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The Life and Death of Daniel Auster, a Son of Literary Brooklyn



In a Brooklyn subway station one April morning, as commuters waited for a G train, a 44-year-old man named Daniel Auster was found unconscious on a platform after a drug overdose. He was brought to the Brooklyn Hospital Center, where he died six days later, after being taken off life support.

A D.J. and photographer who had long struggled with addiction, Mr. Auster was the son of the writers Paul Auster and Lydia Davis, and the stepson of the novelist Siri Hustvedt, making him a child of New York literary royalty. Eleven days before his death, he had been charged in the death of his 10-month-old daughter, Ruby.

Ruby had died on Nov. 1, 2021, while in his care. Mr. Auster’s wife, a 26-year-old graphic designer named Zuzan Smith, told the police that the baby was awake and in good health that morning when she left their apartment on Bergen Street in Brooklyn. In a deposition, Mr. Auster said he had injected himself with heroin before taking a nap beside his daughter. When he woke up, he found that Ruby was “blue, lifeless and unresponsive,” according to a police report.

He tried administering Narcan, a drug used to treat opioid overdoses, to revive her before calling 911. Ruby was pronounced dead at the nearby NewYork-Presbyterian-Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. The cause of her death was acute intoxication of heroin and fentanyl. Law enforcement officials have not commented on how she ingested the drugs.

Four months later, in mid-April, the medical examiner declared Ruby’s death a homicide. Mr. Auster was arrested and arraigned on charges of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and endangering the welfare of a child. A Daily Mail video shows him shuffling into a van wearing handcuffs, as a reporter shouts: “Daniel, did you kill the baby? Did you kill the baby, Daniel?” On April 20, hours after he was released from Rikers on bail, he was found in the Clinton Hill subway station.

His family remained silent as tabloid photographers staked out the Auster-Hustvedt brownstone in Park Slope. Mr. Auster, 75, and Ms. Hustvedt, 67, declined requests to be interviewed for this article. (“We have absolutely nothing to say about this,” Ms. Hustvedt said.) Ms. Davis, who is 75 and lives in Rensselaer County, N.Y., also declined to comment when reached by phone. Ms. Smith could not be reached for comment.

This was not the first time family members had faced uncomfortable questions about Daniel, who played a part in two New York stories. One was criminal, centered on the most notorious murder in 1990s downtown nightlife. The other was literary, playing out slowly in books written by his father and stepmother, who reckoned with his struggles on the page.

As a teenager, Daniel Auster was immersed in the club kid scene that thrived at rave meccas like Limelight and the Tunnel. He was present in a Hell’s Kitchen apartment when the drug dealer Andre Melendez was murdered by the party promoter Michael Alig and his roommate, Robert Riggs.

Daniel, 18 at the time, was said to have been passed out during the murder, but the precise nature of his actions remains unknown, and the incident cast a shadow that followed him throughout his life. His link to the crime was gradually forgotten, but his arrest and death resurfaced speculation that his last name may have won him leniency with the law.

He was a misfit member of the club kids, a band of downtown personalities who created an underground nightlife universe at the Limelight, a club housed in an old stone church in Chelsea. They partied in glitter and platform heels, and they carried children’s lunchboxes stuffed with ecstasy.

A prodigal son of brownstone Brooklyn, Daniel attended the Packer Collegiate private school and was raised in a bookish milieu. Paul Auster, whose friends included the novelists Salman Rushdie and Don DeLillo, was then at the height of his literary celebrity. When he wrote the 1995 movie “Smoke,” Daniel was cast in a bit part as a thief who shares a scene with ‎Harvey Keitel‎.

By night, he raved at the Limelight beneath cage dancers, often carrying a paperback of “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis. He soon fell under the sway of Mr. Alig, the club kid ringleader from suburban Indiana. As Mr. Alig reigned over the Limelight, and threw lawless parties in trucks and subway stations, teenagers flocked to his chaotic utopia.

“Daniel was a wild child,” said James St. James, a former club kid who wrote the 1999 memoir “Disco Bloodbath: A Fabulous but True Tale of Murder in Clubland.” “When he and Michael met, they were at a rave, and Michael ran over to me and said, ‘I’ve just met the love of my life.’ Then he dragged this boy over. They were inseparable after that. They became a couple from hell.”

“We all knew who Daniel was,” he continued. “It became this joke that Paul Auster had a kid from ‘The Omen’ on his hands.”

The scene changed when meth and ketamine replaced ecstasy, and Mr. Alig got addicted to heroin. It was against this backdrop that Daniel found himself at Mr. Alig’s Hell’s Kitchen apartment on March 17, 1996. What happened next has been told with variations, but this is the generally accepted account.

Mr. Alig’s drug use had resulted in a hefty debt to Mr. Melendez, a club kid known as “Angel” for his habit of wearing giant feathered wings. Mr. Melendez went to the apartment to collect his money, but the two men got into a fight. Soon, Mr. Riggs entered the fray, bludgeoning Mr. Melendez’s head with a hammer. Mr. Alig then suffocated Mr. Melendez before pouring Drano down his throat and sealing his mouth with duct tape.

The dead man was placed in a bathtub, where he decomposed for days on ice while Mr. Alig continued partying with friends. Finally, he dismembered the body in a heroin haze while Mr. Riggs spritzed Calvin Klein Eternity over the corpse to mask its odor. Then the men dumped the body into the Hudson River. They reportedly gave Daniel, who was using drugs in the apartment, $3,000 of Mr. Melendez’s money in exchange for his silence.

As rumors of Mr. Melendez’s disappearance began to spread, Michael Musto, the nightlife columnist at The Village Voice, wrote a blind item suggesting that Mr. Alig had killed him. A mutilated torso washed up on Staten Island, and Mr. Alig and Mr. Riggs were arrested that winter.

After pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter, Mr. Alig spent 17 years in prison and Mr. Riggs served 13. Daniel pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property with the promise of a five-year probation. He did not testify in court. In the crime’s aftermath, police cracked down on drugs in clubs, and a federal investigation targeted Peter Gatien, the eye-patch-wearing mogul who owned the Limelight, effectively ending an era of New York nightlife.

Mr. Riggs said at his sentencing: “What I am certain is that all of us involved, myself, Michael Alig, Daniel Auster and Angel Melendez, are victims of the same hideous evil, whose name is drugs.”

As the crime entered New York lore, the Limelight was converted into a David Barton Gym and the murder became fodder for true-crime books and movies, notably “Party Monster,” which starred Chloë Sevigny and Macaulay Culkin. Daniel became the rarely mentioned fourth man in the apartment, one who did not appear in the most popular retellings.

“After Daniel’s death, conversation about this thing that happened so long ago flared up again,” Mr. Musto said. “All these theories about why he wasn’t charged had always existed. If he knew more, why didn’t he come forward? Why did he fade from view and not have to testify?”

“I always wondered about him over the years,” he added. “He was an enigma.”

In his 2003 book, “​​Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture,” the journalist Frank Owen published the theory that the powerful district attorney Robert Morgenthau, who died in 2019 at 99, didn’t pursue Daniel on more serious charges because his priority was to bring down Mr. Gatien, and because he was friendly with his father.

“After the slaying,” Mr. Owen wrote, “Auster had been whisked out of the city by his father to a secret location. Paul Auster then contacted a family friend, who happened to be Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau. Morgenthau had a reputation for treating celebrities with kid gloves.”

Soon after Mr. Alig was released in 2014, he gave fresh details about the crime to The New York Post: “Me and Daniel Auster and Riggs all piled on Angel,” he said in the interview. “I smashed into his face to try to push him down. I either did it for too long or had more strength than I realized or maybe it was a combination of us sitting on top of him and he couldn’t breathe or whatever it was, he just stopped writhing.”

Mr. Alig, who was then almost 50, tried to reclaim his former glory as a nightlife promoter, but the murder’s specter followed him in a vastly changed city. He died of a drug overdose on Christmas Eve in 2020. Mr. Riggs entered academia after his release in 2010 and avoided the media spotlight.

In the wake of Daniel’s death, former club kids began reconnecting to discuss the past, and some reflected that Ruby’s death represented yet one more consequence of the era’s excesses.

“For years after Angel’s murder I thought, ‘Maybe this is all over,’” said Ernie Glam, who went on to be a newspaper reporter in Westchester County. “But the deaths of Michael Alig and now Daniel Auster and his daughter show that it’s not over. Addiction is never over. I don’t think of Daniel as a monster but as an addict who was a really sick person that needed help.”

Sidney Prawatyotin, who appeared in the 1995 movie “Kids” and became a graphic artist, was teenage friends with Daniel in the Limelight years.

“When we hung out, I always felt like Daniel was looking for a family,” Mr. Prawatyotin said. “I thought of him as a boy without a family. Like he was lost. He enjoyed doing normal things with me, like watching movies all night. At my parents’ place on the Upper West Side, he always liked spending time with my mom and hanging out with her. I think he eventually found family in the clubs, but then it got out of control for him.”

The second New York story that Daniel Auster was connected to began playing out on the page shortly after his birth in 1977.

For years, he provided creative fuel for his father, who depicted him in several books until he faded from his writings.

After the Melendez murder, Ms. Hustvedt, his stepmother, published a novel that featured a teenage addict who becomes involved in a killing strikingly similar to the real-life crime.

Ms. Davis, his mother, has examined practically every facet of ordinary life, including parenthood, in countless short stories and essays, but she has avoided including a character who resembles Daniel in her work.

The first literary portrayal of Daniel came in 1982, when he appeared as a child in“The Invention of Solitude,” a memoir by his father. The book explores Mr. Auster’s strained relationship with his father, with Daniel serving as a Proustian vehicle for the author’s self-discovery. It heralded Mr. Auster’s arrival as a bold postmodern voice in American letters, and the theme of the absent father and the searching son would recur throughout his work.

Mr. Auster wrote the memoir during a bleak period. He and Ms. Davis — who met as undergraduates at Columbia and Barnard College before living together as translators in the South of France — had separated after four years of marriage, and his father had just died. While Mr. Auster and Ms. Davis took turns raising Daniel, Mr. Auster moved into a tiny office on Varick Street in Lower Manhattan, where he wrote in isolation.

The book is filled with impressions of Daniel’s childhood, notably Mr. Auster reading Carlo Collodi’s “The Adventures of Pinocchio” to him at bedtime: “For the little boy to see Pinocchio, that same foolish puppet who has stumbled his way from one misfortune to the next, who has wanted to be ‘good’ and could not help being ‘bad,’ for this same incompetent little marionette, who is not even a real boy, to become a figure of redemption, the very being who saves his father from the grip of death, is a sublime moment of revelation.”

He adds: “The son saves the father.”

Mr. Auster’s breakthrough work, “The New York Trilogy,” published in 1987, established him as a fiction writer. One of its three novellas, “City of Glass,” includes a writer named Paul Auster who is married to a woman named Siri and has a gentle son named Daniel.

The depiction of the son character was markedly different in 2003, when Mr. Auster published “Oracle Night,” a novel featuring an acclaimed Brooklyn writer with the surname Trause (an anagram of Auster), the father of a violent addict named Jacob whom he eventually disinherits. Nearly a decade later, in the 2012 memoir “Winter Journal,” which describes the dissolution of his marriage, the author barely refers to his son.

Mr. Auster met Ms. Hustvedt at a poetry reading a few years after his separation from Ms. Davis. They were married in the early 1980s and settled in Park Slope. Ms. Davis moved to the neighborhood to make it easier for Daniel to go back and forth.

Over the next decade, Mr. Auster and Ms. Hustvedt became leading figures of literary Brooklyn. Articles noted the warmth of the writerly household, including a 1995 profile in The New York Times, in which Mr. Auster expressed delight at receiving a postcard from Daniel, who was on an Outward Bound program in Maine. The next year, Daniel was making pilgrimages to the Limelight.

In 2003, Ms. Hustvedt published “What I Loved,” an acclaimed novel that attracted scrutiny for appearing to borrow heavily from reality. The book’s second half focuses on a boy named Mark who grows into a deceitful teenage addict and clubgoer. He torments his father, Bill, and intimidates his stepmother, Violet. He also becomes intimately involved with a nightlife figure who is arrested for the murder of a drug dealer named Rafael Hernandez.

“Violet had long suspected that Mark hadn’t told the full truth about the murder,” Ms. Hustvedt writes. “Mark had fooled him, the way he had fooled us all.”

Of the book’s father and son, Ms. Hustvedt writes: “Bill loved his changeling child. His blank son, his Ghosty Boy. He loved the boy-man who is still roaming from city to city and is still reaching into this traveling bag to find a face to wear and a voice to use.”

The journalist Joe Hagan analyzed the overlaps of fact and fiction for The New York Observer. Writing in Slate, the critic Katie Roiphe defended Ms. Hustvedt and criticized the Observer article as “pernicious” for its “implication that there is something unnatural about Hustvedt for exposing her family to the reading public.” In 2006, when asked by The Guardian if the novel had borrowed from real life, Ms. Hustvedt said: “I’m not going to talk about any of that.”

Ms. Davis married an abstract painter, Alan Cote, after her divorce from Mr. Auster. She began teaching at Bard College and produced translations of Proust and Flaubert. In 1995, when Daniel was 17, she gave him the chance to use her as material: The author photo for her novel, “The End of the Story,” in which she smiles easily at the camera, bears the credit “by Daniel Auster.”

A new wave of appreciation for her body of work came at the time of the publication of “The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis” in 2009. Five years later, she published a story collection, “Can’t and Won’t,” which she dedicated, in part, to Daniel.

In a 2014 profile of Ms. Davis in The New Yorker, Dana Goodyear homed in on “Selfish,” one of Ms. Davis’s stories about parenthood: “That story, with its shifting sense of culpability, is the closest Davis comes to describing her struggles with Daniel,” Ms. Goodyear wrote.

The article also described how Ms. Davis once asked Daniel for his advice on a short story that included an unkind detail about her own mother, who was still alive at the time. He recommended that she remove the detail to spare his grandmother’s feelings, and Ms. Davis followed her son’s counsel.

When Ms. Goodyear asked her about the tradition of lifting from reality to write fiction, Ms. Davis replied: “It’s a shock to see yourself depicted in someone’s writing, even if it’s not particularly negative. It’s a matter of being taken away and used.”

“Hurting children is where I would draw the line,” she said. “Children are off-limits.”

In 1998, not long after the start of his probation, Daniel attended a screening of “Party Monster: The Shockumentary,” a documentary about Mr. Alig and the Melendez murder. His presence came as a surprise to other club kids who were there that night. Approached by a Page Six reporter after the screening, he said he was “going away” and “wouldn’t be reachable all summer.” Daniel then faded from public view.

In his 20s, he grappled with addiction and studied photography at the State University of New York, Purchase, creating portfolios heavy on noirish New York City streetscapes. During class one day, when a teacher referred to the movie “Smoke,” Daniel raised his hand and said he had acted in the film, adding that Mr. Auster was his father.

“He didn’t talk about his past, but I eventually learned he’d had a tumultuous one,” recalled Matt Licari, a fellow photography student at SUNY Purchase. “It seemed like school was meant to be a new start for him.”

“He had a reputation for disappearing,” Mr. Licari continued, “but there’s no question that Dan was a great photographer. It was sensitive work. I still recall one picture he took of a priest watching a burning building. After graduating I remember he started taking pictures of lost gloves around the city.”

After college, Daniel began working at A-1 Record Shop in the East Village and gigging as a D.J. specializing in house music at Le Poisson Rouge and elsewhere. He published his street photos in New York Press, an alt-weekly paper. A black-and-white picture of his was used as the cover art for “A Mown Lawn,” a slim chapbook by his mother.

Announcing himself with a personal website that highlighted his photographs, he wrote on its About Me page: “I grew up in the wonderful borough of Brooklyn in New York City. My first camera (a Pentax K-1000) was given to me at age 11 and I’ve been photographing ever since. People watching was a hobby I acquired early on in life, so this translated naturally into photography becoming an obsession of mine, with an emphasis on people, my favorite subject matter.”

He was arrested several times throughout his 30s, including two charges for drug possession and one for petit larceny.

At the same time, his half siblings prospered. Theo Cote, the son of Ms. Davis and her second husband, established himself as a videographer and photographer. Sophie Auster, the daughter of Mr. Auster and Ms. Hustvedt, became a model and singer-songwriter. Her debut album, which she recorded in high school and released on a small French label, features songs written by her father, who cast her in two movies he directed, “The Inner Life of Martin Frost” and “Lulu on the Bridge.” She also appeared on the cover of French Elle with her mother.

In a 2002 interview with The Guardian, Paul Auster gave what appears to be his only on-the-record comment about his son: “He is currently finding himself — ask me again in a couple of years.”

In 2013, a year after the publication of Mr. Auster’s memoir “Winter Journal,” Tal Gafny, then a graduate student in fine arts at Virginia Commonwealth University, sent Daniel a message on Facebook. An avid fan of Paul Auster, Ms. Gafny said she had found herself wondering why Daniel was largely missing from the recent memoir’s pages. Weeks later, Daniel replied to her. It was the start of a correspondence that Ms. Gafny would include in “Finding and Losing Daniel Auster,” a chapter of her dissertation.

In their exchanges, they shared their struggles about having divorced parents and fractured childhoods. Daniel eventually confided that he had noticed his absence from “Winter Journal.”

“We made a mutual discovery of having a similar internal void,” Ms. Gafny wrote in her dissertation. “The empty space we both carry became the focal point of our encounter. I was hoping that we could use this as a starting point for a collaboration.”

They agreed to meet in New York.

“I’ve never met someone before like this, not knowing them at all, but I’m fully ready to take a chance and see you,” Daniel wrote to her. “I’ve experienced much pain in my life, but much joy too.”

When Ms. Gafny arrived, he abruptly canceled.

“He wrote me saying, ‘I’m not going to be able to make it,’” she said in an interview. “The reason was he’d had some kind of relapse. He said he was sorry and needed to concentrate on himself.”

She kept writing Daniel but never heard from him again.

Over the last decade, Daniel posted photos that offered a rough chronicle of his life: his father’s manual Olympia typewriter in Brooklyn; a woman in sunglasses outside a San Francisco methadone clinic; children playing soccer in Morocco; stray cats in Spain. Along the way, while immersed in Berlin’s rave scene, he grew close to a young artist named Zuzan Smith.

Last summer — eight months after the birth of their daughter — they were married on a boat in a Berlin canal. Daniel cradled Ruby as Ms. Smith stood beside him wearing an emerald green dress and veil. A friend officiating the ceremony recounted how she moved to the United States to be with Daniel and how the couple had emerged from pandemic lockdown with a child. After the exchange of vows, Daniel’s half brother raised a toast, and someone read words of wisdom sent along by Ms. Davis, who was watching the ceremony online from New York.

The young family moved into a small apartment in Park Slope, not far from Paul Auster’s brownstone. Daniel read bedtime stories to his daughter and took her for strolls around the neighborhood. In a photo taken for her first Halloween, the family is dressed up as characters from “The Wizard of Oz” — Daniel as the Tin Man, Zuzan as Dorothy and Ruby as the Cowardly Lion. Later that fall, neighbors noticed a jumble of toys and baby clothes on the Bergen Street sidewalk.

Kirsten Noyes contributed research.


Whatever Happened to Local Comedy Scenes?



Paris in the 1920s. Hollywood in the ’70s. Chicago in the ’90s?

It’s long been my after-midnight-at-the-bar theory that when it comes to urban cultural vanguards, the Michael Jordan era belongs in the pantheon. Full disclosure: I was there and missed it all.

Despite living in Chicago when young improvisers like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert and Adam McKay were killing in front of live crowds, I never saw any perform. I don’t have a story of bumping into the legendary comedy teacher Del Close or catching Kanye West’s original rap group. I missed Liz Phair as well as the indie-rock renaissance pushed by labels like Drag City and Touch and Go Records.

Just when I thought the cultural obliviousness of my college years couldn’t be greater, a new book, “The Perfect Amount of Wrong: The Rise of Alt Comedy on Chicago’s North Side,” opens another avenue of regret. Its author, the comic Mike Bridenstine, makes a persuasive case that Chicago in the late ’90s and aughts was one of the great incubators of modern stand-up. Bridenstine was part of it, but his account, catnip for comedy nerds, benefits from detailed reporting, tracking the careers of, among others, Kumail Nanjiani, Kyle Kinane, Pete Holmes, Hannibal Buress, Beth Stelling and Cameron Esposito.

Packed with fabled stand-ups who never made it big and their intimate shows, his punchy chapters are perfect for those who argue about comedy the way Stephen A. Smith does about sports. Was the Lyon’s Den (where Holmes and Nanjiani started the same week) the greatest comedy open mic in history? Did T.J. Miller revolutionize crowd work? Does Matt Braunger deserve to be compared to Robin Williams and Will Ferrell? This book should start some fights.

But there’s also a challenging broader argument buried here, about the conditions that make for great art, one that hints at a pessimistic outlook about local scenes in the age of social media.

Chicago has long been known as a place for artists to get good, not famous. It’s far enough from the coasts to keep industry executives at bay. This has produced many eccentric artists and chips on shoulders. For stand-ups, the fact that it was renowned as an improv town was one chip; the second was that the only major club, Zanies, did not book many local acts.

“The best thing that ever happened to comedy in Chicago was Zanies saying you can’t perform here,” Bridenstine, 44, told me in a recent phone interview. Rejection fueled comics to start their own shows, presenting bills in restaurant back rooms, bars and scrappy festivals. The isolation of these shows, their lack of publicity, meant that crowds were locals not tourists, die-hards not casual fans. Originality mattered as much as killing. “There was pressure, in a really good way, to be different and weird,” the comic Brooke Van Poppelen says in the book.

This resulted in comics like the wry political observer Dwayne Kennedy, who inspired considerable awe and gushing among peers. “The fact Dwayne Kennedy is not a household name is insanity,” Sarah Silverman has said. One possible explanation might be found from a producer, who says that to book him, you needed to fax his dad.

An early provocateur, Bill O’Donnell was famous for incorporating vomiting into his act. There were guys with nicknames like Tommy Mayo, and others like Nick Vatterott, who refused to do the same joke twice in a week and performed a bit as a ventriloquist’s dummy that required him to sit inside a box for two hours. He delivered a hilarious set on “The Tonight Show” years ago that hinged on him pretending to forget a joke. “Nick Vatterott is my evidence that comedy is not a meritocracy,” Bridenstine said. “I don’t know anybody funnier than him. And I know a lot of people more famous and successful.”

Along with stories of the famous and forgotten, the book leans on the journalism of Allan Johnson, a critic for The Chicago Tribune who died at 46 in 2006. He was an early champion of Bernie Mac, probably the greatest comic to emerge from Chicago that decade and the book’s most glaring omission. (In the 1990s, comedy was more segregated than today, and there is scant coverage here of predominantly Black rooms.) The attention Johnson lavished on local shows, in praise and criticism, was an important spotlight, drawing audiences and creating conversation. His coverage is also an integral source for this book. Considering the depleted state of newspapers, in Chicago and elsewhere, one wonders about the local comedy coverage future authors will draw upon.

The more significant contrast with comedy today is the minor role of the internet. It’s not merely that there wasn’t the push to turn your jokes into videos. Comics were less aware of their peers in other cities in the 1990s, and thus there wasn’t the same anxiety of influence. One Chicago comic, John Roy, describes the sense of wanting to embrace alt comedy on the coasts, but only vaguely knowing about it from reading about Patton Oswalt or seeing Janeane Garofalo on HBO. “We’re trying to reverse engineer this idea of alternative comedy from a couple articles in Rolling Stone and a special,” Roy says in the book. “You don’t really know what it is. But you subsequently get a lot of creativity because people start going: ‘Well, I got to be weird.’”

The internet — with social media and sites like YouTube — diminished the distance between scenes and put all comics in the same digital room. This has advantages. Comedy is bigger than ever, and it’s easier to find quality jokes. Bridenstine argued that while there are more good stand-up shows in Chicago today, the scene isn’t producing “Kinanes, Kumails, Beths or Hannibals.”

Is this merely nostalgia? Perhaps a bit, but it’s fair to ask a troubling question: Is the internet killing off distinct local comedy scenes?

There is a long history of cities producing their own comedic aesthetics. Boston is blustery and blue collar (think Bill Burr), while San Francisco is wild and experimental (see Robin Williams). Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore., have their own styles, too. These are all simplifications, but they matter. When everyone can see everyone else online, parallel thinking in jokes increases, and comics move to New York and Los Angeles quickly after viral fame, making coherent local identities harder to maintain.

Who you are around as a young artist is tremendously important. Now we are all, to some degree, around the same people. To be sure, “you had to be there” is a real thing, especially with live comedy, and the internet is full of niches where subcultures can flourish, but whether they will be closely associated with cities is an open question.

Bridenstine sounded skeptical. “City scenes don’t exist in isolation like they used to,” he said, adding a note of optimism while tossing one more chip on his shoulder. “I think new styles will evolve and people will decide to be new and different whenever this current way of arena rock comedy gets old.”

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The Most Novelistic Part That Patrick Stewart Ever Played



“I acted Macbeth for exactly 365 days,” says the actor, whose new memoir is “Making It So.” “The role got into me so deeply it dominated my life at the time and caused me to drink too much alcohol after the performance was over. No other role I have played has affected me so profoundly.”

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18 New Books Coming in October



Thrall first recounted the story of Abed Salama’s search for his 5-year-old son after a bus crash on the outskirts of Jerusalem in a 2021 piece for The New York Review of Books. Now he’s expanded it, weaving the wrenching human saga with a history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Metropolitan Books, Oct. 3

Bohannon presents nothing less than a new history of the species by examining human evolution through the lens of womankind. It’s a provocative corrective that will answer dozens of questions you’ve always had — and even more you never thought to ask.

Knopf, Oct. 3

When the cryptocurrency exchange FTX collapsed in 2022, the journalist Michael Lewis had been spending time with its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, in order to write a book. Now his intimate look at the now-disgraced entrepreneur is scheduled to be published around the time that his trial on fraud charges is set to begin.

Norton, Oct. 3

This return to the horror-soaked setting of “The Haunting of Hill House” — which was greenlit by Shirley Jackson’s estate — features a group of friends who make the mistake of renting the moldering old mansion.

Mulholland Books, Oct. 3

Sinclair, an award-winning Jamaican poet (“Cannibal”) recounts her coming-of-age in a strict Rastafarian community in Montego Bay and the rebellion that grew within her, until she escaped — through education and through language.

37 Ink, Oct. 3

After years as a journeyman stage actor, Stewart found himself an unlikely celebrity in his 40s after being cast as Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” His memoir vividly recounts the tribulations he overcame — a provincial upbringing, an embittered father — and the teachers and mentors who pointed him skyward.

Gallery, Oct. 3

In his new novel, Labatut chronicles the life and legacy of John von Neumann, the polymath who worked on the Manhattan Project and made pivotal contributions to physics, economics, computing and other fields. It’s a study of scientific genius and the darkness of a hyper-rational mind, told through imagined remembrances by colleagues, associates and loved ones.

Clowes’s latest graphic novel tells the story of a woman’s life from birth to old age and her long quest to track down, or at least understand, her mother. Progressing from the 1960s to the present day, the genre-bending episodes in this book draw upon counterculture, women’s empowerment, apocalypse and the supernatural, among other themes.

Fantagraphics, Oct. 3

A master of intimate, psychologically precise narratives featuring ordinary people caught in extreme circumstances, Garner, now 80, has amassed a devoted following in her native Australia. With the republication of “The Children’s Bach,” a novel about a loosely connected group of 1970s Melbourne residents sorting out their lives, and “This House of Grief,” a nonfiction account of a wrenching murder trial, she is sure to attract new fans here.

Pantheon, Oct. 10

What is there to say about Madonna Louise Ciccone that she hasn’t said herself, in song and video, on talk shows and TikTok, through provocative pronouncements and a book called “Sex”? Over 800 pages, Gabriel, an indefatigable biographer who has also tackled Karl Marx and his wife Jenny von Westphalen, provides an answer.

Little, Brown, Oct. 10

More than three decades after “The Firm” rocketed onto best-seller lists and made him a household name, Grisham revisits the novel’s indelible main characters, Mitch and Abby McDeere.

Doubleday, Oct. 17

Reid, an executive editor at Foreign Affairs, traces the life and death of Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Republic of Congo, who was in office only a few months before he was deposed and assassinated in 1961. As he plumbs recently declassified files, Reid sheds light on the C.I.A.’s role in the killing.

Knopf, Oct. 17

A Nigerian-born photography professor at a New England college narrates this novel about art and power, finding much to ponder — on colonialism, subjectivity, identity — in the everyday details of teaching, travel and working. Around him is a world not of idyllic pleasures but of latent violence and instability.

Random House, Oct. 17

Ward, the two-time National Book Award-winning novelist, conjures the horrors of antebellum slavery through the story of Annis, who is forced on a harrowing march from a plantation in North Carolina to the slave markets of New Orleans — a journey overseen by spirits and steeped in allusions to Dante’s “Inferno.”

Scribner, Oct. 24

“I never lost sight of what the character gave me,” Winkler, the star of “Happy Days,” writes in a showbiz memoir flavored with gratitude — for a life-changing audition, a long marriage, a sideline writing kids’ books and a second stab at TV acclaim in HBO’s “Barry.”

Celadon, Oct. 31

In her revelatory memoir, the two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time world champion exposes the pain and humiliation she’s endured at the hands of the international body governing athletics and the international public, who have challenged her identity as a woman — and as the fastest woman in the world.

Norton, Oct. 31

History meets horror in Due’s latest novel, about a Black boy in 1950s Florida, Robbie, who gets sent to a brutal reformatory school after defending his sister from a racist attack. But it’s not just the warden Robbie needs to watch out for — this school is also haunted by the ghosts of students who died there.

Saga Press, Oct. 31

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