Archive for LIT WORLD

Radio is a Sound Salvation

As print publications bite the dust left and right in the Internet age, radio remains largely unscathed, and seems to actually be flourishing. In today’s Washington Post, Kathleen Parker reminds us that for the cost of six Apache helicopters the US can continue to fund Radio Free Europe, which acts as an information lifeline in censorship-friendly places like Iran and desolate countries like Afghanistan; STOP SMILING has done a fair share of profiles on prominent radio personalities like Ira Glass, Studs Terkel, Garrison Keillor and Spalding Gray; and many of the events STOP SMILING puts on are recorded for WBEZ Chicago, 91.5 FM, and are available on its website — these include readings by Nathaniel Rich and Alexander Hemon, and musical performances by Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake and Plastic Crimewave. STOP SMILING plans to launch its own podcast early next year, the first shows of which will feature David Sedaris (pictured here), Kurt Vonnegut, Lewis Lapham and more.

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The Moscow Trot

Christopher Hitchens was momentarily agog on a recent visit to Cuba, where he learned of ailing former president Fidel Castro‘s desire to build a Russian Orthodox Church in Havana, even though no one in Cuba practices Russian Orthodoxy — until he remembered (aha!) that Fidel has never been one to walk too far from the Moscow party line (which has become increasingly influenced by said church in the era of Vladimir Putin); meanwhile, STOP SMILING contributor Jon Fasman is traveling the US on a book tour in support of his new novel, The Unpossessed City, in which the protagonist has his own unnerving traipse through Moscow.

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The Beats Who Keep On Giving

As two new stories suggest — the New York Times on Jack Kerouac‘s role in the transformation of his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, and the Guardian‘s look at a previously unreleased collaboration between Kerouac and William Burroughs — the Beats remain the evergreens of postwar American lit, which prompted us to look back at two pieces by our editors-at-large about the echoes of the Beat generation: Anthony Frewin on the whitewashing of Kerouac biographer Gerry Nicosia, as well as Nile Southern on the literary legacies of Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. The beat marches on.

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Nobel Controversy Hits Crescendo

Just a moment — I have to put down the latest page-turner by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio before I can finish this post (you’re doing the same, right?). The latest winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced today after a firestorm: Last week Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Nobel prize jury, announced that no American writers would win the award because the US is “too isolated, too insular” and its novelists “don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature — that ignorance is restraining,” which prompted a one-word rebuttal from the Guardian and one from Charles McGrath of the New York Times, who wrote: “Critics are always pointing out that the list of writers who never won, which includes Tolstoy, Proust, Borges, Joyce, Nabokov and Auden, is far more impressive than the roster of those who did.” Which roster would you choose? Search the complete list here.

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Lost Nabokov Novel To Be Published

After years of agony and mental gymnastics, Dmitri Nabokov, the American-born son of Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov (pictured here), decided he will publish The Original of Laura, the unfinished novel he was instructed to burn as a final wish to his father. The manuscript, written on a series of index cards, have been sitting in a Swiss safety deposit box since the author’s death in 1977. Dmitri broke his silence over this issue with the German magazine Der Spiegel last week. From his winter home in Palm Beach, Dmitri justified his decision by telling the Guardian, “I’m a loyal son and thought long and seriously about it, then my father appeared before me and said, with an ironic grin, ‘You’re stuck in a right old mess — just go ahead and publish.” He did not want to take on “the role of literary arsonist,” he told Der Spiegel.

Literary critic Ron Rosenbaum, a life-long Nabokov admirer, who had been publicly feuding with Dmitri to make up his mind in a series of columns (Part One, Part Two) on Slate, will certainly be thrilled (and may take credit for) this recent development.

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Exclusive Video: Sloane Crosley

Sloane Crosley’s first book — a collection of essays titled I Was Told There’d Be Cake (Riverhead Books) — has already debuted on the New York Times bestseller list. (You can read Wendy Walker’s review on the site today.) But Miss Crosley’s storytelling skills are boundless: To help illustrate some of the essays in her debut, she created dollhouse-styled dioramas out of Plexiglas. “In a way, these dioramas began long before I started writing the essays they represent,” writes Crosley on her website. “That would be in 4th grade. At least 4th grade is my first real memory of a Crosley Family diorama, though I feel certain there were labor-intensive crafts projects prior to that. Dioramas like the ones we built simply don’t appear from nowhere without a background of meticulous creativity. Either way, it was a fun extraction and one which allowed for a lot of inadvertent glue-sniffing.”

Check out an exclusive Sloane Crosley diorama video from the essay “Smell This,” a story about three college friends who she’s lost touch with. While hanging around her apartment, catching up, one of them leaves a surprise she won’t soon forgot.

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Authors, Assessed in Pairs

You can’t have one without the other. In a piece appropriately titled “Requiem for Two Heavyweights,” Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the NYT Book Review, compares and contrasts the recent memorial services for William F. Buckley Jr. and Norman Mailer (pictured here). The Guardian reviews A Dangerous Liaison, about the “extraordinary 50-year partnership of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.” (Behold some fascinating quips on the couple’s liberal sexuality and four-alarm hygiene.) And the New York Review of Books sizes up historic speeches on race in America delivered by two former Illinois state senators. (Can you guess who they are?)

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A Word From the Writer…

The NY Times Book Review lands an interview with the urbane Tom Wolfe. (Audio available here.) Richard Price, the novelist, screenwriter and veteran of The Wire, is thanked by Terry Gross for talking with us. (Listen to the interview here.) Jill Lepore of The New Yorker comments on the latest rash of fake memoirs. David Mamet writes “an election season essay” for the Village Voice titled “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal.'” And the Independent reports on chatter out of London that publishers are competing to release the first novel from director David Cronenberg.

And two quick notes for the 21st century writer. First, the Guardian reveals the “New look for the short story.” And the Canadian publication The Walrus poses the ultimate question to the paranoid writer: “Where do computer files go when you die?”

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Language Police, Arrest This Man

It seems change isn’t the only word on people’s minds these days: The Guardian comments on the winner of this year’s award for the oddest book title (a sample of one finalist: How to Write a How to Write Book). The Weekly Standard tackles “Feminism and the English Language.” The New York Times goes for the triple-word score with its piece on Scrabulous, the computer game created by two brothers in Calcutta that is driving Hasbro (the seller of Scrabble in North America) completely nuts. In January, the Times also reported on a critic of a recent published collection of the poet Robert Frost‘s personal notebooks, who identified “roughly one thousand errors” in the transcription of Frost’s chicken-scratch handwriting. And returning to the political fray: Salon picks apart the wording and symbolism of the presidential candidate’s logos.

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Hemingway & Fitzgerald Revisited

In case you missed it: This past weekend, the NY Times Sunday edition featured articles about two of America’s most-cherished literary rivals: Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Charles McGrath, in the Arts & Leisure section, wrote about a recently discovered (and since unpublished) letter written by Hemingway about his time at the Hotel Florida in Madrid covering the Spanish Civil War, an experience that inspired his second play, The Fifth Column. The off-Broadway Mint Theatre Company in Manhattan is set to present an adaptation of the play (which was written in 1937) beginning on February 26th. Meanwhile, author Paul Greenberg, a member of the Writer’s Guild of America, East, in the back-page essay of the Book Review section, summed up the settlement made between the Writer’s Guild and the big studios, using F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last serial story-cycle character, Pat Hobby (“a scenarist from the old silent days, [who] tries to survive the new rules of the talkie era”) to illustrate the fear factor of future Hollywood story development.

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