• August 3, 2016

    Colson Whitehead. Photo: Larry D. Moore

    Colson Whitehead. Photo: Larry D. Moore

    Colson Whitehead’s new novel, The Underground Railroad, was released yesterday, one month early, in a surprise move to coincide with the announcement of its inclusion in Oprah’s book club. For now, the book is only available in the Oprah-approved format. This weekend, the Times will feature a 16,000 word excerpt of the book, but only in print.

    The Times might be the next news outlet to find itself on the Trump media blacklist. After insinuating as much at a campaign event, the candidate sat down with Sean Hannity to call out the newspaper for being sub-literate: “They don’t know how to write good. … I call it ‘The Failing New York Times,’ because it won’t be in business for probably more than a few years.”

    VICE is becoming a template for digital publishing, at least when it comes to TV. Websites like Ozy, Vox, and BuzzFeed are looking to the HBO partner for inspiration. “‘It’s a lot of freaking work,’ said Chad Mumm, VP of Vox Entertainment, which is working on a show about prefabricated homes for the FYI network.” The publisher Atlas Obscura is also considering a TV spin off, while “building the ‘Nice Vice’” in the meantime. Founder David Plotz currently “travels to the headquarters in Brooklyn three days a week to commune with the company’s 19 employees, but he takes the slow train and stays with his in-laws in Queens.”

    Not everyone thinks VICE has the right idea. CNN president Jeff Zucker tells Variety, “I don’t think Vice and BuzzFeed are legitimate news organizations,” calling them “native advertising shops.” Zucker, who “has 11 TVs mounted on the wall” of his office and “displays a framed tweet by Donald Trump complimenting CNN,” went on to explain his decision to bring on former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as a commentator: “I think it’s really important to have voices on CNN who are supportive of the Republican nominee. It’s hard to find a lot of those.”

    Novelist Jay McInerney, whose new book Bright, Precious Days hit bookstores yesterday, talks to The Guardian about his struggle “to find a balance between his affection for his characters and his desire to satirize the woes of these affluent, liberal Manhattanites.” Adelle Waldman writes that “nobody has a more exquisite appreciation than McInerney of the morbid, hypervigilant sensitivity we tend to harbor about our place in the world, especially when we’re feeling down.”

    At the Strand tonight: WWBD? (What Would Buffy Do?)

  • August 2, 2016

    Poet and writer Kevin Young will be taking over for historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad as the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York. Young is currently a professor and curator of rare books at Emory University, “where he helped spearhead a number of major acquisitions, including archives of Jack Kerouac . . . Flannery O’Connor and Lucille Clifton.”

    Kevin Young. Photo: Melanie Dunea

    Kevin Young. Photo: Melanie Dunea

    Yale University Press London has laid off the distinguished art editors Gillian Malpass and Sally Salvesen. The decision received a strong rebuke from the scholarly community, with more than three-hundred professors and curators signing a petition in protest. Andrew Saint, the petition’s co-author, told the Yale Daily News, “Ask anyone who knows about such things and they will tell you that Yale UP London are simply the tops in the international English-speaking world for art history publishing. It may be that many in New Haven including people high up in the university are unaware of this, but it is for this and this alone that the name of Yale is held in high repute in many circles. . . . The campaign to destroy what has been achieved to international acclaim is perverse and vandalistic.”

    Gawker founder Nick Denton is filing for bankruptcy in the wake of Hulk Hogan’s successful lawsuit against the media company. In a memo to Gawker staff, Denton says that the Gawker brand is stronger than ever, with increased traffic and solid advertising booking. Denton called the lawsuit, which was bankrolled by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, a “personal vendetta,” and remains an adamant supporter of Gawker’s actions: “For once, the journalistic cliché is appropriate: We’ve spoken truth to power. Sometimes uncomfortable truths. Sometimes gossipy truths. But truths. There is a price to pay for that, and I am paying it now. But we never gave up our souls in the pursuit of an easy life.”

    Andrew Holgate, the literary editor of the Sunday Times, has written a letter decrying the inclusion of five American authors on the Man Booker Prize longlist, calling it “disastrous.”

    VICE whets our appetite for Jeff Feuerzeig’s “compulsively watchable” documentary Author: The JT LeRoy Story, and revisits the episode that scandalized the literary world, when it was revealed that novelist and short-story writer LeRoy was an elaborate hoax. LeRoy himself was a fiction, the invention of the author Laura Albert, who convinced her sister-in-law Savannah Knoop to impersonate LeRoy for his rare public appearances. Albert hoodwinked many artists and writers, including Mary Karr, Tom Waits, and Dennis Cooper. As Mary Gaitskill said shortly after the hoax was exposed in 2005, the story “represented ‘the confusion between love and art and publicity’”—“a confusion,” writes VICE’s Roisin Agnew, “that seems far more suited to 2016 than to 2005, when the duality between identity and work has never seemed more prescient.”

    Tonight, Community Bookstore in Brooklyn is hosting a celebration of Helen DeWitt’s recently reissued first novel, The Last Samurai.

  • August 1, 2016

    Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned in 2013, has signed a book deal with Bloomsbury to write his autobiography. Last Testament, to be co-written with German journalist Peter Seewald, will be released internationally in November. The book describes his childhood during the Third Reich, charts his rise to the papacy, and, the press materials suggest, grapples with his shortcomings at the Vatican: “His account deals with the controversies that rocked the Catholic world—how he enraged the Muslim world with his Regensburg speech, what he did and did not do to stamp out the clerical sexual abuse of children, the Vatileaks scandal and more.”

    Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, the author of the bestselling book Lean In, is writing a new book about the sudden death last year of her husband, David Goldberg. Option B, written in collaboration with Adam Grant, “will touch on themes of hardship,” said Grant, “and finding comfort after marriage, raising children and experiencing suffering.”

    J. K. Rowling

    J. K. Rowling

    J. K. Rowling announced on Saturday that Harry Potter’s adventures have come to an end. At the opening gala for the book and theater production Harry Potter and the Lost Child—sold out for the moment, with a new batch of golden tickets to be released on August 4 for performances through December 2017—the author said of the wizard: “He goes on a very big journey during these two plays and then, yeah, I think we’re done.”

    Hillary Clinton continues to gain endorsements from prominent writers—even those who are emphatically lukewarm about her candidacy. In The Guardian, P.  J. O’Rourke writes of Clinton: “I mean, she’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.” He’s siding with Clinton because Trump is “just a fool—incredibly shallow and a liar. . . . There’s nothing predictable about him. When you have the outsized power of the president, that unpredictability is unacceptable.” Andrew Sullivan, who has returned to the Internet after shuttering his politics blog The Dish in 2015, live-blogged the Republican and Democratic conventions for New York and told the New York Times that although Clinton hasn’t changed, “she’s the only thing standing between Trump and us. She’ll do.”

    After some staffers tweeted enthusiastically about President Obama’s DNC speech, BuzzFeed editor in chief Ben Smith reminded employees to “refrain from taking ‘partisan stands’ on social media.” Smith noted that readers are less likely to trust journalists who “are vitriolic about a subject, or . . . are celebratory. When in doubt, the ideal journalistic posture is: 👀”

    Politico reports that vice presidential candidate and prolific op-ed writer Mike Pence is trying to convince the Trump campaign to stop blacklisting media outlets. Pence told radio host Hugh Hewitt, “I fully expect in the next 100 days we’re going to continue to be available to the media, whether they’re fair or unfair.”

    A newly unearthed Michael Crichton novel, which dramatizes the rivalry of two paleontologists, has been acquired by HarperCollins. Crichton’s widow Sherri found the manuscript while looking through the late author’s files for material for his official archives. The novel is slated to be released in 2017.