paper trail

Nate Silver talks about the relauch of Five ThirtyEight; Bill Knott, 1940-1914

Bill Knott

The National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced last night. The winners are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (fiction), Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (nonfiction), Frank Bidart’s Metaphysical Dog (poetry), Franco Moretti’s Distant Reading (criticism), Amy Wilentz’s Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti (autobiography), and Leo Damrosch’s Jonathan Swift (biography).

Nate Silver talks about the relaunch of his FiveThirtyEight blog, which goes live Monday afternoon.

The poet Bill Knott has died. The author of numerous collections and chapbooks, many of them hand-made, Knott often shunned mainstream recognition: Though he was once published by FSG, he quickly sabotaged his relationship with the house; another anecdote has him refusing to be published in the Best American Poetry anthology. But he won a devoted following and inspired writers of all types: Denis Johnson, to give just one impressive example, based the plot of his “California Gothic” Already Dead on Knott's "Poem Noir."

Soho Press has launched a new column on its website called The Consolation Prize with Mark Doten: Enthusing about Literature and Bitching about Publishing. “The idea here is interviews with folks in the biz, poking the proverbial poking stick at sales reps, writers, booksellers, editors—anyone, really, who can both enthuse about literature and bitch about publishing.” Their first guest is Emily Gould, the author of And the Heart Says Whatever and the forthcoming novel Friendship, who talks about the Heather Lewis’s stunning and sad (and woefully underrecognized) novel Notice.

At the LRB, Christian Lorentzen imagines writing a bibliomemoir on Kafka, My Friend Franz: Chronicle of a Life Not a Little Kafkaesque. A sample from the proposed book: “Chapter 2: At university I read The Trial. Lifelong persecution complex begins.”

Laura Miller likes plenty of fiction written by MFAs, but she points out that writing programs fail to teach many students a crucial lesson: That they must earn their readership. “MFA programs create a bubble for the writers who enroll in them, but what these writers are protected from isn’t either the blistering reader reviews of Amazon or the swashbuckling critical crusaders of the legit press. Instead, pretty much by definition, the workshop world fails to prepare writers for what they will almost certainly face outside it: indifference and silence.