• November 16, 2018

    For PEN International’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer, Arundhati Roy has written a letter to photographer Shahidul Alam, who was arrested for criticizing the Bangladeshi government. “How is it possible for people to defend themselves against laws like these?” Roy writes of the charges. “It’s like having to prove one’s innocence before a panel of certified paranoiacs. Every argument only serves to magnify their paranoia and heighten their delusions.” Alam was released on bail shortly after the letter was published.

    Javier Marias

    “One of the problems with novelists is that we never learn the job,” Javier Marías tells Garth Risk Hallberg at The Millions. “A professor goes to give his lesson after 40 years . . . and the teacher knows he will give a good lesson, or at least a decent one. And he will do it with ease. And the carpenter who’s been making tables for 40 years or whatever knows he will succeed with the next table. But a novelist doesn’t know that at all!”

    Hamilton Cain reviews Tommy Orange’s There There, which is under consideration for the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize.

    Columbia Journalism Review’s Karen K. Ho talks to Sunny Dhillon, a former Globe and Mail reporter who resigned from the paper after his bureau chief discouraged him from writing about the lack of diversity on Vancouver’s city council. “You fight and you fight to raise these other perspectives, to draw attention to blind spots, but how many times are you prepared to do it, and lose, and feel like you’re not being taken seriously? How many times do you want to flag something of concern for an editor or an reporter and not see it changed? Dhillon said of the struggles of being a journalist of color. “How many battles do you have in you?”

    Godsend author John Wray tells The Atlantic that he couldn’t have finished his book “if he hadn’t stumbled across a technical manual on bear attacks, abandoned on a Brooklyn street.” In Stephen Herrero’s Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, one hunter’s description of grizzlies— “he is man’s food and he makes food of man”—helped Wray find perspective on his writing. “For a novelist, writing is the one reliable source of creative nourishment, not to mention our financial bread and butter,” he explains. “Yet there’s a sense, at times, that the work is somehow pursuing you—and it’s a quarry dangerous enough to disfigure you forever, or pick you clean, down to the bones.”

  • November 15, 2018

    The 2018 National Book Award winners were announced last night. Sigrid Nunez received the fiction prize for The Friend, Jeffrey C. Stewart won the nonfiction prize for The New Negro, and Justin Phillip Reed won the poetry prize for Indecency. Yoko Tawada and Margaret Mitsutani won the first translated literature award for Tawada’s novel The Emissary.

    Fox News is joining several other news organizations in filing amicus briefs in support of CNN’s lawsuit against the White House. ”Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized,” said Fox News president Jay Wallace in a statement. “While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the President and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.”

    After finding that only 21 percent of quoted sources were women, the Financial Times has created a bot to warn writers when they quote too many men in their articles, The Guardian reports.  

    Jonathan Franzen

    Penske Media has bought ARTnews and Art in America from owner Peter Brant.

    National Book Award “5 Under 35” winners talk to LitHub about self-criticism, planning, and writing a second novel.

    The Guardian talks to Jonathan Franzen about climate change, nature, and the connection between birds and books. “Something in my character makes me sympathize with threatened things, the same way that people don’t read novels like the way they used to,” Franzen said. “It makes me want to advocate for literature. And birds in trouble makes me want to advocate for them. I love them. The two things I love most are novels and birds, and they’re both in trouble, and I want to advocate for both of them.” Tonight at the 92nd Street Y, Franzen reads from his new book, The End of the End of the Earth.

  • November 14, 2018

    CNN filed a lawsuit against the White House yesterday after Jim Acosta’s press pass was revoked last week. The Columbia Journalism Review rounds up opinions on the case from Knight First Amendment Institute director Jameel Jaffer, the New Yorker’s Masha Gessen, and CJR writer Jonathan Peters. “When a political leader puts journalists in a position of choosing between loyalty and access, he always wins, and journalists always lose,” Gessen said at a recent Columbia Journalism School event. “We can talk about how to minimize the loss, but it is certainly a net loss.”

    Wesley Yang. Photo: Rich Woodson

    At the New York Times, Jennifer Senior takes back her “mostly kind review” of Jeff Flake’s Conscience of a Conservative. “When his book came out last year, I saluted Flake for doing something politically contraindicated and Rubicon-crossing, establishing himself as the first Republican senator to call President Trump the domestic and international menace that he is,” she writes. “But . . . Jeff Flake’s book couldn’t even convince Jeff Flake. As of this writing, he has voted with Trump 84 percent of the time.”

    Wesley Yang talks to New York magazine’s Intelligencer about pain, identity, and how he came up with the title for his new book, The Souls of Yellow Folk. “The title is a kind of very irreverent and dry joke. . . . The point is that these are the essays that launched my career, and they did so by foregrounding the Asian-American identity and using it as a foil and proxy for the larger set of themes I wanted to deal with,” he explained. “I knew there was a risk that the book would be straw-manned by its critics. . . . The people who get it, get it, and they’re supposed to get it. And the people who don’t, don’t. I don’t want them to get it, and they can straw-man me in the pages of our major newspapers and magazines, which they have done.”

    “I think that we like to embrace the gonzo and that Gawker was an inheritor of that gonzo spirit that didn’t originate with Gawker, but that they carried that mantle for a little while,” Daily Beast editor in chief Noah Shachtman tells Recode about the website’s style. “We really like the gonzo. We really like the weird. We really like the fun and we don’t give that many fucks. We don’t give zero fucks, but we don’t give that many fucks.”

    Tonight at Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, Alice Sola Kim talks to Jonathan Lethem about his new book, The Feral Detective.

  • November 13, 2018

    The New York Times’s Jim Rutenberg asks various political operatives how the press should respond to Trump revoking Jim Acosta’s press pass. “It isn’t my habit to ask political operatives to weigh in on journalistic matters,” Rutenberg writes. “But in bringing a reporter’s notebook to a knife fight, the White House press corps has seemed overmatched in parrying attacks from a man who flummoxed rivals with catchy sobriquets like Low Energy Jeb, Lyin’ Ted and Crooked Hillary.”

    Lauren Groff

    New York magazine is instituting a paywall at the end of November. The new system will not affect nonprofit local news site The City.

    White House correspondent April Ryan talks to the New York Review of Books about how social media has changed journalism, her professional relationship with Trump, and having to hire a bodyguard at her own personal expense.

    “It is without doubt that social media has allowed this to happen,” Not All Dead White Men author Donna Zuckerberg told The Guardian of the current political moment. “It has created the opportunity for men with anti-feminist ideas to broadcast their views to more people than ever before – and to spread conspiracy theories, lies and misinformation. Social media has elevated misogyny to entirely new levels of violence and virulence.”

    At the New Yorker, Katy Waldman looks at the burgeoning genre of climate-change fiction.

    Lauren Groff talks to LitHub about writing advice, Floridian literature, and being included on the National Book Award shortlist for her short story collection Florida. Groff says that her dog Olive was the first to hear about her book being shortlisted. “She heard about it first because my husband didn’t answer the phone,” Groff explained. “She yawned and went back to sleep; he eventually called back.”

  • November 12, 2018

    Publishers Weekly has released its latest annual publishing survey, which looks at racial diversity pay compensation by gender, and salary increases. The survey also asks employees if they have been sexually harassed in the workplace, and looks at how many companies have sexual-harassment policies.

    Juris Jurjevics—the novelist and editor who founded Soho Press—has died. While working at Dial Press, he edited James Baldwin’s final novel, Just Above My Head.

    Following the death of book critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt last week, the Times has posted some of his most memorable reviews—of Portnoy’s Complaint, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Our Bodies, Ourselves, and more.

    In a new editorial, Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, writes about the disturbing biases embedded in the technology of recent criminal justice reforms: “Under new policies in California, New Jersey, New York and beyond, ‘risk assessment’ algorithms recommend to judges whether a person who’s been arrested should be released. These advanced mathematical models—or ‘weapons of math destruction” as data scientist Cathy O’Neil calls them—appear colorblind on the surface but they are based on factors that are not only highly correlated with race and class, but are also significantly influenced by pervasive bias in the criminal justice system. As O’Neil explains, ‘It’s tempting to believe that computers will be neutral and objective, but algorithms are nothing more than opinions embedded in mathematics.’”

    Bookforum contributor A.S. Hamrah’s new book of film criticism, The Earth Dies Screaming, which is being published by n+1, is out now.

    Heather Chavez’s debut novel, No Bad Deed, was a buzz book at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. This week, William Morrow purchased the novel for a rumored mid-six-figure price. According to Chavez’s agent, the book is a thriller “in the vein of Harlan Coben” about “a mom who’s on the hunt for her missing husband while she’s trying to protect her kids from a killer who knows too much about her own dark family history.”

    The Holocaust diary of Renia Spiegel—who was shot in Poland days after her eighteenth birthday—is being published in English for the first time.

  • November 9, 2018

    Nicolas Mathieu

    The 2018 Goncourt Prize has been awarded to Nicolas Mathieu for his novel Leurs Enfants Aprè Eux. The book, “a portrait of teenagers growing up in a forgotten, hopeless region of France in the 1990s,” will be published in the US by Other Press late next year. “It is quite a vertigo moment. . . . Writing is a lonely activity, and suddenly I am in the middle of the spotlight,” Mathieu told the New York Times in an interview. “It’s quite disturbing, but it’s good for the book.”

    Later this month, Vintage Books will republish Fletcher Knebel’s Night of Camp David, a 1965 political thriller about “an unhinged American president who falls prey to his own paranoia and conspiratorial fantasies.”

    “It was startling to see the issues around power imbalances and assault I had been writing about every day suddenly all over the news,” Those Who Knew author Idra Novey says of publishing her new book, which she began writing in 2014. “I started this novel long before a man who bragged about groping women became president and the silencing of victims of sexual assault became an international conversation.”

    David Simon’s six-episode miniseries based on Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America will air on HBO, Variety reports.  

    Vice Media has instituted a hiring freeze and is hoping to reduce staff by 15 percent, the Wall Street Journal reports. The company will also consolidate its numerous vertical sites.  

    Two upcoming panels at a Hong Kong cultural center that featured exiled Chinese writer Ma Jian have been canceled, the New York Times reports. The events were part of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival. Along with the recent shut down of the one of the city’s last bookstores to sell banned books, the cancelation is seen as “the latest sign of eroding freedoms in the city.” “Before, Hong Kong was a haven for arts and literature — a place where we felt like we could hide from China and find true freedom of thought,” Ma said. “But now that era is slowly disappearing.”

  • November 8, 2018

    New York Times book critic and obituary writer Christopher Lehmann-Haupt has died at the age of eighty-four. Lehmann-Haupt worked at the paper for over thirty years, during which he wrote 4,000 essays and reviews. “Readers and colleagues called him a judicious, authoritative voice on fiction and a seemingly boundless array of history, biography, current events and other topics, with forays into Persian archaeology and fly fishing,” writes Robert D. McFadden.

    New York Review of Books contributors have signed an open letter condemning the Trump administration’s continued detention of migrant children who have been separated from their parents. “This generation will be remembered for having allowed for concentration camps for children to be built on ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave,’ write contributors including Margaret Atwood, Elif Batuman, Deborah Eisenberg, and more. “This is happening here and now, but not in our names.”

    Nicole Chung. Photo: Erica B. Tappis

    At The Rumpus, Nicole Chung talks to Crystal Hana Kim about memory, family, and her new memoir, All You Can Ever Know.

    LitHub talks to 2018 National Book Award in Nonfiction finalists Victoria Johnson and Colin G. Calloway.

    Former congressman Steve Israel writes about the struggles of being an author on book tour, which to him was worse than his experience as a political figure. “As a congressman I’d stand in a room with hundreds of supporters, gripping and being gripped, posing for selfies, signing autographs. . . .  I’d go to the House floor, stride to the podium and give a speech that was watched on C-Span by, well, hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of people. I was even recognized in airports,” he writes. “Now I’m like the guy sitting at a flea market folding table, watching people pass him by, oblivious to his World’s Greatest Dad hand-painted mugs.”

    Tonight at Symphony Space in New York, John Cameron Mitchell and Karen Pittman read new works of fiction by George Saunders and Zadie Smith.

  • November 7, 2018

    Haruki Murakami is donating his manuscripts and other items to his alma mater, Waseda University. According to Japan Times, the donation includes translated versions of his work and his record collection. “I don’t have any children, and it would cause trouble for me if those materials became scattered or lost,” Murakami explained in a press conference.

    Ottessa Moshfegh

    Alice Quinn is resigning from her position as executive director of the Poetry Society of America.

    Time magazine editor in chief Edward Felsenthal has been chosen as the company’s CEO by new owners Marc and Lynne Benioff. Felsenthal will continue to serve as editor in chief.

    Jonathan Lethem talks to CrimeReads about his new novel, The Feral Detective.

    Ottessa Moshfegh talks to Guernica about Kurt Cobain, sadness, and why she set her most recent novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, in 2000 instead of the present day. “I didn’t realize I had set it then until it became apparent that I was describing a New York pre-9/11, when there was still a sense of optimism,” she explained. “The more practical reason was that if I’d set the story now, the character’s decision to go into hibernation would be a very obvious response to what’s happening in her environment politically and socially.”

    Tonight at the New York Public Library, Ruth Franklin, Wayne Koestenbaum, and John Williams gather to celebrate the work of Lucia Berlin.

  • November 6, 2018

    Leslie Jamison lists her favorite books about drinking. “They aren’t chronicles of the way many people can drink,” she explains, “but stories that have made me feel less alone in the way I used to drink: desperately, repetitively, often gracelessly, delivered constantly back into the dingy storeroom of the self.”

    Don DeLillo talks to The Guardian about his next book, the national news cycle, and the difference between writing novels and plays.

    Jelani Cobb

    “If you stay home, count yourself among the hundreds of thousands now being disenfranchised by the relentless parade of restrictions that Republicans everywhere are imposing and enforcing,” writes New Yorker editor Roger Angell as he implores readers to vote in the midterm elections today. “If you don’t vote, they have won, and you are a captive, one of their prizes.”

    The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan looks at how the press has failed to improve their coverage of Trump in the lead-up to the midterms. “We’re more careful about tossing around predictions based on our none-too-savvy interpretations of public opinion polls. . . . We’ve made fact-checking President Trump into a necessary cottage industry. And we’ve gotten over our hesitance to use the L word — lie — about his escalating falsehoods,” she writes. “But there’s still one overarching problem: Too many journalists allow Trump to lead them around by the nose.”

    “The media exists in a climate of unprecedented hostility. The relationship between the White House and the press, frequently rocky, has devolved into a circumstance in which the president of the United States has referred to us as the ‘enemy of the people.’ Trump’s attacks are facilitated by the fact that, in the past two decades, trust in the media has plummeted,” writes Jelani Cobb at the Columbia Journalism Review on the importance of newsroom diversity. “At least some portion of that distrust is a product of people who rarely see themselves or their stories depicted in the media they consume. A great deal must be done to rebuild public trust. But it can begin by including the voices of all Americans. The press, tasked with protecting American democracy, is best secured by reflecting the American people.”

  • November 5, 2018

    Kapka Kassabova

    Kapka Kassabova

    Kapka Kassabova has won the British Academy’s Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, which honors “an outstanding contribution to global cultural understanding that illuminates the interconnections and divisions that shape cultural identity worldwide.” Kassabova is the author of Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, a hard-to-classify meditation on territory surrounding the intersections of Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria. In the book, Kassabova roams “this ‘back door to Europe’ in an effort to find out, up close, what borders do to people, and vice versa. Her book is a deconstruction of the looming, nonspecific anxiety that comes from continually having to justify your right to exist on one or another side of a line.”

    Hong Kong’s the People’s Books Cafe, the last known bookshop selling titles banned by the Communist Party in China, has been closed. According to The Guardian, sources say the shop closed “under pressure from the government.” This follows the detention of five city booksellers in 2015, who were shut down for their associations with a publisher of books that were critical about China’s leadership.

    Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple is being adapted for the screen again—this time as a musical. Oprah Winfrey, who starred in the original film version directed by Stephen Spielberg, is one of the new movie’s producers.

    Jane Cockram has sold her debut novel, The House of Birds, in a high-six-figure deal to Sara Nelson at Harper. Nelson purchased the book in a preemptive deal from Rob Weisbach at Rob Weisbach Creative Management. In a statement, Harper says the novel follows a woman to an estate described famously by her mother in a memoir. There, she “discovers a world of family secrets tied to the past that may have the power to change her future.”

    The New York Times reports that it has passed the milestone of 4 million subscribers, with more than 3 million digital subscriptions and more than 1 million print. The company has also reported a net income of about $24.9 million in the past year. The majority of paper’s income is being generated by readers themselves: “This quarter, subscription revenues accounted for nearly two-thirds of the company’s revenues,” Mark Thompson, the chief executive and president, said in a press release. “We’re investing aggressively in our journalism, product and marketing and are seeing tangible results in our digital growth.”

Advertisement