• July 21, 2017

    Tony Kushner. Photo: Ed Ritger

    Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner is working on a production about Donald Trump. Rather than a symbolic character, the play will focus directly on Trump during the two years leading up to the 2016 election. “He’s the kind of person, as a writer, I tend to avoid as I think he is borderline psychotic,” Kushner said about the difficulties of writing the play. “I definitely think that incoherence lends itself well to drama, but he really is very boring.”

    Bloomberg looks at the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the country’s largest network of TV stations, which requires their affiliated stations to include “must-run” clips of conservative political commentary that promote the Trump administration’s agenda in their broadcasts. “The segments look like something you might see on Fox News,” Felix Gillette writes, “but only if you stripped away Fox’s high-end graphics, state-of-the-art studios, tailored wardrobes, perfect dental hygiene, and polished scripts.” Sinclair is currently in the process of purchasing Tribune Media Co., which will add forty-two stations to the company’s portfolio.

    Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s upcoming book will be published by Viking in 2018. The untitled work will detail Clapper’s life and career, as well as “the growing threat of cyberattacks, his relationships with presidents and Congress, and the truth about Russia’s role in the presidential election.” Wondering if “everyone in politics is writing a tell-all?” The New York Times says yes.

    The Rumpus talks to Barbara Browning about ukuleles, writing fiction about real-life friends, and how politics can affect the writing process.

    The 92nd Street Y has announced its literary events for the 2017-18 season. Highlights include Jennifer Egan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Zadie Smith.

    BuzzFeed examines MTV’s struggle to stay relevant as cable subscriptions decline. Facing stiff competition from the internet—which Scaachi Koul notes offers free, on-demand entertainment “created by the very young people the network is trying to court—the channel has resorted to short-form video and reboots of old shows like My Super Sweet 16 instead of creating new content. “MTV used to be closely in tune with what youth culture wanted, and they were adept at leading the conversation around it,” Koul writes. “Now, it looks like they’re just trying to catch up.”

  • July 20, 2017

    Eimear McBride

    The Brooklyn Public Library announced the longlist for its fiction and nonfiction Literary Prize yesterday. Nominees include Pankaj Mishra’s Age of Anger and David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon, and Eimear McBride’s The Lesser Bohemians and Lidija Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan for fiction. A shortlist will be released in September, and winners will be announced in October.

    Novelist Junot Díaz is writing a children’s book. The New York Times writes that Islandborn “grew out of a promise he made to his goddaughters two decades ago, when they asked him to write a book that featured characters like them, Dominican girls living in the Bronx.” The book will be published by Dial Books for Young Readers next spring.

    Keanu Reeves is now an art book publisher. The Los Angeles Times talks to the actor and his co-founders, Alexandra Grant and Jessica Fleischmann, about their independent press, X Artists’ Books. Grant said that the books published by the press all contain “a strong sense of politics and social interest.” Reeves said that though the books are beautiful, “they ain’t all bedtime stories. . . . They’re complicated.”

    At The Guardian, Ross Barkan points out that while declining revenues and the closure of local newspapers are more of a threat to the journalism industry than Trump, the lack of day-to-day contact with reporters and editors makes the administration’s war on the media more believable. “We can hate most what we don’t know. If a newspaper doesn’t operate near you for a hundred miles and you only see a live journalist if one swoops in during a presidential election – or one never shows up at all – you only know what you read about on Facebook or watch on Fox News,” he writes. “There are only the images and the hate, symbols and distortion.”

    The Village Voice profiles Alexandra Bell, a Brooklyn-based artist who works with newspaper text to highlight the racial disparities in mainstream journalism coverage. The first piece in her Counternarratives series addresses a New York Times front page article about the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; the second highlights the Times’s choice to use a photo of Jamaican Olympian Usain Bolt under a headline about American swimmer Ryan Lochte’s fabricated robbery claims at the Rio Olympics. “I want people to have a clear sense of the history of journalism. When you do, you understand what the implications are behind what you’re writing,” Bell said. “You need to think more critically about how, historically, people have been framed in newspapers, what decisions you’re making that may be contributing to that even if that’s not your intention.”

    Tonight at Greenlight Bookstore, Margo Jefferson talks to Zinzi Clemmons about her debut novel, What We Lose.

  • July 19, 2017

    Former New Republic owner and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes is reportedly shopping a book on wealth imbalance and the American economy. In We Should All Be So Lucky: Notes on Fortune, Hard Work, and the Basic Income, Hughes writes that the solution to rapidly increasing inequality in the US could be solved by creating a universal basic income for “all working middle class and poor Americans who make less than $75,000 a year.” Hughes’s pitch to prospective publishers includes his “personal connections” to journalists, but The Washingtonian writes Hughes may be overlooking one issue: “A remarkable number of former TNR staffers review books.”

    Thinx co-founder and “She-E.O.” Miki Agrawal is writing a second book. Disrupt-Her, “a personal development manifesto” will be published by Hay House.

    Jess Zimmerman has been named editor in chief of Electric Literature. A founding editor of Archipelago and a contributing editor to Atlas Obscura, Zimmerman’s essays and criticism have been published at Catapult, Slate, and elsewhere.

    Stuart Hall

    The Bank of England unveiled its new £10 bill featuring Jane Austen yesterday. The note features a line from Pride and Prejudice: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” The Guardian points out that, ironically, “the words were spoken by one of Austen’s most deceitful characters, Caroline Bingley, who has no interest in books.”

    At the New Yorker, Hua Hsu explains how the work of political and cultural theorist Stuart Hall created the field of Cultural Studies, and why the professor’s work resonated with American academics. “Hall was interested in the experience of being alive during such disruptive times,” Hsu writes. “What is culture, he proposed, but an attempt to grasp at these changes, to wrap one’s head around what is newly possible?”

  • July 18, 2017

    Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page is shopping a book about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election that he claims will “prove infinitely more accurate, exciting and insightful” than former FBI director James Comey’s upcoming project. Politics, Lies, And The Wiretap: Inside The Fight To End The 70-Year Cold War will explain how Page’s “personal ties to Russia” led to him becoming “the most prominent victim of the Clinton campaign’s efforts to illegally influence the Obama administration and its politically motivated FBI director James Comey.” One book agent said that the project sounds like a “nightmare for legal vetting.”

    Joe Biden. Photo: Marc Nozell

    Former Vice President Joe Biden’s book will be published in November. In Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, Biden will remember losing his son Beau to brain cancer and “reflect on that painful year and the challenges he faced fulfilling his political duties while mourning the death of his son.” He will also go on a nationwide tour to promote the book—tickets for his appearances go on sale next week.

    ABC News is launching a new program that will focus on televised White House press briefings. The Briefing Room will address “news and announcements from the press conference with a play-by-play rundown of topics discussed from the podium.”

    Chinese censors are blocking all images and text related to late Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiabo, who died last week. Any mentions of Liu’s name, as well as photos of vigils held for the writer in Hong Kong, were blocked for Chinese users of the popular messaging app WeChat. “Scared of the living, scared of the dead, and even more scared of the dead who are immortal,” one user wrote about the government’s censorship.

    According to BuzzFeed, not all Republicans believe the media is a problem. After talking to several GOP lawmakers and aides, Alexis Levinson finds that many believe a free press is central to a functioning government. “I love the media! I mean, y’all are real people, and I’m a real person and you’ve got a job to do,” said Representative and Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows. “And I’ve not been disappointed by 98% of the reporters that I get to work with.”

    Tonight at Greenlight Bookstore, James Hannaham talks to Samantha Hunt about her new book, The Dark Dark.

  • July 17, 2017

    James B. Comey is writing a book about his career as a public servant. According to the New York Times, “the book will not be a conventional tell-all memoir, but an exploration of the principles that have guided Mr. Comey through some of the most challenging moments of his legal career.” Those moments include his experiences as deputy attorney general (he refused to declare legal the NSA’s domestic-surveillance program), his days as a US Attorney (when he prosecuted Martha Stewart), and his tenure as the head of the FBI, when he investigated Hillary Clinton’s private email server and attempted to look into ways in which Russia could have interfered with the 2016 election. Comey hasn’t signed a book deal yet, but he has two literary agents, Keith Urbahn and Matt Latimer of the Javelin agency, and he has been meeting with publishers.

    Christopher Bollen

    Novelist and Interview editor Christopher Bollen, whose latest book is The Destroyers, gives a compelling and entertaining interview at the Creative Independent. “You have to be a certain kind of person to write a novel. It’s sort of a demented and warped way of living. On beautiful days when your boyfriend or girlfriend wants to go outside to a park, you have to shut the door in their face and sit down, now without cigarettes, and just type away at something.”

    Sherman Alexie has canceled the remaining dates of his current reading tour, which was organized to promote his new memoir, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me (it is named after the Dusty Springfield song). The book depicts his relationship with his mother, and Alexie says that he cannot, for the time being, confront feelings about this “complicated and difficult person” in public. “So here I am—the son and the mother combined—who needs to take a big step back and do most of my grieving in private,” Alexie writes. “My memoir is still out there for you to read. And, when I am strong enough, I will return to the road. I will return to the memoir. And I know I will have new stories to tell about my mother and her ghost.”

    Colm Toibin talks about his new novel The House of Names (which draws on Aeschylus’s Oresteia Trilogy), how drinking affects writing, and an unlikely quality that defines the new White House: “The strange part of the White House drama is they are all Irish except for Trump,” Toibin told The Guardian. “Flynn, Kelly, Bannon, Spicer, Conway, Hannity, O’Reilly and Ryan. Those Irish faces everywhere, I knew 10 of each of them at school. But the Irish have always been Democrats…”

    Malcolm Gladwell discusses the guiding principle behind his podcast Revisionist History. “I just wanted an excuse to talk about whatever was on my mind and whatever I came across,” Gladwell says of the podcast, in which he has dwelled on political satire, the Pentagon, and golf courses. “That was the genesis of the idea, that between those two words—‘revisionist’ and ‘history’—you can talk about anything under the sun.”

  • July 14, 2017

    Liu Xiaobo

    Literary critic and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo has died at 61. At the New York Review of Books, Perry Link remembers Liu’s life and activism. Link attributes Liu’s independence his upbringing during China’s Cultural Revolution, when schools were closed. “With no teachers to tell him what the government wanted him to think about what he read, he began to think for himself—and he loved it.” Link compares Liu to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who grew up during the same time period but used his time away from the classroom “to begin building a resume that would allow him . . . to one day vie for supreme power.” “Two hundred years from now,” Link wonders, “who will recall the names of the tyrants who sent Mandela, Havel, and Suu Kyi to jail? Will the glint of Liu Xiaobo’s incisive intellect be remembered, or the cardboard mediocrity of Xi’s?”

    Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards is writing a memoir, which will be published by Touchstone next spring. The still-untitled book “will draw on Cecile Richards’ personal stories of fighting for social justice throughout her life, from growing up as the daughter of Ann Richards to her early experiences as a labor organizer,” as well as her work with Planned Parenthood.

    HuffPost is planning a bus tour of the country, in order to “listen and learn what it means to be American today.” Beginning in September, editor in chief Lydia Polgreen will lead a rotating team of HuffPost employees on a trip across the country, which Politico reports will avoid “the coasts for the likes of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Oxford, Mississippi and Odessa, Texas.” According to unnamed sources, the costs of the nation-wide trip could be around $1 million.

    George Andreou is taking over the role of director at the Harvard University Press. Andreou was most recently a vice president and senior editor at Knopf.

    Publishers Jamie Raab and Deb Futter, formerly of Grand Central, are starting a new imprint at Macmillan. Celadon will publish around twenty books of fiction and nonfiction per year.

    Publisher’s Weekly reports that Milo Yiannopoulos and his PR team are artificially inflating the number of copies sold of his new book Dangerous. Although a representative told PW that the book has sold 100,000 copies since it was released last week, the actual numbers from Amazon and BookScan show just under 20,000 have been purchased. In a statement, Yiannopoulos claimed that the higher figure includes books purchased by wholesalers, and that anyone saying otherwise is “fake news.”

  • July 13, 2017

    The Washington Post looks at the Trump administration’s plan to discredit journalists who report on Donald Trump Jr.’s emails. Sources say that the president’s operatives may take on “an extensive campaign” of combing through reporters’ previously published work “to exploit any mistakes or perceived biases.” The New York Times notes that Trump Jr.’s decision to release his emails ahead of the paper’s report may “have long-term implications for the Trumps’ ability to shape coverage.” At the New Yorker, Joshua Yaffa examines Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya’s relationship to the Kremlin, while Jeffrey Toobin looks at whether the emails contain evidence of Trump Jr. breaking the law. At the magazine’s copy desk, department head Andrew Boynton explains the reasoning behind the New Yorker’s decision to format Trump Jr.’s suffix as “Jr.,’s” in a headline, a choice that annoyed many Twitter users. “With ‘Jr.’ occuring in the middle of a line, where else is the possessive indicator supposed to go?” he asks. “Now it can comfortably stand alongside the diaeresis and ‘focussing.’”

    Former Democratic National Committee chair Donna Brazile is working on a book about the 2016 election. Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House will be published by Hachette Books on November 7, one year after the election.

    Zadie Smith

    Zadie Smith has signed a two-book deal with Hamish Hamilton in the UK and Penguin Press in the US. The first book, a collection of Smith’s short stories, will be published in 2019. The second, a work of historical fiction titled The Fraud, will be published soon after.

    Journalist Dana Canedy has been appointed as the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes. Canedy is a former editor and reporter at the New York Times, where she won her own Pulitzer in 2001 as the lead journalist on the series “How Race Is Lived in America.” Poynter notes that Canedy is both the first woman and first person of color to administer the prize.

    The Center for Fiction has announced the longlist for the 2017 First Novel Prize. Nominees include George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo and Julie Buntin’s Marlena.

    Translator Anna Summers reflects on her relationship with Russian author Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. Summers recalls a fundraiser that she attended with Petrushevskaya, where “one by one, women sat down on the chair next to her like pilgrims” and told the author their own stories of “mental and emotional turmoil.” Sitting with Petrushevskaya afterwards, Summers found herself doing the same thing. “I suddenly understood why the women pilgrims had flocked to her. Almost without meaning to, I found myself telling her my own tale of marital crisis,” she remembers. “Petrushevskaya transformed: storytelling is her trade, and here was a woman with a story that she had encountered in every possible version and put to paper dozens of times. Plays and small talk were forgotten. An exhausted old woman was replaced by a goddess of wisdom.”  

  • July 12, 2017

    Mika Brzezinski. Photo: Steve Jozefczyk

    Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski has signed a three-book contract with Weinstein Books. The deal includes an updated version of her 2011 book, Know Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth, which will be published in the fall of 2018. The other two books, Comeback Careers and an untitled guide for job-searching millennials, will be published around the same time. According to Page Six, the deal was already in the works before Trump’s recent tweets, but “it is hoped that Brzezinski could tackle her clash with the president in a new chapter for Knowing Your Value.”

    First Look Media, parent company of The Intercept, is offering financial support to Reality Winner, who was arrested for allegedly providing the website with classified NSA documents. Though the website denies any knowledge of who leaked the information, they feel it is their duty to defend Winner. “We at The Intercept have always opposed the use of the Espionage Act against government whistleblowers,” editor in chief Betsy Reed writes. “Our stand is unwavering and we would object to the prosecution of Winner under the act even if we had no connection to the materials she is accused of disclosing.” The website also conducted a review of their publishing process for the document, and while the full results cannot be released due to the case against Winner, Reed admits that the site’s editorial procedures “fell short of the standards to which we hold ourselves.”

    White House photographer Amanda Lucidon is publishing a book of photographs of Michelle Obama. Chasing Light will be published by Ten Speed Press next October.

    At the New Yorker, Amanda Petrusich writes in defense of negative reviews. After Spin revealed that MTV News removed articles at the request of artists and their management, Petrusich writes that “the relationship between a critic and her subject should be thought of as symbiotic, generative, important,” rather than adversarial. “What a weird and tedious trajectory it would be for an artist never to have someone consider her work seriously enough to question its motives and its successes.”

    Tonight at the Strand, Joshua Cohen discusses his new book, Moving Kings.

  • July 11, 2017

    Moonlight director Barry Jenkins is working on a film based on James Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk. Jenkins wrote the screenplay in 2013, and spent the intervening years getting permission from the Baldwin Estate. Gloria Karefa-Smart, Baldwin’s sister, called Jenkins “a sublimely conscious and gifted filmmaker” and said that his “medicine for melancholy impressed us so greatly that we had to work with him.” The film is expected to start production next fall.

    Denis Johnson

    The Library of Congress has announced that late novelist Denis Johnson will win this year’s Prize for American Fiction. The award will be accepted by his wife, Cindy Johnson, at the National Book Festival in September.

    The Washington Post profiles CNN’s Jim Acosta, who has become a vocal critic of the Trump administration’s attitude toward the press. Press Secretary Sean Spicer has criticized Acosta’s reporting for being too opinionated. “If I were a mainstream, veteran reporter, I’d be advocating for him to knock it off,” Spicer said. “It’s hurting the profession.” Acosta has decided not to let the administration’s criticisms or his press-room colleagues’ lack of support get him down. “I’m having the time of my life right now. This is the biggest story of my life,” he told the Post. “I’m like a kid in a candy store.”

    At Vanity Fair, Sarah Ellison talks to the authors of Politico’s Playbook newsletter, who are working on a book about “backroom deals and dramas on Capitol Hill.” Very tentatively titled A Hill to Die On, the book will be published by Crown in March 2019, after the 2018 midterm elections.

    Roxane Gay, Alexander Chee, Celeste Ng, and Adam Grant discuss what it’s like to be a writer active on social media. While some, like Gay, were early adopters of Twitter, others were more reticent to join. “The Viking team and Whitney Peeling dragged me, kicking and screaming,” remembered Grant. The group also debated whether social media “is a force for good.” “This is a little like asking if a hammer is a force for good or not good,” Ng noted. “It all depends on what you’re doing with it.”

  • July 10, 2017

    Colson Whitehead

    While he was at Fox News, Bill O’Reilly was an unflagging promoter of his own books. Since his unceremonious departure from the network on April 11, his book sales have dipped significantly, the Washington Post reports. O’Reilly’s Old School, which he cowrote with Bruce Feirstein, opened at number one on the New York Times Bestseller list when it was released in March, and more than 67,000 copies were sold in April. But in June, the book’s sales plummeted to around 2,400.

    Novelist Margaret Atwood has proclaimed on Twitter that she would like Drake to make a cameo in the second season of the TV series based on Atwood’s dystopian classic The Handmaid’s Tale.

    The controversial right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos has filed a $10 million lawsuit against Simon & Schuster, which planned to publish the former Breibart News writer’s memoir Dangerous, but dropped it after Yiannopoulos made public comments that seemed to defend sexual relationships between men and boys. The author says that the publisher caved under political pressure, and that “they have to pay.” Simon & Schuster lawyers say that the publisher will “vigorously defend itself against any such action, and fully expects to prevail in court.”

    The Los Angeles Review of Books has joined forces with USC to offer a summer program to help people break into the publishing industry. Although most publishing jobs are currently in New York, LARB editor in chief Tom Lutz says that many of those in the program are hoping to work on the West Coast. The five-week workshop, says Lutz, encourages “entrepreneurial possibilities and innovation,” and most of the students are hoping “to join an entrepreneurial venture here or start their own.”

    “Why not treat writers more generously? In a society growing mingier by the day, writers seem to rank low on the list of those with claims to assistance. Yet entire societies are degraded and destroyed when hacks and liars are rewarded: Kellyanne Conway recently bought an $8 million house.” Benjamin Moser devotes a short essay to the question: “Do grants, professorships and other forms of institutional support help writers but hurt writing?”

    Colson Whitehead explains why he had to wait to write his Pulitzer-winning book The Underground Railroad, a novel he first started thinking about in 2000: “It was daunting in terms of its structure, and to do the research as deep as it needed to be done, and to deal with the subject with the gravity it deserved, was scary. And then, a couple of years ago, I thought maybe the scary book is the one you’re supposed to be doing.”

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