new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Graphic-novel of Berlin amid rise of Nazism; P-town book fest; macabre New England

Illustration from Jason Lutes’s graphic novel “Berlin.”
Illustration from Jason Lutes’s graphic novel “Berlin.”


Twenty years ago, cartoonist Jason Lutes began making a graphic-novel portrait of the city of Berlin, showing, in intimate detail, the lives of residents set against the rise of Nazism.

Berlin,’’ released this month by Drawn & Quarterly, collects all 11 installments of this magnificent work of historical fiction, a swift and vivid look at the impact that a shifting political landscape has on the lives of regular people, from homeless legless veterans to cabaret performers, journalists to artists, and kids selling newspapers on the street.

In striking black-and-white images, and elegant use of language, Lutes, who lives in Vermont and teaches at the Center for Cartoon Studies, tells a story that feels of the moment in America.


Combining sweeping street scenes and dropping into the heads and thoughts of many of the city’s inhabitants, “Berlin’’ tells us a story we know in a way that’s new, one that allows us a fresh look at yesterday and begs comparisons with today. Lutes will discuss Berlin at the Boston Book Festival on Oct. 13.

Provincetown Book Fest

At tip of the Cape, where land slips into water, the third annual Provincetown Book Festival will unfold this weekend, bringing dozens of authors along with readings, panels, and events over the span of three days. On Friday, Sept. 14, at 4 p.m., poet, novelist, and memoirist Eileen Myles will talk “Poetry, Dogs and Everything.” The next day will bring “Authors al Fresco,’’ a chance to mingle with regional authors, including Jeannette de Beauvoir, Deirdre Callahan, John-Manuel Andriote, Meredith Goldstein, and many others at the town library from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Saturday at 6 p.m., “First Ladies of Fiction” Amy Bloom and Curtis Sittenfeld will be in conversation with fellow novelist Julia Glass. On Sunday morning at 11 a.m., fiction writers Joseph Cassara and Rahul Mehta will discuss “LGBT: Cultures within Cultures.” And at 12:30 p.m., writers Tom Sleigh, Sarah Schulman, and Joshua Weiner will talk about “Writing in Difficult Times” with poet Sophia Starmack moderating. All events are free. For more information and a complete schedule, visit provincetownbookfestival.org.


Stories that haunt

Think of the stories that make up Kevin McQueen’s new book as “real-life surrealism” or “historical horror-comedy,” he urges in the introduction. New England Nightmares: True Tales of the Strange and Gothic,” gathers dozens of stories of the odd, macabre, and haunting. (If some of the stories bend the truth, maybe it can be overlooked, just as his understanding of New England includes New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.) Broken down by state, the book includes numerous bite-size bits of lore, like the lunatic who escaped from the Mass. State hospital in 1923 and got a job as a barber in Worcester before he was found and sent back to the asylum, or a Winthrop man who, that same year, killed himself by driving a chisel into his head with a hammer.

Coming out

Washington Black’’  by Esi Edugyan (Knopf)

Evolution’’ by Eileen Myles (Grove)

Enraged: Why Violent Times Need Ancient Greek Myths’’ by Emily Katz Anhalt (Yale)

Pick of the week

Arwen Severance of the Bookstore in Gloucester recommends Small Great Things’’ by Jodi Picoult: “Ruth Jefferson, a labor and delivery nurse, begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she has been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. This book addresses something that happens in America, and around the world, every day and shows us that change is possible.”


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