• April 17, 2014

    E.L. Doctorow

    E.L. Doctorow

    Jim Romenesko reports that investigative reporter Chris Hamby has left CPI to work for Buzzfeed—only two days after winning a Pulitzer prize. “I’m thrilled to be joining a powerhouse team that will combine the time-honored rigors of investigative journalism with the creativity, technological prowess and reach of BuzzFeed,” Hamby says. In related news, ABC has accused CPI of downplaying the network’s contributions to Hamby’s yearlong report, which exposed how doctors, lawyers, and coal-industry executives worked together to deny medical benefits to miners suffering from black lung. CPI has responded to ABC News President Ben Sherwood with an open letter: “The truth is that ABC did not join the investigation until part-way through, it focused on only one part of a multi-part series, and its reporting was sporadic and almost entirely geared toward the needs of television, not original content for the print series.”

    At Harriet, Patricia Lockwood grapples with a persistent question: “Is writing poetry work?

    E.L. Doctorow has won the 2014 Library of Congress Award for American Fiction.

    Amazon is hoping to expand into Scandanavia, but according to a news report in The Local, the online bookseller is having trouble acquiring the amazon.se domain name, which is owned by Amazon AB, a small advertising agency based in Stokholm.



  • April 16, 2014

    Google is looking to expand its headquarters. They want a building big enough to hold 3,000 of its employees—which apparently means something “half the size of the Chrysler Building.”

    Lee Boudreaux

    Lee Boudreaux

    On Sunday Stephen King tweeted the end of a Game of Thrones episode and sparked the outrage of his 370,000 Twitter followers. King has been happily spoiling numerous shows since he joined Twitter a few months ago, and was unmoved by the uproar. “Romeo and Juliet die in Act 5,” he tweeted a few minutes later.

    FSG has changed the covers of their paperback versions of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-volume epic, My Struggle. Read Meghan O’Rourke on Knausgaard in Bookforum’s current issue.

    Acclaimed editor Lee Boudreaux is getting her own imprint at Little, Brown.

    Next Tuesday, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will screen Anna, a four-hour Italian documentary from the mid-’70s about a pregnant teenager. Sound familiar? The movie plays a key role in Rachel Kushner’s novel The Flamethrowers (the book is dedicated to Anna, the film’s subject and heroine); Kushner will be on hand to introduce and discuss.

  • April 15, 2014

    Donna Tartt

    Donna Tartt

    The Guardian US and the Washington Post both collected Public Service Pulitzers for stories related to Edward Snowden’s leaks. Snowden has publicly declared the award a “vindication” of his actions and the larger inquiry into “domestic surveillance practices”; the Prize board, meanwhile, nervously insists that their granting of the award is about recognizing good journalism and shouldn’t be understood as an endorsement of Snowden. The fiction award went to Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch.

    Dave Eggers has a new novel coming out in June, a mere eight months after his last, The Circle, which was published in October. The elaborately titled Your Fathers, Where Are They? and the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? describes the interrogation, on an abandoned military base, of a NASA astronaut by a man who wants to understand “their mysterious connection.”

    At the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog, James Salter remembers the novelist Peter Matthiessen, who died of leukemia on April 5. Salter and Matthiessen were close, as were their families: “When you celebrate Christmases together and everyone’s birthdays and other events through the years, a dense and indestructible fabric is made, really too rich to imitate or describe.” Salter and Matthiessen traveled to France together, to St. Petersburg, to Italy. They drank together, “sometimes quite a bit.” They had a tradition of swimming in the ocean on the first day of November, then returning to an “icy martini” with their wives on the beach. All this, and then: “We got old.”

    Random House is coming out with a new collection of previously uncollected works by Shirley Jackson. Garlic in Fiction will include the short story “Paranoia,” which appeared for the first time in the New Yorker last year, as well as nonfiction that Jackson originally published in women’s magazines in the 1940s and ‘50s.

    Jonathan Lethem writes about his work on the unfinished Don Carpenter novel Fridays at Enrico’s: “Of course there were twisty little ironies attendant in rewriting a manuscript that concerned not only writers writing manuscripts, but writers being rewritten by editors, and feeling bitterly betrayed by the results.”

  • April 14, 2014

    David Mitchell has a new novel, The Bone Clocks, coming out this September, and has reportedly signed a three-book deal with Random House. The new novel is another decade-spanning, genre-hopping epic, clocking in at about 700 pages.

    John Jeremiah Sullivan

    John Jeremiah Sullivan

    John Jeremiah Sullivan’s riveting New York Times Magazine  essay on two mysterious prewar blues singers artfully integrates audio, video, and pictures—a rare example of the Web’s bells and whistles actually working to draw out the complexities of a literary story.

    This weekend, the LA Times announced the winners of its Book Prize.

    The New York Times profiles the survival (and rise) of bookstores in Seattle, reporting that the great Eliott Bay Book Company has made a “substantial profit” for the first time in twenty years, with the store’s employees saying that many of their customers work at the nearby Amazon headquarters. But despite the cheerful headline, the article really only points to Eliott Bay, long a local stalwart (along with a couple other shops), as evidence that the indie-book culture in the city is thriving. We  hope that, as the American Booksellers Association says, “Seattle has become one of the most successful independent bookstore cities in the country,” but on the strength of the article, we’re just going to have to take their word for it.

    At the New Statesman, Alex Clark argues that social media will enrich the novel, not threaten it.

    Jenny Diski remembers Doris Lessing: “My having lived with Doris and her implacable understanding of what it is to be a writer has made it easier for me to stick with doing what I want to do, in the way I want to do it.”

  • April 11, 2014

    In honor of National Library Week, Oxford University Press is temporarily making its many online tools free. (Username: libraryweek; password: libraryweek.)

    Hillary Clinton’s memoir will be in stores this June. The book recalls her time as secretary of state, and includes “candid reflections about key moments.”

    Quora, a question-and-answer site that aspires to Wikipedia status, has raised eighty million dollars to expand their operations. The site claims to have 500,000 topics currently “live.”

    The Guggenheim Foundation announces its 2014 fellows. Among the recipients are Chloe Aridjis, Deborah Baker, Susan Bernofsky, Emily Fox Gordon, Joy Harjo, Yunte Huang, Hari Kunzru, D.T. Max, Meghan O’Rourke, Susan Orlean, Julie Orringer, Victoria Redel, Peter Rock, Claire Watkins, and Marjorie Welish.

    Choire Sicha

    Choire Sicha

    Choire Sicha is speaking at NYU tonight, on “wacky New York City history, incredibly gay dudes, the New Yorker magazine, obnoxious claims that blogging was invented before the Internet, and reminders that everything that is happening now has happened before and will happen again (if we don’t all die, of course).”

    Bookforum editor Chris Lehmann on neoliberalism and labor issues in Minor League baseball.

    Manhattan’s Housing Works and McNally Jackson are co-sponsoring Sunday’s Downtown Literary Festival, with events happening all day long at both bookstores.

  • April 10, 2014

    Muriel Spark

    Muriel Spark

    At the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog, Parul Sehgal considers the work of Muriel Spark, on the occasion of New Directions reissuing her work. Spark’s cruel and beautiful fiction teaches us, Sehgal says, “how powerlessness can make you an expert in the art of appraisal—in assessing someone’s market price down to the penny.”

    Tonight at the Brooklyn Public Library, PEN is holding a reading to promote freedom of speech in China. The event will feature Sergio De La Pava, Jennifer Egan, Ha Jin, Alison Klayman, Chang-rae Lee, and Victoria Redel.

    Opponents of the city’s plans to overhaul the main branch of the New York Public Library have intensified their efforts. A letter to the Mayor’s office, signed by fifteen prominent New Yorkers (including Susan Sarandon, Gloria Steinem, and Al Sharpton), quotes Lydia Davis as saying that the plan “would take the very heart out of one of New York City’s finest institutions.” The proposed renovation demolishes the 42nd Street research stacks.

    Vanity Fair has a 20,000 word feature on Edward Snowden.

    The respective writers of five (reportedly) funny books talk to Salon. Adam Wilson, author of the short-story collection What’s Important Is Feeling, explains what was going on in his life while writing it: “Balding (denial and acceptance), drinking, sexual frustration . . . exercise, antidepressants, nicotine . . . nicotine withdrawal, sweatpants.” “A lot of ratty sweatpants,” agrees Rachel Bertsche about her own book, Jennifer, Gwyneth, & Me.

  • April 9, 2014

    Last month, NYRB Classics reissued William Gass’s On Being Blue. Tonight at the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, Joshua Cohen, Michael Gorra, and Stefanie Sobelle discuss the book, in a conversation moderated by Bookforum editor Albert Mobilio.

    Karl Ove Knausgaard

    Karl Ove Knausgaard

    The New Republic profiles Karl Ove Knausgaard, author of My Struggle, a six-volume autobiographical novel that speaks in great detail about Knausgaard’s personal life, uses the real names of his family and friends, and has generated an enormous response worldwide. “It fills me with sadness every time I talk about it,” Knausgaard told TNR’s Evan Hughes. Meghan O’Rourke reviewed Volume Three for the latest issue of Bookforum.

    Alice Gregory reflects reluctantly on The Opposite of Loneliness, the posthumously collected writings of Marina Keegan, a twenty-two-year-old who died in a car accident just after graduating from Yale. The book sat on Gregory’s “kitchen table for days, beside the salt cellar, a candle, and a bowl of tangerines. It might as well have been a skull.”

    Is the Internet training our brains to read differently? The Washington Post suggests that if we want to keep reading long novels with complex sentences we’ll need to relearn how. Ideally, we’d be “bi-literate,” able both to skim online—jumping among keywords and taking in a lot of information quickly—as well as to start at the beginning of War and Peace, get to the end, and remember what happened in the middle.

    The Paris Review is still accepting applications for its second annual writer’s residency at the Standard Hotel. The residency isn’t a leg-up situation: Applicants must already have a book under contract.

  • April 8, 2014

    Barbara Ehrenreich

    Barbara Ehrenreich

    At Salon, Thomas Frank talks to Barbara Ehrenreich about her new book, Living With a Wild God, “a memoir with a point,” as Frank dubs it, that is both intellectual autobiography and spiritual inquiry—unusual, maybe, for a self-described atheist. In an interview with Harper’s, Ehrenreich explains the evolution of her reaction to an experience she now describes as mystical: “It took me decades to say, ‘No, I saw something. There was something other than myself there. And I’m going to take that seriously as some sort of empirical evidence, or clue, or glimpse.’” If you’re in New York tonight, visit the Union Square Barnes & Noble to celebrate the book’s release and see Ehrenreich in conversation with John Hockenberry.

    Sarah Leonard and Kate Losse introduce the new issue of Dissent, which is all about technology: “It has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between digital and non-digital activities. . . . The universal digital turn does not mean our communications have become false, but they are shaped by motives that are often hidden.”

    Speaking of technology, the historic Library of Alexandria is digitizing ancient texts.

    Still speaking of technology, The New York Times is very excited about its new mobile app, which Capital New York describes as offering a “carefully curated feed of select Times content plucked by a team of more than a dozen journalists.”

    The Academy of American Poets is bringing poetry back to magazines and newspapers. The eighty-year-old organization has made a deal with the Hearst Corporation’s King Features to syndicate its Poem-a-Day feature, starting April 14.

  • April 7, 2014

    Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, has sold his forthcoming book to OR Books. When Google Met Wikileaks will not only recount the 2011 meeting between Assange and Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, it will also “outline a potential future for the Internet that would make it faster and much more difficult to censor.”

    Two and a Half Men star Jon Cryer  and Breaking Bad actor Bryan Cranston are both writing their memoirs.

    Peter Matthiessen

    Peter Matthiessen

    Peter Matthiessen died this weekend at age 86, three days before the publication date of his final novel, In Paradise. Matthiessen was, among other things, a founding editor of the Paris Review, a naturalist and world traveler whose work regularly appeared in the New Yorker, a Zen Buddhist, and an employee of the CIA.

    At the New Republic, Adam Thirwell considers the career of Gottfreid Benn, the “greatest ex-Nazi writer.”

    Laura Miller interviews Matthew Kahn about what he’s learned by reading bestsellers of the past 100 years.

  • April 4, 2014

    Yahya Hassan

    Yahya Hassan

    A first book of poems by an eighteen-year-old Danish-Palestinian poet, Yahya  Hassan, has sold more than a hundred thousand copies since last fall. The poems, written only in uppercase, criticize the Danish government, the poet’s family, and “Danish Muslims at large for hypocrisy, cheating and failure to adapt.” About the right-wing Danish People’s Party having taken a shine to him, “It’s all the same to me,” Hassan says. “I have the responsibility for my poems. I don’t have any responsibility for what others do with them.” Hassan has received numerous death threats, and been assaulted in a railway station.

    Turkey has lifted a two-week ban on Twitter in accord with a ruling by the constitutional court. The ban was instituted during the run-up to last Sunday’s election in order to obstruct the dissemination of leaked wiretapped recordings of officials.

    David Letterman plans to retire in 2015.

    OR Books has acquired a new book by Julian Assange, When Google Met WikiLeaks, which includes the transcript of a conversation between Assange and Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, as well as Assange’s proposal for “a radical overhaul of the naming structure of the internet” that would make it “faster and much more difficult to censor.”

    James Camp considers the promise of Spritz, a start-up that claims to hold the key to speed-reading.

    An old friend of the late Kurt Vonnegut has put together a book titled If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice to the Young, a collection of extracts from Vonnegut’s many commencement speeches.