• May 22, 2017

    Guy Trebay

    Guy Trebay remembers the exquisite parties thrown by editor and author Jean Stein, the editor of Grand Street and the co-author of Edie: An American Biography, who died late last month. “At these parties one was as likely to encounter Warren Beatty as the Russian dissident poet Andrei Voznesensky. Among the guests were Tennessee Williams in boozy conversation with Truman Capote, Allen Ginsberg in knotty confabulation with John Cage, and Norman Mailer putting on a performance of knuckle-dragging machismo for the apparent benefit of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.”

    At The Guardian, Maggie Nelson talks about the second life of her book The Red Parts, and describes the ways in which her work has been misunderstood the first time around. The Argonauts, for instance, was “turned down initially by people [ie publishers] saying it was too academic.” Nelson goes on to note that there’s something “heartening” about the fact that her books have gone on to find an audience, despite publishers’ initial doubts. “I’ve always believed that, in a way, you invent your own readers—and that people can read more complicated books than they’re given credit for.”

    The PEN Center USA has named its new board members: The Black List founder Franklin Leonard, author David L. Ulin, Coast magazine editor Samantha Dunn, and author-filmmaker Amir Soltani.

    Politico ponders the question: “Should the Washington Post have withheld sensitive details about an ISIS bomb plot” when it broke the story that President Trump had revealed classified information to the Russians?

    The Ringer includes Dennis Lim’s critical study David Lynch: The Man from Another Place on its helpful list of films, music, and books to revisit in anticipation of the premiere of the new season of Twin Peaks.

  • May 19, 2017

    The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard has released an analysis of news coverage of Trump’s first one hundred days in office. The report found that Trump received three times as much news coverage as previous presidents in their first months in office, and that the overwhelmingly negative attention set “a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.”

    Trump is considering a decrease in the amount of time Press Secretary Sean Spicer spends on camera. Sources told Politico that “the briefings have become one of the most dreaded parts of the president’s day,” and that the president “doesn’t want Spicer, who has developed a belligerent persona from behind the podium, publicly defending and explaining the message anymore.”

    Former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes’s death yesterday may complicate legal matters at the network. The company is under a federal investigation and is facing numerous discrimination lawsuits.

    Heather Dietrick. Photo: Victor Jeffreys

    Heather Dietrick has been hired as the new president and publisher of the Daily Beast. Dietrick was most recently the president of Gawker Media, where she assisted Nick Denton with the company’s legal battle with Hulk Hogan.

    Jeffrey Tambor talks to the New York Times’s “By the Book” section about his Los Angeles bookstore, libraries, and writing a memoir. Tambor said that he had been reading other actors’ memoirs, but that he didn’t find them useful for writing his own book. “Absolutely no help,” he said, “except producing a serious amount of awe and envy.”

    The Times observes a Naples casting call for the television adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. The show’s producers are searching for two sets of child actors to play eight- and fifteen-year-old versions of the main characters, Lila and Lenú, as well as “a large ‘Annie’-esque supporting cast of hard-knock lifers.”

    At the New Yorker, Jia Tolentino mourns the death of the personal essay, a genre that once defined internet writing and is now rarely published. The genre was both women-dominated and poorly-paid, a fact that felt exploitative to many writers and editors. And after the 2016 election, writes Tolentino, using personal feelings to discuss broader issues feels particularly irrelevant. “Put simply, the personal is no longer political in quite the same way that it was,” she writes. “Many profiles of Trump voters positioned personal stories as explanations for a terrible collective act; meanwhile, Clinton’s purported reliance on identity politics has been heavily criticized. Individual perspectives do not, at the moment, seem like a trustworthy way to get to the bottom of a subject.”

  • May 18, 2017

    Ian Buruma

    Ian Buruma has been named the editor of the New York Review of Books. Buruma has been contributing to the magazine since the 1980s, and is taking over for founding editor Robert Silvers, who died earlier this year.

    The Walrus editor Jonathan Kay has resigned after “expressing dismay” over the departure of Write magazine editor Hal Niedzviecki, who stepped down last week amid criticism of his recent column on cultural appropriation. On Twitter, Kay wrote that while he did not object to Niedzviecki’s firing, he did object to “the shaming, the manifestos, the creepy confession rituals.” In an appearance on CBC, he noted that while he agreed that there needed to be more focus on the rights of writers of color to call out appropriation, “it doesn’t help the debate when you take one side and cast them all as a bunch of racists.”

    Unwanted Advances author Laura Kipnis is being sued by one of the pseudonymous students featured in her book. Filed as Jane Doe, the student’s suit alleges that Kipnis’s book misrepresents her relationship with the professor and has “significantly harmed” her reputation.

    Get Out writer and director Jordan Peele is working on a TV show for HBO. Based on Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country, the show will focus on a young man’s journey through the Jim Crow South.

    The shortlist for the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing was announced earlier this week. The selected authors include Lesley Nneka Arimah for her New Yorker short story, “Who Will Greet You At Home,” and Magogodi Makhene for “The Virus,” originally published in the Harvard Review. The winner will be announced in July.

    Tochi Onyebuchi talks to Exit West author Mohsin Hamid about democracy, migration, and writing as a political act. Hamid traces the origin of his novel to the recent increase in anti-immigrant sentiment worldwide. “As someone who has often migrated myself—at the age of three, I went to California; back to Pakistan at nine; back to America at eighteen; Britain at thirty; then back to Pakistan in my late thirties—I feel it almost personally.” Hamid also notes that the current political tension worldwide has changed the literary conversation over the purpose of novels. “Preoccupations with the form as form and with the privileging of a question of authenticity to myself and fiction versus non-fiction may not seem as pressing as concerns at a time when you have to worry about whether the state is marginalizing entire groups of human beings and whether democracy will still exist in ten years,” he said.

    At the New Yorker, Rebecca Mead profiles Gerhard Steidl, the printer and publisher of Steidl. Mead chronicles Steidl’s meticulous process for creating books, which involves flying photographers to Germany at least three times, where they are required to stay in “Steidlville,” the guesthouse next door to the factory and office. Steidl is involved in every decision that goes into the book—from how many types of black ink to use to which type of endpapers to use—and prizes quality over cost efficiency. “Using the cheaper one saves significant money for the shareholders,” he told Mead. “But I am the only shareholder.”

  • May 17, 2017

    The Guardian examines Facebook’s new tools for debunking fake news, and finds that they may be having the opposite effect. After the fact-checking system labeled an article about Irish slavery as fake news, readers of the article increased rather than decreased. Christian Winthrop, editor of the website that published the article, said that the “disputed” label actually encouraged free-speech proponents to share the article more widely: “A bunch of conservative groups grabbed this and said, ‘Hey, they are trying to silence this blog–share, share, share.”

    The Bay Area News Group reports that Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle is in talks to replace Sean Spicer as press secretary. Guilfoyle was a candidate for the position after the election, and has worked with Trump in the past.

    At The Atlantic, Adrienne LaFrance talks with Liz Spayd about her work as the New York Times’s public editor. Spayd says that her main job is to listen to Times readers, even if she doesn’t always agree with what they have to say. “If you have a child, you listen to that child,” she said. “It doesn’t mean you agree.”

    Tina Brown

    Bravo will air a limited series about Anna Wintour and Tina Brown. Based on Thomas Maier’s Newhouse, the six-episode follows the two editors as they “fight their way to the top of a male-dominated industry driven by greed and betrayal [and] find new paths to change the world around them—Tina, through the intersection of high-culture and celebrity, and Anna with a gut instinct for high fashion and emerging talent.”

    Amid rumors that BuzzFeed plans to become a publicly-traded company, Hamilton Nolan implores the website’s employees to unionize before that happens. Nolan writes that as the largest non-union publication left, BuzzFeed’s unionization could help the media field become a “union industry.” “BuzzFeed employees would not just be helping themselves by organizing,” he writes. “They would be helping to raise the standards for everyone else in the industry, and for thousands of future online media people who will enter our industry in years to come.”

  • May 16, 2017

    Gary Younge

    The shortlist for the 2017 Orwell Prize for political writing was announced yesterday. Honorees include Tim Shipman’s All Out War, John Bew’s Citizen Clem, and Gary Younge’s Another Day in the Death of America. The winner will be announced next month.

    New York Times deputy publisher A.G. Sulzberger will now be in charge of the paper’s opinion section, which was previously run by his father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.

    After the tronc-owned Chicago Tribune announced plans to buy the Chicago Sun-Times, the Department of Justice has opened an antitrust investigation into possible acquisition.

    BuzzFeed has revealed Tablet columnist Paul Berman’s “blackmailer” as Eric Alterman, a columnist for The Nation. Alterman maintains that he did not write the emails to threaten Berman. “They arose from a deeply personal matter between us,” Alterman told BuzzFeed. “Paul omits all the relevant details because they reflect so poorly on his character.”

    Politico’s Shane Goldmacher reports on the strategic use of news articles by White House staff. Goldmacher writes that “a news story tucked into Trump’s hands at the right moment can torpedo an appointment or redirect the president’s entire agenda,” and traces Trump’s recent promotion of tax reform to an op-ed in the Times that was mysteriously brought to the president’s attention. In another incident, deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland gave Trump two Time magazine covers, one from 2008 about global warming, and a hoax cover supposedly from the 1970s about the impending ice age. The two magazines had Trump “lathered up about the media’s hypocrisy,” but staffers were able to avoid any ill-informed tweets about them. “The episode illustrates the impossible mission of managing a White House led by an impetuous president who has resisted structure and strictures his entire adult life,” writes Goldmacher.

    At the Times, Jennifer Szalai reviews Republican Senator Ben Sasse’s new book, The Vanishing American Adult. Sasse warns that young Americans have been coddled to the point of helplessness, and “that it isn’t merely the well-being of a younger generation that’s at stake, but the very future of the Republic.” Szalai writes that beyond the “highly specific” suggestions like assigning “your 2-year-old to get your socks every morning,” the strangest aspect of the book “is how it takes the easy way out: Sasse, a Republican senator and history Ph.D. who holds actual power during a particularly fraught moment, decided that now was the time for him to publish what ultimately amounts to a self-help book for well-to-do parents.”

  • May 15, 2017

    The New York Times reports on the literary agents who are vying for former FBI director James Comey’s story. Although most government officials usually move on to corporate jobs or teaching positions, Comey’s firing may make some employers wary of hiring him. But the controversy could land him a lucrative book deal. “I don’t know what his next job will be,” said Trident Media Group chairman Robert Gottlieb, “but I can tell you there is a really big book in Comey if Comey wants to write about the facts.”

    Wikileaks is offering $100,000 for recordings of Comey and Trump’s conversations. Gizmodo Media Group is suing the Department of Justice for any warrant applications that allowed the FBI to monitor Trump campaign officials. The agency previously refused to honor a FOIA request because the existence or nonexistence of said records is still classified. “The problem with that argument,” writes John Cook, “is that the president of the United States has already confirmed that the warrants do exist, by tweeting about them.”

    Jennifer Egan. Photo: Pieter M. van Hattem

    Tomorrow and Wednesday, the Yaddo Foundation, which runs the famous artists colony in Saratoga Springs, will be hosting a series of benefit dinners and events, featuring authors including Jennifer Egan, James Hannaham, Gary Shteyngart, and Andre Aciman.

    John Altman reflects on writing fiction under Trump. While it might seem like the Trump administration’s antics offer rich source material, it can sometimes be too unrealistic for readers. “Using a patio at a Florida golf club as a makeshift situation room during a North Korean missile test—as a guest posts pics to Facebook? Really? An author describing this scene risks taxing suspension of disbelief beyond repair,” Altman writes. “Real and plausible are not the same thing.”

    At BuzzFeed, Charlie Warzel looks at the alt-right media’s unprecedented access to the White House. Pro-Trump bloggers like Mike Cernovich have broken numerous stories in recent months, such as the Syrian airstrikes. “For all the understandable hand-wringing about the legitimization of the pro-Trump media, its rise makes perfect sense,” Warzel writes. “Its people are in the White House. Trump, clichéd as it may be, is an effective troll, and he brought with him a troll press corps.”

  • May 12, 2017

    Samuel R. Delany

    The Associated Press has published a report examining the agency’s coverage of Nazi Germany during the war. The organization has been accused of aiding the Nazis by, among other things, allowing AP photos to be used in German propaganda with altered captions or misleading headlines, employing German photographers with political affiliations (including one described in the report as an “ardent Nazi”), and, as German historian Harriet Scharnberg wrote in March 2016, letting the regime “portray a war of extermination as a conventional war.” The agency is pushing back against the charges: Sally Buzbee, the AP’s senior vice president and executive editor, said the decisions were necessary compromises that allowed them to “maintain access [and] keep the world informed of the ambitions of the Nazi regime and its brutality.”

    At the Barnes and Noble Review, Patricia Lockwood talks about her new memoir, Priestdaddy. The book is about her father, a Catholic priest who got a pass on the celibacy rule from the Vatican because he was a married Lutheran minister before converting (Lockwood calls her existence a “human loophole”).  In a New York Times review, Dwight Garner writes that “Lockwood’s prose is cute and dirty and innocent and experienced, Betty Boop in a pas de deux with David Sedaris.”

    Vice is launching a new project, News Issues, a semi-regular digital magazine that takes on a single subject. The effort represents a turn back toward a print magazine sensibility. As Vice News editor in Chief Ryan McCarthy notes: “Magazines, traditionally, are really good at unifying on a certain topic, bringing you from one story to another, and giving you an overall aesthetic. . . . The web traditionally has been pretty bad at that and I think to some extent readers are underserved by it.”

    Today, PalFest, or the Palestinian Festival of Literature, gets underway in Haifa. Authors appearing at the festival, which runs until May 18, include Solmaz Sharif, Jelani Cobb, Natalie Diaz, Nadeem Aslam, and Eileen Myles.

    A new exhibition at the Morgan Library suggests that Emily Dickinson was less of a recluse than received wisdom would have us think.

    At the Boston Review, Junot Diaz talks with Samuel R. Delany about his memoiristic essay “Ash Wednesday,” which details Delany’s experiences at  gatherings for older gay men called “Santa Sex Parties.” When asked if he considers himself a sexual radical, Delany tells Diaz, “Intellectual radicals, rather than actual radicals, are people who say things where they are not usually said. And, yes, all true radicalism has to begin in the body—so being a sex radical means you have to be ready to act radically and be willing to speak about it in places you ordinarily wouldn’t.”

  • May 11, 2017

    Book Expo America—the publishing-world convention that will take place this year in New York City May 31 through June 2—has announced that Hillary Clinton will appear on its main stage on Thursday, June 1. “An Evening with Hillary Clinton” will showcase the former Secretary of State’s many books, including a new edition of her bestselling book It Takes a Village. Clinton’s next book will be released in September by Simon & Schuster.

    At Vulture, Christian Lorentzen walks readers through Granta’s latest volume in their Best of Young American Novelists series. The collection, the third since the series began in 1996, rounds up writers in their twenties and thirties who Granta consider the best of their generation. The latest crop includes Emma Cline, Garth Risk Hallberg, Ben Lerner, and other familiar names, along with some lesser-known writers like Halle Butler, Jen George, and Sana Krasikov. Lorentzen notes a striking character in many of the stories, a kind of female counterpart to the sad young literary men of years past: “In composite, I started to think of this young woman as the Girl Who Knows She’s Stayed at the Party Too Long. The Party—by which I mean youth itself—isn’t quite over but there’s little fun left to be had, although that doesn’t mean there’s any reason yet to go home and get up early.”

    Kathy Acker. Photo by Michel Delsol.

    Chris Kraus’s next book, After Kathy Acker, a literary biography of the provocative downtown writer, will be published on August 27. The book examines Acker along with the community of artists and writers that influenced, challenged, and sustained her—and, interestingly, Kraus herself. It offers a personal portrait of an unusually radical and productive scene and its most mythic literary star.

    The Washington Post has appended a correction to a story about Sean Spicer’s actions after James Comey was fired. We imagine the editor’s note was the result of an amusingly bitter complaint from someone in the Trump administration: “This story has been updated to more precisely describe White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s location late Tuesday night in the minutes before he briefed reporters. Spicer huddled with his staff among bushes near television sets on the White House grounds, not ‘in the bushes,’ as the story originally stated.”  

    Sarah Jaffe, author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt, continues her “Interviews for Resistance” series with a chat with Adam Gaffney, a doctor and advocate for universal health care. The two discuss the Republican Party’s efforts to repeal Obamacare, the substance of the American Health Care Act bill that just passed the House of Representatives, and the future of health care activism.

  • May 10, 2017

    Emmanuel Macron

    Journalist Adam Plowright is working on a biography of French president-elect Emmanuel Macron. The French Exception: Emmanuel Macron’s Extraordinary Rise and Risk will be published by Icon Books in September in the UK.

    The Times’s David Leonhardt looks at the recent hacking attack on then-candidate Macron, and sees the situation as a lesson for American journalists. Compared to reporting on Clinton’s emails, Leonhardt writes, “France’s mainstream media showed how to exercise better judgement.” Rachel Donadio explains why the email leak didn’t influence the election. She attributes the muted effect of Macron’s email dump to the fact that there is no French version of Fox News, and considers other possible factors, such as the leak’s suspicious timing and questionable authenticity. Donadio thinks that it could be due to “a feeling among the French that, having witnessed how hacking may have altered the American election, they would not fall for the same ploy.”

    At The Awl, Michael Erard reflects on the incoherency of Trump’s interview transcripts, and what we can learn from them. “A transcript offers a chance to make sense of the mud of regular talking,” he writes, “so let’s get the mud of Trump’s regular talking to work against him.”

    An op-ed by the national director of anti-abortion group Human Coalition, “The Problem With Linking Abortion and Economics,” has drawn criticism on social media. At Jezebel, Stassa Edwards questions why the Times has run two separate op-eds from the group in this year alone. “As Bret Stephens’s hiring indicated, the point seems to be the Times’s ability to signal its perception of itself an embodiment the liberal value of the free exchange of ideas,” she writes. “Be it climate change or abortion, it’s the mere articulation of a side is what’s valued not the content of the arguments.”

    On Twitter, readers react to the Times’s new regular feature, in which contributors “say something nice” about Trump. “The president’s flaws are well known to the readers of many mainstream media outlets,” the paper explains, so the Sunday Review column will “present things the president has said or done that are praiseworthy.” Some users have contributed their own ideas, such as “his hands are the perfect size for tweeting on his phone,” and “he hasn’t sexually assaulted any women this week. To our knowledge.”

    Tonight at Books are Magic in Brooklyn, Peter Straub talks to Dan Chaon about his new novel, Ill Will.

  • May 9, 2017

    Bill Clinton and James Patterson are teaming up to write a novel set in the White House. The President is Missing, which will be filled with “details that only a President can know,” is scheduled for a June 2018 release by Alfred A. Knopf and Hachette.

    Curtis Sittenfeld

    Eligible author Curtis Sittenfeld is working on a new novel that envisions Hillary Rodham’s life if she had never married Bill Clinton. The currently untitled book follows Hillary’s story after she turns down multiple marriage proposals from Bill Clinton “once and for all.”

    Lidia Yuknavitch, Michele Filgate, Marcy Dermansky, Melissa Febos, Emily Raboteau, and Sarah Gerard discuss literary misfits and the stigma around confessional writing. Febos calls the idea that personal narratives are somehow less intellectual than other kinds of writing “sexist horseshit”: “If I’m writing something about my period, it doesn’t mean that I’m not an intellectual,” she said. “I can write an intellectual essay about my navel or a whole book about my period.” Yuknavitch also proposed doing away with the word confessional as a descriptor for women’s writing altogether, “because when women [write] about their bodies and emotive states and physical realities, they are being precise.”

    After publishing an article exploring the arguments for “transracialism” last March, Professor Rachel Tuvel “is now bearing the brunt of a massive internet witch-hunt,” writes Jesse Signal in New York. The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf looks at “call-out culture” on college campuses. Friedersdorf talks to undergraduates from colleges across the country, all of whom say that they regularly refrain from expressing opinions that could be seen as controversial in order to avoid being attacked for their ideas. “Today, so many people are declaring so many things problematic on college campuses that the next controversy is almost impossible to predict,” he writes. At Medium, Freddie de Boer remembers his own social media-fueled controversy over his views on the recipients of the New York Time’s David Carr fellowship. De Boer had questioned why a fellowship aimed at unknown writers had been awarded to journalists with numerous bylines in high-profile publications, and critics responded by accusing him of jealousy, or attacking him for calling the fellows unqualified. “This tendency within media — to treat every discussion of structural problems as though it is instead a matter of personalities, to make everything about whose table you sit at during lunch — is part of why journalists are so terrible at correctly identifying what’s happening in their own industry,” he writes.

    In his column for Tablet, Paul Berman recounts a New York professor’s attempt to blackmail him. After participating in a panel at the 92nd Street Y, the unnamed academic told Berman that he had acquired an “erotic correspondence” between Berman and another person, and that he would release it to the press if Berman did not “write a self-denunciation in the style of Augustine or Alexander Hamilton.” Berman writes that he still isn’t sure how the professor found these emails, or if they actually exist at all. “I hope that, if he does publish something and attaches my name to it, the correspondence is well-written,” Berman writes. “Some of my erotic correspondence is quite well-written, I like to think.”

    Tonight at 192 Books in Manhattan, Albert Mobilio celebrates the release of his new book, Games and Stunts.

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