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.


Who’s Stefan Zwieg? People Once Knew
“In the 1920s and 1930s, Stefan Zweig was an immensely popular writer, a man who had to barricade himself in his house in Salzburg in order to avoid the fans lurking around his property in the hope of waylaying him.” That’s how Joan
Acocella starts her essay about the once famous German writer.

So Why Open an Independent Bookstore?
Independent bookstores are closing. Some individuals question their ability to survive. So did Nic Bottomley, his wife Julliette, and his brother-in-law Harvey quit their lucrative white-collar jobs and open Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath. He explains why and notes that he will maintain a blog in the Guardian.

How about an Original Script?
Euripides apparently was on the cutting edge of drama, even if that edge was more than two millennia ago. In the New York Review of Books, there’s an excellent essay about his contribution to drama and poet Anne Carson’s new translation of four Euripides’ plays.

The Google Revolution
The media has feared the advances of the Internet on their territory for years. It started with MP3 files and the music industry. It has progressed to DVDs. Lately Google has been digitizing books. Publishers are angry and frightened of its economic consequences. In a wonder essay for Guardian, Richard Wray and Dan Milmo take a careful look at theses consequences. What they don’t investigate is the question that has plagued music and movie producers for a decade: Why haven’t the individuals responsible for traditional media find out how to exploit the Net? If you have not already done so, you might want to read John Updike’s take on the topic, which appeared a while back in the New York Times.

iPoding of Books
“The iPod comes along and suddenly digitally downloaded audio becomes a much bigger marketing [for book publishers]….It is one of the first areas of the digital world that, rather than just talking about it, we are actually earning money from it,” says Peter Bowron, group managing director at Random House, in an article by Dan Milmo. The ideas of this article tie in with those of Motoko Rich‘s essay about how authors are changing the face of audio books. The intent of audio books confuses me. Aren’t stories read aloud actually plays or screenplays, such as Pinter’s. Read the next item.

The Legacy of Harold Pinter
“Full of adultery, alcohol and menace, Harold Pinter’s screenplays have given actors their best roles—and directors the opportunity of a lifetime.” That’s the thoughts of David Hare in his essay about Pinter’s gift to cinema.

Pinter Gets His Nobel Treatment
Last month the Swedish Academy named playwright Harold Pinter for its Nobel Prize in Literature. He was unable to attend the announcement and already let it be known that he will not attend the award ceremony in December—for health reasons. To celebrate in London, Alan Stanford is directing Sir Michael Gambon, Jeremy Irons, Joanna Lumley, and Sinead Cusack in a three-day run of Celebration at the Albery Theatre in London.

What Do Editors Think About?
Most writers want to know and that's what Globe and Mail book critic Sarah Hampson discovered as she interviewed Ellen Seligman, publisher of fiction and vice president of McClelland & Stewart, the century-old Canadian publishing house. She “understands fiction from the inside out and is an authority on the mystery of the creative process and the need ('almost an affliction' she calls it) that 'real writers' have to write.”

Dylan Foley of the Denver Post talks with New Yorker editor David Remnick, who almost reported on Hurricane Katrina and wrote the recently published Reporting, a collection of his recent New Yorker Pieces.

A Young Poet
Joshua Stowe of the South Bend Tribune discovered a new poet in South Bend. His name is Nolan Liu. He enjoys reading classical literature. He's nine years old.

10 Questions for Wole Solyinka”
That's the headline for the Andrew Purvis and Revine Wosnitza article about the world-renowned author and playwirght, the first African to win the Nobel Prize for literature.

Roth in the News Again—A Winner
Just weeks after the release of his new novel, Everyman, and a publicity swing that would make any writer jealous, Philip Roth received the PEN/Nabokov Award for lifetime achievement. That recognition comes with a $20,000 check. Meanwhile, PEN gave its Voelcker Poetry Award to Linda Gregg and its Laura Pels Foundation Awards for Drama to Adrienne Kennedy and Stephen Adly Guirgis.

A Place to Write
“Los Angeles, thankfully, suffers no such literary community [as does New York City]. No one is looking over our choulders. No covens of illuminati enforce the borders between genres. About this time each year, we puff ourselves up over the vibrancy of the local 'lit' scene, but (though it's true that L.A. Has no shortage of greater writers) we're talking to ourselves.” That's how novelist Ben Enrenreich, whose novel The Suitors was published this month by Counterpoint Press, describes LA in his Los Angeles Times essay “
A Perfect Place for Fiction.”

What Are Americans Missing?
“Only three percent of books published in the United States are translations, compared with almost seventy percent in Italy. And of that three percent…'many were technical manuals or reference works.'…'There's something seriously wrong in the landscape of American publishing.'…[I]t's no ownder Americans often misunderstand the rest of the world, given how little we publish and read about it.” That's the report from Philadelphia Inquirer book critic
Carlin Romano.

Second Chance for Alderman
First-time novelist Naomi Alderman was awarded with Disobedience being placed on the Orange Prize's longlist, but it was not shortlisted. But there's a second chance. The novel is the running Orange's new writers prize, which comes with an award valued near $25,000. Other writers on the list include Olga Grushin for The Dream Life of Sukhanov and Yiyun Li for A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, which won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story award last year. For more, click this

Rationalization for Academicese
 Linguist Michael McCarthy in a
Guardian essays argues that there's a place for academicese. I refer to the writing found frequently in academic journals, sometimes called scholarly journals. As McCarthy notes, the sentences depend on noun phrases of mind boggling length and passive voice. While the experts in a given field might understand what appears as gibberish to most readers, the writing stinks. McCarthy gets close to that point but never reaches it, rationalizing the need for the academic blathering. Even though he concedes that writers write for readers, he never concedes that writers should write so readers can easily comprehend what has been written. In the past decade, several individuals have written BS in traditional obfuscated academicese. Then a scholarly journal publishes it, indicating that even the editors of these publications can't tell the crap from the diamonds.

Letters of Anne Frank
An Amsterdam museum recently obtained letters from Anne Frank. She wrote them before and while in hiding. The
Guardian has published them.

Roy Fisher on Poetry
 Roy Fisher once said that a poem “has business to exist…if there's a reasonable chance that somebody may have his perceptions rearranged by having read it.” That quotation is found in
August Kleinzahler's review of Risher's The Long and the Short of It for the London Review of Books.

Beckett Slide Show
Samuel Beckett would have been 100 years old today.
Slate celebrated with a slide show featuring pictures of the Irish playwright.