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Book News: Hundreds Of Writers Denounce 'Chokehold' Russian Laws

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

  • A group of more than 200 authors, including Salman Rushdie, Wole Soyinka, Jonathan Franzen, Günter Grass and Margaret Atwood, have signed an open letter criticizing recent Russian laws that "that place a chokehold on the right to express oneself freely." The letter points to three laws that it says put writers at risk: "the so-called gay 'propaganda' and 'blasphemy' laws, prohibiting the 'promotion' of homosexuality and 'religious insult' respectively, and the recriminalisation of defamation." It continues, "A healthy democracy must hear the independent voices of all its citizens; the global community needs to hear, and be enriched by, the diversity of Russian opinion." The letter was published Wednesday in advance of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
  • Takahito "Taka" Aiki is replacing Michael Serbinis as the CEO of Kobo, the e-reader company founded in Canada in 2009. Serbinis, who founded Kobo, will be the company's vice chairman. In a statement, Aiki said, "I am excited to be joining Kobo, one of Canada's most prominent brands and a true innovator in eReading."
  • Novelist Teju Cole has sold a nonfiction book to Random House, called Radio Lagos: Life, Death, and the Afterlife in Africa's Biggest City. According to a press release from his publisher, the book uses "history, memoir, essay, interviews, and reportage to tell the story of Africa's most essential and mysterious metropolis." Cole wrote in the release: "Lagos is overpopulated but underinterpreted. It has an energy that can shift quickly, inspiring one moment, frightening the next. It is the city I know better than any other, and in Radio Lagos I want to set down in an unfictionalized form as much of that complexity as I can." Cole has previously written about Lagos in an essay in Granta.
  • U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey describes how W.H. Auden's poem "Musée des Beaux Arts" helped her deal with the death of her mother: "The poem showed me that I was not alone in the experience of being alone in my suffering, that—across time and space—others had and would continue to suffer, and that a single voice could speak into the silences, the emptiness that my mother's death left in my life. This is the great cultural force of poetry. In its intimacy, the individual voice of the poem can show us ourselves by showing us the interior life of someone else, can inspire in us great empathy — a sacred gift – and can bring us back from the depths of despair."
  • Amazon announced that Kindle Worlds, which lets users sell fan fiction stories on Amazon.com, has licensing agreements with Hasbro's G.I. Joe, and the T.V. shows Veronica Mars and Ravenswood. Kindle Worlds, which Amazon launched last year, allows authors of fan fiction to sell their stories on Amazon and receive royalties up to 35 percent.
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.