paper trail

A profile of Pantheon and Schocken publisher Lisa Lucas; celebrating Octavia E. Butler’s birthday

Octavia E. Butler. Photo: Nikolas Coukouma/Wikicommons

Science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler was born on this day in 1947. To celebrate, London’s NTS Radio is broadcasting a full day of programming in her honor. And at Public Books, Sasha Ann Panaram offers an appreciation of Butler’s work and introduces an essay by Sheila Liming and an interview with Lynell George. You can read more about Butler’s life and work in the Spring 2021 issue of Bookforum, in which Gabrielle Bellot reviewed a Library of America edition of her novels and short stories. 

Electric Literature has announced “Both/And,” a forthcoming series that will be devoted to publishing essays by trans and gender nonconforming writers of color. Contributors will be paid $500 for essays, and Electric Literature is seeking donations to support the project. 

For the New York Times, Marcela Valdes profiles Lisa Lucas, the publisher of Pantheon and Schocken Books, and considers the recent changes in publishing, as the disproportionately white industry has begun to slowly diversify. Answering a question about her vision for Pantheon—a query she’s asked constantly—Lucas tells Valdes, “I want it to be modern. Cool. Inviting even when they’re challenging books.”  

Clare Sestanovich, author of the short story collection Objects of Desire, reviews Marlen Haushofer’s 1963 novel The Wall, which has just been published in English in the US by New Directions. Writing for The Baffler, Sestanovich notes that while the novel bears a striking resemblance to what today’s readers might call a “pandemic novel,” the book’s central question “is not how to sustain existence but how to understand identity—what it’s really made of, and whether it was made to endure.”

For the New Republic, Joanna Scutts considers Julie Phillips’s The Baby on the Fire Escape, a study of the relationship between art and motherhood, and the figure of the “art monster.” Phillips’s book examines the lives of Alice Neel, Doris Lessing, Ursula Le Guin, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, and Angela Carter, among others. Scutts writes that Phillips argues that the essence of motherhood is transformation: “If we looked differently, Phillips suggests, wouldn’t hers be a ‘hero-tale,’ her quest as bloody and noble as any knight’s?”