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Original Publish Date: 
Apr.22.2011

I love you. The meeting ran late. I want a divorce. One little word, one casual lie, one devastating announcement—and our lives are turned upside down forever.

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He Said What.JPG

He Said What?: Women Write About Moments When Everything Changed

By Victoria Zackheim
Original Publish Date: 
Aug.10.2009

In iWant, Jane Velez-Mitchell shares her candid an

Excerpt text: 

'This is the story of my ch . . . ch . . . changes, which took me from insanity to clarity, from egocentricity to altruism, from alcoholism to activism. These changes have marked an evolution in what I want from this life. I am what I want. What I seek to consume, possess, and achieve is a mirror that reflects my lusts and cravings, values and priorities, and moral boundaries or lack thereof. I am happy to say that what I want today is much less toxic and self-centered than what I used to want. It's taken decades of selfexamination to peel back the layers and figure out what really makes me happy. And while I'm still searching for my ultimate bliss, I know for sure it's not what I once thought it was. It's not alcohol, cigarettes, money, food, sugar, or status symbols: I've consumed all of those in massive quantities, and they've just made me miserable. Now, I want what can't be tasted, smoked, worn, seen, or counted. It's the opposite of material. As sappy as it might sound, what I want is spiritual.'

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iWant: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life by Jane Velez-Mitchell

iWant: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life by Jane Velez-Mitchell

By Jane Velez-Mitchell
Original Publish Date: 
Oct.01.2010
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updated from the hardback with a new chapter and 30 new photos

Timmy's in the Well -- The Jon Provost Story

By Laurie Jacobson
Original Publish Date: 
Feb.18.2011

Even with the imposed reality that surrounded her, Sybil Vaughan was able to empo

Excerpt text: 

It was a time of great transformations. Sybil had decided to be born in one of the most turbulent epochs of recent history, the height of the Vietnam War. The hippies and LSD were responsible for showing, for the first time, that one could live on love and peace. And despite excess and addiction, they opened the human mind to the possibility of other realities and other dimensions that none of the wars and their victims had allowed us to imagine.

I came into this world in the midst of daydream and tragedy, pleasure, and pain. Mankind landed on the moon, or at least I’d like to think that it did and it wasn’t staged in some studio in Las Vegas! Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated, the Beatles were the only ones teenagers wanted to listen to, and Woodstock left its mark on the hearts of a generation that longed for the change which had not yet taken over the world. Doubtless, there were lots of Supermen and Wonder Women but I don’t know in what attics they were hiding. I cannot speak much of those days; I was in diapers, a baby whose fontanel had just closed as its brain was switched on. But I picked up from them the yearnings of those who came before me, the yearnings to establish a new order despised and misunderstood by those who still do not realize that they are asleep.

She was three when, suddenly, she fell gravely ill from an acute pyelonephritis which left her life hanging by a thread. From a tender age, Sybil confronted the duality of the world with its two extremes. Such a fragile mind, trying to own so many vivid details. When she tries to recall that time, perhaps she remembers more of the “other side” than this one. In those early years, her dreams were connected to an ethereal world where she lived through a pitched battle, between the forces of evil that only wished to annihilate her and the forces of light which revived her and kept her heart beating on nights from which it seemed she would never awaken. One should give credit to the nightmares children have. She would feel life and death at the same time, but life, which she so passionately wanted to live, was stronger. Forced to fight against the dark knights, little by little, her fears led her to build a nearly impenetrable armor; her timidity was so apparent that her mother, Cassandra, feared that she might be a deaf-mute, since she refused to utter a word. While all this was happening, she felt very weak; she was not a hardy girl and looked, for a long time, like an Ethiopian child suffering from famine. Her head was much too large for her body and her ribs stuck out of her skin. She paid little attention to food but did not care; the light from the other side nourished her deep inside. At that age, she could not defend herself and did not even understand the fight she had been thrust into. She only knew that her angel— that beautiful, enormous angel with cobalt-blue eyes and shining golden hair— was always by her side and he protected her.

He was like my other dad or mom, or the two in one. The love of that angel reached beyond all the limits of the universe. With a single word of his, I felt that my body was completely illumined and my human nature had vanished; that angel was the essence of pure love and at the same time the essence of the security all of us look for. My angel was the light leaping along behind me, so that he wouldn’t lose sight of me and would be able to save me from the shadows.

Her grandmother, Ofelia, made her say her bedtime prayers every night before going to sleep. In addition to the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary, she also taught her the Prayer to the Guardian Angel. Thus, the angel remained nameless until she became an adult; he was simply her guardian angel, who was always there when she needed him. Why give him a name if he came unbidden? The secret was to think of him, to keep him in her mind, and he would immediately respond. Like everything in a child’s world, it was easy and simple.

Her little piece of heaven was the island of San Andrés, where she spent the first thirteen years of her life. Her father, Dylan, a mild, bohemian Welshman with glassy blue eyes, had arrived in Colombia at the age of twenty-four to work for an oil company. Crossing seas and continents, he bravely followed the promptings of a heart which told him how to make his dreams come true. He met Cassandra, Sybil’s mother, in Cartagena and they lived there for several years after they married, during which they had three children, Betrys, Glyn, and Sybil. Another two were meant to embark on the Welshman’s adventure, but they were stillborn, one three years before Sybil was born and the other, three years after. Her mother still remembers them with nostalgia but she wonders what that period of her life would have been like if they had lived. They were poor enough with the three who survived. 

Reading Guides: 
What does book’s title, “While I Was Learning To Become God”, say to you?
Sybil had a severe, life-threatening illness at a very young age; could this brush with death have enabled her to be more in-tune with the spiritual realm?
Do you think that Sybil’s engagement to Sebastian was a critical point in her life? Discuss the societal and familial pressures that she must have felt.
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Original Published Source (if Published Work is not a Book): 
9781937296018
While I Was Learning To Become God - Vol. 1 - The Four Elements of Life

While I Was Learning To Become God

By former member
Original Publish Date: 
Aug.01.2006

The Good Place is a moving testimony of a childhood in Chemnitz, Germany, which ends abruptly in 1933 with the onslaught of the Nazi reign of terror.

Excerpt text: 

If my childhood was a happy one, what made me so angry? And if unhappy, why was it filled with such fun and laughter? To a child, poverty and deprivation, if not excessive, are hardly the major reasons for misery. Lack of love and understanding is a different matter. The heart always remembers the hurt of a careless or unspoken word. All those denials, those you mustn’t, oughtn’t, shouldn’t, were the daily red flags that kept the child from experiencing its longed-for freedom.

Every childhood is, at least in part, a prison cell. Perhaps by stamping my foot or raising my voice in hot-tempered vexation I mean to rattle its iron bars.

“I’m not going to!”

“Yes, you are.”

“I hate it! I hate it!”

I can no longer see what the fuss is about. I just see my unbridled rebellion. Yet the  rattling only makes matters  worse: I am sent  from  the table,  or  wherever I  am,   to

stand in the corner with my face to the wall. It happens again and again.

At first, I cry bitterly. After a few times I venture to cover my face with my hands and turn back to look at the grownups through my fingers— to see them chuckle at my humiliation. This makes me furious. My pain is their entertainment. Even Helmi enjoys the spectacle. This hurts more than anything, for Helmi, whose misdeeds are far worse than mine, has threatened to kill me if I ever squeal on him. Doesn’t he know that nothing is further from my mind? I think he has forgotten the extent of my devotion. The very thought that I might be capable of such betrayal offends me deeply. And now he is stabbing me in the back by ganging up on me with the adults.

            To my parents’ still greater amusement I soon start leaving the dinner table of my own accord, and head for the wall in the corner whenever I feel naughty. If they take me for a fool I learn to play their game-- instinctively turning my bad behavior into a clown act. It pays off and lightens my burden. So I win in the end.

It seems to be an unwritten rule for German parents in general, and for Chemnitzers in particular, not to praise their children. My parents firmly believe that any approval will make us conceited. As a result we don’t think that we are lovable or could do anything right. I suspect that Vati has a similar reason for never telling me that he loves me. He may care for his children, but is unable to express his feelings.

More often than not, we children find relief in our own world, in the streets, backyards and rooms of cousins and friends, where adults are excluded and have no power over us. We find freedom in our comradeship and the laughter gleaned from our elders’ peculiar mannerisms. The way an uncle talks or clears his throat or scratches himself turns into a source of endless imitations for Hilla and me. Cousin Hilla, my other best friend, one year older than I, is Uncle Fritz’s daughter, the second of three children. Next to my serious, best buddy Peter, she is comic relief. This skinny girl with her pretty face and long, slender neck makes me feel almost too solid, especially since Uncle Fritz likes to tease me by calling me chubby. I tell him to look at his older daughter, Hanna, who is truly plump, hoping to convince him that I embody the golden mean among the three of us. I always make sure that Hanna isn’t around when I say it, for I’m fond of Hanna and don’t want to hurt her.

Hilla and I call each other Pieps and Pummel. She’s Pummel, the fat one, and I’m Pieps, the little bird. We follow grandmother Hennerche and, using her enormous derrière as a special target for our tomfoolery, push out our behinds and wiggle them exactly the way she does.

Each October the entire family assembles in Grossmutti’s lofty apartment to celebrate her birthday. We grandchildren, all thirteen of us, are relegated to a room at the end of a long narrow hall, while the adults gather in the elegant ebony living room furnished with a black shining grand piano, and green velvet-covered upholstered sofas and chairs. Sometimes Hilla and I manage to slip in unseen. We hide under the large food-laden table and, concealed by the white linen cloth, listen to the adults’ conversation. After the high tea, or the highest tea with its infinite goodies, we children are to play some musical excerpt prepared in Grossmutti’s honor, or recite a poem. The smallest ones-- Reni, Ruth, and Hilla’s young brother Franz-- get away with a few verses, while Hanna and Hilla have to perform a Beethoven Sonata for cello and piano. (Years later, cousin Reni told me that she would confuse Beethoven with Friedhoven-- Friedhof means cemetery-- and was therefore convinced that Friedhoven’s compositions had something to do with funerals and mourners). Tonight, Hanna slips down half a tone, making Hilla lose her bearings; the sisters get angry and fight until Aunt Hilde takes over to restore the harmony. Aunt Hilde, married to one of my uncles, is not only my, but Hilla’s, Reni’s and who knows who else’s, piano teacher. She is stiff and methodical and we children dread those lessons. “If anyone ever asks you who your teacher was,” she tells students without talent or perseverance, “don’t mention my name.”

I hate every moment of those forced recitals, and when my turn comes to put my trembling hands on the piano keys I wish for the parquet floor to open beneath me and make me disappear. Stuffed with cake and stage fright, I feel lost under the critical gazes of all those aunts and uncles until Hennerche comes to my rescue by sitting down beside me and praising my effort.

With ten out of her thirteen grandchildren playing different instruments and improving each year, Hennerche’s musical salon is filled with the sounds of a fine youth orchestra, causing our grandmother to weep with joy. Looking back, I know that she feels partly responsible for the accomplishments of her offsprings’ offspring. This has somewhat compensated for an aborted opera career.

Most of our friends are part of the family, and all other friends know our extended family, so that the circle is quite large. Since early childhood we cousins and friends play and fight with each other, first in the sandbox and later all over the Kassberg.

Sometimes Aunt Emmy and cousins Werner and Helmut take me along to Langhennersdorf, a village near Chemnitz, where Uncle Martin owns a silver fox farm, and where they spend weekends in the summer. Like all fathers buried in their work, my uncle is never there. Aunt Emmy is an extremely tall and pretty lady. She always treats me as a special guest. The boys play with me until lunch, then their mother surprises us with a treat of homemade strawberry ice cream. “Blow on it!” she tells me, “it’s awfully hot!” and we children follow her example and blow hard to cool it off.

Aunt Emmy loves children and really talks to us. I’ve heard people say that she and our uncle are a most handsome, ideally suited couple. She and Mutti are close friends. I hear Emmy complain to her that Uncle Martin constantly brings her the most stunning evening gowns she neither wants nor needs, but won’t give her the money to buy the simple clothes she likes. I understand that evening gowns must have something to do with being “ideally suited.”

A year later Aunt Emmy leaves Uncle Martin for Dr. Glaser. Dr. Glaser wears glasses. He is neither tall nor handsome. He’s an interesting, brilliant man, Mutti explains to Hennerche who has come to our house in shock: a prominent physician, socialist and city councilor, who has so much more in common with Emmy than Uncle Martin; and he cares for her deeply. Seeing that Mutti is on Emmy’s side, my grandmother shakes her head in dismay.

“Martin is my brother, but you must understand-- he didn’t treat her right,” Mutti defends her position. She is particularly sorry for the boys who would much rather live with their mother. Martin only lets them visit on weekends and insists that Emmy and Glaser get married, or he won’t let Helmut and Werner see her at all.

“That’s terrible! To make those poor children suffer because….”I’ll talk to him,” Hennerche says. I can tell that she’s coming over to our, well, Mutti’s, side.

“I’m afraid it won’t do any good. You know how rigid he is.”

They are talking in front of me, probably thinking that I don’t understand what they are saying. But now it’s my turn to be shocked. Werner is just seven, six months younger than I. Suppose Vati wouldn’t let us see Mutti? I can’t even think of it.

At age five I start to read and begin devouring fairy tales and childrens’ books. “Struwelpeter,” (Slovenly Peter) and “Max and Moritz” by Wilhelm Busch lie already in the past. Funny and good as those stories may be, they all have a cruel streak. Now the brother Grimm’s gruesome stories fill me with dread and cause me to look under my bed every night. I make sure that there’s no bad man-- like the one who meant to kill Mutti in my dream. On hot nights I dare not let a naked foot dangle from my cover, afraid the burglar might grab and squeeze it. When I’m naughty, Liba or some other adult threatens me with the boogey man. Soon the boogey man waits for me around every corner. I quickly pull the chain in the bathroom and run out, so the scary witch who jumps from the roaring fountain in the toilet bowl won’t get me into her claws.

I don’t know if Hilla experiences the same terror. Though always full of mischief, she and I must be on our best behavior when Uncle Fritz and Aunt Margot take us for walks in City Park. Strolling in velvet dresses with white embroidered collars, white shoes and stockings, we must walk ahead of her parents and curtsy each time one of Uncle Fritz’s dignified Chemnitz clients greets us politely on passing. Sometimes they stop near the Rose Garden to shake hands with their highly respected lawyer.

“Good day, Herr Doktor,” they say, adding a polite remark about such pretty, well-behaved little girls…

A cold winter afternoon. Snow keeps falling in the silent street, while in my cozy L-shaped room with its white shag rug, its white bed and white heavy cupboard at its foot, Peter, Hilla and I are enjoying one of our favorite pastimes. First we climb on the warm shelf of the brown-glazed tiled stove, from where we pull ourselves up to the top of the wardrobe, crawl to the other end and jump down on my white feather bed. While the endless snow wraps the city in a thick ermine mantle we muffle our climbing, crawling and jumping in a noiseless, breathtaking rhythm, hoping that no one will hear us. We have done it before, we are not supposed to do it again. It is strictly forbidden. In Germany everything is forbidden. We are learning early that in order to enjoy ourselves we have to do things on the sly.

All at once the door is thrown open, and Liba comes in carrying a bucket of coals to rekindle the stove. She yells at us to stop before the bed caves in. Too late-- Peter and Hilla have just taken their leap and, as I follow with a jump, my thick down cover bursts at the seams, scattering the white feathers all across the room. The scene reminds me of Frau Holle, in one of Grimm’s fairy tales. Frau Holle is the snow queen in the clouds, whose maid, the Golden Mary, shakes out her feather bed to announce the arrival of winter: she shakes and shakes and the feathers never stop falling, filling the air and snowing over the entire landscape.

I have never seen Liba so angry. She looks bloated with anger, as if about to burst at the seams like my feather bed. You are a bad, bad girl, you never listen, she shouts, as I stare at her waiting for the feathers of her fury to float out of her-- Liba feathers that will be raining through the room where Frau Holle has decided to let it snow. Arms akimbo, she stands in front of me.

“Get out of here!” she yells at Peter and Hilla who run out in fright, then lifts me into her strong arms and, still scolding me for my disobedience, carries me through the hall, pushes me into the broom closet and locks the door.

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The Good Place

The Good Place

By Gabriella Mautner
Original Publish Date: 
Apr.01.2012

Ann Rule says: A Silence of Mockingbirds is beautifully written by a very talented investigative journalist.

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When Sarah Sheehan told me she was leaving her husband, David Sheehan, a native of County Kerry, Ireland, I was alarmed about what her decision would mean for the couple's young daughter, Karly. Yet, whatever worries I had about Karly's welfare, murder wasn't one of them.

A SILENCE OF MOCKINGBIRDS: The Memoir of a Murder

A SILENCE OF MOCKINGBIRDS: The Memoir of a Murder

By Karen Spears Zacharias
Original Publish Date: 
Apr.01.2008
The greatest American Indian baseball player of all time, Charles Albert Bender, was, according to a contemporary, "the coolest pitcher in the game." Using a trademark delivery, an impr
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I am available for speaking engagements, classroom conversations, book signings book club meetings and banquets. I also appreciates reader feedback — especially if it's praise. Click here to ask questions, send requests or share your favorite Tom Swifties.

Chief Bender's Burden

Chief Bender's Burden

By Tom Swift
Original Publish Date: 
Sep.15.1998

Gram Parons lived hard and died young, and left behind a musical legacy that has influenced generations of rock and country legends.

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Hickory Wind: The Life and Times of Gram Parsons

Hickory Wind: The Life and Times of Gram Parsons

By Ben Fong-Torres
Original Publish Date: 
Apr.10.2008

From St.

Excerpt text: 

On March 6, 1475, Michelangelo Buonarroti was born to poor aristocrats in Caprese, near Florence. Barely thirty years later, he was hailed throughout Italy and much of Europe as one of the greatest artists of all time, a judgment of which he was keenly aware and that he would bemoan yet try to preserve throughout his life.

Michelangelo's artistic contributions redefined Rome as the self-proclaimed "capital of the world." In turn, the world celebrated the artist for his redefinition of beauty and expression, reclaiming the word "genius"-a term resurrected from the Latin-to describe this singular artist's talents. Michelangelo's contemporaries struggled to describe the phenomenal talents of a man whose work surpassed all superlatives. According to one of Michelangelo's friends and biographers, Giorgio Vasari, God sent "to earth a spirit who, working alone, was able to demonstrate in every art and every profession the meaning of perfection."

Although many artists fade from popularity as styles and tastes change, Michelangelo's golden reputation has never tarnished. More than five hundred years since his death, visitors still flock to see the frescoes, sculptures, and architecture with which Michelangelo adorned Rome.

A New Italy

The world into which Michelangelo was born was in the midst of a cultural and intellectual revolution, a revolution that Michelangelo's contemporaries called the rinascita and that we know as the Renaissance. Today, the Renaissance-which swept Europe from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries-is probably best known for its innovations in art. But the artistic leaps of the Renaissance did not happen in a vacuum. They arose within a maelstrom of enormously potent political, economic, and social change. In Italy, the winds of change transformed a collection of warring principalities and city-states into the continent's mercantile and cultural powerhouse.

The seeds of the Renaissance germinated in the grimmest of soils: the Black Death. The pandemic of bubonic plague that Italian merchants unwittingly brought to Europe from Asia in 1348 quickly sweptover the Italian peninsula and then the rest of Europe, leaving millions dead and opening the door to poverty and war. In the wake of the Black Death, the city-states and kingdoms of Florence, Pisa,Milan, Naples, and Venice battled one another for dominance, while Rome, once indomitable, fell from contention. The papacy, the single wealthiest and most powerful force on the peninsula, was riven bydivision and moved from Rome to France.

But by the mid-1400s, despite the continued clashes between city-states, the environment on the peninsula had changed markedly. The papacy had returned to Rome, bringing with it a moneyed, cultured, and educated population. Venice had emerged as the center of the shipping and shipbuilding industries and become a gateway for the vigorous flow of money and goods in and out of Italy. Italy had established itself as Europe's door to the Middle East and Asia.

The known world was expanding as European explorers discovered new lands. Christopher Columbus landed on the coast of North America. Vasco da Gama navigated around the Cape of Good Hope. Cortéz accomplished his bloody conquest of Mexico, and the Spanish conquered Brazil. The Portuguese acquainted themselves with Japan. Intellectually, horizons were being expanded as well: in 1513, Machiavelli, an exiled Florentine, wrote The Prince, a treatise on how to acquire and retain political power that achieved widespread fame because of a new technology-the printing press, which allowed all sorts of ideas, including the notion of religious rebellion, to race across Europe.

As trade flourished and navigation improved, geographic and political boundaries between East and West blurred, and the rich, spicy world of the Middle East infused Italian culture. Europe exported bulky goods like wool, timber, and semiprecious metals. In exchange, ships packed with luxuries returned, profoundly changing the Renaissance diet, wardrobe, and decoration. Spices and fabrics, plants and pigments, precious metals and jewels came to Italy from around the Mediterranean: Muslim Spain, Egypt, Turkey, and Persia. Soaps, sandalwood, and opium became popular. Dried fruits, salts, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, and cinnamon found their way into rich dishes and baked goods served on tables laden with gilded glassware and precious porcelain. Ostentation and opulence became commonplace.

A New Appreciation for Antiquity

The flow of goods created a thriving merchant class across the peninsula. Flush with disposable income, these merchants and their families hungered for prestige and came to believe that the path to social advancement was paved with social grace. So they spent much of the leisure time their wealth afforded them on self-improvement, especially on reading the writings of ancient Greek and Roman poets, historians, and philosophers. The concept of the "magnificent man," as originally formulated by one of those philosophers, Aristotle, came back into vogue:

The magnificent man is like an artist; for he can see what is fitting and spend large sums tastefully . . . a magnificent man spends not on himself but on public objects. . . . [he]will also furnish his house suitably to his wealth (for even a house is a sort of public ornament), and will spend by preference on those works that are lasting (for these are the most beautiful).

Inspired by Aristotle, Italians embraced the notion of l'uomo universale, the complete man (or, as we would put it today, the Renaissance man). L'uomo universale appreciated the arts and could speak knowledgeably about music, painting, architecture, and sculpture. He had refined tastes and manners, and was masculine and athletic. He was educated in the teachings of writers such as Dante, Boccaccio, and Aquinas as well as history and the texts of antiquity. In addition, l'uomo universale enjoyed decorating his home and his person with fine, rare, and expensive things, for the world of the wealthy was one of lush refinement. The Italian nouveau riche-and even the aristocrats they so envied-strove to behave like the "magnificent man."

A New Way of Seeing

Michelangelo embarked upon his artistic career at the height of this frenzy. As the sixteenth century dawned and he came into manhood, wealth and opportunity swirled about him. Treasure hunters actively combed Roman ruins for masterpieces of Greco-Roman sculpture. The long-abandoned ruins of the Empire became classrooms for budding and blossomed artists alike. For painters, not only were there greater opportunities to paint, but the color palette also expanded with the importation of lapis lazuli, vermilion, and cinnabar, creating velvety rich colors for frescoists.

In 1490, an ancient Greek sculpture of Apollo was discovered in an Italian villa; the Belvedere Torso, as it soon became known, was instantly revered as a specimen of unparalleled aesthetic majesty. Artists looked to ancient buildings-better preserved than they are today-and studied the classical orders of architecture and other ancient principles of construction. They admired the unity of classical designs and emulated the fine craftsmanship that allowed the structures to withstand a millennium or more of neglect.

The achievements of Renaissance artists were many: the mastery of landscape, the use of vivid colors, the rediscovery of the nude, the portrait as an art form. But the use of perspective and its mathematical principles sets the art of the period apart. It allowed artists to achieve a greater level of realism than had been seen in Europe since ancient times. Although Renaissance artists imitated their predecessors, they also brought a new depth to art that eluded the anonymous artists of the ancient world. It is said that the ancients conveyed life in their art, but Michelangelo and his contemporaries brought souls to their figures. As they pushed to differentiate their works from those of their competitors, the Renaissance artists broke new emotional ground, depicting the solitude, tension, suffering, and strife of the human condition in vivid and unprecedented ways. Art, too, became an expression of social and religious ideas, inspiring the faithful but also stirring up controversy.

A Tale of Two Cities

Michelangelo spent almost all of his life in two very different cities. Walking the streets of Rome and Florence today, a visitor immediately sees the differences between the Eternal City and her northern cousin. Rome is a mosaic of ancient ruins, Renaissance splendors, Fascist monuments, and postmodern buildings. The streets reflect centuries of tumult, wealth, poverty, growth, contraction, and instability. In contrast, Florence looks much as she did five centuries ago. Her streets, narrow and cobbled, are lined with neat and tidy shops and apartments and illustrate the sensibilities of a city where beauty and order reigned. Florence thrived from the early days of the Renaissance, while Rome languished until the return of the pope in 1420. And whereas Florence fashioned herself as the seat of civilized gentility, Rome was a city of turmoil, greed, power, and money.

In his medieval allegory, The Decameron, Boccaccio (1313-75) describes Romans as "avaricious and grasping after money" and says that "for money they bought and sold human, and even Christian, blood, and also every sort of divine thing." Michelangelo appears to have shared Boccaccio's opinion-certainly, the experience of living in Rome made him long for Florence. Yet, he spent more of his life in Rome, it was in Rome that he formed his most intimate friendships, and it was in Rome that he created the lion's share of his masterpieces.

A Journey into Michelangelo's Rome

Because Florence rightfully claims Michelangelo as her native son, this book begins there, charting his birth and background, his artistic training and first commissions, and his relationships with a colorful family and a powerful patron. Yet, like Michelangelo, this book soon switches location and moves to Rome. Most chapters focus on a major work Michelangelo undertook while in that city of papal wealth and grand commissions. From the acclaim that greeted the unveiling of his Pietà in 1499 to the moral condemnation that was heaped in 1541 upon his frescoes for the Sistine Chapel, from the protracted controversy surrounding the design and construction of St. Peter's Basilica to the artist's equally lengthy but almost secretive efforts to complete the tomb of Pope Julius II, A Journey into Michelangelo's Rome tells a story of intrigue, passion, perseverance, and a developing faith. It is a story, too, that allows the reader to traverse the city, stopping at the Forum and the Colosseum, witnessing weddings at the Campidoglio, visiting bustling markets in the Piazza Navona, and enjoying the quiet of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, before turning up Via della Conciliazione to admire the majestic dome of St. Peter's.

This book presents a portrait of the artist not just as a public figure but also as a private man. Most educated Westerners identify the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel with their creator. The image of God and Adam, arms outstretched and nearly touching, has come to represent the genius of an artist and the wealth of talent that once populated Rome.

The perception of Michelangelo as a suffering and temperamental artist dates back to his own time. In this myth, retold and embellished, the artist has become a figure larger than life and barely recognizable. But just as the Sistine Chapel's frescoes are ultimately two-dimensional representations of an idea, so too is the image of the suffering genius a simplistic view of a complicated man. Michelangelo may have relished the power his reputation afforded, and he was certainly proud of his accomplishments, quick to take offense, and often slow to forgive, but he was a very sensitive and affectionate man, devoted to his family, protective of his servants, and loyal to his friends.

As he worked on his masterpieces, Michelangelo gathered his friends together, including his confidantes, Vittoria Colonna and Tommaso de' Cavalieri, and his faithful assistant, Urbino. Through his friendships, he explored the shadows and doubts of his deepening faith. Surrounded by the trappings of papal power, Michelangelo wrestled with the questions posed by the Reformation. His theological struggles were reflected in his sculpture, the unambiguous emotional power of his Pietà giving way to increasingly pensive works, both public and private.

Although he considered himself first and foremost a sculptor, Michelangelo was forced to take on the roles of frescoist and architect as well. Political and financial considerations dictated that this intensely private man had to produce enormous public works. He reshaped the Capitoline Hill, the seat of Roman power and history. He redefined the Sistine Chapel, the seat of papal politics and continuity. And he sculpted the dome of St. Peter's, transforming the Roman skyline and fusing the grace of the ancients with the might of the Vatican.

In his private life, Michelangelo wrote. Littered among the half-finished marbles, chisels, and stones in his workshop were scraps of paper on which he composed poetry as well as grocery lists. He wrote to others about the frustration of dealing with capricious popes who often proved reluctant to pay for what they had commissioned. He regularly corresponded with friends, acquaintances, and family members, generating a record of his feuds, joys, and griefs. A Journey into Michelangelo's Rome draws upon this trove of writings, as well as upon the better-known artistic record, to tell the story of how, amid the ruins of the Roman Empire and the largesse of the Vatican, Michelangelo the Florentine found ancient inspiration, created ageless beauty, and earned the enduring love and respect of Romans.

In 1564, when Michelangelo died, Rome grieved deeply. From then to now, he has been honored and celebrated by a city with a long memory and a rich past. Romans consider themselves experts on their adopted son. They name their streets, their hotels, their restaurants, and even their children for the man who shaped their city half a millennium ago. A Journey into Michelangelo's Rome explores this city, this man, and the world that shaped them both.

 

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A Journey into Michelangelo's Rome

A Journey into Michelangelo's Rome

By Angela K Nickerson
Original Publish Date: 
Sep.18.2001

The long-awaited English biography of the man who made the best and most sampled, concept album of all time (Histoire De Melody Nelson), invented French reggae, punk and rap, fathered actress Charlott

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J G Ballard's Book of the Year. Translations: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portugese, Japanese and American.

Publishing Notes: 
First published in the UK by Helter Skelter, 2001 Other editions: US -Da Capo Japan – Shinko Music Spain – Serge Gainsbourg, La Biografia, Reservoir Books Germany -Für eine Hand voll Gitanes, JSV France – Pour une Poignée de Gitanes, Camion Blanc Italy – -Per un Pugno di Gitanes, Arcana Brazil -Um Punhado de Gitanes, Barracuda Netherlands – Serge Gainsbourg, Nijgh &Van Ditmar Poland – Serge Gainsbourg – Wydawnictwo Marginesy
Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful Of Gitanes

Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful Of Gitanes

By Sylvie Simmons
Original Publish Date: 
Mar.01.2001

Marking the new millennium, MOJO magazine launched a series of small hardback books, ‘MOJO Heroes,’ aimed at providing a concise but authoritative introduction to artists whom the editors of revered m

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Neil Young: Reflections in Broken Glass

Neil Young: Reflections in Broken Glass

By Sylvie Simmons

This article is about an inspirational woman, who at 85 continues to run marathons.

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Original Published Source (if Published Work is not a Book): 
Our State

"Off and Running"

By Char Solomon
Original Publish Date: 
Dec.15.1998

John Laroche is a sharply handsome guy, in spite of the fact that he is missing all his teeth, has the posture of al dente spaghetti and the nervous intensity of someone who wins a lot of video gam

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The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession

By Susan Orlean
Original Publish Date: 
Jan.11.2000

One of art's purest challenges is to translate a human being into words.

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Life Stories: Profiles from The New Yorker (contributor)

By Susan Orlean
Original Publish Date: 
Aug.19.2000

Gene Vincent - most famous for his classic 1956 single "Be-Bop-A-Lula" - is one of the most influential rock 'n' roll artists of all time.

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Race With The Devil

Race With The Devil: Gene Vincent's Life In The Fast Lane

By Susan VanHecke
Original Publish Date: 
Mar.10.2003

Outrageously talented, remarkably handsome, internationally renowned, and dead at the age of 21.

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Three Steps To Heaven

Three Steps To Heaven: The Eddie Cochran Story

By Susan VanHecke
Original Publish Date: 
Aug.04.2008

A biography of one of Canada's earliest environmentally conscious landscape architects

Excerpt text: 

By the end of 1932, Cornelia’s parents were growing concerned about Hitler’s rising power. On New Year’s Eve, her father made her mother promise they’d leave Germany, and soon.

Twelve days later, he was killed in an avalanche while skiing. Cornelia lay in bed, numb, but her mother insisted she get up. Yes, Papa was dead, but life must go on. The family would even continue to go on skiing holidays in Switzerland, just as they had before. “He could as easily have died crossing a street,” her mother said. “You can’t stop living.”

Two weeks after the tragic death of her father, Cornelia hurried in from the cold. Her mother was talking to the cook about whether to have roast beef or lamb for dinner. Before going to her room to work on the next chapter of a new book, she said, “Today President Hindenburg made Hitler Chancellor.” Cornelia didn’t know exactly what that meant, but she knew it wasn’t good.

Determined to keep life as normal as possible, Mrs. Hahn allowed her daughters to continue English and French lessons and to go swimming in Lake Wannsee. Cornelia learned to ride dressage and do circus work on a horse inherited from Jewish friends who were emigrating. Mrs. Hahn arranged musical events for Cornelia and her younger sister to take part in – a performance of Wirbauen eine neue stadt (We are building a new city), an opera by Hindemith, and Haydn’s Kinder Symphony. Not musically talented, Cornelia played the triangle.

By the time Cornelia went to high school, there were no other Jewish girls in her class because many Jewish families had already emigrated. It was not unusual, throughout Germany, to hear cries of “Heil Hitler!” and to see the Nazi salute.

In 1935, to exert even more control over citizens, the Nazis began burning books. Still Cornelia’s mother expressed no concern that her daughter might run into problems with Nazi officers as she rode the six miles (10 km) to school on her bicycle. But as time went on, it became more and more difficult to ignore the fact that the Nazi regime was changing how they lived.

One Sunday in 1935, four officers of the most powerful Nazi organization in Germany came to the Hahn’s home. They wore high, shining, black boots. Their faces expressionless, they pushed into the dining room where the family was eating. They insisted on inspecting the kitchen, too, for evidence that the Hahns might be breaking a new law that dictated that once a month everyone must eat a one-pot soup — ein Topfpericht — instead of their usual Sunday dinner. If the Hahns were eating roast beef, or anything else they were used to having before the new law was passed, the officers would have an excuse to arrest them.

Throughout the ominously quiet ordeal, Cornelia held her breath, asking herself over and over how this could be happening. The family had done nothing wrong and was hardly even Jewish. They celebrated Hanukkah, but they had a Christmas tree, too.

But it was happening. The smell of the officers’ uniforms was in the house, the marks of their boot heels on the floor, and Cornelia was terrified.

Finally the officers finished their inspection. Cornelia’s mother politely asked them to leave.

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When I first met Cornelia, I found her and the work she described fascinating. Wanting to know more, I asked if anyone had ever written her biography. 'No,' she said. 'And no one who has written about me has ever quite got me.' Then she turned to me and said, 'Maybe you'll be the one.' It was a challenge I couldn’t resist.

Love Every Leaf, The Life of Landscape Architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander

Love Every Leaf: The Life of Landscape Architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander

By Kathy Stinson
Original Publish Date: 
Oct.15.2007

Joan Blondell: A Life between Takes

Excerpt text: 

Joan Blondell has always been an enigma. As a beloved actress, she was in front of the cameras for five decades, yet was adamant in her priorities to family and home life. She made good money due to an exhausting schedule, yet was never far ahead of the bill collectors. She was one of the most reliably good actresses Hollywood has ever seen, yet she was rarely showcased and never won a major award. She was a most steadfast friend to many, yet her three marriages ended badly.

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Joan Blondell: A Life between Takes

Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes

By Matthew Kennedy
Original Publish Date: 
Mar.15.2004

Edmund Goulding’s Dark Victory: Hollywood’s Genius Bad Boy

Excerpt text: 

Edmund Goulding, a mysterious, dapper, and captivatingly witty Englishman, was one of the most intriguing characters of Golden Age Hollywood. He is rightly remembered as an excellent film director, but he was also one of themost versatile and ultitalented personalities of his time. Certainly he directed some of the most well-crafted American film dramas of the 1930s and 1940s, including Grand Hotel, The Dawn Patrol, Dark Victory, the Old Maid, We Are Not Alone, the Constant Nymph, Claudia, The Razor's Edge, and Nightmare Alley. But a recitation of his directing credits is not enough. It is possible that no one who made movies has ever been so diversely talented. Eddie, as his friends called him, did everything: acted, wrote screenplays, composed music, edited, and produced. He was even an uncredited hairstylist, background-score composer, casting director, wardrobe supervisor, and make up artist. He wrote plays and novels, including the bestseller Fury, which he adapted into a movie. Though he was tied to Hollywood, he maintained an unduying love for Broadway, where he wrote, produced, and directed. He wrote poems, played tennis, sailed, and boxed, and still found time to be at all the right parties and to have a scandalous, bisexual private life. he once remarked that "studio people think I'm a little crazy" due to his desire to be all things while resisting long-term contracts.

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Edmund Goulding's Dark Victory

Edmund Goulding's Dark Victory: Hollywood's Genius Bad Boy

By Matthew Kennedy
Original Publish Date: 
Sep.25.1993

    This is the hardest book I shall ever write. In fact, if I'd had my way it would never have been written.

Excerpt text: 

Damon Courtenay is Not to be Touched,
Not Ever.

One

Death on a Saffron Morning.

Damon died in the third week after Pinatubo, a small, unknown volcano in the Philippines, started to belch smoke and spew ash, pushing smoke higher and higher into the stratosphere where the great up-draughts and crosswinds that swirl above the earth swept it to a height of twenty-two thousand feet and spread it like a blanket across the blue Pacific Ocean.

An hour before dawn each day the sunset on the light side of the earth reflected its glow against this great smokescreen and bounced it into the dark sleeping side to create a false dawn. The first of these false dawns occurred in Sydney on April the first 1991, the morning Damon died. An April Fool's dawn on April Fool's Day.

We all thought Damon would die sometime over the Easter long weekend, though God knows, he'd beaten the odds often enough before. The mighty Damon, just when you thought he was a goner, he would make it round the final corner on wobbly legs and totter down the home straight to be back with us again. But each time it was harder and each time he was weaker, a little bit of his old self left behind.

His brothers Brett and Adam were there with Celeste and Ann. Also Benita, his mother, with her anger at a son passing before his father, her love and the private, unreasonable guilt she'd carried for twenty-four years. We were Damon's family, Benita, Bryce, Brett, Adam, Celeste and Ann.

Celeste had been Damon's lover and had lived with him for the past six years. She had been his constant and devoted nurse. She dressed his bedsores, swabbed the thick yellow crusted thrush from his lips and the inside of his mouth and pus from his conjunctive eyes. She washed him and cleaned up when he was incontinent and dressed his shingles. She had administered his morphine and the complex two-hourly cocktail of pills that kept his frail heart pumping and his mind more or less focused.

It was Celeste, more than any of us, who had watched his body slowly deteriorate, his ribs growing sharply more pronounced under his taut translucent skin and his limbs becoming so thin and dry that it seemed as though they might snap when he was lifted into bed.

Damon, whose body had never been his strong point, now looked like a walking corpse, a Jew in one of those flickering black and white newsreel pictures taken by the Allies when they liberated the concentration camps.

Funny how those pictures were somehow meant to be in black and white, because the first thing you notice about approaching death is its lack of colour. Colour is an obscene pigment in the dying process.

Before death came to Damon, he appeared to fade, to be losing his colour. Damon's eyes were now smudged large, and set deep in his skull. There seemed to be no clear, clean hazel left to nourish them with life, they'd changed to a mottled brown, the colour of grape vinegar. Often, as he drank liquid morphine straight from the bottle, they would glaze over and lose focus, as though he'd pulled a shroud over them so he could hide his shame.

Then on April Fool's Day, a day which began with surprising, unexpected colour, Damon was ready. There was no colour left in him at all, he'd wrung the last drop out, used the last tiny bit to whisper that he loved us.

It was a great effort for him to talk and each of us took our turn in moving up close, 'I love you very much, Dad.' There was nothing more to say. It was everything contained in one thing, his whole life.

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April Fool's Day

By Bryce Courtenay