Elif Shafak on Diverse Reading Lists

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“If we only read the same type of authors all our lives it’s like you’re only hearing one thread, one voice.” In this video from the 2019 Louisiana Literature festival, Elif Shafak talks about reading the same books over and over again as a child, and why it’s more inspiring to read “from East and West, fiction and nonfiction.”

Roxane Gay Reads From Hunger

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“I’ve always found that the things I find the most intimidating end up being the most intellectually satisfying.” At the Louisiana Literature Festival in 2019, Roxane Gay speaks about what moved her to write Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (Harper, 2017), and begins her reading with a piece about loving Mister Rogers.

Ben Okri

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“In the silence of the house with the rain falling all around me—and the sound of African rain is very unique unto itself—I did two things: I picked up a piece of paper and I drew with great detail and care what was on the mantelpiece. And I finished that, and I took another piece of paper, and I wrote a poem about the rain.” Booker Prize–winning author Ben Okri talks about the life-changing moment when he began writing poetry in this interview from the 2019 Louisiana Literature Festival in Denmark.

Rachel Cusk on Her Writing Process

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“I got into the habit of writing very, very, very quickly,” says Rachel Cusk, author of the Outline trilogy and the essay collection, Coventry (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019), about taking long breaks from writing to live a normal life and the experience of being a mother to young children without the time to make notes. “I had to hold things and then find an opportunity to express them.”

Isabella Hammad

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“It’s really hard to inhabit the mind of another,” says Isabella Hammad, author of The Parisian (Grove Press, 2019), about the difficulties and joys of writing fiction in this Louisiana Channel interview. “You use your emotional experience, you use your literal experience, you use the experience of others you know to access imaginatively another subjectivity.”

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Mario Vargas Llosa

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“The only counsel that is acceptable is to work! To work very hard until you discover the kind of writer that you want to be.” Nobel Prize–winning Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa dispenses advice to young and emerging writers in this Louisiana Channel interview with Christian Lund at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark.

Ariana Reines

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“My heart had recently cracked // Open. Fear had departed me.” Ariana Reines reads “To the Reader” from her poetry collection, A Sand Book (Tin House Books, 2019), and talks about the origins of the book, her writing background, and the power of poetry to reach the deepest levels of human experience in this Louisiana Channel interview.

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Yoko Tawada

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“I believe literature should always start from zero. So, I write stories in both languages on purpose.” In this Louisiana Channel interview, Yoko Tawada speaks in German, English, and Japanese about thinking and writing in two different languages and about her novel Memoirs of a Polar Bear (New Directions, 2016), translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky.

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Sally Rooney

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“I’m very skeptical of the way in which books are marketed as commodities, almost like accessories which people can fill their homes with,” says Sally Rooney in this interview at the 2018 Louisiana Literature festival in Denmark. Rooney’s second novel, Normal People (Hogarth, 2019), was longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize and will be adapted into a television series.

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Blind Spot

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“As a photographer my looking really changed, it really did become sacred....” In this Louisiana Channel video, Teju Cole talks about and reads from his book of photography and text, Blind Spot (Random House, 2017), which was inspired by a short period of blindness in one eye that transformed his perspective on looking and attentiveness. The book is comprised of over a hundred fifty photographs interspersed with short lyrical prose pieces.

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