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Book News: Happy 100th Birthday, Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas, seen here in 1944, died less than a decade later while on tour in New York City.
Hulton Archive
Getty Images
Dylan Thomas, seen here in 1944, died less than a decade later while on tour in New York City.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Monday marks 100 years since the birth of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. The tempestuous writer died of suspected alcohol poisoning at the age of 39 (after reportedly drinking 18 straight whiskeys), but in his life and in the years since it ended, his writing has touched readers worldwide. The trans-Atlantic love has been in evidence on his centennial. Michael Sheen's production of Thomas' "play for voices," Under Milk Wood, opened in New York City on Sunday. You can listen to the performance at the venue's website, as well as hear a few fascinating stories about the play's composition beforehand. And below, listen to the poet himself read "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night."

More Potter On Pottermore: It seems the book has never been closed on Harry Potter. Over the weekend, J.K. Rowling announced that on Halloween she plans to publish a new story set in the wizard's world. At 1,700 words, the story will stay brief, offering a glimpse into the history of villain Dolores Umbridge on Rowling's website But that's not all: Did you hear? The U.K. also has Potter-themed hotel rooms now — because why not?

Updike, Meet Barth: "By next April I should either be insane or substantially through a novel that is presently tormenting me, so let me accept, on the assumption that I'll be reminded as the date approaches," John Updike told John Barth, upon accepting his invitation to meet. Today, Nathan Scott McNamara relates the tale of that encounter.

Flipping Ahead

New in print (and screen)

Nuruddin Farah's 12th novel, Hiding in Plain Sight, focuses on a Somali fashion photographer living a glamorous life abroad, who discovers her brother has been murdered in Mogadishu. Farah tells NPR the loss is similar to one he experienced recently himself: His sister, Basra, was killed earlier this year in Afghanistan. "The bravest thing, I think, for a writer is to face an empty page," Farah says. "Almost everything else is less challenging until it comes to ... someone close to you — as close as Basra was to me — fall[ing] a victim to terrorism."

William Gibson returns to form with The Peripheral, his first novel since 2010. Hard-boiled in the high-tech anxiety typical of Gibson, the noir blurs the boundaries between what's taken for real and the games meant to represent it. Oh, and in case he made it too simple on us this time around, the book is also split and spread between more than one version of the future.

In The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Harvard scholar Jill Lepore cracks open the comics to reveal the man behind the long-lived Amazon. Creator William Moulton Marston's life didn't lack for eye-opening stories. Turns out the man invented the lie detector polygraph, loved the niece of birth control activist Margaret Sanger and also happened to attend the occasional sex party. NPR reviewer Etelka Lehoczky calls the book a thorough account of the man who "sought to make Wonder Woman an icon of a new, triumphant phase of female rule in human history."

Michael Faber is out with The Book of Strange New Things, which, if you believe the comments that Faber made at a recent book tour stop, could very well be his last novel. "I think I have written the things I was put on Earth to write. I think I've reached the limit," Faber said, according to The Bookseller.

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Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.

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