A Note from Me (Apr 16, 2021)

Dear friends:

The stars are out! That is, we’ve announced which books are getting starred reviews in the upcoming May/June special issue of the Magazine, which itself is going to be a distinguished edition indeed. Make sure you’re subscribed, niños, because I’m afraid we’re going to run out of copies (although a limited number of single copies will be available via our administrative coordinator Kristy South; details to come).

Have a look at the interview we did with Linda Sue Park about her new novel-in-poems, The One Thing You’d Save. She says so much that is smart, not just about her own writing process but about writing poetry in general (“The adherence to a verse form is, for me, one of the most liberating ways to write. Sticking to the syllabic count in sijo doesn’t feel like a ‘limitation’ — it feels more like a support”) and the necessary ruthlessness all writers must employ (“There are thirty-four poems in the book. I wrote more than a hundred in total”). Over on Twitter, I teased Linda Sue that her book’s conceit — the poems are presented as student responses to a teacher’s prompt to write about the one thing they would save from a fire — lived before in Judith Krantz’s Scruples Two, where marketing maven Spider makes his fashionista coworkers Billy and Valentine and Sasha spend five minutes filling a single shopping bag with the clothes from their wardrobe they would choose to rescue first from a fire. (Spoiler alert: They all chose separates, which becomes the key concept of Scruples’ new mail-order catalog.)

It’s Ramadan!

While the rest of you were baking bread or completing jigsaw puzzles, my signal quarantine leisure achievement was finally figuring out how to make Netflix quit autoplaying everything. But I also became obsessed with finding a book I had loved when I was eight or so, checking it out over and over again from the library. Fifty-six years later, pretend you’re my reference librarian: “It had a red cover and was about opera.” But I found it (and in the process discovered that Camille Paglia also numbered herself among its young devotees)! Stories from the Great Metropolitan Operas by Helen Dike, illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, published by Random House for the Artists and Writers Guild in 1943. The copy I found via Amazon from Dorley House Books is quite fragile but recalls the magic the book held for me way back then. Although I hadn’t seen or consciously remembered them for more than fifty years, Tenggren’s colored and black-and-white drawings had been in my mind all along: That’s what Carmen (and Carmen) looks like. No wonder I’ve always had a thing for Wotan. At the time I was reading and rereading these plot synopses I hadn’t heard a note of opera beyond what was repurposed for TV commercials, etc. But the stories took hold, so when I saw my first opera (Salome, English National Opera, 1976) I was primed and pumped, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Join me — the Metropolitan Opera is streaming a different opera every night for free!

[Illustration by Gustaf Tenggren, (c) Artists and Writers Guild, Inc.]



Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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