• October 3, 2014

    At Buzzfeed, Emily Gould says that the usual advice of how to react to online trolls is at best unhelpful and at worst harmful: “People who tell women to ‘just ignore’ gendered criticism, bullying, and harassment — which I’m fine with lumping together, because they’re all components of a system that works together to repress women’s work — are asking women to collaborate in their own silencing.” One of Gould’s main exhibits is a long and abusive piece about her by blogger Edward Champion, published earlier this year. Meanwhile Laura Miller has suggested, at Salon, that ignoring Champion is exactly the thing to do: “Say authors and publicists were to refuse to talk to and deal with him. Say readers stopped bestowing on him the favor of their attention, which is still attention, the thing he seems to crave most, be it ever so angry and accusing. That would be a new and powerful form of silence. Champion could go on ranting and raving, as is his right, but when nobody, but nobody is listening to you, you might as well not be talking at all.” (Note to readers who would like to follow Miller’s advice: Miller’s piece on Champion clocks in at 2,740 words.)

    Jenny Diski explains, or tries to explain, the unusual history of her relationship to Doris Lessing, who took her in when Diski was a teenager, and with whom Diski lived for years. “Over the years I called Doris ‘the woman I live with’, which I worried could be taken to have something a little unseemly or suggestive about it in those not quite yet permissive days; ‘the woman whose house I live in’ (less unseemly but odd); or most often, ‘Doris, my mumble, mumble, mumble’, ‘the person who bla bla bla’. Or I took a deep breath and went the whole hog: ‘Doris, who invited me to go and stay at her house when she heard …’ “

    The Huffington Post has a letter by New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet announcing the paper’s recent round of cuts. In the letter, Baquet explains the compensation terms, which depend on whether employees are represented by the Newspapers Guild or not. The buyout packages, Baquet promises, “are generous especially for people with decades of service.”

    WC-front-235x299Nell Zink issues a dispatch from August’s Worldcon—the World Science Fiction Convention, held this year in London—where she attended, among other events, a panel on “Being a Fan of Problematic Things.” Zink’s debut novel, The Wallcreeper, came out this week.

    The Economist and the Financial Times have recently begun selling ads at prices based not on number of page-views but on the how much time readers spend on a page. FT’s commercial director of digital advertising explains: “Logic would say: Let’s start to value the amount of time spent with a brand.”

    A lawyer representing a number of actors whose nude photos were leaked online without their permission has written a letter to Google threatening legal action. The letter describes Google’s “despicable, reprehensible conduct in not only failing to act expeditiously and responsibly to remove the Images, but in knowingly accommodating, facilitating and perpetuating the unlawful conduct.”

  • October 2, 2014

    The American Scholar has started a list of bad opening lines of novels—Richard Powers’s opening of Galatea 2.2, to take one example: “It was like so, but wasn’t.”

    Two new funders of Reddit, according to a list the website recently released: Jared Leto and Snoop Dogg.

    People are betting on who will win the Nobel Prize for literature, which should be announced next week. Ladbrokes has predicted the winner four times in nine years (not super confidence-inducing); this year, they have five-to-one odds on Haruki Murakami and twelve-to-one odds on Joyce Carol Oates. Don Delillo and Richard Ford come in at thirty-three-to-one.

    The New York Times plans to cut a hundred newsroom positions and eliminate the mobile app NYT Opinion.

    Marilynne Robinson

    Marilynne Robinson

    The editor in chief of the London Review of Books, Mary-Kay Wilmers, remembers the late Karl Miller, a founding editor, whom she met in the 1960s: “He was a charismatic figure, tall, fair, slim, nattily dressed, flirtatious and a little wayward – a head-spinner. But severe too. You minded your words and that was part of the attraction.”

    At the New Yorker, Joan Acocella reviews Marilynne Robinson’s new novel, Lila. “Robinson writes about religion two ways. One is meliorist, reformist. The other is rapturous, visionary. Many people have been good at the first kind; few at the second kind, at least today.” Michelle Orange reviewed the book for us in our latest issue.

  • October 1, 2014

    Valeria Luiselli

    Valeria Luiselli

    The National Book Foundation has announced the winners of its annual 5 Under 35 program. This year’s honorees are Yelena Akhtiorskaya, nominated for her debut novel, Panic in a Suitcase; Alex Gilvarry, the author of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, also his first novel; Phil Klay, for his book of short stories, Redeployment; Valeria Luiselli for her novel, Faces in the Crowd, translated from its original Spanish; and Kirstin Valdez Quade, for her debut short-story collection Night at the Fiestas. The winners will be celebrated at a party on November 17 at powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn.

    At the New York Times, Ravi Somaiya identifies a change in New Yorker cover art over the years “toward the topical and provocative.” Editor in chief David Remnick says the shift began in the wake of the September 11 attacks, when the magazine ran a now-famous cover by Art Spiegelman that depicted the Twin Towers as black shadows against a dark background. This week’s New Yorker cover is not at all topical, but it is a product of the moment: For the first time, the cover’s online version is a GIF.

    USA Today reports that some at ESPN consider Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website a “disaster” due to lack of revenue, traffic, and advertising.

    Literary agent Andrew Wylie is gathering his high-profile clients—among them Philip Roth, Elif Batuman, and Salman Rushdie—to band together against Amazon’s domineering practices under the group Authors United. Wylie told the Times, “If Amazon is not stopped, we are facing the end of literary culture in America.”

    Feminist humor website The Toast, co-founded by Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe, has hired Roxane Gay to head its new vertical, The Butter—later to be spun off as its own website. Gay will have complete editorial control over the site, which will focus on cultural criticism. “It was gonna be The Butter or The Jelly,” Gay said, “but butter seems sexier.”

  • September 30, 2014

    The New York Times Book Review excerpts Hilary Mantel’s new collection, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, which has generated controversy in England over the title story. Here is Thatcher, seen through the eyes of the story’s would-be assassin: “High heels on the mossy path. Tippy-tap. Toddle on. She’s making efforts, but getting nowhere very fast. The bag on the arm, slung like a shield. The tailored suit just as I have foreseen, the pussycat bow, a long loop of pearls, and—a new touch—big goggle glasses. Shading her, no doubt, from the trials of the afternoon. Hand extended, she is moving along the line. Now that we are here at last, there is all the time in the world.”

    The 2014 Online Journalism Awards recognize ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity, and Susie Cagle’s “illustrated commentary” on San Francisco’s class war.

    In a podcast for the Guardian, David Mitchell talks about his latest novel, The Bone Clocks—including “why familiar faces from his earlier fiction keep popping up again, how he gets closer to his characters in the shower,” and “the glories of ‘the flotation tank novel.’” James Camp reviewed the book in our latest issue.

    Last weekend, Printed Matter sponsored the New York Art Book Fair at PS1 in Long Island City, Queens: three floors of publishers, artists, and art books from all over the world. Buzzfeed has some pictures.

    Tickets to Benjamin Kunkel’s play, Buzz, are now on sale. The production opens in previews on October 18, and will run until November 22.

    Following ongoing accusations, Newsweek has added plagiarism warnings to columns by Fareed Zakaria. Zakaria’s current employers, CNN and The Washington Post, dismiss the accusations; CNN President Jeff Zucker insisted that they “continue to have complete faith in Fareed.”

    Yesterday, Jennifer Weiner encouraged her Twitter followers to “BELIEVE IN WOMEN AS AUTHORS, NOT JUST STENOGRAPHERS OF THEIR OWN LIVES.”

  • September 29, 2014

    Yahoo has announced that on December 31 it will close the Yahoo Directory, “once the Google of its time.”

    Jeff Feuerzeig, the filmmaker who directed The Devil and Daniel Johnston, is planning a documentary about literary hoaxer JT Leroy, aka Terminator, aka Laura Albert. Rumors are now circulating that the film will be aired on A&E by Vice Media, and that Feuerzeig has begun interviewing the many writers, artists, and actors who were fooled by Albert’s hoax.

    Edward Champion

    Edward Champion

    This summer, books blogger and author interviewer Edward Champion posted an 11,000-word complaint about Emily Gould and the rise of what he called “Middling Millennials.” Champion was widely decried for his tone, his sexist vitriol, and his syntax. He responded to his critics by saying that he was going to commit suicide, and then said that he would be taking a break from writing to seek the help he needed. Late last week, the web erupted again when it was revealed that Champion had threatened via Twitter author Porochista Khakpour after she deleted a comment he had made on her Facebook timeline. The Daily Dot has published a recap of the Champion affair. Champion has been banned from Twitter. Writer Michele Filgate has urged publishers to not allow authors to be interviewed by Champion on his Bat Segundo Show. But apparently he is continuing to post on his Ello account.

    Richard A. Stengel, formerly the ME of TIME and now the under secretary of state for public diplomacy, has formed a group that is attempting to battle ISIS’s social-media tactics. “Posting on Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and Facebook, members of the unit question claims made by the Islamic State, trumpet the militants’ setbacks and underscore the human cost of the militants’ brutality.”

    Bloomsbury has purchased a biography of Jonathan Franzen, which will be published in Fall 2015. The book, titled Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage, was written by Philip Weinstein, an acquaintance of Franzen and a professor at novelist’s alma mater, Swarthmore College. ““It doesn’t pretend to be a full-scale biography,” Weinstein says. “It’s too early for that. He’s in full career mode. Someone later, a generation from now, will do that biography. It’s a report on who he is.”

    David Fincher’s film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl (Flynn also wrote the screenplay) opened at the New York Film Festival on Friday. Reviews have been mixed: Manohla Dargis calls the film a “precision machine,” but laments its lack of depth. (Last year, Mary Gaitskill reviewed Flynn’s novel for Bookforum.)


  • September 26, 2014

    Karl Miller

    Karl Miller

    Karl Miller, a founding editor of the London Review of Books, has died. He was eighty-three. Johnson edited the LRB for ten years, plus another three with Mary-Kay Wilmers, the current editor. The Guardian calls him the “greatest literary editor of his time, and one of the greatest ever.” 

    At Open Culture, you can watch Allen Ginsberg’s lectures on the literary history of the Beats. Ginsberg delivered the talks for a summer course at the Naropa Institute in 1977.

    Gawker got its hands on Vice’s style guide“Avoid corny colloquialisms like bucks, smackers, or samoleons,” the guide instructs. Also: “A handful of websites are actually becoming legitimate, respected news outlets; some might even call them ‘online magazines.’ On a case-by-case basis, we will italicize those. For example: ‘The Huffington Post ran an interesting rebuttal to an essay from the LA Review of Books, but Gawker made fun of both of them because those guys are mean.'”

    The New York Times Magazine is looking forward to an extensive redesign in 2015, Capital New York reports. In the meantime, we’ll see a few changes to the lineup. A handful of regular front-of-book and back-of-book sections will be killed, though The Ethicist and a weekly Q&A will remain, and the feature well will now include four rather than three pieces a week.

    A choice quote from a profile of James Frey at the Wall Street Journal: “I want to prove them all wrong. . . . I want to make everybody who hates me give up.” Next week, Frey’s “media empire” will release the novel Endgame, accompanied by a YouTube channel, 50 social-media accounts, a video game, and a puzzle, the first solver of which will be paid $500,000 in gold coins.


  • September 25, 2014

    New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet has announced his new masthead. He retired the managing editor position (which he formerly held), and created in its place the position of deputy executive editor, to which he promoted four people—Susan Chira, Janet Elder, Matt Purdy, and Ian Fisher.

    A Twitter call for words journalists write but people never say produced this list: lambaste, foray, ballyhoo, tout, oust, fornicate, salvo, pontiff, bolster, and opine. A funny assortment, but if we were to reduce written English to words people actually use—or what about the syntax people use?—there wouldn’t be a lot to choose from.

    Slate and the Whiting Foundation will be recognizing second novels with a new award—or rather, more of a list. The five novels—to be chosen by novelists Yiyun Li and Colson Whitehead, bookseller Sarah McNally, New Yorker web editor Sasha Weiss, and Slate editor Dan Kois—will be announced on November 19.

    Saul Williams

    Saul Williams

    Combination exclamation marks and question marks are called interrobangs, or so we learned on National Punctuation Day, which was yesterday.

    Amtrak has granted twenty-four people residencies, including Saul Williams, Darin Strauss, and Jennifer Boylan.

  • September 24, 2014

    The Believer Logger interviews David Bezmozgis, whose female characters, he says—“ex-Soviet or Russian-Jewish women”—are “tougher” and “more pragmatic” than the men “because they are obliged to be. They have all the female responsibilities and all the male responsibilities.”

    The Los Angeles Register, a daily paper that was launched in April, has stopped publication, the New York Times reports. Aaron Kushner founded the Register with the intention to offer local news and a “very different political perspective”—meaning a conservative one. “On a fiscal basis, we very much believe in free markets and on the personal liberties side,” Kushner said last December. “We believe firmly that people should be able to live their lives.” The paper’s problem, as Kushner explained it in a letter on Monday, was that it couldn’t find enough readers.

    The French press—the industry, not the coffee maker—is in trouble, says Nieman Reports, especially the forty-one-year-old paper Libération (founded by Sartre).  Circulation has dropped, and the website has fewer than 10,000 paid subscribers.

    Joan Didion

    Joan Didion

    Hilary Mantel has been undaunted by the negative reaction of some people to a recently published story of hers, which describes an assassin preparing to kill Margaret Thatcher. “Some of these people are not what you’d call great intellects,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “Of course they don’t bother to read the story.”

    The Atlantic Wire, which was separated from the Atlantic a year ago, is getting reintegrated into the magazine’s regular website.

    Next month, Vintage will release nine of Gabriel García Márquez’s books in digital editions.

    Joan Didion is to be inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

  • September 23, 2014

    David Graeber

    David Graeber

    Last week, The Baffler sponsored a debate between David Graeber and Peter Thiel that Thiel’s team called “objectively, a waste of time,” according to the New York Times, which covered the event in Monday’s edition. Baffler editor John Summers was charmed: “I’m thinking we should embrace the tagline for our next event.”

    Politico reports that the Times is considering a round of buyouts that would cut fifty jobs from the paper. A company spokesperson refused to comment, dismissing the claim as “rumors and speculation.” Further rumor and speculation (via Capital New York) has it that executive editor Dean Baquet will soon reveal his new masthead. Baquet may promote four existing staffers—Susan Chira,  Ian Fisher, Matt Purdy, and Janet Elder—to a team of “top deputies.”

    The New York Review of Books excerpts Robert Darnton’s book Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature. Censorship, Darnton explains, “is essentially political; it is wielded by the state”—usually, with great care. “To dismiss censorship as crude repression by ignorant bureaucrats is to get it wrong. Although it varied enormously, it usually was a complex process that required talent and training and that extended deep into the social order.”

    At the New Inquiry, Sabrina Alli criticizes “re-entry” programs, which attempt to induct people back into the workforce after they’ve been in jail, in ATIs (alternatives to incarceration), or on probation or parole. The programs do the opposite of what they’re intended to do, Alli writes: “Regardless of effective and well-intentioned teachers, re-entry education, like schools in economically disenfranchised neighborhoods, are designed to continue the coercive disciplinary technology of the carceral network its students are supposed to learn how to escape or transcend.”

    Chris Beha recently finished reading the works of Henry James in toto. The point of the marathon was to have fun, he says on the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog—not, as his friends sometimes insinuated, to impress people or self-flagellate. For Beha, there’s something wrong with the way the debates about “fun” vs. “difficult” literature have been framed, a fallacy that becomes especially clear in conversations about YA lit. James did more than anyone to “refine the popular form of the novel into a work of high art,” and yet James’s point was still, was always, the fun: He thought a writer ought always “to intensify his whole chance of pleasure.” For the reader, Beha writes, “putting down Harry Potter for Henry James is not one of adulthood’s obligations, like flossing and mortgage payments; it’s one of its rewards, like autonomy and sex.”

  • September 22, 2014

    Sarah Kendzior has announced that she is leaving her position as an op-ed columnist at Al Jazeera English, due to what she calls “new rules,” which allow “no room for freedom of thought.” “Writing for AJ English has been great,” she writes. “I will always be grateful to them for running work on poverty, race, and other controversial topics.” You can find an archive of her columns, the most recent of which focused on the murder of Michael Brown and racial discrimination in St. Louis, here.

    Scott Stossel

    Scott Stossel

    At Neiman Reports, Scott Stossel—author and editor of The Atlantic—talks about the challenges of keeping a print magazine and a website relevant, and about the importance of publishing good cover stories, maintaining gender and racial parity, and paying writers.

    The New York Times reports on Campfire, Amazon’s “literary weekend” retreat for writers and artists that takes place near Santa Fe every year. Past attendees include Ayelet Waldman, Michael Chabon, Moby, and Werner Herzog. But don’t expect any of them to talk about it. Amazon has asked participants to keep quiet about the affair, and so far writers are following the request, leading the Times to write: “Whether or not fear of Amazon is legitimate, it exists.”

    The Guardian has published a short story by Hilary Mantel that features an assassin whose target is Margaret Thatcher. “Hilary Mantel: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher–August 6th 1983″ appears in Mantel’s new collection. The Telegraph was originally slated to publish the excerpt, but declined after an editor “decided they were too offensive for the its Tory-supporting readers,” the Independent reports

    Weirdly dispiriting and irrelevant”: This is how Flavorwire describes the longlist of nonfiction books nominated for the 2014 National Book Award. “It is replete with every new book that you would maybe get your dad for the holidays.”