"Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.”

-Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez has died at age 87

Nigerian novelist, poet, essayist, statesman and dissident Chinua Achebe died Thursday in Boston after a brief illness at age 82. Achebe emerged upon the literary world in 1958 with the publication of his influential novel “Things Fall Apart.”
Watch his interview with Jeffrey Brown about the 50th anniversary of that novel and learn more about this legacy here.

Nigerian novelist, poet, essayist, statesman and dissident Chinua Achebe died Thursday in Boston after a brief illness at age 82. Achebe emerged upon the literary world in 1958 with the publication of his influential novel “Things Fall Apart.”

Watch his interview with Jeffrey Brown about the 50th anniversary of that novel and learn more about this legacy here.

"David Foster Wallace said somewhere that writer’s block is always a case of the writer holding artificially high standards for herself. Because, when you think of it, nobody gets Typer’s Block. The block starts when you start judging what is ABOUT TO COME OUT and you go: Oh, no you don’t. That = block. So I think one good antidote is just to type a bunch of shit, basically, knowing that you can (and must) go back through and edit all of that, and find some gold in it - even if it’s just a phrase…"

George Saunders on writers block and his writing process

Questions? → Ask George Saunders

George Saunders is one of the nation’s best-known writers. His new collection is “Tenth of December,” 10 stories of biting social satire and deeply felt takes on contemporary American life. He’s the author of six previous books, received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2006 and teaches creative writing at Syracuse University. Watch Jeffrey Brown’s interview with Saunders above.

On Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET, Saunders will join us for a live chat. Do you have questions for the acclaimed storyteller? Leave them in the comments section or tweet them to @NewsHour using #SaundersChat. Tune into the chat at 12 p.m. —>  

Dr. John Ross:

The only medical fact known about Shakespeare with certainty is that his final signatures show a marked tremor. Compared to other Elizabethans, Shakespeare had an unhealthy obsession with syphilis. D. H. Lawrence wrote, “I am convinced that some of Shakespeare’s horror and despair, in his tragedies, arose from the shock of his consciousness of syphilis.”

According to contemporary gossip, Shakespeare was not only notoriously promiscuous, but was also part of a love triangle in which all three parties contracted venereal disease. The standard Elizabethan treatment for syphilis was mercury; as the saying goes, “a night with Venus, a lifetime with Mercury.” Mercury’s more alarming adverse effects include drooling, gum disease, personality changes, and tremor. (In the eighteenth century, mercury was used in the manufacture of felt hats, leading to the expressions “hatter’s shakes” and “mad as a hatter”). Did Shakespeare’s writing career end prematurely due to side effects of mercury treatment?

Milton, the Bronte sisters, Melville, Yeats, Joyce and Orwell — How disease may have infected your favorite books

"My verses are in fact no verses
They are simply Life’s sobbings
Dark prison cells opening and shutting
The dry cough of two caving in lungs
The sound of earth coming down to bury dreams
The exhumation sound of hoes bringing up memories
The chattering of teeth in cold and misery
The aimless contractions of an empty stomach
The hopeless beat of a dying heart
Impotence’s voice in the midst of collapsing earth
All the sounds of a life not deserving half its name
Or even the name of death:
No verses are they!"

— “My Verses” from the late Vietnamese Poet Nguyen Chi Thien

"We were trained as writers with the idea that literature is something that can change reality. That it’s not just a very sophisticated entertainment, but a way to act. Today these ideas have disappeared practically among the new generation. Now the young writers consider that it’s too pretentious to think that literature can produce this kind of thing. But when I was young, when I started to write, we were totally convinced that literature was a kind of weapon,” Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa
—What do you think the role of literature is today? How has it changed?

"We were trained as writers with the idea that literature is something that can change reality. That it’s not just a very sophisticated entertainment, but a way to act. 

Today these ideas have disappeared practically among the new generation. Now the young writers consider that it’s too pretentious to think that literature can produce this kind of thing. 

But when I was young, when I started to write, we were totally convinced that literature was a kind of weapon,” Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa


What do you think the role of literature is today? How has it changed?