• January 23, 2015

    The Economist has hired Zanny Minton Beddoes as editor. Formerly the business affairs editor, she’s the first woman to be in charge at the magazine.

    The New Yorker rounds up its coverage of authors named as 2014 NBCC award finalists (announced Monday), including work by Blake Bailey, Roz Chast, and Elizabeth Kolbert; reviews of Claudia Rankine, Marilynne Robinson, and John Lahr; and criticism by Alexandra Schwartz.

    The NYPD is more closely monitoring the city’s media outlets in the wake of recent attacks in Paris.

    At Artforum, John Ashbery remembers the painter Jane Freilicher, who died last month at the age of 90. Jane was the first person Ashbery met in New York. “Her pictures seem to have come into being all by themselves—almost. The painter sort of showed them how to do it and then returned to her other work—fixing lunch, maybe, opening the mail, and coming back to check on the picture and make sure it hasn’t gone off the rails. The resulting creations look unfinished and incredibly strong.”

    Barrett Brown

    Barrett Brown

    ISIS is supposedly working on a TV channel, to broadcast news 24/7. An Arabic-language teaser appeared last week advertising a channel called the Islamic Caliphate Broadcast. It has since disappeared.

    The journalist Barrett Brown has been sentenced to sixty-three months in prison, after pleading guilty to a variety of charges related to his involvement with the hacking group Anonymous. In a statement to the court, Brown said he regretted having hidden computers from FBI agents and having made videos that threatened an agent who was investigating him. He said he had compromised his role as a journalist when he got in touch with a security firm with an offer to redact material from a 2011 hack, in order to distract the focus from the hacker Jeremy Hammond. But Brown’s expressions of regret, The Intercept reports, came alongside “sharp rebukes of the federal government and the private security firms targeted by the hacks.”

  • January 22, 2015

    Thomas Pynchon, 1953

    Thomas Pynchon, 1953

    Does Thomas Pynchon make a cameo in the movie version of Pynchon’s novel Inherent Vice? Josh Brolin said so; Paul Thomas Anderson wouldn’t confirm. But take a look at this clip, which includes a scene in a hospital for recovering drug addicts. At 00:57, you’ll see an older male patient being served soup. Now look at Pynchon’s 1953 yearbook photo, to the right. The angle perfectly reveals the resemblance: There’s the overbite, the receding chin . . .  Hi Tom.

    Five more high-level New Republic  employees—including the design director, the production director, and the communications director—resigned from the magazine over the past week. Meanwhile, TNR is one by one filling the positions abandoned during December’s mass exodus. Jamil Smith and Elspeth Reeve have been named as senior editors, Bijan Stephen as associate editor, and Cathy Park Hong as poetry editor.

    Buzzfeed, king of the listicles, recommends that its staff use the word list instead.

    Phillippe Lançon, a witness and survivor of the attacks, describes “the horribly silent minute that came after the departure of the killers with the black legs.” In a statement to the French magazine Libération, translated and reprinted on the New York Review of Books blog, Lançon recalls that day’s editorial meeting: “It so happens that at that last meeting the subject of debate was none other than French jihadists. Tignous [one of the murdered cartoonists] was by no means defending them but, true kid of the banlieues and survivor of poverty that he was, he wondered just what France had actually done to avoid creating these furious monsters, and launched into a magnificent rant on behalf of these latter-day misérables.”

    Genius collaborated with PolitiFact to annotate Tuesday’s State of the Union address, rating Obama’s statements for their factuality.



  • January 21, 2015

    At n+1, Alicia Garza, one of the organizers (along with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi) behind #blacklivesmatter, talks about how the hashtag was born and where the movement is heading. Garza recounts her reaction to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin: “A lot of what I was hearing and seeing on social media was that they were never going to charge somebody and convict somebody of killing a black child. My thing was: I’m not satisfied with that. I’m not satisfied with the ‘I told you so’ and I’m not satisfied with the nihilistic ‘it’ll never happen’ kind of thing.”

    The National Book Critics Circle has announced its finalists in six categories, along with its three annual awards, with Toni Morrison picking up the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, Alexandra Schwartz winning the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, and Phil Klay earning the Leonard Prize for an outstanding first book, awarded for his short-story collection Redeployment. Notable finalists include Claudia Rankine for Citizen: An American Lyric, nominated in both the “Poetry” and “Criticism” category (the first time a book has been considered in two genres); Lynne Tillman for her collection of essays, What Would Lynne TIllman Do?; Marlon James for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings; Thomas Piketty for his economics tome, Capital in the Twenty-First Century; and Marilynne Robinson for her novel Lila.

    Simon & Schuster will soon be offering online video courses for a fee, taught by authors who have an established following and, as the New York Times puts it, a “well-defined philosophy or message.”

    Paris wants to sue Fox News for comments it made about Muslim “no-go” zones in the city. The network is undoubtedly deserving of a good lawsuit of some sort, but this one will be unlikely to get very far. In the US, governmental bodies can’t sue for defamation; Paris has no jurisdiction over American news outlets; and of course the First Amendment.

    The (controversial and really bad if occasionally funny) movie The Interview made $40 million dollars in online revenue, Sony reports, though it’s not clear whether it will be profitable, as it cost $75 million to market and produce.

  • January 20, 2015

    Genius (formerly Rap Genius) has introduced a tool that will let people annotate anything on the internet. Add genius.com/ to the beginning of any URL and you’ll be able to access a version of the page on which you can correct, comment on, or interpret anything you please. The project is still in beta, so at the moment only a handful of people have permission to annotate, but anyone can view their annotations. The company recently brought on a number of new people, including music critic Sasha Frere-Jones, formerly of the New Yorker,  and Emily Segal of K-Hole, the artist collective most famous for coining the term “normcore.”

    Sheila Heti’s debut play, All Our Happy Days Are Stupid, opens February 19 at the Kitchen, in a production directed by Jordan Tannahill and Erin Brubacher, with music by Dan Bejar of the New Pornographers and Destroyer. First commissioned in 2001, the work wasn’t produced until last year—a state of affairs that the narrator of Heti’s novel How Should a Person Be?, who spends a lot of time not writing a play, may know something about.

    Amazon is going to start making twelve movies a year, starting with the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The company promises that the movies will be available on Amazon Instant Prime a mere month after they debut in theaters.

    Yesterday, Democracy Now!  unearthed a lost 1964 speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., in which Dr. King applauds the approaching end of legal segregation, but warns of the dangers of de facto discrimination and economic disparity.  Meanwhile, across the US, protesters marched to “Reclaim MLK.”

    Teju Cole visits Selma, Alabama: “In the hot sunshine of a Sunday, it was stunned and quiet, with the fable-like air of a crumbling movie set. Selma is named for an Ossianic poem; to me it melds ‘soul’ and its Spanish cognate, ‘alma,’ into a single moody word.”

    Steven Pinker

    Steven Pinker

    Mark Zuckerberg has chosen Steven Pinker’s 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, as the next pick for his online book club. And while Zuckerberg may not have the book-club clout of Oprah just yet, his first pick, Moises Naim’s The End of Power, did enjoy a big uptick in sales. Reading a few of Zuckerberg’s observations on Naim’s work make us wonder if the reviews are really written by a not-quite-perfected algorithm: “I have a strong emphasis on portability of power and redefining the areas where power should be concentrated, from the governments to the people. In addition to that, I hold that empowerment of the people will come from making sure that power is not concentrated but rather diffused.”


  • January 19, 2015

    Philip K Dick

    Philip K. Dick

    The New Yorker has posted a trailer for its new video series on Amazon, The New Yorker Presents, which will include a film by Jonathan Demme based on an article by contributor Rachel Aviv; Ariel Levy’s interview with artist Marina Abramovic; and a short based on a Simon Rich story, in which Alan Cumming stars as God. (The pilot Amazon’s other literary TV series The Man in the High Castle—directed by Ridley Scott and based on the Philip K. Dick novel—is now available, and receiving strong reviews.)

    Claudia Rankine’s book Citizen is currently on the New York Times best-seller list—a rare accomplishment for a work of poetry.

    Last week, startups Scribd and Oyster announced that MacMillan had agreed to become a part of their e-book subscription services, which allow subscribers to read an unlimited number of books for a monthly fee. HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster had already agreed to participate, which means that three of the Big Five publishers are on board. As Wired points out: “while the addition of another publisher is an obvious win for the startups, what’s less clear is why publishers want in.” One reason some big publishers are agreeing to the “Netflix for Books” is, likely, that the new model will provide them with more detailed information about readers’ tastes and activity.

    Polish filmmaker and novelist Tadeusz Konwicki, whose books include The Dreambook of Our Time (1963), about the wartime generation’s postwar experiences, and The Polish Complex (1977), died earlier this month at eighty-eight.

    At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Noah Berlatsky explains how expertise can limit critics.

    Hilary Mantel reflects on the TV series based on her Thomas Cromwell novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, which begins this week, and explains why these historical figures “live on in our psyche.”



  • January 16, 2015

    A boy who claimed to have died, gone to heaven, and come back to life has said he lied. We ran a story on Colton Burpo, a kid who claims a similar story. Burpo hasn’t retracted his (yet?).

    Yesterday, the Brian Lehrer show staged a debate about Amazon between the attorney Scott Turow and the self-published author Joe Konrath. An informal poll asked listeners whether they think Amazon is good for readers, bad for readers, or whether the answer is “complicated.” Responses were split about equally among the choices.

    Natasha Vargas-Cooper

    Natasha Vargas-Cooper

    Natasha Vargas-Cooper (a frequent Bookforum contributor) is leaving The Intercept for Jezebel—and taking a pay cut—in order to report more on women’s issues.

    Finalists for the National Magazine Awards—known as the “Ellies”—have been announced. Sixty-six magazines in twenty-four categories have been recognized. Among those nominated in the most prestigious category, Magazine of the Year, are New York, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan. The awards will be presented February 2 at the New York Marriott Marquis.

    Academics at Wayne State University in Michigan have issued a list of “lost” words they recommend be recovered: caterwaul, concinnity, knavery, mélange, rapscallion, opsimath, obambulate, philistine, flapdoodle and subtopia. We insist that at least half of those are still in adequate circulation at Bookforum. The Independent was similarly unimpressed; in response, it offers its own list: bloviate, sesquipedalian, vituperate, shibboleth, escutcheon, tatterdemalion, rubicund, dundreary, and pone.

    On Tuesday, after the president gives his State of the Union address, he’ll have conversations with three YouTube personalities—Bethany Mota, GloZell, and Hank Green—whom Buzzfeed describes respectively as a “teenage makeup expert, a comedian whose husband is an Army veteran, and a professional nerd.” The five- to ten-minute interviews will feature questions from the host and from social media, and are aimed to appeal to young people.

  • January 15, 2015

    French provocateur Dieudonné was arrested yesterday after he posted what authorities are calling a terrorist apologia on Facebook, “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.” At the Intercept, Glenn Greenwald digs into the hypocrisy he sees in the free-speech tributes in France, concluding, ”This week’s celebration of France—and the gaggle of tyrannical leaders who joined it—had little to do with free speech and much to do with suppressing ideas they dislike while venerating ideas they prefer.”

    Jonathan Franzen will be appearing on May 27th at BEA to get the conference off to its usual rousing start, and promote his forthcoming novel, Purity, which will be published in September by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    A look at the sleek new offices of Wired magazine, along with some admonishments by editor-in-chief Scott Dadich to not treat the place like a “pirate ship.”

    At Gawker, the recently returned Alex Paranee reviews some of his favorite media pranks of the past few years, and entices readers with this promise: “Over the next few weeks, I plan to work closely with site leads, editors and reporters from all the Gawker Media sites to identify the perfect targets—the most obnoxious puffed-up blowhards, sanctimonious poobahs, corrupt gatekeepers, venal officials, and credulous watchdogs in each site’s respective fields—and dream up entertaining ways to embarrass or expose them.”

    Joan Didion in an ad for Celine

    Joan Didion in an ad for Celine

    David Mitchell, whose novel The Bone Clocks was published last fall, has completed a new novel, Slade House, which originated as a series of tweets.

    At the Awl, Haley Mlotek uses the recent Celine ad featuring Joan Didion to ponder what Didion has come to signify. “The intentions of the brand behind the ad were, I felt, a trolling of the most epic order. There is only a slight difference between ‘trolling’ and ‘knowing your audience better than they know themselves,’ and Céline walks that line perfectly: a case of correlation not being causation. I didn’t feel trolled because Céline was mocking me, or us, but because I had been so thoroughly and effectively target marketed, an experience that is like being a deer in branded headlights. We’ve been seen!”

  • January 14, 2015

    The American Dialect Society, an organization of linguists, academics, and other word lovers, has named #blacklivesmatter its “Word of the Year.” It is the first time in the society’s 125 year history that a hashtag has won the award (though the word hashtag was the 2012 winner). Language aficionado Ben Zimmer, who chairs the society’s committee on new words, said of their choice: ”While #blacklivesmatter may not fit the traditional definition of a word, it demonstrates how powerfully a hashtag can convey a succinct social message. . . . Language scholars are paying attention to the innovative linguistic force of hashtags, and #blacklivesmatter was certainly a forceful example of this in 2014.”

    Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt will star in the film adaptation of Michael Lewis’s The Big Short, which chronicled the 2007 financial crisis.

    Reporter James Risen will not have to testify at the trial of former CIA official, Jeffrey Sterling, who is charged with leaking confidential information about US operations in Iran. Risen was first subpoenaed in 2008 and has held fast to the principle that he should not—and would not—reveal the identity of his sources.

    The Times is reporting that the latest Charlie Hebdo cover, published today, “could ignite dangerous new passions.”

    Ed Park

    Ed Park

    Believer cofounder, Penguin Press executive editor, and Bookforum contributor Ed Park has sold his second novel, Same Bed, Different Dreams, and a story collection, An Oral History of Atlantis, to Random House. Park’s first novel, Personal Days, is considered a classic of office-malaise, which generates both comedy and chaos. The new novel “is the story of Soon Sheen, a stalled-out Korean-American author employed as an ‘acronym writer’ at GLOAT, an Oz-like social media company in upstate New York,” whose life is changed after a drunken encounter with a mysterious South Korean literary celebrity known as “the scourge of Seoul.”


  • January 13, 2015

    Sasha Frere-Jones

    Sasha Frere-Jones

    Sasha Frere-Jones has quit his job as the New Yorker’s pop music critic and is heading to Genius.com; his last New Yorker column is a piece about Northwest rock heroines Sleater-Kinney. Foster Kamer considers Frere-Jones’s move, writing that it really isn’t all that surprising, while at Gawker, Leah Finnegan pleads with trailblazing start-ups to stop giving Old Guard journalists so much money.

    Charlie Hebdo’s new issue will have a cartoon of a crying Prophet Muhammad on the cover.

    The Nation has hired David Hajdu to be its music critic. Hajdu’s books include Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn and Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina.

    Three journalists who left the New Republic during the Guy Vidra–stoked editorial flameout late last year have been hired at the Huffington Post, as Arianna Huffington aims to get HuffPo into the longform game. (Meanwhile, Cathy Park Hong, the author of Engine Empire and other books of poetry, has been named TNR’s new poetry editor.)

    The Story Prize has named its three finalists for the 2014: Francesca Marciano (author of The Other Language), Elizabeth McCracken (Thunderstruck), and Lorrie Moore (Bark). The winner of the “spotlight award” is Kyle Minor’s Praying Drunk.

    In a post about presidential hopeful Ben Carson’s act of plagiarism (his 2012 memoir lifted passages from a website called socialismsucks.net), Mark Krotov points out: “a politician plagiarizing his or her book just isn’t that big a deal. This is not to say that plagiarism is okay—it isn’t—or that we should hold politicians to standards different from those we demand of hack pop-science reporters. We shouldn’t. But the fact is that politicians’ books—especially their campaign memoirs—are a banal and hopeless publishing category, and no one really cares about them.”

    The hackers who took over the US Central Command’s Twitter account on Monday and posted “I love you ISIS” at the top of the page are probably not actually affiliated with ISIS.

  • January 12, 2015

    Robert Stone

    Robert Stone

    Novelist Robert Stone died on Saturday. He was the author of numerous novels, including the National Book Award-winning Dog Soldiers, which updated Graham Greene’s international thrillers for the Vietnam War era and paved the way for Denis Johnson’s counterculture classic Already Dead.

    Michel Houellebecq—the subject of a Charlie Hebdo cover story titled “The predictions of the Great Houellebecq,” published on the day that terrorists killed twelve people at the satirical newspaper—has stopped promoting his novel Submission. The novel, which was released on Wednesday, is about a radical Muslim politician who is elected president in 2022 France.

    On Friday, Rupert Murdoch Tweeted: “Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.” J.K. Rowling has posted a number of responses, including: “I was born Christian. If that makes Rupert Murdoch my responsibility, I’ll auto-excommunicate.”

    The Believer, which has been monthly since it was founded in 2003, has released its first bimonthly issue.

    Politico reporter Maggie Haberman has joined the New York Times, where she will cover the upcoming presidential campaigns. And Jack Shafer has joined Politico to cover the media and politics.

    Gawker asks: “Dear God, What Have They Done to Joan Didion Now?”