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2018 Arts Writers Grants recipients announced; Margo Jefferson on intersectionality and journalism

Margo Jefferson

The City of New York has proposed designating the Strand bookstore’s building as a historical landmark. But current owner Nancy Bass Wyden is asking the city to reconsider their plans. Wyden says that the designation would strain the stores finances by making renovations and upkeep more costly, and that she has no plans to sell the building to developers. “The richest man in America, who’s a direct competitor, has just been handed $3 billion in subsidies. I’m not asking for money or a tax rebate,” Wyden said, referencing Amazon’s planned headquarters in Queens. “Just leave me alone.”

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts have announced the recipients of this year’s Arts Writers Grants.

In The Believer, Zinzi Clemmons talks to Margo Jefferson about intersectionality, feminism, and her experience as a Newsweek journalist in the 1970s. I wanted to write about everything that white male critics were not writing about,” she said. “I remember once at the books meeting at Newsweek, we were picking books and I decided I was going to write about Toni Cade Bambara’s The Sea Birds Are Still Alive. This particularly snide editor was leafing through it and said, ‘The Sea Birds Are Still Alive—does anybody care?’ Those kinds of possibly genuinely offhand remarks sent you screaming into a black colleague’s office, or would just plunge the heart and surround you with that kind of angry defensiveness as you did your work.”

At The Atlantic, Rachel Donadio investigates the person—or people—behind the figure of Elena Ferrante. “Writing as Elena Ferrante seems to me a metafictional project, a literary game of the highest order. But it’s also a far-reaching exploration of what it means to write as a woman, to be perceived as a woman writer—and what expansive possibilities may emerge when our assumptions about the author’s identity are subverted,” she writes. “Perhaps you, the construct that is Elena Ferrante, aspire to break down the categories that too often constrain or pigeonhole a complex literary project.”

James Frey has won the 2018 award for bad sex in fiction for his novel Katerina. “Frey prevailed against a strong all-male shortlist by virtue of the sheer number and length of dubious erotic passages in his book,” the judges explained in a statement. “The multiple scenes of sustained fantasy in Katerina could have won Frey the award many times over.”

“I needed a protagonist who could do things only males could have done in their era,” says Unsheltered author Barbara Kingsolver on why she sometimes writes from a |!|male| point-of-view. “In creating male characters I draw on what I know well (for example, Thatcher’s scientific curiosity) and steer clear of what I don’t (for example, how it feels to have an erection).”