• September 29, 2017

    Edward St. Aubyn

    Edward St. Aubyn talks to the New York Times about Dunbar, his new adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Rather than a politician or a monarch, St. Aubyn chose to remake his Lear as a media mogul. “I wanted to deal with the permafrost of power, the people who are always there,” he said. “Administrations come and go and prime ministers come and go. I think that [a media titan] is the modern analog to a king.” St. Aubyn said that while he didn’t base his character on anyone in particular, readers have come up with numerous ideas as to who Durban resembles. “Someone in California said, this is obviously Sumner Redstone, but I had never heard of Sumner Redstone, so in a sense they can’t be right. Someone thought it was Trump, but I finished it before Trump became president. Someone thinks it’s Murdoch,” he said. “This is the miracle of reading . . . the text merges with the imagination and experience of the reader and becomes something slightly different in every mind. So just choose your favorite media mogul.”

    Jennifer Egan tells the Times about what she read while working on her latest novel, Manhattan Beach. Besides true stories of survival at sea and fiction like Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep, there was also a 1942 edition of the Merchant Marine Officers’ Handbook, which earned her “some quizzical looks on the elliptical machine.”

    The Columbia Journalism Review collects the best articles from Playboy, whose founder Hugh Hefner died Wednesday at the age of 91. The Times rounds up Hefner’s most memorable interviews.

    Carly Lewis talks to Lauren McKeon about her new book, F-Bomb, a study of the women who lead the anti-feminist movement. McKeon says that people were curious as to why she would set out to humanize these women. “If you think these movements are just full of monsters . . . well, monsters don’t exist. It’s very easy to dismiss a monster and think that the ideas of monsters won’t connect, that they won’t gain traction and won’t infiltrate policy or thinking or media,” she noted. “It’s harder to grapple with the fact that these people go to their kids’ soccer games and go to book clubs and go to work.”

    WNYC looks at the write-in candidates from the New York City mayoral primary earlier this month. Alongside former mayors, Donald Trump, and Beyonce, “writers Fran Leibowitz (sic), Emily Gould, Choire Sicha, Colsen Whitehead (sic), Kurt Anderson (sic), and Shaun King each scored one write-in vote.”

    In the New York Times Magazine, Sam Anderson profiles John McPhee. He recounts the numerous ways in which McPhee has avoided the limelight during his career—never publishing author photos on his books, ignoring the news of his Pulitzer win until after he was done teaching class, turning down birthday parties. “As I spoke to people about McPhee,” Anderson writes, “I got the sense that they had all been waiting, respectfully, for decades for the chance to gush about him in public.” One such gush comes from New Yorker colleague Mark Singer, who said that the sight of McPhee fishing on their semiannual trips makes him “want to tell this guy how much you love him.”

  • September 28, 2017

    Marlon James is writing a television adaptation of his novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, for Amazon. The show will be directed by Insecure director Melina Matsoukas. “It’s been my dream to bring this story to life onscreen since reading the first line of Marlon’s book,” Matsoukas said in a statement. “I am deeply honored to be entrusted with this tapestry of stories so entrenched in roots, reggae, race, mysticism and politics, while working alongside Marlon to ensure an authentic portrayal of his words.”

    Jennifer Palmieri, a former aide to Hillary Clinton, is writing a “book of lessons” for female leaders. Palmieri says that Dear Madam President will “provide all women with advice and lessons learned the hard way to help them lead in their communities, flourish in the workplace, and literally run the world.” The book will be published by Grand Central Publishing next March.

    Jenny Zhang

    Jenny Zhang talks to the Los Angeles Review of Books about the complexity of motherly love in her new story collection, Sour Heart. Zhang points out that caring for children, something usually portrayed as a virtuous task, can also be about domination. “In these stories there’s real tenderness and love that these mothers show their daughters. But there’s also manipulation,” she said. “There are these power dynamics: ‘You are forever beholden to me, because I gave birth to you, and I kept you alive.’”

    New York Times book critic Parul Sehgal talks to the paper about her reviewing process, tradition, and criticism as a necessary part of keeping language alive. “In scientific fields, there’s this established idea that you’re always standing on the shoulders of giants—that every discovery pushes the whole enterprise forward,” she said. “I like to think of literature and criticism as an act of pushing something forward, of mapping new terrains, internal and external, of doing things with language that reveal something about what it means to read and to live.”

    Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman takes a close look at the Wenner family’s sales pitch for Rolling Stone. Sherman writes that the company is “pitching an austere business plan” that relies on a editorial budget reduction of 30 percent and a switch from biweekly printings to monthly. “Ultimately,” he concludes, “the numbers suggest Rolling Stone will sell for a fraction of what the magazine might have commanded in its heyday, when the cover of Rolling Stone had the power to create stars out of the musicians, actors, and politicians that graced it.”

    CNN’s Oliver Darcy examines former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s first interview with the network since he resigned last year amidst a sexual harassment scandal. O’Reilly was ostensibly there to promote his new book, but interviewer Sean Hannity encouraged him to appear on the program in the future. “The fact that Fox News executives would permit O’Reilly to return to the network’s air and let him use it as a platform to sell books only months after firing him struck some observers—including people inside the network and at least one of the women who accused him of harassment—as peculiar.”

    Tonight, Minna Proctor presents her new book, Landslide, at Books Are Magic in Brooklyn.

  • September 27, 2017

    James McBride. Photo: Chia Messina

    James McBride talks to the Washington Post about humanity, how music affects his writing, and his new book, Five-Carat Soul. “Music . . . gives you the capacity to hear different voices in different keys in different settings,” he said. “Any good writer can do it, but maybe music allows you to hear it and instill it with a little more zing and punch and humor.”

    Lauren Williams has been named editor in chief of Vox, replacing Ezra Klein, who will serve as editor at large. The company is also launching a new podcast, and planning an “explanatory journalism” show for television.

    At Electric Literature, Tobias Carroll looks at the literary lives of animals. From books like Can Xue’s Vertical Motion to Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne, Carroll curates a list of a dozen works “that memorably explore the lives of animals — some to mysterious effect, some focusing on their interaction with humans, and some using them to counterpoint the foibles or challenges of humanity.”

    In the wake of one of Trump’s tweets being taken as a “clear declaration of war” by North Korea, Twitter has decided to update its policies on when a tweet can or cannot be removed by the platform. According to the social media site, Trump’s tweet that North Korea “won’t be around much longer” did not need to be removed because it was “newsworthy.” The Verge’s Jacob Kastrenakes writes that this new policy “basically implies that Trump’s account will never be censored.”

    The New York Times Magazines’s Caitlin Dickerson heads to Twin Falls, Idaho, where a conspiracy theory about the town’s refugee residents gained national attention due to coverage by alt-right outlets like Breitbart News and InfoWars. Although the local press tried to refute rumors and stop the spread of false information, local officials were afraid to condemn the story in public for fear of losing their jobs in the right-leaning town. “Behind closed doors, they would all tell you they were pro-refugee, and we wanted them to step forward and make that declaration in a public arena, and it just never really happened,” Times-News editor Matt Christensen said. “That was frustrating to us especially at the beginning because it really felt like the newspaper was out there all alone.” Christensen also said the interest from national news organizations made it harder for the paper to get the real story out. “There were days where we felt like, Godammit, what are we doing here? We write a story and it’s going to reach 50,000 people. Breitbart writes a story and it’s going to reach 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 million people,” he said. “What kind of a voice do we have in this debate?”

    Tonight at Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, Melissa Febos talks to Sarah Perry about her new memoir, After the Eclipse.

  • September 26, 2017

    Zinzi Clemmons. Photo: Nina Subin

    The National Book Foundation has announced its 5 Under 35 honorees, all of whom are women. Lesley Nneka Arimah, Halle Butler, Zinzi Clemmons, Leopoldine Core, and Weike Wang will each receive $1,000. “At a moment in which we are having the necessary conversations surrounding the underrepresentation of female voices, it’s a thrill to see this list of tremendous women chosen organically by our selectors,” National Book Foundation executive director Lisa Lucas said. “These writers and their work represent an incredibly bright future for the world of literary fiction.”

    The New York Times’s Jim Windolf is moving from Men’s Style to Business Day. Windolf will be the section’s new media editor. Former TheAtlantic.com editor J.J. Gould has been hired as the editor of the New Republic. Gould will replace Eric Bates, who will stay on as editor-at-large.

    The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has acquired Michael Ondaatje’s archives. Ondaatje’s files take up nearly one hundred boxes and include notes on his novels, address books, scripts, and letters between the author and actors in the film version of The English Patient.

    Jennifer Egan talks to The Guardian about Victorian novels, Trollope, and how journalism helped her write her latest book, Manhattan Beach. “Fiction is my deepest love, but I love journalism, too. It keeps me thinking vigorously, and it reminds me that there is a world out there,” she said. “It has taught me how to distil enormous quantities of information, and I wouldn’t have been able to write Manhattan Beach without that because I have never scuba dived. Actually, I’ve barely been on a ship.”

    On the premiere of Megyn Kelly’s new NBC show, Megyn Kelly Today, the anchor told her audience that she’s “kind of done with politics for now. Instead, she wants to help viewers “get yourself through the day, to have a laugh with us, a smile, sometimes a tear—and maybe a little hope to start your day.” At the Washington Post, Erik Wemple writes that the show’s main features, like “serial in-house promo segments, other corporate tie-ins and a pre-noon boozing exhortation,” were less enjoyable than her previous work on “cable news, with its cyclical rehashing of topics, shallow analysis and unforgivable distortions.”

  • September 25, 2017

    Showtime has announced that it will run a TV series based on The President Is Missing, the forthcoming thriller co-authored by Bill Clinton and James Patterson.

    Joe Hagan

    Joe Hagan’s new biography of Jann Wenner, Sticky Fingers, comes out in October, and the Rolling Stone founder is apparently “furious” about it. The biography was written with Wenner’s full cooperation (after canceling two other biographies), but he was apparently displeased with Hagan’s portrait: “the book details Wenner’s creative skills but also his cocaine-fueled editing sessions, his cavalier treatment of many of the editors and executives who helped him over the years, and the tortured bisexuality that he only came to terms with publicly in the late 1990s.” After reading an advance copy, Wenner disinvited Hagan from an event they were both scheduled to appear at at the 92nd Street Y.

    “They wouldn’t like me saying this, but no one knows what Styles is or is supposed to be. That was really attractive to me.” Choire Sicha talks about his plans as the editor of the New York Times Styles section.

    Dana Canedy, the former New York Times reporter who became the administrator for the Pulitzers in July, suggests in a recent interview that she plans to bring a “fresh perspective” to the prizes: “I came into this role with a short-term and long-term strategic plan and have some very concrete ideas about changes I want to make.”

    Luc Sante pays homage to John Ashbery: “Ashbery’s [style] was marked above all by a calm, discursive voice, going along at a walking pace, often seeming to have been caught in midstream, maybe half-heard from outside through the curtains. That voice could occasionally sound explicitly poetic or expressionistically fractured, but more often—and more consistently as time went by—it sounded conversational, demotic, mild, even-toned, deep-dish American.”

    “I’m so bored with arguments against memoir,” says Wild author Cheryl Strayed. “They’re almost always simple-minded and ignorant. . . . Yes, there are memoirs that are narcissistic and awful! Just like there are novels that are narcissistic and awful and there are poems that are narcissistic and awful and there are plays that are narcissistic and awful. Narcissism and awfulness has absolutely nothing to do with the genre itself.”

  • September 22, 2017

    Orion is publishing an anthology about Brexit this November. Goodbye, Europe, will include works from forty-six contributors, including a short story by Lionel Shriver “about a relationship ending in the wake of the referendum,” a reflection by Jessie Burton “about her first visit to the continent,” and an essay by Robert MacFarlane “about the flight paths of the migrant bird species that the UK shares with Europe.”

    Shaun King has been hired by The Intercept as a columnist. Most recently, King was a columnist at the New York Daily News. The website has also added Vanessa Gezari as national security editor, Aída Chávez as a political reporter, Maryam Saleh as associate editor, and Kate Aronoff and Rachel M. Cohen as contributing writers.

    Carmen Maria Machado. Photo: Tom Storm

    Booker-winning novelist Michael Ondaatje is working on a new novel. Warlight will be published by Knopf next May.

    Annie Proulx will receive a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation. The prize will be presented at a dinner ceremony in November.

    Carmen Maria Machado talks to Hazlitt about bodies, fabulism, and why women writers tend toward uncanny subjects in their work. “Being a woman is inherently uncanny. Your humanity is liminal; your body is forfeit; your mind is doubted as a matter of course,” she said. “You exist in the periphery, and I think many women writers can’t help but respond to that state.”

    Laura Kipnis tells the New Yorker’s Jeannie Suk Gersen that she was investigated for Title IX violations again last summer after the publication of her book, Unwanted Advances. Kipnis said that the complaint was brought by four Northwestern faculty members and five graduate students, including the unnamed student in her book who has also filed a defamation case against Kipnis and her publisher, HarperCollins. “These complaints seem like an attempt to bend the campus judicial system to punish someone whose work involves questioning the campus judicial system,” Kipnis said in a statement to her investigators. “In other words,” Suk Gersen writes, “the process was the punishment.”

    Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo reports on the fight between Blurred Lines author Vanessa Grigoriadis and critic Michelle Goldberg over Goldberg’s review of Grigoriadis’s book. The argument began after Grigoriadis responded to Goldberg’s review, which claimed that the book contained several factual errors. On her Facebook page, Grigoriadis responded to each supposed error, writing that “not one charge [Goldberg] makes in her review is correct.” The Times issued a correction, but the conflict is complicated by the fact that both Goldberg and Grigoriadis work for the paper: Goldberg was recently hired as a columnist for the Op-Ed page, while Grigoriadis is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine. Pompeo notes that the mistake not only calls editorial page editor James Bennet’s decision-making into question, but also reflects poorly on the paper’s recent restructuring of the copy desk, in which “strong editors” handle both copy editing and fact checking. “If anything, the response to this controversy may simply underscore a sense of unease within the halls of 620 Eighth Avenue as the Times undergoes important and necessary changes,” he concludes. “Change is hard for any company—but especially for a 165-year-old institution where tradition is so deeply embedded in the D.N.A.”

  • September 21, 2017

    Lillian Ross

    Lillian Ross, who wrote for the New Yorker for sixty years, died yesterday at 99. The New York Times writes that Ross “preached unobtrusive reporting and practiced what she preached.” At the New Yorker, Rebecca Mead reflects on working with Ross, who was still writing for the magazine when Mead joined the staff in 1997. “Lillian was a generous champion of younger writers at the magazine, especially younger writers who sought, like her, to chronicle New York’s human comedy,” she writes. “In them—in us—she surely recognized her mischievous, enduring, shit-kicking self.” The magazine also offers a selection of Ross’s work, chosen out of her archive of over five hundred pieces. 

    Finalists for the Kirkus Prize have been announced. Nominees include Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, Hari Kunzru’s White Tears, and Patricia Lockwood’s Priestdaddy: A Memoir.

    Alex Neason looks at the cover of the Village Voice’s final print issue, which features Bob Dylan. “In arguably the most important year in generations for the type of scrappy, nobody-is-safe news reporting the Voice defined, featuring a long irrelevant (albeit a Greenwich Village icon) music star on the cover seems at best a missed opportunity,” he writes. “At worst, safe.”

    Chelsea Handler and Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards will be presenters at the PEN Center USA’s Literary Awards Festival in October. Handler will give the Freedom to Write Award to the New York Times’s Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt for their reporting on Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment settlements, while Richards will introduce Margaret Atwood as she accepts her Lifetime Achievement Award.

    Politico talks to Joe Lindsley, a one-time protege of Roger Ailes, about his new book, Fake News, True Story. Although many books about Roger Ailes and his time at Fox News have been bought by major publishers, Lindsley is self-publishing his book after pitching it to publishers without success. One reason for that might be that the book, which Lindsley bills as a memoir, “lands somewhere between memoir and roman à clef”—written in the third person, Lindsley uses aliases for many characters and represents himself through the protagonist, Jack Renard. “When people read the story, I want them to feel as paranoid, as crazy, as disturbed as I felt,” he said of the book’s structure. “I want the reader to feel that sort of frenzy and to understand deeply what this world is like, this world that has affected all of us.”

  • September 20, 2017

    Zadie Smith

    Zadie Smith says that staying off of social media allows her to reserve the right to be wrong. “I have seen on Twitter, I’ve seen it at a distance, people have a feeling at 9 a.m. quite strongly, and then by 11 have been shouted out of it and can have a completely opposite feeling four hours later,” Smith told the New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino at an event earlier this week. “I want to have my feeling, even if it’s wrong, even if it’s inappropriate, express it to myself in the privacy of my heart and my mind. I don’t want to be bullied out of it.”

    Franklin Foer talks to Literary Hub about technology, monopolies, and his new book, World Without Mind.

    Margaret Sullivan explains why ESPN commentator Jemele Hill should not have been reprimanded for her tweet that referred to Donald Trump as a white supremacist. “It is tragically inappropriate for media behemoths to tout the diversity of their workforce and then hush what those diverse voices want to say on the most important matters of the day,” she writes. “That’s especially a problem when those staffers are encouraged to opine and engage on social media.”

    At The Guardian, Sam Jordison reflects on the newfound relevance of Salman Rushdie’s 1983 novel Shame, “a book about a corrupt class of billionaires and ‘badmashes’ hellbent on distorting reality and attacking the rule of law.”

    Youtube star Hank Green is working on a novel about going viral on the internet “and the anxiety and awkwardness it can bring.” An Absolutely Remarkable Thing will be published by Dutton next fall.

    Times reporter Kenneth P. Vogel details the lunch meeting that led to his accidental scoop about how Trump’s lawyers are dealing with the investigations into the campaign’s relationship with Russia. “I’ve picked up all manner of tantalizing nuggets—from U.S. senators, billionaire donors and influential operatives, among others—by positioning myself within earshot of those conversations while nursing a beer at the bar,” he writes. “But I’ve never overheard a conversation quite like the one I accidentally encountered last Tuesday.”

    The New York Times wonders if Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment settlements and subsequent firing from Fox News will affect the sales of his new book. The paper notes that while O’Reilly’s previous books have topped best seller charts upon release, Killing England, which was released yesterday, debuted at number ninety on Amazon’s best-seller list. “By comparison, the latest entry in the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, which won’t be released until November, is already No. 15.”

  • September 19, 2017

    Paul Farhi reflects on why crime journalist Kevin Deutsch’s numerous instances of unidentifiable sources and possible fabrications were overlooked until the recent publication of his second book, Pill City. “One possibility is that Deutsch’s questionable sources were merely peripheral to his stories, providing ‘color’ about widely reported events,” Farhi writes. “But it’s also possible that a journalist dealing with people on the fringes of society faces less accountability than one reporting in the center of the public square.”

    Michelle McNamara. Photo: Robyn Von Swank

    Harper Collins will publish Michelle McNamara’s final book, which she was working on when she died suddenly last year. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer will be published in early 2018.

    Jann Wenner plans to sell his controlling stake in Rolling Stone. Wenner and his son Gus, who is the current president and CEO of Wenner Media, told the Times that they “hoped to find a buyer that understood Rolling Stone’s mission and that had ‘lots of money.’” The paper also looks at the magazine’s legacy on its fiftieth anniversary.

    Thomas Frank, who resigned from CNN after the network retracted an article he wrote about Anthony Scaramucci, has been hired as BuzzFeed’s first national security and counterintelligence reporter. Frank will focus on the investigations into the Trump campaign’s relationship to Russia.

    The Associated Press looks at the trend of government agencies suing public records seekers in order to keep information from being released. Though the lawsuits don’t request damages, they enable public offices to avoid paying legal fees that they would normally be accountable for if sued by records seekers.

    At CNN, Brian Stelter looks at the last-minute preparations for Sean Spicer’s Emmys sketch and wonders why Stephen Colbert and the Emmys are helping Spicer rebrand. The Times talks to Spicer about the cameo, which they call “his latest attempt to ingratiate himself with the largely liberal coastal entertainment and news elites he so acidly disdained as Mr. Trump’s alter-ego spokesman.” At The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber writes that “when opponents of the president talk about ‘normalizing’ an abnormal administration, they are talking about the sort of thing that took place onstage sunday night at the Emmys.”

  • September 18, 2017

    NBC plans to create a new hub dedicated to the coverage of the media industry, and has hired Claire Atkinson, the former media reporter for the New York Post, to head the project. Other new hires include former Buzzfeed news editor Ben Smith and Recode editor Kara Swisher.

    David Carr

    David Carr, who died in 2015, was known as many things—recovering addict, media columnist for the Times, author of the bestselling memoir The Night of the Gun. He was also a tough and generous mentor to many younger writers. Now, at The Atlantic, more than a dozen authors remember the role Carr played in their careers. Says Ta-Nehisi Coates: “Before I got to The Atlantic, I was bombing out of all these jobs. It was tremendously hard, and there were a lot of times when I really wanted to give up. Every time something bad happened, Carr would tell me, ‘It’s them, not you.’ I never knew David to be soft on me—he was the most difficult boss I’ve had—so when he gave encouragement, it had to be true.”

    The National Book Awards has announced its longlist of contenders for its 2017 prizes in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

    In response to gripes last week that Britain’s Man Booker Prize had become too interested in American authors, Alex Shephard has written an opinion piece titled “Americans Didn’t Ruin the Man Booker Prize. Book Publishers Did.”

    The New York Times adds to the speculation about who will replace Graydon Carter as the editor of Vanity Fair.

    Martin Amis says that comparing Trump to Hitler is off base. The US President, the novelist says, has more in common with Mussolini.

    Nathan Heller considers Harvard University’s “dishonorable treatment” of Chelsea Manning and Michelle Jones. Manning was granted a fellowship by the university but saw the offer revoked after protests from former deputy director of the CIA Michael Morrell and current CIA director Mike Pompeo. Jones, who served twenty years in prison for the murder of her child, was admitted into Harvard’s history Ph.D. program, but was also disinvited after protests, suggesting that the university has been basing decisions on a wish to avoid controversy. “The Jones decision,” Heller writes, “shirks an opportunity to define what the twenty-first-century university is.”