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We finally have a release date (and trailer!) for Barry Jenkins’ The Underground Railroad.

Dan Sheehan

February 25, 2021, 4:03pm

Good news for all you Jenkophiles and Whiteheadheads out there: after four maddening months of mystery—which saw the release of two gorgeous teaser trailers but no premiere date—we now know when we’ll be able to watch Barry Jenkins’ small-screen adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning historical epic, The Underground Railroad.

The ten-episode limited series, which stars newcomer Thuso Mbedu as an escaped slave fleeing an relentless bounty hunter (Joel Edgerton) through a terrifyingly reimagined antebellum south, will hit Amazon Prime Video (sigh…) on May 14.

Is it going too far to call The Underground Railroad is the most anticipated literary adaptation of this still-young decade? Well, despite the fact that Mr. Jenkins didn’t pick up any of our dream casting suggestions, we at Lit Hub certainly don’t think so. We’re excited and dammit you should be too.

But hey, if you’re not, that’s ok; maybe this first official trailer for the show will get your engine running.


[via Collider]

When Tennessee Williams was 16, he won a writing contest by pretending to be a disgruntled divorcee.


February 25, 2021, 1:21pm

On the 38th anniversary of Tennessee Williams’s death, we’re remembering his very first published piece of writing, written way before he was a literary giant—and even before he used his own name. (Well, his assumed name, but still.) As a sixteen-year-old, Williams was published in the 1927 issue of the “magazine of cleverness” Smart Set, for winning a writing contest entitled, “Can a Good Wife Be a Good Sport?” (Spoiler: apparently not.) In order to establish credibility on the subject, he assumed the persona of a divorced husband hurt by his wife’s infidelity. Here’s the amazing lede:

Can a woman after marriage maintain the same attitude toward other men as she held before marriage? Can she drink, smoke, and pet with them? Those are questions of really great pertinence to modern married life. In recounting my own unhappy marital experiences, perhaps I can present convincing answers . . .

Fair enough: do what you have to do to get that writing money. According to Williams’s mother Edwina, as noted by Jacqueline O’Connor for the Sewanee Review in 2018, after winning the prize Williams started “coming into the house through the back door instead of the front as he usually did. I am sure he feared the magazine would send someone to the house to check up and discover this supposedly sophisticated divorced prizewinner was sixteen and had never even dated a woman.”

We miss you, Tennessee Williams!

Samuel Beckett’s insane wordless post-Nobel Prize “interview” is the most Samuel Beckett thing ever.


February 25, 2021, 11:21am

Waiting for Godot author Samuel Beckett’s work embraced experimentation and nonsense—and, it appears from this video, his life did as well. In 1969, Beckett learned he had received the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature via a telegram from his publisher, Jérôme Lindon, which read, “Dear Sam and Suzanne. In spite of everything, they have given you the Nobel Prize. I advise you to go into hiding.” The reclusive Becketts were concerned, as they anticipated a spike in publicity and people trying to reach them, and they were right—so when Swedish Television called for an interview, Beckett agreed only with the strange stipulation that the interviewer couldn’t ask any questions. Thus the following clip was created.

Theatre of the absurd, indeed.

[via BoingBoing]


An ode to the first Internet novel.

Katie Yee

February 24, 2021, 3:09pm

Since you’re on here, you know that it is the month of the Internet novel. Two heavy-hitters in particular—Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts and Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking about This—have been brought into the world, and everyone on Book Twitter seems to be ruminating on what we want from this kind of thing. Some people love the Internet novel for its relatable portrayal of the way we live; some people hate the Internet novel because they come to fiction to be rid of their daily lives. Of course, the Internet novel is by no means new. Eight years ago, there was Dave Egger’s The Circle. And twelve years before that, there was Jeanette Winterson’s The PowerBook, a novel that I will now deem The First Internet Novel and recommend wholeheartedly to you.

Jeanette Winterson has a knack for unconventional structures. On page one, you are greeted not by a Table of Contents but by a Menu. It’s a playful introduction, one that already mocks and mirrors the language of this new technology. Some of the chapters—set in aggressive CAPS LOCK—read like a computer’s instruction manual: OPEN HARD DRIVE, NEW DOCUMENT, SEARCH, VIEW, VIEW AS ICON, EMPTY TRASH, SPECIAL, HELP, SHOW BALLOONS, CHOOSER, QUIT, REALLY QUIT?, RESTART, SAVE.

The story itself begins with Ali, a woman who writes stories via email for anyone who asks for them. Of course, what people mostly ask for is fantasies—love stories. She borrows people from history, characters from myth. She casts herself in the leading role opposite you:

This is where the story starts. Here, in these long lines of laptop DNA. Here we take your chromosomes, twenty-three pairs, and alter your height, eyes, teeth, sex. This is an invented world. You can be free just for one night. Undress. Take off your clothes. Take off your body. Hang them up behind the door. Tonight we go deeper than disguise.

It’s online dating before online dating. It’s online dating before the point was to come together in meatspace. The PowerBook is just so unafraid to be sentimental, to show its want. It’s refreshingly earnest! To be fair, the Internet of Jeanette Winterson’s novel was a different Internet. (Just look at the cover design: the wAvY cLiP aRT fONT is not ironic! Bless her!) Published in 2001, The PowerBook predates Twitter by five glorious years. There was no wry, cynical Twitter Voice then. But something I love about this writer is that, to her, every story is a romance. The Internet is merely a way to even the playing field, to flatten time and space, much like love.

Nico Walker has seen the film adaptation of his book, and he’s not impressed.


February 24, 2021, 1:21pm

The movie adaptation of Nico Walker’s Cherry—the best-selling debut novel about an Iraq veteran turned heroin addict turned bank robber—will be released in theaters in two days, directed by the Russo Brothers (who you might know from Avengers) and starring Tom Holland (who you might know from Avengers). The auction for the film rights was hotly contested; the Russo Brothers’ production company beat out Warner Bros (with James Franco directing) and Sony. So one might expect that Walker picked the deal that most gelled with his artistic vision, right?

One would be wrong. In an interview with The Times, Walker weighed in on the film:

I’ve seen parts of the film and it is an artistic interpretation, shall we say . . .
We didn’t have any input at all, but God bless them, they bought the rights; they can do it their way.

Effortlessly cutting . . . very Zen . . . and kind of makes me want to see it? Watch the trailer below to, if nothing else, draw your own conclusions.

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