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Book News: Handwriting Offers Clues In Shakespeare Debate

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

  • Scholars have speculated for centuries that parts of Thomas Kyd's play The Spanish Tragedy were written by William Shakespeare. Now, Douglas Bruster of the University of Texas at Austin says the handwriting and spelling in the play's so-called additional passages — some 325 lines inserted into the play after Kyd's death — are consistent with Shakespeare's writing. In a paper for the journal Notes & Queries, Bruster is careful not to suggest his analysis is conclusive, but rather that the handwriting and spelling "may offer further evidence for Shakespeare's composing hand." Other scholars are less cautious. Shakespeare expert Eric Rasmussen told The New York Times, "I think we can now say with some authority that, yes, this is Shakespeare. It has his fingerprints all over it."
  • Foreign Policy's blog The Cable claims to have uncovered evidence that the CIA spied on the philosopher and dissident Noam Chomsky in the 1970s. Although Chomsky was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War, making him a natural target for CIA surveillance, the agency has denied for years that it had a file on him. But The Cable reports that "a public records request by Chomsky biographer Frederic Maxwell reveals a memo dated June 8, 1970, between the FBI and CIA" that "discusses Chomsky's anti-war activities and asks for more information about an upcoming trip by anti-war activists to North Vietnam." This leads The Cable to conclude that the CIA had indeed been gathering evidence on Chomsky and "substantiates evidence that Chomsky's file was tampered with." The agency did not comment on the report. When asked what he thought, Chomsky gave a decidedly Chomskyan response: "Some day it will be realized that systems of power typically try to extend their power in any way they can think of."
  • DNA testing didn't link the killers profiled in Truman Capote's In Cold Blood to the 1959 murder of a Florida family of four, The Associated Press reports. Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, who murdered a Kansas farm family, have long been suspected in the Florida slayings, but DNA taken from the victims and the crime scene was so degraded that it was impossible to make a match. Capt. Jeff Bell of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office told The Associated Press, "It wouldn't exclude them, but it also does not provide us with any level of confidence to say there's a match because there's not."
  • A new novel by Dave Eggers is due out in October, Knopf has announced — not with a press release, but a quiet listing on its website. As The New York Times' John Williams notes, "Dave Eggers is perfecting the art of sneaking onto bookshelves." The book, titled The Circle, follows Mae Holland, who is "hired to work for the Circle, the world's most powerful internet company," Knopf writes. "What begins as the captivating story of one woman's ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge."
  • The fictional, mustachioed anchorman Ron Burgundy is coming out with an autobiography in November, to be called Let Me Off at the Top!: My Classy Life and Other Musings. Burgundy is played by Will Ferrell in the movie Anchorman, though it isn't clear who will write his "autobiography." In a press release, "Burgundy" wrote, "I don't know if it's the greatest autobiography ever written. I'm too close to the work."
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