Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, who will be speaking at Cornell on Thursday, has been active in the media as a cultural critic on U.S. policies on refugees and other displaced peoples given his experience as a refugee during the Vietnam War.
Would-be writers are a dime a dozen: every other English major, it seems, wants to be the next Faulkner. Those with talent may find themselves in an MFA program, and the lucky few will have a story published here and there in a small journal. But success like that enjoyed by Tea Bajraktarevic grad, who recently sold the rights to her first novel The Tiger’s Daughter to Dial Press (to be published next year), is rare indeed. Tea, who writes under the name Tea Obreht and whose first publication will be a story in The Atlantic Monthly’s summer fiction issue, sat down with The Sun to discuss death in the Balkans, the merits of MFAs and being stoked about success.
The Sun: When did you start writing?
“Just so you know, I got here because of rage,” said Sherman Alexie, an award-winning Native American writer and occasional comedian, in a half-serious, half-facetious manner at the Statler Auditorium in his Friday evening lecture, “The Partially True Story of the True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.”
Alexie’s first young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian won the 2007 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature. The lecture, which was based on this novel, presented an overview of the author’s childhood and development as a writer.
Alexie frequently elicited laughter from the nearly 600-person audience as he often joked about the many tragedies of his younger years.
The 105-year-old Creative Writing program at Cornell played a key role in shaping 20th century American literature, several acclaimed literary scholars said at a panel discussion yesterday.
At a talk sponsored by the Creative Writing program as a part of the Spring Centennial Plus Five Reading Series, English department panelists Prof. Roger Gilbert, Prof. Mary P. Brady and Prof. Molly Hite, discussed Cornell writers Prof. emeritus A.R. Ammons, Thomas Pynchon ’59, Manuel Munoz ’98 and Loida Maritza Perez ’87.
If the verbal visionaries of Cornell’s nearly 105-year history of writing stood on each other’s shoulders; Nabokov as a base, cursing in Russian, Vonnegut next to him, muttering to himself about the absurdity of it, Pynchon above them, with a foot on each deltoid, shakily supporting Morrison, and so on — you’d have a ladder of literary giants to rival the clock tower. Even then, despite this towering tradition, the adrenaline-and-laughter inducing irreverence and innovation of Junot Díaz, MFA ’95, displayed to the delight of many in the Cornell community last week, would be enough, sure as Ithaca is cold, to make Uncle Ezra roll over in his grave and call for a pen. The Dominican-born author returned to campus Feb.