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On Sunday: John Irving, Elizabeth Gilbert's great-grandma in kitchen

May 11, 2012 |  1:52 pm

John-irving-reviewJohn Irving’s 13th novel, “In One Person,” appears at an interesting time. On Tuesday, North Carolina voted to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions. On Wednesday, President Obama stated that he was in favor of same-sex marriage. The timing of Irving's release is as remarkable as the subject matter of his novel. “In One Person"  concerns the life of Billy, the bisexual narrator who tells the story of his life as a “sexual suspect.” Our critic David Ulin notes that it takes a lot of "guts" for "a mainstream novelist to embrace sexual politics in this culture.” His review leads our coverage in Sunday Arts & Books.

Carolyn Kellogg reviews Madeleine Albright’s “Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948,”  the former Secretary of State's memoir of growing up in Prague and learning, years later, that her family was Jewish and that many of her ancestors had perished in the Holocaust. Kellogg writes that “the stories of their fates form the emotional core of the book, but the threads are slim.” Albright tells the story of World War II from the Czech point of view, certainly a different tact from the standard U.S. or English-centric vision of the conflict.

Lynell George has roots in New Orleans, so reading her pieces on the Crescent City are always a pleasure. Her essay this week is on the Historic New Orleans Collection, an organization committed to preserving the region’s vibrant culture. To that end, it's  publishing “The Louisiana Artists Biography Series,” dedicated to telling the life stories of some of the great artists of the region. Its latest book, written by Ben Sandmel, is “Ernie K Doe: The R & B Emperor of New Orleans.”

Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” was a runaway bestseller in 2006. Now, she reaches into her family’s history for “At Home on the Range,” a cookbook by her great-grandmother Margaret Yardley Potter that Gilbert has helped get back into print. Gilbert offers an introduction to the work, which had a single printing in 1947. Potter was a food columnist for a newspaper in Wilmington, Del., and Noelle Carter writes that this book is both “delightfully humorous and remarkably insightful.” 

More after the jump

From insights on cooking to another view of Prince Charming: We have Susan Carpenter’s weekly foray into YA territory with “The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom,” Christopher Healy’s novel, which “exploits the abundant gray area of our most popular fairy tales.” In this telling, Prince Charming is nothing more than "a pampered wimp.” The prince as pampered wimp?! Yikes!

And Nick Owchar looks at “A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel—Volume One” and writes that it doesn’t quite measure up to the George R.R. Martin novel.

Our bestsellers list this week has Julian Barnes' "The Sense of an Ending,” which was awarded the Man Booker Prize, atop the fiction list for its 28th week on the list.

If you missed it this week (and how could you, with all the media attention?), the great children’s book author Maurice Sendak died at 83. Our critic David Ulin offered a marvelous appreciation of Sendak’s influential work. Also this week, Richard Rayner reviewed “The Hunt for KSM: Inside the Pursuit and Takedown of the Real 9/11 Mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed” and Jessica Gelt talked to Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez about their joint memoir “Along the Way.”


 As always, thanks for reading,

--Jon Thurber, book editor

Illustration: Two wrestlers, for a review of John Irving's "In One Person."   Credit: Joe Morse