Denis Johnson Has Died, Booksellers Recommend Summer Reading, and More


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

Writer Denis Johnson died on Wednesday at the age of sixty-seven. A poet, playwright, and fiction writer, Johnson was perhaps most well known for his 1992 story collection about addiction, Jesus’ Son, and his 2007 Vietnam War novel, Tree of Smoke. “Denis was one the great writers of his generation,” said Jonathan Galassi, his publisher. “He wrote prose with the imaginative concentration and empathy of the poet he was.” (Washington Post)

“We go to Jesus’ Son precisely because in its most sublime moments it reveals to us a condition both lesser and greater than human.” Read William Giraldi’s essay “The Art of Reading Denis Johnson: The Enduring Appeal of Jesus’ Son,” published in the November/December 2013 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

The winners of the 2017 O. Henry Prizes, given annually for the twenty best short stories published in journals during the previous year, have been announced. Edited by Laura Furman, an anthology of the winning stories will be released in September by Anchor Books. (Literary Hub)

Actor Jon Hamm will record the recently discovered Walt Whitman novel, Life and Adventures of Jack Engle, for an audiobook edition to be released by Random House on May 30. Zachary Turpin, a graduate student, found the novel earlier this year in a newspaper published in 1852 under one of Whitman’s pseudonyms. (Washington Post)

The New York Times asked six novelists who own bookstores—Emma Straub, Judy Blume, Ann Patchett, Louise Erdrich, Jonathan Lethem, and Jeff Kinney—to recommend books to read this summer.

Books published by Amazon imprints are faring better on Amazon Charts, its best-seller lists that launched last week, than on more longstanding best-seller lists such as those run by the New York Times and Publishers Weekly. Publishers Weekly partially attributes the discrepancy to Amazon Charts tracking sales across all its platforms, which are not tracked by other lists.

Colossal showcases the work of psychotherapist and artist Johan Deckmann, who creates fictional self-help books with clever titles, such as How not to get too close to me, and How to achieve a whole lotta nothing by making a whole lotta effort.

Laura Miller considers the growing number of literary novelists trying their hand at science fiction, such as Emily St. John Mandel and Lidia Yuknavitch, and whether they’ve been successful in bringing to science fiction that “specialty of literary novelists: the fullest appreciation of humanity in its infinite variety and intricacy.” (Slate)