Books · News

The Wednesday Five: On Books

In this week’s Wednesday Five — we share five stories making headlines in the world of books.

  1. On Refusing to Read
  2. Graywolf Press: Local Publishing House to Pulitzer Prize-Winning Powerhouse
  3. Elena Ferrante and the loss of an author’s privacy
  4. Women’s Voices Archives: “Book Review: The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante”
  5. Fall’s Big Book Awards



On Refusing to Read

Untitled“Nonreading is not a badge of shame, but the way of the future,” writes  in the article “On Refusing to Read,” for The Chronicle Review. Why might a book critic and Yale literature professor offer such a controversial statement? Hungerford points out the “problems of abundance.” In 2011, she notes for example, more than 50,000 new novels were published in the United States alone, and that number has increased in recent years. There is simply too much to read. The goal, Hungerford says, is an “informed curation of reading”  — but that too is a dream. According to the her,

Here is why refusal is so important. Sometimes [we] will need not just to silently make their choices without acknowledging the choices forgone, but to refuse, in a reasoned and deliberate way, to read what the literary press and the literary marketplace put forward as worthy of attention. This requires a distinctly nonscholarly form of reasoning: One must decide, without reading a work, whether it is worth the time to read it or not. And a decision not to read must be defended, and received, on the basis of this different standard of evidence.

Read more at The Chronicle Review.



Graywolf Press: Local Publishing House to Pulitzer Prize-Winning Powerhouse

Fiona McCrae.Web_Fiona McCrae, Graywolf’s publisher. Courtesy of Graywolf Press

Among the small publishing house Graywolf Press’s many accomplishments, here are just some of its most recent:

  • Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2014 (Vijay Seshadri) and 2012 (Tracy K. Smith)
  • One of three finalists for the Pulitzer in poetry this year
  • United States publisher of the translated work of Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer when he won the Nobel Prize for literature in 201
  • Six National Book Critics Circle top awards
  • Six New York Times Book Review covers
  • “Praise Song for the Day,”  written by Graywolf author Elizabeth Alexander was only the fourth poet in history invited to compose something for a president’s ceremonial debut (President Obama’s historic 2009 inauguration).

Writing in the Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl explores how Fiona McCrae, Graywolf’s publisher, has applied a visionary approach to publishing and turned the press into a “Pulitzer Prize-dominating powerhouse.”

McCrae says the press’ roots in poetry make her and her editors unafraid of difficult texts, but it’s hard not to see her personal belief that money follows importance to the culture as a main driver . . . The reason why literature is actually happening at Graywolf . . .  is because of McCrae’s tendency to go against conventional wisdom in publishing. 

Read more at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.

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  • Eleanor Foa Dienstag October 7, 2016 at 11:04 am

    So, who is Elena Ferrante and does it matter? And who is Domenico Starnone and does it matter?
    Today, there is no privacy in the world so it is inevitable that someone would try to uncover this literary secret. My sense is that there are certain people who would love to prove that the author is a man, not a woman. Anyone who has read Ferrante’s books knows that they are written by a woman,and anyone who attempts to denigrate this woman’s achievement — whoever she is and whoever she is married to — is the real enemy.

  • Mickey October 5, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    I’d love to meet Amy Hungerford and shake her hand. What a great article. What a great concept. Ignore the hype. Much of what is published is not worth the time to pick up the book. And I don’t. I like mysteries but not James Patterson. I like love stories but despair of finding one or an author who writes them intelligently. I have read and reread Gaudy Night so many times now. (Dorothy L. Sayers) I’m still puzzling out some of it. Thank you, Professor Hungerford.