At ZORA, Christina M. Tapper interviews legendary poet Nikki Giovanni, who “continues to give us words that hum and humanize and a hope that breathes new life into our imaginations” with her new collection, Make Me Rain. Their wide-ranging conversation covers politics, love poems, Toni Morrison, and evening rituals, plus Giovanni’s preferred author bio, which skips the accolades and tells the story of a child falling in love with words. “After a while, you get tired of hearing people make references to insignificant things. I’m not knocking it because the awards and things are nice,” she says. “But I like the idea of people recognizing, well, there was a little girl. And I’m not the only little girl who looked out the window and daydreamed. I wanted to share that. By doing that, I’m able to open up doors for young women who are not sure about how they want to view themselves or how they want people to view them.”
3 Quarks Daily is running an Arts & Literature Prize to find the best blog writing in that category. Millions readers, we’d love it if you nominated some of your favorite Millions pieces from the last year for the prize.
New releases this week are Lydia Davis’ new translation of Madame Bovary, Ingrid Betancourt’s memoir Even Silence Has an End, The Prizefighter and the Playwright, a book about the unlikely relationship between George Bernard Shaw and boxer Gene Tunney, and the poetry collection Human Chain by Nobel-Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney.
The Rake takes note of the New Yorker’s particularly dark reading of Goodnight Moon.Iain Hollingshead gamely responds to being awarded the “Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award” for his debut novel Twentysomething, which included such turns of phrase as “everything is pure white as we’re lost in a commotion of grunts and squeaks.”With a few celebs getting in trouble for racist outbursts this year Malcolm Gladwell (ever thoughtful) comes up with a way to figure out who’s really being offensive and who’s just dumb.Maud points to a new blog from one of my favorite publishers, NYRB Press.Dozens of year end-lists floating around here and elsewhere, but I always take special note of Jonathan Yardley’s year-end column because it is always thoughtful and sometimes surprising.To do (as soon as I have the time): listen to the Bat Segundo Show that features Edward P. Jones.
“I wanted to offer my students an alternative to the purely confessional mode. I wanted them to write about themselves without falling into a paralyzingly portentous tone. I wanted more humor in their work, more complexity, more detail, more balance—more good writing. I wanted fewer italicized passages, less use of the breathless present tense. I wanted no more tears in the workshop, no more embarrassing scenes.” Emily Fox Gordon writes about trauma narratives in the classroom, the trouble with writing as therapy, and the key differences between confessing and confiding in an essay for The American Scholar.
“It was spring. Byron was leaving England forever, a cloud of infamy hanging over him. (He is one of the few people you can write something like that about and have it be true; that is part of why he’s so satisfying.)” Via The Awl: the adventures of John Polidori, literary vampire and doctor to Lord Byron.
“Women writers and writers of color don’t really have the luxury of being known simply as writers. There’s always a qualification,” Roxane Gay writes for The Nation. She ponders what it means to be a “black woman writer” and concludes that we should view diversity as a search for “urgent, unheard stories.”