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Norman Mailer conference starts this week

Norman Mailer on the beach in Provincetown in the early 1960s.

P-town hosts Mailer conference

Fans of Norman Mailer, including a half dozen of his children, will be converging on Provincetown this week for an annual conference that examines his prodigious output of fiction, nonfiction, and journalism. Two of his daughters are among the panelists for “Top 10 Things I Learned from Norman Mailer.”

The four-day conference, hosted by the Norman Mailer Society, begins Wednesday. As many as 100 attendees are expected — a turnout better than any year since before Mailer died in 2007, according to J. Michael Lennon, Mailer’s biographer and a conference organizer.

Besides panel discussions and presentations, the entirety of “Tough Guys Don’t Dance,” Mailer’s Provincetown novel, will be read aloud over the course of two days. Historian Kevin M. Schulze will read from his new book “Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship that Shaped the Sixties” (Norton). There will be a staged reading of Ronald K. Fried’s new play “Two Mailers,” a colloquy between Mailer, his son John Buffalo, and a reporter. In addition, a recently rediscovered 1965 documentary about Mailer in Provincetown will be screened. Ticket info is at normanmailersociety.org.

Now arriving

John Freeman, book critic (including regular contributions to the Globe), author, and former editor of Granta, has launched a twice-a-year magazine called Freeman’s: The Best New Writing on Arrival. “I like to think of it as a Granta that tilts the globe slightly toward America, not the imagined America or Los Ang-A-leez, as the English put it, or the West (which they imagine in a different way),” Freeman wrote in an e-mail, “but the nation we live in of broken beautiful cities and immigrants and big big open spaces (so there’s a piece by Barry Lopez in here on a road that goes nowhere in Alaska).”


The contributors are a mix of established and little-known writers: Haruki Murakami, Lydia Davis, Aleksander Hemon, and Louise Erdrich as well as Fatin Abbas, born in Khartoum, Sudan. Freeman describes Abbas’s first piece of published fiction as a “thrilling portrait of a village pitched between north and south in a Sudan forever tilting toward war, then toward peace.”


Freeman will be in conversation with James Wood, book critic for The New Yorker, at 7 p.m. Thursday at Harvard Book Store.

Inspiration that struck a ‘Chord’

The inspiration for Geraldine Brooks’s new historical novel, “The Secret Chord” (Viking), arose about 10 years ago. As her son played the harp, her mind traveled back in time to another harpist, King David, famous for doing battle with Goliath.

Next month the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist will start her 30-city book tour in Boston. On Oct. 6 at 7:30 p.m., Brooks (at left) will be in conversation with WBUR’s Robin Young at Temple Israel, 477 Longwood Ave., Boston. The two will talk about the role of the story of David in Western and Jewish culture and the relationship between history and fiction. Tickets are $36 and include a copy of the book. They are available at www.newcenterboston.org.

Coming out

 “Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family” by Anne-Marie Slaughter (Random House)

 “Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science” by Richard Dawkins (Ecco)

 “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few” by Robert B. Reich (Knopf)

Pick of the week

Annie Philbrick of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., recommends “The Hummingbird” by Stephen P. Kiernan (Morrow): “This wonderful, deftly told novel is a love story, of the past and of the present. A hospice nurse’s most difficult patient is a World War II veteran. Yet she also is attending to her damaged husband who has returned from Iraq and cowers under the table with his gun while a thunderstorm passes over in the summer heat.’’


Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.