Whittled down from a pool of 1,000 submissions, the finalists for the 2019 Lambda Literary Awards were announced this morning. The awards, which highlight and celebrate LBGTQ literature, feature 24 categories, including a brand new category: Bisexual Poetry. Finalists include Akwaeke Emezi, Joseph Cassara (our interview), Hieu Minh Nguyen (ft. in our Must-Read Poetry: April 2018), and Year in Reading alums Patrick Nathan (2017) and Jordy Rosenberg (2018).Winners will be announced at a ceremony on Monday, June 3, in New York City.
A few years ago, I read Dave Cullen’s gripping and horrifying masterpiece Columbine over the course of a few weeks, which is a lifetime for a quick reader like me. With Columbine, which is deeply researched and devastatingly detailed, Cullen seemed to have written the book on school shootings. Yet he’s continued to report on mass shootings for the nearly two decades since—sometimes to the detriment of his own mental health.
On Valentine’s Day 2018, Parkland became (in a lot of ways) Columbine’s other half. The two tragedies broke through the media cacophony for different reasons. Where Columbine was shock and confusion, Parkland was understanding and action. The aftermath of Parkland was unlike any other mass shooting this country has ever seen. Just a few hours after the most devastating moment of their lives, the Parkland kids gave the nation their voice, tears, and a call to action. Thankfully Cullen was there, with his keen eye and sharp writing, to lend them another megaphone.
Cullen’s newest book, Parkland: Birth of a Movement, is out this month—just two days before the one-year anniversary of the shooting. Reported, written, and edited in less than a year, Parkland is a very different book than Columbine—and rightfully so.
Last weekend, Cullen and I spoke for a few hours over the phone about the Parkland teens, how Columbine ushered in the “horrible school shooter era,” the shifting cultural and political climate, and his next project (a book about gay soldiers that he’s been working on and off for nearly two decades). Our interview has been condensed, with far too much wonderful material left on the cutting room floor.
1. Comparisons to Columbine
The Millions: Obviously people are going to compare this book to your previous book Columbine, which I always say is a masterclass on school shooting reporting. But Parkland is very different in terms of subject and scope. What made you want to write this kind of book versus a Columbine-esque book?
Dave Cullen: I never wanted to do a Columbine book again…I had already done that. It’s kind of a selfish and unselfish part. The selfish part is that I couldn’t handle that.
I never thought I would do this again…[Parkland] feels like a possible way out…But my hunch, my best guess and hope, is that these will be the bookends—neither the first nor the last—Columbine was the one that really ratcheted up and set the rest of this in motion, and [Parkland is] the beginning of the end and the way out.
So with Columbine, since it’s the one that set it in motion and took the survivors by shock, that seemed like the appropriate story to tell: both why this happened and what’s going on with these killers, and what it did to a community and how they overcame it. That seemed like a relevant story to me, both of those two different stories. And this time: If this is the way out or a way out…then I want to do their story of the way out, the exit strategy. This is a different time, different situation, different need, and if this is the way out: Why would I do another book on the causes?
There have been hundreds of mass shootings since Columbine…and we don’t need another book…What’s unique about Parkland is it’s these kids who did something and took America by storm and led this uprising. America was so ready and desperate for something—we didn’t expect it to be these kids—but we were desperate for a way out, and they arose and let us out. And that’s amazing and that’s what grabbed me, and I think America. That’s the story I wanted to tell.
2. The Parkland Difference
TM: I think some of the [Columbine] expectations speak to what you’re outlining in the book: Parkland deserved a different kind of book. They created a different kind of narrative.
DC: Exactly, and these kids flipped the script. I say in there too: We have this ongoing problem. There are three big problems and potential ways out of this disaster. People say mental health but I would put it much more narrowly as teen depression. Treating and identifying teen depression early before it becomes a problem. Two is guns obviously. Three is the media giving the stage to the people who want to create this spectacle.
So they picked one, or we’d fritter our message or fragment it. Nobody has had success on any of these and if we try to do all of them, we’re going to be one more failed group. They decided very, very quickly on guns…They may have solved the media one, too, inadvertently.
Timing is everything and these kids—it was such a perfect storm of things—but the luck of their timing was perfect in a couple different ways. First, the country was so angry partly because of the Trump situation and really ready for something. There’s something called the “Resistance” but that didn’t have an agenda or a positive purpose…The country was waiting for someone to lead us on something.
3. The Changing Tides
DC: Being the mass murder guy, unfortunately I have a keen awareness of a lot of these things by doing the shows and answering these questions and getting emails.
I would say about the first 17 years after Columbine, and there was no exact moment, but the first question of every interview was always “Why they did it?” “Why did they do it?” was the burning question. I don’t get that as a primary question anymore starting two to three years ago. …The media was actually starting to pay less attention and the phenomena of “no notoriety” was catching on and showing them less and using the name less.
We were losing interest and still doing it because we didn’t have anything to take its place. And then suddenly the kids came in at just the right moment and so okay here’s something to take its place and they did.
I’ve been asking other people who have been interviewing me and so far no one can even name the killer…We really won that battle without intending to. He’s invisible.
TM: I don’t think I’ve read anything about him since that initial week or even seen a photo of him.
DC: I know, right? I did see photos of him early on but it didn’t stick. He’s just a nobody. I think they really solved that problem. David Hogg, I believe, became the first person who became more interesting than the person who attacked him—more interesting and more famous and he did that within 24 hours. And two days later, Emma González was much more famous than David.
The media doesn’t have to go back to its old ways. We have a better story. The kids created a better story for us. They slammed the door, not all the way shut, but slammed it. Some other perpetrators will force their way through it but I think it’s closing. I think we’re on our way out.
TM: Let’s hope so. So what’s next for you? I assume you’re back to the gay soldiers book.
I am and I can’t wait to get back to that…I am really excited. This is such a different kind of story. It’s the kind of stuff I like doing. It’s like really in-depth character work. I didn’t know how to say this without sounding pompous or full of myself but I don’t know of any journalistic enterprise where someone spent 20 years with their subject.
I want [the book] to be two things: America’s role in the Middle East—misadventures, I would say—for almost 30 years, and the gay rights struggle. …The main story I’m focusing on is gays in the military and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. What I try to do…is telling the larger story through the small. There’s the bigger picture going on with this vast change in American attitudes toward gays and gradual acceptance. …I’m trying to tell two uber stories through…two specific guys.
The National Book Critics Circle announced their 2018 Award Finalists, and the winners of three awards: the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, John Leonard Prize, and Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.
The finalists include 31 writers across six different categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, Autobiography, Fiction, Poetry, and Criticism. Here are the finalists separated by genre:
Milkman by Anna Burns (winner of the Man Booker Prize)
Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau (translated by Linda Coverdale)
The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú (part of our 2018 Great Book Preview)
Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Steve Coll
The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights by Adam Winkler
God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright
Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous by Christopher Bonanos
Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown
Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang
The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century by Mark Lamster
The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created by Jane Leavy
The Day That Went Missing: A Family’s Story by Richard Beard
All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung
What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth: A Memoir of Brotherhood by Rigoberto Gonzalez
Belonging: A German Reckons With History and Home by Nora Krug
Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over by Nell Painter
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes (read our review)
The Carrying by Ada Limón (found in our August 2018 Must-Read Poetry list)
Holy Moly Carry Me by Erika Meitner
Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl by Diane Seuss
Asymmetry by Adam Zagajewski (translated by Clare Cavanagh)
Is It Still Good to Ya?: Fifty Years of Rock Criticism, 1967-2017 by Robert Christgau
Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics by Stephen Greenblatt
To Float in the Space Between: A Life and Work in Conversation with the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight by Terrance Hayes
The Reckonings: Essays by Lacy M. Johnson
Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith (found in our February 2018 Monthly Book Preview)
Here are the winners of the three stand-alone awards: Arte Público Press won the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award for their contributions to book culture. Maureen Corrigan won the Nona Balakin Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. Tommy Orange’s There There won the John Leonard Prize for a first book in any genre. (Read Orange’s 2018 Year in Reading entry).
The winners of the National Book Critics Circle awards will be announced on March 14, 2019.
2018 was the year I outgrew my bookshelves. Between my boyfriend and myself, we already had a lot of books but this year our shelves began to burst at the seams. Between reviewing gigs, landing on more publicity lists, and my propensity for buying books, there is just not enough space. Stacks of books have taken up residence on our headboard, next to my desk, on the floor next to the bed, on any flat surface we can find. I was not shocked by the swelling shelves as this was my first full year of reviewing books professionally. Sometimes it still feels weird to say my job (well, one of them) is reviewing books. A blessing with a rather wonderful downside: being assigned reviews means I have less time to read what I want when I want. Despite this, I was able to read some truly incredible books this year.
I kicked off 2018 with Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties, which I read poolside on vacation. The stark difference between the collection’s tone and my physical setting was not lost on me. Everything that needs to be said about the book has already been said. All I’ll add is that it’s one of the best bodies of work (and debuts) I’ve ever read. Upon returning to the snowy tri-state area, I spent the seemingly never-ending winter making my way through a mishmash of books: Rebekah Frumkin’s The Comedown, an ambitious multi-generational epic from a writer to watch; Tayari Jones’ honest and searing An American Marriage; John Lewis’s March trilogy, which left me in tears; Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes (the smart, funny, and Rhimes-narrated audiobook is highly recommended); and Leïla Slimani’s claustrophobic and thrilling The Perfect Nanny.
In the summer, I escaped to the Catskills nearly every other weekend—sans wifi, cell service, and other people—and read. Whether it was on the porch, next to the wood burning stove, or over a cheese plate, I was curled up with a book. Said books included Leni Zumas’ Red Clocks, which was both gripping and timely; Rachel Cusk’s Outline, a sparse triumph ; Samantha Hunt’s genre-bending, achingly-poetic The Seas; Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s heartbreakingly empathetic The Fact of a Body; Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry, which I devoured in nearly one sitting; and Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, a beautiful novel about banality.
Fall fell away in a flurry of pages and a stretch of indelible books. It started with R. O. Kwon’s The Incendiaries, a slim, luminous novel where every sentence felt like a carefully-crafted poem. I mean: “punch-stained red cups split underfoot, opening into plastic petals.” Nearly a week’s worth of commuting was spent savoring Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. A few essays made me openly weep on public transportation and I can think of no greater compliment. Essays gave way to post-apocalyptic debut with Ling Ma’s Severance—perhaps my favorite book published in 2018. Ma renders the peril and monotony at the end of the world with humor and heart. After passing its empty place on the library shelves for months, I finally borrowed André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name. It left me raw and with a desire to flee to Italy. Reading the novel felt like pressing on a bruise: painful and sweet. Sidelined with a cold, I waded then dove head first into Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, a modern retelling of Antigone. And after avoiding it for far too long (and for no good reason), I picked up Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, which surpassed all expectations. In the midst of a depressive fog, the novel unlocked something inside me and buoyed me into December.
Looking back, I realize I mostly read women writers—not a conscious choice but a choice nonetheless. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of my best reading years in memory was slanted in such a way, and I suspect next year will look similar. Looking forward, I expect to read all the books I missed this year (there were many), and as 2019 books find their way into my mailbox, I am going to find new homes for some of our misfit books. Maybe even regain a flat surface or two, if we’re lucky.
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“I thought quite a lot about the vocabulary of tourism, the kinds of desires that vocabulary seems designed to ignite, and the promises made, and how those promises change or vanish altogether depending on who you are.” The Paris Review interviews Laura van den Berg about writing, tourism, and her new novel, The Third Hotel. From our archives: our 2015 interview with van den Berg.
“But writers and runners know that when you settle into a long-distance run or hit your stride with the work, something other than your body takes over.” For LitHub, our own Nick Ripatrazone writes about the similarities between long-distance running and writing. Pair with: an essay on the poetics of running.
The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) announced the Poetry and Prose longlists for the 2018 National Translation Awards (NTA). In its twentieth year, the annual award celebrates translated fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction by examining “both the source text and its relation to the finished English work.”
Here are the two 2018 NTA longlists (with bonus links):
The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa; translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa
Directions for Use by Ana Ristović; translated from the Serbian by Steven Teref and Maja Teref
Hackers by Aase Berg; translated from the Swedish by Johannes Göransson
I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio; translated from the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas
If I Were a Suicide Bomber by Per Aage Brandt; translated from the Danish by Thom Satterlee
Magnetic Point: Selected Poems by Ryszard Krynicki; translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh
My Lai by Carmen Berenguer; translated from the Spanish by Liz Henry
The Odyssey by Homer; translated from the Greek by Emily Wilson (An essay on Odysseys)
Oxygen: Selected Poems by Julia Fiedorczuk; translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston
Sonic Peace by Kiriu Minashita; translated from the Japanese by Spencer Thurlow and Eric Hyett
Spiral Staircase: Collected Poems by Hirato Renkichi; translated from the Japanese by Sho Sugita
Third-Millennium Heart by Ursula Andkjær Olsen; translated from the Danish by Katrine Øgaard Jensen
Affections by Rodrigo Hasbún; translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes
August by Romina Paula; translated from the Spanish by Jennifer Croft
Compass by Mathias Énard; translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell (Featured in our own Lydia Kiesling’s 2017 Year in Reading)
Dandelions by Yasunari Kawabata; translated from the Japanese by Michael Emmerich
Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag; translated from the Kannada by Srinath Perur
The Impossible Fairy Tale by Han Yujoo; translated from the Korean by Janet Hong
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán; translated from the Spanish by Will Vanderhyden (Fresán’s novel also won the 2018 Best Translated Book Award)
Italian Chronicles by Stendhal; translated from the French by Raymond N. MacKenzie
Moving the Palace by Charif Majdalani; translated from the French by Edward Gauvin
Old Rendering Plant by Wolfgang Hilbig; translated from the German by Isabel Fargo Cole
Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg; translated from the Polish by Eliza Marciniak
The World Goes On by László Krasznahorkai; translated from the Hungarian by George Szirtes, Ottilie Mulzet, and John Batki (The Millions‘ review)
The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) will announce the 5-title shortlists in September.
“I hope they also love that experience of surprise and delight and really engaging stories in the fiction sense, but also in the writers at work sense and in the poetic sense.” A Vanity Fair interview with Emily Nemens, The Paris Review’s new editor. And here’s a list of 20 reasons you should absolutely be reading literary magazines.