• April 18, 2016

    Mary Beard

    Mary Beard

    Jonathan Franzen is editing the next edition of The Best American Essays. The contents haven’t been revealed yet, but rumor has it that Alexander Chee’s “Girl” is one of the selections.

    The New York Times style section features a profile of the classics scholar Mary Beard, the author of SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award) and Laughter in Ancient Rome. Laughter, it turns out, plays a significant role in the piece. A. A. Gill once said that Beard, who appears regularly on TV in the UK, was more fit for the British reality-TV show The Undateables. Discussing the incident at the recent Women in the World Summit, which was organized by Tina Brown, Beard, who originally responded to Gill in a column titled “Too Ugly for TV? No, I’m Too Brainy for Men Who Fear Clever Women,” noted: “It’s about having a laugh about it. A bit of outrage is good, but having your only rhetorical register as outrage is always going to be unsuccessful. You’ve got to vary it. Sometimes, some of the things that sexist men do just deserve to be laughed at.”

    Elizabeth Gilbert has been hired to be a columnist for O Magazine, and her debut, “The Kind Gesture that Helps Elizabeth Gilbert Find the Light on Her Worst Days,” will appear in the next issue.

    Penguin Press has released the cover image for Zadie Smith’s new novel, Swing Time, which will be released on November 15. The novel, which is set in London and West Africa, is, according to the publisher’s description, about two girls who want to become dancers: “One . . . has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free.” Readers of Smith’s criticism will recall that she wrote eloquently about the career of dancer Fred Astaire in an essay collected in Changing My Mind.

    The editorial staff at Vice Media, which unionized last summer, has reached its first contract agreement with the company’s management. Sources say that the contract will increase most salaries by 30 percent over the next three years, and that annual salaries for editorial staff must now be at least $45,000.

    Gawker is reportedly talking with Univision about starting Spanish-language versions of the sites Gizmodo and Lifehacker.

  • April 15, 2016

    The New Republic’s editor in chief Gabriel Snyder is leaving the magazine after seventeen months in charge. His departure comes on the heels of the recent sale of the publication to Win McCormack. “We published some damn fine work, sometimes under difficult circumstances,” Snyder said in a memo, with admirable understatement.

    Yan Lianke

    Yan Lianke

    The shortlist is out for this year’s Man Booker International Prize, and contenders include Orhan Pamuk, Yan Lianke, and the elusive Elena Ferrante.

    The New York Times is investing $50 million in a new team called NYT Global, which hopes to dramatically expand the publication’s international audience.

    New York Post editor in chief Col Allan, a longtime friend of Rupert Murdoch and a News Corp stalwart of forty-two years standing, is retiring and will be replaced by the paper’s Sunday editor, Stephen Lynch.

    In The Baffler, Chris Lehmann considers Gay Talese’s “The Voyeur’s Hotel,” a New Yorker piece set to be published as a book this summer. It’s about Gerald Foos, a hotel owner who constructed a crawlspace that allowed him to look down on his guests in their rooms, thus fulfilling his self-assigned destiny as the world’s foremost freelance sex researcher. Talese met Foos, read his copious notes on the hotel-room hijinx, and once even joined him spying—the dapper Talese’s necktie drooped through the viewing vent and appeared mere feet above a (distracted) copulating couple. Lehmann takes issue with Talese’s flimsy “chin stroking” premise that all journalists are, to some extent, voyeurs, and argues that the story is hardly newsworthy: “If it weren’t for Talese’s unarticulated belief that Foos’s antics bore some larger public significance, we wouldn’t know anything more about what Foos thinks and believes than we would about the inner life of, say, the roving Seattle masked masturbator, or that of any other dreary sex offender on any major metropolitan police blotter.”

    At the Poetry Foundation, Win Bassett writes of his time as a chaplain in a Virginia hospital, and of the importance of verse to him and the patients: “After a few weeks of confidence-boosting patient encounters, I realize poetry might . . . be helpful. . . .  The patients don’t know the poems I carry in my pocket the way they know their hymns, but they quiet nonetheless. I chalk up these powers to poetry’s economy of words. When you know you don’t have much longer in this life, why not make every word you speak and hear pack as much meaning as possible?”

    In May, the Brooklyn Institute will run a day of reading, lectures, and discussion on Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Early enrollment is open until this Sunday.

  • April 14, 2016

    Nesrine Malik

    Nesrine Malik

    The Guardian has surveyed the seventy million comments left on their website since 2006, looking for patterns in abusive commenting and trolling. They found that the ten most abused writers were eight women and two black men (despite the fact most of the site’s writers are white men). The article includes videos of the journalists (including Jessica Valenti, Nesrine Malik, and Steven Thrasher) discussing the effect of the abuse, as well as interactive data breaking down the survey, and a feature where readers can play moderator, deciding if various comments about feminists should be blocked. Despite all the abuse, Malik says, “I think it is a worthy venture to keep comments open, even if you don’t like what readers are saying or how they are saying it. Journalists need to be challenged.” And then, let’s not forget the admittedly faint possibility that your next encounter with an online troll might eventually make for a heartwarming radio segment (click through to “Ask Not for Whom the Bell Trolls”).

    Page Turner examines the recent Marianne Moore renaissance (“the freedom is new,” William Carlos Williams wrote of her work in 1924, “the unbridled leap”).

    Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP leader who self-identifies as black despite being from a white family, is writing a book about race that will be published next March. On the Today show, Dolezal gave a preview of what we’re likely to get: “Race didn’t create racism, but racism created race. . . . So I think it’s important to really think through a lot of those topics and questions that people have, and that’s why this became so visible, because it really challenged people to think about identity. . . . Is there one human race? Why do we still want to go back to the worldview of separate races?”

    The New York Times media reporter Ravi Somaiya is leaving the paper in order to join Vice’s HBO show.

    This weekend at the Whitney, poet Anne Carson will perform her poem Lecture on the History of Skywriting as part of a series organized to accompany Laura Poitras’s exhibition “Astro Noise.” After the reading, Carson will have a conversation with Yemeni engineer Faisal bin Ali Jaber, who had family members killed in a 2012 drone strike (a video of the strike is included in the Whitney show). If Carson’s appearance at the 92Y earlier this week is an indication, she can expect the kind of welcome usually reserved for rock stars.

     

  • April 13, 2016

    The Beach Boys’ resident genius Brian Wilson will be publishing a memoir in October. I Am Brian Wilson, co-written with Ben Greenman, covers the songwriter’s life and career and will be released shortly after Wilson’s masterwork, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. In an excerpt from the book on Pitchfork, Wilson writes, “when I think back across my own life, there are so many things that are painful. Sometimes I don’t like discussing them. Sometimes I don’t even like remembering them. But as I get older, the shape of that pain has changed.”   

    The New York Observer, whose publisher is Donald Trump’s son-in-law, has revealed its huge endorsement for president. It’s a guy from New York not named Bernie Sanders.

    Marlon James

    Marlon James

    The shortlist for the International Dublin Literary award, a lucrative prize nominated by libraries across the world, includes Jenny Offill, Marlon James, Javier Cercas, and Mary Costello, among others.

    The New Yorker Today, an iPhone app featuring the magazine’s online content and some 8,000 cartoons—presented in a gallery that encourages Tinder-like swiping—was released yesterday and is free for one month. Online editor Nicholas Thompson says of the app, “Our instinct is that for a brand like ours that has a lot of loyal readers that are reading all the time, it’s very important to give them an extremely quick way to read everything.” They’ve also made it a quick way to subscribe—it takes just two taps to sign up for a digital subscription from the app.

    Tonight at apexart in Manhattan, Bookforum editor Albert Mobilio presents the latest installment of the “Double Take” series, in which authors, editors, and artists converse on a range of topics. This evening will feature discussions including Donald Breckenridge and Johannah Rodgers on Saratoga Park in Brooklyn; Stephen Tunney and Peter Wortsman on insomnia; and Colin Dickey and Lauren Walsh on photography and perception.

  • April 12, 2016

    Maggie Nelson

    Maggie Nelson

    This week’s New Yorker includes Hilton Als’s moving profile of Maggie Nelson. Als proposes one answer to the question of why Nelson’s latest book, The Argonauts, about her experiences in queer family-making with her fluidly-gendered partner Harry Dodge, has resonated so widely: “What . . . fans responded to most viscerally, perhaps, was the fact that it’s a book about becoming, both mentally and physically—about what it takes to shape a self, in all its completeness and disarray.” Nelson’s 2007 memoir The Red Parts, about the trial of a man accused in the unsolved 1969 murder of her aunt, was republished last week by Graywolf, and she will be appearing at the New York Public library tomorrow night to discuss the book with Wayne Koestenbaum.

    The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) shortlist has been announced.

    Chris Jackson has been selected to revitalize Random House’s One World imprint as its new vice president, publisher, and editor in chief. A New York Times magazine profile of Jackson earlier this year noted that he has steered important work by authors such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, Victor LaValle, and Mat Johnson into print: “He stands between the largely white culture-making machinery and artists writing from the margins of society, as well as between the work of those writers and the largely white critical apparatus that dictates their success, in both cases saying: This, believe it or not, is something you need to hear.”

    New Yorker cartoonist William Hamilton died last Friday in a car crash at the age of seventy-six. Hamilton had contributed cartoons to the magazine for more than fifty years, and its tribute to him includes a selection of them (“I’m nothing,” someone tells the barman, “and yet, I’m all I can think about.”).

    Jacob Brogan of Slate takes a look at Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Marvel comic, Black Panther, which he says reflects Coates approach as a comics scholar for both better and worse: “These aren’t Coates’ stories except insofar as they’re all our stories. They belong to the corporate lore of Marvel comics, emerging wraithlike from the dense fog of its decades of narrative continuity. That same fog blankets the issue as a whole, and only those who know the terrain well will manage to negotiate it with ease.”

     

  • April 11, 2016

    Last week, Gay Talese faced much criticism after saying at a Boston conference that he had not been influenced by any women writers of his generation. At Slate, Isaac Chotiner points out that Talese’s recent article in the New Yorker, about a hotel owner in Colorado who spied on his guests, reveals “an even darker side” of the author. The article is, Chotiner states, “a failure of journalistic ethics and a revealing window into Talese’s character,” not least because Talese, in writing the piece, joined the hotel owner and spied on people himself. Meanwhile, Washington Post editor Marisa Bellack has written a story about why she quit her job as Talese’s teaching assistant: “because of his sexism.”

    Gawker’s newest media columnist, William Turton, is an eighteen-year-old high school senior. Turton, who writes about cybersecurity, was previously a contributor to The Daily Dot.

    Jelani Cobb

    Jelani Cobb

    Historian Dr. Jelani Cobb, a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress, has joined the faculty of Columbia’s graduate school of journalism.

    In response to a critical editorial in the Boston Globe, which ran in the same issue that featured a front-page satirical piece imagining what would happen if Trump became president, Donald Trump called the paper “worthless” and “stupid.”

    Bylines by women writers are apparently on the rise, but women writers are, according to a study of more than 10,000 book reviews conducted by theNew Republic, still limited by stereotypes. The data from the study points to significant differences in the ways that books by men and women are covered. “Book reviewers are three or four times more likely to use words like ‘husband,’ ‘marriage,’ and ‘mother’ to describe books written by women between 2000 and 2009, and nearly twice as likely to use words like ‘love,’ ‘beauty,’ and ‘sex.’ Conversely, reviewers are twice as likely to use words like ‘president’ and ‘leader,’ as well as ‘argument’ and ‘theory,’ to describe books written by men.”

  • April 8, 2016

    In a rare move for him, the New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet has harshly criticized a story the paper ran on Wednesday, which detailed Gay Talese’s online trials after he made some unfortunate remarks about women journalists at a conference. Baquet takes issue with a Talese quote in the article in which he used the word “duplicitous” to describe Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Times journalist to whom Talese had reportedly made another insensitive comment. Baquet writes, “Yesterday’s story was flawed and Nikole was treated unfairly. But this incident is larger than the exchange between her and Gay Talese. Too often, we are clumsy in handling issues of race and gender and this story was another unfortunate example.” The publication’s public editor concurs: “To put it simply, the story about Gay Talese that went online Wednesday wasn’t ready for prime time.”

    In the Harvard Business Review, John Geraci describes another Times misstep, namely, the “resounding failure” of the two years he spent “trying to innovate” at the paper. Geraci’s takeaway is that the Times (and other large media companies) are “like a bear stuck in a swamp. All around them swirls new kinds of life interacting with itself, evolving, transforming, and they’re there with their fur and claws trying to swat at it all.” Rather than behaving like a big dumb animal, Geraci suggests, the Times should strive to be an “ecosystem,” like the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz: “The entire firm is organized to function as a series of inputs and outputs, permeable membranes with the outside world around it.” Reading this, we had a few questions, but mainly we just wondered why the Times staff had listened to this guy for two years.   

    Philip Roth

    Philip Roth

    This was also the week that the Times, in a piece on John Colapinto’s new novel of “heterosexual male lust” (out this month from the independent press Soft Skull after apparently being turned down by some forty other publishers), seemed to mourn the era of Updike, Roth, and Mailer run rampant, suggesting that our “more tentative” age has mostly got the timid male literary novelists it deserves: “When these creatures of the workshop do manage to summon up the courage to test their descriptive powers against the most basic of human drives and activities, it is often to chronicle male sexual hesitation, confusion or inadequacy.” A shame.

    The New Yorker’s Page Turner blog has a profile of the Whiting Award–winning poet Ocean Vuong, whose first book of poems, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, was published this week by Copper Canyon Press. Vuong’s family was illiterate when he was growing up, and he didn’t learn to read until he was eleven years old. He describes the effect that had on his experience of language: “For an American who was born here, the mundane might be boring, but for me colloquial English was a destination.”

    Tonight at Columbia University, there’s a panel discussion on the recently published book Roland Barthes’ Cinema.  

  • April 7, 2016

    Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor in the OJ Simpson murder trial, is back in the spotlight, as the FX television series rehashes the case, including the withering comments Clark endured about her appearance. Now a crime novelist, Clark says she always envied the way authors work, “because they can be very successful, but no one knows what they look like. You don’t get recognized. It’s a pretty cool way to work.”  

    Susan Howe

    Susan Howe

    Tonight at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, Ben Lerner talks with Susan Howe.

    On April 18th, the Martha Graham Dance Company will stage a live marathon reading of Graham’s 1991 memoir, Blood Memory, at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

    The online inquest into Gay Talese’s unfortunate comment at a Boston University writer’s conference continues, as Rewire has tracked down the audience member who asked Talese the question about women writers who have inspired him (he said “none,” though he later clarified that he thought the question was asking about women journalists of his generation). The New York Times details the ensuing Tweet storm, including a description of what happened when Talese arrived home from the conference. His wife, the distinguished editor and publisher Nan A. Telese, greeted him with these chilling words: “Welcome home, darling. You’re all over Twitter.” In the same article, Katie Roiphe defends the octogenarian author, saying, “He read what he read. The policing of inspiration and influence is really pathological. I believe it to be a feeding frenzy and sign of a debased discourse that passes for Internet culture. This is blood sport.”

    Meanwhile, “Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?”, Calvin Trillin’s poem about Chinese food in last week’s food-and-travel issue of the New Yorker, has been criticized as both racist and “poorly metered.” That last link is to a collaborative Twitter poem satirizing Trillin’s, entitled “The World is Our Oyster / Sauce,” one of a number of impromptu tributes, including Franny Choi’s “Have They Run Out of White Poets Yet?” Trillin defended himself in an email to The Guardian, saying that his poem was simply intended to mock the “food-obsessed bourgeoisie,” just as an earlier effort in the New Yorker, “What happened to Brie and Chablis?,” had not been intended as “a put-down of the French.” 

     

  • April 6, 2016

    Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner are starting an imprint at Random House called Lenny, which will publish both fiction and nonfiction.

    “Jackie,” the anonymous subject of the retracted University of Virginia rape story in Rolling Stone, is being compelled to testify in a defamation suit against the magazine.

    Gay Talese has written to the Boston Globe to clarify a comment he made at a Boston University writers conference this Saturday, when he said, “I didn’t know any women writers that I loved.” His attempt at damage control does not seem particularly effective: “My answer was ‘no.’ And it remains ‘no’ . . . I say this as a senior-senior citizen of 84, and if there had been a woman reporter who influenced me during my upbringing she’d have to be more than a hundred years old.”

    Chris Bachelder

    Chris Bachelder

    When poet Patricia Lockwood took over the New Republic Twitter account, she sent a decidedly Not Safe For Work tweet to Donald Trump. In The Atlantic’s grandly headlined, “Guest Tweeting, the Latest Chapter in a Fraught Journalism Tradition,” Adrienne Lafrance uses the incident as a teachable moment

    Tonight at the powerHouse arena in Brooklyn, Chris Bachelder, Evan Hughes, Sam Lipsyte, Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, and Sean Wilsey will read scenes from Bachelder’s novel The Throwback Special. For a taste of the book, check out the excerpts that have run in the Paris Review.

  • April 5, 2016

    James Hannaham

    James Hannaham

    James Hannaham has won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for his daring second novel, Delicious Foods, a book that, he told the Washington Post, seemed like “such a misfit, but it’s turning out to be a lot more popular than the kid I thought it was.” Hannaham took the opportunity to plead for more literary fiction that’s about something other than “small things that happen to literary people”: “If you look at composers or poets, experimentation is the most fun they can have. What’s wrong with the literary world that there isn’t more respect for and enjoyment of experimentation?”

    Public editor Margaret Sullivan considers why the New York Times hasn’t given the story of the “Panama Papers,” which “are being called the largest ever leak of secret data, and articles about the offshore bank accounts of bigwigs worldwide,” the kind of coverage it seems to deserve.

    For a piece in the New Republic, Michelle Dean was granted permission to quote from some of Adrienne Rich’s little-seen letters from the 1960s and ’70s, and they make for a rare and fascinating portrait. In 1968, for instance, Rich is feeling uncertain about James Baldwin’s latest work: “I haven’t reread any of the early essays or that first novel that seemed so good to me five years ago. Maybe our perceptions are getting sharper. Maybe he sharpened them, blunting himself in the process.”

    British actor Sir Ian McKellen would rather give back his $1.4 million advance than have to write his memoirs.

    At this point, there can’t be much left to say about Donald Trump, and yet it’s fitting to see him become part of one of the great debates in modern American media: In a recent interview with the New York Post, his ex-wife Ivana Trump asserted that while he “loves women,” he is “not a feminist.” But, the New York Times reports, “Ivana Trump’s staff later called the paper to say Mr. Trump was, in fact, a feminist, before calling again to say he was not — and then calling a final time to say he was, indeed, a feminist.”

    Cynthia Carr dives into Robert Mapplethorpe’s archive to discover another side of the artist, who is the subject of two new exhibitions and an HBO documentary that aired last night.

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