paper trail

Ed Park, Jo Livingstone, Omari Weekes, and Lauren Oyler discuss risk and authenticity in fiction

Austrian poet Friederike Mayröcker has died at the age of ninety-six. Writing for the Poetry Foundation last year, Ryan Ruby gave an insightful overview of Mayröcker’s life and work. Born in Vienna in 1924, Mayröcker has written well over one hundred books, with only a small fraction of those available in English translation. Earlier this year, the Paris Review published an excerpt from The Communicating Vessels, published by Public Space Books.

At the New York Times, Alexandra Alter and Jennifer Schuessler report on what will become of Philip Roth’s private archive. In the weeks since Blake Bailey, Roth’s sole authorized biographer, has been accused of sexual assault, Roth scholars and friends of the celebrated author have spoken about matters Bailey may have mischaracterized or omitted in his supposedly definitive account. Last month, a group of writers and academics requested that Roth’s estate not destroy his personal papers, which were provided in full to Bailey alone. Those advocating for access to this material “argue that, in someone else’s hands, it could yield very different insights into Roth’s relationship to Judaism, politics, money or illness.” In late May, Alex Shepard took a closer look at the fight to save Roth’s documents.

For The Atlantic, Michael Waters writes about the history of gender neutral pronouns in the English language, from “thon” to “hir” to “they,” which was commonly used to identify persons of unknown gender prior to the eighteenth-century standard that the singular “they” was grammatically incorrect. Of course, Waters notes, “exact parallels between discussions of gender in the early 1900s and contemporary ideas of gender outside of a binary” are complex to trace. It seems “the bulk of what’s changed is that gender-neutral pronouns are more widespread today than ever before. The backlash to them, however, is nothing new.”

The Academy of American Poets has announced twenty-three 2021 Poets Laureate Fellows, who will lead public poetry programs for the states and cities they serve over the next year. You can read about each fellow’s plans here.

If you were unable to join us on Tuesday night, you can now watch a recording of Bookforum’s conversation with Jo Livingstone, Omari Weekes, Ed Park, and Lauren Oyler. To celebrate the release of our “Truth or Dare” Summer issue, the panelists discussed authenticity in fiction, personal and commercial risks, the role of absurdity in writing and thinking about trauma, and whether irony can be sincere.