We’ve been following the raging debate about diversity in the publishing industry, which recently re-triggered when BookExpo America released a speaker list of “29 white people and a cat” (as The Toast summed it up). The panel was rebalanced, but debate around the root issue continues: recent data indicates, for example, that while the US has become more diverse in population, the number of multicultural childrens’ books has remained flat under 10 percent for two decades. Follow the continuing debate on Twitter hashtags like #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #DiverseCanLit, or look to this helpful round-up of blogs and articles at BookRiot.
Out this week: The Immortal Evening by Stanley Plumly; Last Winter We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura; Bathing the Lion by Jonathan Carroll; Sometimes the Wolf by Urban Waite; Splitting an Order by the former Poet Laureate Ted Kooser; Limonov by Emmanuel Carrère; and The Heart Is Strange by John Berryman, which I wrote about as part of our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview.
It’s not every day that you come across a defense of literary elitism, but The Guardian’s Nicholas Lezard is tired of explaining that not everyone is a critic. “What I want when I read a book review is to find out what someone cleverer than me and better read than me thinks about whatever’s being reviewed,” he writes.
“I’m trying to think of something really suitable to say. What do you think I should say? Look, you tell me what to say and I’ll say it.” That was Doris Lessing, who found out she’d won the Nobel Prize from a group of journalists who surrounded her when she was exiting a taxi. NPR has that great audio, plus other reactions of former Nobel literature laureates, including Toni Morrison, William Faulkner, and Mario Vargas Llosa.
Our own fearless editor-in-chief, Lydia Kiesling, admires Lessing, but felt rather differently about reading one of her most famous works, The Golden Notebook: “Among other things, she did an uncanny job of creating a malaise that was actually infectious. It oozed right off the page and into my own spirit.”
My student and friend Paria Kooklan pens a guest piece at the Vroman’s Blog about the popularity of novels about Iran–and penning her own. “I mean, the American public has a short attention span – Iranians are hot right now, but I can’t help wondering when the trend is going to die out. Next year, there may well be another trendy nationality: Iraqis, maybe. Or Tibetans. Or…I don’t know – the Bhutanese? Anything is possible.”
George Saunders delivered a little publicized convocation at Syracuse University this year. His main advice to the class of 2013 — be kind. “And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE,” he said.