The man who helped steer the country through one of its worst recessions in history will write an account of his tense tenure at the Federal Reserve.
Ben Bernanke, former chairman of the Fed, is planning a memoir focusing on the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession, two of the most challenging hurdles ever to confront the Fed.
For a man often buffeted for his actions, it seems Bernanke will use his book to defend his sometimes controversial decisions.
“I want people to understand what we knew, when we knew it, how we made decisions and how we dealt with the enormous economic uncertainty,” Bernanke told the AP.
Bernanke, a former professor and head of the economics department at Princeton University, said the book will cover his entire tenure at the Fed, beginning in 2002 as a member of the Board of Governors through his chairmanship under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. After eight years as chairman of the Fed, Bernanke stepped down last month and is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The former Fed chairman has yet to begin writing but told the AP he has been organizing his thoughts, will write the book himself, and expects to take a year to finish. The proposed memoir doesn’t yet have a publisher but expectations are high. According to reports, the deal for former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan’s memoir, “The Age of Turbulence,” was worth more than $8 million.
Though details are sparse, the book will assuredly draw attention both for the stature of its author and for the controversial nature of his tenure.
As the AP reports, “Few Fed chairmen confronted such profound challenges or became so controversial. Under his leadership, the Fed invoked all its conventional tools to salvage the economy. Once those were exhausted, Bernanke turned to extraordinary steps never before tried by the Fed.”
The former Fed leader is widely known for having cut short-term interest rates to near zero, a record low, and for launching an aggressive bond buying program.
For this, he was often censured both by conservatives for doing too much and by liberals for not doing enough. Bernanke told the AP the “political environment was pretty hostile at times” and was called a traitor by GOP presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who once told a gathering “we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.”
Which is why, in his book, Bernanke says, “I’d like to be able to explain that it (the Fed’s handling of the economy) was the right thing to do,” adding jokingly, “and to attest to my loyalty to the United States.”
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
A cozy space with time to write – and no need to pay for that space – is many authors’ dream.
Amtrak may be on the way to providing that.
It all started when writer Alexander Chee mentioned in an interview that one of the best places to write, for him, was on a train. In the interview with Pen America, Chee said, “I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers.”
Writers Zach Seward and Jessica Gross tweeted a link to the article at the Amtrak Twitter account and Amtrak responded to them, writing, “We’d need a test run. You two up for a trip to Chicago and back?”
So Gross embarked on the journey from New York, which Amtrak offered for free as long as she wrote about her trip on social media and participated in an interview conducted by the company, which was posted on the Amtrak blog.
“We loved the idea,” Amtrak staff wrote on their blog of Chee’s suggestion.
According to the Wire, Amtrak said it will make the “writers’ residency” idea a program.
Gross told the Wire that the idea seems to have caught on with others.
“I’ve seen a billion tweets from other writers saying ‘I want one of these,’” she said. Amtrak social media director Julia Quinn agreed, saying that the company has experienced “overwhelming demand.”
And now Chee himself will get to experience a soothing writing experience.
“I can announce my @Amtrak writer's residency dream came true, thanks to them,” he tweeted. “Am set for a trip from NYC-Portland, OR in mid-May.”
Quinn told the Wire that if future writers residency trips aren’t free, the company wants to keep them inexpensive.
She said she doesn’t believe there will be requirements to qualify for the program – for example, needing to be a published author to participate, or only being a creative writer.
“The differences between a journalist, a published author, a blogger – those lines are continually blurred by the Internet,” she said.
What say you, readers? Would you be interested in embarking on a long train ride to get some writing done?
According to news reports from the UK, “Cuckoo’s Calling” fans may have reason to get their hopes up: “JK Rowling has mapped out a series of up to seven crime novels featuring her private investigator Cormoran Strike, in a repeat of the approach taken in her popular Harry Potter books,” reports the UK’s Sunday Times.
“The Cuckoo’s Calling,” was released last year under the pen name Robert Galbraith, but after the author’s identity was revealed to be Rowling book sales skyrocketed, ultimately selling more than 600,000 English language copies in hardback and another 1 million in e-books.
Publisher Little, Brown, recently announced “The Silkworm,” a second detective novel in the series, to be published June 19th .
And the Sunday Times reported that Rowling has been working on a third novel and plans to write up to seven books in the Cormoran Strike series.
But according to The Bookseller, publisher Little, Brown has described the Sunday Times’ report as “without foundation.”
“Richard Brooks has written this without foundation and there aren’t seven books planned in the series,” the publisher’s spokesman said.
Still, finding one’s footing after a hit series is a monumental task for any author, especially one with such a global hit as Rowling’s Harry Potter series. That’s why news of a potential second series is big.
According to reports, friends say Rowling has “found her feet with the crime genre” after the Harry Potter sensation launched her into stardom.
The books all feature private eye Cormoran Strike, a war veteran who lost his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan. Strike finds purpose again in investigating mysteries, including a supermodel’s suspicious demise and, in “Silkworm,” the disappearance of a writer whose latest book contains nasty, thinly veiled versions of all his friends.
Additional books will contain more mysteries starring the war vet-turned private eye and his secretary Robin.
Fans may have yet more reason to rejoice.
A final item in the Sunday Times notes that a British television channel is in preliminary discussions with Rowling and Little, Brown about adapting the Cormoran Strike series for TV.
For a series that started as a single book put out under a pen name, presumably to test the waters, the Strike series has done remarkably well – in no small part due to its author’s famous name.
'The Pope and Mussolini' author David I. Kertzer discusses the surprising relationship between the two men
They were a match made in Rome, far from heaven: The leader of the world's most powerful faith and the dictator who introduced the world to fascism.
Both authoritarians, Pope Pius XI and Benito Mussolini clearly shared some common ground. But they were never close, and eventually a rift would grow and threaten their uncomfortable partnership. But would it be enough to rip them apart?
Drawing on newly released records, Kertzer authoritatively banishes decades of denial and uncertainty about the Vatican's relationship with Italy's fascist state. The pope and the dictator played a kind of diplomatic chess, jousting for power while endlessly worrying about their vulnerabilities to each other. And then a man named Hitler entered the picture.
In an interview, Kertzer explains the church's relationship to fascism, ponders what would have happened if the pope had fought back, and reveals his most surprising findings.
Q: It's amazing to imagine that the Catholic church cozied up to fascism. How did that happen?
We see things retrospectively in terms of where fascism ended up. But under Pius XI, fascism was totally new, an Italian invention headed by Mussolini – a bunch of former left-wingers who became fascists at the end of the first world war.
As for the church, things were very different than they are now, post-Vatican Council. It's not all that long ago when there was really a much more authoritarian, medieval vision in the Vatican and the church.
There was no sympathy for multi-party democracy in the church at the time. Popes thought it was better to work with an autocratic system. You could have guarantees through a police state that the church will retain rights like freedom from abuse. The church didn't believe in the freedoms we worry about – freedom of speech, of religion, of association.
Q: Why was the Catholic church so uninterested in democracy?
A: The liberal democratic state that separated church and state was an abomination that needed to be overturned. Fascism pledged to do away with much of that, and it was viewed as an unexpected gift from God by the pope at the time.
What people don't realize is that Italy is a modern nation that only came about in a war with the papacy. The popes still had the hope that they'd be restored to civil power, temporal power.
Q: Was Mussolini a religious man?
A: He didn't have a religious bone in his body, and I doubt the pope thought he did. But the pope once said that God works in mysterious ways and chooses instruments of his will from unlikely types of material.
For his own reasons, Mussolini saw church support as very important. He was willing to make a deal, to give the church a variety of benefits that it had lost.
The pope went into this with clear eyes. Later, he'd come to have regrets, particularly with the embrace of Hitler and the fear that Mussolini himself was trying to portray himself as a semi-divinity. But that was only later.
Q: What surprised you as you worked on this book and uncovered material in archives?
A: I was the first to discover that right after Hitler came to power, one of the first things he began to do was enact anti-Semitic laws, and it was Mussolini who sent his ambassador to plead with him to stop his anti-Semitic campaign because it was a bad idea.
Q: You also found that Mussolini worked behind the scenes against his supposed ally, Adolf Hitler, correct?
A: As late as 1938, Mussolini made a plea to the pope to excommunicate Hitler to prevent him from tyrannizing the world. Mussolini quickly regretted that, and the pope never acted on it.
Q: What is the most remarkable discovery you found in the archives?
A: The most dramatic is the deal that was negotiated by the pope with Mussolini to pledge the church to not publicly criticize the anti-Semitic laws about to be announced in Italy in exchange for beneficial consideration for Catholic Action, an organization of the laity under clerical control in Italy. This was the most precious thing to the pope.
Q: Was the pope was an enabler of Mussolini? Or would a term like "accomplice" be better?
A: I try to avoid those value-laden, judgmental terms.
But it's fair to say that the fascist regime was made possible by the Holy See for its own purposes. The Vatican played a key role in supporting the fascist regime.
Q: Could the pope have made a major difference in the history of World War II by standing up against Mussolini?
A: Italians didn't like the Germans. They'd just had a war with them. And Hitler was announcing Aryan supremacy, and no Italians thought that included them. In this context, if the pope had spoken up very strongly against all this, it could have had major implications for Italy's involvement in the war.
Q: What is the legacy of the story you tell of the dictator and the pope?
A: You have to put this in the larger context, in a certain kind of rewriting of history of the church and of Italy more generally. It's not just the Vatican that tried to rewrite its history, but Italy itself.
Q: The Catholic church, of course, is very different than it was in the 1920s and 1930s. What can we take from its evolution?
A: The positive note is that there was a recognition within the Second Vatican Council that their old theological ways had led to dangerous situations and unfortunate results.
There was a huge transition. The medieval, triumphalist vision – we're the only ones with the truth – went out. Pluralism and respect for inter-religious dialogue came in. This marked a very important move forward.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.
Barker’s book is a darkly comic look at reporting in the Middle East and was first released in 2011. Barker was the South Asia bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune from 2004 to 2009 and is a reporter for ProPublica.
Neither a director nor a release date has been announced.
In addition to her role as creator, writer, and star of the TV show “30 Rock” and her upcoming role in the film “Muppets Most Wanted,” Fey is the author of the memoir “Bossypants.”
The childhood sleuth Harriet Welsch appeared on the literary scene 50 years ago and publisher Delacorte will release a 50th anniversary edition of Louise Fitzhugh’s children’s novel “Harriet the Spy” in honor of the occasion.
“Harriet” follows the girl of the same name, an 11-year-old who lives in New York City and loves to observe her friends and neighbors, writing down what she sees in her notebook. However, she finds herself being ostracized by her peers when they find her notebook and read her harsh opinions of them. The anniversary edition will be released on Feb. 25.
Fitzhugh released two other novels set in Harriet’s world, one, titled “The Long Secret,” in 1965, and another, “Sport,” which focused on Harriet’s best friend, in 1979. “Sport” was released after Fitzhugh’s death. “Harriet” was also adapted into a film starring Michelle Trachtenberg and Rosie O’Donnell in 1996.
Beth Horowitz, vice-president and publisher of Delacorte Press, edited the anniversary edition of “Harriet” and recalled that some critics were shocked at the time by Harriet’s rowdy behavior.
“A lot of people at the time were horrified that this girl threw a shoe at her father, had a tantrum, and didn’t want to apologize for all the things that I believe make her so interesting and honest – and a real individual,” Horowitz told Publishers Weekly. “Of course a lot of reviewers loved the novel and instantly got it, but there was certainly some negativity, mostly about the fact that Harriet wasn’t a good little girl.”
The new edition of the book will have a letter from Fitzhugh’s editor to the author that she wrote when “Harriet” was first released, writings on the book by 14 children’s book industry staff, and a map of the path Harriet takes to spy on people.
Author Judy Blume’s recollections about the book are some of the ones included in the anniversary copy.
“Finding Harriet as a young writer in the mid-1960s was inspiring,” Blume told PW. “It meant I wasn’t the only one who wanted to tell stories about kids who were real. Louise Fitzhugh remembered what it was like to grow up and wasn’t afraid to write about it. She was one of the authors who most inspired me, who continues to inspire me.”
“Goosebumps” may be coming soon to a movie theater near you.
A film adaptation of the popular children’s horror series by R.L. Stine will star “Bernie” actor Jack Black as an author named Mr. Shivers, according to The Wrap. Mr. Shivers, who writes scary stories, finds that the creatures he wrote about are now popping off the page and his niece (Odeya Rush of “The Giver”) must figure out how to fight them.
Rob Letterman, who previously directed Black in the 2010 film “Gulliver’s Travels” as well as directing the 2009 movie “Monsters and Aliens,” is set to helm the adaptation.
“Goosebumps” was previously adapted into a TV series that aired from 1995 to 1998. The original series started with 1992’s “Welcome to Dead House” and various spin-off series were released, such as “Give Yourself Goosebumps” (similar to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series) and “Goosebumps Series 2000,” which Stine billed as even more frightening than the original books.
Author Andy Weir has garnered good sales and positive reviews for his debut novel “The Martian,” which follows an astronaut who is left for dead on Mars.
“Martian,” which was released on Feb. 11, centers on Mark Watney, who is left by his fellow crew members on the red planet after a dust storm makes them return to Earth, believing an injured Mark to be dead. Left behind, Mark must use the scant available materials to keep himself alive.
The novel debuted on the IndieBound list for the week of Feb. 20 at number six and has received mainly positive reviews, with Publishers Weekly calling it an “excellent first novel… Watney’s solutions to food and life support problems are plausible, and Weir laces the technical details with enough keen wit to satisfy hard science fiction fan and general reader alike… Weir uses Watney’s proactive nature and determination to survive to keep the story escalating to a riveting conclusion.”
Meanwhile, Kirkus Reviews noted that “the modern dialogue at times undermines the futuristic setting” but said that “Weir displays a virtuosic ability to write about highly technical situations without leaving readers far behind. The result is a story that is as plausible as it is compelling… sharp, funny and thrilling.”
Weir told industry newsletter Shelf Awareness that in his book, he wanted to get the same feeling of excitement he has when watching the film “Apollo 13,” in which astronauts and NASA staff scramble to create unorthodox solutions to rescue the spacemen. (The author said he penned the book without contacting anyone at NASA.)
“It's like MacGyver in space, with billions of dollars of equipment being misappropriated to barely stay alive, and everybody working together,” he said of the film. “And I just love that.”
He said he thought the best way to balance out the science talk in his story for readers would be to make his hero, Mark, as relatable as he could.
“If the reader is rooting for the protagonist, they'll forgive you just about everything else,” Weir said. “He's really snarky and self-effacing… I had to get the humor in there, otherwise it's just a dry science lesson.”
Might “12 Years a Slave” be the next “Diary of Anne Frank”: a literary and big screen hit that translates well into the classroom?
The popularity of the movie – which is nominated for nine Oscars – propelled Solomon Northup’s memoir to the top of bestseller lists. And now educators are betting that that same popularity may render the gripping story about a free black man kidnapped into slavery before the Civil War into a golden learning opportunity for secondary school students.
That’s why movie director Steve McQueen is working with Penguin Books to encourage public schools to teach the story as part of slavery and Civil War lesson plans, according to a report in USA Today.
In the book, “Northup describes how he was lured from New York to Washington in 1841 and then sold into slavery. He endured horrific conditions on Louisiana plantations until he was saved by friends from the north,” as the paper reports.
Though the book sold well when it was published in 1853 and was written in “surprisingly accessible prose for a 19th-century narrative,” it faded into obscurity, unlike another classic slave narrative, “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave.”
"This is a book nobody was really aware of, except scholars in the field, which is being introduced to the country," John Siciliano, executive editor of Penguin Books, told USA Today of "12."
And possibly, to public schools.
Penguin has so far planned a teacher’s guide, available in March, for educators to teach students Northup’s story and discuss elements of the Civil War and slavery. The publisher also has plans to work with curriculum developers to get the book into public schools in the US and UK.
Some schools are already integrating the book into lesson plans. At Quality Education School, an African-American-owned charter school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, social studies teacher Aisha Booth-Horton introduced the book to her 11th-grade students as part of the slavery section of their American History curriculum.
Having read about the horrors Northup endured, initially, the students were angry.
But Booth-Horton pushed them to find the lessons in his struggle.
Soon, they were “creating a 21st-century version of Solomon,” “part President Obama, a little bit Mandela, and some Muhammad Ali,” she says.
Booth-Horton calls the book is "controversial" and "hard," but says it should be taught in schools.
"Any hard story should be told," she says, "but told under guided hands."
Movie director McQueen likens “12 Years” to another “hard” story that should be told – and has been – in schools across the country and the world.
“I live in Amsterdam and Anne Frank is all around us,” McQueen told USA Today. Like Anne Frank’s diary, he’s betting Northup’s story will speak to kids.
“[I]t’s so accessible, it’s readable, it’s so engaging. Solomon, like Anne Frank, is talking directly to us.”
For many school students, Solomon Northup may be to slavery what Anne Frank was to the Holocaust: a youth-appropriate entrée to one of the most painful parts of history.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
The newest novel by popular Japanese author Haruki Murakami will be reportedly be released in English this August.
“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” was released in Japan this past April and, as noted by Monitor correspondent Husna Haq, quickly became a bestseller, with many standing in line outside bookstores to await the novel’s midnight release. The book sold one million copies in its first week of release and translated editions went on to become bestsellers
However, it wasn’t until this summer that the news came that an English version of “Colorless” would debut in 2014, and it was only this week that an official date was set. The English version of the book will arrive on Aug. 12.
According to the Guardian, translated editions of “Colorless” are currently still riding high on bestsellers lists in Germany, Spain, and Holland..
“Colorless” centers on a man who is disliked by his high school friends and begins to exmaine his life and his feelings of isolation.
Philip Gabriel is behind the English translation of the book.
The last novel released by Murakami, “1Q84,” was also a bestseller and was one of the books that made up the long list for the Man Asian Literary Prize. Some also speculated that the book might secure Murakami the 2012 Nobel Prize, but the award that year went to author Mo Yan.