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In the world of hip-hop, Lewis Turco would be considered an “Original Gangsta,” an “O.G.”—a title given to someone who started it all. In the more genteel business of poetry writing, however, Turco would be called an “Institution,” and what he started was nothing less than a renewed appreciation of poetic forms. Since its first edition in 1968, his reference book The Book of Forms has become a standard text for poets of all stripes. A cross between The Joy of Cooking and According to Hoyle for poets, Turco’s text remains a rarity: a reference book with personality. Turco’s lucid, empathetic entries on every form under the sun continue to serve many poets writing their first pantoums or settling drunken bets on the rhyme scheme of the rimas dissolutas (abcdef abcdef ghijlk ghijlk ..., if written in sestets).

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Eleven years ago, JT LeRoy was a teenager living on the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area, turning tricks and suffering from dissociative episodes. Today, he is a critically acclaimed author whose first two books, the novel Sarah (Bloomsbury, 2000) and the collection of short stories The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (Bloomsbury, 2001), have been translated into more than a dozen languages—most recently, Turkish. His novella, Harold’s End, illustrated by renowned painter Cherry Hood, with an introduction by Dave Eggers, was recently published by Last Gasp, an independent press in San Francisco.

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"I believe I control the world with my mind," Augusten Burroughs writes in the title essay of his new collection, Magical Thinking: True Stories. And who’s to say he doesn’t? Having survived a tumultuous childhood and an early career as an advertising copywriter while struggling with alcoholism, Burroughs—now a bestselling author—has indeed controlled his world. Magical Thinking is his fourth book in as many years, taking its place alongside Sellevision, his satirical novel about cable television’s home shopping networks, and his memoirs, Running With Scissors and Dry.

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Next month, Norton will publish Stephen Dunn's thirteenth book of poetry, The Insistence of Beauty, his second offering since his Different Hours won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. In a writing career that has spanned three decades, Dunn has also been honored with the Academy Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the James Wright Prize from the Mid-American Review, and the Levinson Award from Poetry magazine, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He divides his time between Frostburg, Maryland, and Pomona, New Jersey, where he teaches creative writing at Richard Stockton College.

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For the past fourteen years, Hank Stuever, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, has published his unique brand of creative nonfiction in the form of newspaper articles in the Albuquerque Tribune, Austin American-Statesman, and the Washington Post. The subjects of his articles—haunted waterbed stores, plastic lawn chairs, beauty pageants, and discount funeral homes among them—hardly seem fodder for probing essays on the American psyche. But what might fall into the realm of light comedy for many writers takes on a lyrical profundity in Stuever’s work.

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Richard Howard is rarely at a loss for words. The poet, essayist, translator, editor, and professor is a tireless conversationalist who is always willing to supply a strong opinion on the many subjects to which he has applied his talents during a career that spans four decades.

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In his introduction to The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, editor Ben Marcus writers, "If we are made by what we read, if language truly builds people into what they are, how they think, the depth with which they feel, then these stories are, to me, premium material for that construction project. You could build a civilization with them." The 473-page anthology includes stories by George Saunders, David Foster Wallace, Anthony Doerr, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anne Carson, Gary Lutz, and more than 20 others.

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Born in Lvov in 1945, Adam Zagajewski is one of the most well-known and highly regarded contemporary Polish poets. His luminous, searching poems are imbued by a deep engagement with history, art, and life.

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Ballantine Books recently published You Remind Me of Me, Dan Chaon's long awaited debut novel about a pregnant teenager who gives up her child for adoption in 1966. In a review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Sara Mosley wrote that the novel "more than fulfills the promise of his story collection Among the Missing, which was a finalist for a National Book Award in 2001." Chaon is also the author of Fitting Ends, originally published by Triquarterly Books in 1995. A revised edition of the short story collection was published by Ballantine last year. Chaon teaches at Oberlin College and lives with his wife and two sons in Cleveland, Ohio.

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While the literary community tries to gauge the influence of academia on the state of contemporary fiction, Frederick Reiken, whose two critically acclaimed novels have been translated into several languages, is gently riding out the wave of debate. A graduate of Princeton and the University of California at Irvine's MFA program, Reiken teaches writing in the graduate program at Emerson College. His first novel, The Odd Sea (Harcourt, 1998), won the Hackney Literary Award for First Fiction and was selected by both Booklist and Library Journal as one of the best first novels of the year. This was followed by a more ambitious novel, The Lost Legends of New Jersey (Harcourt, 2000), which became a bestseller and is described by Charles Baxter as "a miraculous balancing of tone and theme."

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