• May 29, 2015

    Sasha Frere-Jones

    Sasha Frere-Jones

    One of new media’s bigger coups over old seems not to be lasting: Gawker notes that only a few months after abandoning the New Yorker for the start-up Genius, music critic Sasha Frere-Jones is already backing away from his full-time commitment to “the annotation website that sticks bad jokes next to your favorite rap lyrics.”

    First Look Media offers us its code—if you wanted help redacting documents or getting around gag orders, look no further.

    Gawker writers discuss which way they’ll vote on unionizing as part of Writers Guild of America, in the comments section (“We like to do these things out in the open.”) But apparently the whole question is causing “a galactic amount of acrimony” among staff.

    If you worry that the 2016 presidential campaign may become a fact-free he-said-she-said, Buzzfeed has come up with an admittedly labor-intensive solution—a dedicated in-house “independent research organization” to dig up dirt on the candidates.

    Slate’s Amanda Hess explains her goodbye to all that “ladyblogging.” She notes a general “thirst for opinion but dearth of reporting on female concerns” online, so that the “ladyblogger beat is propelled by opinions and opinions on opinions.” “That makes a ladyblog an interesting place for a writer to hone her rhetorical tools,” Hess continues. “But once they get sharp enough, she may begin to fantasize about impaling herself with them.”

  • May 28, 2015

    Jenny Erpenbeck

    Jenny Erpenbeck

    Jenny Erpenbeck and her translator Susan Bernofsky have won the £10,000 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for The End of Days, which looks at the twentieth century through one woman’s several possible fates. Erpenbeck is the first living German writer to receive the prize (W.G. Sebald got it posthumously for Austerlitz, as did Gert Hofmann for The Film Explainer).

    Chelsea Manning has a piece in the Guardian marking five years since she was first locked up for releasing the Iraq and Afghanistan “war diaries.”

    Gawker writers will hold a June 3 vote on whether to unionize. CEO Nick Denton is taking it rather well so far. Hamilton Nolan, who has been leading the drive for a union, suggests that if Gawker Media “can be the first big company in this industry, new media-ish kind of thing” to organize in this way, that’s “good for Nick’s legacy. It’s good for Nick as a leader. It’s something good that Nick could do, I think, for the whole industry.” Buzzfeed and Vice, take note.

    In October, Gloria Steinem will publish My Life on the Road, her first full book in 20 years. But for anyone else who’s written or is currently working on a memoir, Jezebel suggests you have mercy and just hold down the delete key for 45 minutes.

    Margaret Atwood takes her manuscript “Scribbler Moon” to a forest in Oslo as part of a project called Future Library: It won’t be read until the trees planted there last year are cut down in 2114 for paper on which to print it. A hundred years, a hundred writers—David Mitchell is up next.

    And while we’re on the subject of nostalgic futurism, if you missed this Douglas Adams fan’s tribute from the International Space Station earlier in the week, go back in time and watch.

  • May 27, 2015

    Philip Larkin

    Philip Larkin

    The Times Literary Supplement drew gleeful scorn online after publishing, with extended and enthusiastic commentary, a lost Philip Larkin poem that, in fact, wasn’t one (it’s by Frank Redpath, one of Hull’s less famous poets, and appeared in a 1982 anthology).

    No more free e-books? Publishers have won a High Court ruling in London that will force British internet service providers to block access to seven pirate e-book sites, including LibGen and AvaxHome. First they came for the mp3s…

    The land of digital media start-ups is a large and frightening one nowadays: Vox just bought the 18-month-old tech site Re/code, run by veteran Wall Street Journal writers Kara Swisher and Walter Mossberg. “Everybody is bigger than us,” Swisher told the New York Times. “It’s not a secret that being a smaller fish is really hard.” (Buzzfeed, incidentally, has hired more than a dozen reporters in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in its bid to rule the tech-news beat.)

    New York’s Daily Intelligencer identifies a new way to make it in journalism. Recent Columbia J-School grad Ben Taub used his NBC stipend from appearing on the reality show The Voice to fund a trip to the Syrian border and win his very first New Yorker byline.

    The Paris Review goes Hollywood, supplementing its legendary interviews with a new video series called “My First Time”, in which authors discuss writing their first books: the trailer features Sheila Heti, Ben Lerner, Akhil Sharma and Tao Lin.

    It appears that everybody spoke too soon in mourning the death of SkyMall, which, after being quietly purchased at auction for $1.9 million, is back.

  • May 26, 2015

    Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who was the paper’s Tehran bureau chief, was arrested on espionage charges last July. His, trial, which starts today, is closed to the public, and to his family. The Post sought a visa to send an editor to attend the trial, but the request was ignored. In a statement released just before the trial started, executive editor Martin Baron stated: “[Rezaian] was imprisoned in Iran’s worst prison. He was placed in isolation for many months and denied medical care he needed. His case was assigned to a judge internationally notorious for human rights violations. He could not select the lawyer of his choosing. He was given only an hour and a half to meet with a lawyer approved by the court. No evidence has ever been produced by prosecutors or the court to support these absurd charges.” Rezaian’s wife, Yeganeh Salehi, is being held on related charges.

    “The effect,” Dan Chiasson writes of John Ashbery’s new collection of poems, Breezeway, “is sometimes unnerving, as though somebody had given you your own garbage back as a gift, cheerfully wrapped.” He means this, of course, as a compliment. Ashbery “has gone farther from literature within literature than any poet alive. His game is to make an intentionally frivolous style express the full range of human feeling, and he remains funnier and better at it, a game he invented, than his many imitators.”

    The finalists for the 2015 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Award have been announced.

    Clarice Lispector

    Clarice Lispector

    The latest issue of Harper’s includes Clarice Lispector’s final story, left unfinished at the time of her death. As Rachel Kushner wrote in the pages of Bookforum: Lispector “had a diamond-hard intelligence, a visionary instinct, and a sense of humor that veered from naïf wonder to wicked comedy. She wrote novels that are fractured, cerebral, fundamentally nonnarrative (unless you count as plot a woman standing in her maid’s room gazing at a closet for nearly two hundred pages). And yet she became quite famous, a national icon of Brazil whose face adorned postage stamps.”

    The sci-fi writer John Scalzi has signed a thirteen-book, $3.4 million deal with the publisher Tor. At his blog Whatever, Scalzi interviews himself. “Dude, that’s like… a lot of money.” “It is. Mind you, it’s spread out over a decade and thirteen books. And I only get the money if I actually, you know, write the books. But, yeah.”

    Amazon’s contract with Penguin Random House UK is set to expire, and according to “industry insiders,” the publisher may block sales of its titles on Amazon if a new contract agreement is not reached.

    Janine Gibson, who edited the Guardian‘s Pulitzer-winning coverage of the Edward Snowden leaks, has announced her departure from the paper.


  • May 22, 2015

    The novelist James Meek has won the Orwell Prize for Private Island, a study of privatization (of the railways, the water, the electricity, social housing, healthcare) in Britain: Gillian Slovo, the chair of judges, said Meek’s book “more than passed the Orwell test of political writing as art.”

    Lydia Davis

    Lydia Davis

    And here’s this year’s list of O. Henry Prize winners, short stories chosen in cloak-and-dagger fashion by jurors who must not consult one another and who see only “a blind manuscript,” with no names of authors or the magazines they appear in. “Although the jurors write their essays without knowl­edge of the authors’ names,” Laura Furman, the prize’s editor, writes, “the names are inserted into the essay later for the sake of clarity.” (Having said all that, some of the winners, such as Lydia Davis, wouldn’t seem so easy to mistake for anyone else.)

    In what he describes as “a pivot”, former Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio fires pretty much everyone at his recently launched tabloidish local news site Ratter.

    More on the Science study that spawned a thousand retractions (or at least five)—the Chronicle of Higher Education speaks to one of the grad students who uncovered the fraud, and Vox takes a broader view, looking into how much this sort of thing actually goes on, with the help of a fascinating Nautilus essay on a champion fabricator who faked 183 papers before getting caught.

    The pains of translation: Izidora Angel describes wrestling into English a book by Hristo Karastoyanov “written entirely in the inferential mood,” which we don’t have. (In Bulgarian, a verb “can be conjugated in such a way as to portray an inferential tense—an alleged happening, not yet completed, which has occurred in the past, in which the teller, who hasn’t witnessed the not yet finished event, is retelling it.”) “Breaking the Bulgarian structure out of the sentence,” she writes, “and turning it into an equally strong and evocative phrase in English is a lot like doing 50 pushups.” Incidentally, it’s worth reading this essay on translation by another 2015 O. Henry Prize winner, Dina Nayeri.

    And if you missed this piece on Larry Kramer and The American People, it might be time to un-miss it again.

  • May 21, 2015

    Bob Woodward

    Bob Woodward

    A list of English-language books from Osama bin Laden’s private library in his compound in Pakistan has just been declassified. Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward is on it, as is Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival. Foreign Policy notes that on this evidence bin Laden appears to have been a Francophile (“Among the materials acquired in the 2011 raid were the 245-page clunker Economic and Social Conditions in France during the 18th Century”), while Politico asks several of the authors on the list to imagine what he might have got out of reading their books.

    Several outlets have had to retract stories based on research, published in the academic journal Science, which now appears to have been elaborately faked by one of its authors (the other, Columbia political scientist Donald Green, appears mystified: “All that effort that went in to confecting the data,” he told This American Life, “you could’ve gotten the data”).

    Large chunks of an unfinished autobiography by Orson Welles have been discovered by University of Michigan archivists among papers recently bought from Welles’s last partner, Oja Kodar. He’d apparently been working on “Confessions of a One-Man Band” since the 1970s, but it’s not yet clear if what’s there is complete enough to publish.

    As Janet Maslin steps back a bit as book critic for the New York Times (“I’ve been a full-time critic since 1977,” she told Capital, “which is why the announcement uses ‘grueling,’ ‘grind,’ and ‘frantic’ in its first few lines”), the Observer speculates about possible replacements: the longish list includes several Bookforum contributors and ends with movie critic A.O. Scott, who “must be a little tired of spending his days in screening rooms staring at subpar films.”

    Newsweek profiles Thought Catalog, interviewing the banned contributor Gavin McInnes among others, and in the process reveals that with writers, the site plays a lot harder to get than you’d think.

    And the New York Times magazine profiles a tap-dancing Judy Blume, who still gets 1,000 letters a month from her mostly young readers, and after 17 years is about to bring out a new book for adults. “It’s because of what I represent,” she says to fans who feel overwhelmed at meeting her. “I’m your childhood.”

    There’s one day left to bid on First Ark Edition, a handmade “book object” with two removable spines, which comprises Paul Auster’s “Alone,” a previously unpublished short novel from 1969 that’s thought to be his earliest work, and “Becoming the Other in Translation”, an accompanying essay by Siri Hustvedt. The authors had donated both texts to the tiny independent bookstore Ark Books in Nørrebro, Copenhagen.

  • May 20, 2015

    László Krasznahorkai

    László Krasznahorkai

    The Hungarian author of Satantango, László Krasznahorkai, has won the biennial Man Booker International Prize in recognition of his body of work. Just as ”now we say, ‘it’s just like being in a Kafka story,’” Marina Warner, the chair of judges, said, “I believe that soon we will say it’s like being in a Krasznahorkai story.” As well as the £60,000 award, there is a £15,000 translators’ prize that will be split between Krasznahorkai’s translators, Ottilie Mulzet and the poet George Szirtes.

    Daily Mail North America’s CEO, Jon Steinberg, tells us who he thinks is really “killing the news”: advertisers who don’t want to be seen next to it (wars and the like are apparently “not brand safe”).

    At The Millions, Jonathan Clarke makes six observations about Renata Adler, beginning with her self-conception as “perennially Will Kane in High Noon, flinging her press pass into the dirt” (nowadays, Clarke adds of Adler’s ferocious editorial independence and its cost to her career, “a journalist can want her autonomy, or she can want health insurance, but she had better not want both”).

    Poet Melissa Broder has come out as the author of the avidly read Twitter feed @sosadtoday, making a concession to Grand Central Publishing, who will bring out a So Sad Today collection of essays next year. Regarding the loss of anonymity, she tells Rolling Stone that she wondered, “Am I ever going to be respected as a poet again?”: “But then, as I was hemming and hawing, I got this text message from someone who had just put out yet another self-published chapbook, and it was called Flowers or something and he sent it with flower emojis. So then I was like, ‘Fuck it.'”

    Justin Marozzi’s history of Baghdad has won the £10,000 Ondaatje prize.

    The journal Music & Literature, which publishes three portfolios of the work of artists, writers, and musicians in each issue, has just launched its sixth, and it’s full of treasures. Alongside Dubravka Ugrešić, the Croatian author of The Ministry of Pain, the new issue champions the Ukrainian composer Victoria Polevá, and the Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik—as well as previously untranslated prose, diary entries, and letters, there are pieces on Pizarnik by Enrique Vila-Matas, César Aira, and Julio Cortázar, and here you can read part of an interview with her, translated by Bookforum contributor Emily Cooke.

  • May 19, 2015

    Finalist Maryse Condé

    Finalist Maryse Condé

    After much anticipation, the winner of the Man Booker International Prize will be announced today.

    The New Yorker publishes a letter from Norway: Karl Ove Knausgaard on Anders Behring Breivik.

    AWP has removed Vanessa Place from its 2016 Los Angeles subcommittee in response to outrage over her use of text from Gone With the Wind and a picture of Hattie McDaniel as Mammy on Twitter (this is apparently part of a long-term project for Place). Coming just months after Ken Goldsmith’s “The Body of Michael Brown”, which reappropriated parts of Brown’s autopsy report, drew similar accusations of racism, Place’s latest work has prompted some to call the entire approach of this kind of conceptual poetry into question.

    Speaking of troubled lit scenes, Gawker announces the return of Tao Lin. He has a new story out this week and will publish Selected Tweets with Mira Gonzalez next month.

    Publishing pundits feel mixed as Selfish, Kim Kardashian’s book of selfies, makes a break for best-sellerdom.

    In the New York Times, Margaret Sullivan asks how close a book reviewer should ever be to his or her subject. It’s a good question: Should you review a book you’ve blurbed? What about one by a friend, a disappointing lunch companion, or even an ex-husband?

  • May 18, 2015

    Sarah Ellison

    Sarah Ellison

    According to recent article in Variety, the Times is actively searching for a new media columnist to replace the recently deceased David Carr, and has put together a list of leading candidates that includes Jonathan Mahler (a Times writer and the author of Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning), David Folkenflik of NPR, and Sarah Ellison, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair. Meanwhile, Matthew Kassel at the Observer has put together a list of seventeen more writers he thinks would do a good job.

    Jillian Goodman, an associate editor at Fast Company, has started a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for Mary Review, which she says will be a magazine created “by women, for everyone.” “Mary will be written by women, edited by women, photographed by women, laid out by women, designed by women, but not for women or about women solely,” says Goodman, 28, in a video.

    The Wall Street Journal interviews Tunisian author Shukri Mabkhout, whose novel The Italian recently won the International Prize for Arab Fiction. Mabkhout says that he was inspired to write the book after the deposition of Tunisian ruler Zine El Abedine Ben Ali.

    Paul Ford—a former Harper’s editor, an online prankster, and the author of Gary Benchley: Rock Star—has been hired as a contributing editor at The New Republic, for which he will write a monthly column focusing on technology.

    The poet Franz Wright, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for his collection Walking to Martha’s Vineyard, died late last week, at age sixty-two. According to the the New York Times obituary, a teenage Franz mailed his first poem to his father James Wright, who also won the Pulitzer for poetry. “I’ll be damned,” the elder Wright responded. “You’re a poet. Welcome to hell.”


  • May 15, 2015

    Anton Chekhov

    Anton Chekhov

    Buyers of Peter Schweizer’s much discussed Clinton Cash on Kindle have been alerted to a new version of the book, now available with several “significant revisions” to correct factual errors.

    Online life becomes a little less of a free-for-all—after its influx of investor cash last year, Reddit had already tightened up its rules on nude photos, and now it introduces an explicit anti-harrassment policy, allowing users to report other Redditors and the things they post to staff who can have them removed. The announcement has been seen as interim CEO Ellen Pao’s move to make the site less cozy for Gamergaters and revenge-porn aficionados.

    Meanwhile, zombie-like, the discussion about trigger warnings in literature returns; Ovid and his Metamorphoses provide the excuse this time. (Roxane Gay may be worth re-reading here.)

    It’s just about not too late to catch this year’s #twitterfiction Festival, which ends today.

    A different side of Chekhov, “always a writer, like Kafka,” Jonathan Sturgeon writes at Flavorwire, “whose stealthy humor evades his own fans”: The Prank, a book of his early parodies, sketches, and short stories, is coming out from NYRB. The selection (and the title) is Chekhov’s own; in 1882 he tried to publish this book, with illustrations by his artist brother Nikolay, but couldn’t get it past the censor.

    And tonight at Albertine, a conversation about the late author Hervé Guibert and his fittingly named journals, The Mausoleum of Lovers, with his translator, Nathanaël, and Wayne Koestenbaum.