Jokha Alharthi Wins Man Booker International Prize, Franny Choi on Cyborg Poetics, 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.

“When I play with form, what I’m doing is saying that I’m a coauthor of this text along with the machine of poetry—the mechanics of the lyric—in order to produce this thing.” Franny Choi talks to the Paris Review about cyborg poetics, queer and femme superpowers, and engaging with history as a conversation in her latest poetry collection, Soft Science.

Jokha Alharthi has won the 2019 Man Booker International Prize for her novel Celestial Bodies, translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth. Jokha Alharthi is the first female Omani novelist to be translated into English and the first author from the Arabian Gulf to win the award, which divides a £50,000 prize (approximately $63,576) equally between author and translator.

With Brexit negotiations still ongoing, many celebrated authors, including John le Carré, Neil Gaiman, and Philip Pullman, have signed a letter urging voters to support the European Union in the European Parliament elections on Thursday. The letter notes that writers will be adversely affected by Brexit: Book exports account for 60 percent of U.K. publishing revenue, with 36 percent of physical book exports going to Europe. (Guardian)

Writer and gay rights activist Binyavanga Wainaina has died at age forty-eight. The Kenyan author, who won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002, was best known for his satiric essay “How to Write About Africa.” (BBC)

“It’s one thing to depict a very particular place vividly, but how do you capture the absence of particularity, the phenomenology of standardization?” Novelist Ben Lerner on his short story “Ross Perot and China,” published in this week’s issue of the New Yorker.

“Today, as a result of increased access, we are finally asking the most important question about audiobooks: What are you reading?” Author James Tate Hill on the rise of audiobooks and why it’s time to stop quibbling over whether an audiobook “counts” as reading. (Literary Hub)

The National Book Foundation’s initiative Book Rich Environments has returned. The program plans to provide one million free books this year to thirty-nine book deserts—places with little access to literary resources—in twenty-two states. (Publishers Weekly)

“The novel had been simmering for all the decades I’d spent wondering why a Black woman had never been the star of her own gothic romance.” Sara Collins has written that book herself: Her debut novel, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, came out yesterday from Harper. (Poets & Writers)