The Good Books

Selections from PEN America 14: The Good Books are now online! Here are a few of things you can check out over at PEN.org:

Forum: The Good Books
Welcome to the World's Greatest Book Swap: writers sharing books that they love--what could be better? We were blown away by the thoughtful responses we received, and by how many! Over fifty writers participated in our virtual swap. We've posted a few, with more to come. For now, have a look at Maurice Berger on Roland Barthes's Mythologies and Barack Obama; Srikanth Reddy on Chinese Tales and translating a translated translation; Rabih Alameddine on The Book of Disquiet and the many heteronyms of Fernando Pessoa.

The 1986 PEN Congress, 25 years later
We culled through almost 3,000 pages of previously unpublished transcripts to bring you highlights from a literary event spearheaded by Norman Mailer and featuring Arthur Miller, Nadine Gordimer, Gunter Grass, Toni Morrison, Czeslaw Milosz, and many more. (Check out Rhoda Koenig's long write-up of the event in New York Magazine for some of the glamor and gossip surrounding the '86 Congress.)

Among the pieces we included is one we call "From Voice to Voice," in which remarks by Saul Bellow touch off responses from Allen Ginsberg, Nadine Gordimer, Susan Sontag--but enough with my name-dropping, go
have a look yourself. And make sure to read "From the Floor," too, in which Grace Paley and Margaret Atwood protest the under-representation of women writers at the Congress (and Norman Mailer offers his perhaps inflammatory rebuttal).

World Voices
The issue also features fiction, poetry, and essays by some of the participants in this year's PEN World Voices Festival, including Marcelo Figueras, Asaf Schurr, Najat El Hachmi. And there are three essays from Finding the Words, an anthology compiled by our sister chapter PEN Canada: Pasha Malla & Moez Surani assemble an "Ethical Code for Writers," Alain de Botton revisits places of unexpected inspiration in "On Writing," and Madeleine Thien ghost-hunts through Cambodia and Vietnam in "Photocopies of Photocopies: On Bao Ninh."

What's the sound of a sword cutting into a book? A book being sliced? Paper falling? ZAK, SHAKA, BARA BARA. Check out Book, a great comic by Yuichi Yokoyama with awesome onomatopoeic translations by Taro Nettleton. There's more book slicing and dicing to be seen in the sculptures of Brian Dettmer (our wonderful cover artist), and some quotation re-appropriation by Jenny Holzer.

As usual, you can find all of this and more if you subscribe to PEN America or purchase a copy of the journal.


Don DeLillo's Short Stories

Earlier this week, The Millions reported that Don Delillo would be releasing his first ever collection of short stories this November, The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories. The stories are drawn from the years 1979-2011; many of them first appeared in Esquire, The New Yorker, and Harper's. (You can see a full list of Delillo's short fiction here.)

Among the stories is "Human Moments in World War III," which was reprinted in PEN America 13: Lovers after DeLillo received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction last year (the story first appeared in Esquire in 1983).

The story was accompanied by
PEN Q&A with DeLillo, in which he talks about Bellow, American fiction, technology, the role of the writer, and more. You can read the opening of "Human Moments in World War III" here; the Q&A is


Praise for Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

In The New York Times Book Review this past Sunday there's a great piece by August Kleinzahler, "Rebirth of a Poet," which praises Arvind Krishna Mehrotra's translation of Songs of Kabir. More so than his predecessors, Mehrotra manages to "[capture] the ferocity and improvisational energy of Kabir's poetry."

Kleinzahler includes quotations from the poems "Friend" and "It's a Mess," both of which were included in PEN America 11: Make Believe, and read by Paul Auster during the issue's launch party.

Arvind Krishna Mehrotra was a recipient of a PEN Translation Fund Grant in 2009, the same year that he was nominated for the chair of Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford, alongside Ruth Padel and Derek Walcott. (Here's a Times article about the unusually controversial race.)

The PEN Translation Fund provides grants to support the translation of book-length works of fiction, creative nonfiction, drama, and poetry that have not previously appeared in English or have appeared only in egregiously flawed translation. Read more about PEN's Translation Committee here.

If you haven't already, check out the online feature for PEN America 11: Make Believe. You can purchase the issue and any of our other issues, or become a subscriber, by clicking here.

(Photograph of Arvind Krishna Mehrotra courtesy of The Telegraph.)