• January 24, 2014

    richard nash

    Richard Nash

    Richard Nash has joined the staff of Byliner, the digital reading service that delivers long-form journalism and fiction to subscribers. Nash, once the publisher of Soft Skull Press and currently the publisher of Red Lemonade, is leaving his position as VP at Small Demons, the company that indexed every cultural reference in Infinite Jest. Last fall, Small Demons reported that without a buyer, it would have to close shop.

    According to the Financial Times, CNN has laid off forty senior staff members, “including a pregnant producer who was two weeks away from giving birth to twins.”

    Another day, another interesting defection: Matt Yglesias is leaving Slate to join Ezra Klein’s new media venture.

    As interest in high-literary thrillers, mysteries, detective fiction, and suspense continues to rise, Penguin Books and Penguin UK announced this week that they are jointly publishing new English-language translations of the French writer George Simenon’s Inspector Maigret series. There are seventy-five books in all; eight are set to be released this year.

    In an interview with Aljazeera.com, Jill Abramson describes the world view and reportorial style of the New York Times as “cosmopolitan” as opposed to “left-wing” or “liberal.”

    After all the noise of #readwomen2014—the many recent New Year’s resolution-like efforts to make 2014 a year of reading women—two bloggers have weighed in with their own respective wish lists for twelve months of books by Arab and South Asian writers (who, yes, happen to be female).

  • January 23, 2014

    Binyavanga Wainaina

    Binyavanga Wainaina

    In response to anti-gay laws recently passed in Nigeria and Uganda, Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina, author of books such as One Day I Will Write About This Place and editor of the Nairobi-based journal Kwani, has revealed that he is gay.

    Triple Canopy has announced the lineup for its third annual marathon reading of Gertrude Stein’s novel The Making of Americans. The event will start this Friday at 5pm and conclude sometime Sunday night, and readers will include Amy Sillman, Lynne Tillman, Charles Bernstein, and many others. If you can’t make it to Triple Canopy’s Brooklyn space, you can tune in to the livestream here.

    An illuminating film about the late internet activist Aaron Swartz premiered at Sundance this week. At the New Yorker, Tim Wu considers what makes The Internet’s Own Boy, by Brian Knappenberger, so revealing: “The film confirms what everyone has said about Swartz,” writes Wu, “that he was difficult, foolish, and self-important in a way that is particular to smart young men, and that he was smart, idealistic, and vulnerable.”

    Library Journal suggests a dozen books we should read this spring.

    For the first time in twenty years, the venerable Oxford English Dictionary has a new editor. Read what he has to say about his neo-Victorian enterprise here.

    Speaking of Gertrude Stein, a new translation of an old novel by Hassan Najmi considers the lives of Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, from a Moroccan perspective, upending some of the myths of Tangiers (think Paul Bowles and William S. Burroughs) along the way.

  • January 22, 2014

    ezra klein

    Ezra Klein

    Journalist and policy analyst Ezra Klein is leaving the Washington Post to “start his own venture.” The Times reports that Klein, who runs the paper’s Wonkblog, recently approached publisher Katharine Weymouth to discuss launching a new, WaPo-backed website “dedicated to explanatory journalism on a wide range of topics beyond political policy.” Weymouth and the the paper’s owner, Jeff Bezos, decided not to support the venture, so Klein is setting out to start the site elsewhere—and taking two Wonkblog staffers with him. As Bookforum editor Chris Lehmann quips: “At last—a Buzzfeed for smug wonk meritocrats!”

    Not to be outdone, the Washington Post has meanwhile announced that it will partner with the Volokh Conspiracy, a blog about law and public policy.

     At the New York Times India Ink blog: a chat with Jonathan Shainin about subcontinental foreign correspondence.

    About four years ago, a journalism professor named Ted Gup found a first edition of Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives (1890) in a used bookshop in Washington DC. He bought it, read it, wrote about it, and now he has donated it to the New-York Historical Society.

    Writer and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo to Jaipur festival: American literature is “massively overrated.”

    The German weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel is scaling back its English edition.

  • January 21, 2014

    Michael Kinsley is leaving his position as editor at large of The New Republic to become a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, for which he will write a monthly column. He plans write about “what I’ve written about most of the time: politics, in one form or another.”

    Walter Isaacson, author of the bestselling biography of Steve Jobs, is putting together a new encyclopedia of innovators. For some entries, he is trying out some unorthodox methods: He’s crowdsourcing the edits.

    The Paris Review has reprinted filmmaker David Cronenberg’s introduction to Susan Bernofsky’s new translation of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. At Bookforum, Andrew Hultkrans notes: “In our present era, marked by a ferment of genetic engineering and hybridization (not to mention alienation and economic hardship), revisiting Kafka’s totemic novella seems not only appropriate but necessary.” (In other vaguely Cronenberg-ish news, today marks the release of Call Me Burroughs, Barry Miles’s biography of the author of Naked Lunch, a novel that Cronenberg adapted for the screen.)

    Matthew Derby

    Matthew Derby

    FSG editor Sean McDonald was drawn to the forthcoming book The Silent History—which originated as an app—“because of its unique origins as a nonbook, and because of its ‘literary sensibility.’” The book, by Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby, and Kevin Moffat, is part of FSG’s “Originals” series, which focuses on paperbacks (notably John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead) and e-books: formats that cost less to produce and therefore allow “editors to take chances on books that are more experimental.”

    Kathryn Schulz lists the five best uses of punctuation marks in literature.

  • January 20, 2014

    A federal court in San Francisco ruled on Friday that bloggers are entitled to the same free speech protections as a traditional journalists. “As the Supreme Court has accurately warned, a First Amendment distinction between the institutional press and other speakers is unworkable,” wrote Andrew Hurwitz, one of the three judges in a federal appeals court panel, which ruled that Crystal Cox, a blogger who lost a defamation case three years ago after writing a post accusing a financial services firm of tax fraud, deserved a new trial and could only be found liable for defamation if she had acted negligently, by the same standards applied, say, to newspaper reporters.

    vladimir nabokov

    Vladimir Nabokov

    “My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three,” and other fine examples (beyond that one, from Nabokov’s Lolita) of great punctuation in literature, including parentheses, em dashes, ellipses, and more.

    Wendy Lesser reflects on the joys of literary destruction and writers who break the rules: “Literature that tells lies is not worth the paper it is written on, but a lie is not the same as a fantasy, an invention, an allegory, a myth, a dream. Fiction, drama, poetry, and even essays can be made up and also truthful.”

    Not quite breaking news, but still noteworthy nonetheless: According to The Guardian, most writers are making virtually no money at all, less than $1,000 a year from their work.

    At the New Yorker, Elias Muhanna writes beautifully about the antiquarian bookshop that burned in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, while Jon Michaud remembers his days working as a clerk at Rizzoli, the midtown Manhattan bookstore that is now running, once again, from a wrecking ball.

  • January 17, 2014

    St. Martin’s Press has agreed to pay an eight-figure advance for romance writer Sylvia Day’s next two books.

    The “largest free literary festival on earth” gets underway today in Jaipur, one of more than sixty such events taking place every year across India. According to the Wall Street Journal, the 2014 edition is a masala chai latte (substantive, spicy) compared to 2013, which was mostly a cappuccino (frothy). Here’s the New York Times’s guide to the highlights of the five-day festival, which is now in its ninth year.

    Flavorwire’s new list of “25 Women Poised to Lead the Culture in 2014” includes numerous writers, among them Roxane Gay, Masha Gessen, and Lynne Tillman.

    Jonathan Wright and William Hutchins are the joint winners of the annual Saif Ghobash Banipal Translation Prize, for their work on Syrian writer Youssef Zeidan’s Azazeel and Yemeni novelist Wajdi al-Ahdal’s A Land Without Jasmine, respectively. The prize, worth £3,000, honors the translation of Arabic literature into English.

    Hilary Mantel

    Hilary Mantel

    According to The Guardian, Hilary Mantel is publishing a collection of short stories in September, titled The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.

    The British books’ blog known as the Omnivore (no relation to Bookforum’s Omnivore) has issued the short list for its annual Hatchet Job of the Year Award, for the angriest/funniest piece of criticism published in the past twelve months. In the running are Peter Kemp’s review of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch (“a turkey,” “melodrama and sentimentality abounds”) and AA Gill’s takedown of Morrissey’s Autobiography (“were an editor to start, there would be no stopping,” “utterly devoid of insight, warmth, wisdom or likeability,” a “firelighter of vanity, self-pity and logorrhoeic dullness”), both of which ran in the Sunday Times.

  • January 16, 2014

    Judy Blume and Lena Dunham trade notes on reading for a new, pocket-sized volume published by The Believer.

    anton chekhov

    Anton Chekhov

    If you’ve already faltered on your New Year’s resolutions, Brendan Mathews suggests reading Chekhov for a better 2014, albeit with a few caveats: “Before embarking on a self-help tour of late-Czarist Russia, be advised that Chekhov doesn’t provide easy answers to becoming a kinder, more caring person,” he writes, in an essay for the Millions. “There’s no five-step solution, no short prayer that will increase your fortunes and lay waste to the fields of your enemies…. Chekhov doesn’t make us better people by restoring our faith in the fundamental goodness of humanity or by charming us with the bright hope of a happy ending.”

    At the Jewish Daily Forward, Joshua Furst has published a thoughtful obituary of the author Amiri Baraka, who has been portrayed as “a hateful, irredeemable anti-Semite.”

    Susan Bernovsky’s new translation of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, with an introduction by filmmaker David Cronenberg, is now available. Bookforum contributor Andrew Hultkrans writes: “In our present era, marked by a ferment of genetic engineering and hybridization (not to mention isolation and economic hardship), revisiting this text seems not only appropriate but necessary.” And at The Atlantic, Ben Marcus ponders the true meaning of “Kafkaesque.”

    On the heels of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, The Guardian reports on the rise of the marriage thriller.

    This spring, New York Live Arts is hosting a festival honoring James Baldwin, including visual art, theater, dance, and lectures about the legendary author’s work.

    In the London Review of Books, Christian Lorentzen delves into the perils of knowing your namesake.

  • January 15, 2014

    Maria Alyokhina Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich of Pussy Riot

    Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich

    At the LA Times, Sara Marcus reviews Masha Gessen’s new book, Words Will Break Cement, about the musicians, activist, and feminists who make up the Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot: “Gessen is not just asking how these women came to form Pussy Riot, or how they came to be punished so severely for making protest art. She’s also asking what makes great political art, and proposing that art and truth-telling have the power to defeat oppressive regimes.”

    The Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas, has added another major acquisition to its horde of literary treasures. In addition to the papers of James Agee, William Faulkner, Anne Sexton, Walt Whitman, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, the center, which is housed at the University of Texas, has a substantial collection of material from the estate of J. D. Salinger. This week, it acquired twenty-one previously unknown and unpublished letters, most of them exchanged between Salinger and his great friend Ruth Smith Maier, with whom he shared ideas about work, life, marriage, fatherhood, and his withdrawal from public life over the course of a forty-year correspondence.

    On the perils of an ill-conceived tweet.

    In Demon Camp, Jennifer Percy follows a soldier as he battles PTSD and tries to exorcise his demons by joining a Christian “deliverance” cult. In Vogue, Percy explains part of her process: “I went through with the exorcism as a journalist seeking to better understand Caleb’s story. I thought the experience might provide more opportunities for empathy. Of course, researching a cult has its problems. You know, since their main goal is to brainwash you.”

    bell hooks on the “faux feminism” of Lean In.

  • January 14, 2014

    anthony marra

    Anthony Marra

    Anthony Marra, author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, has won the first-ever John Leonard Prize, the National Book Critics Circle announced yesterday. Marra’s novel, set in war-torn Chechnya, was singled out for the new award, created this year to honor a debut work in any genre. The organization also named thirty finalists in six additional categories, from criticism to fiction. Among the contenders are Alexander Hemon, Rebecca Solnit, Jesmyn Ward, Hilton Als, Jonathan Franzen, Janet Malcolm, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Javier Marías, Donna Tartt, George Packer, and Lawrence Wright. The awards ceremony will be held on March 13 at the New School in New York.

    On the topic of honors, George Saunders, Rebecca Lee, and Andrea Barrett are the finalists for this year’s Story Prize, a ten-year-old award that recognizes excellence in short fiction.

    At The Nation poetry editor Ange Mlinko considers Emily Dickinson’s The Gorgeous Nothings and the Emily Dickinson Archive, which reproduces many of Dickinson manuscripts for online perusal.

    Gillian Flynn’s gothic blockbuster novel Gone Girl is set to become movie this fall, and Flynn has reportedly rewritten the ending to make it more Hollywood friendly. When asked about the changes, Flynn says, “There was something thrilling about taking this piece of work that I’d spent about two years painstakingly putting together with all its eight million Lego pieces and take a hammer to it and bash it apart and reassemble it into a movie.”

    Previously written off for confusing fact and fiction in his memoir A Million Little Pieces, James Frey has reportedly sold a new book (for young adults) and landed a film deal (for which he will write a screenplay) worth more than $2 million.

  • January 13, 2014

    antonio lobo antunes

    Antonio Lobo Antunes

    The Portuguese novelist Antonio Lobo Antunes, the Palestinian writer Suad Amiry, the Italian psychiatrist Guiseppe dell’Acqua, and the French philosophy Michel Serres are the winners of Italy’s thirty-ninth annual Nonino Prizes. V. S. Naipaul presided over this year’s jury, which included Peter Brook, John Banville, and the Syrian poet Adonis, among others.

    Roger Ailes once said to his client, Senator Al D’Amato: “Jesus, nobody likes you. Your own mother wouldn’t vote for you. Do you even have a mother?” The New Republic highlights Roger Ailes’s most outrageous comments from Off Camera, the new biography of the godfather of Fox News.

    Hugo Lindgren, who stepped down from his position at the New York Times Magazine in November, has been named acting editor of the Hollywood Reporter. In other Times news, the paper’s executive editor Jill Abramson has discussed some of her plans for the paper in 2014: “a deep look at the global rich,” continued coverage of China, rethinking the NYT Magazine, and more multimedia journalism.

    What happens when the winner of a mystery-novel contest turns out to be in prison, serving a minimum of 30 years for murder?

    As a child, Hilton Als did not know Amiri Baraka “as a famous poet who initiated the powerful Black Arts Movement in 1965, or as the man whose groundbreaking plays, ranging from 1964’s Dutchman, to 1969’s Four Black Revolutionary Plays, changed what was possible on the American stage.” He knew him as a father, a former husband, and a force at the top of the stairs of an East Village walk-up. On the New Yorker’s books blog, Als gives a thoughtful reflection on the life of a man and the legacy of his work.

Advertisement