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Book News: Pablo Neruda's Body Will Be Exhumed For Autopsy

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • A Chilean court has ruled that poet Pablo Neruda's body be exhumed for autopsy, according to the Pablo Neruda Foundation. Neruda died 12 days after the coup that overthrew his friend, President Salvador Allende, and some suspect that Neruda was poisoned. Allende's body was also exhumed in 2011, and the official cause of death — suicide — was confirmed.
  • It turns out that the popular romance novelist "Jessica Blair" is actually Bill Spence, an 89-year-old grandfather and WWII veteran. Rock on, sir.
  • On the 50th anniversary of Sylvia Plath's suicide, poet Craig Teicher writes about why we should read Colossus, her first book of poetry: "As tragic and dark as her end would be, it's nonetheless thrilling to watch this great artist becoming herself."
  • Truman Capote said that his 1966 New Journalism classic In Cold Blood was "immaculately factual." But The Wall Street Journal obtained long-forgotten documents from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation that suggest major inaccuracies in the narrative — among other things, that once the killers were identified by an informant, the KBI did not immediately visit the farmhouse where one of the suspects was staying, as Capote claims, but waited five days before taking action.
  • "Amazon, like a ravenous Lovecraftian behemoth, an evil too weighty to be held by mere gravity, exists between planes of existence: half in our corporeal realm, slumbering foully, and half in a warped legal dimension of its own creation." Dustin Kurtz, on Amazon's many legal manoevers.

The Best Books Coming Out This Week:

  • James Lasdun's Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked is a sinister memoir detailing Lasdun's persecution by a former student. But an abridged version that appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education in January has all of the book's unnerving elegance without its maddening narrative drift.
  • Vampires in the Lemon Grove, by Karen Russell. Russell, whose Swamplandia! was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize last year, is an unlikely convert to the Vampire-fiction genre. But, as she told NPR's Scott Simon, "These aren't really Twilight vampires; these are pretty unxsexy, elderly, monogamous vampires."
  • The entirety of Herman Koch's dark novel The Dinner takes place over the course of one very long, very uncomfortable meal in a restaurant in Amsterdam. The book is already a bestseller abroad.
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