• March 23, 2015

    The Guardian has appointed Katharine Vinerto be its new editor in chief. Viner, who will be the first woman EIC in the paper’s 194-year history, is currently the magazine’s deputy editor, and will begin her new position this summer. In a column for USA Today, Michael Wolff suggests that the choice of Viner instead of another editor, Janine Gibson, was in some ways influenced by Gibson’s role in the Guardian’s coverage of Edward Snowden—stories that won the paper a Pulitzer Prize but also caused turmoil in the organization as a whole. (Here’s a speech Viner gave in 2013 about “journalism in the age of the open web.”)

    The Morning News’s annual Tournament of Books has entered its semifinals.

    Norman Rush

    Norman Rush

    In the latest installment of the Paris Review’s book club on Norman Rush’s Mating, Miranda Popkey focuses on one controversial line from the novel: “I had been working my tits down to nubs.

    The Los Angeles Times recently ran an op-ed with the headline “California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?” The article’s author, Jay Famiglietti, later pointed out that “he made no such claim in the piece.” Now, experts are weighing in, and calling the newspaper’s choice of headline as a “click-generating machine.

    Rolling Stone has announced that it will publish an external review of the article about a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity. Shortly after the article’s publication last November, large portions were called into question by the Washington Post, among other news outlets. The review is being led by Steve Coll, the Pulizter winner, author of multiple books of investigative journalism, and dean and Columbia’s school of journalism.

  • March 20, 2015

    The New York Times has dropped one of the new online opinion writers it just hired, Razib Khan. The paper announced its new hires on Wednesday; shortly afterward, Gawker described Khan as having been associated with “racist, far-right online publications” such as Taki’s Magazine, which, according to J.K..Trotter, was founded by a “flamboyantly racist Greek journalist.” Khan’s contract was terminated on Thursday.

    At The Nation, Michelle Goldberg investigates the reaction to Laura Kipnis’s recent piece about sexual misconduct rules at universities. Goldberg chalks up the harsh response to the article to a generational divide between feminisms: “There are contradictions between a feminism that emphasizes women’s erotic agency and desire to have sex on equal terms with men, and a feminism that stresses their erotic vulnerability and need to be shielded from even the subtlest forms of coercion. The politics of liberation are an uneasy fit with the politics of protection. A rigid new set of taboos has emerged to paper over this tension, often expressed in a therapeutic language of trauma and triggers that everyone is obliged to at least pretend to take seriously.”

    At the Times, Aatish Taseer laments the dominance of English in India. Whether or not people know the language has everything to do with their class background, he points out; English “re-enacts  the colonial relationship, placing certain Indians in a position the British once occupied” and creating “a linguistic line as unbreachable as the color line once was in the United States.” As a result, India’s literature suffers: Its “painful relationship with language has left it voiceless.”

    Vice is starting a new vertical, Broadly, aimed at women and headed by Tracie Egan Morrissey and Callie Beusman, formerly of Gawker.  The website will feature mostly journalism and will, reportedly, avoid “light stuff.”

    The New Republic is trying get into native advertising.

    Sarah Polley is making a new version of Little Women.

  • March 19, 2015

    Kenneth Goldsmith

    Kenneth Goldsmith

    Last Friday, the poet Kenneth Goldsmith—known for what he calls “uncreative writing”—read Michael Brown’s autopsy report, altered “for poetic effect,” at Brown University. Goldsmith has since been widely criticized for, among other things, appropriating a text that he had no rights to and being tacky. Goldsmith’s self-defense amounted to the suggestion that he’s been doing this sort of appropriation for a very long time; among his books of poetry, for example, is Seven American Deaths and Disasters, a transcription of quotes from reports of national tragedies, including the shooting of JFK. Goldsmith retweeted many of the criticisms leveled at him. What he has not tweeted is a response from the anonymous group Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo, which indicts the “colonial aesthetics” of conceptual art generally: “We are not here gleefully, we are here unhinged. We are distraught that it required the body of Mike Brown to push some poets into questioning the “practice” and “theory” behind current self-declared “conceptualist” poetry. We won’t forget that it takes bodies to make you consider your allegiances.”

    The New York Times is adding twenty new online opinion writers. According to Capital New York, most have signed short-term contracts and will be writing once a month. The roster includes the novelists Jennifer Weiner, Lydia Millet, and Héctor Tobar, as well as Judith Shulevitz, Roxane Gay, and Sandeep Jauhar.

    The Emperor Franzen Twitter account, which made fun of Jonathan Franzen by impersonating him, has been suspended. Twitter suggested that the account holder, Andrew Shafer, change it to “@fakefranzen” to be more clear that it was, well, fake; Shafer declined. If you need a funny lit-world Twitter to follow instead, Shafer recommends @GuyInYourMFA.

    A new version of the Times style guide, available from Three Rivers Press, shows all the changes that have been made to the guide since 1999. Most of the updates have to do with the internet. For example, “friend”: “Do not use as a verb, as in friended, except for special effect when writing about social media.”

    The Guardian, CNN International, the Financial Times, and Reuters have banded together to pool ad space as a way of fighting against the ad dollars of larger corporations such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. The alliance, which they’re calling Pangea, will give brands access to a combined 110 million online readers.

  • March 18, 2015

    The remains of Miguel de Cervantes have been found in a convent.

    Christian Lorentzen will be the next book critic at New York magazine, replacing Kathryn Schulz, who left a few months ago for the New Yorker. Lorentzen writes frequently for Bookforum; his most recent piece for us was on Kazuo Ishiguro.

    Susan Berman

    Susan Berman

    The most well-known book by the writer Susan Berman, one of the alleged victims of Robert Durst, is Easy Street, a memoir of her family’s mob ties. With the success of the HBO show Jinx, a six-episode HBO documentary about Durst, paperback copies of Berman’s book that could be got on Amazon for ten dollars a week ago are now selling for fifty.

    PEN has announced the longlist for its literary awards. The debut fiction category includes Molly Antopol’s UnAmericans, Phil Klay’s Redeployment, Kenneth Calhoun’s Black Moon, and seven others. The essay category names Leslie Jamison’s Empathy Exams, Valeria Luiselli’s Sidewalks, and Charles D’Ambrosio’s Loitering, among others.

    Gawker has set up a website that will publish the pool reports that report on the president’s everyday actions. These are unsigned dispatches about the president’s comings and goings written by a rotating cast of reporters from the White House press corps, and made available to be used by publications as they see fit. Gawker explains: “Though much of what is in these pool reports eventually finds its way into press coverage—that’s what they’re for!—the actual raw copy is available only to the anointed hundreds, or perhaps thousands, who are judged to be important enough to merit placement on the distribution list.” Now Gawker will publish the reports as soon as it has them.

    The publisher of Grove Atlantic, Morgan Entrekin, is planning a new website called Literary Hub, in conjunction with Electric Literature. Literary Hub, which will go live April 8, aims to be a clearing-house of “literary life.” Because it is backed by publishers, the site won’t publish book reviews. Rather, it’ll feature interviews, profiles, essays, and excerpts, focusing exclusively, according to Entrekin, on literary fiction.

  • March 17, 2015

    President Obama talks to Vice founder Shane Smith about foreign policy, marijuana legalization, global warming, and political gridlock.

    In the new edition of the children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies, originally published in 1989, Heather’s two moms are wearing rings on their left hands. Leslea Newman explained to the AP: “”I don’t specifically say that they’re married but they are.”

    Jack White’s publishing venture, Third Man Books, just signed with the distributor Consortium. They’re set to publish three books this year, including Hidden Water, a collection of work by the late poet Frank Stanford: unpublished poems, and facsimiles of Stanford’s drafts, letters, and art.

    Millennials consume more news than they’re purported to, according to a study by the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research—sixty-nine percent access some type of news every day. They just get to it in different ways than the generations above them. Rather than going directly to news providers for it, “news and information are woven into an often continuous but mindful way that Millennials connect to the world generally, which mixes news with social connection, problem solving, social action, and entertainment.” Only half report being online most or all day.

    At the London Review of Books, Kristen Dombek reviews Kim Gordon’s memoir: “If rock stars’ memoirs are supposed to reify our fantasy that artistic stardom can provide you with a ‘suspended adulthood,’ as she puts it, [Gordon] refuses to comply. This is a book about the very adult problem of having worked so hard at an artistic career that you can wake up to accidentally see a text message on your spouse’s phone and find your cities, your industry and your marriage irrevocably changed, all at the same time, in such a way that to sort out what is what, what you have done to get here, can ‘make your brain split open.’ ”

    In other rock ‘n’ roll—publishing news, Carrie Brownstein’s memoir, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, is coming out in October. The book ends with Sleater-Kinney going on hiatus in 2005.

  • 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.