Notes after a busy week

More congratulations are in order: shortly after receiving the good news about Cynthia Ozick's essay, "Ghost Writers" -- published in PEN America 9: Checkpoints -- we were alerted that a short story from the same issue has won a Pushcart Prize. "Soap and Ambergris," by Yousef Al-Mohaimeed (the photo on the right is by Beowulf Sheehan), is a powerful piece of fiction -- and the Pushcart folks aren't the first to say so. It's adapted from Yousef's novel The Bottle, which has not yet been published in English -- and which, as The Washington Post reported in 2005, angered some fundamentalists in Yousef's native Saudi Arabia. You can read more about Yousef and other Saudi Arabian writers in this recent article from The National.

I met Yousef at last year's World Voices festival, and I'll have much more to say about the writers at World Voices 2009 in the coming weeks (and even months). For now, I'll simply note that the event celebrating our new issue was terrific -- with a good crowd, excellent readings (by Patricia Spears Jones, Paul LaFarge, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Saïd Sayrafiezadeh), and lively conversation (among Jeffrey Lependorf, Colum McCann, Amitava Kumar, and Anya Ulinich). We'll have audio of the event eventually; for now, you can read a thoughtful write-up by Kristen O'Toole.

You can read many other festival write-ups, by the way, at PEN.org; at Words Without Borders; at the Complete Review; and elsewhere. And audio for several events is already available.

Lastly, on a more disappointing note, Wyatt Mason has written the last post for Sentences, his Harper's blog, where he recently made the case for close reading -- and also performed it beautifully (e.g., in a two-part discussion of Joseph O'Neill's Netherland -- which, as you may have heard, President Obama has been reading lately). It's sad to see Sentences go -- though if it leaves Mason more time to write about books elsewhere, that might be a tolerable trade.

Update: Patricia Cohen wrote a nice piece for today's New York Times about the Ken Saro-Wiwa tribute held Saturday as part of World Voices (and co-sponsored by Guernica). Audio from that event is available here. PEN America 2: Home and Away includes an excerpt from Ken Wiwa's book In the Shadow of a Saint, as well as an essay by Larry Siems about Ken's father entitled "Ken Saro-Wiwa: The High Price of Dissent."


K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

When you say a blog "for writers," you should specify that it's a blog for SOME writers, for of course the PENs in this country are somewhat exclusionary outfits.
Are the others as bad as the New York one?

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

Pen has this strange idea that it can close itself off from contrary facts and ideas simply because those ideas come from an unapproved source. Very un-PEN-like; hardly in support of free expression. (What kind of free expression is it if everyone agrees with you?)

Harland said...

That's funny, King. Every time I try to post a comment to your blog you refuse to publish it. I suppose it's the quality of the writing you object to, and not the commentary?

King said...

??? I've published a novel's worth of your remarks, under your various identities, on my blog.
Note that I post under my own identity (my first name is Karl, as any google search shows), and so hold myself accountable for my actions and my words. Unlike many of my opponents, such as yourself.
I believe that taking responsibility is important for a writer-- standing up for what's right; unafraid to put one's name on statements inpursuit of right and justice. It's what this nation was about from the first; from the Declaration. It's also in the tradition of many writers. Like Zola.
Unfortunately, in today's literary world exist only fearful ticketpunchers; the go-along-to-get-along crowd. PEN seems to be permeated with such.
p.s. I suspect an individual or two, like yourself, are misleading PEN folks with misrepresentations of myself, my goals, etc. I know well the talking points: I'm just out for attention blah blah blah.
You've been fairly successful at defining me-- you and people like Mr. Handler after all invested many many hours in so doing. But in the end it won't be enough, because the truth will win out.
The question is: who the people are giving Roberts and Company such terrible advice, and what the reasons are. I hope to address this soon enough on my main blog.

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Josue said...

I've been slack about blogging here over the past week or so. It's been quite busy, even apart from the fact that I'm still under a bit of (largely self-imposed) pressure to finish the thesis, and I am mopping up stray things that I've identified I need to read and consider, now I've thought most of the issues through. I also put aside a bit of time this week to review Rudy Rucker's new novel, Mathematicians in Love, for The New York Review of Science Fiction.

On Monday night I joined a small group for drinks with Garry Kilworth and his wife Annette with your company Buy Viagra, who've been in town for some months but are just catching up with the sf people. Garry and Annette were lovely, relaxed people who seemed to be enjoying their time in Australia.