Shakespeare’s Secret Son, Dirty Realism, 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:

“While we’re used to this simplicity and repetition having an enchantment, an incantatory power, of its own—that being the whole thrust, needless to say, of the revolution he kindled in American literature—these letters, with only the occasional, very brief exception, utterly lack that magic.” At the New Criterion, Bruce Bawer considers the disparity of writing quality and what is accomplished in Hemingway’s fiction contrasted with his personal correspondence.     

Today in Bard gossip, William Shakespeare may have had a secret son who later became the poet laureate of England. Biographer Simon Andrew Stirling claims that Shakespeare was the biological father of poet and playwright William Davenant, a theory he explores in his new book, Shakespeare’s Bastard: The Life of Sir William Davenant. (Los Angeles Times)

Censorship and restrictions continue for writers in China. Chinese writer Yang Jishen was awarded Harvard University’s Louis M. Lyong Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism for his 2008 book, Tombstone, which investigates the governmental policies under Mao Zedong during the 1958–1962 famine that led to the deaths of 36 million people. Though the author is scheduled to receive his award in early March, his former employer, the Xinhua News Agency, has forbidden him from traveling to the United States to accept the award. A report from the New York Times examines the reasons behind the travel restriction: “In Mr. Yang’s case, he may have fallen victim to new rules on what retired Communist Party cadres can say, and specifying that their public opinions must have ‘a high level of consistency with the Party Central under comrade General Secretary Xi Jinping.’”

James Bond star Daniel Craig has signed on to play a leading role in a new television adaptation of Jonathan Franzen’s 2015 novel, Purity. Franzen will cowrite the twenty-episode drama adaptation with Scott Field. (Bookseller)

In an interview at Guernica, essayist John D’Agata discusses The Making of the American Essay (A New History of the Essay)—the forthcoming, and last, volume in the series of essay anthologies he has edited ever the past fifteen years; as well as his definition of the essay and championing the essay as an art form. “I just want to call into question the dominance of content over form in the history of the essay. I want us to recognize that there’s art involved in making this stuff, because we still don’t approach the constructed nature of the essay with the same appreciation that we do poetry or fiction.”

Over at Electric Literature, a writer raises questions of why “socioeconomic class is a tougher sort of diversity to bring to writing,” and considers the history and future of “working-class literature,” beginning with the “dirty realism” literary movement that began in the mid-1970s.

Novelist and National Book Award finalist Angela Flournoy talks about her debut novel, The Turner House; personal ambition; and the burden of representation as a black woman writer. “I don’t want to write books that explain black people to non-black people. I want to write books that pick apart aspects of black life and talk about it. And that’s it.” Flournoy was a faculty member at the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction Writers, whose annual retreat is featured in the March/April issue of Poets & Writers. (Rumpus)

The Academy of American Poets features a tribute to the late poet C. D. Wright, who was serving on the organization’s board of directors at the time of her death last month.