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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.

NOT BAD.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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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Ang Lee To Direct Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

If you were sitting around today wondering what was up with the film adaptation of author and pool basketball enthusiast Ben Fountain’s fantastic novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, you are some sort of wizard, because today there is news: celebrated director Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm) has decided on it for his next project. The script is by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire).

In other words: just about as good a situation as anyone could have hoped for.

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The Paris Review Has a Few Words With Merritt Tierce

My apologies to those of you who are tired of posts from me about Merritt Tierce’s debut novel, Love Me Back. It’s a great book, and I want to see a local writer get the attention (and sales) she deserves. The book is out today. Tierce will appear at The Wild Detectives September 25 to talk about it. To whet your appetite, here’s a Q&A with Tierce that The Paris Review published today. (Side note: the woman who conducted that Q&A is named Thessaly La Force, one of those names that only exists in real life, because if you gave it to a character in a novel, it would just sound dumb.)

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Merritt Tierce’s Debut Novel Is Great, and You Should Buy It

In our September issue, I wrote a little ditty on Merritt’s Tierce’s first novel, Love Me Back (Doubleday), which comes out Tuesday. You should pre-order it right here. As I said in our pages, “it is a beautifully bleak, sex- and drug-filled story.” Yes, I just quoted myself. Writing for Texas Monthly, Michael Ennis said, “[T]his first novel could well emerge as a milestone in Texas literature.” Seriously. It’s a great book. Tierce is a protégé of Ben Fountain’s. I’m not saying this book is going to do what Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk did. But this book belongs on the same shelf. In fact, these two books can be read as companion pieces that explore some of the same themes — alienation, excess, money — in two very Dallas settings, a Cowboys game and a steakhouse.

Anyway, the book’s narrator is a sexually adventuresome (and deeply damaged) waitress named Marie. Much of her story takes place in a steak joint she calls The Restaurant. The book is autobiographical, though, and Tierce worked for years at Nick & Sam’s. So while The Restaurant isn’t exactly Nick & Sam’s, it’s pretty much Nick & Sam’s. Folks who know the score will recognize real-life Dallas characters in the book.

For the magazine piece, I just had Tierce tell funny stories about celebrities she has waited on. (She was really high on coke when she waited on George Clooney.) There was a whole bunch of stuff, though, that Tierce and I talked about that I didn’t have space for. Like, you know, what’s Joe Palladino going to think about this book and all the screwing and snorting it suggests goes down in his restaurant? Here’s a transcript of the material that didn’t make it into the magazine:

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Benny Binion To Appear at The Wild Detectives Tonight

Well sorta. Not really Benny Binion himself. Just a guy who knows a lot about Binion.

Perhaps you read the excerpt from the new book Blood Aces that we ran in our August issue. It’s a good book. Definitely worth your time and money, especially if you dig on Dallas history and colorful characters who do things like bootleg whiskey and kill people and invent the World Series of Poker. Doug Swanson, the Morning News investigative reporter, wrote the book. He’ll be at The Wild Detectives tonight at 7 to give an engrossing talk and sign copies of book. There will be drinks. There will be blood. Recommended.

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St. Vincent On Merritt Tierce’s Love Me Back

St. Vincent, aka erstwhile Dallas resident Annie Clark, was recently interviewed by Andy Morris for GQ UK. The entire thing is entertaining, but I guess the relevant portion for our purposes is when she recommends Merritt Tierce’s new novel, Love Me Back.

Can you recommend a good book?
I just read a book called Love Me Back by a woman from Dallas, Texas called Merritt Tierce. It’s excellent. It’s fiction but it seems to be cut pretty close to her life: she talks about her life in the food service industry (which sounds like it could be a very boring premise) but it’s an awesome book. It’s especially poignant for me reading it because I knew every restaurant she was talking about in Dallas: they remind me of a time in my life. I remember when you were 14 and you’d used to go to Chillis [sic] to hang out on a Friday night and think it was very wild. All the tchotchke Americana on the walls: amazing!

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