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    new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

    Drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll on display; NEA grants for local writers

    A collection of counterculture-themed pins from Julio Mario Santo Domingo Jr.
    A collection of counterculture-themed pins from Julio Mario Santo Domingo Jr.

    A collection of ‘Altered States’

    Julio Mario Santo Domingo Jr., son of a wealthy Colombian magnate, had a fascination with the beat poets and their European mind-altering predecessors, among other things. That interest was apparent in his private trove of drug-related literature and paraphernalia, one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of such material to ever exist. It included more than 100,000 books, magazines, scientific and medical works, and items of psychedelic ephemera — posters, pins, photographs, vials, pipes, and a desiccated grapefruit used as a gift box with a birthday message scrawled on it by Keith Richards. Through Dec. 16 Harvard’s Houghton Library will host the exhibit “Altered States: Sex, Drugs, and Transcendence in the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library,” which explores the obsession of Santo Domingo — who died of cancer in 2009 — with exploring the edges of experience. The accompanying book, “Altered States: The Library of Julio Santo Domingo’’ by Peter Watts (Anthology Editions) is a powerful, colorful, and comprehensive celebration of Domingo’s efforts. Chapters include “Stones” (which includes one glorious photograph of the band splayed in pre- or post-bacchanal scene), “Weed,’’ “Beat,’’ “Pop,’’ “Acid,’’ “Erotica,’’ “Coke,’’ “Revolt,’’ “Occult,’’ and “Opium,’’ which, taken together reveal a wide-ranging fascination with the opening of all sorts of doors of perception.

    Creative writing and translation fellowships

    The National Endowment for the Arts recently announced the recipients of 2018’s creative writing and translation fellowships, which amount to $25,000 grants for prose and $12,500 or $25,000 for translation. Out of 36 creative writing fellowships, four recipients come from Massachusetts, as do one of the 22 honorees for translation. Paul Yoon (“Snow Hunters’’; “The Mountain’’) of Cambridge, Shilipi Suneja of Cambridge, and Jerald Walker (“Street Shadows’’; “The World in Flames’’) of Hingham are the creative writing recipients. And Alissa Valles of Cambridge receives a translation project award.

    Gerritsen wins Robert B. Parker Award

    Maine-based writer Tess Gerritsen has been named the winner of the sixth annual Robert B. Parker Award, given to a person who best represents the mystery tradition in New England. Gerritsen started writing while on maternity leave from her work as a physician and has since produced more than two dozen books, many of them bestsellers. Her Rizzoli and Isles series, which follows a homicide detective and a medical examiner, was made into a TNT television series. The Parker award is named after the prolific Cambridge mystery writer famous for his Spenser series of detective novels. The recipient is chosen by a jury of authors and industry figures, and the prize is presented at the New England Mobile Book Fair’s annual Mystery Night Gala. This year’s event is slated for Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Newton store on 241 Needham St. Besides Gerritsen, other writers expected to attend include William Martin, Hank Phillipi Ryan, Linda Barnes, Joe Finder, Ben Coes, Kate Flora, and Dan Palmer, among others.

    Coming out


    “Dandelions’’by Yasunari Kawabata, translated from the Japanese by Michael Emmerich (New Directions)

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    “Ultraluminous’’ by Katherine Faw (MCD)

    Pick of the week

    Tom at Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot, Conn., recommends “The Teeth of the Comb & Other Stories’’ by Osama Alomar, translated from the Arabic by C.J. Collins (New Directions): “These pithy modern fables will make you think and laugh. If you’re looking for meaningful literature but don’t have the time to slog through a 500-page classic, I’d recommend this one.”

    Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at