• August 31, 2016

    President Barack Obama will be the guest-editor of Wired’s November issue, on the subject of “Frontiers.” “When the Founders wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they were at the bleeding edge of Enlightenment philosophy and technology,” said Wired editor in chief Scott Dadich. “We want to wrestle with the idea of how today’s technology can influence political leadership. And who better to help us explore these ideas than President Obama?”

    Despite rampant speculation about Trump’s plans to launch a media project after losing the general election, Bloomberg says it might take more money than the candidate has. “It’d be an expensive move for a man who has famously run a low-budget presidential campaign.” The Washington Post has digitized a large amount of source material from its recent book, Trump Revealed, including financial documents, court filings, and interview transcripts.

    Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji, who was sentenced to two years in prison after a reader claimed that a sex scene in Naji’s The Use of Life “made his blood pressure drop and his heartbeat fluctuate,” has lost his motion for appeal of his sentence.

    Although Facebook just dismissed its entire New York-based editorial team, Poynter thinks that the website should hire some fact checkers to oversee its trending topics section. But fact checkers would be editorial employees, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said earlier this week that Facebook is “a tech company, not a media company.” A former Facebook editor spoke with Digiday about working on the platform’s trending section. The site claims that the human editors were teaching the algorithm how to perform, but the computer was a poor student: “If you’ve used the tool in the last few days, you’d realize that the algorithm didn’t learn shit.”


    John F. Nash. Photo: Peter Badge

    The Nobel Prize medal of mathematician John F. Nash, the subject of Sylvia Nasar’s book A Beautiful Mind (later a film), will be auctioned this fall at Sotheby’s. The projected price of $2.5 to $4 million may prove the current command “of scientists over literary types in the rarefied market for some of the world’s most difficult-to-acquire gold jewelry.” By contrast, William Faulkner’s medal did not sell in 2013 after bidding reached only $425,000.

    Lena Dunham announced a new collection of short stories in her newsletter yesterday. Best and Always will be published by Random House next year. Read her newest story, “The Mechanic,” at Lenny Letter.

    “Book ninjas” in Melbourne, Australia, have been stealthily leaving books on trains and bus lines “in a subversive attempt to bring reading back to workers’ commutes.” Although one usually becomes a ninja by birth, anyone can become a book ninja by requesting stickers from co-founders Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus.

  • August 30, 2016

    Hasan Minhaj

    Hasan Minhaj

    Hasan Minhaj, a Daily Show senior correspondent, is collaborating with PEN America to launch “The M Word,” an event series that “will provide a platform for Muslim-American writers and cultural figures to address audiences on their own terms . . . to challenge the prevailing narrow representations of highly diverse Muslim communities comprised of more than three million Americans.” Minhaj will be part of a panel on Muslim comedians on September 21.

    The MTA is collaborating with Penguin Random House to launch “Subway Reads, a web platform that can be reached from a subway platform.” The program will offer free digital versions of short stories and book excerpts that can be downloaded using the Wi-Fi service offered in subway stations, with selections sorted by the length of a commuter’s ride. Subway Reads will be available for the next eight weeks.

    After firing most of its human editors, Facebook is struggling to convince users that the site’s trending algorithm is ready to fly solo. This weekend, however, the trending section picked up a fake article about Megyn Kelly endorsing Hillary Clinton, among other questionable stories, “including #McChicken, a hashtag that had gone viral after someone posted a video of a man masturbating with a McChicken sandwich.”

    After a third sexting scandal, Anthony Weiner has been put on leave from his job at NY1, and his columns will no longer be printed in the New York Daily News. Huma Abedin, Clinton aide and Weiner’s wife, announced that they had decided to separate.

    Fox News is currently the most-watched cable network for all time slots, but how long can the network hold on to the top spot? “Half of Fox News viewers are over the age of 68.”

    Ursula K. Le Guin talks to the New York Times about her forthcoming Library of America collection, The Complete Orsinia. Although Le Guin is known for science fiction books like The Left Hand of Darkness, she convinced the publisher to compile her more realist early works. “Someone who pigeonholed me firmly will say, ‘What the hell?’ But that’s their problem.”

  • August 29, 2016

    Google has finally revealed why it shut down novelist Dennis Cooper’s blog and canceled his email account earlier this summer. On his Facebook page, Cooper writes that “some unknown person’s flagging of one image on a ten year-old group-curated page that wasn’t even technically on my blog is the reason they disabled my blog and email account.” Late last week, Cooper announced that Google has agreed to release the decade’s worth of data and archives from his blog. Cooper’s blog—“in a new, non-Google spot”—relaunches today.

    Director Harmony Korine is working on an adaptation of Alissa Nutting’s novel Tampa, about a middle-school teacher who seduces one of her students.

    Ian McEwan. Photo: Thesupermat

    Ian McEwan. Photo: Thesupermat

    Ian McEwan, whose upcoming book Nutshell centers on the experience of a fetus as its mother conspires with its uncle to kill its father, worries that he may get shot at a book signing. “Someone’s going to come up, especially in the States, shooting at my chest, you know. It would be quite easy,” McEwan told The Guardian. He has other concerns, such as repeating himself and possibly boring his interviewer, but he is sanguine about the difficulties of writing from the point of view of an unborn person: “[McEwan] solved the problem of how a foetus could know enough about the outside world to make sense of what he overheard by making Trudy an avid listener to Radio 4 and podcasts.”

    Far-right news site Breitbart hopes to capitalize on the growing nationalist sentiments worldwide by opening a European branch. “Germany and Brussels are also being considered but France is a particularly attractive option for expansion, [editor in chief Alexander] Marlow said, given the prominence of far-right politicians, concerns about terrorism and the impact of Islam on society.” Glenn Beck spoke with BuzzFeed about what steps Trump might take if, after losing in November, he starts his own television channel. “Make sure that it is clearly understood my disdain for this entire vision,” Beck said.

    The New York Times is searching for dedicated editors to cover education, climate change, and gender issues. The new positions will be exclusively focused on digital journalism and “independent of the department structure.”

    The Village Voice has tapped Rolling Stone contributing editor (and former Voice music-section editor) Joe Levy to be its interim editor in chief.

    Alan Moore spoke to Publisher’s Weekly about the origins of his new novel, Jerusalem. The 600,000 word book came out of Moore’s meditations on the hereafter. “He found various conceptions of the afterlife lacking. The conventional Christian idea ‘didn’t sound like it was quite the kind of lifestyle that I’d like to pursue for the rest of eternity,’ he says. ‘All of that golden marble, it sounded like a 1980s plasterers bathroom.’” After realizing that his life now was the ideal eternity, “he wrote an immense novel that encompasses all of his feelings for home and family. And along the way, he says, he unknowingly re-created Albert Einstein’s thinking about time and space.”

    Poet Max Ritvo, known for his work in the New Yorker and elsewhere, has died at 25. Four Reincarnations, his first collection of poetry, will be published in the fall.

  • August 26, 2016

    Marilynne Robinson

    Marilynne Robinson

    Marilynne Robinson has won the Richard C. Holbrooke award for her writing, which Dayton Literary Peace Prize founder Sharon Rab praised for being “concerned with the issues that define the . . . prize: forgiveness, the sacredness of the human creature and delight in being alive and experiencing the natural world.” PEN Center USA announced the 2016 Literary Award winners, including a prize for journalists T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong for their investigation, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” for ProPublica and the Marshall Project.

    Translator Deborah Smith, who along with author Han Kang won the Man Booker International Prize for The Vegetarian this year, has started her own publishing house in London. Tilted Axis Press will focus on translated works from Asian languages that Smith feels are underrepresented in commercial publishing, “in a way that makes it clear that this is art, not anthropology.”

    “With the surge in cell phone usage and the increasing obsolescence of landlines in recent years,” the days of telephone polling might be numbered, and the New York Times–CBS News poll is rumored to be the first to go.

    The deadline for an essay contest to find a new publisher and editor for Vermont’s Hardwick Gazette, a weekly newspaper, has been extended to September 20 due to a low number of entries.

    R.C. Baker remembers the Village Voice’s Richard Kopperdahl, who died earlier this week. Kopperdahl was known for his first-person writing about his time spent in Bellevue Hospital’s Psychiatric Ward.

    Ramparts magazine editor Warren Hinckle died yesterday. Under Hinckle’s leadership, the magazine went from a publication for left-leaning Catholics “to a slickly produced, crusading political magazine that galvanized the American left.” Ramparts published the diaries of Che Guevara, Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories, and photo essays detailing the violence experienced by Vietnamese civilians during the war.

  • August 25, 2016

    Bob Odenkirk will write “a comic ‘bildungsroman’ . . . except this will be more memoir and the main character, Bob Odenkirk (actor, writer, comedian, gadabout), doesn’t grow morally or psychologically.” Nick Offerman of Parks and Recreation is still fixated on his former character, Ron Swanson, and has written a new book about his East LA woodshop, to be released in October. Pretty Little Liars’s Ian Harding, who plays writer and former English teacher Ezra Fitz, will release Odd Bird, a book of essays on life and bird watching, next spring.

    Robert Seethaler, a character actor who had a role in Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, is a writer as well. His novel A Whole Life, which comes out in the US this September, was a best-seller in Germany. He talks to the New York Times about the origin of his book, why he prefers writing to acting, and his next literary project—a novel about a small-town graveyard: “After this I’ll probably need to rest for a few years and laugh as much as possible.”

    Truman Capote

    Truman Capote

    Truman Capote’s ashes will be auctioned next month in Los Angeles at a starting price of $2,000. After the author died at Johnny Carson’s home in 1984, his ashes remained there until Joanne Carson’s death last year. Although the Carson estate was unsure about their plan to sell off the “carved Japanese box” containing the late writer, Julien’s Auctions owner Darren Julien can think of no better honor for Capote. “It really embodies what Truman Capote was and what he loved to do. Truman told Joanne that he didn’t want his ashes to sit on a shelf. So this is a different way of honouring his request.” Julien hopes that whoever decides to buy the ashes will be a New York resident “or someone that travels a lot and can take him with them.”

    The Daily Beast reports that “Donald Trump used his campaign funds to buy thousands of copies of his own book at retail cost” in a possibly illegal move that turns political donations into royalties paid into Trump’s personal accounts.

    A new program in London will offer books to everyone in police custody in the city. “Books for Nicks” came to life after Constable Steve Whitmore arrested a young man, who then asked him for a book to read while he was being held. Whitmore offered him Catcher in the Rye. “The look on his face was amazing, his attitude and hostility towards me completely changed and it created common ground for us to talk about.” Library Journal has an in-depth look at the holdings of Rikers Island’s branch of the New York Public Library that opened last month. “Very little content is prohibited by DOC other than ‘the obvious stuff,’” said librarian Sarah Ball. “‘We are asked by the department not to bring in books about how to make weapons, or fighting techniques.’”

    A panel on David Bowie and Prince, a conversation with Margaret Atwood, and readings by several New York poet laureates are just a few of the events at this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival.

  • August 24, 2016

    National Museum of African American History and Culture. Photo: Rex Hammock

    National Museum of African American History and Culture. Photo: Rex Hammock

    Vinson Cunningham writes on the soon-to-open National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, and the century-long “bureaucratic slog” required to make it happen. Founding director Lonnie Bunch has been at work on the project since 2005. His unconventional techniques included Antiques Roadshow–style acquisitions, but his vision for the building might be the most striking: “I didn’t want the white marble building that traditionally was the Mall. What I wanted to say was, there’s always been a dark presence in America that people undervalue, neglect, overlook. I wanted this building to say that.”

    Curtis Sittenfeld, author most recently of the Pride and Prejudice-inspired Eligible, talks to the Times about the oversized authority of book reviews. “It’s not really, say, The New York Times that’s authoritatively weighing in on the quality of a book. . . . It’s actually one reviewer weighing in, . . . and all of us as individuals have quirky, subjective taste.” Sittenfeld also outlines which reviews she’ll read: “I’ll read the ones that are smart and positive, smart and negative, or dumb and positive (hey, all our egos need a little sustenance!). But there’s no point in reading a dumb, negative review.”

    Unlike her husband, who often accuses publications of inaccuracies on social media but rarely follows up with any substantive action, Melania Trump has notified the Daily Mail of her plans to take legal action over an article published last week containing allegations that she may have once worked as an escort. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is unintentionally promoting the Washington Post’s “hit job book,” Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power, by tweeting about it.

    The Wall Street Journal reports on the origin of Vice’s TV channel, which came about thanks to an unlikely partnership with Disney. Disney hopes to reach “young, male audiences who are fleeing pay television for digital alternatives.” At a Vice Media board meeting in Las Vegas last year, CEO Shane Smith “had just won $1 million at blackjack” when he brokered the deal with Disney. “That evening, Mr. Smith was using his gambling winnings to host Disney strategy chief Kevin Mayer and a couple dozen other executives at a $300,000 dinner at the hotel’s Prime Steakhouse, complete with $40,000 bottles of French Burgundy.”

    Twitter keeps getting compared to the worst parts of the web. Most recently, The Observer has likened the social media platform to Yahoo, citing Twitter’s continued identity crisis, the return of founder Jack Dorsey, and the site’s weak response to threats and harassment. “The clock is ticking on Twitter. . . . Dorsey or whoever buys it had better finally come up with some real answers to its myriad problems.”

    Dr. Mehmet Oz, whose health advice has been questioned by the New Yorker, the New York Times, Columbia University, and Senator Claire McCaskill among others, has signed a deal with Scribner to publish Food Can Fix It next spring.

  • August 23, 2016

    Gawker’s last day was Monday, and the tributes, remembrances, justifications, and arguments continue to pour in from its former writers and editors, while Josh Laurito, of the Gawker Data Team, crunches the numbers (in total, Gawker has received about 7 billion pageviews of 202,370 posts). Alex Balk writes about the website’s vaunted maxim, “honesty is our only virtue,” and considers the ways in which it did not always live up to that ideal: “Gawker’s biggest lies were the ones it told about itself. But these errors were small in scale when measured up against the pervasive duplicity offered by the other publications Gawker was established to counter.” Hamilton Nolan reflects on the freedom that Gawker offered its writers, noting that “this site contains the very best and worst things that many writers have written. This fact drives many people mad. But to the sort of person who was cut out to be a Gawker writer, it was just right.” Tom Scocca (author of one of Gawker’s all-time highlights, “On Smarm”) argues against the idea that Gawker burned out because it was too reckless and mean—a notion that has already become the conventional explanation. Referring to Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley tycoon who bankrolled the Gawker-killing Hulk Hogan lawsuit, Scocca says there is one larger truth that we should take from the saga: “You live in a country where a billionaire can put a publication out of business. A billionaire can pick off an individual writer and leave that person penniless and without legal protection. If you want to write stories that might anger a billionaire, you need to work for another billionaire yourself, or for a billion-dollar corporation. The law will not protect you.” Four former editors, including founding editor Elizabeth Spiers, bid the site farewell.

    Daisuke Wakabayashi

    Daisuke Wakabayashi

    The New York Times has hired Daisuke Wakabayashi to write about technology with a very narrow focus: As he puts it on his Twitter bio, he’ll be reporting on “mainly Google.” Wakabayashi was formerly a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, where he covered the Apple beat.

    The Times has also selected three multimedia journalists to serve as “Embedded Mediamakers” on their Race/Related newsletter and reporting team. Bayeté Ross Smith, Logan Jaffe, and Saleem Reshamwala will be funded by the MacArthur Foundation and spend either ten or twenty weeks working on digital storytelling about race.

    “I still find ‘Negro’ a word of wonders, glorious and terrible,” writes Margo Jefferson. She’ll be at the Strand tonight discussing Negroland, for which she won a National Book Critics Circle Award, with the writer and critic Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah.

  • August 22, 2016

    Matt Bissonnette, the former Navy SEAL who wrote No Easy Day, an account of the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, will forfeit $6.8 million in royalties for failing to get Pentagon clearance for the book. Bissonnette wrote the best-seller under the pen name Mark Owen.

    Ohio University has yet to decide on whether they will rename the Roger E. Ailes Newsroom, which was paid for with donations from the former Fox News president. The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan hopes that Carlson will resist the urge to settle her sexual harassment case: “Already, the righteous wound she has inflicted on a misogynistic culture has begun to scab over. There are signs that not much has changed or will change.”

    Matt Bissonnette

    Matt Bissonnette

    Although Max Read wrote about the variety of possible causes for Gawker’s death, former Jezebel editor Jia Tolentino thinks that the real cause was “simply the manner in which the site operated: the combativeness, the lack of respect, the speed of the writing and editing and publishing, the relative absence of organizational hierarchy instituted by Nick Denton and the editors who worked for him.” Stephen Marche, once included on a Gawker list of “worst 100 white men,” writes that the destruction of the website should worry anyone in the publishing profession. “A price has been set for an individual’s ability to avoid press scrutiny, and frankly, it’s not that expensive.” CNN Money has a list of which Gawker Media sites former writers and editors will move to.

    Former Politico CEO Jim VandeHei still hasn’t explained what his next project will be, but he has hired two executives away from the New York Times.

    A writer in Harlem has started an IndieGoGo campaign to save Langston Hughes’s East Harlem brownstone. The current owner has no immediate plans to sell and is awaiting the outcome of the fundraising. Hughes’s typewriter is still inside.

  • August 19, 2016

    Wired has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. “If it’s true, as the writer William Gibson once had it, that the future is already here, just unevenly distributed, then our task has been to locate the places where various futures break through to our present and identify which one we hope for,” writes editor Scott Dadich. “Trump’s campaign started out like something from The Onion. Now it has moved into George Orwell–as–interpreted–by–Paul Verhoeven territory.”

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    “She just seems to me really intelligent, thoughtful, reasonable,” Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie told HuffPo, of Ivanka Trump. “I just imagine that she doesn’t really believe her father is the right choice for the U.S. It’s entirely possible . . . to love a member of your family, completely, and feel loyal to them while at the same time recognizing that they’re not particularly good at something.”

    Thomas Mann’s old house in Pacific Palisades is up for sale. In the New Yorker, Alex Ross describes a “tour of émigré haunts” that led him to visit 1550 San Remo Drive, where Mann wrote Doctor Faustus. “I like to imagine that, in some alternate universe, tour buses are trundling around Los Angeles, showing gawkers the homes of a different class of celebrity—not the stars of the silver screen but the stars of music, literature, and philosophy, members of that extraordinary constellation of European émigrés who took refuge in Southern California during the Nazi period.”

    “You all are screwing up your amateur book reviews,” writes librarian Peter Derk. He assails the crowd-sourced star system used by sites like Amazon and Goodreads to rate books, complaining that, among other things, readers can’t be trusted not to judge a book by its cover. “I read a review of Anthony Doerr’s Memory Wall, a book which has fossils on the cover. The reviewer was mad because the book had nothing to do with fossils.” Guess what? “Catcher In The Rye is not about the science of rainbows. The Godfather is not a treatise in marionette operation. The Hunger Games is not a book about a golden bird that carries an arrow around.”

    Emoji to the rescue? The Christian Science Monitor likes the idea of #emojireads, a Twitter movement that would replace blurbs full of “cliched adjectives” with “adorable digital icons and images, to describe book titles, summaries, and even entire stories.” A frowny purple demon and a stiletto heel, for instance, denotes The Devil Wears Prada. “The beauty of literature as emoji is that it refreshes literature in a way that everyone can enjoy—a puzzle of sorts that can be applied to all genres, and that nearly anyone can create or decipher. Think of it as a literary game that you don’t even need to have read the book to play.”

    Since art books are apparently propping up the rest of the dying print industry, why not pay a visit to the David Zwirner pop-up book shop? You can find all kinds of coffee table tomes at 525 West 20th Street (through August 30).

  • August 18, 2016

    Amazon will produce a film titled Ida Tarbell about the journalist of the same name whose nineteen-article series, “The History of the Standard Oil Company,” was serialized in McClure’s Magazine at the turn of the twentieth century. Tarbell shed light on the dirty doings of John D. Rockefeller and was one of the first so-called muckrakers, a label she rejected: “I was convinced that in the long run the public they were trying to stir would weary of vituperation, that if you were to secure permanent results the mind must be convinced.”

    Pamela Paul

    Pamela Paul

    “To a remarkable degree our daily book critics help set the literary agenda for the country,” writes Dean Baquet, executive editor of the Times, in a memo to staff announcing that Pamela Paul, the editor of the Sunday Book Review, will take charge of the entirety of the paper’s books coverage. Paul will probably erase the line between Sunday and daily reviews—“a line established when the paper was divided according to print constructs.”

    The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore will air its final episode tonight. Comedy Central President Kent Alterman said “the show ‘hasn’t resonated.’” The Times writes, “Though the late-show genre remains heavy on easygoing laughter, any one episode of ‘The Nightly Show’ could occasionally go for prolonged stretches without a single joke, something that intrigued some critics but failed to attract a broader audience.”

    Would you like to receive a stipend of $12,000 to be a BuzzFeed Fellow? BuzzFeed seeks to diversify the media landscape “by investing in the next generation of necessary voices.” Apply by October 1.

    Tonight at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, Yaa Gyasi will read from her novelHomegoing.