• December 8, 2014

    Conflicting reactions to the mass editorial exodus at the New Republic continue to emerge. At Slate, Seth Stevenson describes the backlash against TNR owner Chris Hughes, as well as the backlash against the backlash. At Vox, Ezra Klein suggests that the TNR, though long important, needs some kind of change: Under the leadership of new editor Gabriel Snyder, the revamped TNR, he points out, “won’t be what The New Republic was. And that’s because the thing The New Republic was has already died.” Max Fisher considers TNR’s “race problem,” and points out that “to my knowledge, not one of [the longtime editors who resigned last week] thought it was as resignation-worthy when [former TNR owner Marty] Peretz repeatedly wrote that Arabs have lower ‘standards of civilization,’ that blacks have an inferior ‘culture,’ that Latinos are lazy.” According to Advertising Age, an unnamed spokesperson for the magazine has announced that the next issue will not be published. “Given the departure this week of several editors and writers, the New Republic decided to cancel the issue rather than risk producing a magazine not in keeping with the traditionally high standards of the institution.”

    And now, New Republic owner Chris Hughes speaks, and reprimands the many editors who resigned last week: “If you really care about an institution and want to make it strong for the ages, you don’t walk out.”

    Hanna Rosin

    Hanna Rosin

    On Friday, following an investigative report in the Washington Post, Rolling Stone published a letter to readers acknowledging weaknesses in its much discussed story “A Rape on Campus,” which told the story of Jackie, a student who claimed that she was gang raped at a University of Virginia frat house. Most significantly, the reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, failed to get in touch with the young men whom Jackie had accused. Rolling Stone scrambled to apologize, first saying that its trust in Jackie had been “misplaced,” then emending their apology to take the blame from Jackie’s shoulders. Now the prefatory note to the article says that they were “mistaken in honoring Jackie’s request to not contact the alleged assaulters.” Many have commented on the story as it unfolded, including Chris Hayes, Matt Taibbi, and Hanna Rosin.

    David Graeber—a professor at the London School of Economics, an Occupy Wall Street organizer, and the author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years—has sold his latest book, The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy, to Melville House. The book will be published in February 2015.

    After writing more than 3,000 reviews in the past three decades, Jonathan Yardley has retired from the Washington Post.

  • December 5, 2014

    Leon Wieseltier

    Leon Wieseltier

    Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier are both leaving the New Republic, Foer to be replaced by Gabriel Snyder. (You can read the memos in question here.) Many have greeted the news as the end of an era; some gleefully (“Let the old guard die off,” more or less) and others with dismay. This morning, a rash of further resignations came: nine senior editors, the executive editor, the legal affairs editor, the digital media editor, the poetry editor, the dance editor, and fifteen contributing editors. The only senior editors not to have resigned are Evgeny Morozov, Rebecca Traister, and Brian Beutler.  On Twitter, numerous people reported canceling their subscriptions. Ryan Lizza, who was the first contributing editor to leave, tweeted that owner Chris Hughes had called Wieseltier to stay on the masthead as “Literary Editor Emeritus”; Wieseltier declined. At New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait eulogizes the magazine and criticizes owner Hughes: ”Frank Foer isn’t leaving TNR because he wasn’t a good enough editor. He’s leaving because Chris Hughes is not a good enough owner.”

    A previously unpublished novel by Ayn Rand, Ideal, will come out next summer.

    On Twitter, Ayelet Waldman reacted badly to the fact that her book wasn’t on the New York Times Notable list.

    Leslie Jamison’s year in reading included the poet Dorothea Lasky, Beautiful Children by Charles Bock, and two books by Maggie Nelson.

    Ben Okri won the Bad Sex in Fiction award for this humid passage: “She became aware of places in her that could only have been concealed there by a god with a sense of humour. Adrift on warm currents, no longer of this world, she became aware of him gliding into her. He loved her with gentleness and strength, stroking her neck, praising her face with his hands, till she was broken up and began a low rhythmic wail. She was a little overwhelmed with being the adored focus of such power, as he rose and fell. She felt certain now that there was a heaven and that it was here, in her body. The universe was in her and with each movement it unfolded to her. Somewhere in the night a stray rocket went off.”


  • December 4, 2014

    In New York, a Staten Island grand jury failed to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who put Eric Garner in the chokehold that killed him. It would be astonishing and enraging under any circumstances, but it’s even more so coming so closely on the heels of the Saint Louis grand jury that failed to bring charges against Darren Wilson. Thousands of protesters gathered in Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and Union Square after the announcement, and succeeded in blocking traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel, Brooklyn Bridge, and R.F.K. Bridge. Eighty-three people were arrested. This evening there will be a demonstration at Foley Square at 5:30 and another on 125th Street and Park Avenue at 6:00.

    At the New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer talked to Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, as she waited to hear the grand jury’s decision. Carr told the reporter that she was relieved when she found out that there was video evidence of Garner’s fatal encounter with the police, during which an officer strangled Garner to death: “I said to myself, ‘there is a God.’” Blitzer’s piece ends with a chilling quote from police commissioner William Bratton, who said the NYPD was prepared for the inevitable protests, and added, in an astoundingly insensitive pun: “We have the ability to have a level of tolerance—breathing room, if you will.”

    At The Toast, Mallory Ortberg wonders what good putting body cameras on police officers will do: “Eric Garner died unarmed. He died on the ground. He died because of an illegal chokehold. We saw it. The grand jury saw it. They saw it, and we saw it, and collectively we said, ‘We didn’t see that. That didn’t happen.’”

    Emily Gould picks her favorite novels of the year for The Millions, among them books by Sarah Waters, Mira Jacob, Elisa Albert, Nell Zink, and, as one (male) commenter apparently couldn’t resist complaining, just one guy, Brian Morton. Another commenter suggests (and we concur) that anyone similarly concerned about the lack of dudes can go look for them on just about every other year-end list.

    The arts writer Carol Vogel has taken a buyout from the New York Times.

  • December 3, 2014

    At Page-Turner, Adelle Waldman reconsiders the traditional novel. It’s “fashionable” to think of it as over, or to suppose that memoir and autobiographical novels are the only way forward. But the form offers possibilities that nonfiction and autobiography do not. Among them, it allows the writer subjects that aren’t herself: “Channeling people other than the author also makes possible the presentation of multiple consciousnesses, enabling novels to capture some of the populous cacophony of real life.”

    Raymond Chandler wrote a libretto to a comic opera, The Princess and the Pedlar. The work was registered at the Library of Congress in 1917 and subsequently forgotten about. Now the daughter of a woman Chandler was involved in late in his life wants to produce it. But the estate isn’t interested, it says, in Chandler’s juvenalia.

    At the Columbia Journalism Review, a discussion of longform platforms, including Latterly. Launched in November by Ben Wolford and Christina Asencio, Latterly pays contributors $2500 per piece.

    Bookslut’s Lauren Oyler explains why she dislikes Roxane Gay’s recent book, Bad Feminist: “The problem with Gay’s manipulation of feminism into a ‘bad’ version, it turns out, is that it’s not so different from no feminism at all; the rejection of ‘unreasonable standards’ for feminism quickly descends into the rejection of standards full-stop.”

    Gawker editorial director Joel Johnson has been removed from his position but not from the company. A “V.P.-level” position is available to him if he wants it, Nick Denton said: ”We need Joel’s mind, and we need it free of everyday distractions.” In Johnson’s place, Denton will hire an executive editor and a group managing editor.

  • December 2, 2014


    The Times has announced its notable books list for 2014.

    Our new issue is out and, we submit, it’s kind of special. To celebrate our twentieth anniversary, we invited current and former contributors—including Geoff Dyer, Christian Lorentzen, Christine Smallwood, Lydia Davis, Luc Sante, J. Hoberman, Chris Kraus, and many others—to write about notable books of the past twenty years. Meanwhile, Heather Havrilesky points out the best-seller list’s spectacular mansplaining, Melanie Rehak reflects on the Brooklynification of all food, and Christopher Lyon picks out the best art books. You can get all of that if you buy the print magazine in a bookstore or, better yet, subscribe. Also in the issue, Parul Sehgal praises Claudia Rankine’s National Book Award–nominated Citizen; Astra Taylor writes about the hacktivist collective Anonymous, Kaitlin Phillips noodles on her computer for the sake of Lena Dunham, and Kerry Howley investigates Laura Kipnis’s investigation of men. Check out the TOC here.

    The murder case that has been the subject of the transfixing podcast Serial is going to appeals court. Adnan Syed, who was convicted in 2000 of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, is now serving the fifteenth year of a life sentence. Syed has protested his innocence from the beginning, and his lawyer calls this appeal “his last best chance.” The podcast, produced and narrated by the reporter Sarah Koenig, has been exploring the case for nine episodes, and has reached more than a million and a half million listeners.

    PJ Harvey is coming out with a book of poetry, The Hollow of the Hand, next October. The book is a collaboration with photographer and filmmaker Seamus Murphy, who directed the music videos for Harvey’s 2011 album, Let England Shake.

    Reihan Salam, the new executive editor of the National Review, has been anointed “Brooklyn’s favorite conservative” by New York Magazine. Salam runs with a literary crowd, endearing himself to most and doing his best to endear himself to the rest too. He’s written for the Review for a number of years, and is a Slate columnist and a contributor to CNN.

    Goodreads researched people’s reading habits and found that 90 percent of the time men prefer to read men and women to read women. (Men prefer to be men 100 percent of the time, but that wasn’t covered in the study.) Nevertheless, people of both genders think women are ever so slightly better at writing: Women rate women writers an average of 4 out of 5 stars, while they rate men an average of 3.8. Men rate men average of 3.8 stars, but allow women an average of 3.9.


  • December 1, 2014

    At Al Jazeera America, Bookforum’s Chris Lehmann calls out progressives for failing to respond to the grand jury decision in Ferguson last week. “It speaks volumes about the anorexic state of liberal moral reasoning in today’s America that it has met the failure of a grand jury to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown with little more than a procedural shrug. All appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the system has worked, liberals intone.”

    At the new site the Toast, Roxane Gay writes about the Ferguson grand jury decision and the “dignity” of Michael Brown’s parents, and ponders the difficulty of using words at a time of rage.

    Laura Kipnis, author of the new book Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation, considers gender and threats to masculinity in the Ferguson case.

    Mark Strand, who was named the US Poet Laureate in 1990 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1999, died at his home in Brooklyn on Saturday. He was eighty years old. British “queen of crime fiction” P. D. James also died last week at age ninety-four.

    Jacqueline Woodson

    Jacqueline Woodson

    Jacqueline Woodson, who earlier this month won the National Book Award for her memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, reflects on the racism she has experienced as an African American, on NBA emcee Daniel Handler’s watermelon joke, and on changes in contemporary publishing. “Mr. Handler’s watermelon comment was made at a time of change. We Need Diverse Books, a grass-roots organization committed to diversifying all children’s literature, had only months before stormed the BookCon conference because of its all-white panels. The world of publishing has been getting shaken like a pecan tree and called to the floor because of its lack of diversity in the workplace. At this year’s National Book Awards, many of the books featured nonwhite protagonists, and three of the 20 finalists were people of color.”

    On Saturday, President Obama visited Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington, DC. Among the books he purchased were Denis Johnson’s The Laughing Monsters, Colm Toibin’s Nora Webster, and Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal.

  • November 26, 2014

    Yesterday ABC’s George Stephanopoulos conducted the first interview with Darren Wilson, the cop who killed Michael Brown. Wilson told Stephanopoulos that he “would not do anything differently that day”; that he was just “doing his job,” and that he has a “clean conscience.” Wilson may, God forbid, be reporting his feelings honestly, but he can’t possibly be doing so with his account of what happened. A source from NBC, who was also bidding for the interview, said that ABC payed in the mid-to-high six figures for the interview.

    At the New Yorker, a reminder that the Ferguson prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, had the authority to charge Wilson with a crime, which is how most prosecutions begin. Instead, McCulloch decided to open a grand jury investigation. As Jeffrey Toobin points out, grand juries are widely viewed as “tools of prosecutors.” Here’s how Sol Wachtler, the former chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, put it: “A prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to ‘indict a ham sandwich’ if he wanted to.” Technically, McCulloch turned over the decision; in effect he remained in control.

    The Ferguson library has been staying open when other public organizations, including schools, have closed. You can donate to the library by clicking on the button in the upper right-hand corner of their website. You can also follow them on Twitter.

    First Look Media has killed Racket, the political-satire site it was planning to launch under the direction of Matt Taibbi. But Taibbi left under acrimonious circumstances last month, and First Look, after reportedly looking for a replacement for him, has decided to let go of the staff Taibbi had hired. Yesterday, Taibbi tweeted, “Feel sick about Racket. And before Thanksgiving. I’m sorry to all.” At In These Times, Bookforum editor Chris Lehmann suggests that the situation at First Look isn’t that surprising. “Decades into the information age, the culture of Silicon Valley and the traditions of investigative reporting still make for an awkward fit.”

    Obama’s new Treasury nominee, Antonio Weiss, has been instrumental in a deal that will let Burger King merge with the Canadian coffee-and-donuts company Tim Hortons—and, as a result of the merger, pay Canada’s lower tax rate (a so-called “corporate inversion”). As Zoë Carpenter reports at The Nation, Elizabeth Warren and a number of other senators are objecting to Obama’s nomination of Weiss, who would oversee domestic finance. Warren explained her feelings last week at the Huffington Post: “It’s time for the Obama administration to loosen the hold that Wall Street banks have over economic policy-making.” We took note of this story because Weiss  also happens to be the publisher of the Paris Review.

    The Times has published an obituary of Leslie Feinberg, a writer, activist, and the author of the influential novel Stone Butch Blues. Feinberg died on November 15  at the age of 65.

  • November 25, 2014

    Last night, a St. Louis County grand jury decided not to bring charges against Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Michael Brown. The demonstrations against the decision are righteous and angry and ongoing. Here’s Raven Rakia on what gets called a protest and what gets called a riot. The key difference? Who is protesting and where, not what they’re doing. “Violence is a realistic factor, and sometimes, a tactic, in all of these protests. Resisting is never peaceful. If the State fears you, it will crack down on you violently.”

    Color of Change, an online civil rights organization started in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, has released a memo to reporters covering the protests in Ferguson.

    For years, David Harvey has been teaching a course on Marx’s Capital at CUNY. Harvey’s well-loved and eminently helpful lectures on Volume 1 have been available for a while; now Volume 2 and part of Volume 3 is available as well.

    Allan Kornblum

    Allan Kornblum

    Allan Kornblum, the founder of the excellent Coffee House Press, has died of leukemia. He was 65. Kornblum launched Coffee House in 1984, after moving to Minneapolis with his wife, Cinda. Kornblum’s colleague Chris Fischbach remembers him as wise and tireless. The press has published Ben Lerner, Ron Padgett, and Karen Tei Yamashita, among many others—in thirty years, it has put out more than four hundred books.

    In the Times, David Carr admonishes journalists who knew of Cosby’s reputation as a serial abuser but said nothing. That list includes Cosby’s biographer, Mark Whitaker, as well as writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Kelefa T. Sanneh, and Carr himself:  “We all have our excuses, but in ignoring these claims, we let down the women who were brave enough to speak out publicly against a powerful entertainer.”

    The University of Texas Harry Ransom Center has acquired the archive of Gabriel García Márquez. The collection has more than two thousand letters, but very few are personal, and most are from other writers—Márquez rarely made copies of the letters he sent, and kept in touch with his family mainly over the phone. A possibly apocryphal story has it that when he got engaged to his wife he offered to buy back the love letters he’d written to her. There is little relating to his political life either, or his friendship with Castro: Again—unusually for a writer?—he was a “phone person,” his son has said. The Ransom Center also holds the archives of Joyce, Hemingway, Faulkner, and Borges.

    How does the Strand stay in business? It only buys books it thinks it can sell. It sells more new books than used. It buys review copies from editorial assistants at a fraction of the wholesale price and sells them as new (which they essentially are). It has a below-market lease (which the business rents from the owners of the store, Fred Bass and his daughter Nancy). It subleases out the offices above the store. The main thing, says Vulture, is that it’s owned and run by a family who care about it.

  • November 24, 2014

    The passwords we use say a great deal about us and often have elaborate histories. At the New York Times, a story about these “tchotchkes of our inner lives” that commemorate what is important to us—“a motivational mantra, a swipe at the boss, a hidden shrine to a lost love, an inside joke with ourselves, a defining emotional scar.”

    Laura Poitras

    Laura Poitras

    Laura Poitras has received the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence for her reporting on the NSA and Edward Snowden. Amy Goodman, the host of “Democracy Now!,”  received a lifetime achievement award.

    New York Magazine has rolled out a series of “pop-up blogs” that run for a month on a specific topic—like, say, relationships or the art world. The blogs are funded by a single source who approves the theme but doesn’t have any oversight over content. A recent pop-up, “It’s Complicated,” was funded by the TV show “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce.”

    Starting in January 2017, all recipients of funding from the Gates Foundation will be required to publish their research in open-access journals. The point, the Foundation says, is to “enable the unrestricted access and reuse of all peer-reviewed published research.”

    Ordinarily, URLs are made with keywords so that they will show up on Internet searches. Most of Buzzfeed’s traffic, however, comes from social sharing. Buzzfeed’s most recent trick to get people to share their posts is the “social URL”—custom URLS made by Buzzfeed writers and embedded with jokes or puns.  

    In a profile of Arundhati Roy, the Guardian gives a lot of airtime to criticisms of the writer—that she is a “dilettante,” a “literary tourist”; that her latest book is “shrill.” But, as always, she comes off as self-possessed and impassioned. Bookforum published a conversation between Roy and Siddhartha Deb earlier this year.


  • November 21, 2014

    Daniel Handler made some flat-footed and racist jokes while hosting Wednesday’s National Book Awards event. It’s no fun to watch. He apologized yesterday on Twitter, but the bad taste lingers. As Roxane Gay put it: “It’s not one off color joke, it’s the sum of all of them, everywhere, from the people you are most inclined to like and love.”

    Recover from the embarrassment of watching Handler by watching Louise Glück, who accepted her award with endearing emotion. She thanked her colleagues in poetry, “who have more times than I can say astonished me and moved me and filled me with the envy that becomes gratitude.”

    Recover further by reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s wonderful remarks:  “Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I have had a long career and a good one. In good company. Now here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want—and should demand—our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.” Le Guin won the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

    Clancy Martin becoming a karate dad

    Clancy Martin becoming a karate dad

    Jack Shafer has been laid off at Reuters, and, in an interview with Capital New York, is unusually forgiving about it. “The job belongs to Slate or the job belongs to Reuters, not to me. . . . We know this going in. We’re mercenaries.” The Washington Post says Reuters’ removal of Shafer marks the end of the company’s web strategy of a few years ago, which was to hire a gang of “big-name opinionators.”

    Scribner is launching an online magazine it has imaginatively called Scribner.

    Clancy Martin wants to be a better person. His first step is karate.