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Barrett Brown on Jonathan Franzen’s Purity

The Intercept brings us another dispatch from Barrett Brown, who is still in the hole. This time, he reviews Jonathan Franzen’s book Purity. I say this without hyperbole: it is a brilliant piece of writing. It’s 2,500 words, so don’t click over now unless you’ve got 15 minutes or so of uninterrupted reading time. It deserves to be read carefully, savored.

Monika Korra Will Be on SportsCenter Tonight

In our August issue, we published an excerpt of Monika Korra’s book, Kill the Silence: A Survivor’s Life Reclaimed. In it, she writes about an attack she suffered when she was a student at SMU. It’s a gripping tale, and she tells it well. Tonight at about 6:30 Dallas time Korra, who was a runner at SMU, will appear on SportsCenter to talk about how being an athlete gave her the strength to fight back. Check it out.

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Podcast: Burger Editor David Hale Smith Talks Books and Barbecue

D Magazine burger editor pro tem — and sometime literary agent — David Hale Smith stopped by the Old Monk to talk about all the hunks of meat he consumed for our Best Burgers issue and how his New York colleagues still can’t understand that Dallas isn’t a wasteland of wagon wheels and oil derricks.

A few notes for your edification:

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Which Book Should We Force Dallas Schoolkids to Read Next?

Question: What should be the Big D Reads 2016 book? — Krista N.

Firstly, I am compelled as a man of conscience to challenge the premise of your question. I’m not at all convinced that it is proper to encourage the unwashed masses towards literary interests. Consider: we spend untold billions of public dollars teaching children to translate ancient Roman symbols into the familiar phonemes of modern English vernacular only to see dreck like this elevated to the top of best-seller lists:

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‘Legend of Chris Kyle’ Author Discusses the American Sniper on D Magazine Podcast

This week our program was fortunate enough to play host to the author of The Life and Legend of Chris Kyle: American Sniper, Navy SEAL, newly released in paperback. Michael J. Mooney stopped by the Old Monk to talk about his recent book signing at Barnes & Noble and to silently sit by and judge as Tim and Zac make light of the (admittedly awful and tragic) “booty shot” death in Deep Ellum.

Also, Steve Blow might unsubscribe from EarBurner after this episode, which is available on iTunes, Stitcher, or however you prefer to catch your pods. The lazier among you can stream it via the player below.

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Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk Named One of the 21st Century’s 12 Greatest Novels

BBC Culture polled dozens of book critics (including Walton Muyumba, whose Facebook post alerted me to this) “in search of a collective critical assessment” of the best novels published since January 1, 2000. The critics named 156 books. The top 12 include Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, Michael Chabon’s The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and (in case you didn’t read the headline) Dallas’ own Ben Fountain and his Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.


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One HPISD Parent Is Still Trying To Ban The Working Poor

Last fall, Highland Park ISD superintendent Dawson Orr suspended seven books following parent complaints. Amazingly, he did this during Banned Books Week. That decision, and its timing, probably would have gotten national attention on its own, but Orr made it even easier by making David K. Shipler’s The Working Poor: Invisible in America one of the books. An incredibly rich school district effectively banning a book about poverty in America — throw in some B-roll footage, leave some space for a little Jon Stewart riffing, and The Daily Show segment is almost locked. Orr subsequently reinstated the books, and the district’s policy on how it selects books and how it handles challenges to those selections is being reviewed. (Thanks to the Morning News‘ Melissa Repko for covering this story so well.)

It seemed like the incident was coming to a mostly positive conclusion. But now it comes out that one parent is still unhappy that Shipler’s The Working Poor is being taught to juniors in Advanced Placement English III.

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Barrett Brown Moved Due to Threats Against Him

Kevin Gallagher runs Barrett Brown’s legal defense fund. On Twitter, he is reporting that Barrett has been threatened by inmates. Gallagher shared some more details with me, and I’ve talked to Barrett’s mother. Here’s what I can tell you:

Last night, Barrett was threatened by two inmates, one an associate of the Aryan Brotherhood. Barrett’s cellmate called Barrett’s mom this morning to tell her about these threats — Barrett having already been moved to SHU (isolation) for his own protection. Then Barrett called his mom this afternoon but not from the Seagoville unit, where he has been incarcerated. He has been moved to the Kaufman County jail, and all his belongings have been sent to his mother. Barrett’s cellmate told Barrett’s mom that he thinks yesterday’s op-ed in the Morning News might have had something to do with the threats. Like the bad guys were all like: “You think you’re so fancy? We’ll show you.” But that’s speculation.

Anyway, Barrett’s mom says he sounds fine. He requested one of Robert Caro’s LBJ books and something on the Renaissance. No telling at this point where things go from here, how long he’ll be in Kaufman, but here’s his new address, if you’re inclined to send him something to read:

Barrett Brown, No. 45047-177
Kaufman Law Enforcement Center
P.O. Box 849
Kaufman, TX 75142

The New York Times on David Ritz

We can still say David Ritz is a Dallas guy. Maybe. Kinda. Anyway, he has written a number of stories for the magazine, the most recent being “The Last Hat Salesman,” a meditation on his the occasion of his father’s passing. David’s one of the coolest people I’ve met. He’s filled with fascinating stories from a life of ghostwriting books for famous folks, many of them musicians. Some of those stories are about Aretha Franklin, who autobiography he ghostwrote. The process of writing that book was a difficult one for David, and though the book wound up an accurate portrayal of how Franklin sees herself (or how she wants the world to see herself), it didn’t wind up being what David hoped it could be. So he wrote a straight-up biography of the woman. “Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin,” was published last week. The Times says, “[I]t will stand as one of his greatest and most unusual achievements: a rich, definitive portrait set in motion by a bit of unfinished business.” You should read the entire article and consider buying the book.

Oh, and this is just one of five new books David will publish this year. He also wrote Joe Perry’s “Rocks: My Life in and out of Aerosmith.” And next year’s Willie Nelson autobiography will be David’s, too.

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Two Dallas Dudes Paired Up at Texas Book Festival

Though Rod Davis doesn’t currently live in Dallas, we can still call him a Dallas dude. He did two stints with D Magazine. He’s got a lifetime membership. Harry Hunsicker is definitely a Dallas dude. Harry has written for the magazine, and his most recent novel is The Contractors. Rod’s newest is South, America. Both books are set in the South, and this Saturday at 1:45, the gents will together discuss how geography plays role in their gritty fiction. If you are headed down to the festival, I definitely recommend that you catch these two guys let Rod know in the Q&A portion of their talk that you think Harry has better hair than he does. The full schedule is here.

A New Dallas Book You Maybe Might Perhaps Should Read (Possibly)

If the headline of this post isn’t clear (and my boss thinks I’m often not), let me tell you that I am ambivalent about the just-released ebook The Green, the Black, and the Deep Blue Sea. Oddly, my ambivalence has nothing to do with the prolix title. No, no. It’s more about the tandem of authors whose names appear on the book’s cover, my relationship to them, and the genesis of this 3,785-kilobyte story. To wit:

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HP Grad Writes in New Yorker About Those Banned Books

A kind, alert FrontBurnervian points us to this story on the New Yorker’s site about the aborted book ban at HP ISD. It was written by Annie Julia Wyman, an HP grad and a doctoral candidate in English at Harvard. A taste:

My own story provides some evidence of how books can expand the horizons of a kid growing up somewhere like Highland Park. As a young woman with desires for things that I’d read about but couldn’t find in my home town—including what felt like non-negotiable forms of social and economic justice—I stayed away from the Park Cities during and after college. I refrained, too, from talking about where I came from, because it embarrassed me. I could see only that I came from homogeneity; I was terrified I would be rejected from the new life I’d stumbled into, a life that was richer and more complex. But I should have been more honest. I never would have known to be embarrassed had I not gone to world-class public schools where I read whatever I wanted. Books were there, and they had taught me to value difference.

Take a minute to read the whole thing. It’s short. And smart.

Laray Polk on the State of Bookstores in Dallas

Last week, prompted by an Observer cover story that bemoaned the state of the bookstore scene in Dallas, we had ourselves a productive conversation about letters. Laray Polk took some time to think about it and then sent me a note to share her thoughts. Laray has written for the magazine. She’s an artist. And she wrote a book with Noam Chomsky. With that introduction, here are her smart words, which she sent under the title “Tough Love From The Himalayas”:

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