Monique Demery photographed by Jessica Tampas.
For 10 years, Monique Demery, a newcomer to journalism, wrestled with a biographical subject who is either the best or the worst a writer could have. Her subject for Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam’s Madame Nhu is Tran Le Xuan—widely known as Madame Nhu—the First Lady of South Vietnam from 1954-1963.
Along with her husband, Ngô Ðình Nhu, and brother-in-law, Ngô Ðình Diêm, Madame Nhu brought about many of the events leading to the Vietnam War. All ...
Sheri Fink photographed by Jen Dessinger.
New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center during Hurricane Katrina was a surreal hell: penetrated by fetid floodwaters, generators kaput, sporadic communications, erratic leadership issuing countermands, animals barking inside, gunshots outside, unsanitary lavatories, sick and dying patients in the halls, sleep-deprived staff, oppressive heat and the intermittent arrival of rescue helicopters at an unmaintained helipad. The chapel became a makeshift morgue. More than one witness said it was straight out of a disaster movie.
In the midst of this miasma, real doctors ...
Some of the biographers publishing books this fall have spent so much time researching their subjects' lives even James Boswell, the dean of biographers, would admire them.
It’s an exciting fall if you’re a fan of biographies—a diverse cast of luminaries are investigated this fall in books by writers who’ve spent years researching their subjects’ lives. Fosse, Salinger, Stanwyck, Cash: the roster of bios about famous last names is long and rich these coming months. We list here the biographies we’re most excited about this fall and the date each book is being published.
Photograph of Wil Haygood courtesy of the author.
Journalist and biographer Wil Haygood has made a career of elevating historic black figures with elegance and verve. This summer, he adds to an already impressive body of work with a slim, potent story that inspired Lee Daniels’ new film, The Butler: A Witness to History.
Haygood, a reporter for the Washington Post, is an Ohio native renowned for combining his flair for capturing the call-and-response cadence of African-American culture with preternatural discipline and attention to detail. He has worked ...
Justin St. Germain photographed by William B. Bledsoe.
America has a very peculiar relationship with guns. Unlike many other civilized democracies, it has some of the highest rates of gun ownership as well as significant rates of gun homicides and mass shootings. As a country that was literally birthed and formed in violence—through the enslavement and lynching of African-Americans or the slaughter of Native Americans—it’s no surprise that many parts of the United States, especially in the West, maintain a fierce devotion to gun ownership. Tombstone, site of ...
Discussions of literature from and about the American South generally evoke the names of William Faulkner and Flannery O' Connor, but a new generation of writers who are continuing a black Southern tradition continue to emerge and refine the meaning of Southern literature. That much is evident in the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey, National Book Award winners Nikky Finney and more recently, novelist Kiese Laymon.
Laymon is the author of two recent books—Long Division, which was ...
Illustration of Orson Welles by Henry Jaglom.
My Lunches With Orson reminds us how insightful and devilish Welles could be (and that he had an opinion on everything under the sun). Here’s a sampling of some of Welles’ remarks from his lunch conversations with Jaglom. To learn how My Lunches With Orson came about, read this article.
“I’ve always felt there are three sexes: men, women, and actors. And actors combine the worst qualities of the other two.”
“People would say, ‘So nice to see you ...
Photograph of Orson Welles and Henry Jaglom.
Imagine it: You’re a young, first-time movie director—even though you’re a confident one—and the man standing before you as he opens the door to his room at the Plaza Hotel is the imperious, belligerent man many people think has made the greatest film in the history of cinema. What’s more, he looks like “a huge grape,” since he is rather orotund and dressed in purple silk pajamas.
“What do you want?” Orson Welles barked.
Henry Jaglom was there ...