Literary News

Controversy and Technology: Your Weekly News Roundup by Emily Ramser

Breaking news—the literary world is growing and changing daily. Last week we had AWP and the Vida numbers announcement. This past week, for instance, included the release of several new writing-related apps, a story being translated in 30 plus languages and a controversy of one of The New Yorker’s poems.

Asian and Asian-American Writers Respond to Calvin Trillin’s New Yorker Poem on Chinese Food

The biggest piece of news in the literary world right now seems to be Calvin Trillin’s poem in The New Yorker. The piece has been slammed by many people for being racist. These are the first few lines of the poem:

“Have they run out of provinces yet?

If they haven’t, we’ve reason to fret.

Long ago, there was just Cantonese.

(Long ago, we were easy to please.)

But then food from Szechuan came our way,

Making Cantonese strictly passé.

Szechuanese was the song that we sung,

Though the ma po could burn through your tongue.”

The piece, which is titled “Are We Running out of Provinces Yet?” is supposedly, according to Trillin, a satiric piece meant to make fun of what he referred to in an interview with the Guardian  as “food-obsessed bourgeoisie.” However, not everyone is seeing it this way. Many feel as if instead, it is a casually racist piece that is derogatory towards those who are Chinese.

As such, many popular authors have begun responding with their own poetry. Franny Choi wrote a poem entitled “Have They Run out of White Poets Yet?” And Jenn Fang wrote another titled “Have They Run out of White Tears Yet?” Writers from all over are continuing to respond on social media and through a variety of other ways.

What is your opinion on Trillin’s poem? Is it satirical or racist?

Ngūgī wa Thiong’o’s Short Story Translated Into Over 30 Languages

Talk about readability: Thiong’o’s fable “The Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright” is “the single most translated short story in the history of African writing,” according to his publisher. It has been translated in more languages than I know—that being said I’m only fluent in one language, but the statement still stands. It has probably, in fact, been translated into more languages than probably any one person is fluent in.

The story was originally written in Kikuyu, a Kenyan language and was then translated into English. Since then it has been translated into Amharic, Dholuo, Kamba, Lwisukha (Luhya), Kipsigis, Kinyarwanda, French, Arabic, Luganda, Kiswahili, Afrikaans, Hausa, Meru, Lingala, IsiZulu, Igbo, Ibibio, isiNdebele, XiTsonga, Nandi (Kalenjin), Rukiga, Bamanankan, Lugbara, Lubukusu, Kimaragoli, Giriama, Sheng, Ewe, and Naija Langwej by Pan-African writer’s collective Jalada Africa.

Jalada is still looking for writers and translators to volunteer to translate the text into even more languages. So if you know more than one language, unlike myself, and would like to help out, check out their website and give them a hand.

On another note, three writing and reading related apps have made the news lately, which is actually bad news for my phone since I’m going to download all of them. Thank goodness for Wi-Fi; otherwise, my data plan might skyrocket. If you’re a reviewer check out the first one; a writer, check out the second two. If you’re a reader, check out all three.

Litsy, a Book-focused Social Network

Litsy is a new social app founded by Todd Lawton and Jeff LeBlanc, the owners of the book themed clothing company Out of Print, which happens to be the place I spend a majority of my paychecks.  On Litsy, users can post blurbs, quotes, and reviews about books they are reading. Users also have a “Litfluence” score, which shows the most influential people on the app based on their reviews and comments.

Moleskine Releases Smart Writing Set

Moleskine has introduced the Smart Writing Set, which consists of the Paper Tablet notebook, the smart Pen+, and a companion app (Neo Notes app for Android and Moleskin Notes App for iOS). Everything written on the Paper Tablet is transferred to the connected smart device in real time. The package costs 200 dollars, which might seem a little steep. It seems like this package would be useful for those of us who are both writers and artists, as it will translate both art and writing onto your phone or tablet.

Hooked 2.0: Writing Short Stories With Text Messages

Last year, Hooked, an app that told short stories through text messages was released. An update to the app was released this week that now lets readers become writers too. Users can now create their own stories using text messages, having different contacts or characters reveal different parts of the plot through their conversations. If you are only into reading stories, you can also use this app as you can also just read the stories other users have written.

If you download either Litsy or Hooked or buy the Moleskin package, let me know how they work for you in the comments. Tune back in next week to find out what else is happening in the literary world.


Emily Ramser is is an undergraduate studying English, Creative Writing, and Religion at Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing, and is expected to graduate in May of 2017. Some of her inspirations include Thornton Wilder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bhanu Kapil, Andrea Gibson, Gabriel Gudding, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Gail Simone, and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Check out her black out poetry collection I Forgot How to Write When They Diagnosed Me. You can find more of her work at her blog.

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