Elizabeth Alexander photographed by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
For the cover of The Light of the World: A Memoir, poet Elizabeth Alexander chose one of many hundreds of paintings by her late husband, Ficre Ghebreyesus. The buoyant abstract is titled “Solitary Boat in Red and Blue.”
“I chose that particular painting because I think there’s something that is haunting about it,” she says. “The boat is alone. There’s nobody in it. It’s an unpeopled picture. The boat is going somewhere. Maybe it’s going from one station ...
Emily Schultz photographed by Brian Joseph Davis
In The Blondes, a novel by Emily Schultz, a contagious disease afflicts only flaxen-haired females. Prior to death, victims of Siphonaptera Human Virus (SHV), popularly known as “Gold Fever” or “California Rabies,” are highly prone to violent attacks.
“ ‘Save it, Burroughs! Her brain’s bleached. She can’t hear you,’ ” one police officer shouts to another at John F. Kennedy International Airport, while subduing a flight attendant. The woman attempted to maul a toddler.
The airport scene ...
Troy Andrews photographed by Joe del Tufo
You’re going to want to know who Trombone Shorty is—just like Bo Diddley did.
During his performance at the 1990 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Diddley heard a horn in the crowd. “Who’s that playing out there?” he asked the audience.
“Everyone started pointing, but Bo Diddley couldn’t see me because I was the smallest one in the place! So my mom held me up in the air and said, ‘That’s my son, Trombone Shorty!’ ” writes ...
Mary Norris photographed by Josef Astor
Move over, Merriam, and watch out, Webster: Mary Norris is a logophile’s new best friend.
As a copy editor at The New Yorker, Norris became a doyenne of dashes and diaereses, those double dots over adjacent vowels that we (i.e., I) naïvely thought were umlauts. Over decades she’s corrected a remarkable roster of the world’s best writers, from Rushdie to Remnick.
“One of the things I like about my job is that it draws on the entire person: not ...
T.C. Boyle photographed by Jamieson Fry
Breeze through T.C. Boyle’s epigraphs at your own peril—they’re often the germ of his stories.
“Epigraph and title are really the framework to start nailing the walls onto,” says Boyle, by phone, from home in Santa Barbara, California. It’s one day ahead of the national tour for his 25th book, The Harder They Come, which bears a kickoff quotation from D.H. Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature:
“The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and ...
Kirker Butler photographed by Lee Cherry.
As a high schooler, Kirker Butler once choreographed the opening number of a beauty pageant.
“I grew up in a small town in the South, and my mother and father were on the county fair board. My mother was put in charge of the pageant. We still don’t know why,” says Butler, who set the steps to Neil Diamond’s “America.”
When it comes to the perfect person to write a satirical sendup of kiddie pageants ...
Christian Kiefer photographed by Jessica Eger
Christian Kiefer is smart. He has a PhD in American literature and teaches at American River College in Sacramento. His mentors are T.C. Boyle, Richard Ford, Pam Houston and Denis Johnson, who he thanks in the acknowledgements for his second novel, The Animals.
The Animals is so good, it’s hard to be smart about it. It’s got the lyrical language of top-tier literary fiction with the compulsive readability of a blood-pumping crime novel. It makes you think and feel ...
Nova Ren Suma photographed by Erik Ryerson
One distinct descriptor adorns almost all Kirkus reviews of Nova Ren Suma’s intense, intelligent YA novels—and that’s “creepy.”
“I don’t necessarily realize how scary some of my books are,” Suma says. “I’ll get readers who say, ‘Oh, I had a nightmare,’ ‘I was so scared,’ ‘I was up late at night,’ and I’m like, really? I’m writing about what scares me, but in putting it on the page I’m facing it down. I don’t realize ...