• August 29, 2014

    New York magazine rounds up the books to look forward to this fall, including Ben Lerner’s much-anticipated novel, 10:04, which publishes next week, Lena Dunham’s memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, as well as new fiction from Martin Amis, Marilynne Robinson, and Denis Johnson.

    Cover of an Arabic edition of Georges Simenon's "The Corpse."

    Cover of an Arabic edition of Georges Simenon’s “The Corpse.”

    Rene Steinke runs down six great books about Texas that go beyond “cattle and cowboys.”

    Jonathan Guyer on pulp fiction and graphic novels in Egypt: “When President Hosni Mubarak breezed off . . . the police dusted, too, leaving behind a Wild West.” Now, in Cairo, “as authorities attempt to restore law and order, the crime genre is making a comeback.”

    Looking back at ten years, and nearly a hundred titles, of the book series 33 ⅓, which lets obsessive music fans hold forth on their favorite albums.

    At the London Review of Books, Jenny Diski binges on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, and wonder why hardly anyone comments on how racist it is: “All the other groups—the Latinas, the lesbians, the poor white trash (just the one tiny grumpy Asian lady)—have their dramas and morality tales, but only the African Americans are shown to be arrogant bullies relying on and rejoicing in brute force and fear to maintain their hegemony.”

  • August 28, 2014

    Following the sale of the Canada-based scientific publication Experimental & Clinical Cardiology to New York buyers who turned around and sold it to a group in Switzerland that nobody can seem to identify, the journal is “now publishing anything submitted along with a fee of $1,200, packaging spurious studies as serious scientific papers.”

    At the New Yorker, Cambridge classicist Mary Beard responds to her sexist detractors. On Twitter trolls and online commenters: “The more I’ve looked at the details of the threats and the insults that women are on the receiving end of, the more some of them seem to fit into the old patterns of prejudice and assumption.”

    For those anticipating Lena Dunham’s memoir, the New Yorker has an excerpt.

    You’ll never guess what Facebook’s new algorithm will do to clickbait offenders like Buzzfeed and Upworthy. Click here to find out.

    At the National Book Festival, E.L. Doctorow will receive the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.

    David Mitchell

    David Mitchell

    At Vulture, Kathryn Schulz profiles David Mitchell: “Mitchell himself views his novels as “chapters in an Über-book”—which, to one degree or another, he has been writing all along.”

     

  • August 27, 2014

    Zaha Hadid

    Zaha Hadid

    The architect Zaha Hadid is suing the New York Review of Books for libel in response to an article by the critic Martin Filler. The article quotes her incorrectly, in such a way that implies that Hadid ignored the deaths of construction workers on a building in Qatar she designed. The building in question was not yet under construction; NYRB “regrets the error.”

    Robert Hass has won the Wallace Stevens award, which comes with a $100,000 cash prize.

    The National Book Foundation will collaborate with NPR’s Morning Edition to reveal the 2014 National Book Awards finalists on October 15th.

    At the New Yorker, Steve Coll discusses the kidnapping of journalists, the Anglo-American government policy against paying ransom, and the tendency to blame kidnapping victims for their fate. In a recent NPR show, for example, the host asked a colleague of the journalist James Foley whether Foley was “reckless.” That’s not the right question: “There is training that can help prepare a correspondent to work in a hazardous place for the first time, and there are tools—phones, cars, security consultants—that can help to keep them safe around the margins. But most of the great correspondents who have worked in hard places and walked away again and again have idiosyncratic methods for making judgments about which road to travel and which to avoid. And only the arrogant among them will say that they are not very lucky.”

    In light of Hachette’s feud with Amazon, The Guardian discusses potential “irreversible changes” in the publishing business model, in which publishers—bolstered by social media relationships with its audience— may attempt to move towards direct sales.

    New York Times writer David Itzkoff will write Robin Williams’s biography.

  • August 26, 2014

    Michael Brown

    Michael Brown

    Michael Brown has been buried in St. Louis. In Monday’s funeral service, attended by Al Sharpton and Spike Lee, Brown’s family members memorialized the teenager. The eighteen-year-old unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, on August 9, sparking outrage and protests across the nation. Yesterday, the New York Times public editor apologized for reporter John Eligon’s having called Brown “no angel” in a recent story: “That choice of words was a regrettable mistake. In saying that the 18-year-old Michael Brown was ‘no angel’…The Times seems to suggest that this was, altogether, a bad kid.”

    The Columbia Journalism Review describes the media controversy over whether to publish graphic images from the video of journalist James Foley’s execution. “There is no journalistic value to my mind of showing what a beheading looks like,” said Dean Baquet, executive editor of the Times. On Twitter, Vox’s Max Fisher criticizes Reuters for overstepping.

    Laura Ingalls Wilder (the author of the Little House series) has a memoir coming out this November with the South Dakota Historical Society Press. The autobiography, originally written in 1930, reportedly contains stories of pioneer life that “would not be appropriate” for children. “Wilder’s fiction, her autobiography, and her real childhood as she lived it are three distinct things, but they are all closely intertwined, and readers will enjoy seeing how they reflect one another,” said Nancy Koupal, the press’s director.

    A forthcoming book by English professor Sue Vice argues that fake memoirs shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed; they may have “value in literary or psychological terms that exceeds their truth value.”

    The third volume of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, appears next week. At T Magazine, three writers speculate on the real identity of Ferrante, who has never been photographed or made a public appearance. She did, however, recently give an interview to Megan O’Grady at Vogue, to whom she explained her work as “a battle to avoid lying”: “If it seems to me not that I’ve won but that I’ve fought with all my strength, I decide to publish.” The Guardian calls Ferrante “a master of the unsayable.” And last year, James Wood noted that her public restraint seems “wisely self-protective”: ”Her novels are intensely, violently personal, and because of this they seem to dangle bristling key chains of confession before the unsuspecting reader.”

    The 6.0 earthquake that rattled northern California wine country this weekend also sent hundreds of books to the floor of the Napa Public Library. All Napa County libraries were closed on Monday for cleaning. In Lakeland, Florida, a bookless library avoids similar messes. Florida Polytechnic University budgeted $60,000 to give students access to over 135,000 ebook titles.

  • August 25, 2014

    Elif Batuman

    Elif Batuman

    At the New Yorker, Elif Batuman explains what’s wrong with comparing Ferguson and Iraq.

    Why did Buzzfeed’s Jeremy Singer-Vine use Github to post the data he used in an article about Jefferson and St Louis-area segregation? “As journalists marshall more data than ever, collect it from a wider range of sources, and analyze it in increasingly complex ways, it’s important (and interesting!) to be transparent about those processes.”

    At Salon, Molly Fischer boldly urges the New York Times Book Review to kill its Bookends column. “It’s not just the stiff phrasing (‘What should we make of this?’ ‘What’s behind the notion?’) that gives Bookends its blue-books-and-binder-paper feel,” Fischer writes. “It’s also the whole concept of a column designed to offer only the gentlest, most dutiful provocations.”

    PT Anderson has quietly and selectively started screening his adaptation of Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon’s So-Cal stoner detective romp, which stars Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, and Reese Witherspoon.

    Politico’s media reporter Dylan Byers has published a piece arguing that Vox—the media venture started by Ezra Klein, Melissa Bell, and Matthew Yglesias—has not lived up to its promise. But as David Weigel at Slate points out, Vox has passed up Politico’s traffic in just a short time.

  • August 22, 2014

     

    Matthew Rosenberg

    Matthew Rosenberg

    Afghanistan expelled New York Times journalist Matthew Rosenberg, and then issued a statement calling Rosenberg’s recent article about an electoral crisis in the country “more of an espionage act than a journalistic work, one that was meant to create panic and disruption in people’s minds, and provide the basis for other spying purposes.” As the Times reports, the Afghan government was apparently “infuriated” by Rosenberg’s reporting on the possibility of “forming an interim governing committee” as a way of handling the crisis—“a step that would amount to a coup.”

    At the New Inquiry, a defense of looting: “The history of the police in America is the history of black people being violently prevented from threatening white people’s property rights. When, in the midst of an anti-police protest movement, people loot, they aren’t acting non-politically, they aren’t distracting from the issue of police violence and domination, nor are they fanning the flames of an always-already racist media discourse. Instead, they are getting straight to the heart of the problem of the police, property, and white supremacy.

    The Huffington Post has partnered with a large media company in India, with which it plans to launch Huffington Post India later this year.

    Hearst is starting a free weekly magazine. The first issue of TrendingNY will come out September 8, with a print run of 50,000. It hopes to target “millennial women with interests in fashion and beauty” with its “quick, easily consumable content.”

    A German culture and media minister speaks out against Amazon: “Market power and domination over central distribution channels should not endanger our cultural diversity.”

    Edward Mendelson on the letters of Ernest Hemingway: “Hemingway’s deepest wish, concealed by his self-asserting mask, was to become one with someone or something else, to live without the burden of a self.”

  • August 21, 2014

    Ken Chen

    Ken Chen

    The second part of a series by NPR’s Lynn Neary, on diversity in the writing world, has aired. Publishing is “overwhelmingly white,” the writer Daniel José Older says. “That’s not a controversial fact, but sometimes to point it out becomes a controversial thing.” Publishing companies often say that they would publish books by more diverse writers if there were a market for them. It’s not that there isn’t a market, says poet Ken Chen, it’s that publishers can’t “imagine” it: “That’s not just about a company corporate diversity policy; it’s about actually knowing what’s going on in communities of color.”

    Detroit’s Write a House program is underway. The nonprofit is buying houses on the foreclosure market, renovating them, and giving them to writers. It will give away one house in its inaugural year, and in subsequent years give away three annually. Applicants must be published writers, but do not need to do work as writers full-time. They must earn no more than $39,750 a person.

    Long-time New York bookstore Shakespeare & Company may be forced to close permanently. At the end of August, they will close their Broadway store, which has been operating without a lease for a year. A Brooklyn outpost closed this spring; the Upper West Side location closed in 1996, after a Barnes and Noble moved in a block away. Apparently the Lexington location is also in lease negotiations.

    Stephen King, Jeff Bezos, and Stephen Colbert have all taken the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge,” which entails a bucket of ice water getting dumped on the participant, who then nominates others. If you refuse, you’re encouraged to donate to a charity that supports research on the disease. ALS research is important, but it hasn’t been so fun to see Facebook littered with videos of people self-congratulatingly dousing themselves.

    J.D. Salinger’s home in Cornish, New Hampshire is on the market. The writer purchased the 1939 Dutch Colonial, which is on twelve acres of land, when he left New York in 1953. He sold it to the current owner in the early 1960s. Among the works that he may have worked on in the house are “Franny,” “Zooey,” “Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters,” and “Seymour: An Introduction.”

  • August 20, 2014

    Journalists in Ferguson are “learning as they go,” writes Paul Farhi for the Washington Post: “It’s not just the rioters you have to worry about, say reporters; the authorities can be difficult—and dangerous—too.” You don’t say! Something Farhi might consider learning himself is not to use the term “rioters” to describe impassioned protesters facing a hostile police force. As one of Farhi’s own sources, Wesley Lowery, points out, during “ninety percent” of the time he has spent in Ferguson, the threat has been not from protesters but from the police.

    Facebook has been fairly useless for following Ferguson news, in spite of having five times as many users as Twitter. This is partly because Facebook is bad for getting news, period. Does it face a “moral imperative” to change that? At Poynter, Sam Kirkland describes the possible “Facebookification” of Twitter and the possible “Twitterfication” of Facebook.

    Speaking of Twitter: Paper Trail has been following Sheila Heti’s Twitter series at the Believer Logger since it began. In the final installment, Heti interviews Kenneth Goldsmith, founder of UbuWeb. “Twitter is not art,” Goldsmith says. “But it inspires me in the way that art used to inspire me. Art used to make me see the world differently, think about things in a new way—it rarely does that for me anymore, but technology does that for me on a daily basis.”

    Justin Torres

    Justin Torres

    NPR’s Lynn Neary talks to Lan Samantha Chang, director of the Iowa Writers Workshop, about the challenges faced by students of color in MFA programs. Chang, herself a graduate of Iowa, has worked to attract a diverse student body. Among the students she has brought is Justin Torres, whose novel We the Animals came out in 2011 (reviewing it for Bookforum, Andrew Martin called the book “carefully carved”). Torres persuaded a friend to accompany him to Iowa when he moved. “Sometimes it’s just exhausting if you’re going to go into a class of middle-class, straight, white people,” he told Neary. “You’re just automatically that ‘other.’ ”

    The entire Loeb Classical Library—those books with the unchanging attractive green or red spines—will be available online come fall. The print books will remain. (Harvard University Press wants to avoid making anyone feel that the hardcover books are “obsolete”: they’re going to revise both print and online works “in tandem,”  the series’ editor said.)

    In the Times’s “Bookends” feature, Zoe Heller and Rivka Galchen answer the question of whether they think writing can be taught. The obvious answer, for both, is yes. We don’t consider science impossible to teach, Galchen says, yet great scientists were no more taught their genius than great writers. But this doesn’t mean instruction isn’t necessary. “In most every intellectual endeavor, the extremes of its work come from an unteachable dark. A discipline like mathematics, known especially for its young prodigies who have less to offer as they get older, seems more dominated by the dark than writing does, yet there’s still a substantial teachable remainder.” 

  • August 19, 2014

    Ann Leckie

    Ann Leckie

    The 2014 Hugo Awards, which honor science fiction, have been announced. The award for best novel goes to Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie (Orbit US / Orbit UK). This year Hugo nominees were more likely to be women and people of color than has historically been true, the Daily Dot reports.

    The Telegraph profiles Jennifer Weiner, who complains that she was “devastated” when she heard that Jennifer Egan had advised women not to write chick lit. About Lena Dunham, who has said that she loathed “airport chick lit,” Weiner says, “I’m sure she has just no clue that these books she’s reviled may have in some teeny, tiny way made her show possible.”

    And the Guardian profiles Phyllis Rose, whose book, The Shelf, was published earlier this year. About the rise of the “bibliomemoir,” Rose acknowledges that such books are perhaps evidence of a sad state of affairs. “There is this movement to cherish what we have before it is lost,” she says. “‘Crisis’ would sound melodramatic. But certainly, we are taking it less for granted; we’re trying to hold on to something before it disappears.” Diane Mehta interviewed Rose for Bookforum.

    One of the metrics that Time Inc. uses to evaluate writers is how “beneficial” their work is to the company’s relationship with advertisers, Gawker reports. A union representative claims that writers have been terminated based on this criterion, including four writer-editors on whose behalf the Newspaper Guild has filed an arbitration demand.

    The letters to Amazon continue: A thousand writers in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have signed a statement protesting the company’s practices. “Amazon’s customers have, until now, had the impression that these lists are not manipulated and they could trust Amazon. Apparently that is not the case,” the letter reads. “Amazon manipulates recommendation lists. Amazon uses authors and their books as a bargaining chip to exact deeper [e-book] discounts.” Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek (from Austria) was among the signers.

  • August 18, 2014

    Al Gore has sued Al Jazeera, claiming that the news provider, owned by the Qatari Royal family, has failed to pay the full amount agreed upon in the purchase of Gore’s network, Current TV.

    Medium, the website of “stories and ideas” and serious journalism founded by Twitter cofounder Ev Williams, has announced that it will make public its followers and what articles they read at the site. “Medium is in a grey area between platform and publishing,” Selena Larson writes, and goes on to argue that revealing what people read is an infringement on readers’ sense of privacy and curiosity.

    The Awl has announced that it has hired Haley Mlotek, a writer and the publisher of the fashion journal Worn, to edit the Hairpin.

    Rembert Browne

    Rembert Browne

    Rembert Browne—a staff writer for Grantland—has written an evocative, firsthand report of the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting of Michael Brown. “A man sitting near me was the first person I saw start to run. Then, suddenly, we were all running. I remember looking over my shoulder as my legs churned beneath me. The police were shooting flares and I didn’t want to get hit in the back. But I didn’t stop running, because I didn’t want the smoke to catch up. There was also the sound of weapons firing. And this siren. This terrible, terrible siren…” At the Times, David Carr writes: “Ferguson, Missouri, was just a place—a working-class suburb of St. Louis—before an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by the police, before protests and looting erupted, before local forces responded with armored vehicles, tear gas and rubber bullets, and Ferguson became #Ferguson.” And at the New Yorker, Jelani Cobb files a report titled “A Movement Grows in Ferguson.”

    Reading a recent Guardian article that explains why the British love to hate Martin Amis, Emily Temple felt envy. Why, she wonders, can’t American writers inspire such strong feelings? Are they too nice?

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