The World’s Oldest Books, Big Data Literary Criticism, 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:

“So much of my writing day feels like well-digging. Sometimes I dig two hundred feet down before coming back up, dry. Every day I search for water.” Fiction writer Yaa Gyasi shares her writing routine with the Guardian.

Atlas Obscura asks some of its favorite libraries to share their oldest books and written material, including the Egyptian Book of the Dead at the Austrian National Library, a set of Sumerian cuneiform accounting tablets from 2050 BC at the Library of Congress, and a scrap of ash-preserved papyrus from the first century AD at the Bodleian Library.

Editor Lee Boudreaux has left her eponymous imprint at Little, Brown to join Penguin Random House as Doubleday’s vice president and executive editor. (Publishers Weekly)

"My first approach, no matter the material, is to try to speak of the artifice of the classroom. That we all have previous knowledge that can be learned from. That we all learn differently. That we are diverse bodies in a room, a room that gives us space to learn, but a room vested with power and prescription." At Harriet, Jennifer Firestone talks with Jill Magi about how to teach poetry and experimental texts in the classroom.

Jennifer Schuessler considers the work of literary scholar Franco Moretti, who has tried to revolutionize the world of literary criticism with a data-based approach, using computer programs to help analyze thousands of texts at a time. Moretti is releasing a book of his results, Canon/Archive, with n+1. (New York Times)

At Vulture, critic Christian Lorentzen describes moving to New York City decades ago and learning how to be good at literary parties.

The New York Times asks the son and granddaughter of Arnold Lobel, the writer of the popular illustrated children’s book series Frog and Toad, what they really think about the Frog and Toad memes that have become popular in the past year.

At the New Yorker, Rebecca Mead reviews The Center Will Not Hold, the documentary on Joan Didion that was released on Netflix last week and directed by her nephew, Griffin Dunne.