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Book News: Maya Angelou Remembered As Having 'The Voice Of God'

Maya Angelou answers questions in April during the unveiling of her portrait at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Paul Morigi
AP Images for National Portrait
Maya Angelou answers questions in April during the unveiling of her portrait at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • At a memorial service for Maya Angelou this weekend at Wake Forest University, first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and talk show host Oprah Winfrey eulogized the poet and activist who died last month at age 86. "At a time when there were such stifling constraints on how black women could exist in the world, she serenely disregarded all the rules with fiercely passionate, unapologetic self," Obama said. "She was comfortable in every last inch of her glorious brown skin." Winfrey, who sobbed openly during her speech, said, "I cannot fill her shoes, but I can walk in her footsteps." Clinton, referring to the five years Angelou refused to speak after being raped by her mother's boyfriend, said, "She was without a voice for five years and then she developed the greatest voice on the planet. God loaned her His voice. She had the voice of God. And he decided he wanted it back." (Watch a video of the entire service here.)
  • In Granta, Hiroaki Sato translates three poems by the celebrated Japanese poet Sakutarō Hagiwara. One, "What I Do Not Have Is Everything," begins:
  • "What I do not have is Everything:

    how is it that I won't bear this neediness?

    Even when I cross a bridge alone

    it presses on me scorchingly..."

  • Edan Lepucki interviews her agent Erin Hosier at The Millions.Hosier says:"Both reading and writing tend to make me sleepy, so that's become my test — can I read or write this paragraph without wanting to put my head on the desk?"
  • That Norwegian guy everyone seems to be talking about, Karl Ove Knausgaard, speaks with Scott Esposito in Tin Houseabout his My Struggle series of autobiographical books.Knausgaard said:"The first thing I understood when this book took off in Norway was that suddenly there were two Karl Oves, one that was me, and one that was a kind of cartoon that was only slightly related to me (the beard and the long hair). But the good thing with a lot of publicity is that everything bad or stupid kind of drowns. Today, for instance, there was a strange story in some of the Swedish and Norwegian newspapers. Just last Friday, a man, apparently drunk, tried to burn Book Four of Min kamp[My Struggle], a pocket edition, in a bookstore in Malmö. The police came and took him away, and his motive was that I was the worst writer of all time. I mean, in the history of mankind. What do you make out of that, when you sit at your home, eating breakfast, receiving this link? It's a sad and beautiful world!"
  • Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.