The New York Times interviews Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and Tracy K. Smith, poet laureate of the United States for National Poetry Month. They discuss black history, bringing poetry to the central and rural parts of the country and to those who are incarcerated and why poetry isn’t as popular among adults. “Listening to music and lyrics and watching movies, I think, uses a lot of the same muscles we use in reading and experiencing poetry — and yet we somehow forget that we have those when it comes to sitting down with a book of poems.” It’s a delight, happy Saturday!
Recommended Reading: Michael J. Avogino‘s “Total Utter Madness: A Story of Soccer” from the Tin House archives. If you’re going to watch soccer all day, might as well throw some good writing in there too, right? An example: “Life would go on, as would the sport of soccer and all that came with it: the brotherhood, the ethnocentricity, the sportsmanship, the nationalism, the love, the regionalism, the racism, class conflict, the sublime, the nonsensical, amongst white, black, brown, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jew, everyone guilty and innocent.”
Interested in writing a bestseller? You may want to check out Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers‘ newest book, The Bestseller Code. Or maybe not: “At times, it seems like Archer and Jockers are trying to retrofit a closed system. They found that best-sellers have lots of contractions—the better, they explain, to mimic contemporary speech—and exclamation points only rarely … They conclude that best-sellers consist of ‘shorter, cleaner sentences, without unneeded words,’ and that best-selling characters ‘make things happen.’ Active verbs predict best-sellers better than passive verbs. ‘Hesitation doesn’t keep pages turning,’ Archer and Jockers decide. After all that work, in other words, the algorithm ends up confirming the uncontested tenets of craft and style.”
“On the level of narrative possibility, I was really drawn to the sense of aloneness that rose from so many of these images—the terrifying possibility of being the last person left on earth, or even the last person left in a neighborhood, a swamp, a freeway. That stark haunting irony of living in a world of excess that has eventually collapsed on itself, emptied out.” Guernica interviews Leslie Jamison and Ryan Spencer for their new collaboration, Such Mean Estate.
“I never started out as a children’s book artist. What is a children’s-book artist? A moron! Some ugly fat pip-squick of a person who can’t be bothered to grow up. That’s the way we’re treated in the adult world of publishing.” The Believer interviews the late Maurice Sendak, who passed away last May.
A while ago, our own Kaulie Lewis alerted readers to The Turnip Princess, a new collection of previously untranslated Bavarian fairy tales. In the latest issue of The New York Review of Books, Marina Warner reads a new edition of the original stories of the Brothers Grimm, comparing them to the most well-known stories in the fairy tale canon (as well as the stories in The Turnip Princess).
To Kill a Mockingbird is a timeless book, but until now it’s only been in the dated medium of print. However, Harper Lee announced that she is allowing her novel to become an ebook and digital audiobook. “I’m still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries. I am amazed and humbled that Mockingbird has survived this long. This is Mockingbird for a new generation.”