Pulitzer Prize–Winning Author Harper Lee Dies, Robots Learn Ethics Through Stories, 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:

Harper Lee, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird, has died at age eighty-nine in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Since its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird has sold over ten million copies worldwide, and has made Lee one of the biggest and most beloved names in American literature. Lee’s book Go Set a Watchman, a sequel to Mockingbird, was published last July. (New York Times)

“The circumstances of Delmore’s childhood and later life would be continually recalled in his writing, which is, in a sense, one vast mythification of himself and his family.” Poet John Ashbery provides the introduction to a forthcoming collection of Delmore Schwartz’s poetry, Once and for All: The Best of Delmore Schwartz, which will be published by New Directions in April. (New Yorker)

If you teach a robot to understand stories, perhaps the robot will learn not to become psychotic and the human race will not be doomed? Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Interactive Computing have created a prototype system called Quixote, which uses stories to teach human values and social conventions to new forms of artificial intelligence. In their paper on Quixote, researchers Mark Riedl and Brent Harrison state that “stories are necessarily reflections of the culture and society that they were produced in,” and that they “encode many types of sociocultural knowledge: commonly shared knowledge, social protocols, examples of proper and improper behavior, and strategies for coping with adversity.” (Guardian)

The literary archive of Mario Puzo, author of the novel and screen adaptations of The Godfather, was sold at auction last night in Boston for $625,000. The archive comprises fifty years of works, including “ten books, nine screenplays, and thousands of pages of drafts, notes, and versions of the manuscript of the novel that spawned the iconic movies.” (Boston Globe)

This year’s PEN World Voices Festival will focus on the culture and issues of Mexico. “It’s a country with a story in which the U.S. is the other protagonist,” said festival director Laszlo Jakab Orsos, “and we need to understand this narrative in its entirety.” The festival has announced the schedule for the 2016 program, which will be held from April 25 to May 1. (New York Times)

The theatrical adaptation of Roberto Bolaño’s nine-hundred-page novel 2666 premiered on February 6 at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. At the Chicago Review of Books, writer Adam Morgan offers his take on how the five-and-a-half-hour play compares to the book.

Facebook has announced plans to open its publishing platform Instant Articles to all publishers, which not only includes all professional media outlets, but also individual freelancers and amateur writers. Writers will be able to publish content directly to Instant Articles, and will receive roughly 70 percent of the revenue from advertisements sold within their stories. (BuzzFeed News)