• December 22, 2014

    The Tribeca Film Festival has announced that it is creating a new annual award, the Nora Ephron Prize. The prize will be given to “a woman writer or director with a distinctive voice who embodies the spirit and vision of the legendary filmmaker and writer.” Ephron, who wrote the screenplay and directed Sleepless in Seattle, among other films, as well as many books, died in June.

    At Slate, David Auerbach explains why the Sony hacks are “a wake-up call.” The attack might not have been as sophisticated as StuxNet, the virus that infiltrated and sabotaged Iran’s nuclear facilities, but it was disastrous. According to Auerbach, “There has never before been a cyberattack of this scale…. Sony Pictures’ systems were not just compromised but obliterated, with the company now sent back to what’s comparably the technological Stone Age.” The sabotage of Sony lent additional relevance to Kim Zetter’s new book about the burgeoning threat of cyberterrorism, Countdown to Zero Day, which Clive Thompson reviews in the current issue of Bookforum.

    Brooklyn Magazine has posted a list of ten great sentences published this year.

    A group of writers respond to the n+1 article “The Free and the Anti-Free,” which charts the ways in which magazine journalism has come to rely on cheap and free labor. Susie Cagle and Manjula Marti take issue with n+1’s argument “against ‘shaming’ small magazines like their own for paying writers poorly (or not paying them at all).” Cagle and Mari—who keep tabs on how much magazines pay—state: “If n+1 editors feel shamed by sites like Who Pays Writers, perhaps they should ask themselves why.”

    Steven W. Thrasher

    Steven W. Thrasher

    Last week, Steven W. Thrasher was among the journalists who reported on protests against the recent grand jury decisions to acquit the police officers who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island. On Saturday, Thrasher filed a first-hand account of another recent protest—a pro-police rally outside New York’s City Hall, where a small group of ex-cops and NYPD supporters wore T-shirts reading “I Can Breathe.” Thrasher, who is black, writes: “Sometimes my fear gets the better of me. Sometimes, I worry about walking the line between trying to give visual cues that I am hearing someone (no matter how offensive) and not being willing to give them any indication that I agree with anything they say.”

    Metro New York has a story about “Ali Julia,” the mysterious woman who is currently Amazon’s top-ranked reviewer. She has written more than 2,800 product, but just “how one earns the ‘#1 Reviewer’ badge next to their name is a mystery, even to those who have held the title.”

  • December 19, 2014

    The last episode of the popular podcast Serial has been released. The final show does not, as most listeners hoped, provide any firm answers about the case of Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999. Dwight Garner calls it  a “tangled and heartfelt yet frustrating hour of radio.” A public defender, writing in the Washington Post, says that the show missed an opportunity to show something important about the criminal justice system. “I don’t know whether Syed is innocent,” Sarah Lustbader says, “but he was clearly convicted despite many reasonable doubts.”

    Gawker got its hands on a document from Vice Media that lists employee salaries. The document was submitted earlier this year in order to qualify for Empire State tax incentives. If the media company weren’t allowed to relocate to Williamsburg, it threatened, it would move to LA. As Hamilton Nolan points out, the numbers are based on 2013 salaries, and it’s impossible to know how accurate they are. But the gap between writers and everyone else is blazingly visible: Average pay for editorial staff is listed at $45,000; average pay for business and sales staff is very nearly twice that.

    MacMillan has struck a deal with Amazon that lets it set the pricing on e-books. The retailer will take a cut of the sales.

    Secret Behavior

    Secret Behavior

    Secret Behavior is a year-old art and sex magazine that’s more about intimacy than sex. Its mission, says founder James Gallagher, is “embrace the human experience completely.”

    Janet Maslin, Michiko Kakutani, and Dwight Garner name their ten favorite books of 2014. Our favorite list is Garner’s, which includes Ben Lerner, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Marilynne Robinson, Leslie Jamison, Hermione Lee, Atticus Lish, and Caitlin Moran.

    Poynter has collected some of the best—i.e. most ridiculous—corrections of the year. A mistake by the Washington Post that must have been among those that caused the most personal trouble for its subjects: “An earlier version of this story erroneously said that Joaquín Guzmán was found in bed with his secretary. He was found with his wife. This version has been corrected.

  • December 18, 2014

    In honor of the end of the Colbert Report, the New Republic collects clips of some of Stephen Colbert’s best author interviews—with Toni Morrison, George Saunders, and Richard Ford, among others.

    On the New York Review of Books blog, Michael Greenberg reflects on the protests in the wake of the grand-jury decision over the Eric Garner case: “Nationally, a shift of consciousness seems to have taken place, a budging of fixed ideas about African-Americans and law enforcement. Policing has become a civil rights issue.”

    And, on the Harper’s blog, Sam Frank reports on Manhattan’s three-day TechCrunch Disrupt conference: “Everyone at TechCrunch Disrupt appreciated disruption immensely. What’s not to love? Select startup founders get rich, customer-citizens get more for less, and the only losers are old-guard industries (never mind those they employ).”

    Marlon James

    Marlon James

    In a recent interview with Gawker, Marlon James talked about his much praised book, A Brief History of Seven Killings, and his writing process: “With Seven Killings I was risking everything. I was risking explicitness. . . . Risking messing with genre just because I felt like it. Writing something because I felt like it as opposed to having this idea of what is good literature or even an idea of what’s a good paragraph.”

    Taylor Swift, Scarlett Johansson, Oprah, and George R.R. Martin feature on Barbara Walters’s 2014 “10 Most Fascinating People” list.

    Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo will co-star in a film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah.

  • December 17, 2014

    At n+1, Nicholas Dames writes about a handful of books based in the 1970s, among them Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland, Norman Rush’s Subtle Bodies, and Darcey Steinke’s Sister Golden Hair. “Here is the territory the novels evoke: a mythic late summer, spacious, unsupervised, a little druggy, a little restless, hedged only by the feeling that everything is about to end,” Dames explains. The nostalgia is intense. But “what if one could imagine a nostalgia that didn’t idealize, that in fact celebrated a past moment’s stubborn resistance to idealization, that coexisted with anhedonia? The twist of these novels . . . is that they aren’t yearning for any belle epoque — but they yearn nonetheless.”

    Kathryn Schulz

    Kathryn Schulz

    Nieman Journalism Labs pokes fun at Buzzfeed by suggesting that they’ll hire a public editor—like the New York Times‘ Margaret Sullivan—in 2015.

    Layoffs at the New York Times that were planned in October will begin being announced to staffers today. Most people let go will receive two weeks of pay, but a few who began working before 1994 will receive a salary for fifteen weeks.

    Newsweek, on the other hand, is hiring—the magazine just brought on seven people to the editorial staff.

    And the New Yorker has hired Kathryn Schulz, who’s been New York Magazine’s book critic since 2012. She’ll write book reviews for the magazine and occasional web pieces.

  • December 16, 2014

    Vice Media may explore an initial public offering next year after a “deal spree.” Two funds recently invested $250 million each in the company. “This is the birth of the next big media brand,” said CEO Shane Smith.

    James Patterson just gave away the third and final round of donations to independent bookstores across the country. He spent more than a million dollars this year helping out 187 bookstores with children’s book sections. The figure is pocket change for Patterson, who made ninety million last year, according to a Vanity Fair profile. The “relentless writing machine” has 130 titles to his name, and has sold more books than anyone in the world. In 2013, one out of every twenty-six books sold was written by him (and one of his crew of co-writers).

    Laura Kipnis

    Laura Kipnis

    A New York magazine story about a high school kid, Mohammed Islam, who made a killing on the stock market is simply not true, according to said investment wiz, who is very sorry for lying about it. New York is feeling sorry too: “We were duped. Our fact-checking process was obviously inadequate.”

    Tonight at the French Institute Alliance Française in New York, Laura Kipnis will introduce a screening of Francois Truffaut’s 1977 film The Man Who Loved Women, the story of an irrepressible lothario, the kind of creepy-cool male obsessive who’d be very much at home in Kipnis’s new book, Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation (Kipnis will sign copies after the movie)Read Kerry Howley’s review here.

  • December 15, 2014

    Late last week, the website Our Bad Media published “A Guide for Journalists: Understanding why Malcolm Gladwell Is a Plagiarist.” Included are a number of comparisons between Gladwell’s articles and articles by other writers that he most likely drew from but did not cite. Contacted by the Poynter media journalist Andrew Beaujon, New Yorker editor David Remnick responded to the blog post: “The issue is not really about Malcolm. And, to be clear, it isn’t about plagiarism. The issue is an ongoing editorial challenge known to writers and editors everywhere — to what extent should a piece of journalism, which doesn’t have the apparatus of academic footnotes, credit secondary sources? It’s an issue that can get complicated when there are many sources with overlapping information.

    This weekend, music critics bemoaned the news that the website Wondering Sound, which launched in March and has already built a devoted readership, is planning to scale back while it looks for partnerships and additional funding.

    Alec MacGillis, one of the many editors who left the New Republic less than two weeks ago, has been hired at Slate.

    Jane Freilicher and John Ashbery

    Jane Freilicher and John Ashbery

    Holland Cotter pays tribute to Jane Freilicher, a painter and part of the inner circle of the New York School Poets. Her friendships with John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, and Kenneth Koch were the springboard for an exhibition last year. Freilicher died last week, a few days before her 90th birthday.

    Buzzfeed will begin producing a twice-weekly newsletter about books in 2015. The Buzzfeed team promises “great reading recommendations” and “all the Harry Potter you can handle.”

    The New Yorker’s David Denby has announced that he is giving up his position as a regular film critic. He will remain at the magazine, where he plans to work on “longer pieces on movies and other things” and to “contribute to the web when I have something juicy to say.” Anthony Lane, with whom Denby usually alternates, will now be the print magazine’s sole movie critic.


  • December 12, 2014

    Nominate your favorite novel of the year to be a contender in the Morning News’ 2015 Tournament of Books.

    “Gamergate,” a loose confederation of (generally antifeminist) gamers upset about how gaming is portrayed, apparently cost Gawker seven figures, according to the company’s head of advertising. In response to a tweeted joke by writer Sam Biddle, gamergaters urged advertisers to pull ads. Gawker’s response to Biddle’s tweet and the gamergate reaction was “inconsistent and confused,” writes Peter Sterne at Capital New York.

    Tom McCarthy

    Tom McCarthy

    Tom McCarthy on realism at the London Review of Books: “That such blatant and splendid take-downs of naturalism are written into the core of the realist tradition makes the naive and uncritical realism dominating contemporary middlebrow fiction, and the doctrine of authenticity peddled by creative writing classes the world over, all the more simple-minded.”

    The Times chooses the best book covers of the year. Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun is especially beautiful.

    In 1950, Neal Cassady wrote a sixteen-thousand-word letter to Jack Kerouac that inspired Kerouac to rewrite On the Road in a style more like Cassady’s. (Cassady apparently found his inspiration in a ten-page letter written to him by John Clellon Holmes.) The “Joan Anderson letter,” as it’s called (after a girlfriend of Cassady’s), found its way into Allen Ginsberg’s hands, then disappeared. Kerouac said at one point that Ginsberg had given it to a friend on a houseboat who dropped it overboard, but in fact Ginsberg had sent it to a small press, where for years it went unopened. An auction to sell the letter has been called off because the estates of Cassady and Kerouac are fighting over the rights; Kerouac’s estate wants “an agreeable split of the proceeds.”

    Gillian Flynn was nominated for a Golden Globe for best screenplay.

  • December 11, 2014

    Melville House is rushing publication of the newly released Torture Report. The 480-page book will be available December 30.

    Alan Rusbridger, the editor in chief of The Guardian, is leaving the newspaper. He’s been in the role for twenty years.

    Nick Denton has fired himself as president of Gawker.

    Claudia Rankine

    Claudia Rankine

    The Believer website has an interview with Claudia Rankine, whose recent book, Citizen, was nominated for the National Book Award. “If you make a mistake, then you should own that mistake,” Rankine says. “You should admit, ‘What I said was racist and that is really unacceptable.’ You don’t say, ‘Get a sense of humor.’ And you don’t say, ‘Grow up.’ The problem is not only that the blow is dealt. The blow is dealt, and then the brown or black person is told that the blow wasn’t a blow.” Parul Sehgal reviewed Citizen in our new issue.

    In the annals of pictures beating words: Instagram has reached three hundred million users, surpassing Twitter, which has 284 million.

    At the Washington Post, Marty Peretz, the former editor and owner of the New Republic, wrings his hands over the demise of his old magazine and mourns its argumentative spirit: “This is not the magazine I passed down.” Leon Wieseltier, who just stepped down as literary editor of TNR, agrees—naturally—about the virtues of disagreement. He says so at the Jewish Review of Books, praising, specifically, the “argumentative Jew.” “The most common understanding of disagreement, in the private sphere and the public one, is that it represents a failure,” Wieseltier asserts. “It does not.” Meanwhile, Ta-nehisi Coates points out that TNR “regarded black people with an attitude ranging from removed disregard to blatant bigotry.” Attitude-wise, the magazine’s publication of parts of The Bell Curve weren’t the exception but the rule.


  • December 10, 2014

    The New York Times has a rare interview with the reclusive Italian writer Elena Ferrante. “My women are strong, educated, self-aware and aware of their rights,” Ferrante says, “but at the same time subject to unexpected breakdowns, to subservience of every kind, to mean feelings. I’ve also experienced this oscillation. I know it well, and that also affects the way I write.”

    Future editions of Lena Dunham’s recent book, Not That Kind of Girl, will come with a note saying that “Barry” is not the real name of a character Dunham says raped her at Oberlin. A former student—whose actual name is Barry—threatened Random House with a lawsuit, saying he’d had to defend himself against people who thought it was him.

    Guy Vidra

    Guy Vidra

    Following the recent staff exodus at the New Republic, CEO Guy Vidra has written an open letter to the magazine’s readers outlining its future, which will, it seems have little to do with anything so dull and recherché as journalism. The New Republic is now in the business of creating “unique and compelling experiences.” It intends to “invest in product managers, engineers, designers, data visualization and multimedia editors,” who will provide “data to let readers immerse themselves” and “imagery and video to evoke a reaction as visceral as only those mediums can bring.” We at Bookforum are especially eager for the “tools” that will let us “tailor” the stories we read “depending on the time of day or where [we] may be.”

    Rather than lose our youth to assembling a roundup of all TNR stories, we’ll direct you to Choire Sicha’s “top 40” at The Awl, listed from worst (The Washingtonian: “B.J. Novak’s Character on “The Newsroom” Is a Lot Like New Republic Owner Chris Hughes”) to best (the Washington Post: “The moist-eyed Hughes would, in the coming months, prove himself to be neither an intellectual nor a partner but a dilettante and a fraud”).

    At Vox, Matthew Yglesias crawls out from whatever log he’s been living under to list five little magazines to pay attention to instead of TNR: Jacobin, the New Inquiry, n+1, the Baffler, and National Affairs.

    On cue, The Guardian interviews Ayesha Siddiqi, the New Inquiry’s editor in chief, in its ongoing series on women in online publishing. Siddiqi joined Twitter, she says, to tell jokes she thought Facebook couldn’t handle. She gained a following as comedians retweeted her. “After a certain point,” she explains, “my awareness of that audience fostered a sense of responsibility.”

  • December 9, 2014

    According to The Onion the Pew Research Center, “Americans feel better informed thanks to the Internet.”

    The Pulitzer Prize committee has expanded eligibility in two categories, investigative reporting and feature writing, to online and print magazines. They will also allow organizations to nominate journalists “employed by partnering organizations” even if the organizations are ineligible themselves.

    Vice held a suitably bacchanalian party for its twentieth anniversary.

    Jenny Diski

    Jenny Diski

    The Guardian profiles Jenny Diski, who has been writing riveting diaries about her inoperable lung cancer for the London Review of Books. Start with her first installment, “A Diagnosis,” move on to the second, and you’ll be hooked, subject matter notwithstanding. (The third and the fourth installments are paywalled: a good reason to subscribe.) The profile focuses on Diski’s relationship with Doris Lessing, who acted as her guardian from the time that Diski was fifteen, and with whom she had a complicated relationship that lasted for the rest of Lessing’s life. “She never read anything I wrote,” Diski reflects. “It was like she was always going on about how interested she was in education, but then when I became a teacher she always changed the subject. My writing could never be mentioned.”

    Ben Lerner’s year in reading, courtesy of The Millions, includes Maggie Nelson’s Argonauts, not out till next year, and Heteronomy, by poet Chris Nealon.

    At The Guardian, Jon Ronson talks to the family of Adnan Syed, whose murder conviction is being reinvestigated by Sarah Koenig for the wildly popular podcast Serial.

    First Look has launched a “social newsroom,” reported.ly, which, according to them, will “produce native journalism for social media communities, in conjunction with members of those communities.” They won’t use social media just to direct people to their site and away from their “favorite online communities,” they promise; they want to help readers “navigate the never-ending stream of rumors and footage.” What exactly this means remains to be seen.

    Tech reporter Jenna Wortham is moving from the New York Times to the Times Magazine, where she’ll be a staff writer.