• January 16, 2015

    A boy who claimed to have died, gone to heaven, and come back to life has said he lied. We ran a story on Colton Burpo, a kid who claims a similar story. Burpo hasn’t retracted his (yet?).

    Yesterday, the Brian Lehrer show staged a debate about Amazon between the attorney Scott Turow and the self-published author Joe Konrath. An informal poll asked listeners whether they think Amazon is good for readers, bad for readers, or whether the answer is “complicated.” Responses were split about equally among the choices.

    Natasha Vargas-Cooper

    Natasha Vargas-Cooper

    Natasha Vargas-Cooper (a frequent Bookforum contributor) is leaving The Intercept for Jezebel—and taking a pay cut—in order to report more on women’s issues.

    Finalists for the National Magazine Awards—known as the “Ellies”—have been announced. Sixty-six magazines in twenty-four categories have been recognized. Among those nominated in the most prestigious category, Magazine of the Year, are New York, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan. The awards will be presented February 2 at the New York Marriott Marquis.

    Academics at Wayne State University in Michigan have issued a list of “lost” words they recommend be recovered: caterwaul, concinnity, knavery, mélange, rapscallion, opsimath, obambulate, philistine, flapdoodle and subtopia. We insist that at least half of those are still in adequate circulation at Bookforum. The Independent was similarly unimpressed; in response, it offers its own list: bloviate, sesquipedalian, vituperate, shibboleth, escutcheon, tatterdemalion, rubicund, dundreary, and pone.

    On Tuesday, after the president gives his State of the Union address, he’ll have conversations with three YouTube personalities—Bethany Mota, GloZell, and Hank Green—whom Buzzfeed describes respectively as a “teenage makeup expert, a comedian whose husband is an Army veteran, and a professional nerd.” The five- to ten-minute interviews will feature questions from the host and from social media, and are aimed to appeal to young people.

  • January 15, 2015

    French provocateur Dieudonné was arrested yesterday after he posted what authorities are calling a terrorist apologia on Facebook, “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.” At the Intercept, Glenn Greenwald digs into the hypocrisy he sees in the free-speech tributes in France, concluding, ”This week’s celebration of France—and the gaggle of tyrannical leaders who joined it—had little to do with free speech and much to do with suppressing ideas they dislike while venerating ideas they prefer.”

    Jonathan Franzen will be appearing on May 27th at BEA to get the conference off to its usual rousing start, and promote his forthcoming novel, Purity, which will be published in September by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    A look at the sleek new offices of Wired magazine, along with some admonishments by editor-in-chief Scott Dadich to not treat the place like a “pirate ship.”

    At Gawker, the recently returned Alex Paranee reviews some of his favorite media pranks of the past few years, and entices readers with this promise: “Over the next few weeks, I plan to work closely with site leads, editors and reporters from all the Gawker Media sites to identify the perfect targets—the most obnoxious puffed-up blowhards, sanctimonious poobahs, corrupt gatekeepers, venal officials, and credulous watchdogs in each site’s respective fields—and dream up entertaining ways to embarrass or expose them.”

    Joan Didion in an ad for Celine

    Joan Didion in an ad for Celine

    David Mitchell, whose novel The Bone Clocks was published last fall, has completed a new novel, Slade House, which originated as a series of tweets.

    At the Awl, Haley Mlotek uses the recent Celine ad featuring Joan Didion to ponder what Didion has come to signify. “The intentions of the brand behind the ad were, I felt, a trolling of the most epic order. There is only a slight difference between ‘trolling’ and ‘knowing your audience better than they know themselves,’ and Céline walks that line perfectly: a case of correlation not being causation. I didn’t feel trolled because Céline was mocking me, or us, but because I had been so thoroughly and effectively target marketed, an experience that is like being a deer in branded headlights. We’ve been seen!”

  • January 14, 2015

    The American Dialect Society, an organization of linguists, academics, and other word lovers, has named #blacklivesmatter its “Word of the Year.” It is the first time in the society’s 125 year history that a hashtag has won the award (though the word hashtag was the 2012 winner). Language aficionado Ben Zimmer, who chairs the society’s committee on new words, said of their choice: ”While #blacklivesmatter may not fit the traditional definition of a word, it demonstrates how powerfully a hashtag can convey a succinct social message. . . . Language scholars are paying attention to the innovative linguistic force of hashtags, and #blacklivesmatter was certainly a forceful example of this in 2014.”

    Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt will star in the film adaptation of Michael Lewis’s The Big Short, which chronicled the 2007 financial crisis.

    Reporter James Risen will not have to testify at the trial of former CIA official, Jeffrey Sterling, who is charged with leaking confidential information about US operations in Iran. Risen was first subpoenaed in 2008 and has held fast to the principle that he should not—and would not—reveal the identity of his sources.

    The Times is reporting that the latest Charlie Hebdo cover, published today, “could ignite dangerous new passions.”

    Ed Park

    Ed Park

    Believer cofounder, Penguin Press executive editor, and Bookforum contributor Ed Park has sold his second novel, Same Bed, Different Dreams, and a story collection, An Oral History of Atlantis, to Random House. Park’s first novel, Personal Days, is considered a classic of office-malaise, which generates both comedy and chaos. The new novel “is the story of Soon Sheen, a stalled-out Korean-American author employed as an ‘acronym writer’ at GLOAT, an Oz-like social media company in upstate New York,” whose life is changed after a drunken encounter with a mysterious South Korean literary celebrity known as “the scourge of Seoul.”

     

  • January 13, 2015

    Sasha Frere-Jones

    Sasha Frere-Jones

    Sasha Frere-Jones has quit his job as the New Yorker’s pop music critic and is heading to Genius.com; his last New Yorker column is a piece about Northwest rock heroines Sleater-Kinney. Foster Kamer considers Frere-Jones’s move, writing that it really isn’t all that surprising, while at Gawker, Leah Finnegan pleads with trailblazing start-ups to stop giving Old Guard journalists so much money.

    Charlie Hebdo’s new issue will have a cartoon of a crying Prophet Muhammad on the cover.

    The Nation has hired David Hajdu to be its music critic. Hajdu’s books include Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn and Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina.

    Three journalists who left the New Republic during the Guy Vidra–stoked editorial flameout late last year have been hired at the Huffington Post, as Arianna Huffington aims to get HuffPo into the longform game. (Meanwhile, Cathy Park Hong, the author of Engine Empire and other books of poetry, has been named TNR’s new poetry editor.)

    The Story Prize has named its three finalists for the 2014: Francesca Marciano (author of The Other Language), Elizabeth McCracken (Thunderstruck), and Lorrie Moore (Bark). The winner of the “spotlight award” is Kyle Minor’s Praying Drunk.

    In a post about presidential hopeful Ben Carson’s act of plagiarism (his 2012 memoir lifted passages from a website called socialismsucks.net), Mark Krotov points out: “a politician plagiarizing his or her book just isn’t that big a deal. This is not to say that plagiarism is okay—it isn’t—or that we should hold politicians to standards different from those we demand of hack pop-science reporters. We shouldn’t. But the fact is that politicians’ books—especially their campaign memoirs—are a banal and hopeless publishing category, and no one really cares about them.”

    The hackers who took over the US Central Command’s Twitter account on Monday and posted “I love you ISIS” at the top of the page are probably not actually affiliated with ISIS.

  • January 12, 2015

    Robert Stone

    Robert Stone

    Novelist Robert Stone died on Saturday. He was the author of numerous novels, including the National Book Award-winning Dog Soldiers, which updated Graham Greene’s international thrillers for the Vietnam War era and paved the way for Denis Johnson’s counterculture classic Already Dead.

    Michel Houellebecq—the subject of a Charlie Hebdo cover story titled “The predictions of the Great Houellebecq,” published on the day that terrorists killed twelve people at the satirical newspaper—has stopped promoting his novel Submission. The novel, which was released on Wednesday, is about a radical Muslim politician who is elected president in 2022 France.

    On Friday, Rupert Murdoch Tweeted: “Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.” J.K. Rowling has posted a number of responses, including: “I was born Christian. If that makes Rupert Murdoch my responsibility, I’ll auto-excommunicate.”

    The Believer, which has been monthly since it was founded in 2003, has released its first bimonthly issue.

    Politico reporter Maggie Haberman has joined the New York Times, where she will cover the upcoming presidential campaigns. And Jack Shafer has joined Politico to cover the media and politics.

    Gawker asks: “Dear God, What Have They Done to Joan Didion Now?”

  • January 9, 2015

    The Charlie Hebdo staff members who survived Wednesday’s attack will publish an issue of the paper next week. They are planning to increase its print run from around sixty thousand to one million copies, with donations helping to defray the costs.

    Claudia Rankine

    Claudia Rankine

    Claudia Rankine’s Citizen—which concerns, among other things, racism and police brutality—was published in October 2014, but subsequent printings of the book, a finalist for the National Book Award, have already included changes that reflect the deaths of new victims, including Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

    David Haglund, who edits Slate’s Brow Beat blog, has been named the new literary editor of newyorker.com. He will start his new position later this month.

    Need advice? Write to Haruki Murakami.

    In 2014, writers and publishers raised $21.8 million through Kickstarter, and comics artists raised another $9.61 million. The company has issued an end-of-the-year chart, showing dollars donated to projects from a variety of categories.

    In her latest column, The Unspeakable author Meghan Daum wonders if “mansplaining” is as widespread a phenomenon as certain critics have made it out to be. “The reality is that ‘splaining is everywhere, and it’s ultimately not gender specific.”

     

  • January 8, 2015

    Stéphane Charbonnier

    Stéphane Charbonnier

    How publications are responding to the attack on Charlie Hebdo: from solidarity to censorship.  And, at the Times, a profile of Stéphane Charbonnier (aka Charb), the paper’s editorial director, one of twelve people killed in the attack.

    The New Republic has announced the first new hires since the magazine’s disastrous editorial reboot this fall, which culminated with many prominent staff members leaving. Charged with righting the ship are two new senior editors, Jamil Smith and Elspeth Reeve; an associate editor, Bijan Stephen; and a poetry editor, Cathy Park Hong. TNR’s editor, Gabriel Snyder, promises more “exciting updates” in the coming days.

    Meanwhile, over at Gawker, Alex Pareene is returning to the staff as a “special projects editor” after a hiatus at The Intercept. Gawker editor John Cook says that among Pareene’s key duties will be “to work with all the sites on developing and executing pranks, capers, hijinks, and long cons—not merely juvenile stunts (though some will no doubt be), but strategically articulated operations designed to puncture sanctimony and undermine authority.”

    Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and potential Republican presidential candidate, is being accused of plagiarizing sources such as Socialismsucks.net in his book America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made this Nation Great, which extols, among other things, the virtues of hard work and academic excellence. Carson’s publisher, Zondervan, is said to be reviewing the allegations, while his agent says Carson (and his wife and co-author, Candy Carson), didn’t mean it: “The Carsons, in writing this book, did everything that they thought they were supposed to do to provide the source material for their book.”

  • January 7, 2015

    Nicholas and Cathy Sparks

    Nicholas and Cathy Sparks

    Nicholas Sparks and his wife, Cathy, have declared everything Sparks ever wrote null and void by divorcing, and Twitter has consequently lost hope in the power of love.

    The National Book Critics Circle has elected its board for the coming year, and among the eight is our own Michael Miller.

    There’s been a lot of hiring and firing lately. Amy O’Leary, formerly the Times’ digital deputy editor for the international desk, is moving to Upworthy to act as editorial director. (The Observer wonders if the hire signals “a more serious direction” for the company.) Lois Romano is leaving Politico to return to the Washington Post, and Marilyn Thompson, currently the Washington bureau chief for Reuters, is joining Politico as deputy editor. Buzzfeed has named Melissa Segura as its first investigative fellow and Joshua Hirsh as its reporting fellow. Finally, at The Atlantic, Yoni Applebaum will become the new politics editor and Sophie Gilbert the new culture editor.

    At the Chronicle of Higher Education, an article about the “new modesty” in literary criticism.

    The Morning News’ Tournament of Books has announced the judges and shortlist for this year’s contest. The list includes Elena Ferrante’s Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun, Sarah Waters’s The Paying Guests, and twelve others novels.

    n+1’s winter issue is out. The theme is labor and magazines, with pieces by Daniel Menaker, Gemma Sieff, Keith Gessen, and Maxine Phillips.

  • January 6, 2015

    Leon Wieseltier, formerly of the New Republic, has joined the staff of The Atlantic. Wieseltier was one of the first to announce his departure from TNR amid the general exodus in early December.

    The editor in chief of the Virginia Quarterly Review, Ralph Eubanks, will leave when his contract expires at the end of the summer.

    Forbes has announced its list of “30 under 30” in media. It includes Questlove; Peter Thiel, of Paypal and Palantir; Lauren Bush; Monica Lewinsky; and Tinder’s Sean Rad.

    On the NYRB blog, Geoffrey O’Brien writes about Inherent Vice. “If everything is at first sight a dream, a hallucination, a doper’s paranoid exaggeration, we are always looking at faces that say more than even Pynchon’s baroquely elaborating dialogue can. We seem to watch at least two quite different movies at the same time, one exhilaratingly fast and funny, the other unaccountably jagged and sad.”

    The Millions has published its annual preview of upcoming fiction. Next year will see books by Nell Zink, Aleksandr Hemon, Vivian Gornick, Joshua Cohen, Jonathan Galassi, Jesse Ball, Mia Couto, Ann Beattie, Garth Risk Hallberg, Jonathan Franzen, Amelia Gray, Kate Atkinson, Milan Kundera, and many, many others.

    James Risen

    James Risen

    New York Times reporter James Risen, the author of State of War (2006), continues to resist pressure to reveal his sources. Yesterday, on the witness stand in federal court, Risen refused to help prosecutors in their case against former CIA officer Jeffrey A. Sterling, who will soon be tried for providing classified information to the journalist for his book.

     

  • January 5, 2015

    Mark Zuckerberberg is starting what could become the biggest book club in history. The Facebook founder has written that his “challenge for 2015 is to read a new book every other week—with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies.” This will not be a solitary endeavor: Zuckerberg has created a Facebook page called A Year of Books, where he will name the books he’s reading, and invite others to discuss the titles. There are some basic rules for those who join the club: “We ask that everyone who participates read the books and we will moderate the discussions and group membership to keep us on topic.” The first book to be discussed will be Moises Naim’s The End of Power.

    Michel Houellebecq defends his controversial new novel, Submission. In the book, set in France in 2022, a member of a Muslim political party wins the presidency.

    In 2014, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos lost $7.4 billion due to his company’s poorly performing stock. It was the online superstore’s worst year since 2008. But Bezos remains one of the wealthiest Americans. As the WSJ points out, “Bezos’ 84 million shares, equal to 18.3% of the company, will ring in the New Year with a value of roughly $26.1 billion.”

    Ben Lerner

    Ben Lerner

    “I think a lot of the time the book is talked about, like, ‘Oh here’s another Brooklyn novel by a guy with glasses.’” Ben Lerner talks with Emily Witt about octopi, friendships between men and women, political engagement in a consumerist culture, and his recent novel 10:04.

    Flavorwire has posted a roundup of the best literary criticism of 2014, which includes a shoutout to LRB editor and regular Bookforum contributor Christian Lorentzen.

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