Michael Cunningham, who alongside Maureen Corrigan and Susan Larson sat on the jury of the Pulitzer Prize for for fiction, gives the clearest account yet of how the award process works and defends the three shortlisted titles. His letter is in two parts, he also addresses the function of judgment and begins to build a poetics of literary greatness.
I have an essay in the September issue of Poets & Writers on "The Social Value of MFA Programs." Sadly, P&W deems the piece too valuable to give away for free on the Web, so if you want to read it, you'll have to go to your local newsstand and buy a copy.
"The morning after the opening sentence took shape, Heller “arrived at work”—at the Merrill Anderson Company—“with my pastry and container of coffee and a mind brimming with ideas, and immediately in longhand put down on a pad the first chapter of an intended novel.” The handwritten manuscript totaled about 20 pages. He titled it Catch-18. The year was 1953." Happy Birthday Joseph Heller, author of the anti-war classic Catch-22, born this day in 1923 in Coney Island, New York.
“Our great poet forever has one foot on Mount Parnassus and the other in the rue Quincampoix,” the Wall Street of eighteenth-century Paris. On how Voltaire outsmarted one of the earliest lotteries and made a fortune. Also check out how Goethe became an amateur auction theorist.
"At its core, the New York newspaper strike was a battle over technology. The 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence of computerized typesetting systems that would revolutionize the newspaper composing room...Today, new technology is again shaking American newspapers as the Internet drains away more and more advertising revenue. Cities with dailies may soon face a newspaper blackout much darker than what New York experienced a half-century ago. For a brief period, New York was a laboratory that demonstrated what can happen when newspapers vanish," writes Scott Sherman at Vanity Fair.
Tim Parks's review of Han Kang's The Vegetarian has some pretty interesting things to say about the nature of reviewing translation, but it also takes some shots at the novel and its proponents: "Looked at closely, the prose is far from an epitome of elegance, the drama itself neither understated nor beguiling, the translation frequently in trouble with register and idiom. Studying the thirty-four endorsements again, and the praise after the book won the prize, it occurs to me there is a shared vision of what critics would like a work of 'global fiction' to be and that The Vegetarian has managed to present itself as a candidate that can be praised in those terms." Here's a Millions review of Kang's Man Booker International prize-winner.
"Though statements have been issued over the years, no one has ever provided full disclosure of the alleged 1974 government experiment called OPERATION EMU (Experimental Mitigated Universe) during which an entire Hollywood film crew, contracted by the government, disappeared in a remote section of Nevada." Is this Web site a mysterious government coverup of the ravings of a lunatic? Neither. It's the marketing campaign of a writer shopping his manuscript. (thanks, R.J.)The University of Nebraska Press has a blog. They've been plugging away at the blog since January, but I hadn't seen it until today, when I got an email about it.New issues of The Virginia Quarterly Review and Narrative Magazine are out.
Tim Parks writes for the NYRB about writers living abroad. As he puts it, “But what about those writers who move to another country and do not change language, who continue to write in their mother tongue many years after it has ceased to be the language of daily conversation? Do the words they use grow arid and stiff? Or is there an advantage in being away from what is perhaps only the flavor of the day at home, the expressions invented today and gone tomorrow? Then, beyond specifically linguistic concerns, what audience do you write toward if you are no longer regularly speaking to people who use your language?” Pair with Hannah Gersen’s Millions piece on reading the English translation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words.