The Industry Closes Out Another Pandemic Year, Parul Sehgal Challenges the Trauma Plot, and More

by Staff

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.

“With the hope that the negative effects of COVID-19 would ease in 2021, most industry members expected that the business would settle into something of a new normal last year. But that was not to be the case. The biggest story of 2021 was the ongoing impact the pandemic had on the industry.” Jim Milliot and Ed Nawotka take stock of the book industry at the end of the second pandemic year. (Publishers Weekly)

“The trauma plot flattens, distorts, reduces character to symptom, and, in turn, instructs and insists upon its moral authority. The solace of its simplicity comes at no little cost.” Parul Sehgal observes and critiques how trauma is often treated as a “totalizing identity” in contemporary stories. She seeks out storytellers that instead “rebel against the constriction of the trauma plot with skepticism, comedy, critique, fantasy, and a prickly awareness of the genre and audience expectations.” (New Yorker)

Keri Hulme, who won the Booker Prize for her first novel, The Bone People, died last week at age seventy-four. Her Māori heritage informed and shone through in her work. Her nephew Matthew Salmons reflected, “She gave us as a family the greatest gift of all, which would be reconnecting us with our Whakapapa Māori and reigniting that passion for our history.” (Guardian)

Friends of the bell hooks share memories of the late writer and scholar. “I want people to remember that she loved regular people,” says Linda Strong-Leek. hooks died on December 15 at age sixty-nine. (NPR)

LibroMobile Arts Cooperative has moved to a new location in Santa Ana, California. Owner Sarah Rafael Garcia expressed excitement about the possibilities of the larger space, “Our community deserves to have a nice bookstore that looks like them, sounds like them and feels like them.” (Los Angeles Times)

“This work has allowed me to document what’s on people’s minds during a particular segment of time.” Uli Beutter Cohen offers a window into her Sunday routine, which includes seeking out New York readers to feature on her popular platform, Subway Book Review. (New York Times)

Consulting articles from thirty-three media outlets, Emily Temple of Literary Hub has tabulated which books appeared on the most best-of-year lists. Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain and Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This top the charts, having each appeared on nineteen lists.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has shared the results from its public survey to determine the best book of the past 125 years. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird received the most votes.