Here’s a fascinating piece in Smithsonian Magazine about a Portuguese counsul general who defied Salazar’s orders to write visas for thousands of refugees during World War II, by DISQUIET faculty writer Chanan Tigay.
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Anything a writer says about their work is outside the work, a stranger to it. It’s a different language. It’s almost the enemy of the work. Whatever transformational transmission of weird beauty and consolation the work might possess can be utterly destroyed by the writer talking about it on the side.
You should read this interview with Joy Williams (conducted by typewriter). Maybe you’ll like it! I did.
Florida comes up a lot in Williams’s work (she has written a nonfiction book about Key West). It’s a landscape of vacation homes and cut-rate amusements with a complicated gravity that expels some characters, attracts others and causes still others to sink into fragrant, hazy torpor.
But she’s equally at home in — she has in fact lived in — Arizona and Maine. She’s not really a Western or a New England writer, though. Or maybe she is, insofar as the flat, dry heat of the desert affects the restless young women in “The Quick and the Dead” as much as the humidity of Florida afflicts the listless young women in “State of Grace” and “Breaking and Entering,” and the deep, lonesome dark of a Maine winter shadows the mother-and-child odyssey in the short story “Escapes.” Her sense of place is acute, but her places aren’t steeped in history or tradition. People pass through or stop in them without always understanding or caring where they are. “It was one of those rugged American places,” a minor character in “The Quick and the Dead” muses, recalling his hometown in Washington State, “a remote, sad-ass, but plucky downwind town whose citizens were flawed and brave. He would never go back there, of course.”
You can read the whole thing here.
I can’t just be hopeful for the sake of it. I find that I have to figure out actions that feel like they create a less precarious life for the future. So for me that has meant that I wrote this novel, which I was never intending to write about the climate when I first began it. And also that — I’m a pretty introverted person, as most writers are — but I’ve pushed myself a little bit to do more activism. That, for me, has been an antidote to the dread and a hopeful thing.
Jenny Offill talks about her novel Weather with NPR’s A Word on Words, here.
If you’re online this Sunday, August 16, you can catch Maaza Mengiste in conversation with John Williams, Douglas Stuart, and Paul Mendez for an Edinburgh International Book Festival event sponsored by The New York Times Book Review. They’ll be “coming together to discuss their work, and how they’re trying to make sense of the mess we’re in. They talk about what they’re reading and recommending, from books for comfort to works that have made them change their minds.” The event is free, starting at 12:30 PM EST (5:30 PM BST) and you can find out more about it here.
You are here because you are cool. You have arrived. You’ve finally landed a career in some transparent millennial advertising agency with the pinball machine and the snacks and the sliding-glass office spaces. After three to six interviews and a probation period that amounted to an extended six-month half-paid internship — so you could shadow the girl whose new position comes with a pay bump meaning she will earn four times more than you — you have made it: a job with health care and vision and dental and sick pay and the opportunity to quit at least two of your four to six side jobs.
If you haven’t seen it yet, head over to The Cut for an excerpt from Shayla Lawson’s new book This Is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope.
We were thrilled to learn that Maaza Mengiste’s novel The Shadow King has been longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize! See the whole list here.