The Faber & Faber Story, Center for Fiction First Novel Prize Longlist, 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.

“There’s a kind of poetic justice in the fact that it’s the work, in more than one sense, of T. S. Eliot that both helped establish the temper of the eccentric entity that is Faber & Faber and has kept it alive for close to a century.” Jonathan Galassi on the strange history of Faber & Faber and the publishing house’s legacy that was funded, in part, by the musical Cats. (New Yorker)

The Center for Fiction has announced its 2019 First Novel Prize longlist. The contenders for the best debut novel of the year include The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell, We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin, and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. The shortlist will be announced in September; the winner in December.

Read excerpts from the novels of four of the longlisted writers—Ruchika Tomar, Chia-Chia Lin, De’Shawn Charles Winslow, and Miciah Bay Gault—in “First Fiction 2019.” (Poets & Writers Magazine)

“I’ve seen many movements and I have never seen anything like this in my life.” Philadelphia poet laureate Raquel Salas Rivera talks about returning to Puerto Rico to join the protests demanding Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s resignation. Rosselló resigned last night. (World, New York Times)

At the Atlantic, John McWhorter examines the changing meaning of the term racist and its use in politics. “Racist is a word of our times, indicative that social history does include intellectual progress.”

In the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson’s publisher has announced that the new prime minister’s biography of William Shakespeare has been indefinitely shelved. Hodder & Stoughton had previously promised that Shakespeare: The Riddle of Genius would see Johnson grapple with the Bard in a way that “gets to grips with what is really going on, what the characters are up to, [and] what the point of it all is.” (Guardian)
“If people make eye contact with you after your reading, you did it right.” Novelist Halle Butler on testing a narrative voice on an audience, the social significance of clothing, and finding permission in Patricia Highsmith. (Creative Independent)

What if Keats’s fixation with death was informed by his “intimate experience digging in freshly rumpled graveyard soil?” The BBC considers the evidence that the poet was a graverobber.

Scientists have developed a machine learning tool that can translate ancient texts using less data than most machine translation techniques. Researchers hope the tool is a step toward the “automatic decipherment of lost languages.” (Open Culture)

“My father liked the invention, the classic falsification of fiction, composing characters knocked together from different aspects of real people; I liked to be as accurate or straightforward or truthful as possible.” Michael Hofmann talks to Adam Ehrlich Sachs about translating the novels of his father, Gert Hofmann, and finding his own form in poetry. (Los Angeles Review of Books)