• September 15, 2017

    The nominees for the 2017 National Book Award in nonfiction have been announced, and include Kevin Young’s Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News, David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the F.B.I., Masha Gessen’s The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, and James Forman Jr.’s Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America. The longlist for fiction will be announced later today.

    New York Times reporter Mike Isaac is writing a book about Uber, which will be published in 2019 by Norton. If Issac’s past reporting on the company is any guide, the book won’t be boring. Isaac hopes the book will be able to raise larger questions about Silicon Valley and the sharing economy, as he told Recode: “Can I take lessons from the disasters that happened at Uber and say what it says about Silicon Valley—like how founders have been given total control of their companies and how that’s maybe a mistake?”

    Edward Felsenthal has been named Time’s new editor after Nancy Gibbs, who worked at Time for thirty-two years, announced her departure earlier this week.   

    Amazon has deleted more than nine hundred one-star review of Hillary Clinton’s new memoir, What Happened. The reviews were deemed to be an illegitimate, concerted effort to bring the book’s overall rating down, and were from unverified accounts: According to Quartz’s reporting of the story, only 22 percent of the overall reviews were from readers who had actually purchased the book from Amazon. If you can’t get enough of memoirs from presidential runners-up, The Guardian has a list of ten books by other failed presidential candidates, including God, Grits, and Gravy by Mike Huckabee, Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey by Carly Fiorina, and Why Not Me: The Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency by Al Franken.

    Junot Diaz

    On the On Being podcast, Junot Diaz makes the case for what he calls “radical hope” in dark political times: “When I look over what my community has done to make democracy possible, when I look at what my community has taught this world about justice and about humanity, in the face of abysmal inhumanities, well, I’ve got to tell you, that alters the calculus of hope. And it gives me hope.”

    As part of Brooklyn Book Festival tonight, Greenlight Bookstore is throwing a party; Poets House is hosting Los Angeles–based indie publisher Red Hen Press; the Brooklyn Public Library is celebrating poet Marianne Moore; A Public Space has a launch party for John Haskell’s new book, The Complete Ballet; and the Asian American Writer’s workshop presents “Searching for Home,” a reading and discussion with fiction writer Dina Nayeri and journalist Alia Malek.

  • September 14, 2017

    The shortlist for the 2017 Man Booker Prize has been announced. Not everyone is happy with it. At the Washington Post, Ron Charles thinks the list is “too American.” And at The Guardian, Claire Hynes wonders: “How many Man Bookers must writers of colour win before they’re accepted?”

    Are Democrats nervous about Hillary Clinton’s widely publicized book tour? As some have suggested, What Happened doesn’t skimp on critiques of the party: “In the book, Clinton is less than flattering in her assessment of her primary election opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders. She even complains about decisions her old boss, President Barack Obama, made that she says hamstrung her during the primary season.”

    How faithful is the new film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel It? According to Joshua Rothman, the movie is missing a crucial sense of strangeness. “It is a stranger novel than most people remember. The new film version, directed by Andy Muschietti, which premiered this week, is, by comparison, more wholesome and sane. It’s a likable but slight movie.”

    Former Esquire editor Mark Warren has been named VP and executive editor of Little Random, an imprint of Random House. In his new role, Warren will “acquire and edit a wide range of nonfiction, with a focus on politics and history.”

    Curtis Sittenfeld

    What would Alice Munro do?” wonders novelist Curtis Sittenfeld. “This is a question that, in all seriousness, I sometimes ask myself.”

    Melville House Publishing has announced a new project that allows readers to send copies of one of its latest titles, A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment by Barbara Radnofsky, to all members of Congress. The book, according to the press release, is a “straightforward and non-partisan guide.” As an incentive, Melville House is lowering the book’s price to eight dollars, will handle shipping costs, and keep a list of which congresspeople have received a copy. “Melville House’s intention in this project is to ensure all 535 member of Congress have the knowledge they need for a potential impeachment, and to illuminate how important the issue of impeachment is to their constituents.”

  • September 13, 2017

    Thomas Beller, author of J. D. Salinger: The Escape Artist, writes about his experiences working for the Cambodia Daily, and reports on that paper’s abrupt closing following threats from the government last week. “There were many news items about the threat to the Daily and the authoritarian turn away from democracy. On Sunday, September 3rd, the leader of the opposition party was arrested in the middle of the night, charged with treason, and taken to a remote prison. The following edition of the paper carried the headline ‘Descent into outright dictatorship,’ above the fold. At the bottom was an article titled ‘Cambodia Daily faces immediate closure amidst threats.’ That was the last issue.”

    Maggie Haberman

    Random House has announced that it will publish a book about the Trump administration by New York Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush. The book, which has not yet been titled, will be, according to a press release, “a comprehensive, deeply reported look at a history-making president.”

    “What’s So Funny?: An Investigation” by Lorrie Moore. “Animals” by Jonathan Lethem. “Apocalyptic Storytelling” by Junot Diaz. “Imaginary Countries” by Alexander Chee. “Shadow Narration” by Jeffery Renard Allen. “Constructions of Whiteness” by Claudia Rankine. These aren’t new books or essays. They’re creative-writing courses.

    According to a new report, Amazon pays eleven times less in corporation taxes than “traditional” bookstores in the UK.

    The Brooklyn Book Festival will take place this weekend, on Sunday, September 17, but its “Bookend” events are well under way. Tonight, you can see James Hannaham read, hear a new generation of writers discuss “What Happened to the Public Intellectual,” or attend a dinner inspired by Akhil Sharma’s new story collection, A Life of Adventure and Delight.

  • September 12, 2017

    Lani Sarem’s YA novel Handbook for Mortals debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list when it was released in August. Quickly, however, questions were raised about the book’s legitimacy on the list: Did the author, who most people in the YA community had never heard of, somehow game the system? The Times quickly pulled the book from the list. Now, the author is trying to make her side of the story known. “While I am not selling the books through traditional channels established by the book industry,” she writes, “the sales of my book are quite real.”

    Ira Lightman

    According to poet Ira Lightman, plagiarists are serial in their thefts. They “never do it once,” he states. And he should know: Not just a poet, Lightman has become a “poetry sleuth.” His specialty: busting plagiarists.

    The Brooklyn Public Library has announced the shortlist for its annual book awards. Finalists include Moshin Hamid’s Exit West, David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon, Kim Phillips-Fein’s Fear City, and Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law.

    “Like a recumbent sloth jolted into a panicked flight response, David Brooks has belatedly noticed the rancid politics of right-wing racial confrontation.” Baffler editor and The Money Cult author Chris Lehmann offers a scorching assessment of the New York Times columnist.

    Viking will publish William Trevor’s story collection Last Stories in May 2018. As the title suggests, Trevor, who died in 2016, intended this to be his final book.

    Tonight, McSweeney’s is celebrating the launch of its fiftieth issue with a party at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn. Contributors scheduled to read their work include Matthew Sharpe, Daniel Levin Becker, Haris Durrani, Dan Kennedy, Aparna Nancherla, and Sean Wilsey.

  • September 11, 2017

    Emily Temple explains why Rebel in the Rye, Danny Strong’s new feature film about J. D. Salinger, is “bad for writers.” “A while ago, I wrote a piece about why every aspiring writer should see Paterson, Jim Jarmusch’s excellent film about a young poet living in Paterson, New Jersey. This movie is the other side of the coin. Writers should not see Rebel in the Rye. I mean, do what you want, but if Paterson was a realistic evocation of the life of a creative person, Rebel in the Rye is the utter opposite. Not only is it filled with platitudes and lame advice, but it’s a sentimental monument to being precious about your work.”

    Ian Buruma

    The Times profiles Ian Buruma, the author (Murder in Amsterdam) who recently became the editor of the New York Review of Books. He is not interested in trying to fill the shoes of his predecessor, the notoriously dedicated and much-loved Robert Silvers. Says Buruma of the NYRB under Silvers: “It was a monarchy.” Now, Buruma says, “perhaps it will be a slightly more democratic operation. Certainly I think I’ll be more collaborative. One great strength of The Review at the moment is that it has a number of very, very bright young editors who know more about certain things than I do.”

    Most descriptions of the writing life are dull, but novelist Roddy Doyle has written an evocative and entertaining essay about his habits of writing over the years. “My office is in the attic. I bring a mug of green tea up with me. It used to be coffee but the coffee I drink in the early morning is so strong it’s possibly illegal, so green tea it is—good for the cholesterol, bad for the self-respect. When I was a teacher I used to meet hundreds of people every day. A bell would go every 40 minutes; the day was full of human noise. Then, after June 1993, I was alone. I was happy enough but the working day yawned; the silence wasn’t eerie but I didn’t like it. A friend suggested music. That seems odd now, that someone had to persuade the man who wrote The Commitments that he might enjoy listening to music while he worked.”

    “Have Nobel prizes gone to known gay aesthetes before,” writes Eileen Myles in a tribute to John Ashbery. “Ones who make light of it, and that it is pretty much everything. That was John’s great subject. Everything. Subjectivity itself.” And at the Library of America website, writers Star Black, Jed Perl, Charles Bernstein, Anne Waldman, Marjorie Perloff, and others remember the poet.

    Village Voice alumni organized a reunion party in New York City this weekend, bringing together editors and writers including Susan Brownmiller, James Wolcott, Toure, Michael Tomasky, Robert Christgau, Jennifer Gonnerman, James Hannaham, and many others.

  • September 8, 2017

    Roxane Gay. Photo: Jay Grabiec.

    Yesterday on Facebook, Roxane Gay announced that she has been hired to write an advice column for the New York Times.

    Bestselling author James Patterson donated $1.75 million to public-school teachers to help improve their classroom libraries.

    The Portland, Oregon, book festival Wordstock has released the lineup of this year’s event, which will take place on November 11. Author who will participate in the festival include Mac Barnett, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Carson Ellis, Jeffrey Eugenides, Adam Gopnik, David Grann, Jenny Han, Daniel Handler, Claire Messud, Tom Perrotta, Danez Smith, Lidia Yuknavitch, and many more.

    In response to the announcement of Graydon Carter’s retirement, The Awl promptly came up with a list of replacements, naming “10 women who should edit Vanity Fair.”

    Novelist and poet Ben Lerner has written an eloquent and moving tribute to John Ashbery: “The obituaries seem intent on noting that he ‘aroused controversy,’ that he has his detractors. I can’t even muster feelings of partisanship about his poetry; I just feel pity for those who haven’t, for whatever reason, been able to accept the gift of his work.”

    John Steinbeck’s stepdaughter has been awarded more than $13 million in a lawsuit arguing that other family members had prevented film adaptations of the author’s work.

  • September 7, 2017

    Kate Millett

    Graydon Carter has announced that he will end his twenty-five-year run as the editor of Vanity Fair in December. The New York Times notes the significance of the news: “Mr. Carter’s influence and stature in the magazine and entertainment world is so great that to call his exit a changing of the guard seems insufficient: This is more of a regal passage.”   

    Kate Millet, the feminist author best known for her 1970 book Sexual Politics, has died.

    The New York Times has hired progressive writer Michelle Goldberg to be a full-time columnist. She is one of three women (out of fourteen total writers) to hold the position. Goldberg explained her aspiration for the new column to HuffPo: “One thing I hope to do is to be a voice for the majority of the people in this country who cannot believe what the fuck is going on.”

    Picador has acquired The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven (2014), the best-selling postapocalyptic novel about a group of actors. The new book “begins in 2004 when a young cook named Nicole Stevenson disappears from a container ship off the coast of Mauritania. Four years later, a massive Ponzi scheme implodes in New York, dragging countless fortunes with it. Moving back and forth in time, The Glass Hotel traces the intriguing tangle of lives caught up in both events.” In other book-deal news, Random House will publish Happiness in This Life, the next book by Pope Francis.

    Casey Affleck has been cast to play the title role in the forthcoming film adaptation of John Williams’s 1965 university-set novel Stoner, which has become a cult classic since its republication in 2006 by New York Review Books.

    The Paris Review has announced that it has hired Nadja Spiegelman, the author of the memoir I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This, to be its new web editor.

    Featured prominently on Amazon’s list of 100 books everyone should read: Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

  • September 6, 2017

    In the wake of the president’s order to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), it’s worth revisiting Valeria Luiselli’s November 2016 Lit Hub essay about the consequences of ending the program and the options for resistance. Luiselli writes that sustained daily action is the most effective form of protest and underscores the necessity of active resistance: “I don’t think I can bear hearing one more person declaring any variation of ‘Even though I am not a Trump-target, I am still hurt/worried/ashamed/full-of-guilt.’ When anyone in a society is the target of institutionalized violence, everyone in that society is a target, simply because that is what living in a society means.”

    Job cuts are expected at Conde Nast as they prepare their second restructuring of the year.

    Vanessa Grigoriadis

    Tonight at the Strand bookstore in Manhattan, Vanessa Grigoriadis discusses her new book, Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus.

    Publishers Weekly looks at how Hurricane Harvey has affected some independent bookstores in the Houston area. It hasn’t been pretty. As store owner Lori Koviac notes, “Books do not do well in the rain.”

    At NPR, author and former British intelligence officer John Le Carré talks about his new book, Legacy of Spies. The novelist explains the challenge of writing a spy thriller without the Cold War intrigue he became famous for evoking: “We have no coherent ideology in the West. And we used to believe in the great American example; I think that’s recently been profoundly undermined for us. We are alone.” But as Andrew Meier has pointed out, Le Carré’s craft has little to do with ideology or the technical details of espionage: “To read Le Carré is to be in the hands of an authority on not only tradecraft but also human frailties and self-deceptions, a guide with a moral compass, the kind of man the English of a certain age call ‘sound.’”

  • September 5, 2017

    Chelsea Manning will headline this year’s New Yorker Festival. Other events at the festival include a discussion between Preet Bharara, the New York federal attorney who was appointed by President Obama and later fired by Trump, and legal writer Jeffrey Toobin.

    John Ashbery

    Following John Ashbery’s death this weekend, there have been a number of tributes: Paul Muldoon writes about how Ashbery “changed the rules of American poetry”; the New York Times has published an obituary (coauthored by author Dinitia Smith and poetry critic David Orr) and a selection of Ashbery’s poems; and at Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield took a detour in his obituary for Steely Dan’s Walter Becker to write: “It makes cosmic sense that he slipped away the same day as our country’s greatest living writer, the poet John Ashbery, another American original who struck people as perversely abstract and inscrutable. ‘All things are secretly bored,’ Ashbery declared in 1975’s The Vermont Notebook, an American credo that could have been a Steely Dan line.”

    Khaled Hosseini, the author of the bestselling novel The Kite Runner (2003), has been documenting the lives of refugees. “Everybody knows there’s a war,” he told a reporter at The Guardian, “but once you feel what that war means, I think for most people it’s unfathomable not to act on it, even if it’s in a small way. It becomes that much harder to simply dismiss or move past. It prickles your consciousness.”  

    Novelist Susan Vreeland, whose novel Girl in Hyacinth Blue (1999) traces the history of a painting that is thought to be a lost Vermeer, has died.

    Tom Clancy’s ex-wife and widow are in a legal fight over who owns the rights to Clancy’s character Jack Ryan, who first appeared in The Hunt for Red October (1984) and continues to live on in a series of books written in Clancy’s style after Clancy’s death.

    Salman Rushdie, whose New York novel The Golden House was just published, weighs in on the US’s current political situation: “A lot of what Trump unleashed was there anyway.”

  • September 3, 2017

    The American poet John Ashbery has died at age ninety. “What more is there to do, except stay? And that we cannot do.”

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