“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…

Tucson Festival of Books: Happy 10th Birthday!

And a very happy one it was. Despite some unseasonal rain (what?! In Tucson?! In March?!), the 10th Tucson Festival of Books shone its usual ray of light on everything literary. Old perennial Luis Urrea starred in his tenth Tucson Festival while launching his new novel House of Broken Angels. In cahoots with the inspiring…