The Jane Austen Manifesto, Philip Larkin Letter Found, 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:

In a recent study, novelist Nicola Griffith analyzed the winners of six major literary awards since the year 2000, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and found that most books featuring female protagonists did not win the prizes. Of the results, Griffith said, “Either this means that women writers are self-censoring, or those who judge literary worthiness find women frightening, distasteful, or boring. Certainly the results argue for women’s perspectives being considered uninteresting or unworthy.” (Time)

David Olio, an award-winning high school English teacher in Connecticut, was fired for reciting Allen Ginsberg’s 1968 poem “Please Master.” His termination letter stated that reading the poem, which describes a homosexual encounter, “undermined public confidence and parent trust in [Olio] as a teacher, and…put the emotional health of some students at risk.” (Daily Beast)

Would the world be a more peaceful place if everyone wrote like Jane Austen? Ian Flitcroft thinks so. “Imagine if every Internet troll showed their distaste for their fellow humans with a graceful turn of phrase rather than insults.” Read Flitcroft’s “Jane Austen Manifesto” at New Statesman.

The International Antiquarian Book Fair took place in London last week. The fair featured original correspondence from distinguished British authors including Anthony Trollope, Arthur Conan Doyle, and D. H. Lawrence. (Independent)

Speaking of letters from literary figures, an unpublished letter written by poet Philip Larkin in 1968, in which he declined a nomination for the position of the Oxford professor of poetry, was recently discovered at St. Hugh’s College in Oxford. Though Larkin was honored to be considered, the position’s public element repelled him: “My idea of hell on earth (physical pain excepted, and I am not sure that it is excepted even in this case) is a literary party, and I have an uneasy feeling that the post carries with it a lot of sherry-drill with important people.” (Guardian)

Four experienced literary agents—Julie Barer, Faye Bender, Brettne Bloom, and Elisabeth Weed—have joined together to launch The Book Group, a new full-service agency in New York City. (Publishers Lunch)

Late poet Mark Strand donated much of his personal library to the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, an international artists community located in Civitella, Italy. Strand wrote the majority of his last book, Almost Invisible, at Civitella. His gift of over a thousand books includes volumes of poetry in English, literary criticism, classics, and philosophy. (Best American Poetry)