On Friday, Michael Idov of New York magazine, spoiling for a literary feud, suggested that the excellent Anya Ulinich story we published in our latest issue might be “a barely disguised personal attack.” Anya then explained to Maud Newton that the target of her story is “atrocity kitsch fiction” and not one particular author. She cited the much-acclaimed movie The Lives of Others as a possible example of this genre; as it happens, A.O. Scott also tackled this subject recently from a film critic’s perspective. (By the way, Anya just won the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction by Emerging Writers for her novel, Petropolis. The prize is given annually to an American fiction writer of exceptional talent and promise for a first or second book.)
So how should writers respond to atrocity? Next Tuesday, come discuss this subject with Dahlia Lithwick (legal correspondent for Slate), Jane Mayer (author of The Dark Side), Anouar Benmalek (author of The Lovers of Algeria), Scott Horton (law professor and contributor to Harper's), and Elisa Massimino (Executive Director of Human Rights First). “Voices Against Torture: Writers and Lawyers on the Way Forward” is hosted by PEN and ACS and will focus on the roles that lawyers and writers have played and continue to play in exposing human rights abuses and in reminding nations of their human rights responsibilities. The panel will begin promptly at 6:30 p.m and will end at 7:45 p.m., followed by a wine and cheese reception. This event is free and open to the public. If you'd like to come, please register today.
On a lighter note, PEN triumphed in a closely contested “Literary Trivia Smackdown” at the Small Press Book Fair yesterday, against litbloggers Levi Asher, Sarah Weinman, Ed Champion, and Eric Rosenfield. There was a dramatic finish, but, as Ed explains, former PEN president Arthur Miller nudged our team to victory. Clearly, Arthur Miller thinks that these litbloggers should all join PEN, and was just doing what he could to make this happen. (Unless, that is, they don't want to support free expression and writers who are imprisoned around the world.) Levi has some kind words both for us and for the Small Press Book Fair itself, which is now twenty-one years old.