Pamuk Wins Nobel
Recently on trial for offending the concept of Turkishness, novelist Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel literature prize. Pamuk’s novels include the popular and critically acclaimed Snow and My Name is Red.

Finalist for the National Book Awards Announced
Here are the works and authors nominated for the National Book Awards: Fiction–Mark Danielewski’s Only Revolutions, Ken Kalfus’s A Disorder Peculiar to the Country, Dana Spiotta’s Eat the Document, and Jesse Walter’s The Zero; Nonfiction–Rajiv Chandraswekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone, Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, and Peter Hessler’s Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present; Poetry—H.L. Hix’s Chromatic, Ben Lerner’s Angel of Yaw, Nathaniel Mackey’s Splay Anthem, and James McMichael’s Capacity.


Pan Redux?
What gave Geraldine McCaughrean the nerve to write a sequel to Peter Pan? asks the Guardian.

The Politically Correct Becomes Incorrect?
Lionel Shrivere argues in The Australian that “fiction may be the last refuge of the outrageous, the last redoubt of Orwell’s thought crime. Moreover, even the freedom to be outrageous in fiction is under threat.” Her essay provokes thinking. In the West, we readily condemned nation’s for trying authors for violating “Turkishness.” She wonders if the attempt to embrace all people into a culture is not leading to a similar crime against the state of inclusion.

Two Poems by Cohen
The Guardian has published “The Cigarette Issue” and “Seisen is Dancing” by Leonard Cohen.

Hornby Tells ‘All’
In an essay entitled “The Complete Polysyllabic Spree,” Erica Wagener interviews Nick Hornby. He says: “When I started being review, I thought, ‘Oh god, I really want to know if my book’s any good or not.’ I don’t read any of them any more, but when you read two people side-by-side and one of them is saying you’re a moron and the other is saying you’re a genius, you think: Okay, so now I’m being asked to choose whcih of tehse people is the cleverer. Because I’d kind of like to know the right answer. And then after a while you just give up.”

Amis Lets It Rip–Yet Again
In the last month, Martin Amis released two works about radical Islam. Guardian writer Rachel Cooke flies from London to the Hamptons on Long Island to interview the author. He, like Hornby, stopped reading reviews: “You’re minding your own business. Then you see the strap-line on the [Lodon] Times: ‘Martin Amis is Shit.’ So it’s a drive-by shooting.”

Rushdie Interviewed
James Campbell of the Guardian interviews Salman Rushdie.

Howling with Praise
Celebrating his teacher’s and mentor’s most famous work, poet Jason Shinder put together a collection of essays about Allen Ginsberg’s famous poem “Howl.” The book is entitled The Poem that Changed America: ‘Howl’ 50 Years Later. It includes a CD with a recording of the poem’s first reading. Read more.

Samuel Beckett: Millennium Poet Laureate?
“Samuel Beckett would have turned 100 this year, but in a sense he was always 100. One is almost tempted to say he was always 1,000. …No writer better deserves the title of Millennium Poet Laureate.” That’s the claim of Robert Brustein in his essay “Samuel Beckett: Millennium Poet Laureate” in the Chronicle Review.

Jersey Shore Literary?
During this month, I’m going to the Jersey Shore to witness the christening of my niece. It will be warm. Hopefully sunny. And a breeze will come off the Atlantic. All features I have associated with the Jersey shore. Literary is not one of them. Yet Suzy Hansen makes the point in her Slate essay about Richard Ford and Frederick Reiken.

Stupid Is as Stupid Does
Four days before her due date (Sept. 25), Turkish novelist Elif Shafak will go on trial for “insulting Turkishness”–a real charge under the country’s criminal code. Novelists Orhan Pamuk and Perihan Magden were also charged in separate cases. The charges in the case of these men were dropped. Shafak’s offense? Her Armenian character says: “I am the grandchild of genocide survivors who lost all their relatives in the hands of Turkish butchers in 1915.” The genocide is not fiction. It happened.
Other related
: Turkish court acquits author Perihan Magden, Interview: Elif Shafak, and Extract from The Flea Palace by Elif Shafak.

25 Books at a Time
Joe Queehan discusses his reading habits in his essay “Why I Can’t Stop Starting Books.” He wonders if he has “too long” an attention span.

Foer on Writing
“The idea of enjoying writing something is foreign to me. I enjoy having written things Someone once said that writing is like pulling teeth…out of your penis. How do I put this? I love being a writer, but I don't love writing. An analogy might be, right now, I love having a kid, but man, oh man—it's so hard…When I write, I don't find it enjoyable page-by-page, but I'm really glad that it's what I do,” says Jonathan Safran Foer in a interview with Dave Weich. Foer didn't like writing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, nor his first Everything Is Illuminated.

Pulitzers Awarded and More Prizes
The following received
Pulitzer Prizes for books published: Geraldine Brooks for her novel March, David Oshinsky for Polio: An American Story, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin for American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Claudia Emerson for her collection of poetry Late Wife, and Caroline Elkins for Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Brtain's Gulag in Kenya. They each received $10,000.

The poetry publishing houses Tupelo Press has given its annual Dorset Prize for poetry to Davis McCombs for Dismal Rock. Read some of his work at <>.

Richard Wilbur won the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. The New York Times reported that Poetry Editor Christian Wiman said: “If you had to put all your oney on one living poet whose work will be read in a hundred years, Richard Wilbur would be a good bet.” Wilbur also won tow Pulitzers, a National Book Award, and the Bollingen Translation Prize.

Abani Reading in Brooklyn
Aaron Zimmerman of the NY Writers Coalition recently finished reading
Becoming Abigail by Chris Abani who also wrote Graceland. Zimmerman love the “beautifully written” novel and wants to remind people to hear Abani read at the Barnes & Noble store at 267 7th Ave. this Friday (April 21) at 7:30. The coalition has also redesigned its Web site (

Promoting Books on Cell Phones Even Though Industry Is Growing
Simon & Schuster has joined the fray with Random House and HarperCollins. Each house is attempting to market books with cell phones, primarily subscription services that users theoretically will pay. Why would another individual—even 18-34 year olds with good eyesight and the primary audience—want to read an excerpt on a cell-phone screen? Why not promote excerpts on-line?
Read more.

What would Stephen Riggio, CEO of Barnes & Noble, think of such an idea. It might seem strange to a man who manages 799 stores that permit individuals to walk around and review books before buying them. He noted recently in the New York Times: “Reports of the book industry's demise have been greatly exaggerated over the last 20 years. And they've been unsupported by any sound research. The fact is the industry has never had a single year of sales decline. It's a stable business and it's resilient in the face of competition for peole's time from TV, Internet, and video games.”

Writers about Writing
Novelist Jake Arnott tells Helen Brown why the 1970s were more about anger and rebellion than space hoppers and Abba in the
London Telegraph.

What Happened to the Bitch-Goddess Called Success?
“In an era when practically nothing is too sordid to be the stuff of serious fiction, the craving for success has become the love that dare not speak its name. Curious, no? Making a reputation, making money, rising in the world—is this so much more unseemly than, oh, sex with a piece of raw calf’s liver?” That’s the question Joseph Finder asks in his New York Times essay “
Where Have All the Strivers Gone?

New Way of Reading a Book
Names@Work is sending out Pulse by Robert Frenay and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux as an RSS feed or by email on a daily basis. The site also offers the hardcover at 30 percent off the cover price.

It’s National Poetry Month
With Spring being the beginning of poetry month, Houghton Mifflin launched a
new poetry site. It offers poetry links, some useful such as and others not so such as, a great literary reference site though. It also has links to poetry events and a poet quiz, such as who wrote the following lines: When the train stopped I started and woke up./Was nowhere, as before, no change in that./Nothing new in trundling to a stop/where nothing seemed to call for one. The light/was winter afternoon, with’afternoon’/a term for darkness. In the cold and wet. (Answer: Glyn Maxwell.) Knopf’s Borzoi Reader is offering to email poem of the day for the entire month. The site also has audio downloads, poet’s forum, and related poetry links.

Turks at It Again
Turkish authorities are angry at another author—Perihan Magden for her support of imprisoned conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan in an article she wrote for Aktuel. You might remember that Turkish authorities attempted to try Orhan Pamuk for relating an fact about a less than proud moment in Turkish history.

Pecking at Fiction & Criticism
In an essay for the
Morning News, critic and novelist Dale Peck wrote: “I thought I was ready to read contemporary fiction. Last fall, after a couple of years of sticking to the Greeks, Romans, and nonfiction, I taught Mary Gaitskill’s Two Girls Fat and Thing; she graciously agreed to speak to my class, and I was as impressed by her intelligence and articulateness as I was by her first novel.” In an unrelated article for Slate by Ben Yagoda, Michiko Kakutani, a New York Times book critic for 25 years, comes under attack from Susan Sontag and Salman Rushdie.

Bleak House Bleaker
A fire recently damaged the home where Charles Dickens wrote some of his famous works. The house, called Bleak House, is in Broadstairs, Kent. Dickens wrote Bleak House and completed David Copperfield there. Read more in the
Guardian report by Peter Richards.

Thoughts of Poet Jane Duran
“I was interested in the lively interaction between conflicting feelings or perceptions in these poems, and the sense of discovery there is for the reader when the poet simply lives with them and doesn’t try to resolve them.” These are a few of the thoughts Jane Duran reveals in her


April 5, 2006

Scandal Follows Author
Two summers ago, Tony Hendra, former editor for National Lampoon, had a best selling memoir called Father Joe. His daughter then accused him of sexually abusing her as a child. He's now promoting his new novel, The Messiah of Morris Avenue with a first printing of 150,000. With litigation still pending about his daughter's case, Hendra cannot speak. So why does Publisher's Weekly and New York magazine make a point of publishing such stories?

Why Secrecy? Why Noms de Plume?
Novelist Jonathan Freedland explains why he is publishing his new novel, The Righteous Men, under the nom de plume Sam Bourne.

Smiley Reads
Novelist Jane Smily will read 100 novels. She hopes to "illuminate the whole concept of the novel." It's an ambitious undertaking, one worth undertaking. In an essay for the Guardian, she explains that her first plan was to read 275, but then it took her a month to read Anna Karenina and almost another to read Moby Dick. She explains that her list of novels is not intended as the 100 Best. Any 100 good novels would suffice. Smiley's study of The Tale of Genji is available here.

While Smiley is reading novels, Melvyn Bragg came up with a dozen British books that have changed the world. One of them is the Football Association Rule Book and not a single novel. Why?

Just Write
It seems a simple concept. For Orhan Pamuk it feels like a luxury after being imprisoned and tried in Turkey for publishing an historical fact. He talks with Aida Edemariam of the Guardian.

Contest Draws Huge Entry
"A new writing prize set up as 'unashamedly elitist' has drawn a big response from hopeful authors. The antional short story contest attracted more than 1,400 entries, between a third and tw0thirds more than its organisers expected–and 10 times the level of the Man Booker or Whitbread novel prize." Read more.

Cooke on Williams
Rachel Cooke, writing for the Observer, chats it up with poet Hugo Williams. He is "exactly how you want a poet to be, almost as if 'poet' was a part he landed in an extremely long-running play." You can hear Rachel moving nervously around the man's home.

Freedom of Expression–not at Gitmo
The Guardian reports that the United States will not return the 25,000 lines of verse that Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost spent in Guantanamo Bay. "My interrogators promised I would get them back. Still I have nothing." Sounds all too similar to Orhan Pamuk's plight.

Grolier Poetry Sold
The oldest poetry bookstore in America–Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Harvard Square–recently was sold to Ifeanyi Mentiki, poet and professor of philosophy at Wellesley College. His latest book–OfAltai, the Bright Light, was published by Earthwinds Editions. The bookstore was a favorite of E.E. Cummings, T.S. Eliot, and Marianne Moore. Read more in Lawrence van Gelder's New York Times article.

Poetry and the News
The assistant managing editor of the Metro section for the Newark Star-Ledger has landed a deal for poetry about the "maligned and grimy practice of journalism." The poet: David Tucker. The work: Late for Work. The book woun the Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize for poetry. Philip Levine says of the poet: "He draws from areas that American poetry hasn't been involved in..David was able to aestheticize his own work in a way that seemed miraculous." Read Dinitia Smith's New York Times article.

Brecht the Obnoxious
There they were. Letters in a Swiss garage owned by Victor Cohen, who recently sold them to German's Academy of Arts. They are from Bertolt Brecht. Read Luke Harding's Guardian article.

February 10, 2006

Technorati Profile

Bloglogo3.jpgTheir Excuse
Twelve cartoons published four months ago have turned the world upside down. Angry Muslims are burning embassies and attacking Westerners. The scenes in major Muslim cities are ugly. It would be easy to presume that the hysteria has theological roots. It does, but its deepest roots have more to do with political realities. First, nations such as Syria and Iran, which ignored the cartoons for months, have used the moment to ignite indignation, diverting attention of their citizens from the draconian policies of their more or less dictatorial leaders. (If you have doubts, answer this: Where do the protesters get their Danish flags?) Second and more important, how can any individual understand the concept of freedom of expression if they have lived in a culture and a political climate where any nugatory word or simulacrum regarding the powers that be is a spoliation of a culture. (Think of Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk.) Not one Muslim country condones freedom of expression, especially the type taken for granted in western Europe and the United States. In all Muslim nations, expression is either sanctioned or protected by the state and by religious authorities. Having been educated (and I am using that word in the broadest sense of its meaning), citizens of countries such as Syria and Iran had no choice but to believe that the Danish government had some means of stopping the newspaper from publishing the cartoons. In fact, they believe that the Danish government supported the publication of these ideas because their governments are responsible for what appears in print and on television. Finally, they believe that “the Zionists” somehow forced the Danish government to encourage the Danish newspaper to publish the cartoons. In such political primitive and repressive societies, where education is dictated by theology, the reactions of the common man and woman cannot be justified but can be understood. (For more details, read Michael Kinsley’s “The Ayatollah Joke Book” posted today in Slate.)

What’s Ours?
What cannot be understood is how Americans can adopt a similarly delusional position.

In an Op-Ed essay for the New York Times, Dan Savage, editor of Seattle’s The Stranger, noted that the film End of the Spear has inspired many Christians. The movie tells the story of five missionaries who were murdered in Ecuador and how their families responded. But “conservative Christians were upset when they learned that a gay actor, Chad Allen, was playing a straight missionary…The pastors claim they’re worried about what will happen when their children rush home from the movies, Google Chad Allen’s name, and discover that he’s a ‘gay activist.’ (‘Gay activist’ is a term evangelicals apply to any homosexual who isn’t a gay doormat.)” It sounds like a 21st century version of Lot’s wife. “And they returneth from the movie houses and googleth Chad Allen and their hearts turneth gay.”

Their protest—like much of the evangelicals’ protests about gay marriage and I.D. (intelligent design or idiot’s desire depending on your point of view)–ignores the traditions about which the nation has gradually grown during the past 230 years. In essence evangelicals adopt stances, more political than theological, drape them in their own form of New Testament morality, which they believe is suitable for all human beings, and expect the nation to take notice. How does that differ from the Muslim protesters?

In a time when information abounds freely, a portion of humanity stands frightened. The freedom frightens them because in the vacuum of the doctrinaire they might discover that their doctrine makes no sense, that the cornerstone of their beliefs is crumbling, that their vision of eternity is at best an illusion. For some individuals that prospect frightens them more than reality, and their leaders have only one choice: Create hysteria among their followers—whether Muslim or Christian.

The protests against the cartoons and Chad Allen’s role are reactions to the deliberately unsettling nature of freedom, but without unbridled freedom of expression, the arts and sciences become tools of the political or theological. History abounds with examples, the Inquisition, the Reign of Terror, the totalitarianism of Stalin, and the persecutions by Senator Joe McCarthy. If we call ourselves writers, we have no right to turn away from the threats to freedom, the lifeblood of any intellectual pursuit.

Flaubert’s Lost Fragments
In a review for the London Times, Julian Barnes writes, “Flaubert is exemplary, indeed talismanic, for the stern separation he made between his public and private writings. His novels are objective constructions which unfold in authorial absence; his letters are a place of riotous opinion-giving and frank emotional unbuttoning.”