• August 14, 2014

    The Associated Press reports that on Wednesday, an AP video journalist, Simone Camilli, and a Palestinian translator, Ali Shehda Abu Afash, were killed in Gaza.

    In its cover story this month, Wired calls Edward Snowden the most wanted man in the world.

    Mary Beard

    Mary Beard

    The LARB talks to the classicist and wonderful critic Mary Beard, whose most recent book, Laughter in Ancient Rome, came out in July. Beard has been unruffled by (classy about?) the negative attention she’s received in Britain for something entirely unrelated to her formidable career: appearing on television with undyed hair. “It’s not like I’m a Stalinist about grey hair,” she told Annalisa Quinn. “In fact, I’d quite like to go pink. But I don’t like women feeling like they’re forced to dye their hair. It raises the broader question: how can women age without falling into the old crone trap? I mean, we’re back with the bloody Greeks and Romans.”

    A few days ago, Jezebel wrote an open letter to its parent company, Gawker, complaining about Gawker’s failure to address the violent and disturbing gifs that have been repeatedly posted to the comments sections of the website. For months, they said, they had been petitioning boss Joel Johnson to do something about the problem, and nothing happened. Happily, a short-term solution—preventing all media uploads— is now in place. A long-term solution, a “pending comments” system, is in the works.

    Buzzfeed interviews thirteen editors about how their publications—including the New York Observer, Politico, the Guardian, New York Magazine, the New Republic, the New Yorker, and Buzzfeed itself—handle diversity. “It’s important to hire in a way that doesn’t oblige people to represent their own identity internally or externally,” the editor of Buzzfeed, Ben Smith, said. “Ideally, that means that you have enough, say, black or Hispanic or Mormon staff writers that, far from representing some monolithic viewpoint, they can disagree with one another about any given thing.”


  • August 13, 2014

    The much-maligned app Yo—which allows users to say “Yo” to one another—should not be dismissed as a novelty, the Wall Street Journal says. When the app’s monosyllabic greeting pops up in your smartphone’s notifications tray (and a tiny voice repeats the word) the app is exploiting push notifications, “the most valuable property in the entire media universe, considering how often the average smartphone owner glances at his or her phone.” Future iterations of Yo will allow users to send links along with the greeting and to connect the app to RSS feeds. Soon, “every blogger, website and media outlet on earth” will be using Yo to send notifications and links.

    How many Twitter users aren’t real people? Approximately 23 million of the the 271 million monthly active users, or about 8.5 percent.

    Tim Parks, who lately has been on the reading beat at the New York Review of Books blog, discusses the argument that people reading anything is better than people reading not at all. Is reading really a gateway drug? Do people “pass from the genre to the literary up our neo-Platonic ladder? Do they discover Stieg Larsson and move on to Pamuk?” Nope: Different kinds of narratives offer “different experiences that mesh with readers’ psyches and requirements in quite different ways.” Reading literary fiction isn’t a necessary element of a “full, responsible, and even wise life,” and such readers don’t possess “an essential tool for self-realization or the key to protecting civilization from decadence and collapse.” (Not even readers of Pamuk? Quelle horreur.)

    How well you understand what you read, genre or not, depends on whether the book is in a print or digital format.  Researchers studying 10th graders found that those who read print books responded better to tests measuring comprehension than those who read on a computer. Apparently, “reading print texts helps the brain form mental maps.”

    A young-adult imprint at MacMillan, Swoon Reads, is relying on readers to choose its titles. The publisher of Swoon Reads, Jean Feiwel, explains that “readers are more in touch with what can sell.” She has acquired six of the 237 manuscripts posted to the Swoon website.

  • August 12, 2014

    Maureen Dowd

    Maureen Dowd

    Maureen Dowd has been named a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine. She will continue to write her op-ed column for the Sunday edition of the paper.

    In June, Publisher’s Weekly reported that Hachette had acquired Perseus Books. But now, according to a letter sent out to Perseus employees, the deal has been canceled.

    At the Times, David Carr devotes his column to the recent decisions by Gannett, the Tribune Company, and E.W. Scripps to spin off their newspaper properties. The optimism people felt for print media when Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post is now pretty much gone, Carr writes. “The recent flurry of divestitures scanned as one of those movies about global warming where icebergs calve huge chunks into churning waters.”

    The 50 Year Argument, a documentary about the New York Review of Books, will premiere September 29th on HBO. Martin Scorsese, who co-directs it with David Tedeschi, says he was drawn to the “adventure of thought and the sensuality of ideas” that the magazine represents.

    Amazon responds to an open letter—signed by 900 authors supporting Hachette—by releasing an official statement on a newly launched website called readersunited.com. The LA Times thinks this may be the publishing industry’s first AstroTurf campaign.

  • August 11, 2014

    Jim Frederick

    Jim Frederick

    The New York Times reports that journalist Jim Frederick—the author of Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent Into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death—has died. The Times obituary describes Black Hearts as documenting “the intense and withering experience of a group of men who were poorly commanded, overwhelmed with stress and witness to myriad bloody calamities, including the deaths of comrades.”

    Politico reports that Amazon has hired a group of lobbyists and wooed members of Congress in an attempt to build its political influence: “Amazon’s aggressive tactics were on display in July, when the Federal Trade Commission prepared to sue it for allowing kids to rack up big bills in its app store. The company went on the offensive, pre-emptively releasing details of the lawsuit while writing FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez with a pledge to fight in court. Amazon even recruited support on Capitol Hill, getting Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) to slam the agency’s approach.”

    Django Gold’s New Yorker story “Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words”—in which he writes “jazz might be the stupidest thing anyone ever came up with”—was satire (Gold is on staff at the Onion), but many readers are taking it very seriously. Rollins himself has responded, saying that the piece would have worked in MAD magazine, but that in the New Yorker, the humor was out of context. (“It hurt me,” he claimed.) Now Justin Moyer at the Washington Post has weighed in with an article titled “All that Jazz Isn’t All that Great,” which seems to be satire (“Improvisation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be”), but, unfortunately, is not.

    Paul Berman’s “The Rise and Fall of a Radical Journalist” (at the New Republic) is a snide appraisal of Alexander Cockburn, the Village Voice and Nation columnist who died in 2012. Berman’s condescending piece—in part a review of Cockburn’s A Colossal Wreck—has inspired some thoughtful conversation, particularly George Scialabba’s response: “The Assassin’s Fate: Paul Berman Shoots and Misses (Again).”

    More than nine hundred authors, including Stephen King, have signed an open letter from author Douglas Preston to readers, asking them to challenge Jeff Bezos’s tactics against Hachette.


  • August 8, 2014

    Yelena Akhtiorskaya

    Yelena Akhtiorskaya

    “The permanent retainer behind Liza’s uninsured upper front teeth had endured some irremediable catastrophe, leaving her bowl of cereal unchomped for the first time in decades.” So begins “Sentimental Driftwood,” a story by Yelena Akhtiorskaya, whose first book, Panic in a Suitcase, has just been released by Riverhead. The story begins: Carla Blumenkranz recently interviewed Akhtiorskaya for Bookforum.

    At the LRB, the novelist Helen DeWitt describes being stalked at her family cottage in Vermont. When her stalker is finally, after many months, arrested, the sentence he receives is minimal. He has been punished for a single incident, a break-in, and not the months of harassment DeWitt endured. The victim advocate explains that DeWitt had “weakened the case” by not seeming intimidated or fearful in her deposition. In other words, she “had failed to convince as damsel in distress.”

    At Slate, Laura Miller praises Haruki Murakami’s avoidance of the “coyness and elision that plagues so much American literary fiction.”

    Russia has granted Edward Snowden a three-year permit—not asylum, but a “normal residential permit”— to live in the country.

    “Novel” once described a work of fiction. Now people use it to describe…just about any book.

    The saga of Amazon continues. A long list of writers—including Maxine Hong Kingston, ZZ Packer, Michael Pollan, Junot Díaz, Jennifer Egan, Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, Claire Messud, Ann Patchett, and Cheryl Strayed—scold the company in an open letter. And the New York Times looks into an alliance between Google and Barnes & Noble against their mutual rival.

  • August 7, 2014

    The New Inquiry’s August issue, on the unseasonable theme of “Mourning,” is out. From the editors’ note: “A good death is the deal life made with us, or vice versa: a world of intensities and sensations, for the price of its end. But the ubiquity of colonial and capitalist murder breaks the pact between life and death by rendering both bleakly arbitrary.”

    Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Guernica “grows up,” according to The Rumpus. The online magazine has hired its first full-time publisher and has a print edition in the works.

    Carrie Brownstein has agreed to write a screenplay based on the British “Lost in Austen” series. The movie will be about a Brooklyn woman in a Jane Austen world.

    Sheila Heti gathers quotes from “great folks”—some dead, some not—for her ongoing Twitter series. She also interviews Joan Didion.

    The Washington Post says “relax: the death of the bookshop has been greatly exaggerated.”

    The Atlantic collates some of the Times’s dutiful explanations of slang over the years. A jay is a “slang term for a marijuana cigarette.” Macking is “a slang term for making out.” Acid is “a slang term for the drug LSD.”

    Greg Coleman has been named president of Buzzfeed.


  • August 6, 2014

    Jeffery Renard Allen

    Jeffery Renard Allen

    Tonight at 7pm, we’ll be at BookCourt to see a stellar group of authors—all faculty of Farleigh Dickinson’s MFA program—read their work: Jeffrey Renard Allen (Song of the Shank), Rene Steinke (Friendswood), David Grand (Mount Terminus), Thomas E. Kennedy (Beneath the Neon Egg), and H.L. Hix (As Much as, If Not More Than).

    n+1 on paying writers: “For a young writer who hopes to produce literature, the greatest difference between now and twenty years ago may be that now she expects to get paid. Twenty years ago, art and commerce appeared to be opposing forces. The more you were paid for your work, the more likely you were to be a hack.”

    The Academy of American Poets has expanded its Walt Whitman Award, which recognizes a first book by an American poet, to include publication by Graywolf Press and a trip to a residency in Umbria, Italy. The winner also receives a $5,000 cash prize. The judge of the 2015 contest will be Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Tracy K. Smith. Writers yet to publish a full-length book of poetry may submit a manuscript, for a thirty-five dollar entry fee, between September 1 and November 1.

    The longlist for the 2014 National Translation award names Eugene Ostashevsky, Matvei Yankelevich, Heather Cleary, and Damion Searls, among others. Searls last wrote for Bookforum about W. G. Sebald.

    The estate of Arthur Conan Doyle must pay legal fees of $30,679.93 in a case brought by the co-editor of a book of contemporary stories about the character Sherlock Holmes. Most of Conan Doyle’s stories are now in the public domain; only ten remain under copyright. But it’s those ten stories in particular, the estate insisted, that “create much of Sherlock Holmes’s emotion and human warmth.” The judge in the case, Richard Posner, was unimpressed, and called the estate’s practices “disreputable.”

    Lauren Kern joins New York Magazine as executive editor. She was formerly editor at the New York Times Magazine.

  • August 5, 2014

    Bookforum is now available as an app! You may download our Summer issue for free at the iTunes store. Single issues and one-year subscriptions will be available for purchase with the launch of our next issue, out in early September.

    John Oliver

    John Oliver

    In a recent episode of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver had words for publishers using native advertising (i.e., ads that have the appearance of news stories), to bolster revenues. In Oliver’s view, native ads will erode public trust in the media. The comedian specifically targeted The Atlantic, for its much-maligned scientology ad in early 2013, and the New York Times for its watershed “Orange is the New Black” ad back in June of this year.

    The Times interviews the “legendarily combative privacy and national security reporter” Glenn Greenwald in Rio de Janeiro, where he lives. The journalist’s house, on a mountain overlooking the city, is protected by a number of large dogs; the Internet often goes out in the frequent rainstorms.

    Not unlike the rest of publishing, teen heartthrob magazines have run into hard times. The latest casualty: Bop, with “covers featuring boy band stock photos splashed atop garish fuchsia backdrops since 1983.” For a graveyard of extinct teen magazines, head to The Hairpin.

    According to Politico, “it’s the summer of anti-Clinton books”; the Christian Science Monitor wonders whether the anti-Clinton books are “a good sign” for Hillary. The former First Lady and Secretary of State may be poised for a White House run. The cover of her biography, at least, looks quite presidential.

  • August 4, 2014

    Tired of complaints about Amazon, Chris Kubica recently spoke with people in the publishing industry about what they thought would make a superior e-book store. “The premise was simple: if we—as readers, writers, publishers, agents, librarians, and booksellers—were given unlimited time and resources to build our own vision of e-book nirvana, what features would it have that are either lacking at Amazon or that exist only in bits and pieces across a disconnected e-book ecosystem?” One conclusion: stay small. “Ultimately, we found that perhaps the best way to get traction against a dominant player like Amazon is not to build something equally titanic, but to build something wee, something human.”

    James Knowlson, author of a biography of Samuel Beckett titled Damned to Fame, has turned up new, formerly classified information about Beckett’s involvement with the Resistance during World War II.

    26003-v1-124xPublisher’s Weekly has named the “most anticipated books of Fall 2014.”

    Jason Diamond, who has covered books at Flavorwire, is moving to Men’s Journal.

    Monica Lewinski is now a contributor to Vanity Fair, Beth Kseniak, a spokesperson for the magazine, has told Politico. “There is no set schedule or subject area, but she and her editor are on the lookout for relevant topics of interest,” says Kseniak.


  • August 1, 2014

    The New Inquiry is closing in on its $25,000 goal in a fundraising campaign that ends today. If the (excellent) online magazine reaches its goal, an anonymous donor will kick in a matching $25,000 gift.

    Kate Bolick

    Kate Bolick

    The writer Kate Bolick, who hosts a literary interview series at Edith Wharton’s country estate, the Mount, has compiled a guide to entertaining that takes cues from Wharton’s life and literature. Bolick’s first tip (“Chapter 1: Police the Guest List”) begins: “Only invite people you really like—otherwise there’s no point.”

    McSweeney’s is launching a short-story contest for undergraduate and graduate students. The fee to enter is $55, and gets you an annual subscription to the magazine. The winner will receive $500 and their story will be published in the August 2015 issue. (N.b.: Contests are a racket! This is probably a good idea only if you would otherwise subscribe to the magazine, which costs $60.)

    The Amazon team has released a statement about their recent dispute with Hachette, which involved Amazon blocking pre-orders of Hachette books. The update piously names lowering the cost of e-books as a key objective.

    Former President George W. Bush’s biography of his father is set to be released in November of this year. Crown publisher Maya Mavjee describes the book as “heartfelt, intimate, and illuminating.” The Charlotte Observer assures its readers that it was written by Bush himself—the only “assistance” he had was with “research.”

    Listen to Lynne Tillman speak with Michael Silverblatt on KCRW’s Bookworm about her recent collection of essays, What Would Lynne Tillman Do? Bookforum reviewed her “unruly, personal, and provocative” criticism in our April/May issue.