• June 17, 2014

    Carla Blumenkranz, a writer and editor at n+1, has just been hired to be a senior editor at the New Yorker’s website.

    Disappointed by the exclusion of women from most discussions of the mystical Great American Novel, Elaine Showalter chooses six women writers from the United States who should be part of the conversation.

    According to Nielsen, the self-publishing market is growing rapidly in the UK, where approximately 81 million self-published titles were sold last year.

    Ben Marcus

    Ben Marcus

    Ben Marcus—the author of Notable American Women and The Flame Alphabet, among other innovative works of fiction—learns to love (or at least not spit out) so-called superfoods in the new GQ.

    At the Millions, Jonathan Russell Clark documents his ongoing obsession with epigraphs—ones that have been used, and others that could be used in the future.

    The U.S. Department of Labor is investigating the deaths of two temporary workers that occurred at Amazon warehouses.


  • June 16, 2014

    What obstacles are in the way of reading anything of any length today, and how has the novel responded to these competitors for readers’ attention? At the New York Review of Books, Tim Parks considers the effects of the problem “we all know”—that “every moment of serious reading has to be fought for, planned for” because “the mind . . . is overwhelmingly inclined toward communication or, if that is too grand a word, to the back and forth of contact with others.” Not only are we constantly interrupted, we want to be interrupted. Contemporary novels have accordingly adopted a “battering ram quality . . . an insistence and repetition that perhaps permits the reader to hang in.” Books of “elegant, highly distinct prose, of conceptual delicacy and syntactical complexity” will grow fewer, and be replaced by those in short sections, “offering more frequent pauses where we can take time out.” Meanwhile, big, elaborate, popular novels “will be ever more laden with repetitive formulas, and coercive, declamatory rhetoric to make it easier and easier, after breaks, to pick up, not a thread, but a sturdy cable.”

    Jacqueline Rose surveys no fewer than six books about mothers at the London Review of Books, and concludes that something is missing from the bunch: a story in which “the acute pleasure of being a mother would be neither a guilty secret, nor something enviously co-opted by bullies—‘You will be happy!’—but instead would be allowed to get on quietly with its work of making the experience of motherhood more than worth it.”

    The New Inquiry’s latest issue is on “Queens.” “If the queen is the pinnacle, she is also the limit,” asserts the editor’s note. “If she is an exception to the general subordination of women, she proves the male rule.”

    Al Jazeera unveils a digital video news channel.

    bell hooks

    bell hooks

    A strategy to fend off unwanted admirers: Give out the number (669) 221-6251 to a guy, and any text he sends will receive a response quoting bell hooks’s work. Pass off the digits as your own, say the automated number’s anonymous creators, “if you’re in a dicey situation, afraid to give out your personal cell phone number or outright reject someone.”

    A new journalism cooperative, Deca, brings together nine writers and editors to edit, promote, and publish one another’s work. Members will split revenues from stories sold through its new app and on Amazon.

  • June 13, 2014

    At the New Republic, Christopher Ketcham has written a long article about the accusation that Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges is a plagiarist.

    The lineup for the 2014 Brooklyn Book Festival have been announced with usual borough suspects such as Paul Auster and Colson Whitehead being joined by more than 100 other writers, including Edmund White, A. M. Homes, Philippe Petit, and Rebecca Mead. The festival’s main events will be held on September 21st, with other readings, talks, and panels running from the 15th through the 22nd.

    Jill Abramson

    Jill Abramson

    Harvard University has announced that Jill Abramson will teach narrative nonfiction courses at the college this fall.

    Charles Wright, who has won the Pulitzer prize and the National Book Award, has been named the new Poet Laureate. Says James Billington, the librarian of Congress: Wright’s “combination of literary elegance and genuine humility—it’s just the rare alchemy of a great poet.”

    At the Paris Review, Nicole Rudick considers Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary and looks at a cache of letters between O’Hara and his publisher at City Lights, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

    Veteran culture editor Craig Marks, the coauthor of I Want My MTV, has been named the new editor in chief of Spin magazine. Craigs was the executive editor of Spin in the 1990s, but the magazine he is returning to looks quite different from the one he left. For one thing, it became digital-only in 2012. “My goal is to grow the digital audience and engage young people and others with a brand that is still considered a gold standard in music journalism,” Marks tells Ad Age.

    Kickstarter has added two new categories to their crowdfunding platform: “Crafts” and . . . “Journalism.” The Guardian has signed on to “curate” a page highlighting the best projects.

  • June 12, 2014

    On the eve of the world cup, eleven writers—including Karl Ove Knausgaard, Geoff Dyer, Joseph O’Neill—pick the most compelling characters of the tournament. O’Neill chooses Netherlands star Arjen Robben: “Aged 30, he is a ringer for Patrick Stewart, who is 73. Like Stewart, Robben is chronically histrionic, only his is a limited villainous repertoire of dives, false grimaces, and mock seizures. Even his brilliance gets under the skin.”

    François Truffaut

    François Truffaut

    A limited-edition book featuring the five “Talk of the Town” pieces Lillian Ross wrote about Francois Truffaut between the years 1960 and 1976 is being published.

    Chris Lehmann looks at neoliberal pundits’ reaction to Thomas Piketty’s study of inequality Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and explains why their counterclaims ring false, arguing that “the wifty personal education-and-innovation agendas that David Brooks and company champion are false solutions to the inequality crisis.”

    At VanityFair, Evgenia Peretz presents some disapproving quotes about Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch from the likes of James Wood, Lorin Stein, and Francine Prose, which prompt a discussion of what makes capital-S “serious” literature.

    The Awl has posted a very interesting, thorough, and topsy-turvy history of Time Inc’s Entertainment Weekly by Anna Helen Petersen, the author of the forthcoming Scandals of Classic Hollywood.


  • June 11, 2014

    Yesterday, a federal appeals court granted universities, in conjunction with Google, the right to continue scanning millions of library books without the authors’ permission. The case, which was brought by the Authors’ Guild and other writers groups, argued that the scanning project breaks copyright law, but the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the scanning project falls within the accepted practices of the “fair use” doctrine.

    George Will’s latest Washington Post Op-Ed presents sexual assault at colleges as a sham perpetuated in large part by President Obama, and argues that victimhood is “a coveted status that confers privileges.” At Dame magazine, short story author and book critic Elissa Schappell responds to the conservative columnist.

    Rebecca Curtis

    Rebecca Curtis

    Vice Media is reportedly negotiating the sale of “a major stake of itself” to Time Warner. The deal would value Vice at $2.2 billion. Meanwhile, Vice Magazine has published its annual fiction issue, with contributions from Rebecca Curtis, Amie Barrodale, and Blake Bailey.

    “But I don’t see a thriving future for the largest digital journalism enterprises as businesses, even though the web offers sensational opportunities for digital journalism as a product.” At the Atlantic, Derek Thompson uses the difficulties facing Time Inc magazines to speculate on profitability of digital media.

    What are people highlighting on their Kindles? Lots of passages from the Hunger Games, it turns out.

    At the New Yorker, John Cassidy speculates on what Hillary Clinton is hoping to accomplish by “inflicting on the American public a six-hundred-and-thirty-five-page tome devoted, largely, to the intricacies of diplomacy.” Among the goals Cassidy identifies: “Lance a few boils,” “Give team Hillary a tryout,” and “make some money” (Hard Choices reportedly earned her a $14 million advance).


  • June 10, 2014

    Darren Aronofsky is adapting Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy for HBO.

    The bracket, books, and judges for Three Percent’s World Cup of Literature have been announced. Representing the US is David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, because the book, as the tournament’s organizers explain, is a lot like the national team:  “An unfinished product, made of various pieces, and all about boredom (which is how some people in the States view soccer as a whole).”

    The New Yorker has launched a new blog by Joshua Rothman on art and science.

    Karl Ove Knausgaard arrived in New York last week to tour in support of the third volume of his epic autobiographical novel, and, true to form, doesn’t seem happy about being world literature’s latest star, telling the packed audience at McNally Jackson books: “I really don’t like myself,” “being miserable is a part of being a writer,” and “I can’t really embrace [success], it’s impossible.” Which, of course, is exactly the kind of gloomy, uncomfortable performance the audience came to see.

    Samuel Beckett

    Samuel Beckett

    A manuscript of Samuel Beckett’s Murphy, his first published novel, will be on display for one day at Reading University. Beckett scholar John Pilling puts it in perspective: “These things are valuable, though of course only exciting to sad people like me. . . .  It is not his greatest work, but it is the earliest fiction manuscript we have, his first published novel, relatively readable and still funny, and these are precious qualities.”

  • June 9, 2014

    At the New Republic, Isaac Chotiner uses Michiko Kakutani’s write-up of Hillary Clinton’s new memoir as a “good lesson in how not to write a review.”

    Robert Silvers

    Robert Silvers

    Robert Silvers recalls how The New York Review of Books became the subject of Martin Scorsese’s latest documentary.

    “The price of a year at college has increased by more than 1,200 percent over the last 30 years, far outpacing any other price the government tracks: food, housing, cars, gasoline, TVs, you name it.” At Salon, Thomas Frank charts the alarming surge in college tuition, which is leaving generations in debt, and which no one seems to be trying to stop.

    Ruth Graham’s new Slate article, which is pegged to the new movie adaptation of John Green’s YA novel The Fault in Our Stars, argues that adults should be embarrassed to read fiction geared toward teenagers. A barrage of of pro-YA responses quickly followed, with Flavorpill declaring Slate “condescending,” and the New Republic urging you to not let “Slate make you feel ashamed for reading books you love.”

    Tonight, Poets House is hosting a fundraiser, which involves walking across the Brooklyn Bridge; hearing readings by Mark Doty, Thomas Lux, and Vijay Seshadri, and Naomi Shihab Nye; and dinner.

  • June 6, 2014

    Joshua Rothman introduces a new “blog about ideas” at the New Yorker.

    Simon Critchley

    Simon Critchley

    Never mind books, it’s time for the World Cup! Some vaguely literary world cup coverage ahead of the tournament next week: John Cassidy at the New Yorker, and Simon Critchley at Roads & Kingdoms.

    Capital New York reports that the law firm Outten & Golden, which has sued Condé Nast, Hearst, and other media companies for using unpaid interns, may be filing a class action lawsuit against Vice. A few former interns received letters from the firm notifying them of the investigation. Vice began paying interns $10 per hour last year.

    @Everyword, an automated Twitter feed that since 2007 has been dutifully tweeting every word in the English language, has come to the end of the road.

    On Wednesday, Stephen Colbert sent thousands of people to the Powell’s Books website to buy a debut novel by Edan Lepucki. The plug pushed the book, California, to the top of the independent bookstore’s bestseller list, and briefly caused the website to shut down. “I don’t think historically we’ve ever had one single moment in time when this many people have arrived at the site to shop,” the store’s marketing manager said. Colbert’s publisher is Hachette, the company that has been in a dispute with Amazon. Salon approvingly crowned Colbert “the next Oprah.”

    Tests confirm that a copy of Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de lame, owned by the Houghton Library, is bound in human skin. The catalogue note describes the binding as “taken from the back of the unclaimed body of a woman patient in a French mental hospital who died suddenly of apoplexy.”


  • June 5, 2014

    Jonathan Shainin

    Jonathan Shainin

    Jonathan Shainin, an editor of the New Yorker website, is moving to London to edit a new section in the Guardian’s print and online editions.

    The McSweeney’s archive, which the Ransom Center in Texas acquired last year, is now open for research.

    Prizes, prizes everywhere: The New York Press Club awards have been announced, with Stephen Brill winning the Gold Keyboard, the most prestigious honor. In England, the Baileys Women’s Prize for fiction recognizes Eimear McBride for her first novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing; and in Spain, John Banville takes home the Prince of Asturias award for literature.

    The New York Times has created a new “sin and vice” beat, and put the ideally named Mosi Secret on the task. (Secret’s first piece? On a secret strip club.) City Editor David Chang, who came up with the idea for the beat, “is figuring out how to direct the coverage of sin without encroaching on other beats at the paper,” the Observer reports. After all, “murder is a sin but it’s also a crime…so it’s likely that that would be covered by our other beat reporters.”

    A Times editorial excoriates Amazon for its recent dealings with Hachette: “What seems clear is that Amazon is using its market power — the company accounts for about 40 percent of new books, print and digital, sold in the United States and more than 50 percent in Germany — to get the best deal for itself while it squeezes publishers, annoys its customers and hurts authors by limiting their sales.”

    A short animated video re-stages a poignant conversation about happiness between Simon Critchley and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, held at the Rubin Museum of Art in 2012. “There is no pleasure that I haven’t actually made myself sick on,” Hoffman says.

  • June 4, 2014

    The New Yorker’s love-themed summer fiction issue includes stories by Rachel Kushner, David Gilbert, Karen Russell, and Ramona Ausubel. The lineup looks good, but the video “preview” is twee and pointless.

    James Joyce’s eyesight worsened because he had syphilis, a scholar claims. The smoking gun is apparently a medication he was prescribed, galyl, a combination of arsenic and phosphorus that was exclusively used to treat the disease.

    Rebecca Solnit celebrates the #yesallwomen hashtag, and connects it to a handful of recently coined terms describing elements of women’s experience. The new language marks a turning point in feminism, she argues: “Domestic violence, mansplaining, rape culture, and sexual entitlement are among the linguistic tools that redefine the world many women encounter daily and open the way to begin to change it.” Meanwhile, Mallory Ortberg explains “how not to review women’s writing.” A few things to avoid: denying that the work at hand is art or arguing that it’s “immodest”; claiming that one set of experience is more valuable than another; referring to women artists as wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, or lovers of male artists; asserting that the woman in question is “eccentric or atypical”; and claiming that only one work among a whole ouevre is any good.

    Darcey Steinke

    Darcey Steinke

    Darcey Steinke remembers meeting Kurt Cobain twenty years ago, when she interviewed him for Spin: “Listening to the six hours of interview tapes, 20 years later, I can’t help noticing that it’s not only Kurt who seems fragmented. It is distressing how rootless and superficial I sound. I ask music-biz questions, I laugh a lot, but I am incapable of connecting with either Kurt’s anxiety or his interest in fatherhood.”

    Reddit, Imgur, and BoingBoing are coordinating on a day of action against NSA surveillance. They will argue for“more direct action,” and encourage people to “install privacy and encryption tools.”