central character

by Yiyun Li

Chinese-American writer Yiyun Li is enjoying something of a meteoric rise these days. Earlier in the year the New Yorker featured her in its list of the 20 best writers under 40, and in September she was awarded the very rich McArthur—aka “genius”—grant (Cormac McCarthy and Thomas Pynchon are previous winners).  Li has one previous novel, The Vagrants. Her first short story collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, won a slew of accolades, including the PEN/Hemingway and Guardian First Book awards. Read more…

by Janette Turner Hospital

Any undergraduate that ever tucked a copy of Ovid’s Metamorphosis under his or her arm will be familiar with the tragic story of Orpheus and his wife Eurydice. Orpheus, the inventor of the lyre, apparently played and sang so beautifully that he could reduce any number of sundry gods, small creatures—even inanimate objects—to limp, putty-like acquiescence. When Eurydice dies from a snake bite, the gods allow him to travel to the underworld and bring her back, on the condition (there always being conditions with gods) that he walk in front of her and never turn around. Orpheus does exactly that, of course, and loses his love; the rest is for endless generations of freshmen to mull over their lattes. Read more…