TIME Books

Here’s What New Information J.K. Rowling Revealed on Pottermore

Including heartwarming new details on Hagrid and Dumbledore

J.K. Rowling resurrected her legions of Harry Potter fans last year when she posted a new story about what Potter and the rest of Dumbledore’s Army were up to in their 30s. Since then, she posted a story last Halloween and bits of information throughout Christmas.

On Tuesday, fans were pleased to find some new information pegged to the release of the Deathly Hallows chapters on the site. They could find insight on the Dursleys, The Sword of Gryffindor and Hatstalls (those whose sorting took more than five minutes because the Sorting Hat found them equipped for different Hogwarts houses). The bulk of new information comes in the forms of “Alchemy” and “Extension Charms.”

In the latter, Rowling explains that this charm, which Hermione used to enhance the small handbag she carried in Deathly Hallows, was unlawfully used by Hermione: “As the latter played no insignificant part in the defeat of the greatest Dark wizard of all time, no charges have been brought” by the Ministry of Magic.

In “Alchemy,” Rowling explains “the search for the Philosopher’s Stone, which would turn base metal into gold and give the possessor eternal youth,” and provides some background on the relevance of alchemy in the Potter series. “The colours red and white are mentioned many times in old texts on alchemy,” she writes, explaining that some interpret that these colors symbolize base metal and gold, representing “two different sides of human nature.”

These colors inspired the names of two relevant characters in the Potter series: “Rubeus (red) Hagrid and Albus (white) Dumbledore…both hugely important to Harry,” Rowling writes. “Seem to me to represent two sides of the ideal father figure he seeks; the former is warm, practical and wild, the latter impressive, intellectual, and somewhat detached.”

Rowling also notes that Hermione never took advantage of the opportunity to research alchemy in the Hogwarts library. “Perhaps she feels (as Harry and Ron certainly do) that, far from wishing to make another Philosopher’s Stone, they would be happy never to se another one in their lives.”

Pottermore users can click around the Deathly Hallows chapters to find new information, unlock it and read it themselves. A couple hints: Take a look at “Splinched” and “Dragon Flight.”

TIME Books

J.K. Rowling Reveals New Harry Potter Backstory on Pottermore

Including a potentially different farewell from Aunt Petunia in "Deathly Hallows"

It’s been quite a while since Harry Potter fans have seen new content from J.K. Rowling, even though she regularly posts to Twitter about Wizarding World happenings. On Tuesday, Rowling’s fansite Pottermore unveiled new, interactive sections of Deathly Hallows, the final Potter book in the series, and with it, new background on the story.

June 23 marks the birthday of Dudley Dursley, Harry Potter’s unappreciative, overweight and very spoiled cousin — and this year he turns 35. So it’s no surprise Rowling took to Pottermore to post some background on Dudley’s parents, Vernon and Petunia, who “grudgingly” took in Harry after his parents were killed by Lord Voldemort.

But it’s not just Hallows content fans were privy to. Rowling gave insight into the backstory of Vernon and Petunia, including the origin of their names, both first and last, and their relationship to Harry’s parents James and Lily.

Rowling reveals that once Petunia and Vernon were engaged, Petunia’s only concern was what Vernon would make of her sister, who was in her final year at Hogwarts at the time. When the two couples first got together, Rowling writes that “Vernon tried to patronise James, asking what car he drove,” to which James “described his racing broom.” When James explained Gringotts, Vernon felt he was being made fun of and the evening ended with the Dursleys storming out of the restaurant.

Of course, the Wizarding World isn’t immune to wedding drama, either, as Rowling writes that “Petunia did not want Lily as a bridesmaid, because she was tired of being overshadowed” and she and Vernon didn’t go to Lily and James’ wedding. The last communication the couples had before Lily and James’ death was the announcement of Harry’s birth.

Rowling goes on to explain that Vernon’s dislike for Harry “stems in part, like Severus Snape’s, from Harry’s close resemblance to the father they both so disliked.”

The author touches on their names, writing that “‘Vernon’ is simply a name I never much cared for” while “Petunia” is a name she always “gave unpleasant characters in games of make believe” she played with her sister. And the name “Dursley” was “taken from the eponymous town in Gloucestershire,” which she writes is more about “the sound of the word… rather than any association with the place.”

Perhaps the biggest revelation in her new text is that Rowling wanted to see a nicer side of Aunt Petunia “when she said goodbye to Harry for the last time.” But she stuck to the true nature of Petunia’s character, having her “behave in a way that is most consistent with her thoughts and feelings throughout the previous seven books.”

In order to access the latest information on Pottermore, fans must first head to the Cupboard Under the Stairs, where the Dursleys kept Harry at number four, Privet Drive. As alohamora won’t work to unlock the new text, fans might want to look at the side table outside the cupboard first.

Read next: Here’s What New Information J.K. Rowling Revealed on Pottermore

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TIME advice

15 Books for Recent Graduates

  • The Real Simple Guide to Real Life by the Editors of Real Simple

    Oxmoor House

    From salary negotiations to apartment decorating, the first year out of college is filled with a lot of new experiences. With this book, your grad can tackle any hurdle that comes up in the home or the office, with timeless-yet-practical advice from the editors of Real Simple. After reading a few pages, you might want this on your shelf, too.

    To buy: $19, barnesandnoble.com.

  • What Do I Do If…? by Eric Grzymkowski

    Adams Media

    From an attack by killer bees to a clogged toilet to a forgotten anniversary, this tiny book offers solutions for any disaster your grad might encounter when finally out on his or her own. Each sticky situation is marked by how likely it is to happen, how easy it is to prevent, and whether or not you need to respond quickly.

    To buy: $11, amazon.com.

  • The Road to Character by David Brooks

    Random House

    New York Times columnist David Brooks uses this book to distinguish “resume virtues”—skills that might look good to an employer—from “eulogy virtues”—morals and values that help us grow and form relationships. He encourages everyone to focus on the latter, and uses anecdotes, interviews, and psychology to give readers the tools to develop a more “moral character.”

    To buy: $17.50, amazon.com.

  • Way More Than Luck

    Chronicle Books

    This book has 14 transcribed commencement speeches that encourage recent grads to be creative, be brave, and make their marks on the world. Speakers include Nora Ephron, Ira Glass, Tom Wolfe, and David Foster Wallace, and the book also illustrates the most inspirational quotes from each address.

    To buy: $15, amazon.com.

  • Do Over by Jon Acuff


    First-time employees need the right tools and resources to make the most of their desk jobs. Do Over goes over four inevitable transitions: a career ceiling (when you feel stuck), a career bump (maybe you lose your job), a career jump (a possible promotion), and a career opportunity (usually unexpected and scary). This practical advice will help grads take advantage of all four transitions, and succeed in any field.

    To buy: $16, amazon.com.

  • The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan


    The eponymous posthumous essay that spurred this collection circulated quickly amongst college graduates in 2012 because it hit a nerve—everyone was looking for a way to stay connected to their friends when they went off alone in the world after leaving school. Keegan’s work—both essay and fiction—is a must-read for all young writers.

    To buy: $10, amazon.com.

  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler

    Dey Street Books

    Poehler’s funny, honest memoir is filled with nuggets of advice all grads can use, with chapters organized into three sections: “Say Whatever You Want,” “Do Whatever You Like,” and “Be Whoever You Are.” While the move from college can seem intimidating, Poehler’s words remind everyone that the most important thing to do in life is to have fun.

    To buy: $10, amazon.com.

  • Edmund Unravels by Andrew Kolb

    Nancy Paulsen Books

    Consider this children’s book to be 2015’s version of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Edmund, an adorable ball of yarn, sets off to explore the world. He meets interesting people and visits exciting places, but ultimately, finds that he can’t head out into the world alone without a little support from his family.

    To buy: $13, amazon.com.

  • Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling

    Little, Brown and Company

    Rowling’s famous Harvard commencement address has been transcribed into a pocket-sized book of wisdom and inspiration that all graduates will want on their shelves. Rowling encourages all graduates to be creative and embrace failure in order to find post-graduate success.

    To buy: $12, amazon.com.

  • Lean In for Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg


    Sandberg’s Lean In offered valuable advice for women who had spent years feeling frustrated in the workplace, but this graduation edition is targeted at young women who have yet to begin. Her guide equips them with the tools necessary to negotiate, participate, and lead in whatever job they land.

    To buy: $19, amazon.com.

  • The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, Ph.D.


    This book explores the 20-something years with personal stories from the author’s clients, and scientific data to explain how the body and mind works during this crucial developmental period. For any millennial who feels overwhelmed or misunderstood, Jay’s analysis of young adult issues and advice for achieving success—both professionally and personally—will reassure and motivate.

    To buy: $9, amazon.com.

  • Getting There by Gillian Zoe Segal

    Harry N. Abrams

    Thirty industry influencers discuss essential career advice for young people about to enter the workforce. Most importantly, they focus on obstacles they faced at work, because those often were essential to their success. Mentors include businessman and politician Michael Bloomberg, trainer Jillian Michaels, and artist Jeff Koons.

    To buy: $19, amazon.com.

  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed


    Strayed’s weekly “Dear Sugar” column in The Rumpus is now in book form, with one of her most compassionate, thoughtful columns—titled “Tiny Beautiful Things”—leading the collection. Through a combination of her own experiences and honest advice, this book is filled with one-liners (“Be brave enough to break your own heart”) that all graduates will adopt as mantras.

    To buy: $11, amazon.com.

  • A Curious Mind by Charles Fishman and Brian Grazer

    Simon & Schuster

    Academy Award-winning producer Brian Grazer has talked to a host of accomplished people—from writers to actors to CEOs—to find out how creativity drives their work. These “curiosity conversations” helped him develop concrete advice for improving your professional and personal life.

    To buy: $16, amazon.com.

  • Headstrong by Rachel Swaby

    Broadway Books

    Women’s contributions to science and research are often overlooked, so Swaby profiles the achievements of 52 influential and innovative women who have proven that the sciences aren’t just for men. If you know a young woman looking to break into this male-heavy field, they’ll appreciate this book of innovators.

    To buy: $19, amazon.com.

    This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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TIME Books

Grey Sold More Than 1 Million Copies in 4 Days

It's Amazon's highest pre-order of the year

Christian Grey has said some of the most cringe-worthy one-liners in the history of literature, but people are apparently dying to hear his point of view. E.L. James’ Grey, the retelling of Fifty Shades of Greyfrom Christian Grey’s perspective, has sold more than 1.1 million copies in trade paperback, eBook and audio editions, Vintage Anchor books announced on Monday.

“This is an astonishing number of books to sell over a weekend and speaks to the engagement and passion readers have for the Fifty Shades books,” Anne Messitte, Vintage’s publisher, said in a statement. “Christian’s side of the story is proving to be irresistible.”

Vintage has already gone back to press for third, fourth and fifth printings of the book, which was released last week. The first printing was for 1.25 million copies, and the next runs will bring the total number of copies in print up to 2.1 million, Vintage said.

The Fifty Shades trilogy has sold over 125 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most successful publications in history. The first book in the franchise holds the title of all-time best-selling Kindle book. Sara Nelson, editorial director or Amazon.com, announced last week that Grey was the highest pre-order of the year, beating outHarper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

TIME Books

6 Beach Reads to Transport You This Summer

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Books to take you places near and far

Every traveler fantasizes about starting over in a foreign land—what happens when you actually go for it? That question is the starting point of The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty (Ecco), in which Vendela Vida tells the story of a woman who travels to Morocco and reinvents herself. Peter Nichols’s The Rocks (Riverhead) takes place in a glamorous Majorcan resort, and is both a riveting mystery and a decades-long love story. Set in Manila, Boston, and Bahrain, In the Country (Knopf), the debut story collection from Mia Alvar, dives into the way race, class, and borders can change us, or make us want to change ourselves.

Of course, home—whether going to it or leaving it—can be just as dramatic. Eleni N. Gage, in her spellbinding The Ladies of Managua (St. Martin’s Press), looks at three generations of Nicaraguan women, reunited in their homeland, while Naomi Jackson’s lyrical The Star Side of Bird Hill (Penguin Press) is about two sisters forced to leave their mother in Brooklyn to live with their grandmother in Barbados. The Unfortunates (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), by Sophie McManus, conjures blue- blooded New York with its tale of the Somner family’s struggles to hold on to a waning era of opulence.

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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TIME Books

How to Write a Novel on One of North America’s Bloodiest Conflicts


Don Winslow is back with The Cartel, an overpowering follow-up on the war on drugs

Don Winslow never intended to write a follow-up book to his 2005 novel The Power of the Dog. It was a brutal story about the war on drugs—one famous incident involved a man throwing two children off a bridge—and he didn’t want to revisit that subject matter. When people suggested he write a sequel, he says he would hang up the phone or storm out of the room. “I did not want to write this book,” Winslow says.

The Cartel, out Tuesday, is that book—the one Winslow so vehemently resisted writing. He thought he had already seen the worst of the war on drugs, but as news reports kept trickling in, he saw the violence “accelerate to points you had literally not thought humanly possible,” he says. Though the book is a sequel, readers need not be familiar with the backstory between a major Mexican drug king and the DEA agent intent on taking him down to appreciate the new volume.

TIME caught up with Winslow ahead of the book’s release to talk about the novel and how to fix some of the problems endemic to the war on drugs.

TIME: What was your research process like for this book?

Winslow: I’ve spent close to 10 years on researching and writing these two books. So the process is complicated. I start with the basics, start doing a lot of deep research, historical research. Once I felt that I had some background, then it was a matter of talking to people.

Who did you start speaking to first?

Cops. Who, as you might know, are not always the easiest interview. I did talk to, of course, drug people.

How did you find them? Through the cops?

Cops did turn me on to some people who had maybe been formerly incarcerated. You know people who know people who know people. It’s a matter of hanging out and becoming somewhat trustworthy, and being very open and honest about what you’re doing.

Where would you have these conversations?

You name it.

Bars, hotels?

Both. Parks. Beaches.

How long would you spend with any given source?

It varies, from minutes to days. Some of these relationships have gone over the course of years.

And some people you returned to for the second book?

A lot of people were dead.

Wow. How did you learn of their deaths?

News. Or phone calls.

How closely do some of the story lines mirror real-life events?

The incidents are very real. I can’t think of anything [invented], really, in Cartel, except maybe the very ending. If you’re familiar with the Mexican drug scene, the Mexican drug history—and not many people are—you can recognize some of the prototypes for the characters based on their actions. But in terms of their personalities, or their more private lives, that’s made up.

Was there one news incident that tipped the scales to make you want to write a second book?

I don’t know if there was a moment where I felt, “Okay, I’m writing this book.” But there’s an incident in the book about the slaughter of a bunch of Central American immigrants. Unfortunately, there were numbers of those. I had already started researching it, obviously, all the while denying I was actually going to write it. Just thinking, “Well I’m interested in it, and it’s the responsible thing to do to follow the news.” And I live near the border.

Where do you live?

Southern California, San Diego County. Way out in the boonies. The Border Patrol used to chase people through the back of our property. We live in an old ranch, and I’d be out walking in the back, checking fences, and I’d find immigrant camps. So we were in the heart of it.

A conversation in the news lately is about how shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, can be criticized for depicting violence in a way that idealizes it. At the same time, if you’re going to tell a violent story, you need the readers to root for the characters enough to stay with the story. How did you try to straddle that?

It’s so tricky. In Dog, I wrote about, for instance, a guy who throws two little children off a bridge. I struggled with that. How do you write it? You want it to be real, you want it to be impactful. At the same time, you don’t want to cross the line into the pornography of violence, the sheer voyeurism. You have to make some choices. I don’t like, in crime novels or in film, the sanitation of violence. If you’ve ever seen somebody shot, and I have, it’s not pretty. It never happens in slow motion. It’s sickeningly quick and irrevocable. So I’ve never liked crime murder as a parlor game. If you’re going to let a reader know what it’s like, and what the real-life consequence of this stupid, insane war on drugs is, and the real-life consequences of buying drugs, I think you need to make it realistic and brutal. At the same time there are some things I won’t do.

What are the things you won’t do?

I won’t do a rape scene. I’ll refer to it, but I can’t write it. I can’t do it. I was one of the people who was angry about Game of Thrones a couple weeks ago. You could have cut away from that scene, or he walks out the door. I won’t do that. There are rapes in this book, and they’re referred to.


How do you see the role of women in the novel and in the war on drugs?

It’s changed a lot. When I was writing Dog, the women were accessories. They were on the guys’ arms, they were hookers. But there were several developments that changed that. One was that the men killed each other off. So in some of these cartels, the sister might be the last surviving sibling. To protect herself and to protect her family, she has to take authority, because if she yields authority they’ll kill her just to make sure. So more women started to rise through the system.

The other story that boggles my mind is the women’s revolution, especially but not exclusively in northern Mexico, where these women—I have no way of explaining this level of courage—say, “Okay, we don’t have any police left. They’re all dead or they ran away. I’m gonna be the cop.” With the full knowledge that their predecessors were killed, and the knowledge that they are probably going to be killed.

I read that you said the answer to the war on drugs is that drugs should be free and no one should use them. Could you expand on that?

It’s the illegality of drugs that puts the profit into them, and it’s that profit that drives the violent psychopaths of the cartels to the extent where 100,000 people in Mexico have been murdered and another 22,000 are missing—and those are obviously round figures.

So here’s the problem: people go out and they go to a party, or they come home and they do whatever, and they have some weed. Per se, it’s not an issue. But you have to realize that there’s a big possibility that it has blood all over it: of children, of women, not just gangsters killing gangsters, innocent people, most of them poor. Addicts are of course a whole different story, but recreational drugs, I’m sorry, I think it’s wrong.

But legalization would be a huge step forward. At least decriminalization. We’re the largest drug market in the world, so we spend billions of dollars buying the drugs and billions of dollars trying to keep the drugs out. Let’s spend these billions of dollars addressing the roots of the drug problem—poverty, racism, bad education, isolation, all kinds of things that we as a society could take this money that we’re wasting and use it to that end.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

TIME Books

Why You Should Write in Your Books

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Shane Parrish writes Farnam Street

Participate in the conversation by writing in the book

While I’ve posted this before as part of my series on reading a book, I wanted to draw your attention to this beautiful excerpt from Mortimer Adler’s How To Read A Book:

When you buy a book, you establish a property right in it, just as you do in clothes or furniture when you buy and pay for them. But the act of purchase is actually only the prelude to possession in the case of a book. Full ownership of a book only comes when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it— which comes to the same thing— is by writing in it.

Why is marking a book indispensable to reading it? First, it keeps you awake— not merely conscious, but wide awake. Second, reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in words, spoken or written. The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks. Third, writing your reactions down helps you to remember the thoughts of the author.

Reading a book should be a conversation between you and the author. Presumably he knows more about the subject than you do; if not, you probably should not be bothering with his book. But understanding is a two-way operation; the learner has to question himself and question the teacher. He even has to be willing to argue with the teacher, once he understands what the teacher is saying. Marking a book is literally an expression of your differences or your agreements with the author. It is the highest respect you can pay him.

This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Books

How Playing Matchmaker in the Hospital Saved My Father’s Life

Bob Morris is the author, most recently, of Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents

An excerpt from Bob Morris's new memoir, Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents

My father loves pills, whether prescription or over-​the-​counter. Red ones. Pink, blue, yellow, and white ones. Muscle relaxants. Beta-​blockers. Blood thinners, stool softeners, and acid reducers. And then there is the kind of sleeping pill he chose from his beloved pharmaceutical cornucopia when he wanted to die one sunny summer Monday—Ambien, a little white sleeping pill no bigger than a Tic-Tac.

When I arrive at the hospital, my father is asleep in the emergency room and looking only a little ashen for a man who has taken what he thought was a dose to help him sleep forever. My brother looks relieved that I’ve come right away.

There isn’t room for two visitors. So he steps away to leave us alone. My father raises his head and opens his eyes for a moment. “Bobby,” he sighs. Then his head falls back to his pillow.

“Hi, Dad. I’m here.” I take his soft, arthritic hand, which I know as well as my own. His wrist is connected to an IV port. Over the emergency room noise — the voices and beeping of machines — he resumes snoring. I look at him and it strikes me hard : He wanted to die because his heart has been making him so weak lately, and we had no idea that his desperation about his failing health had become so intense.

“Do you think he’ll be okay?” I ask a nurse.

“Oh yeah,” she says. You can take a whole bottle of Ambien and it won’t kill you. It’s not that kind of drug.”

I detect a kind of cynical empathy in her voice, if such a thing is possible. Perhaps she is acknowledging what I can’t get out of my thoughts. This fiercely independent eighty-two-year-old fun-loving man, who still drives and plays bridge like a maniac and who doesn’t want to be a bother to his sons has just brought a great deal of bother to us. What are we going to do with him now? Suicide with six pills? What was he thinking? Well, his logic has always been as sloppy as he is. In his car, he still has a hundred tennis balls, a dozen yarmulkes, bridge columns, old sneakers, and X-rays. An ever hopeful man, he keeps a couple of Trojans in the glove compartment too. And next to the driver’s seat he keeps an old Styrofoam cup of his beloved pills. Mostly they’re for allergies, which hit him as hard in spring as they do me. Anytime I would sneeze he would stick his hand in that cup and pull something out for me.

“Dad, those are prescription,” I’d tell him. “Don’t force them on me.”

“Just trying to help,” he’d always say.

Looking at him in the emergency room bed now, I think about the times I’d said no to all his pills and the look of disappointment that darkened his face. Then I think about all the times I said no to all his other requests. He wanted to share a vacation house with me for a month. He wanted to show me the money he and my mother had for me in dozens of savings accounts.

I always said no. Maybe I should have said yes once in a while.

I wonder, Is there a pill a son can take to open his heart to his father?

Later, we join him in a private hospital room upstairs. He’s lying awake over white sheets in a pale blue gown. His smudged aviator glasses sit crooked on his nose. What do you say to someone who has just woken up to find that, against all his wishes, he’s still alive?

“You’re awake,” I chirp.

“Hi, Dad,” my brother follows.

“Nice to see you guys,” Dad says.

Jeff and I exchange looks. Nice to see you guys? As if we’ve come for lunch?

A moment later, a pale, middle-​aged man with a ponytail and black clogs walks in: Dr. Jack Downer. The irony of the name makes us raise eyebrows. Dr. Downer gets right to work. Like someone taking a survey, he asks my father the basics—if he knows the day and if he can count backward by sevens. My father, a lover of crossword puzzles and sudokus, scores well and beams from the attention. His mood, verging on buoyant, as if nothing has happened today, is inappropriate at best.

“Have you ever had psychiatric problems, Mr. Morris?” Dr. Downer asks.

“No! Never! And I’ve never been to a therapist either.”

“Did you really intend to die?”

Jeff and I cringe at the question.

“Yes, and I actually chose a Monday to do it because I figured it would be more convenient for my boys and not disturb their weekend plans.”

“I see,” the doctor says.

I wish that Dr. Downer weren’t quite so true to his name and could be a little more uplifting. He doesn’t sit, but rather stands as far from the bed as possible.

“When you woke up from your attempt were you glad to be alive?”

My father doesn’t say anything. He pushes white strands of hair from his smooth olive skinned forehead so much like mine, and we wait for his response. This is what he so wanted to avoid, a prolonged ending on a low note after a life of breaking into song with the slightest provocation, reveling in talking to strangers, from waitresses to toll booth collectors (much to my constant consternation), tossing tennis balls and old rackets to children in municipal parks, pouring orange juice and raspberry sweetener onto everything and generally being an out of control sticky mess of affability whose heart is as big as it is damaged.

“Well, I was prepared to live,” my father finally answers. “I wasn’t sure the pills would work.” The doctor makes a note. Then he tells my father he will have to be moved to a locked psychiatric ward for observation tomorrow. It’s the law in New York State.

“I’d really appreciate it, Doc, if I could spend the night in this bed and then just go home in the morning and forget this whole thing,” he says.

“I don’t think that’s possible,” Dr. Downer says.

“Why not? I made a mistake, and I won’t do it again.”

“But do you still want to die, Mr. Morris?”

My father looks over at me and then at my brother. We lean in toward him from our chairs, helpless. It feels as if the entire hospital has gone silent. We wait for his answer.

“No, but I still would like to put an end to becoming dependent on others,” he says.

Dr. Downer leans against a ledge and softens his tone. Behind him, a Pepto-Bismol-pink sky illuminates his long, bristly hair.

“Aren’t there things you do that you can enjoy on your own?” he asks.

“Not really. To be honest, I’m out of plans.”

“Well that’s not very reassuring, Mr. Morris.”

My father sighs. I feel frustrated for him, knowing he’s trapped and that he will have to pay for the mistake of not finishing himself off properly, which turns out to be common with the suicidal. They don’t drown as they’d intended, or they throw up the pills they take. Or someone finds them just in the nick of time, and by saving them ruins their careful exit strategy.

The interview is winding down. But Dad, desperate to keep playing the host and keep the conversation going, wants to be reminded of his interrogator’s name.

“It’s Dr. Jack Downer, Mr. Morris,” the doctor says.

“So is there a Jill for you, Jack?” my father, the habitual matchmaker, asks.

“What do you mean?”

“You know—so that a Jack and a Jill can go up the hill to fetch a pail of water?”

My brother turns red. I smile, then keep my smile from widening, as I often have to around such an uncontrollable well-​meaning yenta of a father.

“No, there isn’t,” says the doctor with his head now cocked to one side. “Why?”

“Because I’m going to fix you up,” my father says. “That’s what I like to do.”

The doctor steps forward to stare like an ornithologist inspecting a rare species of bird. My brother and I look away to hide our laughter. The father we find so amusing and embarrassing has returned to us for a moment, and we are overjoyed to see him.

“That’s a funny thing to suggest to a doctor you just met,” Dr. Downer says. Then, after a long pause, the trace of a smile crosses his face. “But I’m open to it.”

“Doc,” my father says, “you just gave me a very good reason to live.”


From the book BOBBY WONDERFUL: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents. Copyright (c) 2015 by Bob Morris. Reprinted by permission of Twelve/Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Books

James Salter, Author of A Sport and a Pastime, Dies at 90

The Telegraph Hay Festival
David Levenson—Getty Images James Salter attends The Telegraph Hay festival at Dairy Meadows in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, on May 26, 2013.

Known for his crisp, refined prose style

NEW YORK (AP) — James Salter, the prize-winning author acclaimed for his sophisticated, granular prose and sobering insights in “Light Years,” ”A Sport and a Pastime” and other fiction, has died at age 90.

Salter’s death was confirmed Friday to The Associated Press by Alfred A. Knopf spokesman Paul Bogaards. He did not immediately provide other details.

Salter, a lifelong brooder about impermanence and mortality, was the kind of writer whose language exhilarated readers even when relating the most distressing narratives, from “A Sport and a Pastime” to the stories in the 2005 release “Last Night” to the 2013 novel “All That Is.”

Salter didn’t enjoy great commercial success but was highly admired by critics and by such peers as Jhumpa Lahiri, Richard Ford and the late Peter Matthiessen, his friend and longtime neighbor on Long Island. He won the PEN/Faulkner prize for the 1988 collection “Dusk and Other Stories” and received two lifetime achievement honors for short story writing, the Rea Award and the PEN/Malamud prize.

Few authors compared to Salter in making every word matter. Lahiri was among those who thought he wrote some of the most perfect sentences in the English language.

“Reading Salter taught me to boil down my writing to its essence,” Lahiri once wrote. “To insist upon the right words, and to remember that less is more. That great art can be wrought from quotidian life.”

Whether the subject was love or war, Salter wondered how we change and how we don’t change, whether there is any connection between our young selves and our older selves. Salter wrote long enough to watch himself evolve on paper, as if his works comprised a kind of parallel life that he simultaneously observed and created.

“If you were the same person in your 40s as you were as a high school sophomore you would be a very strange creation,” he told the AP in 2005.

Salter, a native of Manhattan, was born James Horowitz but as a writer became James Salter, a change that “started an entirely new life,” he told the AP. He was an Air Force pilot, a swimming pool salesman and a filmmaker, his credits including the short documentary “Team Team Team” and the feature film “Three,” starring Sam Waterston.

The son of a real estate salesman who had graduated from West Point, Salter recalled in his 1997 memoir, “Burning the Days,” that he was an “obedient” child who was “close to my parents and in awe of my teachers.” He enjoyed reading but only later became serious about it.

Like his father, he attended West Point, and he entered the Army Air Corps. He flew more than 100 missions during the Korean War and resigned from the Air Force as a major in 1957. He found his calling as a writer while serving in the military, reading widely and working on stories. And he found his subject, not just war, which he wrote about in his first two novels, but the whole idea of transience, of bonds formed and then severed.

The year he left the military, he debuted as an author with “The Hunters,” a tough, straightforward novel in the Hemingway tradition that stayed in print even though he found it “a little bit sophomoric.” It was adapted into a 1958 film of the same name, starring Robert Mitchum.

After a second novel, “The Arm of Flesh,” that so dissatisfied him he rewrote it years later as “Cassada,” he was living in Paris, reading “exalted” short novels such as William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” and crafting a story that would be “licentious but pure,” a book “filled with images of an unchaste world more desirable than our own.”

“A Sport and a Pastime” was a brief, poetic, almost supernaturally sexy novel about a Yale dropout and his French girlfriend. Rejected by several publishers before George Plimpton agreed to release it, in 1967, through The Paris Review, the novel is now regarded as a classic work of erotic literature.

“There’s no question it was a breakthrough,” Salter told the AP. “Look, by that time I had read (Albert) Camus, I had read (Andre) Gide. I had read writers of greater elegance and greater intellectual sinew than you usually find in American writers.”

“A Sport and a Pastime,” like future Salter works such as “Light Years,” demonstrated the heights and the limits of sex and love. Paradise is gained, but only for a moment or a series of moments. Relationships break up, people move on, change so that what happened before seems to have happened to somebody else.

Salter was married twice, most recently to Kay Eldredge, and had five children. He worked slowly, only publishing six novels and two story collections, along with his memoir and writings about food and travel.

TIME Books

Critics Christian Grey Is a Predictable Psychopath in Fifty Shades Spinoff

Whether you’re a longtime superfan or so repulsed that the color grey now makes you squirm, it’s probably been next to impossible to avoid news about Grey, E.L. James’s companion book to the Fifty Shades trilogy, told from Christian Grey’s perspective. From psychopathy to predictability, here’s what the early critics have to say:

The Guardian: Grey by EL James review – Christian Grey indulges his inner psychopath,

“The first book was a rather fun and fairly mild portrait of a woman’s sexual fantasy. Yet it is almost impossible to read Grey and not assume the narrator is going to end up in jail. It is most reminiscent of those thrillers that open from the point of view of the heavy-breathing murderer stalking his prey. Instead of lighthearted and repetitive mild S&M, the ‘love affair’ is now the twisted work of an utter psychopath.”

The Telegraph: ‘Mr Darcy with nipple clamps’: Bryony Gordon reviews EL James’s Grey

Grey, the fourth book from EL James, is about as sexy as a misery memoir and as arousing as the diary of a sex offender. … This, then, is the best the 21st century can come up with in terms of romantic literary heroes – a cut-price Mr Darcy in nipple clamps. … The message here is clear: we are supposed to pity him. And yet the only person I pitied was poor old Anastasia, who, having had her opportunity to tell her side of the story in the Fifty Shades trilogy, has been written, in this book, with all the personality of a blow-up doll. “

The Washington Post: Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian’ is far too serious and for fans only

“However one feels about the series, there’s no denying that Grey, released worldwide Thursday, is a completist’s dream. It retells the story of Fifty Shades of Grey and the earliest section of Fifty Shades Darker in Christian’s perspective. It is a behemoth of a book, 557 pages of Ana and Christian’s fraught and at times unsettling love story, here made more unsettling by the truth that fans already know: Christian is not just dark and mysterious; he’s everything he warned Ana he was in the original book. He’s unquestionably ‘fifty shades of [expletive] up.’”

“…But even with all this explanation, with the clear and well-trod defense of Christian, it’s difficult to understand him. Or, rather, it’s difficult to understand why any woman in her right mind would take a chance on him.”

The Telegraph: I read the new Fifty Shades of Grey and it was less sexy than an eye test

“… it turns out that Christian Grey isn’t just fifty shades of f***** up (there’s a whole thing about a peeled ginger root in a place that a ginger root should never be) but he’s also about a million different shades of sexist.”

The Economist: Grey review: I’m a creep

“Here the flesh strung between the narrative bones reveals Mr. Grey to be an even more deeply unpleasant, insecure asshole than your correspondent had previously imagined. And no more three-dimensional. … Most chapters begin with dream-vignettes of his abusive childhood (with the exception of one hideous wet dream about two thirds of the way through). But if these were meant to help give him depth and excuse his less savoury behaviour then they resoundingly fail.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (AP Review): First look: Grey goes inside Christian’s predictable mind

“After the movies, do we really need Grey’s little interior asides, ‘Maybe this could work,’ for example? Is there anything we don’t know about him already? … Grey’s self-loathing comes alive in predictable expletives — and predictable cliches as realizes his pull to Ana is ‘like a moth to a flame.’”

This article originally appeared on EW.com

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