• February 15, 2019

    The Swedish ambassador to China is under investigation after “she was accused of arranging unauthorized, secret talks” between imprisoned publisher Gui Minhai’s daughter and “two Chinese men who had offered to help free him, but instead pressured her to keep silent,” the New York Times reports.

    Janet Malcolm. Photo: Nina Subin

    At the New York Times, Alexandra Alter explains why plagiarism accusations can be difficult to prove, particularly when they involve plot similarities. “Books with similar plots abound in fiction,” she writes. “But the debate underscores how lines blur when considering literary theft and acceptable homage, and when the deployment of clichéd plot conventions becomes an egregious use of another writer’s work and ideas.”

    Janet Malcolm talks to the Times’s “By the Book” column about the British royal family, dogs, and her personal library. Malcolm says that she has recently been rereading books in her personal collection. “Why have a large library and not use it? Why keep books, if you are not going to read them more than once?” she asks. “For the décor? The answer isn’t entirely no. A book-lined room looks nice. I like walking into my living room and seeing the walls of books with faded spines that have accreted over many decades.”

    New York’s Morgan Library and Museum is undergoing a $12.5 million renovation.

    The New Republic’s Alex Shephard examines the “growing tension between [Jeff] Bezos’s role as the savior of one of America’s most important news organizations and his role overseeing an anti-democratic corporate behemoth.”

    “At the very least, town halls could be saved for candidates who are actually running,” writes Columbia Journalism Review’s Jon Allsop on CNN’s recent town-hall interview with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. “Whenever he was asked a tough, personal question last night, Schultz looked at Harlow with a furrowed brow and protested that he couldn’t say as he wasn’t running yet. ‘I think we’re getting way premature!’ he exclaimed at one point. For once, he had a point.”

  • February 14, 2019

    Naomi Alderman. Photo: Justine Stoddard

    Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the New York Times offers a list of “books for broken hearts,” including Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, and Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation.

    Verso is launching a fiction imprint. Verso Fiction will publish two to four works a year, with a focus on translated fiction, starting later this year.

    Amazon is adapting Naomi Alderman’s The Power into a streaming series.

    Columbine author Dave Cullen talks to Columbia Journalism Review about reporting on school shootings, gun control, and his new book, Parkland. “We still cover the killers way too much,” Cullen said of media coverage of mass shootings. “I don’t understand why it’s so damn hard to figure out and why it’s taking so long. I have people on Twitter arguing that journalists should never withhold facts. Our whole job is choosing which facts to report. If you do a 800-word story on a car accident, do you say what both drivers were wearing? Do you say what their hair color was? It’s like a million details, and you’re selecting like 50 of them.”

    At BuzzFeed, Former Snopes managing editor Brooke Binkowski reflects on the website’s recently-discontinued fact checking partnership with Facebook. “It turned out that trying to fact-check a social media service that is used by a huge chunk of the world’s population is no easy task” she writes. “Trying to stem the tsunami of hoaxes, scams, and outright fake stories was like playing the world’s most doomed game of whack-a-mole, or like battling the Hydra of Greek myth. Every time we cut off a virtual head, two more would grow in its place.”

  • February 13, 2019

    Katie Couric is working on a memoir. In Unexpected, USA Today reports that “Couric plans to share details both ‘hilarious’ and ‘humiliating’ as she looks back on her prize-winning, 40-year career.” The book will be published by Little, Brown in 2021.

    Valeria Luiselli

    At Longreads, Lily Meyer talks to Valeria Luiselli about observation, how being bilingual affects her writing, and her new book, Lost Children Archive. “One language always has a word that’s more accurate. There are words that are exactly right, but the exact word doesn’t exist in the other language,” she said. “It forces you to sit and think until you come up with the best possible distillation of what you want to say. Bilingualism forces you to be creative in order to be as precise and clear as possible.”

    McNally Jackson bookstore is not only staying in their original Soho location, but will open two more stores in the next year, Vulture reports.

    Chris O’Leary lists books that influenced the work of David Bowie.

    The cover of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s upcoming novel, The Water Dancer, has been released. It was designed by painter Calida Garcia Rawles, who plans to work with Coates “on a series of events” based around their respective works.

    BuzzFeed News employees are forming a union. Employees have been organizing at the company since 2015, but were motivated by recent layoffs. “It’s not all fun and memes,” the group said in a statement. “Our staff has been organizing for several months, and we have legitimate grievances about unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity and more.”

  • February 12, 2019

    Haruki Murakami

    Haruki Murakami talks to the New Yorker’s Deborah Treisman about cats, alternate worlds, and how he became a writer. Murakami says that inspiration struck at a Yakult Swallows baseball game in Tokyo. “The first batter hit a double, and at that moment I got a feeling I could write. Maybe I’d drunk too much beer,” he explained. “Before that I hadn’t written anything at all. I was the owner of a jazz club, and I was so busy making cocktails and sandwiches. I make very good sandwiches! But after that game I went to the stationery store and bought some supplies, and then I started writing and I became a writer.”

    Neil McRobert wonders what gothic fiction about Brexit and the current global political situation will look like. “In our deeply divided society, monstrosity depends, more than ever, on perspective. I can talk about racists and tyrants in a postmodern way that reassigns monstrosity to those who would oppress alternative lifestyles or cultures,” he writes. “But to the ardent Brexiter or Trump supporter, the other may still scare. How can we reconcile these terrors?”

    Tessa Hadley talks to The Guardian about marriage, death, and her new novel, Late in the Day.

    At The Outline, Mari Cohen and Christian Belanger argue that journalism should not be hidden behind paywalls. “If journalists really believe that what they do is a public good, they should make sure that it is accessible to as many people as possible, not just those who can afford subscriptions to a half-dozen newspapers,” they write. “When we produce investigations into public corruption, or publish articles that help readers learn more about the institutions from which they seek housing, health care, and education, we should want our work to have the widest audience possible. And that includes people without extra disposable income to toss at paywalls.”

    For Garage magazine, Ottessa Moshfegh profiles her idol, Whoopi Goldberg.

    The Ringer’s Alison Herman praises the commenters of the New York Times’s Cooking section, a group that inspires “downright bonhomie toward my fellow man.“We made the conscious decision not to call them comments,” food editor Sam Sifton explains. “The call to action was to leave a note on the recipe that helps make it better. That’s very different from ‘Leave a comment on a recipe.’ And the comment might be ‘I hate you.’ ‘You’re an asshole.’ ‘This is bad.’ And that’s helpful to no one.”

  • February 11, 2019

    Malcolm Gladwell strangers

    Malcolm Gladwell

    Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times, is continuing to do damage control following allegations that parts of her new book, Merchants of Truth, are plagiarized. “All of the allegations that I lifted material or plagiarized—that’s not true, but I did make mistakes in the footnotes, and there are some uncited passages,” Abramson told Vox’s Sean Illing. “Those sources are credited in other footnotes; it’s just those specific quotes are not, and that’s an error and it will be fixed pronto.” When Illing pointed out that at least one article—a Jake Malooley piece about Vice, which appeared in Time Out—wasn’t cited at all, Abramson stated: “Yeah, I can’t find that Malooley citation in the book. But it should be in there, and I can’t find it. But we will get it corrected pronto.”

    Little, Brown has bought Malcolm Gladwell’s next bookTalking to Strangers, which is scheduled to be published in September. Talking to Strangers, Gladwell’s first book since his 2013 David and Goliath (also Little, Brown), argues that there is “something very wrong with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know,” and shows how the inability to talk with strangers is “inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world.”

    PEN America will honor the Mexican-American novelist and essayist Sandra Cisneros—author of The House on Mango Street, among other books—with the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature at its 2019 awards ceremony, which will take place on February 26.

    According to Richard Johnson at Page Six, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are “bracing” themselves as they wait for the publication of investigative journalist Vicky Ward’s Kushner Inc.: Greed, Ambition, Corruption, which will be released by St. Martin’s on March 19. The book will “delve into the sordid case that got Jared’s father, real-estate developer Charles Kushner, a two-year prison sentence for witness tampering and other charges after Charles set a honey trap for his brother-in-law using a prostitute.” Ward’s 2014 book The Liar’s Ball exposed the brutal business tactics of various real-estate tycoons, including Donald Trump.

    Teju Cole’s latest On Photography column will be his last. In “When the Camera Is a Weapon of Imperialism,” the Open City author dwells on Rev. R.H. Stone’s memoir In Africa’s Forest and Jungle: Or Six Years Among the Yorubans, and reflects on how images of human suffering doesn’t only stir a viewer’s conscience, but also “implicitly serves the powers that be.”

  • February 8, 2019

    Jill Abramson. Photo: Peter Yang

    Dan Mallory, the pseudonymous author of The Woman in the Window who was recently exposed by the New Yorker for lying about his health and past, will publish a second novel with HarperCollins UK, The Guardian reports. “Professionally, Dan was a highly valued editor and the publication of The Woman in the Window – a Sunday Times bestseller – speaks for itself,” the publisher said in a statement.

    Reporter Jim DeRogatis, who has spent decades investigating the accusations against R. Kelly, is working on a book about the allegations against singer. Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly will be published by Abrams in June.

    New York Times reporters Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang have sold an untitled book about Facebook based on their article “Delay, Deny, and Deflect” to HarperCollins for a reported seven-figure advance, Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo reports.

    Vice correspondent Michael Moynihan has found numerous instances of plagiarism in Jill Abramson’s new book, Merchants of Truth. Columbia Journalism Review’s Mathew Ingram reflects on being one of the sources of Abramson’s plagiarized material. Do I feel as though something has been stolen from me? Not really,” he writes. “And yet, it’s still irritating that there seems to be no mention of where it appeared at all. Would it have been that hard to say ‘as mentioned in CJR’?” In response, Abramson told the Washington Post that she is reviewing her book for uncited or misattributed information. “I wouldn’t want even a misplaced comma so I will promptly fix these footnotes and quotations as I have corrected other material that Vice contested,” she said.

    At Columbia Journalism review, Spencer Dukoff details his experience of being a young person working in journalism. At twenty-six, Dukoff has been laid off three times in the three years since he began his career. “When I entered the industry, I thought that bloodletting was a natural result of publishers failing to evolve. I was horribly naive,” he writes. “I’ve now realized I had a front-row seat for the decision-making processes and warped priorities of publishers, who chase scale with abandon, pay gobs of money for traffic, and preach an ethos of independence while quietly maneuvering toward a lucrative exit for themselves following a merger or acquisition.”

  • February 7, 2019

    Reniqua Allen. Photo: Nina Subin

    Craigslist founder Craig Newmark is donating $10 million to the Columbia Journalism School to endow the Craig Newmark Center for Journalism Ethics and Security.

    Alice Marie Johnson, who was serving a life sentence for drug trafficking until Kim Kardashian convinced Donald Trump to commute her sentence, is writing a memoir. After Life: My Journey From Incarceration to Freedom, which includes a foreword by Kardashian, will be published by HarperCollins in May.

    R.O. Kwon and Esmé Weijun Wang discuss ambition, writer’s block, and karaoke.

    At Longreads, Danielle Jackson talks to Reniqua Allen about burnout, millennials, and her new book, It Was All a Dream: A New Generation Confronts the Broken Promise to Black America. “Our experiences aren’t always equal, and even though we may end up in the same place, we’ve probably been tired since college or high school,” Allen said of the difference between white and Black millennial burnout. “So that burnout that everyone complains about? Double it up. . . . We’re also talking about how we have to prove our humanity. That’s exhausting in a different type of way. We should be tired of telling people that Black people matter.”

  • February 6, 2019

    Ottessa Moshfegh

    The 2019 Wellcome Prize longlist has been announced. Nominees include Thomas Page McBee’s Amateur, Tara Westover’s Educated, and Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation. The winner announced in May.

    PEN America has announced the winners of this year’s nomination-based literary awards. Honorees, including Sandra Cisneros and Larissa Fasthorse among others, will receive their prizes at a ceremony later this month.

    Netflix has ordered a series based on Karin Slaughter’s 2018 crime novel, Pieces of Her.

    At LitHub, Bowlaway author Elizabeth McCracken considers the doughnut. “Like most works of art, doughnuts are defined by an absence,” she writes. “They are modest and hollow. They belong to anyone.”

    After a New Yorker profile accused author and editor Dan Mallory “of a long history of falsehoods around his professional history and health,” The Woman in the Window author has admitted that he lied about his brain cancer diagnosis, The Guardian reports. “I felt intensely ashamed of my psychological struggles – they were my scariest, most sensitive secret,” Mallory said in a statement. “I was utterly terrified of what people would think of me if they knew – that they’d conclude I was defective in a way that I should be able to correct, or, worse still, that they wouldn’t believe me. Dissembling seemed the easier path.”

    The New York Times’s Jaclyn Peiser looks at how AI is being used by journalists at Bloomberg News. Cyborg, a company system that “is able to assist reporters in churning out thousands of articles” helps create a third of all published work on Bloomberg News. “The program can dissect a financial report the moment it appears and spit out an immediate news story that includes the most pertinent facts and figures,” Peiser explains. “And unlike business reporters, who find working on that kind of thing a snooze, it does so without complaint.”


  • February 5, 2019

    In an essay at LitHub, Marlon James explores why he has written extensively about his father, but never about his mother. “She was the one always there, and yet the one harder to write about. It’s easy to spin a clever fiction about my father. Not so easy to string words about my mom, the person who applied bandages and bought schoolbooks, but also the adult often around during long stretches of holiday boredom. Even on a purely linguistic level, ‘the man who wasn’t there’ sounds sexier than ‘the woman who was always present,’” he explains. “But there goes my daddy again, hijacking a story about my mother.”

    Morgan Parker. Photo: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

    Jami Attenberg talks to Entertainment Weekly about death, family, and her upcoming novel, All This Could Be Yours.

    “I think the space of the poem really lends itself to exploring all the levels of Black culture. That’s really what I’m aiming to to do, is explore the simultaneity of Blackness, and a multiplicity of Blackness, the way that the past and present interact with each other and inform each other, and the way they’re both situated at the front of our brains as Black people,” Morgan Parker tells The Rumpus about her new poetry collection, Magical Negro. “There’s more playfulness in poems than in any other genre, and that feels really central to the way I’m trying to describe Blackness as this slippery and simultaneously dark and brilliant thing.”

    Marie Myung-Ok Lee reflects on the proliferation of autistic characters in literature and questions the use of “the disorder as a metaphor or plot device.”

    At Longreads, Jacqueline Alnes compiles a reading list on the intersection of athletic competition and mental health. “Many athletes struggle with mental health issues, but the culture of sport — especially at the top tiers of competition — often emphasizes physical performance over holistic wellbeing,” she writes. “The culture is changing in ways, yes, but the rhetoric of athlete’s ‘overcoming’ anything is still deeply ingrained in the language of coaches, and the way athletes speak to themselves.”

  • February 4, 2019

    Marianne Williamson 2020

    Marianne Williamson

    Bestselling author Marianne Williamson, who ran for congress in California in 2014, has announced that she is running for president as a Democrat in the 2020 elections. Williamson is the author of A Return to Love, in which she reflects on the spiritual guidebook A Course in Miracles, and many other books, and has also become well known as a public speaker. Williamson is calling for a “moral and spiritual awakening in the US,” and has vowed to fight the “amoral economic system” and the “layers of systemic racism” in the US. She also believes in universal health care, free higher education, and a “green New Deal.”

    Former Vanity Fair EIC Graydon Carter is launching a digital news platform called AirMail, intended for worldly cosmopolitans, with former New York Times critic Alessandra Stanley. AirMail will begin this summer, and will be sent to subscribers as a weekly newsletter. There will also be stories and podcasts on the website, AirMail.news.

    Appearing at the Hay Cartagena festival in Colombia, Zadie Smith gave a talk in which she noted that “identity is a pain in the arse.” ““If someone says to me: ‘A black girl would never say that,’ I’m saying: ‘How can you possibly know?’ The problem with that argument is it assumes the possibility of total knowledge of humans.” The novelist-essayist also warned her audience against using social media as a way to “know” and define others. “We are being asked to be consistent as humans over great swathes of time. People are searching through social media. But everyone is changing all the time.”

    Erik Wemple imagines how the late media columnist and Night of the Gun author David Carr would respond to Trump’s claim that he’s losing money.

    Between 1965 and his death in 2010, J.D. Salinger continued to write, but showed his work to no one. Now his son says that almost all of the author’s never-before-seen work is being prepared for publication. “My father was writing for fifty years without publishing,” says Matt Salinger. “That’s a lot of material.”