• June 25, 2014

    At the New Inquiry, an animated map tracks the shifting prominence of American cities in novels over the past two hundred years, drawing on Google Ngram data.“More than anything,” write the map’s creators, the data “shows the enduring dominance of New York City, towering over the cultural landscape in a way that the map, with its pseudo-logarithmic scale, can’t even do justice to.”

    The Tumblr “Last Night’s Reading” offers drawings of writers doing readings in New York, along with quotations from the writer’s remarks. (Geoff Dyer: “You can’t do it without talent, but you can’t do it without confidence either.”) At least in the hands of this artist, Kate Gavino, all the writers look weirdly alike.

    The New Yorker interviews Rebecca Curtis about her most recent story in the magazine, “The Pink House,” which features ghosts. Curtis says, “There’s something lively about ghost stories—ha!—because the story contains built-in excitement and horror. Of course, you still need to create conflict and a plot, if you’re a traditionalist, but you’re starting on stilts, maybe, because you have a dramatic element that a normal, two-people-drinking-coffee-and-complaining-about-their-bunions story doesn’t have.”

    Joel Johnson

    Joel Johnson

    Gawker Media wants to double its staff by the end of 2015, editorial director Joel Johnson said in an April meeting. This week it brought Rachel Rosenfelt on as Executive Producer, and Gawker.com has hired a number of new staff writers, including Allie Jones, Aleksander Chan, and Andy Cush, as well as a senior editor, Jason Parham. As Capital New York reports, Johnson also aims to increase the monthly average of unique visitors from sixty-eight thousand (where it is currently) to eighty thousand.

    Buzzfeed quizzes are mining your personal data, says the Daily Dot. The website logs whether your Facebook account is connected to the website, what your home country is, and what your age and gender are if that information is available. It also records and archives quiz responses, which, depending on the quiz, can be very personal. The April quiz “How Privileged Are You?” asked questions about sexual orientation, whether you’ve ever been a victim of rape, and whether your parents help with living expenses.

  • June 24, 2014

    People taking office are swearing in using e-readers. “A Kindle is not a beautiful object,” Hannah Rosefield notes at the New Yorker. But this may be partly the point. “As cool as a copy of the Constitution from the eighteenth century would have been,” says Suzi LeVine, the American ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, “ I wanted to use a copy that is from the twenty-first century, and that reflects my passion for technology and my hope for the future.”

    Also at the New Yorker, Caleb Crain reviews a new biography of Stephen Crane. “Existential compromises fascinated Crane. Does an alcoholic choose to drink? Is a soldier blameworthy if he flees an attack that scatters half his regiment? . . . In narratives of the hopeless and the near-hopeless, of human beings experiencing powerlessness and self-delusion, [Crane] managed to record a new kind of consciousness, giving the reader glimpses of the self as an opaque and somewhat mechanistic thing.”

    Will media rivals Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone become business partners? “Historically, a deal between Redstone and Murdoch would have been considered anathema by both men,” Buzzfeed points out. But it may become necessary, now that they face “digital disruption, declining advertising, and the impending mergers of distributors Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV.”

    Nicholas Wade’s recent book about genes and race, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, is about as racist as it sounds, argues Phillip Cohen at the Boston Review. “In Wade’s telling, the Caucasian and East Asian races comprise the richest and most powerful nations in the world because they are genetically better adapted to success in modern capitalist systems than are Africans and the other racial groups, who remain steeped in tribalism, the ‘default’ human condition.”

    Emily Gould

    Emily Gould

    Emily Gould, whose first novel, Friendship, is forthcoming in July, has left her position at 29th Street Publishing.

    Sunday’s US-Portugal World Cup game was the most-watched soccer telecast ever, drawing a total of at least 24.6 million viewers.

     

  • June 23, 2014

    The New York Times and Elle profile Emily Gould, whose first novel, Friendship, comes out July 1.

    A study examining the brain activity of experienced and novice writers showed differences in the two groups of subjects: the caudate nucleus, which figures in skills that come with practice, was active in experts; in novices it wasn’t. As Carl Zimmer explains at the Times, “the inner workings of the professionally trained writers in the bunch” resembled those of “people who are skilled at other complex actions, like music or sports”: “When we first start learning a skill — be it playing a piano or playing basketball—we use a lot of conscious effort. With practice, those actions become more automatic.”

    Rachel Rosenfelt

    Rachel Rosenfelt

    Rachel Rosenfelt, formerly Editor-in-Chief of the New Inquiry, is joining Gawker as Executive Producer. Buzzfeed reports that the position will entail helping Gawker leadership on “strategy, recruitment, and special projects.” Rosenfelt will remain publisher of the New Inquiry, which she co-founded.

    At the New Republic, the Norwegian novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard celebrates the Argentine soccer player Angel di Maria, noting, among other things, his “fantastic” resemblance to Kafka. “Soccer is the antithesis of literature, because the magic spell it casts has no consequences; when the match is over, it is forgotten, and the unexpected which opens up reveals nothing other than itself. In this way soccer is closer to life, which literature is always seeking to give depth to, to imbue with meaning, but which presumably only has depth and meaning there, in literature.”

    A Martin Scorsese documentary starring Robert Silvers, the editor of the New York Review of Books, showed at the Sheffield Documentary Festival this month.

    The renowned Spanish literary agent Carmen Balcells will be forming a new venture with Andrew Wylie, the Balcell-Wylie agency, that will bring her writers under joint management with Mr. Wylie. Balcells, who is 83, represents Mario Vargas Llosa, Isabel Allende, Javier Cercas, and the estates of Carlos Fuentes and Pablo Neruda. She told the Times that she “never wanted to be important.” “I wanted to be independent, autonomous at a time when a woman without a rigorous education, without a powerful family, couldn’t choose what to do on her own.”

     

  • June 20, 2014

     

    Pablo Neruda

    Pablo Neruda

    Twenty previously unknown poems by Pablo Neruda have been found among his papers. The poems were discovered in a box of manuscripts at the Pablo Neruda Foundation in Santiago, Chile; the earliest dates from the mid-1950s. At El Pais, read an excerpt in Spanish.

    At the Paris Review Daily, the poet Rowen Ricardo Phillips is blogging the World Cup.

    First editions of Haruki Murakami’s new novel will come with a sheet of stickers designed by five Japanese illustrators, the Guardian reports, shaking its head over the increasingly frantic publicity efforts of publishers.

    Penguin Books published an astonishing 125,000 copies of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, a debut novel by the French writer Joël Dicker who is in France exceedingly famous and in the United States not so much. Since May, only thirteen thousand copies have sold, in spite of the book, which is set in the US, seeming “almost cynically designed to be popular in the United States,” as Alice Gregory writes at the New Yorker blog, “a thriller for people who don’t think of themselves as people who read thrillers.” But the book is “wooden” and formulaic. Perhaps it “did well in France because the French . . . are too French for themselves.”

    The governor of South Carolina will not veto a measure that penalizes two universities for assigning books with gay themes, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports. “The College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina-Upstate will have to spend $52,000 and $17,000, respectively, to teach the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents, ‘including the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals.’” The punishment was a response to the colleges assigning Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, edited by Candace Chellew-Hodge and Ed Madden.

     

  • June 19, 2014

    Hanya Yanagihara

    Hanya Yanagihara

    The 2014 PEN shortlists have been announced. In the running for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham prize, which grants $25,000 to a debut novelist, are Anthony Marra, Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, Ian Stansel, Shawn Vestal, and Hanya Yanagihara; competing for the Art of the Essay award are Janet Malcolm, David Sedaris, Rebecca Solnit, and James Wolcott.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has reached a settlement in a civil class-action lawsuit over the price of e-books. The terms of the settlement haven’t yet been released, but the plaintiffs were demanding $840 million from Apple on grounds that the company had overcharged e-book consumers by a third of that amount, or $280 million.

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has published George Will’s syndicated column for years, but yesterday the paper announced that it is replacing Will with columnist Michael Gerson. The Post-Dispatch says in a statement to its readers: “The change has been under consideration for several months, but a column published June 5, in which Mr. Will suggested that sexual assault victims on college campuses enjoy a privileged status, made the decision easier. The column was offensive and inaccurate; we apologize for publishing it.”

    The New York Times company has shrunk by more than half in the past eight years, but the salaries of the paper’s top three executives have held steady, says Reuters. In 2013, the total compensation (including stock awards and incentive payments) of Chairman and Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., CEO Mark Thompson, and Vice Chairman Michael Goldman was, added together, $11.9 million.

    1Peter Mendelson has posted the jacket design for Tom McCarthy’s novel Satin Island, which will be published by Knopf in February 2015.

    At the Baffler, Jacob Silverman reflects on YouTube’s recent threat to block the videos of independent labels if the labels don’t agree to YouTube-set terms. The company’s “rough tactics clash with its self-generated populist aura,” Silverman observes.

    An interview with Barbara Cassin, the author of the Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, which appeared originally in French and has been reworked and rereleased in multiple languages. “The term untranslatable is itself difficult to translate,” Cassin says. “I might translate it into English, as—this is not a real word—“un-translated-able,” that is, unable to be finished being translated.

  • June 18, 2014

    Charles Barsotti and his cartoon dog

    Charles Barsotti (and his cartoon dog)

    The cartoonist Charles Barsotti died yesterday, at the age of eighty. Barsotti drew nearly 1400 cartoons for the New Yorker over the course of fifty years.

    Gawker Media graduated the first class of its “Recruits” program, which trains new writers and pays them a $1500 monthly stipend, plus extra money based on how many clicks they can generate ($5 for every 1000 “uniques,” or unique visitors). Eight of the first eighteen recruits will be hired on full-time.

    “The written word has been dying for so long!!” Rivka Galchen exclaims at the New York Times. “You’ve read this argument before. Then we say that kids these days, they never read—they never read!—or, kids these days, they heart reading, and their tweets are Wildean epigrams, and Kanye West is a god of language . . . although that’s not written language, it’s . . . sometimes we get lost, it’s difficult to stay on point in conversation, especially because a terrible death blow was dealt to conversation, by literacy.”

    At the Guardian, Olivia Laing on alcoholic female writers, whose numbers include Jean Rhys, Jean Stafford, Marguerite Duras, Patricia Highsmith, Elizabeth Bishop, Jane Bowles, Anne Sexton, Carson McCullers, Dorothy Parker, and Shirley Jackson.

    An informal association of female writers and editors has sprung up on Facebook and Twitter, gathering under the aegis of a “binder full of women writers.” Want to commission or pitch someone in the binder? You’ll find a Twitter list here.

  • June 17, 2014

    Carla Blumenkranz, a writer and editor at n+1, has just been hired to be a senior editor at the New Yorker’s website.

    Disappointed by the exclusion of women from most discussions of the mystical Great American Novel, Elaine Showalter chooses six women writers from the United States who should be part of the conversation.

    According to Nielsen, the self-publishing market is growing rapidly in the UK, where approximately 81 million self-published titles were sold last year.

    Ben Marcus

    Ben Marcus

    Ben Marcus—the author of Notable American Women and The Flame Alphabet, among other innovative works of fiction—learns to love (or at least not spit out) so-called superfoods in the new GQ.

    At the Millions, Jonathan Russell Clark documents his ongoing obsession with epigraphs—ones that have been used, and others that could be used in the future.

    The U.S. Department of Labor is investigating the deaths of two temporary workers that occurred at Amazon warehouses.

     

  • June 16, 2014

    What obstacles are in the way of reading anything of any length today, and how has the novel responded to these competitors for readers’ attention? At the New York Review of Books, Tim Parks considers the effects of the problem “we all know”—that “every moment of serious reading has to be fought for, planned for” because “the mind . . . is overwhelmingly inclined toward communication or, if that is too grand a word, to the back and forth of contact with others.” Not only are we constantly interrupted, we want to be interrupted. Contemporary novels have accordingly adopted a “battering ram quality . . . an insistence and repetition that perhaps permits the reader to hang in.” Books of “elegant, highly distinct prose, of conceptual delicacy and syntactical complexity” will grow fewer, and be replaced by those in short sections, “offering more frequent pauses where we can take time out.” Meanwhile, big, elaborate, popular novels “will be ever more laden with repetitive formulas, and coercive, declamatory rhetoric to make it easier and easier, after breaks, to pick up, not a thread, but a sturdy cable.”

    Jacqueline Rose surveys no fewer than six books about mothers at the London Review of Books, and concludes that something is missing from the bunch: a story in which “the acute pleasure of being a mother would be neither a guilty secret, nor something enviously co-opted by bullies—‘You will be happy!’—but instead would be allowed to get on quietly with its work of making the experience of motherhood more than worth it.”

    The New Inquiry’s latest issue is on “Queens.” “If the queen is the pinnacle, she is also the limit,” asserts the editor’s note. “If she is an exception to the general subordination of women, she proves the male rule.”

    Al Jazeera unveils a digital video news channel.

    bell hooks

    bell hooks

    A strategy to fend off unwanted admirers: Give out the number (669) 221-6251 to a guy, and any text he sends will receive a response quoting bell hooks’s work. Pass off the digits as your own, say the automated number’s anonymous creators, “if you’re in a dicey situation, afraid to give out your personal cell phone number or outright reject someone.”

    A new journalism cooperative, Deca, brings together nine writers and editors to edit, promote, and publish one another’s work. Members will split revenues from stories sold through its new app and on Amazon.

  • June 13, 2014

    At the New Republic, Christopher Ketcham has written a long article about the accusation that Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges is a plagiarist.

    The lineup for the 2014 Brooklyn Book Festival have been announced with usual borough suspects such as Paul Auster and Colson Whitehead being joined by more than 100 other writers, including Edmund White, A. M. Homes, Philippe Petit, and Rebecca Mead. The festival’s main events will be held on September 21st, with other readings, talks, and panels running from the 15th through the 22nd.

    Jill Abramson

    Jill Abramson

    Harvard University has announced that Jill Abramson will teach narrative nonfiction courses at the college this fall.

    Charles Wright, who has won the Pulitzer prize and the National Book Award, has been named the new Poet Laureate. Says James Billington, the librarian of Congress: Wright’s “combination of literary elegance and genuine humility—it’s just the rare alchemy of a great poet.”

    At the Paris Review, Nicole Rudick considers Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary and looks at a cache of letters between O’Hara and his publisher at City Lights, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

    Veteran culture editor Craig Marks, the coauthor of I Want My MTV, has been named the new editor in chief of Spin magazine. Craigs was the executive editor of Spin in the 1990s, but the magazine he is returning to looks quite different from the one he left. For one thing, it became digital-only in 2012. “My goal is to grow the digital audience and engage young people and others with a brand that is still considered a gold standard in music journalism,” Marks tells Ad Age.

    Kickstarter has added two new categories to their crowdfunding platform: “Crafts” and . . . “Journalism.” The Guardian has signed on to “curate” a page highlighting the best projects.

  • June 12, 2014

    On the eve of the world cup, eleven writers—including Karl Ove Knausgaard, Geoff Dyer, Joseph O’Neill—pick the most compelling characters of the tournament. O’Neill chooses Netherlands star Arjen Robben: “Aged 30, he is a ringer for Patrick Stewart, who is 73. Like Stewart, Robben is chronically histrionic, only his is a limited villainous repertoire of dives, false grimaces, and mock seizures. Even his brilliance gets under the skin.”

    François Truffaut

    François Truffaut

    A limited-edition book featuring the five “Talk of the Town” pieces Lillian Ross wrote about Francois Truffaut between the years 1960 and 1976 is being published.

    Chris Lehmann looks at neoliberal pundits’ reaction to Thomas Piketty’s study of inequality Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and explains why their counterclaims ring false, arguing that “the wifty personal education-and-innovation agendas that David Brooks and company champion are false solutions to the inequality crisis.”

    At VanityFair, Evgenia Peretz presents some disapproving quotes about Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch from the likes of James Wood, Lorin Stein, and Francine Prose, which prompt a discussion of what makes capital-S “serious” literature.

    The Awl has posted a very interesting, thorough, and topsy-turvy history of Time Inc’s Entertainment Weekly by Anna Helen Petersen, the author of the forthcoming Scandals of Classic Hollywood.

     

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