• January 31, 2018

    Willie Nelson is being inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters. Nelson is the first songwriter to be honored by the group, and joins screenwriter Richard Linklater, novelist Bret Anthony Johnston, and playwright Kirk Lynn among others to be inducted this year. “He’s Willie,” the institute explained in a statement. “Do we need to say anything else?”

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    Late author Helen Dunmore has won the Costa prize for her final book, Inside the Wave.

    Atria publisher and president Judith Curr is leaving the company after nineteen years. Curr founded Atria books and later took over the expanded Atria Publishing Group.

    Kwame Alexander is starting his own imprint. Versify will be part of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, with its first titles to be published in spring 2019.

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has written a Facebook post in reaction to an interview question from a French journalist, who asked if there were book stores in Nigeria. “Bookshops are in decline all over the world. And that is worth discussing and mourning and hopefully changing. But the question, ‘Are there bookshops in Nigeria?’ was not about that,” she wrote. “It was about giving legitimacy to a deliberate, entitled, tiresome, sweeping, base ignorance about Africa. And I do not have the patience for that.”

    Vanity Fair reports that Mike Cernovich, “the right-wing lifestyle guru and self-proclaimed journalist,” has bid $500,000 on Gawker.com. Maya Kosoff and Tina Nguyen write that although the offer may represent Cernovich’s desire “to navigate away from the fringes of the Internet . . . in a bid for more mainstream respectability,” his motivation to buy Gawker is more likely related to his “historic feud with the site, which dates back to at least 2014, when he challenged then-Gawker writer Sam Biddle to a boxing match over his coverage of Gamergate.”

  • January 30, 2018

    The New York Times has hired Amal El-Mohtar as the Book Review’s science fiction and fantasy columnist. El-Mohtar is replacing N. K. Jemisin, who has been writing the Otherworldly column for the last two years.

    Danez Smith. Photo: Hieu Minh Nguyen

    The Observer reports on editorial shake-ups at two Tronc papers. Former New York Daily News editor in chief Jim Rich will return to the same role at the paper, while the Daily News’s current interim editor Jim Kirk has been hired as the editor in chief of the Los Angeles Times. Current LA Times editor Lewis D’Vorkin will be the chief content officer of Tronc.

    Poet Danez Smith talks to The Guardian about gender, faith, and failure. “All art-making is about failure. We never get it right,” he said. “But poems are not poems if they make people feel dead. I want people to feel alive—even if it is alive with grief. I want people to feel their blood moving by the time I’m done.”

    Mira T. Lee and Celeste Ng discuss writing and jealousy.“I always told myself that once I’d written the book I wanted to write, anything else would be gravy,” said Lee. “But suddenly I find myself plagued by feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, everything from ‘will my sales meet my publisher’s expectations?’ to ‘why didn’t that reader like my book?’”“Literally every single writer I have ever met has confessed to feeling insecure,”Ng agreed. “I’m 97 percent sure even Alice Munro and Toni Morrison are secretly annoyed when there’s a best-of list they’re not on.”

    At the Washington Post, T.A. Frank argues that conservative political magazines like Commentary and the National Review “have become oddly vital once more.” “While Sean Hannity and Breitbart News carry water for Trump, and many liberal publications dodge introspection in favor of anti-Trump primal screams . . . conservative magazines are working to bring a plausible intellectual order to this new reality—and figure out what comes next,” he writes.

  • January 29, 2018

    Mohsin Hamid

    Mohsin Hamid

    Mohsin Hamid, the author of the novels The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Exit West, writes about the disturbing trends of “purity” and nationalism in Pakistan, England, and beyond. “In these pure times, you believe more impurity is desperately needed. Only impurity can save us now,” he writes. “But, fortunately, there are reasons for hope. Our species was built on impurity, and impurity will probably come to our rescue once again, if we let it.”

    Shomari Wills talks about the genesis of his book Black Fortunes, a study of African-American millionaires, and about the surprises he encountered while researching and writing it.

    “The cat brought in a snake and left it under my bed…” In her second column for the Guardian, Elena Ferrante considers how she has learned to confront her fears. Her own success in overcoming fear has not been based in courage, per se, so much as “egotism.” “We fearful-belligerents place at the top of all our fears the fear of losing self-respect,” she writes. “We value ourselves very highly, and in order not to have to face our own humiliation, we are capable of anything.”

    Salman Rushdie reveals his big literary influences—Kafka, Pynchon—and confesses that he’s never been able to finish Middlemarch.

    “Every time Mark E. Smith spat on the ground, another 10 bands rose up, and he hated every one of them.” Rob Sheffield, the author of David Bowie and Dreaming the Beatles, offers an inspired tribute to the acerbic frontman of the legendary postpunk band The Fall.

    We’re excited about the upcoming talk, on February 5 at the New School, between the poet-critic-novelists Wayne Koestenbaum (My 1980s and Other Essays) and Douglas Martin (Acker).

  • January 26, 2018

    Naima Coster. Photo: Jonathan Jiménez Pérez

    Slate editor in chief Julia Turner explains the decision to close the DoubleX vertical just as the #MeToo movement took off. “Ever since I’ve taken over as editor, it’s felt very strange for me to be the first female editor in chief of Slate, and one of the few female editors in chief of general interest magazines, and have women’s pages still. Like reproductive rights—that goes in the women’s section. News about campus sexual assault policy—that goes in the women’s section,” she said. “Those stories are part of why we want to do this. Those stories are news. . . . Putting all that stuff under a purple logo didn’t feel modern or right anymore in terms of the centrality of those questions to the news.”

    At the Paris Review, Naima Coster talks about Brooklyn, gentrification, and family life in her new book, Halsey Street. “As I wrote this book, I was interested in the impulse that people have to hide whatever they think might cost them the love and esteem of others,” she said. “In life, real intimacy happens when we’re ready to share the mess of our inner lives with one another, and I think that’s also one of the ways that intimacy happens in fiction.”

    Naomi Fry has been hired by the New Yorker as a staff write and copy editor for the website. Fry is a freelance writer and copy chief of T: The New York Times Style Magazine.

    ESPN is considering selling FiveThirtyEight.

    Matthew Hays explores how HuffPost’s recently-ended “practice of taking lots of written work for free” changed the online publishing world. “After The Huffington Post’s unpaid-content model became famous in media circles, I began to hear a familiar conversation. As media outlets began to pay less or ask for less words to cut costs, the bartering would ultimately end in an editor saying, ‘Well, at least we pay something. Look at The Huffington Post—they pay nothing,’” Hays recalls. “I wish I could monetize the number of times I heard these words from a commissioning editor. To put a spin on an old cliche, if I could I’d be very rich—maybe as rich as Arianna Huffington.”

  • January 25, 2018

    Deb Olin Unferth

    Editorial staff at Slate has voted to unionize with the Writers Guild of America–East. “This process . . . has given us a greater sense of appreciation for each other and our work,” union organizers wrote in a statement. “We feel confident that we can create a contract with input from all our colleagues that will improve standards, offer necessary protections within our volatile industry, and preserve the aspects of the workplace we love.”

    James Harding, former head of BBC News, is starting his own media company. Tortoise will focus on “slow news,” which Harding defines as “news with more depth—data, investigations, analysis, expertise—to help us explain the world we’re living in.”

    David Shaftel visits the Hyman Archive in London, home to the world’s largest magazine collection.

    Entertainment Weekly offers a guide to the best of Ursula K. Le Guin’s novels. At the New York Times, Naomi Novik mourns Le Guin in the form of a poem.

    “When I first started writing, I didn’t find my stories funny, but people kept saying they were,” Deb Olin Unferth tells The Rumpus. “It kind of worried me; these are some pretty disturbing and sad pieces. Why do people think they’re funny? Then I decided I like that mode. . . . I like being funny and sad at the same time, or funny and disturbing at the same time. It’s my natural voice.”


  • January 24, 2018

    Ursula K. Le Guin

    Novelist Ursula K. Le Guin has died at the age of 88. Over the course of her career, Le Guin wrote over twenty novels, as well as numerous collections of poetry, short stories, and essays.

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has announced the editors of the 2018 Best American Series. Roxane Gay will work on the short story edition, Cheryl Strayed will take on travel writing, and Hilton Als will edit the essays. Ruth Reichl will oversee the series’s inaugural collection of food writing.

    A collection of Sylvia Plath’s belongings, including a typewritten copy of The Bell Jar, is being put up for auction by her daughter, Frieda Hughes.

    Infowars’s Alex Jones is working on a book with The Game author Neil Strauss. CNN’s Oliver Darcy reports that the pair have been shopping around a proposal for The Secret History of the Modern World & the War for the Future. “It’s not clear whether any publishers will actually want to acquire the book,” Darcy notes, “as any company that would choose to publish the book would likely face an immense backlash because of the number of inflammatory claims and comments Jones has made over the years.”

    Inspired by Elena Ferrante’s new column for The Guardian, Literary Hub’s Emily Temple comes up with a list of authors she wishes would become columnists. Maggie Nelson is “bursting with thought and radical feeling, so she’d have no trouble delighting each week,” while Claudia Rankine, Temple writes, “doesn’t take any shit, which is one of my favorite qualities in columnists, and people in general.”

  • January 23, 2018

    Carmen Maria Machado. Photo: Tom Storm

    The finalists for the 2017 National Book Critics Circle Awards and the winners of the John Leonard Prize and the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award have been announced. John McPhee has won the Lifetime Achievement Award, while Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties has won the John Leonard Prize. Award nominees include Masha Gessen’s The Future is History, Edmund Gordon’s The Invention of Angela Carter, Kevin Young’s Bunk, and Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing. Winners will be announced in March.

    The New York Times reports that Gui Minhai, the Hong Kong book publisher who was abducted from Thailand by the Chinese government in 2015, “has disappeared again in dramatic fashion—snatched from a train bound for Beijing under the eyes of two Swedish diplomats.”

    Amy Chozick is writing a memoir about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns. Chasing Hillary “explores how [Chozick] came of age, aging out of her 20s and into her 30s, while covering Clinton, and what that kind of intertwined experience of growth revealed to her about Clinton—and about herself.” The book will be published by Harper in April.

    Former Washington Post journalist and current Fox News host Howard Kurtz is working on a book about the Trump administration. Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War Over the Truth will be published by Regnery at the end of January. The Post’s Aaron Blake writes that Kurtz’s book could be “even more damning” than Fire and Fury. Excerpts from the book describe “a president who is acting haphazardly and without the guidance of his aides, making major allegations and policy decisions on whims,” Blake writes. “And the fact that it’s how Trump is described by an oft-sympathetic Fox News host makes it ring even truer.”

    Jhumpa Lahiri talks to the New Yorker about translation, immigration, and the similarities between her two homes: the US and Italy. “It really strikes me that the two countries I now shuttle between and consider home are places where xenophobia still thrives,” she said.

  • January 22, 2018

    In her new weekly column, Elena Ferrante recounts the first time she fell in love.

    Teju Cole

    Teju Cole

    On the occasion of her new essay collection, Feel Free, Zadie Smith fields questions from a number of people, including London mayor Sadiq Khan, cartoonist Chris Ware, Tate museum director Maria Balshaw, and authors Nikesh Shukla, Philip Pullman, and Matt Haig. As she tells Teju Cole: “I don’t think of myself as a contrarian. I’m useless at confrontation. But I also can’t stand dogma, lazy ideas, catchphrases, group-think, illogic, pathos disguised as logos, shoutiness, ad hominem attacks, bombast, liberal piety, conservative pomposity, ideologues, essentialists, technocrats, preachers, fanatics, cheerleaders or bullies. Like everybody, I am often guilty of some version of all of the above, but I do think the job of writing is to at least try and minimise that sort of thing as much as you can.”

    If sales forecasts for Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury turn out to be accurate, it should outsell Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal.

    At Publishers Weekly, Michele Filgate points out why Meg Wolitzer’s forthcoming novel The Female Persuasion is so of this moment: The novel “couldn’t be more timely, as the #MeToo movement calls out men who have abused their power and privilege to take advantage of women, whose accounts of mistreatment have been diminished or disbelieved.”  

    The New York Times has a profile of former book editor Daniel Mallory, whose novel The Woman in the Window debuted last week at No. 1 on the Times bestseller list. (The author already has a record-breaking deal with thirty-seven international publishers.) Mallory wrote the book, a thriller inspired in part by the films of Hitchcock, under the pseudonym A.J. Finn. The book was bought by William Morrow, where Mallory once worked, but acquiring editor Jennifer Brehl read the manuscript having no idea who it’s author really was: “I had no idea that [Mallory] was writing a book,” Brehl says.

    On February 6, George Saunders will be in conversation with Dana Spiotta at Brooklyn’s Murmrr Theater. Tickets are on sale here.

  • January 19, 2018

    Elena Ferrante has signed on to write a weekly column for The Guardian’s magazine. Ferrante’s column, translated by Ann Goldstein, “will share her thoughts on a wide range of topics, including childhood, ageing, gender and, in her debut article, first love.” The first installment will appear this weekend in the redesigned magazine.

    Leni Zumas. Photo: Sophia Shalmiyev

    At Literary Hub, Maddie Crum talks to Red Clocks author Leni Zumas about what happens “when your feminist dystopia becomes a work of realism.”

    Former President Jimmy Carter is working on a book about “faith, its far-reaching effect on our lives, and its relationship to past, present, and future events in American and around the world.” Faith: A Journey for All will be published by Simon & Schuster this March.

    This year, Harper Collins’s audio division will release a selection of audiobooks on vinyl.

    The Atlantic has hired Business Insider’s Natasha Bertrand as a politics staff writer.

    HuffPost is “immediately dissolving its self-publishing contributors platform.” The unpaid section of the site, which has 100,000 writers, will be replaced by opinion and personal writing by paid contributors. Editor Lydia Polgreen explained that the change came from a “desire to focus on quality reporting and minimize unvetted stories.” “Certainly the environment where fake news is flourishing is one where it gets harder and harder to support the idea of a ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’ kind of publishing platform,” she said.

  • January 18, 2018

    Endeavor Content has bought the film and television rights to Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury. Wolff has signed on as an executive producer, and the Hollywood Reporter writes that “the massive deal is said to be in the seven-figure range.” The New York Times notes that, after Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s HBO project on the 2016 campaign was cancelled in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, the adaptation “could be the first major dramatic portrayal of the Trump White House.”

    Katy Waldman

    Lupita Nyong’o is writing a children’s book. Sulwe will be published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in January 2019.

    Slate’s Katy Waldman is moving to the New Yorker. Waldman will continue writing about books and contribute “regular essays on culture, language, and the politics of language” to the magazine’s website.

    Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post correspondent who was held by the Iranian government for a year and a half, is returning to the paper’s WorldViews section as a staff writer.

    Former writers and editors of The Hairpin and The Awl mourn the soon-to-close websites and remember their favorite articles. “The things those sites published made me want to be smarter and cooler and better,” The Intercept’s Sam Biddle writes. “I’m none of those things now, but it definitely made me want to keep trying. Oh, well. At least we still have the Skimm.” Splinter’s Brendan O’Connor recalls the best advice he received from The Awl’s editors, including “Keep it frothy!” and “Blogging is for suckers.”