I could say I had any idea what I was doing when I designed characters. I just take things I like and make my version of it. Baltimore was never intended to be anything other than this original novel that Chris Golden and I did together. There was never any thought of this thing going on and becoming a series. If there’s any common thing between these characters, it’s that they weren’t anything I was seeing in comics. Almost everything I’ve done is something I wish somebody else was doing, because it’s what I’d like to read.

Way back when, Hellboy was entirely the comic I wish someone much more talented than I was doing, because I would have been a huge fan of that comic. But nobody was doing it, so it fell to me to do it. Baltimore, maybe on some level, is a reaction to how romanticized vampires are portrayed today. I’m a fan of the old-school supernatural stuff. So, the idea of glitter-y vampires and romance-y vampires…not my favorite thing. I was very happy to create a book that was completely on the other end of that spectrum.

AC: I agree, and I’m going to break here and ask if you’ve watched Kiss of the Damned. It’s a new vampire film—

MM: I have.

AC: Is that the kind of vampire you love, because I thought it was very old-school.

MM: Yeah, I thought that was great. I usually don’t like things with a modern setting, but that I liked. That one had nice relationship-stuff but it didn’t take the teeth out of them. My daughter is reading various YA [Young Adult] vampire stuff, and I ask her, “Is there even a bad vampire in the story?” There’s always a good vampire now, but do any of them sleep in coffins? And I would bring her down to my library and say, “Here’s every classic vampire literature. There are coffins, there’s this, there’s that,” you know? “When you get to the YA stuff, you may try some of this stuff just to see where it came from.”

AC: Reading The Midnight Circus felt like such a fine way to end autumn, and your stories play so well to that season—maybe it’s Dave Stewart’s colors. Are you a fan of that season and the Halloween celebrations?

MM: You know, I don’t do anything for Halloween. I carry Halloween inside of me [laughs]. I don’t do costumes, I don’t do sh_t like that. But certainly to look around my house—it’s not decorated like Halloween—it’s all fall colors. I love Halloween as a concept, but do I actually go out and do things? No. Trick or treating? Pain in the ass. Hate answering the door all night long. I do love fall, which is bad because I live in Los Angeles [laughs]. 


Many thanks to Mike Mignola and Dark Horse comics for this opportunity to speak again. For more from Mr. Mignola, please see previous interviews with him here and here 


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Nelson Mandela Dead at 95

MandelaNelson Mandela, one of the most iconic figures of our time, has died. He was 95 years old.

Mandela had not appeared publicly since 2010 when he attended the World Cup final in Johannesburg, the first held on the African continent. He remained a paragon of dignity and humanism, even as he quietly spent his final years in his childhood home in the nation's Eastern Cape Province. 

Born on July 18, 1918, Mandela was eventually expelled from University College of Fort Hare for protesting apartheid, the system that he would ultimately see overthrown. He helped to form the youth league of the National African Congress, pushing for that body to take more radical steps against the white minority South African government. In 1956, he was charged with high treason; following a five-year trial, he was acquited. The ANC's tactics grew more militant over time, a process that he encouraged, and in 1964 he was sentenced to life in prison.

At the trial, he made this statement: "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

He would spend 27 years in incarceration before finally being set free.

On February 11th, 1990, Mandela walked out of prison to shouts and applause, his fist raised above his head. He was elected President of South Africa in 1994, promising to serve only one term, which he completed in 1999. Mandela's politics stressed forgiveness over vengeance, and as president he famously established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate crimes committed under apartheid. Bishop Desmond Tutu was appointed chair to the Commission, which granted individual amnesty in exchange for testimony about apartheid-era crimes.

After retiring from politics, he continued to work on the global stage, championing human rights and world peace, and taking up the fight against AIDS.

His death was announced by South African President Jacob Zuma on late Thursday, who said of him, "What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves."


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