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Book News: Ned O'Gorman, Poet And Founder Of Harlem School, Dies

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

  • Ned O'Gorman, poet and founder of the Children's Storefront, a tuition-free school in Harlem created to combat what he saw as "the pervasive lack of imagination" in children's education, died Friday at age 84. "These children need more than reading, writing and arithmetic," O'Gorman told the Los Angeles Times in 1992. "They need a whole universe presented to them that they can live in and hope in." A former Benedictine brother, he tried to become a priest, was refused twice, and so was "wounded into poetry," he said. His poems are lush and exultant, as seen in these lines from "The Spring," in a 1959 issue of Poetry magazine:
  • "My rector comes in the runes and spells of spring

    when the dew falls low in the grass

    and the morning-glory storms the garden walls.

    In the zodiac of April, God, being my Governor

    falls in the mint and flowers of the sun."

  • Prominent Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan said he was hospitalized after being injured by pro-Russian protesters in the city of Kharkiv. Zhadan, whom the New Yorker called "Ukraine's most famous counterculture writer," was reportedly among a group of people occupying the regional state administration building. According to the magazine, Zhadan posted on his Facebook page that he is OK and listed his injuries: "Cuts on the head, eyebrow dissected, concussion, broken nose suspected."
  • Pulitzer prize-winning novelist Adam Johnson talks to The Washington Post about trying to bring a human aspect to writing about North Korea for his book The Orphan Master's Son, which is set there. Johnson said, "When I interviewed defectors, I always tried to ask: What do you do for fun? I interviewed one just this morning: He said 'I loved to go bowling. I was a great bowler in North Korea.' We don't hear those stories. I think those are elusive."
  • The Best Books Coming Out This Week:

  • Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade by Walter Kirn. Kirn found out that his friend Clark Rockefeller was actually a murderer named Christian Gerhartsreiter, who had been conning people for years under a string of aliases. In this introspective and incisive memoir, Kirn recounts how he was dazzled by the appearance of wealth and class into believing Gerhartsreiter and explores the relationship between journalist and subject as he tries to work out the truth from the lies, which he calls, "a swan dive through a mirror into a whirlpool." Kirn spoke to NPR's Scott Simon about one of Gerhartsreiter's most ambitious lie — that he had George W. Bush's private phone number: "It was brilliant! He knew I'd never dial that number. ... But I put the number in my pocket and kept it there and walked around with it. You know, lies like that stun the mind. You don't question whether they're true or not, because you could never imagine making one up yourself."
  • Louise Erdrich's elegant Books & Islands in Ojibwe Country, published as a part of a National Geographic series in 2003, is being reissued a decade later. With her baby daughter, Erdrich travels through Ojibwe Country in southern Ontario, describing the landscape and history. She writes, "I've heard that Ojibwe refers to the puckering of the seams of traditional moccasins, or makazinan. Or that the Ojibwe roasted their enemies 'until they puckered up.' Gruesome. I've heard that Anishinaabe means 'from whence is lowered the male of the species,' but I don't like that one very much. And then there is the more mystical Spontaneous Beings. The meaning that I like best of course is Ojibwe from the verb Ozhibii'ige, which is 'to write.' Ojibwe people were great writers from way back and synthesized the oral and written tradition by keeping mnemonic scrolls of inscribed birchbark. The first paper, the first books."
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    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.
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