In the new Granta, Adam Johnson writes about the mind-bending experience of traveling to North Korea, an experience which informed his Pulitzer-winning novel The Orphan Master’s Son. Perhaps the saddest anecdote — and there are a lot of sad anecdotes — is the one about the North Korean tour guide who couldn’t believe the author didn’t want to buy knockoff goods.
Calling all undergrads and grad students! McSweeney’s is holding their first-ever Student Short Story Contest. The grand prize — $500 and publication in their 51st issue — will go to the student who sends in the best story before the last day of August. Get cracking, but don’t go beyond their 7,500-word limit.
It’s safe to say that Jorge Louis Borges could have lectured on anything from watching paint dry to waiting in line at the DMV and the end result would still have been magnificent. Here he is teaching a little Buddhism 101, with an accompanying lecture by his close friend and UC-Berkeley professor Amelia Barili.
“The specter of the confessional haunts all first-person writing, and women’s writing in particular,” but perhaps “the instinct to insert [the self] comes from a place of saying, ‘I’m not an expert, I’m just a person; let me show you where I’m situated here in this thing I’m telling you about.'” Our own Lydia Kiesling writes about Meghan Daum, Lena Dunham, Leslie Jamison and the confessional impulse in nonfiction for Salon.
On the occasion of the publication of his novel The Madonnas of Echo Park, Brando Skyhorse writes about the decades-long path that got him there and the rules for writing that he devised. (Thanks, Steve)
“It’s corrosive going down, you wonder if he had to add quite so much vinegar and horseradish, but afterward the effect is invigorating.” Aaron Thier at The Nation reviews Rafael Chirbes’ newest novel, On The Edge. The book admittedly gives no pleasure, yet is nonetheless worth reading as it operates like more of a “psychological health tonic,” instead.
Some heavy hitters out this week: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan; Dear Life, Alice Munro’s latest collection; Woes of the True Policeman by Roberto Bolaño; The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín; and Far From the Tree, Andrew Solomon’s massive follow-up to The Noonday Demon. Also out are My Ideal Bookshelf, in which figures from Judd Apatow to Jennifer Egan share about which books shaped them; Jon Meacham’s biography of Jefferson; 40 years of poems by Louise Glück; a new issue of McSweeney’s food mag Lucky Peach; debut The Heat of the Sun by David Rain, and She Loves Me Not, a new collection of stories by Ron Hansen.