Do you have to be a voracious reader to be a splendid writer? Some might argue that consuming mass quantities of the written word is the only way to a successful career as a master of it.
In his 16-year career as a novelist, Junot Diaz has only written two novels and one collection of short stories. In a recent interview with the New York Times, he confesses why it takes him so long to produce new material and where he gets the inspiration from. He also talks about his “one superpower”—reading.
On coming up with his collection of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her:
That’s why I never want to do this again. It’s like you spend 16 years chefing in the kitchen, and all that’s left is an amuse-bouche.
On his one “superpower”:
I read a book a week, man. And I don’t have a great memory, but I have a good memory about what I read.
On whether he’ll ever be able to pick up the pace when it comes to producing material:
The thing is, you try your best, and what else you got? You try your best, really, that’s all you can do. And for me, my best happens really so rarely. I was so always heartened by people like Michael Chabon who write so well and seem to write so fast. Edwidge Danticat writes really well and really fast. I was always heartened by them. I keep thinking one day it’ll happen. It might.
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When Zadie Smith comes out with a new novel after a multiyear hiatus, it’s news. Not just to the literary junkies who have devoured her earlier works, On Beauty, The Autograph Man, and White Teeth, but to folks who want to see if the “Zadie mania” is worth the hype.
And indeed it is. Her latest novel, NW, has received positive reviews from critics and casual readers alike.
She’s been hitting the promotion trail hard to get this book to the top of the bestseller lists and a recent profile in Interview magazine (along with a stunning photo of Ms. Smith) caught our eye. In it, she discusses the pressure of writing novels when your first (as a 22-year-old) is a smash success.
If I’m honest with you, I feel that this book is the first book that I’ve really written as an adult,” she explains. “For a lot of people this would be their first novel. I’m 36. It happens that I wrote three books as a very young person….Your mid-thirties is a good time because you know a fair amount, you have some self-control. I knew my own mind a bit more. And I stopped trying to please people.”
1943 winner Zora Neale Hurston left behind an incredible legacy. One of her greatest gifts, Their Eyes Were Watching God, celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. In honor of her achievement, Cleveland State University is hosting a four-day conference to recognize her contribution to the literary world.
The Watching God and Reading Hurston conference will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the publication of Their Eyes Were Watching God while encouraging participants to consider Hurston’s contributions to world culture, especially as those contributions relate to the study of religion and spirituality in the history of Africa and the Diaspora. [More information]
In the short video above, get a peek at the type of woman Zora Neale Hurston was in the biography, “Jump at the Sun.” For more information, visit the link.
We know how much of an honor it is to be able to dedicate a night of our lives to the power of books. Not just any books, but the kind of books that make you think, that give you new information to digest, that force you to see the world a bit differently once you finish reading the last sentence.
This year’s ceremony was a must-see, and if you weren’t able to get tickets (they sold out in record time this year), if you weren’t able to watch it as it was broadcast live here at anisfield-wolf.org or at ideastream.org, you are in luck! This year there will be a number of additional chances to watch the broadcast on TV. Check out the dates and times below to see when you might be able to watch the ceremony in full on the Ohio Channel (statewide across Ohio) or on WVIZ/PBS Ohio (digital subchannel).
WVIZ/PBS Ohio can be viewed over the air on channel 25.2, on Time Warner on channel 990, and on Cox channel 201. Other channel locations for other systems available at the Ideastream channel guide.
Sunday, September 23 9:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m.
Monday, September 24 1:00 a.m.
Friday, September 28 2:30 p.m. 10:30 p.m.
Saturday, September 29 6:30 a.m.
Saturday, October 20 12:00 p.m. 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, October 21 4:00 a.m.
Isabella Rodriguez, a third-grader from Cleveland’s Walls Elementary School, joined us on Thursday during the Anisfield-Wolf ceremony to recite for us the poem she wrote as part of Traveling Stanzas, a collaborative project between Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center and Glyphix design studio.
Her teacher, Nicole Robinson, was also in attendance, as was Isabella’s proud mother, Natasha Rodriguez, and her stepfather, Matthew Carroll.
Take a minute to read her poem, “Home,” and leave a comment for Isabella. We’ll make sure she sees it!
Filmmaker Al Sutton was inspired by our 2012 award winner David Livingstone Smith‘s 2007 book, The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War.
“We have killed over 200 million people over the past century by war and genocide,” Sutton writes in the film’s description. “We must stop the killing to protect our loved ones, ourselves, our future.”
Watch the film here and let us know what you think!
“There’s no one writing in the English language today who more precisely and passionately articulates the exile’s experience than Edwidge Danticat.” And so begins Henry Louis Gates’ introduction of our 2005 winner. In this 2012 video, Danticat discusses her work and exile, what it means to be an immigrant artist, and responsibility to one’s home country. This event was co-presented by Cambridge Forum, Harvard Bookstore, and Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute.
Have we worn you down? Has our incessant posting about Zadie Smith’s latest novel sparked just enough curiosity for you to at least pick up the book next week and read a few pages in the bookstore? You could do that, or you could watch the video above and hear Zadie Smith read it for you.
We won’t spend too much time on an introduction today; let’s get right to the meaty stuff. Recently, our 2012 winners all had a chance to speak with Dred-Scott Keyes on the Public Radio Exchange to discuss their books and the deeper themes within. Take a listen to David W. Blight and Esi Edugyan in part one, and David Livingstone Smith and Arnold Rampersad in part two:
1997 winner Jamaica Kincaid gives a commencement address at Grinnell College with some advice that might not be so common. She tells graduates that sometimes, it is necessary to bite the hand that feeds you. Watch the video starting at the 5:40 mark to see what she means.