Jennifer Egan recently spoke with Willing Davidson, fiction editor of The New Yorker, as part of Rewiring the Real, a yearlong series of podcasts with writers about the interplay of literature, technology and religion. Rachel Hurn, a former Millions intern, was there and noted Egan's ambivalence towards "personal writing." [Updated to correct the quote] "If writing necessarily meant writing about myself, then I'd rather do something else," Egan said.
In his column in the Chicago Tribune today, Eric Zorn describes a particularly ugly incident that occurred at a library not far from where I live. Somebody set fire to a number of books at the John Merlo branch of the Chicago Public Library. Making matters worse, it appears as though the arsonist targeted the gay and lesbian books section of the library, which itself is located in a neighborhood with a large gay population. From Zorn's column: Staffers detected the fire quickly and used an extinguisher to put it out before anyone was hurt. The library remained open, and if you visit there today, the only reminders of the incident are gaps on several shelves where destroyed books used to sit.But the location makes it a bigger event. For both symbolic and safety reasons, the idea of arson in the stacks, no matter how relatively unsuccessful, is chilling. Public libraries are not only embodiments of liberty but, with all that paper, prospective tinderboxes.More chilling still to many is that the unknown arsonist chose to set the fire in the heart of the Chicago area's largest unified collection of gay and lesbian-oriented books.Zorn explores the topic further at his blog explaining why he decided to devote his column to what was, admittedly, a very minor fire, wondering "Do we not, in some ways, magnify the power of a hate crime when we publicize it?"I'm glad he decided to write the column. Coming on the heels of a book-banning attempt in a nearby school district, it's been a rough couple of months for books in the Chicago area.Update: It turns out it wasn't a hate crime. As Eric Zorn explains, they caught the culprit, a 21-year-old homeless woman who set the fire because "she was angry at library staff for being rude to her."
Patrick Somerville’s latest novel, This Bright River, was recently reviewed in The New York Times by Janet Maslin, who found the book to be, among other things, “soggy.” Unfortunately, some of her critique was based on a mistaken reading of Somerville’s work. I’ll let Patrick take it from here.
Trend alert: there's been a surprising proliferation of literary site spinoffs lately. First The Toast began The Butter, and then Electric Literature started Okey-Panky. Now the Los Angeles Review of Books joins the movement with The Offing, an online lit mag launching later this month.
Chilean Communists want to exhume Pablo Neruda's body to determine his actual cause of death. The endeavor is being undertaken because Neruda's "former driver said he received an injection which provoked a heart attack."