Debating the Value of Blurbs, Isabel Allende on Activism, and More


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. 

“I don’t have advice for other people but I can say what works for me and for the best old people I know: purpose. Age isolates us. We have to fight that. Be engaged in the world, your community and family. Have purpose.” Isabel Allende speaks with Rigoberto González about activism and her latest memoir, The Soul of a Woman. (Los Angeles Times)

Is it time to get rid of book blurbs? Cody Delistraty asks authors, publishers, booksellers, agents, and publicists to weigh in. (Wall Street Journal Magazine)

The shortlists for the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, and the Mark Lynton History Prize have been announced. Administered by Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, the annual awards honor nonfiction writing and confer a cash prize of $10,000 or $25,000. The winners will be announced on March 24.

“No one in American letters ever pushed back against power over such a long time as Ferlinghetti. He fought power as a poet, as a bookseller, and as a publisher.” John Freeman remembers Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who died on Monday at the age of 101. (Paris Review Daily)

Read Ferlinghetti’s interview with Poets & Writers Magazine from 2007.

Elizabeth A. Harris considers how the proposed merger between Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster could affect the book business, including the size of author deals, the order books are published at printing plants, and the way indie bookstores are run. (New York Times)

Paul McCartney will publish a 960-page memoir-in-songs edited by poet Paul Muldoon. Due out in November from Liveright, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, will include the legendary musician’s commentary on his songs and life, as well as ephemera such as letters and photographs. (Rolling Stone)

The Biographers International Organization (BIO) has announced the longlist for its ninth annual Plutarch Award, which honors a work of biography published during the previous year. The winner of the $1,000 prize will be announced on May 16 during the BIO Conference, which will be hosted virtually.

“Oh, friends—I most love who you become when there are cards in your hands. How limitless our love for one another can be with our guards down.” Essayist and poet Hanif Abdurraqib on the intimacy and community found in playing spades. (New York Times Magazine)