Hilton Als on Giovanni’s Room, Susan Choi on Drama Teachers, 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.

At T Magazine, Hilton Als considers James Baldwin’s investigation of race, queerness, and the responsibilities of love in Giovanni’s Room. “Baldwin wanted to find out what it was like to pass through society without your race being a story people made up about you, or assigned to you. What if you were free from all that, and the story you told was of yourself?”

“If I were to tell you what ‘really’ happened to those characters, I would have just written the book differently, no?” Susan Choi talks to David Levine about leaving the truth offstage, the dangerous charisma of drama teachers, and finding the right coda in her new novel, Trust Exercise. (BOMB)

In Hong Kong, marches for democracy and clashes with the police have been accompanied by another form of protest: poetry. “Some writers, they are emboldened to express their views through poetry at a time when we are collectively experiencing something,” explained professor and PEN Hong Kong president Tammy Lai-Ming Ho, who has co-organized eight poetry readings in August alone. (Globe and Mail)

“Because Marshall’s work represents a very high level of literary performance, it is not easily weaponized for social or political agendas.” Charles Johnson remembers the imaginative gifts of fiction author Paule Marshall, who died last month at the age of ninety. (Literary Hub)

Vulture surveys the “great” and the “big” books publishing this fall, including novels by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ben Lerner, Zadie Smith, and Jeanette Winterson.

“I wanted to ask these questions of who controls narratives in literature. What does that dynamic look like, when one person who is educated and privileged writes about another, who is not?” Tash Aw chats with Chia-Chia Lin about depicting immigration and violence in Malaysia in his latest novel, We, the Survivors.

Biographer and editor James Atlas has died. He was seventy years old. Atlas oversaw the Penguin Lives series, through which prominent authors wrote about historical figures. (Chicago Tribune)

And in Ontario, Canada, four school boards have revised the standard eleventh-grade English curriculum by replacing Shakespeare and other canonical classics with texts by Indigenous authors. (Star)