• 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.”  

  • March 17, 2017

    Derek Walcott died this morning at the age of 87. During his decades-long career, the Nobel Prize-winning poet was honored with a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” the T.S. Eliot Prize, and many other literary awards. In an interview with the Paris Review, Walcott described how his upbringing in St. Lucia influenced his writing. “My generation of West Indian writers has felt such a powerful elation at having the privilege of writing about places and people for the first time and, simultaneously, having behind them the tradition of knowing how well it can be done,” he said. “Our world made us yearn for structure, as opposed to wishing to break away from it, because there was no burden, no excess of literature in our heads. It was all new.”

    Slate editorial staff voted yesterday to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East. Columbia Journalism Review reports that over 90 percent of the website’s writers and editors have signed union cards. The vote comes after two leaders of the drive to unionize were laid off last month.

    At the Huffington Post, editor in chief Lydia Polgreen’s plan to reorganize the website’s staff is already causing controversy at the company. A newly-created position of politics director, which would be based in DC but report to a New York-based editor has the Washington office worried about losing their autonomy. According to Politico’s Joe Pompeo, the Huffington Post’s politics staff is, “at times, highly resistant to editing oversight” by the main office. “Keep your eyes peeled for a possible power struggle,” he added.

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah has been chosen as the winner of New York City’s One Book, One New York program. Publisher Penguin Random House will donate 1,000 copies to the city’s public libraries this month, and a series of panels and discussions will be held around the city in April.

    The New York Times is starting a literary advice column. Readers can write to author and editor Nicole Lamy with their “most vexing book dilemmas,” which the former books editor of the Boston Globe will attempt to solve in her “Match Book” column. The paper is now soliciting questions, which will be answered in April.

    Albertine bookstore announced the newly-created Albertine Prize yesterday. The award will be given annually to the best English translation of a French book published in the US, with the $10,000 prize split between the author and the translator, who each receive $8,000 and $2,000 respectively. The prize is also awarded not based on the decision of a panel of judges, but on a popular vote through Albertine’s website.

    In the Times’s “By the Book” column, MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes talks about writing his own life story, Camus, and what he read while working on his new book, A Colony in a Nation. According to Hayes, the book that most influenced him while writing his own book was Peter Andreas’s Smuggler Nation, “because it’s about, fundamentally, the fact that America is a nation of hustlers and con men, and never has that seemed, um, more true.”

    Tonight at the 92nd Street Y, Alexander Chee talks to Viet Thanh Nguyen and Elif Batuman about their new books, The Refugees and The Idiot.

  • March 16, 2017

    Kevin Young. Photo: Melanie Dunea

    Kevin Young will take over for Paul Muldoon as the poetry editor of the New Yorker. Young is currently the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and will start working at the New Yorker in November, when Muldoon officially steps down. The two will also collaborate on an event at the New Yorker Festival this fall.

    Yan Lianke’s The Explosion Chronicles, Ismail Kadare’s The Traitor’s Niche, and Amos Oz’s Judas are among the books longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize. The shortlist will be announced next month, and winner will be revealed in June.

    After refusing to bring his press pool on a diplomatic trip to Asia, Rex Tillerson has chosen one journalist to accompany him on his plane. Erin McPike, the Independent Journal Review’s White House correspondent, will be the only reporter to travel with Tillerson, a decision the State Department says is motivated by cost cutting measures and their use of a smaller plane. However, CNN noted that the C-40 flew Tillerson to Tokyo is about the same size as a Boeing 737, and can accommodate up to 111 people.

    Ivana Trump, Donald’s first wife, will publish a book with Gallery. Raising Trump, “a non-partisan, non-political book about motherhood,” will be released in September.

    At LitHub, women writers respond to Bonnie Nadzam’s recent essay at Tin House, which details the abuse Nadzam has experienced throughout her writing career at the hands of her famous male mentors and professors. Roxane Gay, Porochista Khakpour, Elissa Schappell, and eight other authors all confirm just how widespread this kind of treatment is in the literary world. Khakpour writes that reading Nadzam’s essay made her feel like her “heart was going to explode,” but not because she was shocked, but “because this experience very much exists in my body too.” Aspen Matis notes that this type of treatment isn’t confined to writing. “The fact that stories in writing programs are recorded doesn’t make them more important than all others, which are mostly only lived,” she writes. “I encourage writers to notice that we all tell stories, and act by them.”

    Tonight at the Center for Fiction in New York, Paris Review editor in chief Lorin Stein interviews Sarah Manguso about her new book, 300 Arguments.

  • March 15, 2017

    The shortlist for the 2017 Wellcome Prize has been released. Nominees include Ed Yong’s I Contain Multitudes, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Gene, and David France’s How to Survive a Plague. The winner will be announced in April.

    Harvard professor Jane Kamensky has been awarded the New York Historical Society’s annual book prize for A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley. She will be presented with the award as part of the society’s “Weekend in History” event in April.

    Jami Attenberg

    At The Millions, Jami Attenberg talks about the inspiration for her new novel, All Grown Up. Attenberg said she wanted her book to feel more like a memoir, “like this woman was telling you every single goddamn, messy thing you needed to know about her life.” She pointed to Patti Smith’s M Train, Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, and Eileen Myles’s Chelsea Girls as books that helped her find that tone: “Patti Smith just talks about whatever the fuck she wants to talk about, and Maggie Nelson writes in those short, meticulous, highly structured bursts, where you genuinely feel like she is making her case, and in Chelsea Girls Eileen has this dreamy, meandering quality, although she knows exactly what she’s doing.”

    In the New Republic, Sam Sacks looks at the current trend in literary fiction to avoid the difficult, divided present in favor of simpler times of the past, and how that might widen the current cultural gap. Sacks points to Michael Chabon, George Saunders, and Colson Whitehead as just some of the writers who struggle to represent the problems of the present in their books’ historical settings. “As long as their brand of exuberant nostalgia holds appeal,” he writes, “there’s a danger of being left with a literature that tells us only what we already know, however enchantingly.”

    At the New York Times, Amanda Hess looks into the popular podcast, Missing Richard Simmons. The Serial-style program was created by Dan Taberski, an acquaintance of Simmons’s who was disturbed by the fitness guru’s sudden disappearance from the public. But while Taberski has said that the podcast comes from a place of concern, Hess writes that it’s actually “an invasion of privacy masquerading as a love letter.” Theories entertained by Taberski about Simmons’s “disappearance” include depression over the death of his dogs and unhappiness with his physical decline, as well as less believable stories that he’s being held hostage by his housekeeper or that he underwent gender reassignment surgery, both of which Simmons has personally refuted. Hess feels that the podcast is misrepresenting Taberski’s relationship with Simmons—the two met because Taberski wanted to make a documentary about him. Even if the two had a closer relationship, Hess writes, the production would still be problematic. “Is this what friends do?” she asks. “Turn their loved one’s personal crisis into a fun mystery investigation and record it for a hit podcast?”

    Tonight at Greenlight Bookstore, Hari Kunzru talks with Lisa Lucas about his new book, White Tears.

  • March 14, 2017

    Marilynne Robinson. Photo: Kelly Ruth Winter

    Marilynne Robinson will publish an essay collection with Virago. What Are We Doing Here? aims to figure out “how America should talk about itself now,” and will be published in 2018.

    Pam Colloff is leaving Texas Monthly for a joint position at the New York Times and ProPublica. Colloff will stay in Texas while she serves as a senior reporter at ProPublica, and a writer-at-large for the New York Times Magazine.

    The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza has been hired by CNN Politics as a reporter and editor at large. At the Post, Cillizza created The Fix, a political analysis blog. Of the move, Cillizza said that he’s ready to take on whatever is thrown at him. “I don’t think it has to be The Fix 2.0,” he told Politico. “CNN has built a lot of good stuff already. They certainly don’t need me to dictate anything.”

    New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman points out that the person with the most to gain from former US Attorney Preet Bharara’s firing last weekend was Rupert Murdoch. Bharara had been investigating the company for numerous crimes, including illegally obtaining journalists’ phone records and possibly committing mail and wire fraud through their settlements with the women who accused Roger Ailes of sexual harassment. One of the shortlisted replacements for Bharara is Marc Mukasey, Ailes personal lawyer, leading many to believe that the firing was carried out to undermine the investigation. A grand jury has already been convened, however, and is expected to hear evidence in the next few days.

    At a press briefing yesterday, Sean Spicer asked reporters for thoughts on which charity Trump should donate his salary to, a campaign promise that Spicer says the president intends to keep, but has yet to follow through on.“He has kindly asked that you all help determine where that goes,” Spicer told the press pool. “The way that we can avoid scrutiny is to let the press corps determine where it should go.”

    At the New Yorker, Andrew Marantz asks, “Is Trump trolling the White House press corps?” Marantz follows Lucian Wintrich, the newly-credentialed White House reporter for the Gateway Pundit, a conservative news website known for spreading false stories. Wintrich doesn’t get to ask any questions at the press briefings he attends with Marantz, but spends his time posing for photos at the briefing room’s podium, googling himself, and honing an unasked question about Fidel Castro that he hopes will embarrass Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Wintrich wasn’t present for Trump’s February diatribe against the media, but Marantz points out that his attendance probably wasn’t necessary. “After all,” he writes, “the man in control of the press conference was the world’s most gifted media troll, the President of the United States.”

  • March 13, 2017

    Isabel Allende is working on a new novel. The book tells the story of a car accident in Brooklyn that becomes “the catalyst for an unexpected and moving love story.” In the Midst of Winter will be published by Atria next fall.

    Brit Bennett

    Brit Bennett’s debut novel, The Mothers, will be made into a film. The adaptation was bought by Warner Bros. Actress Kerry Washington will produce the movie, and Bennett will write the script.

    Mark Halperin and John Heilemann announced plans for a third book in their Game Change series. The next installment will cover the 2016 presidential election and will also be adapted into a miniseries by HBO.

    At the Washington Post, Paul Farhi reflects on the slippery slope of partisan news organizations being included in the White House press pool. Last Thursday, a reporter employed by The Daily Signal, a website run by conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, was responsible for covering Vice President Mike Pence and supplying details to the rest of the press corps. Farhi writes that the website’s inclusion in the pool could lead to other think tanks requesting press credentials. “These groups could argue that they, too, qualify for White House press credentials and pool shifts,” he writes. “The slope could become even more slippery if extremist or racist organizations sought similar status.” The Daily Signal’s Rob Bluey responded that there is no reason one of their reporters shouldn’t be included in the pool, as their conservative leanings don’t affect “the fairness and accuracy” of their journalism. Bluey also identified the real reason Farhi and others raised their concerns: “They want to delegitimize news outlets such as The Daily Signal to protect their cabal.”

    The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray profiles Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, who has been acting as an unofficial spokesman for the president since his election. The conservative media company had supported Trump from the beginning of his campaign, and Ruddy has spent time with the president, who he has known for the last two decades, at his Mar-a-Lago estate since his inauguration. Ruddy said that he felt that his close relationship with the president made him the right choice to defend Trump to the media. “I felt I had a comfort level with many in the press,” he said, “so I figured it might be a good thing for me to go out and talk about my relationship with the president and his ideas.”

    At a SXSW event, Nick Denton discussed Peter Thiel, freedom of the press, and life after Gawker. Denton said that he was glad that the company’s lawsuit with Hulk Hogan, which at some points was costing $1 million per month, was settled before the 2016 election, since Trump’s win made Thiel more powerful. “It’s probably wise not to be in a fight with him at this time,” Denton said. He also lamented the state of the web and social media. “Facebook makes me despise many of my friends and Twitter makes me hate the rest of the world,” he said. But Denton isn’t entirely pessimistic about the future. “Even if we’re full of despair over what the internet has become, it’s good to remind yourself when you’re falling down some Wikipedia hole or having a great conversation with somebody online—it’s an amazing thing,“ he said. ”In the habits that we enjoy, there are the seeds for the future. That’s where the good internet will rise up again.”

  • March 10, 2017

    Masha Gessen

    Masha Gessen will deliver this year’s Arthur Miller Lecture at the PEN World Voices Festival, which will be followed by a conversation between the journalist and Samantha Bee. The event will be held on May 7 at Cooper Union in New York.

    Dan Rather will publish a book of essays. Spurred by his viral Facebook posts on the election, the president, and the state of the country, What Unites Us will collect Rather’s thoughts on “the institutions that sustain us, . . . the values that have transformed us, . . . and the drive towards science and innovation that have made the United States great.” The book will be released by Algonquin in November.

    Former Secretary of State John Kerry announced plans for a memoir with Simon & Schuster. The book, which does not yet have a release date, will look at Kerry’s childhood in Europe, as well as his Navy service, Senate career, and 2004 presidential campaign. “I hope we can produce a good book that captures for readers not so much my story, but some of the lessons learned along the way,” Kerry said in a statement, “including lessons learned the hard way.”

    George W. Bush’s twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, will publish a joint memoir. Sisters First: Stories From Our Wild and Wonderful Life will be published by Grand Central this fall.

    At LitHub, Paul La Farge and Ed Park talk about their history of working together, the cult following of H. P. Lovecraft, and La Farge’s new book, The Night Ocean.

    Politico looks at the New York Daily News’s new-found tolerance of Trump. Although the tabloid was known for its anti-Trump covers, the Daily News has toned down its coverage under new editor Arthur Browne in order to keep subscribers happy. Joe Pompeo writes that the change has made staff “feel like the air has been sucked out of the room, and they are perhaps coming to terms with the notion that Trump is more popular with segments of their readership than they thought, even in deep blue New York.”

    The New York Times investigates whether Russian news site RT is simply the country’s version of BBC, or “the slickly produced heart of a broad, often covert disinformation campaign designed to sow doubt about democratic institutions and destabilize the West.”

  • March 9, 2017

    Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels are being adapted for television. The thirty-two part TV series will cover all four books and be directed by Italian filmmaker Saverio Costanzo. Shooting will begin in Italy this year, with the show set to arrive in late 2018. There is no word yet about an American distributor for the program.  

    Domenico Starnone

    At The Week, Lili Loofbourow tells “the tangled tale of two Italian literary giants”: Ferrante and Domenico Starnone. Starnone is married to Anita Raja, the author and translator who was outed last year as the writer behind Ferrante’s books. With his new novel, Ties, Starnone takes up a story that resembles that of Ferrante’s 2002 book, Days of Abandonment—both are about the dissolution of a family. As Loofbourow writes, “Starnone’s novel—which tells a remarkably similar story, but from the point of view of the husband and one of the kids—feels like a deliberate counterpoint. What would happen if the family Ferrante broke apart were to be unhappily soldered back together? What would happen if Ferrante’s story of the wife were told from the point of view of the husband and daughter instead?”

    At Lit Hub, Philippa Snow writes about the “adolescent charm” of poetry by celebrities including James Franco, Kristen Stewart, and Lindsay Lohan.

    DNAinfo has purchased the Gothamist network of websites, which cover local stories in five US cities. As the New York Times points out, the merger is likely to cause a culture clash: DNAinfo is owned by staunch conservative Joe Ricketts, while Gothamist, as the Times says, “features snappy writing and reporting on issues that appeal to the left-leaning populations in the cities it covers.” Soon after the sale was announced, negative stories about Ricketts disappeared from Gothamist sites.

    Tonight at KGB Bar in Manhattan, André Aciman, Nicole Krauss, Eric Puchner, and Tom McAllister will read as part of the venue’s Behind the Book series.

  • March 8, 2017

    The finalists for the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Award have been announced. At the Washington Post, Ron Charles reflects on the America represented by the nominees. “There was a time,” he writes, “when all the stars of American literature seemed to be straight white guys named John.” But this year’s finalists—Garth Greenwell, Sunil Yapa, and Imbolo Mbue, Viet Dinh, and Louise Erdrich—are “a sign of how far we’ve progressed from those monochromatic days.”

    Penguin Random House imprint Crown will publish the memoirs of both Barack and Michelle Obama. Crown was the likely choice for the Obamas’ next books, as they had previously published both of Barack Obama’s books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, as well as Michelle Obama’s American Grown.

    John le Carré

    John le Carré is bringing back George Smiley and his secret service colleagues in a new novel. A Legacy of Spies follows Smiley’s mentee Peter Guillam and his fellow retired spies as they “are subject to scrutiny for past misdemeanours, committed at a time when there were fewer scruples about the methods used to win the ideological war raging between the west and the Soviets.” The book will be published by Viking in September.

    After WikiLeaks released a trove of documents about CIA hacking tools, The Atlantic’s Kaveh Waddell wonders if, due to questions about the group’s ties to Russia and their role in the election, journalists should be more wary of the site’s information. “Does the gravity of the documents contained in the CIA leak necessitate reporting on them,” he asks, “even before they’re thoroughly vetted?” Waddell points out that even if journalists haven’t become more skeptical of the provided documents, WikiLeaks has changed its strategy anyway. In addition to a well-written press release, the organization also took care to redact more sensitive information and offer reporters a frequently-asked-questions section, with reassurances for writers who worry that other outlets will “find all the best stories before me.” Waddell writes that the new tone makes the site sound “less like a purveyor of newsworthy documents and more like an exclusive club that will only accept reporters who complete a scavenger hunt to the organization’s satisfaction,” Waddell writes. “And the race has already begun.”

    At n+1, Dayna Tortorici makes a case for supporting the women’s strike today. Tortorici writes that women’s work has been trivialized for centuries, and while there are myriad excuses as to why, “the real reason we devalue women’s work is because women are the ones who do it.” She points to the wage drops that happen when women start working in previously male-dominated industries, as well as the wage increases that occur in previously female-dominated sectors as men enter the field. “Why do employers pay women less money than men? Because they can. Why do women tolerate it? Because we’re accustomed to losing,” Tortorici explains. “The strike is an opportunity to collectively refuse what some would choose to see as inevitable.”

  • March 7, 2017

    The husband of Labour Party politician Jo Cox, who was murdered last summer, will publish a memoir about her life. Brendan Cox said that the book was difficult to write, but “in an era of growing hatred and division I wanted to tell the story of someone who brought love and empathy to everyone she met.” Jo Cox: More in Common will be published by Two Roads on June 15.

    The New York Times profiles Turkish novelist Asli Erdogan, who was imprisoned for six months and is now living with her mother in Istanbul while awaiting trial. Erdogan, who is not related to the Turkish president, was charged with supporting terrorism for serving as an adviser to a now-closed newspaper connected to the Kurdish movement. Erdogan says that she is now recognized on the street, and while that sometimes leads to “curses and lectures on patriotism,” it can also be positive. “Sometimes people put their arms on me and cry . . . I receive lots of love,” she said. “That is a big responsibility.”

    Jacqueline Woodson. Photo: Marty Umans

    The National Book Foundation announced the judges for the 2017 National Book Award yesterday. Fiction award judges include Dave Eggers, Jacqueline Woodson, Alexander Chee, while the nonfiction panel includes Jeff Chang, Ruth Franklin, and Paula J. Giddings. The deadline for submissions for the prize is May 17.

    The Paris Review has awarded the Plimpton Prize for Fiction to Alexia Arthurs for her 2016 story, “Bad Behavior.” The magazine also awarded the Terry Southern Prize, which honors “humor, wit, and sprezzatura,” to Vanessa Davis for her comic series, “Summer Hours.”

    Steven Spielberg has signed on to direct The Post, a film about the Washington Post’s fight to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Tom Hanks will play the role of Post editor Ben Bradley, while Meryl Streep will star as publisher Kay Graham.

    At the Post, Erik Wemple wonders if White House reporters will be able to keep up with Trump. Wemple cites Trump’s most recent tweetstorm last Saturday as an example of the president keeping writers and editors on their toes, even on the weekend. At the New York Times, reporters work in teams of two from 6am until midnight for the duration of their “duty week,” after which they are assigned to less-intense coverage roles. Elisabeth Bumiller, the Washington bureau chief for the Times, says that this has become standard operating procedure for most organizations covering the White House. “It is completely unpredictable . . . and it’s relentless,” Bumiller said. “We’ve never covered this kind of a president before.”

    Tonight at the Brooklyn Public Library, Pankaj Mishra talks about his new book, Age of Anger.

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