• January 3, 2017

    John Berger

    Critic and novelist John Berger—whose influential works include About Looking, The Shape of a Pocket, and G—has died at the age of ninety. For those new to Berger’s work—or anyone looking to experience his particular genius—the BBC series Ways of Seeing is worth watching.

    In The Guardian, Alex Preston previews fiction to be published in the coming year, with new novels by Paul Auster, Katie Kitamura, and Arundhati Roy (with her first book of fiction in twenty years), among many others. Preston notes that in 2017, storytellers will have their work cut out for them: “One’s heart goes out to the contemporary American novelist, for whom daily reality seems to outstrip the reach of both satire and dystopia.”

    The New York Times looks at Jonathan Lethem’s archives, which he recently sold to Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Lethem donated his collection of letters, notes, and drafts (one alternate title for Motherless Brooklyn was Jerks from Nowhere), as well as comic books he drew in childhood (starring “Fig Leaf Man”), a sticker from the set of the 1979 dystopian film The Warriors, and more than a few drawings of vomiting cats. About this last category, the novelist explains: “For about 15 years, every time I had a really good dance party that went late, with people lolling around drunk and exhausted, at about 2 a.m., I would hand out paper and ask everyone to draw a vomiting cat. . . . I ended up with an incredibly thick file of drawings, some by people who went on to be published cartoonists and writers.”  

    MSNBC news host Joe Scarborough is feuding with journalist Sopan Deb on Twitter about whether his appearance at a Trump event on New Year’s Eve qualifies as “partying” with the President elect. At the Washington Post, Callum Borchers writes that this kind of intramural squabbling is what the media needs to avoid as they ready themselves to cover Trump’s first term.

    Zadie Smith talks about male critics, the merits of White Teeth, and  why she finds the Trump children interesting: “What I find so painful is the idea of children competing for the affection of a narcissist, whose affection they will never receive. That seems to me just excruciating. That’s what boggles my mind: Reading interviews with them where they boast about who gets to call him in his office more regularly or who saw him more than four times during their childhood.”

  • January 2, 2017

    Ben Smith

    In a year-end memo to staff, BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith warned that “fake news will become more sophisticated, and . . . will spread widely.” Smith also noted that the problem can be found on both sides of the political spectrum, as in the case of a highly embellished story of a Jewish family having to “flee” town after being falsely identified as the reason for a school Christmas play being canceled.

    At the New York Times, James Risen writes that journalists have Barack Obama to thank for the possible mistreatment of the press under Trump. Citing the Obama administration’s prosecution of whistleblowers, the use of the antiquated Espionage Act to punish government officials who spoke to journalists, and his own experience being ordered to reveal sources by the Department of Justice, Resin writes, “Mr. Obama’s record of going after both journalists and their sources has set a dangerous precedent that Mr. Trump can easily exploit.”

    Mattie Smith Colin, the Chicago Defender journalist who reported on the death and funeral of Emmett Till, died this weekend at the age of ninety-three.

    Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker said this weekend that the newspaper will not label false statements made by Donald Trump as “lies.” According to Baker, the word “implies much more than just saying something that’s false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead.”

    Despite criticism, Simon & Schuster has decided to move forward with Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos’s book. The publisher maintains that they do not support hate speech, and asks that the public “withhold judgement until they have had a chance to read the actual contents” of Dangerous. Talks of a Simon & Schuster boycott continue, with some authors threatening to walk away from their own book deals as protest. At the New Yorker, Alexandra Schwartz writes that although the reported $250,000 advance Yiannopoulos received is small in terms of big-name publishers, “it’s still two hundred and fifty thousand dollars too many to give to a man who has helped define the Trump moment’s flippant bigotry in the service of brand-building narcissism.”

Advertisement