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Jackie O: Editor

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Historian William Kuhn is writing a biography of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis that focuses on her years as a book editor, which began in the mid-'70s after the death of her second husband, Aristotle Onassis.

The onetime first lady began her publishing career at Viking and quickly moved on to Doubleday, where she worked until her death in 1994. Naturally, Doubleday will publish the book, which is due out in 2011.

Jackie Kennedy
Jackie Kennedy Onassis
in New York in 1992.

(AP photo)

''My book will mine this critical period in her life, the one in which she became the woman she'd always intended to be,'' Kuhn told the Associated Press.

I'm looking forward to this new look at the famous widow as this was the part of her life that I always found most intriguing -- that she actually went out and got herself a job when by all accounts she never had to work a day in her life. According to Doubleday, Kuhn has interviewed many of the authors she worked with, collaborators and friends. Should be a fascinating read.

What's another way to say...?

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I don't think a day goes by that I don't consult Roget's Thesaurus. It's different these days — I do it mostly online — but the thrill of finding the perfect word remains intact. There's a new biography out about the man who started it all. Here's a review:


If the instinctive snobbery could be set aside for a moment, the denizens of the literary world would probably acknowledge Peter Mark Roget’s lasting contribution to writing.

If they are being totally honest, they might even own up to consulting his magnum opus sometime during the last week, if not in the last hour. Or the last minute.

Roget’s life’s work — the English language’s most comprehensive and acclaimed thesaurus — has, for more than a century served as an equal opportunity literary enabler. More than 40 million copies have been sold. The weary college dorm rat trying to make a term paper sparkle and the uppity Great American Novelist in training alike consult its pages, and if they say they don’t? The suspicion here is that it’s a bit of a taradiddle (a fib).

The order and simplicity of Roget’s Thesaurus was a stark contrast — and, Joshua Kendall argues in his new book, a tonic — to the hurly-burly and chaotic life of the man who created it.

The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness and the Creation of Roget’s Thesaurus (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 304 pages, $25.95), Kendall’s solid new biography, offers a theory for Roget that could apply to any number of more conventional literary greats: For him, words were therapy.

The Man Who Made Lists

Motorcycle-riding nun in the rain forest

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Note to authors: If you write a book about a nun, chances are you'll get featured on this blog. So, today I bring another one to the attention of our readers: The Greatest Gift: The Courageous Life and Martyrdom of Sister Dorothy Stang (Doubleday, 256 pages, $21.95), by Binka Le Breton.

The Greatest Gift

Sister Dorothy went to Brazil as a missionary in the mid-'60s and never left. She worked tirelessly to help poor farmers in the rain forest to sustain and protect their land. In the end, she was killed; hopefully not for nothing.

Here's a review from the Associated Press...

New James Baldwin bio

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The late James Baldwin (1924-1987), author of Native Son and Go Tell It on the Mountain, among others, was a product of Harlem. It was in his bones and informed much of his writing, even though he left the New York neighborhood in his late teens.

Journalist and longtime Harlem dweller Herb Boyd has written Baldwin’s Harlem: A Biography of James Baldwin (Atria Books, 272 pages, $24).

Baldwin's Harlem

Here's a review from the Associated Press ...

Behind every good man ...

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The name Raymond Chandler conjures the stories of 1930s and '40s Los Angeles for which the crime novelist was famous — The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The Long Goodbye — but little is known about what fueled his talent.

Author Judith Freeman researched Chandler's life before writing in hopes of putting together a more detailed story of his personal life. In The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved (Pantheon, 333 pages, $25.95), Freeman does a great job of documenting Chandler's love affair with Cissy Pascal, his wife of 30 years ...

The Long Embrace

Heeeeeere's Jack!

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Is there a bigger celebrity than Jack Nicholson? And when I say celebrity, I mean old-school celebrity — not the sad & skanky Paris-Lindsey-Britneys or even the seemingly clean-cut High School Musical geeks. I mean the able-to-get-away-with-wearing-your-shades-at-the-Oscars-year-after-year celebrity.

Dennis McDougal, an entertainment reporter for the New York Times, formerly of the Los Angeles Times, brings us Five Easy Decades: How Jack Nicholson Became the Biggest Movie Star in Modern Times (Wiley, 410 pages, $25.95)...

Five Easy Decades

Seeing and believing

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Today's book has a Chicago connection (also a new category on this blog), which is one of the reasons I chose it. The other reason was that I was taken by the story behind the story.

The author of The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story (Blue Point Books, 236 pages, $19.95, paperback), Rosalind Perlman, died at age 93 in 2004, three years before the book would be published. ...

The Blind Doctor

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