• January 7, 2015

    Nicholas and Cathy Sparks

    Nicholas and Cathy Sparks

    Nicholas Sparks and his wife, Cathy, have declared everything Sparks ever wrote null and void by divorcing, and Twitter has consequently lost hope in the power of love.

    The National Book Critics Circle has elected its board for the coming year, and among the eight is our own Michael Miller.

    There’s been a lot of hiring and firing lately. Amy O’Leary, formerly the Times’ digital deputy editor for the international desk, is moving to Upworthy to act as editorial director. (The Observer wonders if the hire signals “a more serious direction” for the company.) Lois Romano is leaving Politico to return to the Washington Post, and Marilyn Thompson, currently the Washington bureau chief for Reuters, is joining Politico as deputy editor. Buzzfeed has named Melissa Segura as its first investigative fellow and Joshua Hirsh as its reporting fellow. Finally, at The Atlantic, Yoni Applebaum will become the new politics editor and Sophie Gilbert the new culture editor.

    At the Chronicle of Higher Education, an article about the “new modesty” in literary criticism.

    The Morning News’ Tournament of Books has announced the judges and shortlist for this year’s contest. The list includes Elena Ferrante’s Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun, Sarah Waters’s The Paying Guests, and twelve others novels.

    n+1’s winter issue is out. The theme is labor and magazines, with pieces by Daniel Menaker, Gemma Sieff, Keith Gessen, and Maxine Phillips.

  • January 6, 2015

    Leon Wieseltier, formerly of the New Republic, has joined the staff of The Atlantic. Wieseltier was one of the first to announce his departure from TNR amid the general exodus in early December.

    The editor in chief of the Virginia Quarterly Review, Ralph Eubanks, will leave when his contract expires at the end of the summer.

    Forbes has announced its list of “30 under 30” in media. It includes Questlove; Peter Thiel, of Paypal and Palantir; Lauren Bush; Monica Lewinsky; and Tinder’s Sean Rad.

    On the NYRB blog, Geoffrey O’Brien writes about Inherent Vice. “If everything is at first sight a dream, a hallucination, a doper’s paranoid exaggeration, we are always looking at faces that say more than even Pynchon’s baroquely elaborating dialogue can. We seem to watch at least two quite different movies at the same time, one exhilaratingly fast and funny, the other unaccountably jagged and sad.”

    The Millions has published its annual preview of upcoming fiction. Next year will see books by Nell Zink, Aleksandr Hemon, Vivian Gornick, Joshua Cohen, Jonathan Galassi, Jesse Ball, Mia Couto, Ann Beattie, Garth Risk Hallberg, Jonathan Franzen, Amelia Gray, Kate Atkinson, Milan Kundera, and many, many others.

    James Risen

    James Risen

    New York Times reporter James Risen, the author of State of War (2006), continues to resist pressure to reveal his sources. Yesterday, on the witness stand in federal court, Risen refused to help prosecutors in their case against former CIA officer Jeffrey A. Sterling, who will soon be tried for providing classified information to the journalist for his book.


  • January 5, 2015

    Mark Zuckerberberg is starting what could become the biggest book club in history. The Facebook founder has written that his “challenge for 2015 is to read a new book every other week—with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies.” This will not be a solitary endeavor: Zuckerberg has created a Facebook page called A Year of Books, where he will name the books he’s reading, and invite others to discuss the titles. There are some basic rules for those who join the club: “We ask that everyone who participates read the books and we will moderate the discussions and group membership to keep us on topic.” The first book to be discussed will be Moises Naim’s The End of Power.

    Michel Houellebecq defends his controversial new novel, Submission. In the book, set in France in 2022, a member of a Muslim political party wins the presidency.

    In 2014, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos lost $7.4 billion due to his company’s poorly performing stock. It was the online superstore’s worst year since 2008. But Bezos remains one of the wealthiest Americans. As the WSJ points out, “Bezos’ 84 million shares, equal to 18.3% of the company, will ring in the New Year with a value of roughly $26.1 billion.”

    Ben Lerner

    Ben Lerner

    “I think a lot of the time the book is talked about, like, ‘Oh here’s another Brooklyn novel by a guy with glasses.’” Ben Lerner talks with Emily Witt about octopi, friendships between men and women, political engagement in a consumerist culture, and his recent novel 10:04.

    Flavorwire has posted a roundup of the best literary criticism of 2014, which includes a shoutout to LRB editor and regular Bookforum contributor Christian Lorentzen.

  • January 2, 2015

    Since this past summer, the London Review of Books has been serially publishing Jenny Diski’s memoirs. In this installment, Diski describes listening, as a teenager, to Doris Lessing (Diski’s guardian) and her friends: “To start with, I couldn’t understand how it was so easy for them to have a point of view, to know how and why things ‘worked’. ‘Working’, the pivotal valuation, was never defined. There seemed to be too much to learn. I picked up quickly that having opinions wasn’t enough and that it was necessary to have a basis – from reading, from study, from hard conscious thought – from which the opinions were formed. But more important than all the theory, behind and beyond it, there was some ineffable taste or intuitive understanding implicitly agreed on by these talking, always talking, people. I couldn’t imagine ever acquiring the all-important taste. Did you have it or not, from birth? Could you acquire it with diligent study? Many people were dismissed as stupid, especially academics, who apparently lacked good judgment, yet who seemed at least as learned as Doris and her friends. How could they be stupid?”

    Patton Oswalt

    Patton Oswalt

    Patton Oswalt wants to invite Heather Havrilesky, Neal Gaiman, and Cintra Wilson to dinner.

    Twitter is putting ads into the lists of who we follow, making it look like you’re following Mastercard when you’re not. The ads are marked as promoted, but their location is exceedingly misleading. Blocking the account will prevent the ad from showing up, but another brand inevitably shows up to take its place.

    The science-fiction writer Michael Moorcock, whose seventieth novel will be released in January, celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday this month. Moorcock “shook the fantasy and science-fiction establishment and made it possible for writers to step outside the long shadow of Tolkien and other fantasy devices,” says the New Yorker.

    Most people who work in bookbinding are fifty-five or older.

    Over the years, countless fans have rewritten the end of “Brokeback Mountain” to do away with the tragedy. “The implication is that because they’re men they understand much better than I how these people would have behaved,” Annie Proulx says.  “And maybe they do. But that’s not the story I wrote. Those are not their characters. The characters belong to me by law.”  Proulx finds it so maddening, she says, that she wishes she’d never written the story.