Studs Terkel on John Steinbeck, etc.

Studs Terkel died on Friday at the age of 96. A few years back, he praised John Steinbeck and The Grapes of Wrath in PEN America 4: Fact/Fiction. He did so very much in his own fashion, finding echoes of Steinbeck in the conversation of American farmers speaking fifty years later-- such as Carl Nearmeyer, a fourth-generation farmer who, in 1989, was losing the family farm he worked twenty-three miles southeast of Des Moines:
Grapes of Wrath: “‘Sure,’ cried the tenant farmer, ‘but it’s our land. We were born on it, got killed on it, we died on it. Even if it’s no good, it’s still ours. That’s what makes it ours, being born on it, working on it, dying on it. That makes ownership, not a piece of paper with numbers on it.’” Iowa, 1989: “There were several times I had a gun to my head. . . . and then I got damn mad. I got to thinking about it and I got madder. These people don’t have the right to do this to me. I’ve worked the land, I’ve sweated, and I’ve bled. I’ve tried to keep this place going, and they take it away from me.”
See also: an appraisal in The Chicago Tribune with remarks from Stuart Dybek.

David Lipsky, who jogged my memory below, wrote a long, excellent article for Rolling Stone about David Foster Wallace, and the whole thing is now online. (Thanks to Garth Hallberg for pointing this out.)

Sarah Weinman flags this admiring piece about the wonderful Graywolf Press. As noted below, they published one of this year's National Book Award finalists, Salvatore Scibona's The End.

Milton Hatoum, a Brazilian writer of Lebanese descent, dismantles the simplistic, "Clash of Civilizations" view of East and West over at Words Without Borders. You can read his take on myth and magical realism in PEN America 8: Making Histories.

Afternoon update: On Thursday, November 6, rallies will be held around the world for Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman, better known as Kareem Amer, who published "critical writings about Islam and Egypt's highest religious authorities" on his personal blog.

In February 2007, Amer was found guilty of "disparaging Islam" and "defaming the Egyptian president" and sentenced to four years in prison. He is the first blogger in Egypt to be tried and convicted for his work, and "there are fears that this case may set a precedent."

PEN will hold a rally in New York, from noon to 1:30pm, at the Egyptian Mission to the UN (304 East 44th St., between 1st and 2nd Avenues). If you can't make it, and if you have your own blog, consider reading up on him yourself, and sharing your own thoughts November 6, as an expression of support.

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