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Did you know Marianne Moore and Muhammad Ali wrote a poem together?

Dan Sheehan

November 15, 2019, 3:16pm

It’s true. The wonderfully unlikely collaboration between the world’s most famous boxer and the “elderly queen mother of American letters”—which was orchestrated by sports n’ literature hybridist extraordinaire George Plimpton—took place in a Manhattan restaurant in the winter of 1967, as a publicity stunt ahead of Ali’s fight with Ernie Tyrell.

As reported by Humanities magazine in the wake of Ali’s death in 2016:

While Ali’s approach to poetry sounded intuitive, Moore was, as the professional wordsmith, more formal and deliberative, crafting jeweled observations on clocks and steeplejacks, a china swan and a paper nautilus. When, at Ali’s urging, the pair worked together on a poem, the result—scribbled on the back of a restaurant menu—proved as unusual as their partnership.

Since today would have been the Moore’s 132nd birthday, here, in full, is (to the best of my knowledge) the first and only collaboration between a a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and a heavyweight champ:

A Poem on the Annihilation of Ernie Terrell
by Marianne Moore and Muhammad Ali

After we defeat Ernie Terrell
He will get nothing, nothing but hell,
Terrell was big and ugly and tall
But when he fights me he is sure to fall.
If he criticize this poem by me and Miss Moore
To prove he is not the champ she will stop him in four,
He is claiming to be the real heavyweight champ
But when the fight starts he will look like a tramp
He has been talking too much about me and making me sore
After I am through with him he will not be able to challenge Mrs. Moore.


[h/t Humanities]

Remembering Russell Chatham, landscape painter and writer.

Aaron Robertson

November 15, 2019, 2:30pm

This past Sunday, artist Russell Chatham, a self-taught landscape painter and writer whose work was prized by Hollywood luminaries, among others, died in Northern California at the age of 80.

In 1978, approaching the height of his fame, Chatham edited and illustrated a collection of fishing stories, Silent Seasons, which featured work from writers like Jim Harrison, William Hjortsberg, and Thomas McGuane. Ten years later, Chatham published Dark Waters: Essays, Stories, and Articles, in which he detailed some of his adventures in hunting, fly fishing, and other outings with his companions.

For a little while, Chatham made a living as a freelancer for Sports Illustrated and Gray’s Sporting Journal. At the time of his death, Chatham was working on a memoir about fishing in the San Francisco Bay called Tide, Wind, and Fog.

While Chatham’s writing is beloved by sports enthusiasts and naturalists, visual art is where he made the biggest name for himself. Chatham was known chiefly for his dynamic renderings of natural settings in the American West, mainly Montana and California. He expertly reproduced subtle transitions and environmental changes like shifts in weather, gathering fog, and rainfall.

Chatham’s friend Tom McGuane recalled for the San Francisco Chronicle, “If Russell looked at a landscape in California and Montana and decided to paint it, he wouldn’t look at what most people look at. His outlook was fresh and surprising.”

Celebrities like Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, and Jessica Lange have all purchased his landscapes. Though his work could sell for as high $1 million, Chatham turned to lithography, making limited edition originals at much more affordable rates. At one point he even ran his own steakhouse and a publishing imprint called Clark City Press.

Chatham is survived by his daughter, Lea.

Idaho coward attempts censorship by hiding books in the public library—but one writer strikes back.

Katie Yee

November 15, 2019, 2:23pm

Apparently, an incredibly immature person has been hiding books in the Idaho public library that they don’t want the general public to read. Some of the books have simply been turned around so the spine can’t be read (a very lazy attempt, if you ask me), while others have reappeared in wildly incorrect sections or vanished altogether. Missing/relocated titles include Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, Rick Reilly’s Commander in Cheat, and a plethora of other titles covering LGBTQ issues, immigration, and human rights. (Honestly, the stolen books would probably make a great recommended reading list.)

In a comment card box, the culprit (brilliantly nicknamed Hidaho) left a note: “I noticed a large volume of Books attacking our President. I am going to continue hiding these books in the most obscure places I can find to keep this propaganda out of the hands of young minds. Your liberal angst gives me great pleasure.”

Good luck with that!

However, Rick Reilly has decided to retaliate by giving Hidaho a taste of their own medicine. The author of Commander in Cheat is going to hide ten copies of his book around the library. “You can hide one of my books, Hidaho,” he writes, “but can you hide 10?”

What started as a feeble attempt at local censorship has gotten international attention. Kind-hearted individuals from all over the world have shared the story and offered to donate to replace the lost titles.

[via The Washington Post]

Gary Oldman loves acting in literary adaptations.

Dan Sheehan

November 15, 2019, 1:51pm

Yes, the Oscar-winning English star of that garbage Winston Churchill movie I hate-watched one dreary winter night last year, has, over the course of his illustrious thirty-five-year career, appeared in no less than fourteen literary adaptations (Henry & June, JFKRosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Scarlet LetterHannibalTinker Tailor Soldier SpyLawless, A Christmas Carol, and Child 44, as well as four Harry Potters) and, based on today’s news, he ain’t done yet.

This morning, Deadline reported that Oldman (aka Sid Vicious aka Sirius Black aka Commissioner Jim Gordon aka the evil peacock from Kung Fu Panda 2) is all set to star in in spy drama Slow Horses for Apple with Justified’s Graham Yost executive producing.

Slow Horses is based on Mick Herron’s 2010 spy novel Slough House, which features Jackson Lamb, “a brilliant but irascible leader of a group of spies, who end up in MI5’s Slough House, having been exiled from the mainstream for their mistakes.” Oldman, whose performance as world-weary le Carré spy George Smiley in Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy earned him rave reviews back in 2011, will of course be laying Lamb.

Will this latest project finally quench Oldman’s unslakable thirst for book-bestowed gravitas? We wait with bated breath.

Sebastian Junger, David Chang, Matt Bell & more: the week in book deals.

Emily Temple

November 15, 2019, 11:17am

My personal form of astrology is to anxiously trawl Publishers Marketplace every week. No, wait, hear me out: it’s how I can tell the only future that matters: which books I will be reading a year and a half from now. Also, it’s a nice reminder that publishing isn’t dead. After all, there are so many deals to choose from—but here are the book sales announced this week that we here at Literary Hub are most excited about, from intriguing debuts to new books from established faves.


Finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award and author of In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods Matt Bell has sold a new novel entitled Appleseed, which is, as you might expect, “built upon the particular American mythologies of Manifest Destiny and Johnny Appleseed, exploring humanity’s unchecked exploitation of natural resources and the small but powerful magic contained within every single apple.”


Finalist for the Kirkus Book Prize and author of Cantoras Carolina DeRobertis has sold The President and the Frog, “pitched as inspired by former president of Uruguay Jose Mujica, a parable-like novel of what it means to lead a nation, and a quixotic search for what it takes to fortify one’s spirit in desperate times.”


Now here’s a celebrity book I can get behind: Chef and owner of the Momofuku restaurants David Chang has sold a memoir! Publishers Marketplace describes it as the “story of how the son of conservative Korean immigrants confronted his insecurities and depression, discovered his talents, and found fellowship in the kitchen, literally betting his life on his work.” It’s also a two-book deal, so it’s possible a new cookbook is in the works? We shall see.


The debut deal of the week goes to Columbia MFA and cofounder of Transit Books Ashley Nelson Levy, whose Immediate Family sold to Emily Bell at FSG at auction. The novel is “told as a letter from the narrator to her younger brother on the eve of his wedding, about infertility, race, adoption, the complicated relationship between siblings and the many definitions of family.”


Kevin Brockmeier has sold another fabulist novel, this one entitled The Ghost Variations, which Publishers Marketplace describes as “a work with a chorus of one hundred otherworldy voices, each uniquely testifying to the thin membrane between life and the hereafter.” Look for it in October.


The first Asian-American woman and the only immigrant currently serving in the U.S. Senate, Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii has sold a memoir, described as “a generational family saga and an inspiring story of a woman coming into her own voice and power over the course of her extraordinary, history-making journey through American politics.” Okay, that’s another celebrity memoir I can get behind.


Journalist, filmmaker, and author of A Perfect Storm Sebastian Junger has sold a new book entitled Freedom, which according to Publishers Marketplace is “about how our capacity for freedom and self-determination derives from the singular ability of humans, unique in the animal kingdom, to defeat larger, more powerful adversaries, combining history, anthropology, boxing, special forces training, and personal narrative.”