March 17, 2017

Derek Walcott died this morning at the age of 87. During his decades-long career, the Nobel Prize-winning poet was honored with a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” the T.S. Eliot Prize, and many other literary awards. In an interview with the Paris Review, Walcott described how his upbringing in St. Lucia influenced his writing. “My generation of West Indian writers has felt such a powerful elation at having the privilege of writing about places and people for the first time and, simultaneously, having behind them the tradition of knowing how well it can be done,” he said. “Our world made us yearn for structure, as opposed to wishing to break away from it, because there was no burden, no excess of literature in our heads. It was all new.”

Slate editorial staff voted yesterday to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East. Columbia Journalism Review reports that over 90 percent of the website’s writers and editors have signed union cards. The vote comes after two leaders of the drive to unionize were laid off last month.

At the Huffington Post, editor in chief Lydia Polgreen’s plan to reorganize the website’s staff is already causing controversy at the company. A newly-created position of politics director, which would be based in DC but report to a New York-based editor has the Washington office worried about losing their autonomy. According to Politico’s Joe Pompeo, the Huffington Post’s politics staff is, “at times, highly resistant to editing oversight” by the main office. “Keep your eyes peeled for a possible power struggle,” he added.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah has been chosen as the winner of New York City’s One Book, One New York program. Publisher Penguin Random House will donate 1,000 copies to the city’s public libraries this month, and a series of panels and discussions will be held around the city in April.

The New York Times is starting a literary advice column. Readers can write to author and editor Nicole Lamy with their “most vexing book dilemmas,” which the former books editor of the Boston Globe will attempt to solve in her “Match Book” column. The paper is now soliciting questions, which will be answered in April.

Albertine bookstore announced the newly-created Albertine Prize yesterday. The award will be given annually to the best English translation of a French book published in the US, with the $10,000 prize split between the author and the translator, who each receive $8,000 and $2,000 respectively. The prize is also awarded not based on the decision of a panel of judges, but on a popular vote through Albertine’s website.

In the Times’s “By the Book” column, MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes talks about writing his own life story, Camus, and what he read while working on his new book, A Colony in a Nation. According to Hayes, the book that most influenced him while writing his own book was Peter Andreas’s Smuggler Nation, “because it’s about, fundamentally, the fact that America is a nation of hustlers and con men, and never has that seemed, um, more true.”

Tonight at the 92nd Street Y, Alexander Chee talks to Viet Thanh Nguyen and Elif Batuman about their new books, The Refugees and The Idiot.

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