Round-Down: The Hogarth Series Will Reinvent Shakespeare’s Works As Novels


Jeanette Winterson’s novel The Gap of Time, released only one week ago, is the first book launched of a larger series, called The Hogarth Shakespeare. The series, from the revered Vintage Books, plans to do the very exciting and almost unthinkable: reimagine Shakespeare’s classic plays as novels penned by some of today’s finest modern writers. The Hogarth Shakespeare series’s press release speaks to the larger mission of the project, noting that “these new versions will be true to the spirit of the original dramas and their popular appeal, while giving authors an exciting opportunity to reinvent these seminal works of English literature.” Winterson’s The Gap of Time takes its cue from Shakespeare’s beloved and strange The Winter’s Tale.

Other writers contracted to contribute books to the series include Pulitzer-Prize–winner Anne Tyler, who will adapt The Taming of the Shrew, and Margaret Atwood, who will adapt The Tempest. View a full list of the forthcoming titles here.

The project will explore and reveal the universality of Shakespeare’s enduring and compelling works–less “updates” to the originals than reinventions of the classics. What I am most looking forward to seeing is how his characters breathe on the page anew: in different bodies, with different blood, in different times, but navigating much the same emotional and thematic terrain as in their origin stories.

The novels also have the fascinating potential of showing us the implicated offstage action and interiority of these people and their conflicts. There is, in some sense, no way to exit. The stories will of course look and feel valuably different–and Winterson’s The Gap of Time is historic, a nod to the four-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, with which this series smartly coincides.

Winterson discussed Shakespeare’s enduring legacy in an article published on Vintage’s website, in anticipation of the book’s release, writing that “When people now say Shakespeare’s difficult, we shouldn’t read Shakespeare, it’s crazy, because all you need to do is immerse yourself in those plays and a whole new world begins to open up for you. It’s never a waste of time.”

Now it seems there is another way to read Shakespeare, to enjoy his legacy as it moves into a larger legacy of great writers and great writing being made today. To purchase your copy of The Gap in Time, click here.

Literary Enemies: Gabriel García Márquez vs. Alejandro Zambra

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Literary Enemies: Gabriel García Márquez vs. Alejandro Zambra

Disclaimer: García Márquez has no enemies but the F.B.I.

A few weeks ago I went to a panel at the National Book Festival that featured Alejandro Zambra, a Chilean writer I like a lot.[1] (Yes, I started reading him because of the James Wood piece about him in The New Yorker; yes, I recommend that you do the same.) The panel had initially been conceived as a tribute to Juan Rulfo, whose novel Pedro Páramo turns sixty this year, but the Rulfo family did not comply in some way that was left vague but definitely involved money, and so instead the panel was about Time.

No one knew what to make of this, including the authors. They made a lot of comments about Rulfo anyway, and talked about history and archives and such. They did the best they could. I spent most of the time trying to make eye contact with Zambra in order to tell him telepathically that his newly translated book, My Documents, is one of the best story collections I’ve read all year, but I don’t think he got the message. He was too busy fending off questions about Gabriel García Márquez.

To be clear, this panel had nothing to do with García Márquez. None of the authors mentioned García Márquez. But somehow, when the audience questions began, there he was, hovering over us like the ghost of Melquíades. Which was fine, I guess, until somebody stood up and asked the four Latin American writers on stage,

“Do you think creativity is just gone from Latin American writing entirely now that García Márquez is dead? I mean, do you think anyone will ever have an original idea again? And if not, why don’t you guys just collaborate?”

I wish I were making this up, and I wish I could tell you that the writers had not responded to this question with perfect courtesy, as if it were a reasonable thing to ask. I hope they laughed about it later. I hope they were surprised by the question, but I highly doubt it. I wasn’t. I have long thought that English-language reading of Latin American fiction suffers from a severe case of García Márquez Disease, and this was more proof.Continue Reading

“Another Way to Honor the Book”: An Interview with Odette Drapeau

33-Lettres à un jeune poète

Bookbinder Odette Drapeau has been internationally honored for her modern and dynamic approach to what is often considered a traditional craft. To Drapeau, the book is both “a visual and tactile object where the container and content can connect to generate other visions.” While continually experimenting with new concepts that transform her practice, Drapeau also remains committed to what she calls the true nature of the book—being easy to use and inviting to read. Her professional career spans more than 40 years, from her early studies under book-gilding specialists in Paris and Montreal, to her most recent solo exhibitions at the Lower Saint Lawrence Museum in Québec and Historical Library of the City of Paris. Drapeau is a native of Montreal, where she lives and works.

Lara Palmquist: I first encountered your art through this year’s Nobel Museum Book Binding Exhibition, where your bindings of books by recent laureates Mo Yan and Alice Munro are currently on display. Can you talk about your process and goals in creating these two works?

Odette Drapeau: The Swedish Bookbinders Guild celebrated Nobel Prize-winners Alice Munro (2013) and Mo Yan (2012) at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm by inviting bookbinders from China, Canada, and Sweden to participate with titles from these two remarkable authors.

I felt at home with Alice Munro’s great sensitivity and intense femininity. Creating a “back to back” binding of Runaway allowed me to join the English version to the French translation, choosing white leather for the French and pink for the English. I wanted to unify those books while making them distinctive. Mo Yan’s writing also captivated me—reading his work was a pleasant discovery. Because the meaning of color is very important in China, I chose red and orange to bind a French translation of his two stories “Le veau” (The Calf) and “Le Coureur de Fond” (The Distance Runner); those colors bring luck and happiness.

LP: As a bookbinder dedicated to continually pushing the boundaries of your artistic practice, you have engaged with several unusual materials, including marine leather. What first inspired your interest in fish, ray, and eel skin, and how do these materials continue to inform your work?

OD: I have been dedicated to marine leather for more than thirty years. My discovery of fish leathers— tanned in Gaspésie, Québec—emerged as a lever to unlock change. Suddenly, I had a new medium to work with, a flexible and durable material offering rich natural colors, inviting textures, and varied shades. These new elements enabled me to begin creating original bindings in arrangements comparable to pictorial works without sacrificing the 3D structural contribution of the classic binding.Continue Reading

The Best Short Story I Read in a Lit Mag This Week: “Away” by Karin Lin-Greenberg


Yuval Noah Harari argues in his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind that much of humankind’s success as a species is owed to its ability to create fictions. Harari focuses primarily on large-scale, societal fictions, say the nation or the corporation. In “Away” (Green Mountains Review), Karin Lin-Greenberg explores our smaller, more personal fictions, and the various ways we use them to aid us in our day-to-day lives.

Lin-Greenberg begins the story by immediately asking us to question how close to reality this particular story will be.

“When the inflatable bouncy castle I’m jumping in with a handful of five-year-olds is lifted off the ground by a gust of wind, I think of my cousin Garnet and her story of being snatched by a hawk.”

Viral video hoaxes aside, kids aren’t snatched up by hawks, and it would take more than a gust of wind to pick up a bouncy castle filled with five-year-olds (and the narrator, who we find is eighteen). So are we in the realm of magical realism? The narrator quickly answers that by flashing back to her cousin Garnet’s story—about a hawk snatching her and flying her away when she was three—as told to the narrator and a group of other kids at summer camp.

“Here’s a scar from the talons,” she said, pointing to her shoulder, and the Arrowhead boys leaned in close to look, and I shook my head because the scar was not from talons but from her cat, Marie Curie, that she tried to dress up as Martha Washington to make a video for some homeschool history project… I waited for the other kids to laugh at her story, but no one did, and Victor, one of Arrowheads, said, “So cool. We should call you Garnet Hawk,” and then everyone called her that for the rest of the summer, in an impressed way as if she was someone really special.”

Continue Reading

Do-Overs: The Bad Guy Has a Moment


Complicated bad guys are nothing new. There’s something delicious about complex entertainment; we’re able to envision ourselves in the shoes of the antihero and exact revenge or serve righteous justice, but we’re also able to vicariously live through their actions that lie outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior. When it comes to our villains, we like them to act out, but we also like to see them struggle.

The term antihero can be traced to the 18th century, but the idea is an older one, and a sister to the idea of an antagonist. While heroes embody traits society wants to laud, the antihero is much more an everyman struggling with a world he does not control. Antiheroes reflect and shamelessly celebrate our baser qualities; while we can’t always imagine ourselves going to the same limits, their behavior is always rooted in a familiar reality.

The good baddies are certainly still having their moment on TV. Looking for an antihero to love? Try Al Swearengen (Deadwood), Tony Soprano (The Sopranos), Don Draper (Mad Men), Walter White (Breaking Bad), Dexter Morgan (Dexter), Hannah Horvath (Girls), Nucky Thompson (Boardwalk Empire), Hank Moody (Californification), Dr. Gregory House (House), Jax Teller (Sons of Anarchy), Boyd Crowder (Justified), Ben Linus (Lost), or Mr. Burns (The Simpsons).Continue Reading

An Interview with Jennine Capo Crucet

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I first met Jennine on the dance floor in a barn on a summer night at Breadloaf. Or at least I like to remember it that way. She’s an electric person, both in the flesh and on the page. She says the unexpected, and also the uncomfortable and necessary. She’s equal parts funny and fearless, irreverent and brilliant. Our interview, below:

MMB: I think of you as a writer who addresses the specific impact a place has on the human experience and shaping of self, but in a way that feels fresh and contemporary. In your first collection, How to Leave Hialeah, Charles Baxter praised you for writing a book that starts “with Cuban American neighborhoods and cultures and then sails off into the direction of the great themes: love, familial bonds, aging, and death. And resurrection.”

Your latest novel, Make Your Home Among Strangers, concerns the daughter of two Cuban immigrants, and one who chooses to leave Miami for a more privileged college environment. What do you make of the current dialogue in America on immigration, and how does this fuel your current work, if at all?

JCC: My family bought into the American Dream rhetoric in a pretty hardcore way. ​I was raised to think of this country as the best one on the planet specifically because it welcomed my family and gave them opportunities for a better life. I mean, my parents named me Jennine after the Miss America runner up the year I was born (though spelled differently, I think)—so it goes that deep for them. As I got older, naturally my own ideas about this country grew more complicated, particularly around the issues of immigration. I think what’s most disappointing for me about our current dialogue is how quickly the conversation dehumanizes the people these policies impact. And I thought about that a lot while writing Make Your Home Among Strangers: I wanted the book show how a larger national conversation impacts one person&mdashhow these policies eventually come to shape who we are and how we move through our communities. And what I thought about the most as I wrote certain scenes—namely the ones about the fictionalized version of Elian Gonzalez—was how little things have changed in the last fifteen years, how we’re still using the same broken system, how very disappointing that is.Continue Reading

Reading as Intoxicant, Part II: Ten Books That Are Basically Drugs


Don’t do drugs, kids; read books instead. More often than not, they inspire the same chemical rush with less brain trauma.

Herein is a list of ten books with intoxicating, stimulatory, or hallucinatory qualities for the literarily psychotropically-inclined. Though no doubt many deserving books would be right at home on this list, these are just a few of my personal favorites.

Note: I’ve never actually done any of the drugs listed in ‘Closest Chemical Equivalent’ but I did perform copious amounts of Wikipedia research. Still. I’m guessing. Please don’t tell me if I’m wrong. Just know you are right and I tentatively applaud your chemical expertise.

1. Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini






Closest Chemical Equivalent: Mushrooms.Continue Reading

Round-Down: On the Necessity of Banned Book Week

2711081060_ba91f69796Just in time for Banned Books Week, the first book to be banned in New Zealand in twenty years is available in the United States.

The young adult novel, Into the River by Ted Dawe, which ironically won the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award, was banned last month from being distributed in bookstores and libraries across the country. Upon hearing this news, Jason Pinter, founder of the US-based Polis Books, decided to publish the title in the States. He told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report that “any time a book is banned, all it serves to do is get the book more readers.”

I wonder though if that is true. Most banned books are books that are award winners in their own right. For example, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, among other prestigious awards, the year it was published, yet continues to face bans in school districts to this day. Is the reverse perhaps possible—that the more attention a controversial book receives from awards, the more likely it is to come to the attention of those who would ban it?

Regardless, the most interesting debate to come out of this past week has to be the question of whether banned books exist in the U.S. Originally put forth by Slate writer Ruth Graham, the idea that the banned book movement is all but dead is one that librarian Scott Dimarco does not share.

In an opinion piece originally published in The Conversation and since picked up by news outlets such as The Huffington Post and Time, Dimarco shares his concern that most Americans do not tend to pay much attention to banned book week (a point evinced by Graham’s piece, which is entitled, “Banned Book Week Is A Crock”). Dimarco admits that he went as far as to ban a book from his library in order to provoke a response from the community. The response had more bark than bite, with many taking to social media and in person protests of the ban–and almost no one actually taking measures that the library has in place in order to reverse or contest the ban.  This suggests that the issue is this: most people take freedoms of speech for granted and are less interested in celebrating the legacy of fighting for protections of these civil liberties than they are in voicing outrage over any contemporary restrictions to these same liberties.

Is it just that as Americans, we’re complacent about our history? Before we knock Banned Books Week for being tired or revel too comfortably in the notion that we no longer need it, we only have to look down under to see that intolerance tends to rear its head again once we as a culture become too complacent in remembering and celebrating and defending how far we’ve come—and how far we still have to go to continue to improve our social justices.

“Sometimes she is a space” : Janice Lee’s Reconsolidation: Or, It’s the ghosts who will answer you

Janice-Lee_Reconsolidation-Or-its-the-ghosts-you-will-answer-you_001Taking up the mantel of memory and elegy is no easy task, but Janice Lee’s new book Reconsolidation: Or, it’s the ghosts who will answer you embraces the ghosts. The text is not so much a reflection on writing, loss, memory, and death, but a twisted projection of those topics. The medium is under as much consideration as the memory. By keenly understanding limits of language, Lee creates “a site of conjuration.” And so Reconsolidation doubles down on space and time.

As readers, we ride through a long period of mourning activated by the death of Lee’s mother in a single night; and, yet, the book’s brevity at seventy some pages and a multiplicity of empty space makes time spent reading feel like “the speed / of a blinking eye.” These physics are constantly under interrogation:

“I feel sometimes that time is moving in the wrong
direction…How does
the past persist in the present and swallow the

Because, besides the neuroscience of memory Lee presents in the text itself, time operates swiftly, consolidating and reconsolidating the evidence of experience, memory, and outer sources to create a shifting arrangement. The effect is dizzying. It’s no wonder that Lee has written elsewhere about László Krasznahorkai’s winding sentences and the long takes of Béla Tarr’s filmic adaptations: she’s treading similar ground in creating a book that only takes an afternoon to read, and, at the same time, involves a process of memory that feels eternal, where “it would / only take a few minutes, they said. But it felt like / an eternity.”Continue Reading

Indie Spotlight: Autumn House Press

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Autumn House Press was formed in Pittsburgh by poet Michael Simms in 1998, just as commercial and scholarly presses were responding to economic woes by slashing budgets and shrinking lists, abandoning established poets along the way. Autumn House made a name for itself by publishing an impressive roster of notable poets, including Gerald Stern, Ada Limon, Ellery Akers, Chana Bloch, Richard Jackson, Ed Ochester, Frank Gaspar, and Andrea Hollander. In 2008, the press expanded into fiction and in 2010 began publishing nonfiction; the press also is known for its influential contemporary anthologies.

In June 2015 after several years of training his replacements, Simms turned over the running of Autumn House to Christine Stroud, who selects, edits, and promotes new releases, and Alison Taverna, who manages business affairs. Simms continues as president of Autumn House, but his role is primarily that of mentor and advisor to the staff.

Autumn House’s most recent books include Twin of Blackness by Clifford Thompson, a terrific memoir in which the author, born in 1963, recounts his upbringing in a lower-middle-class black Washington D.C. neighborhood alongside his “twin”: “I feel toward blackness the way one might toward a twin. I love it, and in a pinch I defend it; I resent the baggage that comes with it; I have been made to feel afraid of not measuring up to it; I am identified with it whether I want to be or not—and never more than when I assert an identity independent of it.”

Other new titles are Our Portion: New and Selected Poems by Philip Terman, recently excerpted on Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor, and So Many Africas: Six Years in a Zambian Village, Jill Kandel’s quiet and candid memoir of moving to a remote part of Zambia as a newlywed in the early 1980s.

Autumn House primarily accepts book-length poetry, fiction, and nonfiction submissions through its three annual contests, which award publication and a $2,500 prize in each genre. Through its online imprint, Coal Hill Review, Autumn House also sponsors a yearly chapbook contest in poetry whose deadline of November 1 is quickly approaching.

For the Ploughshares blog, Autumn House founder Michael Simms shares more about Autumn House’s history, aesthetic, and outlook, and he discusses Vox Populi, his new publishing venture.

Kate Flaherty: Autumn House initially published only poetry. What prompted the addition of fiction and nonfiction? How has the press evolved as you’ve expanded?

Michael Simms: Our fiction and nonfiction initiatives came about as a result of natural growth in our community. My former colleague Sharon Dilworth, who had been the fiction editor at Carnegie Mellon University Press for ten years, put forward some interesting ideas about book projects she wanted to work on and she brought considerable talent and a wide network of authors, including Stewart O’Nan and Kathleen George. Later, Phillip Lopate encouraged us to start a nonfiction line, and he agreed to judge our nonfiction contest for the first couple of years.Continue Reading