• February 28, 2018

    Jill Soloway

    Jill Soloway is starting their own imprint, Topple Books, with Amazon publishing. Soloway says of the new venture: “We live in a complicated, messy world where every day we have to proactively re-center our own experiences by challenging privilege. . . . With Topple Books, we’re looking for those undeniably compelling essential voices so often not heard.”

    According to Ryan Holiday’s new book, Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, Thiel considered illegal actions such as bribery, hacking, and theft against Gawker Media after Valleywag claimed Thiel was gay in a 2007 post. Holiday quotes Thiel saying, “There are things that were very tempting, an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Retributive justice. . . . But I think those would have ultimately been self-defeating. That’s where you just become that which you hate.” Thiel ended up backing Hulk Hogan in a successful lawsuit that led to Gawker shutting down and Gawker Media’s founder Nick Denton declaring bankruptcy.  

    Two years after Harper Lee’s death at the age of eighty-nine, her will has been unsealed. But, as the New York Times reports, questions about Lee remain unanswered, especially concerning her decision to publish a follow-up to To Kill A Mockingbird in 2015. That sequel, Go Set a Watchman, was the best-selling book of the year, but fans are divided about whether she intended to release the book or was taken advantage of by her representatives.

    Quinn Norton, the technology writer who was hired to be a New York Times columnist, then quickly fired because of controversial tweets and her online friendship with a neo-Nazi, tells her side of the story at The Atlantic. According to Norton, it wasn’t her real self, but an online “doppelgänger” that caused the online outrage that led to her termination—out of context tweets, mainly. Of her friendship with Andrew Auernheimer (known online as “weev”), a webmaster for the anti-Semitic site The Daily Stormer, Norton writes, “weev is just one of many terrible people I’ve cared for in my life. I don’t support what my terrible friend believes or does. But I strongly advocate for people with a good sense of themselves and their values to engage with their terrible friends, coworkers, and relatives, to lovingly confront them for as long as it takes, and it would be wrong to not do so myself.”    

    Tonight at the Brooklyn Public Library, David Mamet presents his new book, Chicago: A Novel.

  • February 27, 2018

    Joe Pompeo writes about New York Times Opinion editor James Bennet, and the unhappiness in the newsroom over the direction the op-ed pages have been taking. Bennet was charged with making “provocative” hires to shake up the section, but the short-lived career of tech writer Quinn Norton—who was quickly dismissed after Twitter users pointed out her friendship with a neo-Nazi—and the hiring of Bret Stephens, a climate change denier, have left Times readers feeling displeased and staff members “embarrassed.” For his part, Bennet told Pompeo, “Look, we’re recruiting different types of writers than we have traditionally, and I’ll make some mistakes. It’s just gonna happen.”

    Radhika Jones. Photo: Earl Wilson

    After she took over as editor of Vanity Fair, Radhika Jones let twenty staff members from the Graydon Carter era go in what the New York Post referred to as a “bloodbath.” Now, she’s stocking up on new hires, naming Claire Howorth as deputy editor and Caryn Prime as director of editorial operations, among other appointments.  

    A trailer for HBO’s new adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 has been released. The series will star Michael B. Jordan.

    At his Washington Post blog, Erik Wemple argues that Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff’s credibility is faltering. Wemple recounts a recent incident when Wolff appeared to pretend he couldn’t hear a question about his claim that Trump was having an affair with a staff member. Last week, he became agitated when asked about the affair again, saying, “Let me say this as directly as I can. Let’s go right through anybody’s thick skull. I did not—I do not know who Donald Trump is having an affair with, okay?”

    Tonight at McNally Jackson Books in Manhattan, Lynne Tillman discusses her new novel, Men and Apparitions, with Colm Tóibín.

  • February 26, 2018

    Michelle Obama Becoming

    Michelle Obama

    Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, will be released on November 13. The book was acquired by Crown Books, along with a book by Barack Obama, earlier this month, for an undisclosed amount that has been the subject of much speculation (the Financial Times reported that the publisher paid $65 million for the two titles).

    Stphen Rubin was once known for launching unknown writers like Dan Brown and John Grisham into bestseller stardom, but when he left Random House to become the president of Henry Holt nine years ago, many considered his career to be over. And then he acquired the book that would turn him into an undisputed success once again: Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury. The Times gives an overview of the publisher’s career.

    The Guardian talks with novelist Marilynne Robinson about her new book of essays, her Christian faith, and her writing habits. “I don’t really have an ideal reader in mind at all, whether one with or without faith,” she says. “When I write it is to try to figure out something for my own purposes.”

    The website Literary Manhattan has published its eightieth profile of a New York author—”none other than Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and rocker, Bob Dylan.”

    Philip Jones, the editor of The Bookseller, explains why publishers will most likely continue to release hardcover books for a while. “The hardback is a mark of quality and a demonstration of intent on behalf of the publisher: it shows booksellers and reviewers that this is a book worth paying attention to. In fact some literary editors will still only review fiction (on first publication) if it’s published in hardback. Similarly, a hardback signifies to authors and agents that this is a book their publisher cares about, so much so that some agents (and authors) will insist upon it.”

    Stephen King’s The Dark Tower is being adapted for television.

  • February 23, 2018

    CBS News senior foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan has been hired as the next Face the Nation moderator, replacing John Dickerson, who replaced Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning earlier this year. The New York Times notes that Brennan’s new role makes her “the only woman currently serving as a solo anchor of a major Sunday political affairs show.”

    Lupita Nyong’o has signed on to play the role of Trevor Noah’s mother in the film adaptation of his memoir, Born a Crime.

    Literary Hub talks to Jeff VanderMeer about what it’s like to have your novel turned into a film.

    Terese Marie Mailhot

    BuzzFeed talks to Terese Marie Mailhot and Tommy Orange, two recent graduates of the Institute of American Indian Arts’s MFA program whose books are coming out this year. The first in the US to be indigenous-centered, the IAIA’s writing program creates a space outside the traditionally white academic and publishing worlds. “It’s very different for indigenous people, and black people, and people of color, because we are so often told to doubt ourselves, and our aesthetics, and what we do, simply because some of us are not traditionally taught how to write,” Mailhot said. “And even if we are, we are looked at as if we don’t know how—that we’re not authorities of our own work. And I just don’t buy it anymore.”  

    Journalist Charlie Warzel asks why Google, Facebook, and YouTube are so bad at spotting hoaxes and misleading stories in the wake of tragedies. Warzel writes, “This isn’t some new phenomenon. Still, the platforms are proving themselves incompetent when it comes to addressing them. . . .  In many cases, they appear to be surprised by that such content sits on their websites.”

  • February 22, 2018

    The Guardian has an article explaining the chaos at Newsweek magazine, where management tried to shut down a story by its reporters about the publication’s ties to a Christian college. The magazine’s offices were raided by the DA on January 18th, and since then, the staff has been trying to dig into the reasons for the raid. In the process, there have been editors and reporters fired and charges by staff that executives tried to subject the reporting to an unethical review process. At Columbia Journalism Review, Joel Simon weighs in on why the dismissal of editors is so troubling: “These firings appear to be legal, and certainly don’t violate the First Amendment. But from a press freedom perspective they are disturbing because they challenge a norm at the heart of American journalism, which is that the business side stays out of the newsroom and does not dictate coverage.”

    Sigrid Nunez

    Newsweek ran into more trouble yesterday, as they were forced to retract a story, “How An Alt-Right Bot Network Took Down Al Franken,” after they were unable to verify their source’s key claims.

    Finalists for the LA Times book prize include Ta-Nehisi Coates, Joyce Carol Oates, Ron Chernow, and Jesmyn Ward.  

    Tonight at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, Sigrid Nunez will discuss her new novel, The Friend, with Peter Cameron. In our Feb/Mar issue, Vivian Gornick said of the book: “I don’t know whether or not The Friend is a good novel or even, strictly speaking, if it’s a novel at all—so odd is its construction—but after I’d turned the last page of the book I found myself sorry to be leaving the company of a feeling intelligence that had delighted me and even, on occasion, given joy.”  

  • February 21, 2018

    A Newsweek story about the magazine’s ties to a Christian university was published last night with a lengthy note from the editors. The letter charges the publication’s leadership with trying to suppress the article. The opening paragraph states that two editors and a reporter were fired “for doing their jobs,” that two more reporters were threatened with termination by management, and that the article was subject to a review process that “involved egregious breaches of confidentiality and journalism ethics.” One Newsweek employee told the Daily Beast “I have never experienced a newsroom with such astonishingly poor leadership. . . . It’s an absolute shit show and no one has any idea what’s going on.”

    Former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos is dropping his suit against Simon & Schuster for cancelling publication of his memoir, Dangerous.  

    Tonight at the Brooklyn bookstore Books Are Magic, Cheston Knapp discusses his new collection of essays Up Up, Down Down with Joshua Ferris.

    Adeshina Emmanuel

    The Chicago Reader is looking for a new editor after firing Mark Konkol, who worked on one issue. Konkol’s debut featured a political cartoon on the cover that included a black lawn jockey holding up Illinois candidate for governor, J. B. Pritzker. At the Columbia Journalism Review, Adeshina Emmanuel details working with Konkol on a story for the issue (the cover was, in part, meant to illustrate his article) and the editor’s insistence on using racist language in the piece’s headline. Emmanuel also discusses the cover, quoting the response he first posted on Facebook: “Sure, I’ll be getting a check, and I gained some followers, but was it worth the humiliation of having my work under that cover? Does that cover really serve my people? I believe my voice as a black millennial man was exploited, used to lend credibility to what ultimately is another example of the type of sneak racism my articles called out. I feel used. It hurts.”

  • February 20, 2018

    Carmen Maria Machado talks to Guernica about short stories, queer identity, and why memoir writing scares her. “With memoir, there is no place to hide; the screen of fiction is gone and it feels really naked, really vulnerable,” she said. “I’m afraid people are going to ask me all kinds of overly personal questions when it comes out.”

    Carmen Maria Machado. Photo: Tom Storm.

    A new algorithm developed at the University of Illinois and the University of California at Berkeley suggests that women were better represented in nineteenth-century novels than they have been in more modern fiction. The academics in charge of the study expected to see an increase, but they found the opposite. “From the 19th century through the early 1960s we see a story of steady decline,” write Ted Underwood, David Bamman and Sabrina Lee in their paper “The Transformation of Gender in English-Language Fiction,” which is in the new issue of the Journal of Cultural Analytics.

    Entertainment Weekly has posted an excerpt from Somaiya Daud’s forthcoming debut novel Mirage, which is inspiring raves in the YA community. “Mirage is full of characters who feel like they existed long before the story began, and a rich world that is as beautiful as it is cruel,” writes Divergent author Veronica Roth. “Somaiya Daud is a rare talent. A smart, romantic, exciting debut.”

    At The Baffler, Chris Lehmann laments the state of the contemporary op-ed page: “In a fragmented market for political commentary, driven largely by social-media renown, writers are brands, and their passing stabs at argument and analysis are glorified ad slogans.”

    As if on cue, David Brooks has weighed in with an op-ed on gun violence in America. To stop the mass shootings, Brooks opines, we must first “show respect to gun owners.” Twitter isn’t having it. Among many tweets criticizing Brooks, Philip Gourevitch tweeted that Brooks “proposes a bridge to nowhere — with lots of safe spaces along the way for gun owners to feel unthreatened while the people who don’t like being shot dead apologize for antagonizing them by advocating for life-saving policies.”

  • February 19, 2018

    The New York Times reports on the case of Curtis Dawkins, a Michigan prisoner who sold a short story collection while serving a life sentence and is now being sued by the state for the cost of his incarceration.

    Francisco Cantú. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

    The Guardian talks to Francisco Cantú about the border patrol, immigration policy, and how writing can inspire change. “Writing is where I see myself being able to do the most meaningful work,” he said. “I still see it as a tool for exploring all the questions that I still have, about the way that violence is normalised in a society.”

    Mark Konkol, who was hired as the editor of the Chicago Reader at the end of January, has been fired.

    Jim Waterson has been hired as media editor at The Guardian. Waterson was most recently BuzzFeed UK’s political editor.

    At Wired, May Jeong profiles Peter Madsen, the Danish engineer who was arrested for the murder of journalist Kim Wall.

  • February 16, 2018

    To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Man Booker prize, the organization will award a “Golden” Man Booker prize to one of fifty-one previous winners. 1981 winner Salman Rushdie “is likely a favourite to win,” The Guardian reports, “having already won the Best of Booker award in 2008, to mark the prize’s 40th anniversary, and the Booker of Bookers in 1993, for its 25th birthday.” The shortlist will be revealed in May.

    Ailsa Chang

    NPR has hired two new hosts. Ailsa Chang is joining All Things Considered, while Noel King will work on Morning Edition and the Up First podcast.

    Congressman John Lewis is working on a second set of graphic novels about his life and career. The first book of the Run trilogy will be published in August.

    Former New Republic owner Chris Hughes talks to Time about his new book, Starbucks coffee, and whether Mark Zuckerberg would make a good president. “I don’t think that is something that he is so interested in,” Hughes said. “We have a businessman taking the helm of the government, and it turns out that a lot of the experience that you need to be in that seat comes from being in the public sector and civil society.”

    After New York Times employee complaints about Opinions staff editor Bari Weiss were leaked to HuffPost, editorial page editor James Bennett wrote a lengthy memo to staff, asking that any criticism be made privately. “Whether you disagree with some of our many viewpoints or not — surely you will — please understand that your colleagues in Opinion are committed to ideals that matter, to fair play, tolerance, pluralism, the free exchange of ideas and intellectual challenge,” Bennett wrote. “They, like you, are committed to helping The Times achieve its highest purposes.”


  • February 15, 2018

    DeRay Mckesson

    Civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson is writing a book. On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope, which will be published by Viking next September, examines “how deliberate oppression persists, how racial injustice strips our lives of promise, and how technology has added a new dimension to mass action and social change.”

    The Washington Post is opening two new international bureaus, one in Hong Kong and another in Rome. The paper has also hired a second correspondent for its Mexico City bureau.

    PEN America has awarded the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award to Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters journalists who were jailed in Myanmar for investigating and reporting on the Inn Din massacre.

    Journalist Steve Coll talks about his new book, Directorate S.

    USA Today has hired Nicole Carroll as the paper’s editor in chief. Carroll was most recently the vice president of news and editor of the Arizona Republic.

    Evan Ramstad reflects on the difficulties in reporting on North Korea and the media savvy of the country’s leaders, most recently on display at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. “To advance its message and control its image, the North Korean government combines outrageous behavior with draconian limits on media access. It also benefits from the willingness of competitive news organizations to lower their reporting standards in return for access to a place that is exotic, scary, bizarre and even entertaining,” he writes. “Unfortunately, often enough, it has been able to count on journalists’ shortcuts and short memories for some extra polishing of its reputation in the world.”

    Tonight at McNally Jackson, Liza Featherstone presents her new book, Divining Desire.