• June 14, 2016

    After the Washington Post used the headlineDonald Trump suggests President Obama was involved with Orlando shooting” on its front page, Trump announced in a Facebook post that he was revoking the “phony and dishonest” newspaper’s press credentials. The Post has since changed the headline to read “Donald Trump seems to connect President Obama to Orlando shooting.” It referred to Trump’s appearance on Fox News on Monday, during which he suggested Obama ought to resign for not using the term “radical Islam” in his address to the nation on Sunday. “He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands,” Trump told Fox. “There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on.” The Post joins Politico, Univision, Buzzfeed, the Des Moines Register, and the Huffington Post in the list of news organizations Trump has banned from covering his campaign for the presidency. “RIP experiences like talking to Trump on the phone for 30 minutes about whether he cheated at golf,” tweeted Post reporter Ben Terris.

    Over at the New York Times, a managing editor for standards sent a memo to the newsroom cautioning staff about the dangers of social media, in particular how journalists and public figures’ personal accounts are conflated with their jobs—in other words, Tweets are no longer their own. “On their personal social-media accounts, Times newsroom staffers should avoid editorializing, promoting their political views or taking sides on hot-button issues,” Philip Corbett advised. “We should leave the opinions to our colleagues on the Opinion side.”

    Emma Cline

    Emma Cline

    Gawker—gutted by Silicon Valley-funded lawsuits and up for sale—will lose Sam Biddle, one of the reporters whose coverage of the tech industry skewed somewhere between irreverent and appalled, to the Intercept. “Gawker was a great place to become a journalist,” writes Adrian Chen in the New Yorker. Chen joined Gawker in 2009 as a night-shift editor, and describes the giddy feeling of posting articles under the cover of darkness. “The opportunity to write anything and have it appear on the front page of Gawker was exhilarating. I could put out an endless stream of swear words, make fun of someone I didn’t like, or construct a penis from numbers and symbols (8===D, haha).” Chen used Gawker’s platform to report on Silk Road, an emporium for online drug purchases, and r/jailbait, a subreddit that traded in sexually explicit photographs of minors.

    What happens when the Darknet contaminates sites like Facebook or Snapchat with pornography or depictions of torture? Those mainstream sites quietly hire an army of moderators to flag and scrub the offensive material. In the New Yorker, Daniel Wenger describes this peculiar and poorly paid job—“a mix between a cop and a priest and an editor and a politician, all without being visible,” per Franco Mattes, the director of “Dark Content,” a video series about this weird seam of the gig economy.

    Emma Cline, author of The Girls, a darkly sexy novelization of the Manson murders, reads tonight at BookCourt.

  • June 13, 2016

    At The Nation, Richard Kim remembers the first gay bar he went to, and notes that the Pulse, the Orlando gay club where a gunman killed fifty people and wounded at least fifty more this weekend, was a “utopia” and a “safe haven”—qualities that he fervently hopes will not go away: “To all the bartenders and bar-backs and bouncers and gogo boys and drag queens and club kids and freaks who make the nightlife—I love you. Stay strong.”

    This weekend, novelist Jennifer Weiner, the author of Good in Bed and other bestsellers, describes going to her college reunion at Princeton expecting her former classmates to scorn her as a writer of “beach books.” When this didn’t happen, she came to a new conclusion about gender inequality in publishing and film. “Maybe what’s behind the inequity isn’t just a lack of opportunity, but a lack of confidence, an inability among women, or just me, to step up and say My work matters, and to really, truly believe it.” At the Huffington Post, the author Lev Raphael raises an eyebrow at this realization, pointing out: “Whatever people say about her books and however much she gripes about being dissed, Jennifer Weiner is in the publishing world’s 1%. She’s wealthy and famous, but she’s not satisfied. I guess she wants to be treated like Toni Morrison and Joyce Carol Oates? Who wouldn’t?”

    Marilynne Robinson

    Marilynne Robinson

    “Americans are always saying things about Americans—they’re fat or intellectually lazy or materialistic or whatever. One of my regrets in life is that I ever paid attention to any of this. There are more than 300 million of us, after all, and as heterogeneous a population as has ever existed anywhere.” Novelist Marilynne Robinson reflects on the difficulties of democracy, neuroscience, and more at Bookriot.

    Facing the $140 million invasion-of-privacy lawsuit brought on by Hulk Hogan (with assistance from Peter Thiel), Gawker has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and put itself up for sale. But Politico has offered a number of reasons why we shouldn’t assume that this is the end for the media company. Meanwhile, the Writers Guild of America—the union to which Gawker Media’s editorial staff belongs—has issued a petition requesting that Facebook remove Thiel from its board of directors.

    Novelist Roxane Gay has written a column about anger—particularly who gets to express it (and who doesn’t). “Hillary Clinton is not allowed to be angry though certainly some of her supporters are. Mrs. Clinton, once again, has shown how the rules are different for women,” Gay points out. “She cannot raise her voice without reprisal.”

  • June 10, 2016

    In a YouTube video posted on hillaryclinton.com, President Barack Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for the highest office in the land. “Look, I know how hard this job can be. That’s why I know Hillary will be so good at it,” Obama said confidently. “I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.” In response, Clinton tweeted that she was “fired up and ready to go” and got into a flame war (or skirmish) with Donald Trump and other Republicans. After Trump tweeted that Clinton was “Crooked,” she told him to “Delete your account”—her most popular Tweet to date—prompting Trump to fire back, “How long did it take your staff of 823 people to think that up–and where are your 33,000 emails that you deleted?”

    Talk show host and television producer Andy Cohen announced a new installment of his memoirs, to be published in November by Andy Cohen Books, a new imprint of Henry Holt and Co. Cohen masterminded the Real Housewives franchise on Bravo. His book will be titled Superficial. His imprint is one among a raft of celebrity-sponsored book imprints—Lena Dunham (Lenny at Random House), Chelsea Handler (Borderline Amazing at Grand Central Publishing), Gwyneth Paltrow (Goop Press at Grand Central Publishing), and Johnny Depp (Infinitum Nihil at HarperCollins)—that have cropped up in recent years.

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    The New York Times has an amazing obit of Thomas J. Perkins, one of the founders of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, who died on Tuesday of an undisclosed illness at the age of 84. Kleiner Perkins was one of the earliest venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, investing in Genentech, Netscape, AOL, Amazon, and Google. In 2014, the firm was obliged to distance itself from Perkins after he wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal in which he suggested that a “progressive war on the American 1 percent” was somewhat equivalent to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. Learn more about this tycoon in Mine’s Bigger: The Extraordinary Tale of the World’s Greatest Sailboat and the Silicon Valley Tycoon Who Built It, a biography of Perkins by David A. Kaplan, or in Sex and the Single Zillionaire (2007), a novel by Perkins helped along by his then-wife Danielle Steel.

    Svetlana Alexievich, the winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, will appear at the New York Public Library on Monday evening to discuss her recently translated book, Secondhand Time.

  • June 9, 2016

    Bill Simmons

    Bill Simmons

    The Hollywood Reporter profiles Bill Simmons, the popular sportswriter, podcaster, and TV personality who founded Grantland. Simmons was fired from ESPN last year after making disparaging comments about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The Reporter takes evident delight in detailing the hurt feelings and corporate machinations that led to Simmons’s departure, and in narrating his comeback—the Beverly Hills dinners and meetings with high-rolling network and tech executives who were desperate to hire him. He’s landed at HBO with a new weekly TV show, Any Given Wednesday, and has started a new sports and pop culture site, The Ringer. Simmons has a large and loyal fanbase, and he seems to know why his fans tune in, describing Any Given Wednesday as “conversations about sports, culture and technology . . . and then me being a snarky asshole.”

    Ellen Pao, former CEO of Reddit and losing litigant in a discrimination suit against another former employer, the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, will publish a memoir about her experiences in Silicon Valley. Titled Reset, the book is an exposé of “the toxic culture that pervades the tech industry.”

    In a story about just how much money the Broadway smash “Hamilton” is making—probably a billion dollars by the time all the checks are cashed—the Times notes that some writers are cashing in, too. Ron Chernow, a “Hamilton” consultant and author of the 2004 biography that inspired the show, has a 1 percent royalty agreement that nets him about $900,000 a year and his book has now spent thirty-three weeks on the best-seller list.

    Following three months of surveys by an Australian market research firm called GfK Bluemoon, Pantone 488C, or “opaque couché,” has been named the ugliest color in the world. It can best be described as a cross between taupe and solid waste. Some say it conjures death and sludge—the Australian government plans to use it on cigarette packaging—while others think it is chic. “At the Pantone Color Institute, we consider all colors equally,” the company said in a statement to Cosmopolitan. “We don’t consider PANTONE 448 to be the ‘fugliest color in the world,’ as our color word association studies show PANTONE 448 is a color associated with deep, rich earth tones, the kind of shade that is used in elegant leathers and suedes for fashion accessories, outerwear, and footwear, and most especially in the home—a beautifully patina-ed antique armoire or an earthy brown tufted leather sofa.”

    At Fusion, Terrell Jermaine Starr writes a dispatch from a gloomy Bernie Sanders rally on Tuesday night, one day after Hillary Clinton was announced as the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential candidate. Still, as the Wall Street Journal reports, some Sanders supporters are coming around: The hashtag #GirlIGuessImWithHer started appearing on Twitter this week, as people found a fresh way to use GIFs showing ambivalence, reluctance, and distaste.  

    This bloody face belongs to the actress Samara Weaving after a makeup test, not a supporter of Trump after a rally—a distinction made clear in a Tweet by the actor Bruce Campbell, who stars in the comedy horror show Ash vs. Evil Dead, after conservative bloggers used the image to stir up trouble. This meme, however, is oh so real: When a Canada goose began brawling with an American bald eagle in British Columbia, a vacationer captured the action on camera. “There was a whole bunch of noise to begin with,” Lisa Bell told CTV Vancouver Island. “The eagle was sitting on the goose…The goose basically was playing dead.”

  • June 8, 2016

    The company AuthorEarnings, which uses data services to determine how much writers make from book sales, has released its “most comprehensive and definitive” report yet. The survey, based on Amazon sales (which account for 50 percent of sales in the US), notes that approximately 9,900 authors are earning more than $10,000 through Amazon sales, while 4,500 authors make $25,000 or more. As Flavorwire points out, 1,340 authors make more than $100,000 from Amazon, versus “only 115 from Big Publishing, at least among authors who debuted within the last five years.”

    A letter that a rape victim read to her attacker in court has been viewed more than ten million times in six days on BuzzFeed. The site’s editor, Ben Smith, tweeted that BuzzFeed “hasn’t had anything shared like this since The Dress,” (referring to the 2015 photo of the garment of indeterminate color), while Adweek breathlessly reported that “BuzzFeed has another viral hit on its hands and it has nothing to do with Disney princesses, exploding watermelons, or the color of a certain dress.” At the Hairpin, Silvia Killingsworth writes that while she is glad the letter has been read widely, the notion of someone’s trauma as a “viral hit” is discomfiting: “Saying, ‘Look how many shares this story has’ is interesting, to a point . . . in this particular case, attaching a brand name to those reads or shares or sets of eyeballs reached is crass. But claim credit they will, and you can bet they’ll make money, too.”

    Bob Mehr, photo by Kevin Scanlon.

    Bob Mehr, photo by Kevin Scanlon.

    Literary Hub has launched Book Marks, a site that collects reviews from magazines, newspapers, and online sources and assigns books a letter grade based on these critical takes. This approach doesn’t appeal to some literary critics, particularly because Lit Hub partners with many book publishers (who are understandably hesitant to publicize negative reviews). Judging by the site’s “New Books” section, we are either living through a golden age of literature or Book Marks is grading on a curve: The lowest grade is a lone C, there’s one C+, and many As and Bs on the literary world’s first report card. Mindful of such criticism, Lit Hub’s editor in chief Jonny Diamond points out that the site links to the reviews, giving readers a chance to decide for themselves: “We understand it is difficult to summarize the nuance and complexity of a review into a letter grade. . . . But we believe that Book Marks will lead more readers to reviews, and amplify critics’ voices in a way that benefits readers and writers alike.”

    Wired reports that Farrar, Straus and Giroux “believes the TV model can lend momentum to a book series.” FSG’s new Originals imprint plans to release the three remaining titles in Lian Hearn’s fantasy tetralogy, The Tale of Shikanoko, in quick succession over the summer. Autumn Princess, Dragon Child, the second book in the series, came out yesterday.

    If you think that’s a cliffhanger, the New York Times breaks new details of the real-life Prison Break: Last year, convicted killers David Sweat and Richard Matt broke out of New York state’s largest maximum security prison. How’d they do it? A 150-page report just released by state officials describes “systemic deficiencies”: “Night after night, Mr. Sweat . . . left a dummy in his bed and slipped out a hole cut in the back of his cell. He . . . spent hours exploring tunnels beneath the prison” and “eventually crawled out through a steam pipe.” Joyce Mitchell, a civilian employee of the prison, smuggled chisels, drill bits, and hacksaw blades in frozen hamburger meat to assist the inmates. From the Times: “Officer Blair finally did a round of bed checks and noticed the killers were gone. ‘I grabbed the sheet and I almost threw up, then saw the dummy,’ he told investigators.” Blair also discovered a picture of Tony Soprano with a note that read, “Time to go kid.”

    Tonight at the Strand, author Bob Mehr will discuss his new book, Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements, the Last Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.

  • June 7, 2016

    Sloane Crosley

    Sloane Crosley

    Sloane Crosley, the author of How Did You Get This Number and The Clasp, will be the new “Hot Type” columnist at Vanity Fair. The position became open when Elissa Schappell left last month. Crosley’s first column will appear in the October issue.

    BuzzFeed has decided to back out of a $1.3 million ad agreement with the Republican National Party, now that Trump has become the presumptive nominee. “We certainly don’t like to turn away revenue that funds all the important work we do across the company,” BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti wrote in a memo. “However, in some cases we must make business exceptions: We don’t run cigarette ads because they are hazardous to our health, and we won’t accept Trump ads for the exact same reason.”

    Grand Central has announced that it has acquired a new book by Tiger Woods, co-written with Lorne Rubenstein, about winning the 1997 Masters. The book will be published in March 2017.  

    Netflix will produce a new original series based on Sacred Games, Vikram Chandra’s bestselling novel about crime and politics in Mumbai. In other adaptation news, AMC will air a miniseries based on late New York Times journalist David Carr’s addiction memoir, The Night of the Gun. Bob Odenkirk will play Carr.

    As anyone who has read Jonathan Franzen’s writing about bird watching knows, the author is no fan of cats. He has said that “the bird community’s position is, we need to get rid of the feral cats, and that means cats must die.” In Freedom, one character calls cats “the sociopaths of the pet world, a species domesticated as an evil necessary for the control of rodents and subsequently fetishized the way unhappy countries fetishize their militaries.” Most recently, Franzen has expressed his animus toward domesticated felines by blurbing Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer, by Peter P. Marra and Chris Santella, which will be published by Princeton University Press this fall. “Very few people enjoy thinking about the calamitous problem of free-roaming cats and biodiversity, and even fewer dare to talk about it openly,” Franzen writes. “Marra and Santella’s book is therefore doubly welcome. It’s not only important reading for anyone who cares about nature. With its engaging storytelling, its calmly scientific approach, and its compassionate handling of a highly fraught issue, this is also a book that a person might actually read for pleasure.”

  • June 6, 2016

    In a profile pegged to the publication of his new novel, Our Young Man, Edmund White stops to say of Donald Trump: “He’s unbearably rude and tragically spontaneous.”  

    “It’s kind of an old-fashioned book. It’s long; it has a lot of characters; it takes a big theme. It isn’t a navel-staring, dysfunctional-family thing that’s so beloved of most American writers.” Pulitzer winner Annie Proulx, author of the novel The Shipping News and the story “Brokeback Mountain,” talks about her new book, Barkskins, which features a large cast of characters, high drama, and, yes, a “big theme”: deforestation.

    The New York Times has decided to discontinue its ArtsBeat Blog.

    Marianne Moore and Muhammad Ali

    Marianne Moore and Muhammad Ali

    Muhammad Ali’s death this weekend has inspired readers to revisit the many paeans to the boxing legend. One of our favorites comes from George Plimpton’s Shadow Box, in which he introduces Ali to poet Marianne Moore. “He announced that if she was the greatest poetess in the country, the two of them should produce something together—’I am a poet, too,’ he said—a joint effort sonnet, it was to be, with each of them doing alternate lines.” The sonnet begins: “After we defeat Ernie Terrell / He will get nothing, nothing but hell.” At Jacobin, author Dave Zirin provides a riveting account of Ali’s resistance to war and his fights against racism.

    Alexander Chee, the author of Queen of the Night, has been hired as an associate professor of creative writing at Dartmouth University.

    The Feminist Press and Tayo Literary Magazine have invited writers to submit work for the inaugural Louise Meriwether First Book Prize, which will be given to the best books by women and nonbinary writers of color. The award is $5,000 and a contract with the Feminist Press, and the winner will be announced in February 2017.

  • June 3, 2016

    In Vanity Fair, Sarah Ellison has a story on the future of the New York Times, as the paper tries to cope with declining revenue and the industry’s shift to digital media. The Times offered a round of buyouts in May and layoffs are said to be imminent. In the meantime, Times executives are investing in future-leaning—and possibly money-making—ventures like podcasting, virtual reality, and a meal-delivery service linked to the paper’s recipe pages. Ellison’s take is bleak: It begins with a longtime print editor weeping and ends by noting that executive editor Dean Baquet has said “the Times of the future will no longer be the paper of record on everything, but only in the areas it can afford to be.”

    Tribune Publishing Co.—parent company of the Los Angeles Times and many other dailies—is also trying to address the bleak state of the news business by rebranding itself as “tronc” (short for Tribune online content). The new name reflects a new strategy, which, judging by the robotic-sounding press release, will rely less on temperamental human journalists and more on machine overlords: “Our transformation strategy . . .  is focused on leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the user experience and better monetize our world-class content in order to deliver personalized content to our 60 million monthly users.” Tribune has been busy fighting off a takeover bid from newspaper-chain rival Gannett, so it’s understandable if they haven’t been totally focused on the rebranding effort. Still, if the derisive reaction on social media is an indication, they probably should have tested the new name at least a little bit.

    Douglas Wolk

    Douglas Wolk

    Archeologists in London have disinterred hundreds of bits of wood etched with Latin, among them the oldest-known handwritten document in Britain, dated 57 CE: an IOU for 105 denarii from one freed slave to another. It was discovered in the City—London’s financial district—during excavations for Bloomberg’s new HQ.

    Douglas Wolk (author of Reading Comics) has started a Tumblr page devoted to his book-in-progress, All of the Marvels, which will document, among other things, his reading of more than 500,000 pages of Marvel comics.

  • June 2, 2016

    Porochista Khakpour

    Porochista Khakpour

    Showtime has announced that it will air a twenty-episode series based on Jonathan Franzen’s novel Purity. Daniel Craig will play the role of Andreas Wolf. Franzen will serve as executive producer, and Todd Field will direct. Production will begin in 2017.

    Tonight, PEN launches a new reading series in the room above the East Village’s KGB Bar. The inaugural event, called Nothing Compares 2 U, is about Prince, and will feature readings by Porochista Khakpour, Lincoln Michel, Elissa Schappell, and James Yeh.

    At the Washington Post, Carlos Lozada wonders why Hillary Clinton “associates works by female authors, or featuring female protagonists, with easier, more relaxing reading.” Trump, on the other hand, isn’t reading many books at all, stating: “I haven’t read a book in so long because—now I read passages, I can’t read, so I read chapters, I just—I don’t have the time.”

    Aleksandar Hemon—the author of The Lazarus Project, The Making of Zombie Wars, and other books—explains why he decided not to sign an open letter against Trump.

    Yahoo has published redacted versions of FBI-issued subpoenas requesting data from the Internet service provider.

    Brooklyn magazine has a profile of Penina Roth, the founder of the excellent Franklin Park Reading Series, which has hosted a number of established and innovative authors at a Crown Heights bar. Her latest project, the Manhattanville Reading Series, focuses on authors who have not yet published a book. “I felt like I was neglecting emerging writing,” says Roth.

  • June 1, 2016

    JK Rowling

    J. K. Rowling

    Salman Rushdie believes that schoolchildren should learn poems by heart. But will this make kids hate poetry? The Guardian seeks out expert opinions.

    Marcel Proust’s letters to his lovers, many of which have never been published, are being auctioned by his great grand-niece at Sotheby’s Paris.

    Robert Marshall has won the Hazel Rowley Prize, which is awarded every two years by the Biographers International Organization to “the best proposal from a first-time biographer.” Marshall, the author of the novel A Separate Reality, is working on a biography of the controversial author Carlos Castaneda, who wrote The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968) and other best-selling books that drew on shamanistic teachings.

    Career of Evil, the latest novel by Robert Dowling (aka J. K. Rowling), has been shortlisted for a crime-novel award.

    An anonymous source told the New York Times that Gawker Media is currently embroiled in five defamation lawsuits. This does not include the $140 million invasion-of-privacy suit brought by Hulk Hogan. Meanwhile, Esquire editor and The Hunger of the Wolf author Stephen Marche says that although he has “been attacked pretty much my entire career by Gawker,” he believes “that Gawker serves an essential function in a celebrity-obsessed culture, and if it were to disappear the world would be poorer and the cause of journalistic truth would be damaged.”

    I’m interested in how ideas and even exact passages of text change when they’re lifted from one genre and placed in another—when they are read under the pressures of nonfiction’s truth claims or fiction’s aesthetic pressures.” Ben Lerner discusses his short story “The Polish Rider,” which appears in the Summer Fiction issue of the New Yorker.

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