paper trail

A plot twist for Gay Talese; a new trial for Adnan Syed

Gay Talese

Gay Talese’s latest book, The Voyeur’s Motel, comes out July 12 and recounts Talese’s correspondence and encounters with a motelier named Gerald Foos, who tells Talese he spent more than two decades spying on his guests’ amorous activities through specially constructed ceiling vents. In an excerpt in the New Yorker, Talese visits Foos and dips his toe in the muddy pool of voyeurism—or rather his tie, which he claims, quite incredibly, slipped between slats of a louvered vent and nearly blew his and Foos's cover. For his part, Foos supplied Talese with elaborate diary entries in which he details the mostly lackluster sex acts, poor personal hygiene, and ugly behavior of people under his roof—including a murder, unrecorded by the police, he says he witnessed and probably caused. How much of this happened, and how much is a figment of the motel owner's fantasy life, or, for that matter, the author's? Talese’s tone in the piece struck a queasy balance between skeptical and rapt—he is the unabashed voyeur of an unabashed voyeur—which inflects but does not negate the fact that it was published as non-fiction and ostensibly fact-checked. At the time of the excerpt, the Internet was ablaze with praise, indignation, and jokes about the story—Leah Finnegan did an amusing annotation for Genius, while the feminist Twittersphere scolded Talese for a remark he made on a panel about women writers being of little inspiration to him. The Washington Post followed up and found, via property records, that for much of the '80s Foos did not own the motel, which casts doubt on many of his recollections. Talese now seems eager to distance himself from the whole thing. “I should not have believed a word he said,” the 84-year-old author told the Post. “I’m not going to promote this book. How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet?” “Gay talese so wrong he gotta change his name to straight talese,” Finnegan tweeted.

The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, a new book by Lionel Shriver, imagines the US in a not-too-distant apocalyptic future in which the currency has collapsed. “With basic survival on the line,” writes the New Yorker’s Alexandra Schwartz, “‘vanities’ like lactose intolerance, allergies, and A.D.H.D. simply cease to exist.” Shriver, who divides her time between Britain and Brooklyn, has a libertarian streak. She tells Schwartz she’s unfazed, even pleased, by the prospect of Brexit, comparing the E.U. to “homeopathy. It’s so dilute, like a drop of iodine in the Pacific ocean.”

Adnan Syed, whose culpability in a 1999 murder was hotly debated in the first season of the popular podcast Serial, has been granted a retrial. “WE WON A NEW TRIAL FOR ADNAN SYED!!!” tweeted his lawyer, C. Justin Brown, who replaced Syed’s original lawyer, Maria Cristina Gutierrez. A judge ruled that Gutierrez’s failure to question a witness “created a substantial possibility that the result of the trial was fundamentally unreliable.” Gutierrez was disbarred for financial impropriety in 2001, and died of a heart attack in 2004.

The BFG, by Roald Dahl, is “a touching, episodic chronicle, illustrated with whimsical line drawings by Quentin Blake,” writes A. O. Scott in the New York Times. “Not as dark and nasty as some of Dahl’s other work for children — it doesn’t have the sinister undertones of “James and the Giant Peach” or the rebellious anarchy of “Matilda” — it is touched with sadness as well as with wonder. Mr. Spielberg tries to replicate this delicate mood.” The movie, starring Mark Rylance as the eponymous giant and Ruby Barnhill as the orphan Sophie, opens today—just in time for the weekend’s tall fireworks.