“Seidel scared himself with poetry, and us too. How had he done it?” John Jeremiah Sullivan presented the Hadada Award to Frederick Seidel at The Paris Review’s Spring Revel last month. You can read the full text of his speech and three of Seidel’s poems. This seems to be a much better week for Sullivan because he also just won the James Beard Foundation’s MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award for his essay “I Placed a Jar in Tennessee.”
If Moby Lives is right, the literary beef that erupted when Oprah selected Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections for her book club and he rejected the (in his mind, dubious) honor is about to get a curious denouement. Speculation is that Freedom is poised to become another Oprah selection. And your author suspects that Franzen will be more welcoming this time around. (Oprah sticker haters should probably buy their copies of Freedom now, just to be safe.) Update: The AP confirms and so it begins again.
Literary prizes are nothing new, but prizes that give writers real estate are a thoroughly modern development. At Salon, Michele Filgate investigates our odd new economy, in which lucky writers win leases to homes, inns and (in one case) a goat farm. You could also read our own Nick Ripatrazone on the Amtrak residency.
New this week: A Gambler’s Anatomy by Jonathan Lethem; The Fall Guy by James Lasdun; No Knives in the Kitchens of This City by Khaled Khalifa; Mister Monkey by Francine Prose; The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa; Truevine by Beth Macy; Love for Sale by David Hajdu; and The Loved Ones by our own Sonya Chung. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview.
In the late fifties, an old flame of Samuel Beckett, Ethna MacCarthy, fell ill and died of throat cancer in Dublin. Around this time, female voices began to enter Beckett’s work, which up until that point had featured almost exclusively male characters. Was there a connection? In a review of a new edition of Beckett’s letters, Fintan O’Toole suggests that there was. You could also read Elizabeth Winkler on the author’s bilingual oeuvre.
You'll have to read this Curiosity to believe it! The surprise bestselling Time-Life series was wildly popular in the late 80s–but why? The answer is a bit less mysterious than one might have hoped. As a consolation, here’s a related essay from The Millions on conspiracy literature.