Social Creature is one of those broodingly beautiful pieces that catches you and keeps you till the very bitter end. The characters of Lavinia and Louise represent the dark glitz, glamour and destitution of New York City and their tangled friendship will keep readers enthralled. This decadent debut thriller is a refreshing take on the dark side of obsession. We recently had a moment to speak with Tara Isabella Burton to find out more about her writing process, background and upcoming works.
I feel like almost everyone knows a person like Lavinia – carefree, reckless and self-absorbed. Did you model her character after someone you know in real life?
Yes and no. I modeled Lavinia after a few different people I’d known in NYC – some that I knew well, some that I’d only met in passing. But I also very much wrote an autobiographical character. In real life, I tend to cover up a lot of my own anxieties by embracing performativity – whether it’s on social media, or dressing in an eye-catching vintage style, or being highly emotionally effusive. I wanted to explore a character that had a really big chasm between her external and internal self. I hope I’m less self-absorbed than Lavinia, certainly, but I think I share her (probably unhealthy!) coping methods of dealing with insecurity – and probably many of us do, to some extent.
There’s been a lot of talk that this book is The Talented Mr. Ripley for the digital age. Are you a fan of Patricia Highsmith and her work?
Absolutely! I love those lush midcentury thrillers – Patricia Highsmith, Daphne Du Maurier – that create a heightened atmosphere through both setting and equally intense, complicated characters.
A few years ago we took a closer look at some of the top mothers in books, TV and film. As Father’s Day approaches, it’s Dad’s turn! Here are some of the best, or at least most memorable, paternal roles we’ve come to love over the years.
The All-Time Classic Dad:
Atticus Finch – To Kill a Mockingbird
No list of fathers is complete without Atticus. He’s arguably one of the greatest role models in American literature.
Honorable Mentions: Pa Ingalls – Little House on the Prairie series, Arthur Weasley – Harry Potter series
The Dad Who Puts His Kids First:
Mr. Bennet – Pride and Prejudice
Mr. Bennet isn’t the perfect father, but he comes through when it counts, backing Elizabeth’s decision not to marry Mr. Collins.
Honorable Mentions: The Man – The Road, Bob Cratchit – A Christmas Carol
The Newcomer Dad:
Ned Stark – A Song of Ice and Fire series
Ned loves all his children, even Jon Snow, his illegitimate son. His sense of honor and duty rules every aspect of his being.
Honorable Mentions: Nate Pullman – Wonder, Thomas Schell – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Biopics, movies that tell the story of a famous real-life person, are usually about larger-than-life figures: presidents, prime ministers, war heroes, athletes—people whose lives are full of drama. When it comes to making films about artists and creative types, musicians tend to be the easiest subjects; directors can always fill screen time with the music itself, recreating famous performances or recording sessions.
Writers may be the hardest. Imagine the action in the script: “The writer sits alone at her typewriter. She stares into space. She types some words, stares some more, then types more words. She breaks for lunch.” Fortunately for filmmakers, great writers are often tortured souls with tumultuous personal lives, and that’s what author biopics tend to focus on, for better or worse. The newest example of the genre is Mary Shelley, which opens May 25 and stars Elle Fanning as the Frankenstein author.
Here’s a short rundown of some notable biographical films about writers.
This 2005 film follows the eccentric writer Truman Capote, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, as he researches and writes his best-known work, the pioneering true crime book In Cold Blood. After reading an article about the murder of a family of four in rural Kansas, Capote decides to write about it and heads to the heartland with his childhood pal and fellow writer Harper Lee, played here by Catherine Keener. Things turn messy when Capote gets emotionally attached to one of the killers, Perry Smith. He intervenes in the legal proceedings to delay Smith’s execution, partly motivated by the need to keep interviewing Smith to glean more info for his book. Hoffman won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance, and the movie also got nominations for Best Picture and Best Director (Bennett Miller). Roger Ebert wrote that Capote “focuses on the way a writer works on a story and the story works on him.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores. For June, we’re hitting rewind to check out the history of home video.
1950s & 1960s Early videotape formats are used in broadcasting but are too expensive for consumers.
1975 Sony’s Betamax format debuts. Some early players included a 19-inch color monitor.
1976 The first VCR using VHS (Video Home System), the Victor HR-3300, debuts in Japan.
1977 RCA’s VBT200 becomes the first VHS-based VCR in the US.
1987 90% of VCRs sold in the US are based on the VHS format.
2006 A History of Violence is the last major film released on VHS.
2016 The last known manufacturer of VCRs ceases production.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Betamax had a better picture, smaller tapes and debuted first. But VHS won the “format war” thanks to longer recording times and less costly players.
- LaserDisc, introduced in 1978, was the first optical disc format for home video. It was a hit with cinephiles and paved the way for DVD and Blu-ray.
- With the advent of the VCR in the 1970s, consumers could, for the first time, own copies of their favorite movies and record TV shows to watch later.
Want to dive deeper? Check out these great products!
VHS: Absurd, Odd, And Ridiculous Relics From The Videotape Era, Joe Pickett & Nick Prueher
VHS Ate My Brain, Andrew Hawnt
The Last Days Of Video, Jeremy Hawkins
Video Revolutions: On The History Of A Medium, Michael Z. Newman
Videoland: Movie Culture At The American Video Store, Daniel Herbert
Be Kind Rewind
Editor’s Note from Kristen Beverly, HPB Buyer:
What do you get when you mix Scooby-Doo and Stranger Things together? Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero. It’s a rare gem of a book, having a perfect blend of mystery, humor, intrigue and wit. In Meddling Kids, a teenage detective group reunites over ten years later when suspecting that a long-solved case may not have been solved after all. So begins the descent into the nightmares that have haunted them all since they were teenagers. The monsters from their nightmares come alive and this time they have to solve the case for real. We caught up with Edgar to find out more about the book, his writing process and what will be coming up next from him.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing?
I remember jotting down ideas since I was a child- stuff I hoped to develop properly when I learned to draw comics or had my own cartoon show. I don’t know when I settled with just writing them in prose. Maybe at 17 or so, when I realized it was the easiest way to share them.
Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
Easy one. I used to enjoy Enid Blyton’s child detective novels as a kid; I enjoyed the cosmic horror of Lovecraft & friends’ as a young adult; I wondered what would happen if those two genres clashed.
Do you have any rituals or anything special that you do while writing to get into the right mindset?
Not really. But both walking and showering help me figure out the first sentences. Since I moved to New York, I need to find a third ritual that doesn’t get me wet.
Editor’s Note from Kristen Beverly, HPB Buyer:
How to Walk Away is one of the most inspiring, hopeful and honest books I’ve ever read. And I read a LOT. I’m going to be completely honest here – when I first heard about this book, I didn’t want to read it. The premise seemed very depressing. There’s enough sad things going on in the real world. But I kept hearing that this book was the opposite of tragic, so I finally decided to try it out. This story is so refreshing – which, given the content, is quite an achievement! After finishing this book, I just had to know about Katherine’s writing process and how she came to write the scene of the plane crash. And she was kind enough to share!
Want to learn even more about How to Walk Away from the author herself? Katherine will be joining us at our Flagship location in Dallas on Tuesday, May 22nd at 7 p.m. to celebrate the release of her book with a signing. Be sure to join us for this exciting event!
Almost as soon as I knew that I was going to write a story about a plane crash, I knew that I would have to go up in a plane. Not a big, normal, commercial plane. A little plane. The kind where the only place to sit is in the cockpit. That was the kind of plane that was going to crash in my story, and I’d never been in one. If I was going write about it in an authentic way, I was going to have to fix that. Even though I have always been a little afraid of flying.
I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that there’s a plane crash in How to Walk Away. It happens in chapter one. The story is not really about the crash itself—though it’s important. The story is much more about what happens after the crash—how that moment rips the characters’ lives into unexpected pieces, and how they put those pieces back together. That’s the kind of story I love the best—ones with characters who just refuse to give up.
Myself, I give up very easily. In most situations, I start with hopeless and work my way backwards. I have to talk myself into optimism. I have to look for reasons to be encouraged. Flying, for example, always seems pretty doomed to me. My sense of the odds is doggedly incorrect. I always think I have about a 75% chance of crashing on any flight. And for one of those tiny little all-cockpit planes? More like 95%. But if I wanted to write the story—and I really, really did—I had to brave it.
Editor’s Note from Kristen Beverly, HPB Buyer:
As a lover of psychological thrillers, when I first heard the plot of The Perfect Mother I was intrigued. It’s the story of a mother’s group and one of the babies goes missing. Seems simple enough. But place this mother’s group in the middle of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and add the fact that the baby goes missing while the moms are out partying together and things start to get more interesting. As the police hunt for the baby, the reader sees the lives of each of the mothers in the group put on full display. Marriages and friendships are put to the test as secrets are revealed about each character. This thriller definitely delivers the thrills – and Kerry Washington agrees. She’s already signed up to both produce and star in the movie! We procured this Q&A with author Aimee Molloy to tell us a little more about the book.
WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF THE PERFECT MOTHER?
After my first daughter was born in 2013, I signed up for September Babies, a new moms group in Brooklyn. I was a little skeptical about this initially, but the skepticism dissolved almost immediately. I had no family around to help and very little experience with infants. September Babies became my lifeline. Though some members met in person, most of our interaction was via a list serve—a place where people asked questions (Is this normal . . . ? Should I be worried . . . ? Will they ever sleep through the night?). I was blown away by the generosity and encouragement the members showed one another. Perhaps it was the sleep deprivation, but I envisioned us—a relative group of strangers—as a tribe of women who had banded together, and the question occurred to me: what if, God forbid, one of our babies went missing? I could see the members of the group, black war paint under our eyes, torches in hand, combing the streets until the baby was found. I remember I was riding the subway, my daughter strapped to my chest, and I pulled out a notebook, jotting down notes on this idea. A few years later, those notes became The Perfect Mother.
HPB North Oaks in Houston, TX, recently received a makeover, with the construction of an all-new “Staff Picks” section at the front of the store! As a family-owned, community-oriented bookstore, Half Price Books hires employees that reflect the neighborhoods in which we do business. The beauty of a neighborhood bookstore is in the sharing of ideas, so the new Staff Picks section at HPB North Oaks was designed to celebrate that connection between community and store by starting a conversation about what the HPB North Oaks team is reading. Let’s meet some of those team members in this edition of Meet the Bibliomaniac–Renee Hodge and Martin Reiss, Store Manager and Assistant Store Manager.
What is your favorite part about working at HPB?
MR: I’m interested in every type of product we carry from books, movies, music and games. I love that I’m able to buy/sell what I am interested in.
RH: My favorite part of my job is the fact that each day is different. I have friends that go in to work and do the same thing each day in a cubicle and they are not enthusiastic about their jobs.
Yes, people, National Waiters & Waitresses Day is a real thing. NWWD (I just invented this abbreviation) is May 21, a day to eat out and tip generously as we pay a little extra attention to the hard-working, often underpaid folks who serve us in restaurants. To celebrate, we’re serving up a a six-course meal of waitstaff-centric books, movies and more.
One of the greatest TV comedies of all time, Cheers (1982–1993), focuses on the employees and patrons of a Boston bar. Here we encounter two common waitress tropes: Diane, played by Shelley Long, is highly educated and thinks waitressing is beneath her, but she takes the gig in a moment of desperation after being jilted by her fiancée. Then there’s Rhea Perlman’s Carla, the wisecracking, hardened “career” waitress who becomes Diane’s comic foil. The first couple of seasons are like a sitcom writing masterclass.
Waiting tables is a common job for college students or other young adults—a thing to do while waiting (sometimes in vain) to do something else. Stephanie Danler wrote Sweetbitter during grad school while she worked at NYC’s Union Square Café, and the novel takes an unflinching look at the glitzy but grueling world of an upscale Manhattan eatery. Based partly on the author’s real-life experiences, the book was a bestseller and literary sensation upon its 2016 publication. Danler told Vanity Fair: “I’ve seen so many women move to New York City, think that they’re going to get a temporary job in the restaurant industry, and then get sucked into that world.” Sweetbitter will also become a TV series on Starz!, premiering May 6.
The lazy days of summer are the perfect time to hit the road for new adventures. And for a bookish type, what better journey to plan than a drive to one of the great literary landmarks across the United States?
From memorial libraries to author hangouts to well-preserved homes, there are a myriad of fascinating stops to explore. Here are a few of our favorites:
Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald
The only dedicated museum to the glamorous Jazz Age couple, this restored home in Montgomery, Alabama was the site of the longest residence for the Fitzgeralds, and the spot where Scott wrote Tender is the Night and Zelda penned Save Me the Waltz. Full of copies of F. Scott and Zelda’s letters to one another (plus a few snarky ones Scott sent to Hemingway), photographs and Zelda’s paintings, the Fitzgerald Museum stands as a testament to their doomed but passionate relationship. Bonus: you can even book a stay upstairs in a quaint Airbnb decorated with pillows stitched with Zelda’s quotes.
Photo courtesy of James Edwards
Gothic author, illustrator and playwright Edward Gorey turned his 200-year-old Cape Cod home Elephant House into a cabinet of curiosities. Gorey collected everything from cheese graters to elephants, so you’ll find plenty of ephemera in the cottage along with his overflowing library and a fabulous gift shop. If you look closely, you might even discover 26 children who met their untimely ends based on his classic alphabet book The Gashlycrumb Tinies hidden away around the abode.