Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ismail Kadare wins the Prince of Asturias Award

Ismail Kadare, one of the world's greatest novelists, and a former Ninth Letter contributor (issue #4, fall/winter 2005), has won Spain's prestigious Prince of Asturias Award in Letters. Kadare is also the recipient of the International Booker Prize, among many other recognitions of his work. The Albanian writer is a master at depicting the fear, paranoia and illogic engendered by totalitarian political systems.

Ninth Letter excerpted a chapter from Kadare's then-forthcoming novel The Successor, and here is a chilling moment from that excerpt, when the architect charged with designing and building the dictator's new home makes an unsettling discovery as he reviews his finished creation:

"Nothing could have been more terrifying to the architect than the sight of that door. It had been fitted by someone else, without his having been informed; but that would not save him from having to answer for it if any problems arose. He would have preferred not to know, to have never known about it, but bad luck had deemed otherwise."

Oronte Churm Raffle/Featherproof Mini-Books

To celebrate the release of his new novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, John Griswold aka Oronte Churm (Vol. 5, No. 2) is raffling off Southern Illinois themed prizes, including, a $25 Amazon gift card, Folksongs of Illinois, A Southern Illinois Album, and much more. Head on over to the Oronte Churm blog for more details on the prizes and how to enter the contest. Good luck!

If you're looking for more of John's work, check out "The Stork," a free mini-book from Featherproof Books. Jodee mentioned these a few weeks back in her Short Story Month post about Jill Summers (Vol. 4, No. 2). The mini-books are incredibly fun. Download, print, and follow the simple instructions to put them together. Featherproof just released new mini-books from 9L contributors Joe Meno (Vol 3, No. 2) and Blake Butler (Vol 5, No. 1).

Monday, June 22, 2009

Good news!

Congratulations to Carolyn Alessio and Adrian Matejka, who recently received Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards for their work appearing in Ninth Letter's volume 5. Carolyn's essay "Meet Marisol" appeared in our vol. 5 #1, and Adrian's poem "Babel by Foot" appeared in vol. 5 #2.

Also congratulations to K.G. Schneider, whose essay "The Outlaw Bride" (vol. 5 #2) was recently selected for the 2009 Best American Nonrequired Reading.

John Griswold's first novel, Democracy of Ghosts, was published by Wordcraft of Oregon. John's Were We're At "Microgeoraphies" appeared in Vol. 5 #2. Congratulations!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Verse Daily 3

Verse Daily is featuring another poem from the Spring/Summer 09 issue today, Bruce Snider's "A Great Whirring." Thanks, Verse Daily!

The new issue features outstanding poetry and prose from Oliva Bustion, Geri Doran, Bryan Furuness, J. Nicholas Geist, Travis Hessman, Mary Kiolbasa, Brian Oliu, Tomaz Salamun, and many others. In other words, great summer reading!

If you haven't seen our new bus/beach/poolside friendly format, here is a comparison between the new Spring/Summer 09 issue and the Spring/Summer 08 issue.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Verse Daily 2

Verse Daily is featuring Angie Estes' poem, "It Is Virtually Without Thinkness And Has Almost," from the Spring/Summer 09 issue today.

If you haven't done so already, check out the new, redesigned, Spring/Summer o9 issue of Ninth Letter. In addition to the great poetry, we have wonderful prose from Margot Livesey, Seth Fried, Bodine Schwerin, Kim Adrian, Nicholas Delbanco, Andre Perry, and many others.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Verse Daily

Olivia Clare's poem, "The Widdershins Garden," from the Spring/Summer 09 issue is up at Verse Daily. Check it out!

Monday, June 15, 2009

More New Books!

Three contributors from 9L's new Spring/Summer 09 issue have new books:

Lawrence Sutin's novel, When We Go into the Water, is out from Sarabande Books. An excerpt from the book appears in the Spring/Summer 09 issue.

"...Sutin has written a novel of such sheer audacity and delight it leaves the reader dizzy. No small part of its pleasure is that it manages to be so many things at once––a tour de force of compaction, outrageously sprawling, epic and intimate, with the velocity of a bullet train that stops to inspect a wildflower." - Mary Ruefle

Robin Hemley, most recently a 9L poetry contributor, has a new nonfiction book, Do-Over!, from Little, Brown & Co.

Do-Over! is one of the funniest, wisest, most perfectly observed books I've ever read. Robin Hemley possesses a keen insight into the all-too-human wish to rectify our past mistakes. He also knows that we are better for having made them."-Bernard Cooper

Red Hen Press published Brendan Constantine's poetry collection, Letters to Guns, which is available now.

"Brendan Constantine will offer you something you don't know, in his astonishing debut book, Letters To Guns. Not since James Tate have we seen a poet so inventive or voracious in topic, in spirit and in imagination." - Elena Karina Byrne

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bakeless Prize

Kim Dana Kupperman (Spring/Summer 2007) won the 2009 Katherine Nason Bakeless Prize for Nonfiction for her manuscript titled, I Just Lately Started Buying Wings: Missives from the Interior. Graywolf Press will publish the book and we'll keep you updated on the release date.

Congratulations, Kim!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Writers Nudging the World

For the past two years, former Ninth Letter contributor Yann Martel (first issue; spring/summer 2004) has been on a mission to offer helpful elucidation of the world of books to the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper--a politician enamored of cuts in funding for the arts who, in Yann's words, "fills his entire consideration and froths his sense of busied importance to the very brim. And no doubt he sounds and governs like one who cares little for the arts. But he must have moments of stillness.

"For as long as Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada, I vow to send him every two weeks, mailed on a Monday, a book that has been known to expand stillness. That book will be inscribed and will be accompanied by a letter I will have written. I will faithfully report on every new book, every inscription, every letter, and any response I might get from the Prime Minister.”

Prime Minister Harper has been sent a lovely little library of works by Marcus Aurelius, Flannery O'Connor, Northrop Frye, Kafka, Rilke, Orwell, Tolstoy, and Borges, plus a couple of graphic novels--Mauss by Art Speigelman and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi--and a sprinkling of Gilgamesh and the Bhagavad Gita. And so on. So far, though, the very busy prime minister has declined to respond to the bounty of these gifts. However, all of Yann Martel's accompanying letters are available at What is Stephen Harper Reading? and you could do worse than spend a few hours of your life nosing through these delicious, eloquent missives. Here is Yann's introduction to his take on Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird:

"In an interview some years ago Mavis Gallant mentioned an operation she underwent. She awoke from general anaesthesia in a state of mental confusion. For several minutes she couldn’t remember any details of her identify or of her life, not her name or her age or what she did, not where she was nor why she was there. An amnesia that was complete—except for this: she knew she was a woman and that she was thinking in English. Inextricably linked to the faintest glimmer of consciousness were those two identity traits: sex and language.

"Which says how deep language goes. It becomes part of our biology. Our lungs need and are made for air, our mouths and stomachs need and are made for nutrition; our ears and noses can hear and smell and, lo, there are things to be heard and smelled. The mind is the same: it needs and is made for language, and, lo, there are things to be said and understood."

Or try this lovely passage from his letter about Blackbird Singing, a collection of lyrics and poems by Paul McCartney:

"A song’s lyrics, I realized, are inseparable from its melody. The melody supplies the lift, suspending one’s disbelief and cynicism or giving one permission to entertain the forbidden, while the lyrics supply the in, inviting one to compare one’s experience of life with what is being said in the song, or, even better, inviting one to sing along. The possibility of listening intelligibly and of singing along are essential to a song’s appeal, because both involve the direct, personal participation of the listener. This participation, the extent to which one can mesh one’s life and dreams with a song, explains why something so short—most of the Beatles’ early songs are less than two minutes long—can go so deep so quickly. That’s the beguiling illusion of a great song: it speaks to each of us individually, and with a magnetic voice, and so we listen intently, instantly drawn into an inner dream world. Who hasn’t been moved to the core by a song, eyes closed and body shuddering with emotion? In that state, we address feelings we might be too shy to deal with in plain speech—raw, hungering lust, for example—or ones that cut deep but are so mundane we are embarrassed to talk about them: loneliness, yearning, heartbreak."

Stephen Harper owes Yann Martel--so far--57 letters of thanks in response. Clearly, the man wasn't raised right. His loss, but our gain!


More successful in his nudging of the world is Robin Hemley, Ninth Letter's first trifecta author, as he has contributed non-fiction (first issue; spring/summer 2004), fiction (issue 5; spring/summer 2006) and now poetry (current issue; spring/summer 2009). Recently, Robin wrote for McSweeney's a dispatch from Manilla, "The Great Book Blockade of 2009," about an illegal embargo of foreign books by corrupt Filipino customs officials trolling for bribes, a blockade flying in the face of international law.

Something about Robin's post struck a chord of multiplying harmonics among that country's concerned citizens, and the ensuing protests and media attention actually caused President Gloria Arroyo to get involved. You can read all about it here in this article from the Far Eastern Economic Review, "Notes from a Blockade Runner," which ends with this quote from Robin:

"As I write this, I’ve just heard from a friend that President Arroyo has lifted the book blockade and that effective immediately, there will be no taxes on imported books. Together, Filipino book lovers have performed what I consider a miracle in less than a month’s time.

"As for me, I’m floored that my original McSweeney’s piece actually effected positive change. I’m not accustomed to this. I’m accustomed to the usual things that haunt most other writers: creditors, editors, and the assorted hobgoblins of creativity. I love introspective and imaginative writers, such as Proust and Kafka, but I reserve special admiration for writers who try (but most often fail, despite noble efforts) to shake things up in the world beyond the writing desk. And while it’s the collective efforts of a group of concerned citizens of the Philippines (bloggers, journalists, and ordinary book lovers) who deserve the laurels for their efforts, I doubt I’ll ever think again that what I write or say can’t possibly make a difference in our troubled but still repairable world."

Bravo, Robin Hemley! Perhaps you too should write a letter to Stephen Harper!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

9L @ Printers Row

9L will be in Chicago June 6 & 7 for Printers Row Lit Fest! You can find us in the University of Illinois tent (location K1-3). We'll have Printers Row specials on back issues, subscriptions, and the stunning brand new Spring/Summer 09 issue.

The following 9L contributors will be giving readings and participating on various Printers Row panels: Carolyn Alessio, Dave Eggers, Amy Guth, Robin Hemley, and Joe Meno.

The Illini Union Bookstore (IUB) and University of Illinois at Chicago Library (UIC) will be hosting author signings in the University of Illinois tent as well.

Authors hosted by the IUB will include: 9L friend, Mike Czyzniejewski (June 6, 11am), Kevin Davis (June 6, 2pm), Bayo Ojikuto (June 7, 11am), Nnedi Okorafor (June 7, 12pm), Alice B. McGinty (June 7, 2pm), and Orville Vernon Burton (June 7, 4pm).

UIC will be hosting Eileen Tanner and Gary Buslik on June 7 at 12:30pm.

The Lit Fest hours are 10am to 6pm. Admission is free. If you're in Chicago, stop by and say hello.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

New Books!

Here are some new books from 9L contributors:

Spring/Summer 09 fiction contributor, Margot Livsey’s latest book, The House on Fortune Street, is now available in paperback. More about Margot Livsey and the book can be found at HarperCollins.

"The most durable structure here, in fact, is not a house but the novel itself, whose design unites so seamlessly with its intentions that one wants to admire it from every angle.” - The Washington Post

Ben George (CNF, Spring/Summer 07) edited an anthology about fatherhood called The Book of Dads. The collection also features essays from other 9L contributors, Steve Almond (Spring/Summer 04, Spring/Summer 05, Fall/Winter 07) and Brock Clarke (Fall/Winter 06).

"These essays speak to us, as parents and children, in a language rich with humanity and wisdom." - Ken Kalfus

Poetry Contributor, Lytton Smith’s (Fall/Winter 2006) collection of poetry, The All-Purpose Magical Tent was the winner of the Nightboat Poetry Prize and is published by Nightboat Books.

"Smith's sequences have themes and forms rather than gimmicks, relying on imagination rather than on any biographical facts. His powers ought to help this book, and its author, last." – Publishers Weekly.

John Haskell's (Fiction, Fall/Winter 04) new book, Out of My Skin, is now available from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

"In his excellent third book, Haskell gets into the head of a lonely writer whose shot at a second chance hinges, strangely and brilliantly, on an impersonation of an impersonation of Steve Martin...It's an odd world, and certainly one worth entering." - Publishers Weekly