Early Joan Didion, One Hundred Books at the New York Times, 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.

“In Didion’s fiction, the standard narratives of women’s lives are mangled, altered, and rewritten all the time.” Hilton Als considers Joan Didion’s early novels and her queering of American womanhood. (New Yorker

The editors of the New York Times Book Review have selected one hundred notable books of 2019. The list features novels, story collections, essay collections, memoirs, poetry collections, and more. 

In more list news, Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, pulls back the curtain on the selection process for the Times’s ten best books of the year. She clarifies how the staff defines “best”: “We are trying to find books that we think are the best written, the best told, the best argued . . . styles that are either exemplars of their form or are groundbreaking in some way.”

Publishers Weekly features a new micropublisher, Tough Poets, a one-man operation run by Richard Schober out of his home in Arlington, Massachusetts. Founded in 2015, the press has reissued several notable out-of-print titles, and published fifteen books in total. 

Michael Friedrich revisits the work and legacy of Pedro Pietri, a poet, playwright, and performance artist, who used his art—for instance, “condom poems” that packaged verse with STI protection in tiny manila envelopes—to protect and advocate for his community during the AIDS crisis. (Paris Review Daily)

Book designer Nicole Caputo walks readers through her creative process, and explains how she developed a striking three-dimensional effect for the cover of Paulina Flores’s debut story collection, Humiliation. (Literary Hub)

The Guardian features Ann Patchett in the latest installment of Books That Made Me. She thinks J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy is underrated and picks Thornton Wilder’s Our Town as her “comfort read.” 

Robert Gipe talks to Guernica about using art to combat the opioid crisis in Appalachia