• March 4, 2015

    In the Paris Review’s interview with Elena Ferrante—the first-ever interview with the writer in person—Ferrante describes the crisis of confidence she experienced while working on The Days of Abandonment: “The hand was the same, the writing was the same, there was the same choice of vocabulary, same syntax, same punctuation, and yet the tone had become false. For months I felt that the preceding pages were beyond my abilities, and now I no longer felt equal to my own work. It made me bitter. You’d rather lose yourself than find yourself, I thought. Then everything started up again. But even today I don’t dare reread the book. I’m afraid that the last part has only the appearance of good writing.”

    Jenna Wortham, who covers tech for the New York Times, thinks something is changing in our experience of technology:  “There’s a slow collective awakening happening right now. With the Sony email leaks, the message is that you should never email something you don’t want other people to potentially read. Other countries have been faster to realize that the notion of privacy is not as ironclad as we like to believe or tend to think. Nothing is actually private. Nothing is actually secure.”

    Gawker offers to buy the New York Daily News for $5000.

    Ursula K. Le Guin and Kazuo Ishiguro are in a dust-up over his new novel, The Buried Giant. At the Times, Ishiguro asked: “Will readers follow me into this? Will they understand what I’m trying to do, or will they be prejudiced against the surface elements? . . . Will they say this is fantasy?” “Well, yes, they probably will. Why not?” Le Guin responded. “It appears that the author takes the word for an insult. To me that is so insulting, it reflects such thoughtless prejudice, that I had to write this piece in response.”

    A new edition of the Trollope novel The Duke’s Children restores 65,000 words cut from the 1880 edition.

  • March 3, 2015

    At the New Republic, Jamil Smith discusses the New York Times’s coverage of race, specifically its reassignment of Tanzina Vega from the race beat, which she had suggested herself, to the metropolitan section, and the more general tendency of papers across the country to shutter their race beats. Smith quotes Cord Jefferson, who wrote a piece for Matter last summer in which he described his exhaustion writing stories exclusively to do with race. Don’t “assign [minorities] to specific stories that go along with their minority group,” Jefferson wrote. “Give them jobs in your company.” But, Smith argues, “the race beat does not ghettoize race coverage. It embeds it in the body of the publication and makes it an essential part of its mission.”

    Marina Abramovic

    Marina Abramovic

    The performance artist Marina Abramovic will publish a memoir next year, to coincide with her seventieth birthday.

    At the Columbia Journalism Review, a piece on plagiarism: “Journalists are so fragile right now, so damaged by years of newsroom cuts and diminishing impact, that we’re more intent than ever on proving our purity, to ourselves and to our readers. We will therefore land ferociously on any miscreant who borrows even four or five words from another source. We will turn ourselves into the plagiarism police, vainly straining to show that our work is original, when, in fact, nearly all journalism is second-order—that is, we discover, report, and interpret the ideas and actions of others.”

    Graywolf has bought Fiona Maazel’s third novel, What Kind of Man.

    The New York Times has terminated the Home section of the paper, saying that its content “would fit best in other parts of the Times, including Food and Real Estate.”

    Wired has redesigned its website for the first time since 2007.

  • March 2, 2015

    When the New York Post reported Jill Abramson’s new book deal with Simon and Schuster last week, it noted that some at the New York Times might be “nervous” about the book (Abramson was “abruptly dismissed” from her position as the paper’s executive editor last year). The Times has now run a story about the book deal. The story is fairly straightforward, but it does conclude with some skepticism about how much Abramson was actually paid for the book. After interviewing Alice Mayhew, who will edit it, the Times reports: “Ms. Mayhew declined to disclose what the publisher paid for the book in an auction, but said that the rumored figure of $1 million that was reported by The Post is “not accurate.”

    Turkish novelist Yasar Kermal died on Saturday. A many-times contender for the Nobel Prize, he was also known as an outspoken critic of his country’s government and supporter of Kurdish rights, and his bravery was hard-won: According to the Times, “when he was five years old, he saw his father murdered, which left him with a severe stutter for years.” There are no records of his birth, but he was thought to be ninety-two or ninety-three when he died.

    Bruce Wagner

    Bruce Wagner

    In the movies: Novelist Bruce Wagner discusses his screenplay for David Cronenberg’s new  LA satire, Maps to the Stars. Richard Linklater is hoping to direct Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, based on Maria Semple’s 2012 bestseller.

    Vice Media’s creative officer Eddie Moretti said last week that the company is moving away from its male-centric point of view and sensibility. In its quest to court a larger female audience, the media company is launching Broadly, its first women-focused channel, this spring. Tracie Egan Morrissey, who left the Gawker blog Jezebel to join Vice last year, will be Broadly’s lead editor and director of content.

    The Princeton Poetry Festival, which takes place on March 13 and 14, will feature US poets Major Jackson, Maureen McLane, and Michael Robbins, as well Tomasz Rozycki (from Poland), Kwame Dawes (Ghana), Ocean Vuong (Vietnam), and others.

    At The Atlantic, Caner K. Dagli responds to a Graeme Wood’s article (also in The Atlantic) that argued that ISIS members “follow the texts of Islam as faithfully and seriously as anyone.”

  • February 27, 2015

    One of Kim Gordon’s favorite novelists is Mary Gaitskill. (Ours too.)

    Tonight, at the Met, a “poetry parade” cosponsored by the Artist’s Institute. Reading aloud texts that respond to artworks in the museum will be Eileen Myles, Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Hammer, and others. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. in the gallery of Egyptian art and concludes at 8:00 in the exhibition Madame Cézanne.

    Former New York Times editor Jill Abramson has sold her book to Simon & Schuster for a sum believed to be around $1 million. ““I’ve been a front-line combatant in the news media’s battles to remain the bedrock of an informed society,” Abramson told the New York Post.  “Now, I’m going to wear my reporter’s hat again to tell the full drama of that story in a book, focusing on both traditional and new media players in the digital age.”

    Marie Kondo

    Marie Kondo

    The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by the Japanese writer Marie Kondo, has sold over two million copies worldwide. Kondo urges people to have “tidying festivals,” in which they ask her signature question: “Does it spark joy?” If not? Into the bin. The Wall Street Journal reports that “one of her clients . . . even jettisoned her husband.”

    The FCC has approved new “net neutrality” rules, to the dismay of broadband companies and the delight of pretty much everyone else. The new rules will prevent broadband providers from blocking content, prioritizing certain kinds of traffic, or indeed discriminating in the provision of any of its services.

    Back in June, the New Inquiry started a clever roundup called “This Week in Art Crime” documenting crimes against art and, sometimes, artful crimes. Then Artnet News started paying attention to similar exploits. Now Hyperallergic follows suit with “Crimes of the Art.” Does three make a trend?


  • February 26, 2015

    More from Jenny Diski, whose serialized memoir we can’t get enough of. In this installment, someone asks, about Diski’s complicated adolescence, “Why didn’t you just do what you were told?” Diski doesn’t know how to answer. “Doing what I was told simply didn’t have a place in my story of myself. It was perfectly clear that no one had any idea what to do, so they couldn’t very well tell me. And that to do as I was told would have been to listen to people who were completely out of their depth, without a clue what to do except wait until catastrophe knocked at the door. . . . No one very much did tell me what to do because they didn’t know what they themselves ought to do for the best. . . . It was however also true, as the question suggested, that I was in general contrary-minded and had been for as long as I could remember.”

    Since the financial crisis, the New York Times reports, the number of independent bookstores in the US has risen by 27 percent. Britain has not seen a similar trend: There, the number has fallen by nearly the same amount. In France, where the price of books is regulated, the number of bookstores has neither increased nor decreased.

    Jill Abramson, the former editor of the Times, is shopping around a book that will likely interest all the major publishers and may result in a bidding war. The book is about the future of the news business—and is not, reportedly, to do with any “score-settling” with the paper’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., who fired Abramson in May.

    For the Times Magazine, Karl Ove Knausgaard has written about his experience traveling across North America, with typically exhaustive detail: “The toilet was clogged. I flushed again, thinking perhaps that would increase the pressure sufficiently. Instead, the water flowed over the top of the bowl and ran down on both sides, spilling onto the floor. I mopped it up with a towel, put the towel in the tub and looked around for an implement of some kind.”

    The 2015 Howard Zinn Award will go to two writers, Johnetta Elzie and DeRay McKesson, who covered the protests in Ferguson.

  • February 25, 2015

    Tonight at the Lincoln Center Film Society, Tom McCarthy will celebrate the launch of his new novel, Satin Island, by introducing a double feature: Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, Johan Grimonprez’s 1997 essay film on the history of airplane hijackings, and Antony Balch and William S. Burroughs’s seminal 1963 collage/film Towers Open Fire.

    Kim Gordon

    Kim Gordon

    The finished version of Kim Gordon’s memoir Girl in a Band, which went on sale yesterday, has deleted a comment about the musician Lana del Ray that appeared in the pre-publication galleys: “If she really truly believes it’s beautiful when young musicians go out on a hot flame of drugs and depression, why doesn’t she just off herself?”

    This week, Bill O’Reilly continues to ward off attacks on his credibility. On Monday night, he threatened a New York Times reporter as she was finishing a story about a recent story in Mother Jones, which states that O’Reilly has lied about being in the “war zone” of the Faulkands War. (According to the Huffington Post, O’Reilly has a history of threatening journalists.) Meanwhile, another journalists has accused O’Reilly of fabrications. In his 2012 book Killing Kennedy, Bill O’Reilly claims to have heard a CIA asset who had ties to the Kennedys and Oswalds shoot himself. But according to author and former Washington Post editor Jefferson Morley, this story is entirely made up.

    The 2015 Windham Campbell Prizes were announced yesterday morning. The winners include Geoff Dyer, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Edmund De Waal, Teju Cole, Helon Habila, and Ivan Vladislavic.

    In London, someone is distributing hand-drawn copies of a single four-year-old edition of The Guardian. The type in the stories isn’t quite legible, but everything else has been faithfully reproduced. The Guardian says it isn’t responsible.

    Amazon will release the first ten titles in its crowdsourced publishing platform, Kindle Scout, on March 3. Writers get a five-year renewable contract, a $1,500 advance, and 50 percent royalties on e-book sales. Twenty-one titles have been selected in total.

  • February 24, 2015

    Pablo Neruda in the Soviet Union in 1950

    Pablo Neruda reading in the Soviet Union in 1950

    A judge in Chile has ruled that Pablo Neruda be reburied next to his wife, Matilde Urrutia, following an investigation into the causes of his death in 1973. For almost two years Neruda’s remains have been being studied in various laboratories to determine whether his death had been caused by poisoning.

    The Associated Press is moving into podcasts: They’ve recently made a deal with the podcasting network PodcastOne that will allow its audio clips to be used by the company’s two hundred podcasts.

    New York Magazine has a timeline—with choice quotes—of Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Dish, which he ceased in early February. Since January of 2001, Sullivan published 115,436 posts. Since 2008, and received 622,162 emails from readers. The largest donation given by a reader was $25,000.

    Buzzfeed is bringing on a team of tech writers to cover Silicon Valley. Among the new hires are John Paczkowski, former deputy managing editor at Re/code; former New York Times Dealbook reporter William Alden; Nieman Journalism Lab reporter Caroline O’Donovan; and Nicole Nguyen, assistant tech editor at Popsugar.

    The investigative reporter Ken Silverstein has resigned from First Look. He and others, he said, were “told we would be given all the financial and other support we needed to do independent, important journalism, but instead found ourselves blocked at every step of the way by management’s incompetence and bad faith.”

  • February 23, 2015

    Today, Kate Bennett starts her new job at Politico as a DC gossip columnist.

    Last week in Mother Jones, David Corn and Daniel Schulman asserted that Bill O’Reilly—who has devoted time on his show to attack Brian Williams for his deceptions—may have misrepresented his own experiences during the Falklands war in 1982. “For years, O’Reilly has recounted dramatic stories about his own war reporting that don’t withstand scrutiny—even claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in.” O’Reilly has tried to discredit the story on his show, and on his blog he wrote: “David Corn is a guttersnipe liar.” But the scrutiny of O’Reilly has persisted; a Facebook post by Eric Jon Engberg, who was an NBC news correspondent for 27 years, “calls into question several of O’Reilly’s statements about the reporting—and O’Reilly’s subsequent recollections of it.”

    Eula Biss

    Eula Biss

    Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has selected Eula Biss’s On Immunity, a meditation on vaccines that draws on scientific and literary sources, for his new book club. Biss’s publisher, Graywolf, is anticipating a boost in sales, and already sent the book back to press for another printing.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates has written a moving and evocative appreciation of his friend and onetime editor David Carr.

    Margaret Sullivan writes that the the media business is a “subject that the Times needs to own.” Following the sudden death of David Carr, she writes, “the Times must not only replenish its media desk but must also think about how to replace one of its brightest stars.” (And then goes on to offer an aside: “Has The Times’s attention to Mr. Carr’s death been a tad over the top, even including a posthumous “last column,” constructed using the syllabus from his college course, with a ghostly byline that read “with David Carr”?”)

    Publishers Weekly reports on last week’s panel discussion “After Charlie: What’s Next for Art, Satire, and Censorship.” The speakers included Molly Crabapple, who noted that cartooning still has “the power to inflame because it is visceral and irritates authoritarian assholes,” and Art Spiegleman, who, bemoaning “the decline of challenging political cartooning in the US,” noted that “American newspapers are afraid to lose any readers.”

  • February 20, 2015

    The New York Times is trying to shift the emphasis internally from the front page of the print newspaper to the paper’s digital platforms. The paper will continue its traditional morning meetings, but rather than focusing on which stories will make the front page of the next day’s print edition, editors and writers will “compete for the best digital, rather than print, real estate.”

    During the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Vice Media founder Shane Smith spent $300,000 on a meal at the Bellagio steakhouse, for a group of somewhere between twelve and twenty-five guests. He’d been playing blackjack—and winning (reportedly, to the tune of $100,000).

    The Morning News presents the tournament brackets and schedule for its 2015 Tournament of Books. The first two books facing off, on March 5, are David Mitchell’s Bone Clocks and Ariel Schrag’s Adam. The poet Matthea Harvey will judge.

    The New York Times Magazine has dedicated its relaunch issue to David Carr: “There is no one we hoped to impress more each week than The Times’s veteran media critic, who was a mentor and a friend to many on our staff. His passion for journalism, his courage and his sense of mischief were—and remain—an inspiration to us all.” Here’s editor Jake Silverstein’s explanation of the changes he’s instituted. “This isn’t an obligatory exercise in multiplatform brand leveraging,” he insists, “or the beginning of our descent into soul-deadening content farming.” There will be a poem every week, a section called Letter of Recommendation, in which a writer endorses some favorite thing—a book, a band—and the Lives column, which was historically a first-person account, will now feature stories told to a reporter.

    In still more news from the Times, Noam Scheiber will succeed Steven Greenhouse as full-time labor reporter.


  • February 19, 2015

    The Columbia Journalism Review looks at the stats of the New Republic exodus: Where did the people who left go? What are the demographics of those replaced them? There are now five people of color and ten women on staff (out of twenty-one people altogether). Among the thirty-five former staffers, there were zero people of color and thirteen women. CJR also tallies how many of the current staff have ivy league degrees: Nine do, twelve do not. The balance has switched; formerly, nineteen did and sixteen did not.

    The publishing company Open Road has just launched Factory Books, a collection of books about Andy Warhol and other Factory personalities, many of which have been out of print. Titles include Candy Darling’s Memoirs of a Warhol Superstar and Wayne Koestenbaum’s astounding Andy Warhol: A Biography.

    Zadie Smith describes her early attempts to keep a diary: “I was never able to block from my mind a possible audience, and this ruined it for me: It felt like homework.” Since 1996, her daily life has mainly been recorded elsewhere, in her email: “Like most people (I should think) a personal nightmare of mine is the idea of anybody wandering around inside that account, reading whatever they please, passing judgment. At the same time, when I am dead, if my children want to know what I was like in the daily sense, not as a writer, not as a more-or-less presentable person, but simply the foolish human being behind it all, they’d be wise to look there.”

    Noah Warren

    Noah Warren

    Noah Warren has won the Yale Series of Younger Poets award.

    A never-before-published Dr. Seuss book—What Pet Should I Get?will be out in July. Thought to be written and illustrated at some point between 1958 and 1962, the book was discovered in 2013 in the office of the late Ted Geisel—aka Dr. Seuss—after he died.