• June 30, 2017

    MTV News has announced that it will be shifting its focus away from reporting and longform essays and toward video. The company laid off several writers and editors—many of whom had been hired from Grantland when that site folded in 2015. At New York magazine, Brian Feldman explains why media brands “pivot to video” and what that trend means for the future of writing online: “The lesson of MTV News and its similarly pivoted peers may simply be that profit-seeking start-ups and enormous publicly traded conglomerates like Viacom, which owns MTV, are poor patrons of ambitious, sophisticated, politically driven journalism.”

    New York Times staff members staged a protest against cuts to the copy-editing department yesterday afternoon. Carrying signs that read “Copy Editors Save Our Buts” and “Without Us, It’s the New Yrok Times,” writers and editors gathered outside the Times building chanting, “They say cutbacks, we say fight back!” The protest follows an open letter decrying plans to cut the department from more than one hundred employees to about fifty: “We only ask that you not treat us like a diseased population that must be rounded up en masse, inspected and expelled.”

    Liu Xiaobo

    Liu Xiaobo, the human-rights activist and Nobel laureate, is being denied permission to leave China to receive cancer treatment.

    Authors including Margaret Atwood, Jacqueline Wilson, and Philip Pullman have raised more than £150,000 for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in London. Pullman auctioned off the chance to have a character in his next book named after the winner and raised more than £30,000 for the cause. The winning bid was a collective one, made up of contributors who wanted the character named after a student, Nur Huda el-Wahabi, who died in the fire.

    The New York Times looks at famous writers’ fashions, considering Terry Newman’s new book, Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore. Newman examines what Virginia Woolf called “frock consciousness” in fifty writers, including Woolf, Joan Didion, John Updike, George Sand, and Zadie Smith.

  • June 29, 2017

    Columbia Journalism Review looks at the breakdown of the wall separating news and advertising at the New York Times. In examples that range from Times articles about conferences that don’t mention the paper’s financial interest in them, to weekly meetings between section editors and the advertising department in order to find mutually-beneficial projects, Jeff Gerth explains why some journalists are concerned about the changing culture at the Times. Gerth notes that the publication’s 2014 “innovation report” recommended keeping advertising “walled off” from editorial. “Today, the paper is actively ignoring some of those recommendations,” he writes, “amid increasing signs that one of the last remaining firewalls in journalism is crumbling.”

    Copy editors at the Times have written an open letter asking executive editor Dean Baquet to increase the amount of jobs that will be left after a reorganization of the copy editing department. “We are, as one senior reporter put it, the immune system of this newspaper, the group that protects the institution from profoundly embarrassing errors, not to mention potentially actionable ones,” they write. “We are one of the crucial layers of review that you seem so determined to erase, as the sudden removal of the public editor role shows. We are stewards of The Times, committed to preserving its voice and authority.” Baquet responded with a letter of his own, stating that only one element of copy editing is being eliminated, and that most of the employees will find new work. “After this restructuring, we will continue to invest far more in editing than any of our competitors do,” he writes. “That is because we value meticulous editing.”

    Michael Bond

    Michael Bond, the author of the Paddington Bear series, has died at the age of ninety-one.

    ProPublica examines Facebook’s secret internal rules governing what gets classified as hate speech on the site. On one Facebook training slide, a quiz asks “Which of the below subsets do we protect?” with three options: “Female Drivers,” “Black Children,” or “White Men.” Because of an arcane rule about “subsets,” the correct answer is that only the “white men” category is protected. As Monika Bickert, a global policy manager at Facebook points out, “The policies do not always lead to perfect outcomes.”   

    At Lithub, Victoria Redel recalls working as an assistant to Adrienne Rich in the 1980s: “Among the many gifts of those Wednesdays, I learned a lesson that has served me well: I learned to be careful, especially with efforts done for others.”

    Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz has officially signed on as a contributor at Fox News. His new job will start July 1, one day after he resigns from Congress. At Vanity Fair, Tina Nguyen points out that besides offering a larger paycheck, the new job “will also give Chaffetz the opportunity to finally return to what he did best: make Hillary Clinton’s life a living hell.”

    Tonight at 192 Books in Manhattan, Nicholas Fox Weber will read from and discuss his new book, Freud’s Trip to Orvieto

  • June 28, 2017

    Liveright has announced plans to publish two volumes of Nelson Mandela’s correspondence from prison. The first volume, with 250 selected letters and a foreword by Mandela’s granddaughter, will be published in July 2018, and a second volume will be published in 2019.

    Sarah Jessica Parker has acquired the first manuscript for her literary fiction imprint, SJP. A Place for Us, a debut novel by Fatima Farheen Mirza, “tackles issues of belonging and tradition, delving into the complex experience of an immigrant family in the United States.”

    Zinzi Clemmons

    BuzzFeed has an excerpt of Zinzi Clemmons’s hotly anticipated debut novel, What We Lose. In a recent profile in Vogue, Clemmons discusses her book, which is, in part, a semi-autobiographical story about her mother: “From the time I first started writing, I was writing about my mom, and about the experience of having an immigrant parent who was very much at odds with the culture that I grew up in. . . . Mother-daughter relationships can be fraught anyway, and in our case, all of these different issues—race, gender, politics—were sort of were wrapped up in her.”  

    At Fusion, Hamilton Nolan details StoryCorps employee’s efforts to unionize and the not-so-subtle ways the company is trying to discourage the move. Nolan writes, “As a wave of unionization has swept through the media over the past two years, it has become de rigueur to see allegedly liberal news outlets twisting themselves in knots to explain why a union is actually a bad idea for them.”  

    Sarah Palin is suing the New York Times over a recent op-ed that linked the 2011 mass shooting by Jared Lee Loughner in Arizona to a flyer put out by a Palin political action committee. The handout allegedly showed Democratic politicians underneath crosshairs, and the Times op-ed stated that “the link to political incitement was clear.” However, the flyer actually showed targeted districts, not politicians, and the lawsuit claims that the paper knew that Loughner was not influenced by Palin’s PAC. The Times has changed the the op-ed and issued a correction, but editorial-page editor James Bennet won’t discredit the article’s premise: “We made an error of fact in the editorial and we’ve corrected it. But that error doesn’t undercut or weaken the argument of the piece.”

    Tonight at Greenlight Bookstore’s Prospect Lefferts Garden location, Yuri Herrera discusses his new novel Kingdom Cons.  

  • June 27, 2017

    Daniel Weiss, the president and chief executive of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has sold a book to Public Affairs. The still-untitled work examines “America’s experience in the Vietnam era.”

    Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman is working on a memoir for Little, Brown. Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything will be published next november.

    Jailed literary critic and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo has been transferred from prison to a hospital after he was diagnosed with liver cancer. Activist Hu Jia called the news “a political murder” and noted that Liu’s eleven-year sentence likely contributed to the seriousness of his disease. “I’ve been to prison in China,” Hu said. “The medical care is terrible and I’m sure China’s leaders were hoping for this outcome.”

    As part of an auction to support victims of London’s Grenfell Tower fire, Philip Pullman has pledged to name a character in his The Book of Dust trilogy after Nur Huda el-Wahabi, a sixteen year old who died in the fire.

    After deleting and retracting an article about the Senate investigation into the Trump administration’s ties to Russia, CNN is requiring reporters to get approval from two separate editors before publishing anything on the subject. Three employees who were involved with the story have resigned.

    Sherman Alexie. Photo: Chase Jarvis

    Sherman Alexie talks to BuzzFeed about not being “the kind of Indian that’s expected.” After publishing his first book of short stories, he said that he was treated “as a miracle.” “It was like, ‘You came out of nowhere, you’re a star child!’ ‘Look at his storytelling tradition, the oral tradition, it comes from his grandmother!’” he remembered. “Nah, I just did debate in high school, and stand-up in college.”

    At the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin profiles David Pecker, the chief executive of American Media Inc. who also oversees the company’s flagship tabloid, the National Enquirer. Since Pecker took over the company in 1999, the Enquirer has continued to specialize in covering “the foibles of public personalities,” but made an exception for Donald Trump, Pecker’s long-time friend. The decision to publish only positive stories on Trump during the 2016 election confused some employees. “We used to go after newsmakers no matter what side they were on,” one former staffer said. “And Trump is a guy who is running for President with a closet full of baggage. He’s the ultimate target-rich environment. The Enquirer had a golden opportunity, and they completely looked the other way.”

  • June 26, 2017

    For Pride week, the New York Times has assembled a twenty-year timeline of LGBTQ lit.

    Karen Rinaldi, a senior vice president of Harper Collins and the author of the novel The End of Men, ponders the difference between writing and editing. For years, editing was her profession, something she saw as a service to writers: “The task is both monastic and intimate—we edit in silence in order to listen to the voice of the writer—and the skilled editor must suspend not only ego, but inner voice as well, to make room for another’s.” But when she became a writer, she gained a deeper sense of the editor’s role: “Only by being on the receiving end of the editing process could I see editing as an act of generosity and love.”

    Publishers Weekly has posted its Fall 2017 announcements for Literary Fiction and Essays & Literary Criticism.

    Chuck Klosterman

    Chuck Klosterman—who has written about music, movies, sports, and ethics, among other things—says of his new collection, Chuck Klosterman X, that rereading his old writing is “the worst kind of time machine.” “I’m just compelled to want to rewrite everything I’ve ever written. My dream life would have been if I could have written my first book forever and never have it come out … but be rich. Every time I go back and I read something that I’ve written before, I see things that could have been different.” Still, some things he got wrong the first time around turn out to be right in the long run: “Sometimes you accidentally say something that becomes meaningful, even though that wasn’t the original intent. There’s an essay in there about Tim Tebow, and at one point I’m writing about the 2012 election, and Obama running against at the time whoever he would face, the unknown candidate. And I pose this hypothetical about a candidate who comes forward and has no plan, and basically just tells people to have faith in him. I framed it and set it up as an implausible, irrational scenario – and that actually happened four years later!”

    Jonathan Coe recently suggested that satire will face difficulties in the age of Trump; now, at the Washington Post, Joseph Finder says that the president is also posing challenges for thriller novelists. “In an age of the surpassingly strange—possible election meddling and business favor-peddling and the firing of a real-life director of the FBI—how can a writer like me hope to compete? What are we supposed to write when we’re living in a thriller?”

    Victor LaValle, the author of the new novel The Changeling, ponders the books that have shaped him as a writer: “The first book I ever loved, like walked around with it and never let it go, was probably Stephen King’s It.”

  • June 23, 2017

    Chris Kraus

    Former United States Attorney Preet Bharara is writing a book. Bharara, who was fired by Donald Trump earlier this year, said the book will be “about integrity, leadership, decision making and moral reasoning.” The still-untitled work will be published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2019.

    MIT Press is partnering with the Internet Archive to digitize their backlist titles. The e-books will then be available at any library that already lends physical copies of the titles.

    The Millions talks to Lidia Yuknavitch about her 2011 memoir, The Chronology of Water.

    At the Paris Review, Albert Mobilio reflects on the nature of art books, and how they require more than simply turning the page. “This sort of book—at least in its mass-market edition—is meant to be handled and read, its images checked against our own visualizations,” he writes. “When the art part of the book—the possessive in artists’ book is telling—becomes increasingly salient, the experience of the text can become subordinate to the experience of visual and even end up almost incidental.”

    At The Cut, Ann Friedman talks to Chris Kraus about feminism, politics, and writing I Love Dick. Kraus said that while her writing does have political elements, she doesn’t necessarily see her work as affecting “any particular pragmatic change.” “If I had another life to live I might be a politician or I might be an activist. . . . But I went another way; I decided to become a writer,” she said. “What books and what culture can do is change the zeitgeist, right? That’s all that you can help.”

  • June 22, 2017

    Simon & Schuster imprint Gallery Books is publishing a new memoir by a former White House writer for Barack Obama. Pat Cunnane’s West Winging It: An Unpresidential Memoir will be published in June 2018 and has already been optioned for television.

    Slate’s Jessica Winter has been hired as the New Yorker’s website executive editor. Other new hires at the site include Public Books’s Liz Maynes-Aminzade as senior web manager and the New York Times’s Soo-Jeong Kang as executive video producer. At the Times, University of Pittsburgh professor and MacArthur fellow Terrance Hayes has been hired as the New York Times Magazine’s poetry editor.

    The Wall Street Journal’s chief foreign affairs correspondent was fired yesterday after business deals he had made with his sources came to light. According to the Associated Press, Jay Solomon was involved in “prospective commercial deals—including one involving arms sales to foreign governments—with an international businessman who was one of his key sources.”

    BuzzFeed reports on the rise and fall of Guardian US, which recently cut 30 percent of its staff. A Pulitzer Prize for the site’s reporting on Edward Snowden and their many talented hires couldn’t make up for years of financial setbacks and mismanagement. “Guardian US, five years after delivering a defining American political story, became anonymous during the most chaotic election in decades — though it wasn’t for lack of trying or reporting talent.”

    Emma Straub

    Novelist Emma Straub describes the time and effort that went into opening her Brooklyn bookstore, Books Are Magic. Besides buying shelving and finding the perfect space, other concerns included finding the right contractor and fielding customer opinions about what books should be available. “I try not to be offended by these suggestions from people, even when I have OF COURSE already ordered several books by whichever author someone is suggesting, because they don’t know that. Retail is egoless,” she writes. “Plus, sometimes I actually have forgotten to order someone, and then I am eternally grateful.”

  • June 21, 2017

    The New York Times has hired Kathleen Kingsbury as deputy editorial page editor. Kingsbury was most recently the digital managing editor at the Boston Globe, and will start at the Times in August.

    BuzzFeed has released a secret government report that shows Chelsea Manning’s intelligence leaks were “largely insignificant and did not cause any real harm to US interests.”

    Sue Halpern reviews Risk, Laura Poitras’s new documentary on Julian Assange. Although the film was initially conceived as a “hero’s journey,” in the end Assange’s many contradictions turned the film into “something more critical, complicated, and at best ambivalent about the man,” Halpern writes. “Yet ambivalence is the most honest thing about the film. It is the emotion Assange often stirs up in those who support the WikiLeaks mission but are disturbed by its chief missionary.”

    Zadie Smith

    At Harper’s Magazine, Zadie Smith reflects on Jordan Peele’s Get Out, the artwork at the Whitney Biennial, and being a biracial in modern America. “To be biracial at any time is complex,” Smith writes. “Speaking for myself, I know that racially charged historical moments, like this one, can increase the ever-present torsion within my experience until it feels like something’s got to give. You start to yearn for absolute clarity: personal, genetic, political.”

    Lorraine Berry talks to Julia Fierro about the election, cultural appropriation, and her new book, The Gypsy Moth Summer. The novel follows a woman who returns to her white, upper-class hometown on Long Island with her black husband and biracial children. For Fierro, who is white, this felt like a risky but necessary choice. “I don’t think that we can talk about class without talking about race and the intersection of the two,” she said. Fierro also spoke about the need for authors writing from the different perspectives to be open to critique. “We need to write what we need to write,” she said, “but we should be aware that we are going to be criticized for it and be open to the criticism.”

    At The Guardian, Jake Nevins tries to learn something about the current administration from Newt Gingrich’s new book, Understanding Trump. Unfortunately, Nevins writes, while the book doesn’t “exactly help us ‘understand Trump,’” it does “offer a look into the rhetorical acrobatics one might employ to defend the indefensible.

  • June 20, 2017

    Marlon James. Photo: Jeffrey Skemp

    Marlon James reflects on racism in Minnesota after the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile was found not guilty. James refers to an article in Ebony by Dick Gregory, in which the comedian wrote, “Down South white folks don’t care how close I get as long as I don’t get too big. Up North white folks don’t care how big I get as long as I don’t get too close.” “I should have known that a man as wise as Gregory meant so much more. And I did not realize until just now, that big can mean literally big, and close can mean 20 feet away, and how 10 years of living in Minnesota as a ‘big, black guy’ has led me to a gradual though futile ‘reduction’ of myself to get closer,” James writes. “Get big but don’t get close can mean that even a thin black man complying with the law can still be seen as a justifiable threat.”

    The New York Times reports on the Mexican government’s use of spyware to surveil journalists and activists. Although the tools are only supposed to be used to keep an eye on suspected terrorists and members of drug cartels, the spyware “has been used against some of the government’s most outspoken critics and their families, in what many view as an unprecedented effort to thwart the fight against the corruption infecting every limb of Mexican society.”

    Three Turkish journalists were brought to court yesterday in the first trial of alleged supporters of the country’s attempted coup last summer. According to The Guardian, two of the journalists—Ahmet and Mehmet Altan—”have been held without trial since September, and face possible life sentences, along with fellow journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government and acting on behalf of a terror organisation.”

    At Politico, Joe Pompeo chronicles the “not-so-bitter rivalry” of New York Times editor Dean Baquet and Washington Post editor Marty Baron.

    Claire Cameron talks to novelists Julie Buntin and Gabe Habash about the perks and perils of being a literary couple. Although the pair enjoy having an in-house editor available at all hours, it can get overwhelming. “Sometimes we get home and we’re eating dinner and we go from talking about our books to talking about books that he’s reading or assigning for review to talking about books on submission at Catapult or something I’m editing,” Buntin said. “We have a moment where one or the other of us snaps and is like, no more books. Please, enough.”

  • June 19, 2017

    The literary organization PEN has announced that it will grant novelist Margaret Atwood—author of more than forty books, including The Handmaid’s Tale—a lifetime achievement award.

    The Brooklyn Book Festival, which will take place on September 17, has released a partial list of authors who will participate this year. Among the writers who will read from their work or participate in roundtable discussions are: Colson Whitehead, Elif Batuman, Chris Hayes, Jacqueline Woodson, Lois Lowry, Erna Brodber, Santiago Gamboa, Young-ha Kim, and Hisham Matar. According to organizers, this year’s festival will pay special attention to topics such as reporting on refugees.

    Andrew O’Hagan

    Novelist and critic Andrew O’Hagan wonders how social media—in particular the ways that it has changed or eradicated our old ideas about private life—will affect the future of the novel. “Private life, in the sense that it meant something to Henry James, has ceded to the internet, and how we watch, are watched and how we self-watch are hot-wired to digital code. The interior life, let us say, used to be about who a person was inside themselves, and such alterations as could be detected were the stuff of literature. Nowadays the interior life means something else: it refers to who are you inside the web.”

    Publishers Weekly reports on last week’s Association of American University Presses annual meeting in Austin, Texas, and argues that university presses are “more vital than ever.”

    The New York Times interviews David Grossman and his translator, Jessica Cohen, who both won the 2017 Man Booker Prize for the English translation of Grossman’s novel A Horse Walks into a Bar. Much is lost in translation, but as Cohen points out, jokes present especially difficult challenges. “There were a few examples of jokes—not so much because of pacing or sound but because of cultural knowledge a non-Israeli reader wouldn’t have—that just weren’t going to work in English. Obviously if you have to explain something, it’s not funny. There were some cases like that where I managed to come up with a kind of equivalent. Some things we just had to drop.”