Florida LitLife: March

Walt Whitman
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It’s been a rollicking few weeks in the literary world, both around Pinellas and further afield. We have some local contests and awards, new revelations about Walt Whitman and Truman Capote, and a court case that finally clears up the whole Oxford Comma debate. Maybe.


Local Notes

A giant Book-Inspired Installation will be going up somewhere in Downtown St. Pete courtesy of artist Jon Stine – though there’s still no info on exactly where.

Creative Loafing has announced its annual Writing Contest winners, including Libby Svenson, Judith Rousuck, and Dominic Howarth.

Keep St. Pete Lit has picked the winner of its LitSpace St. Pete Writer’s Residency for 2017. Poet Alison Stone will come to town for two weeks of writing in April, offering a public reading on April 19th and a workshop for local writers on April 22nd.

The Tampa Bay Times has an excellent and exciting list of Florida-themed Spring Reads, including a collection of essays by Pinellas County native Sarah Gerard and a novel by Eckerd College prof Lee Irby.


National Notes

The undying debate over the Oxford comma recently had a profound real-world impact, with a group of drivers successfully arguing that they were owed overtime pay because a missing comma seemed to exclude them from an exemption clause in their labor contract. So, if you’re ever arguing with a friend over whether you should put a comma after the penultimate item in a list, let them know: yes you should. Because it’s the law.

A forgotten memoir by one of the central figures of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood has surfaced, and some say it casts further doubt on the truthfulness of the classic book. At least in the words of the killer Richard Hickock, a multiple murder Capote described as a chaotic blunder may have been a hired hit.

Elif Bautman’s The Idiot is the Book of the Moment, garnering widespread praise for its portrait of a studious young woman at loose ends. It’s been described as a challenge to the recent trend toward streamlined, “readable,” and ultimately bland novels. Instead, The Idiot is a passionate mix of bildungsroman, linguistic philosophy, and immigrant identity struggles.

Jimmy Breslin, one of the most lauded print journalists of the 20th century, passed away on March 19th at the age of 88. This reprinted account of the shooting of John Lennon is a bracing reminder of the flair and empathy we’ve lost in the age of split-second online news.

A new Walt Whitman novel has been unearthed. The Life and Adventures of Jack Engle was originally serialized anonymously in a newspaper called the Sunday Dispatch, but disappeared at the time without much fanfare. A graduate student found the work by digitally comparing Whitman’s vocabulary to digitized newspaper archives.

And finally, Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, one of the biggest sensations of the literary world in recent years, will come to TV in 2018.

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