Thoreau the Magical Realist, Embracing Ambivalence, and More

by Staff

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:

Henry David Thoreau’s work contains elements of magical realism: “Pine trees cry; fish become trees; men grow grass out of their brains,” yet his writings “require that we treat their content not as fiction but as truth, and their utterances not figuratively, but declaratively, as testimonies.” Scholar Branka Arsić considers how Thoreau’s grief over his brother’s death in 1842 led him to develop his views of nature in these strange, fantastic ways. (New Republic)

A study conducted by a research team at American University found that 92 percent of college students in the United States prefer reading print books to e-books. The survey findings are covered in linguistics professor Naomi S. Baron’s book Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, which is available now from Oxford University Press. (Los Angeles Times)

At Electric Literature, National Book Award–winning fiction writer and Iraq war veteran Phil Klay interviews Matt Gallagher—also an Iraq war veteran—about his debut novel, Youngblood; the challenges veterans face when returning home; and finding a sense of purpose through writing.

“If literature matters less to young people than it once did, we are all in trouble.” Author and critic David Denby considers the fate of our society if we lose serious readers to digital obsessions. (Literary Hub)

A Chinese translation of a collection by the Bengali poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who died in 1941, has been pulled from stores in China. The collection, translated by Chinese writer Feng Tang, set off a “storm of criticism,” as many readers and scholars felt that Teng’s “racy” translation mocked Tagore’s original poetry. (New York Times)

In an interview at Omnivoracious, fiction and nonfiction writer Charles D’Ambrosio talks about his essay collection Loitering, the purpose of the essay, and embracing ambivalence in his writing.

Alexander Chee discusses the frustrating, yet ultimately satisfying fifteen-year process of publishing his second novel, The Queen of the Night, out now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (Slate)