INTERVIEW: Michael Callahan On Searching for Grace Kelly

Tomorrow night, author (and, full disclosure, former Philadelphia magazine executive editor) Michael Callahan will visit Barnes and Noble to read from his recently published first novel, Searching for Grace Kelly. The story is a fictional account of three  young ladies who move to New York City in the 1950s to find fame, fortune and romance in the Big Apple. It’s inspired by and centered around the famed Barbizon Hotel, a boarding house / charm school of sorts that played home to legends of page and screen like Joan Crawford, Sylvia Plath and Philly’s own Grace Kelly. The book was actually inspired by an article Callahan wrote about the Barbizon in Vanity Fair in 2010.

In anticipation of his reading tomorrow, I shot my former colleague a few questions about the book. He talks about the in-depth research that went into re-creating New York City in the 1950s, how he came up with the title, and the possibility that it will be turned into a television series.

Photo by Evan Schapiro

Photo by Evan Schapiro

Congrats on the book, Michael! We’re all really proud of you around here.
Thank you. It’s been a wild experience with every possible emotion.

When did you realize the story would become something bigger than the piece you did in Vanity Fair?
Like most magazine writers I had always felt I had a book in me. I just didn’t know what to write about. I had done one book proposal for a nonfiction idea that went nowhere, and I was struggling to come up with another, more sell-able idea. My agent and I knocked around doing a book on the Barbizon, but it seemed like there was little left to say, non-fiction wise. Then she suggested I write a fictional story about the hotel. I was really, really nervous, because I had no fiction experience. So I told her if I could come up with a good narrative, I would give it a try. And I did.

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Throwback Thursday: William Way’s Fantastic Collection of Gay Pulp Fiction Novels

Every week William Way Executive Director Chris Bartlett and I meet for a rummage through the LGBT community center’s John J. Wilcox Jr. Archives, a veritable treasure trove of relics from gay Philadelphia’s past. This week, I got sidetracked by the the Archives’ fantastic collection of gay pulp fiction novels. These gems, with erotic, albeit kind of hilarious covers, and even better cover lines, were donated from community members over the years. Check out some of my favorites—or at least the ones that I could show—below: 


Just Whom Is Bruce Springsteen Trying to Impress?


I had the unusual experience this week of feeling sorry for a very chic, very thin Frenchwoman. That would be Fleur Pellerin, France’s minister of culture, who was asked in a television interview to name her favorite book by Patrick Modiano, the Frenchman who just won the Nobel Prize for literature. This put the French minister of culture in a highly awkward position, as she was unable to name any of the works of the highly celebrated M. Modiano, seeing as she’s never read anything he’s written. (She had, however, she noted, much enjoyed a recent luncheon with him.)

Mme. Minister then compounded her sin by admitting that she hadn’t read a book of fiction in years: “I read a lot of notes, a lot of legal texts, the news, A.F.P. stories, but I read very little,” she said in the interview, according to the New York Times.

Whereupon French social media exploded, and writer Claude Askolovitch promptly called Mme. Minister “barbaric” on the French site of the Huffington Post, demanding that she resign.

Poor Fleur. Read more »

Philly-Based Poet Shares Struggle of Being Queer in the Middle East in New Book

NallaNalla, an author currently based in Philadelphia, is revealing her experience being queer in the Middle East in a new book. “Faces,” a collection of poems, describes Nalla’s struggles from his perspective, walking the reader through his difficult journey. The poems also meditate on love and life but mainly focus on the daily confusion and inner conflict Nalla faced while living in different countries in the Middle East.

Sure to be an emotional journey for any reader, Nalla’s poems are expressive of the rejection he has suffered and the love he found along the way. Available through indie publisher Lulu, Faces features a beautiful sketch on its cover that Nalla fell in love with online, then tracked down and obtained the rights to use it for this book. While you wait for your copy of this powerful poetry to ship (just $14, by the way) check out some of Nalla’s work online.

Beyoncé Biography In The Works Will Probably Save the Book Industry



A year from now the world will be graced by the first in-depth biography of Beyoncé by famed celebrity biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli. Taraborrelli has delved into the lives of pop culture’s most fascinating names, including Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and the Kennedys. Now he’ll pull back the curtain on the world’s most flawless celebrity.

The as-yet-untitled biography will follow Bey from childhood to superstardom, including aspects of both her personal and professional lives. Flavorwire reports that the book will feature “exclusive interviews with the people in the superstar’s life” but there is no word yet on whether that includes Queen Bey herself.

Will we get to know Knowles as a precocious young star in the making? Will the bio detail the early struggles Destiny’s Child faced? What about her fortress-like PR machine? Her relationship with Jay? Her early days with Blue? What really happened in that elevator? We have so many questions.

No matter what the bio includes, it’s sure to sell off the shelves in minutes. Beyoncé could give a much needed boost to the book biz next fall when Hachette’s Grand Central Publishing releases the tome. Add this news to her just-announced collab with Topshop and you’ve got one bootylicious Monday.


READ THIS: Superstorm Tells the Story of Hurricane Sandy and Its Costly Aftermath

superstorm jacketRight around this time two years ago, Hurricane Sandy changed the way we look at weather phenomena. A new book by journalist Kathryn MilesSuperstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy, takes an unprecedented look inside the storm that ravaged the Atlantic coast in 2012.

Released just last week, Miles’s narrative dives into the human aspect of the second-costliest storm in U.S. history, following the hurricane/cyclone hybrid from its birth in the Caribbean to when it hit land in New Jersey.

Rather than just laying out the meteorological effects of the storm, Miles explores how the nine days of freak weather affected emergency responders, weather forecasters, victims, and survivors. Local residents who experienced the storm firsthand are sure to be entertained—and just may pick up a few tips about what to expect from our next disaster.

David Lynch’s Twin Peaks Being Turned Into a Novel


Right on the heels of news that David Lynch’s Twin Peaks will return to television in 2016, Flatiron Books has released information that the eery serial drama is being turned into a novel.

According to AP, the book, titled The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks, will delve into what has happened to the show’s characters since it went off the air in 1991.

The work is being written by the show’s co-creator and executive producer, Mark Frost, and will be published just before the sequel returns to TV.

Mazzoni Center Publishes Student Guide How to Build a FIERCE GSA

FIERCE cover picMazzoni Center‘s Ally Safe Schools program has distilled its wealth of knowledge into a book, so educators and students alike can learn how to create or strengthen a Gay/Queer-Straight Alliance at their schools. These student-run clubs help raise awareness of LGBTQ issues, organize activities, provide support for each other, and/or create a safe space for LGBTQ students.

How to Build a FIERCE GSA is 22-pages in length, and filled with all kinds of tips that the Center hopes will help inspire healthy, vibrant GSAs across the region and nation. The small 4-by-6 guide is portable, so readers can keep it on hand for meetings and events. It’s so tiny—and adorable—it will fit in your pocket.

You may have seen Mazzoni handing out some of these at OutFest yesterday, but you can still get a free copy by downloading it here as a PDF or requesting a hard copy.

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Woman Crush Wednesday: Photographer Rachelle Lee Smith

Every hump day a Philly person shares their local picks for Woman Crush Wednesday. Today, photographer Rachelle Lee Smith, who, on October 1st, released her latest book Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus, a photographic compilation featuring queer youth and their stories about being LGBT in a modern world. She’s officially launching the book at a reception at William Way on October 10th. More info on that here.

Our Last Five Woman Crush Wednesdays:

10 Best Books on Amazon Kindle Unlimited: Fiction

Back in July Amazon opened up its Kindle Unlimited subscription service to the U.S., throwing their hat in the ring to be the “Netflix of books.” For just $9.99 a month, users can access over 700,000 e-books on their Kindle e-readers, through the Kindle app for iOS, Android, Windows Phone or Blackberry, or on their desktop.

Having access to this library is a boon for bookworms—that is, if they can figure out what to read. With so many titles to choose from and, frankly, quite a few duds, the choices can be a bit overwhelming. We’ve dug through their fiction selection to find the best books on Kindle Unlimited for you to download.

71qsXVeH9oL._SL1500_The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (1940)
Often named one of the best novels of the 20th century, McCullers’ modern classic debuted when she was just 23. The story follows a deaf man named John Singer and the friends he makes in a small Georgia town in the 1930s. Singer’s life changes when he is separated from his mute companion and meets heroine Mick Kelly, a tomboy who loves music.

Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman (1965)
This novel is the original “young idealistic teacher fights bureaucracy and small budgets in an inner-city school” tale, but it’s told through inter-office memos, students’ notes, suggestion box ideas, and lesson plans. After spending 64 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list when it debuted, it was adapted into a film in 1967, becoming an instant classic.

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