Writers Protest PEN Gala Over Charlie Hebdo Award, Memoir as Selfie, 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:

Six authors, including Peter Carey, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, and Francine Prose, will not attend the PEN American Center Gala after news that the organization will honor satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo with the annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award. PEN’s decision to award the magazine follows the attack on its Paris offices in January that left twelve editorial staff members dead. The authors who decided not to attend the gala object to Charlie Hebdo’s portrayals of Muslims. (Huffington Post)

Meanwhile, former PEN president Salman Rushdie spoke out against the authors’ objection to the Charlie Hebdo award: “If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name.” (Guardian)

“But the kinds of books that have thrived during the memoir boom obscure the nobler purpose of autobiography: To tell a story not about the person doing the writing but about the subject they’ve lived through.” At the Washington Post, Mark Athitakis makes a case for memoirs to be more than just “selfies in book form.”

Julian Fellowes, the creator of the acclaimed television series Downton Abbey, will adapt Anthony Trollope’s 1858 novel Doctor Thorne as a three-part British television special. Filming will begin this year. (New York Times)

Actress Reese Witherspoon is set to narrate the audiobook of Harper Lee’s forthcoming novel Go Set a Watchman (HarperCollins). Lee’s novel, in both print and audiobook format, will be published July 14. (Wall Street Journal)

In a piece for the New York Times, author Robin Black writes against the discriminatory nature of age-based writing awards. “Diversity matters. Not only in what we look like, or what religion we practice, or in whom we love, but also in how we live our lives, including the order in which we go about things, the seasons in which we are able to create art.”

How does one “describe the life of a great self-describer?” Judith Shulevitz considers the difficulties of writing Saul Bellow’s biography. (Atlantic)

In the latest installment of NPR’s Weekend Reads series honoring National Poetry Month, poet Douglas Kearney recommends Fred Moten’s poetry collection The Little Edges. Kearney notes how Moten “manages to bring not only a sense of the personal and the lyric, but also a kind of intellectual rigor to his work.”