International Prize for Arabic Fiction Judge Mehmet Hakkı Suçin: Advice to Young Novelists

Originally posted on Arabic Literature (in English):

At the time of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) shortlist announcement, ArabLit and 7iber had interviews with four of the five judges. One judge was missing, Mehmet Hakkı Suçin; he was unable to make the events in Amman because of health troubles. He graciously followed up with an email interview. 

mehmetArabLit: Did you have particular criteria as you went through and looked at the books? When wading through the initial 156 (!), what told you if the book might make the first cut?

Mehmet Hakkı Suçin:  At the beginning of the process, we discussed as a committee the criteria on which we would rely in the process of reviewing the books. I said to myself: Is it possible for us to define criteria with which to choose one book over another? And indeed, I had set definitions to use during the evaluation process.

But after conversations with…

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A Bird Is Not a Stone: The Palestinian Poets ‘Rarely Translated into English’

Originally posted on Arabic Literature (in English):

A Bird is not a Stone , ed. Henry Bell and Sarah Irving, is a collection of poems by contemporary Palestinian writers forthcoming from Glasgow’s Freight Books. The translations are done — through the bridge method — by 25 of Scotland’s top poets. Irving talks about the collection, which she suggests is perhaps “freer” for being a bridge translation:

A_bird_is_not_a_stone_270.270ArabLit: Can you say a little more about what the George Wyllie sculpture “A Bird Is Not a Stone” has to do with the ethos of the project?

Sarah Irving: There were several reasons this ended up as the title. Partly it was to do with the history of the sculpture itself, which was built by the Berlin Wall and which ‘keeked’ over, and there are obvious parallels with the situation of Palestinian poets having to ‘keek’ over real and metaphorical walls which have been constructed around them. And then in…

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Hope and Joy Amid Difficulty: The Lowland

Originally posted on The Bookshelf of Emily J.:

I’ve been a fan of Jhumpa Lahiri’s since reading her first novel The Namesake (2003), and I moved from there to her short stories, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning collection Interpreter of Maladies (1999).  I will read anything she writes.  So when her second novel The Lowland (2013) came out last year, I jumped at the chance to read it.  I quickly put my name on the library list, and then I had to wait many months to actually get my hands on it.  It was worth the wait.


The novel is about two brothers, born around World War II.  Udayan becomes a Naxalite Communist in India in the 1960s, while the Subhash goes to Rhode Island for school.  He stays in the United States and earns a Ph.D., eventually marrying his brother’s wife!  It is an interesting and tragic twist of fate.  His brother is arrested and executed for being…

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Best Thing I’ve Read This Month: Abide

Originally posted on Vouched Books:

York From 2004-2005, I was a graduate student of Jake Adam York’s at University of Colorado-Denver; I also worked as a poetry editor with him on some early issues of Copper Nickel . Having known Jake personally and being familiar with his dedication to and enthusiasm for all-things poetry, it was heartbreaking to hear of his untimely death just over one year ago.

After recently receiving a copy of his posthumously released Abide (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014) in the mail, I was thankful for the opportunity to read new work by him; but that thankfulness was tempered by the sadness of knowing that he is no longer with us.

Abide serves to reinforce these conflicted feelings. On the one hand, the poems demonstrate York’s deft musicality, attention to craft, and adherence to an ethical imperative that originates in the historicity and spirit of the Civil Rights movement. On the other…

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Bookslinger Update: “Paints and Papers”

Originally posted on The Bookslinger:

The Bookslinger app has been updated with a new story!

This week’s story is from Innocent Party by Aimee Parkison, published by BOA Editions, Ltd. In this collection, Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize–winner Aimee Parkison’s characters struggle to understand what happens when the innocent party becomes the guilty party. With magical realist flair, secrets are aired with dirty laundry, but the stains never come clean. Carol Anshaw writes, “Aimee Parkison offers a distinct new voice to contemporary fiction. Her seductive stories explore childhood as a realm of sorrows, and reveal the afflictions of adults who emerge from this private geography.”

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Literary Luminary: Pamela Erens


Pamela Erens‘s first novel The Understory (Ironweed Press, 2007) was a slim volume but a gem. Unfortunately, it only found a small audience of diehard fiction lovers, but anyone who read it immediately saw the brilliance of the work (Tin House will be reissuing it soon). When Tin House published her second novel, The Virgins, suddenly it seemed as though the entire literary world woke up. Quality and lengthy reviews and essays appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, Slate, Book Slut, The Independent, The Rumpus, and the Los Angeles Review of Books as well as in a slew of other places.


For being such a small endeavor, Gently Read Literature has been obscenely fortunate to have not only reviewed The Understory and The Virgins, but to have had Erens herself review for us. With AWP 2014 raging this week, I thought it a good idea to present to you a compendium of Gently Read Literature’s Erens commentary. 

thevirginBelow are two reviews of The Virgins, the first from Sophfronia Scott featured in the Fall 2013 issue and the second from Ed Davis that ran in the current Winter 2014 issue. Then there’s Zinta Aistars’s review of The Understory which was featured in November of 2009. Later on that year, Erens reviewed Pasha Malla’s The Witdrawal Method and then in2010 David Shields’s Reality Hunger.

Alongside Paul Harding and Alissa Nutting, Pamela Erens may be quietly becoming one of the most important writers in the country.


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