Sherman Alexie, Toni Morrison, Richard Price, Patti Smith, Salman Rushdie, Roddy Doyle, Melvin Van Peebles...

...as you may have heard, those are just a few of the participants in this year’s PEN World Voices Festival. My favorite reply to the newly unveiled lineup comes from Mark Sarvas: “the organizers appear to have outdone themselves,” he says, adding, “it’s enough to tempt me into thinking about a trip east to cover this one for all my loyal readers.” I hope we see him soon.

Much more in this space over the next few weeks, of course; in the meantime, a few notes before the weekend:

* As noted earlier this week in The New York Times, PEN and the ACLU are teaming up with Slate to sponsor a conversation with Tariq Ramadan and others, held at Cooper Union in New York on April 8. This will be the first U.S. appearance for Ramadan since he was barred from entering the country by the Bush administration.

* Yousef Al-Mohaimeed’s novel Muniras Bottle was written up recently in Arab News (via The Literary Saloon). The novel was excerpted in PEN America 9, earning the magazine its first Pushcart Prize. Here’s what Annie Proulx has to say about the book:
Munira’s Bottle is a rich and skillfully crafted story of a dysfunctional Saudi Arabian family. One of its strengths lies in its edgy characters: Munira, a sultry, self-centered, sexually repressed woman; Ibn Al-Dahhal, the bold imposter who deceives and betrays her; and Muhammad, her perpetually angry and righteous brother, a catalyst who forces the events. Western readers will welcome it for its opening door into Arab lives and minds.
(You can read a conversation about “Books that Changed My Life” featuring both Proulx and Al-Mohaimeed in PEN America 10.)

* Tomorrow we’ll find out how much Robert Pinsky liked Tomasz Rozycki’s piece about “Scorched Maps,” a finalist for The Quark. Among the other finalists is PEN America contributor Amitava Kumar.

* There’s no online announcement yet, but PEN America has received its first Utne Independent Press Award nomination, in the category of international coverage. More on that soon.

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