Pacific Standards profiles Ken Layne who quietly started the popular quarterly literary magazine, Desert Oracle for a town of 8,000 people. Now it has gained far more readers than that as it highlights works related to the American desert. “The reason that the Oracle works is that it’s always trying to elicit that feeling, the awe and wonder that the desert reveals to you when you listen hard enough. Layne believes it’s not an accident that religious awakenings, UFO sightings, walkabouts, and other revelations occur in the desert. It’s a consequence of solitude, stark beauty, and the tenacious life that only the desert has.”
“The so-called ‘alt-right’ is white nationalism repackaged as retro-chic, and its discourse constantly invokes nostalgia for a golden age in the Confederate South when racism when reigned supreme. The leaders of this project will need to be very careful that they don’t end up just creating a Disneyland for racists.” A coalition of local businesses in Monroeville, Alabama, Harper Lee‘s hometown, plan to open a major tourist attraction built around the late author’s home and fabrications of fictional locations featured in To Kill A Mockingbird. Critics are dubious, reports The Guardian. Perhaps, in lieu of a trip, you’ll accept this essay by Robert Rea about his literary pilgrimage to Lee-land?
“Dear publisher, I am sorry if I do so few of these stories justice. Someone else surely will. I don’t know what justice for a book is but I think I saw it as I prayed over this one.” Matthew Jakubowski reviews Diane Williams’ latest collection Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine at Minor Literature[s]. You could also read his reviews of Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi’s Fra Keeler and Margriet de Moor’s The Storm at The Millions.
Today arrives Barbara Kingsolver’s latest, Lacuna, “an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover.” Also out are a couple more of those nifty “Olive Editions” from HarperCollins, this time of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Update: There’s a new edition of Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation too.
Loudpoet has an interview with former Soft Skull Press publisher Richard Nash about his new social publishing venture Cursor. ““Social” is taking the book and making it much easier to have a conversation with the book and its writer, and have conversations around the book and its writer.” Is this a way forward for beleaguered publishers? (via The Lone Gunman)
More than ever, we need literature that gives Westerners a compelling entrée into—a way of better understanding—the lives of war-and-terrorism fraught regions. Over at Bloom, T.L. Khleif, recent recipient of a Rona Jaffe award, writes about Jamil Ahmad’s The Wandering Falcon, a collection that immerses readers in the tribal areas of Pakistan prior to the rise of the Taliban. Among other notable honors, Ahmad joins the pantheon of late-blooming male authors who would not have ever published were it not for the stubborn encouragement of their wives.