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News, Notes, Talk

Excuse me while I salivate over these book-inspired pies.

Katie Yee

September 2, 2020, 10:00am

While everyone and their mothers have been getting really into baking during this quarantine, I have been staring longingly at their Instagram posts. I, for one, am useless in the kitchen. There have been no sourdough starters. There have been zero attempts to make banana bread. No, I pass my hours looking at what all my friends are eating.

And then I came across an Instagram account that combined my two great loves: pie and books. Allow me to introduce you to @pieladybooks. She bakes pies (GLUTEN-FREE PIES! I imagine gluten-filled pies are hard enough!). But not just any pies. These pies are inspired by book covers and her love of the books themselves. Bask in their baked-good glory!!



Such a Fun Age

The Vanishing Half

The Book of V.

Writers & Lovers

Little Fires Everywhere

Well, I’m inspired. No, not to bake. But definitely to eat some pie and to read these titles while I do so! Hungry for more? Definitely join me in salivating over her Instagram.

Ethan Hawke is now a book critic, thereby completing his Literary World Bingo Card.

Dan Sheehan

September 1, 2020, 2:45pm

Congratulations to Ethan Hawke, star of my favorite film (Gattaca) and arguably the most bookish man in Hollywood, who has, with today’s inclusion in the (web) pages of the New York Times Book Review, completed his Literary World Bingo Card!

What is the Literary World Bingo Card you ask? Well, let me explain: in order for an actor (or musician-turned-actor) to complete their Literary World Bingo Card they must do all of the following.

(i) Star in an Broadway, Off-Broadway, or West End play. Bonus points if it’s Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov, or Beckett.

(ii) Write a book. Bonus points if it’s a novel.

(iii) Serve on a literary award jury. Bonus points if it’s the National Book Award, Booker, or Pulitzer.

(iv) Use your Hollywood clout to get an ill-advised literary passion project made and/or write a screenplay for a movie. Bonus point if you direct it yourself.

(v) Write a book review for a newspaper of record.


As I’m sure you can imagine, this is no mean feat. Few have tried. Even fewer have succeeded. In fact, it’s generally considered easier to achieve an EGOT than it is to complete the fabled LitWoBingCo. There is no air more rarefied.

So how did Hawke go about it? The answer is quietly, methodically, and emphatically, over the course of a quarter century:

(i) Hawke, who is a great-nephew of Tennessee Williams on his father’s side and who has described theater as his “first love,” made his Broadway debut in 1992 at the tender age of twenty-two, portraying the playwright Konstantin Treplev in Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull. Since then he’s founded his own theater company, directed three Off-Broadway productions, been nominated for a Tony and a Drama Desk Award, and performed Stoppard, Shepard, Shakespeare, and more on multiple occasions.

(ii) A book. Anybody jackass can write a book. My main man Hawkey has penned not one, not two, not five, but four books. Three novels and a graphic novel, to be more specific. You could teach a course on his fiction alone.

(iii) E-Hawks didn’t just serve on a jury, he created a whole new literary award. Back in 2001, Hawke co-founded the Young Lions Fiction Award, an annual prize for achievements in fiction by authors under the age of 35. For these efforts, the New York Public Library honored him as a Library Lion back in 2010.

(iv) Once again, ‘ol Hawke-Eye doesn’t do things by halves. Aside from serving as writer, director, and producer of the 2018 Blaze Foley biopic Blaze, with the 2007 indie The Hottest State Hawke became perhaps the only person to ever script, direct, and star in an adaptation of their own goddamn novel. What a flex.

(v) September 1, 2020: newspaper of record review achieved.


That’s a bingo!


Well done, Ethan. Well fuckin’ done, mate.

Kaveh Akbar is The Nation’s new poetry editor.

Corinne Segal

September 1, 2020, 1:42pm

Happy first day of work to poet Kaveh Akbar, who is the new poetry editor of The Nation as of… today!

The magazine announced in a press release that Akbar, who teaches at Purdue University, is taking over the position from former co-editors Stephanie Burt and Carmen Giménez Smith. He said in a statement that he wanted to expand the magazine’s poetry offerings to include writers from all corners of the poetry world:

The poet M. NourbeSe Philip talks about poets “decontaminating” language, “managing the brutal history that casts a long and deep shadow around the language.” I can’t improve upon that. I’m excited to introduce Nation readers (and myself) to new voices at the vanguard of such decontamination, voices challenging received notions of what poetry can do and be. I’m especially eager to hear from voices marginalized by traditional channels of American publishing, including international poets, incarcerated poets, undocumented poets, Black, indigenous, and POC poets, trans and queer poets, and disabled poets. Above all, I believe in poetry’s power to substantively contribute to The Nation’s mission of “raising up the promise of a radical tomorrow while agitating for meaningful change today.”

Jonathan Franzen’s best piece of advice for young writers will probably surprise you.

Emily Temple

September 1, 2020, 11:18am

Jonathan Franzen, whose breakout novel The Corrections was published 19 years ago today, has since then gotten a reputation for being . . . well, kind of crotchety. He hates the internet (especially Twitter), he hates saying “I love you” at the end of phone calls, he hates “the tyranny of niceness,” he was mean to Oprah, he wrote (gulp) this list of rules for novelists. The list goes on. In the last couple of decades, he has sold truckloads of books and also become the subject of much controversy and vitriol and mocking, especially on the internets he so loathes.

Whether all that mocking is fair or not, it added up to me being surprised when I stumbled across this video of Jonathan Franzen giving his advice to young writers—because it’s really good advice. Sorry, but it’s true! Or at least I think so, since it’s a piece of advice that I personally subscribe to—and one that, had I heard it a decade ago, would probably have made writing my first novel a hell of a lot easier. The essence of it is have fun, but I’ll let him tell you:

Thank you, Lois Lowry, for the Anastasia Krupnik books.

Jessie Gaynor

September 1, 2020, 10:00am

With all due respect to Jonas from The Giver, my heart belongs to a different Lois Lowry protagonist. Not a character who imagines themselves to be perfectly ordinary only to find out that they are, in fact, very special—so special in fact that their life’s work will be to shield an entire Community from the crushing pain of memory. But one who is actually fairly ordinary, albeit in a special way: Anastasia Krupnik.

Lois Lowry is one of the biggest names in chapter books, and the winner of two Newbery Medals for The Giver and Number the Stars, but the Anastasia books, of which there are nine, are her cult classics. Any time I meet a fellow Anastasia devotee, our love of the books serves as a shortcut to mutual understanding.

Anastasia is a smart kid who isn’t a Smart Kid. (Her brother, Sam, who has his own spinoff book series, is the prodigy of the two.) Anastasia is not Rory Gilmore—she reads a lot of books, but the adults around her don’t call attention to her precocity. Her parents clearly love and enjoy her, and occasionally find her exasperating, which she is, because all 10-to-13-year-olds are. Her mother is a children’s book illustrator and her father is a poet and a professor at Harvard, and I think the Anastasia books were my first real exposure to either of those as actual jobs. In fact, it was Anastasia’s father introduced me to Wordsworth. (Should blame him for my MFA in poetry?) And of course, Anastasia at 13 finds her parents and their jobs horrifying. She wants her mother to wear makeup and host luncheons. She wants her father not to keep his manuscripts in progress in the refrigerator (in case the house burns down).

Nothing enormously transformative ever really happens to Anastasia. Mostly, her problems seem to resolve themselves with time—the incremental process of growing up. (And, in the case of Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst, by talking to a plaster bust of Sigmund Freud she buys as a garage sale.) She’s good at English but bad at science. She’s not popular but she’s not an outcast. She’s neurotic but confident. She wants exciting things to happen to her, but she’s hemmed in by the state of being 13.

And she’s funny. This may be the most memorable thing about the Anastasia books. They’re funny the way the books I love as an adult are funny—effortlessly, and to their core. The climax of Anastasia Has the Answers sees Anastasia climbing a rope in front of a delegation of international educators—and the female gym teacher on whom she has a hopeless crush—and reciting Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “God’s World,” which Anastasia thinks is “really neat” and which her father describes as “sentimental garbage.” I mean, I challenge find me another middle-grade book with a tossed-off burn on Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Anastasia Krupnik has also been banned a few times over the years, because of one instance of “shit” (In 1986, “Roosevelt Elementary School’s principal in Tulare removed the book but returned it later with the word ‘shit’ whited out”) and a reference to Playboy. Neither of those offenses left much of an impression on me when I read (and reread, and reread) the book. I was too focused on Anastasia herself, the delightfully wry, trademark-free middle grade protagonist of my dreams.