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The PEN/Faulkner Awards; Historian Robert Caro closes in on the end of his LBJ opus

Yiyun Li. Photo: Denise Applewhite

Every morning, Robert Caro gets up early, works on the fifth and final volume of his massive Lyndon B. Johnson biography, and walks through Central Park. “He’s in a moment of crisis,” Caro says of the late-career LBJ that will be covered in this volume of the biography. “I’m trying to show in this section of this book what it’s like to be president of the United States when everything is going wrong.” The book is highly anticipated. “As great as his [Caro’s] earlier books have been, this is the culmination, the one many of us have been waiting for,” the journalist-historian David Maraniss told the Associated Press. “Everything that came before leads to these years, all of LBJ’s work and all of Caro’s amazing reconstruction and assessment, when the world explodes at home and overseas and Johnson struggles with his powers, his beliefs, and his soul.”

Reedpop has announced that BookExpo and BookCon will take place online this year, offering free online events that will take place from May 26 through 31, the originally scheduled week of BookExpo and BookCon 2020. Events will include “most buzzed-about books” panels, spotlights on new graphic novels, and author readings.

Vogue reports on the current popularity of Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron (1353), in which a group of Florentines tell each other stories as the Black Death devastates their city. In conjunction with McNally Jackson bookstore, Eric Banks has been leading a reading group via Zoom. Daniel Mendelsohn is tweeting a passage from Boccaccio every day.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux has bought the rights to New Yorker writer Evan Osnos’s Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury. In the book, the author will look at three cities where he has lived—Greenwich, Connecticut; Clarksburg, West Virginia; and Chicago—and use his experiences in those places to offer “a deeper explanation of the United States’s growing political divisions, and where they will lead.”

The PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction couldn’t be held live this year, so the organization produced a video in which the judges celebrate this year’s winner, Chloe Aridjis, and finalists Yiyun Li, Peter Rock, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, and Ocean Vuong. The authors reflect on their work and how literature can meet the current moment.