The debut party for Lesley Hazleton's Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto last night at Town Hall was a fantastic experience. Hazleton delivered a talk that was part-extemporaneous/part-reading. Hazleton asked the audience to imagine that she held the sun in her hand, that it was about the size of an orange; the Earth, she said, would be a grain of salt circling her hand at 30 feet. The nearest star to our sun would be another orange, approximately in Big Sur. Using examples like that, Hazleton continually deconstructed the audience's sense of scale, to infinity and beyond. The only real sour note of the evening came when two individual atheists took the microphone during Q&A to confront Hazleton about...something. One of the two older white men pronounced himself a "dogmatic atheist." Another said that if God were a person, He'd be thrown in prison for His crimes. (Not an original idea, and not especially relevant to the evening.) Neither had read the book, and neither had any clear points besides being angry about religion. During their tirades, the audience was audibly groaning, but Hazleton handled their non-questions with grace and compassion. By the end of the night, it felt like the rare reading event that perfectly captured the tenor and spirit of the book it was celebrating.
Congratulations to the 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship winners! The list of poets, critics, and novelists who won is very long, but it includes Seattle Review of Books favorites Jenny Offill and Laila Lalami.
At the LA Weekly, Jessica Langlois wonders whether AWP can overcome the lack of diversity in literature:
I was reading Claudia Rankine’s book Citizen: An American Lyric in a hotel bar in downtown Los Angeles Saturday afternoon when I got a series of texts from my partner, who was in Ventura County, sitting by a lake and writing poetry. The police were harassing him. Three white men with guns. He is brown-skinned and has a thick beard. They’d threatened to tase our dog, a rambunctious puppy. “I’m so scared,” he wrote me.
My struggles are no different from any other developer on the App Store. If you have a game or social media app, you’re golden in Apple’s eyes. Anything else, forget it. (Unless you’re a big publisher, then you’re golden too).
How did poet Patricia Lockwood manage to tweet "fuck me daddy" at Donald Trump from the New Republic's Twitter handle? Well, thereby hangs a tale...
Was Hamlet fan-fiction? Not really, but it is important to note that copyright has absolutely changed the way that writers find inspiration.
Bookslut's editor Jessa Crispin has written a long essay titled "The Self-Hating Book Critic." It's full of bleak thoughts about the future of literature — Crispin has admitted that she's pulling the plug on Bookslut because she's done with modern American literature — but it's also full of some very incisive thoughts about the sorry state of modern book reviewing:
It makes sense to me that when the system goes wobbly, the critical culture responds by saying, “From now on, we will only run positive reviews.” It is a long list of publications and critics who have come out saying this, from The Believer to Buzzfeed to assorted Internet communities. But that of course is not criticism, it is enthusiasm. And enthusiasm only happens in long form when all uncertainties and unknowns have been weeded out. When expectations are met. It is a way to regain control. Uncertainty causes anxiety, and when things are already uncertain due to a literary system in flux, it is easier to close off, to shut the gates, to only admit those whose entrance is guaranteed. To, you know, review your friends.