Fine Arts, Performing Arts & Literature | Mar. 2024, Pt. 3 | Prepub Alert

Exploring the arts.

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Bernstein, Richard. Only in America: Al Jolson and The Jazz Singer. Schocken: Pantheon. Mar. 2024. 272p. ISBN 9780805243673. $28. PERFORMING ARTS/BIOGRAPHY

Having emigrated from a Lithuanian shtetl in 1894to Washington, DC, where his father got a job as a rabbi, Al Jolson soon rose to become the best-known and best-paid entertainer in the United States. He’s especially noted for the history-making The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length film with synchronized music and dialogue and a groundbreaker in its depiction of Jewish life. A new tact for Bernstein, long a New York Times foreign correspondent with numerous Asia-focused books to his credit.

Carr, Cynthia. Candy Darling: Dreamer, Icon, Superstar. Farrar. Mar. 2024. 432p. ISBN 9781250066350. $30. Downloadable. PERFORMING ARTS/BIOGRAPHY

A Warhol superstar who appeared at the renowned nightclub Max's Kansas City, inspired songs by Lou Reed and the Rolling Stones, posed for Richard Avedon, and performed in a Tennessee Williams play with the playwright himself, transgender icon Candy Darling blazed forth just as discussions about gender were emerging and died at age 29 without seeing her full impact. Following Carr’s Lambda-winning Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz, also a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize; with a 50,000-copy first printing.

de Visé, Daniel. The Blues Brothers: An Epic Friendship, the Rise of Improv, and the Making of an American Film Classic. Atlantic Monthly. Mar. 2024. 480p. ISBN 9780802160980. $28. FILM

Author of King of the Blues, award-winning journalist de Visé reveals how Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi joined forces to play the Blues Brothers in the legendary 1980 film of the same name, ostensibly about a mission to save a Chicago orphanage but also meant as a celebration of the noble tradition of rhythm and blues, then somewhat in the shadows.

Dubus, Andre III. Ghost Dogs: On Killers and Kin. Norton. Mar. 2024. 272p. ISBN 9781324000440. $28.99. LITERATURE/MEMOIR

Novelist Dubus, whose House of Sand and Fog was a National Book Award finalist and an Oprah's Book Club selection, follows up the best-selling memoir Townie with a series of self-reflective essays. They range from his work as a bounty hunter to fatherhood to the dangerous pressures of masculinity; the longest essay ponders the empowerment and yet conflicted feelings that came with owning a gun and the shame that finally made him decide to give it up.

Dykstra, Natalie & Zoe Pagnamenta. Chasing Beauty: The Life of Isabella Stewart Gardner. Mariner: HarperCollins. Mar. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9781328515759. $32.50. CD. FINE ARTS/BIOGRAPHY

Winner of the inaugural Robert and Ina Caro Fellowship, this new biography from Dykstra (Clover Adams) examines the life of noted art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner, who built the eponymous Boston museum to house her cherished collection— paintings, tapestries, porcelains, and more, including the first Vermeer and the first Botticelli in the United States. With a 20,000-copy first printing.

Gooch, Brad. Radiant: The Life and Line of Keith Haring. Harper. Mar. 2024. 448p. ISBN 9780062698261. $42. CD. FINE ARTS/BIOGRAPHY

Wiggly, squiggly, energetic, and entertaining, Keith Haring’s famed black-line art transformed New York City in the 1980s and willfully ignored the line between high art and popular culture, fusing them into one. The noted biographer of Frank O’Hara and Flannery O’Connor worked with Haring’s friends and associates and the Keith Haring Foundation to create this portrait. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Kaplan, James. 3 Shades of Blue: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and the Lost Empire of Cool. Penguin Pr. Mar. 2024. 480p. ISBN 9780525561002. $32. MUSIC

Author of the multi-best-booked Sinatra, Kaplan assays three jazz giants—Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans—to show how jazz reached dizzying heights in terms of popularity and creativity in the 1950s even as these musicians joined to create what many consider the greatest jazz album of all time, Kind of Blue.

RuPaul. The House of Hidden Meanings: A Memoir. Dey Street: Morrow. Mar. 2024. 304p. ISBN 9780063263901. $29.99. CD. PERFORMING ARTS/MEMOIR

From his coming-of-age as a queer Black child in San Diego and his difficult dance with an absent father and mercurial mother to his triumph on the punk and drag scenes of Atlanta and New York and embrace of sobriety, love with his husband Georges LeBar, and the idea of the chosen family, RuPaul says it all. With a 200,000-copy first printing.

Salisbury, Katie Gee. Not Your China Doll: The Wild and Shimmering Life of Anna May Wong. Dutton. Mar. 480p. ISBN 9780593183984. $32. Downloadable. FILM/BIOGRAPHY

As evidenced by Yunte Huang’s biography Daughter of the Dragon and Gail Tsukiyama’s novel The Brightest Star, both published in 2023, Anna May Wong is beginning to get her due. A fifth-generation Chinese American, Salisbury goes beyond Wong’s Hollywood years to her life and career in Europe, where she mingled with royalty and made films in Berlin, Paris, and London.

Shakespeare, Nicholas. Ian Fleming: The Complete Man. Mar. 2024. 864p. ISBN 9780063012240. $35. LITERATURE

We all know James Bond, but do we really know Ian Fleming? Raised by a determined mother to be “the complete man,” Fleming became a wildly successful thriller writer only in the last 12 years of his life; before that, he built an impressive career in naval Intelligence that took him ’round the world. The Somerset Maugham Award–winning biographer Shakespeare relied on the Fleming family papers to craft his narrative. With a 40,000-copy first printing.

Targoff, Ramie. Shakespeare's Sisters: How Women Wrote the Renaissance. Knopf. Mar. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9780525658030. $33. LITERATURE

Mary Sidney, an accomplished poet and the sister of the celebrated Sir Philip Sidney. Amelia Lanyer, the first professional woman poet in England. Elizabeth Cary, the first professional woman playwright. And diarist Anne Clifford, who fought a long inheritance battle to keep her lands. Brandeis humanities professor Targoff (Renaissance Woman) celebrate four women who became writers in 1600s England despite the odds.

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Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; winner of ALA's Louis Shores Award for reviewing; and past president, awards chair, and treasurer of the National Book Critics Circle, which awarded her its inaugural Service Award in 2023.

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