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Book News: Marcella Hazan, Italian Cookbook Author, Dies

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Marcella Hazan, the author of bestselling cookbooks that brought Italian food to America, died Sunday at age 89. A scientist by training, she began cooking after moving to the United States and finding that much American food was sold prepackaged at the supermarket. "I never saw a supermarket in Italy," she told NPR's Linda Wertheimer in a 2010 interview. "The chicken, they were arriving from the farmer and they were alive. And at the supermarket they were very dead. They were wrapped. It was like a coffin. Everything was not natural." NPR's Scott Simon had visited Hazan in 2005 while she was teaching at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. He reported: "Marcella Hazan's cooking is traditional Italian — nothing nouveau. She believes in cooking vegetables until they are limp, but not lifeless. She ladles on butter and olive oil generously enough to make anyone say a pre-meal prayer. And she believes that salt sharpens everything."
  • Chris McCandless' death in the Alaskan wilderness was the subject of Jon Krakauer's investigative bestseller Into the Wild.Almost two decades later, McCandless' sister, Carine, is writing a memoir titled The Wild Truth, which The New York Timesreports will be published in 2014 by HarperOne. She said in a press release: "In the decades since Chris's death, my half-siblings and I have come together to find our own truth and build our own beauty in his absence. In each other, we've found absolution, as I believe Chris found absolution in the wild before he died."
  • The Circle, Dave Eggers' latest novel, has been excerpted in The New York Times magazine. The funny (and familiar) excerpt follows Mae, who has just begun work at the Circle, a tech corporation on the scale of Google or Facebook: "It was 6 o'clock. She had plenty of hours to improve, there and then, so she embarked on a flurry of activity, sending 4 zings and 32 comments and 88 smiles. In an hour, her PartiRank rose to 7,288. Breaking 7,000 was more difficult, but by 8, after joining and posting in 11 discussion groups, sending another 12 zings, one of them rated in the top 5,000 globally for that hour, and signing up for 67 more feeds, she'd done it. She was at 6,872, and she turned to her InnerCircle social feed."
  • The best books coming out this week:

  • Inspired by the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612, Jeanette Winterson's The Daylight Gatefollows 10 women and men who were tried and hanged for witchcraft in 17th century England. The story itself is grimly fascinating, but Winterson is at her best when creating a sense of place — the "untamed" North of England where Pendle Hill sits "low and massy, flat-topped, brooding, disappeared in mists, treacherous with bogs, run through with fast-flowing streams plunging into waterfalls crashing down into unknown pools."
  • In The Kraus Project, Jonathan Franzen translates and annotates the vicious Viennese satirist Karl Kraus, who was legendary in his time but has been largely forgotten now (at least, in the English-speaking world). It would be easy to dismiss The Kraus Projectas one grump meditating on another, dead grump. But Franzen's work is careful, scholarly and engaging. And best of all, like his late friend David Foster Wallace, Franzen elevates the footnote to the status of art.
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    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.
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