• April 13, 2015

    Zainub Priya Dala

    Zainub Priya Dala

    South African psychologist and novelist Zainub Priya Dala (ZP Dala) has been violently attacked, and is now being held in a mental institution—punishment, many allege, for a recent speech in which she praised Salman Rushdie. PEN America is demanding her immediate release.

    Vice has posted an excerpt from Farrar, Straus and Giroux publisher Jonathan Galassi’s forthcoming novel, Muse. The excerpt is, among other things, a portrait of the aggressive deal-making that takes place at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where Galassi’s novel was bought by Knopf in 2013. “Rights directors were the most visible players under the Frankfurt bell jar,” writes Galassi, “and the acknowledged queen of them all was Cora Blamesly, Farrar, Straus and Giroux’s mace-wielding Iron Maiden, who hailed from the arbor-draped hills of Carinthia and was a past master at brandishing her picked-up Sloane Ranger accent, with its ineradicable Germanic undertone, and her S/M selling techniques to extract outrageous contracts from her desperate European ‘friends.’”

    Judith Miller, the former New York Times journalist and author of a series of later-debunked stories arguing that Iraq possessed or was closed to possessing weapons of mass destruction, celebrated the release of her new book, The Story, last week at the Harvard Club. When asked about  Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the writer of the widely discredited Rolling Stone story about rape at a University of Virginia fraternity, Miller commented: “I’m glad she wasn’t fired. Everybody is entitled to a misstep. What she’s gone through is very painful and will make her a better journalist.” Meanwhile, at Politico, Jack Shafer explains the “real problem” with Miller: It’s not that she “got Iraq wrong,” but that in her new memoir she continues to make excuses, and doesn’t try to correct her mistakes.

    Virginia Jackson dwells on the work of Lauren Berlant in an essay on “the function of criticism at the present time.” Berlant is, Jackson writes, “a critic’s critic, a feminist’s feminist, and a thinker’s friend.”

    Last week, Buzzfeed ran a story critiquing a Dove Soap video ad. Soon, the story was pulled. “We pulled this post because it is not consistent with the tone of BuzzFeed Life,” claimed editors at the site. As Gawker points out, Dove is in fact a Buzzfeed advertiser. Gawker has also reported that Buzzfeed removed editorial content that criticized the game Monopoly after signing a deal with the board game’s manufacturer, Hasbro. Meanwhile, Buzzfeed is denying that the stories were removed due to advertiser pressure. “You also have a right to ask about whether we did this because of advertiser pressure, as Gawker suggested,” says Buzzfeed EIC Ben Smith. “The answer is no.”


  • April 10, 2015

    Jeffery Renard Allen

    Jeffery Renard Allen

    The 2015 Guggenheim Fellows have been announced; winners include Jeffery Renard Allen, Meghan Daum, Alex Ross, Cathy Park Hong, Percival Everett, Rivka Galchen, and Kevin Powers.

    At the New Yorker’s Page Turner blog, Leslie Jamison considers Chris Kraus’s work and how Kraus has resisted the idea that her novels are confessional (Kraus’s 2006 novel Torpor was reissued by Semiotext(e) earlier this year). Jamison quotes Kraus saying that she wants to address vulnerability “at some remove,” and looks at the ways in which Kraus’s genre-resistant writings use scenes from her real life as a way to seek larger truths: “Kraus insists that all sorts of experience—even romantic obsession, dependence, and desperate pursuit, stereotypically ‘female’ states of abjection—hold universal significance. . . . She wants to push back against the limited ways in which vulnerability and self-exposure are read.”

    At AWP, Claudia Rankine read a poem for Walter Scott. On Matter this week, a list of those killed by police in 2015; so far, they’ve only found one day with no names to record.

    Heidi Julavits talks about her new book, The Folded Clock: “There’s a lot of mortality contemplation in this book . . . in an unserious, lighthearted manner. We’d never want to take mortality too seriously.”

    Verso Books might assume that development expert Jeffrey Sachs’s favorite novel would be the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but Sachs has now revealed to economist Tyler Cowen that in fact he’s a “complete sucker for Doctor Zhivago”.

    Rafa Fernandez De Castro writes that UNAM, Mexico’s vast public university, is trying to sex up reading with a promotional video and the hashtag #PerreaUnLibro (#GrindABook).

  • April 9, 2015

    Toni Morrison

    Toni Morrison

    The New York Times Magazine has a profile of Toni Morrison, who says of the journalists who constantly phone her: “They are just calling to see when I’m going to die. . . . So I’ll play it up a bit and say, ‘Oh, today my arms hurt, my chest is sore.’ Because, me? I’m not going anywhere soon.”

    At Cosmopolitan, an interview with Chelsea Manning, the Army private who was convicted of leaking classified documents to Wikileaks in 2010.

    Oyster, the e-book service known as “the Netflix for books,” is starting an e-book store in addition to their monthly subscription service. They will sell individual titles from the big five publishers, and are looking to beat Amazon at the e-book game, as cofounder Willem Van Lancker says: “We want to be the Amazon of the next 10 years. We want to build the company that takes e-books into the next wave.” Since Amazon is reportedly in tough contract talks with HarperCollins (after last years feud with Hachette), book publishers will welcome a new outlet for their digital wares.

    Bereft fans of HTMLGIANT need weep no more: Blake Butler returns to take sports back from the jocks at ballballballball.com.

    More bad news in this year’s VIDA count, but several of the old guard came in for tentative praise: At the New Republic (even pre-walkout) the proportion of female reviewers jumped from 7 to 29 percent, and the numbers were also inching upwards at Harper’s Magazine, Granta, and the New York Times Book Review. (AWP-goers can enjoy #VIDACount pies at Booth 1008.) The brand-new Women of Color count, which had hoped to “complicate the conversation” by surveying female writers about their racial identity, is so far suffering something of a data drought. “What are some of the reasons [writers] may choose to opt out?” VIDA’s Amy King wonders. Jamia Wilson of WAM asks: “Are white writers published in gross disproportion to writers of color?” Two questions that might seem to answer each other.

    An exciting new episode of the New Yorker’s Comma Queen series, starring the magazine resident grammar goddess Mary Norris, has been posted online.

  • April 8, 2015

    John Freeman

    John Freeman

    Today is the official launch date of Literary Hub, “a new home for book lovers” that is supported by more than 125 industry partners. “Each day the site—led by editor in chief Jonny Diamond and executive editor John Freeman—will have a main feature from a partner, an exclusive book excerpt, and original content,” says the press release. Because it’s a books site supported by publishers, we will be interested to see if coverage will be uniformly positive, a la Buzzfeed and The Believer.

    Beirut-based Kaelen Wilson-Goldie has written a deeply thoughtful and eloquent article about the Charlie Hebdo attacks, looking not just at the events themselves but at how we have attempted to “explain it, assign it meaning, and make it fit within the wider story we tell ourselves about the worlds in which we live.”

    Awards report: Three Percent has announced the longlist for this year’s Best Translated Book prize. And Atticus Lish has won the PEN/Faulker Award for his first novel, Preparation for the Next Life.

    In the words of Bookforum editor Chris Lehmann‏ “Tech-utopian Clay Shirky preaching the virtues of skepticism is very much like Charlie Sheen extolling sobriety.”

    At Slate, Jordan Weissman responds to a New York Times op-ed on about why tuition has become so expensive—”one of the most confused op-eds on the price of higher education that I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading.”

    Vani Hari, also known as the Food Babe, has been widely profiled, has been named the 30th most influential person by Time, and has written a bestselling book called The Food Babe Way. She is also, says Yvette d’Entremont at Gawker, “utterly full of shit.”

  • April 7, 2015

    The Columbia Graduate School of Journalism’s report on the discredited Rolling Stone story, “A Rape on Campus,” concludes that the piece’s mistakes were systemic and could have been avoided, noting “the failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking.” Rolling Stone has retracted the article and replaced it with the Columbia report, calling it “an anatomy of journalistic failure,” while Gawker says the problem was “pathological conflict-avoidance.” At The Guardian, Jessica Valenti writes that the magazine’s response to the crisis will cause more harm, as the staff tries to shift the blame to Jackie, the story’s subject: “In the midst of an all-out backlash against so-called PC culture and anti-rape activism, they shirked their real responsibility both to Jackie and to all the victims of sexual assault, and it will have a resounding impact on those working to end sexual violence.” On Twitter, journalists look for lessons from the debacle, while Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post laments that no one lost their job in the wake of the scandal. (At The Observer, a story on something that actually has led to someone getting fired from Rolling Stone: negatively reviewing Hootie and the Blowfish during the height of their popularity in the mid-’90s.) For more on the case and its aftermath, see New York magazine’s round up.

    Jacques Derrida

    Jacques Derrida

    Princeton University has acquired Jacques Derrida’s personal library of more than 13,000 annotated books.

    In Dissent’s spring issue, Francesca Mari looks at the assistant economy, “the main artery into creative or elite work—highly pressurized, poorly recompensed, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes menial secretarial assistance.” On April 23, n+1 will host a symposium about labor in publishing, following their recent series about magazine workers, including Keith Gessen’s remembrance of n+1’s early days: “Was the magazine exploiting everyone? It sure felt like it. Those years were a constant exercise in begging, cajoling, subtly threatening, and otherwise getting people to do things they didn’t necessarily want to do.”

    Tonight at McNally Jackson Books in New York, Renata Adler will talk about her new book of collected non-fiction, After the Tall Timber.

  • April 6, 2015

    It’s been ten years since Judith Miller left the New York Times, after her reports that Saddam Hussein had built or acquired weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were discredited. On Friday, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, she sought to correct what she calls “false narratives” about her Iraq coverage. “The newsworthy claims of some of my prewar WMD stories were wrong,” Miller wrote. “But so is the enduring, pernicious accusation that the Bush administration fabricated WMD intelligence to take the country to war.” The timing of this article is probably no coincidence: Miller’s new book, The Story: A Reporter’s Journey, will be published tomorrow by Simon & Schuster.

    In the latest New Yorker, well-known bird-lover Jonathan Franzen denounces decisions made in the construction of the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium: The stadium’s glass exterior is expected to result in the death of thousands of birds each year, and sponsors have refused to use a patterned glass that would result in fewer bird deaths. The article is also critical of the Audubon Society: “In recent decades, it’s been better known for its holiday cards and its plush-toy cardinals and bluebirds, which sing when you squeeze them.” Now, the Audubon Society is calling Franzen’s article “an act of extreme intellectual dishonesty.”

    Amber Tamblyn

    Amber Tamblyn

    Tonight, Yo La Tengo performs and Dorothy Lasky MCs at the book party for Amber Tamblyn’s new poetry collection, Dark Sparkler.

    Sabrina Rubin Erdely, who wrote the now-discredited Rolling Stone feature about an alleged gang rape at a UVA fraternity house, has apologized for her report. “I hope that my mistakes in reporting this story do not silence the voices of victims that need to be heard.”

    Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who is serving a thirty-five-year sentence for her release of confidential government documents, is now Tweeting from prison.



  • April 3, 2015

    BuzzFeed is starting a fellowship for young writers. The site’s new literary editor, poet Saeed Jones, is also planning what he calls a whole “literary movement” that involves a magazine, readings, and a salon series. Jones says, “I think it’s fair to say there were a few skeptics initially about the idea of book culture and BuzzFeed culture coming together, but it totally works. I’m excited to push us even further and publish new fiction, poems and lyric essays by writers we adore.”

    Saeed Jones

    Saeed Jones

    At Publishers Weekly, some reactions to this week’s Business Insider story about the breakdown in negotiations between HarperCollins and Amazon. Since Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider, PW says it’s possible that the Insider’s story is a negotiating tactic—the source is left unnamed in the report. Publishers Weekly also notes that HarperCollins is equipped to handle the kind of delays in stocking and shipping that Hachette suffered last year when they ran afoul of Amazon.

    George R. R. Martin has posted an excerpt from the next book in his “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, as his fans not-so-patiently wait for the new season of Game of Thrones to start.

    In a recent issue of the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh visited My Lai, the site of an American massacre of Vietnamese civilians in 1968 that Hersh exposed in a series of landmark articles the next year (he reported the piece from the States). At the Columbia Journalism Review, Hersh talks about the article and discusses what he makes of the current media landscape, praising younger media companies like Gawker and BuzzFeed: “The mainstream press is driving itself out of business and it’s probably going to be okay, because some of the younger stuff, once they get their feet on the ground and get a little more money, a little more success, a little more security, and a little more confidence, they’ll fill the gap.”

    The New York Times is planning to make NYT Now, it’s streamlined mobile app, free. The app picks highlights from the Times, as well as articles from around the web, and presents them in an image-heavy feed with prominent social-media sharing buttons. The free version would be ad supported and provide fewer articles from the Times proper. The app is meant to draw in younger readers—who, the Times hope, may subscribe to the full digital package one day—and broaden the Times’s advertising base.

  • April 2, 2015

    Alan Rusbridger will leave his position as the editor in chief of The Guardian this summer, but before he goes, he plans to run an “unprecedented,” six-month series of articles about climate change. Working with the environmental activist organization 350.org, Rusbridger will conclude with a campaign called “Keep it in the Ground,” which will, among other things, call for the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to cut their ties with fossil-fuel companies. The Guardian Media Group announced today that it is selling off all of its fossil-fuel assets, making the company’s investment fund the “largest yet known to pull out of coal, oil and gas companies.”

    The judges for the 2015 National Book Award have been announced.

    A 2002 book about Robert Durst, A Deadly Secret: The Bizarre and Chilling Story of Robert Durst by Matt Birkbeck, is being updated and rereleased as a paperback on April 14.

    The contract that HarperCollins signed with Amazon is about to expire, and according to a report at Business Insider, the publisher is “refusing to sign an agreement with the new terms” that Amazon is demanding. According to Amazon, the new contract is the same one recently signed by Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan. The Business Insider headline is certainly grabbing: “A major publisher may withdraw all its books from Amazon.”

    Time Out New York will become a free publication on April 15.

    Ellis Jones

    Ellis Jones

    At the Daily Intelligencer, Carrie Battan has written a profile of Ellis Jones, who was named editor-in-chief of Vice in February (she’s the first woman EIC in the magazine’s twenty-year history). Jones says she wants to change the magazine’s old reputation as a hipster’s “lad mag,” but more important is how she will manage to keep the print publication vital now that Vice has become a billion-dollar media company. So far, Jones has abolished fashion coverage in Vice, run fiction by Believer co-editor Heidi Julavits, and hired contributing editors like novelist Clancy Martin and journalist Ken Silverstein (who recently resigned from First Look Media, citing “dishonest” leadership). She bristles, though, at the idea that Vice has grown staid, noting that “people still have beers at their desk at 6:30.”

    Stephin Merritt, the deep-voiced depressive behind the band The Magnetic Fields, has upset literati with his blunt comments during the Tournament of Books. The contest, hosted by the Morning News, is usually a good-natured discussion about—and promotional vehicle for—worthwhile literary fiction. It is hard to imagine the Morning News didn’t know what they’d get from the famously cantankerous Merritt, but still, his dismissive reports on Roxane Gay’s The Untamed State and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See were called “irritating and infuriating” by the tournament’s organizers. Merritt’s criticism of Gay, in particular, has rankled, with Jonathon Sturgeon of Flavorwire reviving the old charge that Merritt is racist.

  • April 1, 2015

    The New York Times will provide headlines and short article summaries—with emojis—to the Apple Watch.

    Emily St. John Mandel

    Emily St. John Mandel

    Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Station Eleven has defeated Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See in the Morning News’s Tournament of Books final. One of the judges, Victor Lavalle, says of the two books: “Both risk looking foolishly hopeful, about love or art, and they’re infinitely better for it. It was, finally, a question of scale that solidified my decision. Somehow a small slice of the apocalypse left me feeling fuller than a large serving of a world at war.”

    Colson Whitehead reflects on tautological expressions (“Haters gonna hate,”  “it is what it is,” or, a classic from God to Moses: “I am that I am”), finding the truest expression of our culture in the emblematic “You do you.”

    The conservative magazine National Review is becoming a nonprofit organization. “”Most similar publications—from Commentary on the right to Mother Jones on the left—are nonprofits, a reflection of the fact that publishing a serious opinion magazine has never been a profitable business, and never will be,” editor Rich Lowry told Politico’s Dylan Byers. “We are just changing in keeping with the industry standard.”

    In the wake of Cablevision’s offer to buy the Daily News for one dollar, Gawker special projects editor Alex Pareene writes a letter to the paper’s publisher, Mortimer Zuckerman, asking to buy the tabloid for five thousand dollars, a Gawker hoodie, two Amazon gift cards, and a couple of scratch-off tickets.

    Rachel Kushner, the author of The Flamethrowers, has been named guest director of the Telluride Film Festival.

  • March 31, 2015

    The New York Review has reprinted some of Hilary Mantel’s written advice to actors who are performing the stage adaptation of her historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. To Cardinal Archbishop Thomas Wolsey, she states: “You are, arguably, Europe’s greatest statesman and greatest fraud.”

    Ben S. Bernanke, the former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, has started a new economics blog at the Brookings Institute’s website. Inaugural post: “Why are interests rates so low?”

    This June, a collection of early Elmore Leonard stories will be posthumously published.

    Lawrence Wright

    Lawrence Wright

    Last night, HBO aired their documentary expose of scientology, Going Clear: The Prison of Belief, based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book. The show portrays this so-called religion as corrupt, abusive, and kooky, and exposes its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, as a crackpot science-fiction author whose stroke of genius was realizing that while novels aren’t lucrative, writing can pay off if it’s used to found a self-help cult. Going Clear doesn’t spend much time looking at Hubbard as a wordsmith, but over at Salon, Laura Miller reads Scientology’s founding text, Dianetics, concluding that it’s not far removed from standard slush-pile fare—except for its disturbing violent streak, and a very real sense that Hubbard is battling with mental illness and past trauma.

    Andrew Sullivan, the prolific blogger who started his popular arts and culture site, The Dish, back in 2000, says he had to retire from the profession because the relentless pace of constant blogging nearly killed him. Sullivan, who was, prior to becoming a blogger, a longtime editor at the New Republic, complains that he has had to work seven hours a day—and worse, “for those seven hours or more, I was not spending time with any actual human being, with a face and a body and a mind and a soul.” He reports that he is now using his time more wisely—exercising and meditating, and not thinking about Hillary’s e-mails or the upcoming election.