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Book News: Irish Writer Dermot Healy Dies

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

  • Irish poet and novelist Dermot Healy has died at the age of 66. Although Healy kept a low profile and was not well known outside of Ireland, he counted among his admirers Seamus Heaney and Roddy Doyle, who called him "Ireland's greatest writer." A versatile and unpredictable writer, he spent more than a decade writing a book-length poem about the return of barnacle geese to Ireland, A Fool's Errand.In his memoir, The Bend for Home,Healy wrote that he was an unreliable narrator. He said writers"not only make up things, but get things wrong as well. Language, to be memorable, dispenses with accuracy."
  • "Marketing affects the way readers of both genders perceive the artistic merits of a book. Stereotypically feminine signifiers — a lipstick tube, a woman's naked back — can inadvertently disqualify a novel from the world of serious literature." In The Boston Globe,Eugenia Williamson writes about how female authors are often cut off from the world of "real" literature, and how gendered marketing can be to blame.
  • Notable Books Coming Out This Week:

  • Never have empty rooms looked so full: In Bedrooms of the Fallen,Ashley Gilbertson photographs the bedrooms of 40 soldiers who were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Stuffed animals, twin beds, posters and sports trophies take on a sharp poignancy through Gilbertson's black and white photos. Some of the rooms look like shrines to the dead; others look like their occupants could be back any moment, with rumpled sheets, a stray bathrobe, old shoes or a can of Pringles on a bedside table. In an essay for the book, Gilbertson describes photographing one soldier's room: "Composing a frame in Zach's bedroom, I felt, for the first time in ten years of covering battles and uprisings, that I was photographing war. The tragedy and finality of this space was, to my heart, a more telling and honest explanation of what I had witnessed in Iraq than the countless photographs I had made there. The exploding bombs, morgues overflowing with corpses, and wounded soldiers being loaded onto helicopters were thousands of miles away. But in bedrooms like this, it felt like the conflicts were just outside, pressing against the walls."
  • In Emily Gould's debut novel, Friendship,Bev and Amy are aspiring writers in New York and best friends beginning to drift apart. The plotline is nothing special, but Gould wonderfully captures a very particular time and place. And as I wrote in an upcoming review, "Friendshiphas that same magical universality-in-specificity that make us care about the local politics of Middlemarch or Clarissa Dalloway's floral arrangements. In tiny brushstrokes, Gould captures the small weirdnesses of being alive — of, say, sitting in an interview and being suddenly and unaccountably struck with a desire to bite through the rim of a teacup."
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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.