• 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.

  • May 31, 2016

    David Mitchell

    David Mitchell

    David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks, etc.) has just entered a novel in the Future Library project, in which selected authors bury a manuscript in Oslo’s Nordmarka forest. No one will read these books until 2014, when the texts will, if all goes according to plan, be retrieved and printed on paper made from trees recently planted in the area. Mitchell is the second writer to participate; Margaret Atwood buried the inaugural book, Scribbler Moon, last year.

    Eric Weisbard’s book Top 40 America has won the Woody Guthrie Award for Outstanding Book on Popular Music.

    After spending months interviewing past and present staffers of Salon and reviewing the web magazine’s SEC filings, Politico’s Kelsey Sutton and Peter Sterne spent explain how the web-journalism pioneer lost its way.

    Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman recently toured the West Bank in conjunction with Breaking the Silence, an Israeli group that collects soldiers’ firsthand accounts of their experiences in the occupied territory. They are part of a larger group of writers who are visiting East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza and then writing essays about life under Israeli military rule.  Chabon and Waldman will not only contribute to the anthology but also edit it. “As a Jew and someone who has felt connected both to Israel and also to the Old Testament narratives, it actually does mean something to me to be in Hebron, to be where supposedly Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Rebecca and Leah are all buried,” Chabon tells The Forward. “From my point of view, to see that place being dishonored and made less sacred and less holy by the presence of this incredibly cruel and unjust machinery, some literal machinery and figurative machinery of oppression, it offends me.”

    Ben Ratliff, the author of Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Mucical Plenty, has announced that the archives of singer, songwriter, cellist, and downtown dance-music pioneer Arthur Russell have been acquired by the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts.

    Andrew Solomon offers advice to writers: “Despite every advancement, language remains the defining nexus of our humanity; it is where our knowledge and hope lie. It is the precondition of human tenderness, mightier than the sword but also infinitely more subtle and ultimately more urgent. Remember that writing things down makes them real; that it is nearly impossible to hate anyone whose story you know; and, most of all, that even in our post-postmodern era, writing has a moral purpose….”

  • May 27, 2016

    Andrew Sullivan

    Andrew Sullivan

    Facebook has been urging media outlets to publish directly on its platform. Which raises a question: What does the social-media site have to say about board member Peter Thiel’s secret attempts to put Gawker Media out of business by investing about $10 million to support Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against the company? The answer, for now, is “no comment.” Gawker founder Nick Denton, however, is eager to comment: He has written an open letter to Thiel.

    Amazon has announced that it will air the pilot of a new TV series based on Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings. Another pilot will be an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon.

    Some Bernie Sanders fans have argued that the Democratic primary system is “rigged” against their candidate. But according to Nate Silver, Hillary Clinton is ahead simply because “more Democrats want her to be the nominee.” In fact, he argues, if “all the caucuses were primaries, Clinton would be winning the Democratic nomination by an even wider margin than she is now.”

    In an interview with Vox, Andrew Sullivan talks about how he weaned himself away from the twenty-four-hour news cycle, how his worries about Trump pulled him back in again, and why “books are becoming fashionable again.” “I think the entire economic model of the web is about to collapse,” Sullivan says. “I think there’s a content bubble of massive proportions.”

    Graywolf has released the cover image for Fiona Maazel’s next novel, A Little More Human, which will be published in April 2017.

  • May 26, 2016

    Hari Kunzru

    Hari Kunzru

    In a new video, Elaine Showalter—the author of Hystories and many other critical studies—delves into the context and innovations that shaped Virginia Woolf’s modernist classic Mrs. Dalloway.

    A judge has denied Gawker’s request for a retrial of the notorious Hulk Hogan case, in which the former wrestler was awarded $140 million after suing Gawker media for posting a sex tape on its site. Meanwhile, reports have been surfacing that Paypal cofounder and billionaire Peter Thiel has been secretly bankrolling Hogan’s efforts to sue Gawker media. Gawker founder Nick Denton had already said that he had a “personal hunch” that someone in Silicon Valley could have been supporting the Hogan suit. “If you’re a billionaire and you don’t like the coverage of you, and you don’t particularly want to embroil yourself any further in a public scandal, it’s a pretty smart, rational thing to fund other legal cases,” he told the New York Times.

    While working on his new album, Eyes on the Prize, Steve Gunn drew inspiration from Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost.

    Tonight The Strand bookstore will host a celebration of the new anthology of interviews Upstairs at the Strand, and many authors included in the book will be in attendance, including Tina Chang, Deborah Eisenberg, Rivka Galchen, AM Homes, Hari Kunzru, DT Max, Leigh Newman, Téa Obreht, and Katie Roiphe.

    In an email accidentally sent to Politico reporter Marc Caputo, the Trump campaign revealed that it plans to fight Hillary Clinton by focusing on the Whitewater real-estate scandal.  

     

  • May 25, 2016

    Facebook has completed an internal investigation of its “Trending Topics” feature, which has recently been accused of bias against conservative news sources. In a letter posted on Facebook’s press page, the company says they’ve found no evidence of “systemic bias” and that conservative and liberal stories have trended at “virtually identical” rates. Still, Facebook has announced changes to how the section works, including a quaint Orwellian renaming of its moderators’ internal tools: The most controversial function, once called  “blacklisting,” is now named “revisit.”

    Vice has announced a reorganization that includes a promotion for Josh Tyrangiel (who will now supervise all of Vice news), layoffs of digital staff in New York, Los Angeles, and the UK, and new bureaus in San Francisco and Hong Kong.  

    The notebooks that Francis Ford Coppola kept while adapting and casting The Godfather, his 1972 mafia masterpiece based on Mario Puzo’s novel, are going to be published by Regan Arts in November. The Godfather Notebooks will be 720 pages (including a new introduction by the filmmaker), and will, Coppola says, be “the key to understanding what went into making the film.”

    Rikki Ducornet

    Rikki Ducornet

    Who knew that author Rikki Ducornet, whose novels include The Jade Cabinet (1993) and the forthcoming Brightfellow (out in July)—was the inspiration for Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number”?

    Nearly five-hundred authors have signed a petition denouncing Donald Trump, with signees including Tobias Wolff, Stephen King, Lydia Davis, Francine Prose, and Jonathan Lethem. When asked why he signed, King told BuzzFeed: “Trump is a pugnacious idiot with no real understanding of how government works. . . . To call him underqualified for the job would be like calling me underqualified to teach quantum physics.”

    At the Awl, Alex Balk pleas with writers to stop writing so much. And he’s not just talking about online content: “Have you seen what’s not on the Internet? . . . As it happens, opening the gates to everyone doesn’t make the stuff coming out of the high towers any better.”

  • May 24, 2016

    Delightful news: The Washington Post’s union has analyzed its members’ salaries and found that among reporters, men make an average of $7,000 more than women, and among columnists, the gap is $23,000. If you’re an editorial assistant there, being male will get you an extra $7,000, too. What’s more, The Cut notes, “assistant editors who identify as people of color make about 15 percent less than their white counterparts.”

    Leanne Shapton

    Leanne Shapton

    Tonight, writer and artist Leanne Shapton will read from her book Swimming Studies at McNally Jackson, followed by a reception nearby at which the paintings reproduced in the book will be on view.

    New York magazine has named journalist Jen Chaney, author of As If: The Complete Oral History of Clueless, Vulture’s new TV critic.

    The New York Times has spoken with current and former staff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, where “at least a dozen journalists have quit, been fired or made plans to leave soon” in the turbulent months since casino billionaire and major GOP donor Sheldon Adelson took it over. One of them described how “every day I was being asked to do things that made me feel uncomfortable—that took me farther away from doing what I would consider quality journalism and more into the realm of presenting things in tune with the owner’s other interests.” Another, who has just left after eleven years at the paper, notes that staying in her job any longer made her fear she was “going to cross a line I didn’t know existed.” On the other hand, the Times reports that Adelson’s money has allowed the paper to upgrade its videography equipment, fix a broken sewer pipe, and even invest in some drones to use for its news coverage.

  • May 23, 2016

    Moby

    Moby

    Porcelain, the new memoir by Moby, is out now. Covering the years 1989 through 1999, the book describes a time when the  author rose to fame as a New York–based DJ and musician, but according to a profile in The Guardian, the author’s focus is squalor, not success. “Let’s just say his book is packed with incident,” The Guardian notes. “Lots of dodgy sex, oceans of alcohol, antics a-gogo. Plus: cockroaches, raves, death, celebrities.”

    HuffPo explains why David Foster Wallace’s famous Kenyon College commencement speech almost didn’t happen.

    The Belarussian Noble Prize–winner Svetlana Alexievich, whose Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets comes out this week, says that she has approached each of her oral histories with a question in mind: “Why doesn’t people’s suffering translate into freedom?” Her book Voices from Chernobyl consisted of testimony from survivors of the 1986 Ukranian nuclear disaster, and her latest book captures Russia’s post-Soviet era. “With every page, the book makes clear how President Vladimir V. Putin manages to hold his grip on a country of 143 million people across 11 time zones,” says the New York Times.

    Marie Calloway—whose controversial story “Adrien Brody” recounted an affair she had with a writer and magazine editor—has a new work of fiction in Playboy.

    On Thursday, xoJane, a website owned by Time Inc., posted a personal essay titled “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing,” in which the author (who was first listed as Amanda Lauren and later as Anonymous) writes of an ex-friend, who was mentally ill and committed suicide: “Her death wasn’t a tragedy, her life was. She was alone and terribly unhappy when [she] died.” Jezebel has posted a response the piece: “It’s a well-known fact that outrageous confessionals—the kind that populate xoJane’s section, It Happened to Megarner traffic. Outrage, disgust and anger are the stuff of going viral (a phrase that conjures up disease as much as anything else). Yet xoJane seems to consistently cross an unspoken line, confusing any woman’s opinion as one inherently worth publishing, no matter the opinion, or its costs.” xoJane recently removed the post, replacing it with an apology by editor Jane Pratt.

    An issue of The Black Panther written by Ta-Nehisi Coates is the best-selling comic of the year so far.

  • May 20, 2016

    The much anticipated heart-to-heart between Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and some wary Republicans seems to have gone beautifully: the New York Times, paraphrasing some of those in attendance, described it asmostly collegial, sympathetic and inquisitive.” Zuckerberg himself confirmed his free-to-be-you-and-me stance directly after the meeting: “Our community’s success depends on everyone feeling comfortable sharing anything they want.” For his part, Glenn Beck was impressed by Zuckerberg’s “manner, his ability to manage the room, his thoughtfulness, his directness, and what seemed to be his earnest desire to ‘connect the world.’” Beck saved his opprobrium for the other conservatives in the room, whose desire for Facebook to ensure greater representation for their views (by hiring less liberal staff, for instance) struck him as undignified: “It was like affirmative action for conservatives. When did conservatives start demanding quotas AND diversity training AND less people from Ivy League Colleges. . . . What happened to us? When did we become them?”

    James Hannaham

    James Hannaham

    Meanwhile, since Zuckerberg is no longer running his book club, readers may like to know that New York City’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, with the help of the writers James Hannaham, Jacqueline Woodson, and A.M. Homes, is holding one at Gracie Mansion.

    The Village Voice is preparing for a major relaunch next year and has hired a new publisher, Suzan Gursoy, currently of Adweek, to oversee it.

    Page Turner has published an intriguing fragment of a correspondence between Elena Ferrante and another Italian novelist, Nicola Lagioia, the full version of which will appear later this year in a book titled Frantumaglia. Remarking that “someone who is truly rooted in life doesn’t write novels,” Lagioia asks Ferrante how she sees writing, and she responds, in part: “Writing is an act of pride. I’ve always known that, and so for a long time I hid the fact that I was writing, especially from the people I loved. I was afraid of exposing myself and of others’ disapproval. Jane Austen organized herself so that she could immediately hide her pages if someone came into the room where she had taken refuge. It’s a reaction I’m familiar with: you’re ashamed of your presumptuousness, because there is nothing that can justify it, not even success. However I state it, the fact remains that I have assumed the right to imprison others in what I seem to see, feel, think, imagine, and know.”

    This Saturday, Karl Ove Knausgaard will participate in the Norwegian-American Literary Festival at Santos Party House (celebrating the work of Tarjei Vesaas) and will read from his own work at BookCourt.

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