• July 6, 2015

    The Hulk Hogan v. Gawker lawsuit that was set to begin today in Florida has been postponed indefinitely because trial scheduling rules were not followed. Hogan is suing Gawker for one hundred millions dollars because the site posted a sex tape of the wrestling star in 2012; Gawker founder Nick Denton has said that his media company doesn’t have that kind of money. Denton thinks he will prevail in the lawsuit, though, and has defended the post as newsworthy: “We wrote a story which did not simply add another rumor to an already large pile of rumors, but actually sorted through those rumors and tried to establish some truth. That is the definition of good journalism, whatever you think about the subject matter.”

    The influential German magazine Der Spiegel has posted an article claiming that the NSA and American spies conducted surveillance against them to identify confidential sources, and that the CIA used the information to retaliate against a German government official, Hans Josef Vorbeck, who was suspected of leaking sensitive material to journalists.

    Reddit is back to business-as-usual after a widespread revolt by site moderators shut down many popular discussion boards late last week. The moderators were protesting the firing of Victoria Taylor, a high-ranking site employee.

    Juan Felipe Herrera

    Juan Felipe Herrera

    At the LA Review of Books, reflections on the naming of Juan Felipe Herrera as poet laureate: “Herrera’s family has gone from migrant worker to poet laureate of the United States in one generation. One generation. I am an adamant objector to the Horatio Alger myth of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, but Herrera’s story is one of epic American proportions,” writes David Tomas Martinez.

  • July 3, 2015

    Harper Lee

    Harper Lee

    As HarperCollins prepare to publish the most pre-ordered book in their history, Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, the plot thickens in terms of just when and how the lost-and-found novel came to light—it was apparently several years earlier than Lee’s lawyer, Tonja Carter, had announced to readers, which further complicates the questions already surrounding the circumstances of its publication.

    Following Gawker’s lead, editorial workers at Salon have also decided to unionize.

    Meanwhile Gawker itself won a delay of several months in its trial with Hulk Hogan over his sex tape. As the hefty lawsuit continues to loom over the site, there has been increasing interest in Gawker’s finances, which it seems, according to the financial statements Nick Denton has pre-emptively released, are looking healthy.

    Novelist and Bookforum contributor Porochista Khakpour has a memoir up at the Virginia Quarterly Review about illness and her New Age past: “Then I called a company that got people off Western meds—a front for Scientology, I later discovered—which convinced me during a phone consult that I was a benzodiazepine addict who had ruined my own life but said, ‘Don’t worry we deal with many VIPs like yourself who have taken a bad turn.’”

    Amazon’s plan to pay self-published authors per page read instead of per book downloaded is even stingier than you might have imagined: In an email this week they announced that the amount paid for each page could be a mere $0.006. Writers are likely to see a huge cut in royalties, and you could also say that the new per-page system seems designed most especially to punish concision.

  • July 2, 2015

    Bill O'Reilly

    Bill O’Reilly

    Publishers Weekly gently addresses Bill O’Reilly’s distress over their failure to include his book Killing Reagan in their latest “announcement issue,” which provides librarians and booksellers with a list of the upcoming season’s significant books.

    The political journalist Leslie Gelb has landed in trouble for apparently promising Hillary Clinton friendly coverage in advance—”He said he would give you a veto over content,” a fundraiser wrote to Clinton, “and looked me in the eye and said, ‘she will like it’”—and sending her the text of his 2009 piece to read before it came out. The new owners of the magazine that published it have now added a defensive editor’s note: “While we cannot speak to the policies of prior owners, AMG/Parade does not promise favorable coverage or allow any story subject control of the editorial process.”

    Scribd, the subscription-based reading site that aims to be a Netflix for e-books, is dropping thousands of romance novels from its catalogue. They have to pay the publishers every time someone downloads and gets stuck into one of their titles, and apparently Scribd had hoped, as Laura Hazard Owen writes, that it would be “more like gym memberships” (most people never go)—turns out this business model doesn’t work so well when subscribers actually want to read the books.

    President Obama joined the ranks of those slamming the New York Times for recommending putting peas in guacamole as “one of those radical moves that is also completely obvious after you taste it.”

  • July 1, 2015

    David Foster Wallace and Jason Segel

    David Foster Wallace and Jason Segel

    ‘‘I think let’s start iterating,’’ Arianna Huffington says. ‘‘Let’s not wait for the perfect product.’’ At the New York Times magazine, a look inside how the Huffington Post is run: “It’s as though Huffington is spreading an illness while simultaneously peddling the cure. Call it hypocrisy, but it testifies to her savvy. The business of web media is figuring out what people want — and if what we want is contradictory, why shouldn’t Huffington profit from that contradiction?” A recent Gawker post called the place “essentially Soviet in its functioning. Purges and show trials are common.”

    If you have time in life to read just one more piece on David Foster Wallace (now being played by Jason Segel in a new film), you should probably make it this one.

    As of Monday, the NSA gets to start collecting Americans’ phone records in bulk again, only this time they don’t have to keep it a secret.

    The author of The Car Thief, Theodore Weesner, has died. The New York Times has an obituary that quotes from Weesner’s strongly worded letter to the editors of the NYT Book Review (writers take note) in response to a 1987 piece on one of his less well known novels: “I repeat: Your reviewer did not even understand what he read. And you printed it. You break my heart. You owe me much more than an apology.”

    The Paris Review is putting up some recordings of conversations with writers (“consider them deleted scenes from our Writers at Work interviews, or directors’ cuts”): This week, it’s the poet Czesław Miłosz.

  • June 30, 2015

    “But why would Europe do this?” Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics, weighs in on the situation in Greece, concluding: “I know how I would vote.”

    Ottessa Moshfegh

    Ottessa Moshfegh

    The Center for Fiction has announced its longlist for the 2015 First Novel Prize, and those in contention include Ottessa Moshfegh, Ben Metcalf, and Miranda July.

    It looks as if Rebekah Brooks, remarkably unscathed by the vast phone-hacking scandal that saw her face criminal charges, will soon make a comeback in Murdoch-land, perhaps as chief executive of News UK.

    The French film director Claire Denis, who set Beau Travail, her 1999 reimagining of Melville’s Billy Budd, in Djibouti among the soldiers of the French Foreign Legion, is heading further afield with her first English-language movie, which will take place in space. And she has new writing partners—Zadie Smith and her husband Nick Laird will be collaborating on the script.

    Turns out a lot of readers aren’t so keen on Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James—still, she’s probably not unhappy with the scale of her consolation prize.

    Literary editor Sam Leith asks if academic presses are the only ones left willing and able to publish serious nonfiction. While trade publishers churn out “voguish but vague,” under-researched, big-idea books of the kind that make you wonder if anyone with a conscience at those houses “might not even now be wriggling in the stationery cupboard with gaffer tape over his mouth and his limbs secured with climbing rope,” the university presses have started picking up and bringing to the general reader the works of history, popular science and biography they used to find elsewhere. Of course, though, publishing hasn’t completely shifted on its axis: You can still find “lousy, abstruse, jargon-heavy books” coming out from academic publishers left and right.

    The two big New York tabloids can’t even seem to out-pun each other any more—they’re resorting to nearly identical headlines.

  • June 29, 2015

    The Huffington Post is aiming to increase its number of contributors from one hundred thousand to one million, using a new app, Donatello, and a self-publishing platform for writers. Arianna Huffington assures us cynics that there will be a system in place for “preserving the quality”: Would-be authors will have to be approved by editors (once) before they can start creating hard-hitting citizen journalism (for free, of course).

    Buzzfeed has an intriguing report on Sidney Blumenthal, adviser, “confidant,” and controversy magnet to Hillary Clinton. It discusses his friendship with Tina Brown and his somewhat shadowy influence on the Daily Beast’s early political coverage, including two hit pieces he apparently commissioned and edited on Caroline Kennedy when she was challenging Clinton for the Senate.

    How newspapers headlined the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage: “Love Supreme” (the Press of Atlantic City), “Equal Dignity” (New York Times), “We Do” (San Francisco Chronicle), and “U.S. Gay!” (Daily News).    

    In the Globe and Mail, Jade Colbert reviews the work of Nelly Arcan, the Quebec novelist who committed suicide in 2009. Colbert argues that Arcan, who wrote dark-themed autofiction, is one of Canada’s greatest writers: “Reading Arcan can also feel at times unbearable; she . . . presents difficult gifts: a disquieting world, presented bluntly, stripped of pretty words that normalize.”

    Nelly Arcan

    Nelly Arcan

    At the ALA conference in San Francisco, Anthony Doerr won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction for All the Light we Cannot See, while Bryan Stevenson won the nonfiction prize for Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

  • June 26, 2015

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    In light of events in Charleston, Random House has decided to move the publication date of Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s forthcoming book on race, bringing it out in July rather than September. “We started to feel pregnant with this book,” the executive editor of the Spiegel & Grau imprint said. “We had this book that so many people wanted.” They’d previously discussed publishing early during the protests following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, but the book had not been ready then. “I’ve been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died,” Toni Morrison apparently wrote this week in response to the publisher’s blurb request. “Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates.”

    Reason.com editor Nick Gillespie describes receiving a grand jury subpoena for identifying information on commenters who’d expressed anger toward the judge in the recent Silk Road case—and then a gag order preventing him from discussing it all.

    At the New York Times, public editor Margaret Sullivan responds to the mockery and complaints the paper has come in for following their announcement of TV critic Alessandra Stanley’s new beat covering the “top 1 percent of the 1 percent.” Dean Baquet is quoted as assuring us that, whatever Twitter might think, the beat “will not be ‘isn’t it cool to be rich.’”

    The Argentine writer Pablo Katchadjian, who faced a lawsuit from the widow of Jorge Luis Borges for his 2009 small-press experiment El Aleph engordado (The Fattened Aleph, a reboot of the Borges story “The Aleph” that added new material, more than doubling its word count), has now been charged with “intellectual property fraud” and could do up to six years for his literary prank.

    A collection of essays by Chloe Caldwell, I’ll Tell You in Person, due out next year, will be one of the first books published by Coffee House Press in their new partnership with the delectable Emily Books—it may be time to revisit Caldwell’s g-chat conversation with Emily Gould about the importance for women writers of “being a fan of yourself.” And if you succeed in that, Caldwell also teaches a memoir class in New York you can take.

    Margaret Atwood will be publishing a series of autobiographical cartoons in a Kickstarter-funded Canadian anthology called The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, which one hopes will be more or less exactly what it sounds like.

  • June 25, 2015

    The full statement by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, sentenced to death yesterday, can be read at the Boston Globe.

    Politico asks why David Bradley, owner of the Atlantic Media Company, decided to cooperate with the competition on the story of his long efforts to help find American hostages taken in Syria—the long and absorbing report by Lawrence Wright appeared yesterday in the New Yorker, and should be read: Among other things, it is full of salutary details about the way US government agencies work (or don’t work) in these situations.

    If you have not yet heard about the forthcoming film of Djuna Barnes’s Ladies Almanack, due out early next year and starring (as if in a dream) the poet Eileen Myles as Monique Wittig and the great Hélène Cixous as herself, you can read an interview with the director here.

    Tonight at Albertine (972 Fifth Avenue), the Feminist Press will be celebrating the publication of Thérèse and Isabelle, a vivid account of a love affair between two schoolgirls by the French novelist Violette Leduc, written in mid-century but only now available here in full, uncensored form. Simone de Beauvoir admired it hugely but apparently told Nelson Algren it wouldn’t get published—it was “a story of lesbian sexuality as crude as anything by Genet.” There will be a discussion between Amber Dawn, Dia Felix, and Melissa Febos, and it will be free in every sense.

  • June 24, 2015

    Roxane Gay

    Roxane Gay

    Roxane Gay begins her regular opinion contributions to the New York Times with a powerful piece on the rhetoric of forgiveness for crimes such as Dylann Roof’s, and on her own unwillingness to forgive: “Black people forgive because we need to survive. We have to forgive time and time again while racism or white silence in the face of racism continues to thrive. We have had to forgive slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, lynching, inequity in every realm, mass incarceration, voter disenfranchisement, inadequate representation in popular culture, microaggressions and more. We forgive and forgive and forgive and those who trespass against us continue to trespass against us.”

    As the Supreme Court prepares to rule on same-sex marriage, the novelist and Bookforum contributor Alexander Chee tries to imagine what the future may hold for gay people in America, writing movingly in the New Republic of the “very strange sort of ambivalence” he is feeling: “At my most pessimistic, I fear that this decision, along with the appearance of PrEP, is a sign of some sort of Freudian repetition cycle the whole country is in, in which marriage equality is always being fought for and decided, and AIDS is always the ground for advances in treatment instead of a cure—all while these other very serious issues also need attention, and we fight forever over the same inch of ground.”

    It’s been a good week for New York Times correction-watchers. After a British teenager managed to scam the newspaper into including imaginary details about Dylann Roof in one of their reports—notably that Roof had blogged about “My Little Pony”—public editor Margaret Sullivan reflected on the embarrassing incident, and on the importance of fact-checking: “’If your mother tells you she loves you,’ says the journalism aphorism, ‘check it out.’ Not enough of that happened here.”

    And at Vulture, Boris Kachka reports that fact-checkers may soon be more in demand than ever, as some book publishers are apparently deciding it’s worth paying for their services. Susan Orlean tells Kachka of her initial surprise at the vast difference between publishing in the New Yorker and putting out a book. “Publishers assume that writers do their own fact-checking,” Orlean says, “but that’s a little bit like having an internal-investigation department that’s run by the people being investigated.”

    Presumably the new precautions wouldn’t apply to fiction writers, though perhaps they should—Shin Kyung-sook, the South Korean novelist and past winner of the Man Asian literary prize, is in trouble for plagiarizing passages from Yukio Mishima’s work and, after an initial denial, has told a newspaper that “everything is my fault.”

    Let’s hope Terry Gilliam’s latest attempt to adapt Don Quixote will confirm the rarely cited seventh-time-lucky rule.

     

  • June 23, 2015

    Claudia Rankine

    Claudia Rankine

    From the New York Times Magazine, a devastating essay by Claudia Rankine: “The truth, as I see it, is that if black men and women, black boys and girls, mattered, if we were seen as living, we would not be dying simply because whites don’t like us.”

    So far the doxxing of Saudi Arabia doesn’t seem to have produced any major surprises, but at the Washington Post, Marc Lynch suggests that the materials published by Wikileaks and the Beirut paper al-Akhbar on Friday (the first batch, with many more to come) will matter more than you might think—as with the earlier leak of US diplomatic cables, even when it’s something everyone knows about, there’s a lot to be said for documented proof.

    Peter Wayner reminisces in the Atlantic about the editor who “looked at my one of my book proposals and said something along the lines of, ‘It feels like you’ve only got 20,000 words of material. You need at least 80,000 words for a book. Can you pad it?’” No such leniency from Amazon, who as of July plan to start paying royalties based on how many pages are actually read—authors who publish directly on Kindle may soon long to return to being judged by their covers.

    And poor beleaguered authors have to compete with the amateurs too: By the time E.L. James came out with the Fifty Shades of Grey sequel her fans had been clamoring for, one Gillian Griffin of Surrey had already posted her own rewrite of the first three novels from Christian Grey’s viewpoint, and got 8.8 million hits. (But lest your heart bleed for James, herself a fanfic graduate, her own version, Grey, has sold a million copies in its first week.)

    Amy Chozick told Cosmopolitan the oddly compelling tale of her life in journalism so far, from fetching prosciutto and melon at Condé Nast (“I’m from Texas, we call that ‘ham’”) to the Wall Street Journal’s frumpy, sweaty newsroom, all the way to the Clinton beat.

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