Congratulations are in order for Vanessa Veselka: PEN American has awarded her debut novel Zazen the Robert W. Bingham Prize. I first heard about the novel last year, from what was then the brand-spanking-new LARB, though this Minnesota Public Radio profile of Veselka is also a great way to get acquainted with her exciting talents.
"His books used to be ink on paper; now we have to squint through the cloud of the Ellroy Phenomenon." And the James Ellroy Phenomenon looks like it will only continue: the author has announced plans for a second L.A. Quartet, the first of which, Perfidia, comes out next week.
"Ms. Hazzard’s fiction is dense with meaning, subtle in implication and tense in plot, often with disaster looming: A shipwreck tears away the parents of tiny children. A man who has waited a lifetime for a woman loses her at the last moment." Novelist Shirley Hazzard, whose several books – including The Transit of Venus and the National Book Award-winning The Great Fire – received much acclaim, has died at 85, reports The New York Times. Also worth reading, her "Art of Fiction" interview with The Paris Review from 2005.
“We have a customer who eats Bibles. She’s very nice, but she will walk up to a section, rip out a page, and eat it. She much prefers Catholic versions—she won’t touch King James Bibles.” This interview with the owner of Brattle Book Shop in Boston illustrates the peculiar idiosyncrasies of daily bookstore life. For all you romantics out there, here is a love letter to the brick-and-mortar bookstore.
Out this week: Bardo or Not Bardo by Antoine Volodine; My Mrs. Brown by William Norwich; The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales; Mount Pleasant by Patrice Nganang; The Houseguest by Kim Brooks; and Ear to the Ground by David L. Ulin and Paul Kolsby. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2016 Book Preview.
An English student at the University of Texas has unearthed previously unpublished writing from Jupiter Hammon, the first published African-American poet. Some of Hammon’s work – which dates back to 1760 – can be found online courtesy of The Poetry Foundation: “A Poem for Children with Thoughts on Death” and “An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatley.”
Researchers at Comanche Nation College and Texas Tech University are creating a digital archive to reconstruct the Comanche language before its 25 remaining speakers die out. Meanwhile, researchers from Moscow State University and the Russian Academy of Sciences have recorded audio and video footage of twenty isolated Alaskans who speak a unique form of the Russian language. (Bonus: An Australian researcher recently uncovered a whole new Aboriginal dialect.)
“Melville fell in love with the dashingly handsome older author the first time they met, and his forbidden passion drove him to create the symbol of impossible longing that now represents American literature to the rest of the world: the white whale.” On Herman Melville’s love for Nathaniel Hawthorne. Pair with a review of Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun.