• January 31, 2019

    Maurice Carlos Ruffin

    At the Paris Review, Peyton Burgess talks to Maurice Carlos Ruffin about survivalists, white supremacy, and his new book, We Cast a Shadow. “The thing is, I believe that America is the greatest country on earth, yet we always have multiple layers of injustice that are operating at any given time,” Ruffin said. “When I was writing this book in 2012, President Obama was constantly shipping immigrants out of the country. Now it’s to the point of taking kids from their parents—and for half of America that’s still no big deal.”

    LitHub’s Gabrielle Bellot reflects on Edwidge Danticat, Albert Camus, and “the art of exile.”

    Cameron Shenassa looks at the “new literature of the Midwest,” found in books like Ling Ma’s Severance, Meghan O’Gieblyn’s Interior States, and Andrea Lawlor’s Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl, that “go beyond nostalgia to look toward the future.”

    The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan details the problems with the “middle-lane” or “both sides” style of news reporting. “Impartiality is still a value worth defending in mainstream news coverage,” she writes. “But you don’t get there by walking down the center line with a blindfold on.”

    “Coming in a time of economic prosperity, at world-historical levels of interest in the news, last week’s cuts tell a story of impending slow-motion doom — and a democratic emergency in the making, with no end in sight,” writes Farhad Manjoo on recent layoffs at BuzzFeed and HuffPost, among others. “The cause of each company’s troubles may be distinct, but collectively the blood bath points to the same underlying market pathology: the inability of the digital advertising business to make much meaningful room for anyone but monopolistic tech giants.”

  • January 30, 2019

    Gillian Flynn

    Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn is working on a streaming series for Amazon, Vulture reports. An adaptation of a British series, Utopia tells the story of a group of people who “end up in the crosshairs of an ominous deep-state organization,” Vulture’s Jordan Crucchiola explains. “As you might expect, it will be up to them to save the world.”

    Bart van Es’s The Cut Out Girl has won the 2018 Costa book of the year award.  

    Dani Shapiro talks to The Millions about journalism, writing through trauma, and her new book, Inheritance.

    At The Baffler, Becca Rothfeld reflects on Henry James, Elizabeth Harwick, and “the aesthetic sins of manipulative men.”

    At the Paris Review, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discusses everything “from the bureaucratic inanities of air travel to the ravages of global capitalism” with a fictional customer service representative from Delta. “We need alternatives to this bullying corporate capitalism that sells you something and also uses you,” she writes at one point. “It’s all about profit, profit, profit and cut jobs, cut jobs, cut jobs. So they can save two hundred dollars even after having made ten thousand dollars. They need to hire human beings! And I don’t mean human beings trained to be robots, like you.”

    New York magazine’s Intelligencer talks to Rachel McMahon, a nineteen-year-old from Michigan whose quizzes drive substantial traffic to BuzzFeed, who is now being blamed by social media users for layoffs at the company, including the director of quizzes. McMahon began making quizzes for the site in high school and until now had never realized that it was the type of work that she could be paid for. “I saw a tweet earlier saying they hoped the college student who caused people to get laid off gets ‘depression and stuff.’ That’s not the nicest thing to read,” she said. “I just hope now that my name is out there I can find a job. Maybe not at BuzzFeed, but still a job.”

  • January 29, 2019

    The Guardian talks to The Hate U Give author Angie Thomas about diversity in YA literature, rejection, and her new book, On the Come Up. “Rejection is always hard . . . but what helped me was the community of unpublished authors out there on the internet, so you can connect and you can weep and mourn together. And I always had to remind myself that it only takes one yes to change everything,” she said. “I know writers who had 500 rejections, and more than that – but you just have to keep going and hope that you do get that one yes.”

    Kiese Laymon

    The winners of the 2019 Carnegie Medals have been announced. Kiese Laymon’s Heavy: An American Memoir has won the medal for nonfiction, and Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers has won for fiction.

    For the New York Times “Like a Boss” series, poet laureate Tracy K. Smith details her weekly work diary.

    After BuzzFeed announced plans to layoff 15 percent of its staff—including BuzzFeed News’s entire national news desk, the majority of its national security team, and the director of quizzes—the company is defending its decision to not pay out accrued paid time off to departing employees (except in California, where the payout is required by law). “This is very common and we looked at the total severance consideration and it was fair,” CEO Jonah Peretti explained in a tweet. “I can’t really have this discussion in public . . . but I look forward to being very open-minded and transparent with the staff council in our upcoming meeting.”

    “Amid mass layoffs that have affected the media landscape at large, LGBT media finds itself in a state of flux,” writes Trish Bendix on the future of LGBT-focused publications. “At this point, do we really need to keep prostrating ourselves — proving that LGBT stories are not only valuable, but “safe” — to straight and cis-led corporations and advertisers who want to appear inclusive but not too inclusive? Do we want to be another business’s cool new vanity project until they get tired of us and pull the plug? And perhaps most importantly, are we getting too far away from the reason LGBT media was created in the first place?”

  • January 28, 2019

    In an essay that reflects on the recent rediscovery and celebration of works by Lucia Berlin, Kathleen Collins, and Eve Babitz, Parul Sehgal writes about the critic’s responsibility when writing about works of literature by women that have been lost. “It’s not enough to give thanks that these writers have been restored to us; we need to ask why they vanished in the first place.”

    Penguin Random House is shutting down its imprint Spiegel & Grau. The news has come as a surprise to many in the industry, in part because Spiegel & Grau has published a number of groundbreaking books since it started as an imprint of Doubleday in 2005. A small selection of titles it has published: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz’s Beastie Boys Book, Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, Jay-Z’s DECODED, and Piper Kerman’s Orange Is the New Black. The news of the closure follows recent efforts to reorganize the various imprints of PRH, including changes in management at Crown in December.

    Ron Howard is adapting J.D. Vance’s best-selling book Hillbilly Elegy.

    Stephen Elliott is seeking to subpoena Google for the names of people who named and wrote about him on the “Shitty Men in Media” list. Last year, Elliott filed a lawsuit against the list’s creator, the writer Moira Donegan, as well as 30 “Jane Does” who commented on the list.

    The Man Booker Prize may need to change its name, now that one of its sponsors is withdrawing its support. Last July, the novelist Sebastian Faulks, who had been long-listed for the prize, said that hedge funds were “the enemy.” Now, the Man Group, a hedge fund which contributes 1.6 million pounds to the prize each year, has announced that it is cutting ties with the prize.

  • January 25, 2019

    Nafissa Thompson-Spires

    The 2019 PEN America Literary Award finalists have been announced. Nominees include Helen DeWitt’s Some Trick, Ling Ma’s Severance, Nafissa Thompson-Spires’s Heads of the Colored People, and Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, among many others. Winners will be announced in February.

    Jim Acosta, the chief White House correspondent for CNN, is writing a book about Trump and his administration’s hostility toward the media. The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America will tell “never-before-revealed stories of this White House’s rejection of truth, while laying out the stakes for how Trump’s hostility toward facts poses an unprecedented threat to our democracy.” The book will be published by Harper in June.

    Elizabeth McCracken talks to the New York Times “By the Book” column about avoiding literary heroes, reading while working, and her previous work as a librarian.

    BuzzFeed has announced plans to layoff over two hundred employees. In an email to staff, CEO Jonah Peretti explained the decision. “The restructuring we are undertaking will reduce our costs and improve our operating model so we can thrive and control our own destiny, without ever needing to raise funding again,” he wrote. “These changes will allow us to be the clear winner in the market as the economics of digital media continue to improve.” HuffPost has also started the layoff process.

    Fifty Shades of Grey author E. L. James is writing a new novel. The Mister, which will be published by Vintage in April, “tells the story of Maxim Trevelyan, a privileged and aristocratic Englishman, and Alessia Demachi, a mysterious young woman with musical gifts and a dangerous past who has recently arrived in London.” In a statement, James called the book “a Cinderella story for the 21st century.”

  • January 24, 2019

    John Ashbery

    Harvard’s Houghton Library has acquired John Ashbery’s personal library of over 5,000 books. Curator Christina Davis called the collection, which includes everything from religious history to cookbooks, “a vital artery in his writing life” that “served as a kind of early and intimate internet, from which he drew ideas and felicitous bits of data on a regular basis.”

    Following the success of Wired, the New Yorker, and Vanity Fair’s respective paywalls, Condé Nast is planning to add metered paywalls to all its publications by the end of 2019, the Wall Street Journal reports.

    Bill Clinton is working on a new book. The still-untitled project “sheds light on his post-presidential life” and will be published by Knopf Doubleday.

    “One of crime fiction’s great strengths, to my mind, is the outsize metaphorical possibilities of, well, crime,” writes Adam Sternbergh in a reflection on the ethics of writing about violence. “Very few of us have ever murdered a neighbor in a fit of anger, or accidentally hit a drifter with our car, or accepted a murder contract and then buried the body deep in the woods in the dead of night. But most of us can relate to the notion of a shameful secret we hope the world will never uncover, or the feeling of having a fleeting impulse we don’t recognize and would rather not acknowledge.”

    Nieman Lab talks to The Verge editor Nilay Patel about the website’s recent foray into fiction with its “Better Worlds” short story project.

    The only full-time writers for the recently-resuscitated Gawker have left the website over their concerns about editorial director Carson Griffith, the Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani reports. Besides Griffith’s history of offensive tweets, writers Maya Kosoff and Anna Breslaw said that they were disturbed by their boss’s attitude toward race, gender, and diversity of possible writers for the site. “We’re disappointed it ended this way, but we can’t continue to work under someone who is antithetical to our sensibility and journalistic ethics,” Kosoff and Breslaw said in a statement, “or for an employer [CEO Bryan Goldberg] who refuses to listen to the women who work for him when it’s inconvenient.”

  • January 23, 2019

    Rachel Kushner

    The National Book Critics Circle has announced the finalists for the 2018 awards. Nominees include Tara Westover’s Educated, Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room, Zadie Smith’s Feel Free, and more. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in March.

    New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast’s memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is being adapted for television.

    At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hayley Phelan reflects on “Shirley Jackson, Trump, and the evil of complacency.”

    Former Radar editor Maer Roshan has been hired as editor in chief at Los Angeles magazine. “I have the same excitement about this as I did about Radar in many ways,” he said of the move. “For the first time, I think L.A. could say it’s the new cultural capital of America, and it needs a magazine to wear that mantle and have that swagger. . . . There are just so many interesting things happening here and so much creativity and momentum. Whenever I’m in New York, it doesn’t feel that way.”

  • January 22, 2019

    Chigozie Obioma. Photo: Zach Mueller

    Emma Brockes talks to Chigozie Obioma about migration, fate, and his new book, An Orchestra of Minorities. Obioma’s novel was partly inspired by the death of his friend, Jay. A fellow Nigerian immigrant and classmate of Obioma’s in Cyprus,“Jay had been duped by the middle men both into thinking the university . . . would be a springboard into Europe.” But after realizing that he had been lied to about career prospects and access to Europe, Jay was found dead from a fall after a night of drinking. Obioma says that situations like these are why his stories rarely have happy endings. “I want to write a feelgood story. But I think that because I’m fascinated with the metaphysics of existence, I keep thinking why, of all the people who came to Cyprus, was it Jay who died?” he explained. “When you think about these things, and you want to write fiction around that, the path it takes you to can feel inevitable and tragic.”

    At The Guardian, Annie Proulx offers a climate change reading list, featuring titles by Tim Flannery, Amitav Ghosh, and more.

    Patrick Radden Keefe tells Columbia Journalism Review about Ireland’s Troubles, Brexit, and his new book, Say Nothing.

    At the New York Review of Books, Tim Parks wonders whether a translation of a work can be a masterpiece on its own. “Doesn’t translating a work of literature inevitably involve moving things around and altering many of the relations between the words in the original?” he asks. “Unless, that is, we are going to think of a translation as a quite different work with its own inner logic and inspiration, only casually related to that foreign original.”

  • January 21, 2019

    Keith Gessen

    Keith Gessen

    Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times and the author of the new book Merchants of Truth, talks with Isaac Chotiner about moral change in the media, and about how journalism (especially local journalism) will survive after the “Trump bump.”

    Book deals this week: Random House paid six figures for the rights to paleobiologist Thomas Halliday’s Yesterday’s Worlds, which uses the latest science to examine “deep time and revive extinct worlds—from the most recent ice age at the end of the Pleistocene period to the emergence of early multicellular creatures over 550 million years ago.” Bloomsbury has purchased Eve Ensler’s The Apology, an “examination of abuse and atonement.”

    New York’s Drama Bookshop has hosted its final event. The store is closing due to increases in rent.

    The Washington Post and the Times have reported on the scrutiny faced by Buzzfeed following its article claiming that Trump instructed his lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.

    Tomorrow at Brooklyn’s Books are Magic, Keith Gessen, the author of A Terrible Country, will discuss his work with Sam Lipsyte, author of Hark, a sendup of the mindfulness industry. Also tomorrow, at the Ace Hotel in Manhattan, n+1 authors including A.S. Hamrah, Nikil Saval, Elizabeth Schambelan, and Danya Tortorici will read their work.


  • January 18, 2019

    Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver has died at age eighty-three. The New York Times has collected selections of her work that details Oliver’s “reverence for the natural world and her frank, but comforting, descriptions of mourning.”

    Esmé Weijun Wang. Photo: Kristin Cofer

    The Forward is ending print editions of its newspaper and plans to lay off nearly half the paper’s editorial staff, the New York Post reports. The publication will continue to publish online in both English and Yiddish.

    Esmé Weijun Wang talks to Publishers Weekly about writing about illness, her new essay collection, and the different expectations that readers have for fiction and nonfiction. Since writing The Collected Schizophrenias, Wang says that she has found readers “expect you to be able to give advice or give succor” in a way that they didn’t with fiction. “I’m going to hear these stories, and I will try to listen, and I will try to offer as much as I can,” she said. “But at the same time, I don’t have the answer.”

    Hilton Als talks to Garage’s Paige Bradley about curating “God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin” at David Zwirner.

    Tidying Up host Marie Kondo tells Indiewire that, despite the numerous essays claiming that she advocates for getting rid of all of one’s books, “she doesn’t want people to get rid of all (or even most) of their books.” “The question you should be asking is what do you think about books,” Kondo said through her interpreter, Marie Iida. “If the image of someone getting rid of books or having only a few books makes you angry, that should tell you how passionate you are about books, what’s clearly so important in your life.”