• April 11, 2017

    The 2017 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced yesterday. Winners include the New Yorker’s Hilton Als for criticism, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water. BuzzFeed news was a finalist in the competition for the first time, for an expose of arbitration strategies used by international companies.

    At the New Yorker, Rebecca Mead profiles Margaret Atwood. The two discuss witches, feminism, and why the 2016 election would make terrible fiction. “There are too many wild cards,” Atwood said. “You want me to believe that the F.B.I. stood up and said this, and that the guy over at WikiLeaks did that? Fiction has to be something that people would actually believe. If you had published it last June, everybody would have said, ‘That is never going to happen.’”

    Margot Lee Shetterly. Photo: Megan Mendenhall

    Hidden Figures author Margot Lee Shetterly has signed a two-book deal with Viking. Titles and publication dates for Shetterly’s forthcoming books have not been announced, but both works will highlight “extraordinary ordinary African-Americans whose contributions to American history have, for one reason or another, been untold, unseen, or overlooked.”

    Ron Howard will produce and direct a film based on J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. Imagine Entertainment president Erica Huggins said that the book has illuminated “the plight of America’s white working class, speaking directly to the turmoil of our current political climate.”

    Business Insider reports that Breitbart employees have been told to stop publishing articles that criticize Jared Kushner. The request comes after the New York Times detailed the animosity between Kushner and former Breitbart editor and current chief strategist Stephen Bannon. The Washington Post investigates how Bannon relied on dozens of nonprofit and private companies “to advance his conservative, populist agenda and bring in millions of dollars” through the production of conservative documentary films.

    The New York Times profiles publisher Adam Bellow, who recently left his job as editorial director of the conservative HarperCollins imprint Broadside and created a new, bipartisan imprint at St. Martin’s Press. The son of author Saul Bellow said that the move does not mean he’s renounced his neoconservative views, but that he wants to foster cross-cultural dialogue. “Both sides need to re-examine their assumptions,” he said, “and I want to sponsor that process.”

  • April 10, 2017

    Sam Lipsyte

    Almost immediately after the results of the 2016 US Presidential election were announced, Howard Jacobson, the British author whose book The Finkler Question won the Booker Prize, started writing a satire about Donald Trump. The novel, titled Pussy, will be released in England on April 13, and in the US in May. The Washington Post’s Ron Charles calls the novel a “ribald” and “grotesque fairy tale.”

    At Granta, Elif Batuman notes the importance of remembering the power imbalance that is often involved in travel writing (especially when the writer is from a “world-dominating superpower”), but also posits that “travel writing is a microcosm for all writing, and the counterintuitive landscapes and stories one finds in other cultures are just another version of the unexpected and counterintuitive landscapes and stories we all find in the world outside ourselves.” The goal is to do it with awareness: “In describing and moving through these landscapes, the only real recourse we have against charges of exploitation or tone-deafness is to bring as much empathy and as wide a consciousness as we can manage.”

    The novelist Susan Choi relates the fascinating story of how Donald Barthelme’s first novel, Snow White (which first appeared in the New Yorker in 1967), has finally made its way to the stage. It might not have happened: Barthelme threw away the script he wrote. But his wife had fished an early draft, written in 1974, out of the trash. Last Friday, the Catastrophic Theatre company brought the play to the stage in Houston.

    A bill sponsored by Arkansas Representative Kim Hendren, which would have banned all books by Howard Zinn (and all books referring to Howard Zinn) in the state, has been stopped by the Arkansas House’s education committee.

    On Thursday, novelist Marlon James (A Brief History of Seven Killings) joined the National Book Foundation director Lisa Lucas for a public discussion titled “Can Literature Make a Damn Bit of Difference?” The answer came quickly: Yes. Elsewhere, in Bomb, Sam Lipsyte talked with George Saunders, and recalled someone asking “how publishing a story in the New Yorker is going to fight the oppression of the moment.” His response: “You can respond to the moment, but you can’t guarantee that whatever good might come of what you write will happen now. Your work may not be relevant or useful for a while, so don’t worry about it not meeting present needs.” Saunders agrees: “Yeah, writing is not necessarily a short-term tool.”

    Brian Evenson, Fiona Maazel, Samantha Hunt, Phil Klay, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Marisa Silver are among the fiction writers who have been named 2017 Guggenheim fellows

  • April 7, 2017

    Maggie Nelson. Photo: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

    After a hiatus last year, the Folio Prize has returned with a new sponsor. This year’s shortlist includes Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing, CE Morgan’s The Sport of Kings, and Hisham Matar’s The Return. The winner will be announced in May.

    Twitter has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration. The suit comes in response to Department of Homeland Security requests for the identity of the person behind the @ALT_USCIS account, which has been critical of the administration’s immigration and border policies. The company said that the demand impinges on its users’ rights to free speech and “would have a grave chilling effect on the speech of that account,” as well others that criticize Trump’s policies.

    Facebook has rolled out a new tool to stop the flow of fake news. The social media site will now offer a guide to identifying fake articles at the top of users’ news feeds. Academic publisher De Gruyter is teaming up with Columbia, Princeton, and Harvard University Press on a “Rights, Action and Social Responsibility” initiative. The program will offer free books and journal articles on topics like immigration, climate change, and Islamic studies.

    A Little Life author Hanya Yanagihara has been hired as the new editor in chief of T: The New York Times Magazine. Yanagihara was previously the deputy editor of the magazine.

    At the New York Times, Katherine Rosman looks at how the children’s publishing world has responded to the Trump presidency. Children’s nonfiction has become a more lucrative genre for publishers due to Common Core requirements, but the books rarely deal with public figures that have a background as complicated as Trump. Some publishers have included sections about Trump’s racist campaign statements and policies, while others have decided to hold off on writing anything about him. Jane O’Connor, an author for Penguin Young Readers, says there are no books planned on Trump’s presidency in the next year. “I don’t think Trump’s life beforehand is all that interesting,” she said. “To have a book that is just about him winning the presidency, we think it’s not warranted.”

    The Chicago Tribune reviews one of Amazon’s first physical bookstores, calling it “a deeply, unsettlingly normal place,” with “the personality of an airport bookstore and . . . all the charm of its stone floor.”

    Tonight, the Brooklyn Public Library continues their Vision and Justice series, which explores how photography has impacted the African-American experience.

  • April 6, 2017

    John Berger

    At n+1, Annie Julia Wyman reflects on the timelessness of John Berger’s writing. “He was a monument, a world of his own,” she writes. “His thinking and his art—which are the same thing—address themselves at once to the past, the present, and the future.”

    Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, have each signed deals with Flatiron Books. The reportedly $8 million deal includes two books from the former Vice President and a third that will be co-written with Jill Biden. Biden’s first book will be a memoir of the challenges he faced in his last year in the White House, including the death of his son Beau.

    Megyn Kelly has finished negotiating her leave from Fox, and is now able to appear on NBC. Her new programs at the network will begin later this year.

    After a New York Times article reported that Fox News has paid $13 million to settle multiple sexual harassment lawsuits on behalf of Bill O’Reilly, dozens of advertisers have dropped The O’Reilly Factor. Both the network and O’Reilly remain silent on the issue, and viewership has increased since the article first appeared last weekend. Donald Trump told the Times that he believes O’Reilly is a “good person” who should not have settled his lawsuits. Jim Rutenberg writes that even though the network pledged to change its ways after the Roger Ailes scandal last summer, most of the people responsible for hiding Ailes’s misbehavior are still on the payroll, and company culture has stayed the same. According to Rutenberg, the impact of this lack of change reaches far outside the newsroom. “The wildness that allegedly permeates Fox News’s office culture has extended to its reportage in ways that have at times helped President Trump create his famous alternative reality,” he writes.

    Tonight, the Center for Fiction celebrates Grace Paley, whose work was recently collected in A Grace Paley Reader. Karen Olsson writes that our current political moment is the perfect time to read (or re-read) Paley’s stories and essays. “To remain open to what you don’t understand, to take a real interest in life, to put yourself on the line. She lived and wrote like that,” Olsson writes. “If today’s newspapers seem not always up to the task of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, this book did the trick.”

  • April 5, 2017

    Gabriel Sherman reports that a third employee has joined the racial discrimination lawsuit against Fox News. Credit collections manager Monica Douglas said that the company knew about former comptroller Judy Slater’s behavior, but was told that “Slater will not be fired, because she knows too much.” Sherman’s TV miniseries about Fox’s Roger Ailes scandal, co-written with Tom McCarthy, has been picked up by Showtime.

    Naomi Klein is rushing to publish No Is Not Enough, her new book on the Trump administration, which she began writing last February. Although she usually spends “at least five years” on research and writing, Klein will have the book ready for sale in June.

    Imbolo Mbue. Photo: Kiriko Sano

    The PEN/Faulkner Foundation has announced Imbolo Mbue as the winner of the 2017 Pen/Faulkner Fiction Award for her book, Behold the Dreamers. Mbue will receive her the prize at a ceremony in May.

    At Out Magazine, Aaron Hicklin talks to Lydia Polgreen about her childhood, her new job at the Huffington Post, and her long career at the New York Times.

    The Atlantic’s White House correspondent, Rosie Gray, has signed with HarperCollins to write a book about Breitbart News. Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, who has profiled Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, and other members of Trump’s administration, is working on a book about conservative populism and its effect on the 2016 election.

    In the New York Times Magazine, Jonathan Mahler profiles CNN president Jeff Zucker, and explains how the Trump campaign helped him reinvigorate the once-struggling network. “Trump’s foray into reality TV gave Zucker a prime-time hit when he badly needed one; now, Trump’s foray into politics has given Zucker a big story when he badly needed one,” he writes. “It’s a symbiotic relationship that could only thrive in the world of television, where the borders between news and entertainment, and even fantasy and reality, have grown increasingly murky.”

  • April 4, 2017

    Atlantic Media chairman David Bradley talks about his failed purchase of the now-shuttered National Journal.

    Calvin Tomkins profiles Dana Schutz, the artist whose abstract oil painting of Emmett Till’s body has caused controversy at the Whitney Biennial.

    Howard Jacobson is still furious about Trump’s election, and encourages others to stay angry as well. “There mustn’t be a moment when we turn on the TV and think there’s Trump in the White House—that must never feel normal,” he told The Guardian. “That ‘get over it’ thing—ooh, I want to kill anybody who says get over it. Why should I get over it? I’ve actually not met anyone who is as angry as I am about it.”

    Jill Abramson. Photo: Peter Yang

    Lena Dunham talks to Jill Abramson about her upcoming book, teaching at Harvard, and leaving the New York Times. Abramson explained why she always honest about the fact that she was fired from the paper. “I’ve devoted my life to words and their meaning, and so why not?” she said. “If you use some euphemism, people are left wondering, What happened?

    At the Columbia Journalism Review, Kerry Myers reflects on criminal justice reporting. Myers spent twenty-seven years in prison, where he worked as a writer and editor for the Louisiana State Penitentiary’s inmate-produced magazine, The Angolite. “Prison is necessary, but not the way we do it—wasting finite resources and destroying redeemable lives—and certainly not the way we understand it,” he writes. “For the latter, the media is largely to blame.”

  • April 3, 2017

    National Book Critics Circle Award winner Ishion Hutchinson

    As the New York Times points out, a number of recently published dystopian novels suddenly “seem more like grim prophecy than science fiction.”

    “Name a writer or publication you disagree with but still read…” Vox interviews Roxane Gay

    In a review of the documentary I Am Not Your Negro, Colm Toibin celebrates the work of James Baldwin, “the finest essayist and prose-stylist of his generation.” The essay opens with an anecdote about the recently deceased New York Review of Books editor Robert Silvers, who, working at Harper’s in the 1960s, became concerned that an essay by Baldwin had not yet arrived. Baldwin could not be reached by phone, so Silvers decided, as devoted editors sometimes do, to visit the writer at his apartment

    Former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe is working on a series of books about his life. The first, a photo-based autobiography, is due out later this year.

    Brooklyn magazine has posted photos from this year’s National Book Critics Circle Awards.

    At the New Yorker, Christine Smallwood talks to Laura Kipnis about consent, totalitarianism, and her new book, Unwanted Advances. Kipnis says that she’s still trying to understand the many sides of the issue, including the harassment she has experienced herself. Once, an unnamed man who was well-known in the field of cultural studies threw his drink on her and bit her leg. “Now it’s become sort of a fond memory,” she recalls. “I should have said he *flirtatiously* threw a drink on me. I actually had to go upstairs and dry my hair.”

    For months, it was unclear whether or not Bob Dylan would accept his Nobel Prize at all. Then, at the public ceremony, Patti Smith received it for him. Now, Dylan has finally accepted the award in person, at a secret ceremony in Stockholm.

  • March 31, 2017

    The Believer has been sold to the Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Joshua Wolf Shenk, the director of the Institute, will take over as editor. The current editors, Heidi Julavits and Vendela Vida, will remain as consultants. Vida told the Associated Press that although The Believer has become more financially stable over the years, the sale will help sustain the magazine for the long term. “To persist and grow,” Vida said, “The Believer needs resources and an ambitious agenda, and Josh and the Black Mountain Institute have both.”

    Mary Gaitskill talks to the Huffington Post about Twitter, politics, and her recent essay collection, Somebody With a Little Hammer. Gaitskill stays she’s stayed away from social media because of its impersonal nature. “I thought it would just be positively dangerous for me to get on Twitter at night, when I’ve had a little too much to drink, and start expressing myself,” she said. “It’s one thing to do that with somebody who you’re looking at, and who may think you’re a drunken idiot or an unstable person, but at least you’re looking at that person. With Twitter it’s like, you don’t even see who they are.”

    The TV series based on Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend will be broadcast by HBO. The show’s dialogue will be in Italian, with English subtitles. Although HBO has committed only to the eight-episode first season, the New York Times writes that “the ultimate aim is to adapt all four novels, for a total of 32 episodes.”

    Nan Talese

    At Vanity Fair, Evgenia Peretz profiles Nan Talese, head of her eponymous imprint at Doubleday and wife of journalist Gay Talese. Peretz explores the “intense mystery” of the couple’s nearly sixty-year marriage, which has weathered numerous infidelities and a book based on said infidelities. Talese has a tendency to go after the things she wants and do whatever is needed to get them—she surprised her then-boyfriend in Rome and told him they were getting married. Even in her professional life, Talese made her way up the ranks of publishing houses while raising two children and dealing with male authors who didn’t like the idea of a female editor. The Taleses’ two daughters are also baffled by their longevity of their parents’ relationship. Though her husband is currently working on a book about their relationship, Talese doesn’t seem worried. “He doesn’t know anything about marriage,” she said, “so I’m not concerned.”

    Elizabeth Spiers, founding editor of Gawker and former editor in chief of The Observer, explains why her old boss Jared Kushner is not the right leader for the Office of American Innovation. Spiers writes that Kushner had trouble translating his real estate experience to the media world, and was wary of spending money on the publication, even when it was doing well. After the paper’s first profitable quarter, Kushner suggested layoffs. “He wanted the Observer to be cheaper to run, usually at the expense of growth and evolution.” Spiers also notes that Kushner might be innovative, but not in an effective way. When she started her job at The Observer, she was given Kushner’s old Macbook laptop. Kushner “liked the design of Apple products” but not the operating system, so the computer was running Windows. “Frankensteining two products you appreciate into one product you appreciate even more isn’t irrational; it’s even creative, in a way,” she writes. “On the other hand, why did the newspaper’s owner need a $2,500 monitor?”

  • March 30, 2017

    Bob Dylan will accept his Nobel Prize after one of his previously-scheduled performances in Stockholm this weekend. In a “Good news about Dylan” blog post, Swedish Academy permanent secretary Sara Danius wrote that the Academy “will show up at one of the performances,” but that Dylan will not be giving his required lecture at the media-free, Academy-only event.

    Rosie Gray

    Three months after leaving BuzzFeed for The Atlantic, Rosie Gray has been named as the magazine’s White House correspondent.

    Digiday looks at The Guardian’s US office, which was responsible for Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting on the National Security Agency and Edward Snowden, but is still struggling to turn a profit and faces layoffs in the coming months. Although the most recent budget cuts have been attributed to a company-wide cost-cutting effort, former employees blame the situation on frequent leadership turnover and poor business decisions, from not using a paywall to bad real estate deals.

    At the New Yorker, John Cassidy reflects on Theresa May’s Brexit rhetoric after the UK government announced plans to begin negotiations of the country’s exit from the European Union. Cassidy writes that May’s speech—in which she spoke of her “fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country” and a desire to “live in a truly global Britain that gets out and builds relationships with old friends and new allies around the world”—was “filled with so many false claims, so much cant, and so many examples of wishful thinking that it is hard to know where to begin.”

    Fox News is facing a new discrimination lawsuit. Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright, a payroll manager and payroll coordinator, say that they experienced “top-down racial harassment” from company comptroller Judith Slater, who was fired late last month after discrimination allegations were brought to higher-ups.

    Shaya Tayefe Mohajer examines the reporting on the murder of Timothy Caughman, who was stabbed to death in New York by a white supremacist. Mohajer notes that the first articles about the attack focused on misleading information, like Caughman’s 2002 arrest, and irrelevant details, like his assailant’s clothing choices. Other articles speculated that the two men had fought, an unsubstantiated detail not found in early police reports. According to Mohajer, not only do these editorial choices reinforce old biases about black crime victims, but they also fail to offer any empathy to the dead. “What crime writers don’t seem to recognize is that they are often writing obituaries for the city’s most unlucky,” she writes.

  • March 29, 2017

    Claudia Rankine

    Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric has won the 2016 Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry. The $10,000 prize will be awarded to Rankine at a ceremony in April. At Artforum, Lauren O’Neill-Butler talks to the author about the Racial Imaginary Institute, which Rankine founded after winning her MacArthur “genius” grant last year. The institute is still settling on a location somewhere in New York, but Rankine hopes that it will be located somewhere more accessible than a university campus. “It would have been easier for me to bring it to an academic space,” she said. “I would have had more access and things would have moved much more quickly, but then we would have been inside an elite and closed space, and it would be harder to enter the mainstream.” Rankine also discussed why she thinks that our current system of white supremacy and the rise of the “alt-right” cannot be blamed on capitalism alone. “A good example is the people who are on the Affordable Care Act who say they want to keep it but who also want to get rid of ‘Obamacare,’” she said. “They understand that the ACA is useful to them, but they don’t want anything that is proximate to blackness near them. That’s not about the economy.”

    The journals of late singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley are being collected into a book. Da Capo Press will publish Jeff Buckley: His Own Voice in spring 2019.

    The Mothers author Brit Bennett talks to The Millions about writing a screenplay, abortion, and the racial assumptions people made about her book. Many readers seemed surprised that Bennett would set a story about a black community in Southern California. “My working theory on this is that what people expect from a black story is a racism-driven plot,” she said. “My book is a story that is inflected by race, but the plot points don’t hinge on racism. That’s one way in which my book upends expectations. People think because it’s about a religious community it must be set in Mississippi.”

    Over one hundred employees of the Wall Street Journal have signed a letter to editor in chief Gerard Baker and deputy editor Matt Murray requesting that management take steps to make the newsroom more diverse in terms of both race and gender. “There are currently four women and eight men listed as deputy managing editors, and both editorial page editors are men,” the letter points out. “Nearly all the people at high levels at the paper deciding what we cover and how are white men.”

    BuzzFeed is opening an office in Austin, Texas. The website hopes to use the new location to break out of the New York-centric focus of most media companies.“As a lot of people who live in the South, or in the Midwest have observed, there’s sort of a coastal thing that happens where everyone writing most media is based in California or New York,” said Summer Anne Burton, who will be running the office. “So I definitely think it’s an advantage to be in Texas.”

    Tonight at McNally Jackson, Harper’s Magazine hosts a discussion on resisters and collaborators with Masha Gessen, Kate Crawford, Corey Robin, Lawrence Jackson, and Sarah Schulman.

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