• March 31, 2017

    The Believer has been sold to the Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Joshua Wolf Shenk, the director of the Institute, will take over as editor. The current editors, Heidi Julavits and Vendela Vida, will remain as consultants. Vida told the Associated Press that although The Believer has become more financially stable over the years, the sale will help sustain the magazine for the long term. “To persist and grow,” Vida said, “The Believer needs resources and an ambitious agenda, and Josh and the Black Mountain Institute have both.”

    Mary Gaitskill talks to the Huffington Post about Twitter, politics, and her recent essay collection, Somebody With a Little Hammer. Gaitskill stays she’s stayed away from social media because of its impersonal nature. “I thought it would just be positively dangerous for me to get on Twitter at night, when I’ve had a little too much to drink, and start expressing myself,” she said. “It’s one thing to do that with somebody who you’re looking at, and who may think you’re a drunken idiot or an unstable person, but at least you’re looking at that person. With Twitter it’s like, you don’t even see who they are.”

    The TV series based on Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend will be broadcast by HBO. The show’s dialogue will be in Italian, with English subtitles. Although HBO has committed only to the eight-episode first season, the New York Times writes that “the ultimate aim is to adapt all four novels, for a total of 32 episodes.”

    Nan Talese

    At Vanity Fair, Evgenia Peretz profiles Nan Talese, head of her eponymous imprint at Doubleday and wife of journalist Gay Talese. Peretz explores the “intense mystery” of the couple’s nearly sixty-year marriage, which has weathered numerous infidelities and a book based on said infidelities. Talese has a tendency to go after the things she wants and do whatever is needed to get them—she surprised her then-boyfriend in Rome and told him they were getting married. Even in her professional life, Talese made her way up the ranks of publishing houses while raising two children and dealing with male authors who didn’t like the idea of a female editor. The Taleses’ two daughters are also baffled by their longevity of their parents’ relationship. Though her husband is currently working on a book about their relationship, Talese doesn’t seem worried. “He doesn’t know anything about marriage,” she said, “so I’m not concerned.”

    Elizabeth Spiers, founding editor of Gawker and former editor in chief of The Observer, explains why her old boss Jared Kushner is not the right leader for the Office of American Innovation. Spiers writes that Kushner had trouble translating his real estate experience to the media world, and was wary of spending money on the publication, even when it was doing well. After the paper’s first profitable quarter, Kushner suggested layoffs. “He wanted the Observer to be cheaper to run, usually at the expense of growth and evolution.” Spiers also notes that Kushner might be innovative, but not in an effective way. When she started her job at The Observer, she was given Kushner’s old Macbook laptop. Kushner “liked the design of Apple products” but not the operating system, so the computer was running Windows. “Frankensteining two products you appreciate into one product you appreciate even more isn’t irrational; it’s even creative, in a way,” she writes. “On the other hand, why did the newspaper’s owner need a $2,500 monitor?”

  • March 30, 2017

    Bob Dylan will accept his Nobel Prize after one of his previously-scheduled performances in Stockholm this weekend. In a “Good news about Dylan” blog post, Swedish Academy permanent secretary Sara Danius wrote that the Academy “will show up at one of the performances,” but that Dylan will not be giving his required lecture at the media-free, Academy-only event.

    Rosie Gray

    Three months after leaving BuzzFeed for The Atlantic, Rosie Gray has been named as the magazine’s White House correspondent.

    Digiday looks at The Guardian’s US office, which was responsible for Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting on the National Security Agency and Edward Snowden, but is still struggling to turn a profit and faces layoffs in the coming months. Although the most recent budget cuts have been attributed to a company-wide cost-cutting effort, former employees blame the situation on frequent leadership turnover and poor business decisions, from not using a paywall to bad real estate deals.

    At the New Yorker, John Cassidy reflects on Theresa May’s Brexit rhetoric after the UK government announced plans to begin negotiations of the country’s exit from the European Union. Cassidy writes that May’s speech—in which she spoke of her “fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country” and a desire to “live in a truly global Britain that gets out and builds relationships with old friends and new allies around the world”—was “filled with so many false claims, so much cant, and so many examples of wishful thinking that it is hard to know where to begin.”

    Fox News is facing a new discrimination lawsuit. Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright, a payroll manager and payroll coordinator, say that they experienced “top-down racial harassment” from company comptroller Judith Slater, who was fired late last month after discrimination allegations were brought to higher-ups.

    Shaya Tayefe Mohajer examines the reporting on the murder of Timothy Caughman, who was stabbed to death in New York by a white supremacist. Mohajer notes that the first articles about the attack focused on misleading information, like Caughman’s 2002 arrest, and irrelevant details, like his assailant’s clothing choices. Other articles speculated that the two men had fought, an unsubstantiated detail not found in early police reports. According to Mohajer, not only do these editorial choices reinforce old biases about black crime victims, but they also fail to offer any empathy to the dead. “What crime writers don’t seem to recognize is that they are often writing obituaries for the city’s most unlucky,” she writes.

  • March 29, 2017

    Claudia Rankine

    Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric has won the 2016 Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry. The $10,000 prize will be awarded to Rankine at a ceremony in April. At Artforum, Lauren O’Neill-Butler talks to the author about the Racial Imaginary Institute, which Rankine founded after winning her MacArthur “genius” grant last year. The institute is still settling on a location somewhere in New York, but Rankine hopes that it will be located somewhere more accessible than a university campus. “It would have been easier for me to bring it to an academic space,” she said. “I would have had more access and things would have moved much more quickly, but then we would have been inside an elite and closed space, and it would be harder to enter the mainstream.” Rankine also discussed why she thinks that our current system of white supremacy and the rise of the “alt-right” cannot be blamed on capitalism alone. “A good example is the people who are on the Affordable Care Act who say they want to keep it but who also want to get rid of ‘Obamacare,’” she said. “They understand that the ACA is useful to them, but they don’t want anything that is proximate to blackness near them. That’s not about the economy.”

    The journals of late singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley are being collected into a book. Da Capo Press will publish Jeff Buckley: His Own Voice in spring 2019.

    The Mothers author Brit Bennett talks to The Millions about writing a screenplay, abortion, and the racial assumptions people made about her book. Many readers seemed surprised that Bennett would set a story about a black community in Southern California. “My working theory on this is that what people expect from a black story is a racism-driven plot,” she said. “My book is a story that is inflected by race, but the plot points don’t hinge on racism. That’s one way in which my book upends expectations. People think because it’s about a religious community it must be set in Mississippi.”

    Over one hundred employees of the Wall Street Journal have signed a letter to editor in chief Gerard Baker and deputy editor Matt Murray requesting that management take steps to make the newsroom more diverse in terms of both race and gender. “There are currently four women and eight men listed as deputy managing editors, and both editorial page editors are men,” the letter points out. “Nearly all the people at high levels at the paper deciding what we cover and how are white men.”

    BuzzFeed is opening an office in Austin, Texas. The website hopes to use the new location to break out of the New York-centric focus of most media companies.“As a lot of people who live in the South, or in the Midwest have observed, there’s sort of a coastal thing that happens where everyone writing most media is based in California or New York,” said Summer Anne Burton, who will be running the office. “So I definitely think it’s an advantage to be in Texas.”

    Tonight at McNally Jackson, Harper’s Magazine hosts a discussion on resisters and collaborators with Masha Gessen, Kate Crawford, Corey Robin, Lawrence Jackson, and Sarah Schulman.

  • March 28, 2017

    Colson Whitehead. Photo: Dorothy Hong

    Moonlight writer and director Barry Jenkins is developing a series for Amazon based on Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.

    The rights to Jeffrey Tayler and Nina Khruscheva’s In Putin’s Footsteps have been acquired by St. Martin’s Press. The book examines Putin’s impact on the country through snapshots of cities in each of Russia’s eleven time zones. In Putin’s Footsteps will be published in 2018.

    The Atlantic is opening a new office in London. National correspondent James Fallows will lead the bureau as the magazine’s first Europe editor. In a statement, Atlantic president Bob Cohn noted that 25 percent of the magazine’s website audience lives abroad. “This expansion means we’ll be creating more journalism from Europe for both U.S. and international readers, and bringing our lens on the world to more global leaders in business, finance, technology, culture and government,” he said.

    Former Lifehacker editor in chief Alan Henry is joining the New York Times as a senior digital strategist. Henry will work on improving the paper’s service journalism. In their announcement, deputy managing editor Clifford Levy wrote that the new hire shows that the Times is “excited about bringing on journalists who made their names at outlets that are not our traditional competitors.”

    The Democracy Fund is partnering with First Look Media to offer a grant package of $12 million to support investigative journalism endeavors. Among other recipients, the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Center for Public Integrity, and ProPublica will each receive $3 million.

    At the Times, Jill Filipovic writes that the numerous photos of all-male meetings and celebrations of executive orders released by the Trump administration are probably not an accident. “The great America it promised has white men at the top, and that’s the image they’re projecting, figuratively and literally,” Filipovic writes. “It’s not an error, it’s the game plan.”

    Tonight at the Strand Book Store, the New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino talks to Rebecca Solnit about “her latest dispatches from the front lines of the feminist revolutions.”

  • March 27, 2017

    Laura Kipnis

    Last week at Wellesley College, six professors sent an email to fellow faculty members, urging them to reconsider the criteria by which they select authors to speak at the college. They hoped that their request would prevent speakers such as Laura Kipnis, who appeared at Wellesley earlier this month, from being invited to speak on campus in the future. In her new book Unwanted Advances, Kipnis delivers a scathing critique of the way universities have regulated sexual conduct on campuses, particularly their use of Title IX. The six Wellesley professors argued that such arguments could be “painful to significant portions of the Wellesley community.”

    Patti Smith has purchased the reconstructed childhood home of French poet Arthur Rimbaud.

    Graphic novelist Daniel Clowes talks about his involvement in the film adaptations of Ghost World and Wilson, and also describes how his work-in-progress changed after Trump won the election. “It’s not a political comic, really, but it was definitely begun with the thought that we were going to have a sane democracy continuing in place and not what’s going on. So now I’m rethinking it with the knowledge that I’m going to have this craziness running through my head for the next four years.”

    In an essay that appears in the New Republic, Sam Sacks isolates a strain of nostalgia in the work of some of biggest novelists in the US. “You might call them the last escapists: If their books still resonate, it is not because they reflect the zeitgeist, but because they run so profoundly against it,” Sacks writes. “And as long as their brand of exuberant nostalgia holds appeal, there’s a danger of being left with a literature that tells us only what we already know, however enchantingly.”

    Tributes to the New York Review of Books Editor Robert Silvers continue to roll in. At the New Yorker, Alexandra Schwartz remembers her time as Silvers’s assistant (“Bob famously lived entirely for and at the job”); and at n+1, several writers (including onetime NYRB staffer A. O. Scott) pay their respects.

  • March 24, 2017

    At The Guardian, John Banville remembers Robert Silvers’s editing ability and knack for matching books with reviewers. “The FedEx package would arrive, containing a volume I could not imagine wanting to read, much less review,” he writes. “Yet a few weeks later I would find myself writing three or four thousand enthusiastic words on it, and wondering why I had not taken notice of this author, or that subject, before.” At the Washington Post, Christian Caryl writes that Silvers’s death came at the worst possible time for American intellectual life. “Bob’s legacy has had a profound and lasting impact on generations of American thinkers,” he writes, “and I can’t help thinking that, if we manage to survive this current era with our minds intact, we’ll owe him part of the credit.”

    The New York Times has hired Jesse Green as co-chief theater critic. Green comes from New York magazine and will be sharing the role with Ben Brantley. He is replacing Charles Isherwood, who was fired earlier this year.

    Nieman Lab looks at NowThis’s plan to expand their content beyond sixty-second videos on Facebook. After a $100 million investment in their parent company, NowThis has hired talent from MTV, the Huffington Post, and the now-shuttered Reported.ly in an attempt to move away from aggregation and publish more original video and reportage.

    At the Times, Michael Paulson talks to Pulitzer-winning playwrights Lynn Nottage and Paula Vogel, who will both open their first Broadway shows this spring. Paulson reflects on the gender disparity on Broadway. Nottage’s “Sweat” and Vogel’s “Indecent,” he writes, “are the only new plays by women this Broadway season; by contrast, there are eight new plays by men (none of whom has credentials comparable to those of Ms. Vogel and Ms. Nottage).” Both women have also dealt with the frustration of having their award-winning plays stuck Off-Broadway. “But both are also thrilled to be here now,” Paulson writes, “and savoring the sweetness.”

    Jami Attenberg

    Jami Attenberg asks readers to stop guessing which parts of her novel are autobiographical. Although Attenberg bears a striking resemblance to the protagonist of her latest novel—a single, childless New Yorker—she writes that she had no intention of writing an autobiographical novel. “If I had wanted to talk about the single life in a grand, public way,” she points out, “I might have written something like Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies or Kate Bolick’s Spinster.” Regardless, Attenberg hopes to someday be more accepting of questions about her personal life as it manifests in fiction, but she hopes readers will try to let go as well. “Fiction is a magic trick of sorts. But at its best it doesn’t just conjure up an imaginary world; it makes the real one disappear, it makes the author disappear,” she writes. “So, if you can, forget about everything else. Just be there with the book.”

  • March 23, 2017

    Robert Silvers. Photo: Andreas Laszlo Konrath

    The remembrances of Robert Silvers continue. At the New Yorker, Louis Menand remembers his regular lunch partner of seven years. “The Review will continue, we all hope, to be a great magazine,” he writes, “but everyone knows that it cannot be the same magazine without Bob, and that the world of art and ideas will be somehow smaller without him.” Ian Buruma, a longtime writer for the magazine, talks about his first piece for the Review, Silvers’s considerate editing style, and what might happen next at the publication. At the New York Review of Books, Luc Sante, Nathaniel Rich, Francine Prose, and other Review contributors reflect on their time working with Silvers. Sante remembers Silvers as an editor who never left the office, and had a habit of accidentally lighting his trash can on fire with cigarette butts. “When this happened he would get up,” Sante writes, “his eyes never leaving the page he was reading, and step out into the hall while his assistants rushed to put out the flames.”

    Medium has launched a new subscription plan for $5 per month. The decision comes after the company laid off one third of the site’s staff last January after advertising revenues proved unable to generate enough revenue. The Verge notes that it’s still unclear when new features will be made available to premium users. “At the moment,” Jacob Kastrenakes points out, “the service isn’t offering subscribers much beyond the knowledge that their money is going directly to writers.”

    Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman have purchased the film rights to George Saunders’s novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. Cast and crew have yet to be announced. In a statement, Saunders said that he is excited to work with the pair. “My hope is that we can find a way to make the experience of getting this movie made as wild and enjoyable and unpredictable as the experience of writing it,” he said.

    After pulling out of an office lease at a building with ties to Jared Kushner, The Guardian has announced layoffs of their US staff, possibly in an attempt to offset their losses from the deal. The paper has been planning to reduce staff in the New York office since last September.

    At Cosmopolitan, Amanda Carpenter comments on Ivanka Trump’s new White House office and national security clearance. Carpenter calls the appointment nepotism, and argues that Trump’s new title-less role takes work away from other well-qualified women. “Trump’s spinners will argue the arrangement is not a violation of federal nepotism laws because Ivanka is not being given a salary or title—a stunning symbol of privilege in itself,” she writes. “Ivanka’s too wealthy to need the salary and too well-known to need a title, a slap in the face to women who have toiled for years, for little pay, hoping to work up the ladder and obtain a White House job one day.”

    The Whiting Foundation has announced the ten new winners of the Whiting Awards: Francisco Cantu, Simone White, Phillip B. Williams, Clarence Coo, James Ijames, Clare Barron, Kaitlyn Greenidge, Tony Tulathimutte, Jen Beagin, and Lisa Halliday.

  • March 22, 2017

    Google has released a “Protect Your Election” toolkit ahead of the upcoming elections in France. The kit offers help with password protection, phishing warnings, and defense against denial-of-service-attacks, all of which have been used to target journalists and election officials in numerous countries.

    The Daily Beast’s Nico Hines reflects on his now-retracted story about hook-ups during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Hines had created accounts on Grindr and Tinder in order to report the story, and did not identify himself as a journalist. “Before writing this story, I didn’t appreciate what ‘check your privilege’ truly meant,” Hines writes. “I was insensitive to the fears that constantly grip some people’s lives and it was wrong to even introduce the possibility that someone’s privacy could have been compromised.” Hines’s apology also serves as an announcement of his return to the website after “a lengthy period of intense reflection.”

    Elif Batuman

    Elif Batuman talks to LitHub about adolescence, Russian literature, and reader expectations. Batuman modeled the events in her new book, The Idiot, on stories like Anna Karenina, which toyed with with readers’ assumptions of what would or wouldn’t happen. “One reader was very angry with me,” Batuman remembers. “‘I spent the whole book waiting for them to have sex,’ she told me. She looked at me like she was asking what do you have to say for yourself?”

    At Business Insider, Oliver Darcy looks at Independent Journal Review’s “identity crisis.” The website has come under greater scrutiny since White House reporter Erin McPike was chosen as the only journalist to accompany Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his trip to Asia. Originally focused on generating content that would engage right-wing readers, the company has struggled to merge its original concept with the more journalistic, news-driven work that it does now, especially after the departure of editor in chief Bubba Atkinson. “Bubba was steering it toward more in the middle of the road. Not this crazy conservative bulls—,” one anonymous source said. “And I think we were really f—ing close. We almost got there. The clicks—the money probably was a deciding factor in why things didn’t end up eventually getting there.”

    In the New York Times’s “By the Book” column, Fran Lebowitz takes issue with the request that she suggest her favorite book that no one has heard of. “How do I know what no one else has heard of?” she asks. “I can name books that I think are fairly obscure. I could say Henry Green. But now, as of last summer, everyone is reading Henry Green.”

    Tonight at McNally Jackson, Christian Lorentzen talks to Edmund Gordon about his recent biography of Angela Carter.

  • March 21, 2017

    Robert Silvers. Photo: Annie Schlechter

    Writers, editors, and publishers across the country remember Robert Silvers, the New York Review of Books founding editor who died yesterday at age eighty-seven. At Bloomberg, Cass Sunstein writes that Silvers was “the incarnation of what a democracy needs: civility, considerateness, fairness, authenticity, humility and unfailing attention to detail, which, in his hands, turned out to be a form of love.” At the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik looks at how Silvers made the “paper,” as he called it, a mainstay of American intellectual life. “Range, variety, depth, clarity—that everything that Bob published shared in these virtues was his accomplishment,” he writes. “He will be remembered for that, and will live on not in back issues alone but also in the front-facing lives of the countless younger editors and writers he encouraged, employed, and assisted.” At the New Republic, Laura Marsh writes that while many people have described Silvers’s work as magical, it was actually much more than that. “If the Review was a rare place you could find rigorous thought, Bob made it that way not by magic but through an unwavering commitment to independence,” she writes. “He had complete editorial freedom and he troubled to exercise it.”

    At LitHub, Rafia Zakaria talks to Pankaj Mishra about his new book, Age of Anger, and how it fits into the current global political moment.

    Time and People magazines have announced that they will not be hosting their usual White House Correspondents’ Dinner party this year. People will donate to the White House Correspondents’ Association instead of attending the dinner, while Time will be present at the event. In a statement, Time Inc. chief content officer Alan Murray said, “This year we have decided to focus on supporting the White House Correspondents Association, which plays a crucial role in advocating for the broadest possible access for the press at the White House.”

    Quarterly food magazine Lucky Peach will be closing in May. Co-founder and editorial director Peter Meehan told the Times that part of the reason for the shutdown was the clashing personalities of everyone in charge. “[Co-founder David Chang] and I have had a difficult but successful partnership for years, like two objects that both have intense gravitational pull,” Meehan said. “It made for interesting friction for a while, but I think we just kind of collided in the last six months.” Lucky Peach will close its website in May and publish its final issue this fall.

    USA Today has hired its first female editor in chief. Joanne Lipman, currently Gannett’s chief content officer, will take on the role immediately.

    The New York Times reports on the alt-right’s surprising and misguided appreciation for Jane Austen. Professor Nicole M. Wright published an article on the subject in the Chronicle of Higher Education after hearing Milo Yiannopoulos quote the first line of Pride and Prejudice. In a search of a transcript of Yiannopolous’s comments, she found many examples of similar sentiments online, which vary from seeing Austen as a “symbol of sexual purity,” a “standard-bearer of a vanished white traditional culture,” or an “exception that proves the rule of female inferiority.” But Wright notes that the co-opting of Austen is more insidious than online trolling. “By comparing their movement not to the nightmare Germany of Hitler and Goebbels, but instead to the cozy England of Austen,” she writes, “the alt-right normalizes itself in the eyes of ordinary people.” In the Times, Austen scholars came to the long-dead writers defense. “No one who reads Jane Austen’s words with any attention and reflection can possibly be alt-right,” said Elaine Bander, former officer of the Jane Austen Society of North America. “All the Janeites I know are rational, compassionate, liberal-minded people.”

  • March 20, 2017

    Robert Silvers, the editor of the New York Review of Books, died this morning at the age of eighty-seven. Silvers was a founding editor of the Review and had been its sole editor since the death of the magazine’s cofounder, Barbara Epstein, in 2006. The tributes began pouring in on Twitter almost immediately, despite the fact that Silvers tended to shy away from praise: Even as one of the most eminent and admired editors in the literary world, he avoided the spotlight. As he told an interviewer in 2008: “The editor is a middleman. The one thing he should avoid is taking credit. It’s the writer that counts.”

    Jimmy Breslin

    Jimmy Breslin—the legendary New York City columnist, Pulitzer Prize winner, bestselling author, and failed politician who shared a ticket with Norman Mailer—has died at eighty-eight. The New York Times obituary has many good anecdotes about Breslin’s career, including the story of what he did with a letter he received from the serial killer known as the Son of Sam. And Newsday reprints Breslin’s New York Herald Tribune column about Clifton Pollard, the man who dug President Kennedy’s grave.

    The Guardian has published an article about French novelist Edouard Louis, whose book The End of Eddy, about a gay boy growing up in a factory town in northern France, has been a bestseller in France, and is now being published in English translation in the UK (and soon by FSG in the US). In response to the working-class support of the right-wing National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, the author is decrying left-wing politicians for ignoring the plights of the working class. “Of course, I’m revolted by the right, but I never expected the right to do anything for the lower classes, but the left,” Louis says. “The left has stopped speaking about poverty, misery and exclusion. People talk about Le Pen winning the presidential [race], but the FN has been winning for the last 20 years because the left that should be representing people like my mother has abandoned them.”

    The Accusation, a novel written by a North Korean dissident who uses the pseudonym Bandi, was miraculously smuggled out of the country in 2013, and is now finding an international audience.

    We’re excited to see the next installment of writer and filmmaker Stephen Elliott’s dark, strange, and timely web series Driven, in which Elliott plays an author who drives for a car service. In the first episode, his passengers include two Trump supporters and author Michael Cunningham. In later episodes, he gives a ride to a pot-smoking cop played by Lili Taylor, and a comic-book-store employee who goes to great lengths to steal his cat from his ex.

    In his latest photography colum, novelist and critic Teju Cole studies Danny Lyon’s The Cotton Pickers, which was taken in the late 1960s, writing, “I love and hate it at the same time.”  

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