February 14th, 2011 / 6:09 pm

Some Monday Items of Interest

Over at Tayari Jones’s blog, she talks about some of the bizarre choices black writers face when trying to get published. As an aside, I got an advance copy of her novel Silver Sparrow, review forthcoming, and the accompanying literature said, “When I first read Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, I was reminded of the great black women writers of our time,” and I wonder why the writer of the letter wasn’t simply reminded of the great writers of our time. Later, there’s a blurb from the Atlanta Journal Constitution that says, “One of the most important writers of her generation, able to stand confidently alongside such heralded young black authors as Edwidge Danticat, Colson Whitehead, and ZZ Packer.” Does that mean she can’t stand confidently alongside young writers who are not black? Curious.

It’s Black History Month. Here’s a roundup of movies about black history in one way or another.

Have you checked out the Journal of Universal Rejection?

This is a really interesting open letter from Claudia Rankine, post AWP.

Brad Green wrote a really solid essay you should read. I’ve also been loving his thoughtful interviews for Dark Sky Magazine.

The Lumberyard has a new online imprint, The Saw Mill.

Martin Amis doesn’t want to write children’s books. Shocking, I know.

Question: can critics and authors be friends?

Lendle allows Kindle users to share books. Finally.

I am really enjoying the Chick Litz blog, run by a group of really active undergraduates at Ball State. There’s a great community of young writers at Ball State who are involved in all sorts of interesting projects. They also have a Kickstarter to raise funds for a writer exchange they are doing with the University of Alabama, if you’re of a mind to contribute a dollar or ten.

Eileen Myles writes about being female for The Awl. The comments are “interesting” but her essay is brilliant.


  1. Sean

      “When I was twelve, I had the world’s meanest boil on my ass.”

      Great opening line of that essay.

  2. Sean

      “When I was twelve, I had the world’s meanest boil on my ass.”

      Great opening line of that essay.

  3. Sean

      “When I was twelve, I had the world’s meanest boil on my ass.”

      Great opening line of that essay.

  4. Sean

      “When I was twelve, I had the world’s meanest boil on my ass.”

      Great opening line of that essay.

  5. David

      Eileen Myles rules.

  6. Sean

      Have no idea why that posted twice.

  7. chet

      does amis have a history of saying things that upset people? not playing dumb, just uninformed.

  8. Roxane

      From what I understand of Amis, he has a tendency to be outspoken. He seems to rub some people the wrong way while others find him delightful which is the way it goes when you are outspoken.

  9. Sean

      He put the quote in context. He just doesn’t want to write in that milieu. So?

  10. Roxane

      I don’t have an opinion on what Amis said one way or another. I don’t want to write children’s books either. I was just posting the article because it was interesting.

  11. Sean

      Cool. It was interesting. It actually seems like Amisis trying to be a young Curmudgeon. But damn we need some curmudgeons, and don’t forget his father’s shadow.

  12. Don Broma

      I’m just one dumb asshole, and my opinion is therefore inconsequential, but I can’t help feeling that the mindset that feels compelled to note that Tayari Jones is a “black woman author” is closely related to the mindset that feels compelled to compile statistics relating to the gender and ethnicity of authors featured in a given literary magazine, and using such statistics as motivation for selection/publication. I’m sure we could think up eloquent arguments justifying focus on race/class identities in certain situations and decrying it in others, but at first glance they look pretty similar.

  13. LT

      I like the Eileen Myles essay, but I do think that she inadvertently touches on something she could have explored further when she claims that poets are overwhelmingly female. Is it possible then that fiction and non-fiction writers are a majority male? And if so, why is there that split? What are the causes

  14. Sean

      I agree, LT. That did seem an odd comment to me, too. Really? I don’t buy it, but would love to see the data.

  15. Brad Green

      Thank you! I appreciate the read.

  16. deadgod

      That likeness is exactly what the blogicle highlights: the filtering that appears, from the VIDA pie charts, to be at work in literary publishing is also at work, in a different way, when certain people are told that they might actually be published “if”.

  17. chet

      okay, cool.

  18. nliu

      Come on. There’s a difference between “I don’t want to write children’s books” and “Only BRAIN DAMAGE could make me write children’s books”. You don’t need to piss on children’s authors and people with brain damage to express a preference.

  19. nliu

      I’m sure we could think up eloquent arguments justifying focus on race/class identities in certain situations and decrying it in others, but at first glance they look pretty similar.

      Which is why there’s much to be said for second and third glances.

  20. Rion Amilcar Scott

      Kind of a jerkass thing for Amis to say. It’s not like children have the comprehension skills, interest or life experience to comprehend his doddering. That’s why things are “written toward them.” I’m glad children’s books exist because I liked reading them when I was a child. And I’ll enjoy writing them if I can ever get off my lazy fucking ass to put some of these words in my head to paper, If only the brain damaged wrote for children what would children read? Actually, maybe only the brain damaged should write anything for anyone period. Which is probably the way things are now.

  21. Tayari Jones

      I just wanted to weigh in here. I think we need to be realy careful about the way that we talk about race and publishing. I was not offended that Valerie Boyd in the AJC said that I could stand confidently next to ZZ and Colson. I think they are both important writers. I don’t want to end up in a sort of topsy turvy land where I am mad about being compared to people who among the best of our generation, writers I completely admire.

      Toni Morrison was asked how she felt about being a black woman writer. She said, Well, for one thing it’s true. I think that it does a certain psychological damage to a person to be put in a position where a basic description of one’s self has to be cast off in order to be seen as human and just as worthy. This is especially true when it is a description that I feel is vital if someone is to understand who I am.

      In looking at Valerie Boyd’s quote about me standing with Colson and ZZ- a person could just as easily think that to Valerie Boyd, only Colson and ZZ matter when she is thinking of the new generation of writers. She *is* biographer of Zora Neal Hurston. Perhaps she has an Eatonville mentality. In other words, perhaps it’s not that she doesn’t think ZZ, Colson, and I are as good as white writers, but maybe she doesn’t care.

      This is not to say that I don’t understand Roxane’s point, but the way the question is phrased sort of casts doubt on me, ZZ, and Colson, inviting the reader to ponder whether we are as good as our white peers. I TOTALLY get what you were going for in the question.. and I am not offended by it. It’s just that as a black writer, I hear versions of this conversation all the time and I think that it plants some seeds it doesn’t mean to plant.

      I think it would be far more subversive to ask why white writers are not compared to black writers more often. Can you imagine the Scooby Doo head-tilt if you were to say, “Why hasn’t Franzen been compared to Colson and ZZ? Do you mean to imply that he is not as good as black writers?!?!” I think that sort of questioning challenges the assumptions more effectively.

      I guess arugement is that rhetoric is important.

      And all that said. I hope you like SILVER SPARROW. I put my whole everything into that book. I pray that it is half as good as the best offerings of the black writers of my generation.

  22. Roxane

      I definitely hear what you were saying and it was not at all my intention to invite the reader to ponder whether black writers are as good as their white peers. Indeed, we do have to be careful and I wasn’t. Ultimately, and I think you do indeed know what I was going for, I was thinking aloud about how marketing materials are framed for writers of color versus white writers, or as you put, why hasn’t Franzen been compared to an esteemed writer of color. I’d pee myself to be compared to Colson or ZZ.