Rediscovered John Steinbeck Story, Writing Groups Versus the MFA, 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.

“Mine is a completely naïve eye on Paris—but it is an eye of delight,” wrote John Steinbeck about the stories he submitted to the French magazine Le Figaro. A new English-language publication of one of those stories proves the Nobel laureate was true to his word: “The Amiable Fleas” replaces Steinbeck’s trademark gravitas with charm, with a tale about a nervous Parisian chef and an imperious cat named Apollo. (New York Times)

The Paris Review has announced that Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Vijay Seshadri will serve as its twelfth poetry editor. (Poets & Writers)

“There are many writers who don’t work in academia or qualify as ‘professional writers’ by typical standards.” At Electric Literature, Elisa Gabbert responds to the idea that “amateur writers are the enemy of MFAs.”

Today marks the two-hundredth birthday of Herman Melville. Philip Hoare offers six reasons why now is the time to conquer Moby-Dick, that “Mount Everest of literature.”

At the Millions, novelist Maylis de Kerangal talks about using the professional lexicon of the kitchen in her latest book, The Cook, and how “utilitarian” words allow a writer to conjure detail. “I like their poetic beauty, I like to make their strangeness hearable, and I like their precision, which is always political and goes against standardization.”

Designer Oliver Munday shares the challenges of reimagining the book jacket for Fleur Jaeggy’s 1989 novel, Sweet Days of Discipline. “I could nearly hear the request whispered over my shoulder: We want that Big Book look.” (Literary Hub)

“What if the literary conversation was two writers talking about what children can take away and give to your writing career?” Taffy Brodesser-Akner talks to the Rumpus about bidding farewell to the picture of the “clean, orderly” writer’s life. (Rumpus)

And at the Paris Review, Jamie Allen explains that the 2019 Central Park Squirrel Census is really an “endeavor in the humanities.” Compiled by a six-person team and 323 volunteer squirrel sighters, the report charts the habits of park squirrels, including eastern grays whose behavior ranges from “seems to enjoy classical music” to “extremely scampery.”