paper trail

Investigating elitism in the literary world with digital humanities; Helen Oyeyemi’s new novel of trains and games

Helen Oyeyemi. Photo: Tereza Linhartova

Claire Grossman, Stephanie Young, and Juliana Spahr take a digital humanities approach to investigate “Who Gets to be a Writer?” for Public Books. Their analysis—which uses demographic data of the judges and winners of fifty-one literary prizes from 1918 to the present—shows that the most statistically significant factor is where a writer attended college or university. After the year 2000, they observe an uptick in the number of nonwhite, prizewinning authors, but note that literary culture “is also becoming more exclusionary, more tied to elite educational institutions, and more difficult to enter. These obstacles are most salient for writers who are not white, a troubling contradiction in what otherwise appears to be a moment of watershed inclusion.”

A new study by the NewsGuild Gannett caucus has found that the median salary of women and people of color working in fourteen unionized newsrooms is at least five thousand dollars less than their white and male colleagues, Angela Fu reports for Poynter.

For the New Republic, Jennifer Wilson reviews Helen Oyeyemi’s Peaces, and the author’s penchant for “books that are like games.” Her new novel takes place entirely on a train. “The delicate dance that trains impose—between public and private, between what space is mine and what is yours,” Wilson writes, “is the game Oyeyemi seems to be playing at in Peaces.

W. W. Norton has announced that it is taking Blake Bailey’s biography of Philip Roth permanently out of print and will make a donation equal to Bailey’s advance to organizations that support survivors of sexual abuse and harrasment. (Norton is also making Bailey’s 2014 memoir unavailable.) According to the New York Times, Norton was notified of one of the allegations against Bailey in 2018 but did not pursue the charge, which it also apparently forwarded to the author. Norton’s president, Julia A. Reidhead, conceded that the company could have handled the anonymous allegations differently: “As a publishing company we are limited in our investigative abilities, but we recognize that there may be situations, such as allegations of potentially criminal conduct, where we should actively consider bringing in outside assistance.”

At Nieman Lab, Rachel del Valle looks at the relevance and limitations of radio news in the Mountain West, and how outlets are increasingly choosing to share stories across different platforms to reach listeners beyond their local communities.

On Tuesday May 4 at 7:30 PM EST, Community Bookstore will host Jhumpa Lahiri to discuss her latest novel, Whereabouts, with A Burning author Megha Majumdar.