"We know Ernest Hemingway as a brilliant writer with a larger-than-life personality," reports NPR's Lynn Neary. "He was a hard-drinking, macho guy who loved bullfighting and big-game hunting. He is less familiar as a young man in love. The object of the 20-year-old Hemingway's affections was Hadley Richardson, a pretty but unglamorous Midwesterner who was eight years his senior." Richardson's years with Hemingway — when he was a poor, still-unknown writer in Paris — are fictionalized in Paula McLain's novel The Paris Wife. McLain says Richardson first caught her eye when she was reading Hemingway's memoir, A Moveable Feast. She tells Neary, "One line stood out to me ... And it was, 'I wished I had died before I loved anyone but her ... I loved her and I loved no one else and we had a lovely magic time when we were alone.'"
Anita Desai has written more than a dozen novels and collections, and has been shortlisted three times for the Booker Prize. Her collection of stories, The Artist of Disappearance, reads a bit like three symphonic movements in a minor key. The three novellas are set in modern India, where the past is giving way. In one story, a government official inspects the forgotten treasures left behind in a fated mansion. In another story, a translator becomes a little too creative; and in the third, a man living in solitude finds his world upset by roving visitors. There are no car chases or explosions — just the drama of people confronting themselves.
Gossip is arguably one of humanity's oldest pastimes. It's frequently entertaining, occasionally helpful, sometimes salacious and often vicious; but according to Joseph Epstein, author of Gossip, it's never trivial. Having already traced the history and practice of two other human weaknesses — snobbery and envy — Epstein turns his eye on our deep desire to hear and share the secrets of others, even if it makes us feel guilty. "I think gossip is an act of kind of social intimacy," Epstein tells NPR's Neal Conan. "When one comes to another person with a delightful bit of gossipy news, one is kind of conferring a gift on that person, and I think it ought to be accepted as a gift, you know, if the motives are purely that of entertainment and/or analysis of character. It's a very intimate act."
"In 1947, Vogue magazine sent Rosamond Bernier to Paris to cover European cultural life as it recovered after World War II," reports NPR's Susan Stamberg. "She met everyone who was anybody — Pablo Picasso befriended her, Henri Matisse gave her fashion tips, Alice B. Toklas baked for her. Bernier's memoir, Some of My Lives, is a lively compendium of this feast of art and genius — and of the author's own considerable charm." As author and commentator Emma Straub observes, "It's not hard to see why Bernier made such a good impression: She comes off as both plucky and kind, and if the corners have been sanded a bit, who would argue with her?"
The art of the piano is a study in evolution — of both an instrument and of human talent. Among us there have been a rare few whose gifts included the physical dexterity, the innate musicality and the creativity to make the instrument sound brilliant; Mozart did it first, and, more recently — as Stuart Isacoff notes in his new book, A Natural History of the Piano — so has jazz great Oscar Peterson. In this historical tribute to the piano, the founding editor of Piano Today magazine evaluates the roles of forefront composers and pianists while exploring the development of various genres and the influence of the piano on Western musical traditions.
Charlotte Abbott edits "New in Paperback." A contributing editor for Publishers Weekly, she also leads a weekly chat on books and reading in the digital age every Friday from 4-5 p.m. ET on Twitter. Follow her at @charabbott or check out the #followreader hashtag.