PEN America 12: Correspondences

Copies of our new issue just arrived in the PEN office. I’ll have much more to say about what’s between the covers after World Voices is over, but for now, a brief preview (by the way, you can order your own copy here—or, better yet, subscribe):

First, I want to mention pieces by 2010 World Voices participants—including fiction by Alex Epstein (translated by Becka Mara McKay), travelogue by Jean-Philippe Toussaint (translated by John Lambert, whose thoughts on translating Toussaint can be read at The Elegant Variation), and an email exchange between Claire Messud and Mohammed Naseehu Ali which is being posted in installments this week at PEN.org.

I also want to mention the beautiful excerpt from Zeina Abirached’s Mourir partir revenir: Le jeu des hirondelles (To Die, to Leave, to Return: A Game for Swallows), translated by Edward Gauvin. This is one of two comics from the issue, one from Lebanon, the other from Iran; I'll have more to say about the other comic soon.

Lastly, I want to point your attention to the forum. For this issue, we asked writers to respond to one of two prompts:
1 Write the first paragraph of a letter you’d like to send either to another writer, living or dead, or to a fictional character.


2 Describe your experience with the new technology of correspondence: Twitter, e-mail, Facebook, etc.
We got replies from Siri Hustvedt, Sam Lipsyte, Terry Castle, Pico Iyer, and many others. We’ll be posting those responses online over the next couple weeks. In the meantime, we’d love to get your your own replies.

More soon. In the meantime, don’t miss “Literary Magazines: Here and Abroad, Now and in the Future,” tomorrow at 7 pm at Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, and featuring M Mark, John Freeman of Granta, Rob Spillman of Tin House, Swiss writer Peter Stamm, and Argentinean writer Rodrigo Fresán. Hope to see you there.


Weekend reading, pre-festival edition

PEN.org and Words Without Borders have made several works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by World Voices authors available online. So start reading now; then, next week, you can introduce yourself to the authors whose work you especially loved.

Read fiction and essays by Sofi Oksanen, Atiq Rahimi, Andrzej Stasiuk, and Miguel Syjuco before going to “Readings from around the Globe” (Wednesday, 8 pm, 92nd Street Y) which also features Mohsin Hamid, Yiyun Li, Salman Rushdie, Patti Smith, and others.

Before Thursday’s conversation about Henry James, Edith Wharton, and Elizabeth Hardwick (“New York Stories,” 7 pm, Morgan Library), you’ll want to read an excerpt from Quim Monzó’s book, Gasoline, which is set in New York; Monzo is participating in the conversation along with Darryl Pinckney, Roxana Robinson, Colm Tóibín, and Edwin Frank. (You might also check out Robinson’s short story “The Trade” in PEN America 11: Make Believe.)

If you choose instead to attend Eshkol Nevo’s conversation with Michael Orthofer (also Thursday at 7 pm, Center for Jewish History) read an excerpt from Nevo’s Homesick. Or, if you’re headed to “Weather Report,” Thursday’s conversation about global warming (8 pm at the Metropolitan Museum), you can read pieces on the subject by participants James Hansen and Bill McKibben.

Finally, before you go to Saturday’s conversation about war, read Deborah Amos on “The Eclipse of the Sunnis.”


Lethem & Smith, Monzó & Coover, Ford & Hazzard & more: conversations @ PEN World Voices

As I’ve mentioned before, one-one-one conversations are among my favorite World Voices events. This year, several of the pairings seem especially felicitous.

On Thursday (7 pm, Center for Jewish History), Michael Orthofer of The Complete Review (and its Literary Saloon) will talk to Israeli writer Eshkol Nevo about home, living under threat, and the art of breaking up. (Orthofer knows international literature as well as anyone, so I’d love to make this one—but I'll be elsewhere.)

On Friday (3:30, Deutsches Haus), Robert Coover will talk with Quim Monzó about the latter’s new book, Gasoline, out soon from Open Letter. Monzó has been compared as a writer to Coover, whose influence he has acknowledged—and whose work he has translated—so that should make for an interesting discussion.

Similarly, Richard Ford has expressed his admiration for the work of Shirley Hazzard (whose novel The Bay of Noon was just shortlisted for the Booker Prize for... 1970), with whom he’ll talk on Friday night (7 pm, 92nd Street Y). The evening will feature readings of Hazzard’s work by friends and admirers, including Annabel Davis-Goff and others.

The following afternon, Jonathan Lethem talks with Patti Smith (1 pm, Cooper Union). If you’ve read Lethem’s The Disappointment Artist, then you know this should be good—and apparently Smith and Lethem are both big Bolaño fans.

Later that day, Philippine-born writer and Miguel Syjuco will talk with his former teacher, Nicholas Jose, now the director of Australian Studies at Harvard. Syjuco won the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize for Illustrado, which will be published in the U.S. next week.

And on Sunday I’m going to talk with Rawi Hage (3 pm, FIAF), whose excellent book Cockroach was excerpted in PEN America 10: Fear Itself.

If you can’t make it to the events themselves, audio (and, in some cases, video) will go up within a week or so after they take place. So stay tuned.


Literary magazines here and abroad, now and in the future...

In the latest “little review”—“a weekly look at the world of little magazines”—Christopher Glazek mentions the “Magazines of the Americas” project recently launched by n + 1. Beginning with the new issue, n + 1 hopes to include in each issue a translated work from another magazine published in the Americas; upcoming issues will feature work from writers in Peru and Columbia. You can learn more about the project here.

Meanwhile, the editors of The Massachusetts Review have declared their intentions to begin the magazine’s “second half century by dramatically increasing the amount we publish in translation,” as noted by Scott Esposito over at Two Words. (They’ve even hired a translation editor.) “Our government has been broadcasting The Voice of America for well over fifty years,” Jim Hicks writes (PDF), “it’s high time that the country opened its ears as well as its mouth.”

That’s exactly the spirit behind “Literary Magazines: Here and Abroad, Now and in the Future,” an event PEN America is sponsoring along with Galapagos Art Space (where the event will be held), during the upcoming World Voices Festival. M Mark, the editor of PEN America, will be joined by the editors of Granta and Tin HouseJohn Freeman and Rob Spillman, respectively—as well as by Peter Stamm, a Swiss writer and an editor of the literary quarterly Entwürfe für Literatur, and Rodrigo Fresán, the Argentinian writer who lives in Spain and has contributed to Granta, PEN America, and other “little magazines.”

We’ll talk about how the role of the literary magazine is changing in the internet age, how it varies across continents, and more. We’ll also launch issue #12 of PEN America (about which more soon), and celebrate the new issues of Granta (devoted to sex) and Tin House (focused on games). Both those magazines, of course, have long championed writing from all over the world, and I’ve already trumpeted recent recognition for PEN America’s “international coverage.”

Galapagos Art Space is a great venue with a good bar, and the event is free. Hope to see you there.

When: Thursday, April 29
Where: Galapagos Art Space, DUMBO, 16 Main Street, Brooklyn
What time: 7–8:30 p.m.

Free and open to the public. No reservations.


Festival highlight: the climate crisis and how to deal with it

One of the liveliest events at last year’s World Voices Festival was “The Economic Crisis and How to Deal with It,” a panel discussion co-sponsored by The New York Review of Books that included Bill Bradley, Niall Ferguson, Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini, George Soros, and Robin Wells. Labeled “The Neo-Keynsian Smackdown” by Garth Risk Hallberg, the event featured heated debate before a passionate audience and prompted many responses. (You can watch the event here, listen to it here, and read excerpts of the conversation here.)

This year, Robert Silvers of The NYRB has again put together a panel of heavyweights to wrestle with a massively important subject. At “Weather Report: What Can We Do?”, Jostein Gaarder, James Hansen, Frederic Hauge, Bjørn Lomborg, Bill McKibben, Andrew Revkin, and Cynthia Rosenzweig will discuss how and whether we can beat back the encroaching danger of global warming. As with last year's economic panel, the participants represent a wide spectrum of educated views; Lomborg, for instance, is the author of Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming, while Bill McKibben’s books include The End of Nature and Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

It should be another interesting and animated discussion. Full details are below; tickets are available here.

Weather Report: What Can We Do?

Thursday, April 29

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, 83rd Street and Fifth Avenue, New York City

What time:
8–9:30 p.m.

$25/$20 PEN Members/The Metropolitan Museum of Art Members and New York Review of Books subscribers; www.smarttix.com or (212) 868-4444. For Member discount code, please contact Lara Tobin at lara@pen.org or (212) 334-1660 ext. 126.


Tonight: Tariq Ramadan in NYC and online

Tariq Ramadan arrived in the United States yesterday, his first visit since 2004, when the Bush administration revoked his visa using a provision from the Patriot Act. When he arrived at Newark International Report, there remained “one last hurdle,” according to The New York Times: “a closed-door session with three immigration agents, one after the other, who asked him where he planned to go, whom he planned to meet and what he planned to discuss.”

Tonight at 7 p.m. he’ll discuss secularism, Islam, and democracy with Dalia Mogahed, George Packer, Joan Wallach Scott, and Jacob Weisberg at Cooper Union in New York. Tickets are no longer on sale online, but there may be some available at the door. For those who can’t make it or can’t get in, the event will be shown online here.