• May 31, 2016

    David Mitchell

    David Mitchell

    David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks, etc.) has just entered a novel in the Future Library project, in which selected authors bury a manuscript in Oslo’s Nordmarka forest. No one will read these books until 2014, when the texts will, if all goes according to plan, be retrieved and printed on paper made from trees recently planted in the area. Mitchell is the second writer to participate; Margaret Atwood buried the inaugural book, Scribbler Moon, last year.

    Eric Weisbard’s book Top 40 America has won the Woody Guthrie Award for Outstanding Book on Popular Music.

    After spending months interviewing past and present staffers of Salon and reviewing the web magazine’s SEC filings, Politico’s Kelsey Sutton and Peter Sterne spent explain how the web-journalism pioneer lost its way.

    Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman recently toured the West Bank in conjunction with Breaking the Silence, an Israeli group that collects soldiers’ firsthand accounts of their experiences in the occupied territory. They are part of a larger group of writers who are visiting East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza and then writing essays about life under Israeli military rule.  Chabon and Waldman will not only contribute to the anthology but also edit it. “As a Jew and someone who has felt connected both to Israel and also to the Old Testament narratives, it actually does mean something to me to be in Hebron, to be where supposedly Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Rebecca and Leah are all buried,” Chabon tells The Forward. “From my point of view, to see that place being dishonored and made less sacred and less holy by the presence of this incredibly cruel and unjust machinery, some literal machinery and figurative machinery of oppression, it offends me.”

    Ben Ratliff, the author of Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Mucical Plenty, has announced that the archives of singer, songwriter, cellist, and downtown dance-music pioneer Arthur Russell have been acquired by the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts.

    Andrew Solomon offers advice to writers: “Despite every advancement, language remains the defining nexus of our humanity; it is where our knowledge and hope lie. It is the precondition of human tenderness, mightier than the sword but also infinitely more subtle and ultimately more urgent. Remember that writing things down makes them real; that it is nearly impossible to hate anyone whose story you know; and, most of all, that even in our post-postmodern era, writing has a moral purpose….”

  • May 27, 2016

    Andrew Sullivan

    Andrew Sullivan

    Facebook has been urging media outlets to publish directly on its platform. Which raises a question: What does the social-media site have to say about board member Peter Thiel’s secret attempts to put Gawker Media out of business by investing about $10 million to support Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against the company? The answer, for now, is “no comment.” Gawker founder Nick Denton, however, is eager to comment: He has written an open letter to Thiel.

    Amazon has announced that it will air the pilot of a new TV series based on Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings. Another pilot will be an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon.

    Some Bernie Sanders fans have argued that the Democratic primary system is “rigged” against their candidate. But according to Nate Silver, Hillary Clinton is ahead simply because “more Democrats want her to be the nominee.” In fact, he argues, if “all the caucuses were primaries, Clinton would be winning the Democratic nomination by an even wider margin than she is now.”

    In an interview with Vox, Andrew Sullivan talks about how he weaned himself away from the twenty-four-hour news cycle, how his worries about Trump pulled him back in again, and why “books are becoming fashionable again.” “I think the entire economic model of the web is about to collapse,” Sullivan says. “I think there’s a content bubble of massive proportions.”

    Graywolf has released the cover image for Fiona Maazel’s next novel, A Little More Human, which will be published in April 2017.

  • May 26, 2016

    Hari Kunzru

    Hari Kunzru

    In a new video, Elaine Showalter—the author of Hystories and many other critical studies—delves into the context and innovations that shaped Virginia Woolf’s modernist classic Mrs. Dalloway.

    A judge has denied Gawker’s request for a retrial of the notorious Hulk Hogan case, in which the former wrestler was awarded $140 million after suing Gawker media for posting a sex tape on its site. Meanwhile, reports have been surfacing that Paypal cofounder and billionaire Peter Thiel has been secretly bankrolling Hogan’s efforts to sue Gawker media. Gawker founder Nick Denton had already said that he had a “personal hunch” that someone in Silicon Valley could have been supporting the Hogan suit. “If you’re a billionaire and you don’t like the coverage of you, and you don’t particularly want to embroil yourself any further in a public scandal, it’s a pretty smart, rational thing to fund other legal cases,” he told the New York Times.

    While working on his new album, Eyes on the Prize, Steve Gunn drew inspiration from Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost.

    Tonight The Strand bookstore will host a celebration of the new anthology of interviews Upstairs at the Strand, and many authors included in the book will be in attendance, including Tina Chang, Deborah Eisenberg, Rivka Galchen, AM Homes, Hari Kunzru, DT Max, Leigh Newman, Téa Obreht, and Katie Roiphe.

    In an email accidentally sent to Politico reporter Marc Caputo, the Trump campaign revealed that it plans to fight Hillary Clinton by focusing on the Whitewater real-estate scandal.  


  • May 25, 2016

    Facebook has completed an internal investigation of its “Trending Topics” feature, which has recently been accused of bias against conservative news sources. In a letter posted on Facebook’s press page, the company says they’ve found no evidence of “systemic bias” and that conservative and liberal stories have trended at “virtually identical” rates. Still, Facebook has announced changes to how the section works, including a quaint Orwellian renaming of its moderators’ internal tools: The most controversial function, once called  “blacklisting,” is now named “revisit.”

    Vice has announced a reorganization that includes a promotion for Josh Tyrangiel (who will now supervise all of Vice news), layoffs of digital staff in New York, Los Angeles, and the UK, and new bureaus in San Francisco and Hong Kong.  

    The notebooks that Francis Ford Coppola kept while adapting and casting The Godfather, his 1972 mafia masterpiece based on Mario Puzo’s novel, are going to be published by Regan Arts in November. The Godfather Notebooks will be 720 pages (including a new introduction by the filmmaker), and will, Coppola says, be “the key to understanding what went into making the film.”

    Rikki Ducornet

    Rikki Ducornet

    Who knew that author Rikki Ducornet, whose novels include The Jade Cabinet (1993) and the forthcoming Brightfellow (out in July)—was the inspiration for Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number”?

    Nearly five-hundred authors have signed a petition denouncing Donald Trump, with signees including Tobias Wolff, Stephen King, Lydia Davis, Francine Prose, and Jonathan Lethem. When asked why he signed, King told BuzzFeed: “Trump is a pugnacious idiot with no real understanding of how government works. . . . To call him underqualified for the job would be like calling me underqualified to teach quantum physics.”

    At the Awl, Alex Balk pleas with writers to stop writing so much. And he’s not just talking about online content: “Have you seen what’s not on the Internet? . . . As it happens, opening the gates to everyone doesn’t make the stuff coming out of the high towers any better.”

  • May 24, 2016

    Delightful news: The Washington Post’s union has analyzed its members’ salaries and found that among reporters, men make an average of $7,000 more than women, and among columnists, the gap is $23,000. If you’re an editorial assistant there, being male will get you an extra $7,000, too. What’s more, The Cut notes, “assistant editors who identify as people of color make about 15 percent less than their white counterparts.”

    Leanne Shapton

    Leanne Shapton

    Tonight, writer and artist Leanne Shapton will read from her book Swimming Studies at McNally Jackson, followed by a reception nearby at which the paintings reproduced in the book will be on view.

    New York magazine has named journalist Jen Chaney, author of As If: The Complete Oral History of Clueless, Vulture’s new TV critic.

    The New York Times has spoken with current and former staff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, where “at least a dozen journalists have quit, been fired or made plans to leave soon” in the turbulent months since casino billionaire and major GOP donor Sheldon Adelson took it over. One of them described how “every day I was being asked to do things that made me feel uncomfortable—that took me farther away from doing what I would consider quality journalism and more into the realm of presenting things in tune with the owner’s other interests.” Another, who has just left after eleven years at the paper, notes that staying in her job any longer made her fear she was “going to cross a line I didn’t know existed.” On the other hand, the Times reports that Adelson’s money has allowed the paper to upgrade its videography equipment, fix a broken sewer pipe, and even invest in some drones to use for its news coverage.

  • May 23, 2016



    Porcelain, the new memoir by Moby, is out now. Covering the years 1989 through 1999, the book describes a time when the  author rose to fame as a New York–based DJ and musician, but according to a profile in The Guardian, the author’s focus is squalor, not success. “Let’s just say his book is packed with incident,” The Guardian notes. “Lots of dodgy sex, oceans of alcohol, antics a-gogo. Plus: cockroaches, raves, death, celebrities.”

    HuffPo explains why David Foster Wallace’s famous Kenyon College commencement speech almost didn’t happen.

    The Belarussian Noble Prize–winner Svetlana Alexievich, whose Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets comes out this week, says that she has approached each of her oral histories with a question in mind: “Why doesn’t people’s suffering translate into freedom?” Her book Voices from Chernobyl consisted of testimony from survivors of the 1986 Ukranian nuclear disaster, and her latest book captures Russia’s post-Soviet era. “With every page, the book makes clear how President Vladimir V. Putin manages to hold his grip on a country of 143 million people across 11 time zones,” says the New York Times.

    Marie Calloway—whose controversial story “Adrien Brody” recounted an affair she had with a writer and magazine editor—has a new work of fiction in Playboy.

    On Thursday, xoJane, a website owned by Time Inc., posted a personal essay titled “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing,” in which the author (who was first listed as Amanda Lauren and later as Anonymous) writes of an ex-friend, who was mentally ill and committed suicide: “Her death wasn’t a tragedy, her life was. She was alone and terribly unhappy when [she] died.” Jezebel has posted a response the piece: “It’s a well-known fact that outrageous confessionals—the kind that populate xoJane’s section, It Happened to Megarner traffic. Outrage, disgust and anger are the stuff of going viral (a phrase that conjures up disease as much as anything else). Yet xoJane seems to consistently cross an unspoken line, confusing any woman’s opinion as one inherently worth publishing, no matter the opinion, or its costs.” xoJane recently removed the post, replacing it with an apology by editor Jane Pratt.

    An issue of The Black Panther written by Ta-Nehisi Coates is the best-selling comic of the year so far.

  • May 20, 2016

    The much anticipated heart-to-heart between Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and some wary Republicans seems to have gone beautifully: the New York Times, paraphrasing some of those in attendance, described it asmostly collegial, sympathetic and inquisitive.” Zuckerberg himself confirmed his free-to-be-you-and-me stance directly after the meeting: “Our community’s success depends on everyone feeling comfortable sharing anything they want.” For his part, Glenn Beck was impressed by Zuckerberg’s “manner, his ability to manage the room, his thoughtfulness, his directness, and what seemed to be his earnest desire to ‘connect the world.’” Beck saved his opprobrium for the other conservatives in the room, whose desire for Facebook to ensure greater representation for their views (by hiring less liberal staff, for instance) struck him as undignified: “It was like affirmative action for conservatives. When did conservatives start demanding quotas AND diversity training AND less people from Ivy League Colleges. . . . What happened to us? When did we become them?”

    James Hannaham

    James Hannaham

    Meanwhile, since Zuckerberg is no longer running his book club, readers may like to know that New York City’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, with the help of the writers James Hannaham, Jacqueline Woodson, and A.M. Homes, is holding one at Gracie Mansion.

    The Village Voice is preparing for a major relaunch next year and has hired a new publisher, Suzan Gursoy, currently of Adweek, to oversee it.

    Page Turner has published an intriguing fragment of a correspondence between Elena Ferrante and another Italian novelist, Nicola Lagioia, the full version of which will appear later this year in a book titled Frantumaglia. Remarking that “someone who is truly rooted in life doesn’t write novels,” Lagioia asks Ferrante how she sees writing, and she responds, in part: “Writing is an act of pride. I’ve always known that, and so for a long time I hid the fact that I was writing, especially from the people I loved. I was afraid of exposing myself and of others’ disapproval. Jane Austen organized herself so that she could immediately hide her pages if someone came into the room where she had taken refuge. It’s a reaction I’m familiar with: you’re ashamed of your presumptuousness, because there is nothing that can justify it, not even success. However I state it, the fact remains that I have assumed the right to imprison others in what I seem to see, feel, think, imagine, and know.”

    This Saturday, Karl Ove Knausgaard will participate in the Norwegian-American Literary Festival at Santos Party House (celebrating the work of Tarjei Vesaas) and will read from his own work at BookCourt.

  • May 19, 2016

    Elizabeth Spayd, editor and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, will soon replace the intrepid Margaret Sullivan as the New York Times’s public editor.

    As Jeff Bezos confirms his intention to build more physical Amazon bookstores, the writer Sarah Boxer, in The Atlantic, makes an oddly convincing case for reading Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu on a cellphone (in her case, the HTC Incredible, whose screen isabout two by three inches”): “Your cellphone screen is like a tiny glass-bottomed boat moving slowly over a vast and glowing ocean of words in the night. There is no shore. There is nothing beyond the words in front of you. It’s a voyage for one in the nighttime. Pure romance.”

    Amid ongoing turmoil, it seems that the Guardian is breaking up its award-winning team of investigative reporters.

    Rivka Galchen

    Rivka Galchen

    In conversation with an old writing-workshop friend, the writer Rivka Galchen describes the genesis of her new book, Little Labors: “I originally turned in an almost no space-breaks long associative essay that resembled most, I would say, the cramped handwritten notes sent to planetariums and other sorts of authoritative institutions, notes you can tell the writer feels bear an important message, but that are basically unreadable, no message gets across.”

    In the New York Times Book Review, Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn reviews Emma Thompson’s audio version of Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw,” which she calls “a story strangely suited for the age of anxious helicopter parenting. It preys on the determination to keep children safe, to watch their every move, to know their inner lives.

  • May 18, 2016

    Elissa Schappell

    Elissa Schappell

    After more than twenty years as Vanity Fair’s “Hot Type” columnist, Elissa Schappell has announced on Facebook that she is bidding the magazine “a fond farewell.” Schappell, whose books include the story collection Blueprints for Building Better Girls, plans to devote more time to her own writing.

    Restless former New Yorker pop critic Sasha Frere-Jones has left his latest gig at the Los Angeles Times after less than a year.

    Brian Evenson has an eerie new piece up on People Holding (which publishes short fiction prompted by found photographs of people holding things): “No matter which way we turned the girl, she didn’t have a face. There was hair in front and hair in the back—only saying which was the front and which was the back was impossible.”

    Unlike Wayne Barrett’s, Harry Hurt III’s 1993 unauthorized biography of Donald Trump will apparently not be reissued because its publisher, Norton, feels it would be “very dangerous” to do so (Hurt’s reaction to the news, according to Page Six: “Boy, wow! That is really chickens sh-t!”). Hurt will now have the right to take it elsewhere, if he can find a publisher who doesn’t fear legal action. He told Page Six he feels that “The American public needs to know the truth about The Donald’s life history before they cast their ballots.”

    Whit Stillman, director of The Last Days of Disco and Metropolitan, talks about his new film, Love & Friendship, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s early epistolary novella Lady Susan: “Lots of comic gold, which sometimes seem to be more Oscar Wildean than Austenian, but she was decades ahead of him.”

    This is the week of the three-day Norwegian-American Literary Festival (cohosted by The Paris Review), which opens on Thursday with readings at Black Bear Bar by Rachel Kushner, Ben Lerner, Ben Marcus, and Karl Ove Knausgaard, and continues with Friday’s discussion at 192 Books between the Norwegian writers Helga Flatland, Johan Harstad, and Maja Lunde.

  • May 17, 2016

    The Intercept announced yesterday that it would begin publishing large chunks of the material provided to it by Edward Snowden, and that it would collaborate with outside journalists to explore and report on the rest of the archive. The documents they’re releasing include a trove of internal NSA newsletters from 2003 onward, which have already yielded insight into the agency’s involvement in interrogations at Guantánamo and in Iraq, and which are also fascinating simply for their tone.

    Han Kang

    Han Kang

    The Man Booker International prize was awarded to Han Kang (and translator Deborah Smith) for her novel The Vegetarian. Despite its title, the book is no gentle tale of a protagonist and her plant-based diet, as Porochista Khakpour noted in a review earlier this year:All the trigger warnings on earth cannot prepare a reader for the traumas of this Korean author’s translated debut in the Anglophone world.”

    This Friday on the BBC, Nick Hornby’s adaptation of Love, Nina, a nonfiction nanny’s-eye-view of 1980s literary London, will begin airing. You can get a couple of early glimpses online of Helena Bonham Carter’s performance as (a renamed but still recognizable) London Review of Books editor Mary-Kay Wilmers. Bonham Carter visited the LRB offices in Bloomsbury as part of her research for the role.

    When former Village Voice news reporter Wayne Barrett’s Trump: The Deals and the Downfalls, his unauthorized biography of Donald Trump, was released in 1991, it was, in the author’s words, a “total flop.” “Nobody took him seriously when the book came out, so nobody was interested in reading it,” Barrett says in an article at CNN (which also recalls a story in which Trump had Barrett handcuffed after the reporter crashed the billionaire’s birthday party). In recent months, Barrett’s book has been hard to find and in high demand (selling for hundreds of dollars), but last week, the book was rereleased as an e-book with a longer subtitle (The Greatest Show on Earth) and a new nine-thousand-word introduction by Barrett.

    Bookslut creator Jessa Crispin, who recently announced the site’s closure, continues to bemoan what she sees as the deterioration of online book culture and the lack of attention paid to more experimental work in America.