Rowan Ricardo Phillips Wins the 2013 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry

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Poet Rowan Ricardo Phillips had an enviable problem recently.  He won both the 2013 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry AND was also chosen as one of the winners of the Whiting Writers’ Award.  Ceremonies for both the awards were to take place on the same night.   Decisions, decisions….

Using some powers not bestowed on mere mortals and non-poets, Phillips managed to attend both fetes (although he was a little late for the Whiting).

The title of Phillips’ multiple-award winning work is The Ground.  

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Here is one of the poems from that collection:

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Man Booker Prize Awarded to Eleanor Catton for “The Luminaries”

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What were you doing at age 28? If you were author Eleanor Catton, you would be graciously accepting Britain’s highest literary honor, the Man Booker Prize.  Catton won the prestigious award for her  second novel The Luminaries In addition to making her the youngest recipient in the history of the prize, Catton’s 832 page novel is also the longest work to ever win.

The Luminaries is set in New Zealand during the gold rush of 1866.  Catton knows the country well, as she moved from Canada to New Zealand at the age of six.

Here is an excerpt from the novel, published by London’s The Telegraph.  Click here to read the longer sampling:

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Remembering Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Oscar Hijuelos, Dead at 62

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“Oh yes!…The sweet summons of God to man.  That’s when He calls you up to His arms.  And it’s the most beautiful thing, a rebirth, a new life.  But, just the same I’m in no rush to find out.” ― Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos

Oscar Hijuelos, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for his novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love , died yesterday of a heart attack while playing tennis, according to his agent, Jennifer Lyons.  Hijuleos was 62.

Hijuelos was the first Latino writer to be awarded the coveted prize.  The novel traces the journey of two Cuban brothers who leave Havana for a life in New York to pursue a career in music. In 1992, the novel was adapted into a film starring Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas.

Although the Pulitzer brought the author fame, it also brought hardships.  Hijuelos felt labeled as an “ethnic” writer.   In an interview on NPR’s Newshour in 2011, Hijuelos  discussed his memoir Thoughts Without Cigarettes.  He told interviewer Ray Suarez that he

 sometimes felt like a freak, simply because the level of my success and traveling around the world as — quote — “a Latino writer” as much as anything, was sort of wonderful and also very strange for me at the same time, because, indeed, I’m — I came up as but one version of many potential versions of Latinos that there could be.

And I have never — as I say in the memoir, I have never intended to represent myself as a spokesman for anybody but myself. And yet I would be in a roundtable in Sweden, in Stockholm, Sweden, at a live television show, and the host would come on and look around trying to figure out who the Latino guy was in the group. That kind of thing was both interesting and alarming at the same time.

Here is the complete interview. Rest in Peace, Mr. Hijuelos.


Literary America: Ten Places to Visit for National Author’s Day

Mark your calendars and make some plans!  November 1st is National Author’s Day.  In 1929, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs created the day to honor America’s writers; in 1949, the day was officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Congress. The resolution states, in part, that “[b]y celebrating author’s day as a nation, we would not only show patriotism, loyalty and appreciation of the men and women who have made American literature possible but would also encourage and inspire others to give of themselves in making a better America.”

Most of these historic places are privately staffed or state-run, meaning that even if the government shutdown continues, you should be able to visit these homes, museums, and locations:

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1. Edgar Allan Poe Museum, Richmond, VA

Called “America’s Shakespeare,” Edgar Allan Poe created or mastered the short story, detective fiction, science fiction, lyric poetry and the horror story. His dark genius has invited children and adults to read and love literature for over 150 years.

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2.  Mark Twain Study, Elmira, New York 

Built by Twain’s father-in-law, Twain called this retreat “The Cozy Nest.”  It is located on the campus of Elmira College.  Twain’s grave is also located in the town of Elmira.

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“A Government of Wolves”: Ten Writers Sound Off

Like most of you, I am becoming more and more annoyed by the government shutdown. Yesterday, I heard a sick child will not get his weekly visit with a therapy dog because those “non-essential workers” had been “furloughed.”

Here are ten quotes from writers, past and present, that may help you channel and articulate your own feelings and frustration with our elected leaders:

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1.  “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.”  — Edward R. Murrow

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2.  “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”  — Alan Moore, V for Vendetta

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4.  “You have to remember one thing about the will of the people: it wasn’t that long ago that we were swept away by the Macarena.”  — Jon Stewart

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“The Point of Life Was to Press On”: Remembering Tom Clancy

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Fans of espionage and military science novels have lost one of that genres’ most popular authors. Tom Clancy has died at age 66.  The cause of death has not yet been released.

Here are some facts about Clancy that you may not know:

  • Worked as an insurance salesman after attending Loyola College.
  • Tried, but failed, to purchase the Minnesota Vikings.
  • Divorced after thirty years following revelations of an affair with a New York Assistant D.A.
  • Second wife is the niece of General Colin Powell.
  • Although he loved the military, poor eyesight prevented him from enlisting.
  • In 1984, President Ronald Reagan boosted sales of Clancy’s first novel, The Hunt for Red October, by praising it at a press conference. “It’s a really good yarn,” Reagan said.
  • Founded the gaming company Red Storm Entertainment in 1996 and sold it for a reported $45 million
  • Was the co-owns the Baltimore Orioles

Tom Clancy was one of the best-selling authors of the last thirty years.  In addition to The Hunt for Red October, his other popular works included Patriot Games (1988), Clear and Present Danger (1989), and The Sum of All Fears (1991).


Baffling Banned Books: A Fun (Disturbing) Quiz!

If you’ve waited to celebrate the chance to be Officially Subversive during Banned Books Week, it’s not too late!  Sure, you probably figured that Huck Finn is a perennial favorite for its politically incorrect language and Fifty Shades of Grey for its Crimes Against Ink and Trees, but I am willing to bet there are quite a few that will make you say, “Ummm. What?”  The alleged  “reasons” for protecting Our Nation’s Youth are even more bizarre than you can imagine. 

Take our quiz and see if you can guess the actual arguments that succeeded in getting the following ten books on the Naughty List. Answers at the end of quiz!

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1.  Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

a)  The National Pork Council feared declining bacon sales

b)  Children were trapping dangerous spiders and being bitten

c)  A Kansas school district decided that talking animals are blasphemous and unnatural

d)  Girls were being encouraged to defy their fathers

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2.  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

a)  Removed from classrooms in Miller, Missouri, for ‘making promiscuous sex look like fun.’

b)  Removed from Texas libraries for “encouraging revolution”

c)  Attempted ban in California for “focusing on negativity.”

d) Both a and c

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