“Has the American Dream Been Achieved At the Expense of the American Negro?” [YouTube] Historic debate between James Baldwin v. William F. Buckley Jr. at Cambridge University. [more inside]
William Trevor, Watchful Master of the Short Story, Dies Aged 88. [The Guardian] “The Irish author William Trevor [wiki], one of the greatest short story writers of the last century, has died at the age of 88. Trevor, the author of more than 15 novels and many more short stories, was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize four times, most recently for The Story of Lucy Gault in 2002, the same year he was awarded an honorary knighthood for his services to literature. He also won the Whitbread prize three times and frequently contributed short stories to The New Yorker magazine.” [more inside]
W.P. Kinsella, author of ‘Shoeless Joe,’ dead at 81 [Maclean's Magazine] W.P. Kinsella, the B.C.-based author of “Shoeless Joe,” the award-winning novel that became the film “Field of Dreams,” has died at 81. His literary agency confirms the writer had a doctor-assisted death on Friday in Hope, B.C. The agency did not provide details about Kinsella’s health. [more inside]
The Misanthropic Genius of Joy Williams [The New York Times] The writer’s new story collection establishes her as one of the greatest chroniclers of humanity’s insignificance. [more inside]
Back to the Future by Tony Tulathimutte [The New Republic] For 45 years, Don DeLillo has been our high priest of the American apocalypse, having tackled just about every man-made disaster: nukes in End Zone, nukes and garbage in Underworld, toxic pollution in White Noise, financial busts in Cosmopolis, terrorism in Falling Man, terrorism and the death of the novel in Mao II, war in Point Omega. His latest novel, Zero K, clears out every end-times scenario left in the bag: climate change, droughts, pandemics, volcanoes, biological warfare, even meteor strikes and solar flares. But these only menace in the background as future probabilities, and the novel’s focus is not human extinction but its inverse: immortality through cryonics. [more inside]
Terry Southern, The Art of Screenwriting No. 3 Interviewed by Maggie Paley [The Paris Review] [more inside]
Charlotte Brontë sketch identified as self-portrait. [The Guardian]
A sketch of a woman’s head by Charlotte Brontë, previously thought to be of another pupil drawn while the author was at boarding school in Brussels, has been identified as a self-portrait. The literary biographer Claire Harman said the drawing, which she suggests shows Brontë looking into a mirror, preceded the novel Jane Eyre, in which the protagonist also draws herself in a similar fashion. The sketch dates from 1843, four years before Brontë published Jane Eyre, one of English literature’s great masterpieces, and when the young writer was suffering the agonies and insecurities of unrequited love.
Henning Mankell, Dean of Scandinavian Noir Writers, Dies at 67 [The New York Times]
Henning Mankell, the Swedish novelist and playwright best known for police procedurals that were translated into a score of languages and sold by the millions throughout the world, died Monday morning in Goteborg, Sweden. He was 67. Mr. Mankell was considered the dean of the so-called Scandinavian noir writers who gained global prominence for novels that blended edge-of-your-seat suspense with flawed, compelling protagonists and strong social themes. The genre includes Arnaldur Indridason of Iceland, Jo Nesbo of Norway and Stieg Larsson of Sweden, among others.[more inside]
Novelist Mia Couto discusses his hopes for conservation after the death of Cecil the lion, and his memories of Mozambique’s bloody civil war. [The Guardian] [more inside]
Living in the Age of Permawar by Mohsin Hamid [The Guardian]
You see from your nook that humanity is afflicted by a great mass murderer about whom we are encouraged not to speak. The name of that murderer is Death. Death comes for everyone. Sometimes Death will pick out a newborn still wet from her aquatic life in her mother’s womb. Sometime Death will pick out a man with the muscles of a superhero, pick him out in repose, perhaps, or in his moment of maximum exertion, when his thighs and shoulders are trembling and he feels most alive. Sometimes Death will pick singly. Sometimes Death will pick by the planeload. Sometimes Death picks the young, sometimes the old, and sometimes Death has an appetite for the in-between. You feel it is strange that humanity does not come together to face this killer, like a silver-flashing baitball of 7 billion fish aware of being hunted by a titanic and ravenous shark. Instead, humanity scatters. We face our killer alone, or in families, or in towns or cities or tribes or countries. But never all together.
Patter and Patois by Walter Mosley [New York Times] Walter Mosley writes about his relationship to the literature of Louisiana.
“Louisiana flowed in that blood and across those tongues. Louisiana — a state made famous by Walt Whitman and Tennessee Williams, Ernest Gaines and Arna Bontemps, Kate Chopin and Anne Rice. These writers, from many eras, races and genres, took the voices of the people and distilled them into the passionate, almost desperate, stories that opened readers to a new kind of suffering and exultation.”
A Passion for the Void: Understanding Clarice Lispector’s Strange and Surreal Fiction. [The New Republic]
Plenty of writers inspire fierce devotion in their readers—the David Foster Wallace acolytes, with their duct-taped copies of Infinite Jest, come to mind, as do the smug objectivists dressed in tech-world casual who owe their entire world view to Ayn Rand. But no one converts the uninitiated into devout believers as suddenly and as vertiginously as Clarice Lispector, the Latin-American visionary, Ukranian-Jewish mystic, and middle-class housewife and mother so revered by her Brazilian fans that she's known by a single name: "Clarice."[more inside]
Harry Crews: Guilty As Charged [YouTube]
Examines the life and work of Harry Crews. Appearances by James Dickey, Byron Crews, Maggie Powell, Johnny Fieber and William Schafer. Music by Frank Schaap and Byron Crews. Associate Producers: Robert Morris and Latelle Lafollette. Camera and Lighting by Mike Brower and Arthur Rouse. Edited by Tom Thurman and Mike Brower.Previously.
“Murakami-san no tokoro” or “Mr. Murakami’s place”: [Japanese] an agony uncle column by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. [more inside]
"Much has been said about the storytelling techniques of 'Serial,' which comes out in weekly installments even as the show’s host, Sarah Koenig, reinvestigates the conviction of a Baltimore-area teenager for the murder of his ex-girlfriend. The serialized approach teases its audience with cliffhangers, prompts its listeners to construct their own theories and invites outsiders to glimpse the tricky winnowing process of reporting. But 'Serial' also testifies to how much the criminal justice system itself is founded on storytelling." (Laura Miller, Salon: The new "In Cold Blood" revisionism: Why it doesn't matter if Capote’s classic wasn't fully true) [more inside]
There are previouslys enough to fill an FPP but this deserves mention and honour in its own right.
In recognition of her transformative impact on American literature, Ursula K. Le Guin is the 2014 recipient of the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She is the Foundation’s twenty-seventh award recipient.Long live the Ekumen.
We've Lost One Of The Great Fantasy Writers: R.I.P. Graham Joyce
"Graham Joyce was a monumental writer in the fantasy genre. His humane, intense writing was like a masterclass in how to put story first, and he knew how to write people, with all our blind spots and our hopeful mistakes. He died today of lymphatic cancer, and it's a huge loss to fantasy literature."[more inside]
Italo Calvino profiled on the BBC TV show Book Mark in 1985: [SLYT] Rare interview with the great Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels.
You Are Now Entering the Demented Kingdom of William T. Vollmann: [The New Republic] Home to goddesses, dreams, and a dangerously uncorrupted literary mind.
The Teen Whisperer by Margaret Talbot [New Yorker] How the author [John Green] of “The Fault in Our Stars” built an ardent army of fans.
Alistair Macleod, one of Canada's greatest writers, has passed away. With just one novel, and two collections of short stories to his name, Macleod left an indelible mark on Canadian, and modern, literature. Other writers share their memories at the National Post (skip the first, Joyce Carol Oates' completely bland and characterless effort). At the Globe and Mail, Steven Galloway shares his own stories with Alistair. [more inside]
Colin Wilson has passed away at the age of 82. He rose to fame in the 50s with The Outsider, which made him a figure amongst Britain's Beat movement and Angry Young Men. His writing has spanned the fiction and non-fiction, with an interest in the paranormal and the occult, his thoughts on which he blended with HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos to produce The Mind Parasites. A TV series based on his The Space Vampires, also the basis for the movie Lifeforce (previously), is currently planned. Wikipedia page, 2004 Guardian interview, Times Obituary (subs only).
Alice Munro Puts Down Her Pen to Let the World In: Accepting a literary prize in Toronto last month, Alice Munro, the acclaimed short-story writer — “our Chekhov,” as Cynthia Ozick has called her — winner of the Man Booker International Prize and just about every important North American literary award for which she is eligible, told a newspaper interviewer, “I’m probably not going to write anymore.”
Sunday, April 28, would have been Roberto Bolaño's 60th birthday. The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona is holding an event that day, in conjunction with their recent exhibit of Bolaño's archive, to celebrate the life and work of the writer. Or if you're not in Barcelona, the celebration is #DiaBolaño on twitter. [more inside]
In theory: the unread and the unreadable - "We measure our lives with unread books – and 'difficult' works can induce the most guilt. How should we view this challenge?"
Late last month, the writer Jonathan Rendall was found dead at his home in Ipswich. He was 48. He was the greatest gonzo writer you've never heard of. [more inside]
Bryce Courtenay, prolific Australian author, dies. "Courtenay, who has been suffering from stomach cancer, died in Canberra late on Thursday with his wife Christine, son Adam, and his family pets, Tim the dog and Cardamon the Burmese cat, by his side. He was 79."
... [Thomas] Ligotti's stories tend to have a profound emotional impact. His vision is exceedingly dark, and it is possible for his stories to infect the reader with a mild-to-severe case of depression. It is even possible for them to effect a change in the reader's self-perception and view of the universe. This warning is not meant to be sensationalistic, nor is it meant to turn new readers away. It is simply a statement of fact based upon the experiences of actual readers. Ligotti writes about the darkest of themes with an amazing power, and he means what he says. Often his stories seem to communicate a message below their surface, a sort of subliminal statement that should not rightly be able to traverse the barrier of verbal language. - Matt Cardin (previously) [more inside]
James Salter's A Sport and a Pastime is one of those very rare novels that seems not so much to have been written as discovered. At its heart is a love story, an encounter, that transforms its relatively ordinary protagonists into beings around whom the entire cosmos shapes itself. The love story is delicate and ephemeral, put together out of bits and pieces, like a bird's nest. The vulnerable lovers tremble, in the most mundane circumstances, on the edge of catastrophe. Simply the way one of them moves across the room to meet the other seems miraculous and hazardous. Were they to become aware of themselves everything would be lost. But there is no danger of that. Oblivious, they tiptoe on a precipice. They do not and cannot know that their innocence cloaks them in a kind of divinity and infallibility. Actions and attitudes we expect to bring them down don't. They do things that seem so perfect, so poignant, without knowing they are doing anything at all. They arc beautifully across our path, and then vanish. - Michael Doliner (previously) [more inside]
The WritersDiet Test, created by Dr. Helen Sword, allows you to enter a writing sample of 100 to 1000 words and have it graded from "lean" to "heart attack" on its level of excess verbiage.
Novelist Neil Gaiman tells the graduating 2012 class of the University Of The Arts everything he wishes he knew starting out and all the best advice he failed to follow. (Vimeo 19:55)
"As a career patient, I’ve learned one thing at least: the importance of clinging to the rag-end of your sense of self, however you define it—intellect, sense of humor, generosity of spirit, a stoicism worthy of Seneca or Mr. Spock, or, in a writer’s case, the mind that makes sense of itself as a reflection in the mirror of language. In the M.A.S.H.-unit chaos of the E.R.; in the nowhere, notime of the hospital room; in the O.R., where the euphoria of oncoming anesthesia and the doting attentions of apparitions in scrubs make you understand, in an instant, the perverse seductions of Munchausen’s Syndrome as you ride into the stage-light radiance on your gurney like the Son of Heaven in his sedan chair, feeling for all the world like a pathological celebrity—in these moments of inescapable embodiment, I’ve learned to float free in my head, a thought balloon untethered from the body on the sickbed or the operating table."-A Season in Hell by (Mefite) Mark Dery [Previously]
'My son got a very low mark': Writer Ian McEwan describes the odd experience of helping his son with an A-level essay about one of his novels, Enduring Love, and finding his son's teacher disagreed with his interpretation of the novel. This is an excerpt from Ian Katz's interview with McEwan at the Guardian's Open Weekend festival on 24 March 2012. [Full Interview]
Reading Blaise Cendrars is like stepping into another universe. His fiction is unlike anything else I've ever read. His poetry influenced the mighty Guillaume Apollinaire and helped shape the face of modernism. But it is his mockery of biographical detail and the very notion of literature that fascinates me the most. If, like me, you're not a fan of autobiography, then Blaise Cendrars is the memoirist for you.
Clifton Fadiman's Lifetime Reading Plan, 3rd Edition (not to be confused with Clifton Fadiman and John S. Major's Lifetime Reading Plan, 4th Edition) [more inside]
The poet and translator Kenneth Rexroth, one of the central figures in the San Francisco Renaissance, only wrote prose for money. But he did it very well. (way previously) [more inside]
Stefan Zweig (November 28, 1881 – February 22, 1942) was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer. At the height of his literary career, in the 1920s and 1930s, he was one of the most famous writers in the world. [more inside]
17 year old prodigy Helene Hegemann admits that her bestseller "Axolotl Roadkill" is not as original as previously assumed. "The publication last month of her novel about a 16-year-old exploring Berlin’s drug and club scene after the death of her mother, called “Axolotl Roadkill,” was heralded far and wide in German newspapers and magazines as a tremendous debut, particularly for such a young author. The book shot to No. 5 this week on the magazine Spiegel’s hardcover best-seller list", writes the New York Times. Unfortunately, parts of it were lifted. "It's not plagiarism", says the author. [more inside]
In a soft voice, chuckling frequently and gazing intently with gray-green eyes, Mr. McCarthy talked about books vs. films, the apocalypse, fathers and sons, past and future projects, how he writes—and God. [more inside]
William Gass's personal library. The photos accompany this article by Gass about his love of books -- specifically about collecting them over his life and "living in a library." [more inside]
The Willa Cather Archive is an incredible resource provided by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, including biographies, letters, photos, and even full (often annotated) text of much of her writing, including scholarly editions of two of her greatest (and most famous) works, My Antonia and O Pioneers. About the archive.
What is the current state of American poetry? Hank Lazer: Perhaps, contrary to the laments, we are now living through a particularly rich time in American poetry—an era of radically democratized poetry...In its anarchic democratic disorganized decentralization, poetry culture has developed in a manner parallel to the computer: the decentralized PC has beaten the main-frame. No one can pretend to know what is out there, or what is next. Who are some of the most notable American poets active in the beginning of the 21st century?