Nelson Mandela – happy centenary, Madiba!

Happy birthday, Madiba. He would have been 100 on July 18th, 2018. Mandela was the greatest man of our time. Courageous, unrelenting, humble, forgiving. I cannot state how much his example has meant to me and countless others. His story is well-known: his fight for racial justice, the Rivonia trial, his lost years (27 of…

“Bestiary” – by Donika Kelly

A bestiary is a compendium of creatures – an illustrated book from the Middle Ages – with each animal symbolizing some abstract moral principle. They are there to show us foolish humans how to live by the divine code written by Nature/God. In Donika Kelly’s debut poetry collection, there are beasts large and small –…

Shakespeare in the Age of the Tyrant

Stephen Greenblatt’s new book, Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power, is a timely tome. As Greenblatt well knows, we’re living in an age of ruthless strongmen. The world’s recent and lamentable swing to the right is embodied by all-powerful authoritarians. Here’s the cast list: Nicolás Maduro (Venezuela) – presiding over an avoidable domestic catastrophe, a post-apocalyptic hellscape…

Morality clauses for authors: necessity or absurdity?

The #MeToo movement has spread to literature. HarperCollins, one of the biggest fish in the publishing sea, has introduced a morality clause to its contracts. The clause allows cancellation for “conduct [that] evidences a lack of due regard for public conventions and morals”, or if there is a “crime or any other act that will…

“Human Flow”: a film by Ai Weiwei

For a film with ‘flow’ in its title, the only surprise in this superlative documentary is that the most powerful images are those of stillness. An old refugee woman sits incongruously on a bench in the middle of nowhere. A young man stares out at us, daring us to enter his life. The implacable sea,…

The Tumult in Publishing: Real or Imagined?

A recent thread in a LinkedIn Writers’ Group caught my attention: “THE TUMULT IN PUBLISHING” (yes, it was all caps). A journalist posed the questions: Where is publishing heading? Where might we be in the next five years? What do we do to ensure our [writers’] survival? Some of the answers were interesting. I warn you…

“Damnificados” to be translated into German

Damnificados will be translated into German in 2019 and published by Edition Nautilus. Edition Nautilus is an independent, Hamburg-based publishing house, founded in 1974. The company publishes fiction, political non-fiction, biographies, and an art-series called Die Kleine Bücherei (The Small Library). To say Edition Nautilus has a star-studded backlist would be an understatement. Besides its…

PEN America announces Writing for Justice Fellowship

  PEN America has run a prison writing program for over forty years. The program provides mentors, free resources and an audience for the incarcerated. This program benefits the prisoners, who get a chance to reflect on their lives through the written word and to express themselves in new ways. But the program also benefits…

Gray Pans Pinker

In a recent review in The New Statesman, John Gray dismissed Steven Pinker’s new book Enlightenment Now: the Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress in one of the more colorful putdowns of recent times (excuse the pun – grey, pinker and all that). The title of the piece reads “The limits of reason: Steven…