Recommended Reading: Tyler Malone’s interview with Tom Muir, the site manager of the Thomas Wolfe memorial.
“Young black fiction writers in the U.S. often face a strange obstacle as they try to figure out who they are — it’s called American literature. A high number of pre-civil-rights-era novels by white American writers are likely to include tossed-off racial slurs and/or stock black characters, some of which make racially conscious readers want to hurl the book across the room, even if the wooly-headed pickaninnies are only peeking around a doorjamb on one page out of 400. There are exceptions, but shockingly few. You always have to brace yourself — always.” James Hannaham writes about growing up in Yonkers but finding himself in Southern literature.
In light of this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, which had Indonesia as the official guest of honor, check out Wayan Sunarta’s essay on the rise of Indonesian literature abroad. As he explains it, “Although Indonesian literature is in the ascendant at home, it has so far failed to establish itself internationally. The number of works translated from Indonesian is still very small.”
“What traits make Austen special, and can they be measured with data? Can literary genius be graphed?” The New York Times tackles the question of why, 200 years after her death, Jane Austen is still so popular. (One finding: the author“used intensifying words — like very, much, so — at a higher rate than other writers.”) See also: our interview with Curtis Sittenfeld, whose most-recent novel Eligible is the ultimate literary tribute, an adaptation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
“In college, I didn’t realize I was the face of the Diaspora, the embodiment of all the women they thought I was, and who I knew I was. I was from Africa, east and west, a sojourner through the islands of the Caribbean, a daughter of the Second Great Migration of African-Americans from South to North. Perhaps Chaka said it best—to these young men, I was ‘every woman.’ To airport security, I was that woman. The one to be stopped and searched. The one who was suspect. A long-lost daughter whose lineage crossed through Kush—was I carrying Kush now, perhaps, in my hair?” If a ‘Pat-downs, Pissing, and Passport Stamps’ headline isn’t enough to get you to read this great piece from The Literary Hub, hopefully the quote will do.
Since they got married and began working 33 years ago, Larissa Volokhonsky and Richard Pevear have translated around 30 works of Russian literature, from The Brothers Karamazov to Doctor Zhivago. Now their interview with the Paris Review is available online from the Literary Hub, and this seems as good a time as ever to bring up that constant debate: who’s greater, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky?