• July 8, 2014


    Grégoire Delacourt

    Grégoire Delacourt

    A very silly lawsuit brought by Scarlett Johansson against a French novelist, Grégoire Delacourt, claims that he defamed the actress in his novel La première chose qu’on regard—in English, something like The First Thing You Look At. The character in question isn’t Johansson, but a model who resembles the actress. Nevertheless, a French judge has ruled that Delacourt owes Johansson $3,4oo for portraying her—in a work of fictionas having had two affairs she never engaged in. Unless Johansson reads French, it’s unlikely that she’s read La première chose; it hasn’t been translated.

    According to a Harvard Business school case study, Buzzfeed is disrupting media in the same way that Toyota and Honda disrupted the car industry in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

    The Millions publishes a preview of books coming out during the second half of 2014. Among the big names are David Mitchell, Haruki Murakami, Marilynne Robinson, Denis Johnson, Hilary Mantel, Denis Johnson, and Richard Ford.

    A scale counts the average page number of the five most highlighted passages in Kindle e-books and gives books a score meant to suggest how deep most readers get before they stop reading. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century has a woeful grade of 2.4 percent, while at 25.9 percent Fifty Shades of Gray isn’t that much better. Boring in two very different ways…

    Rolling Stone has promoted its associate publisher, Michael Provus, to the position of publisher. Provis will take over from Chris McLoughlin, who resigned after only a year at the magazine.

    Capital New York reports on the conflicted internal response to the hiring of Jezebel’s new editor-in-chief, Emma Carmichael. Many are disappointed that the long-time deputy editor, Dodai Stewart—one of the few women of color on the masthead, and the longest-serving staffer—didn’t the get the job.

  • July 7, 2014

    It’s not clear how Google will be adhering to a May decision that gives European citizens the “right to be forgotten.” The company restored links to two Guardian stories (about a soccer referee’s lies about a penalty decision) that it had previously removed, but has not done so with a BBC story about the ousting of Merrill Lynch CEO E. Stanley O’Neill.

    The New Inquiry has launched a “flash fundraiser”: If the magazine can raise $25,000 by August 1, an anonymous donor will match the amount.

    J. G. Ballard

    J. G. Ballard

    On the occasion of the British reissue of J. G. Ballard’s Crash, Zadie Smith concludes that she didn’t understand it the first time she read it. It’s “an existential book about how everybody uses everything. How everything uses everybody.” But that isn’t exactly bad: “There is always this mix of futuristic dread and excitement, a sweet spot where dystopia and utopia converge. For we cannot say we haven’t got precisely what we dreamed of, what we always wanted, so badly.”Crash also appears in a recent Bookforum syllabus on “weird sex.”

    The novelist Colum McCann was attacked in Connecticut after trying to assist a woman he witnessed getting assaulted. The New York Times story about the incident spends a lot of time wondering why he doesn’t have more empathy for his attacker given that he’s someone “known” for the emotion. Either the Times writer has a starry-eyed view of the moral capacities of novelists or he’s making brilliantly deadpan fun of McCann, who started an organization that emphasizes “radical empathy” and was attending a conference of the organization (called Narrative 4) the same weekend. We deplore the assault (in which McCann’s jaw was broken) but can’t help enjoying the latter interpretation of the article.

    Geoff Dyer close-reads a photograph of a D-Day veteran visiting Normandy Beach. “No matter what we do in our lives, we’ll end up as old geezers who no one wants to listen to. It’s the implacable revenge weapon of the aged, the biological equivalent of the Enigma decrypts: They know what’s coming.”

  • July 3, 2014

    Vice Media is moving to a 60,000-square-foot former warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which will reportedly help it add 525 more employees to its current staff of 400.

    The Wall Street Journal has laid off between 20 and 40 employees in recent weeks.

    Gawker has launched a new vertical, “Disputations,” which makes public the internal chatter of its employees. At the Nieman Journalism Lab, Caroline O’Donovan discusses Gawker’s desire “to take the private parts” of its writers’ “intelligence and character and turn them into monetizable content.” Will readers bite? On Twitter, NPR’s David Folkenflick complained that Buzzfeed and Gawker have become “fractal-like inside joke machines.” “The feeling of being made privy to what should be a behind-the-scenes conversation is undoubtedly titillating, but inside jokes are not enticing to everyone on the Internet,” O’Donovan points out.

    Putnam will publish a memoir by actor Burt Reynolds, titled But Enough About Me, in fall 2015.

    Radio Open Source has unearthed and posted a lost radio interview with David Foster Wallace, which was conducted by Chris Lydon in 1996.


    Ira Glass

    Ira Glass

    This American Life has left Public Radio International, its distributor of seventeen years. As a Times article about the radio program and its host, Ira Glass, explains, This American Life will now be delivered to stations through the online platform PRX, instead of through public radio’s satellite system. Listeners will likely notice little change—the show will broadcast on the same stations at the same time. The biggest difference is financial: “Gone are a distributor’s financial guarantees.”

  • July 2, 2014

    Carla Blumenkranz

    Carla Blumenkranz

    Carla Blumenkranz is moving from n+1, where she was managing editor, to a position as senior online editor at the New Yorker. Dayna Tortorici, currently a senior editor, will take her place.

    At the London Review of Books, Benjamin Kunkel takes on the much-discussed French economist Piketty. Capital in the 21st Century, Kunkel writes, is “more exciting considered as a failure than as a triumph.” “Piketty has bid a lingering goodbye to the latter-day marginalism of mainstream economics but has not yet arrived at the reconstructed political economy foreseen at the outset. His theoretical reach fumbles where his statistical grasp is sure, and he leaves intact the questions of economic value, distributive justice and capitalist dynamics that he raises.”

    John Freeman, the former editor of Granta, has announced plans to edit a series of themed anthologies for Grove/Atlantic. The collections, which will appear twice a year and include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, will be called “Freeman’s” after their editor. Freeman told the Washington Post that he wanted to create “a home for the long form . . . as well as writing that feels possessed, like only that writer could have done it.” The first volume is slated to appear in October of 2015.

    Mike Pride, the new administrator for the Pulitzer Prizes, has said that the awards need to keep up with the times. The challenge will be “to remain a journalism award in a world where journalism is really changing very quickly.”

    Glenn Greenwald promised a big story at the Intercept and then put on the brakes. What happened? Gawker says it “won’t speculate too wildly about the possibly upcoming story or its intrigues.”

    After Bruce Springsteen was photographed reading James Miller’s Examined Lives, a collection of biographical sketches of twelve philosophers, the book received a “bump in sales.” Miller, a politics and liberal studies professor at the New School, charmingly told the Wall Street Journal that he was “floored.”

  • July 1, 2014

    Noviolet Bulawayo

    NoViolet Bulawayo

    The New York Times on a “new wave” of African writers that includes Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dinaw Mengestu, Helen Oyeyemi, NoViolet Bulawayo, Teju Cole, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, and Taiye Selasi. “Some writers and critics scoff at the idea of lumping together diverse writers with ties to a diverse continent. But others say that this wave represents something new in its sheer size, after a long fallow period.”

    Now a decade old, the online literary magazine Guernica, which has so far relied on unpaid contributors, is hiring a new publisher, Lisa Lucas, and making plans to expand into print.

    Novelist and onetime Magnetic Fields cohort Daniel Handler—aka Lemony Snicket—will host the 2014 National Book Awards ceremony.

    The Carnegie Medals have been awarded to Donna Tartt and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

    According to Poynter, the AP plans to begin using “automation technology”—read: robots—to write stories about earnings reports.

    Email newsletters aren’t dead, says the Times. (And the paper of record is on it once again.)

  • June 30, 2014

    Publisher’s Weekly’s annual report on the global publishing market has the education publisher Pearson in the top spot, with over nine billion dollars in revenue, and Random House as the world’s largest trade publisher, making around three billion dollars in 2013.

    The Obama administration is deciding whether to continue pursuing charges that could send author James Risen to jail. In State of War, Risen used an anonymous source to describe a failed CIA operation in Iran. The Bush Administration demanded that Risen reveal his source, but the author has refused. According to the New York Times, “Whatever the Justice Department chooses to do will send a powerful message about how far it is willing to go to protect classified information in the digital age. And journalists and press freedom activists are watching closely for the precedent the decision will most likely set.”

    Francisco Goldman

    Francisco Goldman

    Tonight at 192 Books in New York, Francisco Goldman reads from his new book about Mexico City, The Interior Circuit.

    The “future of reading,” according to New York magazine, will be on smartphones and tablets rather than on dedicated e-readers (or print books): “Books are becoming just another app, and the publishing industry’s glorious e-reader future seems to be fading from view.”

    An excerpt from Marilynne Robinson’s forthcoming novel, Lila.

    Paul Kozlowski, a booklover who had a long career in publishing (including gigs as a bookseller, as the director of marketing at Pantheon and Knopf, and as an associate publisher at Other Press) died last week at the age of sixty. At MobyLives, Dennis Johnson remembers Paul, and expresses his deep sadness that Paul was unable to start the next chapter of his publishing career at Melville House, where he was due to start soon.


  • June 27, 2014

    On KCRW’s Bookworm, Michael Silverblatt talks to Edmund White and his husband, Michael Carroll, about their recent books.

    John Green

    John Green

    Sarah Polley will be writing and directing an adaptation of the YA book Looking for Alaska, by John Green.

    The June/July issue of the Atlantic Monthly is out. In an article about the effect of autocorrect on punctuation, Joe Pinsker quotes a linguistics professor who points out that the devices that are usually blamed for corrupting conventions may, with the autocorrect function, ultimately be responsible for preserving them. Meanwhile, Sarah Boxer writes about the dead-mother trope in animated children’s movies. “Mothers are killed in today’s kids’ movies,” she argues, “so the fathers can take over.”

    Also at the Atlantic, read Part 3 of Ta-nehisi Coates’s “narrative bibliography” accompanying the long, excellent article, published last month, in which he makes a case for reparations. In the bibliography, Coates explains that what was most  disturbing in the books he read was the overwhelming evidence of intent: “Government policy toward African-Americans is not an argument for the ineffectuality of government, on the contrary it is an argument for just how effective government can be.”

    A survey suggests that journalists today check their facts after publishing their stories instead of before.

    Wallace Stevens’s Connecticut home is for sale. The 1920s Colonial, which is in Hartford, is listed at $489,900.

  • June 26, 2014

    Anna María Matute

    Ana María Matute

    The Spanish writer Ana María Matute has died. She was 88. Matute was the third woman to receive the Cervantes Prize. Her last novel, Family Demons, is due out in the fall.

    John Cheever’s Westchester house is on the market. The three-bedroom, three-bathroom house, which was built in 1795, is for sale for $525,000.

    The New York Times ends “The Lede” blog. Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told Poynter that the paper has been “moving away from blogs in the past year.” In fact, “almost half” of the paper’s blogs will soon close or merge.

    Twitter is trying out a new feature that will allow users to control the content of their retweets.

    The Atlantic explains how to write in shorthand.

    Over the weekend, Pando fired two editorial staffers, David Sirota and Ted Rall, apparently in response to concerns from investors that the site featured “not enough tech and too much politics.”

    Jack Shafer considers the future of Vice Media, which is valued right now at somewhere between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion. Vice’s niche—”frank and exploitative takes on drugs, murder, sex, war, jail, violence, disaster and the crazed” —isn’t exactly new, as Shafer points out. It’s been doing well “since the invention of media in the 16th century.” But the closest comparison to be made for the company is the “flash press,” which in the mid-19th century “competed for the attention of the young, urban male audience with outrageous and libidinous tales.”

  • June 25, 2014

    At the New Inquiry, an animated map tracks the shifting prominence of American cities in novels over the past two hundred years, drawing on Google Ngram data.“More than anything,” write the map’s creators, the data “shows the enduring dominance of New York City, towering over the cultural landscape in a way that the map, with its pseudo-logarithmic scale, can’t even do justice to.”

    The Tumblr “Last Night’s Reading” offers drawings of writers doing readings in New York, along with quotations from the writer’s remarks. (Geoff Dyer: “You can’t do it without talent, but you can’t do it without confidence either.”) At least in the hands of this artist, Kate Gavino, all the writers look weirdly alike.

    The New Yorker interviews Rebecca Curtis about her most recent story in the magazine, “The Pink House,” which features ghosts. Curtis says, “There’s something lively about ghost stories—ha!—because the story contains built-in excitement and horror. Of course, you still need to create conflict and a plot, if you’re a traditionalist, but you’re starting on stilts, maybe, because you have a dramatic element that a normal, two-people-drinking-coffee-and-complaining-about-their-bunions story doesn’t have.”

    Joel Johnson

    Joel Johnson

    Gawker Media wants to double its staff by the end of 2015, editorial director Joel Johnson said in an April meeting. This week it brought Rachel Rosenfelt on as Executive Producer, and Gawker.com has hired a number of new staff writers, including Allie Jones, Aleksander Chan, and Andy Cush, as well as a senior editor, Jason Parham. As Capital New York reports, Johnson also aims to increase the monthly average of unique visitors from sixty-eight thousand (where it is currently) to eighty thousand.

    Buzzfeed quizzes are mining your personal data, says the Daily Dot. The website logs whether your Facebook account is connected to the website, what your home country is, and what your age and gender are if that information is available. It also records and archives quiz responses, which, depending on the quiz, can be very personal. The April quiz “How Privileged Are You?” asked questions about sexual orientation, whether you’ve ever been a victim of rape, and whether your parents help with living expenses.

  • June 24, 2014

    People taking office are swearing in using e-readers. “A Kindle is not a beautiful object,” Hannah Rosefield notes at the New Yorker. But this may be partly the point. “As cool as a copy of the Constitution from the eighteenth century would have been,” says Suzi LeVine, the American ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, “ I wanted to use a copy that is from the twenty-first century, and that reflects my passion for technology and my hope for the future.”

    Also at the New Yorker, Caleb Crain reviews a new biography of Stephen Crane. “Existential compromises fascinated Crane. Does an alcoholic choose to drink? Is a soldier blameworthy if he flees an attack that scatters half his regiment? . . . In narratives of the hopeless and the near-hopeless, of human beings experiencing powerlessness and self-delusion, [Crane] managed to record a new kind of consciousness, giving the reader glimpses of the self as an opaque and somewhat mechanistic thing.”

    Will media rivals Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone become business partners? “Historically, a deal between Redstone and Murdoch would have been considered anathema by both men,” Buzzfeed points out. But it may become necessary, now that they face “digital disruption, declining advertising, and the impending mergers of distributors Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV.”

    Nicholas Wade’s recent book about genes and race, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, is about as racist as it sounds, argues Phillip Cohen at the Boston Review. “In Wade’s telling, the Caucasian and East Asian races comprise the richest and most powerful nations in the world because they are genetically better adapted to success in modern capitalist systems than are Africans and the other racial groups, who remain steeped in tribalism, the ‘default’ human condition.”

    Emily Gould

    Emily Gould

    Emily Gould, whose first novel, Friendship, is forthcoming in July, has left her position at 29th Street Publishing.

    Sunday’s US-Portugal World Cup game was the most-watched soccer telecast ever, drawing a total of at least 24.6 million viewers.