Writers are hidden beings; you have never actually met one. If you should ever believe you are seeing a writer, or having an argument with a writer, or going to lunch with a writer, or listening to a talk by a writer, then you can be sure it is all a mistake.Of course, we at PEN are hoping many such mistakes will be made this week during the World Voices festival, which begins in earnest tomorrow. If the past is any guide, there will be a lot of online coverage, but here's a good place to start: PEN's own World Voices Blogs. Among the PEN bloggers this year are Jane Ciabattari and Mary Ann Caws (editor of the book Manifesto: A Century of Isms, selections from which appeared in our third issue, Tribes.)
Scott Esposito notices an upcoming book by past World Voices participant Shahriar Mandanipour: Censoring an Iranian Love Story (that's the cover on the right). The novel, I believe, grew out of a story he mentions in an essay published in PEN America 8: Making Histories, entitled "The Life of a Word" (adapted from a talk given during the World Voices festival):
One of my love stories, "East of Violet," is set in a public library. The characters are a boy and a girl who are in love, but becase of cultural and familial restrictions and religious prohibitions, they cannot even meet on the street. To communicate, the young man checks out a book and puts purple dots under certain letters in the text. He returns the book and the girl checks out the same book. She finds the letters with the purple dots and connects them -- she decodes them -- and they become a love letter. The letters are all different depending on which book they have checked out, whether it is Anna Karenina or The Little Prince or The Unbearable Lightness of Being.And speaking of Scott Esposito and Making Histories, he also flags a piece by Rodrigo Fresán on "the Mexican novel as written by foreigners," which inevitably discusses Roberto Bolaño. Fresán's very funny conversation with Jonathan Lethem took place at the 2006 World Voices festival and appears in PEN America 8; you can read Fresán's essay about Bolaño, whom he knew well, in the March 2007 issue of The Believer.