• September 28, 2016

    Viet Thanh Nguyen. Photo by BeBe Jacobs

    Viet Thanh Nguyen. Photo by BeBe Jacobs

    Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer, maps the current fight over cultural appropriation and outlines the myriad ways—acknowledging history, accepting criticism, taking responsibility—that writers can advance the argument over who gets to write about what. “If all of this seems too difficult, then you understand why people would rather fight over things like food, and why building walls may seem easier than building bridges.”

    The New Yorker’s David Remnick has written a paean to BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith. Calling the site “an entity that is hard to define,” Remnick admires Smith’s ability to combine “mind-vacation” listicles and quizzes with enterprising investigative journalism. “The truth is, I have no idea what BuzzFeed is going to be in a couple of years . . . but it is fascinating to witness Ben Smith & Co. trying to figure it all out. Dull is the last thing it’s going to be.”

    Jill Soloway’s adaptation of Chris Kraus’s novel I Love Dick has been picked up by Amazon for a full season. The show will be available on Amazon Prime in 2017.

    At Gizmodo, Matt Novak details his struggles to obtain information on Guy Sims Fitch, a fictional writer invented by the United States Information Agency for propaganda purposes. Fitch’s articles were written by a number of unidentified employees of the now-defunct agency “to promote American economic interests abroad” during the Cold War, and have been found in archived newspapers worldwide. Novak filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA for documents regarding the invented journalist, but was denied by the CIA over privacy concerns. The organization has asked Novak to provide the verified identities of every USIA employee who wrote under Fitch’s name, as well as proof of consent for their information to be made public. The CIA has also requested death certificates for any of the Fitch writers who may have died in the meantime. “The short version? They’re toying with me,” Novak writes.

    Truman Capote’s ashes were sold last weekend for $43,750 to an anonymous buyer. The cremains had been given a starting price of $2,000. Other items sold in the auction included the clothes Capote died in ($6,400) and “two lots of his prescription pill bottles” ($9,280).

    Tonight in Harlem, the Schomburg Center hosts a conversation between Negroland author Margo Jefferson and Kia Corthron, playwright, writer for The Wire, and author of The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter.

  • September 27, 2016

    Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas launched his digital media project EmergingUS on Medium yesterday, aimed at a growing demographic that Vargas identifies as wanting “to see the women of Black Lives Matter next to The Bamboo Ceiling next to White people talking about diversity and inclusivity next to mixed-race people.” Vargas had originally partnered with the Los Angeles Times, but struggled to find a new host for the documentary series after the deal fell through. He hopes the project will change how digital media reports on “issues of identity, race, and immigration.”

    Dan Slater. Photo: Sophie Herbert

    Dan Slater. Photo: Sophie Herbert

    After Dan Slater’s Wolf Boys was added to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s list of banned books the very same week it was published, The Guardian takes a look at the Texas prison system’s approved reading materials. Books like Bob Dole’s World War II: An Illustrated History of Crisis and Courage; Friday Night Lights; and Jon Stewart’s America don’t make the cut, but Mein Kampf and David Duke’s Jewish Supremacism are allowed.

    The Huffington Post details the threats that Donald Trump poses to free speech and reiterates the need for banned book week. “By electing someone so cavalier about the nation’s most cherished foundational rights, we could risk what’s taken 200 years to build.”

    Charles Seife investigates the Food and Drug Administration’s widespread use of close-hold embargoes with reporters. Not only do these agreements require news outlets to hold off on publishing an article until a specified date, but they also ban the writer from interviewing non-FDA approved sources. The result, writes Siefe, is that “the watchdogs are being turned into lapdogs.”

    Presidential historian and biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin interviews President Obama for Vanity Fair’s November issue. The two first met in 2007, when then-Senator Obama called Goodwin to praise one of her books: “Hello, this is Barack Obama. I’ve just read Team of Rivals and we have to talk about Lincoln.” Besides the legacies of Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Reagan, and nearly every other twentieth-century president, the pair discuss Obama’s legacy as his final term comes to an end, and whether he’ll “feel melancholy or nostalgic” at the next inauguration.

    Tonight at Greenlight Books in Brooklyn, Rivka Galchen talks to Ruth Franklin about her new book, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life.

  • September 26, 2016

    The New York Times has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. The paper cites as evidence both Clinton’s political record and the nature of the 2016 election. “One candidate . . . has a record of service and a raft of pragmatic ideas, and the other, Donald Trump, discloses nothing concrete about himself or his plans while promising the moon and offering the stars on layaway.”

    Roger Angell, the author of many books, writes in the New Yorker that he has voted in eighteen presidential elections (he first voted in 1944, for FDR). He then explains why his nineteenth vote, in this November’s election, will be the most important.

    During a recent rally protesting the police shootings of Tyree King, Terence Crutcher, and Keith Lamont Scott, Russell Rickford, a professor at Cornell and the author of We Are an African People: Independent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination, identified three fallacies of neoliberal protest. “We need an uncompromising, multiracial, grassroots movement against white supremacy, endless war, and vicious corporate capitalism,” he writes. “This is a human rights struggle. And it will be waged in the streets, not in boardrooms, the halls of Congress, or other strongholds of global capital.”

    Claudia Rankine

    Claudia Rankine

    Claudia Rankine, the author of Citizen: An American Lyric and a recipient of a 2016 MacArthur grant, talks to the Los Angeles Times about her new project, the Racial Imaginary Institute, which she has been planning with Casey Llewellyn and a number of writers and artists. The institute “is an interdisciplinary arts and cultural laboratory for the dismantling of white dominance,” she says. “One of the things I think the culture needs is an actual location where writers and artists and thinkers can come together and put pressure on the language that makes apparent white supremacy and white dominance. I think a lot of us are working separately on these subjects, but it would be nice to have a Racial Imaginary Institute that really has as its goal the dismantling of white supremacy.” Rankine explains why members of the institute should come from a variety of fields: “If you’re a writer, you have the benefit of talking to other artists who are interested in the subject. What are we missing? What isn’t getting said? What are the narratives of white greatness that disallow other things to be brought to the surface?”

    Some of the more extreme Trump supporters have taken their trolling to an unlikely part of the web: Goodreads. Last week, young-adult novelist Laura Silverman, who often criticizes the Republican candidate on Twitter, found that her novel Girl Out of Water was receiving numerous one-star reviews on the book rating site. The problem? Silverman’s book isn’t out until next spring and review copies have not been released.  

    Margaret Atwood explains her choice to set her new novel Hag-Seed, based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in a Canadian prison rather than on an uncharted island. “What was the modern-day equivalent of a magician marooned on an island for 12 years with a now adolescent daughter? You couldn’t write that straight: all the islands are known, there are satellites now, they would have been rescued by a helicopter in no time flat.”

    Facebook will collaborate with ABC to stream the presidential debate tonight. Using Facebook Live and other video features on the network’s page, ABC plans to “incorporate viewers’ comments, questions and conversations” into their coverage, which will be free of ads. Other non-TV options for watching the debates include Twitter, who will stream Bloomberg’s coverage of the debate, and AltspaceVR, who is partnering with NBC to create a virtual reality viewing option.

  • September 23, 2016

    PEN America has released a new report on media censorship in China. The nearly eighty-page report found foreign journalists have had an increasingly difficult time doing their job since president Xi Jinping took office in 2012. The organization points to Chinese citizens’ wariness of being a source for foreign journalists due to increased crackdowns on and arrests of activists, writers, and others who question the party. Journalists have also found it more difficult to apply for and receive work visas, and foreign news outlets have shied away from publishing critical articles on their Chinese-language websites in order to avoid retaliation.

    Charles Harder, Hulk Hogan’s defense lawyer in the case that bankrupted Gawker Media, tells the Hollywood Reporter that he’s “anything but the enemy of a free press.” The entertainment lawyer once defended stars in “reputation protection” cases, usually against a retailer misusing a celebrity’s likeness to sell goods. “Now the simple act of him sending a warning letter makes news.” Although Harder was happy to talk about Hulk Hogan, Nick Denton, and Peter Thiel, he was less interested in expounding on his possible case against New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman. The attorney refused to confirm that he was defending Ailes, even after being reminded of the leaked warning letter to the magazine, responding with a question of his own: “If someone sends a private letter, is it public?”

    Jay McInerney

    Jay McInerney

    Bright, Precious Days author Jay McInerney tells the LA Times that his fictional character Russell Calloway “would have to finally make good on his threat to move to France” if Donald Trump is elected president. “I fear we may be moving toward a post-factual world. Yeah, I’ve certainly thought of this as the start of a new book.”

    The New York Times reports on the fashions of the New York Art Book Fair, held last weekend at MoMA PS1. As one attendee clad in all white tells the paper, “I realize it’s a controversy because it’s after Labor Day, but I’m pushing boundaries.”

    President Obama presented the 2015 National Medals of Arts and National Humanities Medals yesterday. Winners include Mel Brooks, Terry Gross, James McBride, and others.

    Graeme Macrae Burnet, whose novel His Bloody Project was included on the Man Booker shortlist, is outselling the other books on the list: Since the announcement of the finalists on September 13, Burnet’s book has sold over 10,000 copies. But Contraband, the book’s Glasgow-based publisher, has only two full-time employees and is struggling to meet the demand. Contraband founder Sara Hunt called the book’s popularity “fantastic and an utter surprise.”

    Tonight at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, poets Janine Joseph, Solmaz Sharif, and Ocean Vuong read their work.

  • September 22, 2016

    Greg Tate

    Greg Tate

    Maggie Nelson and Claudia Rankine have been awarded MacArthur Fellowships, also known as “Genius Grants.” Robert Caro, author of The Power Broker and an epic multivolume biography of Lyndon Johnson, will receive the National Book Award medal for lifetime achievement.

    Gizmodo Media group—the company formerly known as Gawker Media—has named Raju Narisetti as its new CEO. Narisetti, who is currently a senior vice-president at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., will begin his new gig in October.

    Publishers Weekly reports some bleak book-sales numbers: The first quarter of 2016 saw a 10 percent drop in print-book sales and a 19 percent fall in e-book sales. On the bright side, downloadable audiobooks saw sales rise by 36 percent, and trade-paperback purchases nudged upwards by 1.5 percent.

    Drew Magary, author of the novels The Hike and The Postmortal, sends a heated message to anyone planning to vote for Trump in the upcoming election: “Screw you.” Meanwhile, Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, imagines what Trump, if elected, would do in his first term.

    At the New Yorker, music critic Hua Hsu (A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific) has penned an appreciation of critic Greg Tate, who recently published a collection of essays, interviews, and short takes titled Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader. Tate, a former staff writer for the Village Voice, is known for his unmistakable style, critical engagement, and revelatory juxtapositions: “His best paragraphs throbbed like a party and chattered like a salon; they were stylishly jam-packed with names and reference points that shouldn’t have got along but did.” The Reader compiles thirty years of Tate’s work, including conversations with Ice Cube and Miles Davis, essays on artist Kara Walker and Kehinde Wiley, reviews of Eminem and Azealia Banks, and obituaries for Amiri Baraka and Richard Pryor. As Hsu writes, “For a generation of critics, Tate’s career has served as a reminder that diversity isn’t just about a splash of color in the group photo; it’s about the different ways that people see, feel, and move within the world.”

    Tonight in New York, the Red Ink reading series will present its second event, “Writing the Body.” Participants include Eileen Myles, Alexandra Kleeman, Porochista Khakpour, Ruth Ozeki, and others.  

  • September 21, 2016

    Kirkus has announced the finalists for its annual book award, who include Annie Proulx, Colson Whitehead, C. E. Morgan, and others. The three winners—each of whom will receive a $50,000 prize—will be announced on November 3.

    Cave Canem, the group dedicated to furthering the work of African American poets, was awarded the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award. The $10,000 prize “for service to the American literary community” is being awarded to an organization (rather than an individual) for the first time.

    The New York Times will partner with Jigsaw, a technology branch of Google’s parent company Alphabet, to speed up their comments review process. Currently, the paper’s online articles receive 11,000 comments per day, which are sorted through by fourteen moderators. The partnership hopes to increase the number of approved comments, which is currently around 10 percent.

    At the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik uses lines from Alexander Pope’s poem “An Essay on Man” to shed light on the rise of Donald Trump.

    Eduardo Galeano

    Eduardo Galeano

    Nation Books will publish journalist and novelist Eduardo Galeano’s memoir. The book combines older autobiographical writing with the author’s reflections on mortality, written in the months before he died in April 2015. Hunter of Stories will be released in the fall of next year.

    Laura Poitras, one of the founding editors of The Intercept, is leaving the site to build Field of Vision, a web platform dedicated to film journalism. Poitras announced the new website, an intriguing lineup of films premiering on the site in the coming months, and a system for sources to securely contribute videos, images, and audio.       

    Tonight at Desert Island Comics in Brooklyn, New Yorker cartoonist Emily Flake talks with Glen Baxter about his new comics collection, Almost Completely Baxter.

  • September 20, 2016

    David Marcus, formerly the co-editor of Dissent magazine and also the co-editor of a forthcoming collection of writings by Marshall Berman, has been hired to be the new Literary Editor of The Nation.

    Poynter reports that the Dallas Morning News’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton may have cost the paper subscribers. “We write our editorials based on principle, and sometimes principle comes at a cost,” news editor Mike Wilson said. Last week, Donald Trump supporters demonstrated in front of the newspaper’s office to protest the endorsement.

    Andrea Wulf

    Andrea Wulf

    Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature has won the Royal Society Insight Investment science book prize. The book details the life of Alexander von Humboldt, the nineteenth-century naturalist and explorer who “has more things named after him than anyone who has ever lived, including an ocean current, a six-foot squid and a breed of penguin.”

    Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Daniel Golden will be joining ProPublica as a senior editor next month. Meanwhile, the news site’s Electionland project, which began by partnering with one-hundred local news outlets to monitor obstacles to voting on election day nationwide, now has 250 participating news organizations.

    Betting is now open for the Nobel Prize in Literature, which will be announced on October 7th. According to the betting site Ladbrokes, Haruki Murakami (odds: 5/1), Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (7/1), and Philip Roth (8/1) are among the authors favored to win, while Bob Dylan (50/1), Joan Didion (66/1), and Don DeLillo (66/1) are considered longshots.

    The Guardian has a roundup of some of the panels at Sunday’s Brooklyn Book Festival, noting that the speakers often talked of “an America that is riddled with anxieties” in the face of the upcoming election. A Necessary Trouble author Sarah Jaffe worried about the stories going unreported “because we’re busy hanging on every word Trump says,” while The Nation’s Mychal Denzel Smith said that for Trump’s backers “democracy is in full force.” The previous evening’s IED explosion in Manhattan was mentioned only briefly at the “Terror, Threats and Fear” panel featuring Masha Gessen, Amitava Kumar, and Moustafa Bayoumi. Gessen, the author of a book about the Tsarnaev brothers, noted that while it’s impossible to find a root cause for a terrorist act, “nobody is going to blow people up if they’ve had a great life.” Of the frightening possibility of a Trump presidency, the Ottawa-born Margaret Atwood seemed to read many of the attendees’ minds, joking that “Canada is not big enough to come to the rescue. . . . But you’re all welcome. We’ll set up cots.”

  • September 19, 2016

    Wired examines The Bestseller Code, a book written by English Ph.D Jodie Archer and Stanford Literary Lab co-founder Matthew L. Jockers, based on their computer algorithm that can predict whether or not a book will be a bestseller with 80 percent accuracy. Key features of bestsellers, according to the program, include “young, strong heroines who are also misfits. … No sex, just ‘human closeness.’ Frequent use of the verb ‘need.’ Lots of contractions. Not a lot of exclamation marks. Dogs, yes; cats, meh.”

    The 2016 Online Journalism Awards were announced this weekend at the Online News Association Conference. Honorees include Quartz, AJ+, and the New York Times for “general excellence”; The Intercept for “The Drone Papers”; and New York Magazine for their feature “Cosby: The Women.”

    Joseph Kahn

    Joseph Kahn

    The New York Times is resurrecting the managing editor role and has appointed international assistant editor Joseph Kahn to the position. Executive editor Dean Baquet, who cut the job in 2014, said that without a managing editor, enacting changes in the newsroom was too difficult: “I thought that I really needed a partner in it, if we were really going to pull it off.” The paper also announced that Susan Chira, currently a deputy executive editor, will now be reporting on gender issues for the Times.

    The Gray Lady is also adopting a more aggressive stance towards Republican candidate Donald Trump’s false statements to the press, a move that Kahn supports. Reflecting on a recent headline—”Unwinding a Lie: Donald Trump and ‘Birtherism’”—Kahn said that the usual headline that would “let the reader decide for himself or herself … didn’t feel quite right.”

    Alex Thompson, a Vice News reporter, was arrested in Houston when he attempted to access a Trump event as a member of the press. Thompson has since been released.

    Vice, Gannett Media, and the Associated Press have filed a lawsuit seeking access to FBI documents pertaining to the agency’s access of the San Bernardino attacker’s phone. The news organizations had previously requested information on how the phone was accessed and how much the process cost through the Freedom of Information Act, but were denied. “FBI Director James Comey intimated in April that the price had been more than $1 million. He later said the security exploit was ‘well worth’ the high price.”

    The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald calls out the Washington Post for their demand that Edward Snowden, coverage of whom won the paper a Pulitzer, “accept a measure of criminal responsibility for his excesses.” The Post’s editorial board argued this weekend that the exposure of the NSA’s metadata collection was justified, but revealing the “clearly legal” PRISM program’s inner workings was not. Greenwald writes, “What did the Post editors forget to mention? That the newspaper which (simultaneous with The Guardian) made the choice to expose the PRISM program by spreading its operational details and top secret manual all over its front page is called . . . . The Washington Post.”

  • September 16, 2016

    The National Book Awards longlist for fiction is here. Finalists chosen by Jesmyn Ward and other judges include Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone, Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You, and more.

    The Dayton Literary Peace Prize has released shortlists for its fiction and nonfiction prizes. Honorees include Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, and Wil Haygood’s Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America. Winners will be announced in October.

    Jon Day, one of the judges for this year’s Man Booker prize, explains the panel’s shortlist choices and reflects on the selection process. “Being a judge for the Man Booker prize has at times felt like being part of a team of archaeologists excavating some vast buried city. Once the dust has settled—after nine months of reading—you stand back to survey your labours and realise all that’s left is a small pile of gleaming fragments.”

    rafi-zakaria-portrait.jpg.size.custom.crop.415x650Rafia Zakaria weighs in on the hypocrisy of terrorism reporting. Comparing the coverage of Dylan Roof, the white supremacist who murdered nine people in a church and has been dubbed a “domestic terrorist”—a meaningless designation under US law—to reporting on attacks by muslims, Zakaria writes: “Journalists are deeply committed to the First Amendment freedoms that permit them to do their jobs. Yet they have failed to explore how First Amendment protections are being disparately applied, exacerbating the threat posed by one group and underplaying another.” The paper is the first in a series of three by the Columbia Journalism Review.

    Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, a collection of George W. Bush’s paintings of veterans and soldiers, will be published next February.

    The Brooklyn Book Festival starts this weekend—see all of Sunday’s events here. Tonight’s Bookend events include the New York Review of Books’s Darryl Pinckney and the New Yorker’s Vinson Cunningham in conversation at the Weeksville Heritage Center; a panel moderated by n+1’s Nikil Saval on political reporting; and writers Rivka Galchen and Heidi Julavits on motherhood and writing.

  • September 15, 2016

    The National Book Association has chosen the finalists for its nonfiction award, including Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, and Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, among others.

    Suki Kim

    Suki Kim

    After meeting with a small group of writers over drinks at a conference this weekend, author Suki Kim was shocked to find her comments quoted in the New York Times. Rod Nordland’s article on Lionel Shriver’s controversial keynote at the Brisbane Writers Festival included a quote by Kim naming an author she felt was unfairly praised. Kim is not happy about seeing what she thought was a private conversation in the paper of record: “This is so unethical. It’s not acceptable what he did. . . . I would never talk about another writer in public. It’s so ungenerous and tacky.” The Times’s public editor Liz Spayd agreed that Nordland’s reporting was “outside the bounds of good journalistic practice,” but says it’s too late to remove the quote.

    Reagan Arthur—the publisher of Little, Brown—has bought Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s debut novel, Heather, the Totality. Inspired by Weiner’s observation of an Upper East Side teenager that he sensed was in “animal danger,” the “dark fable set in contemporary Manhattan” will be published in Fall 2017.

    Vice News has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the IRS in a bid to publicize Donald Trump’s tax records after the agency ignored Vice’s requests for expedited processing. They have also filed suit against the FBI for ignoring requests to release documents—”if any exist”—relating to the Republican candidate’s appeal Russia to track down missing emails from Clinton’s server and his allusion to assassinating the Democratic nominee. Vice has also delayed the premiere of their nightly news show Vice News Tonight by two weeks.

    Hachette Books will publish The Most Beautiful, a memoir by Prince’s first wife, Mayte Garcia, in April 2017.

    Tonight in the lead-up to the Brooklyn Book Festival, Teddy Wayne reads from his new novel Loner at Book Court; members of the National Book Critics Circle “discuss the art of writing about books” at the Center for Fiction; and Patti Smith celebrates the release of M Train at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope.