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by Evan Smith Rakoff
Dissident poet Li Bifeng was sentenced to twelve years in prison in China; News Corp, which owns HarperCollins, is in early discussions with CBS about acquiring Simon & Schuster; Brain Pickings features the routines of several successful writers, including Joan Didion, Haruki Murakami, and Ray Bradbury; and other news.
by William Giraldi
The Literary Life
by A. N. Devers
A group of writing instructors and students who over the years formed a ragtag band during late-night impromptu jam sessions at the Bennington Writing Seminars released their first CD earlier this year. Titled Let's Doghouse: A Tribute to Liam Rector, the compilation serves as a memorial to the founding director of the Writing Seminars, a poet, who passed away two years ago.
by Todd Boss
Against a backdrop of snowfall and accompanied by the jazz strains of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” a memorial service for the legendary W. W. Norton editor Carol Houck Smith, who died late last year at the age of eighty-five, was held recently at St. Peter’s Church in New York City.
This month, to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of Robert Pirsig's legendary cross-country motorcycle trip, Knopf is publishing Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Mark Richardson, a journalist who retraced Pirsig's route, interviewed the reclusive author, and discovered the lasting value of a literary classic.
by R. B. Stuart
On Wednesday, April 9, five months after his death at age eighty-four from acute renal failure, hoards of literary aficionados, friends, colleagues, and readers of Norman Mailer attended a memorial for the author at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Among the scheduled speakers were authors Don DeLillo, Joan Didion, and William Kennedy, actor Sean Penn, and members of Mailer’s family.
by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler
Celebrated short story writer and poet Grace Paley died of cancer last August at the age of eighty-four. A lifelong activist, pacifist, and an early figure in the women’s rights movement in the 1960s, Paley was one of those writers who managed to combine a public life of frequent readings and appearances in support of a range of causes with work lauded for its artistic integrity. We interviewed Paley a little more than a year before her death at her home in Thetford.
by Sally Dawidoff
Throughout his long career, Philip Levine has established a reputation for poems honoring the working class, beginning with the people he encountered as a young man laboring in the factories of Detroit. Though he has taught in writing programs nationwide since the 1950s, his poetry has maintained a stronger identification with the autoworker than the academic. Poets & Writers Magazine asked Levine, who turned eighty in January, how his writing is going these days.
by Jessica Allen
Last Thursday evening in Manhattan a hundred or so literary writers and readers gathered inside Cooper Union’s Great Hall, a magnificent venue that has been host to such historical events as Abraham Lincoln's rousing Cooper Union Address, in which he urged the nation to abolish slavery, in 1860. People rushed in from the cold, scanning the auditorium for empty seats. Heavy winter coats took on lives of their own, refusing to stay within the confines of the narrow wooden chairs. Our collective body heat seemed to rise in direct proportion to the noise.
by Nickole Brown
When I stepped off the plane in Aspen, Colorado, in June 1997, I found a 60-year-old Hunter S. Thompson waiting for me in a convertible Cadillac blasting Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" at full volume. I was terrified; he was giddy. He was playing the song because it was a part of the soundtrack put together for the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that was scheduled to hit theaters the following summer, and he could not have been happier.
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