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."