• April 27, 2016

    Rebecca Traister

    Rebecca Traister

    David Miscavige, the head of the Church of Scientology, is attempting to halt the publication of a memoir by his father, Ron Miscavige. The book, titled Ruthless, is slated to be published by St. Martin’s press on May 3. Ron was a longtime member of the Church, but has since left (he was, according to reports, spied on by the Church for eighteen months). According to Scientology expert Tony Ortega, St. Martin’s (and Ruthless’s UK publisher, Silvertail) has received a letter from David Miscavige’s lawyers, which states: “You are now on notice of the highly defamatory content of the subject book. In the event that you proceed … our client will be left with no alternative but to seek the protection of UK/Irish defamation and other laws. Accordingly, even at this late stage, we would urge you to reconsider your decision to proceed … [with] what clearly will be a totally unjustified, premeditated attack on our client’s reputation and character.”

    Paramount Television has purchased the rights to adapt Rebecca Traister’s book All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, which was published in March by Simon & Schuster. Traister will be the TV series’s executive producer.

    Longreads has posted an interview with Jillian Keenan, whose new book, Sex with Shakespeare, combines meditations on her love of the Bard with memoiristic passages about the fetish community and her penchant for spanking.

    The New Republic has named Eric Bates as the editor who will “lead the day-to-day editorial operations across the magazine, our website and all related platforms.” (Win McCormack, who recently purchased the magazine, will remain the Editor in Chief.) Bates has been an editor at Rolling Stone and Mother Jones, and in 2014 helped launch The Intercept, the website cofounded by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill.

    For the second year in a row, the Hugo Awards, which celebrates the best science-fiction of the year, has been dominated by two right-wing groups, known as the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies movements, both of whom have been vehemently working against what they see as a “leftwing bias” in the genre. The two groups have successfully campaigned to place many of their own titles on the shortlist, which was announced yesterday. That means this year’s shortlist includes “SJWs Always Lie, an essay about ‘social justice warriors’ by Rabid Puppies campaign leader Vox Day; a self-published parody of erotic dinosaur fiction called Space Raptor Butt Invasion, by Chuck Tingle; and My Little Pony cartoon The Cutie Map.”

    Adam Kirsch and Zoe Heller ponder the question: “Can a book with bad politics be a good book?

  • April 26, 2016

    Gannett, the conglomerate that owns USA Today and many other media companies, has submitted a bid for $815 million to buy Tribune Publishing, which owns the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and nine other daily papers. According to the New York Times, Tribune has been “shy”  and “coy” in its response to the bid. As Andrew Ross Sorkin writes, “Instead of Tribune’s board popping champagne corks and shouting Hallelujah, it told Gannett, astonishingly, in effect: ‘Wait. We’re not sure we want to do that and, actually, we’re not sure we even want to talk to you about it.’”   

    Today in Paris, New York Times management is planning to meet with union members. The Paris office staff fear the worst, as the New York Post quotes one source: “A lot of people are anxious. . . .  People are worried they are going to close it.” A few days ago, the Post also reported that the Times is planning to lay off a few hundred employees, quoting a disquieting memo sent earlier this year by executive editor Dean Baquet: “Simply put, we keep turning things on—greater visual journalism, live news blogs, faster enterprise, podcasting, racing against an ever-growing list of new competitors on an expanding list of stories—without ever turning things off.”  

    Harper Lee

    Harper Lee

    A previously unknown article by Harper Lee has been discovered. Lee, who worked as Truman Capote’s research assistant on In Cold Blood, wrote her own story about the murder case in an unsigned piece for The Grapevine, a magazine for former FBI agents. The essay was discovered by Lee biographer Charles J Shields, when he stumbled on this note in a newspaper column by one of Lee’s friends: “Nelle Harper Lee, young writer who came to Garden City with Truman Capote to gather material for a New Yorker magazine article on the Clutter case, wrote the piece. Miss Harper’s first novel is due for publication . . . this spring and advance reports say it is bound to be a success.”

    The novelists (and literary power couple) Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman have been researching a book of essays they are to edit that will mark fifty years of Israeli occupation. As their twenty-two other contributors will do over the coming months, the two have been visiting the occupied territories to get a better sense of the everyday lives of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. During the couple’s trip, The Forward interviewed Chabon, whose comic noir novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is probably the closest he has come to addressing Israel in his work to date. What a creative writer has to offer in such situations, he says, “is an overt point of view that doesn’t try to hide itself the way journalists are trained to be objective and conceal their biases and just ‘present the facts.’” Chabon has now made his position on the occupation very clear: “It is the most grievous injustice I have ever seen in my life. I have seen bad things in my own country, in America. There is plenty of horrifying injustice in the U.S. prison system, the ‘second Jim Crow,’ it is often called. Our drug laws in the United States are grotesquely unjust. I know to some degree what I am talking about. This is the worst thing I have ever seen, just purely in terms of injustice. If saying that is going to lose me readers, I don’t want those readers. They can go away and never come back.”

    The Hollywood Reporter has a story about the Los Angeles Review of Books in which the likes of Cameron Diaz and Mad Men creator Matt Weiner enthuse about the literary journal. But while Weiner sings its praises for being “a little bit renegade” and having “a little bit of ‘f— you’,” Michael Tolkin—who wrote Robert Altman’s The Player and thus, incidentally, gave the world its clearest sense of how to pitch a Hollywood movie (Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman!)—sees it very differently. “LARB is much more interested in finding people who are enthusiastic about the writing they’re looking at than the takedown,” Tolkin is quoted as saying, before adding, “That’s an East Coast device, not a West Coast device.” We’d consider saying something scathing about that, but we don’t want to play to coastal type.

     

  • April 25, 2016

    Marlon James

    Marlon James

    In New York, the PEN World Voices Festival opens tonight with an event titled “The Drug Edition,” which will look at “our society’s need for mind-altering drugs and the all-too-human desire to escape reality.” Participants include Marlon James, Anne Enright, and Paul Muldoon. You can find the full schedule of events here.

    Today, former Grantland staffers Andy Greenwald (author of Nothing Feels Good) and Chris Ryan (Lethal Weapon) will launch their new podcast about Game of Thrones (the TV show) at Channel 33, the podcast network of Bill Simmons’s eagerly anticipated site The Ringer.

    After the New York primaries last week, a website with the Huffington Post banner ran a piece with the headline “Sanders Supporters in New York See their Votes Switched to Hillary.” But it wasn’t actually the Huffington Post. Snopes reports on the hoax.

    Novelist Daniel Kehlmann (author of the book F) talks with scholar Michael Maar about a series of similarities between Vladimir Nabokov’s work and a book by a now forgotten writer named Heinz von Lichberg. It’s not plagiarism, notes Maar, but probably a series of elaborate inside jokes, which Maar is attempting (with the help of Nabokov’s recently published Letters to Vera) to figure out.

    At Medium, Jotham Sederstrom, an editor at the Daily News, took full responsibility for the instances of plagiarism found in the recent work of columnist Shaun King, which surfaced last week after the Daily Beast noted that one of its own articles had been quoted without attribution by King. Says Sederstrom: “In all honesty, the controversy — a fuck up on my part, to put it bluntly — comes down to two unintentional, albeit inexcusable, instances of sloppy editing on my part and a formatting glitch that until Tuesday I had no idea was systematically stripping out large blocks of indented quotations each time I moved Shaun’s copy from an email to The News’ own Content Management System, or ‘CMS’ as it’s called in media parlance.” Gawker provides more evidence that King originally cited his sources and that the attributions were removed in the editing process. Sederstrom has since been  fired. His apology on Medium gives an overwhelming sense of how increased workload and office pace can threaten journalistic standards.

    Last week, the gossip site TMZ broke the news of Prince’s death more than fifteen minutes before any other news organization would confirm it. The Washington Post points out what it calls a paradox: “Although [TMZ] has been quite reliable on many major stories, mainstream news sources are reluctant to rely on its say-so alone.” But this doesn’t seem like a paradox so much as a difference in approach and standards. Being more than “quite reliable” takes a little more time (and often a verified source).

    Authors Rob Sheffield (Love Is a Mix Tape), Michaelangelo Matos (The Underground Is Massive), and Carl Wilson (Let’s Talk about Love) celebrate the genius of Prince.

  • April 22, 2016

    Prince

    Prince

    At the Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg mourns the loss of Prince, who died yesterday aged fifty-seven, and cites his 2007 appearance at the Super Bowl, “this particular worship service dedicated to traditional masculinity,” as an argument for “a vastly huger range of possible ways for a man to command the nation.” Rosenberg also reminds us of Hilton Als’s great “paean 2 Prince,” from a 2012 issue of Harper’s. It’s not yet clear how far the star had gotten with his memoir, which he’d recently announced he was writing with the help of the Paris Review’s Dan Piepenbring (“a good critic. . . . Not a yes man”), but TMZ suggests there are at least fifty pages.

    Richard Brody surveys the movie criticism of the underground legend Jonas Mekas on the New Cinema, recently reissued by Columbia University Press: “Some of the greatest pages in the book aren’t film criticism but reporting, on the tight and persecutorial reign of censorship that prevailed in New York, even in the nineteen-sixties. The most affecting passages detail those hardships—the poverty that many of the filmmakers he knew, and that he himself, bore, and the legal trouble that some of them, and that Mekas himself, faced as a result of New York’s, and the federal government’s, stringent enforcement of censorship laws.”

    At Slate, Helaine Olen identifies a much-discussed essay in The Atlantic by film critic and historian Neal Gabler (on middle-class American poverty, including his own) as part of a familiar and dubious genre: “All the sad, broke literary men.”

    Tonight, n+1 launches its new issue with a party at Signal Gallery in Brooklyn.

  • April 21, 2016

    The winners of this year’s Lambda Literary Awards, which honor excellence in LGBT literature, include Eileen Myles and Hilton Als. At the June 6th ceremony, winners in twenty-five categories will be announced by a stellar cast of writers, performers, and activists including actor Cherry Jones (who played a Myles-like character on Transparent), editor Tavi Gevinson, comedienne Kate Clinton, and many other stars.    

    Bret Easton Ellis

    Bret Easton Ellis

    The New York Times accompanied Bret Easton Ellis on a night out to see the Broadway musical version of his novel American Psycho. After some initial trepidation, Ellis appeared to enjoy the show, as the paper describes: “Pretty soon, Mr. Ellis was reveling in the punch lines, most of them lifted straight out of the book, and silently congratulating himself, thinking, ‘That’s mine, that’s mine,’ he said later.” Still, Ellis doesn’t want to seem too gratified that his controversial novel—with its laugh lines at Trump’s expense—has found unexpected resonance twenty-five years after it was first published: “Vindicated is too strong a word, because that would mean that I care too much. . . I would say, I’m mildly surprised.”

    At Page Turner, Joshua Rothman considers the fifth and penultimate volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle (out this week), using its publication as an opportunity to look back on the project. Rothman notes that one of Knausgaard’s preoccupations across the series has been “auditioning routes to freedom” that never really pan out, including music, drinking, and sex. In the fifth volume, we see Knausgaard finally finding something that frees him from his abiding sense of being trapped—a selfless way of writing that explores what the novelist has called the space between reality and ideas. This is what’s so mesmerizing about the novel, Rothman writes, arguing that the author doesn’t quite fit the “solipsistic” label that’s so often applied to him: “Knausgaard writes beautifully about landscapes, and he describes his inner life the way he describes a landscape, simply noting, with tender exactness, what is there. . . . The inner and outer landscapes are united. He’s invented a new kind of narration: he chronicles the minute details of his own existence, but not from the perspective of himself.”

    The pathologically modest critic Michael Dirda bemoans the plainness of his own prose style: “I have no flair for similes and metaphors,” he writes. “Nothing ever reminds me of anything else.” Dirda revels in some of the discoveries to be made in Farnsworth’s Classical English Metaphor, from the simple but devastating (from the novelist Ouida: “Moralists say that a soul should resist passion. They might as well say that a house should resist an earthquake”) to the bizarre and unforgettable:Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once compared human existence to an unlikely vegetable: ‘I wax impatient sometimes to think of how much time it takes to do a little fragment of what one would like to do and dreams of. Life is like an artichoke; each day, week, month, year, gives you one little bit which you nibble off — but precious little compared to what you throw away.’”

    From Duke University Press comes a definitive new series of the writings of Stuart Hall, a founding member of the British New Left and one of the twentieth century’s greatest cultural theorists. Alongside edited volumes on themes from race to popular culture to photography, the series will include the first US edition of Hall’s memoir, Displacements: Lives and Ideas in Two Black Diasporas, due out next year. The first volume in the series will be published this October, but in the meanwhile, you may want to watch John Akomfrah’s moving tribute to Hall, which is full of fascinating archival footage.

    Tonight at McNally Jackson, Dan Fox, Asad Raza, and Christian Lorentzen will celebrate pretentiousness, in honor of Fox’s new book on the subject. Pretentiousness is, Lorentzen says in his review, “something I crave, in myself and others. Authenticity is overrated — give me a perfectly struck pose.”

  • April 20, 2016

    Kevin Bacon

    Kevin Bacon

    A few readers of Chris Kraus’s groundbreaking epistolary novel I Love Dick have expressed concern that publishing it was unfair to cultural critic Dick Hebdige, her sometime crush and the book’s unwilling subject. It should come as some comfort to those people (and, who knows, perhaps even to Hebdige himself) that the delightful Kevin Bacon is likely to play Dick in Jill Soloway’s upcoming TV version.

    Bill Cosby’s lawyers are pressing New York magazine to release all unpublished material from the interviews for its cover story on his many accusers.

    In the latest issue of Harper’s, Elaine Blair very gently dispatches John D’Agata—and David Shields, for good measure.

    At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Elizabeth Schambelan reads Donald Trump and our current moment via Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies, a thousand-page “psycho-political investigation of authoritarian manhood in extremis.”

    A note on the often-porous line between media and politics: BuzzFeed tells us that Trump’s campaign last year paid Sebastian Gorka, Breitbart’s national security editor and a frequent guest on Fox News, as a policy consultant; Gorka’s wife Katherine, also affiliated with Breitbart, advises Ted Cruz on national security. (Mr. Gorka, BuzzFeed also notes, is said to have tried to go through airport security with a handgun earlier this year.) Moving closer to the center aisle, it seems that CNN for a long time nursed hopes of hiring Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

    Meanwhile, the New York Observer’s restaurant critic, after the paper’s endorsement of Trump (whose son-in-law-to-be owns it), felt moved to resign his cushy post: “It’s not quite falling on my sword,” he writes, “more like leaning gently on a butter knife.” The prospect of continuing to write for the Observer, even about “crudités and deconstructed borscht,” had grown too much. And Jennifer Ashley Wright, another Observer writer, has announced that she is tiring of some of its contents, too: “Now, you can defend statements about female journalists being skanks by saying, ‘It’s provocative!’,” she notes, but “most people reach an age at which their actions should provoke a response other than outraged wonder—and most publications do, as well.”

  • April 19, 2016

    Kathryn Schulz

    Kathryn Schulz

    This year’s Pulitzer Prize winners were announced yesterday, including Kathryn Schulz, who’s being rewarded one more time for scaring us more than any magazine writer should.

    Hilary Mantel describes her days writing fiction, which “makes me the servant of a process that has no clear beginning and end or method of measuring achievement. . . . A book grows according to a subtle and deep-laid plan. At the end, I see what the plan was.

    Lenny, Lena Dunham’s new Random House imprint, is publishing Sour Heart, the first story collection by poet and essayist Jenny Zhang. (“The good thing about having so many genres to work in,” Zhang told The Stranger not long ago, “is that I can go back to an old one and it feels new again. Distance made my heart grow fonder for fiction.”)

    Ryan McCarthy has left the New York Times to become editor in chief of Vice News, replacing founding editor Jason Mojica, who will be moving to Vice’s soon-to-be-launched nightly HBO show as head of international coverage—which makes sense, as Mojica is the man who brought the world the spectacle that was Dennis Rodman in North Korea.

    Curtis Sittenfeld, whose new book is a reimagining of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is in trouble for suggesting in an interview that “most romances are badly written.”

  • 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.

     

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