• February 25, 2019

    Natasha Wimmer

    Last night, James Baldwin became the top trending search on Google worldwide, up 3,400 percent, after Regina King won best supporting actress for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk, which was based on Baldwin’s novel of the same name.

    W.E.B. Griffin, the author of dozens of bestselling spy and war novels, has died at eighty-nine. According to Griffin, he wrote more than 150 books, but as the New York Times points out: “Determining the exact number of books he wrote is not so easily done. . . . He was a ghostwriter for many, and many others were published under a variety of pseudonyms.” A 1997 article in the Washington Post in portrayed Mr. Griffin as “the grizzled griot of the warrior breed” and “the troubadour of the American serviceman.”

    At Electric Lit, Adam Vitcavage talks with Natasha Wimmer about her translations of Roberto Bolano. “That’s the great toggle of translation: back and forth from the closest possible translation of a sequence of words to a more idiomatic or loose rendition. There is no such thing as a literal translation, as any translator will tell you. Every translation is an interpretation. I fall on the looser end of the spectrum (I think), but I question every choice, debating whether I’ve stretched too far.”

    Amir Ahmadi Arian has sold first book in English, Then the Fish Swallowed Him, to a new (as yet unnamed) Harper’s imprint for international publishing. According to literary agent Jessica Craig, the novel, about Iran’s infamous Evin prison, is a  “1984 for the 21st century and a stark warning about the psychological impact of totalitarianism.” It is scheduled to be published in winter 2020.

    Tonight in New York, feminist writer Silvia Federici discusses her new book Witches, Witch-Hunting, and Women, which links institutional violence against women to new forms of capitalism.


  • February 22, 2019

    In anticipation of this weekend’s Oscars ceremony, LitHub offers their own Academy Awards for Books. (“Of course, the Real Book Oscars are given out at the National Book Awards ceremony,” they note, “so consider these the Fake Book Oscars.”)

    At the New York Times, Manohla Dargis, Wesley Morris, and editors of the book review list their favorite Hollywood-centric books.

    Isaac Mizrahi talks to the New York Times “By the Book” column about literary style, diaries, and how he decides what to read. Besides getting recommendations from his friends Mark Morris and Robert Couturier, Mizrahi says he gets advice from his “bridge-playing friends Choire Sicha, Dale Peck and Richard Desroche.” “As bridge players we share a careful skepticism about everything, including literature,” he explains. “Rather than recommendations, those guys tell me which books I don’t have to read.”

    The Los Angeles Times reports from a literary event this week featuring Roxane Gay and Marlon James. The two authors discussed James’s new fantasy novel, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, a book that’s often been compared to R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. But James thinks Martin fans might not be totally on board: “They’re going to be so disappointed . . . except for the sex and violence.”

    Elizabeth McCracken talks to The Millions about living abroad, community, and her new novel, Bowlaway.

    On Monday at Books are Magic in Brooklyn, Sophia Shalmiyev discusses her new memoir, Mother Winter, with Melissa Febos.

  • February 21, 2019

    Amanda Petrusich

    New Yorker music critic Amanda Petrusich talks to The Rumpus about critical authority, Twitter mobs, and snobbery. “My growth as a writer was unlearning that snobbishness and trying to cultivate more of a rawness in my relationship with the people who were reading me, if I was lucky enough to have anyone reading me,” she said of the evolution of music criticism. “I think it made me as a writer feel less alone, it made me feel like I was in conversation with a lot of other people in a way that I found really comforting and nice. But it was a shift in the way that I thought music criticism was supposed to be, which was ‘I’m gonna tell you what’s good because I’m smarter than you.’

    Former Gizmodo Media reporter Brendan O’Connor is working on “a book about immigration, capitalism, and the far right” with Haymarket Books.

    Carol Rosenberg, known for her work covering the prisoners and war court at Guantanamo Bay, is joining the New York Times as a national security reporter.

    At Wired, Zeynep Tufekci explores possible systems for verifying the authenticity of online articles, photos, and videos. “It’s harder than just showing the people an image of a print newspaper (if you can find one), because digital bits can easily be altered,” she writes. “As we shift from an era when realistic fakes were expensive and hard to create to one where they’re cheap and easy, we will inevitably adjust our norms.”

    The Daily Beast reports that CNN is defending its decision to hire Sarah Isgur Flores, the former spokesperson for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as a political editor at the company’s Washington bureau. CNN’s own Brian Stelter writes that “employees are concerned” about the news and are “questioning whether her sudden leap from the Trump administration to the CNN newsroom is an ethical breach.” “CNN seems to be doubling down on a ratings-first, fair-in-name-only approach to politics,” writes Margaret Sullivan at the Washington Post. “At a time when so many talented and experienced journalists are out of work because of layoffs in a teetering industry, this makes even less sense.”

  • February 20, 2019

    Lindsay Stern. Photo: Lee Stern

    New York Times Magazine staff writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner has sold a new book. “A family story of wealth and class and inheritance and dubious paternity,” Long Island Compromise was bought by Random House and does not yet have a publication date.

    “Gizmodo’s track record of skewering owners is scaring away bidders,” the New York Post reports. Sources say that Univision “could attract more buyers if it would rein in an editorial independence provision in Gizmodo’s union contract.” As one anonymous digital media CEO explained, “I specifically think about the post their special projects desk did on Univision as the sort of thing that makes the whole place feel toxic.”

    At Medium, Mike Gardner interviews writers about how they support themselves for the website’s “Day Job” series.

    At n+1, Stephen Piccarella considers the American prison system, justice, and works by Rachel Kushner and Sergio De La Pava.

    At LitHub, read an excerpt of Han Kang’s upcoming novel, The White Book.

    “Go there,” says The Study of Animal Languages author Lindsay Stern on the best writing advice she’s received. “When the work takes you somewhere deep, it can be difficult not to swim back up out of fear or squeamishness. I did that in early drafts of the book. It took great teachers to show me that the novel was avoiding its true subject matter. So: Always go there.”

  • February 19, 2019

    Lauren Elkin. Photo: Marianne Katser

    Lauren Elkin is working on a new book. Art Monsters: On Beauty and Excess will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the US and Chatto & Windus in the UK. The publication date has not been set, but the manuscript is due in 2020.

    Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian talks to The Guardian about torture, anxiety, and his new book, Prisoner. “For the first six or seven months, [the threat] was pretty regular. . . . It was the constant anxiety of: ‘Are they going to kill me, are they going to keep me forever or am I going to be released tomorrow?’” he said of his detention in Iran. Rezaian has filed a lawsuit against the country over his mistreatment. “People say: ‘Well, you weren’t beaten.’ I say they never laid a finger on me, but I was certainly tortured, and they have to pay for that.”

    Sarah Hughes looks at the ways that #MeToo is showing up in fiction.

    “Many critics can only process fantasy as a commentary on the now,” Marlon James tells The Guardian. “Do you review Wolf Hall looking for modern-day parallels? Well if you do, then that’s on you. There are other things to be said about humanity than the contemporary experience.”

    At the New York Times Book Review, Gal Beckerman advocates for “the value of invisibility and silence” in our busy, noisy world through two new books: Akiko Busch’s How to Disappear and Jane Brox’s Silence. “Coming upon them was like finding the Advil bottle in the medicine cabinet after stumbling about with a headache for a long time,” she writes. “They demand patience from addled minds primed to see such subject matter as a result of subtraction, the blank pages between chapters.”

  • February 18, 2019

    Naomi Klein has sold her new book, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, to Simon and Schuster for a “rumored high six-figure sum.” According to the publisher, Klein’s new study concerns the “urgency of the climate crisis, as well as the fiery energy of a rising political movement demanding a transformational Green New Deal.”

    The new Center for Fiction, long housed at the Mercantile Library in Manhattan, is moving to Brooklyn. According to Noreen Tomassi, the Center’s executive director, the new space will not only support writers and literary events but also foster a literary community: “It was important to create a space that’s not only a bookstore, not only an auditorium, not only a writers’ studio, not only a place where you can have a drink and sit on the terrace, but a space where you can do all of those things so it’s an integrated experience centered around their love of fiction. People need spaces like that, public spaces. That’s why houses of literature in Europe are so important. I just went to one in Rome, and I was knocked out by it, because people are there writing, there are books to read, there’s a library, there’s an incredible festival every year and it’s a place where like-minded people feel at home.”

    The Library of America has released the cover image for its first volume of Joan Didion’s writing, which is due out in November.

    Victor LaValle, the editor of the just-released anthology of speculative fiction A People’s Future of the United States, recommends five of his favorite recent books.

  • 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.”