• October 15, 2014

    Richard Flanagan

    Richard Flanagan

    The Australian writer Richard Flanagan collected the Man Booker Prize yesterday for his book The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

    The forty-eight-year-old San Francisco Bay Guardian has abruptly stopped publication; its owner, the San Francisco Media Company, is pulling funding. Today’s issue will be the last.

    At Buzzfeed, Dao Nguyen has been named publisher, which means, CEO Jonah Peretti says, overseeing “tech, product, data and everything related to our publishing platform.”  Nguyen has been in charge of “growth” at the website for some time, and has done very well: Buzzfeed claims to be attracting 150 million users per month. Read Peretti’s letter announcing the hire here.

    At Granta, an email conversation between Sam Lipsyte and Diane Cook, who was his student. “Just writing whatever wasn’t really being a writer,” Cook says, about her early approach to her work. A writer is “someone with a creative or intellectual project that lasted not the length of a story but over years of writing many different things.”

    The New York Times is releasing a digital archive of old ads, and has requested that viewers help to identify them. (The program housing the ads can’t recognize their content, so viewers will be providing the information to tag and sort them.) The first iteration of the archive holds ads from from the 1960s; subsequent decades will appear soon.

    The finalists for the inaugural Kirkus Prize have been announced. Among the novels listed are Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World, Dinaw Mengestu’s All Our Names, Brian Morton’s Florence Gordon, and Sarah Waters’s The Paying Guests.

  • October 14, 2014

    Cornel West

    Cornel West

    Cornel West was among those arrested yesterday at a protest outside the police department in Ferguson, Missouri.

    The Washington Post has announced that Carlos Lozada, currently an editor at the paper’s Outlook section, will become its new nonfiction-book critic. “This summer, Carlos developed a detailed proposal on how to reimagine the role of the nonfiction book critic for a digital age—and proceeded to pitch himself for the role,” the Post says in an announcement of the hire. “He had a great idea, and we agreed that he’d be perfect for it.”

    The Man Booker Prize was opened this year to American writers, and Peter Carey, who is among the few people to have won it twice (with his novels Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang) isn’t happy. “The old Booker had a particular cultural flavour,” he said. “The Pulitzer and the National Book awards have their sorts of flavours. I suppose I’m not generally in love with the notion of global marketing.” The shortlist includes two Americans: Karen Joy Fowler and Joshua Ferris. Others on the list include the Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan, and the British writers Ali Smith, Howard Jacobson, and Neel Mukherjee. The winner will be announced this evening.

    The cover of this week’s New Yorker poignantly depicts the Bookforum offices.

    The New York Times has halted the chess column. The last installment ran on Sunday.

    Lena Dunham will direct a film adaptation of the YA novel Catherine, Called Birdy, a book that is, according to her, “hyper realistic and really pretty and . . . full of incest and beatings.”

  • October 13, 2014

    Juergen Boos

    Juergen Boos

    According to Publisher’s Weekly, professional attendance was down at the Frankfurt Book Fair, but general enthusiasm was up, and “business was brisk.” HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray, who spoke at the fair’s opening ceremony, proclaimed it a time for digital experimentation. Frankfurt Book Fair director Juergen Boos suggested that the fair itself is planning many changes, announcing that in 2015, English-language publishers will move to a more central location. “We know that digital is going to stay, print is going to stay, Amazon is going to stay,” Boos said. “But it is not the end of the world. I am not scared to change.”

    David Plotz, who left his position as editor in chief at Slate in July, has announced that he has taken a job as the chief executive of Atlas Obscura. The website, cofounded in 2009 by Joshua Foer (author of Moonwalking with Einstein) and Dylan Thuras, focuses on “extraordinary, weird, and fascinating places—both around the world and around the corner.” Plotz, the author of The Genius Factory, calls the site “Nice Vice,” and is seeking investors to help him add new staff and relaunch the site next year.

    At Women’s Wear Daily, David Remnick talks up this year’s New Yorkerfestival, reflects on the evolving role of the editor, and takes a firm stand on “native advertising”: “What I object to is tricking the reader  and blurring the lines so that unsuspecting readers, thinking that they are getting something that is assigned and edited by the editorial side, are getting something quite different. They are getting an advertisement.”

    According to the Guardian, a well-known British performer (whose name is withheld) has been banned from publishing a memoir that details his childhood experiences of sexual abuse. Using an obscure Victorian law, the performer’s ex-wife obtained a legal injunction, arguing that she did not want their child to read the book. The book has been shelved, and the case will now go to trial.

    Salman Rushdie is attacking the “hate-filled rhetoric” that is currently persuading “hundreds, perhaps thousands of British Muslims to join the decapitating barbarians of Isis.” He points out that he “may not have survived if The Satanic Verses had been published today.”

  • October 10, 2014

    Paul Budnitz

    Paul Budnitz

    The New York Observer profiles the social-media network Ello, known as Facebook’s new competitor. Ello insists that it is not trying to take over Facebook, but rather offer “a small alternative.” “Success to us just means that Ello works and that people use it,” says Paul Budnitz, a co-founder of the website. “There’s no way we’re not going to survive.” Right now, people are joining at a rate of 40,000 per hour. 

    A member of the Nobel Prize committee, Horace Engdahl, has suggested that writers’ increasing “professionalization” has been detrimental to their art. “Previously, writers would work as taxi drivers, clerks, secretaries and waiters to make a living. Samuel Beckett and many others lived like this. It was hard—but they fed themselves, from a literary perspective.” It’s been pointed out that Engdahl—an editor, critic, and professor—does not feel so strongly about his view that he drives a taxi himself. Meanwhile, French writer Patrick Modiano, who was just awarded the Nobel, was reportedly “happy” about it but found the whole thing “weird.” The committee was unable to contact Modiano before the public announcement, so he found out along with everybody else.

    Vivian Schiller has stepped down from her position as head of news at Twitter. Schiller, who has been CEO of NPR and the chief digital officer at NBC, joined the company last October.

    A cache of previously unpublished stories by Truman Capote has been found by a Swiss publisher. Four of the stories, which are believed to have been written between 1935 and 1943 (when Capote was between the ages of eleven and nineteen), appear this week in a German magazine. Random House will publish the full collection next year.

    A recent CNN segment on Ebola ran a headline calling Ebola “the ISIS of Biological Agents.” At the New Yorker blog, Teju Cole asks if that quite captures the situation. “Is Ebola the Boko Haram of AIDS? Is Ebola the al-Shabaab of dengue fever? Some say Ebola is the Milosevic of West Nile virus. Others say Ebola is the Ku Klux Klan of paper cuts. It’s obvious that Ebola is the MH370 of MH17. But at some point the question must be asked whether Ebola isn’t also the Narendra Modi of sleeping sickness.”

    Jon-Jon Goulian on his friend Wade, why New York is “a hundred times better than anywhere else” (mainly all the free stuff:”free movies, free concerts, free hors d’oeuvres at Fairway and Zabar’s, so much stuff here is free!”) and the one thing that Los Angeles has over New York, which we won’t spoil by telling you about. The piece is excerpted from Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakable Love for New York.



  • October 9, 2014

    Patrick Modiano

    Patrick Modiano

    The French writer Patrick Modiano has been awarded the Nobel Prize. Modiano was born in 1945, to a Belgian actress mother and an Italian-Jewish father. His first novel, La Place de L’Etoile, about a Jewish collaborator in World War II, was published in 1968. (His father reportedly so disapproved that he tried to buy up all the copies.) Modiano has published more than twenty-five books since, among them Missing Person, Out of the Dark, and Dora Bruder. I prefer not to read my early books,” he said in 2010. “Not that I don’t like them, but I don’t recognize myself anymore, like an old actor watching himself as a young leading man.”

    Philip Roth wasn’t expecting the prize. If he’d wanted to win it, he told the New York Times, he would have called Portnoy’s Complaint “The Orgasm Under Rapacious Capitalism.” Dwight Garner points out that the Nobel committee’s blind spot is “mostly for wit.”

    Kim Gordon’s memoir, Girl in a Band, will be released in February 2015. The book describes Gordon’s many years with Sonic Youth and the breakup of the band (and that of Gordon’s marriage to Thurston Moore).

    Are buyouts a good idea for the employers who offer them? They can have a “perverse incentive structure,” Capital New York says, discussing the Times‘s recent round of layoffs, because those who choose to take them “self-select for success”: “The people who usually take buyouts are the people who can get jobs elsewhere, and those are precisely the people you would tend to want to keep. . . . On the other hand, management can and does suggest that under-performers consider buyouts—sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.”

    Edith Wharton’s 1913 novel Custom of the Country will be adapted into an eight-part TV series. Scarlett Johansson will play the peerlessly shallow and calculating Undine Spragg, who social-climbs her way into New York society via a series of marriages and divorces. Johansson will also produce the series.

    On the New Yorker‘s fiction podcast, George Saunders reads Grace Paley and Barry Hannah.

  • October 8, 2014

    Emma Cline

    Emma Cline

    Emma Cline’s debut novel, The Girls, provoked a bidding war among twelve publishers and sold to Random House, as part of a three-book deal, for somewhere in the ballpark of seven figures.

    Now that the New York Times Magazine’s “One-Page Magazine” has been disposed of, editors Samantha Henig and Jon Kelly offer an oral history of the page’s “Meh List.”

    A Swedish Nobel prize judge thinks that the “professionalization” of writers—via grants and creative writing courses—is putting the future of Western literature in jeopardy.

    Sinead O’Connor is writing a memoir, and promises it will be juicy: “I look forward to dishing the sexual dirt on everyone I’ve ever slept with,” she said.

    Dean Baquet, the Times’sexecutive editor, has responded to the criticism that he doesn’t tweet enough (to date, he’s tweeted exactly twice) by arguing that Twitter has become “a new priesthood” for journalists.

    The Washington Post will get a boost from Amazon’s Kindle: the Post is developing an app that will compress the daily paper into a tablet-friendly format, free for Kindle owners.

    Here’s an excerpt from John Jeremiah Sullivan’s introduction to Best American Essays 2014, which comes out this week.

  • October 7, 2014

    The new issue of Dissent is out, with pieces on politics and the novel from Helen DeWitt, Nikil Saval, Roxanne Gay, and Vivian Gornick. In his introduction to the issue, David Marcus writes that political novels “can help keep our eyes on the present,” offering “neither visions of what our lives ought to be like in the future nor paeans to how our lives once were lived.”

    The BTK serial killer explained in a letter from prison that he will cooperate with the writer Katherine Ramsland, a forensic psychology professor at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, on her book about his crimes.

    The New York Times‘s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, responds to complaints that the paper’s coverage of the Amazon/Hachette dispute has been skewed in favor of Hachette. Sullivan says she agrees that the articles have tended to be sympathetic to the publisher more than the Amazon: “The Times has given a lot of ink to one side and — in story choice, tone and display — helped to portray the retailer as a literature-killing bully instead of a hard-nosed business.” Among other things, she calls for “greater representation” of people who think Amazon will be good for book culture. 

    Deep readers,” writes Will Self at the Guardian, will soon be “in very short supply.”

    Amanda Hess

    Amanda Hess

    Fortune’s list of the most influential women on Twitter names some women in media, including Amanda Hess, a writer at Slate; Ann Friedman, a journalist (who sometimes writes for Bookforum); and Jamilah Lemieux, the senior digital editor at Ebony.

  • October 6, 2014

    EMILY’s List—an organization that advocates for female Democratic politicians who support abortion rights—has partnered with Lena Dunham, who will promote the group during her author tour for Not that Kind of Girl.

    At Politico, Hadas Gold suggests that the Daily Beast is thriving thanks to Tina Brown’s departure, citing a 60 percent increase in traffic over the past year.

    Dodai Stewart

    Dodai Stewart

    Dodai Stewart is leaving her position as managing editor of Gawker’s Jezebel site to join Fusion.net, where she’ll join Jezebel founder Anna Holmes, who left the Wall Street Journal to join the Fusion staff in July.

    Late last week, the Washington Post ran what it’s calling its first native print ad. The ad, taken out by Shell, notes the petroleum company’s strives in energy efficiency. As Digiday points out, it looks like a lot of advertorials we’ve become familiar with. But the Post is proclaiming the ad “true native because it’s integrated among editorial stories on the page.”

    Gene Morgan and Blake Butler have announced the end of HTMLgiant, the literary website they cofounded six years ago. The site’s final day will be October 24. Contributors over the years have included Butler, Justin Taylor, Melissa Broder, Catherine Lacey, Alissa Nutting, and Roxane Gay. The site has at times been a strong supporter of small-press authors who haven’t received much attention elsewhere. But not everyone is unhappy about HTMLgiant’s closure. As the novelist Matt Bell wrote on Facebook: “One of the best things I ever did for my mental health was delete HTMLGiant from my Google Reader, after a writer there (still frequently celebrated in our community) thought it would be funny to write a post mocking my relationship with my wife as depicted on Facebook.… While I acknowledge that there were some good aspects to the site, especially early on, I have not and will not forgive that day, and I’m glad the rest of the shitty parts of that site are coming to an end too.” Gawker speculates that HTMLgiant’s closing is due to the most recent scandals in the so-called alt-lit scene.

  • October 3, 2014

    At Buzzfeed, Emily Gould says that the usual advice of how to react to online trolls is at best unhelpful and at worst harmful: “People who tell women to ‘just ignore’ gendered criticism, bullying, and harassment — which I’m fine with lumping together, because they’re all components of a system that works together to repress women’s work — are asking women to collaborate in their own silencing.” One of Gould’s main exhibits is a long and abusive piece about her by blogger Edward Champion, published earlier this year. Meanwhile Laura Miller has suggested, at Salon, that ignoring Champion is exactly the thing to do: “Say authors and publicists were to refuse to talk to and deal with him. Say readers stopped bestowing on him the favor of their attention, which is still attention, the thing he seems to crave most, be it ever so angry and accusing. That would be a new and powerful form of silence. Champion could go on ranting and raving, as is his right, but when nobody, but nobody is listening to you, you might as well not be talking at all.” (Note to readers who would like to follow Miller’s advice: Miller’s piece on Champion clocks in at 2,740 words.)

    Jenny Diski explains, or tries to explain, the unusual history of her relationship to Doris Lessing, who took her in when Diski was a teenager, and with whom Diski lived for years. “Over the years I called Doris ‘the woman I live with’, which I worried could be taken to have something a little unseemly or suggestive about it in those not quite yet permissive days; ‘the woman whose house I live in’ (less unseemly but odd); or most often, ‘Doris, my mumble, mumble, mumble’, ‘the person who bla bla bla’. Or I took a deep breath and went the whole hog: ‘Doris, who invited me to go and stay at her house when she heard …’ “

    The Huffington Post has a letter by New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet announcing the paper’s recent round of cuts. In the letter, Baquet explains the compensation terms, which depend on whether employees are represented by the Newspapers Guild or not. The buyout packages, Baquet promises, “are generous especially for people with decades of service.”

    WC-front-235x299Nell Zink issues a dispatch from August’s Worldcon—the World Science Fiction Convention, held this year in London—where she attended, among other events, a panel on “Being a Fan of Problematic Things.” Zink’s debut novel, The Wallcreeper, came out this week.

    The Economist and the Financial Times have recently begun selling ads at prices based not on number of page-views but on the how much time readers spend on a page. FT’s commercial director of digital advertising explains: “Logic would say: Let’s start to value the amount of time spent with a brand.”

    A lawyer representing a number of actors whose nude photos were leaked online without their permission has written a letter to Google threatening legal action. The letter describes Google’s “despicable, reprehensible conduct in not only failing to act expeditiously and responsibly to remove the Images, but in knowingly accommodating, facilitating and perpetuating the unlawful conduct.”

  • October 2, 2014

    The American Scholar has started a list of bad opening lines of novels—Richard Powers’s opening of Galatea 2.2, to take one example: “It was like so, but wasn’t.”

    Two new funders of Reddit, according to a list the website recently released: Jared Leto and Snoop Dogg.

    People are betting on who will win the Nobel Prize for literature, which should be announced next week. Ladbrokes has predicted the winner four times in nine years (not super confidence-inducing); this year, they have five-to-one odds on Haruki Murakami and twelve-to-one odds on Joyce Carol Oates. Don Delillo and Richard Ford come in at thirty-three-to-one.

    The New York Times plans to cut a hundred newsroom positions and eliminate the mobile app NYT Opinion.

    Marilynne Robinson

    Marilynne Robinson

    The editor in chief of the London Review of Books, Mary-Kay Wilmers, remembers the late Karl Miller, a founding editor, whom she met in the 1960s: “He was a charismatic figure, tall, fair, slim, nattily dressed, flirtatious and a little wayward – a head-spinner. But severe too. You minded your words and that was part of the attraction.”

    At the New Yorker, Joan Acocella reviews Marilynne Robinson’s new novel, Lila. “Robinson writes about religion two ways. One is meliorist, reformist. The other is rapturous, visionary. Many people have been good at the first kind; few at the second kind, at least today.” Michelle Orange reviewed the book for us in our latest issue.