• July 10, 2014

    In a letter on Tuesday, Amazon said they would give Hachette authors 100 percent of profits of e-book sales. Hachette said to accept the offer would be “suicide.” Amazon said it would be no such thing. But the online retailer, which has been trying to extract better terms on e-book sales from Hachette for months, has little to lose; giving away e-books would cost Hachette far more. The public bickering follows a letter signed by hundreds of writers demanding that Amazon “stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business.”  Roxana Robinson, the president of the Authors Guild, told the Times that the proposal is an attempt to get writers to take sides against their publishers. She’s critical of Hachette too. “From our publishers we want a fairer share of e-book revenues; from Amazon we want an end to predatory practices that unfairly threaten their competitors, as well as the continued existence of the printed book.”

    Beginning June 21 and continuing for three months, all New Yorker articles published since 2007 will be free online. With the promotion, the magazine hopes to attract new readers and learn about those readers’ habits, in preparation for a new paywall for online subscribers.

    The latest documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the NSA and FBI have been secretly monitoring emails of prominent Muslim-Americans, “including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies.” The “FISA recap” spreadsheet in the Snowden documents shows 7,485 email addresses monitored between 2002 and 2008.  If that’s not winning domestic hearts and minds, a three-month investigation by the Intercept reveals in the practice of authorizing such NSA surveillance “wide latitude in spying on US citizens.”

    Virginia Woolf photographed by Giselle Freund

    Virginia Woolf photographed by Giselle Freund

    Virginia Woolf once refused to sit for a portrait she thought destined for the National Portrait Gallery in London—its walls, she lamented, “filled with men.” Her boycott notwithstanding, opening today at the NPG is “Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision,” an expansive exhibition that includes 140 objects. Among the archival materials are portraits by Bloomsbury Group contemporaries, letters, diaries, Woolf’s walking stick, and photographs such as the iconic 1902 Beresford print of a 21-year-old Virginia in profile. Also in the exhibition is the last photograph of Woolf, which gets a salty mention in her diary: “No getting out of it…my afternoon is gone in the way to me most detestable and upsetting of all.” It’s also the only color photograph we have of the writer. At the BBC, listen to the only surviving recording of her voice.

    Capital New York reports that Dean Baquet’s first digital initiative as Executive Editor at the New York Times is to add deputy-level digital editors. In a letter to staff, Baquet writes, “These new editors will give us added firepower and expertise to take the digital report to the next level.” In May, Buzzfeed published the Times Innovation Report, criticizing the paper of record for lackluster digital strategy. Baquet assumed the Executive Editor position upon Jill Abramson’s controversial firing in May.

    This week NPR distributed a memo quaintly warning staffers to behave on their personal social media accounts: “Though the words may be on ‘personal’ Twitter or Facebook accounts, what we say can reflect on NPR and raise questions about our ability to be objective.”

    Al Jazeera America has “out-CNNed the old CNN,” according to Jack Shafer at Reuters, but the cable news channel draws only 15,000 viewers during prime time. (By comparison, Fox has an average of 1.6 million.)

  • July 9, 2014

    Adam Bellow—son of Saul Bellow, as he must tire of being reminded—has compiled a Buzzfeed list for readers worried about “the ingrained (and often unconscious) liberalism of mainstream popular culture.” Never fear! There is “a growing countercultural revolt” that has “escaped widespread notice,” and all you need to do is turn to Bellow’s website, Liberty Island, to find examples of “the best in conservative fiction”: say, The Holy Land, a “delightfully un-PC” sci-fi novel “reflecting satirically on the Middle East conflict”; or the Will Tripp novels, about a “pissed off attorney at law” (“Spare him your pained expressions of empathy and politically correct euphemisms,” Bellow crows); or Monster Hunter Nemesis, the author of which, Bellow claims, has recently been the target of a “hate campaign” by “intolerant leftists” in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America guild. For a rather different take on right-wing fiction, check out JW McCormick’s New Inquiry essay on the white-supremacist novel The Turner Diaries.

    A recently posted 185-page CIA style manual dispenses writing precepts, defends the oxford comma, and instructs its agents to “keep the language crisp and pungent.”

    Alexis Madrigal

    Alexis Madrigal

    The Atlantic names Alexis Madrigal to the newly created position of deputy editor, and makes a number of other promotions and hires. At the Texas Monthly, Brian Sweany will take over for Jake Silverstein as editor in chief.

    A research report releases payment data on 2,009 deals between academic publishers and universities, showing notable and seemingly arbitrary discrepancies in what the publishers charge their mainly captive clients.

    At the London Review of Books, Sheila Heti reviews The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., which recently came out in a paperback edition. Heti argues that the novel points out the intersection of dating and politics, art and economics: “What does courtship look like in a world where people worry about breaking up in light of how much they’ve ‘invested’ in a relationship? In which the ‘market rate’ of everyone—women especially—is as unarguable as a number? And how delicious is it to read a story in which neither of the lovers is particularly lovable, just as there’s nothing lovable about their environment.”

    As hurricane season approaches, news outlets are taking precautions—such as disaster-proofing their transmitter rooms and turning to cloud-based hosting—to avoid a repeat of the Sandy blackout.

  • July 8, 2014

     

    Grégoire Delacourt

    Grégoire Delacourt

    A very silly lawsuit brought by Scarlett Johansson against a French novelist, Grégoire Delacourt, claims that he defamed the actress in his novel La première chose qu’on regard—in English, something like The First Thing You Look At. The character in question isn’t Johansson, but a model who resembles the actress. Nevertheless, a French judge has ruled that Delacourt owes Johansson $3,4oo for portraying her—in a work of fictionas having had two affairs she never engaged in. Unless Johansson reads French, it’s unlikely that she’s read La première chose; it hasn’t been translated.

    According to a Harvard Business school case study, Buzzfeed is disrupting media in the same way that Toyota and Honda disrupted the car industry in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

    The Millions publishes a preview of books coming out during the second half of 2014. Among the big names are David Mitchell, Haruki Murakami, Marilynne Robinson, Denis Johnson, Hilary Mantel, Denis Johnson, and Richard Ford.

    A scale counts the average page number of the five most highlighted passages in Kindle e-books and gives books a score meant to suggest how deep most readers get before they stop reading. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century has a woeful grade of 2.4 percent, while at 25.9 percent Fifty Shades of Gray isn’t that much better. Boring in two very different ways…

    Rolling Stone has promoted its associate publisher, Michael Provus, to the position of publisher. Provis will take over from Chris McLoughlin, who resigned after only a year at the magazine.

    Capital New York reports on the conflicted internal response to the hiring of Jezebel’s new editor-in-chief, Emma Carmichael. Many are disappointed that the long-time deputy editor, Dodai Stewart—one of the few women of color on the masthead, and the longest-serving staffer—didn’t the get the job.

  • July 7, 2014

    It’s not clear how Google will be adhering to a May decision that gives European citizens the “right to be forgotten.” The company restored links to two Guardian stories (about a soccer referee’s lies about a penalty decision) that it had previously removed, but has not done so with a BBC story about the ousting of Merrill Lynch CEO E. Stanley O’Neill.

    The New Inquiry has launched a “flash fundraiser”: If the magazine can raise $25,000 by August 1, an anonymous donor will match the amount.

    J. G. Ballard

    J. G. Ballard

    On the occasion of the British reissue of J. G. Ballard’s Crash, Zadie Smith concludes that she didn’t understand it the first time she read it. It’s “an existential book about how everybody uses everything. How everything uses everybody.” But that isn’t exactly bad: “There is always this mix of futuristic dread and excitement, a sweet spot where dystopia and utopia converge. For we cannot say we haven’t got precisely what we dreamed of, what we always wanted, so badly.”Crash also appears in a recent Bookforum syllabus on “weird sex.”

    The novelist Colum McCann was attacked in Connecticut after trying to assist a woman he witnessed getting assaulted. The New York Times story about the incident spends a lot of time wondering why he doesn’t have more empathy for his attacker given that he’s someone “known” for the emotion. Either the Times writer has a starry-eyed view of the moral capacities of novelists or he’s making brilliantly deadpan fun of McCann, who started an organization that emphasizes “radical empathy” and was attending a conference of the organization (called Narrative 4) the same weekend. We deplore the assault (in which McCann’s jaw was broken) but can’t help enjoying the latter interpretation of the article.

    Geoff Dyer close-reads a photograph of a D-Day veteran visiting Normandy Beach. “No matter what we do in our lives, we’ll end up as old geezers who no one wants to listen to. It’s the implacable revenge weapon of the aged, the biological equivalent of the Enigma decrypts: They know what’s coming.”

  • July 3, 2014

    Vice Media is moving to a 60,000-square-foot former warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which will reportedly help it add 525 more employees to its current staff of 400.

    The Wall Street Journal has laid off between 20 and 40 employees in recent weeks.

    Gawker has launched a new vertical, “Disputations,” which makes public the internal chatter of its employees. At the Nieman Journalism Lab, Caroline O’Donovan discusses Gawker’s desire “to take the private parts” of its writers’ “intelligence and character and turn them into monetizable content.” Will readers bite? On Twitter, NPR’s David Folkenflick complained that Buzzfeed and Gawker have become “fractal-like inside joke machines.” “The feeling of being made privy to what should be a behind-the-scenes conversation is undoubtedly titillating, but inside jokes are not enticing to everyone on the Internet,” O’Donovan points out.

    Putnam will publish a memoir by actor Burt Reynolds, titled But Enough About Me, in fall 2015.

    Radio Open Source has unearthed and posted a lost radio interview with David Foster Wallace, which was conducted by Chris Lydon in 1996.

     

    Ira Glass

    Ira Glass

    This American Life has left Public Radio International, its distributor of seventeen years. As a Times article about the radio program and its host, Ira Glass, explains, This American Life will now be delivered to stations through the online platform PRX, instead of through public radio’s satellite system. Listeners will likely notice little change—the show will broadcast on the same stations at the same time. The biggest difference is financial: “Gone are a distributor’s financial guarantees.”

  • July 2, 2014

    Carla Blumenkranz

    Carla Blumenkranz

    Carla Blumenkranz is moving from n+1, where she was managing editor, to a position as senior online editor at the New Yorker. Dayna Tortorici, currently a senior editor, will take her place.

    At the London Review of Books, Benjamin Kunkel takes on the much-discussed French economist Piketty. Capital in the 21st Century, Kunkel writes, is “more exciting considered as a failure than as a triumph.” “Piketty has bid a lingering goodbye to the latter-day marginalism of mainstream economics but has not yet arrived at the reconstructed political economy foreseen at the outset. His theoretical reach fumbles where his statistical grasp is sure, and he leaves intact the questions of economic value, distributive justice and capitalist dynamics that he raises.”

    John Freeman, the former editor of Granta, has announced plans to edit a series of themed anthologies for Grove/Atlantic. The collections, which will appear twice a year and include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, will be called “Freeman’s” after their editor. Freeman told the Washington Post that he wanted to create “a home for the long form . . . as well as writing that feels possessed, like only that writer could have done it.” The first volume is slated to appear in October of 2015.

    Mike Pride, the new administrator for the Pulitzer Prizes, has said that the awards need to keep up with the times. The challenge will be “to remain a journalism award in a world where journalism is really changing very quickly.”

    Glenn Greenwald promised a big story at the Intercept and then put on the brakes. What happened? Gawker says it “won’t speculate too wildly about the possibly upcoming story or its intrigues.”

    After Bruce Springsteen was photographed reading James Miller’s Examined Lives, a collection of biographical sketches of twelve philosophers, the book received a “bump in sales.” Miller, a politics and liberal studies professor at the New School, charmingly told the Wall Street Journal that he was “floored.”

  • July 1, 2014

    Noviolet Bulawayo

    NoViolet Bulawayo

    The New York Times on a “new wave” of African writers that includes Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dinaw Mengestu, Helen Oyeyemi, NoViolet Bulawayo, Teju Cole, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, and Taiye Selasi. “Some writers and critics scoff at the idea of lumping together diverse writers with ties to a diverse continent. But others say that this wave represents something new in its sheer size, after a long fallow period.”

    Now a decade old, the online literary magazine Guernica, which has so far relied on unpaid contributors, is hiring a new publisher, Lisa Lucas, and making plans to expand into print.

    Novelist and onetime Magnetic Fields cohort Daniel Handler—aka Lemony Snicket—will host the 2014 National Book Awards ceremony.

    The Carnegie Medals have been awarded to Donna Tartt and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

    According to Poynter, the AP plans to begin using “automation technology”—read: robots—to write stories about earnings reports.

    Email newsletters aren’t dead, says the Times. (And the paper of record is on it once again.)

  • June 30, 2014

    Publisher’s Weekly’s annual report on the global publishing market has the education publisher Pearson in the top spot, with over nine billion dollars in revenue, and Random House as the world’s largest trade publisher, making around three billion dollars in 2013.

    The Obama administration is deciding whether to continue pursuing charges that could send author James Risen to jail. In State of War, Risen used an anonymous source to describe a failed CIA operation in Iran. The Bush Administration demanded that Risen reveal his source, but the author has refused. According to the New York Times, “Whatever the Justice Department chooses to do will send a powerful message about how far it is willing to go to protect classified information in the digital age. And journalists and press freedom activists are watching closely for the precedent the decision will most likely set.”

    Francisco Goldman

    Francisco Goldman

    Tonight at 192 Books in New York, Francisco Goldman reads from his new book about Mexico City, The Interior Circuit.

    The “future of reading,” according to New York magazine, will be on smartphones and tablets rather than on dedicated e-readers (or print books): “Books are becoming just another app, and the publishing industry’s glorious e-reader future seems to be fading from view.”

    An excerpt from Marilynne Robinson’s forthcoming novel, Lila.

    Paul Kozlowski, a booklover who had a long career in publishing (including gigs as a bookseller, as the director of marketing at Pantheon and Knopf, and as an associate publisher at Other Press) died last week at the age of sixty. At MobyLives, Dennis Johnson remembers Paul, and expresses his deep sadness that Paul was unable to start the next chapter of his publishing career at Melville House, where he was due to start soon.

     

  • June 27, 2014

    On KCRW’s Bookworm, Michael Silverblatt talks to Edmund White and his husband, Michael Carroll, about their recent books.

    John Green

    John Green

    Sarah Polley will be writing and directing an adaptation of the YA book Looking for Alaska, by John Green.

    The June/July issue of the Atlantic Monthly is out. In an article about the effect of autocorrect on punctuation, Joe Pinsker quotes a linguistics professor who points out that the devices that are usually blamed for corrupting conventions may, with the autocorrect function, ultimately be responsible for preserving them. Meanwhile, Sarah Boxer writes about the dead-mother trope in animated children’s movies. “Mothers are killed in today’s kids’ movies,” she argues, “so the fathers can take over.”

    Also at the Atlantic, read Part 3 of Ta-nehisi Coates’s “narrative bibliography” accompanying the long, excellent article, published last month, in which he makes a case for reparations. In the bibliography, Coates explains that what was most  disturbing in the books he read was the overwhelming evidence of intent: “Government policy toward African-Americans is not an argument for the ineffectuality of government, on the contrary it is an argument for just how effective government can be.”

    A survey suggests that journalists today check their facts after publishing their stories instead of before.

    Wallace Stevens’s Connecticut home is for sale. The 1920s Colonial, which is in Hartford, is listed at $489,900.

  • June 26, 2014

    Anna María Matute

    Ana María Matute

    The Spanish writer Ana María Matute has died. She was 88. Matute was the third woman to receive the Cervantes Prize. Her last novel, Family Demons, is due out in the fall.

    John Cheever’s Westchester house is on the market. The three-bedroom, three-bathroom house, which was built in 1795, is for sale for $525,000.

    The New York Times ends “The Lede” blog. Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told Poynter that the paper has been “moving away from blogs in the past year.” In fact, “almost half” of the paper’s blogs will soon close or merge.

    Twitter is trying out a new feature that will allow users to control the content of their retweets.

    The Atlantic explains how to write in shorthand.

    Over the weekend, Pando fired two editorial staffers, David Sirota and Ted Rall, apparently in response to concerns from investors that the site featured “not enough tech and too much politics.”

    Jack Shafer considers the future of Vice Media, which is valued right now at somewhere between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion. Vice’s niche—”frank and exploitative takes on drugs, murder, sex, war, jail, violence, disaster and the crazed” —isn’t exactly new, as Shafer points out. It’s been doing well “since the invention of media in the 16th century.” But the closest comparison to be made for the company is the “flash press,” which in the mid-19th century “competed for the attention of the young, urban male audience with outrageous and libidinous tales.”

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