• July 17, 2018

    Marlon James

    A lawsuit has been filed against the creators of S-Town. The estate of John B. McLemore alleges that McLemore, the focus of the podcast, “didn’t give permission to broadcast the intimate details of his sexual orientation, mental state and other aspects of his life.”

    Marlon James, Victore LaValle, Danzy Senna and more tell the New York Times about the scariest books they’ve read. James writes that at thirteen, Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist shook his sense of “suburban security.” “I agonized over questions I never agonized over before. What if everyone died, leaving me alone?” he remembered. “Adults were selfish and brutal, and in the case of Bill Sikes, evil incarnate. Sikes scared me right down to the bone and still haunts my dreams. I got goose bumps just typing this.”

    Ahead of a trip to Kenya and South Africa, Barack Obama has released a summer reading list featuring works by Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, among others. Quartz Africa offers some suggestions for further reading.

    BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel explains why Sacha Baron Cohen’s new series Who Is America? might be the best answer to right-wing fake news. “Baron Cohen is a worthy adversary for the most disingenuous in our politics and culture. He pits bad faith against bad faith and the result is something that seems like the truth — but it isn’t easy to watch,” he writes. “And somehow, that feels fitting for our current moment.”

    At the Washington Post, Christine Emba responds to former Business Insider columnist Daniella Greenbaum’s assertion that social media users are threatening free speech. “The removal of her piece does not mean that writers everywhere are being fallen upon by a “predatory mob.” . . . It means that Business Insider did not want Daniella Greenbaum’s column,” Emba writes. “I have written pieces for The Post, where I am a columnist, and have had them summarily rejected (this is embarrassing, but I will admit it, because I am speaking freely here). This does not mean that my column is being turned into a “safe space” or that I am being suppressed. It means that I have editors.”

  • July 16, 2018

    Karl Ove Knausgaard

    Joseph O’Neil, the author of the novel Netherland, talks with Guernica about political fiction, his favorite Supreme Court decision, and the characters in his new book of stories, Good Trouble: “These are, for the most part, bourgeois American men and women that we’re reading about. They don’t lay a greater claim to one’s compassion or understanding than anyone else, and in fact they probably have a weaker claim than most, because they’re all set, in theory. But they happen to be the people I feel I can write about with maximum authority—and they happen to be involved, these genteel and bourgeois Americans, in a humanistic experiment no less crucial and radical in its implications than the experiments historically conducted by communists, royalists, rebels, or what have you.”

    The Brooklyn-based series Murmrr has booked novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard to read and discuss his work on September 26.

    A list of forty-five things Varlam Shalamov, author of The Kolyma Stories, learned while serving time in a Soviet gulag.

    Fiction writer Ottessa Moshfegh picks her favorite books.

    Marlon James pays homage to Franz Ross’s 1974 novel, Oreo.

    Ron Charles wishes that writers who have received negative reviews would talk back to their critics more often. “I wish more authors were willing to respond in public to reviews of their books. Not that we need every disappointed writer to go all Alain de Botton and declare, ‘I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make.’ But our literary culture would be richer if we could observe more interactions between authors and critics.”

  • July 13, 2018

    Bleacher Report and Bustle founder Bryan Goldberg bought Gawker at auction yesterday for $1.13 million. The deal will be approved by a bankruptcy judge on Tuesday. “We have no immediate plans to re-launch Gawker,” Goldberg wrote in an email obtained by CNN after the sale. “For now, things will stay as they are. I’m very excited about the possibilities for the future of Gawker.”

    Ahmet Altan

    Granta Books is publishing a memoir by Turkish novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, who is currently serving a life sentence in prison after being arrested in September 2016 in a government round-up of intellectuals and journalists. I Will Never See the World Again will be published in March 2019.

    In Sweden, the New Academy has announced their “long-ish longlist” for their alternative to the Nobel prize.

    The Guardian has obtained a leaked copy of Sean Spicer’s upcoming book, The Briefing: Politics, the Press and the President. Besides confirming Paul Manafort’s major role in the Trump campaign, Spicer also praises Trump as “a unicorn, riding a unicorn over a rainbow,” and “compares the work of a press secretary to that of a fighter jet pilot, champion boxer and tightrope artist.” The Briefing will be published July 24. Tickets for the book’s launch party on the same day are selling for as much as $1,000, Esquire reports.

    At Lithub, Rachel Vorona Cote wonders if Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale wants viewers to empathize with Ivanka Trump.

    Jacob Rubin explains how Mary Gaitskill’s novel Veronica helped him return to reading fiction, after the death of a friend made both reading and writing it unbearable. “In those weeks after Nick’s death I planned to volunteer to sit with dying people. Such work at the time, as opposed to writing, seemed undoubtedly meaningful,” he writes. “But after reading Veronica, I began to understand that this new ambition was at least in part a metaphor: In my vision of hospice work, I was imagining a space in which our ephemerality is at last undeniable, one in which we are finally permitted our ugliness because it is written on our faces, a room in which we are allowed fully to live and die. Mary Gaitskill reminded me that art can provide such a space.”

  • July 12, 2018

    Michiko Kakutani

    Michiko Kakutani returns to the New York Times books section, this time as an interviewee. Kakutani tells the “By the Book” column that leaving her job as a book reviewer has given her more time to binge read. “Not reviewing all the time has also meant that I can at least sometimes turn off the analytic part of my brain — which makes mental notes about things like narrative structure, language and tone — and recover the innocence of reading for the sheer pleasure of it.”

    At the Los Angeles Review of Books Blog, Nathan Kalman-Lamb looks at the problems of modern fandom and its entanglement with capitalism.

    Twitter will start removing all blocked or suspicious accounts today, the New York Times reports. The deleted accounts will lower the number of followers by six percent.

    At the New York Times, Margaret Renkl examines what exactly makes a Southern writer. “What if being a Southern writer has nothing to do with rural tropes or lyrical prose or a lush landscape or humid heat so thick it’s hard to breathe?” she asks. “What if being a Southern writer is foremost a matter of growing up in a deeply troubled place and yet finding it somehow impossible to leave?”

    At Hazlitt, Sarah Hagi reflects on getting—and losing—her dream job at an online media company and the struggle of making a career out of writing. After years freelancing, Hagi finally landed a permanent position as a staff writer. “Before my job, when people would ask me what I did and I’d tell them I was a writer, I felt like a fraud,” she writes. “The ebb and flow of the job left me too scared to even call myself a writer out loud to other people. Yes, I had been published—but that didn’t mean I would continue being published or that the people who’d publish me would even have jobs in a month.”

    Wired has hired several new editors and writers. NewYorker.com’s Anthony Lydgate and Vice’s Caitlin Kelly have joined the magazine as editors, while former Wired editor Emily Dreyfuss returns as a senior writer after a year as a Nieman Foundation fellow.

    Columbia Journalism Review’s Mathew Ingram explains how Elon Musk became “the poster child for bad billionaires” and Twitter’s favorite target for criticism. “When he was still a plucky, little-known entrepreneur, Musk’s try-anything attitude and somewhat wacky and combative Twitter persona seemed endearing,” he writes. “But now that he is running several billion-dollar enterprises and dating a celebrity . . . the way he shoots from the lip on almost any topic makes his Twitter account a target-rich environment for anyone wanting to cut him down to size.”

  • July 11, 2018

    Univision has formally announced that is is exploring a sale of both Gizmodo Media Group and The Onion. In a statement, the company explained that selling the properties “further strengthen [Univision’s] position as the No. 1 media company serving U.S. Hispanics, while enabling both GMG and The Onion even greater opportunities to grow under new ownership.”

    Emily Nemens. Photo: Jeremiah Ariaz

    The New Yorker has chosen to voluntarily recognize the magazine’s editorial union. The union noted that the deal was still being finalized. “We’re in this together,” editor David Remnick said in a statement. “The work we set out to do every day is more important than ever.”

    Vanity Fair talks to Paris Review editor Emily Nemens about returning to New York, the history of the magazine, and her plans for its future. “Looking through the archives of the interviews in particular just really highlights how white and male the history of the magazine has been,” Nemens said of a recent foray into the archives as staff assembled an upcoming Women at Work anthology. “So I’m being mindful—the language, the story, the poem are first and foremost, but I need to read against that history and do what I can to make it a more inclusive environment.”

    Incoming Los Angeles Times executive editor Norman Pearlstine announced new additions to his editorial team yesterday.

    At Literary Hub, Samantha Hunt reflects on neighbors, the mafia, and Brooklyn gentrification.

    Ottessa Moshfegh says that she wishes Whoopi Goldberg would read her new book, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, in which the main character repeatedly watches movies starring the actress. “Her particular talent to poke through every scene of fictional film as a real live human being, therefore undoing the illusion of cinema, was a powerful influence on me as an artist back before I even knew I was a writer,” she said. “I would love for her to read my book simply because it is a message of appreciation.”

  • July 10, 2018

    Recode editor at large Kara Swisher is joining the New York Times as an opinion contributor. “The power and influence of the tech companies is among the most important and complex stories of our era, and we are very excited at the prospect of having Kara bring her experience, intellect and courage to bear for Times readers,” the company said in a statement.

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks to Vulture about raising children, feminism, and Philip Roth. “There was a humanity in Philip Roth’s work that is often overlooked when we talk about his misogyny. I read his women and roll my eyes but there is a truth there, because there are many men like his men,” she said of the concerns over the late novelist’s work. “Maybe there are people who want Philip Roth’s misogynists to die at the end of the novel so that they’ll know misogyny is bad. But that would be a little easy, wouldn’t it? The world is complex.”

    Maggie Nelson talks to the Los Angeles Review of Books about the Gowanus Canal, past selves, and the recent reissue of her first book, Something Bright, Then Holes.

    Maris Kreizman looks at Rona Jaffe’s The Best of Everything, a sixty-year-old novel that focused on workplace sexual harassment, and sees a connection to the current #MeToo movement. “I finally had confirmation that what I’d tolerated as ‘just the way things are’ might actually not be okay at all, in my own career and beyond,” she writes of her first time reading the book. “Just like the women readers who saw themselves and their own experiences mirrored back to them in The Best of Everything, I found #MeToo was a way to begin to articulate all of the things I’d repressed.”

    Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient has been selected as the public’s favorite Man Booker winner. “Not for a second do I believe this is the best book on the list, especially when it is placed beside a work by VS Naipaul, one of the masters of our time, or a major work like Wolf Hall,” Ondaatje said when he accepted the award at the Man Booker 50 festival. “I suspect and know more than anyone that perhaps The English Patient is still cloudy, with errors in pacing.”

  • July 9, 2018

    The New Republic reflects on Barnes & Noble’s recent firing of its chief executive Demos Parneros, the company’s fourth CEO in five years. Once the “most disruptive company in publishing,” B&N has been long a high-profile failure, with store closings, sluggish Nook sales, and diminishing revenue. Some argue that the company, still important to the US publishing community, is “too big to fail.” But the company is currently dealing with many hard-to-solve problems, including its own “chaos.”

    John Lanchester

    The Bookseller is excited about The Wall, the forthcoming novel by John Lanchester, the novelist (Capital) who also writes about economics for the London Review of Books and the New Yorker, among other places. The Wall, which is due out in Britain in January 2019 and in the US in March, is about an island nation that has built a wall to keep out the “Others.” According to Lanchester’s publisher Faber, the book “arrives with its own world of ideas and concerns, woven into a compelling and accessible narrative.”

    Editor and writer Nicole Rudick is leaving her position at the Paris Review.

    Keith Gessen, the author of the new novel A Terrible Country, describes what it has been like to see Russia become such a hot topic in the US. “So what is it like for a longtime Russia watcher? I guess it’s like having your favorite obscure band become famous for some stupid act, like destroying a hotel room — the hotel room being, in this case, the postwar global order.”

    In a story about increasing diversity in the romance-fiction genre, the New York Times profiles Helen Hoang, whose popular new romance novel, The Kiss Quotient, is a “multicultural love story centered on an autistic woman who has trouble navigating the nuances of dating and courtship.”

    On Saturday, a customer in a Richmond, Virginia, bookstore walked up to Steve Bannon and called him a “piece of trash.”

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Mary Beard, Pankaj Mishra, Geoff Dyer, and many others pick the best summer books of 2018.

  • July 6, 2018

    Former Fox News co-president Bill Shine has officially joined the Trump administration as a presidential assistant and deputy communications chief of staff. “The loudest voices opposing Shine’s appointment are not coming from progressive activists and women’s groups,” notes BuzzFeed News. “They’re coming from within the conservative media world.”

    Lauren O’Neill-Butler talks to philosopher and artist Adrian Piper about the intersection of her two fields, resisting oppression, and consciousness.

    Priscilla Gilman

    “Our reach is so much greater, but people’s attention span is so much shorter,” says Priscilla Gilman on the life of a critic in the age of social media. “Reviews can be shared with and disseminated to many more people, but how many readers take the time to read longer reviews or literary essays that don’t immediately or easily offer a sound-bite or capsule take on the book?”

    Chicago Review Press will publish the posthumous memoir of Gilbert Baker, LGBTQ activist and rainbow-flag creator, next June on the Stonewall riots’ fiftieth anniversary.

    The Atlantic has hired former Politico writer Todd Purdum as a California correspondent and staff writer. Purdum will also oversee the magazine’s newly-opened Los Angeles bureau.

    The New York Times looks to acting coaches for their feelings on Brazilian soccer player Neymar’s theatrical reactions to injuries. Though some have been impressed with his “commitment”—”When your choice as a player is, ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever walk again,’ you can’t go halfway,” said NCIS: Los Angeles acting coach Peter Kelley—others feel that Neymar’s behavior “diminishes the art form” of acting. “If you have a response that doesn’t correspond to the event, we won’t empathize, we won’t believe you, and we’ll start to question why,” said London acting coach Phillipa Strandberg-Long. “Either you are lying or you’re psychologically ill.” n+1 writer Alejandro Chacoff said that the problem is not unique to Neymar. “People call Neymar the actor, but I think it’s just that he’s the worst actor out of all the others.”

  • July 5, 2018

    The 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing has been awarded to Makena Onjerika for her short story “Fanta Blackcurrant. A graduate of New York University’s MFA program, Onjerika now lives in Kenya where she is working on a novel.

    Sheila Heti

    At Granta, Sheila Heti and Tao Lin interview each other about their books, chemical detoxing, and the difficulties of writing. “When I was younger I sort of resented that just writing wasn’t enough – that it also had to be completed to be an object of use for the world,” said Heti. “But now I think that it doesn’t even serve any internal function for myself if I don’t bring the writing to a point of finish. Only when it’s finished does the writing become a reliable friend you can count on. Until then, the writing is just like a friend who wastes your time in uninteresting texting.”

    Literary Hub rounds up a list of Great American Novels written by authors who were not born in the US. “While I’d certainly agree that it would be difficult to write a novel addressing the American experience without at least living here for a while, sometimes it takes an outsider to really see the truth of something,” writes Emily Temple.

    After an internal investigation into her relationship with a potential source, New York Times federal law enforcement reporter Ali Watkins is being transferred to a new beat in New York.

    Hamilton Nolan implores non-union employees at the Washington Post to join the union after their dismal contract negotiations were made public. “To the half or more of Washington Post staffers who have voluntarily chosen not to be members of their own union: Look in the mirror,” Nolan writes. “Staring back at you is a person who is getting fucked by one of the richest men in the world.”

    Facebook’s new commitment to be more transparent about political advertising has started to affect business owners as well as publishers. Bloomberg’s Sarah Frier reports that ads for a waxing salon, a lawn-mowing company, and a Walmart sale on baked beans have all found their way into the social media site’s political advertising archive for using the word bush. “This is a new policy and process. . . . Review and enforcement won’t be perfect,” a company representative explained. “In the meantime,” Frier notes, “it will archive and later block ads like the one that celebrated fifth-grade graduation at Barack H. Obama Elementary Magnet School of Technology in Atlanta.”

  • July 3, 2018

    In response to the Nobel Prize’s hiatus due to sexual misconduct at the Swedish Academy, The Guardian reports that “more than 100 Swedish writers, actors, journalists and other cultural figures have formed the New Academy, which will hand out its own award this autumn.” In a statement, the group explained that they founded the organization “to remind people that literature and culture at large should promote democracy, transparency, empathy and respect, without privilege, bias, arrogance or sexism.” The prize will be awarded in December, and the group will disband afterward.

    Emma Cline

    Emma Cline (Credit: Megan Cline)

    Atlantic Media is selling Quartz to a Japanese media firm. Uzabase Inc. will pay up to $110 million for the business-news website. Columbia Journalism Review writes that the deal is no cause for celebration, since “Atlantic Media has been shopping the site around to potential buyers on and off since 2015, and it wound up being sold to a little-known Japanese media startup not much older than itself.”

    A federal judge has dismissed the copyright infringement lawsuit against The Girls author Emma Cline. “I’m extremely gratified that a judge has dismissed the meritless claims against my novel,” Cline said in a statement to The Cut. “As deeply painful as it has been to bring this dispute into the light, I’m glad I did not capitulate. My book is and always has been my own.”

    Junot Díaz has given his first interview since being accused of sexual misconduct and harassment. The author denied all allegations against him, and said that the accusations don’t sound “like anything that’s in my life, anything that’s me.” Díaz’s accusers spoke out against his denials. “Why would we be doing this if we weren’t telling the truth,” said Monica Byrne in a tweet. “We have nothing to gain and everything to lose. I’d rather be doing anything else.”

    The Society of Professional Journalists has named former Associated Press editor Rod Hicks as its inaugural Journalist on Call. In a statement, SPJ explained that the role was created to help journalists “understand why the public doesn’t trust them and what they can do to re-earn more trust.” “We are at a critical time in our democracy — a time when citizens more than ever need to understand the need for an aggressive free press,” Hicks said in his own statement. “I will work to help them understand why this is so vital to every individual in our country.”