• October 9, 2014

    Patrick Modiano

    Patrick Modiano

    The French writer Patrick Modiano has been awarded the Nobel Prize. Modiano was born in 1945, to a Belgian actress mother and an Italian-Jewish father. His first novel, La Place de L’Etoile, about a Jewish collaborator in World War II, was published in 1968. (His father reportedly so disapproved that he tried to buy up all the copies.) Modiano has published more than twenty-five books since, among them Missing Person, Out of the Dark, and Dora Bruder. I prefer not to read my early books,” he said in 2010. “Not that I don’t like them, but I don’t recognize myself anymore, like an old actor watching himself as a young leading man.”

    Philip Roth wasn’t expecting the prize. If he’d wanted to win it, he told the New York Times, he would have called Portnoy’s Complaint “The Orgasm Under Rapacious Capitalism.” Dwight Garner points out that the Nobel committee’s blind spot is “mostly for wit.”

    Kim Gordon’s memoir, Girl in a Band, will be released in February 2015. The book describes Gordon’s many years with Sonic Youth and the breakup of the band (and that of Gordon’s marriage to Thurston Moore).

    Are buyouts a good idea for the employers who offer them? They can have a “perverse incentive structure,” Capital New York says, discussing the Times‘s recent round of layoffs, because those who choose to take them “self-select for success”: “The people who usually take buyouts are the people who can get jobs elsewhere, and those are precisely the people you would tend to want to keep. . . . On the other hand, management can and does suggest that under-performers consider buyouts—sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.”

    Edith Wharton’s 1913 novel Custom of the Country will be adapted into an eight-part TV series. Scarlett Johansson will play the peerlessly shallow and calculating Undine Spragg, who social-climbs her way into New York society via a series of marriages and divorces. Johansson will also produce the series.

    On the New Yorker‘s fiction podcast, George Saunders reads Grace Paley and Barry Hannah.

  • October 8, 2014

    Emma Cline

    Emma Cline

    Emma Cline’s debut novel, The Girls, provoked a bidding war among twelve publishers and sold to Random House, as part of a three-book deal, for somewhere in the ballpark of seven figures.

    Now that the New York Times Magazine’s “One-Page Magazine” has been disposed of, editors Samantha Henig and Jon Kelly offer an oral history of the page’s “Meh List.”

    A Swedish Nobel prize judge thinks that the “professionalization” of writers—via grants and creative writing courses—is putting the future of Western literature in jeopardy.

    Sinead O’Connor is writing a memoir, and promises it will be juicy: “I look forward to dishing the sexual dirt on everyone I’ve ever slept with,” she said.

    Dean Baquet, the Times’sexecutive editor, has responded to the criticism that he doesn’t tweet enough (to date, he’s tweeted exactly twice) by arguing that Twitter has become “a new priesthood” for journalists.

    The Washington Post will get a boost from Amazon’s Kindle: the Post is developing an app that will compress the daily paper into a tablet-friendly format, free for Kindle owners.

    Here’s an excerpt from John Jeremiah Sullivan’s introduction to Best American Essays 2014, which comes out this week.

  • October 7, 2014

    The new issue of Dissent is out, with pieces on politics and the novel from Helen DeWitt, Nikil Saval, Roxanne Gay, and Vivian Gornick. In his introduction to the issue, David Marcus writes that political novels “can help keep our eyes on the present,” offering “neither visions of what our lives ought to be like in the future nor paeans to how our lives once were lived.”

    The BTK serial killer explained in a letter from prison that he will cooperate with the writer Katherine Ramsland, a forensic psychology professor at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, on her book about his crimes.

    The New York Times‘s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, responds to complaints that the paper’s coverage of the Amazon/Hachette dispute has been skewed in favor of Hachette. Sullivan says she agrees that the articles have tended to be sympathetic to the publisher more than the Amazon: “The Times has given a lot of ink to one side and — in story choice, tone and display — helped to portray the retailer as a literature-killing bully instead of a hard-nosed business.” Among other things, she calls for “greater representation” of people who think Amazon will be good for book culture. 

    Deep readers,” writes Will Self at the Guardian, will soon be “in very short supply.”

    Amanda Hess

    Amanda Hess

    Fortune’s list of the most influential women on Twitter names some women in media, including Amanda Hess, a writer at Slate; Ann Friedman, a journalist (who sometimes writes for Bookforum); and Jamilah Lemieux, the senior digital editor at Ebony.

  • October 6, 2014

    EMILY’s List—an organization that advocates for female Democratic politicians who support abortion rights—has partnered with Lena Dunham, who will promote the group during her author tour for Not that Kind of Girl.

    At Politico, Hadas Gold suggests that the Daily Beast is thriving thanks to Tina Brown’s departure, citing a 60 percent increase in traffic over the past year.

    Dodai Stewart

    Dodai Stewart

    Dodai Stewart is leaving her position as managing editor of Gawker’s Jezebel site to join Fusion.net, where she’ll join Jezebel founder Anna Holmes, who left the Wall Street Journal to join the Fusion staff in July.

    Late last week, the Washington Post ran what it’s calling its first native print ad. The ad, taken out by Shell, notes the petroleum company’s strives in energy efficiency. As Digiday points out, it looks like a lot of advertorials we’ve become familiar with. But the Post is proclaiming the ad “true native because it’s integrated among editorial stories on the page.”

    Gene Morgan and Blake Butler have announced the end of HTMLgiant, the literary website they cofounded six years ago. The site’s final day will be October 24. Contributors over the years have included Butler, Justin Taylor, Melissa Broder, Catherine Lacey, Alissa Nutting, and Roxane Gay. The site has at times been a strong supporter of small-press authors who haven’t received much attention elsewhere. But not everyone is unhappy about HTMLgiant’s closure. As the novelist Matt Bell wrote on Facebook: “One of the best things I ever did for my mental health was delete HTMLGiant from my Google Reader, after a writer there (still frequently celebrated in our community) thought it would be funny to write a post mocking my relationship with my wife as depicted on Facebook.… While I acknowledge that there were some good aspects to the site, especially early on, I have not and will not forgive that day, and I’m glad the rest of the shitty parts of that site are coming to an end too.” Gawker speculates that HTMLgiant’s closing is due to the most recent scandals in the so-called alt-lit scene.

  • 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.