PEN round-up: Don DeLillo, World Voices, Mexican journalists, and more

As we put the finishing touches on the fall issue, the PEN office is bustling.

Today, the 2010 PEN Literary Award winners were announced. Among them, Don DeLillo, who answered questions from PEN (via fax) on the occasion:
PEN: Thanks to e-books, blogs, and social media, writers are arguably using new technology as never before. Stories are written using Twitter, novels as text messages, and there seems to be a reemergence of serial narratives. Do you think technology will have a considerable influence on fiction? Do you think it already has?

DeLillo: The question is whether the enormous force of technology, and its insistence on speeding up time and compacting space, will reduce the human need for narrative—narrative in the traditional sense. Novels will become user-generated. An individual will not only tap a button that gives him a novel designed to his particular tastes, needs, and moods, but he’ll also be able to design his own novel, very possibly with him as main character. The world is becoming increasingly customized, altered to individual specifications. This shrinking context will necessarily change the language that people speak, write, and read. Here’s a stray question (or a metaphysical leap): Will language have the same depth and richness in electronic form that it can reach on the printed page? Does the beauty and variability of our language depend to an important degree on the medium that carries the words? Does poetry need paper?
To celebrate DeLillo’s award, our fall issue will include his 1983 short story “Human Moments in World War III,” the beginning of which you can read on PEN.org. For the rest, pre-order your copy of the issue (or subscribe!).

And, if you’re in New York, join us for the 2010 PEN Literary Awards ceremony on October 13.

News of this year’s winners followed just a day after PEN announced its new Director of the World Voices Festival and Public Programs, László Jakab Orsós, who joins PEN from the Hungarian Cultural Center. Jakab is also an accomplished journalist and screenwriter. You can read more about him here. The 2011 World Voices Festival will be held from April 25 to May 1.

Lastly, a trio of announcements from the Freedom to Write department: Liao Yiwu (discussed previously on the blog) has finally been permitted to travel outside China; PEN writers urged the U.N. to abandon efforts to legally prohibit the defamation of religion; and several writers from Mexico and the United States (including DeLillo) will gather next month to discuss and call attention to the violent suppression of journalists in America’s neighbor to the south. Please join us if you can.


PEN Quiz Night + the Brooklyn Book Festival

It’s busy here as we finish the fall issue; details coming soon.

In the meantime, join me this Friday, at 7 pm, along with a great group of writers—Jami Attenberg, Jane Ciabattari, Lisa Dierbeck, Rivka Galchen, Tayari Jones, Joseph O’Neill, Wesley Stace, and Justin Taylor—for the first PEN Quiz Night, at St. Ann’s Warehouse, on 38 Water Street in DUMBO in Brooklyn.

The quiz will start promptly at 8 pm, but you should arrive early for drinks and to be matched on an author’s team. That way you can compete both with and against some terrific writers. All the questions will be literary.

Quiz Night is PEN’s kickoff for the Brooklyn Book Festival, which takes place on Sunday. PEN will have a booth there, and has also put together a reading to mark the 50th Anniversary of PEN’s Freedom to Write program, which will include Cathy Park Hong, Roxana Robinson, Sarah Schulman, Xiaoda Xiao, and more.

Hope to see you there. (Pictured above: Joseph O’Neill, Rivka Galchen, Tayari Jones.)