• March 16, 2015

    John Cook, Gawker Media’s executive editor for investigations, says that his company will be filing a suit against the State Department, based on a Freedom of Information Act request that has gone unheeded. In 2012, the website requested emails sent between Hillary Clinton spokesperson Philippe Reines and thirty-four news organizations. So far, Gawker has received nothing. Meanwhile, the Associated Press is suing the State Department for another ignored FoIA request.

    Roberto Bolano’s 2666 is being adapted for the stage.

    Rita Dove

    Rita Dove

    The National Book Critics Circle, which announced the winners of its 2014 awards on Thursday, has posted a video of its awards ceremony, which honored Claudia Rankine, Roz Chast, Ellen Willis, and John Lahr, among others, and featured speeches by poet Rita Dove and novelist Toni Morrison, who won the NBCC’s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. The NBCC website has also printed a transcript of the speech given by Alexandra Schwartz, who won the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, who remembers writing her first review (for John Leonard) and considers the qualities of a good reviewer.

    Gaby Wood talks with Samantha Harvey, and ponders “why great novels don’t get noticed now.” Harvey’s Dear Thief was published last year to great reviews, but has sold only about 1,000 copies, and remains relatively hard to find. “What happened?” Wood asks. “The story of Dear Thief is the story of how our best fiction can get lost, and how hard it is for readers to find the books they’ll love.”

    Karen Dawisha, an American academic who specializes in Russian affairs, is the author of the 2014 study Putin’s Kleptocracy. It was published in the US by Simon and Schuster. In the UK, however, publishers have been wary of the book, fearing that the book’s critical portrayal of Putin (Dawisha argues, among other things, that Putin has been involved in espionage) will put them in legal danger. Judges of the UK’s Pushkin Prize, which honors books about Russia, have expressed their concerns about the book’s failure to find a publisher in the country. And Dawisha states: “I felt that their very rejection sounded an alarm bell about one of the Kremlin’s real powers—the power to cow western institutions into submission. The Kremlin and its supporters use the courts to scare off researchers who want to expose the corruption at the core of this regime. I know of several manuscripts that have been suppressed in this way.”


  • March 13, 2015

    The FCC has published, in a three-hundred-plus-page document, its new net neutrality rules, which reclassify the provision of high-speed internet as a telecommunications rather than an information service. The rules mean that the agency will be taking a more active role in regulation, something that broadband providers such as Verizon are likely to try to combat.

    Andrew Solomon

    Andrew Solomon

    Every stage of life longs for others,” Andrew Solomon said to his audience at this year’s Whiting Writers’ Awards. “When one is young and eager, one aspires to maturity, and everyone older would like nothing better than to be young.”

    Buzzfeed plans to open a newsroom in Toronto later this spring.

    At the NYRB blog, Tim Parks thinks about the effect of success on novelists—“Imagine you are Karl Ove Knausgaard at this point in his career”—and concludes that a change in the work, not to mention the writer, is unavoidable. “Turmoil and dilemma once experienced with a certain desperation may be seen more complacently as the writer reflects that through expressing them he has realized his inevitable and well-deserved triumph. The lean years of patient toil when no one paid attention may even begin to seem preferable to the present. The very thing you created in the heat of fierce concentration has destroyed the circumstances that made it possible. The writer is devoured along with his books.”

    Heck, a new (print) literary magazine out of Portland with a long list of estimable contributing editors—among them Wells Tower, Jen Percy, Tom Bissell, Darcey Steinke, Gideon Lewis-Kraus, D.T. Max, Kyle Minor, Benjamin Percy, and Evan Smith Rakoff—is looking for funding on Indiegogo. The first issue is set to appear this spring.

    The state of Alabama has concluded that there was no evidence of fraud in the recent deal struck by HarperCollins to publish Harper Lee’s second, long-buried novel, Go Set a Watchman. According to the Associated Press, “Lee answered questions to an investigator’s satisfaction, so they closed the file.”

  • March 12, 2015

    Laura Kipnis has provoked the ire of students at Northwestern, where she teaches, with a recent Chronicle of Higher Ed article criticizing policies that prohibit relations between students and professors. “I suppose I’m out of step with the new realities because I came of age in a different time,” Kipnis wrote, “under a different version of feminism, minus the layers of prohibition and sexual terror surrounding the unequal-power dilemmas of today.” In protest, about thirty students walked the campus carrying mattresses and pillows, and circulated a petition calling for a “swift, concrete and direct response from the University, affirming its commitment to its own sexual misconduct policy.”

    Claude Sitton

    Claude Sitton

    The civil-rights reporter Claude Sitton has died at the age of eighty-nine. Sitton won a Pulitzer Prize while writing for the North Carolina paper the News & Observer, where he was the editor, but he was most known for the almost nine hundred articles he wrote while working in the South in the late 1950s and early ’60s.

    The New Yorker‘s new metered paywall, which lets readers access a limited number of articles of their choosing each month before requiring them to subscribe, has increased traffic significantly, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. In January, the number of visitors to the website was up 30 percent over last year at the same time, and the number of new subscriptions was up by even more—85 percent. Total paid circulation for the magazine is 1,044,524. The metric the magazine is most interested in isn’t visitors or even subscriptions at this point, however, but rather the total amount of time that visitors spend reading. The highest numbers in that category are for “collections,” bundled stories on a theme, which readers spend an average of fifty-three minutes on.

    First Look Media has named Michael Bloom as president. Bloom is a former CEO of the Guardian News & Media, North America.

    Two debut novels put out by the small independent British publisher Legend Press have made the Baileys long list: PP Wong’s The Life of a Banana, and Jemma Wayne’s After Before.

  • March 11, 2015

    Finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award include Jenny Offill, for Dept. of Speculation; Emily St. John Mandel, for Station Eleven; Atticus Lish, for Preparation for the Next Life; Jennifer Clement, for Prayers for the Stolen; and Jeffery Renard Allen, for Song of the Shank. The winner will be announced April 7.

    In other awards news, the longlist for the Baileys women’s prize for fiction, which has been awarded for twenty years, was just released. According to the chair of this year’s judges, Shami Chakrabarti, literary accomplishment by women still goes under-recognized: We’re still  “still nowhere near where we should be,” she told The Guardian. Emily St. John Mandel is also on this list, along with Rachel Cusk, Sarah Waters, Ali Smith, and many others.

    Jimmy Wales

    Jimmy Wales

    Yesterday morning, the ACLU—along with the Wikimedia Foundation, Amnesty International, and the PEN American Center—filed a complaint against the NSA for its wide-reaching data-collection practices. The lawsuit argues that the NSA’s “upstream” surveillance, as it’s often called, violates the Fourth Amendment and the First Amendment. In a New York Times op-ed, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales explains: “The harm to Wikimedia and the hundreds of millions of people who visit our websites is clear: Pervasive surveillance has a chilling effect. It stifles freedom of expression and the free exchange of knowledge that Wikimedia was designed to enable.”

    The tech news site Gigaom is shutting down. Founded by former Forbes columnist Om Malik, the site has been around for nine years, and reported an average of 6.5 million monthly unique users. A statement said that the company ceased operations because it was unable to pay its creditors. It does not, however, intend to file bankruptcy.

    At the New York Times magazine, a personal account from the novelist Marlon James, the author, most recently, of A Brief History of Seven Killings (which Emily Raboteau reviewed for Bookforum in our fall issue). A Brief History was also featured yesterday on the Morning News’ Tournament of Books, winning against Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing.


  • March 10, 2015

    The Morning News Tournament of Books has commenced. In the opening round, David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks faces off against Ariel Schrag’s Adam (and wins).

    Now that James Patterson has finished giving away a million dollars to independent bookstores around the country, he’s moving on to libraries. He has plans to distribute $1.25 million. Applications for the grant ask for a 200-300 statement of what the recipient would do with the money, and are due May 31 of this year. (Is it petty of us to suggest that $1.25 million won’t be that much when split among numerous libraries?)

    David Firestone is to be managing editor of FiveThirtyEight. He recently took a buyout from the New York Times after working there for twenty-one years.

    The Times has launched an Instagram account, which you can find @nytimes, as part of its strategy to become more social-media savvy.

    Kazuo Ishiguro is “on the side of the pixies and dragons,” he said, in response to Ursula K. Le Guin’s recent suggestion that he, well, wasn’t. At Electric Literature, Lincoln Michel reminds us that in this latest iteration of the genre wars the terms we’re using mean different things to different people: “Part of the problem is that both the genre and literary worlds have incoherent and contradictory definitions of the words ‘genre’  and ‘literary.’ This often leads to a pointless game of appropriation, where literary critics and readers say that the best genre writers have ‘transcended genre’ and should count as literary fiction, while, at the same time, genre fans declare that famous literary writers belong to genres they never considered themselves a part of. Raymond Chandler is ‘really’ literary fiction while Italo Calvino is ‘actually’ fantasy.”

    China is sending a large delegation of writers, publishers, and government officials to BookExpoAmerica in May. The country will be considered a guest of honor at the conference’s Global Market Forum.

  • March 9, 2015

    At the Page-Turner blog, Jelani Cobb contemplates the Justice Department’s investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department. “The release of the report, just days before the first black President attended the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday, in Selma, made this week feel whipsawed by progress and stagnation.”

    Laura Albert

    Laura Albert

    In 2006, novelist Stephen Beachy revealed in New York magazine that teen-hustler-turned-novelist JT Leroy—whose fans and supporters included Lou Reed, Mary Gaitskill, and Michael Chabon—was in fact a woman named Laura Albert. Following a flurry of discussions about the fraud, interest in Leroy’s work dwindled. But two new films are about to shed new light on Albert and the people she conned. Jeff Feuerzeig’s new documentary, which will feature extensive interviews with a number of authors who believed Leroy, is currently in production. And this week Marjorie Sturm’s The Cult of JT Leroy will open in San Francisco. Sturm lost contact with Albert in 2003, but a friend was able to shoot additional footage of the author by pretending to be a fan.

    The National Book Critics Circle will announce the winners of their 2014 awards on Thursday night at the New School. They NBCC will also present Toni Morrison with a Ivan Sandrof lifetime achievement award. On Wednesday, finalists will read brief selections of their nominated work.

    A study has linked at least 46,000 Twitter accounts to the Islamic State.

    Simon and Schuster has announced that it will publish Jimmy Carter’s memoir A Full Life: Reflections at 90 on July 7.

    After years of operating at a loss, hemorrhaging more than $40 million in the two years before the Washington Post sold it for $1 in 2010, Newsweek is reporting a small profit.

  • March 6, 2015

    Jerry Saltz

    Jerry Saltz

    In response to complaints, Facebook has suspended New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz. Saltz has 55,000 followers (on Twitter and Instagram, he has more than 150,000) and frequently publishes what you might call “provocative” pictures and posts to his feed. One of the more recent pieces that he wrote that gained him a lot of attention was an article complaining about the conservatism of the art world, illustrated by images of penises, martyrdom, and defecation. He wrote, in response to Facebook’s move: “To all the purity police who complained that my medieval and ancient pics were ‘sexist,’ ‘abusive,’ and ‘misogynist’: congratulations!! You got me axed from Facebook. You pay in blood, but not your own. xxo.”

    Andrew Solomon has been named president of the PEN American Center. He’s the author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, and Far From the Tree, about the families of children affected by cognitive, physical or psychological disabilities.

    The New York Post is launching a comedy site, Internet Action Force, that features short (supposedly funny) videos about stuff in the news.

    Guardian and Observer staff have voted for Katharine Viner, the current editor in chief of the US Guardian, to succeed Alan Rusbridger, the current editor in chief of the entire operation, after he steps down. The vote will make sure that Viner is on a short list of three candidates being considered for the position. (The Guardian is the one of the only papers that allows employees to help determine who will be in charge.)

    Finalists for the LA Times Book Prize have been announced. The fiction list includes Donald Antrim, Jenny Offill, Jesse Ball, Helen Oyeyemi, Eimear McBride, and Diane Cook, among others.

  • March 5, 2015

    Emily Gould and Ruth Curry

    Emily Gould and Ruth Curry

    Coffee House Press is launching an imprint with Emily Books, the hybrid e-book publishing project started by Emily Gould and Ruth Curry. In the spring of 2016, the Minneapolis-based publisher will begin publishing two Emily Books titles a year, for which Gould and Curry will do the acquisitions and editing. The focus of the list will be on “transgressive writers of the past, present and future, with an emphasis on the writing of women, trans and queer people, writing that blurs genre distinctions and is funny, challenging and provocative.”

    The Baffler, which is in the process of opening an office in New York, has recently brought on a handful of new people and named Noah McCormick as publisher. Kim Stanley Robinson is the new fiction editor; Edwin Frank is the new poetry editor, and Rick Perlstein will write regularly for the print edition. The Baffler has also hired four new bloggers: Jacob Silverman, Scott Beauchamp, Sady Doyle, and Helaine Olen. Both Noah and his father, Win McCormick, the publisher of Tin House, have supported the magazine in the past.

    Seventeen hundred copies of The Communist Manifesto sold in the first week of the printing of a recent bargain edition, called Little Black Classics, put out by Penguin. Nietzsche’s Aphorisms on Love and Hate is also not doing too badly.

    The LA Review of Books is starting an online literary magazine, The Offing, that features poetry, fiction, essays, memoir, and art. The website will launch March 16.

    Vanity Fair is launching in Mexico, with an initial print run for the first issue of ninety thousand copies. Other international editions of the magazine appear in France, Spain, Italy, and the UK.

    In January, SkyMall filed bankruptcy. Now, however, there are plans in place to revive the brand with a revolutionary new business model: “We’re going to include items in the magazine that people actually want to buy,” says Scott Jordan, CEO of ScotteVest, who plans to purchase the publication.

  • March 4, 2015

    In the Paris Review’s interview with Elena Ferrante—the first-ever interview with the writer in person—Ferrante describes the crisis of confidence she experienced while working on The Days of Abandonment: “The hand was the same, the writing was the same, there was the same choice of vocabulary, same syntax, same punctuation, and yet the tone had become false. For months I felt that the preceding pages were beyond my abilities, and now I no longer felt equal to my own work. It made me bitter. You’d rather lose yourself than find yourself, I thought. Then everything started up again. But even today I don’t dare reread the book. I’m afraid that the last part has only the appearance of good writing.”

    Jenna Wortham, who covers tech for the New York Times, thinks something is changing in our experience of technology:  “There’s a slow collective awakening happening right now. With the Sony email leaks, the message is that you should never email something you don’t want other people to potentially read. Other countries have been faster to realize that the notion of privacy is not as ironclad as we like to believe or tend to think. Nothing is actually private. Nothing is actually secure.”

    Gawker offers to buy the New York Daily News for $5000.

    Ursula K. Le Guin and Kazuo Ishiguro are in a dust-up over his new novel, The Buried Giant. At the Times, Ishiguro asked: “Will readers follow me into this? Will they understand what I’m trying to do, or will they be prejudiced against the surface elements? . . . Will they say this is fantasy?” “Well, yes, they probably will. Why not?” Le Guin responded. “It appears that the author takes the word for an insult. To me that is so insulting, it reflects such thoughtless prejudice, that I had to write this piece in response.”

    A new edition of the Trollope novel The Duke’s Children restores 65,000 words cut from the 1880 edition.

  • March 3, 2015

    At the New Republic, Jamil Smith discusses the New York Times’s coverage of race, specifically its reassignment of Tanzina Vega from the race beat, which she had suggested herself, to the metropolitan section, and the more general tendency of papers across the country to shutter their race beats. Smith quotes Cord Jefferson, who wrote a piece for Matter last summer in which he described his exhaustion writing stories exclusively to do with race. Don’t “assign [minorities] to specific stories that go along with their minority group,” Jefferson wrote. “Give them jobs in your company.” But, Smith argues, “the race beat does not ghettoize race coverage. It embeds it in the body of the publication and makes it an essential part of its mission.”

    Marina Abramovic

    Marina Abramovic

    The performance artist Marina Abramovic will publish a memoir next year, to coincide with her seventieth birthday.

    At the Columbia Journalism Review, a piece on plagiarism: “Journalists are so fragile right now, so damaged by years of newsroom cuts and diminishing impact, that we’re more intent than ever on proving our purity, to ourselves and to our readers. We will therefore land ferociously on any miscreant who borrows even four or five words from another source. We will turn ourselves into the plagiarism police, vainly straining to show that our work is original, when, in fact, nearly all journalism is second-order—that is, we discover, report, and interpret the ideas and actions of others.”

    Graywolf has bought Fiona Maazel’s third novel, What Kind of Man.

    The New York Times has terminated the Home section of the paper, saying that its content “would fit best in other parts of the Times, including Food and Real Estate.”

    Wired has redesigned its website for the first time since 2007.