• March 21, 2014

    John Lefevre

    John Lefevre

    Last month, Simon & Schuster canceled its six-figure book contract with writer John Lefevre after it was revealed that Lefevre, who was writing an insider’s account of the financial industry titled Straight to Hell, did not work at Goldman Sachs, as his popular Twitter account had claimed. But Lefevre’s book has proven to be more durable than his credibility. According to publisher Morgan Entrenkin, Grove Press has purchased Straight to Hell, and will publish it in November 2014.

    “Lorem Ipsum,” the paragraph of nonsense Latin used since the 16th century as dummy text, was designed “to have the look of text but no meaning.” And yet it can be translated, to weird and beautiful result: “Rrow itself, let it be sorrow; let him love it; let him pursue it, ishing for its acquisitiendum.”

    San Francisco’s Marcus Books, which describes itself as the nation’s “oldest Black bookstore,” may soon be forced to close. To help them keep their doors open, donate here.

    At New York’s Schomburg Center, Zadie Smith and Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie discuss postcolonial literature.

    To celebrate Twitter’s birthday, Flavorpill embarrasses twenty-five writers—including Judy Blume, Gary Shteyngart, and Fiona Maazel—by exhuming their first tweets.

    W.H. Auden often “went out of his way to seem selfish while doing something selfless.” Edward Mendelson on Auden’s “secret life” as a generous person.

    Chronicle Books thinks your Tumblr ought to be a book. So does Tumblr. Does anyone else?

  • March 20, 2014

    In the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Pankaj Mishra and Daniel Mendelsohn discuss canon formation. “How do we know what’s ‘the greatest’? . . . [I]s the agenda always somehow political?” Meanwhile, Jason Diamond agrees with Natasha Vargas-Cooper that the novelist Denis Johnson deserves more recognition. Is Johnson “the most influential living fiction writer in America today”? Maybe, maybe not: over at The Millions, Matt Seidel satirizes the whole business of classification. In Seidel’s host of nonsense categories, novelists are “arthritic” or “lithe”; “robust” or “insinuating”; “hypoallergenic” or “shedding”; and, like their characters, “flat” or “round” —at least when “said novelists become pregnant.”

    Walter Benjamin

    Walter Benjamin

    At the Chronicle, Eric Banks reflects on the life of Walter Benjamin, with the help of a new 700-page biography of the writer.

    An argument for teaching linguistics to all college students.

    Leon Wieseltier criticizes Nate Silver’s data-driven journalism: “Neutrality is an evasion of responsibility, unless everything is like sports.”

    David Frum joins The Atlantic as a senior editor.

    The New York Observer isn’t pink anymore.

     

  • March 19, 2014

    At the New Yorker’s News Desk blog, novelist and former Air Force pilot James Salter ponders the missing Malaysian airplane, and imagines what it was like to be on board: “There have been no announcements, or, worse, there has been an ominous announcement that causes panic. At some point, the passengers, perhaps coming out of sleep, know.” Meanwhile, at Wired, pilot Chris Goodfellow offers a simple theory about what happened.

    Felix Salmon

    Felix Salmon

    Felix Salmon analyzes Dorian Nakamoto’s denial that he was the creator of the internet currency scheme, Bitcoin, as reported in Newsweek last week.

    For universities, hiring off the tenure track is simply “part of the business model,” the equivalent of corporations favoring temps. Noam Chomsky on worsening work conditions for faculty.

    Last week, Yasmin Nair bemoaned a publishing culture that demands that writers work for free or almost free. At Avidly, Evan Kindley agrees, but argues that you can’t blame little magazines like the one he’s writing for. The “vitality” of the latest crop of scrappy new publications—The New Inquiry, Jacobin, LARB—depends in great part on their ability to “evade or short-circuit the established journalistic market.”

    At n+1, editors and contributors share what they’ve been reading. Rebecca Mead, Janet Malcolm, Grace Paley, Doris Lessing, Masha Tupitsyn, Norma Klein, Margery Kempe, Elena Ferrante, Ursula Le Guin: the list skews decidedly female. Rich Beck finds that now that he’s working on a book he can’t get past page 100 of The Wings of the Dove. Has all the writing made him “stupid and narrow”?

  • March 18, 2014

    TED-Ed educates the masses on the debate over the Oxford (or “serial”) comma—via video, a medium in which you can avoid the issue altogether. Bookforum, it should go without saying, is pro-Oxford.

    At Moby Lives, Dustin Kurtz writes that China’s publishing industry, which is “becoming more venal,” “seems to have a rather gross case of the Franzens, and the attention brought by Mo Yan’s Nobel win might be to blame.”

    NoViolet Bulawayo

    NoViolet Bulawayo

    The Zimbabwean novelist NoViolet Bulawayo has won the Pen-Hemingway Award for her first novel, We Need New Names.

    James Franco’s debut collection of poems, Directing Herbert White, is forthcoming from Graywolf in April. On The Tonight Show, Franco reassures anyone who might fear for his poetry-writing abilities that he “has a master’s degree in poetry.”

    The journals of Lawrence Ferlinghetti will be published by Liveright in 2015. Covering the years 1950–2013, the diaries were written while the poet travelled to Mexico, North Africa, Russia, and Cuba, among other places.

    Steven Moore has released the second installment of his mammoth “alternative history” of the novel.

  • March 17, 2014

    At Vanity Fair, James Wolcott looks at rise of “name-brand journalists” like Arianna Huffington, Malcolm Gladwell, Ezra Klein, and Nate Silver, and wonders if their enterprises are sustainable: “The demands of being a byline superhero can spread a journalist’s time and focus so thin—all those honoraria to collect!—that he or she may start serving up skimpily researched quickies or, worse, sloppy seconds.”

    A report on the lack of persons of color in children’s books.

    Lydia Davis

    Lydia Davis

    The Quarterly Conversation’s spring issue is dedicated to Lydia Davis, including articles and reviews of the American short short-story writer and translator. Among many excellent articles on Davis is Lynne Tillman’s look at the story “A Mown Lawn”: “The reader is made aware, as the narrative unfolds, that Davis is shaking words loose from their moorings, even exhuming them, to knock the stuffing or deadness out of them. To expose them.”

    Wes Anderson talks about the influence of novelist Stefan Zweig’s work on his latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

    At the Nation, Michelle Goldberg weighs in on Columbia’s firing of Kim Hopper and Carole Vance (author of Pleasure and Danger) because they had not won the university enough grant money.

    The National Book Critics Circle has posted a video of Friday night’s award ceremony, which saw Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie pick up the fiction honor, and Sheri Fink win the non fiction prize (the full list of awards can be found here.) At the Washington Post, critic Ron Charles picks three of his favorite moments from the night.

  • March 14, 2014

    The National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced last night. The winners are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (fiction), Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (nonfiction), Frank Bidart’s Metaphysical Dog (poetry),  Franco Moretti’s Distant Reading (criticism), Amy Wilentz’s Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti (autobiography), and Leo Damrosch’s Jonathan Swift (biography).

    Nate Silver talks about the relaunch of his FiveThirtyEight blog, which goes live Monday afternoon.

    Bill Knott

    Bill Knott

    The poet Bill Knott has died. The author of numerous collections and chapbooks, many of them hand-made, Knott often shunned mainstream recognition: Though he was once published by FSG, he quickly sabotaged his relationship with the house; another anecdote has him refusing to be published in the Best American Poetry anthology. But he won a devoted following and inspired writers of all types: Denis Johnson, to give just one impressive example, based the plot of his “California Gothic” Already Dead on Knott’s “Poem Noir.”

    Soho Press has launched a new column on its website called The Consolation Prize with Mark Doten: Enthusing about Literature and Bitching about Publishing. “The idea here is interviews with folks in the biz, poking the proverbial poking stick at sales reps, writers, booksellers, editors—anyone, really, who can both enthuse about literature and bitch about publishing.” Their first guest is Emily Gould, the author of And the Heart Says Whatever and the forthcoming novel Friendship, who talks about the Heather Lewis’s stunning and sad (and woefully underrecognized) novel Notice.

    At the LRB, Christian Lorentzen imagines writing a bibliomemoir on Kafka, My Friend Franz: Chronicle of a Life Not a Little Kafkaesque. A sample from the proposed book: “Chapter 2: At university I read The Trial. Lifelong persecution complex begins.”

    Laura Miller likes plenty of fiction written by MFAs, but she points out that writing programs fail to teach many students a crucial lesson: That they must earn their readership. “MFA programs create a bubble for the writers who enroll in them, but what these writers are protected from isn’t either the blistering reader reviews of Amazon or the swashbuckling critical crusaders of the legit press. Instead, pretty much by definition, the workshop world fails to prepare writers for what they will almost certainly face outside it: indifference and silence.

  • March 13, 2014

    Hugh Eakin reports on the Lahore LitFest in Pakistan. Lahore is a city “under siege.” Terrorist attacks led many intellectuals to leave, and security threats have caused international diplomats to abandon the area. “Checkpoints have become common, blackouts are frequent. And so it was that a group of Lahori intellectuals decided to fight back in the way they best know how: with words and books and open debate.”

    Author Joe McGinnis died on Monday at the age of 71. McGinnis was the author of The Selling of the President and, perhaps most famously, the true-crime blockbuster Fatal Vision, about the murder trial of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald. While researching the latter book, McGinnis gained access to MacDonald by pretending to believe that the doctor was innocent; but the book argued that Macdonald was a killer and a sociopath. MacDonald’s efforts to sue McGinnis became the inspiration for Janet Malcolm’s The Journalist and the Murderer, which features the famous line: “”Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.”

    Jessica Valenti

    Jessica Valenti

    The Guardian has hired author and Feministing.com founder Jessica Valenti as a columnist for the publication’s US branch—and several more op-ed page hires are said to be imminent.

    Tonight, the National Book Critics Circle will announce the winners of its annual award.

    At the New Republic, David Remnick talks with Isaac Chotiner about “difficult writers, Obama’s shortcomings, and learning from Anna Wintour.”

     

  • March 12, 2014

    The Moth has announced that it will honor Zadie Smith with the 2014 Moth Award at its 13th annual gala on May 13.

    Journalist Matthew Power has died at age 39 while on assignment in Uganda. The Times reports that the cause of death was probably heat stroke. Harper’s Magazine has granted free access to all of Power’s work for that publication; his work can also be found at Men’s Journal; the VQR; and Longreads.

    Benjamin Kunkel

    Benjamin Kunkel

    In a New York magazine profile, n+1 editor and author Benjamin Kunkel discusses his forthcoming book essays, Utopia or Bust, his move from novelist to lefty public intellectual, and his love/hate relationship with the Denver Broncos: “I was thinking today about what I would want to happen: I hope the Broncos win, and then I hope football is banned next year. I’ll have my Sundays back, and we won’t be involved in this barbaric practice.”

    Color Force, the production company behind the Hunger Games movies, is set to adapt Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch into a television series or possibly a movie. For ideas about who should star in the production, see Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s “How I’d Cast The Goldfinch.”

    You can now read an excerpt from The Haunted Life, the Jack Kerouac novella that was supposedly lost in an NYC taxi. Written in 1944 when Kerouac was 22, the semi-autobiographical story is being published for the first time by Penguin Classics.

  • March 11, 2014

    John Cook is leaving his post as editor of chief of Gawker to head The Intercept, a digital magazine founded by eBay guru Pierre Omidyar. Omidyar’s First Look Media company has scooped up a number of high-profile journalists lately, including Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, and Laura Poitras.

    The New York Times is launching a new blog, The Upshot, to replace Nate Silver’s popular Times site of stats-based political reporting. The Upshot will have about 15 journalists, with an aim of, “Trying to help readers get to the essence of issues and understand them in a contextual and conversational way . . . Obviously, we will be using data a lot to do that, not because data is some secret code, but because it’s a particularly effective way, when used in moderate doses, of explaining reality to people,” according to the site’s managing editor, David Leonhardt.

    Andrew Solomon

    Andrew Solomon

    In the New Yorker, Andrew Solomon talks to Peter Lanza, the father of the Sandy Hook elementary school gunman, Adam Lanza, who killed twenty-six people at the school, his mother, and himself. Solomon has explored this territory before: In his award-winning Far from the Tree, he interviewed the parents of school shooters such as Dylan Klebold.

    Copyediting pop culture.

    Jennifer Schuessler revisits the scandal that erupted when it was discovered that literary critic Paul de Man had, as a young man living in Nazi-occupied Belgium, written some 200 articles for a collaborationist newspaper.

    Amtrak’s so-called “residency program,” which provides authors with a free train ticket so they can get some work done, is perhaps not as great as it sounds, if you look at the terms and conditions. As novelist James Hannaham quipped: “Seems like it would be cheaper in the long run to buy a ticket and hold onto your artistic freedom.”

     

  • March 10, 2014

    Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog will relaunch next week under the ESPN umbrella. Silver, a statistician known for his election predictions and great fantasy baseball cheat-sheets, recently left the New York Times after his three-year contract expired.

    Nate Silver

    Nate Silver

    In a Guardian profile, Mary-Kay Wimers, the editor of the London Review of Books, talks about the magazine’s growing influence (and its most controversial pieces), the importance of artful long-form essays, and the lack of female bylines at her publication.

    Teju Cole on his “guilty” reading pleasures: “No guilt. I read many kinds of things, but my deepest happiness is in reading poetry.”

    The Ukranian poet and novelist Serhiy Zhadan was involved in a violent clash with police, leaving him bruised and bloody, the New Yorker reports, quoting a Slavic-language professor who puts the event into context: “It may sound like an old-fashioned ‘poet stands up to tyranny’ story, like something out of ‘Les Miz’—‘Can you hear the people sing?’—but it’s really kind of like that.”

    Tonight at the New School’s fiction forum, a free discussion with author David Grand, author of the just-released Mount Terminus, a novel about Hollywood, the birth of film technology, and more.

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