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Book News: Slam Poet's 'OCD' Love Poem Makes Waves

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

  • A video of poet Neil Hilborn performing his slam poem "OCD" went viral this week, garnering over 1,800,000 views on YouTube. In the video, Hilborn describes falling in love while battling his obsessive compulsive disorder, movingly incorporating the disorder's nervous tics into the poem itself. He says, "I asked her out six times in 30 seconds. She said yes after the third one, but none of them felt right so I had to keep going."
  • New York Review of Books editor Robert Silvers responded to criticisms of the magazine's lack of gender balance. He wrote in emails to NPR, "In response to recent comments about contributions by women to the New York Review, I want to say that we certainly hope to publish more women writers. But I wonder if our critics have fairly considered the many reviews, essays, and poems by women that have appeared in the Review and on the Review's blog," adding in response to a question, "we have no quotas of any kind. We try to think of the best writer for a particular book or subject and often that writer is a woman." The most recent issue featured almost exclusively male contributors, with one woman among the 26 men, in addition to a reprint of an essay by Joan Didion.
  • Katherine Boo, Sergio De La Pava and Robert Hass were among the writers to win 2013 PEN Literary Awards, the free speech group announced on Wednesday. Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which chronicled life in a Mumbai slum, won the organization's nonfiction award. Former Poet Laureate Robert Hass and NPR commentator Frank Deford also took prizes. The debut novelist Sergio De La Pava's A Naked Singularity, which verges on 700 pages and was originally self-published before being picked up by the University of Chicago Press, was the unexpected winner of the $25,000 Bingham prize for debut novelists.
  • Carol Muske-Dukes describes a visit from John Cheever to prison, the setting of his novel The Falconer: "I didn't fully grasp, till I thought about it later, how the Q. & A. at Sing Sing, for Cheever, must have been like facing a roomful of his own characters, suddenly eerily alive, talking back to him, pointing their fingers."
  • Joyce Carol Oates' recent short story, unpleasantly titled "Sex with a Camel," is now available online at The American Reader: "The boy was feeling loosed as an electron spinning into space—no gravity, no 'orbit.'"

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