From Flavorwire: “The press whirlwind for Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad which is being touted as his masterpiece, continues unabated. And the author is remarkably self-aware and smart about both the topical nature of his book in a moment of civil rights protest like we haven’t seen decade in an interview with New York Magazine‘s Boris Kachka. It’s fascinating to watch a writer having a big moment reflect on that moment with (at least what appears to be) genuine equanimity and understanding.

Whitehead talked about the racial politics of the moment, writing a “big serious novel,” and maturing as a person and writer.” [Read More]

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Some exciting news from The Guardian‘s Sian Cain:

American icon Toni Morrison has been awarded the 2016 PEN/Saul Bellow award for achievement in American fiction

The award, which is presented to living American authors whose “scale of achievement in fiction, over a sustained career, places him or her in the highest rank of American literature”, is worth $25,000 (£18,000).

Morrison is famous for her epic, often historical writings about race, family and identity. She wrote her first novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970 when she was 39, while working as a senior editor at Random House. Morrison won the Pulitzer prize in 1988 for her novel Beloved, which was adapted in 1998 into a film starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. She later won the 1993 Nobel prize in literature and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. (more…)

Lidia Yuknavitch
Lidia Yuknavitch
Jennifer Glaser (LARB) praises Yuknavitch’s new novel, The Small Backs of Children, as a fine example of experimental women’s writing
The terrain of contemporary experimental fiction has been largely claimed by male writers. This is nothing new. As Andreas Huyssen pointed out years ago, despite Gustave Flaubert’s assertion that Madame Bovary “c’est moi,” he spent most of his career carefully distinguishing his high modernist literary sensibilities from the popular tastes of the feminized masses. The contest between high and low, difficulty and ease, in fiction continues to travel along these gendered lines — particularly in conversations about American literature. Jonathan Franzen and Ben Marcus’s 2002 row over the value of experimental fiction and the fate of the novel in the pages of The New Yorker and Harper’s marked not only a new, meta-ethical turn in fiction after 9/11, but also a continuation of age-old male anxieties about the feminization (or “Oprah-fication”) of the reading public and what this meant for male novelists concerned about the size of their … impact. Later, Franzen tangled with a new foe, so-called chick lit author Jennifer Weiner, about a related topic: the perils of self-promotion for writers of literary fiction. This conflict, in turn, developed into a larger battle about the absence of women writers in the contemporary American canon — with Weiner and Franzen as its unlikely antipodes.

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Calling for Submissions to a conference at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies in Berlin
the-road-cormac-mccarthy-movie
Promotion still for The Road (dir. John Hillcoat, 2009), based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy
Throughout his rich literary career, Cormac McCarthy has consistently explored the intersections of different modes of thinking and creative practices. Reflecting his stated view that the novel can “encompass all the various disciplines and interests of humanity” (Woodward 1992), McCarthy’s work navigates between artistic and scientific discourses as readily as it interweaves various fields of knowledge and genres from chaos theory and legal history to English poetry and the Western. His fiction mediates between different worlds insofar as the stylistic and thematic trajectories of his fiction can be considered a narrative negotiation of opposed discourses and perspectives on the world, such as cognitive science and religious experience, realism and romanticism, or ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture. While much has been said about spatial border crossings in McCarthy’s work, this conference invites readers and scholars to consider McCarthy’s other crossings, from the intersections of literature and science to his stylistic and generic crossovers.

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