• November 7, 2014

    The 2014 Dylan Thomas award, which comes with a £30,000 cash prize, has been given to Joshua Ferris for his novel To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. The award goes to any thirty-nine-year-old playwright, novelist, or poet. 

    Twitter has plans to open an office in Hong Kong in early 2015. The office will mainly house sales staff, charged with working with advertisers, especially Chinese companies “looking to go global.” Seventy-seven percent of Twitter users are outside of the US, but only 34 percent of the company’s revenue has international origins. Twitter hasn’t been allowed in China since 2009. 

    At Vanity Fair, a long piece from Keith Gessen on the Amazon conflict. “The size of the self-publishing program alone within Amazon is already so large,” Gessen reports, that “some believe that statistics about book publishing in general can no longer be trusted. Some huge and growing part of the market is simply unaccounted for.”

    The beloved DC bookstore Politics and Prose will open mini-stores in all but one of the six Busboys and Poets restaurants.

    Is Banksy a woman?

    Matt Bissonnette, the former Navy SEAL who wrote a book about the raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed, is suing his lawyers. The Justice Department conducted a criminal probe after the book, No Easy Deal (2012), was published (it appears under the pseudonym Mark Owen). Bissonnette blames his “tarnished reputation” on the lawyers’ failure to advise him to submit the book to governmental agencies for pre-publication review. He also blames them for having to give up most of the book’s proceeds, losses that, he claims, will amount to close to $8 million.

  • November 6, 2014

    St. Martin’s Press has bought a debut novel by Stephanie Clifford, a New York Times reporter, for seven figures. The book, Everybody Rise, describes a young woman’s social and professional striving in 2006-era Manhattan.

    Jian Ghomeshi has lost his book deal with Penguin Random House Canada, in the wake of allegations of violent sexual assault on eight women he has been involved with. He’s also lost his job, his agent, his PR firm, and his crisis management firm.

    Snapchat is in talks with Buzzfeed, Comedy Central, Time, National Geographic, Spotify, Vice, and others about “Discover,” a proposed section of the app that will offer content from media companies.

    Rozalia Jovanovic

    Rozalia Jovanovic

    At the New Yorker, Deborah Treisman interviews Richard Ford. About his urge to write his most recent novel, Ford says, “Although I don’t believe in souls, I do believe in something kicking somewhere that becomes a call to language.” He says he owes Updike his temerity to write more than one book about his character Frank Bascombe: “If John hadn’t written the Rabbit books I might not have thought (as his contemporary) that three, then four, books about a real-estate salesman in New Jersey could be plausible.”

    Rozalia Jovanovic is the new executive editor of Artnet News.

  • November 5, 2014

    The Virginia-based conservative website the Independent Journal Review—a cross between RedState and Buzzfeed, according to one of the site’s advisors—is becoming increasingly popular. Its traffic—about 24 million unique visitors per month— outstrips that of the Drudge Report and Breitbart News, and the founders are proud of drawing more readers with fewer stories than other similar websites. In August the IJReview received 14 million Facebook shares for 646 articles, while the Huffington Post published thirty-eight times as many articles for only four times as many shares. The founders credit “putting the right content in front of the right audience.”

    Find Me I’m Yours, a new e-book by Hillary Carlip, borrows marketing strategies usually reserved for movies and TV: In exchange for copious references to Sweet’N Low, the artificial sweetener’s manufacturer, Cumberland Packing Corporation, “invested” $1.3 million in the book. Find Me I’m Yours is an “interactive multimedia narrative,” with links to original videos and websites mentioned in the storyline embedded throughout the e-book.

    At Hazlitt, Karl Ove Knausgaard talks about recreating his childhood memories for My Struggle, his work translating the Bible into Norwegian, and, in a clear-cut case of lede-burying, casually mentions that he’s written a five-hundred page book about the World Cup.

    At New York magazine, Andrew Rice profiles eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who poured $250 million into First Look Media last year. “Omidyar’s organization operates a little like WikiLeaks, except it is staffed by well-salaried journalists and backed by Silicon Valley money,” Rice writes. “It aims to unite strident ideology with publishing technology, cryptography, and aggressive legal defense.” Rice quotes Glenn Greenwald, one of the founders of First Look’s “prototype” website the Intercept: “Back before this all happened, he just seemed like the normal, average, amicable billionaire.”

    Ann Patchett gently corrects a Times reviewer, who “mentions topics ranging from ‘her stabilizing second marriage to her beloved dog’ without benefit of comma, thus giving the impression that Sparky and I are hitched.” Patchett is not married to her pet: “He married a dog named Maggie at Parnassus Books last summer as part of a successful fund-raiser for the Nashville Humane Association. I am married to Karl VanDevender. We are all very happy in our respective unions.”

  • November 4, 2014

    Jill Abramson, the former Times executive editor, revealed more details of the media company she’s working on with journalist Steven Brill. Abramson says she’ll pay $100,000 advances (yes, you read that correctly) to writers so they can work on novella-length stories that will be featured online, with one new story appearing each month.

    At the Paris Review Daily, authors Michael McGriff and J. M. Tyree discuss their new book, Our Secret Life in the Movies, a book of short stories about the writers’ year spent watching the entire Criterion Collection together. “We were watching two or three movies a day, eating a lot of pizza, drinking a lot of sambuca,” Tyree says. “Our book evolved naturally from the feeling that movies and life seep together out there in the fog.”

    Each year, interns at the Los Angeles Review of Books publish their own edition, the LARB Intern Magazine.

    On the n+1 website, a short story (read: true-life tale) by Kaitlin Phillips, the millennial love-child of Renata Adler and Elaine Dundy. “Hanna Liden once told me, ‘I don’t like new faces.’ It was the first thing she said after we were introduced. She ignored me for the rest of dinner.” “Younger poets seem to be feeling a lot. Like quite often they say, ‘Sorry I didn’t email you I was dead inside of late but now is now now.'” Find “YOLO Ethics” here.

    Tom Magliozzi, right, with his brother Ray

    Tom Magliozzi, right, with his brother Ray

    Tom Magliozzi, one of the hosts of the long-running NPR show “Car Talk,” has died. He was seventy-seven.

    Condé Nast is moving from Times Square, where the company has lived for fifteen years, to the new World Trade Center building, where eighteen magazines will occupy 1.2 million square feet on twenty-four floors. The company’s law firm gets the highest floor in Condé Nast’s name, the forty-fourth. The New Yorker gets the thirty-eighth. New Yorker writers will now have to share offices with a colleague, the New York Times reports, and more desks will sit in open rooms.

  • November 3, 2014

    In a piece about the recently deceased Ben Bradlee, Bookforum editor Chris Lehmann describes the former WaPo editor’s memorial service and notes: “Part of what made the scene at the cathedral a bit harrowing in its palpable longing to continue worshiping the fallen editorial hero of the Watergate years is that today’s Washington Post is just a shadow of its former self.”

    At the Telegraph, Rupert Hawksley writes that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists—based on a Ted Talk she gave in 2012, “might just be the most important book you read all year.”

    Later this week, an exhibition of William S. Burroughs’s cut-ups will open at the Boo-Hooray gallery in New York. In addition to hand-edited drafts of pages from the Nova Trilogy, the show will feature Burroughs’s cut-ups—pages that the author cut, shuffled, and pasted to a page to achieve his singular nonlinear style.

    Cathy Park Hong

    Cathy Park Hong

    In a new essay called “Delusions of Whiteness,” Cathy Park Hong identifies the racist strains of avant-garde poetry, grapples with the challenging dilemmas that poets of color face, and recommends that writers chart new territory: “Fuck the avant-garde. We must hew our own path.”

    PEN America has launched a new website for First Editions/Second Thoughts, for which seventy-five authors and artists personally annotated their own books. Highlights include Philip Roth’s American Pastoral, Angela Davis’s If They Come in the Morning, John Ashbery’s The Tennis Court Oath, Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, Don DeLillo’s Underworld, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Ed Ruscha’s Past Stuff. Some of the handwritten annotations are quite elaborate, such as the ones on the TOC page of George Saunders’s Civilwarland in Bad Decline, which incorporates footnotes and various colors of ink. The works will be auctioned at Christie’s on December 2.


  • October 31, 2014

    Matt Taibbi

    Matt Taibbi

    The Intercept gives the backstory to Matt Taibbi’s recent departure from First Look (its parent company), describing his resignation as the result of “months of contentious disputes” that Taibbi had with Pierre Omidyar, Randy Ching, and John Temple (First Look’s founder, COO, and president, respectively). Taibbi had been hired to head Racket, which was conceived of as a satirical magazine, but problems arose over the “structure and management” of the site. According to Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill, and Jon Cook  (all are listed as authors on the story), the conflict has to do with a schism between executives who “come from a highly structured Silicon Valley corporate environment” and the “fiercely independent” journalists who are skeptical of that corporate culture and “management-speak.” The even profounder problem, it seems, is the question of how much autonomy the Intercept and Racket are to have, financially and in terms of their editorial content.

    When Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth leaves the company on October 1, the paper’s masthead will be 100 percent male.

    Joyce Carol Oates invited a round of Twitter scorn with her comments on a recent video of a woman getting catcalled around New York. In ten hours of walking, the woman received 100 catcalls. Oates chalked it up to the neighborhoods the woman was walking in. Twitter disagreed.

    The Baffler has left MIT Press, after three years with the publisher.

    The New York Times has added 44,000 digital subscribers this quarter. That’s the good news. The rest isn’t: Print circulation increased only infinitesimally; print advertising dropped 5 percent; and the paper experienced a net loss of $12.5 million.

  • October 30, 2014

    The poet Galway Kinnell died on Tuesday in Vermont. He was eighty-seven. Poetry, Kinnell said, “is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.” Read some of his poems at the Poetry Foundation.

    Galway Kinnell

    Galway Kinnell

    Knopf has signed a two-book, six-figure deal with Stephanie Danler, a thirty-year-old writer who managed to attract attention to the manuscript of her debut novel, Sweetbitter, by mentioning it to Peter Gethers—the editor-at-large of Penguin Random House who is a regular at the West Village restaurant where Danler works as a waitress (presumably not for long).

    George W. Bush will soon begin promoting 41, the book he’s written about his father, George H. W. Bush. Both CBS and NBC have interviews scheduled.

    “In order to be tragic, Humbert needs to convince us that he is a character of stature, not just a sordid abuser who takes a young girl on a sex tour of seedy American motels.” Guardian books editor Claire Armistead argues that Lolita’s Humbert Humbert is the “most seductive villain in fiction.” Yesterday The Guardian launched a redesign of its US website (which, for what its worth, subtly color-codes according to type of story: Features are dark pink, opinion is orange, video is yellow).

    Kathryn Schulz at New York magazine has compiled “Your Complete Ebola-Quarantine Reading Guide.”

    Two more bookstores in New York City are closing: the Posman Books in Grand Central Station and a Barnes & Noble in Queens.

  • October 29, 2014

    Malcolm Lowry in 1946

    Malcolm Lowry in 1946

    In Ballast to the White Sea, a novel by Malcolm Lowry thought to have been lost in a fire, is being published in Canada in a scholarly edition by the University of Ottawa Press. Jan Gabriel, Malcolm’s first wife, had apparently kept an early version of the manuscript, which she gave to the New York Public Library in 2000.

    Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Alan Hollinghurst, and others will auction off the right to name certain characters in their novels. Atwood offers the chance of appearing as yourself in the book she’s currently writing or in the retelling of The Tempest that she has plans to do next. The auction will take place on November 20, and is a benefit for the charity Freedom from Torture.

    The Chicago Sun-Times plans to launch “mobile-first” editions in seventy cities. The sites are intended to mimic Buzzfeed and Deadspin, and will aggregate content from Sun-Times writers and others.

    Matt Taibbi is on a leave of absence from First Look, the umbrella media company started by Pierre Omidyar last year. Taibbi had been hired by Omidyar to head up a satirical magazine, Racket, which was supposed to launch this fall. Plans for Racket are still going forward, but the launch (which at one point was slated for October) has been delayed.

    The Doubletake reading series features three pairs of writers on three subjects, respectively. Tonight, at apexart in Manhattan, Alexandra Chasin and Robert Lopez on horse-racing; Filip Noterdaeme and Rick Whitaker on the primal scream; and J.C. Hallman and James Marcus on Nicholson Baker’s classic phone-sex novel, Vox

  • October 28, 2014

    CBC host Jian Ghomeshi has been asked to take a leave of absence from work due to allegations of engaging in nonconsensual violent sexual behavior with three women. Jesse Brown broke the story, with the help of the Toronto Star. For Americans who don’t know who Ghomeshi is (first important fact: He’s Canadian), Gawker has a primer. CBC is like NPR but “more influential,” says Gawker, and Ghomeshi is like Ira Glass but “less serious.” Ghomeshi followed up news of the allegations with a Facebook post in which he said he had been the target of “harassment, vengeance and demonization.” As of Tuesday morning, the post had been liked more than 109,000 times and received more than 41,000 shares. 

    Jeremy Schmidt and Jacquelyn Ardam discuss the UCLA Library Special Collections’ new ‘born-digital’ archive of Susan Sontag’s computer files and complete email correspondence: “Reading Sontag’s lists in their original e-environment brings the issues of the digital archive-with its constant push-and-pull between proliferation and deep freeze-to the surface . . . there are no cross-outs, no carets, no smudges . . . Instead we are faced with a proliferation of documents.”

    Amtrack’s first writer in residence, comic book writer Bill Willing, offers practical advice to future recipients: “Stock up on small bills (tipping is on you).”

    Michael Hofmann is not a fan of the new Amis novel.

    Edward Mendelson considers the effects for writers of using word processors: “Intelligent writers can produce intelligent prose using almost any instrument, but the medium in which they write will always have some more or less subtle effect on their prose. When I work in Word, for all its luxuriant menus and dazzling prowess, I can’t escape a faint sense of having entered a closed rule -bound society. When I write in WordPerfect, with all its scruffy, low-tech simplicity, the world seems more open, a place where endings can’t be predicted, where freedom is real.”


  • October 27, 2014

    Greg Marra

    Greg Marra

    At the Times, Ravi Somaiya reports on Facebook engineer Greg Marra, who helps determine what Facebook users see in the site’s news feed, and who is “fast becoming one of the most influential people in the news business.” The homepages of news sites are becoming less and less of a reader destination; social-media sites, meanwhile, are sending people to actual stories. “The shift raises questions about the ability of computers to curate news, a role traditionally played by editors,” Somaiya writes. “It also has broader implications for the way people consume information, and thus how they see the world.”

    Lili King’s Euphoria, a historical novel that draws on the biography of Margaret Mead, and Roz Chast’s memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? have won the first-ever Kirkus prize.

    The website HTMLGIANT, which announced its plans to call it quits earlier this month, published its final posts on Friday, including one from longtime contributor Roxane Gay. “I learned so much about how to argue, being criticized, developing a thicker skin, becoming a stronger writer, being more open minded, standing my ground,” Gay wrote. “HTMLGIANT has its issues and they have been well-documented, particularly when it comes to sexism and racism. But the world is a difficult place. It would be strange to expect that this community, and it is, a community, would somehow rise above the world’s imperfections as a utopia.”

    At Salon, Emily Gould analyzes two cases of “authors behaving badly”: memoirist Margo Howard’s online complaints about Amazon critics who gave her bad reviews (and who she calls “dim bulbs”), and novelist William Giraldi, who has complained at the Daily Beast that too many people at Goodreads and Amazon are comparing him to Cormac McCarthy. Gould calls both of these pieces “tall glasses of white whine” that shouldn’t have been published, but she does have empathy: “The problem is that authors with a new book out are usually suffering from a mental disorder that should probably be in the DSMIV.”

    Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk, a cult novelist who once reportedly caused audience members at his readings to pass out, is hosting a reading and party at Powerhouse Books this Friday to celebrate his new book, Beautiful You. And Halloween, of course.