• November 13, 2013

    At Page Turner, Maria Bustillos weighs in on the controversy surrounding Isaac Fitzgerald’s hiring as Buzzfeed’s books editor—and his declaration to publish only positive reviews—with a bit of background context: “It bears mentioning that Fitzgerald’s views are very much in line with those of the San Francisco literary establishment whence he hails. The influential essay by Heidi Julavits, published more than a decade ago in the Believer, ‘Rejoice! Believe! Be Strong and Read Hard!‘ was written explicitly against ‘snark’ and in favor of more positive book reviewing.”

    Joseph Brodsky dropped out of school after finishing seventh grade, but he famously held his poetry students to high academic standards, forcing them to memorize and transcribe up to four pages of 19th-century Russian poetry overnight. If you aspire to Brodsky’s level of rigor, you can check out his reading list for having an “intelligent conversation.”

    Joseph Brodsky

    Joseph Brodsky

    Are smartphones ruining fiction? Writer Robert Lanham thinks so: “I find it impossible to write fiction that’s set after 2002. Not because I’m a Gen-X-er waxing nostalgic… It’s just that it’s inconceivable to depict contemporary times authentically without including interludes where characters stare at their cell phones instead of advancing their plotlines—their lives—towards some conclusion. Which is, as a thing to read, mind-numbingly dull. Unless I write ‘and then his Galaxy 4′s battery died,’no one can ever get lost, forget an important fact, meet a partner outside of a dating site, or do anything that doesn’t eventually have them picking up a phone.”

    The New York Times profiles Daniel Alarcon, a young Peruvian writer who writes in English, and whose new novel, At Night We Walk in Circles, is out this month.

    And speaking of the Times, the paper has named staffer Tanzina Vega as its first beat reporter on race and ethnicity.

    The New Yorker’s Mary Norris sits in on a round of Literary Jeopardy at McNally Jackson, with editors Lorin Stein and Edwin Frank facing off against Bookforum contributor Ruth Franklin and former Bookforum editor Eric Banks.

  • Tuesday was a big day for professional shake-ups in journalism. Following news that reporters Matt Bai and Brian Stelter were leaving the New York Times (for Yahoo! News and CNN, respectively), the big story was that New York Times Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren is on the way out—and apparently not at his own volition. At the Awl, Choire Sicha names fourteen people who could fill Lindgren’s shoes.

    Ernest Hemingway put in a word for Ballantine Ale, Frederick Forsyth for Rolex, Mark Twain for Campbell’s soup: vintage advertisements starring famous authors.hemingway

    At n+1, Ben Kunkel responds to news of Twitter going public with a manifesto arguing that social media is “basically non-economic and non-productive” and therefore should be administered like a public good. “The time has come,” Kunkel writes, “to socialize social media.”

    Graphic novelist Allison Bechdel talks with the Atlantic about what it was like to see her graphic memoir Fun Home adapted for the stage.

    Texas state senator Wendy Davis, the woman who became a national media sensation earlier this year for holding an eleven-hour-filibuster to block legislation that would have banned abortions in Texas after twenty weeks of pregnancy, has signed a deal to write an autobiography. The book will come out in 2014 with Blue Rider Press.

    A new survey of members of the PEN American Center about government surveillance shows that it’s a topic that many writers are deeply concerned about. Out of the 528 members questioned, 73 percent said that they have “never been as worried about privacy rights and freedom of the press as they are today,” and 28 percent said they had “curtailed or avoided activities on social media.”

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