• January 5, 2017

    The Millions has posted their comprehensive preview of the “most anticipated” books coming out in the first half of 2017, with titles by Roxane Gay, Rachel Cusk, Aravind Adgia, Elif Batuman, Ali Smith, Percival Everett, and many more.

    Medium, the web publishing service, has announced that they are cutting one-third of their staff and revamping their business model. Medium began in 2012 with the goal of changing how stories on the web worked: They aimed to promote thoughtful writing over quick clickbait. But as Medium founder Ev Williams writes in a post announcing the cuts, “In building out this model, we realized we didn’t yet have the right solution to the big question of driving payment for quality content. . . . To continue on this trajectory put us at risk — even if we were successful, business-wise — of becoming an extension of a broken system.” At New York magazine, Brian Feldman considers what the future of the platform might be: “Medium wants a way for its publishers to make money directly off of their readers. One solution would be the ‘tip jars’ system that video-game streamers on Twitch use—a way to toss a few bucks someone’s way when you like what they’re up to. . . . Another solution would be, well, subscriptions. They worked for magazines and newspapers, didn’t they?”

    John Hodgman

    Comedian and actor John Hodgman has a collection of essays, Vacationland, coming out in October from Viking. The book will be based on the one-man show of the same name. Hodgman, who is currently a columnist for the New York Times and the host of the Judge John Hodgman podcast, wrote on Tumblr that Viking rejected his proposed title: John Hodgman Tells Absolutely, maybe Awfully True Stories as he Sprints Toward Death in Emotionally and Literally Cold Places.

    The Academy of American Poets has announced that Ellen Bass, Forrest Gander, Terrance Hayes, and David St. John will be joining the organization’s Board of Chancellors, where they will consult on the academy’s programming and serve as judges for poetry prizes.  

    The Manhattan bookshop Book Culture has posted a list of “What to Read in Light of Trump.” Selections include Killing Rage by bell hooks, Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis, and How to Survive a Plague by David France.This past November, the store presented a syllabus for understanding the election results, with volumes such as Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild and White Rage by Carol Anderson.  

  • January 4, 2017

    On January 15th, the organization Writers Resist will be holding events around the US, as authors band together to promote democracy. A reading on the steps of The New York Public Library will feature Andrew Solomon, Masha Gessen, Robert Pinsky, and Rita Dove, and local events are being organized throughout the nation. The National Book Critics Circle has dedicated its “NBCC Reads” series to the topic of resistance literature, posting discussions by authors such as Jonathan Lethem and T. J. Siles, with new entries being added daily.  

    After twelve years at Fox News, Megyn Kelly is leaving the network and joining NBC. Fox reportedly offered Kelly $20 million dollars to stay, but NBC gave her a better package: Kelly will host her own daytime show, get an anchor position on an evening news program, and regularly appear on NBC’s special programming and big-event stories.

    Lindy West, the journalist who memorably appeared on This American Life confronting the man who had trolled her online by impersonating her dead father, has written a column at The Guardian explaining why she has quit Twitter after years of dedicated use: “I hate to disappoint anyone, but the breaking point for me wasn’t the trolls themselves . . . it was the global repercussions of Twitter’s refusal to stop them. . . . How much hate speech will bystanders ignore? When will Twitter intervene and start protecting its users?”

    At the Globe and Mail, writers are contributing stories about Canada’s history, in celebration of the nation’s 150th birthday. First up, Rivka Galchen pens a fictional sixteenth-century worksheet, that reads as a guide for weary travelers to far-off lands.

    Nicholas Thompson

    Nicholas Thompson, the editor of newyorker.com, has been named editor in chief of Wired magazine. According to Recode, the publication’s former editor, Scott Dadich, is leaving to start a “strategy, design and content firm.” Explaining the move, Dadich said in a press release: “No one can see the future, but I know I’m happiest when I’m chasing it — that’s why I’ve loved creating a new Wired every single day. Covering the worlds of business and technology, however valuable, is watching from the sidelines. I felt it was time to get in the game with my own company,”

  • January 3, 2017

    John Berger

    Critic and novelist John Berger—whose influential works include About Looking, The Shape of a Pocket, and G—has died at the age of ninety. For those new to Berger’s work—or anyone looking to experience his particular genius—the BBC series Ways of Seeing is worth watching.

    In The Guardian, Alex Preston previews fiction to be published in the coming year, with new novels by Paul Auster, Katie Kitamura, and Arundhati Roy (with her first book of fiction in twenty years), among many others. Preston notes that in 2017, storytellers will have their work cut out for them: “One’s heart goes out to the contemporary American novelist, for whom daily reality seems to outstrip the reach of both satire and dystopia.”

    The New York Times looks at Jonathan Lethem’s archives, which he recently sold to Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Lethem donated his collection of letters, notes, and drafts (one alternate title for Motherless Brooklyn was Jerks from Nowhere), as well as comic books he drew in childhood (starring “Fig Leaf Man”), a sticker from the set of the 1979 dystopian film The Warriors, and more than a few drawings of vomiting cats. About this last category, the novelist explains: “For about 15 years, every time I had a really good dance party that went late, with people lolling around drunk and exhausted, at about 2 a.m., I would hand out paper and ask everyone to draw a vomiting cat. . . . I ended up with an incredibly thick file of drawings, some by people who went on to be published cartoonists and writers.”  

    MSNBC news host Joe Scarborough is feuding with journalist Sopan Deb on Twitter about whether his appearance at a Trump event on New Year’s Eve qualifies as “partying” with the President elect. At the Washington Post, Callum Borchers writes that this kind of intramural squabbling is what the media needs to avoid as they ready themselves to cover Trump’s first term.

    Zadie Smith talks about male critics, the merits of White Teeth, and  why she finds the Trump children interesting: “What I find so painful is the idea of children competing for the affection of a narcissist, whose affection they will never receive. That seems to me just excruciating. That’s what boggles my mind: Reading interviews with them where they boast about who gets to call him in his office more regularly or who saw him more than four times during their childhood.”

  • January 2, 2017

    Ben Smith

    In a year-end memo to staff, BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith warned that “fake news will become more sophisticated, and . . . will spread widely.” Smith also noted that the problem can be found on both sides of the political spectrum, as in the case of a highly embellished story of a Jewish family having to “flee” town after being falsely identified as the reason for a school Christmas play being canceled.

    At the New York Times, James Risen writes that journalists have Barack Obama to thank for the possible mistreatment of the press under Trump. Citing the Obama administration’s prosecution of whistleblowers, the use of the antiquated Espionage Act to punish government officials who spoke to journalists, and his own experience being ordered to reveal sources by the Department of Justice, Resin writes, “Mr. Obama’s record of going after both journalists and their sources has set a dangerous precedent that Mr. Trump can easily exploit.”

    Mattie Smith Colin, the Chicago Defender journalist who reported on the death and funeral of Emmett Till, died this weekend at the age of ninety-three.

    Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker said this weekend that the newspaper will not label false statements made by Donald Trump as “lies.” According to Baker, the word “implies much more than just saying something that’s false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead.”

    Despite criticism, Simon & Schuster has decided to move forward with Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos’s book. The publisher maintains that they do not support hate speech, and asks that the public “withhold judgement until they have had a chance to read the actual contents” of Dangerous. Talks of a Simon & Schuster boycott continue, with some authors threatening to walk away from their own book deals as protest. At the New Yorker, Alexandra Schwartz writes that although the reported $250,000 advance Yiannopoulos received is small in terms of big-name publishers, “it’s still two hundred and fifty thousand dollars too many to give to a man who has helped define the Trump moment’s flippant bigotry in the service of brand-building narcissism.”