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We culled through almost 3,000 pages of previously unpublished transcripts to bring you highlights from a literary event spearheaded by Norman Mailer and featuring Arthur Miller, Nadine Gordimer, Gunter Grass, Toni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.

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