Librarians of Timbuktu vs. Al-Qaida, the Lyric Essay’s Fictions, 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:

“My life and my poems try to investigate that intersection of what it means to be an American body born out of violence, making sense out of violence.” At NPR’s All Things Considered, 2016 Whiting Award–winning poet Ocean Vuong discusses his Vietnamese background, learning English at age eleven, and his debut collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds

Poet and Los Angeles Times critic-at-large Rigoberto González expresses concern for the marginalization of Latino poets during National Poetry Month, and calls for an urgent corrective shift in the academic and publishing landscape.

In addition to the award money and acclaim, winning a Pulitzer Prize can also lead to a dramatic increase in book sales. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel, The Sympathizer, was ranked 27,587 overall on Amazon when it was first announced as the Pulitzer winner last Monday. By Tuesday morning, it had reached the eighty-eighth spot. (Time)

“To read D’Agata’s anthologies straight through is above all to be struck by the richness and intensity of each narrator’s inner world, even when those narrators are ostensibly reporting on something outside themselves. D’Agata celebrates this aspect of the essay, yet also sounds as if he mistrusts it—or, more precisely, mistrusts the feeling of companionship with the essayist that readers so often claim.” At Harper’s, Elaine Blair considers how John D’Agata approaches the essayist’s responsibility to fact throughout his three-part series of essay anthologies.

In an effort to protect priceless manuscripts from an al-Qaida invasion, a group of librarians in Timbuktu secretly smuggled more than 300,000 texts out of the city, many of which dated to the Middle Ages. The group is the subject of Joshua Hammer’s new book, The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu. (NPR)

Twenty years after Oprah launched her book club, a new generation of celebrities— including Reese Witherspoon, Lena Dunham, and Emma Watson—are sharing their book recommendations on Instagram and other social media platforms, helping to boost readership in the United States and create best-sellers. (USA Today)

“There is nothing worse for historical fiction than trying to do Google searches.” Fiction writer Alexander Chee discusses an important discovery that he made while researching his best-selling historical novel, The Queen of the Night. (JSTOR Daily)