• February 29, 2016

    Seamus Heaney

    Seamus Heaney

    Donald Trump, who feels that he has been mistreated by the media, says that if he becomes president, he will weaken First Amendment protections so that it will be easier to sue journalists for libel.

    Douglas Wolk has announced that he’s working on a book about having read 25,000 superhero comics, which will be edited by Ed Park and published by Penguin Press.

    This week at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, author Alexander Chee will discuss Max Ophuls’s lavish 1953 movie The Earrings of Madame de… and sign copies of his new novel, The Queen of the Night, which, like Ophuls’s film, is set in Belle Epoque Paris. “The narrative structure of the story—the pair of earrings that move with their own magical life through to the end—has an excellent, fable-like simplicity, and became a model for the eventual structure of The Queen of the Night,” Chee writes.

    At The Awl, Eva Jurczyk explains why she has decided, from here on out, to review only books by women. “Male writers don’t receive critical attention because they are good; they get coverage in the New York Review of Books because they are men,” she writes. “And women’s books should be talked about not because they are literary geniuses and men are witless scribes, but because they are creating art from the point of view of fifty percent of the citizens of our planet.”

    The late poet Seamus Heaney’s final translation, Aeneid Book VI, will be published in March.

    Novelist Darin Strauss is dismayed by the ways that some politicians are currently discussing the first Gulf War, which ended twenty-five years ago. Ted Cruz and John Kasich have held up the first Gulf War as an unmitigated victory, and perhaps a model for how the US should confront ISIS. Donald Trump and Michael Dukakis have also praised the way that President George Bush handled the war. “Yes, of course: a victory,” Strauss notes. “But of what kind?” He adds: “Our having waged that war is precisely what first inflamed the region’s zealots against us.”

  • February 26, 2016

    Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has announced that he has sold the New Republic to Win McCormack, the publisher and EIC of the literary magazine Tin House. McCormack has named Hamilton Fish, the publisher of the Washington Spectator (and the former publisher of The Nation), to be TNR’s new publisher and editorial director.

  • Gloria Steinem

    Gloria Steinem

    Land’s End has issued an apology for including excerpts from an interview with Gloria Steinem in its spring catalogue. “We understand that some of our customers were offended by the inclusion of an interview in a recent catalog with Gloria Steinem on her quest for women’s equality. We thought it was a good idea and we heard from our customers that, for different reasons, it wasn’t. For that, we sincerely apologize.” As Jezebel points out, the apology was issued shortly after anti-abortion activists flooded the Land’s End Facebook page with angry comments.

    Time magazine’s list of the women authors whose books are most read (or assigned, at least) in college courses was disturbing for at least two reasons: First, it ranks Barbara Bush at number 19 (just below Susan Sontag, and above writers including Hannah Arendt, bell hooks, and Edith Wharton); second, the list included Evelyn Waugh.

    This week, a number of fiction writers have weighed in on the Democratic presidential campaigns. At the New Republic, novelist Joshua Cohen examines, with critical insight and historical context, Bernie Sanders’s speeches, his relationship to Judaism, his references to Dante, and more. Meanwhile, in a contribution to Buzzfeed’s ongoing series about Hillary Clinton, Lynne Tillman expresses her support of Clinton in an eloquent and wide-ranging essay about, among other things, the art of writing, trust, disagreement, reason, and why being a “woman with a past” is different from being a “man with a past.”

    The Village Voice, which recently has been adding to its editorial staff, has hired Bilge Ebiri to write about film. Also, Genius has hired former Gawker features editor Leah Finnegan to manage its News Genius site, a community of Genius users who annotate news articles and other web pages.”

    Yesterday morning, Al Jazeera America, which is about to close its doors, posted an article titled “Six Hot Media Startups to Watch in 2016.” The piece, clearly satirical in nature (Al Jazeera itself was one of the six startups listed), was soon taken down, and replaced by an editor’s note: “Al Jazeera America has removed the satirical piece originally posted on this link, which included commentary on our company that we believe was not appropriate given its imminent closure.” The “author,” “Professor Jeff Jarvis” (a pseudonym based on a parodic Twitter account), responded: “We have self-driving cars. Will we now have self-censoring global news outlets?” Gawker has posted a link to the archived article.

  • February 25, 2016

    The new miniseries about the O. J. Simpson trial has provided an opportunity to look back at some of the bestsellers that emerged following the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Vulture revisits the lowest of the lowlights in Faye Resnick’s Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted, while prosecutor Marcia Clark (herself now a novelist) says Jeffrey Toobin’s American Crime Story, on which the TV series is based, “has glaring inaccuracies.” According to Clark: “Toobin got a lot wrong because he’s not behind the scenes. He’s not there. And so he has third-party sources he talks to that don’t care about getting it right, or deliberately lie.”

    After a long financial struggle, St. Mark’s Bookshop, the legendary independent East Village store, is closing.

    Tony Tulathimutte

    Tony Tulathimutte

    Brooklyn magazine has a round-up on the state of diversity in publishing, with statements from fifty people from the literary world. Novelist Tony Tulathimutte says, “ Even when you get to write about your own experience of being a minority in America—you know, even that can be turned against you. Are you going to be used later on as leverage against an accusation of racism? Will you then be seen as a collaborator? In most cases the answer is yes.”

    Tonight at the Strand in Manhattan, novelists John Wray and Colson Whitehead will discuss Wray’s new book, The Lost Time Accidents.

    President Obama has nominated Dr. Carla Hayden to be the United States’ fourteenth Librarian of Congress. The Librarian of Congress is in charge of caring for, and making available, the library’s 162 million items. In Hayden’s words, the Librarian is also responsible for making sure “people realize that they have this treasure right here in Washington, DC.” Obama cites Hayden’s work “revitalizing Baltimore’s struggling library system,” and points out that her “understanding of the pivotal role that emerging technologies play in libraries will be essential in leading the Library of Congress as it continues to modernize its infrastructure and promote open access and full participation in today’s digital world.” If confirmed by the Senate, Hayden will be the first woman and the first African American to hold the position.

  • February 24, 2016

    The New York Times has awarded its David Carr fellowship to three writers. John Herrman of the Awl, Amanda Hess of Slate, and Greg Howard of Deadspin will be joining the Times for a two-year stint in the newsroom. Executive editor Dean Baquet explained why the award went to three applicants rather than just one: “We found these three candidates so compelling that we decided to select all of them. They are thoughtful, deep reporters. We will learn as much from them as they will from us.”

    Amanda Hess

    Amanda Hess

    John Herrman’s coeditor at the Awl, Matt Buchanan, is also moving on from the site, which is now searching for their replacements.  

    Buzzfeed has launched a series of essays in which women writers share their ideas about Hillary Clinton. In the first installment, poet-novelist Eileen Myles (who was a write-in candidate for president in 1992) explains why she thinks Clinton is the best presidential candidate. “I actually trust a person who can change their tune,” Myles writes. “I trust her.”

    The finalists for the LA Times Book Prizes have been announced.

    The Man Booker International Prize is going to start giving translators more recognition.

    At the New York Times, Mark Bowden, the author of Black Hawk Down, reviews Playing the Field by Michael V. Hayden, the four-star Air Force general who led the NSA and the CIA during George W. Bush’s presidency, and oversaw many of that administration’s post-9/11 surveillance programs. Bowden calls out (and pokes fun at) Hayden’s animosity toward journalists more than once. “He seems to have more ill will for pesky journalists than for the terrorists in his cross hairs, although his efforts are likely to have the opposite effect intended,” Bowden writes. “Those whom Mr. Hayden brands as openly opportunistic or “agenda-driven,” like Tim Weiner, Jane Mayer, Glenn Greenwald, James Risen and others, will hardly find their journalistic stature diminished by his disdain.

  • February 23, 2016

    Umberto Eco’s final book, Pape Satàn Aleppe: Chronicles of a Liquid Society, will be published this weekend in Italy. The book was originally slated to come out in May, but the date was changed after Eco passed away this past Friday. Pape Satàn Aleppe is a collection of Eco’s essays for the magazine L’Espresso dating back to 2000. At The Guardian, Elisabetta Sgarbi, Eco’s Italian publisher, calls the new volume “an ironic book, as withering as he was.” There is no word yet about when the book will be released in English.

    In the wake of Jeb Bush’s announcement that he’s suspending his presidential campaign, journalist Ashley Parker writes that reporters will miss him: “He was your goofy dad, your awkward uncle. He bungled a policy rollout in Nevada when he called ‘Supergirl’ ‘hot’ (c’mon, Dad!), he was delightfully befuddled when his Apple Watch began ringing during a meeting with an Iowa newspaper. . . . Jeb almost seemed to think aloud in real time, and we got to watch him muddle and bumble through, just like any real person.”

    Hamilton, the hip-hop musical based on Ron Chernow’s biography of the founding father, has won the The Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History.

    Magaret Sullivan

    Magaret Sullivan

    Margaret Sullivan is leaving her post as the New York Times public editor to become a media columnist for the Washington Post. Sullivan has held the job since 2012 and was not shy about criticizing her employers. In December 2015, Sullivan wrote a scathing column criticizing an erroneous Times story about the San Bernardino shooters’ use of social media. On the paper’s Op-Ed page, Sullivan called for systemic change in the way the paper handles anonymous sources, and said the story was “wrong” and that it “involved a failure of sufficient skepticism at every level of the reporting and editing process” (she quoted her colleagues, including executive editor Dean Baquet, agreeing with her assessment). As Michael Calderone writes at Huffpost Media, Sullivan was the first public editor at the Times to fully embrace social media and the immediacy of the web, writing quick reactions to stories online and creating features such as the Monocle Meter, which allowed readers to send in examples of unintentionally hilarious—or possibly fake—trend pieces.  

    Tonight at the Center for Fiction in New York, Richard Price will discuss his work and lead a master class in writing.

  • February 22, 2016

    At the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin, whose most recent book is the Supreme Court study The Nine, looks back at the career of Antonin Scalia. Toobin points out that Scalia—unlike “the great Justices of the Supreme Court,” who “have always looked forward”—always “looked backward.” The author has some advice for Obama as he considers who might fill the empty seat: “Belligerent with his colleagues, dismissive of his critics, nostalgic for a world where outsiders knew their place and stayed there, Scalia represents a perfect model for everything that President Obama should avoid in a successor.”

    Colm Toibin explains how Henry James’s family “tried to keep him in the closet.”

    Rob Sheffield, the Rolling Stone regular and the author of Love Is a Mix Tape, wrote one of the most powerful tributes to David Bowie following his death. Apparently he didn’t stop there. On Twitter, Sheffield writes: “over the past month I’ve written a book on David Bowie. ‘On Bowie’ will be published in June by Dey Street Books.”

    “James Franco wants to buy the rights to your memoir.” Those are the first words of the very funny trailer for author-director Stephen Elliott’s new movie, After Adderall, which stars Elliott and is loosely based on the author’s experiences after his memoir, The Adderall Diaries, was optioned by James Franco, who gave the film project to director Pamela Romanowsky. Elliott has not been shy about his feelings regarding the film version of The Adderall Diaries, which screened at the Tribeca Film Festival last year and will be in theaters this Spring. At New York magazine, he wrote: “Almost nothing in the movie is ‘true’—in terms of both the source material, as it was published, and my life, as it has been lived.”

    Punctuation in Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (left) and in Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (right)

    Punctuation in Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (left) and in Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (right)

    At Medium, Adam J. Calhoun has posted a fun and fascinating look at punctuation in novels. “I wondered,” he writes, “what did my favorite books look like without words. Can you tell them apart or are they all a-mush?” As it turns out, you can. He presents graphs that show how often authors such as Jane Austen, James Joyce, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, and others use commas, periods, question marks, etc. In the most striking visual, he removes all the words, but leaves the quotation marks, from passages in Blood Meridian and Absalom, Absalom! The resulting pages, as you’ll see, look radically different.


    In what is probably his final column for Al Jazeera America, Chris Lehmann notes that “Al Jazeera America’s pending closure is but one dismal entry in a long-running journalistic dance of the dead.” Equally alarming, he points out, are the ways that the pockets of journalism that have survived are compromising and “adapting to new market conditions.” Lehmann writes: “The polite euphemism for such rampant self-prostitution in our brave new digital media world is ‘sponsored content’—i.e., writing that’s made to look, feel and read like actual journalism while promoting a paid-for commercial agenda.”

  • February 20, 2016

    Harper Lee, author of the American classic To Kill a Mockingbird, has died. The Times obituary revisits, among other things, her life in the south, her friendship with Truman Capote, the the controversy surrounding her second novel, Go Tell a Watchman.

  • Umberto Eco

    Umberto Eco

    Umberto Eco has died at the age of 84. The author, best known for his 1980 novel, The Name of the Rose, once described his library to the Paris Review, revealing the habit of mind that made him a genius: “I own a total of about fifty thousand books. But as a rare books collector I am fascinated by the human propensity for deviating thought. So I collect books about subjects in which I don’t believe, like kabbalah, alchemy, magic, invented languages. Books that lie, albeit unwittingly. I have Ptolemy, not Galileo, because Galileo told the truth. I prefer lunatic science.” Eco had a favorite branch of lunatic science—list making, the subject of his 2009 book, The Infinity of Lists: An Illustrated Essay. This encyclopedic tour of Western civilization was also an investigation into how we try to tame the universe (and our own spiraling thoughts), and face our mortality, as Eco put it: “How, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. . . . We like lists because we don’t want to die.” He was deeply interested in language, telling Minna Proctor in a 2002 Bookforum interview: “I wrote a book about the search for the perfect language. I examined all the attempts throughout history to create perfect languages. My paternoster is a combination of real paternosters in several universal languages from the last three or four centuries, including Esperanto, plus, if I remember correctly, a piece from Gulliver’s Travels.” It makes sense, then, that he was also a fierce defender of free speech in Italy: “Imagine a United States where Bush owns the New York Times, theWashington Post, the Los Angeles Times, NBC, CBS, ABC, plus Hollywood, too. Wouldn’t this monopolistic concentration concern American citizens? You’re upset by the mere fact that Bill Gates runs Windows and Internet Explorer. Well, that’s our situation.” For more wise words from Eco, listen to his 2005 interview on Bookworm, and watch this charming video, “Advice to the Young,” filmed last year: “Don’t pretend immediately to receive the Nobel Prize.”  

  • February 19, 2016

    Jill Soloway

    Jill Soloway

    Transparent creator Jill Soloway is adapting Chris Kraus’s novel I Love Dick for television. Amazon has ordered a pilot episode of the show, which is being billed as a comedy, but if the industry press is any guide, Hollywood’s idea of what the book actually is remains fuzzy (“sex-comedy,” “pyscho-sexual novel,” “Rashomon-style”). We’re intrigued to see how the Emmy Award–winning Soloway handles the source material, which is mainly made up of letters (and faxes!) between the protagonist, her husband, and the all-powerful character “Dick,” or, as Deadline Hollywood describes him, the “off-putting but charismatic professor.”

    Facebook has announced that it will open up its Instant Articles publishing platform to all writers, and will share the ad revenue that a freelancer’s post makes with the author.  

    After the Pope declared that Donald Trump was not a Christian, the presidential candidate quickly responded, in a statement, that “for a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.” The New Yorker was apparently not impressed with Trump’s answer, and the magazine unleashed one of their most formidable weapons against the Donald: They turned a copy editor loose on his statement.

    Maria Bustillos visits the New Directions offices and chats with the publisher Barbara Epler, who reveals part of her pitch to prospective authors: “I can totally guarantee you that we will get lots of reviews, because I will chew on people until they review it. I’ll just personally chew on people.”

    Ben Ratliff, whose book Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways of Listening in An Age of Musical Plenty proposes a clever, genre-averse strategy for music appreciation online, recently sat down with critic Alex Ross to discuss musical taste and listening habits in the age of Pandora and Spotify.