THE GOLDFINCH BY DONNA TARTT
Born in Mississippi, Donna Tartt is a rising star in the pantheon of young American writers. She made a name for herself when she published her first book, Secret History, before she reached 30. Then came Little Friend, which won her the WH Smith Literary Award in 2003. Now, a decade later, out flies The Goldfinch, a fiction finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. This woman is the real deal. Her Dickensian story involves Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New York kid who gets drawn into a criminal underworld, and revolves around his fixation on a real painting by Carel Fabritius from 1654, which Tartt first spotted in Amsterdam years ago and happened to be on display at the Frick Museum in Manhattan when this novel came out. In the book Decker steals the little painting from the Met.
Don’t copy that!
OUT AMONG THE STARS BY JOHNNY CASH (COLUMBIA/LEGACY)
Rare are those transcendental occasions when new material from one of your favorite artists (and by favorite I mean someone whose life and work has touched yours so deeply that you integrate some of theirs into your own), who have long since passed, is posthumously released. Rarer still is when that new material is not just throwaways and B-sides, but an entirely brand new album of truly great songs. So is the case with Johnny Cash’s Out Among The Stars, slated for release next month. Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee in 1981 and 1984 and produced by famed “countrypolitan” architect Billy Sherrill, it contains 12 tracks that had been tucked away in Columbia’s vaults and simply forgotten—only to be discovered by The Man In Black’s son, John Carter Cash, while cataloguing his father’s archives in 2012. The songs include duets with June Carter Cash and Waylon Jennings and Nashville’s “A-Team” of musicians at the time. They are tiny, sparkling, moving gems that demand to be cranked at maximum volume so they can travel through your eardrum, ricochet off your heart and join Johnny up there shining, glimmering, radiating out among the stars.
The ghosts of Yankees past are currently on loan to the intimate Circle in the Square Theatre, where legends such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Thurman Manson and Joe DiMaggio come to life in a witty and heart-warming play centered around the iconic Yogi Berra, whose love of the Yankees is only surpassed by his devotion to his wife Carmen. Bronx Bombers (opening Feb. 6) begins with a tense scene in a Boston hotel room one day after megalomaniac Reggie Jackson’s epic dugout blowup with manager Billy Martin at Fenway Park. The aloof Berra, played brilliantly by Peter Scolari (Bosom Buddies, Newhart), appears rattled and calls a meeting with Munson, Jackson and Martin. The audience is then invited into Berra’s dreams, where his brethren come together to bicker, laugh and inspire. All the while, Berra looks on quietly before his long-simmering emotions pour out in a fiery, impassioned speech. Bombers is replete with Berra’s adorable “Yogisms,” a brilliant feast (featuring hot dogs; what else?), a beautiful love story, and a front-row seat into baseball heaven that reminds us why this is America’s favorite pastime.
JUNIOR JOHNSON’S MIDNIGHT MOON
You’ve got to love a label that says this about itself: “Few family recipes carry a jail sentence. But to Junior Johnson’s family, it was a way of life. With the law on his heels, Junior ran the finest moonshine to the dry rural south.” Each jar of Midnight Moon, distilled from corn at their place in Madison, N.C., is supposedly “hand-filled with real fruit, the way moonshine was meant to be made.” We started with the apple pie flavor—a blend of apple juice and a cinnamon stick—and found it hard to stop. In fact, we may never eat pie again if we can drink it instead from a mason jar. Fortunately we didn’t have to cross state lines to get some of this moonshine (just try a liquor store in Nassau or Suffolk)—and we heard no sirens following us when we took it back home for a little nip just before bedtime.