Category: books

Several U.S. states immediately ban abortion after Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade – CNBC

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Pro-life demonstrators hold signs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as they await its decision on the legality of a Republican-backed Louisiana law that imposes restrictions on abortion doctors in Washington, U.S., June 22, 2020.
Kevin Lemarque | Reuters

Several U.S. states immediately banned abortion on Friday in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, dividing the nation between jurisdictions where the procedure is legal and where it is outlawed.

The high court’s decision ended a half-century of constitutionally protected abortion rights, which means that states will now be allowed to regulate the procedure.

At least 13 states have laws on the books that either ban abortion immediately or will do so soon.

Abortion bans in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Dakota went into immediate effect. The laws make performing an abortion a felony punishable by yearslong prison sentences. They do not make exceptions for rape or incest. However, women cannot be prosecuted for receiving an abortion under the laws.

On the West Coast, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington vowed to expand access to abortion and protect women who come to their states in need of the procedure.

Read the reactions to Roe v. Wade being overturned

Anyone who performs an abortion in Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma faces 10 years in prison unless the procedure is done to save the life of the pregnant woman. Arkansas and Louisiana also make exceptions for physicians to end ectopic pregnancies or treat miscarriages.

In Missouri, anyone who performs an abortion would face up to 15 year jail sentence, unless the procedure is done in the case of a medical emergency.

Pro-choice supporters and staff of Planned Parenthood hold a rally outside the Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services Center in St. Louis, Missouri, May 31, 2019, the last location in the state performing abortions.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

In Kentucky, anyone who performs an abortion would face up to five years in prison. The law makes exceptions to save the life of the pregnant woman or procedures by physicians that result in the unintentional end of a pregnancy. Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, condemned the law as extremist.

Any person who performs an abortion in South Dakota now faces up to two years in prison, unless the procedure is performed to protect the life of the mother.

Idaho, Tennessee and Texas will implement abortion bans in 30 days, according to the text of the laws. Abortion bans in Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming go into effect after the attorney general, governor or certain legislative bodies certify that the Supreme Court has done away with Roe.

On Friday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Department of Justice will protect women who travel from states with bans to receive abortions in states where the procedure is legal.

“Few rights are more central to individual freedom than the right to control one’s own body, Garland said. “The Justice Department will use every tool at our disposal to protect reproductive freedom. And we will not waver from this Department’s founding responsibility to protect the civil rights of all Americans.”

Abortion pill next flashpoint

States banning abortion are also outlawing use of the abortion pill to end pregnancies. However, women cannot be punished for receiving abortions under the laws, which means many people may turn to online pharmacies based abroad to have pills delivered to their homes.

Boxes of the medication Mifepristone used to induce a medical abortion are prepared for patients at Planned Parenthood health center in Birmingham, Alabama, March 14, 2022.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

The abortion pill, mifepristone, is approved in the U.S. to end pregnancies before the 10th week of pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration first approved the medication in 2000, but required women to obtain it in person under a program that monitors certain drugs for safety risks. Abortion rights advocates fiercely criticized the FDA requirements, arguing that mifepristone had a long and proven track record as a safe and effective way to end an early pregnancy.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic last year, the FDA temporarily lifted the requirement that women obtain the pill in person. In December, the agency permanently ended the in-person requirement, which will allow certified pharmacies in the U.S. to fill and send prescriptions by mail.

Garland said states cannot ban mifepristone based on disagreements with FDA’s judgment that the medication is safe and effective. U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra said his department will use “every lever” to protect access to abortion care including with the pill.

Medication abortion has become increasingly common in the U.S. More than half of abortions in the U.S. are with the pill, according to survey by the Guttmacher Institute of all known providers in the U.S.

Although the state bans do not punish women who receive abortions, there are cases where people have been reported to authorities for trying to end their pregnancies.

In April, a woman in South Texas was charged with murder after allegedly having a self-induced abortion. The district attorney ultimately dismissed the indictment, saying it is clear that she “cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her.”

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New Crime Fiction – The New York Times

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I’ve anticipated few novels this year with as much excitement as VERA KELLY LOST AND FOUND (Tin House, 222 pp., paperback, $15.95), the final volume in Rosalie Knecht’s nearly note-perfect 1960s-era private detective trilogy. Any trepidation I had about it not measuring up vanished with the opening sentences: “Max liked to throw parties. The call would go out to the girls from the bar, the Harlem students who never went to Brooklyn except for her, and the confab of ladies we called les grandes dames, who lived in several apartments in a single building in Little Italy and spent their days making jam for each other and sending harassing letters to the editors of The Village Voice.”

It’s April 1971, and Vera and Max — her girlfriend — live as bucolic an existence as possible, filling their sunny Brooklyn home near the Botanic Garden with books and art. Vera, who works as a private detective, reckons with fallout from her C.I.A. past; Max, a bartender, organizes for the Gay Liberation Front. Then, out of nowhere, Max’s sister writes, begging her to come to Los Angeles: Their parents are getting divorced, and their father — who’s already planning to marry someone else — has fallen under the sway of a cultish figure.

Hours after the two women arrive at the crenelated, balconied family mansion in Bel Air, Max confronts her father; the next morning, when Vera wakes up, Max has vanished. Knecht’s writing, crisp and taut, cuts through the landscape with lacerating swiftness.

“We were idiots, the pair of us,” Vera muses at an especially critical juncture. “Long defended against obsolete enemies — the parents whose roofs we no longer lived under, the teenage peers for whom we had exhausted ourselves pantomiming heterosexuality. We had gotten in the habit of mystery, and now we didn’t know how to drop it.”


Nekesa Afia’s sophomore effort, HARLEM SUNSET (Berkley Prime Crime, 284 pp., paperback, $15.99), brings back Louise Lloyd after her unforgettable debut last year in “Dead Dead Girls.” It’s 1927, and Louise still haunts the Harlem speakeasies, managing one of them — the Dove — for the brother of her longtime partner, Rosa Maria.

She cannot live her life openly, true, but within the constraints of life as a queer Black woman, Louise is on the precipice of contentment. But then a woman named Nora, whom Louise met when they were both held captive a decade before, shows up at the club. The next morning she’s found stabbed to death, her blood drenching Rosa Maria, who’s asleep nearby.

What follows is another strange trip for Louise as she sets about clearing her lover’s name, discovering the actual culprit and trying to hold in her most closely held secrets — of sexuality, of family, of that long-ago kidnapping. Ever the survivor, Louise bargains for a brighter future.


Maggie D’arcy, the heroine of the veteran crime writer Sarah Stewart Taylor’s most recent series, has endured tremendous life changes over just two books. She’s coped with her ex-husband’s suicide and teenage daughter’s despair; reconnected with an old love, Conor, who has an adolescent boy of his own; and resigned from her job as a Suffolk County police detective.

In the latest installment, THE DROWNING SEA (Minotaur, 352 pp., $27.99), Taylor opts for a different rhythm, as Maggie, Conor and their kids decide to spend the summer on a remote Irish peninsula. They haven’t been there long when a body washes up beneath the steep, angled cliffs.

Maggie might be on hiatus from police work, but “investigations rarely finish so neatly that you can leave them behind, never to be thought of again. More frequently, they dredge up the past in such a way that you can’t help but take the exploded pieces of it with you.” The bucolic setting, emphasis on family and leisurely pace make for a nice end run around traditional police procedurals.


Detective Chief Inspector Jonah Sheens, making his fourth appearance in Gytha Lodge’s unnerving LITTLE SISTER (Random House, 400 pp., paperback, $16.99), is at something of a crossroads. At 50, he didn’t expect to be raising a newborn, conceived during “one stupid night of drunken nostalgia” with his former fiancée, but he finds himself relishing fatherhood.

And then, as he sits in a pub garden enjoying a beer on a warm September afternoon, a redheaded teenage girl emerges from the nearby woods, covered in blood. Her name is Keely Lennox, and she and her younger sister, Nina, had recently vanished from their foster home. Keely tells Sheens that if he wants to learn what happened — and where Nina is now — then he’s going to have to hear the sisters’ whole story, “every single thing that happened to us since we entered the care system.”

Sheens is the connective thread binding all of Lodge’s books, but he is a distinctly supporting character here, as is his entire murder squad. It’s Keely who commands the attention, especially the sections where she unspools her grim tale — the death of her mother, foster care brutality and more.

“My story is what it is,” she says. “A story defined by three men, and the way their desires took our lives and molded them. Mutilated them.”


Sarah Weinman’s crime column appears twice a month.

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Summer air travel is off to a messy start. Here’s how to up the chances of getting where you want to go – CNN

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Editor’s Note — Sign up for Unlocking the World, CNN Travel’s weekly newsletter . Get news about destinations opening and closing, inspiration for future adventures, plus the latest in aviation, food and drink, where to stay and other travel developments.

(CNN) — The last thing any traveler needs after the past two years is more chaos and confusion.

Unfortunately, many air travelers this summer are in for a bumpy ride.

United Airlines on Thursday became the latest US carrier to trim some summer flights.

Delta Air Lines , JetBlue and Alaska Airlines have also trimmed their summer schedules.

“It’s a wise decision that the airlines cut back, ” says Kathleen Bangs, a former airline pilot and spokesperson for flight tracking site FlightAware.

She cited many factors causing an increased number of delays and cancellations — among them shortages of pilots and air flow traffic controllers and overall airline staffing shortages.

And it’s happening around the world. Ryanair staff at airports across Europe began a weekend of strikes on Friday, plus British Airways workers have voted to strike over pay concerns. If British Airways goes ahead, the move could cause more big problems for travelers this summer.

For the air traveler in the summer of 2022, this all means more strategic planning. Here are some tips to up your chances of getting where you want to go this summer.

Go early, with a buffer

• Fly early. Taking a flight that departs early in the day helps to avoid the cascading effect of delays and cancellations, says Bangs. Bad weather is also more likely to affect later flights.

• And leave plenty of time at the airport. Bangs had a 7 a. m. departure last week out of Houston Intercontinental that had her leaving her hotel at 4: 30 a. m.

“And I was a bit surprised that even at that earlier hour, the two hours I had between arrival at the airport terminal and departure were ALMOST not enough, ” Bangs said in an email.

The typical recommended two-hour buffer for domestic flights might not be enough right now. “Three hours might be more in order at large airports. ”

• Opt for nonstop, frequent service. Choosing a nonstop flight offered several times a day on major carriers ups your odds of getting rebooked on the same itinerary in a timely manner, said Willis Orlando, senior product operations specialist at airfare deals site Scott’s Cheap Flights.

• If you have connections, leave a buffer. Book with two hours minimum between connecting flights, Bangs advises. Tight connections could leave you stranded.

• Leave cushion time for can’t-miss events. Don’t travel on the day of an important event such as a wedding. Plan to arrive at least one day early.

Pack strategically and make a back-up plan

• Use a carry-on with regard to essentials. Pack anything you’ll need within one or two days in your carry-on. Don’t check prescription medications or other essentials.

• Or consider traveling only with carry-on luggage. A rolling suitcase plus a “personal item, ” which Bangs notes can be much larger than a typical purse, can often suffice even on longer trips.

“Ladies, don’t use a purse as your second carry-on. Get a big second luggage that FITS your purse inside, ” Bangs advises.

• To be really safe, book a backup flight. Bangs often books a refundable or reusable second ticket.

“The odds of two different carriers, a couple hours apart, both getting canceled are still fairly slim, ” Bangs noted, unless there’s a widespread weather occasion.

• Or even consider other back-up transportation. “Having the back-up rental car is a good idea regarding shorter flights, ” Bangs said. “Most rental agencies won’t charge if you cancel. ”

Get your journey tools in order

• Check your departure airport’s website and Twitter feed. They often share useful information about construction projects impacting operations and long security lines.

• Check your airline’s website intended for travel waivers. Sometimes you can easily change your airline flight when delays and cancellations are likely, Bangs said. Case in point: Delta issued a waiver right before Memorial Day weekend because of inclement weather forecasts.

• Check your credit card’s travel coverage. Premium card holders often have insurance that could cover expenses such as meals and accommodation in the event of a delay or cancellation.

• Make sure you have airline apps. If your flight is canceled, reschedule your traveling on the airline’s app, Fucks advises. You’re likely to be able to rebook faster and you’ll have access to seats that would probably be filling up as you waited on the phone.

If you have to rebook, do your research and be considerate

Do your research and work with airline agents. If you have a carrier preference or a route you prefer, speak up.

“Work with them to see if they can put you on a different carrier, or route you through a different city than what they’re offering, inch Bangs advises.

The girl recently got rerouted through Phoenix rather than Salt Lake City at her request because she preferred to be on a mainline airline rather than a regional carrier and she felt she’d have more options from Phoenix if she got stuck there.

• Ask for a hotel voucher or a frequent flier miles credit. If you can’t get on a flight the same day, it’s worth asking for meal and/or hotel vouchers. In many cases, such as weather occasions, airlines aren’t required to provide them, but it’s worth asking.

Bangs negotiated a miles credit recently and she has already used it to book a flight this fall.

• Stay considerate. Don’t take your frustration out on customer service employees. They aren’t making the particular operations decisions.

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Winds of Winter release: George RR Martin gives fans hope in his latest update – Express

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Now 11 years on since A Dance with Dragons was published and George RR Martin is still working away on the latest A Song of Ice and Fire book. Three years since Game of Thrones ended and the author is snowed under with all kinds of other projects including spin-off shows, with House of the Dragon kicking off in August. In his latest blog post, the 73-year-old confirmed the rumour that a Jon Snow TV series is indeed in the works and updated on The Winds of Winter.

The ever-busy writer said: “I don’t really have a spare moment today, truth be told, but I am making one, since the news has broken about the Jon Snow development and I am being deluged with requests for comment. So…. Yes, there is a Jon Snow show in development. The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER story was largely correct.   And I would expect no less from James Hibberd. I have dealt with a lot of reporters over the past few years, and Hibberd is one of the very best, an actual journalist who does all the things journalists are supposed to do (getting the facts right, talking to sources, respecting requests for ‘background only’ and ‘off the record,’ etc) that most of the clickbait sites never bother with. Our working title for the show is SNOW.”

Alongside Snow, Martin is working with HBO on developing Ten Thousand Ships, Sea Snake aka Nine Voyages, and Dunk and Egg show The Hedge Knight.

The Game of Thrones creator admitted this doesn’t mean they’re green-lit and would love them all to be, but in reality that probably wouldn’t be the case.

Amid all this news and the endless projects he’s working on, right at the end, he gave that update on The Winds of Winter fans really wanted.

READ MORE: Game of Thrones: George RR Martin glad Red Wedding ‘angered and upset’

Martin wrote then: “WINDS, you say? Yes, still working. Finally finished a clutch of Cersei chapters that were giving me fits. Now I am wrestling with Jaime and Brienne. The work proceeds, though not as fast as many of you would like. That’s all for now.”

The book may be over a decade in the making, but now he’s working on Tyrion certainly indicates progress. Hang in there, A Song of Ice and Fire fans.

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From vacation reads to picks for locals, Vashon Bookshop serves an island’s literary needs – The Seattle Times

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In the whole of King County, there’s nothing quite like a summer Saturday in downtown Vashon. Islanders restock their pantries and catch up on local gossip at the weekly farmers market while tourists fresh off the ferry stock up on snacks and grilling supplies at the grocery store before heading to their rental cabins. Though it’s just a 20-minute boat ride from bustling West Seattle, the leisurely small-town pace of Vashon feels a world away from the downtown area Seattle.

A couple of blocks down the street from the farmers market, just past the four-way stop that strains under the weight of the week’s heaviest traffic flow, both locals and vacationers alike pack into Vashon Bookshop . At the counter, an overwhelmed regular asks for help finding graphic novels that her grandchildren might like. In the children’s section, a family is stocking up on activity books to keep the kids occupied on lazy afternoons.

When you think of an island bookshop, your mind probably summons the kind of place that has more scented candles and kitschy fridge magnets in stock than books — a coral-colored tourist trap slinging the latest paperback cheese. But since its founding in 2001, Vashon Bookshop has continually punched above its weight.

It’s not just a place for tourists to grab the latest thriller or romance novel — it’s a year-round literary hub for a community that loves reading. If you were to scoop up Vashon Bookshop and set it down in any mainland Seattle neighborhood, it would be a welcome addition to the community — the bookstore with a strong personality, a deep mix of bestsellers and hidden gems, and a four-woman staff with over 50 years of bookselling experience among them.

“Until about four years ago, we were definitely much busier in the summer, and those winter months after Christmas were really lean, ” admits Vashon Bookshop owner Nancy Katica. But life on the island has changed, with more year-round residents embracing remote work and staying closer to home. Now, “it’s busy all year long for us, which is a blessing. ”

Katica has always worked retail, but when she started at Vashon Bookshop in 2004, she realized that she was a natural-born bookseller. “It’s a nicer community than some other retail, “ she laughs. “People are always just so happy to get books, and they want to discuss it with you after they’ve read this. You build a rapport with your customers. ”

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Katica became a partner in the business in 2007 and took sole ownership in 2013. The store has been slowly expanding for its entire existence, most recently adding a huge mystery and science fiction section in the back of the shop.

The atmosphere in Vashon Bookshop is cheerful and quirky without being overbearing. Throughout the shop, you’ll find handmade chalk signs and delightful flourishes of personality like a skeleton lounging on top of the mystery section and a wall behind the science fiction section covered in aluminum foil, which lends the shelves the particular campy air of a 1950s sci-fi film.  

In the front of the store, one whole bookshelf is given over to local interest and Vashon authors, ranging from local history and nature guides to cookbooks like “ Our Table of Memories ” to local writer Jean Davies Okimoto’s novel about aging and grief, “ George Beasley’s Better Angel , ” to Vashon native Shady Cosgrove’s memoir about a pilgrimage to Graceland, “ She Played Elvis . ”

Vashon Bookshop began as a primarily used-book store, but now it offers a mix of new plus gently used titles. Just looking at the shelves, it’s almost impossible to distinguish the new books from the used. When they buy back books from customers, Katica says, “condition is really important to us. ” She explains that booksellers carefully examine every copy and reject books with damaged or stained pages — as well as  any volumes with, Katica pauses to choose the right word, “ unique   smells. ”

That used-book component helps to keep Vashon Bookshop tuned in to the island’s literary ecosystem. Locals bring in paper bags full of recently read purchases to exchange for new books, and Katica credits the shop’s generous store-credit program for building a deeper relationship with customers. “It’s a great way for us to see what the island is interested in and what people are actually reading, ” she says.

The events calendar in Vashon Bookshop has been upon hold during the pandemic, but Katica is eager to safely reopen the store to events. “Maria Semple [‘ Where’d You Go, Bernadette ‘ novelist] lives on the island part time and she read from our store to a packed house, ” Katica says. “That was of course amazing. And we have a wonderful group of poets on the island, plus their readings are always therefore supportive — they’re very meaningful for me. ”

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In the months to come, Vashon Bookshop will also reopen to local book clubs and other writing groups that made a home from the shop before the pandemic. “One group of women used to meet every two weeks, and they’ve all written their own memoirs, ” Katica says. “They would come in and fulfill and talk about their pasts and their writings — it was a wonderful group to listen to. “

Soon enough, the summer rush of visitors will dwindle and in October the farmers market will go into hibernation for the winter. But Vashon Bookshop will still serve the community all year-round, and Katica knows that the community will come out for them. “They want to be able to have the bookstore and the other brick-and-mortar stores on their main street, ” she says. “It’s a reading community, and it’s a community of people that want to support each other. ”

What are Vashon Bookshop clients reading?

Vashon Bookshop owner Nancy Katica says Portland author Brian Doyle’s novel “ Mink River ” and short story collection “ One Long River of Song ” have proven to be consistent bestsellers at her store. Doyle, who passed away in 2017, wrote fiction, nonfiction plus poetry that uniquely evoked “the mixture of hardship and kindness” that makes up the history of the Northwest. “He was just a very special person, and his work is still really resonant on the island, ” Katica says.

While Vashon Bookshop’s customers are devoted lovers associated with fiction, the store sells a lot of nonfiction, too — particularly books devoted to the natural world of the Pacific Northwest. “The island has really been enjoying ‘ Homewaters ’ by David B. Williams, ” Katica explains. “It’s all about the history and culture of Puget Sound, ” and it’s been immensely popular with customers since the publication last year.

Vashon resident Karen Cushman has written 10 children’s books, and her Newbery Honor-winning middle-grade novel about a rebellious young woman in 13th-century England, “ Catherine, Called Birdy , ” has been adapted into a movie by Lena Dunham that’s set to be released this fall. The adaptation is already bringing a new wave of young readers to the perennial bestseller, and “we’re over the moon about it, ” Katica says.

Categories: books

Notable and interesting journalism for your weekend – Poynter

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Good Friday morning. For today’s Poynter Report, a list of good journalism to catch up on over the weekend, along with a few media tidbits and thoughts. Why is there a photo from the premiere of “All the President’s Men” leading the newsletter? Read on and you’ll find out. Talk to you again on Monday.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at [email protected].

The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, sign up here.

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Writer Vladimir Sorokin: ‘I underestimated the power of Putin’s madness’ – Financial Times

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Fingernail croquettes. Shoelaces à la carbonara. Cotton buds in madeira. Ladies’ gloves in aspic.

This isn’t the menu for today’s Lunch with the FT, but a selection of dishes from “The Banquet”, a short story by Vladimir Sorokin, one of Russia’s leading contemporary novelists. He gives me the German translation as we sit down to eat.

I’d arrived at Il Calice in west Berlin with a healthy appetite. That evaporates as soon as I flip through his gift (condom ice cream, anyone?). I ask if people have tried out the recipes. “Someone made the ladies’ shoes in chocolate,” he says. It’s unclear if it was a success.

“The Banquet” throbs with Sorokin’s exquisite style and signature surreal humour. It is there, too, in the clothes he is wearing today — a T-shirt adorned with a large magpie, a sly reference to his surname (the Russian word for magpie is “soroka”).

The black of his shirt setting off his long, shaggy locks of white hair, Sorokin seems relaxed and untroubled — which is strange considering that for the past three months he has been living in self-imposed exile. He and his wife Irina left Russia two days before President Vladimir Putin sent his troops into Ukraine, and he has no plans to return.

“I underestimated the power of Putin’s madness,” he says.

Sorokin, who is 66, has long been on bad terms with the Kremlin. As early as 2002, a pro-Putin youth group threw copies of his books into a huge mock toilet outside the Bolshoi Theatre. Days later, police opened a case against him for pornography (the object of their ire was the graphic sex scene between clones of Stalin and Khrushchev in his novel Blue Lard).

Yet these were just minor irritants compared with the war in Ukraine, which has prompted him to finally sever ties. I ask if his exile is permanent. He hints he won’t go back while Putin is in power. “I really hope the forces of darkness retreat to the underworld,” he says.

It’s a surprisingly moral line for a playful, experimental writer who was never a classic dissident. Unlike didactic Russian novelists such as Tolstoy, he is an aesthete who delights in disorienting and disturbing the reader with scenes of bizarre sex and stomach-churning violence. In 1991, furious workers at a Russian printing house refused to publish his collected short stories in protest at its shocking content. Then, as now, Sorokin took the outrage with a pinch of salt. “We just found another printer,” he says.

Sorokin is at an interesting juncture in his career. Admired in continental Europe, he has struggled to break through in the UK and US. That might be about to change, thanks to a brilliant young translator, Max Lawton, who is tackling eight of his books. Two of them, Telluria and Their Four Hearts, come out in English this year: six more, including Blue Lard, will be published over the next three years.

Sorokin has also gained attention abroad in recent months with his outspoken attacks on Putin, all of which crackle with his exemplary ghoulishness. In an article published in the Guardian four days after the start of the Ukraine war, he said the president had lapped up hatred of the west “in the black milk he drank from the KGB’s teat”.


Sorokin is part of an exodus of liberal-minded intellectuals, artists and creatives from Russia that began roughly when Putin returned as president in 2012 and became a stampede when war broke out. Unlike most of them, he was fortunate to have a second home in Europe to withdraw to — a flat in the genteel Berlin neighbourhood of Charlottenburg that he has owned since 2011. Il Calice is a 10-minute walk away.

The restaurant is on a corner of Walter-Benjamin-Platz, a neoclassical, colonnaded square that is a landmark of the capital, and it reflects the cool, minimalist aesthetic of its surroundings. There is wood panelling on the walls and rows of identical milky-white lamps shedding unobtrusive light.

It’s asparagus season in Germany, so the starter is a no-brainer — zuppa di asparagi bianchi. Sorokin goes for the roast beef from Friesian cows, with bell pepper, rosemary potato mash and salsa verde, and orders a glass of Nebbiolo. I choose the home-made tagliatelle with white veal ragout, and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from South Tyrol.

Il Calice is, says Sorokin, one of his favourite Berlin eateries. “They have a very creative approach to food,” he says. Judging by the recipes for “house-dust tartlets” and “toothbrush soufflé” in “The Banquet”, you could say the same about Sorokin.

He is best known in the west for Day of the Oprichnik, a satire set in 2028 Moscow with uncanny parallels to the present day. In a Russia that has slid back to tsarist autocracy, a band of secret policemen, a revamp of Ivan the Terrible’s feared “oprichniki” bodyguard, flog intellectuals, burn down noblemen’s houses and gang-rape their wives.

Oprichnik was written in 2006, a time of relative optimism in Russia. I ask him how he was so sure things would take the malevolent turn they did. “There’s a song by The Who — ‘I Can’t Explain’,” he says, suddenly switching from Russian to English.

Then he tries to. Patriots were claiming at the time that Russia should isolate itself from the west “and I decided to write a fantasy about what [it] would be like if that happened. And now it’s actually happening.”

The response of the Russian reading public was dismissive. “People initially reacted with humour,” he says. “But then they stopped smiling.”

Though it is often grotesque and fantastical, Oprichnik contains some flourishes that now seem amazingly prescient. In the novel, Russia has built a wall to seal itself off from the west: now, 16 years later, Russia and Europe are decoupling, amid a flurry of swingeing sanctions and energy embargoes. I ask, jokingly, if Putin will ever build a real wall. Sorokin shakes his head. “Half the bricks would get stolen,” he says.


The waiter returns with our soup, which both of us enjoy (“Sehr gut,” is Sorokin’s verdict). I ask him about the appeal he signed with a number of other Russian writers, journalists and film directors in February demanding an immediate end to the war — quite a brave gesture, given that Putin has condemned critics of his “special military operation” as “traitors” and “scumbags”. What was the reaction in his homeland?

“Sensible people appreciated it,” he says. But the pro-Putinites “said we’re cultural traitors who support the enemy”. One Russian MP has already called for the books of war critics to be banned.

He seems genuinely horrified by what has happened to his compatriots. “These are people who’ve been turned into zombies over the last 20 years by state TV,” he says. “Now they’ve got on to tanks and gone off to fight for a cause that only Putin can understand.”

I quote his recent claim that Russians themselves are to blame for the war. Is that fair, I ask. After all, you could argue Putin took the whole country hostage, gradually turning a makeshift democracy into a dictatorship. Aren’t you blaming the victims?

“Clever people have had 20 years to figure out who Putin is,” he says. During the early years of his presidency, oil prices rose, living standards improved and people turned a blind eye to his autocratic excesses. “They wallowed in luxury,” Sorokin says. “They traded their conscience for material wellbeing. And now they’re reaping the reward.”

Our second course arrives. My pasta looks — and tastes — delicious, but I eye Sorokin’s beef with envy. It looks succulent and beautifully cooked, and he seems satisfied (“It’s a masterpiece,” he says, with relish).

The food is exquisite, but the service patchy. Ordering another glass of Nebbiolo proves a challenge, even though we’re Il Calice’s only customers. The increasingly desperate whoops Sorokin and I emit to summon a waiter make us sound like the heroes of one of his novels.

On the subject of Putin, a man he describes as the “great destroyer”, Sorokin is now really hitting his stride. “He has ruined everything he’s touched,” he says — not only Russia’s free press and democratic parliament but its economy and even its army. “He claims he’s lifted Russia from its knees, but really he’s just destroyed it,” he says.

Sorokin has a point when it comes to the army: western experts have been surprised by its poor performance in Ukraine. But he himself never had any illusions. In one short story, “Purple Swans”, Russia is plunged into an existential crisis after all the uranium in its nuclear warheads turns to sugar. The implication: Russian power is just a Potemkin village.

Maybe, Sorokin suggests, Putin doesn’t even aspire to victory in Ukraine. He repeats Salvador Dalí’s famous line about Hitler unleashing the second world war “not to win, as most people think, but to lose”.

“Exactly as in Wagner’s operas, it has to end for him, the hero, as tragically as possible,” Dalí’ wrote in 1944. “I think Putin’s the same,” Sorokin says.


Sorokin was born in 1955 in a village outside Moscow. His literary gift came to the fore at an early age: an erotic short story he wrote when he was 14 became a huge hit among his school friends. The story was called “Apples” — “because the lovers met in a queue for apples”.

It is a theme that he explored in one of his earliest mature works, The Queue, a novel made up entirely of scraps of dialogue, exclamations and profanities uttered by a group of Soviet citizens standing in line, which was published in France in 1985 and distributed in his homeland in “samizdat” form.

After studying engineering at an oil and gas institute in Moscow, Sorokin became a book illustrator and designer and joined the capital’s nonconformist artistic underground. He mixed with a group of artists known as the Conceptualists, who famously adopted the tropes of socialist realism to expose its emptiness.

In 1975 Sorokin found himself in the studio of Erik Bulatov, one of the group’s most famous proponents, renowned for his big blue skies plastered over with empty communist slogans. It was a breakthrough for him. “It was like ozone — my head started spinning,” he says.

Another important influence was Ilya Kabakov, whose witty, absurdist installations about Soviet life (such as “The Man Who Flew into Space from His Apartment” from 1985) later brought him huge fame in the west. Sorokin says that visiting Kabakov’s studio “was like a drug trip”.

Sorokin began writing, and after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 more and more of his work began to be published in his homeland. But for eight years in the 1990s, a time of economic crisis, social collapse and political upheaval, he published no new novels at all.

“You realise that literature just lags behind the age you’re living in, you can’t keep up with it,” he says. “It’s like trying to write a novel about a war while you’re living in that war.”

Then in 1999 came Blue Lard, which sealed his reputation as one of Russia’s most wildly original novelists. The titular substance is excreted by clones of famous Russian writers such as Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Pasternak. Their writings — hilarious parodies of the original authors — feature prominently in the text.

The experiments in style continued with Oprichnik, which describes a high-tech future fused with feudal barbarity, written in a bizarre archaic language with hypermodern inflections. The book might be satirical, but its message is deadly serious: Russia’s chronic tendency to embrace autocratic rule.

“Everyone’s talking about the barbarities [Russia is committing in Ukraine], these medieval methods of war,” Sorokin says. “It’s all because the Russian state hasn’t really changed since the Middle Ages, the time of Ivan the Terrible.”

I bring up an idea he recently expressed, that Russia had made a fatal mistake by failing to bury the corpse of empire after the USSR collapsed, and it had now returned as a zombie. The current situation, he says, is even worse: “Now we’ll have to bury the rest too, the new Russian empire as well as the Soviet one.”


As our plates are cleared, Sorokin checks his watch: he has a reading at Berlin’s Literaturhaus in a few hours and must prepare.

In our remaining minutes, I bring up an interview a few years ago in which he said the Russia of now reminded him of the USSR in 1983, a time of stagnation and despair. Eight years later, the country collapsed. Does that mean, I ask, that Russia faces similar cataclysms?

Sorokin makes a bold prediction: Russia will lose the war with Ukraine, triggering “irreversible processes” that will ultimately bring down the Putin regime. Experts are already predicting the “worst economic crisis of the post-Soviet period . . . We face hectic times,” he says. “Anything could happen.”

Ultimately, he says, the end could come as quickly and dramatically as it did in 1917, the year of the Bolshevik revolution. Sorokin quotes the illustrious Russian philosopher Vasily Rozanov, who noted that in 1917, “Russia faded away in two days — three at the most”.

“There was no tsardom left, no church, no army, no working class,” Rozanov wrote. “What remained? Strangely, nothing at all. Just the vile people.”

Sorokin once divided his time between his house near Moscow and his flat in Berlin, saying he needed to balance out the “order” of Germany with the “disorder” of Russia, and to experience Moscow’s winter snow — “essential” for a Russian writer. I ask him if it will be painful to be cut off from his homeland.

“Of course it will be hard — I’m connected to Russia, not only on the level of language,” he says. But there is a precedent for his exile, he says, name-checking the many Russians who ended up in Berlin in the 1920s, fleeing from or expelled by the Bolsheviks — the novelist Vladimir Nabokov, the philosophers Nikolai Berdyaev and Semyon Frank.

And as I settle our bill, I have one last question for him. Russia’s war on Ukraine has prompted a call for a boycott of Russian artists. I ask if he is worried that he could become collateral damage in the new culture wars.

Sorokin becomes thoughtful. “It’s natural that culture will have to pay for this carnage,” he says. The Germans, too, paid a price after the second world war — “Lots of people said they’d never read Goethe again.” But then time passed and so did anti-German sentiment.

“I think Russian culture will endure,” he says, as we shake hands and part. “It’s already part of the world’s cultural heritage — it’s hard to do without it.”

Guy Chazan is the FT’s Berlin bureau chief

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Categories: books

The best recent crime and thrillers – review roundup – The Guardian

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The best recent crime and thrillers – review roundup

Murder Before Evensong by Richard Coles; Tokyo Express by Seichō Matsumoto; Wake by Shelley Burr; Sun Damage by Sabine Durrant; Aurora by David Koepp

Murder Before Evensong by Richard Coles

Murder Before Evensong by Richard Coles (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £16.99)
The first in a projected series from the pop star turned vicar and memoirist, Murder Before Evensong is set in the late 1980s in the English village of Champton. This enjoyable cosy crime novel contains all the requisites: a social hierarchy ranging from aristocrats to semi-feral woodland dwellers; lashings of afternoon tea and parish intrigue; charming pets; and a body in the church. There’s plenty of fascinating liturgical business, although clergyman sleuth Canon Daniel Clement, a mildly exasperated but accommodating type with little hinterland, does not, as yet, make much of an impression. We initially encounter him using a biblical text to persuade his congregation of the necessity of installing a toilet at the back of the church. This becomes the focus of a debate about the perils of upending the status quo and leads to a series of fatal events. The appropriately named DS Vanloo duly investigates, but the revelatory manner of the ending is religiously apt rather than convincing.

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Tokyo Express

Tokyo Express by Seichō Matsumoto, translated by Jesse Kirkwood (Penguin Classics, £12.99)
The railway mystery is another staple of golden age crime fiction, and this tale of timetables was the debut novel of bestselling writer Seichō Matsumoto (1909-1992). First published in Japan in 1958 and never out of print, it’s being reissued in the UK in a new translation. When ministry official Kenichi Sayama and waitress Toki Kuwayama are found dead in a cove on the island of Kyushu, next to a bottle that appears to have held cyanide-laced juice, it is chalked up as a lovers’ suicide pact. However, neither local detective Jūtarō Torigai nor his Tokyo-based colleague Kiichi Mihara buy this explanation: the pair were witnessed boarding the train from the capital the day before their bodies are discovered and anomalies keep piling up, and the ministry where Sayama worked is mired in a corruption scandal. No revelations here, but intuition coupled with dogged detective work and a palpable sense of frustration, as the two men go back and forth along the line – maps and diagrams provide clarification – trying to solve the mystery in this ingeniously plotted story.

Wake by Shelley Burr

Wake by Shelley Burr (Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99)
This outstanding debut from Australian newcomer Burr is set in the outback town of Nannine in the parched landscape of rural New South Wales. When Mina McCreery was nine years old, her twin, Evelyn, was kidnapped; 19 years later, the million-dollar reward her late mother put up for anyone who could find her is still unclaimed. The traumatised and defensive Mina now leads a reclusive life on the family’s isolated farm and the case, which generated intense media interest, continues to be debated with gusto on internet forums for armchair crime-solvers. When private investigator Lane Holland offers Mina his services, his stated interest is the reward, but he has an ulterior motive and a connection with Nannine that he has not shared with her. With a slow build and complex characters, this is both a well-plotted, gripping mystery and a sensitive exploration of the aftermath of trauma.

Sun Damage by Sabine Durrant

Sun Damage by Sabine Durrant (Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99)
Set in the south of France, Durrant’s latest novel is the tale of Ali who, after a “shitshow” childhood and late teens spent swindling gap yah kids in India, is taken up by older, more experienced and very controlling con artist Sean. By the time the pair have scammed their way through several countries, Ali has come to distrust and sometimes fear her mentor, and the morally queasy nature of their enterprise is getting to her. In the French Riviera, fresh-off-the-plane Lulu seems the perfect mark, and Ali reluctantly complies with Sean’s plans – but when things go badly awry, she escapes with €260,000 of his money and Lulu’s luggage and identity, replacing her as cook for a bunch of rich holidaymakers at a villa. Hoping not to be rumbled, or discovered by Sean, she wants a new start but is always looking over her shoulder … Claustrophobic and suspenseful, with an engaging narrator and a satisfying twist: perfect poolside reading.

Aurora by David Koepp

Aurora by David Koepp (HQ, £14.99)
This exciting, Michael Crichton-type thriller from American screenwriter Koepp (Carlito’s Way, Jurassic Park) posits a geomagnetic storm hitting the Earth and leaving most of the planet without electrical power. Everything from communications and lighting to refrigeration and supply chains abruptly ceases, and, with food and fuel becoming scarce, law and order begins to break down. Tech billionaire Thom Banning retreats with his family to a specially purchased desert bunker in Utah, but he’s reckoned without the human element, and things don’t go according to plan. Meanwhile, in the Illinois suburb of Aurora, Thom’s sister Aubrey, completely unprepared and saddled with a sulky teenage stepson, is using her wits to survive – while her deadbeat former husband is doing his best to profit from the catastrophe. This is a one-sitting read, tightly plotted and atmospheric, with characters you’ll invest in as the world around them spins out of control.

Categories: books

Summer Reads: Jennifer Garner recommends 6 books to unwind this season – The News International

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Jennifer Garner recommends 6 books to unwind this Summer: Pics
Jennifer Garner recommends 6 books to unwind this Summer: Pics

Jennifer Garner has recently recommended top summer reads for fans and followers on social media.

On Thursday, the 13 Going On 30 star has mentioned about her summer reading selections on Instagram stories. These books will surely keep engrossed this entire season.

The Adam Project actress has a wide range of collections which varies from memoir to fiction. According to Garner, there are a few “stunning books by brilliant people” that she loves.

Here are her top 6:

1. Molly Shannon’s memoir Hello Molly which the actress believed it to be “brilliant, funny and brave” read. 

Summer Reads: Jennifer Garner recommends 6 books to unwind this season

2. Selma Blair’s Mean Baby to which Garner remarked, “I first met her when we were both very young and I was intimidated by her”.

Summer Reads: Jennifer Garner recommends 6 books to unwind this season

3. Ali Wentworth’s Ali’s Well that Ends Well which she called as “smart, wise and a good dose of funny”.

Summer Reads: Jennifer Garner recommends 6 books to unwind this season

4. Jenna and Angela’s The Office BFFs celebrated “friendships”. 

Summer Reads: Jennifer Garner recommends 6 books to unwind this season

5. Viola Davis’ Finding Me which the actress described it as an “awe-inspiring memoir” of Viola’s life.

Summer Reads: Jennifer Garner recommends 6 books to unwind this season

6. Lastly, the actress recommended Cabin Tripping for all those who “romanticise the idea of little sneak away just like her”.

Categories: books

Jennifer Garner shares top 6 picks for Summer reads – Geo News

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Jennifer Garner shares top 6 picks for Summer reads
Jennifer Garner shares top 6 picks for Summer reads

Jennifer Garner has recently shared her favourite summer picks with her fans and followers on social media.

On Thursday, the 13 Going On 30 star has mentioned about her summer reading selections on Instagram stories. These books will surely keep engrossed this entire season.

The Adam Project actress has a wide range of collections which varies from memoir to fiction. According to Garner, there are a few “stunning books by brilliant people” that she loves.

Here are her top 6:

1. Molly Shannon’s memoir Hello Molly which the actress believed it to be  “brilliant, funny and brave” read.

Jennifer Garner shares top 6 picks for Summer reads

2.  Selma Blair’s Mean Baby to which Garner remarked, “I first met her when we were both very young and I was intimidated by her”.

Jennifer Garner shares top 6 picks for Summer reads

3.  Ali Wentworth’s Ali’s Well that Ends Well which she called as “smart, wise and a good dose of funny”.

Jennifer Garner shares top 6 picks for Summer reads

4. Jenna and Angela’s The Office BFFs celebrated “friendships”. 

Jennifer Garner shares top 6 picks for Summer reads

5. Viola Davis’ Finding Me which the actress described it as an “awe-inspiring memoir” of Viola’s life.

Jennifer Garner shares top 6 picks for Summer reads

6. Lastly, the actress recommended Cabin Tripping for all those who “romanticise the idea of little sneak away just like her”.

Categories: books