Teju Cole

PEN-American-Center

Does ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Deserve PEN’s Freedom of Expression Courage Award? A Conversation

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Earlier this week, six authors — Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Peter Carey, and Taiye Selasi — announced their withdrawal as literary hosts of this year’s PEN America gala, over the group’s acknowledgment of Charlie Hebdo with its annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award. Responding to what Kushner referred to as the magazine’s “cultural intolerance,” the writers met with quick condemnation from both PEN itself and one of its loudest spokesmen, Salman Rushdie.

So, who’s right? Is the Charlie Hebdo staff’s martyrdom enough to justify honoring them? Or should an award like this be reserved for work that PEN and its constituency actually endorse? Flavorwire Editor-at-Large Sarah Seltzer and Literary Editor Jonathon Sturgeon found themselves on the opposite sides of these questions. Below, each argues their point of view.
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Teju Cole

PEN and Salman Rushdie’s Disappointing Response to Authors Who Refuse to Celebrate ‘Charlie Hebdo’

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Six writers — Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Peter Carey, and Taiye Selasi — will withdraw as literary hosts from the PEN American Center’s annual gala in response to the organization’s decision to recognize Charlie Hebdo with the James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award. But instead of recognizing the power of their gesture, PEN has met these writers with a pose of incredulity and a statement written in the language of a GOP primary.
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prelue

The Best of Literary Criticism in 2014

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I’ll give it to you straight: 2014 was a weird year in literary criticism. There were a lot of “hybrid” pieces, the kind that I’m not altogether fond of. But there were, to be sure, a number of substantial essays and reviews that worked to open up possibilities in literary writing. Here, with mere hours remaining in the year, are the best pieces of literary criticism (that I can remember) from 2014. Did I miss something? Too bad. 2014 is over, and it doesn’t make sense to have two rage years in a row.
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wine

Are Women Still Being Preached Archaic Ideals About Prenatal Health? : Links You Need to See

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Today is Veterans Day, a holiday that is too often only superficially acknowledged through nationalistic brouhaha. What get overlooked are the lived experiences of actual veterans, many of whom return home with intense post-traumatic stress disorder and few resources for treatment. In “The Agony and the Ecstasy: The Quiet Mission to Fight PTSD with MDMA,” Motherboard writer Brian Anderson details the efforts doctors Annie and Michael Mithoefer are taking to treat PTSD among veterans using small amounts of ecstasy in safe, controlled environments. Although the piece is from 2011, Motherboard has reposted it because — unfortunately — the urgent need for PTSD-treatment in the veteran community is huge.
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Arcangel

A Brief and Incomplete Survey of New Types of Online Literature

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Last week, T Magazine published a game of exquisite corpse featuring a selection of excellent fiction writers, from Jenny Offill and James Patterson to Zadie Smith and Ben Marcus. The game was light and refreshing; the story itself twists into absurdity as some of the authors — notably the insidious R.L. Stine — appear to be pranking their peers and sort of hacking the plot as it grows. I found the form of the story simple but genuinely interesting, so I decided to pool together this chronology (or survey) of recent developments in digital or online literary forms. This is by no means a comprehensive list, nor is it meant to be. (I have, though, included some print projects that derive their form from digital media.) But it could be a starting point for a broader discussion about new literary forms, especially those new types of fiction (and criticism) that are popping up, rapidly, on Twitter and elsewhere.
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Writers

The 35 Writers Who Run the Literary Internet

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The debate as to whether the Internet is good or bad for literature doesn’t seem any closer to resolution now than when it began, years ago, but the fact remains that some people in the literary world are excellent at using social media and other platforms to communicate with readers and get people interested in what they’re writing. Some are young authors, others are firmly established. Some are publishing industry veterans or new media superstars, others command small armies via their Tumblrs. Whatever it is they do on the Internet, these 35 people do it better than anybody else in the book… Read More

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8 More African-Born Writers You Should Be Reading

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Fiction can be a revealing window into cultures that are unfamiliar to us — and reading the work of an author who lives in another country or was born across the world from us can elucidate a different point of view. Whether it be a country’s political situation, the lexicon, the history, or the people, immersing oneself in the fiction of a specific nation, region, or even an entire content can provide an opportunity to better understand other places and experiences. And, as a recent New York Times article noted, this is an especially great time for literature from Africa and by authors who were born there:
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