• January 25, 2017

    Six journalists are now facing felony charges after being arrested while covering protests at the inauguration. Vocativ’s Evan Engel, RT America’s Alex Rubinstein, Story of America producer Jack Keller, and freelancers Matt Hopard, Shay Horse, and Aaron Cantú have all denied the charges. According to The Guardian, “none of the arrest reports for the six journalists makes any specific allegations about what any of them are supposed to have done wrong,” and five of the six arrest reports contain identical language. Carlos Lauria, the senior Americas coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, called for the charges to be dropped. “These charges are clearly inappropriate, and we are concerned that they could send a chilling message to journalists covering future protests,” Lauria said.

    After Svetlana Alexievich resigned from Russia PEN in protest over the group’s treatment of a jailed filmmaker, the organization released a statement that said that the author “has never been a member of the Russian PEN, so her declaration of leaving it sounds bizarre.” Alexievich responded with both a photo of her original membership papers from 1995, as well as screenshots of the website’s list of members from earlier this year. “Russian PEN is made out of really old people who don’t have an easy relationship with technology,” Alexievich said. “They forgot that the internet stores everything.”

    Howard Jacobson

    Man Booker prize-winning author Howard Jacobson has written a book in response to Donald Trump’s election. Pussy will be published by Jonathan Cape in April and tells the story of Prince Fracassus, an heir that presides over a land of “golden-gated skyscrapers and casinos.” Jacobson told The Guardian that he had been thinking about the book since the early days of Trump’s campaign in 2016, but that Trump’s win drove him to work on the book every day for two months straight. “Satire is an important weapon in the fight against what is happening and Trump looks like a person who is particularly vulnerable to derision,” Jacobson said.

    The Trump administration has placed a gag order on multiple federal agencies. The Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Department of Agriculture are just a few of the departments that have been ordered to cease all outside communication with the press and members of congress, as well as halt all social media, blog posts, and press releases.

    After Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway claimed that the administration was offering “alternative facts” about the size of the inauguration crowd, George Orwell’s 1984 has become the number-one best-selling book on Amazon. Penguin will be printing 75,000 new copies to keep up with demand.

    Netflix has bought the worldwide rights to Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press, a documentary which is being screened at Sundance.

    Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer, the journalists who first broke the story of the Panama Papers, implore journalists to work together in order to effectively cover Trump. Like the story of the Panama Papers, they write, much of the stories about Trump’s conflicts of interest will be “too big and too important to do alone.” The journalists also encourage White House correspondents to stand up for each other when Press Secretary Sean Spicer ignores or refuses to answer their colleagues’ questions. “If the media doesn’t want to see more press conferences like the disastrous one we saw recently,” the pair write, “they will need to be bold.”

  • January 24, 2017

    Philip Roth

    At the New Yorker, Judith Thurman emails with Philip Roth about the similarities between the Trump presidency and the presidency of Charles Lindbergh, which Roth invented for his novel The Plot Against America. Roth writes that a Lindbergh presidency makes more sense than a Trump presidency: “Lindbergh, despite his Nazi sympathies and racist proclivities, was a great aviation hero who had displayed tremendous physical courage and aeronautical genius in crossing the Atlantic in 1927. He had character and he had substance. . . . Trump is just a con artist.” According to Roth, the book that is a better explanation of Trump is Herman Melville’s The Confidence-Man, “the darkly pessimistic, daringly inventive novel—Melville’s last—that could just as well have been called ‘The Art of the Scam.’”

    National Book Foundation director Lisa Lucas talks to Time magazine about the National Book Awards, reaching the 27 percent of Americans who didn’t read a single book in the past year, and her recommended reading for President Trump. “We were so lucky to have such a wonderful reader in President Obama, who said that reading novels helped to make him a better citizen,” said Lucas, and recommended that Trump take a look at Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Arlie Russell Hoschschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land, and Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped From the Beginning. She also recommended books by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, as well as Nate Powell’s March trilogy, the third book of which recently won four American Library Association awards.

    The Independent profiles Dan Scavino, Trump’s director of social media and the man behind all @POTUS tweets not marked “DJT.” Scavino, whom Trump met as a golf caddy on one of his courses, often promotes fake news on his personal social media, is a follower of the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and has been tweeting for Trump since the presidential campaign. The Trump team says Scavino has been responsible for some of the Trump account’s most notorious tweets: He posted an image, which had originated on a neo-Nazi website, of Hillary Clinton with what appeared to be a Star of David (he said it was a “sheriff’s badge”) and the words, “Most corrupt candidate ever,” and he is the source of the famous misspellings, such as “honered,” “leightweight,” and, most memorably, “unpresidented.”

    The New York Times has apologized for an ill-advised article about fathers who took care of their kids while their partners were rallying at the women’s march. “How Vital Are Women? This Town Found Out as They Left to March” caused an immediate outcry from readers. The article’s author, Filip Bondy, says “I deserved it,” explaining that the article was meant to be lighthearted, “but these are not light times.”  

    Tonight at McNally Jackson books, Ottessa Moshfegh reads from her short-story collection, Homesick for Another World. In a recent review of the book, Moira Donegan notes that Moshfegh “makes her readers voyeuristically complicit in her depictions of poverty, compulsion, and physical decay. At the same time, she dares us to identify with these characters in their petty vanities and indulgences.”

  • January 23, 2017

    Women’s March on Washington. Photo: Mobilus In Mobili

    In September, New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet spoke on an “Inside the Timespodcast about the publication’s duty to call out candidate Trump’s untrue statements. This was certainly the case with the Times’s coverage of his first full day in office, when the paper published at least three articles about the president’s false claims regarding the size of the crowd at his inauguration and the origin of his feud with the CIA: “White House Pushes ‘Alternative Facts.’ Here are the Real Ones;” “With False Claims, Trump Attacks Media on Turnout and Intelligence Rift;” and “Trump’s Inauguration vs. Obama’s: Comparing the Crowds.” The paper also dedicated significant coverage to the women’s marches against Trump that took place all over the world on Saturday, including an article with a headline that seems almost tailor-made to infuriate him: “Crowd Scientists Say Women’s March in Washington Had 3 Times More People Than Trump’s Inauguration.” 

    At the Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan writes that the most important thing about the administration’s statements on Saturday was not necessarily the lies, but rather the hostile tone toward the press. Sullivan implores reporters not to “rise to the bait”: “Trump wants a flat-out war with the nation’s media for one well-calculated reason: Because he believes it will continue to serve his political purposes, as it has for months.”

    After New York Times public editor Liz Spayd argued that the paper was “too timid in its decisions not to publish the material it had” concerning Russian connections to the Trump campaign, Baquet told the Washington Post that she “doesn’t understand what happened.” Baquet said that the Times “reported the hell out of this . . . and we could prove nothing more than that there was some packets of information from a bank to Trump Tower. Sorry, Liz is just wrong. That is not journalism. It is typing.”

    The Guardian profiles Paul Auster and talks to him about his new book, 4 3 2 1, which, he says, he wrote with a feeling of imminent doom: “I started the book at 66, which is the year my father dropped dead of a heart attack. And once I passed that boundary, I began to live in a very creepy world. . . . There was a thought of sudden death in my head.” Now that he’s finished the novel and emerged from his “bunker,” Auster’s thoughts are turning to what his role as a writer in the Trump era should be. He’s taking over as president of PEN America early in 2018, and says, “I’m going to speak out as often as I can, otherwise I don’t think I can live with myself.”

    Novelist Yaa Gyasi is also reflecting on the Trump presidency. She writes that since the election, a Ghanaian proverb—“the ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people”—has been on her mind. “Something deeply private, like the filth in our homes, has been made public,” she writes. Gyasi wonders how so many Americans didn’t see the election results coming. “Either many Americans did not know that the house was in disarray, or they knew but hoped that the disorder wouldn’t get out, be seen, like laundry shoved into a spare cupboard before the guests arrive,” Gyasi writes. “Here we are now, our dirty laundry visible and stinking and everywhere.”

    By deleting a misspelled tweet, Trump may have violated both the Freedom of Information Act and the Presidential Records Act. After writing on his personal account that he was “honered” to serve America, both that tweet and a corrected follow-up tweet were deleted. Although it might seem like a minor issue, Rhett Jones writes that “history might tell a different story. If this man is so careless with his official communication less than 24 hours after becoming president, we’ll need the documentation to show that.”

  • January 20, 2017

    The intrepid investigative reporter Wayne Barrett, who enjoyed a long tenure at the Village Voice in the newsweekly’s heyday, died yesterday. Barrett’s books included Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 and Trump: The Deals and the Downfalls. The latter book, which was originally published in 1992, had a resurgence this year, selling for hundreds of dollars on Amazon until it was rereleased as an e-book with a new introduction by the author. Barrett remained an expert critic of Trump, who once had the reporter physically removed from a party, until the end. Barrett criticized many politicians, but in the process also won many local leaders’ respect. Michael Bloomberg writes: “Wayne Barrett was a tenacious reporter in the tradition of the old muckrakers who could sniff out corruption and special interest politics a mile away. No elected official always saw eye-to-eye with Wayne, including me. But I always respected his deep sense of moral purpose and encyclopedic knowledge of city politics, accumulated through a lifetime of tireless research.”

    Patrick Kingsley

    Guardian migration reporter and The New Odyssey author Patrick Kingsley will join the New York Times as an enterprise-investigative reporter.

    After criticism from both conservative and liberal media, the Times is standing behind an earlier article that alleged Rick Perry did not initially understand the job of Energy Secretary, a role that he has been nominated for by the Trump administration. The article cited only one named source, former Trump transition official Michael McKenna, who later told the Daily Caller that his words were misinterpreted by the paper. In a statement to Politico, a Times spokesperson said, “We stand by our story, which accurately reflected what multiple, high-level sources told our reporters.”

    The Hill reports that the Trump administration plans to defund the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among other departments. According to Brian Darling, a staffer at the conservative Heritage Foundation, “Targeting waste like the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be a good first step in showing that the Trump Administration is serious about radically reforming the federal budget.”

    At New York, Jonathan Chait details six books that can help readers understand “how the GOP went crazy.” Titles include EJ Dionne’s Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism—From Goldwater to the Tea Party, Kimberly Phillips-Fein’s Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade Against the New Deal, and Paul Krugman’s Peddling Prosperity: Economic Sense and Nonsense in an Age of Diminished Expectations.

    Women’s Wear Daily looks at which media outlets are allowing employees to attend the Women’s March on Washington as private citizens. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and BuzzFeed—all of which are sending reporters to cover the event—are only allowing reporters to attend if they are on assignment. Magazines don’t seem to be adhering to the same restrictions—Glamour staff who are not covering the event have chartered their own bus to DC, and employees at Hearst and Conde Nast are also reportedly attending.

    At Time, Eddie S. Glaude Jr. writes that Americans should refuse to watch Trump’s inauguration, arguing that lower ratings might be the only form of protest that can get through to him. “We should blank out: we should refuse to watch the Inauguration on television,” Glaude writes. “Help raise funds for the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and Earthjustice. Spend time with the people you love. Disengage from the spectacle. Turn off the television.”

  • January 19, 2017

    Helen Oyeyemi. Photo: Tom Pilston

    The finalists for the PEN America Literary Awards were announced yesterday. Nominees include Helen Oyeyemi’s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, Solmaz Sharif’s Look, Arthur Lubow’s Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer, and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing.

    Textbook publisher Pearson announced plans yesterday to sell its 47 percent stake in Penguin Random House, which it owns in partnership with Bertelsmann. The move has staff and authors concerned about consolidation. One anonymous author told The Guardian that although the company seems to be doing fine financially, “you always worry that any added pressure to streamline the business will narrow its publishing focus further. . . . For any author, you are only as good as your last book, so it’s a worry you could be vulnerable when things like this happen.”

    The Washington Post announced plans for a news product for women yesterday. The Lily, named after the first newspaper run by and for women, will launch later this year as “an experimental, visually-driven product designed for millennial women that will boldly reimagine The Post’s award-winning journalism.”

    In his final press conference, President Obama emphasized the need for close contact between the White House and the media, a possible reference to the Trump administration’s plan of moving journalists to another building nearby. Obama also encouraged the press to maintain its adversarial stance toward the next administration. “You’re not supposed to be sycophants,” Obama said. “You’re supposed to be skeptics.”

    The Society of Professional Journalists has partnered with sixty other journalism organizations to request a meeting with president-elect Donald Trump to discuss media access to the administration. Similar to requests made by the SJP to the Obama administration, the group wants to discuss the media’s ability to speak with government employees directly rather than through Public Information Officers, access to the President, and ways to maintain the strength of the Freedom of Information Act. In their press release, the SJP writes of hope that “they and the Trump administration can improve the lines of communication between the White House and the press.”

    The Trump International Hotel in DC has banned media during the week leading up to inauguration. The building, which is owned by Trump and his children, is on a sixty-year lease from the US General Services Administration. Politico’s Daniel Lippman attempted to look into whether “the hotel’s decision to ban media from property owned by the federal government and from a hotel controlled by the president-elect” violated any aspects of the lease.

     

  • January 18, 2017

    The New York Times released their “2020 Report” yesterday, which outlines the publication’s strategies and goals. The authors of the report focused on increasing subscribers and embracing digital journalism. “Too often, digital progress has been accomplished through workarounds; now we must tear apart the barriers,” the introduction states. “We must differentiate between mission and tradition: what we do because it’s essential to our values and what we do because we’ve always done it.” In a memo to staff, executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joseph Kahn clarified which of the report’s directives would be implemented in the newsroom. Throughout their list of changes—including streamlining of the editing process, an improved focus on staff diversity, and a $5 million investment in reporting on the Trump administration—the threat staffing cuts loomed. “Let’s not be coy,” Baquet and Kahn write. “These changes will lead to fewer editors at The Times. One of our overarching goals is to keep as many reporters, photographers, graphics experts and videographers on the ground as possible.”

    The release date for Ivanka Trump’s upcoming book, Women Who Work, has been pushed back from March to May of this year. In a statement, her publisher, Portfolio, said that the postponement will allow Trump to “accommodate these momentous changes . . . and give her time to settle her children into their new home, schools and city.”

    BuzzFeed is partnering with ProPublica, the Times, WYNC, and other news and civil-rights organizations to track and investigate reports of hate crimes in the US through the Documenting Hate project. “By getting better information on hate crimes and bias incidents in the US, we aim to make it harder for the authorities to ignore the problem,” BuzzFeed news reporter Peter Aldhous writes.

    Poynter writes that Donald Trump has no libel case against BuzzFeed after the website published a dossier of unconfirmed intelligence findings on the president-elect. Due to his status as a public figure, as well as the news value of the article, a lawsuit against the site would most likely have no standing. But there’s another reason Trump may hold off on suing anyone: According to Frank LoMonte, the director of the Student Press Law Center, “In a legal sense it would only open the door to look further into Donald Trump’s’ private life.”

    Jon Meacham

    In “The Long View,” a new series of articles in the Times, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Jon Meacham looks at how three novels from the 1930s—Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, Edward Dahlberg’s Those Who Perish, and Nathanael West’s A Cool Million—are still relevant today. Meacham compares the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt  to Donald Trump’s, writing that though “the 45th president of the United States comes to office at a calmer time than the 32nd . . . Donald Trump’s demagogic populism and his movement’s willingness to traffic in ethnic and racial stereotypes have put many Americans in the mind of the chaos of the 1930s. From Long to Charles Coughlin, we have been here before.”

  • January 17, 2017

    Yaa Gyasi. Photo: Michael Lionstar

    The finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award were announced today. Margaret Atwood will receive a lifetime achievement award, Yaa Gyasi’s Homecoming has won an award for debut fiction, and frequent New Republic and Guardian contributor Michelle Dean has won the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. Finalists for the book awards include Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone, Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, Ruth Franklin’s Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, John Edgar Wideman’s Writing to Save a Life, and Mark Greif’s Against Everything. Winners will be announced in March.

    The New York Times’s chief book critic Michiko Kakutani sat down with President Barack Obama to discuss how his love of reading and writing have guided his time in the White House. “Not since Lincoln has there been a president as fundamentally shaped—in his life, convictions and outlook on the world—by reading and writing as Barack Obama,” Kakutani writes. Obama discussed how Liu Cixin’s sci-fi, Shakespeare’s tragedies, and Lincoln’s speeches gave him perspective on the challenges he faced as president. “At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted,” Obama said, “the ability to slow down and get perspective, along with the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes—those two things have been invaluable to me.”

    After CNN found numerous incidents of plagiarism throughout Monica Crowley’s career, Crowley announced that she will not serve as Trump’s senior director of communications for the National Security Council.

    BuzzFeed editor in chief Ben Smith continues to defend the website’s decision to publish a dossier full of unconfirmed intelligence findings on Trump. In a CNN interview last weekend, Smith said that it’s not a  journalist’s job “to decide what to suppress and keep from our audience.” At the Washington Post, Erik Wemple points out that journalists deal with suppression every day in the form of denied or ignored FOIA requests and public relations officers. “To claim that sitting on [this document] is an act of suppression is to suggest a mild conspiracy to protect Trump,” Wemple writes. “Pretty sure that doesn’t exist.”

    At Politico, Jack Shafer writes that Trump’s presidency could unintentionally Make Journalism Great Again. Shafer takes examples from Trump’s press conferences, Reince Priebus’s plan to evict journalists from the White House, and Sean Spicer’s control over news briefings to suggest that journalists will have plenty of chances to hone their skills over the next four years. “Instead of relying exclusively on the traditional skills of political reporting,” Shafer writes, “the carriers of press cards ought to start thinking of covering Trump’s Washington like a war zone, where conflict follows conflict, where the fog prevents the collection of reliable information directly from the combatants, where the assignment is a matter of life or death.”

  • January 16, 2017

    Svetlana Alexievich

    Nobel Prize-winning author Svetlana Alexievich has left Russian PEN. She is joining thirty other writers in protesting PEN’s decision to expel journalist Sergey Parkhomenko after he criticized the group for not supporting a jailed Ukranian filmmaker. In her letter, Alexievich writes that the group’s decision to disavow Parkhomenko is an echo of the Stalinist era. “Putin will go, whereas this shameful page from the history of PEN will stay,” Alexievich writes. “We now live through times when we cannot win over evil, we are powerless before the ‘red man’. But he cannot stop time. I believe in that.”

    Trump administration officials told Esquire that they are planning to evict the White House press corps from their White House location. Although incoming press secretary Sean Spicer said the move was being considered in order to create more space for the extra journalists assigned to cover the president, an unnamed senior official told the magazine another story: “They are the opposition party. I want ’em out of the building. We are taking back the press room.”

    In an interview with the Sunday Times, Trump said that he will be keeping his personal Twitter account and will not use @POTUS. Trump explained that his decision was influenced by his large number of followers and his relationship with the press. “The tweeting, I thought I’d do less of it, but I’m covered so dishonestly by the press—so dishonestly—that I can put out Twitter—and it’s not 140, it’s now 280—I can go bing bing bing . . . and they put it on and as soon as I tweet it out,” Trump said.

    After Trump said that Representative John Lewis was “all talk,” the civil rights leader’s books have become best sellers, and his memoir Walking with the Wind has sold out on Amazon.

    In the New York Times, Adam Kirsch reflects on the changing relationship between truth and fiction and how it has changed in the post-fact era. Kirsch looks at readers’ increasing disinterest in fiction that presents itself as such, the increase in novels that draw directly from the life of the author, and how truth has become increasingly irrelevant. “The problem with our ‘post-truth’ politics,” Kirsh writes, “is that a large share of the population has moved beyond true and false. They thrill precisely to the falsehood of a statement, because it shows that the speaker has the power to reshape reality in line with their own fantasies of self-righteous beleaguerment. To call novelists liars is naïve, because it mistakes their intention; they never wanted to be believed in the first place. The same is true of demagogues.”

  • January 13, 2017

    Ani DiFranco

    Ani DiFranco has announced plans for her first book, to be published by Viking. The singer will write a memoir about her early years in New York and her political activism. A release date and title have yet to be set.

    BuzzFeed sold more than $25,000 worth of t-shirts, garbage cans, and bumper stickers on Wednesday after Donald Trump called the website as a “failing pile of garbage.” All proceeds from the sale are being donated to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

    The BBC is creating its own fact-checking team to fight the spread of fake news. The Reality Check team will investigate stories that circulate on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms. “The BBC can’t edit the internet, but we won’t stand aside either,” said news director James Harding.

    Twitter is partnering with PBS NewsHour to livestream Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20.

    Too Dumb to Fail author Matt Lewis talks to the Washington Post about his decision to leave the Daily Caller for the Daily Beast. Lewis said that he has two goals for himself in his new job as a political columnist for the news site: “One, to present conservative ideas to a mainstream audience that is compelling and explanatory and the other is to hold Donald Trump accountable.”

    John Carney, the Wall Street Journal reporter who is leaving the newspaper to head Breitbart’s business coverage, talks to the Columbia Journalism Review about his career move, a decision he says his colleagues at the Journal have supported. Carney said he was attracted to the company by its “entrepreneurial, startup energy” and denied that Breitbart caters to people with racist and xenophobic views. “I don’t think that that reputation is justified,” Carney said. “I think it is a site that cares about a very broad swath of Americans.”

  • January 12, 2017

    After publishing a dossier of unverified intelligence findings on president-elect Donald Trump, BuzzFeed editor in chief Ben Smith defended the decision in a memo to staff. “Our presumption is to be transparent in our journalism and to share what we have with our readers,” Smith wrote. “In this case, the document was in wide circulation at the highest levels of American government and media.” Other news outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post, among others, have stated that they did have the report, but chose not to publish it after they were unable to confirm many of the claims. At the Post, Margaret Sullivan calls the choice to publish the document, which consists of “rumor and innuendo,” unacceptable. “None of the circumstances surrounding this episode—not CNN’s story, not Trump’s dubious history with Russia, not the fact that the intelligence community made a report on it—should change that ethical rule,” Sullivan writes. At The Atlantic, David Graham looks at the likely effects of publishing an unverified dossier of this nature. “When serious and conscientious outlets publish information for whose veracity they cannot vouch,” Graham writes, “they make it easy for critics of the press to brand all reporting with which they disagree as simply ‘fake news.’”

    At his first press conference in over five months, Trump refuted all accusations found in the BuzzFeed document, referring to the website as “a failing pile of garbage,” and praised outlets that chose not to publish it as “so professional.” Erik Wemple notes the dilemma found in of Trump’s supposed admiration for news outlets that did not publish the document, writing, “There you have it, media: If you want the praise of Donald Trump, sit on negative information about him.” Wemple also has a transcript of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s attempts to question the president-elect. Acosta later reported that Spicer threatened to throw him out of future press conferences if he ever insisted on asking a question after being told no.

    After being sued last week for $15 million dollars by Shiva Ayyadurai, who also sued Gawker, Techdirt writes about the website’s “first amendment fight for its life.” Editor Mike Masnick notes that the legal battle could force the company to close, and that the case is about more than who truly invented email. “This is a fight,” Masnick writes, “about whether or not our legal system will silence independent publications for publishing opinions that public figures do not like.”

    Facebook has launched its “Journalism Project,” which aims to combat the spread of fake news by working more closely with local news outlets, promoting news literacy among users, and “continuing to listen.”

    Zadie Smith

    After a reading of her new novel Swing Time, Zadie Smith talked to David Ulin about the book, writing as voyeurism, and cultural appropriation. “The construction of the idea that a culture is delicate and needs utter protection, I find actually quite malignant,” Smith said. She reflected on the first time she read Madame Bovary. “I cannot say it occurred to me to be offended that it had been written by a man,” Smith said. “I felt it was a fantastic act of drag.”

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