“There’s more to life than writing and publishing fiction. There is another way entirely, amazed as I am to discover it at this late date,” Philip Roth said in an interview with Cynthia Haven for Stanford’s The Book Haven. Besides his retirement from writing, Roth also discussed why he doesn’t consider himself an American-Jewish writer and his book The Ghost Writer. For more Roth, read our essay on lessons you can learn from his work.
“What I’ve found is that a lot of soldiers are surprisingly apolitical. Their reality is, ‘Today I’m going to leave the gate for twelve hours, and I’m going to make it back to the dining facility by sundown with the arms and legs of me and my buddies intact.’ So you say, ‘Well, what about the Project for the New American Century and the preexisting agenda blah blah blah?’ They go, ‘Yeah, that’s cool, but I have to get through today.’ So their reality is not a political reality as much as it’s, ‘If I’m driving by this piece of garbage, will it blow up?'” Revisit this old interview with Henry Rollins over at Guernica Magazine, which manages the nearly impossible: to be both level-headed and political.
Darryl Pinckney and Zadie Smith discuss Beyoncé, literature, and achievement in a recent podcast from the New York Public Library. More reasons to love the library. Revisit our review of Smith’s NW if you’re looking for a book to pick up at your local library.
Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt by Kristin Hersh is a downright mesmerizing elegy to the eclectic singer-songwriter. Part idiot-savant, part deliberate curmudgeon , Vic Chesnutt (who Rolling Stone has called one of the greatest songwriters of all time) was notoriously difficult to spend a lot of time around. Hersh stopped by Electric Literature for an interview about the book and about losing her dear friend Vic. Bonus: for anyone unfamiliar with Chesnutt’s work, this video will get you close.
“Presenting female writers as sexualized and frivolous diminishes their intellectual credentials, tarnishes their work as slight, not to be taken seriously.” The cover of the U.K. edition of The Letters of Sylvia Plath, a new collection of unpublished correspondence by the late author, features her in a bikini because, sexism. Pair with “Sexy Backs and Headless Women: A Book Cover Manifesto.”
Attention New Yorkers: The 2010 PEN World Voices Festival kicks off today with Claire Messud, Lorraine Adams, and Norman Rush. Update: Audio of this stimulating discussion of diversity in literature is available at WNYC. And it looks like many World Voices events will be streaming live at the PEN Website, accessible whether you hang your hat in New York or Nome (or Wasilla). Tonight catch Patti Smith, Rodrigo Frésan, and Salman Rushdie.
It’s Banned Books Week — time to celebrate your right to read Women in Love, Ulysses, and other notables from the ALA’s list of banned or challenged books. Though, according to the Wall Street Journal, this is a whole lotta hoo-ha over nothing.