About a month ago, I took the afternoon off and walked down to the Brooklyn cruise-ship terminal. Poets Essayists Novelists (PEN) had issued an open invitation to schmooze aboard the massive Queen Mary 2, in honor of its upcoming World Voices Festival here in New York. I had gone, of course, for the only chance I'll probably ever get to walk around what was once the world's largest cruise ship. And for the free lunch. I am a connoisseur of free lunch. But even if PEN hadn't plied me with champagne and lobster thermidor (and the chance to observe the literary demimonde in what I like to imagine is its natural habitat - Philip Gourevitch chasing his parking validation slip across a windswept parking lot; Dale Peck, the worst tambourine player of his generation, jamming with the house band on "Paperback Writer") I would still be writing this post. Why? Because I love PEN World Voices.Now in its fourth year, the festival brings together writers from around the world for readings, conversations, panel discussions, and for a chance to meet readers. Unlike certain other jamborees that shall remain nameless, this one works actively to shape American literary tastes, rather than passively reflecting them. In past years I've found myself going to events to see Mark Danner and staying for Alma Guillermoprieta, or going to see Don DeLillo and discovering Tatyana Tolstaya and Alain Mabanckou. If you're in or near New York and you haven't yet been to the World Voices festival, it's well worth checking out. Again, I'm not just saying this because of the goat cheese terrine on a bed of baby field greens.A complete listing of events can be found at the PEN website. Below are my picks for the most promising-looking events, free except where noted.Tuesday, April 297 p.m.:Circumference Celebrates Poetry in Translation With Brian Henry, Christina Svendsen, Jeffrey Yang, and special guests @ Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.Wednesday, April 301 p.m.:Five Years of the PEN Translation Fund: A Celebration With Esther Allen, Barbara Epler, Edwin Frank, Wen Huang, Sarah Khalili, Idra Novey, Christopher Southward, Eliot Weinberger, and others @ Segal Theater, CUNY Graduate Center: 365 Fifth Ave8 p.m.:Readings: Public Lives/Private Lives ($15) With Coral Bracho, Peter Esterhazy, Rian Malan, Ian McEwan, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Annie Proulx, Evelyn Schlag, A.B. Yehoshua; introduced by Salman Rushdie @ The Town HallThursday, May 12:30 p.m.:Resonances: Contemporary Writers on the Great WorksWith Fatou Diome, Flora Drew, Ma Jian, Antonio Muñoz Molina, and Charles Simic; moderated by Esther Allen @ William and Anita Newman Library, Baruch College4 p.m.The Secret Lives of Cities With Yousef Al-Mohaimeed, Juan de Recacoechea, Joshua Furst, and Francisco Goldman; moderated by Matt Weiland @ Instituto Cervantes New York6 p.m.Publishers Weekly: On Translation With Morgan Entrekin, Edwin Frank, Halfdan Freihow, and Michael Kruger; moderated by Sara Nelson @ Elebash Recital Hall, CUNY Graduate Center: 365 5th Ave.7p.m.Thomas Bernhard and the Art of Failure With Horacio Castellanos Moya, Paul Holdengräber, Fatima Naqvi, and Dale Peck; moderated by Jonathan Taylor @ Austrian Cultural ForumFriday, May 21 p.m.:Reading the World With Peter Carey, Halfdan Freihow, Janet Malcolm, and Francesc Seres; introduced by Rachel Donadio @ Scandinavia House: 58 Park Ave.8 p.m.:Wristcutters: A Film Screening and Q&A with Etgar Keret @ Instituto Cervantes New YorkSaturday, May 31p.m.:Epic Journeys With Rabih Alameddine & Aleksandar Hemon @ Elebash Recital Hall, CUNY Graduate Center4 p.m.: A Tribute to Robert Walser With Susan Bernofsky, Deborah Eisenberg, Jeffrey Eugenides, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Michael Kruger @ Gilder Lehrman Hall, The Morgan Library & Museum8 p.m.:Review of Contemporary Fiction Presents New Catalan FictionWith Charles Baxter, Josep M. Fonalleras, Merce Ibarz, and Francesc Seres; moderated by Mary Ann Newman @ Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House of NYUSunday, May 42 p.m.Conversation: Jeffrey Eugenides & Daniel Kehlmann ($15) @ The New York Public Library, South Court Auditorium6:30 p.m.The Third Annual Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture by Umberto Eco ($20) On the Advantages of Fiction for Life and DeathWith Umberto Eco & Adam Gopnik; introduced by Francine Prose @ The Great Hall at Cooper Union
For those of you who were not on Twitter yesterday, the novelist Elizabeth McCracken tweeted a series of tips for applying to MFA fiction programs. Among other bits of good advice, she says it’s generally best to apply with a solid short story rather than a novel chapter.
We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for September. This Month Last Month Title On List 1. 2. The Enemy 5 months 2. 3. Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric 6 months 3. - The Art of Fielding 1 month 4. 10. The Bathtub Spy 2 months 5. 5. Leaves of Grass 3 months 6. 4. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry 5 months 8. 7. A Moment in the Sun 4 months 8. 9. How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive 2 months 9. - The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life 1 month 10. 9. Otherwise Known as the Human Condition 4 months David Foster Wallace's The Pale King graduates, along with The Hunger Games, to our Hall of Fame this month. Taking the vacated top spot is Christopher Hitchens' timely The Enemy. With Ann Patchett's The Getaway Car debuting on the list and joining another Kindle Single, The Bathtub Spy, it's becoming pretty clear that these bite-sized e-book originals are gaining some serious traction, a trend that the media has been taking note of, of late. Our other debut, meanwhile, is a plain old novel, certainly one of the big fiction releases of the fall, Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding. We first noted the book's headline-grabbing deal in early 2010, and we highlighted it in our big second-half preview. The big story next month will be seeing which heavyweight, literary new release will debut higher on our Top Ten, Jeffrey Eugenides's The Marriage Plot (read the opening lines here) or Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 (read the opening lines here). Near Misses: The Missing of the Somme, The Magician King, Swamplandia!, A Dance with Dragons, How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One, and The Tiger's Wife. See Also: Last month's list.
Buying Thoreau’s 'Cape Cod' on Cape Cod resonates with a predictable sentimentality that I’m all too aware of. It too closely resembles what I think of as Thoreauvian pilgrimage practices: the hajj to Walden Pond, the leaving of pencils on his grave in Sleepy Hollow.
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In his 2015 Year in Reading, Garth Risk Hallberg told us about Max Porter's Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, a quasi-poem/novel/memoir which "you will quickly forget is weird as hell, because it is also beautiful as hell, moving as hell, and funny as hell." Though the book isn't slated for stateside release for another few months, there is a fantastic review over at the London Review of Books that's well worth the read.