Arts and culture

Before there was Madonna or Lady Gaga, there was Grace Jones.

The creator of that gender-bending, hypersexual persona has been a supermodel, a muse for artists like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, and a musician whose influence is still felt throughout popular music to this day. Now, she's telling her story in a memoir titled I'll Never Write My Memoirs, which shines a spotlight on every side of her — including Beverly Grace Jones ("Bev"), the more reserved childhood version of the future star.

"But I will sustain myself

With nothing more than the perfume of jasmine flowers..."

Caron Butler has had a stellar career. The two-time NBA All-Star has contributed his talents on the court to the Miami Heat, the LA Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks, where he was part of a championship team in 2011.

But before he got to the NBA, his life was headed in a very different direction. He had a rough upbringing in Racine, Wis., and took an unusual route to get to the pros, which included numerous drug arrests, a stint in prison and a close call that could have changed his entire life — all before he turned 18.

New York Post theater columnist Michael Riedel proffers anecdote after juicy backstage anecdote in Razzle Dazzle, which is just what you'd expect from Broadway's most venomous observer. Oddly, though, he doesn't bother proffering them until roughly halfway through the book, which, in the terms of the business he covers, is rather like saving your best character-establishing ballad 'til after intermission.

Much has been written about Fear the Walking Dead's flaws. A companion show to AMC's hit The Walking Dead, it takes place at the very onset of the zombie apocalypse, but often moves far too slowly.

But there is one thing FTWD is doing very well: It has one of the most complex, intriguing Latin American characters on prime-time television.

Deep beneath the University of Minnesota, housed in a room 83 feet underground, one of the world's great collections of children's literature lifts the veil on thousands of classics. When you visit, just be sure to wear layers.

"It's cold down here," says my tour guide, Lisa Von Drasek. "It is very cold. Put on that sweater."

Von Drasek is the curator of the Kerlan Collection, which holds more than 100,000 books. And she says there's a reason it's 55 degrees:

"This is the temperature that is perfect for books and paper."

When Virginia farmer Charles Martin first got into the pumpkin game a decade ago, he started small, with a half-acre plot of traditional round, orange jack-o-lanterns. Today he grows 55 varieties of gourds, squash and pumpkins, and he's always looking for something new.

We often feature musicians who make cover albums — their versions of songs made popular by others. Now comes a project where writers — some of the most acclaimed of our time — cover Shakepeare's works, retelling the Bard in their own words. Jeanette Winterson's new novel, The Gap of Time, is a re-imagining of The Winter's Tale, and it's the first book in the series to be published.

Patti Smith is a survivor whose dreams prod her to "redeem the lost" by writing about them with "some sliver of personal revelation." In Just Kids, her 2010 National Book Award-winning memoir about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, she rued the loss of so many friends and colleagues to drugs, suicide, cancer, AIDS and "misadventure." (Mapplethorpe, whom she memorably called "the blue star in the constellation of my personal cosmology," succumbed to AIDS in 1989.)

When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, Kani Alavi was a young artist living in an apartment overlooking the border between East and West Berlin. He remembers seeing East Berliners streaming through "like a wave of water," he said through an interpreter. "Some were joyful, some were doubtful, some were afraid they might not [have the chance to] cross again."

Alavi painted that moment: a flowing river of faces he calls "Es geschah im November," or "It happened in November."