Latest News: Posts Tagged ‘literature’

An excerpt from GAY PROPAGANDA to celebrate National Coming Out Day

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

“I’ll never forget it. I was 6. My mother and I went to the movies to see The Amphibian Man. In the middle of the movie, my mother bends down to me and whispers: ‘Look how beautiful Guttiere [the female protagonist] is!’ I nodded weakly, while not taking my eyes off Ichtiandr [the male protagonist]. I fell in love with him and asked to be taken to this movie a number of times. This goes to the question of why the very idea of ‘gay propaganda’ is absurd. As a biologist, I know that sexual orientation is formed in the womb and is impossible to influence in any direction. It’s not a matter of choice. When I was a child, I didn’t know any of this, of course, and didn’t understand why I was attracted to the beautiful Ichtiandr.”

—Vitaly, from Gay Propaganda: Russian Love Stories, edited by Masha Gessen and Joseph Huff-Hannon.

  Celebrates LGBTQ voices and National Coming Out Day

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“The Energy Humanities Podcast” DALE JAMIESON on Cultures of Energy

Friday, August 5th, 2016

“Dale posits love as the antithesis of narcissism and describes why contact with the real is so much more important than enveloping ourselves in fantasy. We talk hierarchy and class and why the Anthropocene will be better for some than for others.”

To hear more, visit CENHS

Turkish author BURHAN SÖNMEZ: “Our society should not be left to anti-democratic politics”

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

After the failed coup, Burhan Sönmez says there is “no stability in politics [or] social life” in Turkey. Does that mean there’s no hope for the future? Not so fast.

“Both parties are bad. One of them is the army, the other side is the government… The collision of these two forces will not bring democracy to Turkey.”



An excerpt from Burhan Sönmez‘s interview with Deutsche Welle immediately following the attempted coup in Turkey:

Were you surprised by the attempted coup in Turkey?

I was very surprised and I believe the majority of society was surprised with this coup attempt, because the army and the government had been getting along very well with each other on almost every issue. No one expected this.

So how do you explain it suddenly happening then?

That’s the nature of Turkey. There is no stability in politics and in social life, so you can expect anything to happen at any time in society with the army and the government. This unexpected occurrence is just a result of it.

How are you reacting to the aftermath of the events?

What’s worrying is that two evil forces collided with each other last Friday. By evil force, I mean that both parties are bad. One of them is the army, the coup plotters, and the other side is the government, which is not good at applying democratic politics either. The collision of these two forces will not bring democracy to Turkey—so we are very worried.

Now, we have saved the parliamentary system, but that doesn’t mean we have saved the democratic system, because Erdogan is using this to escalate his politics, his personal ambition and his pro-Islam regime. That is worrying for us.

. . .

You have experienced police violence firsthand. Now, just after the coup, more attention is given to the way Erdogan is dealing with his opponents, but the situation has been difficult for many years already. Was there a particular moment when you realized that things were becoming more threatening for freedom of expression in the country?

It is a slow-motion change. For years and years, social media platforms like Twitter have been blocked every now and then. Yesterday, 10 news websites were blocked. They were not even affiliated with Fethullah Gülen. They were left-wing or social democratic news sites. This censorship is not something that will stop at a certain point. It will carry on for years and years. But we will carry on in favor of freedom of speech and democracy.

Your 2015 novel Istanbul Istanbul is about prisoners who try to find relief from the pain of torture through storytelling. Can storytelling inspire us for the future of Turkey?

In that novel, you can see that people are in pain, but they keep their faith in the future, they still have their dreams.

People like me, we’ve believed in this country for years and years. If you ask me if I’ve had a good year in this country, I will tell you, no. Every year has been worse than the previous one. But that means that our hopes are getting bigger than the previous year—otherwise you cannot survive here.

I will tell you something very unrealistic: I am very hopeful for the future of my country, otherwise I would have left. I’m still here; people like me are still standing here. We will carry on our calls for freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance and also peace. We need these more than ever before. 1


Library Journal also recently reviewed Sönmez’s novel, calling it “A real find; highly recommended”:

Four men inhabit a dank cell in Istanbul: the Doctor; the student Demirtay; troublesome Kamo the Barber; and Uncle Küheylan, an older man from the mountains who has always dreamed deliriously of coming to Istanbul. As they wait tensely for guards to drag out one of them for the next round of torture, they tell one another stories they already know, stories that take them beyond their cell walls to the larger world. From the wily nun who escapes a rapist to hunters trying to undo fate decreed by a fairy, these tales are engrossingly rendered, and they eventually lead to Istanbul itself, fighting to defend its beauty. An award-winning Turkish author and former lawyer, Sönmez spent five years in the UK being treated for injuries sustained in an assault by the Turkish police, and he captures the chill of anticipating torture with quiet authority. But his book is ultimately and persuasively about what imagination can do. 2


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1 DW Akademie, published 18 July 2016
2 Library Journal, published 8 June 2016

The story of Grove Theater: HAROLD PINTER and other playwrights

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Read the story of Harold Pinter’s time in New York—and a little-known account of his Broadway debut

Barney Rosset’s championing of new theater at Grove Press in the late 1950s, including work by such playwrights as Eugène Ionesco, Tom Stoppard, Amiri Baraka, and Bertolt Brecht, would influence modern drama internationally for decades to come.



Of the many accomplishments of Barney Rosset at Grove Press—introducing such writers as Kenzaburō Ōe, Samuel Beckett, and Marguerite Duras to North America, battling American obscenity laws to publish unexpurgated editions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, championing such legendary films as I Am Curious (Yellow) and Norman Mailer’s Maidstone—the production of new theater in the United States in the late 1950s would influence modern drama internationally for decades to come. The stable of playwrights Rosset developed—Jean Genet, Eugène Ionesco, Tom Stoppard, David Mamet, Amiri Baraka, William Inge, Václav Havel, Bertolt Brecht, and Harold Pinter—rendered Grove an estimable force in theater, perhaps more influential than any other publisher of the century. What follows is an account from Rosset’s long-awaited autobiography of the Broadway debut of Harold Pinter, and his time in New York with his publisher.


An excerpt from Rosset:

When we signed up Pinter, I remember very well that we had not yet seen one of his plays performed, but his scripts clearly showed his writing was brilliant. The way he used silence was reminiscent, to me, of Beckett—but different. There was an all-pervading sense of menace. The Dumb Waiter was a good example. Pure menace, terrifying, brilliant theater charged with a silent danger.

Pinter’s agent was Jimmy Wax. He and Harold were close friends. In New York they premiered The Homecoming on Broadway, but opening night was less than triumphant with many in the audience hating it. I remember asking Jimmy, “Who the hell did you invite to this opening?” I mean, at an opening when an author is already very well known, you can pick and choose whom you’re inviting—and you’re giving away many tickets. At least you ought to get people who might like the play. But on that first night one woman in the audience stood up and shouted in the middle of the first act: “Let’s get out of here, this is terrible!”

Pinter always talked and even acted as if he were a character in one of his plays. During the New York blackout of 1965, Cristina and I were in a Greenwich Village restaurant with Harold and my wife’s sister. Initially, when the lights went out, we thought that the blackout was confined to the restaurant and its immediate vicinity. I got my car from our nearby house, parked it facing the restaurant, and turned on the headlights so we could see to eat. The restaurant staff did not object. We slowly realized there was a total blackout extending as far as we could see uptown. Harold sat there silently for a long time, then suddenly said, “Does this happen very often here?” I waited for about three minutes before answering, as if we were in one of his plays, and then said, “Not often. Every twenty years or so.” Finally, Harold asked us to go back with him to his room at the luxurious, blacked-out Carlyle Hotel. We did and a city police officer carrying a flashlight escorted us up a back stairway. Back in his room, Harold read to us by candlelight a poem he had recently written. It was a memorable evening.

Pinter asked Beckett to critique everything he wrote, and Beckett liked Pinter both as a friend and as a writer, and paid him and his work close attention. The reverse was equally true.


Further Reading


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A star deserves a star: Kirkus Reviews gives ROSSET a starred review

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

A self-portrait of the man who reshaped how we think about language, literature and sex

The renegade of 20th-century publishing, Barney Rosset, began work on his autobiography a decade before his death in 2012. Several publishers and editors later, it finally sees the light of day.



… a must for anyone interested in 20th-century American publishing and culture.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


This “candid self-portrait” (Publishers Weekly) of “the one-in-a-million Barney Rosset, America’s bravest publisher” (Paul Auster) tells “a colorful and rollicking history” (Publishers Weekly) of the one person of whom it could be said he “represents the literary world of the latter half of the 20th century” (Kenzaburō Ōe).



Rosset is now shipping: only direct from OR Books. Not available on Amazon or in stores until January.

Further Reading

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“A Lit’r’y Coup”: an excerpt from FINKS

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

When the literary élite was sustained by the C.I.A.

The secret organization better known for its coups, assassinations, and spying activities underwrote literary and cultural institutions such as The Paris Review—often with the complicity of their editors and publishers.



From the introduction to Finks:

In early 1966, Harold “Doc” Humes, one of the founders of The Paris Review, wrote a well-intentioned ultimatum to George Plimpton, another founder. Having left it to Plimpton to run the famous magazine long before, Humes was floundering. Living in London, where his wife Anna Lou had left him over the holidays, he was dogged by bouts of extreme paranoia and convinced that he was under surveillance. According to Anna Lou, he believed that the bedposts in his London home recorded whatever he said, and that the recordings were then played directly for Queen Elizabeth.

Yet in his March 1966 letter to Plimpton, he was clear and reasonable, writing that Peter Matthiessen, another Paris Review founder, had just visited London and had told Humes an astonishing story. During his stay, Matthiessen had admitted that “The Paris Review was originally set up and used as a cover for [Matthiessen’s] activities as an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency.” Humes continued,

He further said that you [Plimpton] knew nothing about this until recently, that in fact when he told you your face “turned the color of (my) sweater” which I hasten to inform you is neither red nor blue but a very dirty grey-white, my having worn nothing else since my wife left. It precisely matches my spirits; they get greyer every day.

Humes even sympathized. “I believe Peter when he says he is properly ashamed of involving the [Paris Review] in his youthful folly, and, true, this was all 15 years ago. BUT…”

Humes was just one of The Paris Review’s larger-than-life personalities. The magazine received early praise from American publications like Time and Newsweek, and also from magazines and newspapers all over Europe. It helped launch the careers of William Styron, Terry Southern, T.C. Boyle, and Philip Roth, among others. It threw legendary parties where, for decades, actors like Warren Beatty and political and cultural figures like Jackie Kennedy would rub shoulders with New York City’s writers and book publishing rank and file. Its editor-in-chief Plimpton was already a best-selling author, a friend of the Kennedys, one of Esquire magazine’s “most attractive men in America,” and, according to Norman Mailer, the most popular man in New York City. His personal entourage drew attention, too. A 1963 Cornell Capa photograph shows a group assembled for one of the famous cocktail parties in Plimpton’s apartment. In the picture are Truman Capote, Ralph Ellison, Humes, Matthiessen, Styron, Southern, and Godfather author Mario Puzo.

. . .

Arguing that an association with secret institutions like the C.I.A. would inevitably lead to “rot,” Humes advised Plimpton that, for the integrity of the magazine, he should make Matthiessen’s ties during the magazine’s founding public. Citing Edmund Burke’s line “that it is enough for evil to triumph that good men do nothing,” Humes wrote, “I have deeply believed in the Review and all that we hoped it stood for, but until this matter is righted I feel I have no honorable choice but to resolutely resign. Even if I have to split an infinitive to do it.” He went on to suggest that Matthiessen might” laugh the matter off in print in a manner calculated to restore our tarnished escutcheon…” Under these circumstances, he would stay. Barring that, however, “I should like my name removed from the masthead. I’m sure it will not be missed.”

In attempting to inspire his colleagues to come clean, Humes cited an opinion that grew increasingly common as revelations of the C.I.A.’s vast propaganda apparatus were published in Ramparts magazine and The New York Times in 1964, 1966, and 1967. Namely, that any association with the super-secret spy agency—notorious for coups, assassinations, and undermining democracy in the name of fighting communism—tainted the reputations of those involved. Humes pressed the point forcefully. “Since this was apparently a formal arrangement, involving his being trained in a New York safehouse and being paid through a cover name, then without doubt the fact is recorded in some or several dusty functionarys’ [sic] files in Washington or around the world that our hapless magazine was created and used as an engine in the damned cold war…” He continued,

although Peter is not [to] be blamed for a paranoid system that makes victims of its instruments, nevertheless what of Styron?… What of half the young writers in America who have been netted in our basket? What color would their faces turn?


Of interest: Rear Window, Julian Stallabrass on the C.I.A.’s covert funding of Abstract Expressionist painters during the Cold War.


Further Reading

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“Eileen Myles on Guns, Gays and Pride” EILEEN MYLES for Literary Hub

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

“More than anything the message we all need to carry away from what happened this month in Orlando is that LGBT people of color were the target. Specifically Latino gays and trans people. Omar Mateen deliberately emptied twenty shots of ammo into these human bodies in nine seconds on Latino night at Pulse, an LGBT nightspot. I’m stating the obvious here because so much of the political bluster animating congress, animating the presidential campaign seems determined to look away from that fact, to be arguing instead about which terrorist watch list we should be really paying attention to. The argument seems to be that if we could just keep the bad people out America we could be safe again. Yeah like when.”

To hear more, visit Literary Hub

“Meet the Ph.D of Secret Shit” ROBERT GUFFEY reviewed by The Edge

Friday, June 24th, 2016

“Unaware at the time, Guffey was getting the perfect training for his next book – a true story of gang stalking, mass surveillance, and invisibility technology. Chameleo: A Strange But True Story of Invisible Spies, Heroine Addiction, And HomeLand Security, is a nonfiction narrative about Guffey and his friend Damien, whose name is Dion Fuller in the book.

The sequence of events that inspired Chameleo, begins on July 12, 2003. Guffey called his friend Damien, who was living at the time in Pacific Beach area of San Diego. He called him several times with no response, which Guffey says was unusual. A week later he finally hears back from him, with this bizarre story to share.”

To hear more, visit The Edge

“Vivid and informative” BARNEY ROSSET reviewed by Kirkus

Monday, June 20th, 2016

“Presented by the Rosset estate with a memoir that had been “pruned to death,” OR Books founder John Oakes, who worked at Grove in the 1980s, went back to the archives and added material that better represented the boss he describes as “either brooding, laughing, or raging.” That charismatic man practically leaps off the pages of these salty reminiscences, which begin with a tribute by Rosset to his gamekeeper-assassinating Irish great-grandfather and the assertion, “Rebellion runs in my family’s blood.”

To hear more, visit Kirkus Reviews

“Some friends of mine couldn’t finish this book.” BURHAN SÖNMEZ featured in The Guide Istanbul

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

“Some friends of mine couldn’t finish this book because they lived the same thing. For most of these people, their stories didn’t have a happy ending.”

To read more, visit The Guide Istanbul.

“It’s actually a long story but I’ll be brief” BURHAN SÖNMEZ excerpted in Bookanista

Friday, April 29th, 2016

“It’s actually a long story but I’ll be brief,” I said. “No one had ever seen so much snow in Istanbul. When the two nuns left Saint George’s Hospital in Karaköy in the dead of night to go to the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua to break the bad news, there were scores of dead birds under the eaves. That April, ice cracked the Judas tree flowers, while the razor-sharp wind bit the stray dogs. Have you ever known it to snow in April, Doctor? It’s actually a long story but I’ll be brief. One of the nuns sliding and stumbling in the blizzard was young, the other old. When they had almost reached the Galata Tower the young nun said to her companion, a man has been following us all the way up the hill. The older nun said there could only be one reason why a man would follow them in a storm in the pitch darkness.”

To read more, visit Bookanista.

“Today I dreamt I was burning” BURHAN SÖNMEZ excerpted in Words Without Borders

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

““Today I dreamt I was burning,” he said. “I was in the lowest circle of hell, they were taking sticks from everyone else’s fire and using them to stoke mine. But damn it, I was still cold. The other sinners were screaming, my eardrums burst and healed a thousand times over. The fire kept getting bigger and bigger but I couldn’t burn hard enough. You weren’t there, I searched every face, but there was no sign of a doctor or a student. I craved more fire, crying out and begging, like an animal going to the slaughter. The wealthy, the preachers, the bad poets, and cold-hearted mothers burning in front of me stared at me through the flames. The wound in my heart wouldn’t burn and turn to ash, my memory refused to melt into oblivion. Despite the fire that was turning metal to liquid, I could still recall my cursed past.”

To read more, visit Words Without Borders.

“The masterful construction of a multi-story tale” BURHAN SÖNMEZ reviewed by Cultured Vultures

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

“Sonmez’s novel comes to life – not just as a visceral depiction of pain in captivity, or a Frankl-esque exploration of existential despair – but rather, the artisanal interweaving of narratives; the masterful construction of a multi-story tale.”

To read more, visit Cultured Vultures.

“A candid self portrait.” BARNEY ROSSET in Publishers Weekly

Monday, April 18th, 2016

OR Books co-publisher Oakes, whose first boss in publishing was Rosset at Grove, said, “Young people don’t know this is the guy who changed the publishing world. They should. A case can be made that Barney changed worldwide culture, but it is incontrovertible that he changed American culture. From early on he was determined that a person should have the right to read whatever he wanted and publish whatever he wanted.”

But Rosset is more than a history of First Amendment litigation—it is a (characteristically) candid self-portrait by America’s foremost maverick publisher, as well as a colorful and rollicking history of Grove.

To hear more, visit Publisher’s Weekly.

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