• March 11, 2019

    Margo Jefferson

    Margo Jefferson

    Elton John, who is currently on what he says will be his final tour, has announced that he has finished his autobiography, which will be published on October 15. According to John, “My life has been one helluva roller coaster ride and I’m now ready to tell you my story, in my own words.” Henry Holt, the musician’s publisher, is calling the book “no holds barred.”

    At The Cut, Anna Sillman interviews the Pulitzer-winning critic Margo Jefferson, who in 2006 released the critical study On Michael Jackson. Now that she’s seen the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, she has this to say about her critical work about the pop star: “When I think back on my book, I certainly say he’s very damaged and that he clearly can’t quite distinguish between adult and childhood behavior, and that it is all strange. I think what’s missing is my saying in that last chapter: ‘alright, what if he is guilty? Where do we start, what do we think next? Where do our thoughts and feelings go?’” She is currently writing a new introduction for some editions of the book. “It’s difficult because it’s all painful. It’s all excruciating.”

    “Is it time to get rid of the Nobel prize in literature?” wonders Carrie V Mullins at Electric Literature. “At minimum, after 124 years it’s worth reconsidering what it’s adding to the cultural landscape.”

    “I teach creative writing and I think it’s not like making a souffle; you can’t give anyone the steps to follow,” says Bowlaway author Elizabeth McCracken. “It can’t be taught in the way life drawing can. But you can teach people how to notice what the work they admire is doing, and to sit around a table and look at their writing and how to make it achieve what it wants to achieve.”

    According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, nearly one in five Americans now listen to audiobooks, but print books remain more popular than ebooks and audiobooks.

    Gillian Freeman—who wrote novels, screenplays, and scenarios for ballets—has died at age eighty-nine. Her novels included The Leather Boys, and her work, says the New York Times, “dealt with social and sexual distress, in this case a relationship between a middle-class teacher and a sailor of nebulous sexuality.”

  • March 8, 2019

    Akwaeke Emezi. Photo: Elizabeth Wirija

    Lambda Literary has announced the finalists for this year’s Lammy awards. Nominees include Sarah Schulman’s Maggie Terry, Édouard Louis’s History of Violence, and Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater. Winners will be announced at a ceremony in June.

    The Paris Review has announced the winners of this year’s Plimpton and Terry Southern Prizes. Kelli Jo Ford has won the Plimpton Prize for her story “Hybrid Vigor,” and Benjamin Nugent has won the Terry Southern Prize for his story “Safe Spaces.” The awards will be presented at the magazine’s Spring Revel in April.

    The 2019 Bancroft prize has been awarded to David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom and Lisa Brooks’s Our Beloved Kin.

    At Recode, Kara Swisher talks to Laurene Powell Jobs about nonprofit media, journalism as a civic institution, and the future of print.

    “When it comes to journalism, Facebook’s reorientation seems to take it even further away from being the kind of public distribution outlet many media companies have come to rely on,” writes Columbia Journalism Review’s Mathew Ingram on Facebook’s new pivot toward private messaging. “Although the fruit Facebook offered to publishers may have been poisoned, the reach—and, in some cases, ad revenue—it provided has become a staple of many media business models.”


  • March 7, 2019

    Jessica Hopper. Photo: David Sampson

    Slate has chosen longtime New York magazine editor Jared Hohlt as the website’s new editor in chief. Hohlt had previously worked at Slate as an editorial assistant at the beginning of his career. “It was a journalistic training ground for me,” he told the New York Times. “I’ve been living on a biweekly rhythm for a long time now and I’m excited for a whole new rhythm to work with.”

    Jessica Hopper has sold a new book to Farrar, Straus and Giroux. No God But Herself: How Women Changed Music in 1975 will be “a feminist corrective to the music industry’s oversight of the women who shaped the music of the late last century,” including Joni Mitchell, Chaka Khan, Labelle, and more. The book is expected to be published in 2021.

    Journalist Noah Hurowitz is working on a book about Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera that explores “his impact on Mexican organized crime and the American drug trade in the era of the opioid crisis” for Atria.

    “To be a writer in America today means living a life for which there’s not really a pattern, which is part of why along with the accomplishment and pride you feel today you may be feeling a bit of anxiety, too,” writes Garth Greenwell in a reflection on the writer’s life. “The hours we spend writing may be full of exhilaration or dissatisfaction or uncertainty, probably they’re full of all of those things, but they are hours we spend alone.”

    Netflix is developing a series based on Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. While some of his other books have been adapted for the screen, García Márquez had resisted selling the rights to One Hundred Years of Solitude because of his skepticism that it could be translated to the screen and his insistence that any adaptation be in Spanish. “In the last three or four years, the level and prestige and success of series and limited series has grown so much,”García Márquez’s son Rodrigo García explained to the Times of the family’s decision to sell the rights. “Netflix was among the first to prove that people are more willing than ever to see series that are produced in foreign languages with subtitles. All that seems to be a problem that is no longer a problem.”

  • March 6, 2019

    There will be two Nobel Prizes in Literature awarded this October, the New York Times reports. Last year’s prize was cancelled due to “a scandal involving sexual abuse, accusations of financial wrongdoing and hints of a cover-up” within the Swedish Academy.

    Richard Powers

    The finalists for this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award have been announced. Nominees include Richard Powers’s The Oberstory, Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi’s Call Me Zebra, and Blanche McCrary Boyd’s Tomb of the Unknown Racist. The winner will be announced in April.

    Blockchain journalism start-up Civil is relaunching its token sale today. Poynter’s Rick Edmonds explains how the project works and wonders why the company can’t just use “something a little more straightforward—like money?”

    The Who’s Pete Townshend is writing a novel. The Age of Anxiety, an “extended meditation on manic genius and the dark art of creativity” that will be combined with an opera and art installation, will be published in November by UK publisher Coronet.

    Rapper Rick Ross is working on a memoir. Hurricanes, to be published this fall by Hanover Square Press, will detail Ross’s “coming of age in Miami and his rise to fame.”

    At Longreads, Michael Musto reflects on the “problem with nostalgia.”

  • March 5, 2019

    Akwaeke Emezi. Photo: Elizabeth Wirija

    The longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction has been announced. Nominees include Anna Burns’s Milkman, Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage, Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive, and Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater.

    A federal judge ruled last week that Stephen Elliott cannot sue Shitty Media Men list creator Moira Donegan for emotional distress, but that he can continue with his defamation suit.

    Former British Vogue editor Emily Sheffield is developing “a news startup based around Instagram stories.” The project, #ThisMuchIKnow, is funded by The Guardian’s venture capital fund, BuzzFeed News reports.

    Elle profiles New Yorker writer and Dark Money author Jane Mayer.

    The New York Times examines how (and which) books make it from the publisher to the shelves of the New York Public Library.

    At BOMB, Lincoln Michel talks to Trump Sky Alpha author Mark Doten about memes, the apocalypse, and trying to capture Trump’s speech patterns in writing. “Trump will always outstrip anything that any impressionists or fiction writer will attempt to do with him,” Doten said. “He creates these impossibly strange formulations that are always astonishing—like when he tweeted about the things he had done before the inauguration being ‘very legal and very cool.’ It’s an absolutely wild thing to say about possibly colluding with Russia or whatever he was referring to.”

  • March 4, 2019

    Rowan Phillips best sportswriting

    Rowan Ricardo Phillips

    Rowan Ricardo Phillips, a poet and the author of The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey, has won the 2019 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing.

    Philip Roth’s Upper West Side apartment just went on the market for $3.2 million.

    At the New Republic, Josephine Livingstone writes about James Lasdun’s new novel Afternoon of a Faun, and wonders: “Can a man write a great #MeToo novel?

    Electric Lit has interviewed George Saunders about his experiences of contributing to the New Yorker. At first, he says, he didn’t know what he was doing: “They sent me a really nice rejection. I was such an idiot that I didn’t know it was kind of an invitation to rewrite the ending of the story, so I just sort of rejected their semi-acceptance.” But he eventually was published there, and has contributed to the magazine for decades now, all the while honing his approach. The author recalls a breakthrough he had while writing “Sea Oak”: “It was the first time I realized that if you’re writing a good story, it rebels a little bit, and it rebels mostly against your early and too-simplistic version of it.”

    This week, Henry Holt paid a reported six figures for New York Times correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Gettleman’s The Mission. The book will tell the story American missionary John Allen Chau, who recently traveled to a remote island in the Indian Ocean, hoping to convert the inhabitants to Christianity, but instead was killed. The publisher has compared Gettleman’s book, due out in 2021, to John Krakauer’s Into the Wild and David Grann’s The Lost City of Z.

  • March 1, 2019

    Sponsorship of the Booker Prize has been taken over by Crankstart, a charitable foundation run by Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman. The Man group, an investment firm that had funded the prize for the past eighteen years, will cease its involvement with the literary award in June. Crankstart has a five-year exclusive contract that can be renewed for a further five years.  

    New York magazine’s The Cut has started publishing literary fiction on the site. A new story will appear on The Cut every month. New York has been expanding literary content across its sister platforms—in September, the magazine announced that it would be tripling its books coverage.

    Medium has announced that users who come to the site via Twitter will bypass the paywall.

    Layli Long

    The New York Times profiles Geordie Greig, the editor of the Daily Mail, who took over this summer. Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has noticed an evolution of the Mail since Greig has taken the helm, noting that the paper “has stopped behaving like a punch-drunk old bruiser lurching around in search of a brawl.”

    Sam Lipsyte talks to Electric LIterature about his new novel, Hark, a satirical look at a fake-mindfulness movement called Mental Archery. Lipsyte notes that while he does love to teach writing, he’s no guru: “The idea of a guru connotes to me a static dynamic. It’s destructive and boring. Also, I don’t really have the energy. Gurus have to work hard.”

    Tonight at the Strand bookstore in Manhattan, Claudia Rankine will talk with poet Layli Long.

  • February 28, 2019

    Literary Hub reports on Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a former detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and author of the bestselling book Guantanamo Diary. After being held for fourteen years without being charged with a crime, Slahi was released to his home country, Mauritania, in 2016, but is now unable to get a passport. Slahi says of his circumstances: “This is hard to understand because it’s so weird. . . . I need my freedom. I need it now.”

    Philip Roth’s Upper West Side apartment is up for sale. The asking price is $3.2 million.

    Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive and Trump administration staffer, is writing a memoir.

    Edouard Louis

    Edouard Louis talks about his new memoir, Who Killed My Father. The book, which New Directions in publishing in English in March, is a short, wrenching portrait of Louis’s dad that blends political polemic with family history. As Louis tells the Independent: “On one hand it is a very political book, like Emile Zola’s J’Accuse, because I talk about French politics and French history. But on the other hand it is a very intimate book, because I am trying to show that decisions made by governments affect my father’s body. A decision from Jacques Chirac or Emmanuel Macron to stop reimbursing my father’s medicine was as intimate for him as his first kiss.”

    Barflies take note: Tonight, La Poisson Rouge is hosting a Charles Bukowski memorial reading, hosted by Three Rooms Press.

  • February 27, 2019

    The Seattle Weekly will cease its print publication after forty-two years, becoming online-only after the last edition hits newsstands today. The closing comes sixteen months after the Weekly laid off most of the staff in an effort to become profitable again. Josh O’Connor, the president of the publication’s parent company, Sound Publishing, explained the decision in a letter to readers: “Under Sound Publishing, Seattle Weekly tried to continue an emphasis on features and lifestyle topics that would appeal to younger readers, but this, unfortunately, came right at a time when ‘younger’ readers were abandoning print.” Without the youth contingent, O’Connor writes, the paper lacked a “clear sense of purpose.” Sound Publishing is hoping an outside buyer with “passion and ambition” will step in.

    Nancy Bass Wyden, the owner of The Strand Bookstore in New York City, is resisting an effort by the city to declare the store a landmark.

    Geoff Dyer

    At Literary Hub, Geoff Dyer writes about Where Eagles Dare, the 1968 World War II action movie that is the subject of Dyer’s new book, Broadsword Calling Danny Boy.

    At the Columbia Journalism Review, Lyz Lenz profiles Michael Sitrick, a public relations guru who handles the media for rich clients when things go wrong. Sitrick’s clients have included  Lee Iacocca, the Los Angeles Catholic archdiocese, American Apparel, and Harvey Weinstein. Lenz writes of Sitrick, “Seeing journalism through the eyes of someone so good at manipulating it might offer us a window into understanding what’s gone so wrong. Or maybe it offers us nothing; maybe he was just spinning me, too.”


  • February 26, 2019

    Helen Oyeyemi. Photo: Tom Pilston

    The New York Review of Books has chosen two new editors to replace Ian Buruma, who left the magazine five months ago. NYRB senior editor Gabriel Winslow-Yost will co-edit the publication with current New Yorker managing editor Emily Greenhouse. Regular contributor Daniel Mendelsohn will take on the new role of editor at large.

    PEN America has created a new award for performance writing. Playwright Kenneth Lonergan will be the first recipient of the PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award.

    The Washington Post has created a new fellowship in honor of Jamal Khashoggi. The program “will provide an independent platform for journalists and writers to offer their perspectives from parts of the world where freedom of expression is threatened or suppressed.” Saudi Arabian scholar and writer Hala Al-Dosari will be the inaugural fellow.

    An anonymous U.K. journalist is working on a book about Khashoggi’s murder. Khashoggi & the Crown Prince: The Secret Files will be published in March by British publisher Gibson Square, and alleges that Khashoggi “had intelligence on Donald Trump that posed a threat to the kingdom.”

    At The Guardian, Lara Feigel reflects on the writing of Natalia Ginzburg.

    “I think it affects the way I’m reviewed,” says Gingerbread author Helen Oyeyemi on how “being a child prodigy” has affected her reputation as a writer. “I’ll read reviews and I’ll know they’re coming at it from a sort of ‘Oh, well done, you can write’ kind of thing. Or there are people that just evaluate me on the whole youth thing, and hopefully that’s going to go away because I’m actually quite old now.”