• September 8, 2017

    Roxane Gay. Photo: Jay Grabiec.

    Yesterday on Facebook, Roxane Gay announced that she has been hired to write an advice column for the New York Times.

    Bestselling author James Patterson donated $1.75 million to public-school teachers to help improve their classroom libraries.

    The Portland, Oregon, book festival Wordstock has released the lineup of this year’s event, which will take place on November 11. Author who will participate in the festival include Mac Barnett, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Carson Ellis, Jeffrey Eugenides, Adam Gopnik, David Grann, Jenny Han, Daniel Handler, Claire Messud, Tom Perrotta, Danez Smith, Lidia Yuknavitch, and many more.

    In response to the announcement of Graydon Carter’s retirement, The Awl promptly came up with a list of replacements, naming “10 women who should edit Vanity Fair.”

    Novelist and poet Ben Lerner has written an eloquent and moving tribute to John Ashbery: “The obituaries seem intent on noting that he ‘aroused controversy,’ that he has his detractors. I can’t even muster feelings of partisanship about his poetry; I just feel pity for those who haven’t, for whatever reason, been able to accept the gift of his work.”

    John Steinbeck’s stepdaughter has been awarded more than $13 million in a lawsuit arguing that other family members had prevented film adaptations of the author’s work.

  • September 7, 2017

    Kate Millett

    Graydon Carter has announced that he will end his twenty-five-year run as the editor of Vanity Fair in December. The New York Times notes the significance of the news: “Mr. Carter’s influence and stature in the magazine and entertainment world is so great that to call his exit a changing of the guard seems insufficient: This is more of a regal passage.”   

    Kate Millet, the feminist author best known for her 1970 book Sexual Politics, has died.

    The New York Times has hired progressive writer Michelle Goldberg to be a full-time columnist. She is one of three women (out of fourteen total writers) to hold the position. Goldberg explained her aspiration for the new column to HuffPo: “One thing I hope to do is to be a voice for the majority of the people in this country who cannot believe what the fuck is going on.”

    Picador has acquired The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven (2014), the best-selling postapocalyptic novel about a group of actors. The new book “begins in 2004 when a young cook named Nicole Stevenson disappears from a container ship off the coast of Mauritania. Four years later, a massive Ponzi scheme implodes in New York, dragging countless fortunes with it. Moving back and forth in time, The Glass Hotel traces the intriguing tangle of lives caught up in both events.” In other book-deal news, Random House will publish Happiness in This Life, the next book by Pope Francis.

    Casey Affleck has been cast to play the title role in the forthcoming film adaptation of John Williams’s 1965 university-set novel Stoner, which has become a cult classic since its republication in 2006 by New York Review Books.

    The Paris Review has announced that it has hired Nadja Spiegelman, the author of the memoir I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This, to be its new web editor.

    Featured prominently on Amazon’s list of 100 books everyone should read: Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

  • September 6, 2017

    In the wake of the president’s order to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), it’s worth revisiting Valeria Luiselli’s November 2016 Lit Hub essay about the consequences of ending the program and the options for resistance. Luiselli writes that sustained daily action is the most effective form of protest and underscores the necessity of active resistance: “I don’t think I can bear hearing one more person declaring any variation of ‘Even though I am not a Trump-target, I am still hurt/worried/ashamed/full-of-guilt.’ When anyone in a society is the target of institutionalized violence, everyone in that society is a target, simply because that is what living in a society means.”

    Job cuts are expected at Conde Nast as they prepare their second restructuring of the year.

    Vanessa Grigoriadis

    Tonight at the Strand bookstore in Manhattan, Vanessa Grigoriadis discusses her new book, Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus.

    Publishers Weekly looks at how Hurricane Harvey has affected some independent bookstores in the Houston area. It hasn’t been pretty. As store owner Lori Koviac notes, “Books do not do well in the rain.”

    At NPR, author and former British intelligence officer John Le Carré talks about his new book, Legacy of Spies. The novelist explains the challenge of writing a spy thriller without the Cold War intrigue he became famous for evoking: “We have no coherent ideology in the West. And we used to believe in the great American example; I think that’s recently been profoundly undermined for us. We are alone.” But as Andrew Meier has pointed out, Le Carré’s craft has little to do with ideology or the technical details of espionage: “To read Le Carré is to be in the hands of an authority on not only tradecraft but also human frailties and self-deceptions, a guide with a moral compass, the kind of man the English of a certain age call ‘sound.’”

  • September 5, 2017

    Chelsea Manning will headline this year’s New Yorker Festival. Other events at the festival include a discussion between Preet Bharara, the New York federal attorney who was appointed by President Obama and later fired by Trump, and legal writer Jeffrey Toobin.

    John Ashbery

    Following John Ashbery’s death this weekend, there have been a number of tributes: Paul Muldoon writes about how Ashbery “changed the rules of American poetry”; the New York Times has published an obituary (coauthored by author Dinitia Smith and poetry critic David Orr) and a selection of Ashbery’s poems; and at Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield took a detour in his obituary for Steely Dan’s Walter Becker to write: “It makes cosmic sense that he slipped away the same day as our country’s greatest living writer, the poet John Ashbery, another American original who struck people as perversely abstract and inscrutable. ‘All things are secretly bored,’ Ashbery declared in 1975’s The Vermont Notebook, an American credo that could have been a Steely Dan line.”

    Khaled Hosseini, the author of the bestselling novel The Kite Runner (2003), has been documenting the lives of refugees. “Everybody knows there’s a war,” he told a reporter at The Guardian, “but once you feel what that war means, I think for most people it’s unfathomable not to act on it, even if it’s in a small way. It becomes that much harder to simply dismiss or move past. It prickles your consciousness.”  

    Novelist Susan Vreeland, whose novel Girl in Hyacinth Blue (1999) traces the history of a painting that is thought to be a lost Vermeer, has died.

    Tom Clancy’s ex-wife and widow are in a legal fight over who owns the rights to Clancy’s character Jack Ryan, who first appeared in The Hunt for Red October (1984) and continues to live on in a series of books written in Clancy’s style after Clancy’s death.

    Salman Rushdie, whose New York novel The Golden House was just published, weighs in on the US’s current political situation: “A lot of what Trump unleashed was there anyway.”

  • September 3, 2017

    The American poet John Ashbery has died at age ninety. “What more is there to do, except stay? And that we cannot do.”

  • September 1, 2017

    Jhumpa Lahiri

    Francesca Pellas talks to Jhumpa Lahiri about language learning, translation, and why it’s never a good idea to write with readers in mind. When Lahiri first started writing in Italian, she says other writers discouraged her from the project, saying that there would be no readers. But Lahiri said she was never worried about whether people needed her book or not. “I think that writing must also be a selfish act,” she said. “A book might reach out to someone else at some point, after years, or maybe never at all, but it is not up to me to write with this idea in mind. Writing is, above all, an internal dialogue.”

    Jesmyn Ward tells the New York Times about her reading and writing habits. Ward says she has no interest in having anyone write her life story. “I did it in Men We Reaped,” she said, “and that was harrowing enough.”

    Jessie Daniels looks at white supremacist websites and reflects on the 2003 Supreme Court decision that defined cross burning as unprotected speech, wondering “what constitutes a burning cross in the digital era?” Daniels focuses on Stormfront, which was recently shut down, and martinlutherking.org, a facade for a white supremacist forum created by Stormfront founder Don Black, that is still online. “The fact that Stormfront is offline but martinlutherking.org isn’t suggests that we aren’t very sophisticated yet in our thinking about what kinds of risks white supremacy poses,” he writes. “While Stormfront is an obvious, overt threat to people’s lives, the cloaked site is a more subtle and insidious threat to the underlying moral argument for civil rights. Both are dangers to democracy.”

    At The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald writes that the New York Times’s decision to hire conservative columnist Bari Weiss as an op-ed contributor reveals the paper’s “understanding of ‘diversity,’ and the range of opinions it does, and does not, permit.” “For the contemporary NYT op-ed page,” he writes, “diversity spans the small gap from establishment centrist Democrats to establishment centrist Republicans, with the large groups of people outside of those factions essentially excluded.”

    Ron Charles reflects on the recently announced all-female film remake of Lord of the Flies. David Siegel, who will be writing and directing the movie with Scott McGehee, said that the themes of “interpersonal conflicts and bullying” make the book “a timeless story.” “So, basically, ‘Mean Girls with pork,” writes Charles.

     

  • August 31, 2017

    Danzy Senna

    The Rumpus talks to Danzy Senna about 1990s Brooklyn, Jonestown, and why she gave up on another novel in favor of writing her latest book, New People. “There was something in it that wasn’t moving forward. I think I couldn’t quite find the story. Sometimes a character’s problem starts to bleed into the novel itself, the writing, and my character in the other novel didn’t want anything,” she said. “I also, on a practical level, had two children and they were young, demanding, and more interesting to me than my novel at the time.”

    At Mother Jones, Shane Bauer explains what journalists got wrong by focusing on Antifa violence at protests in Berkeley last weekend. “By focusing on scattered violence, reporters glossed over the bigger story,” he writes. “The Bay Area has become the latest target of fascist and other far-right groups promoting disruptive rallies across America, often in cities where they know they are not welcome.”

    Fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett’s unfinished works have been destroyed by a steamroller, per the late writer’s wishes. The Guardian reports that “Pratchett’s hard drive was crushed by a vintage John Fowler & Co steamroller named Lord Jericho at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, ahead of the opening of a new exhibition about the author’s life and work.”

    Medium founder Ev Williams explains the site’s new subscription policy and claps system to Nieman Lab. With no advertising of any kind, the site will be driven by revenue from subscriptions, which will be paid to publishers who have signed up for Medium’s partnership program based on the number of “claps” each article receives from readers. But not all of Medium’s content will earn money for its writers. “We have a ton of writers on Medium, and the majority of them aren’t really our target for our partner program,” Williams said. “We don’t want to suggest that everybody who writes should get paid or try to get paid.”

    In order to “get to know some of Trump’s satellites, both new and old, a little better,” Wired has gone through the Amazon wishlists of Anthony Scaramucci, Sebastian Gorka, and Felix Sater. Items desired by these men include velour sweatpants, Against the State: An Anarcho-Capitalist Manifesto, and Cesar Milan’s Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar’s Way to Transform Your Dog . . . and Your Life. When reached for comment, the men refused to take ownership of the lists. “Are you are kidding me,” Sater asked. “Is Alan Funt from candid camera going to jump out of the bushes now?”

  • August 30, 2017

    Sarah Palin’s lawsuit against the New York Times has been dismissed. Palin had sued the paper over an editorial that linked the 2011 shooting at a Tucson rally for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords to an image from Palin’s PAC that showed crosshairs over certain congressional districts. No link between the shooter and the map had been proven, and the Times corrected the article. “Nowhere is political journalism so free, so robust, or perhaps so rowdy as in the United States,” Judge Jed Rakoff wrote in his dismissal. “In the exercise of that freedom, mistakes will be made, some of which will be hurtful to others.”

    KHOU reporter Brandi Smith

    At The Hill, Brian Klaas argues that the heroic work of reporters covering Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston shows that “President Trump owes journalists and apology.” From local stations that stayed on air as studios flooded, to major national publications that unlocked paywalls on articles about the storm, as well as the journalists who relayed pleas for help found on social media to rescue teams, Klass writes that “it is blatantly obvious that the press saved countless lives this week.”

    Joe Pompeo details the steps that investigative reporters are taking to keep sources safe and receive sensitive information without running afoul of Trump’s campaign against leakers. “The president has toyed publicly with the idea of putting reporters in jail,” Pompeo notes, “so it’s no surprise that journalists and sources are on edge.”

    Actress Vivien Leigh’s library will be up for auction next month in London. The lot, which includes a handwritten poem by Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell and a signed copy of Evelyn Waugh’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, is expected to sell for over £500,000.

    In the New York Times, Thomas Mallon and Liesl Schillinger debate the function of critics, and whether they should be “open-minded” or “pass judgement.” Mallon writes that both aspects are important to a good essay. “Today’s literary reviews too often turn into participation trophies, quiet tour-guide appreciations,” he writes. “Few things, of course, are duller than self-indulgent put-downs; but informed and spirited dismissals are another matter, and they remain in too-short supply.” Schillinger remembers the negative reviews she wrote at the beginning of her career. “A pan is the fledgling critic’s calling card,” she writes, “and the second review I published remains the most negative I’ve ever written.” After receiving a voicemail from the author’s boyfriend defending the book, Schillinger writes that while she didn’t feel bad about what she had written—”the book was truly vile”—the message “strengthened my resolve to never censure without compelling reason—even if it meant that each of my nay votes would earn me a foe.”

  • August 29, 2017

    Paul Farhi explores press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s tendency to deflect questions with a promise to “get back to” reporters with an answer later—and her habit of breaking that promise. In one briefing last week, Sanders’s used the deflection ten times, on issues ranging from the ban on transgender soldiers to “the White House’s reaction to federal approval of Amazon.com’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market.” Farhi asked Sanders directly about her rate of reply, to which she responded that she gets back to reporters whenever possible. “Asked in a subsequent email if she avoids inconvenient questions by declining to follow up,” Farhi notes, “Sanders didn’t follow up with an answer.”

    After investigations by The Stranger and the Los Angeles Times, PEN has rescinded John Smelcer’s nomination for the 2017 Literary Award.

    The Washington Post details five itineraries for the National Book Festival next weekend.

    Miranda July. Photo: Todd Cole

    Miranda July talks to the New Yorker about short stories, marriage, and why everyone assumes that her narrators are autobiographical. “Women writers are often conflated with their narrators—as if we can’t consciously construct fictional worlds from the ground up and can only write diary entries,” she said. “So I think this would be happening anyway, but, from all reports, the fact that I appeared in my first two feature films compounds the problem.”

    Neil Brown, Editor and vice president of the Tampa Bay Times, has been named president of the Poynter Institute. During Brown’s eight years at the paper, the Tampa Bay Times has won six Pulitzer Prizes for reporting.

    At Electric Literature, Emily O’Neill looks at the resurgence of acrostics in resignation letters from members of the Trump administration. “Elucidating where you stand in relation to Trump, with his shall we say singularly lyric way of regurgitating his own rhetoric, is probably a poetic form unto itself at this point,” she explains. “The resignation letters engage in his game of coded buzzwords, reinforcing and re-contextualizing their own content via their employment of the acrostic.”

    At The Atlantic, Rosie Gray examines what Steve Bannon’s return to Breitbart might mean for the Trump administration.

    Yashar Ali profiles Kathy Griffin. Since posing with a fake blood–covered Donald Trump mask, Griffin has lost her job hosting the CNN New Year’s Eve broadcast and had numerous US tour dates canceled due to threats. But Ali writes that “moving on doesn’t seem to be on Griffin’s mind,” as evidenced by the poster for her international Laugh Your Head Off tour, in which Griffin wears the same clothing as she did in the Trump photo, but holds a globe instead. “President Trump just pardoned Joe Arpaio, who was essentially running a concentration camp in the Arizona desert,” she told Ali. “He said there are some good Nazis, and he’s kicking out young adults who were brought here as kids by their parents, and I’m the one who has to continue to apologize?”

  • August 28, 2017

    Hilary Mantel explains why, two decades after her death, people are still talking about Princess Diana “as if she had just left the room.” “Royal people exist in a place beyond fact-correction, in a mystical realm with rules that, as individuals, they may not see,” she writes. “They exist apart from utility, and by virtue of our unexamined and irrational needs. You can’t write or speak about the princess without explicating and embellishing her myth. She no longer exists as herself, only as what we made of her.”

    Rebecca Solnit. Photo: Jim Herrington

    Rebecca Solnit talks to The Guardian about Trump, modern families, and her latest essay collection, The Mother of All Questions. In a separate essay for the paper, Solnit imagines how her life might have turned out differently had she been born male. “Perhaps as a girl, I was liberated by expectations that I’d be some variation on a failure,” she writes. “I could rebel by succeeding, while a lot of white middle-class men of my era seemed to rebel by failing, because the expectations had been set so very high for them.”

    Facebook has hired former New York Times public editor Liz Spayd to consult on the company’s efforts to be more transparent to users.

    At Wired, Nick Stockton reports on a new type of FOMO: the fear of missing breaking news. “Since the election, every iota of news has somehow come to seem more urgent, with each newsbreak, tweet, press conference, and cable news countdown clock hurtling toward … impeachment? War? The end of net neutrality? Climate chaos?” he writes. “And while information overload is nothing new, the stakes of all this new information feel exponentially higher—feel being the operative word here—and processing it has therefore become that much more burdensome.”

    St. Martin’s Press executive editors Elizabeth Beier and Michael Flamini discuss Macmillan’s decision to leave the Flatiron building. While Beier mourns the loss of prestige and history that comes with the move—”Walk into a gin joint anywhere in the world, mention that Macmillan’s offices are in the Flatiron Building, and eyes light up”—Flamini is already over his “Flatironic existence.” “True, the Flatiron is a historical landmark,” he says, “but so is Grant’s Tomb.”

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