The Black Renaissance

A new Black Renaissance is dawning right now. Our literature is stronger than ever. Those great, great writers who came before us all have their heirs. For James Baldwin, read Ta-Nehisi Coates. For Ralph Ellison, read Colson Whitehead. For Zora Neale Hurston, read Toni Morrison. They aren’t like-for-like, but our modern black writers are hugely…

“American Tumbleweeds” – by Marta Elva

Those of us living on or near the Mexican-American border know the themes by rote. We feel, hear, and see the dichotomies every day: the interplay of Spanish and English; the struggles between the old (Mexican tradition) and the new (North American brutalism); the familial ties loosened in the quest for a better life across…

Margaret Atwood on the role of the artist in testing times

I met Margaret Atwood last year. It was at an author party at the Brooklyn Book Festival.  She appeared to be quite shy – although maybe it was just me boring her to death – and her physical stature was in inverse proportion to her talent. What I’m trying to say is that, for a…

Tribute to writers we lost in 2016

2016 was the year the music stopped. Leonard Cohen, Prince, David Bowie, George Michael – so many songs embedded in our culture, so many that’ll now never be written. It was also a year in which we lost three stellar playwrights: Edward Albee, Arnold Wesker, and Peter Shaffer, whose Equus is my favorite modern play…

Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji released from prison

It’s been a terrible year politically, but finally a bit of good news: Ahmed Naji, who I wrote about here, is free. His treatment was like something out of the Theatre of the Absurd: he was imprisoned for giving a reader palpitations – a thinly veiled excuse for persecuting a critic of the Egyptian government….

“The Lost City of the Monkey God” by Douglas Preston

Douglas Preston’s new book is part memoir, part adventure, all thrills. The tale concerns a 500-year-old mystery in the heart of Honduras. For half a millennium, rumors have existed of the ruins of an ancient civilization hidden beneath the rain-forest, named the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. Preston recounts the…

“The Football Factory” – by John King

John King’s novel was first published in the UK twenty years ago. It has recently been reissued by PM Press in a handsome and suitably eye-catching edition for North American readers. Curious then that the title remains The Football Factory, because Americans think football is a game with helmets and and padding. More curious to…

An evening with the maestro: Juan Felipe Herrera comes to town

The 21st Poet Laureate of the Unites States came to little Silver City this week. The place will never be the same. Herrera was a hurricane of ideas, poetry, stories, music and love. In front of a packed house, he talked (and sang) about his childhood, about his days tending farm animals, about his father’s…