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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Website of the Week: Maud Newton

Maud Newton subtitles her eponymous blog “Occasional Literary Links, Amusements, Politics, and Rants,” which pretty much covers her topics. But the frequency is anything but occasional. Since starting her blog in 2002 (the dawn of blogging so many years ago), Maud has posted practically every day on something of note in the literary world.

These posts are incisive, intelligent, and link heavy, and are the keys to her keeping the lit-head crowd happy. Maud Newton is my refutation to anyone who thinks that blogs don’t count as literary or that all bloggers simply want to tell you what they had for dinner last night. One of my favorite parts of her page is the “Remainders” section, which is a running commentary/AP wire of the literary world. It’s a good way of taking the pulse of American publishing.

She also has proved that she can get the story herself. I first found her blog when I was reading online about the controversy around the Paris Review and writer Yiyun Li. The Review maintained that Li was an unpublished writer whose work was pulled from the slush pile. There seemed to be some doubt about Li’s greenness, having been published in the Gettysburg Review prior to the Paris Review. You can read the interview here as Maud and Brigid Hughes discuss the process of how the slush is handled at her magazine.

She seemed literally to come from nowhere. She studied with Harry Crews at the University of Florida, but then decided to go to law school. After practicing for a couple of years in Florida moved to New York and got work as an editor in a law firm. So while she was interested in what was happening in the literary scene in NYC, she was not directly part of it.

There might be some uncertainty on that issue now. Her posts used to begin: “I read recently in the Times…” or “I’m going to have to get this book I’ve been hearing about…” but now are more likely to be “While I was serving on this panel with (insert literary luminary name here) or “In my appreciation on NPR..." These show how different her perspective is now that she is more successful and famous as an arbiter of literary taste. One of the biggest differences that has emerged in the last few years is that she has begun publishing her own work. So in effect, she has turned 180 degrees and become a complete insider in the NYC writer scene. But she still is an intelligent critic and reporter of the happenings in the world of words. If she can keep her perspective, she is well worth the read.

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