Writer and journalist recently penned biography of Vladimir Putin
The New York Times reports that the book will seek to "explain who the brothers were, where they came from, what shaped them, and how they came to do what they appear to have done." It "will “reconstruct the struggle that ensued for each of the brothers between assimilation and alienation, and their metamorphosis into a new breed of home-grown terrorist, with their feet on American soil but their loyalties elsewhere, a split in identity that opened them to a deadly sense of mission.”
Gessen of all people should be able to speak to the apparent challenges the brothers might have faced - the writer herself emigrated to Boston from Russia in 1981, when she was still just a teenager. The outspoken author and activist is a bright and bold pick to write the non-fiction book - while she's best known for her 2012 bestseller "The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin," she's also written extensively on all manner of Russian affairs, LGBT rights (she infamously called for the end of marriage in a recent viral video), the Holocaust, the Russian Intelligentsia, and even the future of genes. She currently lives in Moscow, where she will reportedly leave her position as director of Radio Liberty to dedicate her full attention to the book.
No publishing date has been announced as of yet, as Publishers Weekly reports that a spokesperson for the publishing house commented that "we want [Gessen] to take as much time as she needs to do a comprehensive and excellent book." The spokesperson also noted that “It’s not clear how long it will take to get the access required to write the thoughtful and comprehensive book that she wants to write. But she’s probably the only fully bilingual journalist who has contacts in Dagestan, which has been war-torn for years.”
You can take a look at Gessen's controversial Putin book right HERE at Google Books.
Why we couldn't put down the Seattle native's memoir
Yes there was a brief time where I doubted Amanda Knox's innocence. The Italian police had to know something we didn't know, I reasoned. Maybe it was the underwear shopping spree that threw me, the supposed "saucy g-string" her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito bought for her the day after her roommate Meredith Kercher was found dead while they allegedly discussed having "wild sex." And the cartwheel she supposedly turned in the police station; certainly a girl from Seattle can be a bohemian free spirit, but you'd have to be a social deviant not to understand how inappropriate that was, right? Ditto for the way Knox kissed Sollecito outside her apartment--well documented in video--while investigators combed the apartment and dealt with poor Meredith's body. I judged the beautiful young college student on the basis of what I'd read in the media.
Bing: More on Amanda Knox
Here's what I learned from "Waiting to Be Heard" about those particular points. The underwear was actually a cotton bikini, they featured a cartoon cow. Cows. So not sexy. The underwear was in fact red. ("In the long run it probably would have been better if I'd chosen a more sedate color than red," Knox writes.) She needed a change of underwear because she hadn't been allowed back in the apartment, now a crime scene. She was waiting for Sollecito at the police station, stretching in the hallway after days of interrogation and an investigator asked her about yoga; she stretched into a split for him. No cartwheel. She was being foolishly obliging, as was frequently the case in those days when she should have called the American embassy and lawyered the hell up. She'd only lived in Italy for six weeks, the closest connection she had was to Sollecito, who she had been dating for a week. She was 20. The closest she'd been to death before was a grandfather passing of natural causes. "These kisses were consoling. Raffaele let me know that I wasn't alone...Watching a clip of it now, my stomach seizes...I can only see myself as I was: young and scared, in need of comfort."
But by the time I picked up my Kindle and started devouring the book this morning, I'd long ago ceased to think there was any possibility Knox had killed her roommate or even known anything about who had. The first story I read that made me question all I'd vaguely absorbed about the case to that date was written by Judy Bachrach and ran in Vanity Fair in June 2008. The next year, Timothy Egan, a Seattle-based journalist I greatly respected, began writing columns about the case in the New York Times. The first was called "An Innocent Abroad" and mentioned that his own college age daughter was studying in Italy, although she didn't know Knox.
Reading Egan, I was reminded of what it was like to be an American college student in Italy. I studied there briefly in the mid 1980s and was harassed every time I walked through Florence with my friends, particularly my pretty friend with nearly white blonde hair. I'd slept with two people at that point in my life and it was baffling to realize that by virtue of being American, we were all considered readily available. I love Italy and visit it every chance I get, but the harassment in the street was like nothing I'd ever encountered (and yes, I realize how lucky I was that being bugged by some arrogant Italian guys in the street constituted the worst harassment I'd faced at 20).
I'm going to dwell on her sexuality, only because that's what so much of the insane case against her was about--the prosecution believed in some foursome gone terribly wrong, a foursome with a kid from the streets Knox had met twice and her roommate, who had apparently stumbled with embarrassment over trying to tell Knox to use the toilet brush on the Italian low flow toilets. But here are the facts, according to "Waiting to Be Heard." Although as Knox writes, "casual sex was, for my generation, simply what you did," she had came to Italy having had four lovers, all of them since she'd started college. She had only been with people in what she considered meaningful relationships, even if some of them were short. She'd come to Italy determined to be more free, more open to sex as pure pleasure.
In that spirit, she made out with a guy she met on a train. She slept with a guy named Mirko, once, didn't have a great time and balked midway through their second encounter. It was Meredith Kercher who comforted her after she fled his house, ashamed and embarrassed: "Amanda," she said, consolingly, "maybe uninvolved sex just isn't for you." Knox also had a one-night stand with a boy from Rome named Bobby. Her roommates saw him leaving the next morning. "I had no way of knowing what a big price I would end up paying for these liaisons," she writes.
Then she met her seventh lover, Sollecito, 23, at a classical music concert of a quintet called the Quintetto Bottesini. He took the seat Kercher had vacated at intermission, to go have dinner with friends. He asked for her number. He walked her home after work at the club Le Chic where she'd been serving drinks. They spent three days together before he asked her, in essence, to go steady. She agreed, even though she wasn't sure she should be getting into anything serious. She was sure however, that casual sex wasn't going to be her thing. "Even with the minuscule perspective of a few days with Raffaele, I understood that, for me, detaching emotion from sex left me feeling more alone than not having sex at all--bereft, really."
The nickname the press seized on, Foxy Knoxy, came from a thirteen year-old's prowess on a soccer field, but that didn't matter. The story was the story. And Knox? Even wearing bland preppy clothes and no makeup in a courtroom, even after years of prison food and limited time outdoors, she was startlingly pretty. She has the look of a young Mariel Hemingway, but more delicate, more even featured, more Ivory Girl.
For me the surprising thing about "Waiting to Be Heard" is how measured it is. There's some anger there, justifiably, but mostly, Knox tells it as a straightforward narrative. About half way through the book, it gets agonizing to read; Knox seems so trapped, especially in the prison where her every word seems to be recorded or noted and passed onto the police or prosecutors. One piggish investigator asks her constantly how she feels about sex. At one point, her genitals are photographed and measured. And near the end, when she's making a list of what she'll do if the conviction isn't overturned, and "suicide?" appears on the list, I actually started to cry.
If you didn't know how it turned out--Knox's conviction overturned on appeal, her family rushing her out of the country and back to Seattle, where she has been studying creative writing at the University of Washington--it would be difficult to keep going. And of course, the legal battle goes on in Italy, with yet another attempt to bring the case to trial (Knox won't have to attend). Rudy Guede, an immigrant from the Ivory Coast whose DNA was everywhere at the crime scene, is serving time for Kercher's murder. He's alternately accused Knox and Sollecito of helping, tried to hang it all on another guy, and allegedly told one of his prison buddies that he and the other man did it together. For some reason, the Italian authorities have never been satisfied with the idea that a loner with financial troubles who had recently broken with his adopted family could be the lone killer. Go figure.
The book hit #5 on Amazon's rankings today. Chances are that most who read it have already decided, as I had, who or what they believe. But maybe Amanda Knox, the writer, can change some minds about Foxy Knoxy, a character who was fictional everywhere but on the soccer field.
Bing: More on Meredith Kercher
In a new memoir, the actor, now in recovery, tells of coke w/Robert Downey Jr., sex w/Elizabeth Hurley
But the truth is, I have very little vested in the rehabilitation of Tom Sizemore (the career stuff is ongoing; he has 17 projects in the works or in post-production, according to IMDB.com). He's a good actor, but I haven't been crushed by his absence in the kind of big name productions that the "Saving Private Ryan" and "Natural Born Killers" star used to appear in regularly. In reading his book I was on a mission I'm not particularly proud of: to find the salacious stuff. My Kindle tells me I'm 45 percent through with the book and here are some of the more notable details I've come across.
-After his college girlfriend broke up with him over his infidelity, he left New York briefly to mope around his mother's house. When he got back, he met Edie Falco. He was 24. They were a "funny couple," he writes, "we both basically believed that we deserved to be big stars." He says many kind things about her, including that she is a magnificent actress and that she was smart enough to get into AA when she saw "the writing on the wall." Then he spoils it with this line: "But the truth is, she [expletive] a lot better when she drank." Just what you want your ex-lover to tell the world.
Bing: More on Tom Sizemore
-According to Sizemore, via Willem Dafoe, director Kathryn Bigelow, who gave him his big break in "Blue Steel" "loves rude people." (Of which he is one.) For some reason, I find the idea of the cool as a cucumber director liking rude people deeply intriguing.
-He became friends with John F. Kennedy Jr. and picked up a workout routine from him where he throws a football against a wall outside. Once they were out to dinner with JFK Jr.'s colleagues from "George" and after a lot of work chatter, JFK Jr. announced "Hey, let's stop talking about 'George' because it's got to be boring for Tom." (It had been.) Good manners, that JFK, Jr..
-He wooed Elizabeth Hurley by using the word "neophyte" to describe himself to her. She did a strip tease for him on a coffee table during their first "date." The sex was "spectacular from the beginning." She was cheating on Hugh Grant at this point, but it took Tom a while to figure this out. Sometimes she made Tom weep. It was a bad idea to weep in front of her. "She didn't like tears--no Brits do."
-He writes that the first time he did coke it was with Robert Downey Jr.. It was instant magic. Downey Jr. complimented him on how convincing he was as a non-first time user. But eventually the fun dwindled and Downey Jr. said to him "Sizemore, I'm so tired of giving you drugs."
-Fleiss gave him his first meth. This leads to a lot of sex. I don't think you want to know more.
-He asked Brad Pitt for permission to ask Juliette Lewis out when they were making "Natural Born Killers." And this is what Pitt supposedly said: "'Is it okay? I'll drive you there! I want to be your agent on this one!' I think she was bothering him--phone calls and stuff."
-Then Sizemore goes on to say that really, it was Lewis who dumped Pitt, because he made them late to the Academy Awards after he couldn't decide what pair of shoes to wear. I am pretty sure Angie has said the same sort of thing about Brad.
-He did a lot of heroin with Juliette Lewis. They debated getting clean at various times. At one point they decided to go to rehab together. Lewis said "we'll go to Scientology rehab and we don't have to really get clean there."
-Warren Beatty recommended to him that he stick with drinking water. He himself did not drink or smoke, he told Sizemore, matter-of-a-factly. "Because of the way I look." The world thanks you Warren, for keeping the beauty pure. Obviously, the lesson here is, always listen to Warren Beatty.
Bing: More on Heidi Fleiss
Art book chronicles Fox Animation and Blue Sky's new film
After the break, take a look inside "The Art of Epic" with our exclusive gallery, thanks to Titan Books.
Married pair will take us "home again"
Judy Blume's son directed a 'Tiger Eyes' adaptation
Fine, forty-five fun facts -- but a fact by any other name would be as informative
Which she did not call her 'Big Fat Greek Baby' so we won't either
PT: You've been on press tour for a month; are you exhausted and strung out yet?
NV: It's never ending and I am not complaining because the response to the book has been so overwhelmingly positive. But I feel really naked and quite exposed and vulnerable...I feel like I put my journal out there and while I am not regretting it at all and it's not that I'm ashamed, I don't like to go back and rip that Band-aide off every day.
You did everything in your power to have a biological child, including 13 rounds of IVF, and then you adopted a little girl who had been in the foster care system since birth and needed a home. What would you have to be ashamed of?
There is a feeling of failure that took me years to get over. There is what I call the God-given right to reproduce, and when it is taken from a person it is hard to reconcile in your brain. It's everywhere, in our language, when people ask, 'Did you have your child naturally?'
A lot of us have been under the impression that celebrities have an easier time adopting than average Americans. You dispel that myth by writing about how you and your husband, actor Ian Gomez, weren't approved for some fost-adopts [where a child has been surrendered to the foster care system and is available for adoption] because of concerns that your celebrity would be hard on the child.
Right. And I'm still on a waiting list for China. Believe me, I know how long those women waited and everybody has to go through the home study. There isn't a judge who will clear an adoption without that and at least six months of legal work. There just isn't any special treatment.
The book hit the New York Times extended bestseller list last week. Are the people showing up to your readings primarily people who are considering adoption?
It's been a wide range. There are a lot of young women buying my book who are not mothers and don't even have adoption in their minds, but have heard that I tell stories about celebrities in the book. Then there are people who want to know about screenwriting and then an equal percentage of people who are going through the process. A lot of people are buying it for Mother's Day, which makes me happy because it really is a love letter to my mom and my daughter.
Bing: More on Nia Vardalos
The aspiring screenwriters might get some tips; you include an enticing backstage look at the long process of creating "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," first as a one-woman stage show, then as a movie with the help of Rita Wilson (who is your daughter's god mother) and Tom Hanks. Have you ever shared that story in such detail in print before?
No, and I only chose to go back and write because after I got to the part in the story about my daughter's tenacity and bravery and I started to think, why on earth would I do 13 rounds of in vitro? I really had to take apart my character and look at myself. I did it because that kind of tenacity had seemed to work for me before, with "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and with using that box office job at Second City to get on stage, so why wouldn't I think that keep my head down and doing my work would work? But eventually I met my real daughter and I don't regret my 13 rounds because I truly think it was meant to be that way.
There's a magical moment in the book where you and Ian meet Ilaria, your daughter, for the first time. She's with social workers, she's not quite three, and you go to lunch and fall in love with her and when it's over--because it's just a meet and greet to assess comfort levels--you say goodbye to her in a parking lot and she calls you "Mommy." Have you ever heard of such a thing happening?
The social workers told us later that in all their years, they had never seen anything like it. It stopped them in their tracks. Because they take such care to not speak in front of the children; they don't want the child to experience any more rejection. So we are really sure that she didn't know anything. She loves that story.
As a society we're used to hearing horror stories about kids in the foster care system. Happy endings seem few and far between. While you had some major adjustments to make with Ilaria, including coping with the fact that she didn't speak, initially, or sleep, yours is a very different, overwhelmingly positive perspective. Was that your main goal, in writing the book, to spread the word?
I don't want to sugarcoat adoption and yes, there are people living in foster care that are living in horrible circumstances. There are unscrupulous foster parents and there are children who have had things done to them that are going to need a lot of therapy. But there are also many very happy loving families and I didn't hear those stories. That bothered me. I hate writing. It is so lonely. It is so difficult. What I love is acting. But I thought someone should write this book and tell this side of the story. And also, I had so much information to share about adoption and fost-adopt that I felt it was irresponsible to have all this information at my fingertips and only be telling it to people I knew or was counseling.
Bing: More on fost-adopt
You must feel useful, doing this. Could that inspire you to write another book someday, hard as this was?
I do feel useful, which is good. This is different. I love making people laugh, but this is new territory for me and I am still getting used to it. But every day it is a jacket that is fitting a little better. It's just not quite comfortable yet. I know I will never speak about my daughter again publicly. This is the only time we are going to ever go public.