On the Books: Jacqueline Woodson responds to Daniel Handler's slurs
Following his racist remarks at last month’s National Book Awards, author Daniel Handler—better known as Lemony Snicket—apologized and donated $110,000 to the We Need Diverse Books Indiegogo campaign. But until now, the subject of Handler’s jokes, children’s author Jacqueline Woodson, had remained silent. In Friday’s New York Times, Woodson responded to Handler’s comments, which mocked how her watermelon allergy related to her African-American heritage.
Woodson explains she and Handler have been friends for many years, and that she told him about her allergy last summer at Handler’s Cape Cod home. “I was astonished when he brought this up before the National Book Award audience — in the form of a wink-nudge joke about being black,” Woodson writes. “By making light of that deep and troubled history, he showed that he believed we were at a point where we could laugh about it all. His historical context, unlike my own, came from a place of ignorance.”
Using Handler’s jokes as an entry point, Woodson analyzes how the publishing industry and the books Americans read perpetuate the country’s ugly racial history. The author describes her mission to “write stories that have been historically absent in this country’s body of literature, to create mirrors for the people who so rarely see themselves inside contemporary fiction, and windows for those who think we are no more than the stereotypes they’re so afraid of.” [The New York Times]
The literary world lost two renowned figures over the holiday weekend. British crime novelist P.D. James died at her Oxford home Thursday at the age of 94. James’ best-known works include the Adam Dalglieshmystery series, the Pride and Prejudice spin-off Death Comes to Pemberley, and The Children of Men. Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón produced a critically acclaimed film adaptation of Children of Men in 2006. [BBC]
Former U.S. poet laureate Mark Strand died Saturday in New York. The Pulitzer Prize winner was 80. Strand rose to prominence in the 1960s, became poet laureate in 1990, and his most recent work, Collected Poems, made the longlist for this year’s National Book Awards. In the 1970s, Strand—whom one profile described as “Robert Redford playing the part of a tenured professor”—enjoyed unusual popularity for a poet. Reflecting on the groupies who flocked to him on college campuses, Strand described his youth as a time to “fulfill all the romantic notions of what poets really are.” [L.A. Times]
Indie rocker P.J. Harvey announced her first book today. The 224-page collection of images and poetry titled The Hollow of the Hand will hit shelves October 20, 2015. Harvey worked with photographer and filmmaker Seamus Murphy on the project, which documents her world travels following her 2011 album Let England Shake. Harvey and Murphy previously teamed up to produce 12 short films inspired by the record. For a taste of what Harvey has in store, listen to her read one of her new poems on the New Yorker. [Pitchfork]