Rachel Syme

Rachel Syme is a frequent contributor to NPR Books. She is the former culture editor of The Daily Beast, and has written and edited for Elle, Radar, Page Six Magazine, Jane, theNew York Observer, The Millions, and GQ.

When I hear the word "Titanic," I picture a tuxedoed Leonardo DiCaprio, waiting at the bottom of a gilded staircase while the voice of Celine Dion swells in my mind. It's all Edwardian glitz and glamour, decadence and passionate love, the kind best enjoyed in a dark theater with plenty of popcorn. And then I quickly remember that the ship sinks, and that Titanic is more than just an epic film from my youth. On April 15, a century will have passed since the ship plummeted into the icy Atlantic, and it is the tragedy we should remember, not just the mythology surrounding it.

Some of the best writers do a great deal of borrowing; most wizened professionals will say that in order to write anything, you need to read everything. It is how a writer takes what he or she has read and twists it into something new that is the test. Direct quotation is one thing, but weaving influences into an artful collage is another. Novelist Ramona Ausubel toes that line with delicate precision. It's clear where she has come from, but always intriguing to see where she will go on the next page.