The Two-Way
7:02 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Book News: Oscar Hijuelos Remembered As 'A Cultural Pioneer'

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Novelist Oscar Hijuelos, whose book The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love made him the first Latino author to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, died on Saturday at age 62. NPR's David Greene interviewed Hijuelos' friend Gustavo Perez Firmat, a Columbia professor who said Hijuelos made Americans realize that there is a "rich and diverse body of writing being done by young Latinos in this country," noting that it "helped to open doors with both publishers and readers to other Latino writers." Hector Tobar of the Los Angeles Times wrote that Hijuelos was "a cultural pioneer who wrote elegant novels about ambitious Cuban expatriates and music-loving New Yorkers." Tobar added, "He told stories that revealed the texture and passion of the Latino immigrant experience to legions of non-Latino readers for the first time."
  • With the announcement of the prestigious Man Booker Prize looming, The Guardian announced the winner of its aptly-named annual contest, the Not the Booker Prize. This year, Life After Life, a novel from the "tremendously talented writer" Kate Atkinson took the award.
  • The poet, professor and critic James Emanuel died Sept. 28 at age 92, The New York Times reports. His poems often deal with racism in America. One, "Deadly James (For All the Victims of Police Brutality)," was written after his son, who Emanuel said was a victim of police brutality, committed suicide. In September, Emanuel spoke to NPR's Eleanor Beardsley about moving to Paris to escape racial discrimination in the U.S.: "It's the tragedy that I never can talk about. It was too evil, too vicious. And any country that would tolerate it is a country I can't put my foot in." He added, "If America ever solves its racial problem, it will be the greatest country in the world."
  • Carl Bernstein is writing a memoir about his time as a rookie journalist at The Washington Star, the legendary D.C. newspaper that went bankrupt in 1981. The book will be titled The Washington Star and will be published in 2016 by Henry Holt. In a press release, Bernstein wrote ,"My understanding of journalism, and the world I've covered and written about, and the life I've led, crystallized in those five incomparable years at a uniquely great newspaper."
  • The Color Purple author Alice Walker will publish excerpts from her personal diaries as a book, to be called Gathering Blossoms Under Fire. The Simon & Schuster imprint 37 Ink will publish it in 2017. The Associated Press notes that "the 69-year-old Walker has been keeping a diary for half a century, filling dozens of notebooks that track her rise from poverty in Georgia to international fame."
  • Donna Tartt rails against prescriptivism in English in an interview with her editor Michael Pietsch: "English is such a powerful and widely spoken language precisely because it's so flexible, and capacious: a catchall hybrid that absorbs and incorporates everything it comes into contact with. Lexical variety, eccentric constructions and punctuation, variant spellings, archaisms, the ability to pile clause on clause, the effortless incorporation of words from other languages: flexibility, and inclusiveness, is what makes English great; and diversity is what keeps it healthy and growing, exuberantly regenerating itself with rich new forms and usages. Shakespearean words, foreign words, slang and dialect and made-up phrases from kids on the street corner: English has room for them all. And writers — not just literary writers, but popular writers as well — breathe air into English and keep it lively by making it their own, not by adhering to some style manual that gets handed out to college Freshmen in a composition class."
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