Jesmyn Ward Interviews Ta-Nehisi Coates, Franz Kafka’s Archive Comes Out of the Vault, 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.

“So I feel like there are a lot of us right now, and not even just novelists, who are involved in this project of retelling American history and American myth. It’s actually, I think, one of the most optimistic and powerful things happening right now.” Ta-Nehisi Coates talks to Jesmyn Ward about the relationship between legends and reality, writing female characters, and his debut novel, The Water Dancer. (Vanity Fair)

After more than a decade of courtroom wrangling worthy of one of the author’s own novels, Franz Kafka’s vast trove of original texts and manuscripts has been delivered from a Swiss bank vault to the National Library of Israel. (New York Times)

“Could we look to poetry, of all places, to lead the way toward more diverse representation?” Timothy Yu responds to Bob Hicok’s essay “The Promise of American Poetry” and the notion of a “disappearing” white poet. (New Republic)

“Toni Morrison taught me how to do the right thing more often than I’d done it before, and she often led me toward what the right thing might be.” At the Cut, John Hoppenthaler remembers his years as the author’s personal assistant, while at the New Yorker, Troy Patterson recounts a sophomore Princeton seminar taught by Morrison in 1993: “We were investigating the national literature of a country where race is constructed as part of a narrative strategy manipulated by those in power. There was a casual graciousness to the way that she, leading the discussions, invited us to traverse terrain that she had already explored.” At the New York Times, Wesley Morris recalls the “group therapy” of reading Morrison’s work. “My aunts, my mother, and her friends would tackle Beloved in sections then get on the phone to run things by one another.” And at the Guardian, Chigozie Obioma writes, “With the death of Morrison, many writers today feel like we have lost our literary mother.”

The sale of Barnes & Noble is complete: the bookseller is now a private company controlled by private equity firm Elliott Advisors. James Daunt will join Barnes & Noble as its new CEO while continuing to head the U.K. bookstore chain Waterstones, which Elliott Advisors also owns. (Publishers Weekly)

The online magazine Pacific Standard has announced that it is shutting down after a decade of covering public policy and social and environmental justice. The decision follows the withdrawal of funding by the Social Justice Foundation, the magazine’s main financial backer. (Los Angeles Times)

“I have a nine-year-old and a thirteen-year-old and they don’t really want to talk about John Ashbery.” Poet and critic Stephanie Burt on fandom, favorite poems, and making poetry as easy to access as the latest Halsey single. (Los Angeles Review of Books)

And at the New Yorker, James Shapiro shares an unexpected correspondence with the late John Paul Stevens, Supreme Court justice and Shakespeare skeptic. “Stevens was keen on exploring weaknesses in the case for Shakespeare, and I was curious about what led so wise a jurist to embrace a conspiracy theory.”