paper trail

PEN America World Voices Festival moves online; Jennifer Weiner on the books she avoids

Elif Shafak. Photo: Zeynel Abidin

The PEN America World Voices festival is moving online. Podcasts, videos, interviews, and other live events on the theme of “These Truths” will be available on the groups website over the next few weeks. “In an era when the agreed-upon factual basis of our daily news is constantly undermined, there has never been a greater need for us to hear the deeper truths afforded by literature,” they said. “This virtual edition of America’s premier international literary festival will engage with contested histories and memory, challenge the fabrications of truth served to us on an almost daily basis, and celebrate the beauty and power of storytelling.” Current offerings include a podcast with Elif Shafak and John Freeman, a seminar with Jennifer Egan on “unlocking the unconscious,” and a recipe for Gumbo Z’herbes from Fatima Shaik.

At the New York Times, Dwight Garner considers breakfast, a meal he calls the most important and the most literary.

Jennifer Weiner talks to the Times’s By the Book column about Sigrid Nunez, money, and the kinds of books she avoids. “I don’t avoid any genre, but I’m wary of any book that feels more like a piece of a multipronged marketing platform than something born out of an honest desire to tell a story or speak truth,” she said. “If a book exists to drive people toward the author’s creativity retreats or yoga encounters or makeup line or reality TV show, or to build her brand, that book is not for me. I was a lonely kid. Books were company, they were lifeboats, they were friends. I don’t like seeing them treated like just another promotional asset.”

On the Maris Review, Maris Kreizman talks to Esmé Weijun Wang about appearances, illness, and fiction.

Sally Quinn tells The Washingtonian’s Benjamin Wofford that she modeled the main character of her 1991 romance novel Happy Endings on Dr. Anthony Fauci after meeting him at a dinner in DC. “With his tie askew and from behind enormous glasses, Fauci left an impression of earnest brilliance, enough to inspire the main character of Quinn’s upcoming novel,” Wofford writes. “He just exuded charisma,” Quinn explained. “Usually those dinners, you make polite conversation, and that’s it. But we had this intense conversation, personal conversation. I thought, ‘Wow, this guy is amazing.’”