Category Archives: Chris Abani

Links: The Hoover Institution

“[Joyce Carol Oates] says she often has to bribe herself to write — dangling an hour or two of gardening as her reward — and gets her best ideas while vacuuming.”

C-SPAN’s new online video library is stuffed full of literary material from the past 20-odd years, including awards programs, conferences, readings and more. Among the videos is a 2004 PEN American Center event featuring Don DeLillo, Edward P. Jones, Francine Prose, and Russell Banks.

Jonathan Lethem, Chris Abani, and Edie Meidav are the three finalists for the teaching position at Pomona College once held by David Foster Wallace.

On the hundredth anniversary of Mark Twain‘s death, let us remember that he was a pipe aficionado, an early baseball enthusiast, a tourist magnet.

On the first anniversary of John Updike‘s death, let us remember that not everybody is impressed with his work. “He’s a fine realist,” says Yale professor Amy Hungerford. “But he doesn’t push the envelope of the novel. He is simply not on the vanguard of what fiction has to say.”

James Mulholland, who along with a few of his students answered some of my questions about his 9/11 novel course last year, defends the honor of graduate studies in the humanities: “[W]e must think of graduate school as more like choosing to go to New York to become a painter or deciding to travel to Hollywood to become an actor. Those arts-based careers have always married hope and desperation into a tense relationship. We must admit that the humanities, now, is that way, too.”

Kurt Vonnegut draws a few charts to explain how narrative works.

The next F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference will honor Alice McDermott.

On the evidence of this assortment of photographs, you’re not required to be a smoker to be a Hero of American Literature, but it helps.

And So to TED

TED 2008–a self-proclaimed conference about technology and ideas that’s currently underway in Monterey, California–has made a handful of novelists part of its large mix of speakers. Among them is Amy Tan, who spoke about storytelling. BoingBoing’s Mark Frauenfelder reports:

She got some B minuses in school for her creative writing. Parents pushed her to be a doctor, or to be a pianist on Ed Sullivan show. Her father and brother were both diagnosed with brain tumors. Her father was a baptist minister and said God would take care of them. He died soon after and so did her brother. Her mother believed that she and Amy would be next. She then became very creative “in a survival sense.” (This could be why she is so interested in “luck and fate and coincidences and the synchrony of mysterious forces.”)

Yesterday there was also a discussion of the question, “What Stirs Us?” The TED blog is currently on the fritz, but among the speakers was Nigerian-born author Chris Abani:

My search is to find stories of everyday people that transcend us, that don’t look away at the reality: we are never more beautiful than when we are ugly. What I’ve come to learn is that the world is never seen in the grand gestures, but in the accumulation of the simple, soft, selfless acts of compassion. In South Africa they say “Ubuntu”: the only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me. Which means that there is no way for us to be human without other people.
So Abani tells stories of people. People standing up to soldiers wanting to kill them. People being compassionate. People being human, reclaiming their humanity, recognizing that we are surrounded by amazing people, who offer all of us the mirror to a whole humanity.

Abani spoke about his writing, the commonalities between Africa and America, and why Things Fall Apart is like Gone With the Wind last June at TED.