• September 14, 2015

    Mark Bittman

    Mark Bittman

    How to Cook Everything author Mark Bittman announced on Saturday that he’s leaving the New York Times, where he has been a food columnist for almost five years. The author, whose work for the Times has helped Americans eat food that is better for their health and for the environment, says that he will be taking “a central role in a year-old food company, to do what I’ve been writing about these many years: to make it easier for people to eat more plants.” He does not reveal the name of his new employer.

    In a new interview, novelist and essayist Aleksandar Hemon, who was visiting the US when his native Sarajevo erupted in war in 1992, reflects on the current refugee crisis in Europe: “There are so many instances in history where Europe, and other countries too, shut their doors to refugees, somehow hoping that they would die or vanish. The saddest thing is that the tragedy of people having to risk their lives, and losing their lives crossing the sea or half of Europe, is seen as a desire to steal from us what we have, this wonderful privilege of living in a democracy and having a stable life. And that we must protect it from them, and the only danger for us is their coming—it’s another variation of the zombie fantasy.”

    In the Times, historian Timothy Snyder, whose most recent book is Black Earth, notes that the Holocaust “may seem a distant horror whose lessons have already been learned,” but warns that “contemporary environmental stresses could encourage new variations on Hitler’s ideas, especially in countries anxious about feeding their growing populations or maintaining a rising standard of living.”

    Justin Taylor has written an obsessive and compelling analysis of Sam Lipsyte’s prose, dwelling on two short stories and their general themes, their syntax, and the particular sounds of their words.

    At Bookforum, Gene Seymour reviews Margo Jefferson’s new memoir, Negroland, alongside Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. “Coates’s book and Jefferson’s overlap most chillingly in the knowledge of a certain kind of death awaiting African Americans seeking release from the constricting demands of Difference.”

  • September 11, 2015

    Michael Eric Dyson

    Michael Eric Dyson

    At the New Republic, Michael Eric Dyson traces the development of the “black digital intelligentsia.”

    On the Harper’s blog this week, Art Winslow claimed to have discovered the new Thomas Pynchon—or rather, the old one, using a pseudonym to publish Cow Country, a long and until now unsung novel that came out earlier this year. But now the spoilsports at New York magazine’s Vulture blog have gone and asked Penguin, who said: “We are Thomas Pynchon’s publisher and this is not a book by Thomas Pynchon.”

    Wayne Koestenbaum talked to Sarah Gerard about “sexualized formalist curiosity” and his forthcoming Pink Trance Notebooks. And about the pains of writing his Andy Warhol biography, because “I couldn’t make things up, and I had to go kind of in order.”

    Pity the professional gossip: “No longer,” Erik Wemple notes, “do beat reporters covering politics, diplomacy and national security leave juicy trimmings for their resident gossip columnist; they write them up for themselves.”

    Grace Jones’s memoir, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, out later this month and excerpted in next week’s Time Out, sounds not to be missed.

    Also worth reading: the Baffler piece on Amish romance novels.

    In Interview magazine, Choire Sicha asks Ursula K. Le Guin about being a poet: “It really doesn’t seem that rewarding. Is that a terrible thing to say?” (Le Guin has some helpful thoughts to share, too.)

  • September 10, 2015

    Rupert Murdoch

    Rupert Murdoch

    The National Geographic Society has teamed up with Fox on a new for-profit media venture that will include its existing cable television channels and the famous magazine (Fox paid $725 million and will own 73 percent of the new company; the Society itself will remain a nonprofit, with a larger endowment). Rupert Murdoch isn’t fazed by those who object to the idea of a “climate-change denier” having such a major stake in the National Geographic—in any case, he prefers the term “skeptic.”

    Padgett Powell talks to Powells.com about Cries For Help, Various: Stories. “Well, it’s not the original subtitle,” he says. “The original subtitle, which I have discovered made the publisher nervous, was ‘45 Failed Novels.’” Flannery O’Connor, Powell goes on, can be said to have written short stories: “The rest of us . . . sit down and have some accidents.”

    After the fuss over Michael Derrick Hudson making it into the Best American Poetry 2015 anthology under a fake Asian name, Buzzfeed reproduces an e-mail from the guest editor Sherman Alexie, apologizing to the rest of the poets he chose: “I am sorry that this Pseudonym Bullshit has taken so much attention away from all of your great poems.”

    Perseus Books, which was almost bought by Hachette last year, is looking into a possible sale again.

    The Observer has an interview with Greil Marcus about his forthcoming book, Three Songs, Three Singers, Three Nations. When Matthew Kassel asks if he listens more to songs and snippets than albums now, Marcus says he prefers to let things play and see what strikes him, rather than go looking for a particular kind of thing: “You don’t go up to one of your friends and say, Tell me something really profound today that I’m going to remember and want to tell other people about. Your friend is going to say, What? And that’s going to be the end of the conversation. So when you approach a song, and you say, in essence, Tell me something profound, it won’t.”

  • September 9, 2015

    Erica Jong

    Erica Jong

    If you were wondering who’d come off better in a disagreement on feminism between Erica Jong and Roxane Gay, here’s your answer.

    It seems Gawker Media will let you get away with saying almost anything on its sites, as long as you’re not paying to do so. Vox reports that Jezebel’s advertising team recently refused to run an ad in support of abortion rights, saying: “While Jezebel’s editorial content is very feminist, our advertising management team tends to be more conservative on the advertising we can accept.” Vox notes “a certain irony” in the idea of a website that will “run controversial content for free, but paid advertising is a different story.”

    At the Awl, Noah Davis goes into great detail about how much freelance writers are really getting paid online. He even includes a whole paragraph on the deal he negotiated with the editors for this particular piece: As a “one-off experiment, the Awl ultimately counter-proposed a base rate of two hundred dollars plus an additional dollar per thousand pageviews, which I accepted. (The piece will be updated with the results in a month.) You have to bet on yourself. No one else will.”

    John McPhee has an essay in the New Yorker about the pains of being edited and the importance of leaving things out.

    Tribune Publishing, which owns the Los Angeles Times, has just fired the paper’s publisher and chief executive, Austin Beutner.

    No rest for those who have a new book to promote—even when they’re still trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy.

    Greg Grandin will be at BookCourt tonight to discuss his new book on Henry Kissinger’s legacy.

  • September 8, 2015

    Dale Peck

    Dale Peck

    Next year, novelist-critic Dale Peck and OR Books cofounder John Oakes will relaunch The Evergreen Review, the legendary literary quarterly founded by Barney Rosset in 1957. Oakes will be the publisher, and Peck will act as the editor in chief.

    It has been revealed that Yi-Fen Chou, one of the contributors to this year’s edition of Best American Poetry, is a pseudonym that was used by Michael Derrick Hudson, a white poet who adopted the Chinese pen name because he thinks it’s a successful strategy for being published more often. Guest editor Sherman Alexie (whose list of authors is 60 percent women and 40 percent people of color) has issued a statement explaining why he decided to publish the poem, even after learning of Hudson’s true identity. “ Listen, I was so angry that I stormed and cursed around the room. I felt like punching the wall…. But I realized that I would primarily be jettisoning the poem because of my own sense of embarrassment.”

    On September 3, the young-adult writer Patrick Ness launched a fundraising campaign for Syrian refugees, and thanks to contributions from writers including Philip Pullman, Marian Keyes and Anthony Horowitz, he has already raised more than £500,000.

    On Wednesday, Apple is expected to demo its new operating system and updates to its Apple News app, which will support ad blocking. But as much as Apple claims that new software will help news organizations get their stories to mobile devices, ad-blocking could raise a serious problem, because publishers rely on revenue from online advertising.

     

  • September 4, 2015

    Jhumpa Lahiri

    Jhumpa Lahiri

    Several writers are to be awarded the National Humanities Medal, including Jhumpa Lahiri, Larry McMurtry, and Annie Dillard.

    You’d think the Daily Mail would have grown a thicker skin by now, but in fact, DailyMail.com is suing Gawker for publishing some mean things about its editorial model (in the words of James King, a former freelance news writer for them, it involveslittle more than dishonesty, theft of copyrighted material, and sensationalism so absurd that it crosses into fabrication”).

    And still they come: More digital journalists announce their intention to unionize, this time at Al Jazeera America. Complaining in a statement of “a troubling lack of transparency, inconsistent management and lack of clear redress” (some of which we’ve heard about before) the staff wrote: “We who are tasked with communicating the voice of the voiceless must retain a voice ourselves. . . . We call upon Al Jazeera’s leaders to uphold its mission, not just to its audience but also to its employees.”

    More tidbits are being found among the Hillary Clinton e-mails released by the State Department under the Freedom of Information Act—Sidney Blumenthal sent Clinton a link to a piece about Israel in the (old) New Republic, identifying it as propaganda, “the fully articulated view of the Netanyahu government and Likud about ‘the crisis’.”

    Two Vice News journalists have been released from a Turkish jail after they were charged last week in the course of their reporting with aiding a terrorist organisation.” A third, Mohammed Ismael Rasool, is still in custody.

    The actor Jesse Eisenberg, author of a new story collection, answers some questions about his reading. He says he’d like to join “a book club run by the C.S.I. unit, where they come to the house and dust the pages for fingerprints, or the secret police, where they drill a hole in the wall to make sure I’m reading.”

  • September 3, 2015

    Don DeLillo will receive this year’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation. He took the opportunity (via the Associated Press) to offer some career advice to other novelists: “It’s true that some of us become better writers by living long enough. But this is also how we become worse writers. The trick is to die in between.”

    Joy Williams

    Joy Williams

    The New York Times magazine has a profile of Joy Williams, whose collected stories are about to be published—although she tells Dan Kois that most of them “aren’t getting close to what I’m trying to accomplish.” (Her expectations for the story form are high: Reading one, she wants “to be devastated in some way.”) Williams, Kois writes, “talks like a Joy Williams character”: “The rhythms of our conversation—chitchat punctuated by silence interrupted by exclamations of despair and rage—were like none I’d ever had before.”

    More trouble in magazine paradise: The National Labor Relations Board just filed a complaint against Time Inc. for allegedly breaking federal labor laws.

    With the publication of the last novel in the Neapolitan series, The Story of the Lost Child, “Ferrante fever” returns.

    “Scoop machine” Dylan Byers is leaving Politico to work for CNN.

    The LRB letters page goes from strength to strength. This fortnight, among other things, we learn where the writer Elizabeth Hardwick stood on the subject of abandoning one’s children, and that Oulipian constraints are not so arbitrary after all (that last point courtesy of Lauren Elkin, who reviewed Sphinx, a “genderless” novel by the female Oulipian Anne Garréta, for Bookforum’s website).

  • September 2, 2015

    Idris Elba

    Idris Elba

    The author of the latest James Bond novel, Trigger Mortishas had to apologize for his bizarre suggestion that Idris Elba was not suave enough to be the next 007.

    In France, the authors of a book critical of the Moroccan monarchy (originally set to come out in 2016) have been arrested and dropped by their publisher after they were caught accepting a $2.3 million bribe from one of the king’s representatives. “It’s human, no?” one of the writers, Catherine Graciet, told a French newspaper about her decision to take the money. “Everyone wonders what one could do with their life with two million euros. Try to imagine the situation. And it was to forgo publication of a book, not to kill someone.”

    Cash for poets (for once): $25,800 fellowships were handed out yesterday by the Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine to five young US poets.

    Apple apparently plans to start producing original programming, and if the idea of that company taking even more of your time and attention than it already does strikes you as a little threatening, Variety seems to agree it’s an aggressive move: It “would sharpen a double-edged sword” that Netflix and Amazon are “already swinging at Hollywood.”

    Tomorrow night at Greenlight, Amitav Ghosh will launch Flood of Fire, the last book in his Opium War trilogy, which Eric Banks reviews in Bookforum‘s Fall issue, on the stands now.

     

  • September 1, 2015

    Günter Grass

    Günter Grass

    As the death toll rises for people seeking refuge in Europe, Steidl has published the last book by Günter Grass, who died in April: The book contains an exhortation to his fellow Germans to display greater compassion towards refugees.

    “Why change a winning team?” asked Eula Biss’s literary agent, after they turned down a six-figure offer from a commercial house to take the paperback of On Immunity away from Graywolf Press. Boris Kachka (who notes that Graywolf authors have collected “four NBCC awards, a National Book Award, two Pulitzers, and a Nobel Prize” in the last six years) spoke to Fiona McCrae, publisher of the small press that’s helped make the lyric essay form a big, unlikely popular hit: “I think of success as being able to say yes to something that doesn’t necessarily look like a commercial winner,” she says. “Knowing something is good and having to say no, that seems to me the bigger failure.”

    In a fascinating essay in n+1’s Fall issue, Emily Bass writes about what has happened to HIV/AIDs activism in the years when the mainstream LGBTQ movement has thrived.

    The Financial Times had lunch with the LRB’s Mary-Kay Wilmers—possibly the only literary-magazine editor to be played on television by Helena Bonham-Carter.

    Starting today in Philadelphia, you can go and see the oldest American book, Doctrina breve, from 1544, by the first bishop of Mexico.

    Or if that doesn’t sound like enough fun, Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and Portlandia will be going on book tour soon.

  • August 31, 2015

    Oliver Sacks

    Oliver Sacks

    Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and author, died on Sunday at age 82. Sacks announced in February that he had late-stage cancer. Sacks’s books, which include Hallucinations and Awakenings and the recent memoir On the Move, captured the mysterious workings of the human brain. In his 1985 book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, he wrote about a patient with a parietal-lobe tumor, who tried “to kick his own left leg out of bed under the mistaken impression that someone has placed a cold cadaver limb beside him as a practical joke.”

    Jeb Bush likes bestsellers such as Robert Putnam’s Our Kids, Marco Rubio favors the books of “Reformicon” Yuval Levin, Scott Walker has dropped references to Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence: What the Republican presidential candidates are reading.

    Three Al Jazeera journalists have been sentenced by an Egyptian judge to three years in prison. The jounalists—Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste—all worked for Al Jazeera’s English news channel, and had been accused of broadcasting “false news” about Egypt.

    It is rumored that the mysterious novelist Elena Ferrante is granting only one interview per country to publicize her new novel, The Story of the Lost Child, which concludes her series of four Neapolitan novels. In the US, that honor went to Vanity Fair. You can read part one of a two-part interview (conducted by Elissa Schappell) here. “Friendship is a crucible of positive and negative feelings that are in a permanent state of ebullition.”

    Scarlett Johansson has failed to halt the English publication of Grégoire Delacourt’s The First Thing You See, a French novel that features a character who resembles her. In the book, “a French village mechanic’s quiet life is interrupted when a woman who appears to be Scarlett Johansson shows up at his house. As it turns out, she is an imposter.” Johansson and her lawyer claimed that the book is “defamatory,” but their demands to stop publication were rejected, and the English-language publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson will release the book, which came out in France in 2013, on September 10.

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