“When we read a book that requires that effort — when the act of reading becomes rigorous and self-aware, rather than effortless and transparent — we get to have a history with what we’ve given ourselves to, a history etched into us by the demanding friction of its difficulty.” Zoë Heller and Leslie Jamison debate whether or not we overvalue difficult literature in The New York Times.
“In Go Home! — a collection that feels particularly timely in the midst of attacks on immigrant families and communities — Asian diasporic writers are both thoughtful and generous in their reflections about who they are, where they have been, and where they belong.” For Shondaland, Nicole Chung interviewed Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, the anthology’s editor, and a few contributors (including Alexander Chee, Karissa Chen, T Kira Madden, and Esmé Weijun Wang) about what home means to them. Pair with: our review of Chee’s The Queen of the Night and Wang’s 2016 Year in Reading entry.
“That has always been the unsettling irony of the carefree aesthetic. Rhetorically, it denies the full unpredictability of black experiences in America. It is a stereotype, albeit one intended for benevolence and created, perhaps lovingly, by black people.” Doreen St. Félix writes about the roots and ramifications of the “Carefree Black Boy” phenomenon.
For years, Jang Jin Sung traveled within Kim Jong-il’s inner circle. As North Korea’s official poet laureate, he was tasked with “writing epic poems for [the] dictator … and overseeing inter-Korean espionage.” But in 2004, fearing a charge of treason, Sung fled the country, becoming one of the nation’s most high-profile defectors. Recently, Sung – who just published his memoir – spoke with Maclean’s about his life, his escape, and literature.
Mexican novelist and part-time literary prankster Mario Bellatin is up to his old tricks again. This time, the one-armed author/provocateur has decided to wage war against his own publisher. Bellatin claims the twentieth anniversary edition of his classic Beauty Salon was published too early and without his express consent–a brief “coda from the author” was included which Bellatin insists was nothing but a draft in progress. As such, he has been urging fans not to purchase his book.