• December 8, 2016

    Kia Corthron

    Kia Corthron

    Kia Corthron’s novel, The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter, has been awarded the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.

    Martin Amis has announced two new projects. A book of essays and reporting, The Rub of Time, will be published next October. Amis’s other project is a still-untitled autobiographical novel focused on death, which will feature Philip Larkin, Saul Bellow, and Christopher Hitchens, all of whom died after Amis had started working on the project.

    An updated edition of Rebecca Solnit’s 2004 book, Hope in the Dark, has sold out since the presidential election.

    Donald Trump was named Time’s Person of the Year for 2016. Managing editor Nancy Gibbs writes that the magazine chose the president-elect “for reminding America that demagoguery feeds on despair and that truth is only as powerful as the trust in those who speak it, for empowering a hidden electorate by mainstreaming its furies and live-streaming its fears, and for framing tomorrow’s political culture by demolishing yesterday’s.” The Times notes that the decision comes “to no one’s surprise.” The Hollywood Reporter collects the tweets of many readers who thought Time intentionally put horns on Trump through their cover design. In response, Time reminds us that many cover stars have had the same problem, including both Clintons and multiple popes.

    Jack Dorsey spoke about Donald Trump’s Twitter use at a California conference. Although Dorsey concedes that the president-elect’s Twitter use played a large role in his campaign, Dorsey says that ultimately “America is responsible for Trump being president.”

    After Tucker Carlson asked the New York Times’s public editor Liz Spayd why reporters have not been punished over political tweets, Erik Wemple notes that Carlson’s record on journalistic ethics isn’t that great.

    Current and former staff of CNN and TBS have filed a discrimination lawsuit against parent company Turner. The filing cites internal statistics that show black employees regularly received lower scores on employee evaluations and were promoted less than white employees. “There is no objective factor other than race that can explain this disparity, since performance is not linked to job title or education,” the filing concludes.

    Tony Tulathimutte reflects on why there isn’t yet a generational novel for millennials. In explaining why there has yet to be a literary “voice of a generation” for the twenty-first century, the Private Citizens author argues “that the “voice of a generation” novel never existed to begin with. . . . Why did we ever pretend novels by straight white guys about straight white guys spoke for entire generations?”

  • December 7, 2016

    PEN America has released its Open Book Award longlist. Finalists for the $5,000 prize include Solmaz Sharif’s Look, Helen Oyeyemi’s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, and Jade Sharma’s Problems.

    After thirty-five years of business, Brooklyn’s BookCourt is closing on December 31. At the New Yorker, Amanda Petrusich writes, “I could go on about the hundreds of books I bought and discovered there . . . about the world-class events it hosted and the beautiful, hilarious, brilliant people it employed. I will instead say—with the deepest sincerity I am capable of—thank you. We will miss you so much.”

    The Village Voice has named Stephen Mooallem as its new editor in chief. Mooallem was previously the editor in chief of Interview magazine, and most recently the executive editor of Harper’s Bazaar. Mooallem told the New York Times that his goal as editor in chief is to “improve the paper’s digital side, re-establish its cultural coverage and investigative reporting, and embrace the paper’s inherent ‘New Yorkiness.’”

    After nearly fifteen years at the New York Times, Lydia Polgreen is moving to the Huffington Post to take over as editor in chief. Polgreen has served as bureau chief at various international offices of the Times, as well as editorial director of NYT Global.

    The Associated Press says that a reporter working in South Sudan was expelled by the country’s government yesterday. Justin Lynch, an American journalist who had been reporting on human rights violations, was taken by South Sudan’s National Security Service and put on a flight to Uganda. The South Sudan government yet to explain Lynch’s deportation to the AP.

    Jason Rezaian

    Jason Rezaian

    Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter who was detained in an Iranian prison for a year and a half, will write a memoir about the experience for Ecco. Hostage: 544 Days, 400 Million Dollars, the Nuclear Deal & Me will be published in 2018.

    Politico’s Tony Romm writes that Donald Trump isn’t the only person in his administration with severe conflicts of interest. Peter Thiel, Gawker-bankrupter and Trump transition team member, has a “vast corporate web” that could be greatly impacted by his involvement with the incoming government. One of these conflicts involves Palantir, which was co-founded by Thiel and makes up half his net worth. “The big-data giant was valued at more than $20 billion as of October and its customers include the Pentagon, CIA and other national security agencies,” Romm writes. “The privately held company has aggressively bid for new business in Washington, even suing the Army in a case over a $200 million contract that it won in October.”

    Angelo Carusone, the incoming president of Media Matters, says that the watchdog group will start paying less attention to cable news and more to the fake news and misinformation found on the Internet. “It used to be simple, Fox News was the gate keeper… But now there are so many potential bad actors,” Carusone said. “Now there are places like Facebook who aren’t bad actors but can be enablers of misinformation.”

    At GQ, Morgan Childs reports from Liberland, a bitcoin-driven “Libertarian utopia” for white men on the border of Serbia and Croatia. Childs writes that although the country and its infrastructure have yet to take shape, the organization is having no trouble finding donations or prospective citizens: “For an organization driven by xenophobic, Eurosceptic, tax-avoidant white men, the timing couldn’t be better.”

    Tonight at BookCourt, Siri Hustvedt on her new book, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women.

  • December 6, 2016

    The Outline, a new website from The Verge founder Joshua Topolsky, launched yesterday. The site aims to be “a next-generation version of The New Yorker,” with cultural criticism and longform reporting optimized for mobile reading. The Wall Street Journal explains that the site is more focused on revolutionizing web advertising than web content. Amanda Hale, the site’s chief revenue officer, told the paper, “There is this huge unexplored space between the banner and thousand word pieces produced by the Times T Studio. . . . We want all of our ads to look art directed.” NiemanLab notes that the site’s swipe-driven, Snapchat-imitating color scheme “burns the eyes.”

    Although Bob Dylan won’t be attending his Nobel Prize ceremony, he will offer a speech to be read on his behalf. Patti Smith will make an appearance to perform a version of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.”

    Ahmed Naji

    Ahmed Naji

    Jailed Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji’s attempt to appeal his two-year prison sentence has been delayed. Naji was imprisoned in 2014 after a reader complained that an excerpt of Naji’s book had caused “heart palpitations and an extreme feeling of sickness.” This is Naji’s third attempt to appeal his sentence. At the New York Review of Books, Zadie Smith reviews Naji’s book, Using Life. Smith writes that even though organizations like PEN America are supporting the author, due to scenes of sex and drug use, others don’t consider the novel to be worth fighting for. “Using Life is certainly comic, sexual, wild—the work of an outrageous young man,” Smith writes. “We should defend his freedom to be so.”

    As Turkey’s crackdown on intellectuals and journalists since a failed coup last summer continues, the New York Times wonders why more authors and novelists haven’t been jailed. Although many books have been pulled from shelves in bookstores and university libraries, the paper notes that only three authors have been imprisoned so far. “Compared with people in other intellectual fields, writers have gotten off easy.”

    In an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, New York Times public editor Liz Spayd said that “there ought to be some kind of consequence” for political tweets posted by Times staffers during the presidential campaign. After reading a selection of tweets, Carlson said that the posts suggest that the writers “don’t understand the mission of a newspaper, which is to bring you the news, not to affect the outcome of a political race.” Later, Spayd walked back her comments, saying that she “should have held back more . . . but I stand by my view that journalists should be careful, sometimes more careful than they are, with what they say on social media.”

    Politico explores the unprecedented surge in subscribers at the New York Times. In the weeks since the election, the paper has seen ten thousand new subscribers on several days.

    BuzzFeed has created a timeline explaining how an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about an underground child sex abuse ring connected to the Democratic Party spread through fake news and eventually drove a man to bring a gun to a DC pizza restaurant. “Thanks to just a few tweets, a couple of message board posts, and the help of some pro-Trump sites eager for traffic, this conspiracy theory generated hundreds of thousands of engagements on Facebook, reaching potentially tens or hundreds of thousands of people,” Craig Silverman writes.

  • December 5, 2016

    In a memo to staff, the New York Times’s standards editor Phil Corbett asks writers to not use alt-right as a stand-alone term. Corbett reminds Times employees that “any description can touch on some key elements, based on our own reporting. . . . It’s a racist, far-right fringe movement that embraces an ideology of white nationalism and is anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-feminist. It is highly decentralized but has a wide online presence. Followers rail against multiculturalism and what they see as ‘political correctness.’”

    At the New Yorker, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds readers to stay vigilant after Trump’s election. Adichie calls out journalists who give Trump’s unsubstantiated claims more credit than they deserve. “Pretending that both sides of an issue are equal when they are not is not ‘balanced’ journalism; it is a fairy tale—and, unlike most fairy tales, a disingenuous one,” Adichie writes.

    Susan Glasser, POLITICO Magazine staff Nov. 7, 2013. (John Shinkle/POLITICO)

    Susan Glasser, Photo: John Shinkle/POLITICO

    Politico editor Susan B. Glasser reflects on the real reason that 2016 election coverage failed. “The media scandal of 2016 isn’t so much about what reporters failed to tell the American public; it’s about what they did report on, and the fact that it didn’t seem to matter,” Glasser writes. “The bully pulpits, those of the press and the pols, have proliferated, and it’s hard not to feel as though we’re witnessing a sort of revolutionary chaos: the old centers of power have been torn down, but the new ones have neither the authority nor the legitimacy of those they’ve superseded.”

    Nitasha Tiku explains why Snapchat doesn’t struggle to control the spread of fake news. Unlike Facebook, Snapchat editors vet the news sites before they are allowed to publish stories and “the content is curated by Snapchat and goes through a human editor first.” Tiku’s analysis comes amid rumors that Facebook will be releasing a new feature called Collections, aimed at combating fake news.

    BuzzFeed analyzed Trump’s tweets to find out exactly where the president-elect gets his news. After collecting posts from the time that Trump announced his presidential campaign to a week after the election, BuzzFeed found that “the stories shared by Trump’s account throughout his campaign suggest the president-elect has constructed a powerful online filter bubble that largely flatters and confirms that which he claims to be true.”

    F*CK YOU, 2016, Michael Joseph’s book that looks back at “the year that David Bowie died, Brexit shocked us, ‘Hiddleswift’ was a thing and Trump trumped” comes out tomorrow.

    Tonight in Manhattan, Tim Wu stops by Book Culture to talk about The Attention Merchants.

  • December 2, 2016

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s library has been acquired by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection includes numerous signed books, from authors like Toni Morrison and Mario Vargas Llosa, as well as gifts from world leaders like Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro.

    Nation Books has bought the rights to The New York Kidnapping Club. Written by historian and professor Jonathan Daniel Wells, the book tells the story of “the frighteningly effective network of corrupt judges, lawyers, police officers, and bankers who kept the illegal slave trade alive and well in antebellum New York City.”

    Merriam-Webster is urging users of its online dictionary to look up the definition for any word other than fascism, which is dictionary’s most-searched word of 2016 and therefore the top contender for “Word of the Year.”

    A recent report by the Index on Censorship found that 2016 was “one of the most dangerous times to be a journalist,” with 406 reports of violence, threats, or other violations throughout Europe. Poynter details the many ways that the reporters who investigated the Panama Paper leaks earlier this year are being threatened, fired, and sued for their work.

    At the New Yorker, Adrian Chen questions the motives behind PropOrNot, the anonymous website that claimed to have identified websites that actively spread Russian propaganda. After the Washington Post used PropOrNot to support an article about Russian influence on the election, Chen and other journalists noticed that some of websites on the list were recognized American news sites, including Truthdig and Drudge Report, and that sites could be put on the list for minor offenses, like criticizing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Chen writes that although Russian influence on American elections is concerning, “the prospect of legitimate dissenting voices being labelled fake news or Russian propaganda by mysterious groups of ex-government employees, with the help of a national newspaper, is even scarier.”

  • December 1, 2016

    Eduardo Mendoza

    Eduardo Mendoza

    Novelist Eduardo Mendoza has won the 2016 Cervantes Prize. The award comes with $132,000 and will be given to Mendoza in April.

    Ed Ou, a Canadian photojournalist on his way to report on the Dakota Access Pipeline protests for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, was detained and denied entry into the US. While in detention, Ou’s cellphone was confiscated after he refused to unlock it for border patrol officials. Once the phone was returned, Ou found evidence that it had been tampered with. Ou’s editor Mark Harrison told the Washington Post that the incident “goes against the very principles of a free and independent media.”

    At Politico, journalist Gregory Ferenstein explains why he’s chosen to contribute a regular column to Breitbart News. Now that the Internet has taken away the press’s ability to weaken bad candidates or offensive ideas simply through a lack of coverage, Ferenstein feels that the only way to reach readers with different views is to meet them where they are. “I might vehemently disagree with some of the anti-immigration and militaristic beliefs that Trump used to excite his supporters. But if I want to persuade those supporters—and I do—I have to reach them on the platform where they are getting their ideas,” Ferenstein writes. “In the meantime, I just might be persuaded a bit myself.”

    Historian Bruce Mazlish, the author of In Search of Nixon: A Psychohistorical Inquiry and other psychoanalytic biographies of world leaders, has died at 93.

    Politico founder Jim VandeHei released more details about his new media project yesterday. Axios, Greek for “worthy,” will focus on business, technology, media, and politics. At Vanity Fair, Sarah Ellison notes that the company’s mission statement, ”Media is broken—and too often a scam,” sounds a little familiar. “If you added an emphatic ‘Sad!’ at the end of that sentence it might credibly pass as the latest tweet from President-Elect Donald Trump.”

    The debate continues as to whether news outlets should cover each and every tweet sent by Donald Trump. Slate’s Will Oremus asks Twitter and Facebook staff if they would ever ban the president-elect. Facebook feels that “political discourse” is more valuable than protecting users from offensive content, while Twitter notes that anyone in violation of its rules against hate speech can be banned, “including verified accounts.” However, Oremus points out that a social media ban is unlikely: “That he has avoided its censure so far suggests it would take something outlandish even by Trump’s standards for Twitter to take action.”

    At the New York Times, Amanda Hess reports on Gab, the new social media site that acts “as a digital safe space for the far right.” While the site is still invitation-only, many well known alt-right stars who have been banned from other social media, including Milo Yiannopoulos, Tila Tequila, and Richard Spencer, have joined the site and brought publicity in recent months. “Think of Gab as the Make America Great Again of social sites,” Hess explains. “It’s a throwback to the freewheeling norms of the old internet, before Twitter started cracking down on harassment and Reddit cleaned out its darkest corners.”

  • November 30, 2016

    The New York Times debuted its newest feature yesterday, an opinion column called “This Week in Hate,” which will “track hate crimes and harassment around the country since the election of Donald Trump.” The first installment covers the past two weeks, and includes threatening letters received by mosques across the country, an unruly Delta passenger shouting about Trump’s victory, and swastikas found on cars, schools, and subway trains.

    Criticism of Facebook’s role in the spread of hate speech and misinformation has gone global. After a map of Jewish-owned businesses in Berlin was posted to a far-right Facebook group, the German government called on the social media company to impose stricter regulations and more oversight on inflammatory and offensive content. BuzzFeed reports that the UK’s Department of Culture, Media and Sports is “currently considering the implications of the dissemination of fake news on social media sites,” and that an Italian anti-establishment political party has “built a sprawling network of websites and social media accounts that are spreading fake news, conspiracy theories, and pro-Kremlin stories to millions of people.”

    On the same day that a bill expanding the surveillance powers of the British government became law, The Guardian announced that they have moved their website to the more-secure HTTPS format. Although the notice did not specifically mention the new law, another Guardian article noted that the new law will require Internet and phone companies to retain customers’ browsing history for a year and will give government officials and police easier access to that information. In explaining the decision to secure their website, Mariot Chauvin and Huma Islam write, “It means we protect the privacy of our readers when accessing content that may disclose political opinions, faith, sexual orientation or any information that may be used against them. It matches our core values.”

    Jessica Lessin, founder and chief executive of The Information, wonders if giving Facebook editorial control over posts is also giving the company the power to decide what constitutes fact. “I simply don’t trust Facebook, or any one company, with the responsibility for determining what is true,” Lessin writes.

    Paula Hawkins. Photo: Kate Neil

    Paula Hawkins. Photo: Kate Neil

    Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train, will publish her next book with Riverhead. Into the Water will be available next May.

    At the New Yorker, Jia Tolentino mines Ivanka Trump’s 2009 self-help book, The Trump Card, for insight into why Trump’s daughter has been an effective surrogate for the president-elect throughout his campaign and how she might affect the perception of his presidency’s conflicts of interest. Tolentino calls Ivanka’s inclusion in recent meetings with heads of state “the definition of corruption,” due to her continued business interests in both her own and her father’s brands. “But as laundered through Ivanka—who’s been tweeting about banana bread and posting photos of her children—it won’t look so bad.”

  • November 29, 2016

    The year-end lists are beginning to come out, with the New York Times releasing its “100 Notable Books of 2016” this weekend and the TLS asking authors such as John Ashbery, Mary Beard, Mark Ford, Marina Warner, and Edmund White to pick the best books of the year.

    Forbes Media will begin publishing books with Advantage Media Group. ForbesBooks plans to publish faster than traditional book publishers and allow authors to retain ownership of their work.

    The Paris Review has redesigned its website, as well as digitized every article from the last sixty-three years. “Now you can read every short story and poem, every portfolio, every hastily doodled authorial self-portrait, and every introductory notice from the unassailable George Plimpton, who used to use the front of the magazine to brag about its ever-longer masthead.”

    Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie. Photo: Chris Boland

    Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie. Photo: Chris Boland

    Novelist and Boots No7 spokeswoman Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks to the New York Times about the intersection of feminism, fashion, and writing. Adichie remembers wearing makeup in Nigeria in order to be taken seriously: “It was easy for men to dismiss what I said because they thought I looked like a small girl.” But upon moving to America, Adichie said, “I very quickly realized that if you want to seem as a serious writer, you can’t possibly look like a person who looks in the mirror.”

    The Associated Press addresses the proper use of the term alt-right, cautioning against using the phrase “generically and without definition” and speculating that “the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience.” The AP notes that previously, the beliefs espoused by the alt-right were referred to as “racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.”

    At The Intercept, Lee Fang points out that it’s not just Macedonian teenagers or Russian propaganda teams that promote the spread of fake news: Laura Ingraham, owner of online publisher Ingraham Media Group and possible White House press secretary, owns LifeZette, a news site known for proliferating Hillary Clinton conspiracy theories and fake news. Poynter finds that 80 percent of traffic to hyperpartisan news pages, on the left and the right, came from Facebook. By contrast, “Facebook accounted for about 20 percent of traffic to The New York Times and 11 percent of visits to CNN.”

    The New Republic’s Jeet Heer explains why fact checking has no sway over the president-elect. Using Freud’s theory of “kettle logic”—the technique of promoting parallel but contradictory narratives simultaneously—Heer points out that Trump’s disinterest in sticking to facts is an expression of his authoritarian nature. “A president who uses it is making a raw assertion of power: What I say is the truth, even if it contradicts what I just said a few minutes ago,” Heer writes. “Unless we analyze how he’s attacking not just facts but also logic, we can’t measure the full damage he’s doing and respond accordingly.”

  • November 28, 2016

    Khizr and Ghazala Khan.

    Khizr and Ghazala Khan

    Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who spoke at the Democratic National Convention last summer, is writing a memoir with Random House. The still-untitled memoir will be published next fall, and details Khan’s life and the loss of his son Humayun Khan, who was killed while serving in the army in Iraq.

    NBC News correspondent Katy Tur has signed on to write a book about her experience covering Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Unbelievable will be published by Dey Street Books next year.

    Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine whose offices were attacked January 2015, is launching a German edition. Content will be mainly translated cartoons and articles from the French edition, and will be available December 1.

    The Washington Post claims that the deluge of fake news and articles promoting conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton were the product of “a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign.” Based on reports by two different think tanks focused on foreign policy and technology, the article notes that the push to create real-time fact checking tools won’t be enough to stop the spread of misleading news posts: “The speed and coordination of these efforts allowed Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience.”

    Fake news creator Jestin Coler talked to All Things Considered about propaganda, the post-fact era, and how Google’s decision to remove fake news sites from their ad network may not make a difference. Coler says that after Google banned one of his sites from their ad network, “my inbox was just filled everyday with people . . . hundreds of people wanting to work with my sites.” According to Coler, the only thing that can stop fake news are the readers themselves. “The consumers of content have to be better at identifying this stuff,” Coler said. “We have a whole nation of media-illiterate people.”

    Tonight at the 92nd Street Y, Renata Adler, Paul Devlin, and Wynton Marsalis celebrate the Library of America’s new collection of Albert Murray’s essays and memoirs.

  • November 23, 2016

    Teju Cole, New York City, Shot by Tim Knox 347 683 4093. 1st May

    Teju Cole. Photo: Tim Knox

    Thirty-one writers, including Teju Cole, Maggie Nelson, and Luc Sante, have signed an open letter asking President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden. “By pardoning Snowden and permitting him to return free to the country he loves, your administration would be sending a message to the future,” they write: “that America remains committed to democratic accountability, and that tomorrow’s innovations will not be allowed to bend or bow the Constitution, but will, instead, be made to conform to it, and to reinforce the rights that it bestows.”

    It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel about facism in the US, has sold out on Amazon since the election.

    At the New York Times Magazine, Emily Bazelon reflects on Trump’s use of libel law as a tool for revenge, and what the media might be up against during his presidency. “Once installed in the White House, Trump will have a wider array of tools at his disposal, and his record suggests that, more than his predecessors, he will try to use the press — and also control and subdue it,” Bazelon writes.

    After cancelling in a series of tweets, Donald Trump eventually held meetings at the New York Times yesterday, first off the record with publisher Arthur Sulzberger, and later on the record with a group of reporters, editors, and columnists. Trump walked back on a few of his campaign promises, saying that he would not be prosecuting Hillary Clinton and would consider continuing to abide by the Paris climate accord, but did state that “he had no obligation to establish boundaries between his business empire and his White House.”

    Politico’s national editor Michael Hirsch resigned yesterday after he posted the address of Richard Spencer, a white nationalist, to Facebook and told readers to “exercise your rights as decent Americans.” Editor-in-chief John Harris and editor Carrie Budoff Brown said in a statement that his post was “clearly outside the bounds of acceptable discourse.”

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