• March 27, 2015

    In The Baffler, Evgeny Morozov writes about the problems of technology criticism (he thinks it is willfully oblivious to political and social realities), and explains why he’s decided to abandon the profession: “For a long time, I’ve considered myself a technology critic. Thus, I must acknowledge defeat as well: contemporary technology criticism in America is an empty, vain, and inevitably conservative undertaking. At best, we are just making careers; at worst, we are just useful idiots.” At his blog, tech critic Nicholas Carr answers Morozov’s critique: “Morozov has come to believe that the only valid technology criticism is political criticism. In fact, he believes that the only valid technology criticism is political criticism that shares his own particular point of view.”

    Recently asked about a quote in The New York Times, Jeb Bush responded: “I don’t read The New York Times, to be honest with you.”

    Renata Adler

    Renata Adler

    At Vice, novelist Catherine Lacey talks to Renata Adler about her new collection of nonfiction, After the Tall Timber.

    Vice media and HBO have announced a new “content partnership.” Vice will now become the primary news source for HBO, and will produce a daily newscast. HBO will extend Vice’s weekly documentary series for another four years.

    Amazon is requiring temporary warehouse workers to sign an agreement that prevents them from working for competitors for eighteen months after their jobs with Amazon conclude.

    In an excerpt from her forthcoming book of diary entries, Heidi Julavits writes about how she became jealous of “diet mastermind” Dr. Fuhrman, when her husband, the novelist Ben Marcus, began following Fuhrman’s eating advice.

  • March 26, 2015

    In honor of its 150th anniversary, The Nation, which published its first issue on July 1, 1865, is publishing a celebratory issue that features articles by James Baldwin, Barbara Ehrenreich, Toni Morrison, Howard Zinn, among others, and is available as a free PDF download.

    Prospect magazine asked its readers to name their favorite “world thinkers,” and Thomas Picetty, the French economist and the author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, is at the top of the list.

    Charlie Hebdo has won PEN America’s Freedom of Expression Courage Award.

    Adam Thirlwell

    Adam Thirlwell

    The New York Times’s T Magazine blog offers a peek into the workspaces of seven celebrated authors, including Rachel Kushner, Paul Muldoon, Tom McCarthy, Chinelo Okparanta, and Adam Thirlwell. Kushner writes: “The discontinuity—that it is pretty and calm in here—is not entirely lost on me. And anyhow, whether reading one or trying to compose one, novels are terrain for discontinuities, sometimes violent ones.”

    “We smoked weed and drank Red Stripe and sometimes inhaled poppers, which would lend you huge brief bursts of euphoric energy and then foreclose, leaving you in a puddle.” At the NYRB Blog, Luc Sante writes about “Arleen,” a song by the Jamaican musician General Echo, and recalls nights he spent at Isaiah’s, “a dance club that materialized every Thursday night in a fourth-floor loft on Broadway between Bleecker and Bond.”

  • March 25, 2015

    After receiving numerous letters asking him to “host third-party content” at theatlantic.com, James Fallows pretended to be interested, and found out what some sponsored-content generators hope to accomplish. “I am looking at getting a article placed on your site by my team of creative writers regarding some of the latest industry news around [a big online gambling company], so the article would be igaming/gambling related,but not as a advertisement.”

    Pamela Paul

    Pamela Paul

    Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, has signed a book deal with Henry Holt and Company. The memoir, titled My Life with Bob, is a record of and meditation on books the author has read, and it is scheduled to be released in the Fall of 2017.

    Yesterday, the Man Booker International Prize shortlist was announced. In recent years, the prize has been criticized for being too insular, and barely “international” at all—the past three awards were all granted to North American authors. This season’s nominees are much more global in scope, with eight works in translation and six nationalities that have never before been up for the award. The winner will be announced on May 19.

    Facebook is holding talks with major media companies about hosting their news content. Instead of linking out to the publications’ websites, these stories would live directly on the social media giant’s site—a small change that could have big implications, especially for ad revenue. At The Awl, John Herrman examines what the deal could mean for both sides—and for readers: “If it works, it will increase the amount of time Facebook users spend scrolling and engaging and reading—and it will create new opportunities to turn human boredom into cash. It will make Facebook feel like a better place, one that doesn’t just link you to interesting things but that is home to them.”

    At Vice, an excerpt from Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Book Four.

    The Paris Review Daily looks at Guillaume Nicloux’s film The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq (opening today at Film Forum in New York), which imagines that the French provocateur was abducted that time he went missing in 2011.

     

  • March 24, 2015

    Apple executives, who are not known to voice strong opinions on anything that isn’t bezel-related, say they much prefer the new unauthorized biography of Steve Jobs to Walter Isaacson’s authorized (and unflinching) 2011 book, Steve Jobs.

    Now that senator Ted Cruz is officially a candidate for president, how should mainstream journalists handle his assertion that climate-change science is phony? At the journalism blog Press Think, NYU professor Jay Rosen considers the four ways that publications can handle the climate-change deniers’ position and how they might balance impartiality with the idea that facts matter.

    We were surprised to see tweets reporting Chinua Achebe’s death Monday morning, since we had a distinct memory of his passing in 2013. Apparently, many people on Twitter (including US national security advisor Susan Rice) saw the March 2013 New York Times obituary and thought the writer had just passed away. Rice deleted the tweet that said it was a “somber day in Nigeria” and replaced it with one noting it was, at any rate, a good occasion to remember Achebe—and reminding readers to always “read fine print.”

    The second annual Folio Prize for fiction has been awarded to Akhil Sharma for his novel Family Life.

    Cesar Aira

    Cesar Aira

    Tonight in New York: At McNally Jackson Books, novelist Rivka Galchen will talk to the shockingly prolific Argentine writer Cesar Aira about his new book, The Musical Brain and Other Stories. (In 2011, Galchen wrote for Harper’s Magazine that Aira’s works are “like slim cabinets of wonder, full of unlikely juxtapositions. His unpredictability is masterful.”) And Elif Batuman will read and discuss her work at Baruch College.

  • March 23, 2015

    The Guardian has appointed Katharine Vinerto be its new editor in chief. Viner, who will be the first woman EIC in the paper’s 194-year history, is currently the magazine’s deputy editor, and will begin her new position this summer. In a column for USA Today, Michael Wolff suggests that the choice of Viner instead of another editor, Janine Gibson, was in some ways influenced by Gibson’s role in the Guardian’s coverage of Edward Snowden—stories that won the paper a Pulitzer Prize but also caused turmoil in the organization as a whole. (Here’s a speech Viner gave in 2013 about “journalism in the age of the open web.”)

    The Morning News’s annual Tournament of Books has entered its semifinals.

    Norman Rush

    Norman Rush

    In the latest installment of the Paris Review’s book club on Norman Rush’s Mating, Miranda Popkey focuses on one controversial line from the novel: “I had been working my tits down to nubs.

    The Los Angeles Times recently ran an op-ed with the headline “California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?” The article’s author, Jay Famiglietti, later pointed out that “he made no such claim in the piece.” Now, experts are weighing in, and calling the newspaper’s choice of headline as a “click-generating machine.

    Rolling Stone has announced that it will publish an external review of the article about a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity. Shortly after the article’s publication last November, large portions were called into question by the Washington Post, among other news outlets. The review is being led by Steve Coll, the Pulizter winner, author of multiple books of investigative journalism, and dean and Columbia’s school of journalism.

  • March 20, 2015

    The New York Times has dropped one of the new online opinion writers it just hired, Razib Khan. The paper announced its new hires on Wednesday; shortly afterward, Gawker described Khan as having been associated with “racist, far-right online publications” such as Taki’s Magazine, which, according to J.K..Trotter, was founded by a “flamboyantly racist Greek journalist.” Khan’s contract was terminated on Thursday.

    At The Nation, Michelle Goldberg investigates the reaction to Laura Kipnis’s recent piece about sexual misconduct rules at universities. Goldberg chalks up the harsh response to the article to a generational divide between feminisms: “There are contradictions between a feminism that emphasizes women’s erotic agency and desire to have sex on equal terms with men, and a feminism that stresses their erotic vulnerability and need to be shielded from even the subtlest forms of coercion. The politics of liberation are an uneasy fit with the politics of protection. A rigid new set of taboos has emerged to paper over this tension, often expressed in a therapeutic language of trauma and triggers that everyone is obliged to at least pretend to take seriously.”

    At the Times, Aatish Taseer laments the dominance of English in India. Whether or not people know the language has everything to do with their class background, he points out; English “re-enacts  the colonial relationship, placing certain Indians in a position the British once occupied” and creating “a linguistic line as unbreachable as the color line once was in the United States.” As a result, India’s literature suffers: Its “painful relationship with language has left it voiceless.”

    Vice is starting a new vertical, Broadly, aimed at women and headed by Tracie Egan Morrissey and Callie Beusman, formerly of Gawker.  The website will feature mostly journalism and will, reportedly, avoid “light stuff.”

    The New Republic is trying get into native advertising.

    Sarah Polley is making a new version of Little Women.

  • March 19, 2015

    Kenneth Goldsmith

    Kenneth Goldsmith

    Last Friday, the poet Kenneth Goldsmith—known for what he calls “uncreative writing”—read Michael Brown’s autopsy report, altered “for poetic effect,” at Brown University. Goldsmith has since been widely criticized for, among other things, appropriating a text that he had no rights to and being tacky. Goldsmith’s self-defense amounted to the suggestion that he’s been doing this sort of appropriation for a very long time; among his books of poetry, for example, is Seven American Deaths and Disasters, a transcription of quotes from reports of national tragedies, including the shooting of JFK. Goldsmith retweeted many of the criticisms leveled at him. What he has not tweeted is a response from the anonymous group Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo, which indicts the “colonial aesthetics” of conceptual art generally: “We are not here gleefully, we are here unhinged. We are distraught that it required the body of Mike Brown to push some poets into questioning the “practice” and “theory” behind current self-declared “conceptualist” poetry. We won’t forget that it takes bodies to make you consider your allegiances.”

    The New York Times is adding twenty new online opinion writers. According to Capital New York, most have signed short-term contracts and will be writing once a month. The roster includes the novelists Jennifer Weiner, Lydia Millet, and Héctor Tobar, as well as Judith Shulevitz, Roxane Gay, and Sandeep Jauhar.

    The Emperor Franzen Twitter account, which made fun of Jonathan Franzen by impersonating him, has been suspended. Twitter suggested that the account holder, Andrew Shafer, change it to “@fakefranzen” to be more clear that it was, well, fake; Shafer declined. If you need a funny lit-world Twitter to follow instead, Shafer recommends @GuyInYourMFA.

    A new version of the Times style guide, available from Three Rivers Press, shows all the changes that have been made to the guide since 1999. Most of the updates have to do with the internet. For example, “friend”: “Do not use as a verb, as in friended, except for special effect when writing about social media.”

    The Guardian, CNN International, the Financial Times, and Reuters have banded together to pool ad space as a way of fighting against the ad dollars of larger corporations such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. The alliance, which they’re calling Pangea, will give brands access to a combined 110 million online readers.

  • March 18, 2015

    The remains of Miguel de Cervantes have been found in a convent.

    Christian Lorentzen will be the next book critic at New York magazine, replacing Kathryn Schulz, who left a few months ago for the New Yorker. Lorentzen writes frequently for Bookforum; his most recent piece for us was on Kazuo Ishiguro.

    Susan Berman

    Susan Berman

    The most well-known book by the writer Susan Berman, one of the alleged victims of Robert Durst, is Easy Street, a memoir of her family’s mob ties. With the success of the HBO show Jinx, a six-episode HBO documentary about Durst, paperback copies of Berman’s book that could be got on Amazon for ten dollars a week ago are now selling for fifty.

    PEN has announced the longlist for its literary awards. The debut fiction category includes Molly Antopol’s UnAmericans, Phil Klay’s Redeployment, Kenneth Calhoun’s Black Moon, and seven others. The essay category names Leslie Jamison’s Empathy Exams, Valeria Luiselli’s Sidewalks, and Charles D’Ambrosio’s Loitering, among others.

    Gawker has set up a website that will publish the pool reports that report on the president’s everyday actions. These are unsigned dispatches about the president’s comings and goings written by a rotating cast of reporters from the White House press corps, and made available to be used by publications as they see fit. Gawker explains: “Though much of what is in these pool reports eventually finds its way into press coverage—that’s what they’re for!—the actual raw copy is available only to the anointed hundreds, or perhaps thousands, who are judged to be important enough to merit placement on the distribution list.” Now Gawker will publish the reports as soon as it has them.

    The publisher of Grove Atlantic, Morgan Entrekin, is planning a new website called Literary Hub, in conjunction with Electric Literature. Literary Hub, which will go live April 8, aims to be a clearing-house of “literary life.” Because it is backed by publishers, the site won’t publish book reviews. Rather, it’ll feature interviews, profiles, essays, and excerpts, focusing exclusively, according to Entrekin, on literary fiction.

  • March 17, 2015

    President Obama talks to Vice founder Shane Smith about foreign policy, marijuana legalization, global warming, and political gridlock.

    In the new edition of the children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies, originally published in 1989, Heather’s two moms are wearing rings on their left hands. Leslea Newman explained to the AP: “”I don’t specifically say that they’re married but they are.”

    Jack White’s publishing venture, Third Man Books, just signed with the distributor Consortium. They’re set to publish three books this year, including Hidden Water, a collection of work by the late poet Frank Stanford: unpublished poems, and facsimiles of Stanford’s drafts, letters, and art.

    Millennials consume more news than they’re purported to, according to a study by the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research—sixty-nine percent access some type of news every day. They just get to it in different ways than the generations above them. Rather than going directly to news providers for it, “news and information are woven into an often continuous but mindful way that Millennials connect to the world generally, which mixes news with social connection, problem solving, social action, and entertainment.” Only half report being online most or all day.

    At the London Review of Books, Kristen Dombek reviews Kim Gordon’s memoir: “If rock stars’ memoirs are supposed to reify our fantasy that artistic stardom can provide you with a ‘suspended adulthood,’ as she puts it, [Gordon] refuses to comply. This is a book about the very adult problem of having worked so hard at an artistic career that you can wake up to accidentally see a text message on your spouse’s phone and find your cities, your industry and your marriage irrevocably changed, all at the same time, in such a way that to sort out what is what, what you have done to get here, can ‘make your brain split open.’ ”

    In other rock ‘n’ roll—publishing news, Carrie Brownstein’s memoir, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, is coming out in October. The book ends with Sleater-Kinney going on hiatus in 2005.

  • March 16, 2015

    John Cook, Gawker Media’s executive editor for investigations, says that his company will be filing a suit against the State Department, based on a Freedom of Information Act request that has gone unheeded. In 2012, the website requested emails sent between Hillary Clinton spokesperson Philippe Reines and thirty-four news organizations. So far, Gawker has received nothing. Meanwhile, the Associated Press is suing the State Department for another ignored FoIA request.

    Roberto Bolano’s 2666 is being adapted for the stage.

    Rita Dove

    Rita Dove

    The National Book Critics Circle, which announced the winners of its 2014 awards on Thursday, has posted a video of its awards ceremony, which honored Claudia Rankine, Roz Chast, Ellen Willis, and John Lahr, among others, and featured speeches by poet Rita Dove and novelist Toni Morrison, who won the NBCC’s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. The NBCC website has also printed a transcript of the speech given by Alexandra Schwartz, who won the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, who remembers writing her first review (for John Leonard) and considers the qualities of a good reviewer.

    Gaby Wood talks with Samantha Harvey, and ponders “why great novels don’t get noticed now.” Harvey’s Dear Thief was published last year to great reviews, but has sold only about 1,000 copies, and remains relatively hard to find. “What happened?” Wood asks. “The story of Dear Thief is the story of how our best fiction can get lost, and how hard it is for readers to find the books they’ll love.”

    Karen Dawisha, an American academic who specializes in Russian affairs, is the author of the 2014 study Putin’s Kleptocracy. It was published in the US by Simon and Schuster. In the UK, however, publishers have been wary of the book, fearing that the book’s critical portrayal of Putin (Dawisha argues, among other things, that Putin has been involved in espionage) will put them in legal danger. Judges of the UK’s Pushkin Prize, which honors books about Russia, have expressed their concerns about the book’s failure to find a publisher in the country. And Dawisha states: “I felt that their very rejection sounded an alarm bell about one of the Kremlin’s real powers—the power to cow western institutions into submission. The Kremlin and its supporters use the courts to scare off researchers who want to expose the corruption at the core of this regime. I know of several manuscripts that have been suppressed in this way.”

     

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