• December 12, 2014

    Nominate your favorite novel of the year to be a contender in the Morning News’ 2015 Tournament of Books.

    “Gamergate,” a loose confederation of (generally antifeminist) gamers upset about how gaming is portrayed, apparently cost Gawker seven figures, according to the company’s head of advertising. In response to a tweeted joke by writer Sam Biddle, gamergaters urged advertisers to pull ads. Gawker’s response to Biddle’s tweet and the gamergate reaction was “inconsistent and confused,” writes Peter Sterne at Capital New York.

    Tom McCarthy

    Tom McCarthy

    Tom McCarthy on realism at the London Review of Books: “That such blatant and splendid take-downs of naturalism are written into the core of the realist tradition makes the naive and uncritical realism dominating contemporary middlebrow fiction, and the doctrine of authenticity peddled by creative writing classes the world over, all the more simple-minded.”

    The Times chooses the best book covers of the year. Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun is especially beautiful.

    In 1950, Neal Cassady wrote a sixteen-thousand-word letter to Jack Kerouac that inspired Kerouac to rewrite On the Road in a style more like Cassady’s. (Cassady apparently found his inspiration in a ten-page letter written to him by John Clellon Holmes.) The “Joan Anderson letter,” as it’s called (after a girlfriend of Cassady’s), found its way into Allen Ginsberg’s hands, then disappeared. Kerouac said at one point that Ginsberg had given it to a friend on a houseboat who dropped it overboard, but in fact Ginsberg had sent it to a small press, where for years it went unopened. An auction to sell the letter has been called off because the estates of Cassady and Kerouac are fighting over the rights; Kerouac’s estate wants “an agreeable split of the proceeds.”

    Gillian Flynn was nominated for a Golden Globe for best screenplay.

  • December 11, 2014

    Melville House is rushing publication of the newly released Torture Report. The 480-page book will be available December 30.

    Alan Rusbridger, the editor in chief of The Guardian, is leaving the newspaper. He’s been in the role for twenty years.

    Nick Denton has fired himself as president of Gawker.

    Claudia Rankine

    Claudia Rankine

    The Believer website has an interview with Claudia Rankine, whose recent book, Citizen, was nominated for the National Book Award. “If you make a mistake, then you should own that mistake,” Rankine says. “You should admit, ‘What I said was racist and that is really unacceptable.’ You don’t say, ‘Get a sense of humor.’ And you don’t say, ‘Grow up.’ The problem is not only that the blow is dealt. The blow is dealt, and then the brown or black person is told that the blow wasn’t a blow.” Parul Sehgal reviewed Citizen in our new issue.

    In the annals of pictures beating words: Instagram has reached three hundred million users, surpassing Twitter, which has 284 million.

    At the Washington Post, Marty Peretz, the former editor and owner of the New Republic, wrings his hands over the demise of his old magazine and mourns its argumentative spirit: “This is not the magazine I passed down.” Leon Wieseltier, who just stepped down as literary editor of TNR, agrees—naturally—about the virtues of disagreement. He says so at the Jewish Review of Books, praising, specifically, the “argumentative Jew.” “The most common understanding of disagreement, in the private sphere and the public one, is that it represents a failure,” Wieseltier asserts. “It does not.” Meanwhile, Ta-nehisi Coates points out that TNR “regarded black people with an attitude ranging from removed disregard to blatant bigotry.” Attitude-wise, the magazine’s publication of parts of The Bell Curve weren’t the exception but the rule.


  • December 10, 2014

    The New York Times has a rare interview with the reclusive Italian writer Elena Ferrante. “My women are strong, educated, self-aware and aware of their rights,” Ferrante says, “but at the same time subject to unexpected breakdowns, to subservience of every kind, to mean feelings. I’ve also experienced this oscillation. I know it well, and that also affects the way I write.”

    Future editions of Lena Dunham’s recent book, Not That Kind of Girl, will come with a note saying that “Barry” is not the real name of a character Dunham says raped her at Oberlin. A former student—whose actual name is Barry—threatened Random House with a lawsuit, saying he’d had to defend himself against people who thought it was him.

    Guy Vidra

    Guy Vidra

    Following the recent staff exodus at the New Republic, CEO Guy Vidra has written an open letter to the magazine’s readers outlining its future, which will, it seems have little to do with anything so dull and recherché as journalism. The New Republic is now in the business of creating “unique and compelling experiences.” It intends to “invest in product managers, engineers, designers, data visualization and multimedia editors,” who will provide “data to let readers immerse themselves” and “imagery and video to evoke a reaction as visceral as only those mediums can bring.” We at Bookforum are especially eager for the “tools” that will let us “tailor” the stories we read “depending on the time of day or where [we] may be.”

    Rather than lose our youth to assembling a roundup of all TNR stories, we’ll direct you to Choire Sicha’s “top 40” at The Awl, listed from worst (The Washingtonian: “B.J. Novak’s Character on “The Newsroom” Is a Lot Like New Republic Owner Chris Hughes”) to best (the Washington Post: “The moist-eyed Hughes would, in the coming months, prove himself to be neither an intellectual nor a partner but a dilettante and a fraud”).

    At Vox, Matthew Yglesias crawls out from whatever log he’s been living under to list five little magazines to pay attention to instead of TNR: Jacobin, the New Inquiry, n+1, the Baffler, and National Affairs.

    On cue, The Guardian interviews Ayesha Siddiqi, the New Inquiry’s editor in chief, in its ongoing series on women in online publishing. Siddiqi joined Twitter, she says, to tell jokes she thought Facebook couldn’t handle. She gained a following as comedians retweeted her. “After a certain point,” she explains, “my awareness of that audience fostered a sense of responsibility.”

  • December 9, 2014

    According to The Onion the Pew Research Center, “Americans feel better informed thanks to the Internet.”

    The Pulitzer Prize committee has expanded eligibility in two categories, investigative reporting and feature writing, to online and print magazines. They will also allow organizations to nominate journalists “employed by partnering organizations” even if the organizations are ineligible themselves.

    Vice held a suitably bacchanalian party for its twentieth anniversary.

    Jenny Diski

    Jenny Diski

    The Guardian profiles Jenny Diski, who has been writing riveting diaries about her inoperable lung cancer for the London Review of Books. Start with her first installment, “A Diagnosis,” move on to the second, and you’ll be hooked, subject matter notwithstanding. (The third and the fourth installments are paywalled: a good reason to subscribe.) The profile focuses on Diski’s relationship with Doris Lessing, who acted as her guardian from the time that Diski was fifteen, and with whom she had a complicated relationship that lasted for the rest of Lessing’s life. “She never read anything I wrote,” Diski reflects. “It was like she was always going on about how interested she was in education, but then when I became a teacher she always changed the subject. My writing could never be mentioned.”

    Ben Lerner’s year in reading, courtesy of The Millions, includes Maggie Nelson’s Argonauts, not out till next year, and Heteronomy, by poet Chris Nealon.

    At The Guardian, Jon Ronson talks to the family of Adnan Syed, whose murder conviction is being reinvestigated by Sarah Koenig for the wildly popular podcast Serial.

    First Look has launched a “social newsroom,” reported.ly, which, according to them, will “produce native journalism for social media communities, in conjunction with members of those communities.” They won’t use social media just to direct people to their site and away from their “favorite online communities,” they promise; they want to help readers “navigate the never-ending stream of rumors and footage.” What exactly this means remains to be seen.

    Tech reporter Jenna Wortham is moving from the New York Times to the Times Magazine, where she’ll be a staff writer.

  • December 8, 2014

    Conflicting reactions to the mass editorial exodus at the New Republic continue to emerge. At Slate, Seth Stevenson describes the backlash against TNR owner Chris Hughes, as well as the backlash against the backlash. At Vox, Ezra Klein suggests that the TNR, though long important, needs some kind of change: Under the leadership of new editor Gabriel Snyder, the revamped TNR, he points out, “won’t be what The New Republic was. And that’s because the thing The New Republic was has already died.” Max Fisher considers TNR’s “race problem,” and points out that “to my knowledge, not one of [the longtime editors who resigned last week] thought it was as resignation-worthy when [former TNR owner Marty] Peretz repeatedly wrote that Arabs have lower ‘standards of civilization,’ that blacks have an inferior ‘culture,’ that Latinos are lazy.” According to Advertising Age, an unnamed spokesperson for the magazine has announced that the next issue will not be published. “Given the departure this week of several editors and writers, the New Republic decided to cancel the issue rather than risk producing a magazine not in keeping with the traditionally high standards of the institution.”

    And now, New Republic owner Chris Hughes speaks, and reprimands the many editors who resigned last week: “If you really care about an institution and want to make it strong for the ages, you don’t walk out.”

    Hanna Rosin

    Hanna Rosin

    On Friday, following an investigative report in the Washington Post, Rolling Stone published a letter to readers acknowledging weaknesses in its much discussed story “A Rape on Campus,” which told the story of Jackie, a student who claimed that she was gang raped at a University of Virginia frat house. Most significantly, the reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, failed to get in touch with the young men whom Jackie had accused. Rolling Stone scrambled to apologize, first saying that its trust in Jackie had been “misplaced,” then emending their apology to take the blame from Jackie’s shoulders. Now the prefatory note to the article says that they were “mistaken in honoring Jackie’s request to not contact the alleged assaulters.” Many have commented on the story as it unfolded, including Chris Hayes, Matt Taibbi, and Hanna Rosin.

    David Graeber—a professor at the London School of Economics, an Occupy Wall Street organizer, and the author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years—has sold his latest book, The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy, to Melville House. The book will be published in February 2015.

    After writing more than 3,000 reviews in the past three decades, Jonathan Yardley has retired from the Washington Post.

  • December 5, 2014

    Leon Wieseltier

    Leon Wieseltier

    Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier are both leaving the New Republic, Foer to be replaced by Gabriel Snyder. (You can read the memos in question here.) Many have greeted the news as the end of an era; some gleefully (“Let the old guard die off,” more or less) and others with dismay. This morning, a rash of further resignations came: nine senior editors, the executive editor, the legal affairs editor, the digital media editor, the poetry editor, the dance editor, and fifteen contributing editors. The only senior editors not to have resigned are Evgeny Morozov, Rebecca Traister, and Brian Beutler.  On Twitter, numerous people reported canceling their subscriptions. Ryan Lizza, who was the first contributing editor to leave, tweeted that owner Chris Hughes had called Wieseltier to stay on the masthead as “Literary Editor Emeritus”; Wieseltier declined. At New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait eulogizes the magazine and criticizes owner Hughes: ”Frank Foer isn’t leaving TNR because he wasn’t a good enough editor. He’s leaving because Chris Hughes is not a good enough owner.”

    A previously unpublished novel by Ayn Rand, Ideal, will come out next summer.

    On Twitter, Ayelet Waldman reacted badly to the fact that her book wasn’t on the New York Times Notable list.

    Leslie Jamison’s year in reading included the poet Dorothea Lasky, Beautiful Children by Charles Bock, and two books by Maggie Nelson.

    Ben Okri won the Bad Sex in Fiction award for this humid passage: “She became aware of places in her that could only have been concealed there by a god with a sense of humour. Adrift on warm currents, no longer of this world, she became aware of him gliding into her. He loved her with gentleness and strength, stroking her neck, praising her face with his hands, till she was broken up and began a low rhythmic wail. She was a little overwhelmed with being the adored focus of such power, as he rose and fell. She felt certain now that there was a heaven and that it was here, in her body. The universe was in her and with each movement it unfolded to her. Somewhere in the night a stray rocket went off.”


  • December 4, 2014

    In New York, a Staten Island grand jury failed to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who put Eric Garner in the chokehold that killed him. It would be astonishing and enraging under any circumstances, but it’s even more so coming so closely on the heels of the Saint Louis grand jury that failed to bring charges against Darren Wilson. Thousands of protesters gathered in Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and Union Square after the announcement, and succeeded in blocking traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel, Brooklyn Bridge, and R.F.K. Bridge. Eighty-three people were arrested. This evening there will be a demonstration at Foley Square at 5:30 and another on 125th Street and Park Avenue at 6:00.

    At the New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer talked to Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, as she waited to hear the grand jury’s decision. Carr told the reporter that she was relieved when she found out that there was video evidence of Garner’s fatal encounter with the police, during which an officer strangled Garner to death: “I said to myself, ‘there is a God.’” Blitzer’s piece ends with a chilling quote from police commissioner William Bratton, who said the NYPD was prepared for the inevitable protests, and added, in an astoundingly insensitive pun: “We have the ability to have a level of tolerance—breathing room, if you will.”

    At The Toast, Mallory Ortberg wonders what good putting body cameras on police officers will do: “Eric Garner died unarmed. He died on the ground. He died because of an illegal chokehold. We saw it. The grand jury saw it. They saw it, and we saw it, and collectively we said, ‘We didn’t see that. That didn’t happen.’”

    Emily Gould picks her favorite novels of the year for The Millions, among them books by Sarah Waters, Mira Jacob, Elisa Albert, Nell Zink, and, as one (male) commenter apparently couldn’t resist complaining, just one guy, Brian Morton. Another commenter suggests (and we concur) that anyone similarly concerned about the lack of dudes can go look for them on just about every other year-end list.

    The arts writer Carol Vogel has taken a buyout from the New York Times.

  • December 3, 2014

    At Page-Turner, Adelle Waldman reconsiders the traditional novel. It’s “fashionable” to think of it as over, or to suppose that memoir and autobiographical novels are the only way forward. But the form offers possibilities that nonfiction and autobiography do not. Among them, it allows the writer subjects that aren’t herself: “Channeling people other than the author also makes possible the presentation of multiple consciousnesses, enabling novels to capture some of the populous cacophony of real life.”

    Raymond Chandler wrote a libretto to a comic opera, The Princess and the Pedlar. The work was registered at the Library of Congress in 1917 and subsequently forgotten about. Now the daughter of a woman Chandler was involved in late in his life wants to produce it. But the estate isn’t interested, it says, in Chandler’s juvenalia.

    At the Columbia Journalism Review, a discussion of longform platforms, including Latterly. Launched in November by Ben Wolford and Christina Asencio, Latterly pays contributors $2500 per piece.

    Bookslut’s Lauren Oyler explains why she dislikes Roxane Gay’s recent book, Bad Feminist: “The problem with Gay’s manipulation of feminism into a ‘bad’ version, it turns out, is that it’s not so different from no feminism at all; the rejection of ‘unreasonable standards’ for feminism quickly descends into the rejection of standards full-stop.”

    Gawker editorial director Joel Johnson has been removed from his position but not from the company. A “V.P.-level” position is available to him if he wants it, Nick Denton said: ”We need Joel’s mind, and we need it free of everyday distractions.” In Johnson’s place, Denton will hire an executive editor and a group managing editor.

  • December 2, 2014


    The Times has announced its notable books list for 2014.

    Our new issue is out and, we submit, it’s kind of special. To celebrate our twentieth anniversary, we invited current and former contributors—including Geoff Dyer, Christian Lorentzen, Christine Smallwood, Lydia Davis, Luc Sante, J. Hoberman, Chris Kraus, and many others—to write about notable books of the past twenty years. Meanwhile, Heather Havrilesky points out the best-seller list’s spectacular mansplaining, Melanie Rehak reflects on the Brooklynification of all food, and Christopher Lyon picks out the best art books. You can get all of that if you buy the print magazine in a bookstore or, better yet, subscribe. Also in the issue, Parul Sehgal praises Claudia Rankine’s National Book Award–nominated Citizen; Astra Taylor writes about the hacktivist collective Anonymous, Kaitlin Phillips noodles on her computer for the sake of Lena Dunham, and Kerry Howley investigates Laura Kipnis’s investigation of men. Check out the TOC here.

    The murder case that has been the subject of the transfixing podcast Serial is going to appeals court. Adnan Syed, who was convicted in 2000 of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, is now serving the fifteenth year of a life sentence. Syed has protested his innocence from the beginning, and his lawyer calls this appeal “his last best chance.” The podcast, produced and narrated by the reporter Sarah Koenig, has been exploring the case for nine episodes, and has reached more than a million and a half million listeners.

    PJ Harvey is coming out with a book of poetry, The Hollow of the Hand, next October. The book is a collaboration with photographer and filmmaker Seamus Murphy, who directed the music videos for Harvey’s 2011 album, Let England Shake.

    Reihan Salam, the new executive editor of the National Review, has been anointed “Brooklyn’s favorite conservative” by New York Magazine. Salam runs with a literary crowd, endearing himself to most and doing his best to endear himself to the rest too. He’s written for the Review for a number of years, and is a Slate columnist and a contributor to CNN.

    Goodreads researched people’s reading habits and found that 90 percent of the time men prefer to read men and women to read women. (Men prefer to be men 100 percent of the time, but that wasn’t covered in the study.) Nevertheless, people of both genders think women are ever so slightly better at writing: Women rate women writers an average of 4 out of 5 stars, while they rate men an average of 3.8. Men rate men average of 3.8 stars, but allow women an average of 3.9.


  • December 1, 2014

    At Al Jazeera America, Bookforum’s Chris Lehmann calls out progressives for failing to respond to the grand jury decision in Ferguson last week. “It speaks volumes about the anorexic state of liberal moral reasoning in today’s America that it has met the failure of a grand jury to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown with little more than a procedural shrug. All appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the system has worked, liberals intone.”

    At the new site the Toast, Roxane Gay writes about the Ferguson grand jury decision and the “dignity” of Michael Brown’s parents, and ponders the difficulty of using words at a time of rage.

    Laura Kipnis, author of the new book Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation, considers gender and threats to masculinity in the Ferguson case.

    Mark Strand, who was named the US Poet Laureate in 1990 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1999, died at his home in Brooklyn on Saturday. He was eighty years old. British “queen of crime fiction” P. D. James also died last week at age ninety-four.

    Jacqueline Woodson

    Jacqueline Woodson

    Jacqueline Woodson, who earlier this month won the National Book Award for her memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, reflects on the racism she has experienced as an African American, on NBA emcee Daniel Handler’s watermelon joke, and on changes in contemporary publishing. “Mr. Handler’s watermelon comment was made at a time of change. We Need Diverse Books, a grass-roots organization committed to diversifying all children’s literature, had only months before stormed the BookCon conference because of its all-white panels. The world of publishing has been getting shaken like a pecan tree and called to the floor because of its lack of diversity in the workplace. At this year’s National Book Awards, many of the books featured nonwhite protagonists, and three of the 20 finalists were people of color.”

    On Saturday, President Obama visited Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington, DC. Among the books he purchased were Denis Johnson’s The Laughing Monsters, Colm Toibin’s Nora Webster, and Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal.