• May 9, 2014

    Russell Edson

    Russell Edson

    Sarah Nicole Prickett interviews Nona Willis Aronowitz about her mother, Ellen Willis, and a new anthology of her mother’s writing, The Essential Ellen Willis. A music critic at the New Yorker and later a cultural critic at the Village Voice, Willis died in 2006, but a new generation of writers—including Sara Marcus, Sasha Frere Jones, Cord Jefferson, and Prickett—is championing her work.

    Politico reports that the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, is planning to launch a news service geared toward a conservative audience.

    The poet Russell Edson has died.

    In Bookforum, Dave Hickey, the author of Air Guitar, writes about poker, Vegas, and Colson Whitehead’s The Noble Hustle: “The more you know about your opponents, the less you know about their play, because poker is not self-expression. It’s all hustle and dazzle. Every poker player has a deceptive poker persona and an even more deceptive game. I know hard-ass wise guys who play like anxious librarians, and anxious librarians who will whack you off at the knees.”

    At the Observer, Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke asks how and why Adelle Waldman’s debut novel, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., became the sensation that it did.

    Reddit has revised the the privileges granted its volunteer moderators. Now, no single moderator can control the front page—which 110 million people visit every month—to the extent that used to be possible.

  • May 8, 2014

    The New York Public Library

    The New York Public Library

    In response to public outcry, the New York Public Library has abandoned its plans to redo the 42nd Street building. The renovation, which would have eliminated the book stacks under the main reading room and sent them to an off-site location, had a price tag of $150 million, and many critics. No fewer than four lawsuits had been filed against it.

    The Daily Mail has apologized to J.K. Rowling and paid her “substantial damages” for an article that she claimed mischaracterized a piece she wrote.

    With the American Scholar’s “Next Line, Please” project, the public is invited to build a sonnet line by line, beginning with this one: “How like a prison is my cubicle.”

    In the next month, Hillary Clinton and Timothy Geithner, two of President Obama’s top first-term advisers, will release memoirs shedding light on the administration’s handling of the economy and foreign affairs. Geithner has not, apparently, shown the White House an advance manuscript of his book Stress Test. But “drafts of Clinton’s book, Hard Choices, have been circulating for months among a small number of officials in Obama’s National Security Council.”

    Responding to a rigid new criminal code introduced by the Sultan of Brunei, which will punish “indecent behavior” (drinking, pregnancy outside of marriage, the failure to attend Friday prayers), the West Coast branch of PEN has canceled its plans to host its 2014 benefit at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is owned by the Sultan.

    Last night on Fox News, Lynne Cheney presented a theory for why Vanity Fair has chosen to publish a much-discussed essay by Monica Lewinsky in its June issue: “I really wonder if this isn’t an effort on the Clintons’ part to get that story out of the way. Would Vanity Fair publish anything about Monica Lewinsky that Hillary Clinton didn’t want in Vanity Fair?” Beth Kseniak, the magazine’s executive director of public relations, has this response: “Seriously?”

    At Salon, Elon Green presents Bloomberg News’ hiring of political journalists John Heilemann, formerly of New York, and Mark Halperin, formerly of Time, as a “hack nightmare.” “What do Heilemann and Halperin bring to the table? Well, says Justin Smith, chief executive of Bloomberg Media Group, they’re the ‘epitome of the type of quality journalistic talent that moves seamlessly between different kinds of platforms.’ This word salad is a fancy-talk for ‘they’re good on television,’ which isn’t exactly true.”

  • May 7, 2014

    Rivka Galchen

    Rivka Galchen

    Rivka Galchen will be appearing tonight at 192 Books in celebration of her new story collection, American Innovations (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Reviewing the book for us, Chloé Cooper Jones calls Galchen’s approach to life and death “an epistemological one.”

    The Poetry Foundation has awarded this year’s Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize to Nathaniel Mackey, and have posted an interview with Mackey, and a podcast of him reading and talking about his work. The Foundation also announced their award for poetry criticism to the University of California Press for their recent Robert Duncan books, with John Ashbery’s Collected French Translations, Emily Dickinson’s The Gorgeous Nothings, and Linda Leavell’s biography of Marianne Moore among the finalists.

    At the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog, Jessica Loudis talks to Sheila Heti about the question of whether to go to grad school. The interview is an excerpt from the anthology Should I Go to Grad School, out this week from Bloomsbury and co-edited by Loudis. “I have known a lot of people in grad school and no one seems very happy about it,” Heti says.

    The long list for the PEN literary awards—more than eighty titles selected by fifty judges—has been released.

    This Saturday at the Elizabeth Street Garden in New York, an exhibition of fifty artists responding to the work of Robert Walser opens, with events, performances, and screenings all weekend long.

  • May 6, 2014

    Salon mourns the closure of the oldest LGBT bookstore in the country, Philadelphia’s Giovanni’s Room.

    Tim Parks asks why the people who attend book events pose such stupid questions. “The irony perhaps is that what’s mysterious to them is even more mysterious to you.”

    George Prochnik will speak tonight at the New York Public Library about Austrian novelist and biographer Stefan Zweig, who in the 1920s and ’30s was the bestselling author in the world. Prochnik’s new book, The Impossible Exile (Other Press), is a study of Zweig’s final years in the US and Brazil, where he lived after fleeing Nazi Europe.

    Over at The Awl, founders Choire Sicha and Alex Balk are stepping aside as two new editors, Matt Buchanan and John Herrman, take over the day-to-day blogging. There’s also word of a redesign coming soon, but nothing too drastic, Sicha assures us: “Certainly we are trying to keep some elements of ‘jankiness’ and ‘terribleness,’ our visual trademark, but also it might actually be mildly attractive. We know.

    John Jeremiah Sullivan has won the James Beard Foundation food writing award for his essay “I Placed a Jar in Tennessee.”

    Lynne Segal

    Lynne Segal

    One of our favorite LRB writers, Jenny Diski, reviews Out of Time, Lynne Segal’s book about aging, which Verso put out last year (the LRB, endearingly, has never been too concerned with pub dates). “I can’t think of anything about the reality of aging which improves a person’s life,” Diski writes with characteristic dryness. “The wisdom people speak of that is supposed to come to us in old age seems to be in much shorter supply than I imagined, and apart from that, it’s a matter of how self-deceptively, or stoically, you are able or prepared to put up with the depletions, dependency and indignities of getting old.”

  • May 5, 2014

    The novel is dead (again). It will still be “be written and read,” Will Self argues in the the Guardian, “but it will be an art form on a par with easel painting or classical music: confined to a defined social and demographic group, requiring a degree of subsidy, a subject for historical scholarship rather than public discourse.”

    Hassan Blasim

    Hassan Blasim

    Twitter is dead too, the Atlantic’s Adrienne LaFrance and Robinson Meyer held last week: “Its users are less active than they were before.” Twitter says that this reflects “a more streamlined experience”; LaFrance and Meyer think its a sign of Twitter’s “twilight.” Maybe the problem with Twitter was that the idea was “so good, and so perfectly fit such a large market, that they never needed to go through the process of achieving product market fit”? Either way, Will Oremus at Slate isn’t worried. Twitter is more like YouTube than Facebook, he suggests, and is only likely to become more that way: “Don’t be surprised to see Twitter…[turn] its home page into a real-time news platform accessible to anyone, whether they’re logged in or not. That would expand its potential user base to include, for the first time, the majority of Americans. . . . If and when that happens, I doubt we’ll be hearing much about Twitter’s growth problem—let alone its demise.” Shares of Twitter ended on Friday at $39.01, and could drop toward $30. But it’s still over-priced, Reuters points out.

    An interview with Hassan Blasim, author of The Corpse Exhibition, a collection of stories about Iraq. “I still write in literary Arabic but I try to rid it of the rhetoric, the symbolism, and the stuff that ordinary people don’t understand,” Blasim says of his style.

    The new magazine Modern Farmer is getting a lot of attention after winning a National Magazine Award.

    What was it like having Philip Roth as a professor?

  • May 2, 2014

    Buzzfeed took down a post after Maria Popova complained that the site had reposted images that Popova had herself scanned for one of her own articles, about a rare 1995 edition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, illustrated by Ralph Steadman. According to Popova, Buzzfeed had represented the images out of context, leading her to call the site “the vermin on of the internet–or, for a more context-appropriate metaphor, the pigs of the internet.”

    The musician and Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein has been cast to perform with Cate Blanchett in Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel Carol. Published in 1952, just two years after the release of Highsmith’s debut novel Strangers on a Train (famously adapted by Hitchcock), Carol was originally titled The Price of Salt. The book’s lesbian love story was considered controversial enough at the time that Highsmith used a pseudonym: Claire Morgan.

    Eileen Myles

    Eileen Myles

    We’re excited to attend “Eileen Myles and Friends” at the Poetry Project on Saturday, which will feature poet-novelist Myles, novelist Sheila Heti, critic and essayist Hilton Als, and the music duo Body/Head (a k a Kim Gordon’s new band).

    An anonymous poster on Pastebin claimed yesterday that Google has been encouraging its employees for five years to steal money from publishers through AdSense. Gawker points out that the leak offers no evidence of the alleged theft, however, “aside from the lengthy description.”

    Another Ellen Willis essay from the new volume of her collected essays is available online, this one (“Up From Radicalism”) at Guernica. Willis was, among many other things, the first rock critic for the New Yorker. Bookforum also has an excerpt. (We can’t get enough.)

  • May 1, 2014

    Rebecca Lee

    Rebecca Lee

    The 2013 Believer Book Award goes to Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat and Other Stories. Karen Green’s Bough Down wins for poetry.

    The Academy of American Poets has a new website, which highlights their refurbished Poem-A-Day feature and has the nice option of isolating the poem on the page, uncrowded by boxes or menus or sidebars. Yesterday’s poem was Catie Rosemurgy’s “Star in the Throat, Fire in the Cupboard.”

    The PEN World Voices festival opened on Monday in New York with a lineup of short, politically focused talks by Noam Chomsky, the Tanzanian political cartoonist Gado, the Syrian poet Adonis, and Judith Butler, among others. This evening at 7 p.m., Bookforum editor Albert Mobilio will be speaking on a PEN panel at the New School about war writing, along with Phil Klay, Nadifa Mohamed, Roxana Robinson, and Joanna Scutts. Our next issue, as it happens, takes a special look at war.

    Salon has hired Jim Newell to blog about politics full-time for the site. We look forward to seeing more Newell, whose most recent piece for Bookforum was about Malcolm Gladwell and Amy Chua: “What gap in the rubble-strewn culture of the American meritocracy is the Gladwell franchise filling? For starters, his appeal seems to be existential. In much the same way that he defends his slipshod intellectual method as mere storytelling, with a self-evident and universal allure, he tells readers that their stories matter.”

    Here’s the trailer for a documentary about the late internet activist Aaron Schwartz.

    The Onion offers a sneak preview of Clickhole.com, a new site that will take on the eminently take-onable Buzzfeed and Upworthy. The New York Business Journal gives the details.

  • April 30, 2014

    A survey of 2,234 adults, published yesterday, finds that not much has changed since the poll was last conducted in 2008: apparently our favorite book is still the Bible and we still like Gone with the Wind second-best. There’s some good news: Atlas Shrugged has disappeared from the top ten.

    Alex Pareene, formerly of Gawker and Salon, joins First Look’s still-unnamed second vertical as executive editor. Pareene will oversee political content for the new magazine, which will focus on politics and finance.

    Martin Heidegger

    Martin Heidegger

    Heidegger’s recently published notebooks reveal an anti-Semitism more deeply seated than suspected. At the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog, Joshua Rothman reflects on the flaws of the philosopher he loves. “It’s . . .  impossible to set aside Heidegger’s sins—and they cannot help but reduce the ardency with which his readers relate to him. . . . Even if his philosophy isn’t contaminated by Nazism, our relationship with him is.” But Heidegger’s own philosophy provides an out, as Rothman notes: after all, “being wrong” is an “irreducible part of being a person”: “human beings are not calculators, but conjecturers.”

    The Webby awards honor Lawrence Lessig for “lifetime achievement.” The new publishing website Medium wins for Best User Experience and Best Visual Design.

    The Wellcome prize goes to Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree.

  • April 29, 2014

    “Net neutrality” describes a state of affairs in which the companies providing internet act like utilities, delivering service without favoring or blocking particular content. In the name of preserving this ideal, the FCC has recently unveiled a proposal that will in fact degrade it, according to many, in part by allowing internet service providers such as Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T to create what amount to fast and slow lanes. At the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal and Adrienne LaFrance offer a primer on the new proposal, and the Columbia Journalism Review suggests five ideas for reinventing internet policy.

    Check out this discussion at Music and Literature between two translators of Clarice Lispector and two writers who love her work. Rachel Kushner wrote about Lispector for Bookforum last year.

    Ellen Willis

    Ellen Willis

    Watch a trailer for The Essential Ellen Willis, a new book that collects the late writer’s essays on politics, music, and society. “The big revelation to me about women’s liberation was not that women were discriminated against, but that this was a political condition that you could actually do something about,” Willis says in the video. “What the left needs to do is to affirm a commitment to democracy in both spheres, and realize that whenever they’re talking about economics they’re also talking about sexual politics. What this involves is people becoming more radical, not compromising.” Read an excerpt of the book here at Bookforum.

    The New York Times’s “verified” commenters—the 478 people who can submit comments without their being vetted, like the rest of the comments, by Times staff—are selected algorithmically according to commenters’ history: ”We require a certain number of total submissions,” the deputy editor of interactive news explains, “and we also require a certain number of submissions over the past few months. Then, in both of those categories, we require a very high percentage rate of comments approved by our moderators versus those rejected.” By the way, the Times has a new video section. And the paper is getting excited about Jake Silverstein, the new editor of the magazine.

    The Los Angeles Review of Books is looking for part-time, “volunteer” copyeditors to join their ranks.  Does “volunteer” mean unpaid?


  • April 28, 2014

    Dustin Rowles writes about Salon’s decision to rewrite the headline of his recent and well-read think piece about “how we treat violent and sexual crimes differently.” As he points out, the new headline clashes with the actual intentions of the article. “Now, when I saw that headline, I didn’t even realize it was my piece at first, and I was pissed before I’d even read it.”

    Alice Goffman

    Alice Goffman

    The University of Chicago Press is hoping that Alice Goffman’s On the Run, a work of sociology that follows a small group of young black men in a Philadelphia neighborhood for six years, will reach more than an academic audience. UCP acquired the book, which they praise as an ethnography with “novelistic qualities,” when Goffman was only twenty. Goffman is the daughter of the late, celebrated sociologist Erving Goffman, author of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959). Whatever influence the elder Goffman had on his daughter could not have been transmitted personally; he died in 1982, soon after she was born.

    The Rumpus interviews Leslie Jamison, author of the recent essay collection The Empathy Exams. You can read “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain,” an excerpt of Jamison’s excellent book, at the Virginia Quarterly Review. “The wounded woman gets called a stereotype, and sometimes she is,” Jamison writes. “But sometimes she’s just true….The possibility of fetishizing pain is no reason to stop representing it. Pain that gets performed is still pain. Pain turned trite is still pain.” Over at Salon, Jamison joins Roxane Gay in conversation.

    A Google map showing every bookstore and library across the US.

    Instead of reading, we’re fetishizing the bookshelf.