Denis Johnson Posthumously Awarded Library of Congress Prize, Bertelsmann Tightens Hold on Penguin Random House, 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:

The late Denis Johnson has been posthumously awarded the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. “Denis Johnson was a writer for our times,” says Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “In prose that fused grace with grit, he spun tale after tale about our walking wounded, the demons that haunt, the salvation we seek. We emerge from his imagined world with profound empathy, a different perspective—a little changed.” (Washington Post)

Bertelsmann has solidified its hold on Penguin Random House by buying an additional 22 percent stake in the publisher, bringing their total holdings to 75 percent. The German media company bought the share from Pearson for $780 million. (Wall Street Journal)

The Huntington Library in Pasadena, California, has opened an exhibit on the writer Octavia Butler. The exhibit features manuscripts, letters, and reminders Butler wrote to herself, including one note that read: “Tell stories Filled with Facts. Make People Touch and Taste and KNOW. Make People FEEL! FEEL! Feel!” (NPR)

Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer Kenneth Silverman died in New York City on Friday at the age of eighty-one. Silverman wrote biographies of Edgar Allan Poe, Harry Houdini, John Cage, and most notably the Puritan preacher Cotton Mather. (New York Times)

“One of the great pleasures of reading poetry is to feel words mean what they usually do in everyday life, and also start to move into a more charged, activated realm. In poetry our familiar language can start to feel resonant with significance, more alive, even noble.” Matthew Zapruder writes about how reading words literally is the first step to enjoying poetry. (New York Times)

Bret Anthony Johnston has been named the new director of the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas in Austin. Johnston succeeds longtime director James Magnuson. (Michener Center)

“Writing about near-deaths means trying to penetrate that space where death could be imminent but living still remains a possibility.” The New Yorker excerpts a portion of Edwidge Danticat’s book The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story, published today by Graywolf Press.

“This new writing was tutoring me in a salubrious humility that academe—a cult of performed mastery and omniscience—seemed designed to stamp out.” Andrew Kay shares his experience learning to write essays and stories for a broader audience after leaving academia. (Chronicle of Higher Education)