• February 23, 2015

    Today, Kate Bennett starts her new job at Politico as a DC gossip columnist.

    Last week in Mother Jones, David Corn and Daniel Schulman asserted that Bill O’Reilly—who has devoted time on his show to attack Brian Williams for his deceptions—may have misrepresented his own experiences during the Falklands war in 1982. “For years, O’Reilly has recounted dramatic stories about his own war reporting that don’t withstand scrutiny—even claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in.” O’Reilly has tried to discredit the story on his show, and on his blog he wrote: “David Corn is a guttersnipe liar.” But the scrutiny of O’Reilly has persisted; a Facebook post by Eric Jon Engberg, who was an NBC news correspondent for 27 years, “calls into question several of O’Reilly’s statements about the reporting—and O’Reilly’s subsequent recollections of it.”

    Eula Biss

    Eula Biss

    Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has selected Eula Biss’s On Immunity, a meditation on vaccines that draws on scientific and literary sources, for his new book club. Biss’s publisher, Graywolf, is anticipating a boost in sales, and already sent the book back to press for another printing.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates has written a moving and evocative appreciation of his friend and onetime editor David Carr.

    Margaret Sullivan writes that the the media business is a “subject that the Times needs to own.” Following the sudden death of David Carr, she writes, “the Times must not only replenish its media desk but must also think about how to replace one of its brightest stars.” (And then goes on to offer an aside: “Has The Times’s attention to Mr. Carr’s death been a tad over the top, even including a posthumous “last column,” constructed using the syllabus from his college course, with a ghostly byline that read “with David Carr”?”)

    Publishers Weekly reports on last week’s panel discussion “After Charlie: What’s Next for Art, Satire, and Censorship.” The speakers included Molly Crabapple, who noted that cartooning still has “the power to inflame because it is visceral and irritates authoritarian assholes,” and Art Spiegleman, who, bemoaning “the decline of challenging political cartooning in the US,” noted that “American newspapers are afraid to lose any readers.”

  • February 20, 2015

    The New York Times is trying to shift the emphasis internally from the front page of the print newspaper to the paper’s digital platforms. The paper will continue its traditional morning meetings, but rather than focusing on which stories will make the front page of the next day’s print edition, editors and writers will “compete for the best digital, rather than print, real estate.”

    During the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Vice Media founder Shane Smith spent $300,000 on a meal at the Bellagio steakhouse, for a group of somewhere between twelve and twenty-five guests. He’d been playing blackjack—and winning (reportedly, to the tune of $100,000).

    The Morning News presents the tournament brackets and schedule for its 2015 Tournament of Books. The first two books facing off, on March 5, are David Mitchell’s Bone Clocks and Ariel Schrag’s Adam. The poet Matthea Harvey will judge.

    The New York Times Magazine has dedicated its relaunch issue to David Carr: “There is no one we hoped to impress more each week than The Times’s veteran media critic, who was a mentor and a friend to many on our staff. His passion for journalism, his courage and his sense of mischief were—and remain—an inspiration to us all.” Here’s editor Jake Silverstein’s explanation of the changes he’s instituted. “This isn’t an obligatory exercise in multiplatform brand leveraging,” he insists, “or the beginning of our descent into soul-deadening content farming.” There will be a poem every week, a section called Letter of Recommendation, in which a writer endorses some favorite thing—a book, a band—and the Lives column, which was historically a first-person account, will now feature stories told to a reporter.

    In still more news from the Times, Noam Scheiber will succeed Steven Greenhouse as full-time labor reporter.


  • February 19, 2015

    The Columbia Journalism Review looks at the stats of the New Republic exodus: Where did the people who left go? What are the demographics of those replaced them? There are now five people of color and ten women on staff (out of twenty-one people altogether). Among the thirty-five former staffers, there were zero people of color and thirteen women. CJR also tallies how many of the current staff have ivy league degrees: Nine do, twelve do not. The balance has switched; formerly, nineteen did and sixteen did not.

    The publishing company Open Road has just launched Factory Books, a collection of books about Andy Warhol and other Factory personalities, many of which have been out of print. Titles include Candy Darling’s Memoirs of a Warhol Superstar and Wayne Koestenbaum’s astounding Andy Warhol: A Biography.

    Zadie Smith describes her early attempts to keep a diary: “I was never able to block from my mind a possible audience, and this ruined it for me: It felt like homework.” Since 1996, her daily life has mainly been recorded elsewhere, in her email: “Like most people (I should think) a personal nightmare of mine is the idea of anybody wandering around inside that account, reading whatever they please, passing judgment. At the same time, when I am dead, if my children want to know what I was like in the daily sense, not as a writer, not as a more-or-less presentable person, but simply the foolish human being behind it all, they’d be wise to look there.”

    Noah Warren

    Noah Warren

    Noah Warren has won the Yale Series of Younger Poets award.

    A never-before-published Dr. Seuss book—What Pet Should I Get?will be out in July. Thought to be written and illustrated at some point between 1958 and 1962, the book was discovered in 2013 in the office of the late Ted Geisel—aka Dr. Seuss—after he died.

  • February 18, 2015

    Faber has announced that it is ending its partnership with Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Mitzi Angel, Faber’s publisher since 2008, will remain with FSG, as will many Faber titles, such as Ben Lerner’s 10:04 and David Bellos’s A Fish in Your Ear.

    Atticus Lish

    Atticus Lish

    Atticus Lish—whose debut novel, Preparation for the Next Life, was released last year by Tyrant books—has won the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize.

    The New York Times is in search of a finance editor for its T Brand Studio. According to the job listing, “T Brand Studio is a fast-growing team of energetic writers, content strategists, videographers, designers and developers creating branded content across all of The New York Times’ advertiser verticals…. The Finance Editor will work in concert with a team of other editors/writers, and will lead editorial production for multiple branded content projects.”

    The Washington Post has an in-depth look at how one of Harper Lee’s unfinished manuscripts became a To Kill A Mockingbird sequel. “By all the known facts, it’s an uneven first draft of the famous novel that was never considered for publication,” Neely Tucker reports, noting that friends of Lee have raised concerns about the decision to publish the long-lost book because Lee’s memory is now in decline.

    In a recent interview, Jonathan Franzen takes on Jennifer Weiner: “She is asking for a respect that not just male reviewers, but female reviewers, don’t think her work merits. To me it seems she’s freeloading on the legitimate problem of gender bias in the canon.”

    Mary Norris details her tenure as the “comma queen” of the New Yorker’s copy desk, explaining how great writers could be the most occupationally hazardous:  “It was hard to stay alert for opportunities to meddle in an immaculate manuscript, yet if you missed something you couldn’t use that as an excuse.”

  • February 17, 2015

    Since the Charlie Hebdo attack, Voltaire’s Treatise on Tolerance (1763) is selling out in Paris. Almost half as many copies have been sold over the last three weeks as have sold over the last twelve years.

    “People read without sharing, but just as often, perhaps, they share without reading.” At the Atlantic, Derek Thompson uses Twitter analytics to investigate how likely it is that tweets bring traffic to websites, and discovers that click-through rates—not to mention rates of people who actually read stories—are very, very low. Overall, in fact, it seems that Twitter is sending less than 2 percent of its users to other websites. The vast majority stay inside the app.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    The Polk Awards in Journalism have been announced. Among the winners is Ta-Nehisi Coates, who received the award for commentary for his Atlantic story  “The Case for Reparations.” Coates dedicated his award to the David Carr, the Times journalist who died last week.

    Princeton has inherited twenty-five hundred rare books, about three hundred million dollars worth, from an alum. The bequest includes a 1455 Gutenberg bible and and original printing of the Declaration of Independence.

    The New York Times Magazine will reveal its redesign next week. Among the changes is the news that Chuck Klosterman is stepping down from his role as The Ethicist. The column will continue “in a different format,” Jake Silverstein, the editor in chief, said. Silverstein has already made numerous changes since he took over, including dropping the One Page Magazine section.

    At the New Yorker, Zadie Smith profiles the comedy duo Key and Peele, whose sketches often take race as a subject, and reflects on race as a category. “To fondly identify a community,” Smith points out, “you have to think of its members collectively; you need to think the same way to hate them. The only thing a rabbi and an anti-Semite may share is their belief in the collective identity ‘Jewishness.’” She quotes Peele: “You never want to be the whitest-sounding black guy in a room.”


  • February 16, 2015

    Former US poet laureate Philip Levine, the winner of a Pulitzer prize and two National Book Awards, died on Saturday at age 87. Levine, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, was born in Detroit, and many of his poems were inspired by the city’s auto factories and working-class families.

    On Friday, Dan Lyons announced that he will be leaving his post as the editor of Gawker media’s Valley Wag, though he claims he may still contribute to the site. Lyon cites his new book deal as one reason that he’s leaving the position: He just sold Disrupted, “a memoir of my ridiculous attempt to reinvent myself and start a new career as a marketing person inside a software company during the second tech bubble.”

    At the Guardian, author Alex Preston describes his experiences as a participant at the Karachi literary festival. “There are obvious security challenges in organising a literary festival in a country where people get killed for the things they write. Only a few months before my arrival, the dean of Islamic studies at Karachi University, Shakeel Auj, was assassinated for daring to suggest in one of his books that Muslim women ought, like their men, to be able to marry outside their religion.” Indeed security was tight—Preston rides in an armored car, and waves to a security sniper watching over the festival. But as Ameena Saiyed OBE, the founder of the KLF tells him: “I think it’s very important to prove that Karachi is open for business. We want people to feel that Karachi is more than just bombs. And the answer to bombs is books.”

    Jeff Bridges has been cast to play the role of Murray Thwaite in the film adaptation of Claire Messud’s novel The Emperor’s Children.

    Jonathan Franzen

    Jonathan Franzen

    Booth journal has posted a new interview with Jonathan Franzen, and the annoyed responses are already rolling in. Franzen says: “Most of what people read, if you go to the bookshelf in the airport convenience store and look at what’s there, even if it doesn’t have a YA on the spine, is YA in its moral simplicity.” To which Flavorwire’s Sarah Seltzer replies: “it’s my belief that the best, most popular YA and genre novels are very directly concerned with morality in a way that literary fiction has all but abandoned. I’m talking epic, Shakespearean moral sweep, less about good vs. evil and more about characters facing big, fatal choices and impossible dilemmas with very high stakes.”

  • February 13, 2015

    AF BF Foreign Affairs 2.15Tonight at 6 p.m. Bookforum hosts its annual Valentine’s Day reading at the New Museum. Clancy Martin, Laura Kipnis, Lynne Tillman, Paul Beatty, and Joseph O’Neill will read selections on the theme of “Foreign Affairs.” Should be sexy! The event is free, but please RSVP to foreignaffairs@bookforum.com to get on the list.

    Lester Holt has temporarily replaced Brian Williams, as NBC discusses whether to allow Williams to return; Holt may continue on in Williams’s place.

    In the New York Review of Books, Francine Prose suggests that the controversy surrounding the historical inaccuracy of films such as Selma or The Imitation Game stems from their subject matter: “It’s so much easier and less threatening to talk about whether (or how much) a film is ‘true’ than to confront the unpleasant-and indisputable-truth: that racial and sexual prejudice have persisted so long past the historical eras in which these films are set.”

    Ellis Jones has been named Vice’s new editor in chief. She will be the first female EIC in the magazine’s twenty-year history.

    The Awl responds to the truism that anybody who doesn’t “need” to be writer shouldn’t bother. But nobody needs it: “If you have somehow managed to pull off being a writer I congratulate you on a successful scam, but you more than anyone should know how little need comes into play.” Also, in an advice column, Choire Sicha considers the pros and cons of settling for a well-paid job in publicity over being a badly paid writer: “What are you gonna do, spurn opportunities that make you happy because capital is so shitty? Well, capitalism isn’t getting less shitty while you’re alive.”

    An Egyptian court has granted bail to two Al Jazeera journalists, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy.

    At the New York Times, Jon Ronson describes the aftermath of a single tweet: a (racist) joke Justine Sacco made in late 2013 as she left for a trip to South Africa. When Sacco tweeted the joke, she had 170 followers. Her flight was eleven hours long. When she arrived in Cape Town, she was trending in the number-one spot on Twitter, and a hashtag had emerged: #HasJustineLandedYet. Ronson investigates what happened to Sacco over the course of the following year.

  • February 12, 2015

    Jon Stewart announced Tuesday night that he’ll be leaving the Daily Show. For our editor Chris Lehmann, writing at Al Jazeera, Stewart was at his best skewering the Bush administration; since then the show has felt “increasingly rudderless.” (Lehmann may not be sad to see Stewart go, but book publicists are devastated. Stewart sells a lot of books.) Meanwhile, NBC suspended Brian Williams without pay. Should the Williams and Stewart switch jobs?

    Richard Price intended his new novel to be slick and commercial and take him no more than four months to write. It took him four years. He was going to publish it under a pseudonym. Instead the byline reads “Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt.” “I still have to do things for money,” he told the Times. “But all I want to do is write novels.”

    PEN World Voices will focus its festival this year on literature from the African diaspora. Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is helping to organize the program.

    Darpa—the military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency—is developing a search engine aimed at the dark web.

    Gary Shteyngart’s novel Super Sad True Love Story is being made into a TV show. We would tell you more details than that if we could decode the news story announcing the fact. Apparently Media Rights Capital is “looking to Ben Stiller” for the show. Can anyone translate?


  • February 11, 2015

    Five years ago, Peter Thiel gave twenty-four young people (twenty-two men and two women—never mind Title IX) a hundred thousand dollars each to leave college. The Chronicle of Higher Education checks in with nine of them to see what the former students did with the funding. More than a few went back to college, but with an altered perspective on its value. One of the women returned to Princeton and left again just one credit shy of her degree. “The only thing I haven’t done is fulfill the arbitrary requirements,” she says. The most important aspect of the fellowship, most report, wasn’t the money or the freedom but the connections. Seems like a distinction without a difference: Having money usually leads to connections, doesn’t it? And it’s rather harder to get them without it.

    Rupert Murdoch and his new puppy PHOTO: Murdoch Here/Tumblr

    Rupert Murdoch and his new puppy                        (Photo: Murdoch Here/Tumblr)

    Rupert Murdoch got a new puppy. (For the record, Bookforum does not endorse the anti-cat comment at the bottom of this article.)

    At the London Review of Books, Elaine Blair writes about Ben Lerner, who, she says, “uses standard comic situations (drunkenness, lechery, lies and misunderstandings, ineffectual strutting and preening) to portray a particular kind of contemporary clown: the extensively educated man with all the advantages who has stretched his youth into his twenties, then his thirties, evading conventional professional responsibilities and deferring personal ones.”

    Tablet has announced they’ll start charging people to comment on their stories. Editor Alana Newhouse explains: “Instead of shutting off comments altogether (as some outlets are starting to do), we are going to try something else: Ask those of you who’d like to comment on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation.”

    CyberCaliphate, a group claiming to have ties to ISIS, hacked Newsweek’s Twitter yesterday. The hack only lasted fifteen minutes, but the group tweeted several times. The group has also hacked the Twitter accounts of the United States Central Command, the International Business Times, and Taylor Swift.

    At Slate, members of the magazine’s audio book club—Parul Seghal, David Haglund, and Katy Waldman—discuss the wide appeal of Elena Ferrante. Bookforum associate editor Emily Cooke wrote about Ferrante in our Dec/Jan issue.

    In the “spirit of transparency,” The Verge reports, Jeb Bush has published the names, emails, and private messages—some of which contained home addresses and social security numbers—of thousand of constituents who contacted him while he was in office.

  • February 10, 2015

    The New York Times looks into allegations that Harper Lee was pressured into publishing Go Set A Watchman, the “parent” novel, written in the mid-1950s, of To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee’s lawyer, Tonja Carter, has persistently denied the rumors. Her story is corroborated by some, including a friend of Lee’s who visited her last summer. “Tonja has the full confidence of Nelle,” the friend told the Times. “And I can say with confidence that Tonja would not do anything that Nelle would not want her to do.” Isn’t it fishy, though, that all communications of Lee’s feelings about the book come through Carter?

    VIDA, which publishes an annual report describing the representation of women in the media, is expanding its count this year to include women of color. The organization will email all the women it counts with a survey asking them to self-identity, if they so choose, and describe whether they consider themselves to be “aided or impeded” by their race or ethnicity.

    Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

    Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

    The shortlist for the Folio Prize, which is based in England but doesn’t require the writers it judges to be from there, names Ali Smith, Ben Lerner, Colm Tóibín, Rachel Cusk, Jenny Offill, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Akhil Sharma, and Miriam Toews.

    The final Sunday issue of the Wall Street Journal appeared last weekend. The section is closing for financial reasons, explained the editor, David Crook, in an announcement on Saturday: “Advertisers are abandoning broad, middle-market media.”

    Vox and Buzzfeed are both publishing their first interviews with President Obama. Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias conducted Vox’s interview, which appeared yesterday. The editor in chief of Buzzfeed, Ben Smith, will talk to the president today.