Lahiri, Diaz, Mullins, and et cetera

Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth debuts at #1 on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestsellers list.

I’ve read a number of people express surprise, I think mostly because it’s a short story collection (short story collections generally don’t perform nearly so well as novels). There are a couple of reasons I’m not really surprised, though, the first of which is that Lahiri has come further into consciousness, this past year, as a result of the mainstream success of The Namesake. True, it’s a movie that received some positive reviews and probably only had a decent-sized audience, at best, but it starred Kal Penn, who had a brilliant run on House, M.D. for a while (and will again in a few weeks, when the show returns to the air). Before that, Lahiri was known most well to literary readers, and I think that helped open her audience.

The second is: considering the list, there really isn’t much else out. A couple of bigger names (Grisham, for one), but The Appeal‘s been out for nearly a month already.

(the third is: why have I never heard of The Dresden Files? Anyone read any? Are they worth picking up? Sounds interesting)

Also last week, Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the Pulitzer for fiction. I ended up picking it up; I’m about 150 pages in, and so far, it’s not bad. I’m actually rather pleased with its selection; Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke was named as a finalist, but I didn’t like any of the excerpts I read.

Finally, really close to home for me, USC’s MPW program names Brighde Mullins as new director. Not too much in the way of thought for this one–once I got to the program, I kind of put my head down and trucked through my classes. We had interim, acting leadership, but it was largely academic, not professional writers. This saddened me, as that was the main reason I chose the program, and I’m glad it’s back under the leadership of a writer (Mullins is a poet and playwright).

And now I’m done the program, so her leading it really won’t affect me one way or the other. I wish both her and the program the best, though, and leave it with the hope that they continue to follow their strength, as a professional writing program, and avoid the pitfalls that so many “fine arts” programs seem to come with.

And last but not least (no, wait; maybe it is least), I realized I was doing nothing over at et cetera, because from this end, I’m submitting, which means there’s no news. And then I realized I didn’t want it to just be about me. So I’m opening it up to include literary news/reviews/interviews for highlight but about which I haven’t much to say (unlike the above three newspoints, obviously). The first new post concerns Jo Rowling taking the stand in the Harry Potter Lexicon case.

2 thoughts on “Lahiri, Diaz, Mullins, and et cetera

  1. GOTHAMGIRL

    Nifty blog. I’m sleep deprived and have visions of Walt whitman and sylvia plath argueing in my head, not fun by the way, so I can’t say anything really profound, creative, or smart ass about your blog. I do have a few questions though. Did the program live up to your expectations?

    Thuis question has nothing to do with your blog so if you don’t wish to agknowledge it that’s fine and dandy. I just noticed the twittering thing on my left of the computer screen what the hell is this about, “Killing them is against the law, but can I just inflict bodily harm on the shriek-voiced children across the way?”


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