• July 31, 2015

    Emergency staff take over at Gawker: Leah Beckman steps up as editor-in-chief, Hamilton Nolan steps in as her deputy, and John Cook has agreed (apparently after some hesitation) to be the new executive editor. The International Business Times got hold of Cook’s reassuring memo to the troops: “I’m not going to blow smoke up anyone’s a– and say we’ve weathered the storm and hop on board we’re headed to victory. But we are all still here . . . and we have at our disposal—right now, at your fingertips—an immense and powerful machine for illuminating, skewering, praising, and changing the world around us.” So there you have it: At least in theory, Gawker’s still skewering.

    If you missed the first installment this week of the New York Times Magazine‘s Disenfranchised, a series on attempts to roll back the Voting Rights Act, don’t let it happen again.

    The week of his memorial, Mary Norris, the New Yorker’s Comma Queen, remembers the writer James Salter as someone who had “very strong feelings about punctuation,” even if Norris herself “thought some of his commas were unnecessary” and said so in public.

    Hillary Clinton is hiring from Buzzfeed now: her new social media director, Julie Whitaker, has just been poached from a position as managing editor of BFF.

    Meanwhile, seems there’s a lot more to style website Refinery29 than we thought.

    Claudia Rankine’s Citizen is now a play, opening tomorrow at the Fountain Theatre in LA. One of the cast, Tina Lifford, describes the first day’s table read: “Everyone at the table knew we were signing on to dig into our own racist conditioning.”

  • July 30, 2015

    Ted Rall's cartoon for the LA Times

                 Ted Rall’s cartoon for the LA Times

    Political cartoonist and author Ted Rall—who has written books about Afghanistan and Edward Snowden—has announced on his blog that he has been fired by the Los Angeles Times, where he has been a regular contributor since 2009. The reason for the firing, says editorial-page editor Nicholas Goldberg, is a cartoon that Rall published in the paper in May, in which the artist recalled being handcuffed and roughed up by the LAPD after he was stopped for jaywalking. According to Goldberg, the LAPD has provided evidence that it did not mistreat Rall: “An audiotape of the encounter recorded by the police officer does not back up Rall’s assertions; it gives no indication that there was physical violence of any sort by the policeman or that Rall’s license was thrown into the sewer or that he was handcuffed.” Rall responds that the “evidence,” an audiotape, is “mostly unintelligible garbage,” and responds to what he calls a “disgusting example of journalistic cowardice in the face of a violent and corrupt police department willing to lie to protect itself.”

    NBCUniversal are close to a deal to invest $250 million in BuzzFeed (valuing the company at 1.5 billion) and are also negotiating to increase their stake in Vox Media.

    Will Dana has announced that he is leaving his post the managing editor of Rolling Stone, a position he has held for nineteen years. The New York Times wonders if the move is a result of the controversy that erupted following the magazine’s publication of the now-discredited article about sexual assault at a University of Virginia fraternity. Publisher Jann Wenner replied through a spokesperson: “Many factors go into a decision like this.” But it’s hard to imagine that Dana’s departure isn’t directly linked to the defamation lawsuit that three ex-fraternity members filed against the magazine on Wednesday.

    Not to be outdone by Gawker and Salon, staffers at the Guardian US have voted unanimously to unionize under the News Media Guild, which is in talks with other digital types too. Next up: Politico?

    When the Booker Prize decided to let Americans in two years ago, English-language writers elsewhere were scared they would take over (English novelist Philip Hensher predicted US writers would dominate “simply through an economic super-power exerting its own literary tastes, just as the British empire imposed the idea that Shakespeare was the greatest writer who ever lived throughout its 19th-century colonies”). Some say it’s beginning to look that way.

  • July 29, 2015

    The Booker Prize longlist has just been announced.

    The New York Times rebuts the New York Review of Books’s rebuttal (by a Times journalist turned day spa owner) of their nail-salon exposé.

    Amazon—or Relentless, as it was originally to be called—now has plans to reserve a two-hundred-foot slice of airspace for its drones.

    Edwidge Danticat

    Edwidge Danticat

    As migrants cross the border from the Dominican Republic, Edwidge Danticat writes from Haiti.

    Ursula K. Le Guin has started an online forum for writers of fiction, where she plans to answer questions about craft (or open them to the floor) every other Monday. She claims not to have the “vigor and stamina” to write novels or teach offline classes any more, but she clearly has no intention of going easy on anyone. She won’t allow questions about how to get published: “We won’t be talking here about how to sell a ship, but how to sail one.” And, continuing the nautical metaphor, she assures would-be participants she will “use the lash only when forced to it.”

    It’s hard not to get big-headed when the Onion launches a whole new web series just to parody you, but then Vice isn’t known for its modesty anyway. Regardless, EDGE starts August 3.

  • July 28, 2015

    For those who like their New York Times corrections as baroque as possible, this piece about Hillary Clinton’s email account (and the phantom “criminal” investigation of her) is a gift. Executive editor Dean Baquet said the slow screw-up here wasn’t staffers’ fault, but Talking Points Memo disagrees.

    CK710AcW8AAIENl.jpg-largeIt’s hard to look away from New York magazine’s cover story on thirty-five of Bill Cosby’s accusers, but some hackers did their best to help with that.

    Anyone who doesn’t like the idea of a softened-up Gawker has been invited to take the money and get out: William Arkin, former national security adviser to the New York Times and founder of Gawker’s national security spin-off, was asked to go and had some things to say about it. Leah Finnegan—also ex-NYT—is leaving too.

    “Artists are assaulters in a lot of ways and the viewer is complicit in that assault. In the same way with the book. I hope readers feel a sense of entanglement in these lives; they are bearing witness to them but there is also something quite intrusive about that.” An interview with Hanya Yanagihara, the author of A Little Life.

    A collection of twenty previously lost Pablo Neruda poems, discovered last year in boxes in Chile, will be out in English translation in the spring.

  • July 27, 2015

    The British education organization Pearson, which sold the Financial Times last week, has confirmed that it plans to sell its 50 percent stake in The Economist magazine. According to Politico, “Existing Economist shareholders led by John Elkann, heir to the Italian Agnelli industrial fortune and a member of the magazine’s board, are working on a potential buyout of Pearson’s stake.” If that plan falls through, “one option under discussion is for an investment bank to purchase the remaining shares to allow Pearson to cash out.”

    Mary Jo Bang

    Mary Jo Bang

    Don Winslow’s The Cartel, which came out in late June, is a novel about the drug wars in Mexico, and features a subplot that seems to have predicted kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s escape from a maximum-security prison. The book’s timeliness has caught the attention of the film industry: Fox has outbid numerous other studios for the film rights, and Ridley Scott is set to direct an adaptation of Winslow’s novel.

    The Poynter Institute is planning to launch an international fact-checking organization in 2016, starting with grant money from the Omidyar Network and the National Endowment for Democracy. The organization will produce a website to help fact-checkers around the world, and will also host an annual summit.

    Carrie Brownstein lists the ten books she “couldn’t live without.”

    For the most recent Studio 360, Kurt Andersen interviews Mary Jo Bang about her new poetry collection The Last Two Seconds, which is “full of a sense of impending environmental collapse: natural disaster, extinction, climate change, and cataclysmic violence.”

  • July 24, 2015

    Pearson, the education and publishing giant, has sold the Financial Times to the Japanese financial news company Nikkei for $1.3 billion (though so far it appears to be hanging on to its half stake in the Economist). So much the better, Felix Salmon writes, for the FT, which should thrive all the more once it “breaks free of its English parochialism.”

    Simon & Schuster has let it be known that it will allow Mark Whitaker’s admiring biography of Bill Cosby—which in the course of more than five hundred pages ignores the many accusations of drug-aided sexual assault that have now been a matter of public record for several years—to slink quietly out of print. There will be no paperback, and Amazon blurbs from the likes of Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman have been withdrawn.

    9781576877999You can already pre-order Flip-Side: Real and Imaginary Conversations with Lana Del Rey, the latest provocation by Renaissance man James Franco, for whom just publishing a single LDR-themed poem apparently wasn’t nearly enough. His co-author is David Shields of Reality Hunger fame. If the concept doesn’t seem promising, perhaps you’re forgetting this special issue of The New Inquiry; come to think of it, we could all do worse than to reread that, and leave Franco’s version alone.

    Angelina Jolie is directing an adaptation of Loung Ung’s memoir of Cambodia under Pol Pot for Netflix, who will release it late next year.

    A trick “worthy of Bugs Bunny himself”—Michael Chabon salutes E. L. Doctorow.

  • July 23, 2015

    Rupert Murdoch

    Rupert Murdoch

    Rupert Murdoch apparently wants Fox News to stop sucking up to Donald Trump, but can’t get his CEO Roger Ailes in line. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire suggests everyone go for the one approach to Trump they haven’t yet tried: take him seriously.

    The New York Times doesn’t like Nick Denton’s accusation that it moves journalists off certain beats to appease advertisers with less “toothy” coverage. Denton made the comments in a long scandal-postmortem editorial meeting early this week, in which he explained to his staff that the “Gawker tax”—essentially, the ad revenue they lose by showing those teeth too much—was getting too high. Reinforcing suspicions that he wants to declaw and “Vox-ify” Gawker, Denton calculated the “tax” as roughly “the gap between the revenues of Gawker Media and the revenues of Vox Media, the gap is around $20 million a year and the gap is increasing.” Denton’s staff seemingly didn’t like what he said any more than the Times did: “Make this into an advertising company then!” features editor Leah Finnegan said. “Say what it really is! It’s not a place for journalism!”

    A good day for documentarians: The Associated Press and the British newsreel company Movietone are putting a huge stash of archival news footage—more than a million minutes—on YouTube.

    This week in lost masterpieces: If Harper Lee’s latest was a disappointment, you can turn to the newly discovered Dr. Seuss. And a tip for any would-be discoverers going through a writer’s belongings—look in the folder marked “Noble Failures.”

    And, seemingly in honor of the David Foster Wallace movie, some thoughts about book tours from writers including Nell Zink (”reading to a crowd resembles something I actually know how to do — sing Schubert in a clear mezzo-soprano — minus all the hard parts. Whee!”), Gary Shteyngart, and Junot Diaz.

  • July 22, 2015

    E. L. Doctorow

    E. L. Doctorow

    E. L. Doctorow, the adventurously experimental historical novelist who wrote Ragtime and Billy Bathgate, has died. The New York Times obituary reminds us that the “E” was for Edgar, because Doctorow’s father loved Poe: “Actually, he liked a lot of bad writers, but Poe was our greatest bad writer, so I take some consolation from that. . . . I remember asking [my mother] in her old age — I finally dealt with the question of my name — ‘Do you and Dad know you named me after a drug-addicted, alcoholic delusional paranoid with strong necrophiliac tendencies?’ and she said, ‘Edgar, that’s not funny.’ ”

    Those who wonder what a post-Gawker internet might look like were treated to a preview on Monday when both it and Jezebel went dark during editorial wranglings over that disputed post. One Gawker writer, musing on his editorial experiences elsewhere and on the ethics of outing or not outing, hopes it won’t come to that, concluding: “I would rather work at a place that’s bold enough to fuck up than one that is too afraid to ever risk it.” And editors elsewhere use the occasion to discuss their worst mistakes—here’s Jimmy Jellinek of Playboy on what happened after he published a nude spread of Lindsay Lohan in the midst of her troubles: “I just didn’t realize it would change me so much. At least it got me into therapy, so that was good.”

    On the New Yorker’s blog, Jon Michaud makes a case for James Purdy: “Unsparing, ambiguous, violent, and largely indifferent to the reader’s needs, Purdy’s fiction seems likely to remain an acquired taste. But it is a taste worth acquiring.”

    Harper’s is trying out a metered paywall, so non-subscribers can finally get into the archive, at least for one story a month. Try not to get lost in there.

    Tonight at the Center for Fiction, Lidia Yuknavitch will be talking about The Small Backs of Children with Porochista Khakpour.

  • July 21, 2015

    Nick Denton

    Nick Denton

    Whatever else one says about Gawker, they really know how to make themselves the story. (But should you only have time for one of those links, make it the one in which resigning executive editor Tommy Craggs calls this latest incident “Nick’s Reichstag fire.”)

    If you missed Jonathan Franzen’s sometime protégée Nell Zink reviewing the new Jonathan Franzen (and as we’ve said before, what could be better than a review by someone who really knows you?), it looks as if you’re still out of luck. (A real shame, because one possible answer to the previous question is “a review preceded by the words: ‘On average I hate all books.’”)

    Meanwhile the Fales Library and Special Collection at NYU struck a blow against web transience by acquiring the archive of the digital journal Triple Canopy—always a thing of beauty, now (probably) a joy forever.

    In conjunction with By the Book, a group show about the influence of literature in contemporary art that runs till the end of the month, FSG president and publisher Jonathan Galassi will read from his first novel, Muse, at Sean Kelly Gallery on Wednesday night at 6pm. And next Wednesday—same time, same place—the novelist Jami Attenberg will be reading from Saint Mazie, which is based on the life of one of Joseph Mitchell’s most memorable New Yorker characters.

    Plus, Jill Lepore digs deeper into another legendary Mitchell subject, Joe Gould and his vast, lost “Oral History of Our Time.”

  • July 20, 2015

    On Friday afternoon, Gawker management removed its controversial item outing a Conde Nast CFO. Outcry against the post seemed to be almost unanimous. Glenn Greenwald called it “reprehensible beyond belief” and Lena Dunham deemed it “cruel and unnecessary.” According to Gawker CEO Nick Denton, “It was an editorial call, a close call around which there were more internal disagreements than usual. And it is a decision I regret.” But editor Max Read continues to defend the piece: “given the chance gawker will always report on married c-suite executives of major media companies fucking around on their wives.”

    Since May 2014, Rohit Chopra has run @RushdieExplains, a parodic Twitter account that “affected a faux [Salman Rushdie] persona” to “poke fun at the pompous expertise of our assorted Indian pundits.” He now has more than 30,000 followers, but he has decided to change the name of the account to @IndiaExplained, due to pressure from Rushdie himself, who informed Chopra that “the joke has worn thin.”

    Michel Houellebecq

    Michel Houellebecq

    Publisher’s Weekly has given a starred review to Michel Houellebecq’s controversial novel Submission, which will be published in the US in October. “This novel is not a paranoid political fantasy; it merely contains one.”

    Alan Moore, the author of the graphic novel The Watchmen, has stated that he believes that adults’ current fascination with superheroes is “culturally catastrophic.”  “It looks to me very much like a significant section of the public, having given up on attempting to understand the reality they are actually living in, have instead reasoned that they might at least be able to comprehend the sprawling, meaningless, but at-least-still-finite ‘universes’ presented by DC or Marvel Comics.”