• February 17, 2017

    This year’s PEN World Voices Festival will focus on “gender and power in the age of President Trump.” The festival usually highlights a country or continent, but PEN America executive director Suzanne Nossel said that the current political situation necessitated a topic change. “Amid visa bans and an America First foreign policy,” she said, “PEN World Voices is now an important antidote to an America at risk of only talking to itself, fanning baseless fears, and damaging relations with allies around the world.” The 2017 festival take place in New York during the first week of May.

    Mark Zuckerberg

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg released an open letter yesterday detailing his thoughts on globalization, isolationism, and what role Faebook can play in creating a more connected world. When Facebook was founded, he writes, the idea of globalization as a positive force was not controversial. “Yet now,” Zuckerberg writes, “across the world there are people left behind by globalization, and movements for withdrawing from global connection.” Zuckerberg concludes with a commitment to continue increasing worldwide connections and stop the spread of misinformation. “Our job at Facebook is to help people make the greatest positive impact while mitigating areas where technology and social media can contribute to divisiveness and isolation,” he writes.

    Citing multiple investigations of Russian interference in the election and current administration, Bloomberg reports that the Kremlin has told state-run media to publish fewer positive stories on President Trump. Konstantin von Eggert, a TV Rain commentator, said “They won’t pour buckets of criticism on Trump, they just won’t talk about him as much.”

    Poynter analyzes Trump’s latest “anti-media meltdown,” in which he continued to spread the lie that his election was “the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan,” among other claims. Of the press conference, James Warren writes, “It constituted what at minimum is a quadrupling down—or might it be quintupling down?—on a transparent strategy to portray the press as an opposition party.”

    At Axios, Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen write that “the media—often, but not always, with an assist from anti-Trump career government employees—is the new U.S. Oversight Committee.” Putting a more positive spin on Steve Bannon’s claim that the media is the opposition party, Allen and VandeHei write that the Democrats have dropped the ball, and the media has picked it up. “Trump and senior strategist Steve Bannon are clearly right about the media being the opposition,” they write. “What was once a useful foil for Trump is becoming a real danger to his ability to control the national conversation—and govern.”

    London publisher John Blake claims to have an unpublished memoir by Mick Jagger, but says the rock star’s management won’t allow the book to be published—a claim that they also would neither confirm nor deny to the Times. The memoir, possibly written with the help of a ghostwriter, covers Jagger’s early years through 1980, and came into Blake’s possession through a friend. In his own essay at The Spectator, Blake writes that “the financial potential is almost J.K. Rowlingesque.” In an interview with the Times, he said, “It’s extraordinary. I compared it to, like, the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

  • February 16, 2017

    Philip Pullman

    Philip Pullman announced a new trilogy, “The Book of Dust.” The still-untitled first installment follows Lyra Belacqua, the heroine of his first series, “His Dark Materials,” and will be published in October.

    Jessica Jones actress Krysten Ritter has written a novel. Her psychological thriller, Bonfire, will be published in November by Crown Archetype.

    In the wake of Michael Flynn’s resignation, President Trump, as well as his main right-wing media supporters, have avoided discussing the administration’s ties to Russia and focused instead on the leaks themselves. Trump took to Twitter to say that “the real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy.” On multiple Fox News shows, guests reiterated the president’s statement—Laura Ingraham described the situation as “death by a thousand leaks.” At Breitbart, an article said that the controversy “raises troubling questions about the role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the intelligence services.”

    After vehement denials from the Trump administration that Sean Spicer will be replaced, CNN investigates where the rumors are coming from. Although Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus call the leaks “scuttlebutt from lower level staff,” numerous unnamed sources say that Kellyanne Conway is the source. “She’s clearly guiding a press narrative that he’s not up for the job,” said one anonymous source. “It’s becoming abundantly clear that Kellyanne is making Sean’s job impossible.”

    At The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald acknowledges that the intelligence agents who released information about Flynn’s conversations broke the law, but that their crimes were justified because the information needed to be known to the public. “The mere fact that an act is illegal does not mean it is unjust or even deserving of punishment,” Greenwald writes. “Oftentimes, the most just acts are precisely the ones that the law prohibits.”

    Gizmodo Media Group has started buying Facebook ads that target government employees in an effort to encourage them to leak information to their new website, TellOnTrump.com. John Cook, Gizmodo’s head of investigations, told the Wall Street Journal that the site wants federal employees “to know that if they see or know about something they think is newsworthy, we are here for them.” Gizmodo also plans “to purchase bus shelter ads near certain government agencies in Washington, D.C.”

    Tonight at the 92nd Street Y, Colson Whitehead and George Saunders on their most recent books, The Underground Railroad and Lincoln in the Bardo.

  • February 15, 2017

    New York magazine has signed a four-book deal with Simon & Schuster. The first, which will celebrate the magazine’s fiftieth anniversary with a collection of covers and photographs from previous issues, will be published next November.

    Banned Twitter-user Milo Yiannopoulos has delayed the publication of his forthcoming memoir, Dangerous, in order to include his thoughts on the uproar over his book deal and the recent protests against him at multiple college campuses in the US. The book will now be published in June.

    The White House has granted press credentials to Lucian Wintrich of Gateway Pundit, a right-wing news site known for spreading disproved rumors about voter fraud and stoking fears about Hillary Clinton’s health. Wintrich told the New York Times that he will report “more fairly than a lot of the very left-wing outlets that are currently occupying the briefing room,” and that his site “will be doing a little trolling of the media in general here.”

    Wired looks at Edward Snowden’s work as the president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that aims to help investigative journalists deal with “state-sponsored hackers and government surveillance” that threatens their work.

    Slate laid off around six employees yesterday, including politics editor Tommy Craggs and senior editor Rachael Larimore. At Newsweek, editor in chief Jim Impoco has been replaced by Matt McAllester, the editor of Newsweek’s international operation. McAllester will take on the new title of global editor in chief.

    George Saunders

    George Saunders talks to Electric Literature about publishing his first novel. Originally written as a play, the cast of Saunders’s new book, Lincoln in the Bardo, is made up of a plethora of ghosts, and interspersed throughout with archival materials. Saunders said he was nervous to show it to other people, but was relieved when both his wife and editor understood the story. After receiving positive responses, he said, “I realized I wasn’t insane. You know, you’re working on something by yourself and you can turn it in and they’ll say, ‘I don’t know what the fuck this is. Start over.’”

    Tonight at powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn, Porochista Khakpour, Emily Gould, and Leslie Jamison celebrate the release of Manjula Martin’s new collection, Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living.

  • February 14, 2017

    Naomi Klein

    Naomi Klein is joining The Intercept as a senior correspondent, focusing on the “shocks of the Trump era.” In her announcement, editor in chief Betsy Reed explained, “No one is better than Naomi Klein at exposing the hidden agendas of disaster capitalists and their agents in government.”

    Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici’s coverage of the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey has been awarded the 2017 World Press Photo of the Year, as well as the top prize for the spot news category. But Stuart Franklin, the chair of the World Press Photo award jury, wrote in The Guardian that the award should have gone to another photo. Franklin praised Ozbilici’s “bravery and skill,” saying that it absolutely deserved the prize for news photography, but that its Photo of the Year win was questionable. “It’s a photograph of a murder, the killer and the slain, both seen in the same picture, and morally as problematic to publish as a terrorist beheading,” he writes.

    In a newsroom-wide meeting Monday, Wall Street Journal editor in chief Gerard Baker defended his paper’s coverage of Trump, saying that critics who allege the paper has been soft on the new administration are “fake news.” Baker also “suggested staffers unhappy with the Journal’s coverage should go elsewhere.”

    CNN’s Jake Tapper is writing a novel with Little, Brown. The Hellfire Club will be published in 2018.

    Mary Gaitskill talks to LitHub about her new essay collection, Somebody With a Little Hammer. Gaitskill says that some of her essays, like one about the 2008 presidential election, are hard to read in 2016. “It seems like all the things we thought were the worst thing possible are now so much worse,” she said. “Sarah Palin looks like a more harmless kind of cartoon character in comparison to what’s happening now.”

    At Vanity Fair, Tina Nguyen profiles White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. As the communications director for the Republican National Committee, Spicer enjoyed a friendly relationship with the press, but has now adopted the Trump administration’s adversarial attitude toward media, a position most journalists believe is unsustainable. One reporter remembered a time when Spicer broke up a fistfight between a reporter from Fox News and another from the Huffington Post. “He’s usually the ‘c’mon guys, let’s just have a drink’ dude, not the asshole trying to pick a fight,” the anonymous source said. “It’s harder to be that guy when you’re working for a bunch of brawlers.”

  • February 13, 2017

    Marshall Project editor Bill Keller talks to the Columbia Journalism Review about the website’s recent Ellie win for “general excellence,” rebuilding trust in the media, and how the Trump administration might affect criminal justice reform. Keller says that the website’s response to the current president’s “law and order” platform includes increased immigration and deportation coverage, which he says “could well be the criminal justice story of the year—a massive mobilization of law enforcement, a push to essentially deputize police and sheriffs as immigration enforcers, huge dockets at understaffed immigration courts.”

    Amy Chozick

    New York Times political reporter Amy Chozick will be taking a one-year book leave to write a memoir about her experience covering Hillary Clinton for the Times and the Wall Street Journal. The still-untitled book will be published by HarperCollins next year.

    The Wall Street Journal’s Mark Lasswell has left the paper over its increasingly pro-Trump stance. The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray reports that the former editorial features editor has been on his way out since before the election, when he took a book leave after an argument with editorial page director Paul Gigot about publishing articles sympathetic to Trump. “It’s clear that there’s a divide at the Journal [over Trump],” said one unnamed source. “I think that this is indicative of a larger sort of tension that’s going on there right now.”

    At Wired, Gabriel Snyder looks at the Times’s strategies for thriving in the digital future and how Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the new deputy publisher, is implementing these plans. After nearly going bankrupt during the financial crisis in the early 2000s, online advertising became the paper’s main priority. Now, the Times is focused on improving its digital brand by adding personalized apps and developing artificial intelligence, which they hope will get current subscribers to continue paying and convince new readers to sign up. Editorial employees work closely with coders and engineers, but “there are some at the Times—usually those who can’t write code—who chafe at these endless waves of experimentation,” writes Snyder. One anonymous editor told Snyder, “When we’re told this is the new best practice, everyone marches in lockstep. Facebook Live? Yep! Video? On it! The New York Times isn’t a place where people say no, and we’re flat-out exhausted.”

    Poynter talks to Adrian Carrasquillo, BuzzFeed’s White House correspondent, about life in the briefing room, having his publication singled out by the president as “a failing pile of garbage,” and his relationship with Trump’s staff. Even though the website has been the target of many insults by the president and his staff, Carrasquillo said that it hasn’t affected his work performance. “I’m in the White House briefing room every day,” he said. “I raise my hand to ask questions every day. Haven’t gotten called on yet, but I think that’s gonna happen, too.”

  • February 10, 2017

    The Trump administration is struggling to fill the role of communications director. Press Secretary Sean Spicer took over the role after Jason Miller, the communications director for the Trump campaign, backed out before inauguration. Steve Schmidt, a former member of the George W. Bush administration and John McCain’s campaign runner, talked to Politico about why the president is having trouble filling a “normally coveted” job. “The communications director job in the White House has always functioned as . . . building and maintaining public approval for the president’s policies,” he said. “When you look at the complete and total chaos emanating from the White House on a number of issues, it’s clear they have no strategic planning function.”

    Former New York Post sports writer Bart Hubbuch is suing the paper for wrongful termination after he was fired for an anti-Trump tweet on inauguration day. After a request by management, Hubbuch deleted the post that compared Trump’s inauguration to 9/11 and the Pearl Harbor attack, but was fired the next week. In its filing, the lawsuit notes that the paper itself often profits from articles and headlines that some have deemed offensive: “Not known for its sensitivity, the Post regularly exploits tragedy, violence and death to sell news. . . . Post readers don’t need, demand, or expect ‘safe spaces,’ or to be sheltered from controversial views.”

    After donations to ProPublica increased exponentially during and after the election, the nonprofit news organization is looking to add up to twenty-five journalists to its newsrooms in New York and Chicago.

    At the Washington Post, Carlos Lozada writes that “Donald Trump is making America read again.” Lozada looks to the numerous books that have found a renewed readership since the election, including Representative John Lewis’s memoir Walking With the Wind, dystopian fiction like George Orwell’s 1984, and J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. According to Lozada, this newly-formed “book club” will continue for at least the next four years. “Every feud, every outrage, every did-he-really-just-do-that episode propels a new literary discussion,” he writes.

    Javier Marias

    The Los Angeles Review of Books talks to Javier Marias about the new US president, growing up under Franco, and his recently-translated novel, Thus Bad Begins. Marias was a young adult when Franco died, and offers some advice to his American readers worried about their own political situation: “You can always survive bad times more than you think you can when they start.”

  • February 9, 2017

    Stephen Sondheim

    Stephen Sondheim has won the 2017 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award, the first lyricist to win the prize in its history. Meryl Streep will present the West Side Story composer with his award in April.

    Wall Street Journal editor in chief Gerry Baker will hold a newsroom-wide meeting, which will most likely be focused on the paper’s coverage of the Trump administration and its policies. Politico notes that “Baker has been hesitant to allow Journal reporters to characterize Trump’s false assertions as lies and has suggested that media ‘elites’ are out to get Trump.” In addition to budget cuts and staff departures, the hesitancy to cover the new administration accurately and critically has led to tension in the office: One editor told Politico that Baker “doesn’t have the support of [the] newsroom. I’ve never worked at a place where the editor in chief didn’t have that.”

    Citing the Daily Mail’s “reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication,”  editors at Wikipedia have voted to remove the paper from its list of “reliable sources.” Articles from Russia Today and Fox News are still acceptable.

    BuzzFeed talks to the team behind Merriam-Webster’s newly-political Twitter account, which has become a social media sensation after it began tweeting definitions of words and concepts that the current administration doesn’t quite seem to understand. “Anyone who spends their life sifting through how language is used also has to sift through history, and how words have been used at various points to harm, erase, or exclude,” said Kory Stamper, an associate editor at the dictionary. “Our job is to tease language out from spin, politicking, rhetoric, and apologetics, and tell the truth about what a word means.”

    At LitHub, Emily Temple writes that we should not send books to the White House in protest, as the “Bury the White House in Books” event plans to do. Instead of wasting novels on a president who sees no value in literature, “why not send a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale—or some other timely book—to a relative who voted for Trump, with a long, heartfelt note inside as to why you think they might enjoy reading it?” Temple writes. “They are much more likely to take you up on it than anyone in the administration.”

  • February 8, 2017

    Salman Rushdie

    Jonathan Cape has announced a new novel by Salman Rushdie that will cover the last eight years of US politics. The Golden House tells the story of an “American filmmaker whose involvement with a secretive, tragedy-haunted family teaches him how to become a man,” and will incorporate numerous recent political events and trends, including the inauguration of Barack Obama, the rise of the Tea Party, Gamergate, debates about identity politics, and “the insurgence of a ruthlessly ambitious, narcissistic, media-savvy villain sporting makeup and coloured hair.” The book will be released in September.

    Senator Elizabeth Warren will write a book about “how corporations and financial institutions have overpowered” the American middle class. This Fight is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America will be published by Henry Holt/Metropolitan in April.

    In response to the White House’s list of “undercovered” terrorist attacks around the world, the New York Times has a roundup of their coverage of each incident. Besides the fact that the list includes numerous highly-covered attacks, like the bombing of the Brussels airport and the truck attack in Nice, France, Max Fisher and Kitty Bennett write, “just as striking was what the list excluded: attacks targeting Muslims, the overwhelming majority of Islamist terrorism victims.” The administration’s list also failed to include attacks committed by non-Muslims. “By focusing on a significant but narrow slice of terrorism,” Fisher and Bennett write, the White House “risks feeding into perceptions that the administration is seeking to target Muslims with other policies.”

    The Times has hired Rebecca Blumenstein as deputy managing editor. Blumenstein worked for over twenty years as an editor and reporter at the Wall Street Journal. The Times is also looking for a full-time theater critic to replace Charles Isherwood, who announced his departure from the paper yesterday.

    Lydia Polgreen, the new editor of the Huffington Post, told CNN that she wants the website to reach out to “people who feel that the fundamental political and economic power arrangements are unfair,” which “includes a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump.” Through new hires and restructuring, Polgreen hopes to turn the website into a publication similar to the “classic tabloid that everybody from the janitor to the CEO would read.”

    In a radio interview with conservative talk show host Michael Medved, deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka said that the White House will not stop referring to negative articles about the administration as fake news until the media stops criticizing the president and his policies. “There is a monumental desire on behalf of the majority of the media . . . to attack a duly elected President in the second week of his term,” Gorka said. “Until the media understands how wrong that attitude is, and how it hurts their credibility, we are going to continue to say, ‘fake news.’”

  • February 7, 2017

    The Guardian and 4th Estate are looking for submissions for the BAME short story prize. The competition aims to highlight the work of black, Asian, and minority ethnic writers in the UK and Ireland. “It is not a shortage of talent and confidence among the UK’s BAME writers that is preventing their work from making it to our bookshelves,” Sian Cain writes.

    Ragnar Jónasson

    Crime novelist Ragnar Jónasson has signed a deal with Minotaur, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press. His first book in his new series will be published in June 2018.

    Michael Luo is taking over as the New Yorker’s website editor. Luo was an investigative reporter at the New York Times until he was hired by the New Yorker in October as the magazine’s investigative editor.

    Susan Sarandon, Nick Offerman, and Diane Kruger have signed on for parts in Butterfly in the Typewriter, a film about the story behind John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces. The movie is scheduled for release in 2018.

    In a speech to the U.S. Central Command yesterday, President Trump claimed that journalists are not reporting on terrorist attacks. Trump referred to previous attacks in Europe, and said that “in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.” Philip Bump explained that the lack of reporting on certain incidents is not because of ulterior motives, but rather the regular and necessary filtering of news. “If your home is burglarized, it may not make the cut,” Bump writes. “This probably isn’t because the Channel 5 news director has a vendetta against you; it’s that there are limited resources.”

    After referring to a fictitious terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway said that she misspoke. But newly released interviews from Cosmopolitan and TMZ show that Conway has referenced the “Bowling Green massacre” at least two other times. On January 29, she told TMZ that “there were two Iraqis who came here, got radicalized, joined ISIS, and then were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green attack on our brave soldiers.” Later that day, she told Cosmopolitan that the two Iraqi men “were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre of taking innocent soldiers’ lives away.”

    Protesters have found a new way to register their dissent with the White House: by sending piles of books. “Bury the White House in Books” hopes to make it clear to the president that the US is “a republic of letters rather than fear.” But the Huffington Post’s Claire Fallon cautions that it’s unlikely Trump will heed any of the lessons found in The Handmaid’s Tale or any of the other titles being sent. “No matter how many times we thoughtfully publish helpful, diverse reading lists for President Trump, and no matter how many volumes of serious presidential biographies are slyly slipped onto his nightstand by more intellectual advisors,” writes Fallon, “Trump almost definitely isn’t going to read any of them.”

    Tonight at Greenlight Bookstore’s new location in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, Vinson Cunningham talks to A.O. Scott about his book Better Living Through Criticism.

  • February 6, 2017

    The New Yorker and Vanity Fair have both decided to cancel their White House Correspondents’ Dinner events. In an email, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter reminded staff that the magazine has not attended the dinner in the past, and that “he planned to spend the weekend fishing in Connecticut instead.”

    A tech firm with ties to Russia has filed a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed for publishing a dossier of unconfirmed intelligence findings related to Donald Trump and his connections to Putin. The document alleged that XBT Holdings, a company owned by Aleksej Gubarev, had assisted the Kremlin in hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s computers.

    A stage adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 will come to Broadway this summer. Described as “willfully assaultive” by a New York Times theater critic during its run in London, the play will open on June 22 at the Hudson Theater.

    In the Times, sports writer Marc Tracy reflects on an encounter with Steve Bannon in an Atlanta airport after the election. Bannon was reading David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest, a “history of the strategic errors and human foibles” that led to US involvement in Vietnam. Though the book makes the case that highly educated generalists were to blame for many of the debacles of the war, Tracy wonders if Bannon understands that the message isn’t anti-intellectual. “If ‘The Best and the Brightest’ is a brief against the East Coast meritocracy, though, its proposed alternative is not pure ideology,” Tracy writes. “It is expertise.”

    Bharati Mukherjee

    Writer and professor Bharati Mukherjee died last week at the age of 76. The author of eight novels, four short-story collections, and numerous works of nonfiction, Mukherjee won the National Book Critics Award for Fiction for her 1988 book, The Middleman and Other Stories. Mukherjee was born in India in 1940 and came to United States to attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the early ’60s. In 2005, she described the writing approach she honed during this period: “I evolved a credo: Make the familiar exotic (Americans won’t recognize their country when I get finished with it) and make the exotic—the India of elephants and arranged marriages—familiar.” She used this strategy to great effect over the course of her career, including in Jasmine—perhaps her best-known novel—published in 1989. That year, she told BOMB magazine that she saw herself as an American writer, whose stories detail a side of the country that is often overlooked in literature: “I’m not writing like a Richard Ford or a John Updike, that’s not the only America. It has many pluralities. I’m writing about an American immigrant group who are undergoing many transformations within themselves. And who, by their very presence, are changing the country. America is not the America that, until recently, has come through in contemporary popular fiction.”

    Tonight at the 92nd Street Y, Rachel Cusk and Chris Bachelder read from their new novels.

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