This month, to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of Robert Pirsig's legendary cross-country motorcycle trip, Knopf is publishing Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Mark Richardson, a journalist who retraced Pirsig's route, interviewed the reclusive author, and discovered the lasting value of a literary classic.
Celebrated short story writer and poet Grace Paley died of cancer last August at the age of eighty-four. A lifelong activist, pacifist, and an early figure in the women’s rights movement in the 1960s, Paley was one of those writers who managed to combine a public life of frequent readings and appearances in support of a range of causes with work lauded for its artistic integrity. We interviewed Paley a little more than a year before her death at her home in Thetford.
Throughout his long career, Philip Levine has established a reputation for poems honoring the working class, beginning with the people he encountered as a young man laboring in the factories of Detroit. Though he has taught in writing programs nationwide since the 1950s, his poetry has maintained a stronger identification with the autoworker than the academic. Poets & Writers Magazine asked Levine, who turned eighty in January, how his writing is going these days.
Last Thursday evening in Manhattan a hundred or so literary writers and readers gathered inside Cooper Union’s Great Hall, a magnificent venue that has been host to such historical events as Abraham Lincoln's rousing Cooper Union Address, in which he urged the nation to abolish slavery, in 1860. People rushed in from the cold, scanning the auditorium for empty seats. Heavy winter coats took on lives of their own, refusing to stay within the confines of the narrow wooden chairs. Our collective body heat seemed to rise in direct proportion to the noise.
When I stepped off the plane in Aspen, Colorado, in June 1997, I found a 60-year-old Hunter S. Thompson waiting for me in a convertible Cadillac blasting Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" at full volume. I was terrified; he was giddy. He was playing the song because it was a part of the soundtrack put together for the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that was scheduled to hit theaters the following summer, and he could not have been happier.
Thanks in part to Stewart O'Nan, whose essay, "The Lost World of Richard Yates," appeared in the October/November 1999 issue of the Boston Review, readers are enjoying a long-overdue critical re-appreciation of the author of Revolutionary Road and The Easter Parade, among a handful of other exquisitely written books.
Amanda Davis, author of the short story collection Circling the Drain and cornerstone presence to many in and beyond the literary world, died in a plane crash on March 15, 2003, while on tour promoting her first novel, Wonder When You'll Miss Me.
This year marks the centennial of Niedecker's birth. To celebrate, libraries and bookstores in her home state are planning a series of events that will draw poets, scholars, and readers to the places that inspired and influenced her poetry.