Paper Trail

The Brooklyn Book Festival’s week of events

Cathy Park Hong

The Brooklyn Book Festival will take place this Sunday, and this week it is hosting a number of live and virtual “Bookend” events, which will feature authors Yiyun Li, Brandon Taylor, Cathy Park Hong, Maggie Nelson, Tahir Hamut Izgil, Sarah Schulman, Hanif Abdurraqib, Colson Whitehead, Silvia Federici, and many others.

On the latest episode of the New Yorker Radio Hour, Parul Sehgal, who has just joined the magazine, talks about literature that describes trauma and atrocity. She discusses books she teaches in a class called “Writing the Unspeakable,” including Svetlana Alexievich’s The Unwomanly Face of War and Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. “It’s ‘Writing the Unspeakable’ because when you work with language or with narrative, invariably you become interested in where it breaks down. You know, where is it insufficient?”

After announcing earlier this year that the 2021 National Book Awards ceremony would be held in person on November 17, the National Book Foundation has decided to cancel the live event and broadcast the awards virtually, due to continuing cases of COVID-19.

In January, McNally Editions, a new imprint launched by McNally Jackson booksellers, will publish its first batch of “hidden gems,” among them Kay Dick’s They, Han Suyin’s Winter Love, and David Foster Wallace’s Something to Do with Attention.

Joshua Cohen talks with author Lincoln Michel about the interplay of reality and fiction in his novels, including his latest, The Netanyahus. “My definition of [the truth] changes with every novel. If something I’m writing has some kinship with reality, I want to make sure I know what I’m fictionalizing and why; or, to put it another way, I want to know what it is about the truth that prevents me from writing it. Why do I prefer my own version to the ‘real’ version?”

Malcolm Gladwell has inspired anger and ridicule with his most recent newsletter, in which he proclaims that he doesn’t find the recently deceased comedian Norm Macdonald funny. Gladwell explains: “​​I want you to pay no heed whatsoever to my opinion on Norm Macdonald. Why? I’m not someone who cares that much about comedy. . . . The reason Conan O’Brien and so many other comics loved Macdonald is that Macdonald was an insider’s comic. He was the kind of comic beloved by people who take comedy really seriously.”

On Thursday at 7pm Eastern time, Karl Ove Knausgaard will discuss his new novel, The Morning Star, with novelist and critic Lauren Oyler.