Ayad Akhtar to Lead PEN America, Daniel Mendelsohn on the Odyssey, and More

by Staff

Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—publishing reports, literary dispatches, academic announcements, and more—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today’s stories.

Novelist and Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Ayad Akhtar has been selected to serve as the next president of PEN America. Assuming the office on December 2, Akhtar will succeed Jennifer Egan, who has led the organization for the past two years. (New York Times)

A Q&A with Akhtar about his new novel, Homeland Elegies, appears in the September/October issue of Poets & Writers Magazine

“I was suffering from what the Greeks called aporia: a helpless, immobilized confusion, a lack of resources to find one’s way out of a problem.” Daniel Mendelsohn recalls a period of feeling “emptied, emotionally and creatively,” and finding repair through revisiting the Odyssey. (New York Review Daily)

Publishers Weekly checks in with booksellers across the country who celebrated Independent Bookstore Day on August 29. Previously scheduled for April 25, the annual national promotion was postponed due to the pandemic. 

“In fairy tales animals are always talking. Even when they are dead, they are talking.” Sabrina Orah Mark analyzes what talking animals reveal and conceal in fairy tales. (Paris Review Daily)

Elisabeth Egan profiles former first daughter, Today show cohost, and publishing insider Jenna Bush Hager for the New York Times. Hager’s first book for adult readers, an essay collection titled Everything Beautiful in Its Time, comes out today.

“In many ways I’m always writing about loneliness.” Douglas Stuart reflects on class and queerness in his new short story, “The Englishman.” (New Yorker)

Jenny Bhatt, the author of Each of Us Killers, recommends ten novels from India that center working lives. (Electric Literature) 

The Guardian highlights fiction and nonfiction to read before the end of the year