“But poems are not poems if they make people feel dead. I want people to feel alive – even if it is alive with grief.” The Guardian profiles poet Danez Smith about poetry; race, gender, and queerness; and their poetry collection, Don’t Call Us Dead (a finalist for the National Book Award). Pair with: an essay on writing that gives shape and depth to victims of criminal injustice.
For Perry Link, it was embarrassing to read Eileen Chang for the first time, because her work revealed things about China it took him too long to learn on his own. In The New York Review of Books, he writes about how Naked Earth, which the magazine’s publishing arm is republishing in June, cut through the jargon of Chairman Mao’s regime. FYI, Jamie Fisher wrote an essay on the book for The Millions.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Library of Congress has made 50 recordings from the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape available online. Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriela Mistral, Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, and others read from their work.
Read our own Kaila Philo’s essay on Toni Morrison’s new book The Origin of Others and then pair it with Nell Irvin Painter’s reflection on ‘Toni Morrison’s Radical Vision of Otherness.’ “Morrison’s history of Othering represents an intervention in history on several fronts. Although the theme of desegregating the literary canon reappears in The Origin of Others, times have changed since Playing in the Dark. Surely thanks to the more multicultural, multiracial canon that Morrison helped foster, no respectable version of American literature today omits writers of color.”
Philip Roth, who just authorized Blake Bailey to be his official biographer, has written an “Open Letter to Wikipedia” wherein the author states his grievance with the site’s entry for his novel The Human Stain. Related: can we just give this dude the Nobel already?
In the Atlantic‘s annual fiction supplement, Joyce Carol Oates writes about the loss of her husband of 48 years and the split identity of the well-known writer: “My job at the university is to impersonate ‘Joyce Carol Oates’ […] this quasi-public self […] is scarcely visible to me, as a mirror-reflection, seen up close, is scarcely visible to the viewer.”
Legend has it that Hemingway, after reading a review of his work that he didn’t like, strode into the reviewer’s office and slapped him across the face with a book. Upset over a line that questioned his bravado — the line compared his writing style to “wearing false hair on the chest” — Hemingway tore off his shirt to prove his chest hair was real. This week, The New Republic republished the article that started the fight. (For a lighter take on the author, you could read Stephanie Bernhard on cooking recipes in Hemingway’s fiction.)