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Tue November 12, 2013
Book News: Spying Concerns Driving Writers To Self-Censor, Study Finds
By Annalisa Quinn
The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- A newly released report finds that a number of American writers avoid or are considering avoiding controversial topics for fear of government surveillance. The study was conducted last month by the PEN American Center and the FDR Group and surveyed 528 PEN members. It concludes: "Fully 85% of writers responding to PEN's survey are worried about government surveillance of Americans, and 73% of writers have never been as worried about privacy rights and freedom of the press as they are today." Moreover, it finds that 16 percent have avoided writing or speaking on a particular topic and 11 percent have seriously considered it. (PEN is an organization that promotes free speech and whose members may be generally more concerned about censorship issues than other writers.) The report concludes: "Writers are self-censoring their work and their online activity due to their fears that commenting on, researching, or writing about certain issues will cause them harm. Writers reported self-censoring on subjects including military affairs, the Middle East North Africa region, mass incarceration, drug policies, pornography, the Occupy movement, the study of certain languages, and criticism of the U.S. government." In August, the writer William T. Vollmann brought concerns about government surveillance into the public eye with a Harper's article in which he revealed that he had been watched by the FBI. Vollmann wrote, "I was accused, secretly. I was spied on ... I have no redress. To be sure, I am not a victim; my worries are not for me, but for the American Way of Life."
- Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, who is running for governor in 2014, is writing a memoir. Davis and her pink Mizuno running shoes became famous during her 11-hour filibuster to block a state bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. She said in a statement: "I hope telling the story of how I went from being a single mom to serving in the Texas State Senate to running for governor will remind others that with the right leadership in government, where you start has nothing to do with how far you go."
- Jeffrey Eugenides has a new story, "Find the Bad Guy," in The New Yorker: "When I was a kid, I used to imagine getting arrested and how cool I'd act. They wouldn't get nothing out of me. A real outlaw. Well, now I am arrested, and all I am is a guy with gray stubble on my cheeks, and my nose still bleeding a little from when Bryce mashed it against the rug."
- The journalist and novelist Masha Hamilton spoke to the Rumpus about her career as a war correspondent: "I've found that working as a journalist in war zones cost me a little bit of what it meant to be human."
- The mystery novelist Martin Cruz Smith revealed that he has Parkinson's disease in a video on The New York Times website. He said he was diagnosed in 1995 but kept it secret. "I didn't want to be judged by that," he said. "Either I'm a good writer or I'm not. 'He's our pre-eminent Parkinson's writer.' Who needs that?"
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