• September 19, 2016

    Wired examines The Bestseller Code, a book written by English Ph.D Jodie Archer and Stanford Literary Lab co-founder Matthew L. Jockers, based on their computer algorithm that can predict whether or not a book will be a bestseller with 80 percent accuracy. Key features of bestsellers, according to the program, include “young, strong heroines who are also misfits. … No sex, just ‘human closeness.’ Frequent use of the verb ‘need.’ Lots of contractions. Not a lot of exclamation marks. Dogs, yes; cats, meh.”

    The 2016 Online Journalism Awards were announced this weekend at the Online News Association Conference. Honorees include Quartz, AJ+, and the New York Times for “general excellence”; The Intercept for “The Drone Papers”; and New York Magazine for their feature “Cosby: The Women.”

    Joseph Kahn

    Joseph Kahn

    The New York Times is resurrecting the managing editor role and has appointed international assistant editor Joseph Kahn to the position. Executive editor Dean Baquet, who cut the job in 2014, said that without a managing editor, enacting changes in the newsroom was too difficult: “I thought that I really needed a partner in it, if we were really going to pull it off.” The paper also announced that Susan Chira, currently a deputy executive editor, will now be reporting on gender issues for the Times.

    The Gray Lady is also adopting a more aggressive stance towards Republican candidate Donald Trump’s false statements to the press, a move that Kahn supports. Reflecting on a recent headline—”Unwinding a Lie: Donald Trump and ‘Birtherism’”—Kahn said that the usual headline that would “let the reader decide for himself or herself … didn’t feel quite right.”

    Alex Thompson, a Vice News reporter, was arrested in Houston when he attempted to access a Trump event as a member of the press. Thompson has since been released.

    Vice, Gannett Media, and the Associated Press have filed a lawsuit seeking access to FBI documents pertaining to the agency’s access of the San Bernardino attacker’s phone. The news organizations had previously requested information on how the phone was accessed and how much the process cost through the Freedom of Information Act, but were denied. “FBI Director James Comey intimated in April that the price had been more than $1 million. He later said the security exploit was ‘well worth’ the high price.”

    The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald calls out the Washington Post for their demand that Edward Snowden, coverage of whom won the paper a Pulitzer, “accept a measure of criminal responsibility for his excesses.” The Post’s editorial board argued this weekend that the exposure of the NSA’s metadata collection was justified, but revealing the “clearly legal” PRISM program’s inner workings was not. Greenwald writes, “What did the Post editors forget to mention? That the newspaper which (simultaneous with The Guardian) made the choice to expose the PRISM program by spreading its operational details and top secret manual all over its front page is called . . . . The Washington Post.”

  • September 16, 2016

    The National Book Awards longlist for fiction is here. Finalists chosen by Jesmyn Ward and other judges include Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone, Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You, and more.

    The Dayton Literary Peace Prize has released shortlists for its fiction and nonfiction prizes. Honorees include Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, and Wil Haygood’s Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America. Winners will be announced in October.

    Jon Day, one of the judges for this year’s Man Booker prize, explains the panel’s shortlist choices and reflects on the selection process. “Being a judge for the Man Booker prize has at times felt like being part of a team of archaeologists excavating some vast buried city. Once the dust has settled—after nine months of reading—you stand back to survey your labours and realise all that’s left is a small pile of gleaming fragments.”

    rafi-zakaria-portrait.jpg.size.custom.crop.415x650Rafia Zakaria weighs in on the hypocrisy of terrorism reporting. Comparing the coverage of Dylan Roof, the white supremacist who murdered nine people in a church and has been dubbed a “domestic terrorist”—a meaningless designation under US law—to reporting on attacks by muslims, Zakaria writes: “Journalists are deeply committed to the First Amendment freedoms that permit them to do their jobs. Yet they have failed to explore how First Amendment protections are being disparately applied, exacerbating the threat posed by one group and underplaying another.” The paper is the first in a series of three by the Columbia Journalism Review.

    Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, a collection of George W. Bush’s paintings of veterans and soldiers, will be published next February.

    The Brooklyn Book Festival starts this weekend—see all of Sunday’s events here. Tonight’s Bookend events include the New York Review of Books’s Darryl Pinckney and the New Yorker’s Vinson Cunningham in conversation at the Weeksville Heritage Center; a panel moderated by n+1’s Nikil Saval on political reporting; and writers Rivka Galchen and Heidi Julavits on motherhood and writing.

  • September 15, 2016

    The National Book Association has chosen the finalists for its nonfiction award, including Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, and Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, among others.

    Suki Kim

    Suki Kim

    After meeting with a small group of writers over drinks at a conference this weekend, author Suki Kim was shocked to find her comments quoted in the New York Times. Rod Nordland’s article on Lionel Shriver’s controversial keynote at the Brisbane Writers Festival included a quote by Kim naming an author she felt was unfairly praised. Kim is not happy about seeing what she thought was a private conversation in the paper of record: “This is so unethical. It’s not acceptable what he did. . . . I would never talk about another writer in public. It’s so ungenerous and tacky.” The Times’s public editor Liz Spayd agreed that Nordland’s reporting was “outside the bounds of good journalistic practice,” but says it’s too late to remove the quote.

    Reagan Arthur—the publisher of Little, Brown—has bought Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s debut novel, Heather, the Totality. Inspired by Weiner’s observation of an Upper East Side teenager that he sensed was in “animal danger,” the “dark fable set in contemporary Manhattan” will be published in Fall 2017.

    Vice News has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the IRS in a bid to publicize Donald Trump’s tax records after the agency ignored Vice’s requests for expedited processing. They have also filed suit against the FBI for ignoring requests to release documents—”if any exist”—relating to the Republican candidate’s appeal Russia to track down missing emails from Clinton’s server and his allusion to assassinating the Democratic nominee. Vice has also delayed the premiere of their nightly news show Vice News Tonight by two weeks.

    Hachette Books will publish The Most Beautiful, a memoir by Prince’s first wife, Mayte Garcia, in April 2017.

    Tonight in the lead-up to the Brooklyn Book Festival, Teddy Wayne reads from his new novel Loner at Book Court; members of the National Book Critics Circle “discuss the art of writing about books” at the Center for Fiction; and Patti Smith celebrates the release of M Train at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope.

  • September 14, 2016

    Ohio University has decided to remove alumnus and former Fox News president Roger Ailes’s name from a student newsroom at the school, and will return the $500,000 donation Ailes made in 2007. Scholarships awarded in Ailes’s name will continue.

    The Man Booker Prize shortlist has been announced. Finalists include Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk, Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen, David Szalay’s All That Man Is, and Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing. At a press conference, the prize’s literary director Gaby Wood responded to criticism of the longlist’s lack of diversity.

    The National Book Awards poetry longlist has been announced. Finalists include Solmaz Sharif’s Look, Monica Youn’s Blackacre, and Kevin Young’s Blue Laws.

    Rupi Kaur’s initially self-published poetry collection Milk and Honey has now sold over half a million copies. First released in 2014, the book made it onto the New York Times’s bestseller list earlier this year. Kirsty Melville, publisher and president of Andrews McMeel Publishing, said, “Poetry, as short form writing, fits with how people are reading today.”

    Lionel Shriver. Photo: Andrew Crowley

    Lionel Shriver. Photo: Andrew Crowley

    Novelist and keynote speaker Lionel Shriver has been disavowed by the Brisbane Writers Festival for her speech that “belittled the movement against cultural appropriation.” Shriver wore a sombrero during parts of her speech, and responded to criticism of her choice to write a black woman character “kept on a leash by her homeless white husband” in The Mandibles. Links to Shriver’s speech were removed from the festival’s website, although information about a response by writers Suki Kim and Yassmin Abdel-Magied remains.

    Tonight in Brooklyn, Bushwick Book Club presents “new song, dance and film inspired by Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude” at the Archway Under the Manhattan Bridge; Michelle Tea talks to Isaac Fitzgerald about her new book Black Wave at Powerhouse Arena; and Mara Wilson, better known as Matilda, reads from her memoir Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame.

  • September 13, 2016

    On September 10, the Turkish government arrested and detained novelist Ahmet Altan and his brother Mehmet Altan, a writer and professor of economics. According to a letter of protest, the two men have been accused of “somehow giving subliminal messages to rally coup supporters on a television panel show broadcast 14 July, the night before the coup attempt.” A group of writers including Salman Rushdie, Elena Ferrante, and JM Coetzee have signed the letter demanding the Altans’ release.

    Fast Company takes a long look at Jack Dorsey’s plans for the future of Twitter, “a kaleidoscopic quest featuring looming adversaries, bedeviling trolls, and artificial intelligence.” Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter is embracing its role as a media hub, and even recategorized itself last spring on the App Store under “News.” “You may have come in here assuming you’re going to see baby pictures from your friends,” Dorsey said. “What you’re going to see is what’s happening in sports and politics and the world around you.” For those still trying to understand the site, Dorsey recommends reading Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories: “It reminds me of Twitter.”

    Nation Books will publish a book of advice by Eleanor Roosevelt. It’s Up to Women, featuring an introduction by the New Yorker’s Jill Lepore, hits shelves next April.

    Isabel Allende

    Isabel Allende

    Bill Maher will receive the PEN Center USA’s First Amendment Award later this month at the group’s annual Literary Awards. Other winners include Jeff Nichols, who won a screenplay award for his film Loving; Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American journalist who will receive the Freedom to Write Award; and novelist Isabel Allende, who will be presented with a lifetime achievement award.

    To commemorate Slate’s twentieth birthday—”a tender age in human years, and well past dead for dogs”—the site has created a digital, searchable archive of the 152,734 posts published over the past two decades. They’ll also spend the next week celebrating “the Next 20” by looking at the future through an analysis of its past reporting.

    The 2016 election is setting up The Onion for a 38 percent traffic increase to its website compared to the 2012 election. After sending staffers to both presidential conventions this summer, “its convention videos outpaced those from major news outlets such as The New York Times, ABC, NBC and CNN” on Facebook.

    At the New Republic, Kelsey Osgood asks what Jeff Feuerzeig’s documentary fails to answer: “Is JT LeRoy’s Fiction Any Good?” Osgood herself is undecided, calling LeRoy’s second book, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, “virtually unreadable,” but finding LeRoy’s first book, Sarah, “very enjoyable to read.”  

    Bookend events preceding the Brooklyn Book Festival continue tonight. Ann Patchett will talk to J. Courtney Sullivan about her new novel, Commonwealth, at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn. Nearby, at the ISSUE Project Room, Steve Buscemi and composer Elliott Sharp create “a collage of sound and words from texts by William Burroughs” to celebrate the centennial of Burroughs’s birth. At Revolution Books in Harlem, author Clara Bingham will read from her new oral history Witness to the Revolution: Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year America Lost Its Mind and Found Its Soul.

  • September 12, 2016

    Jeffrey Toobin

    Jeffrey Toobin

    Univision, which bought Gawker Media in auction last month, has voted to remove six posts from still-running sites like Jezebel and Deadspin, saying that the posts are legal risks. John Cook, the executive editor of Gawker Media, wrote to his staff that deleting the articles, such as “Wait, Did Clowntroll Blogger Chuck Johnson Shit on the Floor One Time?,” was “a mistake”: “Disappearing true posts about public figures simply because they have been targeted by a lawyer who conspired with a vindictive billionaire to destroy this company is an affront to the very editorial ethos that has made us successful enough to be worth acquiring.”

    After Norwegian author Tom Egeland’s was suspended from Facebook for posting the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph “The Terror of War,” Norway’s largest newspaper posted the photo, which depicts children fleeing a napalm attack in Vietnam, on their own Facebook page. Although Facebook gave them the option to delete the photo or pixilate then-nine-year-old Kim Phuc’s naked body, the social media giant removed the photo before the newspaper could respond. Now, Aftenposten has published an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg about the editorial decisions of a company that still maintains that it is not part of the media. “Dear Mark, you are the world’s most powerful editor. … I think you are abusing your power, and I find it hard to believe that you have thought it through thoroughly.”

    On the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, young-adult novelists struggle to adapt the story of that day for the readers who weren’t yet born. Writers worry about exploiting the event, balancing real details with what young readers can handle, and about the quality of their work. David Levithan, who wrote Love Is the Higher Law in 2009, told the New York Times, “Writing a bad book is O.K., but writing a bad 9/11 book, that was terrifying.”

    Rich Juzwiak talks to Laura Albert, the author formerly known as JT LeRoy, and Jeff Feuerzeig, the director of the recent documentary Author: The JT LeRoy Story, about making the film, the nature of identity, and how her former selves affected her career. While writing for Deadwood, Albert says her many personalities confused producer David Milch: “I’d started out as JT and then I went to Speedie. Then I’m Emily Frasier, because I didn’t want everyone else to know. Then I’m Laura. He comes in and the rest of the staff still didn’t know. He’s standing there and he has to talk to me because there’s crazy shit going on. I see it on his face—what to fuckin’ call me? He’s just like, ‘…You!’”

    American Heiress author Jeffrey Toobin talks to Hazlitt about paying for source material, Patricia Hearst’s unwillingness to participate, and the state of the nation in the 1970s. “I was completely flabbergasted and amazed at what a wreck the country was back then. A thousand bombings a year, two hijackings a month, Watergate, the energy crisis, economic decline, the Yom Kippur War, and nowhere was it worse than in the Bay Area.”

    The BBC talks to Brian Bilston, the “unofficial poet laureate of Twitter.” Bilston says he never aspired to be a poet: “A poet to my mind was someone of intensity, a serious type, the kind of person you wouldn’t want to get trapped in a kitchen with at a party (if poets received invitations to parties at all, that is).”

  • September 9, 2016

    Barnes and Noble announced a fourteen-million-dollar loss for its most recent quarter, with sales dropping 6.6 percent. The troubled company is searching for a new CEO as Amazon continues to chip away at their business. In an attempt to lure customers back into the bookstore, B&N will be opening four new trial stores this fall that will have a restaurant serving food, beer, and wine. The first, set to open in Eastchester, New York this October is also planning to have a fire pit and bocce court.  

    The public libraries of Washington, DC will be hiding once-banned books throughout the city. Free copies of titles such as Catcher in the Rye, The Color Purple, and Slaughterhouse Five can be found at local businesses by following clues on social media.

    Alan Moore. Photo: Matt Biddulph

    Alan Moore. Photo: Matt Biddulph

    Author Alan Moore throws the New York Times’s “By the Book” column for a loop by not having a nightstand, a favorite genre, or a system for organizing his books. When asked which still-working writers he admires, Moore said the question made him uncomfortable: “In anything other than a stark and unqualified list that unreels to the end of our allotted space here, there are going to be serious, gaping omissions that will cause me to wake at 3 in the morning and groan in useless torment at my own inadequacy as both a friend and reader.” Moore also announced his retirement from comic books at a press conference yesterday: “I think if I were to continue to work in comics, inevitably the ideas would suffer, inevitably you’d start to see me retread old ground.”

    New York magazine editor Gabriel Sherman’s 2014 biography of Roger Ailes detailed some of the same allegations of sexual harassment that caused the Fox News president to resign this summer.  At the Columbia Journalism Review, Sherman talks about why the accusations have finally stuck: “This is all playing out in a post-Cosby culture, where women are more likely to be believed when they make allegations against a powerful man.”

    An exhibition of Charlotte Brontë’s letters, manuscripts, and personal items goes on display today at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York. In addition to parts of the original manuscript of Jane Eyre, the show will also include the only two portraits made of the author during her lifetime, on loan from London’s National Portrait Gallery. The exhibit will be open through early next year.

    Tomorrow, Emily Books publishers Emily Gould and Ruth Curry will hold a panel discussion about women’s writing. The two spoke with LitHub about the myth of “women’s fiction” and the late writers they would invite to the panel if they could: “Cookie Mueller, Ellen Willis, Jean Rhys, Zora Neale Hurston, Barbara Comyns . . . Maybe next year!”

  • September 8, 2016

    Lisa Lucas. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

    Lisa Lucas. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

    Lisa Lucas, the executive director of the National Book Foundation, talks to the New York Times about her job as a books evangelist, inclusivity in publishing, and why there’s no shame in reading mass-market fiction. “The Oscars don’t give “The Fast and the Furious” Best Picture, right? Still, I’m sure the academy doesn’t feel as if it’s a bad thing to go see an action movie.”

    Foo Fighter Dave Grohl’s mother, Virginia Hanlon Grohl, will be interviewing the mothers of other rockers for her forthcoming book. From Cradle to Stage: Stories From the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars will include interviews with the mothers of Amy Winehouse, Dr. Dre, and REM’s Michael Stipe, among others. The book comes out next April.

    Parts of the original manuscript for “Clisson et Eugénie,” a novella by Napoleon Bonaparte, goes up for auction later this month. The story of a romance between an army officer and a young woman in central France, “the novella only runs about 22 scribbled pages, so the plot swiftly progresses from love to marriage to melancholy.”

    The last of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s finished yet unpublished works will be published in a collection by Scribner next spring. The stories in I’d Die for You were written during the mid- to late-1930s, and were withheld from publication due to Fitzgerald’s “writing about controversial topics, depicting young men and women who actually spoke and thought more as young men and women did, without censorship.”

    Vanity Fair takes a long look at Arianna Huffington’s questionable editorial decisions at her namesake publication, from which she resigned last month. Huffington’s friendships with powerful people had provided the support to get the news site off the ground, but would later create tension between Huffington and her editorial employees. “‘I think it really speaks to a broader point about Arianna,’ explains one person involved, ‘which is that when powerful people [she knows] get angry about something, it is by no means a guarantee that she will defend her staff.’”

    Beacon Press is launching an imprint dedicated to audio books. Beacon Press Audio’s first edition will be Jerald Walker’s The World in Flames: A Black Boyhood in a White Supremacist Doomsday Cult, and will be followed by aural versions of backlist titles, including one by James Baldwin.

    Today, the Trump campaign ends its blacklist of various news outlets who have been critical of the candidate. The Washington Post, Politico, and others will have their requests for press credentials approved. About the reversal, Trump told CNN, “I figure they can’t treat me any worse!”

  • September 7, 2016

    Cosmopolitan editor Joanna Coles has been named chief content officer at Hearst magazines, and will be the first person at the company to hold the position. Coles will “identify new business opportunities and partnerships for Hearst in areas including television and live events, with the goal of extending the company’s brands beyond just print magazines and websites.” Michele Promaulayko, formerly the editor of Yahoo Health and Women’s Health, will be Cosmopolitan’s new editor in chief.

    New York magazine national affairs editor and Roger Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman has been named a contributor to NBC and MSNBC. He will continue in his editorial role at New York magazine.

    Margot Lee Sheerly. Photo: Aran Shetterly

    Margot Lee Sheerly. photo: Aran Shetterly

    The New York Times interviews Margot Lee Shetterly, whose book Hidden Figures chronicles the careers of four black female mathematicians who worked at NASA, “often under Jim Crow laws, calculating crucial trajectories for rockets while being segregated from their white counterparts.” A film version of the book, starring Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer, will be released at the end of the year.

    Olympic gymnast Simone Biles will write an autobiography, Courage to Soar, set to be released this November.

    Gretchen Carlson will receive $20 million from 21st Century Fox in a settlement of her sexual harassment case against the news organization and Roger Ailes. The company also issued a public apology, reportedly part of the settlement terms: “We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect that she and all our colleagues deserve.”

    Late novelist Gabriel García Márquez is the face of the new 50,000 peso bill in Colombia. 

    At Vanity Fair, David Kamp profiles Bruce Springsteen, whose memoir Born to Run will be released at the end of September. After watching a huge audience sing along “full-throatedly and with fists pumping,” at a European tour date, Kamp is surprised by the Boss’s tendency toward glum introspection, as Springsteen tells Kamp, “I’ve always felt a lot in common with Sisyphus. I’m always rolling that rock, man. One way or another, I’m always rolling that rock.”

  • September 6, 2016

    Gabriel Sherman’s long-expected deep dive into the sexual harassment allegations against former Fox News President Roger Ailes went live this weekend. Sherman, the author of the book The Loudest Voice in the Room, chronicles Ailes’s career trajectory—defined by ”his volcanic temper, paranoia, and ruthlessness”—along with his rise and fall at Fox News. After Ailes’s departure, employees “described feeling like being part of a totalitarian regime whose dictator has just been toppled.” “As of November 9, there will be a bloodbath at Fox,” an unnamed Fox host told Sherman. “After the election, the prime-time lineup could be eviscerated.” Meanwhile, Ailes has hired Charles Harder, the lawyer who defended Hulk Hogan against Gawker Media, for a possible defamation lawsuit against Sherman for his series of articles on Ailes in New York magazine.

    Harder is also defending Melania Trump in her defamation lawsuit against the Daily Mail and others. Wayne Barrett, author of the now-classic (and recently reissued) Trump: The Deals and the Downfall, spoke with The Guardian about the case, saying the legal action is “a threat to other reporters, publishers, news organizations.” Barrett said that “Trump had bragged to him nearly 40 years ago about ‘breaking reporters.’”

    The Newspaper Association of America will change its name to the News Media Alliance this week. CEO David Chavern said that the new name should not be taken as a disparagement of the newspaper. Instead the new moniker “indicates just how many new ways our members are delivering journalism to their communities.”

    Tobias Wolff. Photo: Mark Coggins

    Tobias Wolff. Photo: Mark Coggins

    At The Guardian, writers reflect on the Obama presidency. Author Tobias Wolff says that disappointment in the Obama presidency “comes down to immaturity—in us, not him.” Novelist Akhil Sharma said that the last eight years has made him “intolerant of certain types of stupidity from white people.” Attica Locke writes that Obama’s legacy is just beginning: “He could be like Jimmy Carter.”

    Literary agents say that Barack and Michelle Obama might earn anywhere from $20 million to $45 million in book deals after the presidency. “His is going to be easily the most valuable presidential memoir ever,” according to one book agent. Publishers, however, “balked at such lofty evaluations, with several saying Mr. Obama is unlikely to earn more than $12 million and Mrs. Obama $10 million.”

    In the New Yorker, Ian Parker profiles Pete Wells, the New York Times restaurant critic who has subjected himself to such dining experiences as Senor Frog’s, Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, and Per Se. Parker calls dining with the critic, which requires restaurant staff perform a balancing act of recognizing and catering to Wells without making it clear that they are doing so, “an episode of Cold War fiction involving futile charades and a likely defenestration.”