Beverly Jenkins’ books teach the history between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement – almost all with romance as the focus. But she’s a little tired of the miscategorization of her books. She says, “African-American is not a genre! When they put us on a separate shelf, it cuts down on discoverability for people who may be white and looking for a good book. So when people say, ‘I don’t know if I can relate to that,’ I think, ‘But you relate to werewolves and vampires and shape-shifters and all kinds of other craziness. Why can’t you relate to people who are a different race?’”
Her book The Chronology of Water ends with an interview with her editor Rhonda Hughes, and here’s why: “What you want is an editor who is dying to go with you into your material, to ride the waves, to dive down or kick up, to swim the waters of your imagination. The interview was a chance to show readers that no book happens without collaboration. All books take many mammals and I count my lucky stars I crossed stardust paths with Rhonda.”
Of course, LGBT lit goes back way farther than 1997, but here’s a sampler from the NYT in honor of Pride Month.
Well, there’s actually a lot to talk about. Or create. “Sci-fi lets you look at a society where things are done in other ways; ways too complicated to expound on in an essay. How could you generate a superficially gender-equal, godless society and then expose its failures? It is just too complex.”
The original readers are fully integrated in adult life now; what did the series teach them? “A 2014 study found that teenagers who identified with Harry displayed more tolerance towards refugees, immigrants and LGBTQ people. In 2016, another study found that Harry Potter readers were less likely to vote for the then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.”
Joe Berkowitz: “Picture someone practicing for a pun competition. It’s the saddest Rocky training montage of all, isn’t it? In my case, the image entails a man firmly in his midthirties, sitting alone in his bedroom with the door shut, making puns about colors. (‘Is having the blues what made Matthew Perry wrinkle?’) The thought of my dead relatives and pets looking down from another plane of existence as I do this is mortifying.”
“Though hardly anyone knows it, the first person ever to attach their name to a poetic composition is not a mystery. Enheduanna was born more than 4,200 years ago and became the high priestess of a temple in what we now call southern Iraq. She wrote poems, edited hymnals, and may have taught other women at the temple how to write. Archaeologists discovered her in the 1920s and her works were published in English beginning in the 1960s. Yet, rarely if ever does she appear in history textbooks.”
“[There’s] a national movement to turn K-12 librarians into indispensable digital mavens who can help classroom teachers craft tech-savvy lesson plans, teach kids to think critically about online research, and remake libraries into lively, high-tech hubs of collaborative learning – while still helping kids get books.”
Eliza McGraw tells the story of the Pack Horse Library, a WPA program that served the isolated, book-starved towns of the eastern Kentucky mountains.
José Eduardo Agualusa and translator Daniel Hahn share the International Dublin Literary Award 2017 for A General Theory of Oblivion, which was a finalist for this year’s Man Booker International Prize. Candidates for the IDLA are nominated by librarians and library readers all over the world.
“Reading historical fiction not only puts our current events into a historical context, but also helps us understand and imagine and empathize with what people lived through in other times and places. It reminds us that other people, ordinary people, real people, have lived and survived and fallen in love, but also, died in these times of political turmoil before us.”
Anjum Hasan looks at the phenomenon of “minor-character elaboration” – from Jean Rhys’s The Wide Sargasso Sea (the story of Jane Eyre‘s madwoman in the attic) to Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad (how Ulysses’s wife and queen passed the twenty years waiting for his return) and onward. (Hasan also includes Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, though we think that wasn’t the same thing.)
Chris Townsend: “If we really believe that something is interesting, then surely its interestingness should be self-evident. Must it really be flagged up, in a flagrantly unsophisticated way? I wouldn’t write that I merely liked something, nor that a thing holds intellectual appeal to me, at least not without validating that statement. Yet, ‘interesting’ often sneaks by without making a case for itself. And once you start seeing it in your own work, you notice it everywhere. Interesting, despite its insufficiency as an autonomous unit, has a tenacious hold on writing and on everyday speech.”
Interestingly, governments make little fuss about nationality when they hand out money to the interactive industries: various federal and provincial tax credits – and even some grants – are available to any company as long as the jobs go to Canadian workers and Canadian consumers have access to the content thus created. There it’s all about employment; on the publishing side, it’s all about “telling Canadian stories to Canadians.”
“More than a novel, this book wants to be an offering. It isn’t concerned with the conventional task (or power) of fiction to evoke the texture and drama of consciousness. Instead, it acts like a companion piece to Roy’s political writings—collected in books such as The Algebra of Infinite Justice (2001) and Walking With the Comrades (2011). It tours India’s fault lines, as Roy has, from the brutal suppression of tribal populations to the 2002 pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat.”
And no, it wasn’t “diversity.” Nope – it’s a system of how comic books are sold, “a system that rewards the status quo, instead of taking risks and breaking new ground.”
It all began with a conversation with his daughter about craft. “It doesn’t just happen?’ he asked. I clenched my fingers into my palms. ‘No,’ I told him. ‘I don’t just create something in one sitting.’ Finally, I told him that if he tried to read, he’d understand better.”
Translator Jessica Cohen, who along with author David Grossman just won the Man Booker International Prize for A Horse Walks Into a Bar: “Obviously if you have to explain something, it’s not funny. There were some cases like that where I managed to come up with a kind of equivalent. Some things we just had to drop.”
Why? Because novels are about interiority. “One of the great fights of the 21st century will be the fight for privacy and self-ownership, which is also, to my mind, the struggle for literature as distinct from the dark babble of social media. Writers thrive on privacy, not on Twitter, and so do readers when the lights are low.”
For one piece, the necessary reporting might include 20 books. Adam Gopnik writes with the morning coffee from 9 and reads after dinner until 11, usually for four hours each. “I’ve discovered that reading is actually one of those skills that increases exponentially the more of it you do, and it doesn’t stop improving the older you get, which is an encouraging fact,” he told me. For work, he now reads the average book, preferably with Mozart or Haydn playing, in one and a half, maybe two hours.
The idea of forming some kind of “literary translators’ agency”—which would perform a similar role to an author’s agency—is one that translators have been mulling over for years. After all, such agencies exist for most other creative professions, such as illustrators, actors, musicians, and designers. But it’s a rather tough nut to crack for literary translators, mainly because there simply isn’t enough money in literary translation to make such a venture financially sustainable.
From public “type-ins” at bars to street poets selling personalized, typewritten poems on the spot, typewriters have emerged as popular items with aficionados hunting for them in thrift stores, online auction sites and antique shops. Some buy antique Underwoods to add to a growing collection. Others search for a midcentury Royal Quiet De Luxe — like a model author Ernest Hemingway used — to work on that simmering novel.
“Postmodernism has lost its value in part because it has oversaturated the market. And with the end of postmodernism’s playfulness and affectation, we are better placed to construct a literature that engages earnestly with real-world problems. This new literature can, in good faith, examine complex and ever-shifting crises – of racial inequality, capitalism and climate change – to which it is easy to close one’s eyes.”
“David Grossman’s ‘ambitious high-wire act of a novel’, A Horse Walks Into a Bar, set around a standup comic’s rambling and confessional routine in an Israeli comedy club, has won the Man Booker International prize for the year’s best fiction in translation.” … Grossman, a bestselling writer of fiction, nonfiction and children’s books who has been translated into 36 languages, will share the £50,000 prize with his English translator, Jessica Cohen.”
As if it weren’t bad enough that the terrorist group torched rare old books and manuscripts in the municipal library while they occupied the city, as ISIS was being driven out of Mosul by Iraqi government forces, it burned down the university’s library building and its entire collection, one of the most important in the Middle East. Robin Wright visits the wreckage.
Okay, there have surely been worse bestsellers in the 48 years since, but probably none that were deliberately bad. Producer Sam Kim has assembled the first-hand story of the newspaper writers who pulled of one of the great “literary” (if that’s the word) hoaxes of the 20th century. (audio)
Not a tiger mother (as his book makes clear, Vance’s mother did not qualify), but the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua, who was his law professor at Yale. The two authors talk to Caroline Kitchener about their mentoring relationship and how Chua helped bring Vance’s bestseller into being.
A Pulitzer-winning author of poetry and nonfiction who directs the creative writing program at Princeton (and the erstwhile NPR NewsPoet), Smith says, “I think the responsibility really is to just help raise the awareness of poetry and its value in our culture. To me that means talking to people – getting off the usual path of literary festivals and university reading series and talking to people who might not even yet be readers of poetry.”
“The idea of purchasing a season’s or a year’s worth of books seemed like an interesting way to structure thinking about a customer’s relationship to the store,” Haskell said recently. At Blue Hill Books, C.S.B. members can purchase a “share” for a thousand dollars—or partial shares for two hundred or five hundred dollars—and draw on that credit to buy books throughout the year. “It’s not a donation; it’s not an investment.”
Hopkins? Arguably the most fervently Catholic poet in the English language? Oh yes. “The more one reads Hopkins, the more one becomes convinced that his particular torture was to have realised the intensely carnal nature of his own spirituality.”