The Two-Way
5:27 am
Wed November 20, 2013

Book News: Charlotte Zolotow, Author Of Ethereal Children's Books, Dies

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 7:42 am

(This post was updated at 9:40 a.m.)

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

  • Charlotte Zolotow, the author of more than 70 subtle and emotionally astute children's books, died Tuesday at age 98. She once wrote: "We are all the same, except that adults have found ways to buffer themselves against the full-blown intensity of a child's emotions." The New York Times' Margalit Fox said of Zolotow's books, "Delicately, with surgical precision, they plumbed children's interior lives, often ranging over loneliness, loss, longing and other painful topics that earlier generations of children's books had either sugarcoated or ignored outright." Zolotow is perhaps best known for her book Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, dreamily illustrated by Maurice Sendak, which follows a little girl and a helpful rabbit as they hunt for the perfect birthday present for the girl's mother. She was also an editor and publisher at Harper & Row (a precursor to HarperCollins). Zolotow said in an interview:

"Being both a writer and editor affects different expressions of the same personality. Writers must shut out everyone else while they write. They must forget outside suggestions, or the temptation to follow suggestions separate from their own visions. Editors must resist the desire to insert their own idea of how and where the story goes. They must resist the temptation to offer their own words as a solution when something is weak; instead they should alert the writer to this weakness, so that if the writer agrees, she may solve the problem in her own words and way."

  • Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska, known for her political journalism as well as her novels and biographies, has won the most prestigious Spanish language literary award, the Cervantes Prize. Spanish Education Minister Jose Ignacio Wert announced the winner Tuesday. Worth €125,000 (about $169,000), the prize has previously been awarded to such literary giants as Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz, Mario Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes.

  • For The New Yorker, Maria Bustillos asks why a writer would choose to remain anonymous: "Anonymous is more than a pseudonym. It is a stark declaration of intent: a wall explicitly thrown up, not only between writer and reader, but between the writer's work and his life. His book is one thing and his "real" life is another, and the latter is entirely off-limits, not only to you, the reader, but presumably to almost everybody. Sometimes he has written about something too intimate, too scary, too real, for him to bear public scrutiny. Once the connection is known, what he has written will mark his ordinary life ineradicably."

  • In Slate, mathematician Ben Blatt attempts to come up with a strategy for locating Waldo:

"[I]n my experience, all people — even people who make a living hiding cartoon men in cartoon landscapes — have tendencies, be they conscious and unconscious. True randomness is very difficult to achieve, even if you want to, and according to [the illustrator Martin] Handford he does not necessarily aim for unpredictability. 'As I work my way through a picture, I add Wally when I come to what I feel is a good place to hide him,' he once told Scholastic. Knowing this, is it possible, I wondered, to master Where's Waldo by mapping Handford's patterns? I sought to answer these questions the way any mathematician who has no qualms about appearing ridiculous in public would: I sat in a Barnes & Noble for three hours flipping through all seven Where's Waldo books with a tape measure."

  • John Freeman talks to Bookforum about interviewing novelists: "The writer thinks you're taking notes about what he's saying, but you're really writing, 'His head looks like a lion's head.' "
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