by Campbell Geeslin
Poet William Butler Yeats’s 150th birthday, June 13th, is getting a year-long celebration in more than 40 countries, with concerts, readings, talks and screenings. The most important one centers on a four-day festival in June in Sligo, the inspiration for much of Yeats’s poetry.
The Guardian quoted poet Bernard O’Donoghue, who said, “There’s that great thing T.S. Eliot said about him: that he is somebody without whom the history of his own time could not be understood.”
WHAT POETRY DOES: Mark Doty is the author of 11 poetry collections. He won the National Book Award for poetry in 2008. His latest collection is Deep Lane, and he was interviewed in the May-June issue of Poets & Writers.
“Poetry can do what is very difficult to do in any other way,” Doty said. "It allows the words to take the reader to a place that is not there but that happens through music and association, and something in the particular arrangement of those words triggers the dream.
“And the dream becomes a shared one.”
THE WINNER: Lachlan Smith is a practicing attorney and the author of novels about a young attorney, Leo Maxwell. The third book in the series, Fox Is Framed, was published April 7.
In a “Why I Write . . .” essay in PW, Smith explained: “Trying cases before juries has taught me vital lessons for writing fiction. I’ve learned to write directly to the reader in the same way I’ve learned to address my courtroom performances directly to jurors. . . . My experience writing novels has been a considerable asset to me in the courtroom, where the best storyteller usually wins.”
RULES: Jayne Ann Krentz is the author of more than 150 books including 50 best sellers. She was quoted in “How to Write a Romance Novel” in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.
Krentz said that a romance novel is about a single relationship. “Every twist in the plot must create a twist in the relationship, and vice versa. . . . The heart of the romance novel is animated by the classic heroic virtues like honor, courage and a belief in the healing power of love.”
It must also have a happy ending or, she said, “you’ll anger a lot of readers.”
PROTEST: Six members of PEN withdrew from the group's May 5 gala to protest the decision to give a Freedom of Expression Courage award to Charlie Hebdo, the Paris newspaper where 12 members of the staff were murdered.
The protesters were Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Talje Selasi. The New York Times said that they had objected to the French magazine’s “particular glee in beating up on France’s vulnerable Muslim minority.”
Salmon Rushdie was quoted as saying that the six were “horribly wrong.” He wrote on Twitter: “The award will be given. PEN is holding firm. Just six pussies. Six authors in search of a bit of character.”
ON THE LIST: Kay Hooper is the author of a bestseller, A Deadly Web. She is the author of more than 60 books. These include a series, the “Once Upon a Time” novels, and four trilogies. The mystery and romance writer is also known as Kay Robbins. She is single and lives in a small town in North Carolina. She and her younger sister own a bookstore.
A quote from her is on the Meetville website: “But in real life, happily-ever-after is just the beginning. It’s where life starts.”
SHIFT: Ben Zimmer, columnist for The Wall Street Journal, wrote, “According to standard grammar, ‘they’ and its related forms can only agree with plural antecedents. But English sorely lacks a gender-neutral singular third-person pronoun, and ‘they’ has for centuries been pressed into service for that purpose. . . . Now, it seems, those who have held the line against the singular ‘they’ may be easing their stance.”
Zimmer wrote, “‘they’ is clearly more idiomatic than clunky alternatives that include both genders, as in ‘he or she,’ ‘he/she’ or ‘(s)he.” All of those seek to replace ‘he’ as a generic pronoun, which has been fading ever since the move toward nonsexist language in the 1970s.”
HIS FAVORITE: John Keene’s new book of stories is Counternarratives. He told PW that his favorite story in the book was “Gloss, or the Strange History of Our Lady of the Sorrows.”
Keene said that the process of writing that story posed huge challenges. “Key for me was figuring out how to convey the growth of the main character, Carmel, from voicelessness at the story’s beginning to her first-person narration at the end, which parallels her journey from bondage to her control of her destiny,”
HOW HE WORKS: Drew Daywait is the author of the No. 1 bestselling children’s picture book, The Day the Crayons Quit. He was asked if he wrote every day.
Daywait was quoted on the Kidlit411 website: “I’m kind of writing twenty-four hours a day—like a dog chewing on a bone relentlessly for days. . . . I’m living with the characters in my head, adding problems to their lives, watching them solve them. . . . Then, once I feel I’ve got something, I start typing. Then I’m gone for days, typing away, reaping the reward of my daydreaming for weeks and months prior to touching the keyboard.”
ANOTHER BESTSELLER: Cokie Roberts is the author of the bestsellers Founding Mothers (2005) and Ladies of Liberty (2009). Her new bestseller is Capital Dames.
Her comments about the book were broadcast on National Public Radio and quoted in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. She said, “These women [the wives of powerful men] were lobbied by favor-seekers or just individuals. They would be the person who had the ear of the powerful man more than anyone else.”
READING IT RIGHT: James Parker is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. He was asked by The New York Times Book Review to reread Henderson the Rain King, which Saul Bellow wrote in 1958.
Parker wrote that the book “goes on and on and on, through wrestlings with lions, and wild sermons on reality versus unreality and Being versus Becoming. In my re-readings I tend to drift away around Page 200: Henderson is bound to his journey and he must complete it, but I don’t have to. I’ve already been propelled, sent out on my own little art of discovery. And if I’m doing it right, reading it right, I’ll go banging back into the world with fresh eyes.”
Francine Prose was asked the same question, and she said: “I've heard Henderson referred to as a comic novel, a favorite of Bellow's and of the committee that awarded him the Nobel Prize. But it seems to me that I have reached an age at which I can admit without embarrassment: Perhaps I'm the one who's missing something. I'm sorry. I don't get the joke.”
DEVILS OR ANGELS?: Paolo Bacigalupi, 42, is the author of The Water Knife, due out at the end of this month. The author writes science fiction, but Knife is a nonfiction book about competing organizations vying for control of the Southwest’s deleted water supplies.
He told PW: “When we’re vulnerable and our survival is in question, how do we become? It seems like survival pressure can create devils out of us, but it can also produce angels. I don’t know why we choose to reach out to help another person, or why we decide that we can’t and withdraw and try to care only for ourselves, but I’m fascinated by that choice.”
MONEY TALK: Adam Gopnik wrote in the May 4 New Yorker about Anthony Trollope and why he’s being read today.
Gopnik said, “three hours a day is all that’s needed to write successfully. Writing is turning time into language, and all good writers have an elaborate, fetishistic relationship to their working hours. Writers talking about time are like painters talking about unprimed canvas and pigments. (Nor is there anything philistine about writers talking money. Inside the ballroom at the PEN banquet, it’s all freedom and dignity; outside, it’s all advances).”
CHANDLER FAN: Philip Glass is a composer and the author of a memoir, Words Without Music. He was interviewed for Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. He said, “A writer I read with great pleasure was Raymond Chandler. I read all of his books including The Big Sleep, The Lady in the Lake. He could describe in three or four words how someone looked in a way you could never forget. He wasn’t so great with plot, but this guy could write.”
Asked to name his favorite book about music, Glass said it was “Memoirs of an Amnesiac by Oscar Levant. It’s a hilariously funny book.” The concert pianist died in 1972.