• September 19, 2014

    On Tuesday the Guardian’s weekday paper launched a new longreads section, headed up by Jonathan Shainin, previously at the New Yorker. The “Journal,” as it is called, will include opinion and reviews together with features of three to five thousand words. Among the section’s first pieces is a profile of the Uruguayan president, José Mujica, an adherent of what the writer, Giles Tremlett, calls a “soft, pragmatic socialism.”

    At the New York Times Magazine, John Jeremiah Sullivan profiles Donald Antrim, whose new collection of stories, The Emerald Light in the Air, just came out. What distinguishes Antrim from the school of writers he’s usually associated with (DFW, George Saunders, the Jonathans Lethem and Franzen, David Means, Jeffrey Eugenides), Sullivan argues, is the unredeemed nature of his characters. “Antrim’s fictional universe is different. It doesn’t bend toward justice, not even the kind that knows there is none but sort of hopes art can provide absolution. His universe bends — it is defi­nitely bent — but always toward greater absurdity (in both funny and frightening guises).” Amie Barrodale interviewed Antrim for Bookforum back in 2012.

    Over at the LRB, Andrew O’Hagan reviews Glenn Greenwald’s No Place to Hide, in which, O’Hagan reports, “Greenwald hops from anxiety to anxiety, and spends quite a bit of time objecting to the Guardian’s ideas.” O’Hagan notes some “glory-hunting” on Greenwald’s part, but he is on the whole admiring: Greenwald “emerges from his own book as a very necessary kind of reporter in these times, someone who, no matter what his motivations, was able to withstand the hostile fire coming at him from members of his own profession.”

    Ariana Reines

    Ariana Reines

    An interview with the pseudonymous translator of a new translation of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s A Sentimental Novel, which the interviewer describes as “a compendium of . . . sadistic fantasies”—to be more precise, two hundred and thirty-nine numbered paragraphs describing a fourteen-year-old girl’s violent sexual initiation—explains the translator’s decision to remain anonymous as “unrelated to the possible reactions it might elicit in the United States or other English-speaking countries. It was, rather, necessitated by personal reasons having to do with my travels to parts of the world where association with the material could put me at risk.” Dalkey published the book earlier this year.

    Ben Lerner calls the poet Ariana Reines a “go-for-broke artist who honors her traditions by being like no one else.” Of Lerner, Reines says that whenever she hangs out with him she wishes “it could go on for infinity.” At Bomb, the two converse.


  • September 18, 2014


    Alison Bechdel

    Alison Bechdel

    The MacArthur awards have been announced. Among the writers are Alison Bechdel, author of the illustrated memoirs Fun Home and Are You My Mother?; Samuel D. Hunter, who wrote the play The Whale; and Terrance Hayes, a poet.

    The 2014 National Book Awards nonfiction longlist names Anand Gopal, Walter Isaacson, Edward O. Wilson, Evan Osnos, and John Lahr, among others. Notably, only one book written by a woman makes the list of ten: Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?. Chast’s nomination is notable for another reason too: This is the first time a cartoonist has been among the nonfiction selections.

    Scottish people are voting today on a referendum that could lead to Scotland becoming an independent country. J.K. Rowling and Denise Mina are against the referendum, the LA Times reports. Rowling explains: “If we leave, though, there will be no going back. This separation will not be quick and clean: it will take microsurgery to disentangle three centuries of close interdependence, after which we will have to deal with three bitter neighbours.” A. L. Kennedy, Irvine Welsh, and Val McDermid, on the other hand, are all in favor: “Yes is the progressive vote,” Kennedy says. “It continues the vast expression of disillusion that produced a landslide protest vote for Scotland’s only non-Westminster party.”

    The HarperCollins imprint Ecco has acquired the forthcoming book ISIS: The State of Terror, coauthored by Jessica Stern (Denial: A Memoir of Terror,Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill) and J.M. Berger (Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam). The book—which will not only report on ISIS’s history but also explore international responses to the group—will be published in January of 2015.

    Three months after becoming SPIN’s editor in chief, Craig Marks has parted ways with the publication.

    In another change of the guard, the editor in chief of the New Republic, Chris Hughes, has announced that he is stepping down. Hughes will become executive chairman instead, and stay on as publisher. No one will be appointed editor in chief in his place; instead, Franklin Foer will handle editorial content and strategy in his current capacity as editor. Hughes has hired Guy Vidra as the magazine’s first CEO.


  • September 17, 2014

    The Nieman Journalism Lab considers n+1’s history, on the occasion of the magazine’s tenth anniversary. n+1 has survived for a decade through a variety of strategies, the editors report, including “a model for parties that we’ve never changed.”

    Cara Parks joins Modern Farmer as executive editor. Parks has been freelancing since 2013; before that, she worked at the Huffington Post and Foreign Policy. Modern Farmer is based in Hudson, New York; Parks is in the process of moving.

    Martin Amis’s new novel, Zone of Interest, is a comedy set in a concentration camp in
    World War II, and, according to the New York Times, European publishers are feeling weird about it. Amis’s usual German publisher, Carl Hanser Verlag, said that the main character was too sympathetic to Nazism. (Never mind that the character is an SS officer.) The French publisher Gallimard, who also refused the book, claims they did so on literary grounds—the novel simply “wasn’t convincing.”

    Gawker has signed a fifteen-year lease on a large office on 5th Avenue in Manhattan (a $75 million commitment over the life of the lease, assuming they don’t back out in year ten, which the lease agreement gives them an opportunity to do). The company will occupy two floors of the building and sublet a third to another business until it’s ready to take it over.


    Laura Poitras

    Laura Poitras

    Mark Ruffalo is hanging out at the Boston Globe in preparation for his role as an investigative reporter in the movie Spotlight.

    Laura Poitras’s documentary about Edward Snowden, Citizenfour, has debuted at the New York Film Festival.

  • September 16, 2014

    White dudes

    White dudes

    At New York Magazine’s blog, Annie Lowrey criticizes the tendency to imagine “media disruptors” as always white and male. Why does it happen? “First, founders are disproportionately white dudes. Second, white dudes are disproportionately encouraged to become founders. Third, white dudes are disproportionately recognized as founders.” We seem to associate management with maleness; whiteness, too. Lowrey suggests combating the problem from the bottom up, by sourcing a more diverse pool of people when hiring interns and populating panels. (While we’re at it, can we stop calling people, male and female alike, “media disruptors”?)

    In the 98.33 hours it would take to read Game of Thrones, you could read The Age of Innocence (5.62 hours), The Odyssey (6.62 hours), Madame Bovary (8.43 hours), Anna Karenina (19.43 hours), Don Quixote (21.72 hours), and War and Peace (32.63 hours). An infographic illustrates the time it takes to read popular books.

    E-books of poetry are finally better able to preserve the formatting of printed books. John Ashbery, upon learning three years ago that four e-book versions of his poetry had lost the appropriate formatting, withdrew the titles. Now he’s giving digital publishing another shot: Last week, Open Road published seventeen of his titles electronically. Ashbery says they are “very faithful” to the original layouts.

    Ben Lerner will be appearing tonight at the New York Public Library. Christian Lorentzen reviewed Lerner’s new book, 10:04, in the fall issue of Bookforum; Alexander Benaim recently interviewed the writer. “I’m increasingly aware that the story I tell about how a book comes to be is just another fiction,” Lerner told Benaim. “I mean it’s something I invent, however involuntarily, alongside the book or after it.”

    It’s difficult to organize an event for a writer who insists on staying anonymous, as the celebrated Elena Ferrante has. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, the most recent installment in the Italian writer’s Neapolitan series, has just come out. Manhattan’s Center for Fiction brings Ann Goldstein, Roxana Robinson, and Stacey D’Erasmo together to discuss Ferrante’s work.

    At the NYRB blog, Tim Parks describes being driven mad by the task of preparing footnotes for the book he is working on. Footnotes are still necessary for books that only exist in paper (and about which no information appears online), but such books are now few and far between. “Why not wipe the slate clean, start again, and find the simplest possible protocol for ensuring that a reader can check a quotation,” he pleads. “Doing so we would probably free up three or four days a year in every academic’s life.”

  • September 15, 2014

    Slavoj Zizek

    Slavoj Zizek

    Last week, the New York Times issued a letter claiming that Slavoj Zizek plagiarized himself in his Op-Ed “ISIS Is a True Disgrace to Fundamentalism,” which ran in the paper on September 3. According the the Times retraction, the Op-Ed recycles entire passages from Zizek’s 2008 book Violence. But now it seems the Times has withdrawn the retraction: It’s nowhere to be found on the paper’s website.

    The dean of the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism has proposed that students pay $10,250 a year in addition to their annual tuition, which is approximately $15K for in-state students and $31K for out-of-staters. “Our students will pay more,” writes dean Ed Wasserman in a memo, “but they’ll benefit as well.”

    Geoff Dyer wishes the Man Booker Prize had been open to American writers in 1982. If it had, he argues, the prize certainly would have gone to Don DeLillo’s “prophetic, pre-9/11 masterpiece,” The Names. Martin Amis thinks DeLillo would have won yet another Booker had he been eligible: with White Noise (1985).

    Today, the Financial Times will unveil its first redesign in seven years. “Between the lines,” writes Tom McGeveran at Capital New York, “it’s possible to read an idea that’s been inching forward among quality broadsheet newspapers in recent years: the primacy of digital for delivering hard news.” Meanwhile, this weekend, the Guardian unveiled its own new format, which includes a completely redesigned Weekend magazine, a brand new ‘Journal’ section featuring long reads, and a generally refreshed look and feel.”

    Digital First Media is in the process of deciding the strategies for its future, which could involve the sale of “some or all of the company’s news products, which include 76 daily papers and 160 weekly publications,” including the Denver Post and the San Jose Mercury News.

  • September 12, 2014

    Alan Moore

    Alan Moore

    Alan Moore, the author of V for Vendetta, has finished a million-word novel. “I’m not averse to some kind of ebook, eventually,” he said. “As long as I get my huge, cripplingly heavy book to put on my shelf and gloat over, I’ll be happy.”

    Spin Media laid off nineteen employees and ended the print magazine Vibe, which it acquired last year.

    James Franco’s latest book, Hollywood Dreaming, drops this month. It’s a collection of poems, short stories, and paintings that describe the evolution of his career in Hollywood.

    Guernica has a new column about politics and fiction. The first columnist is Rob Spillman of Tin House, who discusses David Mitchell’s Bone Clocks and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. Spillman is hard on Mitchell: “There are so many compelling characters and wonderful turns of phrase, yet they are lost in a self-indulgent stew.” James Camp reviewed Mitchell for Bookforum

    At the New York Review of Books, Michael Gorra on Michel Pastoureau’s book about the color green. The meaning of the color depends on its use, Pastoureau argues. As Gorra explains, for Pastoureau “the history of color is indeed a history and not a kind of allegory in which each hue carries a fixed and single burden.” Pastoureau has previously written on blue and black.

  • September 11, 2014

    Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, both made into plays in London, may come to the New York stage as well. Broadway producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel are in talks with producers in London, with plans to mount Wolf Hall: Parts 1 and 2 in the spring.

    The New Inquiry’s September issue is called “Back to School.” Read the editor’s note here.


    Rahel Aima

    Rahel Aima

    Rahel Aima has joined TNI as a contributing editor.

    At the New Yorker’s Page-Turner, Elif Batuman considers the shift, over the past decade, from irony to awkwardness, and decides that all awkwardness is at bottom familial. “Awkward moments remind us that we are never isolated individuals, and that we are seldom correct when we say, ‘Not in my name.’ Awkward moments are, by definition, relatable.

    Poynter adds a handful of names to Vanity Fair’s unnecessarily white and male list of “media disruptors”—a “new breed of journo-entrepreneurs” that “strike out on their own.” Poynter suggests Shani Hilton, of Buzzfeed, Raju Narisetti of NewsCorp, Nitasha Tiku of ValleyWag, and Melissa Bell of Vox, among others.

    At the Millions, Cathy Day describes advising a deluded prospective creative writing major about her future. “If what you love is reading,” Day says to the student, “why don’t you major in literature?”  “Because creative writing is more practical.”

  • September 10, 2014

    Forbes has compiled a list of the highest-earning writers this year. James Patterson is in first place, earning $90 million. Gillian Flynn, the author of the “literary thriller” Gone Girl, is in 12th place, at $9 million.

    The shortlist for the Man Booker Prize has been announced, and includes Joshua Ferris, Richard Flanagan, Karen Joy Fowler, Howard Jacobson, Neel Mukherjee, and Ali Smith.

    A hacker claims to have taken over the email account of Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto, and is promises to release Nakamoto’s “secrets” if someone will pay him 25 bitcoins, or $12,000. A head administrator at Bitcoin says the hacker is likely just “some troll in it for the laughs.”

    John Cheever's house

    John Cheever’s house

    Susan Cheever, John Cheever’s daughter, takes A.N. Devers on a walk through her father’s house in Ossining, New York. John Cheever bought the house—which was built in 1795 and rebuilt in the 1930s—in 1961. It is the only house he ever owned. “I pray that our life in the new house will be peaceful and full,” Cheever wrote soon after. “I pray to be absolved of my foolishness and to be returned to the liveliness, the acuteness of feeling, that seems to be my best approach to things.” The house is now for sale for $450,000.

    McSweeney’s Internet Tendency is holding a contest to find new columnists for the website. Submissions should a description of the writer’s vision for the column, a sample column, brief descriptions of additional columns, and a biographical note.

  • September 9, 2014

    Jenny Diski

    Jenny Diski

    Jenny Diski, one of the London Review of Books’ best critics, has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. The lovely and devastating first installment of what will be a regular diary about her illness describes the “pre-ordained banality” that comes along with the diagnosis, and the difficulty of writing about a subject whose outlines are so oppressively familiar. “I can’t avoid the cancer clichés simply by rejecting them,” she realizes. “Rejection is conditioned by and reinforces the existence of the thing I want to avoid. I choose how to respond and behave, but a choice between doing this or that, being this or that, really isn’t freedom of action, it’s just picking one’s way through an already drawn flow chart. They still sit there, to be taken or left, the flashing neon markers on the road that I would like to think isn’t there for me to be travelling down.”

    Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavitz, and Leanne Shapton talk about the book they’ve recently edited, Women in Clothes, which, as Julavitz explains, originated in a simple premise: “Clothing is a daily fact we can’t avoid. That being the case, how do women decide what to put on their bodies?”

    Former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has a book deal. The as-yet untitled memoir will come out in Fall 2015, and will include Kelly’s “thoughts on the challenges faced by law enforcement.

    The American Reader has announced that it will cease publishing online. The magazine, which began in 2012, will devote all its resources to its bimonthly print publication. This decision has something to do with the low traffic the website receives—about 75,000 unique monthly visitors, which is not enough to merit measurement by certain analytics firms. The print run is 6,000.

    The executive editor of Politico has resigned, citing disagreements not about the publication’s goals but about the right strategy to achieve them.

    Twitter is testing buttons that will allow users to directly buy products through the app, the New York Times reports. The buttons will be available first only on mobile versions of the app and will be incorporated more widely later. Facebook introduced a “buy” button in July. Pinterest, too, is trying to make it easier to buy through their website.

  • September 8, 2014

    Benny Johnson, the Buzzfeed staffer who was fired for plagiarism this summer, has been hired as a social media director at the National Review.

    At the New York Review of Books blog, Masha Gessen has posted an interesting essay about Russia’s recent population dip. In the past two decades, the number of people has fallen by almost seven million people (5 percent). The main cause is lower life expectancy. But why are Russians dying at an earlier age now than they were during Soviet rule? Is it violence, vodka, “lack of hope”?

    Poynter points out an error in the New York Times’s Joan Rivers obit. Romanesko (and the St. Peters Blog), in turn, points to an error in a Rivers obit run by the the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times.

    In the American Reader, William J. Maxwell writes about the FBI’s attempts, in the 1950s, to discourage bookstores form carrying titles that criticized the agency. The Bureau at the time apparently had significant influence over some of the big publishing houses, and kept files on a number of authors, particularly African-American writers such as A Raisin in the Sun playwright Lorraine Hansberry.

    Margaret Atwood

    Margaret Atwood

    Margaret Atwood is the first author to agree to contribute to the Future Library project, which will collect 100 titles, all of which will be locked away for 100 years and released in 2114.

    Ian McEwan reflects on the court cases that inspired his latest novel, The Children Ace, including a 2000 case regarding the proposed separation of Siamese twins.

    The winners of this year’s Rona Jaffe Awards, granted to emerging women writers, have been announced.