When John Steinbeck wasn’t busy writing 600-page novels, he might have been a Cold War CIA spy. In 1952, Steinbeck approached the CIA and suggested he could do some spying on an upcoming European trip. “The pace and method of my junket together with my intention of talking with great numbers of people of all classes may offer peculiar advantages,” he wrote to an agent.
Turns out the Streisand effect applies to book sales. The Wall Street Journal reports that banning a book in China causes sales to increase both at home and abroad. “These days, smothering someone is as good as crowning that person,” the article quotes a Chinese reader as saying. You could also read Deanna Fei on being a Chinese-American writer in China.
“It took me ten years (four of writing, six of rewriting) to complete The Listener. Now ‘trans is trending,’ and the book has been published into this particular cultural moment, one I could never have envisioned twelve years ago.” Rachel Basch discusses writing in the context of social change at Lit Hub. Pair with our own Sonya Chung’s piece on literary activism.
The great singer-songwriter Josh Ritter is on tour with Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit. In honor of that, here’s puppet master Liam Hurley‘s video for Josh Ritter’s beautiful ballad “The Curse,” a song about a mummy falling in love with the archeologist who discovers him.
Anna Sun profiles the work of Mo Yan, the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. While Sun acknowledges Yan’s popularity and prolific output, she also notes that what the Nobel committee referred to as “hallucinatory prose” is more often than not “repetitive, predictable, coarse, and mostly devoid of aesthetic value.” Indeed, Sun writes, “the English translations of Mo Yan’s novels … are in fact superior to the original.” [Ed. Note: It appears the Kenyon Review link was briefly not working; this Google cache may work better — h/t Dan Farrely]