Writers Should Explore
“If that makes things hard for the writer, it also makes things hard, in a different way, for the reader. On the one hand we are used to this being political territory, but on the other we want something very different from a novel than what we get from the newspapers: we want imaginative understanding, not political positions; we want to get close to a fictional individual rather than stand in judgment over a real group; we want the challenge of speculation rather than the reassurance of certainty. We want art, not news, at a time when news seems to be drowning out art,” writes Natasha Walter for the
Guardian. She discusses how writers such as Salman Rushdie, John Updike, Martin Amis, Joseph Conrad, Doris Lessing, and Don Delillo delved into topics that were politically unpleasant. At the same time, you might want to read what the blog Alt.Muslim has to say about Updike’s Terrorist. It’s a nice counterweight to Walter’s piece.

Who Are the Young Writers of Today?
The blog Critical Mass reviews an NBCC panel which discussed this subject this past weekend. The authors they mentioned include David Mitchell, Zadie Smith, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jhumpa Lahiri, Tom Bissell, Nathan Englander, Emily Barton, Stephen Elliot, Kelly Link, Daniel Alacon, Susan Choi, Allegra Goodman, Curtis Sittenfeld, Arthur Phillips, Daniel Handler, Julie Orringer, Benjamin Kunkel, Gary Shteyngart, Chris Abani, Dave Eggers, Colson Whitehead, and Whitney Terrell.

Why Can’t Writers Cross Genres?
“Why do so many brilliant fiction writers turn out atrocious dramas, and so many good playwrights produce bad novels? That’s the question Philip Hensher asks on the newly produced Exiles by James Joyce. Although I do wonder about his point of view. Novelist Sarah Schulman continues to write novels and plays, both rewarding and enriching.

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Another Turkish Writer on Trial
“’Nobody was expecting this,’ says bestselling Turkish novelist Elif Shafak. A decision in Istanbul’s seventh high criminal court earlier this month reopened her prosecution on charges of ‘insulting Turkishness.’ She faces a maximum jail term of three years if convicted.” That’s the skinny from Richard Lea in the
Guardian.The novelist Orhan Pamuk, author of Snow, recently faced similar charges in Turkish courts but outraged about the trial from member countries in the European Union encouraged the Turkish government, which is seeking member in the union, to drop the case. One can hope that Shafak fairs as well, although one wonders since she is a woman.

Novels Tell More than News
Maya Jaggi explains how fiction tells more truths about Africa than any new report. She focuses heavily on The Last Trip, a short story by Sefi Atta, a Nigerian. It’s a story about a woman who swallows 127 balloons of heroin before she boards a flight to London.

Impact of Book Festivals
Roy Hattersley examines the significance of books festivals—concluding that their number and attendance indicate a healthy, literate future.

Thirteen Unknowns Contend for ₤60,000
The inaugural
Dylan Thomas Prize for poetry, fiction, and drama is looking to give ₤60,000 (about $100,000) for the work(s) of an author younger than thirty. Works up for contention are Hick Laird’s novel Utterly Monkey and his poetry collection To a Fault. Other works in contention are Escape Routes for Beginners by Kira Cochrane, An Empty Room by Talitha Stevenson, The Amnesia Clinc by James Scudamore, Torture the Artist by Joey Goebel, Playing Mercy by Matthew David Scott, Where They Were Missed by Lucy Caldwell, Outside Valentine by Liza Ward, No Fireworks by Rodge Glass, Fresh Apples by Rachel Tresize, Taming the Best by Emily Maguire, Sayonara Bar by Susan Baker, and Unfeeling by Ian Holding. The authors are from Australia, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the United States.

Glimpse of “Terrorist”
The Guardian is running an extract from John Updike’s Terrorist, where an alienated teenager find refuge in religion.

How Deep the Roots of Belfast’s Literature
“In September 1963 Derek Mahon, Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley visited the County Down grave of…Louis MacNeice…Longley, writing recently in the introduction to a selection of MacNeice’s poems, recalled that as they ‘dawdled between the graves’ all three then-unpublished poets were silently ‘contemplating an elegy.’ …” That’s the start of Nicholas Wroe essay about the literary traditions of Belfast.

What Do Book Editors Want?
It’s the eternal question of writers, and Dedi Felman attempts to answer that vague question in an essay for the Chronicles of Higher Education. “We [editors] wander, slightly dazed, through campus visits or a steady stream of summer submissions, hoping that good ideas and even better writers will find us—and that we will find them. Then, once we’ve located the creative kernel or thinker who sets us popping, an even-longer negotiation usually ensues over how exactly to get from idea to book.”

Poet Vicki Feaver Runs Online Workshop
Vicki Feaver, whose latest collection of poetry is entitled The Book of Blood, has a great exercise that she borrowed from Ted Hughes’ Poetry in the Making.

Short List for the O’Connor Award
The year old Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award announced it short list of short story collections. The winner will received 35,000 Euros. The list includes Notes from a Turkish Whorehouse by Philip O Ceallaigh, The First Hurt by Rachel Sherman, The Darkness of Wallis Simpson by Rose Tremain, Blind Willow Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami , Arresting God in Kathmandu by Samrat Upadhyay, and In Strange Gardens and Other Stories by Peter Stamm. The award will be announced in September at the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Festival. A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li won last year.

Silence of the City Versus Talk of the Town
There’s a new twist on rejections. Getting a piece published in New Yorker’s Talk of the Town is supposedly a way to get access to longer pieces in the publication. Yet the magazine receives more than 100 a week, and only publishes 10 a year.
Mac Mantandon aspired to get something published for years. Nothing. Therefore he started Silence of the City (www.silenceofthecity.com), which in a mock layout of the New Yorker publishes pieces rejected by the famed weekly. To be considered by the online publications, you submit by email noting the date of the rejection.

Book Sales Up
Books sales hit $1.11 billion in May. That’s up from the previous year and it reverses a three-month trend of declining sales.

The Purpose of a Lit Mag​?
Michael Schmidt asks: “Where indeed in the independent ‘little’ literary magazines does the pleasure lie?” He answers the question.