• March 2, 2014

    David Remnick has posted an article about the upheaval in the Ukraine, and about Putin’s invasion of Crimea, at the New Yorker’s website. “Putin’s reaction exceeded our worst expectations. These next days and weeks in Ukraine are bound to be frightening, and worse.”

    Juliet Macur

    Juliet Macur

    Yesterday, the Sports section of the New York Times ran an excerpt of sportswriter Juliet Macur’s new book Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong, which will be released this week. The excerpt states that by 1993, Armstrong was preparing for his races by using “the blood booster EPO, human growth hormone, blood thinners, amphetamines, cortisone, painkillers, and testosterone.” John Hendershot, whom Macur calls a “mad scientist,” administered these drugs and others to cyclists in groups, and likened it to having a “team dinner.”

    In 2008, after the Lehman Brothers collapsed and the government had to bail out the American International Group, Amit Chatwani decided to stop writing his parodic Wall Street blog Leveraged Sell-Out. But now, after five years of silence, Chatwani’s blog is back.

    The New Republic’s longtime literary editor, Leon Wieseltier, recently circulated a letter in which he called New Republic senior editor John Judis’s new book, Genesis: Truman, American Jews and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict, “shallow, derivative, tendentious, imprecise and sometimes risibly inaccurate.” Now, some are questioning whether the magazine’s owner, Chris Hughes, and its editor, Franklin Foer, have Wieseltier “under control.” “Is there an editor at the New Republic capable of preventing this kind of vicious anti-collegial invective?” Andrew Sullivan asked. “Not when it comes to Wieseltier, it seems. Chris Hughes and Frank Foer seem to answer to him, and not the other way round.”

  • February 28, 2014

    In light of the controversy about The Observer’s recent piece about New York attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman (considered a Trump-ordered takedown by many), Jack Shafer writes: “If an editor can’t commission a hatchet job, or at the very least encourage a reporter to take a preferred direction, what’s the point of being an editor? Excessive fairness provides only one path to truth, and one man’s smear is often another man’s exuberant truth-telling.” Meanwhile, Gawker has uncovered emails showing just how the story developed, concluding that it was motivated, at least in part, by Schneiderman’s hostility toward Trump.

    As the New York Times points out, “paper is a star of this year’s Whitney Biennial,” which opens next Friday. In addition to a series of short books that has been created by Semiotext(e) specifically for the event (contributors include Lynne Tillman, Eileen Myles, Gary Indiana, Dodie Bellamy, and many others), there will be exhibits featuring the diaries of editor-artist Etel Adnan and the spiral notebooks of author David Foster Wallace.

    Matthew Zadrozny, whose picture on the blog Humans of New York has become a meme, has a serious message: He’s trying to stop the NYPL’s ominously named “Central LIbrary Plan.”Bhe3y9lIAAAUhww

    Yesterday, Al Jazeera announced a “Global Day of Action,” in which journalists from around the world advocated for the release of three Al Jazeera reporters—Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed and Mohammed Fahmy—who have been imprisoned in Cairo since December. As part of the protest, many of the prisoners’ supporters have been posing with signs reading #FreeAJStaff.

    Blake Bailey has written the definitive biographies of John Cheever and Richard Yates, and, most recently, of Charles Jackson (who wrote The Lost Weekend)—all writers, and all of whom struggled with addiction. Now, he’s telling his own life story, and that of his troubled brother, Scott.

    “Please cable 2000 dollars in pounds to me”: George Prochnik, author of the forthcoming book Impossible Exile, has posted a photo of a message that Stefan Zweig sent to Viking Press, his American Publisher, in 1933.


  • February 27, 2014

    Leon Wieseltier

    Leon Wieseltier

    The New Republic’s literary editor Leon Wieseltier is no fan of New Republic senior editor John Judis’s book Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict. Wieseltier praised a negative review of Judis’s book, calling it “tendentious, imprecise, and sometimes risibly inaccurate” (among other things).

    A movie of Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn starring and directed by Edward Norton will begin filming in New York later this year.

    March Madness for bookworms begins next week, with the Morning News Tournament of Books. The brackets will be judged by novelist Jami Attenberg, novelist-critic Roxane Gay, and lead Mountain Goat John Darnielle, among others.

    Fifty Shades of Grey has now sold more than 100 millions copies.

    For those of you at AWP in Seattle, we recommend tomorrow (Friday) night’s Tribute to William S. Burroughs, which will feature Chuck Palahniuk, Anne Waldman, Alex Dimitrov, and Elissa Schappell. Ira Silverberg will moderate.


  • February 26, 2014

    Late last month, the Goldman Sachs employee behind the Twitter account GS Gossip—which publishes comments overheard in the firm’s elevator—sold his insider’s account of Wall Street culture to Simon & Schuster for six figures. The book, tentatively titled Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance and Excess in the World of Investment Banking, is scheduled to be released in October 2014. But there might be a problem. At the Times, Andrew Ross Sorkin reports that the author, John Lefevre, “doesn’t work at the firm. And he never did.”

    The Observer defends its recent piece about New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman against claims that it’s a hit piece ordered by one of Schneiderman’s enemies, Donald Trump. Trump is The Observer publisher Jared Kushner’s father in law.  

    According to a Swedish newspaper that has been granted access to the papers of Stieg Larsson, the novelist and bestselling novelist believed the he knew who organized the assassination of Swedish PM Olof Palme, who was shot in 1986. Larsson believed the organizer was a Swedish ex-military officer with ties to the South African government, of which Palme was vocally critical. As The Guardian reports, “It is a compelling story and only slightly undermined by the fact that Larsson probably appears to have been wrong.”

    Stieg Larsson

    Stieg Larsson

    At The Baffler, Alex Pareene looks at the evolution of the New York Times’s DealBook site. Run by Andrew Ross Sorkin (see above), the site is, according to Pareene, a “reliably market-prostrate, counter-informative—and immensely profitable—online clearinghouse of financial news and commentary.”

    The AWP conference starts today in Seattle and runs through Saturday (this last day, the fair is open to the public, after an outcry from exhibitors). Roxane Gay offers a guide to the conference.

  • February 25, 2014

    The VIDA count for 2013 has been released.

    Carl Van Vechten

    Carl Van Vechten

    Carl Van Vechten was a New York socialite, a “best-selling writer of scandalous novels,” connoisseur of American literature, and a champion of writers of the Harlem Renaissance, including Nella Larsen and Langston Hughes. He was also a photographer, and shot portraits of thousands of cultural figures. At the FSG blog, Edward White, the author of The Tastemaker, posts and writes detailed captions for fifteen Van Vechten photographs—of Harry Belafonte, Gertrude Stein, Henri Matisse, W.E.B. DuBois, and others.

    At Bookslut, the shortlist for the Daphne award, a reconsideration of the best book of 1963, was announced on Friday.

    Tonight at Housing Works, Keith Gessen, Emily Gould, Carla Blumenkranz, Eli S. Evans and Mel Flashman join Chad Harbach for the launch of MFA vs. NYC: Two Cultures of American Fiction.

    In the New Yorker, Jhumpa Lahiri remembers her 2009 meeting with Mavis Gallant in Paris, saying of the writer (who passed away last week at the age of 91): “The defiant choice she made, to live as an expatriate, without family, and solely by means of her writing, was and remains a revolutionary act. Both in life and on the page, she blazed a trail no one since has dared follow.”

  • February 24, 2014

    Writer Alexander Chee recently said that he found trains to be great places to write. “I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers,” Chee remarked. Amtrak is now granting his wish. Amtrak has plans to offer some writers free round-trip tickets. In fact, the program has already started: Jessica Gross has taken the “test run” residency.

    Jessica Gross

    Jessica Gross

    When New York magazine announced that it would become a biweekly last December, a press release promised a more “ambitious” print publication. At the New Republic, Isaac Chotiner takes a look at the first issue of the new New York, and finds it more or less the same.

    “Is it possible to read a piece of literary writing without imagining that the author has a gender (perhaps an unusual gender, or maybe two gender or three genders, but at least one)?” In an open letter to VIDA, critic and poet Stephen Burt poses thirty-one thoughtful questions about gender and identity.

    Two longform pieces of note: At the LRB, Andrew O’Hagan’s publishes an epic and engrossing essay on Julian Assange; at the Oxford American, John Jeremiah Sullivan considers the life and legend of Junior Braithwaite.

    Tonight at McNally Jackson books, Jenny Offill reads from her new novel, Dept. of Speculation.

  • February 21, 2014

    Matt Taibbi

    Matt Taibbi

    First Look Media, the online journalism company funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has hired Matt Taibbi to head a new magazine about politics and finance. Earlier this month, First Look founded its first digital publication, The Intercept, which will produce stories based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

    The Wikipedia Books Project is raising money in hopes of printing the online encyclopedia in book form, a project that will reach 1,000 volumes of roughly 1,200 pages each.

    Over the weekend, Anne Rice, the bestselling author of vampire novels and books about Jesus Christ, used Facebook to congratulate Ellen Page for coming out as a lesbian. When others started posting nasty comments, Rice “smacked the homophobes down.”

    Joyce Carol Oates says that Twitter is characterized by a “lynch mob mentality.”

    At Bomb, Dodie Bellamy discusses two new projects, Cunt Norton, and TV Sutras: “One of the things I learned by being involved in the avant-garde is that you don’t need realism to move people. Think of Kathy Acker. Her stuff can be boring as hell, but when it comes together, it is so intense. It’s like your mouth is gaping open by her weird manipulations. No one is trying to make this believable, but we are still moved by it.”

    The AWP conference in Seattle will now be open to the public after an outcry from exhibitors.  

    Tonight in Silver Lake, Triple Canopy and the LA Review of Books are hosting a party, “Are you Sure You Want to Unsubscribe?”

  • February 20, 2014

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of Americanah, has penned an essay speaking out against the anti-gay law in Nigeria, calling for its repeal: “We cannot legislate into existence a world that does not exist: the truth of our human condition is that we are a diverse, multi-faceted species. The measure of our humanity lies, in part, in how we think of those different from us.”

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    Rick Perlstein has just announced a new book to be published this summer, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, the third volume in his history of American Conservatism.

    Juan Tomás Avila Laurel, one of Equatorial Guinea’s most important living writers and most outspoken activists, has gone into hiding to avoid persecution by the official government. Laurel angered government officials after requesting a permit to stage a sit-in protesting police brutality.

    James Patterson has declared, “Our bookstores in America are at risk. Publishing and publishers as we’ve known them are at stake. To some extent the future of American literature is at stake.” It’s not the first time we’ve heard this, but Patterson is going beyond complaint and taking action, giving a million dollars of his own money to fifty indie bookstores across the country.

    The LA Times Book Prize finalists have been announced, with fifty books across ten categories being nominated, as well as a lifetime achievement award for Susan Straight.

    Plans are already underway for Obama’s presidential library, which will most likely be in Chicago (or possibly Honolulu). In the Times, architecture critic and author Witold Rybczynski makes the case that the president should “go small.”

  • February 19, 2014

    Canadian short story writer Mavis Gallant, who spent much of her adult life in Paris, died on Tuesday morning at the age of 91. Gallant was best-known in the US for stories published in the New Yorker (she wrote more than one hundred tales for them over the years). In 2013, the magazine’s fiction podcast featured Margaret Atwood reading and discussing Gallant’s story “Voices Lost in Snow,” and in 2007, Antonya Nelson read “When We Were Nearly Young.” Gallant’s work was collected in one volume in 1996, and the New York Review of Books have published several collections in recent years. Fellow Canadian author Michael Ondaatje said of Gallant: “She was our great writer. My hero.”

    BBC News has written an open letter to Egyptian authorities about Australian correspondent Peter Greste, who is currently in prison in Cairo and about to be tried for writing news reports that were “damaging to national security.”

    Mavis Gallant

    Mavis Gallant

    A trailer for Matt Wolf’s new film Teenage, based on Jon Savage’s book about the emergence of the teenager as a cultural identity.

    Authors and small press publishers are upset that the AWP conference, held this year in Seattle, won’t have a day that is open to the public, and, worst of all, that this disappointing news is just being announced now—a little over a week before it opens.

    Billy Corgan is planning an eight-hour ambient-music performance influenced by Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha.

    Recently, after President Obama made a dismissive remark about students of art history, a professor of art history at the University of Texas wrote a letter of complaint. The president, in turn, penned a personal apology. Hyperallergic reproduces the hand-written missive.

     Haruki Murakami has a new novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years or Pilgrimage, coming out in the US this summer. When the book was released in Japan last April, it reportedly sold more than a million copies in its first week.

  • February 18, 2014

    Facebook has tweaked its algorithm it uses to determine what appears in its news feeds, and it’s geared to encourage readers to share more “high-quality news content.”

    The George Polk Awards in Journalism were announced on Sunday, with Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill, Laura Poitras, and Barton Gellman winning for their NSA stories, which used documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Other winners included Andrea Elliott, for her heartbreaking five-part portrait of a homeless child in New York, and Pete Hamill, who won a career-achievement prize.

    Laura Poitras

    Laura Poitras

    At the New York Review of Books, Geoffrey O’Brien considers David O. Russell’s new film, American Hustle.

    The Saudi Gazette has appointed Somayya Jabarti to be its editor in chief, making her the first woman to hold this position in Saudi Arabia.

    Paper Monument’s 2012 anthology Draw it With Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment has been expanded into a website, which features assignments from contributors like Mira Schor, John Baldessari, Amy Sillman, and many others, as well as ones submitted by the site’s visitors.

    Yale University Press has announced that it will publish a new book about Marcel Proust, by Benjamin Taylor, in its “Jewish Lives” series.