paper trail

Speculating about the Pulitzers; Why running for president is like "Ulysses"

Fran Lebowitz

The finalists for this year’s Pulitzer Prizes, which will be announced on April 15, haven’t been made public, but at Vanity Fair, Joe Pompeo speculates on which journalists are currently considered to be the top contenders (Carlos Lozado and Jill Lepore are favorites for criticism). As for nonfiction books, John Carreyrou’s best-selling Bad Blood, about the scandal-ridden billion-dollar blood-testing company Theranos, “is a strong candidate for nonfiction books.”

Critic Sasha Frere-Jones has started a new blogletter in which he “will be writing about books, performances, albums, bagels, songs, time, bagels, oil paint, coffee, film crews on Avenue B, bagels, and myself, because I am a person and I have a brain and that’s going to be the case.” 

Fran Lebowitz talks with Rachel Tashjian about #MeToo (“I believe every single woman”), her “addiction” to reading (“Reading is not good for me, because I’ve spent my life doing that instead of writing”), whether she will publish another book (“I think it’s more likely than not”), and her friendship with Toni Morrison, with whom she talks every day. “She has the greatest generosity of anyone I’ve ever known,” Lebowitz says of Morrison. “So it’s not only her intelligence, which is extreme.”

Pete Buttigieg—the South Bend, Indiana, mayor and now a Democratic presidential candidate—explains why running for president is like James Joyce’s Ulysses: “Its subject matter couldn't be more democratic. It's about a guy going about his day for one day. . . . You're in this guy's head, and you're kind of seeing life through his eyes, and at the end through his wife's eyes. That's how politics ought to be, too. The reason any of this stuff matters is that it affects us in the everyday. And I think the greatest literature, whether it's Ulysses or Mahfouz, when it touches politics, it's about how politics can make our everyday better or worse. And I think that same understanding of the imperative and the primacy of lived experience ought to be how our politics works.”

As Ali Smith’s Spring—the third in a quartet of novels that draws on political events and Shakespeare—is about to be released, the Scottish novelist reflects on the current situation in the UK: “The UK will disunite, and Ireland will reunite. But all of this will be irrelevant—all our nationalisms are nothing in the face of climate change,” she notes. But she has hope: “This young generation is amazing. They’re showing us that we need to change and we can change. That’s the exciting thing about being human.”

Lawrence Ferlinghetti—the legendary Beat poet and co-founder of City Lights Bookstore—celebrated his 100th birthday yesterday.

Europa Editions (the American publisher of Elena Ferrante) has bought the rights to three novels by Japanese author Mieko Kawakami. The first of the titles, Breast and Eggs, has sold more than 250,000 copies in Japan and will be released in the US in 2020. Haruki Murakami has said of the book that it is “so amazing it took my breath away.”