Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The World of Literature and Ideas

The poet and Yale professor Elizabeth Alexander has been selected to participate in President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama’s inauguration.

In her December 4 Washington Post interview with journalist Bob Thompson, Toni Morrison discussed her own work, her perception of personality, and Barack Obama; and she said that she wished that some of her friends and colleagues, such as James Baldwin, were still around to see Barack Obama, whose writing talent and wisdom she admires. Asked what James Baldwin’s response might have been to Barack Obama, Toni Morrison said, “I think he would be desperately, desperately in love.”

Robert Draper is planning to write a forty-year history of race in America, beginning with Martin Luther King’s death and ending with Barack Obama’s election, according to and Publishers Weekly.

“The publication this month of the first volume of Susan Sontag’s Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), edited by her son, David Rieff, is a significant event in the literary world,” begins Daniel Horowitz’s piece on Susan Sontag for the December 19 Chronicle Review (Chronicle of Higher Education). The journals document Sontag’s early life and education, and display Sontag’s intellectual ambition and commitment to experience (accepting both pain and pleasure as part of life), as well as her response to aesthetics and sexuality. Horowitz notes some of the editing errors regarding facts and chronology that might lead to confusion in interpreting Sontag, yet finds that the journals convey “the sources of Sontag’s transformation into a powerful writer and major celebrity.”

The online international publication Words Without Borders’ December issue focuses on “the home front,” the struggles of home life.

Paul Greenberg’s December 9 essay (“Bail Out the Writers!”) in the New York Times considers how plentiful the number of writers are and how the rewards for most writers have little to do with plenty.

The organization Poets and Writers has received a grant of two-million dollars from New Jersey’s Liana Foundation.

Poets from Australia, Ireland, Portugal, and South Africa are featured on the web site of Poetry International for December.

“The nonpartisan Council for A Better Louisiana has updated its Louisiana Fact Book with the latest data on demographics, economic activity, education, health care and public safety,” according to the December 17 Associated Press (and Baton Rouge Advocate).

The Center for Louisiana Studies was scheduled to hold a holiday celebration and book signing for yesterday, December 16th, featuring Barry Ancelet, Darrell Bourque, Carl Brasseaux, Ray Brassieur, Richard Campanella, Fred Daspit, Philip Gould, Greg Guirard, Reinhart Kondert, Dave Pierce, and May Waggoner.