• March 3, 2016

    Longlists have been announced for the Orwell Prize for Journalism, and for the much more enticingly named Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils.

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan’s archives, which are much more extensive than you might expect, have just been purchased by several institutions in Oklahoma. The New York Times writes: “Classics from the 1960s appear in coffee-stained fragments, their author still working out lines that generations of fans would come to know by heart. (‘You know something’s happening here but you,’ reads a scribbled early copy of ‘Ballad of a Thin Man,’ omitting ‘don’t know what it is’ and the song’s famous punch line: ‘Do you, Mister Jones?’) The range of hotel stationery suggests an obsessive self-editor in constant motion.”

    Technology site CNET has begun publishing new fiction monthly under the oddly chosen rubric Technically Literate.

    It’s to be assumed that, despite his withdrawal last time, Donald Trump will make an appearance at tonight’s Fox News Republican debate, and the New York Times has been speaking with the moderators beforehand: “I’m a fight fan, and when you watch a referee in a match, even if the fighters are tangled up, if they’ve each got a free arm and are still punching, the ref will let them keep fighting,” Chris Wallace said. He’s also quoted as saying: “I thought that if you could see someone acting like a president on the stage, you have better eyesight than I do. . . . Having said that, in the end, if the candidates want to act like damn fools, I’m not going to stop them.” Fox boss Rupert Murdoch, on the other hand, seems all ready to rally behind Trump.

    Another heartwarming image: Apparently a group of Republican legislators have their own book club, where they invite lobbyists and donors to discuss the merits of Ayn Rand and the like over lunch.

    Melissa Harris-Perry, “an African American scholar in an industry that has diversity problems [and] a host whose topical focus for four years on MSNBC has been race and gender,” has refused a parting deal with the network that would have prevented her talking about the problems there via a “non-disparagement clause.” “They wanted us to cover politics in the narrowest sense,” CNN Money quotes her as saying. “I told my team, we can’t allow our own show to go off air and then provide racial cover by having me continue to host the show so people see the little black girl up there.”

    Ahead of International Women’s Day next week, journalist Melissa Gira Grant lists her recommended reading on sex work and reproductive labor, including Kathi Weeks’s The Problem with Work and Samuel R. Delany’s Times Square Red, Times Square Blue.

    And you won’t want to miss these previously unpublished early works by Annie Dillard.

  • March 2, 2016

    The New Yorker’s long-serving managing editor, Silvia Killingsworth, will be taking over as editor of the Awl, and while she’s at it, will be in charge of a relaunch of the Hairpin.

    Nine writers, including Helen Garner, C. E. Morgan, and Hilton Als, received one of Yale’s Windham-Campbell Prizes this week: Always good, as the program director Michael Kelleher points out, to get a call “out of the blue” offering you $150,000.

    Young Jean Lee

    Young Jean Lee

    Among the winners is Branden Jacob-Jenkins—who said ”I only wish everyone alive could get a phone call like the one I just received”—who has also received one of this year’s PEN literary awards, as has the brilliant playwright Young Jean Lee. And Toni Morrison has been given PEN’s Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.

    After a false start a couple of years ago, Hachette Book Group is now to buy the publishing section of Perseus, increasing by half the number of new books it brings out every year.

    Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah’s beautiful essay on James Baldwin, taken from a forthcoming anthology, The Fire This Time, is up at BuzzFeed.

    The latest issue of Words Without Borders is out, featuring an intriguing range of Moroccan writing and some Uyghur poetry.

    After Super Tuesday, you may want to revisit John Oliver’s take on Donald Trump.

  • March 1, 2016

    Buzzfeed reports that the New York Times has off-the-record tape of Donald Trump, who hopes to consolidate his lead in the race for the GOP nomination today, suggesting that his views on immigration may be less rigid than those he has expressed in public. Rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are asking that the recording be released.

    Melissa Harris-Perry

    Melissa Harris-Perry

    And election season seems the worst time for cable news to be losing Melissa Harris-Perry, whose MSNBC show has mysteriously collapsed, or in her words, been “effectively and utterly silenced.”

    If you haven’t yet read Joshua Cohen’s piece on Bernie Sanders, Super Tuesday may be the day to do so.

    Staff at Gawker have negotiated the first union contract at a digital media company, securing minimum salary levels, a guaranteed annual pay rise, and, unusually, an agreement on editorial independence: A union rep said that “Any decision on editorial content has to be made by the editorial side – not by business decisions or advertisers.” Writer Hamilton Nolan expressed the hope that the contract would serve as an example to “some of the other places in the industry that screw their writers a lot worse than we do.”

    And in other cheering news, a report on feline fiction and its controversies.

  • 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.”