• March 31, 2015

    The New York Review has reprinted some of Hilary Mantel’s written advice to actors who are performing the stage adaptation of her historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. To Cardinal Archbishop Thomas Wolsey, she states: “You are, arguably, Europe’s greatest statesman and greatest fraud.”

    Ben S. Bernanke, the former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, has started a new economics blog at the Brookings Institute’s website. Inaugural post: “Why are interests rates so low?”

    This June, a collection of early Elmore Leonard stories will be posthumously published.

    Lawrence Wright

    Lawrence Wright

    Last night, HBO aired their documentary expose of scientology, Going Clear: The Prison of Belief, based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book. The show portrays this so-called religion as corrupt, abusive, and kooky, and exposes its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, as a crackpot science-fiction author whose stroke of genius was realizing that while novels aren’t lucrative, writing can pay off if it’s used to found a self-help cult. Going Clear doesn’t spend much time looking at Hubbard as a wordsmith, but over at Salon, Laura Miller reads Scientology’s founding text, Dianetics, concluding that it’s not far removed from standard slush-pile fare—except for its disturbing violent streak, and a very real sense that Hubbard is battling with mental illness and past trauma.

    Andrew Sullivan, the prolific blogger who started his popular arts and culture site, The Dish, back in 2000, says he had to retire from the profession because the relentless pace of constant blogging nearly killed him. Sullivan, who was, prior to becoming a blogger, a longtime editor at the New Republic, complains that he has had to work seven hours a day—and worse, “for those seven hours or more, I was not spending time with any actual human being, with a face and a body and a mind and a soul.” He reports that he is now using his time more wisely—exercising and meditating, and not thinking about Hillary’s e-mails or the upcoming election.


  • March 30, 2015

    Nicole Krauss

    Nicole Krauss

    Nicole Krauss (The History of Love) has reportedly sold her next two books for $4 million to Harper, making a departure from her previous publisher, Norton. The first of these two books, Late Wonder, is described rather abstractly as “a searching and metaphysical novel about transformation, about moving in the opposite direction from all that is known and apparent.” The second title, How to Be a Man, is a book of stories.

    A sneak peak at the cover of Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Purity, which, as some have pointed out, features an image that bears resemblance to Gerhard Richter iconic paintings of the Baader-Meinhof group.

    John Waters performed an updated version of his one-man show, This Filthy World, at this year’s Tennessee Williams conference in New Orleans. “Trash and camp just don’t cut it anymore,” said Waters, who wrote the introduction to Williams’s journals, and still honors the playwright as a crucial influence. “Filth still has a punch to it. The right kind of people understand it and it frightens away the timid.”

    The New York Times Magazine is making moves to increase its web presence. Last week, the magazine hired Jazmine Hughes, who was previously a contributing editor at the Hairpin, as its new associate digital editor.

    Last week, the Boston Red Sox’s David Ortiz responded at length to reports that he has tested positive for a banned substances. As the Times points out, Ortiz chose an interesting place to publish his “blustery rant.” “Instead of being reported by a newspaper or a website known for breaking news, Ortiz’s remarks appeared as a first-person essay on The Players’ Tribune, Derek Jeter’s digital venture.”

  • March 27, 2015

    In The Baffler, Evgeny Morozov writes about the problems of technology criticism (he thinks it is willfully oblivious to political and social realities), and explains why he’s decided to abandon the profession: “For a long time, I’ve considered myself a technology critic. Thus, I must acknowledge defeat as well: contemporary technology criticism in America is an empty, vain, and inevitably conservative undertaking. At best, we are just making careers; at worst, we are just useful idiots.” At his blog, tech critic Nicholas Carr answers Morozov’s critique: “Morozov has come to believe that the only valid technology criticism is political criticism. In fact, he believes that the only valid technology criticism is political criticism that shares his own particular point of view.”

    Recently asked about a quote in The New York Times, Jeb Bush responded: “I don’t read The New York Times, to be honest with you.”

    Renata Adler

    Renata Adler

    At Vice, novelist Catherine Lacey talks to Renata Adler about her new collection of nonfiction, After the Tall Timber.

    Vice media and HBO have announced a new “content partnership.” Vice will now become the primary news source for HBO, and will produce a daily newscast. HBO will extend Vice’s weekly documentary series for another four years.

    Amazon is requiring temporary warehouse workers to sign an agreement that prevents them from working for competitors for eighteen months after their jobs with Amazon conclude.

    In an excerpt from her forthcoming book of diary entries, Heidi Julavits writes about how she became jealous of “diet mastermind” Dr. Fuhrman, when her husband, the novelist Ben Marcus, began following Fuhrman’s eating advice.

  • March 26, 2015

    In honor of its 150th anniversary, The Nation, which published its first issue on July 1, 1865, is publishing a celebratory issue that features articles by James Baldwin, Barbara Ehrenreich, Toni Morrison, Howard Zinn, among others, and is available as a free PDF download.

    Prospect magazine asked its readers to name their favorite “world thinkers,” and Thomas Picetty, the French economist and the author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, is at the top of the list.

    Charlie Hebdo has won PEN America’s Freedom of Expression Courage Award.

    Adam Thirlwell

    Adam Thirlwell

    The New York Times’s T Magazine blog offers a peek into the workspaces of seven celebrated authors, including Rachel Kushner, Paul Muldoon, Tom McCarthy, Chinelo Okparanta, and Adam Thirlwell. Kushner writes: “The discontinuity—that it is pretty and calm in here—is not entirely lost on me. And anyhow, whether reading one or trying to compose one, novels are terrain for discontinuities, sometimes violent ones.”

    “We smoked weed and drank Red Stripe and sometimes inhaled poppers, which would lend you huge brief bursts of euphoric energy and then foreclose, leaving you in a puddle.” At the NYRB Blog, Luc Sante writes about “Arleen,” a song by the Jamaican musician General Echo, and recalls nights he spent at Isaiah’s, “a dance club that materialized every Thursday night in a fourth-floor loft on Broadway between Bleecker and Bond.”

  • March 25, 2015

    After receiving numerous letters asking him to “host third-party content” at theatlantic.com, James Fallows pretended to be interested, and found out what some sponsored-content generators hope to accomplish. “I am looking at getting a article placed on your site by my team of creative writers regarding some of the latest industry news around [a big online gambling company], so the article would be igaming/gambling related,but not as a advertisement.”

    Pamela Paul

    Pamela Paul

    Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, has signed a book deal with Henry Holt and Company. The memoir, titled My Life with Bob, is a record of and meditation on books the author has read, and it is scheduled to be released in the Fall of 2017.

    Yesterday, the Man Booker International Prize shortlist was announced. In recent years, the prize has been criticized for being too insular, and barely “international” at all—the past three awards were all granted to North American authors. This season’s nominees are much more global in scope, with eight works in translation and six nationalities that have never before been up for the award. The winner will be announced on May 19.

    Facebook is holding talks with major media companies about hosting their news content. Instead of linking out to the publications’ websites, these stories would live directly on the social media giant’s site—a small change that could have big implications, especially for ad revenue. At The Awl, John Herrman examines what the deal could mean for both sides—and for readers: “If it works, it will increase the amount of time Facebook users spend scrolling and engaging and reading—and it will create new opportunities to turn human boredom into cash. It will make Facebook feel like a better place, one that doesn’t just link you to interesting things but that is home to them.”

    At Vice, an excerpt from Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Book Four.

    The Paris Review Daily looks at Guillaume Nicloux’s film The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq (opening today at Film Forum in New York), which imagines that the French provocateur was abducted that time he went missing in 2011.


  • March 24, 2015

    Apple executives, who are not known to voice strong opinions on anything that isn’t bezel-related, say they much prefer the new unauthorized biography of Steve Jobs to Walter Isaacson’s authorized (and unflinching) 2011 book, Steve Jobs.

    Now that senator Ted Cruz is officially a candidate for president, how should mainstream journalists handle his assertion that climate-change science is phony? At the journalism blog Press Think, NYU professor Jay Rosen considers the four ways that publications can handle the climate-change deniers’ position and how they might balance impartiality with the idea that facts matter.

    We were surprised to see tweets reporting Chinua Achebe’s death Monday morning, since we had a distinct memory of his passing in 2013. Apparently, many people on Twitter (including US national security advisor Susan Rice) saw the March 2013 New York Times obituary and thought the writer had just passed away. Rice deleted the tweet that said it was a “somber day in Nigeria” and replaced it with one noting it was, at any rate, a good occasion to remember Achebe—and reminding readers to always “read fine print.”

    The second annual Folio Prize for fiction has been awarded to Akhil Sharma for his novel Family Life.

    Cesar Aira

    Cesar Aira

    Tonight in New York: At McNally Jackson Books, novelist Rivka Galchen will talk to the shockingly prolific Argentine writer Cesar Aira about his new book, The Musical Brain and Other Stories. (In 2011, Galchen wrote for Harper’s Magazine that Aira’s works are “like slim cabinets of wonder, full of unlikely juxtapositions. His unpredictability is masterful.”) And Elif Batuman will read and discuss her work at Baruch College.

  • March 23, 2015

    The Guardian has appointed Katharine Vinerto be its new editor in chief. Viner, who will be the first woman EIC in the paper’s 194-year history, is currently the magazine’s deputy editor, and will begin her new position this summer. In a column for USA Today, Michael Wolff suggests that the choice of Viner instead of another editor, Janine Gibson, was in some ways influenced by Gibson’s role in the Guardian’s coverage of Edward Snowden—stories that won the paper a Pulitzer Prize but also caused turmoil in the organization as a whole. (Here’s a speech Viner gave in 2013 about “journalism in the age of the open web.”)

    The Morning News’s annual Tournament of Books has entered its semifinals.

    Norman Rush

    Norman Rush

    In the latest installment of the Paris Review’s book club on Norman Rush’s Mating, Miranda Popkey focuses on one controversial line from the novel: “I had been working my tits down to nubs.

    The Los Angeles Times recently ran an op-ed with the headline “California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?” The article’s author, Jay Famiglietti, later pointed out that “he made no such claim in the piece.” Now, experts are weighing in, and calling the newspaper’s choice of headline as a “click-generating machine.

    Rolling Stone has announced that it will publish an external review of the article about a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity. Shortly after the article’s publication last November, large portions were called into question by the Washington Post, among other news outlets. The review is being led by Steve Coll, the Pulizter winner, author of multiple books of investigative journalism, and dean and Columbia’s school of journalism.

  • March 20, 2015

    The New York Times has dropped one of the new online opinion writers it just hired, Razib Khan. The paper announced its new hires on Wednesday; shortly afterward, Gawker described Khan as having been associated with “racist, far-right online publications” such as Taki’s Magazine, which, according to J.K..Trotter, was founded by a “flamboyantly racist Greek journalist.” Khan’s contract was terminated on Thursday.

    At The Nation, Michelle Goldberg investigates the reaction to Laura Kipnis’s recent piece about sexual misconduct rules at universities. Goldberg chalks up the harsh response to the article to a generational divide between feminisms: “There are contradictions between a feminism that emphasizes women’s erotic agency and desire to have sex on equal terms with men, and a feminism that stresses their erotic vulnerability and need to be shielded from even the subtlest forms of coercion. The politics of liberation are an uneasy fit with the politics of protection. A rigid new set of taboos has emerged to paper over this tension, often expressed in a therapeutic language of trauma and triggers that everyone is obliged to at least pretend to take seriously.”

    At the Times, Aatish Taseer laments the dominance of English in India. Whether or not people know the language has everything to do with their class background, he points out; English “re-enacts  the colonial relationship, placing certain Indians in a position the British once occupied” and creating “a linguistic line as unbreachable as the color line once was in the United States.” As a result, India’s literature suffers: Its “painful relationship with language has left it voiceless.”

    Vice is starting a new vertical, Broadly, aimed at women and headed by Tracie Egan Morrissey and Callie Beusman, formerly of Gawker.  The website will feature mostly journalism and will, reportedly, avoid “light stuff.”

    The New Republic is trying get into native advertising.

    Sarah Polley is making a new version of Little Women.

  • March 19, 2015

    Kenneth Goldsmith

    Kenneth Goldsmith

    Last Friday, the poet Kenneth Goldsmith—known for what he calls “uncreative writing”—read Michael Brown’s autopsy report, altered “for poetic effect,” at Brown University. Goldsmith has since been widely criticized for, among other things, appropriating a text that he had no rights to and being tacky. Goldsmith’s self-defense amounted to the suggestion that he’s been doing this sort of appropriation for a very long time; among his books of poetry, for example, is Seven American Deaths and Disasters, a transcription of quotes from reports of national tragedies, including the shooting of JFK. Goldsmith retweeted many of the criticisms leveled at him. What he has not tweeted is a response from the anonymous group Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo, which indicts the “colonial aesthetics” of conceptual art generally: “We are not here gleefully, we are here unhinged. We are distraught that it required the body of Mike Brown to push some poets into questioning the “practice” and “theory” behind current self-declared “conceptualist” poetry. We won’t forget that it takes bodies to make you consider your allegiances.”

    The New York Times is adding twenty new online opinion writers. According to Capital New York, most have signed short-term contracts and will be writing once a month. The roster includes the novelists Jennifer Weiner, Lydia Millet, and Héctor Tobar, as well as Judith Shulevitz, Roxane Gay, and Sandeep Jauhar.

    The Emperor Franzen Twitter account, which made fun of Jonathan Franzen by impersonating him, has been suspended. Twitter suggested that the account holder, Andrew Shafer, change it to “@fakefranzen” to be more clear that it was, well, fake; Shafer declined. If you need a funny lit-world Twitter to follow instead, Shafer recommends @GuyInYourMFA.

    A new version of the Times style guide, available from Three Rivers Press, shows all the changes that have been made to the guide since 1999. Most of the updates have to do with the internet. For example, “friend”: “Do not use as a verb, as in friended, except for special effect when writing about social media.”

    The Guardian, CNN International, the Financial Times, and Reuters have banded together to pool ad space as a way of fighting against the ad dollars of larger corporations such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. The alliance, which they’re calling Pangea, will give brands access to a combined 110 million online readers.

  • March 18, 2015

    The remains of Miguel de Cervantes have been found in a convent.

    Christian Lorentzen will be the next book critic at New York magazine, replacing Kathryn Schulz, who left a few months ago for the New Yorker. Lorentzen writes frequently for Bookforum; his most recent piece for us was on Kazuo Ishiguro.

    Susan Berman

    Susan Berman

    The most well-known book by the writer Susan Berman, one of the alleged victims of Robert Durst, is Easy Street, a memoir of her family’s mob ties. With the success of the HBO show Jinx, a six-episode HBO documentary about Durst, paperback copies of Berman’s book that could be got on Amazon for ten dollars a week ago are now selling for fifty.

    PEN has announced the longlist for its literary awards. The debut fiction category includes Molly Antopol’s UnAmericans, Phil Klay’s Redeployment, Kenneth Calhoun’s Black Moon, and seven others. The essay category names Leslie Jamison’s Empathy Exams, Valeria Luiselli’s Sidewalks, and Charles D’Ambrosio’s Loitering, among others.

    Gawker has set up a website that will publish the pool reports that report on the president’s everyday actions. These are unsigned dispatches about the president’s comings and goings written by a rotating cast of reporters from the White House press corps, and made available to be used by publications as they see fit. Gawker explains: “Though much of what is in these pool reports eventually finds its way into press coverage—that’s what they’re for!—the actual raw copy is available only to the anointed hundreds, or perhaps thousands, who are judged to be important enough to merit placement on the distribution list.” Now Gawker will publish the reports as soon as it has them.

    The publisher of Grove Atlantic, Morgan Entrekin, is planning a new website called Literary Hub, in conjunction with Electric Literature. Literary Hub, which will go live April 8, aims to be a clearing-house of “literary life.” Because it is backed by publishers, the site won’t publish book reviews. Rather, it’ll feature interviews, profiles, essays, and excerpts, focusing exclusively, according to Entrekin, on literary fiction.