“The Ode Less Travelled”
In his review of Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled, David Orr takes on Robin Williams’ version of the English teacher John Keating in the movie Dead Poets Society, as well as Dr. J. Evans Pritchard. “As Samuel Johnson put it more than 250 years ago, anyone attempting to discuss ‘the minuter parts of literature’ usually ends up either ‘frighting us with rugged science, or amusing us with empty sound.'” Then Orr tells how Fry does neither.

The Bed Potato
Attempting never to leave his bed, Gary Shteyngart reviews the new translation of Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov. Goncharov’s hero lays in bed all day. On the third day, Shteyngart writes: “Today I will tackle Oblomov, the famous 19th-century Russian slacker novel.”

Interview with Philip Deaver
Nancy Zafris, the Kenyon Review’s fiction editor, conducts an intriguing interview with Philip Deaver, who wrote Silent Retreats, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Deaver talks about craft. Read him talking about the influences on his writing: “Have you ever read John Updike’s “A Constellation of Events,” a little story buried down in his Trust Me collecdtion? The last lines kill me. Then there’s the Morrisons’ accident in Dan Chon’s “Among the Missing.” And Ann Beattie’s second swing past her mother’s house in “Find and Replace,” and her delicious little story “Waiting,” when the dog lazily comes out onto the front porch. Alice Dark’s “In the Gloaming”–those who’ve read it will remember the father saying to the mother, ‘Tell me about my son.’ Tobias Wolff’s “Powder,” Richard Ford’s “Reunion,” Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” Carver’s “Cathedral” and “Errand.” I like these stories for the amazing moments they gave me. There are hundreds of others.” You also can read his story “Lowell and the Rolling Thunder.”

PR Interview Stephen King
In the fall issue of the Paris Review, Stephen King talks about fiction and his approaches: “I don’t think there’s anything that I’m not afraid of, on some level. But if you mean, What are we afraid of as humans? Chaos. the outsider. We’re afraid of change. We’re afraid of disruption, and that’s what I’m interested in. I mean: There are a lot of people whose writing I really love–one fo them is the American poet Philip Booth–who writes about ordinary life straight up, but I just can’t do that.”

Cohen Awards
The 2006 Cohen Awards for the best poem and short story in the previous year’s issues of Ploughshares were given to Laura Kasischke for story “If a Stranger Approaches You about Carrying a Foreign Object with You onto the Plane…” and R.T. Smith for his poem “Dar He.”

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Penn Writers Conference

September 29, 2006

Penn Writers Conference
Penn Writers ConferenceSusan Stranahan will give the keynote address at the Twelfth Annual Writers Conference at Penn. The program offers two days of two-hour workshops and master classes. To sign up for the conference go to http://www.pennwritersconference.org or call 215-898-6479 extension 3. SNR’s Joseph Conlin will conduct one of the workshops on Saturday, “Submitting to Literary Magazines.”

Poets Awarded
Carl Phillips recently received the Academy of American Poets’ Academy Fellowship, receiving $25,000. The academy selected the poet based on his work during the past 20 years.

MacArthur Fellowship winner and Sterling Professor Emeritus at Yale University John Hollander will be the new Poet Laureate for Connecticut starting next year. The 76-year-old poet will succeed Maryilyn Nelson. The state pays $1000 a year for the position.

Meanwhile the Poetry Foundation has named Jack Prelutsky as the First Children’s Poet Laureate, a $25,000 prize.

Frost Poem Discovered
The Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR) next week will publish a poetic tribute to a friend killed during The Great War by Robert Frost. University of Virginia graduate student Robert Stilling discovered the poem while during research with some Frost papers.

Burnside on Non-Fiction
In commenting on a letter written by Sharon Olds to Laura Bush, John Burnside writes: What makes this document powerful is, in part, its stylistic elegance, as it treads the fine line between political protest and the courtesy that any civilized human being owes to others, no matter how reprehensible their actions. Its effectiveness is enhanced…by the trust that a famously rigorous poet inspires; by the authority of one whose main pursuit is not money or fame but artistic integrity.

Smith Picks Kay
The seventy-eight-year-old actor
Bernard Kay won the New Writing Ventures award for creative non-fiction. Novelist Ali Smith, the chief judge described Kay’s memoir as “a perfectpiece of explication.”

Drunken Shakespeare?
John Sutherland writes the some experts believe that Shakespeare wrote with a hangover. Sutherland quotes Ben Jonson to make his point: “I remember, the Players have often mentioned it as a n honour to Shakespeare, that in his writing, (whatsoever he penn’d) hee never blotted out line. My answer hath beene, would he had blotted a thousand. Which the Plyaers thought a malevolent speech.”

Let’s Ban Some Books
It’s that time of the year when people afraid of ideas and notions that don’t appeal to their delicate sense of sensible push to ban books from libraries and schools. According to the American Library Association, groups are trying to ban 42 classics, such as the terrible To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, The Lord of the Files, 1984, Beloved, Ulysses, The Color Purple, Of Mice and Men, Catch-22, Brave New World, Sun Also Rises, As I Lay Dying, Song of Solomon, Heart of Darkness, Their Eyes Were Watching God, A Farewell to Arms, Clockwork Orange, Gone with the Wind, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Slaughterhouse Five, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Call of the Wild, All the King’s Men, The Jungle, Invisible Man, Satanic Verses, In Cold Blood, Sons and Lovers, Naked Lunch, Cat’s Cradle, A Separate Peace, Women in Love, The Naked and the Dead, Rabbit, Run, An American Tragedy, Tropic of Cancer, and Native Son. If these books are being banned for sex and violence, then the guardians of our children’s sensibilities missed one: the Old Testament.

Murakami Gets 2nd O’Connor
Novelist Haruki Murakami won his second Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award for Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman collection.

Kid Gets Fantasy Deal
An eleven-year-old sends a fantasy manuscript via email to the States and gets a deal.

Bascombe Returns
The Guardian is running a portion of Richard Ford’s followup to Sportswriter’s Frank Bascombe.

Talking with Ford

September 25, 2006

Talking with Ford
“I think of the friends he has mentioned, some of them pictured on the walls of his study–Sam Shepard, Cormac McCarthy, Tobias Wolff. Maybe even John Updike. I make myself some toast and go and stand on the lawn overlooking hte bay where gulls are squawking…” That’s from
Phil Hogan interview with Richard Ford.

September 24, 2006

No Blarney in Her Story
I saw Kathy O’Beirne give a presentation about the life of a writer. This was long after her memoir “Don’t Every Tell” details became a best seller in Ireland and England. It’s the story of girls at the Magdalene laundry who were raped and abused by the nuns and priest responsible for their care. Long accused of lying or being dellusional, O’Beirne has fought critics. That could be changing. Read <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,1879888,00.html>, an essay by Henry McDonald, Ireland editor for “The Observer.”

Shafak Acquitted
Elif Shafak was finally acquitted of “insulting Turkishness” over remarks made by a fictional character in her novel “The Bastard of Istanbul.” The charges were dropped at the request of the prosecutor. Read <http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,1877748,00.html>.