Hey Friday, hey Asymptote! Hope the week was all you’d hoped. It certainly wasn’t the week that the editors at Best American Poetry had hoped, as the literary Internet exploded with the revelation that a white, male, middle-aged poet named Michael Derrick Hudson had been publishing pseudonymously under the Chinese name Yi-Fen Chou. And a poem published under this name in Prairie Schooner had been selected for inclusion in the 2015 Best American Poets anthology. Sherman Alexie, the edition’s editor, defended the bad case of literary yellowface, to the chagrin of practically everyone with an empathetical bone. And then the real Yi-Fen Chou spoke up. And Jenny Zhang wrote a very smart thing. Side note: in light of all this depressing racial appropriation, it might be fun to test out the Asian-American Writers’ Workshop’s handy White Pen Name Generator).
And it’s been an unhappy week elsewhere, too. In the Netherlands, Dutch bestselling writer and columnist Joost Zwangerman committed suicide on the eve of the release date for his latest book, The Silence of Light. And French novelist Michel Houllebecq surprises exactly no one by speculating on his Islamophobia (“Am I Islamophobic? Probably, yes”).
And this week in new releases and recommended reads: at the New York Times, Salman Rushdie is interviewed about his latest novel, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. Seems he’s returned to the fantastical after all these years. And the United States‘ resident genius, Toni Morrison, writes on one of Italy‘s greats on the eve of a Complete Works: on Primo Levi’s “defiant humanism.” And at Electric Literature, it’s worth thinking about how—if at all—a white writer can write truly “moral” fiction.
There’s lots of long-listing, short-listing, and prize-winning here at the blog, but not so much snark. This time, literature critic and Japanese translator of Oe and Mishima dishes on Japan’s Nobel laureates: the good, the bad, and the ugly (some Nobel laureates are more deserving than others).
Finally, some or no surprises: Norwegian news roundup mainstay Karl Ove Knaussgaard’s My Struggle will be adapted to the stage—yes, all 3,600 pages in under 200 minutes.