April 10, 2017

Sam Lipsyte

Almost immediately after the results of the 2016 US Presidential election were announced, Howard Jacobson, the British author whose book The Finkler Question won the Booker Prize, started writing a satire about Donald Trump. The novel, titled Pussy, will be released in England on April 13, and in the US in May. The Washington Post’s Ron Charles calls the novel a “ribald” and “grotesque fairy tale.”

At Granta, Elif Batuman notes the importance of remembering the power imbalance that is often involved in travel writing (especially when the writer is from a “world-dominating superpower”), but also posits that “travel writing is a microcosm for all writing, and the counterintuitive landscapes and stories one finds in other cultures are just another version of the unexpected and counterintuitive landscapes and stories we all find in the world outside ourselves.” The goal is to do it with awareness: “In describing and moving through these landscapes, the only real recourse we have against charges of exploitation or tone-deafness is to bring as much empathy and as wide a consciousness as we can manage.”

The novelist Susan Choi relates the fascinating story of how Donald Barthelme’s first novel, Snow White (which first appeared in the New Yorker in 1967), has finally made its way to the stage. It might not have happened: Barthelme threw away the script he wrote. But his wife had fished an early draft, written in 1974, out of the trash. Last Friday, the Catastrophic Theatre company brought the play to the stage in Houston.

A bill sponsored by Arkansas Representative Kim Hendren, which would have banned all books by Howard Zinn (and all books referring to Howard Zinn) in the state, has been stopped by the Arkansas House’s education committee.

On Thursday, novelist Marlon James (A Brief History of Seven Killings) joined the National Book Foundation director Lisa Lucas for a public discussion titled “Can Literature Make a Damn Bit of Difference?” The answer came quickly: Yes. Elsewhere, in Bomb, Sam Lipsyte talked with George Saunders, and recalled someone asking “how publishing a story in the New Yorker is going to fight the oppression of the moment.” His response: “You can respond to the moment, but you can’t guarantee that whatever good might come of what you write will happen now. Your work may not be relevant or useful for a while, so don’t worry about it not meeting present needs.” Saunders agrees: “Yeah, writing is not necessarily a short-term tool.”

Brian Evenson, Fiona Maazel, Samantha Hunt, Phil Klay, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Marisa Silver are among the fiction writers who have been named 2017 Guggenheim fellows

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