The Latest

Lives of the Monster Dogs

Here Kirsten Bakis and Jeff VanderMeer discuss exactly what animals think and feel and “how we are all enmeshed in a great, continuous, ever-evolving web that connects us to everything else.”

The Mighty Franks is the story of one family—brilliant, close, complicated—and of one woman and the power she exerted with in it. Michael Frank’s Aunt Hankie was a legendary screenwriter, and a magnetic, enthralling personality, who separated Frank from his parents and siblings, and took him under her wing. The Mighty Franks tells the story of that relationship, and how it deteriorated as Frank grew older. here, Frank sits down with his editor, Ileene Smith, to discuss his family, Hollywood, and objects that hold memories.

The End of Eddy

The End of Eddy captures the violence and desperation of life in a French factory town. It is also a sensitive, universal portrait of boyhood and sexual awakening. Like Karl Ove Knausgaard or Edmund White, Édouard Louis writes from his own undisguised experience, but he writes with an openness and a compassionate intelligence that are all his own. The result has made him the most celebrated French writer of his generation.

Elif Batuman’s new novel The Idiot, published by Penguin Press, has been lauded as “a hefty, gorgeous, digressive slab of a book.” It tells the story of Selin, the introverted, tall daughter of Turkish immigrants in her first year at Harvard. The book, and it’s protagonist, share many commonalities with Batuman and her earlier book of essays, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Novels and the People Who Read Them. Read an excerpt from The Possessed here and reenter the charming, hilarious world of Elif Batuman.

Flannery Sweeps

Subscribe to the Work in Progress email and enter for a chance to win a complete set of Flannery O’Connor’s beautiful reissues; Wise Blood, Everything That Rises Must Converge, The Complete Stories, The Violent Bear It Away and Mystery and Manners as well as a signed print of The Complete Stories by the illustrator June Glasson and cover designer Charlotte Strick.

Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Reach Trilogy, explores northern Florida to discuss the encroaching threats to local wildlife, writing about the environment as a political act, and the inspiration for his latest novel, Borne.

My first experience with Robert Lowell’s poetry was a failure in reading comprehension. Breezing through a stack of poems I’d been assigned for a college class, I came to his “Man and Wife” and gave it my cursory attention. Its setup is not hard to grasp: a married couple lies sleeplessly in bed in the early morning hours following a bad night, during which one has endured some kind of psychotic episode. I understood as much, but in my hurried reading, I reversed their roles, assuming reason in the (male) speaker, and madness in the woman by his side.

Pankaj Mishra and Molly Crabapple

Though it charts historical and intellectual trends that have taken place over centuries, Pankaj Mishra’s Age of Anger could hardly be more timely. Over several weeks earlier this spring, Mishra and the author and artist Molly Crabapple corresponded over email about the book and considered how some of the book’s principal themes—such as the power of resentment, the contradictions of modern civilization, and the remarkable connections between ostensibly opposed ideologies—can illuminate some of today’s most pressing issues. Below, we’ve included their conversation in full.

American Originality

We are, famously, a nation of escaped convicts, younger sons, persecuted minorities, and opportunists. This fame is local and racial: white America’s myth of itself. It does not, obviously, describe Native Americans and African Americans: though they are theoretically free to participate in mythic America’s notions of vigor and self-creation, to do so involves sustained acts of betrayal or disloyalty toward origins they conceivably had no communal wish to escape.

I have to begin by saying that as far as I know, and even listening to all the people talking earlier, I have to say that war is man-made. It’s made by men. It’s their thing, it’s their world, and they’re terribly injured in it. They suffer terribly in it, but it’s made by men. How do they come to live this way? It took me years to understand this. Because when I was a little girl, I was a boy—like a lot of little girls who like to get into things and want to be where the action is, which is up at the corner someplace, where the boys are. And I understood this very well, because that was what really interested me. I could hardly wait to continue being a boy so that I could go to war and do all the other exciting boys’ things. And it took my own life, really, for me to begin to change my mind somehow— after a number of years of actually living during the Second World War. I lived a lot in Army camps. And I liked living in those Army camps; I liked them because it was very exciting, and it seemed to be where it was all at, and there were a lot of boys there, one of which, one of the boys, was my husband. The other boys were just gravy, so to speak.

James Wright

Of the many resources I’ve mined in researching James Wright: A Life in Poetry, the most vivid have been recordings of Wright’s readings over the course of two decades, when he was a vital public figure in the world of American poetry. A strong impression of his physical presence survives in his voice, in the stories he tells, and in the poems he says—many of them written by others. Wright did not recite poems, and rarely needed a printed text. The word he used was saying poems; they were part of how he spoke, even how he thought. Wright had an astounding memory, so alert to the patterns of sound and language that some I interviewed described it as a “phonographic” memory. After saying poems in Latin, German, or Spanish, Wright would improvise his own translations. He knew countless poems by heart, as well as entire Shakespeare plays, novels by Dickens, and essays by H. L. Mencken and George Orwell—a seemingly infinite store.

So Where Are We

“So Where Are We?” is the title poem of So Where Are We, forthcoming from FSG in August. So Where Are We? begins where Into It, my last book of poems, left off, amid the global violence unleashed by the World Trade Center terrorist attacks.

Unstoppable by Maria Sharapova

I’ve often asked myself: Why write a book?

In part, it’s to tell my story, and it’s also to understand it. In many ways, my childhood is a mystery, even to me. I’m always being asked the same questions: How did I get here? How did I do it? What went right, what went wrong? As I said, if I’m known for one thing, it’s toughness, my ability to keep going when things look bad. People want to know where that quality comes from and, because everyone is hoping for their own chance, how to acquire it.

English 206

I thought I’d preface a collection of selected and new poems, Walking Backwards: Poems 1966–2016, that FSG will publish next year, with a poem that reflects on how I began writing poetry and on how it looks to me in retrospect. A few years ago I had a conversation with a very gifted younger poet in which I thoughtlessly rambled on about how much of the poetry I read by younger poets doesn’t engage me; and since then I’ve periodically tried to figure out why this might be so.

Rather than reflect on his poems or essays, which are still here for anyone to read or reread, I want to say a few words about our friendship, one whose nature, though central, is hard to capture, apparently uneventful as it was. Everything that happened happened internally.

Peter Cole and Christian Wiman

Peter Cole and Christian Wiman, two longtime friends, recently exchanged e-mails about the process of selecting their own work for their latest collections. Wiman’s book of selected poems, Hammer Is the Prayer, published by FSG in 2016, was “a stunning reminder of how this gifted poet has transformed suffering into verse that is not just the best of his life, but among the best of his generation” (The Washington Post). Peter Cole’s forthcoming Hymns & Qualms: New and Selected Poems and Translations, to be published by FSG in May, showcases the range of Cole’s work, building on his masterful translations and sharp poetry by weaving in dazzling new pieces. “It is,” says Harold Bloom, “a majestic work, a chronicle of the imaginative life of a profoundly spiritual consciousness.” Here, Cole and Wiman discuss the arrangement of collected works, the tension between life and art, and the survival of one’s own poetry.

Marianne Moore

In trying to sum up the experience of having spent the last ten years editing the poetry of Marianne Moore, most recently in the New Collected Poems, I think of a recent classroom interaction I had. Toward the end of a course on twentieth-century poetry, one of my students, clearly at the end of her patience with me, demanded to know why I kept asking them, “But what is a poem?” It’s probably a measure of how deeply I feel that question that I hadn’t noticed I’d asked it even once before she pointed it out.

John Ashberry

Two items from the poet John Ashbery’s private collections appear on the cover for The Songs We Know Best. One is a yellow card from the early 1940s that his father, Chester “Chet” Ashbery, designed to advertise goods sold by the Ashbery Farm.

FSG Poetry Month

The madness of March is past, and true to form—here in New York, at least—“lifeless in appearance, sluggish / dazed spring approaches.” What does that mean? It’s National Poetry Month! Starting today, we will regularly post new pieces related to all things poetry.