“I say peel back the immediate surface layer and let’s see what’s actually underneath, if it’s possible to find that out. As a child, of course, I grew up looking under dead logs to see if there might be a newt. Most of the time there wasn’t a newt. Sometimes there was.” Margaret Atwood talks newts and skepticism in a new interview over at Hazlitt. Atwood’s newest, The Heart Goes Last, is out now.
“In the morning, before we left, we presented my aunt with a gift from Indonesia, a package of luwak, one of four in Bon’s duffel. Civet coffee? she said, bemused. We were already savoring cups of coffee at her table, brewed in her coffee press from Arabica beans of her own supply.” An excerpt from Year in Reading alumnus Viet Thanh Nguyen's forthcoming novel appears in the new issue of Ploughshares.
You may have not known there’s a national arm wrestling championship. Joshua Davis found out when he saw an eye-catching flyer. When he found himself drafted onto Team USA, he turned the experience into his first big magazine piece. At The Rumpus, an interview with the author of Spare Parts.
Coverage of The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books (do you have your copy yet?) has been coming in at a steady clip: NYC publication CityArts takes a look; yours truly interviewed on The Marketplace of Ideas; Edward Champion offers a hasty response; the my co-editor sits down with his hometown paper.
The CS Monitor has a little piece about the travails of teenage novelists: "A youthful sensation doesn't always translate into a distinguished literary career. For many teen authors, that first book proves a hard act to follow. Some never again meet with the kind of praise critics heaped upon their first offerings."Speaking of (once) young phenoms, Bret Easton Ellis has a flashy new Web site that promotes his upcoming novel, Lunar Park. I've never read Ellis, but the Web site seems to indicate that this upcoming novel is about a character named Bret Easton Ellis, and it may or may not be autobiographical. Very meta. There's an excerpt in there too.I've been enjoying EarthGoat lately. It's a group blog out of Iowa City.
Even though Harper Lee hasn't given an interview in 50 years, her letters are an insight into the notoriously reclusive writer."I simply don't give interviews, because it takes great skill to ask meaningful questions and very few people in the media have it," she wrote in a 2005 letter. Two of Lee's letters will be auctioned today and are expected to go for at least $2,500 a piece. Pair with: Our essay on reclusive authors.
If there existed a trophy for the ugliest-looking but prettiest-sounding language, then the 721,700 living Welsh speakers would boast more championships than Alabama’s football team. Yes, the Welsh. They of the villages Llangefni and Llanfairfechan. (To say nothing of Llanfairpwllgwyngyll.) Wouldn’t it be a shame for such a language to disappear? For writing in this language to stop being published? Stanford’s Cynthia Haven thinks so.
W.H. Auden lived a secret life, not as a man with a second family or an illicit habit but as, weirdly enough, a genuinely kind human being. He paid for a friend’s costly operation and camped outside the apartment of a woman who suffered from night terrors until she felt safe enough to sleep on her own again. So why did the poet want to hide his good deeds? He claimed he didn’t want to be admired for basic decency.