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Posts Tagged ‘FSG’

Five Questions for Ishion Hutchinson

July 6, 2015 | by


Ishion Hutchinson.

Ishion Hutchinson’s poem “The Difference” appears in our Summer issue. Hutchinson, who was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, teaches at Cornell University.

In “The Difference,” the speaker bridges a divide between the reader and the “they,” the poem’s unspecified subjects. Can you talk a little about the genesis of the poem? Do you often see the role of a speaker as a kind of mediator?

The poem’s opening contains its genesis. I overheard two men, it could have been more, talking one early winter morning in a café. Their words weren’t clear but, to my ears, there was a doomsday tone about them, very grave. I had been reading Halldór Laxness’s great novel, Independent People, too, a very masculine book, full of scenes of men gathering in winter to talk iron, as it were, and I think that permeated the poem. I do not see the role of a speaker as a kind of mediator at all, perhaps only to the extent that the speaker is listening to voices, yes, but the speaker’s motive is to speak for and to himself. Read More »

Tolstoy Goes Digital, and Other News

September 6, 2013 | by


  • All of Tolstoy’s works are going online. “We wanted to come up with an official website that will contain academically justified information,” explains his great-great-granddaughter. The work on the site will have been triple-proofed by more than three thousand volunteers from some forty-nine countries.
  • This week, FSG has collected a lovely series of Seamus Heaney reminiscences and tributes—by Jonathan Galassi, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Maureen N. McLane, Robert Pinsky, and more—on their blog.
  • Maya Angelou will be the recipient of the Literarian Award, an honorary National Book Award for contributions to the literary community.
  • UK charity shops are overwhelmed with a glut of Fifty Shades books—unrecyclable due to the glue used in their bindings. (Recommendation: find the nearest motel.)
  • A new app allows self-published authors to add their own sound tracks and effects to audiobooks. For good or ill.


    Harvard and Class

    July 11, 2011 | by

    As told to Sheila Heti.

    I grew up in Montreal and went to an upper-middle-class Jewish day school where kids had parents who maybe owned a carpet store or maybe were dentists. And then I went to Harvard for college. And it was pretty weird.

    When I applied, I thought it would be great because I would get to meet lots of smart people. Those were the kinds of people I liked to be friends with, and I thought there would be more of them there. That was the main reason I thought it would be a fun place to be. I don’t think I was super ambitious or professional minded or even a very good student.

    The thing I figured out soon after I applied was that, on Gilligan’s Island, it wasn’t the Professor who went to Harvard, it was Mr. Howell, the rich man. That was something of a revelation.

    It’s funny, because what a lot of people talk about when they talk about going to Harvard is being really intimidated by the place when they arrive. I wasn’t at all intimidated by the place when I arrived—but I was really intimidated after graduating.

    I arrived at Harvard from Montreal, which is a pretty fucking hip place to be an eighteen-year-old. I’d been going to bars for a while, and I was in a political theater company that did shows in lofts with homeless people and South American activists. And we went to pubs and got old gay men to buy us drinks. It was a pretty cool, fun, and exciting life for a kid in Montreal. It was a very vibrant place, and young people were really part of the life of the city.

    Then when I went to Harvard, the place was full of these nominally smart, interesting people, all of whom at the age of eighteen seemed perfectly happy to live in dormitories and be on a meal plan and live a fully institutional life. And that was completely maddening! This was the opposite of everything I’d hoped for from the environment I’d be in.

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    Chris Adrian on ‘The Great Night’

    May 17, 2011 | by

    Photograph by Gus Elliott.

    In The Great Night, Chris Adrian recasts A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Gone are the Rude Mechanicals, replaced instead by a homeless troop staging a musicalized Soylent Green; the duped lovers are more heartbroken than confused, though they’re all lost in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park on the way to a party. The faeries remain, but they’re heartbroken too (the faerie queen, Titania, mourns the death of her human child and the departure of her king, Oberon), or malevolent and vengeful (the now scary Puck). In all his work, Adrian takes stabs at figuring out what to do in a world brimming with sin, dead brothers, and broken hearts. I recently spoke with him; he called from San Francisco, where he’s a fellow in pediatric hematology-oncology.

    This new book is a modern retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. What’s your relationship to the play? How does the book stand against it?

    My relationship is one of abject admiration. I had it in the back of my head to do a story or a novel that’s a retelling of a Shakespeare, and I thought I’d probably like to retell A Midsummer’s Night Dream but could never figure out what the actual story would be. What could I possibly come up with that would add anything to something that was already perfect, or at least make the retold story urgent and compelling? So it took a while. I figured it out in part from walking back and forth to work through Buena Vista Park at dawn and dusk, when it’s a fairly creepy and magical place, and in part from having a relationship fall apart in just the right way to generate an obsessive need to tell a story about love.

    You’ve called this a less ambitious novel compared to your other work. How so? Is that even something you should be admitting?

    In some ways it felt less ambitious, though it didn’t turn out to be any less work. The story, at least when it started out, was about love, something of a lark as a topic compared to untimely death or the end of the world. Untimely death and the end of the world crept into the novel anyway, so it became just as ambitious as any of the others.

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    David Bezmozgis on ‘The Free World’

    April 5, 2011 | by

    Photograph by David Franco.

    Set in Rome in 1978, David Bezmozgis’s first novel, The Free World, tells the story of the Krasnansky family, three generations of Latvian Jews, who leave their lives in Riga, and, like many Soviet immigrants bound for the West in the late seventies, must spend six months in the Italian metropolis to secure their visas. Contrary to the book’s title, the Krasnanskys find themselves confined to this Roman waiting room, weighed down by the rubble of their communist past, the uncertainty of their future, and their allegiances to one another. Born in Riga in 1973, Bezmozgis immigrated to Canada with his family in 1980 and told the immigrant assimilation story with his tender, restrained collection of short fiction, Natasha and Other Stories (2004). The Free World is a sort of prologue to Natasha, the taxing journey his resilient characters—Jews in Transit, as the émigré newspaper offered in Rome is called—made before settling in the North American suburb. I recently spoke with Bezmozgis at a café not far from the New York Public Library, where he is currently a fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center.

    The Krasnanskys’ story begins on a train platform in Vienna and concludes before they ever reach the North American free world. Had you always intended to contain the narrative in this strange way station?

    Yes, one thing I knew very clearly is that the book begins when they get to Italy and it ends when they’re about to leave. That in-between period, that purgatory, is the balancing point between the past, the unknowable future, and the present, which is intriguing and exotic. It’s full of dramatic possibility. It was always fascinating to me that these people had given up their lives without really knowing where they were going. I feel like I leave my apartment in Brooklyn to go to the Bronx with more information than my parents had leaving the Soviet Union to go to Canada.

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    A Week in Culture: Jonathan Lippincott, Designer, Part 2

    January 13, 2011 | by

    This is the second installment of Lippincott’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.


    11:30 A.M. Start reading the manuscript of Amy Waldman’s The Submission, a novel we are publishing this summer, and get pulled right in. This is still the most exciting part of the job, even after all these years—being one of the first readers of something that is really good. The story takes place a couple of years after the September 11 attacks, and is about a committee chosen to select a memorial for ground zero. In the opening chapter the committee is having its final meeting, there is a lot of arguing back and forth, a decision is finally reached, the anonymous entry opened, and it turns out the artist is Muslim. Chaos ensues. Read through lunch, and then have to get on to other projects.

    6:30 P.M. Opening for a show of new work by Sarah Brenneman at the Jeff Bailey Gallery. This is the third show of her paintings that I have seen, and it is interesting to see how an artist’s work evolves over time. The paintings are done in watercolor, sometimes also with pencil and gouache. I was always struck by her beautiful sense of color and pattern, and now elements of the paintings are cut out and collaged elements are added, making an even more animated image. A very strong show. Catch up with a few friends, and then head out to dinner.

    7:45 P.M. Dinner with our friend Peter, whom we haven’t seen in quite a while. We have a great time catching up, talking about recent books and less recent movies. Duck Soup, Pennies from Heaven and Bay of Angels need to be added to the Netflix queue.

    Today’s photos:

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