“I can tell you that, as of today, I don’t feel any different about Mr Whitehead, or his review, or my response.” Richard Ford doubles down on his reaction to a negative 2001 review by fellow novelist Colson Whitehead. (Said response, in case you missed it, was to tell Whitehead 'you’re a kid, you should grow up,' and spit in his face.) We hope Whitehead is laughing at home with his Pulitzer Prize, recently awarded for last year's literary juggernaut The Underground Railroad. And as our own Emily St. John Mandel reminds us, there are far more gracious ways to respond to criticism.
"Every streetlight is a slightly different hue/of white the squares like the blank faces of robots/offer the Hondas and Toyotas idling in the lot something/like hope and yet I am thinking of all of the people on the planes/landing and taking off the twin miracles of arrival and departure/each of them singing 'Take Me With You' whether they know/the song or not they are all singing". A poem written by Dean Rader on the day of Prince's death.
"I know the words for elk and water. There are other Shawnee nouns as dense as koans with metaphor and meaning, but they remain inscrutable to me." Poet Laura Da’ authors the most recent Rumpus Saturday essay, a stunning meditation on concessions made to both the body and the body politic. A member of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, Da’ is the author of Tributaries, a 2016 American Book Award winner. See also: our review of Philip Meyer’s latest novel, The Son.
Jeff Vandermeer's Southern Reach trilogy: a genuinely weird work of ecological fiction, a hyper-object, or a strangely beautiful "glimpse of a whole that’s, by its nature, unknowable"? Joshua Rothman argues for all three in a review for The New Yorker. For more from Vandermeer himself, check out his Millions interview with Richard House, author of The Kills.
The winners of the National Book Critics Circle Award have been announced in New York City. The award is voted on by critics and considers all books in English (including in translation), no matter the country of origin. The winners in the various categories and some supplementary links: Fiction: Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, Americanah (excerpt, the author's Year in Reading) Nonfiction: Sheri Fink, Five Days at Memorial (excerpt) Autobiography: Amy Wilentz, Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti (<excerpt) Criticism: Franco Moretti, Distant Reading Biography: Leo Damrosch, Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World (excerpt) Poetry: Frank Bidart, Metaphysical Dog (The Poet and the Movie Star: An Evening with Frank Bidart and James Franco) Previously: The finalists
A new issue of The Quarterly Conversation has arrived, featuring an essay on Wizard of the Crow by QC creator Scott and a review of William T. Vollmann's Poor People from Dave Munger. Lots of other good reviews in there too.Also via Scott, Political Theory Daily Review, a dense and daily collection of linksIn a Newsweek sidebar accompanying an excerpt of his book The American Religion, Harold Bloom names his "five most important books." The most recent one to appear on the list? A tie, more or less, between Don Quixote and the complete works of Shakespeare. Bloom was also asked to admit to an important book he hadn't read. His answer: "I cannot think of a major work I have not ingested." That's a lot of pages to store in one's belly. (via Stephen)Good week for Mark Sarvas, first he announces that he's sold his novel and now he's off on his honeymoon. Filling in at TEV is Joshua Ferris, author of the much praised Then We Came to the End.And finally, a Baltimore Sun review had me intrigued by a new squirm-inducing non-fiction book by a former crime scene investigator for the Baltimore County police. Dana Kollmann's book Never Suck a Dead Man's Hand: Curious Adventures of a CSI gives a real-life look at a profession recently glamorized by TV show "CSI" and its many offshoots. Krall, however, describes a job both more boring and more odious than the one described on TV, but she does so with "dark humor," which I'd imagine the job requires. The book's title, for example, "comes from a story that involves a dead man, his hand and her attempts to get fingerprints on a freezing cold day." Yikes.