• November 30, 2018

    The majority of Mic’s one hundred employees were laid off yesterday as the company prepared to sell to Bustle Digital Group, Recode reports. The website’s two founders, Chris Altchek and Jake Horowitz, are the only staff that remain at the company. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company was sold for $5 million, far below the company’s previous valuation of $100 million. Columbia Journalism Review’s Mathew Ingram writes that Mic’s decision to pivot to video and their focus on a partnership with Facebook likely played a large role in the website’s decline. “But no one forced Mic, or any other company suffering as a result of the same strategy, to shift so much of their spending to Facebook video, or to get their hopes up about a huge payoff,” he writes.

    Anna Burns

    Erika Allen has been hired as The Cut’s culture editor. Allen was most recently The Outline’s executive editor.

    Man Booker winner and Milkman author Anna Burns tells the New York Times that the only connection she has to her novel’s protagonist is their shared penchant for reading while walking. “Complete strangers would say to me, ‘You’re that girl who walks and reads’ or ‘I saw you on the something road reading,’” Burns remembered of her youth in Ireland during The Troubles. The constant attention prompted Burns to write Milkman. “I thought ‘Why would they comment on it? Am I that noticeable?’”

    LitHub’s Emily Temple rounds up translation advice from ten literary translators.

    Actress Ellie Kemper, who recently published her essay collection My Squirrel Days, explains to the New York Times’s “By the Book” column how she accidentally tackled historian and biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin at a pre-Oscar party. Kearns had been nominated for her work on Lincoln, which was based on her book Team of Rivals. “I wasn’t a nominee, so I’m not sure why I was there.” As “an enormous fan” of Goodwin’s, Kemper walked over to introduce herself. “Without waiting for her to give any indication that she wanted a hug, I leaned in to give her a hug. But she had begun to turn by that point, and I lost my balance,” Kemper explained. “I mumbled any number of mortified ‘I’m sorrys’ and then—as one does—ran away.”

  • November 29, 2018

    Margaret Atwood

    Margaret Atwood

    Margaret Atwood has written a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. The new book, called The Testaments, takes place fifteen years after the conclusion of Handmaid’s, and is narrated by three women. “Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book,” Atwood says in a video. “Well, almost everything: The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.” The new book will be released on September 10, 2019, by Doubleday/Nan A. Talese.

    A literature professor has discovered a forgotten cache of poet Anne Sexton’s early works. Written in the late 1950s, the essay and four poems were first published in the Christian Science Monitor and will be republished by Fugue.

    At LitHub, Madelaine Lucas profiles A Public Space editor Brigid Hughes. “I sometimes think about how Jane Jacobs talks about what makes a vital street,” Hughes said of A Public Space’s editorial direction. “You don’t want homogeneity, you want a variety of buildings and shops and people. That’s what makes a vibrant and vital community, and I think of the magazine as something similar.”

    Hmm Daily’s To Scocca attempts to understand the nuances of who is and isn’t included on the New York Times’s opinion section masthead.

    At The Millions, Marie Myung-Ok Lee calls for “not an end, but maybe an armistice, in the arms race of blurbing.” Lee writes that although the idea behind book blurbing—authors helping other authors find readers—is laudable, the internet and social media have expanded the amount of necessary promotion to the point that advance copies now require separate pre-blurbs before being sent. “The beast grows and needs more food more frequently,” she writes, “and is anyone keeping track of what’s happening? At what point will it be deemed ridiculous, at the pre-pre-pre-pre-blurb stage? And who will be doing it?”

  • November 28, 2018

    Kiese Laymon

    At LitHub, Brandon Taylor talks to Kiese Laymon about family, trauma, and his new book, Heavy. “I thought I was initially writing a weight-loss memoir. I wrote that memoir. It was corny, sentimental and terrible. Then I wrote what I always wanted to write,” Laymon said. “I wanted to write a memoir that critiqued the American memoir, while playing with time, while directly addressing my mama, while talking about how words and sounds kept so many of our black southern selves alive and questioning, while refusing the trap of deliverance, while lifting up and looking under my particular black southern family. I wanted to not be afraid of our bodies any more. I did a lot of what I wanted. Not everything. But a lot.”

    Masha Gessen has won the 2018 Hitchens Prize, an annual award for writers “who, in the spirit of the late Christopher Hitchens, demonstrates a commitment to free expression and to the pursuit of truth without regard to personal or professional consequence.” In a statement, the judging committee explained that Gessen was selected for the “urgent warning against authoritarian impulses” found throughout her work.

    Journalists working for Civil-sponsored news organizations say that the company has failed to pay them the CVL cryptocurrency tokens that they were promised as part of their compensation packages. Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton explains the dispute, and notes that employees are still receiving their agreed-upon cash salaries.

    Farhad Manjoo has been hired as the New York Times’s newest opinion columnist. Manjoo was most recently a columnist for the paper’s business section.

    At Granta, Ian Maleney talks to Prix Goncourt winner Mathias Enard about borders, representation, and the idea of home.

    Jennifer Schuessler talks to New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast about her retrospective at SVA Chelsea, deadlines, and why city life inspires her work more than her current home in rural Connecticut. “I like to draw out of my head, and I can draw interiors until the cows come home,” she explains. “I don’t even know what you put in a woods. There’s like five things: trees, branches, stones — What else? Maybe squirrels? I’ll have to leave that to people with more woods-imagination.”

  • November 27, 2018

    At Vulture, Aaron Sorkin writes about his experience adapting Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird for Broadway. Sorkin began the project three years ago, and the play premiered earlier this month after a lawsuit brought by Lee’s estate was settled. “I’ve been asked if I thought Harper Lee would like the play,” Sorkin writes. “My hope is that, if nothing else, Harper Lee would agree that the playwright had a deep love and respect for the book she wrote and that she’d be pleased (or maybe horrified) that the themes she wrote about in 1960 were at least as relevant in 2018.”

    Rachel Kushner

    Kevin Nguyen is joining The Verge as features editor. Nguyen was most recently a senior editor at GQ and is currently working on a novel.

    The New York Times profiles Australian author Heather Rose, whose recent novel The Museum of Modern Love is based on Marina Abramovic’s MoMA performance, “The Artist Is Present.”

    At Ssense, Ana Cecilia Alvarez talks to Rachel Kushner about Los Angeles, cars, and documenting the past in her novel The Mars Room. “Writing this book clarified for me that one thing a writer is doing when making fiction is making a space to give voice and documentation to things that otherwise will be lost to time,” she said. “The older you get, the more you live part of your reality in the storehouse of those places. There was something about the activity of writing this book and the loss for Romy of her freedom that heightened the importance of some of these scenes, and people, and places, because everything is gone for her, and at the end of that chapter, she asks, where is everybody, and what has happened to them? And I feel that way all the time.”

    Meg Wolitzer explains why she isn’t interested in adapting her own work into film. “I go through a very intense process when I’m writing a book, so the idea of repeating that for a film seems exhausting. You want to have a point where you are really done with something, you know?”

  • November 26, 2018

    Victor LaValle

    Victor LaValle

    Karen Joy Fowler, Elizabeth McKenzie, Laurie R. King and Jonathan Franzen recently served as bartenders at a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood organized by a bookstore in Santa Cruz, California. Publisher’s Weekly reports on how bookstores are “balancing politics and business.”

    Victor LaValle, the author of The Changeling, talks with Ayize Jama-Everett about craft, parenthood, and much more: “What can’t be taught, I think, is personality, a point of view. Teaching writing, as I see it, is no different from teaching painting or teaching sculpture or music. In all those other arts people know you have to take lessons, or if you’re self-taught you have to practice a hell of a lot before you get good. But somehow people think that writing is meant to just come to you. It doesn’t. One way or the other, you’re going to have to apprentice to someone and learn.”

    Ricky Jay—the magician, actor, and author of books such as Jay’s Journal of Anomalies—has died.

    Barry Levine, a former editor at the National Enquirer, is writing a book for Hachette about Donald Trump. According to a Wall Street Journal article about the relationship between Trump and Enquirer owner David Pecker, the Enquirer has actively avoided and allegedly suppressed stories that “could paint [Trump] in a bad light.” But now that Levine is free of the tabloid, it’s possible that he will be able to report freely about the allegations made against the president. Levine, who helped expose VP candidate John Edwards’s affair, told New York magazine in 2010: “I dream of an office in Washington where aides to senators and congressmen come in on their lunch hour and tell us stories.” In more Trump-publishing news, Cliff Sims, former special assistant to President Trump, has sold a memoir about his experiences with the president to St. Martin’s Press. It will be released in January 2019.

    On Friday at Bluestockings bookstore, Amy Scholder and Douglas A. Martin will join other writers to present Kathy Acker: The Last Interview, which is being released next week by Melville House Press.

  • November 21, 2018

    Lit Hub publishes a special recipe from Alice B. Toklas’s 1954 cookbook: “Haschich Fudge” (ie, hash brownies). As Toklas explained, “This is the food of Paradise—of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR.” Happy Holidays!

    The New York Times has released its list of “100 Notable Books of 2018.” The group will be whittled down to ten at an event the morning of November 29th. Among the selected titles were Sigred Nunez’s The Friend (which also recently picked up a National Book Award), Amitava Kumar’s Immigrant, Montana, Rachel Cusk’s Kudos, Eliza Griswold’s Amity and Prosperity, Wesley Yang’s The Souls of Yellow Folk, and Casey Gerald’s There Will Be No Miracles Here.

    Rachel Cusk. Photo: Adrian Clarke

    The publisher and CEO of the Washington Post, Fred Ryan, has released a response to President Trump’s comments on Saudi Arabia and slain Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi: “President Trump is correct in saying the world is a very dangerous place. His surrender to this state-ordered murder will only make it more so. An innocent man, brutally slain, deserves better, as does the cause of truth and justice and human rights.”

    Newly discovered stories by Egyptian legend Naguib Mahfouz (who died in 2006) will be published next month.    

    The New Yorker talks to Rachel Cusk about Kudos, creativity, and the writing life: “Essentially, I think all the problems of writing are problems of living. And all the problems of creativity are problems of living. They are all problems which we all share.”

    Tonight at McNally Jackson Books, Wendy Lesser will be in conversation with art historian T. J. Clark about his book, Heaven and Earth: Painting and the Life to Come.

  • November 20, 2018

    Ron Chernow. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

    Grant author Ron Chernow will headline the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner next year. “Freedom of the press is always a timely subject and this seems like the perfect moment to go back to basics,” Chernow said in a statement. “While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promise that my history lesson won’t be dry.”

    Former White House aide and Trump campaign staffer Cliff Sims is writing a book about the Trump administration. Team of Vipers, which reportedly received a seven-figure advance from publisher Thomas Dunne Books, will be available in January.

    New York Times Paris bureau chief Alissa J. Rubin will take over the paper’s Baghdad bureau for six months.

    In her first column for New York magazine, Jill Abramson looks at how the Republican party is attempting to exploit the #MeToo movement for its own benefit.

    At LitHub, Alethea Black, Esme Weijun Wang, Michele Lent Hirsch, Sonya Huber, Julie Rehmeyer, and Abby Norman discuss the process of writing women’s pain. “I think pain can be as ineffable and mysterious and internal as love,” Black said. “How to let someone else know what this sensation is like when I don’t fully understand it myself? How to make concrete what is so abstract—yet simultaneously concrete?”

    “He was an ambassador from the ‘silent generation,’ whose young men harbored dreams of writing the Great American Novel, to the ‘film generation,’ which wrote the mythology of the New Hollywood,” writes A. O. Scott in his remembrance of novelist and screenwriter William Goldman, who died last week at the age of eighty-seven. “His insider-outsider books at once affirmed and debunked the myths, skewering movie-industry hypocrisy, venality and pretension even as they celebrated the hard work, scrappy creativity and helter-skelter deal making that allowed the movies to flourish. His skepticism stopped short of cynicism, and he never seemed to stop having fun.”

  • November 19, 2018

    Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming sold more than 725,000 units on November 13, the day of its release. This is the biggest release-day sales total for any book published in the US in 2018.

    Maya Jasanoff, the author of The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World, has won the 2018 Cundill History Prize.

    Ann Powers, the author of Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music, is working on a book about Joni Mitchell, title TBD.

    The Pulitzer board has announced that fiction writer Junot Diaz will remain one of its members. A law firm recently reviewed allegations of Diaz’s sexual misconduct, and “did not find evidence warranting removal” from the board.

    Time has released its list of the ten best novels of 2018, putting Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room and Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry in the number 1 and 2 spots.

    Authr Harry Bingham says there’s a problem with the argument that there’s been a decline in sales for works of fiction: it doesn’t consider self-published books. Bingham, who himself has self-published novels, looks new approaches in publishing, particularly on Amazon, and argues that fiction is “doing just fine.”

  • November 16, 2018

    For PEN International’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer, Arundhati Roy has written a letter to photographer Shahidul Alam, who was arrested for criticizing the Bangladeshi government. “How is it possible for people to defend themselves against laws like these?” Roy writes of the charges. “It’s like having to prove one’s innocence before a panel of certified paranoiacs. Every argument only serves to magnify their paranoia and heighten their delusions.” Alam was released on bail shortly after the letter was published.

    Javier Marias

    “One of the problems with novelists is that we never learn the job,” Javier Marías tells Garth Risk Hallberg at The Millions. “A professor goes to give his lesson after 40 years . . . and the teacher knows he will give a good lesson, or at least a decent one. And he will do it with ease. And the carpenter who’s been making tables for 40 years or whatever knows he will succeed with the next table. But a novelist doesn’t know that at all!”

    Hamilton Cain reviews Tommy Orange’s There There, which is under consideration for the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize.

    Columbia Journalism Review’s Karen K. Ho talks to Sunny Dhillon, a former Globe and Mail reporter who resigned from the paper after his bureau chief discouraged him from writing about the lack of diversity on Vancouver’s city council. “You fight and you fight to raise these other perspectives, to draw attention to blind spots, but how many times are you prepared to do it, and lose, and feel like you’re not being taken seriously? How many times do you want to flag something of concern for an editor or an reporter and not see it changed? Dhillon said of the struggles of being a journalist of color. “How many battles do you have in you?”

    Godsend author John Wray tells The Atlantic that he couldn’t have finished his book “if he hadn’t stumbled across a technical manual on bear attacks, abandoned on a Brooklyn street.” In Stephen Herrero’s Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, one hunter’s description of grizzlies— “he is man’s food and he makes food of man”—helped Wray find perspective on his writing. “For a novelist, writing is the one reliable source of creative nourishment, not to mention our financial bread and butter,” he explains. “Yet there’s a sense, at times, that the work is somehow pursuing you—and it’s a quarry dangerous enough to disfigure you forever, or pick you clean, down to the bones.”

  • November 15, 2018

    The 2018 National Book Award winners were announced last night. Sigrid Nunez received the fiction prize for The Friend, Jeffrey C. Stewart won the nonfiction prize for The New Negro, and Justin Phillip Reed won the poetry prize for Indecency. Yoko Tawada and Margaret Mitsutani won the first translated literature award for Tawada’s novel The Emissary.

    Fox News is joining several other news organizations in filing amicus briefs in support of CNN’s lawsuit against the White House. ”Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized,” said Fox News president Jay Wallace in a statement. “While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the President and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.”

    After finding that only 21 percent of quoted sources were women, the Financial Times has created a bot to warn writers when they quote too many men in their articles, The Guardian reports.  

    Jonathan Franzen

    Penske Media has bought ARTnews and Art in America from owner Peter Brant.

    National Book Award “5 Under 35” winners talk to LitHub about self-criticism, planning, and writing a second novel.

    The Guardian talks to Jonathan Franzen about climate change, nature, and the connection between birds and books. “Something in my character makes me sympathize with threatened things, the same way that people don’t read novels like the way they used to,” Franzen said. “It makes me want to advocate for literature. And birds in trouble makes me want to advocate for them. I love them. The two things I love most are novels and birds, and they’re both in trouble, and I want to advocate for both of them.” Tonight at the 92nd Street Y, Franzen reads from his new book, The End of the End of the Earth.