At The Guardian, this year’s six Booker Prize finalists describe the inspiration behind their books. Yesterday, the 2020 Prize was awarded to Shuggie Bain author Douglas Stuart, who explains that writing is both a source of comfort and a rejection of his childhood. “I grew up to be a textile designer. I had wanted to study English and to become a writer, but in the world of my childhood, boys didn’t do such things. Studying English was middle-class; even the word English was jarring and dangerous in the East End of Glasgow,” he says. “Because of my upbringing I felt so much like an impostor that I wrote in secret, and told no one (other than my husband)…Men from the west coast of Scotland are not known for revealing their tenderer feelings. Fiction allows me to make sense of things I am unable to express in other ways. It took 10 years to write the novel because I felt such comfort in the world I was creating.” Shuggie Bain was featured on our February Most Anticipated list alongside another shortlisted book: Brandon Taylor’s Real Life.
“On my manhood rests a tattooed / portrait of Mr. President. / My beloved found that out after we wed. / She was utterly gutted, / Inconsolable.” Poet Maung Saungkha may have to prove in a Myanmar courtroom that he doesn’t have a tattoo of the nation’s president on his genitals.
Novels that focus on obsessive characters hinge on persnickety details. The need to depict accurately the mind of an obsessive demands that the novelist overemphasize the trifling and tangential. In The Kenyon Review, Vanessa Blakeslee reviews a new and representative example of the form, The Understory by Pamela Erens. Sample quote: “When the smaller steps of daily life are magnified, does that narrative reach its greatest potential for a unified and powerful resonance?” FYI, Erens has written for us.
Ninth Letter recently launched “Only Silence Will Never Betray You,” a mini-anthology of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Editor-at-Large Philip Graham introduces the five writers: Ivayla Alexandrova, Bistra Andreeva, Nikolai Grozni, Georgi Gospodinov, and Marin Bodakov. From our archives: our 2013 interview with Grozni.
In an interview with America Magazine, Pope Francis admits that the authors he most admires are Fyodor Dostoevsky, Johann Hölderlin, The Betrothed author Alessandro Manzoni, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. He also goes on to share an interesting anecdote about his compatriot Jorge Luis Borges: “In the end I decided to send Borges two stories written by [the secondary school] boys [I was teaching]. I knew his secretary, who had been my piano teacher. And Borges liked those stories very much. And then he set out to write the introduction to a collection of these writings.”
Black Balloon created an “evolving e-book” iPad app for Louise Krug’s new memoir, Louise: Amended, and they’re giving it away for free! Plus, to sweeten the deal even further, emailing a request for the promo code will automatically enter you into a drawing for a $100 Powell’s gift card.