• August 5, 2016

    A British woman was stopped by airport security after a crew member on her flight home to the UK reported her to police for reading Malu Halasa’s award-winning book Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline. “Ironically, a part of my job is working on anti-radicalisation,” Faizah Shaheen told The Independent, “assessing vulnerable young people with mental health problems [who] are at risk of being radicalised.”

    In the latest n+1, Nikil Saval asks: “Why is the question facing the left always, Is it good for the left? What about everyone else?”

    “I am romantic about reading, not about carbon byproducts,” New Yorker writer and American Heiress author Jeffrey Toobin tells the Times, to explain his iPad habit. He also mentions that “musical rights to” his senior thesis on Samuel Adams “are still available.”

    Haruki Murakami. Photo: wakarimasita

    Haruki Murakami. Photo: wakarimasita

    Italian journalist Tommasso Debenedetti keeps spreading death rumors about still-living writers, this time targeting novelist Haruki Murakami. Murakami’s publishers confirmed yesterday that the 1Q84 author is alive and well, much like Cormac McCarthy, who was Debenedetti’s previous mark for a Twitter death hoax.

    Tronc—formerly Tribune Publishing—is splitting into two separate entities: troncM and troncX. M is for print media, while X denotes digital and stands for “exchange.”

    Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine are set to publish Stronger Together in September. The book will focus on policy.

  • August 4, 2016

    George R. R. Martin. Photo: Henry Söderlund

    George R. R. Martin. Photo: Henry Söderlund

    The Forbes list of 2016’s highest-paid writers notes that “the written word isn’t dead—although television and movie adaptations often help drive sales.” James Patterson, whose novel Zoo was adapted into a TV series that’s now in its second season, topped the list. Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney came in second, most likely thanks to the slew of movies made from his books. George R. R. Martin placed twelfth with $9.5 million, but Forbes worries that his slow writing pace and the end of the HBO version of Game of Thrones may keep him off the list next year: “His reign may be near its end.”

    New York Magazine’s book critic Christian Lorentzen has a dad who voted for Bernie in the primaries and will now vote for Trump. This conversion is the inspiration for the writer’s latest “Diary” on the DNC for the London Review of Books. Unable to convince the elder Lorentzen to “vote for the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, or not vote at all,” he reflects on why Clinton has been unable to win over Bernie Sanders supporters who refuse to vote for “the lesser evil.” 

    Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt intends to finish his late wife Michelle McNamara’s final book. A true-crime writer, McNamara was working on a book about “The Golden State Killer” before her sudden death last spring.

    Gabriel Sherman, who made headlines with his story of Roger Ailes’s harassment lawsuits and subsequent resignation from Fox, talks to the Washington Post about the “deep sources and dogged persistence” it took to break the story. Sherman, who was previously Ailes’s biographer, “doesn’t think for a minute that the story has run its course.”

    Novelist and activist Mahasweta Devi has died at 90. Devi was best known for her political fiction, including The Queen of Jhansi and Mother of 1084.

    Employees of the trade news site Law360 announced plans to unionize last month, but unlike VICE, Gawker, or Salon, they are facing intense backlash from their employer. The Huffington Post spoke with a number of unnamed employees, who say that pay is not necessarily the highest priority in their organizing effort: unfair non-compete clauses and “pressure to write uncritical articles about big law firms and their partners” were some of the problems they hope forming a union could address.

    Gossip columnist Liz Smith reflects on what it means when Donald Trump tries to blacklist you. After breaking the story of Donald and Ivanka’s divorce, Smith remembers, “He said he would buy the New York Daily News in order to fire me. It was the greatest thing. He made me world famous.”

  • 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.


  • July 29, 2016

    Washington Post reporter Jose A. DelReal was denied entry to a Mike Pence rally in Wisconsin, even after he had stored his cellphone and laptop in his car at the request of security. Erik Wemple has a round-up of the many troubling aspects of Trump’s adversarial relationship with the press. Observer writer Lincoln Mitchell is the latest employee to resign from the newspaper owned by Trump’s son-in-law. Trump held an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit Wednesday night which did not actually allow anyone to ask him “anything.” The AMA was held in a pro-Trump subreddit and moderated by the candidate’s supporters. According to The Daily Beast, who attempted to ask why Trump has yet to release his tax returns, “The result was a production so tightly controlled you’d think Trump was running for president of North Korea.”

    A Florida appeals court has granted a temporary stay that prevents Hulk Hogan from collecting the $140 million he was awarded earlier this year in his invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against Gawker Media.

    IBT Media, which went from a clickbait website to respected news source to floundering digital publication in just under a decade, is now being called out by former employees for failure to pay freelancers or offer severance to laid-off workers. Former employees are voicing their indignation with the hashtag “#IBTWTF.” One employee pointed out that the company, which has yet to comment, had enough money to donate $1.3 million to a controversial evangelical university, but not enough to pay their workers.

    Stephen Elliott. Photo: Larry D. Moore

    Stephen Elliott. Photo: Larry D. Moore

    LA Weekly profiles Stephen Elliott, the author of The Adderall Diaries, who has started his own film festival. The Rumpus Lo-Fi Los Angeles Film Festival, which begins on July 30, will feature Elliott’s own movie, After Adderall, a reflection on the author’s alienating experience of having his book optioned by James Franco, as well as three other films and two panel discussions: “How to Film Festival” and “Life Into Art, When Books Become Movies.”

    Deborah Shapiro, the author of the new novel The Sun in Your Eyes, writes about novels that describe fictional artworks—“works of art within works of art”—by authors such as Robert Stone, Rachel Kushner, and Dawn Powell.

    Decide which faction of writers you’d like to join in the “pantsing vs. planning”  debate and learn “How to Write a Novel.” Then, learn how to clear out space on your bookshelf for all your masterpieces.

  • July 28, 2016

    James Alan McPherson

    James Alan McPherson

    James Alan McPherson—the author, longtime teacher at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a MacArthur Fellow—has died at age seventy-two. In 1978, McPherson became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his story collection Elbow Room, and in 2000, John Updike selected one of his stories for the anthology The Best American Short Stories of the Century

    Since Google shut down Dennis Cooper’s blog on June 27, the question has been: Why? We may soon find out: On Facebook, the novelist says that Google has finally made contact, and that the company’s lawyers are now ready to talk with his lawyers about his deleted blog account.

    Poet and critic Michael Robbins has written one of the better analyses of Gay Talese’s much-talked-about new book, The Voyeur’s Motel. He finds a rich analogy in John D’Agata’s book The Lifespan of a Fact, which “contends that niggling details like facts can get in the way of important stuff like truth and art.” Robbins agrees. But he still doesn’t think much of Talese’s book, which he finds “plodding,” and overly reliant on a journal written by a voyeur who “evinces little self-consciousness.

    Le Monde’s editor in chief Jérôme Fenoglio has written an op-ed titled “Resisting the Strategy of Hate,” in which he states that the latest ISIS attacks in France—one of which led to the death of an elderly priest in a suburb of Rouen—are designed to inspire “blind vengeance” and to turn the country into an “empire of hate.” He also reiterates the paper’s decision not to publish photographs of attackers.

    How many free journalists are left in Turkey? After warrants were issued for forty-seven Turkish journalists on Monday, Reuters reports that the government has called for forty-two more to be arrested, most of them staff of the shut down Zaman newspaper.

    Peter Thiel—the billionaire PayPal cofounder, Trump supporter, and nemesis of Gawker Media—was recently scheduled to speak at a gathering organized by the Property and Freedom Society, which has been called “white-nationalist-friendly.” Thiel’s spokespeople say that he is no longer attending the event.

  • July 27, 2016

    The Man Booker Prize longlist was announced this morning. The list includes Paul Beatty’The Sellout, David Means’Hystopia, Ottessa Moshfegh’Eileen, and ten other novels. The winner will be announced on October 25th.

    Michelle Goldberg, the author of The Means of Production: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World, traces the way irrational animosity towards Hillary Clinton has changed over the past two decades. In 1996, Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote: “Like horse-racing, Hillary-hating has become one of those national pastimes which unite the élite and the lumpen.” Back then, Goldberg writes, Clinton was seen as a “moralist, a meddler, a prig.” Today, Goldberg suggests, the complaints are quite different: “She is disingenuous and she lies blatantly,” says one interviewee. (The impression that Clinton is dishonest is widely held, but fact checkers have found her to be fundamentally honest.) Elsewhere, Rebecca Traister, author of All the Single Ladies, argues that some progressives are lifting anti-Clinton rhetoric from the Republican National Convention.

    Novelist and critic Teju Cole (Open City) devotes his “On Photography” column to images of the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly the photograph of Leshia Evans, a protester in Baton Rouge who has been frequently compared to a superhero: “Her dress, abstractly patterned in black and white, swirls around her. She seems almost to be levitating.” Cole points to a “deeper genealogy” (which includes “Tank Man,” taken in 1989 near Tiananmen Square) and wonders whether, after news of more violence, he should revise his column, already edited but not yet in print. In a postscript, he explains why he did not revise. “The duty of critical writing is to listen to the noise of life without being deafened by it.”

    More than forty TED speakers give their summer reading recommendations.

    Although readers have been taking Rich Cohen to task on social media for his shallow portrait of Margot Robbie in his Vanity Fair cover story, the Suicide Squad and Wolf of Wall Street actress told an Australian TV show that it’s no different from any other day on the Internet: “I’ve read far more offensive, far more sexist, insulting, derogatory, disgusting things on a daily basis.”

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden. Photo: Open Road Films

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden. Photo: Open Road Films

    It’s been a good week for books with big screen dreams. The trailer for Snowden, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and based on Luke Harding’s The Snowden Files and Anatoly Kucharena’s Time of the Octopus, premiered at San Diego’s ComicCon. Two books by investigative journalists on the Panama Papers leak are being adapted into movies. Hulu announced that Orange is the New Black actress Samira Wiley has signed on to its series based on Margaret Atwood’s classic dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. The Hollywood trend of “turning subversion of its own tropes into its chief box office asset” might be a good thing for “Discworld” series author Terry Pratchett—studios have struggled to adapt the prolific novelist’s often pessimistic works to the big screen.

    Revolution Books, the New York City bookstore that raised $100,000 last year to move from its original Chelsea location to a new spot in Harlem, is starting an IndieGoGo campaign. The bookstore seeks $25,000 “to enable it to stock more books, add an air conditioning system, and build a stage for author events.” Spokesperson Andy Zee wrote in an email to bookstore members, “The simple and brute fact is that Revolution Books…cannot survive and grow by selling books alone.”

  • July 26, 2016

    A publicity still from Jill Soloway's "I Love Dick." Photo: Amazon Studios.

    A publicity still from Jill Soloway’s “I Love Dick.” Photo: Amazon Studios.

    Vulture has a behind-the-scenes look at Transparent creator Jill Soloway’s new Amazon series, I Love Dick, which premieres on August 19th. Soloway has taken Chris Kraus’s 1997 cult novel and transported it to Marfa, Texas, casting Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Hahn, and Griffin Dunne as the three leads in this story of a lopsided love triangle. Soloway has high hopes for the show’s radical potential: “It’s just so powerful for a woman to say, ‘No, I’m not the object of your story,’ . . . ‘I’m the subject.’ Just that simple sentence is enough to upend the entire planet.”

    In Turkey, forty-two journalists have been targeted for arrest following the failed coup attempt on July 15th. According to The Guardian, one of the reporters believed to have a warrant out for his arrest is Fatih Yağmur, who left the country after the coup. Yağmur told the paper, “I fear for my life, I do not feel safe in Turkey. I do not intend to return before the state of emergency is lifted.”

    Reverend Tim LaHaye, the author of the bestselling evangelical Christian apocalypse series, “Left Behind,” has died at the age of ninety. In 2003, Joan Didion considered LaHaye’s work and its influence on president George W. Bush.

    n+1 has released the annotated table of contents for their upcoming issue, “Dirty Work.” Highlights include Namara Smith on how Hillary’s “belief that what’s best for the market is best for women . . . has lost much of its force,” Stephen Squibb on “Prince Trump,” and Gabriel Winant on how “American workers can do everything right and still lose.”

    Patsy Tarr is resurrecting Dance Ink, the influential dance magazine last published in 1996.

    Chaos Monkeys, Antonio Garcia Martinez’s account of the time he spent trying to get rich quick in Silicon Valley, has been hailed as “the most fun business book I have read this year” by Dealbook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin. Sorkin approves of Martinez’s combative dedication, “To all my enemies: I could not have done it without you,” figuring his attitude problem is what gives him the gumption to shine a light on tech-bro culture. But Sorkin seems to have ignored passages like this one: “Most women in the Bay Area are soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness. . . . They have their self-regarding entitlement feminism, and ceaselessly vaunt their independence, but the reality is, come the epidemic plague or foreign invasion, they’d become precisely the sort of useless baggage you’d trade for a box of shotgun shells or a jerry can of diesel.”

  • July 25, 2016

    Dennis Cooper

    Dennis Cooper

    The petition to restore novelist Dennis Cooper’s blog, which was deleted by Google without explanation, now has more than 3,000 signatures. Mark Edmund Doten, an editor at Soho Press and the author of the novel The Infernal, makes an impassioned plea at the petition’s webpage: “Google, give it back. We want all of it, the thousands of posts about art and literature, about roller coasters and defunct amusement parks, about haunted houses, optical illusions, and indie rock. We want the galleries of Halloween Masks and the tour of the Winchester Mystery House and Thomas Bernhard Day and the annual Bûche de Noël Beauty Pageant. Google, we want it all back, and we want it now.” At the New Yorker’s Culture Desk, Jennifer Krasinski tries to find out why the blog was erased, quoting a former Google employee saying that it was probably “just a stupid mistake.” Cooper told Krasinski that if he doesn’t get an answer from Google soon, he’ll have to sue the company, saying “I can’t let it go.”

    Roger Ailes has not spoken publicly since he resigned as head of Fox News on Thursday, but according to sources close to Ailes, he is planning to discuss his time at the network in a memoir. Ailes has a long-standing deal with HarperCollins; “the book is a priority for him now,” one longtime friend told CNN.

    At the Washington Post, Aaron Blake tallies the most damaging emails from the Democratic National Committee leak, which include messages that mock Sanders, call one of his campaign aides a “damn liar,” and question his loyalty to the Democratic Party. 

    To best understand Hillary Clinton, Carlos Lozada writes at the Washington Post, “don’t watch the convention.” Rather, you should read her “two contrasting memoirs,” Living History and Hard Choices.

    Marvel Comics has announced that Roxane Gay, the author of the essay collection Bad Feminist and the forthcoming memoir Hunger, will be co-writing a new comic series with Ta-Nehisi Coates. The first issue of Coates’s Black Panther was the best-selling comic of the year. Meanwhile, congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis’s graphic novel and memoir, March Book Two, won an Eisner award for nonfiction this weekend.

    The Guardian has a set of interviews with fiction translators, reflecting on how they got their start and how the difficulties of translating go far beyond grammar and syntax. Besides Ann Goldstein, the translator and face of Elena Ferrante’s novels in the US, there are insights from Edith Grossman—translator of Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Antonio Munoz Molina’s Manuscript of Ashes—and Don Bartlett, who has translated all six volumes of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle.