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Book News: Feminist Icon Mary Thom Dies In Motorcycle Crash

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

  • Journalist and feminist Mary Thom, a former executive editor of Ms. magazine, was killed Friday in a motorcycle accident in Yonkers, N.Y. She was 68. Thom, who was editor-in-chief of the nonprofit Women's Media Center, wrote Inside Ms.: 25 Years of the Magazine and the Feminist Movement and co-edited an oral history of former congresswoman and feminist Bella Abzug. The co-founders of the Women's Media Center — Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan — said in a joint statement that "Ms. Magazine, the Women's Media Center, the women's movement and American journalism have suffered an enormous blow. Mary was and will always be our moral compass and steady heart."
  • New York Times journalist Charlie Savage created a fascinating photoblog documenting the books in the library at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Among the collection are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; 300 Orchids: Species, Hybrids and Varieties in Cultivation; and David Copperfield.
  • Some 50 well-known authors, including J.K. Rowling, Seamus Heaney, Tom Stoppard and Ian McEwan, have agreed to annotate first editions of their novels for an auction benefiting English PEN, an organization that supports freedom of expression. Tom Stoppard, according to the Financial Times, scribbled "Overkill!" and "Too complicated!" in the margins of his play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. John Banville, who annotated his Booker-prize winning novel The Sea, told the FT: "I can't say in all honesty that it's as if it was written by somebody else, but it was written by a different version of myself, and in a way, it's more radical, because the selves we leave behind are more strange to us than strangers."
  • The National Endowment for the Arts asked the state poets laureate what it means to learn a poem by heart: Minnesota's Joyce Sutphen said, "A memorized poem goes down into the bones; it becomes a part of a person's inner landscape."

The Best Books Coming Out This Week:

  • Edna O'Brien's memoir, County Girl, feels almost like one of her novels, with its luxurious, intricate writing and unabashed sensuality. She spoke about drugs, love and the magic of words during a recent interview with NPR's Scott Simon.
  • Oonya Kempadoo's third novel, All Decent Animals, tells the story of a group of friends caring for a man dying of AIDS. Kempadoo's writing is dreamy, lovely and more than a little confusing, but it's worth reading just for the vivid portrait of Trinidad.
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