• December 28, 2018

    At Poynter, Daniel Funke writes about his yearlong odyssey into reporting on trolls, fake news, and other forms of insidious misinformation. One big lesson: “Misinformation is a constantly evolving phenomenon that knows no bounds when it comes to format, platform, message and creator. It exists in pretty much every context on Earth.”  

    At Folio, ten creative directors pick their favorite magazine covers of the year, including Marilyn Minter’s cover shot of Lady Gaga for the New York Times Magazine, Time magazine’s fold-out cover for their “Guns in America” story, and New York magazine’s Stormy Daniels cover, shot by  Amanda Demme.

    Many long-running magazines closed in 2018, including the Village Voice, Interview, and Tin House. Hmm Daily has the full rundown in “The Year in Dead Publications.”

    Vol. 1 Brooklyn has a list of the best fiction of the year. They’ve included some of the consensus picks (The Largess of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson, Severance by Ling Ma), and some lesser-known titles worth investigating, such as Roque Larraquy’s Comemadre and Ondjaki’s Transparent City.

    On the National Book Critics Circle Critical Mass blog, Jonathan Leal revisits Italo Calvino’s novel If on a winter’s night a traveller, recommending it as one of the great books about books.

  • December 27, 2018

    As their long-running advice column “Dear Sugar” comes to an end, Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond reflect on the art of giving and receiving advice. “After much reflection we have decided that it’s time to shift our focus to other creative endeavors — namely, our next books,” Strayed explains of the decision. Almond reflected on why the two started the project in the first place. “The design flaw in most advice columns, I felt, was that their authors took themselves too seriously,” he remembered. “I realized the flaw in my approach, which is that people write to advice columnists because they want to be taken seriously. They want permission to feel what they’re feeling, not a set of instructions for self-improvement.”

    Jenny Xie. Photo: Teresa Mathew

    Hanif Abdurraqib, Jenny Xie, Tommy Pico, and many more poets recommend their favorite poetry books of 2018.

    Columbia Journalism Review rounds up the biggest media stories of 2018.

    At the New Republic, staff writers Josephine Livingstone and Jeet Heer consider the art of criticism, and what critics should do when they change their mind about a work they’ve reviewed.

    Wired’s Craig Mod looks at the past, present, and future of e-books, which remain popular despite the fact that they “look, feel, and function almost identically to digital books of 10 years ago.”

  • December 26, 2018

    Ursula K. Le Guin

    Jeff Jarvis rounds up the German media’s reactions to recent revelations that Der Spiegel reporter Claas Relotius had fabricated numerous articles. “The Spiegel affair cuts deeper into our presumptions and makes us ask whether our compulsion to make news compelling (yes, entertaining) leads us astray,” he writes.

    The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan reflects on the best and worst of American journalism over the past year.

    The New York Times lists the books that, despite not making the paper’s “100 Notables” or “10 Best” lists, are still “worthy of attention.”

    How to Write an Autobiographical Novel author Alexander Chee records a week of culinary adventures for Grub Street’s “Food Diaries.”

    Publishers Weekly looks at Archipelago Books’s fifteen-year “struggle” and how the small press found success in publishing the English translations of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series.

    LitHub remembers the many authors that died in 2018, including Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip Roth, Tom Wolfe, and more. “Here, at the end of a very complicated and very confusing year, we remember some of those great writers, editors, and literary advocates—with the sure knowledge that this tribute will not be their last,” they write.

  • December 21, 2018

    Zadie Smith

    Zadie Smith is working on a short story collection. Grand Union, which includes ten new stories and ten previously published pieces, will be published by Hamish Hamilton in the UK next fall.

    Reporter Maya Kosoff is leaving Vanity Fair.

    The New York Times offers a reading list for viewers of Barry Jenkins’s adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel, If Beale Street Could Talk.

    Director Lars Jan talks to LitHub about 1968, Joan Didion, and his stage adaptation of The White Album.

    After two residents of Fergus Falls, Minnesota pointed out eleven of the “most absurd lies” in a Der Spiegel feature on the town, “Where They Pray for Trump on Sundays” author Claas Relotius has been fired from the paper for fabricating over a dozen articles. “In 7,300 words he really only got our town’s population and average annual temperature correct,” Michele Anderson and Jake Krohn write. “We hope that our version of this story makes you think twice the next time you read an article claiming some kind of intellectual authority over rural identity, and that you’ll come and see for yourself what Fergus Falls is all about (we don’t mind a little tourism boost every now and then).”

  • December 20, 2018

    Celeste Ng. Photo: Kevin Day

    Celeste Ng talks to the Times Literary Supplement about writing tics, favorite books, and how the work of women authors has been underappreciated for too long. “For hundreds of years, the work of women – and particularly women of colour – has been dismissed as trivial, domestic, or just generally ‘less’ than that of men,” she says. “I think we’re starting to realize how powerful – and needed – those voices actually are.”

    LitHub and Book Marks collect the best reviewed books of 2018. Top picks include Ling Ma’s Severance, Zadie Smith’s Feel Free, Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room, and more.

    Gallery Books is publishing Olivia Newton-John’s memoir Don’t Stop Believin’ next March.

    Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy says that 2018 was the company’s most successful year ever.

    The Times looks at the near-daily media coverage of Walt Whitman’s impending death, which started four months before his actual death in March 1892.


  • December 19, 2018

    New York Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul addresses the controversy over Alice Walker’s recent “By the Book” interview, in which the author said she was currently reading a book by anti-Semitic writer David Icke. “When we interview anyone, whether it’s a public official or a foreign leader or an artist, The Times isn’t saying that we approve of the person’s views and actions,” Paul said. “We’ve also faced criticism when a writer only named white authors, or male authors. My response to that is the same as in this case: Does that answer tell you something about the subject? I think it does, and now readers know it because we’ve informed you.”

    “Darin Webb, the bookkeeper who stole more than $3.4 million over eight years from venerable New York literary agency Donadio & Olson, was sentenced to two years in prison on Monday,” Publishers Weekly reports.

    Richard Powers

    An Amnesty International report highlights “the breadth and depth of toxicity on Twitter,” a problem they say is particularly likely to inhibit women from “freely expressing themselves on the platform.”

    Politico owner Robert Allbritton talks to Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo about digital media, politics since 2016, and the magazine’s plans for expansion.

    The Law360 editorial union has unanimously voted to accept a new contract that offers an across-the-board 22 percent salary increase, along with guaranteed sick days, bereavement leave, and more. “Our newsroom has come together in a way we never thought possible,” the group wrote in a statement. “We finally have a voice in our newsroom and it is loud!”

    The Guardian’s Sam Jordison wonders why so many people consider Richard Powers’s The Overstory one of the best books of the year. “There’s plenty to appreciate if you’re predisposed to liking books and disliking the idea of environmental apocalypse,” he admits, but feels that the “undemanding” nature of the book is ultimately unsatisfying. “There’s nothing beyond the page, nothing that Powers doesn’t spell out slowly for us.”

  • December 18, 2018

    Former House Speaker John Boehner is working on a memoir, Politico reports. Notes From a Smoke-Filled Room will cover Boehner’s Washington career and harkens back to “a bygone era when bipartisan deals were negotiated by party leaders behind closed doors rather than in front of the cameras and on Twitter—and when a politician’s habit for enjoying one too many glasses of expensive Merlot was indulged not excoriated.” The book will be published by Thomas Dunne Books in 2020.

    Jessica Hopper. Photo: David Sampson

    Merriam-Webster has chosen justice as their word of the year for 2018.

    “Young me kind of put the screws to old me,” Jessica Hopper tells the New York Times about her latest book, Night Moves. “In some ways the thing that I’m most grateful for about doing this book, is getting to see the things that have progressed and not; the distance that I’ve staked—and not—between my younger, perhaps more idealistic, self and my geriatric cynicism.”

    Literary Hub looks forward to the literary film and television adaptations coming out in 2019, including The Goldfinch, Call of the Wild, and more.

    Civil-powered website Popula is the first US publication to archive an article onto the Ethereum blockchain. “There it will remain, beyond the reach of any adversaries of the free press, for as long as the Ethereum blockchain and IPFS persist,” writes editor Maria Bustillos. “A period which I venture to guess will last as long as the current internet, at the very least.”

  • December 17, 2018

    The Morning News is getting ready for its annual literary competition the Tournament of Books, in which a group of critics pit books directly against each other, with the winners moving ahead, bracket-style, until the final book is left standing. Competitions start in March, but the eighteen finalists that will compete, along with the judges, are listed here.

    Sam Lipsyte

    Sam Lipsyte

    The Paris Review has posted an entertaining and insightful Art of Fiction interview with Sam Lipsyte, author of the novels The Ask (2010) and Hark (which will be published in January). “I failed a lot. As a kid I experienced a sense of failure about many things, whether it was sports or even certain academic pursuits. I got shitty grades in every subject but English and history. And I see so much that is fascinating in failure.”

    France has recently seen a series of protests by the gilets jaunes, a leaderless group whose members are furious with the ways the government has mistreated and abandoned them. At the New Yorker, Alexadra Schwartz interviews Édouard Louis, whose novel The End of Eddy follows a young gay man living in a region that itself has been deeply neglected by the French government. Louis, who attended a recent gilets jaunes protest, is unhappy with the ways that the group has been treated: “Something about the extreme violence and class contempt that is being unleashed on this movement paralyzes me.”

    Notorious button-pusher Michel Houellebecq, author of Submission and The Elementary Particles, claims that Trump is “one of the best American presidents.”

    In a pre-emptive deal, Morrow paid seven figures for Kate Russell’s debut novel, My Dark Vanessa, which is narrated by a fifteen-year-old who has an affair with her middle-aged English teacher. The novel, which according to the publisher is “a Lolita story for the #MeToo era,” has already sold in twenty-two countries. The book is scheduled to be released in 2020. In other book news, Penguin Press has bought the rights to Thomas Meyer’s biography of Hannah Arendt.

  • December 14, 2018

    In a letter posted on Literary Hub, Tin House publisher and editor in chief Win McCormack announced that the magazine will discontinue print editions after its twentieth anniversary issue is published next June. McCormack writes that the magazine will continue to publish online, and that money previously used for printing costs will be shifted to Tin House Books and the Tin House Workshop. “Twenty years feels like the right time to be stepping away and moving on to new adventures,” said editor Rob Spillman in a statement. “I look forward to focusing on other opportunities at the intersection of art and activism.”

    Tommy Orange

    Tommy Orange’s There There has won this year’s Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.

    The New York Times talks to Sigrid Nunez about fame, Susan Sontag, and why she became a writer. Nunez said that the attention paid to writers like Sontag never appealed to her. “It was very clear to me that even if I wanted something like that, I could never handle it,” she explained. “I became a writer because it was something I could do alone and hidden in my room.”

    Columbia Journalism Review’s Andrew McCormick looks at the inner workings of Jones Day, a law firm which has “become a go-to for media executives facing union drives.”

    Medium owner Ev Williams is looking to buy more media properties, Bloomberg reports.

    Facebook fact checkers are speaking out against the company, The Guardian reports. The company had partnered with Snopes and other fact checking organizations after being criticized for spreading fake news during the 2016 election, but the fact checkers say their work has made no discernable impact on the problem. “They’ve essentially used us for crisis PR,” said former Snopes managing editor Brooke Binkowski. “They’re not taking anything seriously. They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck.”

  • December 13, 2018

    New York magazine is unionizing with NewsGuild New York, joining other high-profile publications—including the New Yorker, Vice, and The Guardian—that have organized in recent years. Rebecca Traister, one of New York’s most popular writers, was happy about the effort: “The fact that the industry itself is moving back to collective bargaining is thrilling to me. This is what creates more stability and security for workers.” One of the magazine’s other marquee writers, Jonathan Chait, isn’t convinced it is a good idea, tweeting, “I spent hours talking to unions representatives. I came away from those conversations more, not less, concerned. I don’t know how it will go and I hope I am pleasantly surprised.”

    The New York Times writes about the big boost that an appearance on late-night TV can give a novelist. The article notes that Seth Meyers is particularly interested in bringing lesser-known literary authors onto the show, quoting Meyers as saying, “As much as I love having Stephen King or Jonathan Franzen or George Saunders, we also saw it as an opportunity to have diverse writers and writers who are publishing their first or second novel, because this will probably mean more for them than people who are already established.” Myers is not the only host helping the literary cause: When Kevin Young appeared on Trevor Noah’s Daily Show, his book of poetry, Brown, jumped from 2,712 to 335 in the Amazon rankings.  

    James Alan McPherson

    The San Diego Union Tribune lists the highest-paid authors of 2018. James Patterson topped the list at eighty-six million dollars last year while Michael Wolff joined the elite earners for the first time, making thirteen million dollars for Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

    Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, has sold three million copies since its publication four weeks ago. Obama is extending her book tour into 2019.

    At LitHub, Marcus Burke remembers his mentor James Alan McPherson on the fortieth anniversary of his Pulitzer Prize win. “Jim’s concerns were global in scope, while remaining connected to an individual’s humanity and truth,” he writes. “In carving out and illustrating the idiosyncrasies of his characters, Jim’s use of floating narration gives full and unflinching consideration to the good, the bad, and the ugly that exists in us all, making the panoramic concern that much more compelling.”

    Tonight at the 92nd Street Y, Claudia Rankine talks to Juliana Spahr about her new book, Du Bois’s Telegram: Literary Resistance and State Containment.