• November 22, 2017

    The New York Times 100 notable books of the year list has been published. Time magazine and Publishers Weekly have also announced their picks for best books of 2017.

    The Los Angeles Times Guild (a unionizing effort at the paper) has published an op-ed saying that their parent company, Tronc, has plenty of money to fund the benefits and raises that the union is pursuing. The Guild dug into Tronc’s finances, singling out the high salary of CEO Justin Dearborn and other top brass, the cost of one executive’s private jet, and the excessive amount of money the company spends on tickets to sporting events. The Guild writes, “If executives were paid more in line with their industry peers, the savings alone would finance thousands of dollars in annual raises, lower out-of pocket healthcare costs, accrued vacation (that was taken away unilaterally), and perhaps even lower parking fees.” For more on the Los Angeles Times’s unionizing effort, read Shaya Tayefe Mohajer’s recent article “The LA Times flirts with unionization, defying its history” at the Columbia Journalism Review.

    Corey Robin

    At the New Republic, Sarah Jones reviews the new edition of The Reactionary Mind,  Corey Robin’s 2011 study of conservatism. Jones writes that Robin’s book explains figures like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump—who are usually viewed as outliers—as firmly in the mainstream conservative tradition.

    Dr. Edward Herman, who coauthored the influential media manifesto Manufacturing Consent with Noam Chomsky, has died at the age of ninety-two.

    Vladimir Nabokov’s 1964 dream diary, in which he recorded sixty-four of his nighttime visions on index cards, will be published next Tuesday. In the journal, Nabokov tested a curious theory—which he had picked up from philosopher John Dunne—that dreams were a place where time ran backwards so that future events caused earlier dreams.  

  • November 21, 2017

    Anthony Scaramucci has been shopping around a book proposal about his torrid ten days in the White House. The Mooch now says he won’t go through with writing the proposed volume, because publishers are only interested in a tell-all, something a “facts guy” and true “team player” like himself just won’t do. However, the proposal, obtained by Business Insider, seemed to promise dirt: “With a sense of nothing to lose, Scaramucci will take you exclusively behind the scenes in his first tell-all book. . . . Scaramucci was under an intense spotlight in those final days, but not everything got leaked to the press. There’s still a lot the public doesn’t yet know. Find out here how strange things really get in Washington.” Over the weekend, BuzzFeed News reported that Sean Spicer is also having a difficult time selling himself after his Team Trump stint.

    Errin Haines Whack

    At the Columbia Journalism Review, Karen K. Ho interviews the Associated Press’s Race and Ethnicity writer, Errin Haines Whack. Whack is part of a team created in 2016 to write about issues of race and to collaborate with reporters on other beats. Whack talks about how helpful data is in proving systemic racism, the stories she thinks will be important in the coming days, and some lesser-known writers to read.

    Charlie Rose and Glenn Thrush are the latest media men accused of sexual misconduct. Both have been suspended.

    Novelist Zinzi Clemmons has quit writing for Lena Dunham’s site Lenny Letter and called on other women to do the same. Clemmons posted a message on Facebook saying she would no longer work with Dunham after Dunham initially defended Girls writer Murray Miller, who has been accused of sexual assault.

    Literary Hub has posted two of Kathy Acker’s intricately detailed “Dream Maps,” which the author included in Blood and Guts in High School.

    Tonight at McNally Jackson Books, Ugly Duckling Presse will host an evening of literature from Argentina and Uruguay.      

  • November 20, 2017

    Liz Phair memoir

    Liz Phair

    Liz Phair, the musician who brought us the indie-rock classic Exile in Guyville, has signed a two-book deal with Random House. The first book, a memoir titled Horror Stories, will apparently detail her “experiences with fame, heartbreak, motherhood, and everything in between.”

    Garth Risk Hallberg, the author of City on Fire and a self-identified “unreconstructed geek,” explains how and why he updated his debut novella, A Guide to the North American Family, which is being released in a new edition by Knopf.

    The Meredith Corporation is currently in discussions over the purchase of Time Inc—the publisher that owns Time, Sports Illustrated, and numerous other periodicals—and the influential conservatives Charles and David Koch have “tentatively agreed to back” the deal. In the New York Times, one associate of the brothers notes: “Knowing the Kochs, I think they’d have to see it as a business that could at the same time further their political interests.”

    Shannon Michael Kane, who in 2013 took over and revitalized the Printed Matter Book Fair, has died.

    “The idea that I love is that a story is kind of a black box, and you’re going to put the reader in there, she’s going to spend some time with this thing that you have made, and when she comes out, what going to have happened to her in there is something kind of astonishing. It feels like a curtain has been pulled back and she’s gotten a glimpse into a deeper truth.” In a short video, George Saunders describes what makes stories bad (they condescend), and what good stories do for us.


    In a short roundup titled “3 Books that Help Make Sense of Climate Change,” the New York Times includes Nigel Lawson’s An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming. Lawson’s book approaches climate change with skepticism, and some critics are charging that the Times was careless to suggest that it “makes sense” of the topic.

  • November 17, 2017

    Radhika Jones

    Anonymous staffers at Vanity Fair and Condé Nast are worried about incoming editor Radhika Jones’s plans for the magazine and its employees. According to the Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove, some worry that Jones’s arrival will be accompanied by layoffs and budget cuts, while others wonder how she’ll handle “the gossip-driven Condé Nast corporate culture” as she works to make the magazine more relevant in the digital age. “If you fail everybody will know it,” one unnamed editor said. “It’s not like you’re failing at some obscure web site in Seattle. This is like the Yankees.”

    David France’s How to Survive a Plague was awarded the Baillie Gifford prize for nonfiction yesterday.

    The Washington Post has hired Sarah Ellison as a staff writer. Ellison was most recently a writer at Vanity Fair, and will cover “media and its intersection with politics, culture and technology.”

    The New York Times profiles Chinese author Xue Yiwei, whose 2010 novel Dr. Bethune’s Children was recently translated into English. Xue, who moved to Montreal nearly two decades ago, is “in an unusual position: He is neither completely banned, nor completely accepted in his native country.” Although Xue has written about controversial subjects like the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, he has so far avoided the direct scrutiny of the Chinese government, a situation helped by his move to Canada. “I marginalized myself,” Xue explained. “Voluntarily. But I remained an essential writer on the literary scene in China.”

    The Martian author Andy Weir says that he’s over the dystopian fiction trend. “I tend to avoid fiction that’s too dark or serious or has a political message,” he said. “For me, fiction is a form of escapism. I want to leave the real world, not sit around and stress about it.”

    Supporters of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore are attempting to impersonate Washington Post reporters in an effort to discredit the paper’s reports about his past encounters with teenage girls. “People down here are pushing back against The Washington Post, the moderate liberal Republicans and the Washington establishment that thinks we’re all stupid,” explained Dean Young, one of Moore’s political advisers. “They’re pushing back every way we can.”

    Tonight at St. George’s Church in Manhattan, Michael Robbins discusses his new book, Equipment for Living.

  • November 16, 2017

    Ha Jin

    The winners of the 2017 National Book Award were announced last night. Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing won for fiction, Masha Gessen’s The Future is History won for nonfiction, and Frank Bidart’s Half-light won for poetry.

    Touchstone is publishing a new short story collection featuring the work of Louise Erdrich, Ha Jin, Walter Mosley, and more. It Occurs to Me That I Am America will be published next January and, according to editor Jonathan Santlofer, “aims to address the anxiety many Americans are feeling about losing the freedoms for which we’ve fought; to remind us of America as an international symbol of hope; and considers the most basic notion of all: what it means to be American.”

    Jane Hu examines the “unusually detached” voices found in some works of fiction by Asian-American writers, and why these voices, usually belonging to a character with no specified race, “are often later reattached, by critics and other readers, to the authors themselves.”

    Two journalists arrested during protests at Trump’s inauguration are still facing charges, the New York Times reports. Freelance photojournalist Alexei Wood’s trial started yesterday, and Santa Fe Reporter staffer Aaron Cantú’s trial is scheduled for October.

    Former New Republic editor Peter Beinart reflects on the system of “affirmative action” at the magazine, in which Ivy League-educated white men hired more Ivy League-educated white men.

    Maer Roshan talks to Tina Brown about working with Harvey Weinstein, celebrity culture, and the other recently-unearthed memories from her just-published diaries. The unedited diaries from her time at Vanity Fair contained over 350,000 words. “I savagely cut anything that wasn’t either vivid, funny or self-revealing,” Brown said. “I usually decided to keep in those candid observations. . . . It was fun to come across entries like the one I wrote after visiting a bunch of Oxford friends. ‘This person Boris Johnson is an epic shit and I hope he ends badly!’ I still adhere to that view.”

  • November 15, 2017

    Doubleday has announced that it will publish Jeffrey Toobin’s next book, which will investigate the scandals of Donald Trump, focusing in particular on the probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and on the Congressional inquiries into Trump’s possible collusions with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. Toobin, whose previous books include The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court and American Heiress (about Patty Hearst), says, “We’ve been telling this story in bits and pieces for the past year, but I’m hoping to pull it together in single narrative that tells the tale in all its bizarre glory.”

    Louise Erdrich. Photo: Paul Emmel

    Rumaan Alam talks to novelist Louise Erdrich about climate change, Faulkner, and her new book, Future Home. Erdrich’s work has long been compared to that of Gabriel García Márquez and William Faulkner, connections that she’s no longer excited about. “I’m getting tired of this,” Erdrich replied after Alam mentioned Faulkner. “It was a great compliment in the beginning . . . but it’s over for me.” “A compliment like that ends up being both a constraint and a misunderstanding,” Alam reflects. “To be fair, there really isn’t another writer like Márquez, or like Faulkner. And there may never be another writer like Erdrich.”

    At the New York Review of Books, Marilynne Robinson reflects on democracy, respect, and Trump’s first year in office.

    After announcing that Disney had banned the paper from covering its films, Los Angeles Times employees tell the New York Times that they were discouraged by recently-appointed editor in chief Lewis D’Vorkin from using social media to share the investigative journalism that had led to the blacklisting. Some staff felt that the request was meant to avoid angering Disney further, but D’Vorkin told the paper that “the warnings about social media were intended to remind the staff to ‘stay away from opinion and stay away from drama.’”

    Tonight at the New York Public Library, Rebecca Mead talks to Daniel Mendelsohn about his latest book, An Odyssey.

  • November 14, 2017

    At Vox, a group of writers read and evaluated all twenty of the National Book Award finalists for 2017. (The winners will be announced on Wednesday night.) Some of the assessments are mixed: Elliot Ackerman’s Dark at the Crossing is a “compelling if uneven novel.” Frances Fitzgerald’s The Evangelicals is “written dryly, which renders it a little exhausting at times.”

    Tina Brown

    Tina Brown

    At the New Yorker, Nathan Heller captures the editorial flair and era captured in Tina Brown’s Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992. “That time was filled with famous people, endless parties, comic misadventure. But it’s Brown’s reports on editing that offer an illuminating thrill. Brown calls herself ‘a magazine romantic,’ and, reading her diary, you see why: she collects old magazines the way some people collect baseball cards, and her entries flutter with the joy of conquest at a time when glossies were reaching a glamorous peak. Her narrative is juicy in the mold less of a chophouse steak than of a summer peach: a little tart, a little sweet, mostly refreshing.”

    Amazon has announced plans to produce a new tv series based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

    Jessica Hopper, the author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, and music writer Oliver Wang have joined the editorial team of the American Music series, which is published by the University of Texas Press. “There are so many incredible music journalists, critics, poets, academics, amateurs, and musicians writing right now whose perspectives and curiosities can serve to enlighten our own,” says Hopper. “My hope is that in this new phase of the series we can publish work informed by both fandom and scholarship, delve into regional scenes, and raise up marginalized sounds and ideas, contemporary and historic.”

    Atria Books will publish the first novel by actor Sean Penn. The book, titled Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, will be released on March 27.

    Poet and critic Stephanie Burt, author of Advice from the Light and Close Calls with Nonsense, reads new poems by Taylor Swift, and concludes that the pop star’s verses “are emotionally interesting ways to think about her life and her self-image and her emotions.” And yet: “I just don’t think they stand up on their own in the way that my favorite poets do.”

  • November 13, 2017

    Radhika Jones

    Radhika Jones will be the next editor of Vanity Fair. Jones is replacing Graydon Carter, who announced his retirement this fall after twenty-five years as editor in chief. According to the New York Post, Jones will be taking a significant pay cut: While Carter reportedly made about $2 million dollars a year, Jones is being offered about $500,000. As one Post source put it: “The era of the highly paid Conde Nast editor is truly over.”

    The Washington Post’s Opinion section with now use artificial intelligence to guide readers to stories with opposing viewpoints from what they’re reading.

    Gossip columnist Liz Smith died yesterday at the age of ninety-four. Smith authored her column for thirty-three years, in the Daily News, New York Newsday, and the New York Post. She wrote in her inimitable style right up until the end: In a Friday dispatch for the website New York Social Diary, Smith shared a byline with Denis Ferrara on a story that begins as an appreciation of the late actress Contance Ford, talks about how Adam Sandler isn’t actually so bad, and ends on a hopeful note, riffing on Socrates quote: “Yeah, I know, you thought today’s column was going to be a total rant about the horror of the 45th president’s first year. Sometimes we like to deliver a perverse surprise. We’ll have at least three more years to rant. We need to reserve our rage and fear. And build the new.”

    Edwidge Danticat has been awarded the 2018 Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

    Jesmyn Ward sits down with The Guardian to discuss her novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing.

    At the Melville House blog, Simon Reichley examines the recently released “Industry Salary Survey,” compiled by Publishers Weekly. Predictably, the news is not good: “Everything that was a bummer last year (a dramatic pay gap between male and female employees, a stunning lack of racial diversity, stagnant wage growth, etc) is a bummer this year.”

    Tonight in New York, there are far too many worthwhile literary events for one Monday evening: at the New York Public Library, Myriam Gurba discusses her memoir Mean with Emily Books cofounders Emily Gould and Ruth Curry; at McNally Jackson books, Corey Robin talks about the updated edition of his influential study of conservatism, The Reactionary Mind, with Keith Gessen; The Strand is hosting a roundtable about the book Tell Me Something Good: Artist Interviews from the Brooklyn Rail; and Greenlight Books in Brooklyn is presenting a joint book launch for Stephen Elliott and Nuar Alsadir.  

  • November 10, 2017

    The Washington Post is launching a new feature to offer new perspectives to its readers. Counterpoint will search opinion articles and link to counterarguments based on what a user is reading at that time. Editorial page editor Fred Hiatt said the tool will not only expose readers to different viewpoints, but also to more Post content. “If you come to read a great column by Charles Krauthammer, would you be interested in a counter argument by Ruth Marcus?” he mused. “If a link to Greg Sargent brought you to our site, would you stick around if you knew that Michael Gerson had written a really smart piece on the same topic, but from a different perspective?”

    After giving a verified Twitter checkmark to Jason Kessler, the founder of the Charlottesville white supremacist rally—a move that many felt ran counter to CEO Jack Dorsey’s commitment to removing “hate symbols, violent groups, and tweets that glorify violence” from the platform—the company has suspended its verification system pending a review.

    Kevin Roose explores the increasing influence of YouTube’s conservative pundits.

    Jaron Lanier

    The New York Times talks to Jaron Lanier about social media, obscure flutes, and his new book, The Dawn of the New Everything. Lanier is skeptical that Facebook and other social media giants were unaware of their platforms’ potential to spread fake news, and worries that advances in virtual reality technology could make the problem worse. “Hopefully, in this period, when we’re dealing with this really crude and early stuff like Facebook feeds, Instagram, Snapchat, we’ll be able to get the politics straight and find a path for people to have dignity and autonomy before the hard-core stuff comes,” he says. “Unless we all kill ourselves through this other stuff, which is a possibility, too.”

    Tonight at New York University, Masha Gessen and Siri Hustvedt discuss the politics of language.

  • November 9, 2017

    Peter Hamby takes a deep dive into the world of the White House press corps. Hamby writes that the inability of White House correspondents to question press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on inaccuracies and pressure the administration into discussing certain topics is having a detrimental effect on the media’s reputation. “The political press is facing a crisis of substance,” he writes, “and it’s not just poisoning the public’s perception of journalism, it’s playing right into Trump’s hands.”

    Politico’s Jack Shafer looks at the now-reversed Disney boycott of the Los Angeles Times and explains why Disney, not the newspapers, won the fight. Shafer writes that the company’s blacklisting of the newspaper used Trump’s constant dismissals of the press as a template. “By aping Trump, Disney has encouraged individuals and institutions covered by the outlets it owns—ABC News, ESPN, and local TV news—that snitty boycotts are the correct way to register disapproval,” he concludes.

    Adam Gopnik

    The 2017 National Book Awards will be broadcast on Facebook Live, the Los Angeles Times reports.

    Stephen Elliott talks to the Los Angeles Review of Books about his novels, the genius of Britney Spears, and why he doesn’t like LA.

    Adam Gopnik remembers his life in 1980s New York, where his new novel. Before he started writing for the New Yorker, Gopnik dreamed of being a songwriter. “I had written a college show about the life of Vladimir Tatlin, the great Russian Constructivist architect, and I simply assumed that I was six weeks away from Broadway with a show about him,” he recalls. “And we also had once met someone who had been to dinner with someone who had spoken to the sister of Art Garfunkel’s psychotherapist—some relationship like that—and I had made a cassette of my best songs to send to him, and I never heard back. Still haven’t, in fact.”

    Tonight at Book Culture, Jeremy Dauber presents his new book, Jewish Comedy: A Serious History.