• May 1, 2017

    Chris Kraus

    On Friday, Bret Stephens’s debut op-ed in the New York Times, a column in which he defended some climate-change skeptics, infuriated environmentalists and “didn’t sit well with many of his colleagues in the newsroom.” Many Times readers have threatened to cancel their subscriptions. The Times has now released a statement from op-ed editor James Bennet, who states, “If all of our columnists and all of our contributors and all of our editorials agreed all of the time, we wouldn’t be promoting the free exchange of ideas, and we wouldn’t be serving our readers very well.” At the Washington Post, Erik Wemple calls the statement the “Editorial Page Editor’s Boilerplate Kumbaya Response to Public Outrage.”

    Emma Straub, author of the bestselling novel Modern Lovers, has opened a new bookstore in Brooklyn called Books are Magic.

    George Saunders talks about moving from the short story to writing his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo: “I thought, if I don’t try this thing now . . . I’m not getting any younger, so maybe it would be a good time to take a real artistic risk, to genuinely risk failure.”

    At The Guardian, Chris Kraus talks about the new TV adaptation (by Jill Soloway) of her book I Love Dick. “Of course, they’ve changed it,” she says. “But one brilliant thing they’ve done is to tap into the phenomenon of the book, the way it now has a life of its own.” Reflecting on whether the book is a personal one, Kraus notes, “It’s a universal comedy. Who hasn’t had an affair? Who hasn’t had an infatuation? Even so, the serious question that goes unanswered in I Love Dick is: what could bring a married couple to collaborate on love letters to a third person?”

    Today is the deadline to apply for the Yi Dae Up Fellowship. Funded by the novelist Alexander Chee, the fellowship provides funds (and a $500 travel stipend) to an Asian or Asian American woman to attend the Jack Jones writing retreat for women of color in Taos, New Mexico. The retreat will take place October 12 through 26.

  • April 28, 2017

    President Barack Obama and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Photo: Pete Souza / White House

    Ta-Nehisi Coates is working on two new books. We Were Eight Years in Power, which will be released in October, was developed from Coates’s many articles on Barack Obama for The Atlantic. Coates is also working on a work of fiction, which is still in progress. Both books will be published by One World.

    Page Six reports that Colson Whitehead is working on a new book. “I am working on another depressing novel for the masses,” he said. “It takes place in Florida in the 1960s.”

    James Patterson is working on a true crime book about Aaron Hernandez, the former NFL star who killed himself last week while awaiting sentencing for a murder conviction. “While his life was marred by controversy, he had incredible potential and undisputed talent,” Patterson said in a statement. “Along the way, his life spiraled out of control—and I felt compelled to ask: What went wrong?” The still-untitled book will be published by Little, Brown next year.

    PEN America has released a report detailing all the ways that the Trump administration has threatened free speech in their first one hundred days in office. The group found “at least 76 instances in which President Trump and/or his Administration have undermined the work of the press.” The organization writes that these incidents are “harmful to our democracy and to our respect for the Constitution, and we all—whatever our political affiliation—must continue to stand up and say so.”

    At Marie Claire, Kaitlin Menza profiles Emily Steel, the New York Times reporter whose exposé on Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment settlements forced the anchor out of Fox News. “She is petite, with a soft high-pitched voice,” Menza writes, “exactly the kind of woman that a man like Bill O’Reilly might underestimate.” New York magazine’s Gabe Sherman reports that the turmoil is not yet over at the company. Sherman writes that network co-president Bill Shine is concerned “about his future at the network” after James and Lachlan Murdoch denied his request that they “release a statement in support of him.” In response, Sean Hannity tweeted to Sherman that, if true, “that’s the total end of the FNC as we know it.”

  • April 27, 2017

    Granta has released their annual list of the best young American novelists, which includes Ottessa Moshfegh, Garth Risk Hallberg, Yaa Gyasi, and Emma Cline, among others. At The Guardian, Michelle Dean writes that “the list’s apparent lack of theme or consistency” is representative of post-Trump America. “Though the power and the strife of the country might be at the forefront of their minds, especially now, especially after November,” she writes, “I would be surprised if any novelist on this list thought of themselves as having articulated something about that big fractious concept known as ‘America.’”

    Barack Obama’s former photographer Pete Souza is working on a book for Little, Brown. Obama: An Intimate Portrait: The Historic Presidency in Photographs will be published in November, and includes over three hundred photos of the former president from Souza’s collection of ten thousand.

    At Backchannel, Steven Levy talks to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey about the company’s growth, continued digital harassment, and Donald Trump’s continued tweeting. Dorsey says he’s not surprised that Trump’s tweetstorms have not abated. “If you were him,” he asked, “why change the momentum of what made you win in the first place?”

    Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson is writing a book. Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back “will encourage women to fight against harassment and abuse in every aspect of their lives, from schoolyard bullying to the gender pay gap,” and will also include “a playbook to help women and men better understand and combat harassment in the workplace. The book will be published by Hachette imprint Center Street Books next September.

    Reporter and anchor Kelly Wright has joined the racial discrimination lawsuit against Fox News, which now has thirteen plaintiffs. In his suit, Wright said that he was “shunned” from Bill O’Reilly’s show for pitching “a series of positive stories about the African-American community” because the segments “showed Blacks in ‘too positive’ a light.” In a press conference yesterday, Wright said that he was initially reluctant to join the lawsuit. “When my colleagues from other departments began to reveal their encounters with blatant acts of discrimination in their departments, I watched it. I prayed about it. I cried over it,” he said. “I could no longer sit in silence, collect my paycheck, and act like I didn’t experience racial bias on my own level as an on-air personality.”

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me is being adapted into a stage production for the Apollo Theater. The performance will include video projections, excerpts from Coates’s book, and music by Jason Moran. According to Kamilah Forbes, the executive producer of the Apollo and director of the production, Coates will offer “creative guidance” to the project “and may appear in the production.”

  • April 26, 2017

    The standing committee of the US Senate Daily Press Gallery has decided not to move forward with Breitbart’s application for permanent press credentials. The website’s temporary passes will expire at the end of May. The committee was concerned about Breitbart’s many conflicts of interest inside the White House, as well as “the fact that Breitbart is now without a managing editor entirely.” In a statement, the website said that they are “unequivocally entitled to permanent Senate Press Gallery credentials and is determined to secure them.”

    William Gibson. Photo: Fred Armitage

    The New York Times talks to science-fiction novelist William Gibson, whose upcoming book explores the attempts of Londoners in the twenty-second century, after “decades of cataclysmic events have killed 80 percent of humanity,” to interfere with the history of an alternative 2017 San Francisco, in which “Hillary Clinton won the election.” Gibson said he began writing the novel before the 2016 election, and that the results forced him to reconceptualize the whole book. “I assumed that if Trump won, I’d be able to shift a few things and continue to tell my story,” he said. “It was immediately obvious to me that there had been some fundamental shift and I would have to rebuild the whole thing.” Agency will be published by Berkley next January.

    Greek-yogurt maker Chobani is suing Infowars’s Alex Jones for defamation, after articles and videos on his site “falsely linked the company to child rape and a tuberculosis outbreak.” The company says that Jones has ignored repeated requests to remove the offending articles. In a statement, Jones blamed the lawsuit on George Soros, citing White House and Congressional sources. “I’m not backing down, I’m never giving up, I love this,” he said. “They have jumped the trillion-pound great white shark on this baby.”

    Variety’s Maureen Ryan looks at the making of Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which premieres today. Elisabeth Moss says that she was drawn to the show due to the timely nature of its story. “It is not the distant future and it is not the distant past,” she said. “It’s now.” After the trailer was released, Atwood said that people asked her if it was a documentary. “Not quite yet,” she responded.

    Farhad Manjoo looks at Facebook’s changing attitude toward the problem of fake news. Manjoo first visited Facebook headquarters in January, before Trump’s inauguration. At that point, CEO Mark Zuckerberg was still skeptical that his company had any responsibility toward the issue. “Echo chambers were a concern,” Manjoo writes, “but if the source was people’s own confirmation bias, was it really Facebook’s problem to solve?” A month later, Manjoo was invited back to Facebook’s offices, which look “less like the headquarters of one of the world’s wealthiest companies and more like a Chipotle with standing desks,” to discuss a draft of Zuckerberg’s manifesto for fixing Facebook’s fake news problem. Manjoo notes that at that point, Zuckerberg was still unsure about the plan. “He had almost as many questions for us . . . as we had for him,” Manjoo writes. “When I suggested that it might be perceived as an attack on Trump, he looked dismayed.”

  • April 25, 2017

    Philippa Gregory has signed on to write four books with Touchstone. Three of the books will be a series of novels, following a British family from the seventeenth century to the twentieth century. Gregory’s fourth book will be a work of nonfiction that explores “the contributions of extraordinary, yet little-known women throughout the centuries, historically demonstrating women as agents of their own destinies.” The first book will be published in September 2019.

    The Huffington Post has a new name: HuffPost. Editor in chief Lydia Polgreen said the decision came from a desire to reflect “what our readers call us anyway.” In a letter from the editor, Polgreen addressed the renaming and redesign of the site, which she says comes from a desire to reach “people experiencing anger, voicelessness and powerlessness” on all sides of the political spectrum. “The biggest divide in America, indeed across the globe, is between those who have power and those who don’t, and that doesn’t easily line up with our red and blue, left or right politics,” she writes. “I think we can do better for people who feel that too much political and economic power has accrued to a very small elite.”

    Tucker Carlson is working on a book deal. The Fox News host, who recently took over for Bill O’Reilly, is aiming for a million-dollar contract. “The book is not autobiographical in nature,” one source told BuzzFeed, “but rather reflects on themes Carlson cares about.”

    Rafia Zakaria details the history of Hogarth Press, which was founded by Virginia and Leonard Woolf partly to “free the couple from the whims of publishers.” Although the new press eased the literary couple’s stress from waiting for publishers to answer their letters, it wasn’t always easy. After losing friends due to contract negotiations and other aspects of the business, Zakaria writes, “Virginia and Leonard both discovered that the limitations of publishers, their one-time oppressors, were now their own.”

    Maylis de Kerangal

    Maylis de Kerangal’s Mend the Living has become only the second novel to win the Wellcome prize for science writing. The book, released as The Heart in the US, details the twenty four hours surrounding a heart transplant—from the car accident that left a teenager with catastrophic injuries to the organ recipient’s surgery.

    Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, died yesterday at the age of 88. The LA Times notes that Pirsig’s book was rejected by 121 publishers, and “the 122nd gently warned Pirsig . . . not to expect more than his $3,000 advance.” The book eventually sold over five million copies and was translated into dozens of languages.

    Tonight at Albertine, Teju Cole talks to Édouard Louis about his new book, The End of Eddy.

  • April 24, 2017

    Don DeLillo

    A Sense of Direction author Gideon Lewis-Kraus has written a fascinating story about an intellectual journal inspired by Trump. It began in February 2016 with the blog The Journal of American Greatness, described by its founders as the “first scholarly journal of radical #Trumpism.” JAG folded before the election, but when Trump won, the contributors were faced with a dliemma: “What would it even mean to form an intellectual vanguard in the service of his ideas? On the one hand, with Trump in power, they presumably felt they might be able to exert some influence. On the other hand, Trump was inconsistent, impetuous, and bragged that he didn’t read.” Nonetheless, a handful of JAG’s staff have gone on to found a successor publication: American Affairs. Lewis-Kraus analyzes the new magazine’s political vision, and wonders, pointedly, if it can, while refusing to offer deep analysis of Trump’s policies, succeed at becoming a voice for the right-wing intellectual vanguard.

    Later this week, the New School will host The Body Artist, a conference devoted to the work of Don DeLillo. Panelists include fiction writers and critics Joseph Salvatore, Matt Bell, Olivia Kate Cerrone, Anne Margaret Daniel, John Domini, John R. Keene, Albert Mobilio, Tracy O’Neill, and Ed Park.

    Kuki Gallmann, the author of the bestselling book I Dreamed of Africa and one of Kenya’s most prominent conservationists, was shot over the weekend, after sending out a series of tweets in which she expressed alarm about the armed men who had invaded her ranch.

    In an attempt to avoid conflicts of interests, first daughter Ivanka Trump has decided to not go on a reading tour to promote her new book, Women Who Work, which is scheduled to be released on May 2. She has also announced that she will donate all of the proceeds to charity. This is in keeping with other authors who have had close connections to presidents in the past: Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton both gave royalties earned from their books to charities. (The Huffington Post points out that President Trump himself said that he would donate proceeds from his book Crippled America to charity, but that he later disclosed that he earned as much as $5 million from sales of that book.)

    Oprah Winfrey has denied charges that the HBO movie The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks exploits the story of the real-life Lacks, a woman whose cervical-cancer cells became the basis for a number of drug breakthroughs. Winfrey is the executive producer of the film, which is based on the book by Rebecca Skloot, and also plays the lead role. “Do I think the Lacks family should have been paid for all of those cells by all the millions of drug companies in the world who have used those cells…of course they should have,” Winfrey told Page Six. “Do I think that it’s now my responsibility or HBO to compensate for that, no. It was our job to bring the story to light and it is a shame that they were never compensated.”

  • April 21, 2017

    The Man Booker International Prize shortlist was announced yesterday. Mathias Enard’s Compass, David Grossman’s A Horse Walks Into a Bar, Roy Jacobsen’s The Unseen, Dorthe Nors’s Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, Amos Oz’s Judas, and Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream are all finalists for the award. The winner will be announced in June.

    HBO is developing a TV movie of Fahrenheit 451. Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon have signed on to star. No release date has been set.

    Director John Waters answers questions for the New York Times’s “By the Book” column. When asked what he reads “for solace” and escape, Waters pointed to Philip Short’s Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare. “I feel so lucky I didn’t have to live under his rule,” he said. “I don’t want to ‘escape’ when I read a book; I want to enter a new world that disturbs me.”

    At The Hollywood Reporter, Michael Wolff analyzes the power struggle between the members of the Murdoch family at 21st Century Fox. Wolff credits the firing of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly to CEO James Murdoch’s dislike for Fox News and its employees, who he considered “thuggish neanderthals.” Wolff writes that the turmoil at Fox News is a sign that James has effectively taken over the company from his father, Rupert. “This means that Fox News, that constant irritant in James’ view of himself as a progressive and visionary television executive, will begin to change,” Wolff writes.

    In a hearing for a custody trial, Infowars’s Alex Jones said that his website is “90% hard news,” and compared his videos to John Oliver and Stephen Colbert. Jones, who is under a gag order for the remainder of the trial, also showed his impatience with the heavy media coverage of his custody battle. “During one break in the proceedings,” Charlie Warzel reports, “Jones walked past a corral of reporters in the hallway and muttered, ‘Lotta famous fiction writers out here!’”

    Ijeoma Oluo. Photo: Julia-Grace Sanders

    For The Stranger, Ijeoma Oluo spent a day with Rachel Dolezal. Oluo writes that she had hoped to never think about Dolezal again, but accepted the assignment after learning about her’s book, In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World. By the end of their time together, Oluo realizes that Dolezal’s decision to pretend to be black represents “the ultimate ‘you can be anything’ success story of white America.”

  • April 20, 2017

    Co-owner of Washington, DC’s Politics & Prose Bookstore and former Hillary Clinton speechwriter Lissa Muscatine will write a book about working with the Democratic presidential candidate. Hillaryland, which will be published by Penguin Press at an unspecified date, will detail “the 25-year journey of Hillary and her closest advisors at the intersection of politics and gender dynamics.”

    After a series of sexual harassment lawsuits came to light, Bill O’Reilly has been let go from Fox News. The New York Times writes that “his abrupt and embarrassing ouster ends his two-decade reign as one of the most popular and influential commentators in television.” At the Washington Post, Callum Borchers wonders, after losing Roger Ailes, Megyn Kelly, and Greta van Susteren in less than a year, “how much turmoil can Fox News handle?” Variety reports that Tucker Carlson will replace O’Reilly, beginning next Monday. The Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel remembers being followed and bullied by one of O’Reilly’s producers after writing a negative article about the former Fox News host. “Despite O’Reilly’s attempt to ruin me,” unlike him, I still have a job today,” she writes. But the National Geographic cable channel and publisher Henry Holt, who are both working on projects with O’Reilly, plan to continue working with him.

    Elif Shafak

    The Huffington Post’s international site, The WorldPost, spoke to novelist Elif Shafak about the recent presidential referendum in Turkey.

    Communism for Kids, a book by Bini Adamczak that explains the system of government to children, has sparked a backlash from conservative media. Breitbart took issue with the fact that MIT was profiting off the book, rather than giving it away for free. “Surely they wouldn’t argue they don’t have the ability to distribute it for free as widely as Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book?” The American Conservative confirms that the book is real, but “cannot presently confirm suggestions of such possible future MIT titles as Sure, Johnny, You Should Take Candy From the Guy in the Van.” Alex Jones released a YouTube video titled “MIT Pushes Plan To Literally Teach Children Communism,” while his website Infowars was surprised that “an engine of entrepreneurship” like MIT would publish the book. “I guess no school is safe from the blathering madness of leftist academics,” they write. “Oh, how nice, leave it to the intellectuals to once again, make lemons out of lemonade—freedom out of Communism,” wrote the Washington Times. The website also suggested a sequel: “Dictatorships for Dummies.” MIT Press director Amy Brand told Publisher’s Weekly that the reaction to the book has been “a revealing experience” that has reminded her of “the swarm mentality fueled by social media.”

     

  • April 19, 2017

    Grace Paley. Photo: Dorothy Marder

    The New School has created the Grace Paley Teaching Fellowship. The recipient will teach a semester-long essay-writing seminar for a select group of freshman students and receive a $20,000 stipend. “Grace Paley presents a challenge for the teacher of young writers,” writes Scott Korb in his announcement. “We can expect in their work the abstract quality of beauty, sentences that are pleasing and satisfying to the mind for reasons that may remain inexplicable, that reveal sources of drama that arise, or arose, in the streets and friends and homes of our students, and not in our streets or among our friends or in our homes. That reveal something specific and shameless about their lives and minds and say a thing we, their teachers, might never say, despite all we think we have to teach them.”

    Citing the work of Svetlana Alexievich and Scholastique Mukasonga, Scott Esposito reflects on literature that observes history as it happens, and why we need it in the US now more than ever. “We must also have a witness-bearing literature of this period that goes beyond the journalistic facts to give a literary understanding of the massive forces that have brought us to this point, and that now determine our politics. We must have our own Alexieviches [and] Mukasongas . . . to document the lives of this nation and the upheaval that we are going through.”

    David Grann talks to Lit Hub about crime reporting, watching his books be turned into films, and his most recent work, Killers of the Flower Moon.

    The New York Times profiles Shannon Donnelly, the Palm Beach journalist who has covered Donald Trump since he purchased his Mar-a-Lago estate. Donnelly and Trump seem to share a mutual respect, although Trump’s animosity toward journalists can sometimes be taken out on Donnelly as well. After one unfavorable article, Trump wrote to her in 1996 with a deal: if she reigned in her coverage of him, he wrote, “I will promise not to show you as the crude, fat and obnoxious slob which everyone knows you are.” In a response, Donnelly wrote in her column, “Crude, fat and obnoxious I can’t argue with. But slob, no.”

    At The Guardian, Danuta Kean laments the rise of political satire books composed of empty pages, after Donald Trump recommended one in a tweet. “The only laughter I hear around blank books is that of the publishers, as they pocket the profits from books as subtle and revealing as a blow to the head,” she writes. “Perhaps the funniest thing to emerge from all of this is that Trump has yet to recommend a book (apart from his own) with words in it.”

  • April 18, 2017

    The New York Times’s Jim Rutenberg reports on the post-fact media from Russia, which he nicknames “the land of Alternative Truth Yet to Come.” After Trump launched an airstrike against Syria in response to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons, some right-wing media figures in the US suggested that Assad’s attack was a “false flag” operation, instigated by rebel groups to trick the Trump administration into attacking the Syrian government. In Russia, Rutenberg writes, that conspiracy theory “was the dominant theme throughout the overwhelmingly state-controlled mainstream media.”

    At BuzzFeed, Nitasha Tiku looks at Mark Zuckerberg’s years-long campaign to make himself more likeable. After rebranding his minimalist outfit choices and working to become more personable in interviews, the Facebook founder and CEO now plans to travel to every US state this year, accompanied by a communications professional and Barack Obama’s former photographer. Some onlookers seem perplexed by Zuckerberg’s evolution. “I don’t understand why he sounds like a senator in his fourth term,” said former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett. But Tiku writes that his new persona makes more sense “if you think of him as the head of a 14-year-old nation-state called Facebook.” “The listening tour and manifesto are an opportunity for Zuckerberg to strengthen his relationship with his 1.8 billion constituents,” she explains.

    Lindy West

    Lindy West tells the Huffington Post that her book Shrill, published last May, would probably have been “less idealistic” had she written it during the Trump administration. “I feel like I’ve been writing about men being horrible and Republicans being oppressive nightmare people for my whole career,” she said. “And every day under the Trump administration I understand it afresh. Like, oh, I didn’t realize it could actually be this bad.”

    Matteo Pericoli reimagines Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend as a piece of architecture. His design incorporates two buildings that push and pull against each other. “It is evident that if one of the two elements were to be missing, the other would have no reason to exist,” he writes. “Without Lila there would be no Elena, and vice versa.”

    Tonight, Albertine bookstore hosts the Albertine Prize Book Battle, in which three members of the New York literary community defend one of three finalists for the prize. Kaiama L. Glover advocates for Ananda Devi’s Eve Out of Her Ruins, Sam Sacks argues for Maylis de Kerangal’s The Heart, and Tom Roberge defends Antoine Volodine’s Bardo or Not Bardo.

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