• October 1, 2014

    Valeria Luiselli

    Valeria Luiselli

    The National Book Foundation has announced the winners of its annual 5 Under 35 program. This year’s honorees are Yelena Akhtiorskaya, nominated for her debut novel, Panic in a Suitcase; Alex Gilvarry, the author of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, also his first novel; Phil Klay, for his book of short stories, Redeployment; Valeria Luiselli for her novel, Faces in the Crowd, translated from its original Spanish; and Kirstin Valdez Quade, for her debut short-story collection Night at the Fiestas. The winners will be celebrated at a party on November 17 at powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn.

    At the New York Times, Ravi Somaiya identifies a change in New Yorker cover art over the years “toward the topical and provocative.” Editor in chief David Remnick says the shift began in the wake of the September 11 attacks, when the magazine ran a now-famous cover by Art Spiegelman that depicted the Twin Towers as black shadows against a dark background. This week’s New Yorker cover is not at all topical, but it is a product of the moment: For the first time, the cover’s online version is a GIF.

    USA Today reports that some at ESPN consider Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website a “disaster” due to lack of revenue, traffic, and advertising.

    Literary agent Andrew Wylie is gathering his high-profile clients—among them Philip Roth, Elif Batuman, and Salman Rushdie—to band together against Amazon’s domineering practices under the group Authors United. Wylie told the Times, “If Amazon is not stopped, we are facing the end of literary culture in America.”

    Feminist humor website The Toast, co-founded by Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe, has hired Roxane Gay to head its new vertical, The Butter—later to be spun off as its own website. Gay will have complete editorial control over the site, which will focus on cultural criticism. “It was gonna be The Butter or The Jelly,” Gay said, “but butter seems sexier.”

  • September 30, 2014

    The New York Times Book Review excerpts Hilary Mantel’s new collection, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, which has generated controversy in England over the title story. Here is Thatcher, seen through the eyes of the story’s would-be assassin: “High heels on the mossy path. Tippy-tap. Toddle on. She’s making efforts, but getting nowhere very fast. The bag on the arm, slung like a shield. The tailored suit just as I have foreseen, the pussycat bow, a long loop of pearls, and—a new touch—big goggle glasses. Shading her, no doubt, from the trials of the afternoon. Hand extended, she is moving along the line. Now that we are here at last, there is all the time in the world.”

    The 2014 Online Journalism Awards recognize ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity, and Susie Cagle’s “illustrated commentary” on San Francisco’s class war.

    In a podcast for the Guardian, David Mitchell talks about his latest novel, The Bone Clocks—including “why familiar faces from his earlier fiction keep popping up again, how he gets closer to his characters in the shower,” and “the glories of ‘the flotation tank novel.’” James Camp reviewed the book in our latest issue.

    Last weekend, Printed Matter sponsored the New York Art Book Fair at PS1 in Long Island City, Queens: three floors of publishers, artists, and art books from all over the world. Buzzfeed has some pictures.

    Tickets to Benjamin Kunkel’s play, Buzz, are now on sale. The production opens in previews on October 18, and will run until November 22.

    Following ongoing accusations, Newsweek has added plagiarism warnings to columns by Fareed Zakaria. Zakaria’s current employers, CNN and The Washington Post, dismiss the accusations; CNN President Jeff Zucker insisted that they “continue to have complete faith in Fareed.”

    Yesterday, Jennifer Weiner encouraged her Twitter followers to “BELIEVE IN WOMEN AS AUTHORS, NOT JUST STENOGRAPHERS OF THEIR OWN LIVES.”

  • September 29, 2014

    Yahoo has announced that on December 31 it will close the Yahoo Directory, “once the Google of its time.”

    Jeff Feuerzeig, the filmmaker who directed The Devil and Daniel Johnston, is planning a documentary about literary hoaxer JT Leroy, aka Terminator, aka Laura Albert. Rumors are now circulating that the film will be aired on A&E by Vice Media, and that Feuerzeig has begun interviewing the many writers, artists, and actors who were fooled by Albert’s hoax.

    Edward Champion

    Edward Champion

    This summer, books blogger and author interviewer Edward Champion posted an 11,000-word complaint about Emily Gould and the rise of what he called “Middling Millennials.” Champion was widely decried for his tone, his sexist vitriol, and his syntax. He responded to his critics by saying that he was going to commit suicide, and then said that he would be taking a break from writing to seek the help he needed. Late last week, the web erupted again when it was revealed that Champion had threatened via Twitter author Porochista Khakpour after she deleted a comment he had made on her Facebook timeline. The Daily Dot has published a recap of the Champion affair. Champion has been banned from Twitter. Writer Michele Filgate has urged publishers to not allow authors to be interviewed by Champion on his Bat Segundo Show. But apparently he is continuing to post on his Ello account.

    Richard A. Stengel, formerly the ME of TIME and now the under secretary of state for public diplomacy, has formed a group that is attempting to battle ISIS’s social-media tactics. “Posting on Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and Facebook, members of the unit question claims made by the Islamic State, trumpet the militants’ setbacks and underscore the human cost of the militants’ brutality.”

    Bloomsbury has purchased a biography of Jonathan Franzen, which will be published in Fall 2015. The book, titled Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage, was written by Philip Weinstein, an acquaintance of Franzen and a professor at novelist’s alma mater, Swarthmore College. ““It doesn’t pretend to be a full-scale biography,” Weinstein says. “It’s too early for that. He’s in full career mode. Someone later, a generation from now, will do that biography. It’s a report on who he is.”

    David Fincher’s film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl (Flynn also wrote the screenplay) opened at the New York Film Festival on Friday. Reviews have been mixed: Manohla Dargis calls the film a “precision machine,” but laments its lack of depth. (Last year, Mary Gaitskill reviewed Flynn’s novel for Bookforum.)


  • September 26, 2014

    Karl Miller

    Karl Miller

    Karl Miller, a founding editor of the London Review of Books, has died. He was eighty-three. Johnson edited the LRB for ten years, plus another three with Mary-Kay Wilmers, the current editor. The Guardian calls him the “greatest literary editor of his time, and one of the greatest ever.” 

    At Open Culture, you can watch Allen Ginsberg’s lectures on the literary history of the Beats. Ginsberg delivered the talks for a summer course at the Naropa Institute in 1977.

    Gawker got its hands on Vice’s style guide“Avoid corny colloquialisms like bucks, smackers, or samoleons,” the guide instructs. Also: “A handful of websites are actually becoming legitimate, respected news outlets; some might even call them ‘online magazines.’ On a case-by-case basis, we will italicize those. For example: ‘The Huffington Post ran an interesting rebuttal to an essay from the LA Review of Books, but Gawker made fun of both of them because those guys are mean.'”

    The New York Times Magazine is looking forward to an extensive redesign in 2015, Capital New York reports. In the meantime, we’ll see a few changes to the lineup. A handful of regular front-of-book and back-of-book sections will be killed, though The Ethicist and a weekly Q&A will remain, and the feature well will now include four rather than three pieces a week.

    A choice quote from a profile of James Frey at the Wall Street Journal: “I want to prove them all wrong. . . . I want to make everybody who hates me give up.” Next week, Frey’s “media empire” will release the novel Endgame, accompanied by a YouTube channel, 50 social-media accounts, a video game, and a puzzle, the first solver of which will be paid $500,000 in gold coins.


  • September 25, 2014

    New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet has announced his new masthead. He retired the managing editor position (which he formerly held), and created in its place the position of deputy executive editor, to which he promoted four people—Susan Chira, Janet Elder, Matt Purdy, and Ian Fisher.

    A Twitter call for words journalists write but people never say produced this list: lambaste, foray, ballyhoo, tout, oust, fornicate, salvo, pontiff, bolster, and opine. A funny assortment, but if we were to reduce written English to words people actually use—or what about the syntax people use?—there wouldn’t be a lot to choose from.

    Slate and the Whiting Foundation will be recognizing second novels with a new award—or rather, more of a list. The five novels—to be chosen by novelists Yiyun Li and Colson Whitehead, bookseller Sarah McNally, New Yorker web editor Sasha Weiss, and Slate editor Dan Kois—will be announced on November 19.

    Saul Williams

    Saul Williams

    Combination exclamation marks and question marks are called interrobangs, or so we learned on National Punctuation Day, which was yesterday.

    Amtrak has granted twenty-four people residencies, including Saul Williams, Darin Strauss, and Jennifer Boylan.

  • September 24, 2014

    The Believer Logger interviews David Bezmozgis, whose female characters, he says—“ex-Soviet or Russian-Jewish women”—are “tougher” and “more pragmatic” than the men “because they are obliged to be. They have all the female responsibilities and all the male responsibilities.”

    The Los Angeles Register, a daily paper that was launched in April, has stopped publication, the New York Times reports. Aaron Kushner founded the Register with the intention to offer local news and a “very different political perspective”—meaning a conservative one. “On a fiscal basis, we very much believe in free markets and on the personal liberties side,” Kushner said last December. “We believe firmly that people should be able to live their lives.” The paper’s problem, as Kushner explained it in a letter on Monday, was that it couldn’t find enough readers.

    The French press—the industry, not the coffee maker—is in trouble, says Nieman Reports, especially the forty-one-year-old paper Libération (founded by Sartre).  Circulation has dropped, and the website has fewer than 10,000 paid subscribers.

    Joan Didion

    Joan Didion

    Hilary Mantel has been undaunted by the negative reaction of some people to a recently published story of hers, which describes an assassin preparing to kill Margaret Thatcher. “Some of these people are not what you’d call great intellects,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “Of course they don’t bother to read the story.”

    The Atlantic Wire, which was separated from the Atlantic a year ago, is getting reintegrated into the magazine’s regular website.

    Next month, Vintage will release nine of Gabriel García Márquez’s books in digital editions.

    Joan Didion is to be inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

  • September 23, 2014

    David Graeber

    David Graeber

    Last week, The Baffler sponsored a debate between David Graeber and Peter Thiel that Thiel’s team called “objectively, a waste of time,” according to the New York Times, which covered the event in Monday’s edition. Baffler editor John Summers was charmed: “I’m thinking we should embrace the tagline for our next event.”

    Politico reports that the Times is considering a round of buyouts that would cut fifty jobs from the paper. A company spokesperson refused to comment, dismissing the claim as “rumors and speculation.” Further rumor and speculation (via Capital New York) has it that executive editor Dean Baquet will soon reveal his new masthead. Baquet may promote four existing staffers—Susan Chira,  Ian Fisher, Matt Purdy, and Janet Elder—to a team of “top deputies.”

    The New York Review of Books excerpts Robert Darnton’s book Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature. Censorship, Darnton explains, “is essentially political; it is wielded by the state”—usually, with great care. “To dismiss censorship as crude repression by ignorant bureaucrats is to get it wrong. Although it varied enormously, it usually was a complex process that required talent and training and that extended deep into the social order.”

    At the New Inquiry, Sabrina Alli criticizes “re-entry” programs, which attempt to induct people back into the workforce after they’ve been in jail, in ATIs (alternatives to incarceration), or on probation or parole. The programs do the opposite of what they’re intended to do, Alli writes: “Regardless of effective and well-intentioned teachers, re-entry education, like schools in economically disenfranchised neighborhoods, are designed to continue the coercive disciplinary technology of the carceral network its students are supposed to learn how to escape or transcend.”

    Chris Beha recently finished reading the works of Henry James in toto. The point of the marathon was to have fun, he says on the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog—not, as his friends sometimes insinuated, to impress people or self-flagellate. For Beha, there’s something wrong with the way the debates about “fun” vs. “difficult” literature have been framed, a fallacy that becomes especially clear in conversations about YA lit. James did more than anyone to “refine the popular form of the novel into a work of high art,” and yet James’s point was still, was always, the fun: He thought a writer ought always “to intensify his whole chance of pleasure.” For the reader, Beha writes, “putting down Harry Potter for Henry James is not one of adulthood’s obligations, like flossing and mortgage payments; it’s one of its rewards, like autonomy and sex.”

  • September 22, 2014

    Sarah Kendzior has announced that she is leaving her position as an op-ed columnist at Al Jazeera English, due to what she calls “new rules,” which allow “no room for freedom of thought.” “Writing for AJ English has been great,” she writes. “I will always be grateful to them for running work on poverty, race, and other controversial topics.” You can find an archive of her columns, the most recent of which focused on the murder of Michael Brown and racial discrimination in St. Louis, here.

    Scott Stossel

    Scott Stossel

    At Neiman Reports, Scott Stossel—author and editor of The Atlantic—talks about the challenges of keeping a print magazine and a website relevant, and about the importance of publishing good cover stories, maintaining gender and racial parity, and paying writers.

    The New York Times reports on Campfire, Amazon’s “literary weekend” retreat for writers and artists that takes place near Santa Fe every year. Past attendees include Ayelet Waldman, Michael Chabon, Moby, and Werner Herzog. But don’t expect any of them to talk about it. Amazon has asked participants to keep quiet about the affair, and so far writers are following the request, leading the Times to write: “Whether or not fear of Amazon is legitimate, it exists.”

    The Guardian has published a short story by Hilary Mantel that features an assassin whose target is Margaret Thatcher. “Hilary Mantel: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher–August 6th 1983″ appears in Mantel’s new collection. The Telegraph was originally slated to publish the excerpt, but declined after an editor “decided they were too offensive for the its Tory-supporting readers,” the Independent reports

    Weirdly dispiriting and irrelevant”: This is how Flavorwire describes the longlist of nonfiction books nominated for the 2014 National Book Award. “It is replete with every new book that you would maybe get your dad for the holidays.”

  • September 19, 2014

    On Tuesday the Guardian’s weekday paper launched a new longreads section, headed up by Jonathan Shainin, previously at the New Yorker. The “Journal,” as it is called, will include opinion and reviews together with features of three to five thousand words. Among the section’s first pieces is a profile of the Uruguayan president, José Mujica, an adherent of what the writer, Giles Tremlett, calls a “soft, pragmatic socialism.”

    At the New York Times Magazine, John Jeremiah Sullivan profiles Donald Antrim, whose new collection of stories, The Emerald Light in the Air, just came out. What distinguishes Antrim from the school of writers he’s usually associated with (DFW, George Saunders, the Jonathans Lethem and Franzen, David Means, Jeffrey Eugenides), Sullivan argues, is the unredeemed nature of his characters. “Antrim’s fictional universe is different. It doesn’t bend toward justice, not even the kind that knows there is none but sort of hopes art can provide absolution. His universe bends — it is defi­nitely bent — but always toward greater absurdity (in both funny and frightening guises).” Amie Barrodale interviewed Antrim for Bookforum back in 2012.

    Over at the LRB, Andrew O’Hagan reviews Glenn Greenwald’s No Place to Hide, in which, O’Hagan reports, “Greenwald hops from anxiety to anxiety, and spends quite a bit of time objecting to the Guardian’s ideas.” O’Hagan notes some “glory-hunting” on Greenwald’s part, but he is on the whole admiring: Greenwald “emerges from his own book as a very necessary kind of reporter in these times, someone who, no matter what his motivations, was able to withstand the hostile fire coming at him from members of his own profession.”

    Ariana Reines

    Ariana Reines

    An interview with the pseudonymous translator of a new translation of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s A Sentimental Novel, which the interviewer describes as “a compendium of . . . sadistic fantasies”—to be more precise, two hundred and thirty-nine numbered paragraphs describing a fourteen-year-old girl’s violent sexual initiation—explains the translator’s decision to remain anonymous as “unrelated to the possible reactions it might elicit in the United States or other English-speaking countries. It was, rather, necessitated by personal reasons having to do with my travels to parts of the world where association with the material could put me at risk.” Dalkey published the book earlier this year.

    Ben Lerner calls the poet Ariana Reines a “go-for-broke artist who honors her traditions by being like no one else.” Of Lerner, Reines says that whenever she hangs out with him she wishes “it could go on for infinity.” At Bomb, the two converse.


  • September 18, 2014


    Alison Bechdel

    Alison Bechdel

    The MacArthur awards have been announced. Among the writers are Alison Bechdel, author of the illustrated memoirs Fun Home and Are You My Mother?; Samuel D. Hunter, who wrote the play The Whale; and Terrance Hayes, a poet.

    The 2014 National Book Awards nonfiction longlist names Anand Gopal, Walter Isaacson, Edward O. Wilson, Evan Osnos, and John Lahr, among others. Notably, only one book written by a woman makes the list of ten: Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?. Chast’s nomination is notable for another reason too: This is the first time a cartoonist has been among the nonfiction selections.

    Scottish people are voting today on a referendum that could lead to Scotland becoming an independent country. J.K. Rowling and Denise Mina are against the referendum, the LA Times reports. Rowling explains: “If we leave, though, there will be no going back. This separation will not be quick and clean: it will take microsurgery to disentangle three centuries of close interdependence, after which we will have to deal with three bitter neighbours.” A. L. Kennedy, Irvine Welsh, and Val McDermid, on the other hand, are all in favor: “Yes is the progressive vote,” Kennedy says. “It continues the vast expression of disillusion that produced a landslide protest vote for Scotland’s only non-Westminster party.”

    The HarperCollins imprint Ecco has acquired the forthcoming book ISIS: The State of Terror, coauthored by Jessica Stern (Denial: A Memoir of Terror,Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill) and J.M. Berger (Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam). The book—which will not only report on ISIS’s history but also explore international responses to the group—will be published in January of 2015.

    Three months after becoming SPIN’s editor in chief, Craig Marks has parted ways with the publication.

    In another change of the guard, the editor in chief of the New Republic, Chris Hughes, has announced that he is stepping down. Hughes will become executive chairman instead, and stay on as publisher. No one will be appointed editor in chief in his place; instead, Franklin Foer will handle editorial content and strategy in his current capacity as editor. Hughes has hired Guy Vidra as the magazine’s first CEO.