• February 5, 2014

    Roxane Gay has sold her forthcoming book, Hunger: A Weight Memoir, to Harper.

    Andrew Rosenthal

    Andrew Rosenthal

    The Observer has a juicy story about how much reporters at the New York Times resent the paper’s opinion pages, with particular scorn saved for editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal (“He runs the show and is lazy as all get out,” said one reporter), and leading op-ed columnist Thomas Friedman: “We really are embarrassed by what goes on with Friedman. I mean anybody who knows anything about most of what he’s writing about understands that he’s, like, literally mailing it in from wherever he is on the globe. He’s a travel reporter. A joke.”

    Zoe Carpenter reports at The Nation that Republican Representative Mike Rogers is attempting “to silence reporters responsible for stories he considers threatening to national security.” In a hearing with FBI director James Comey, Rogers suggested that reporters who write stories based on stolen documents—such as those leaked by Edward Snowden—have committed crimes.

    This Valentine’s Day, Martin Scorsese’s untitled and unfinished documentary about the New York Review of Books and its history will debut at the Berlin International Film Festival.

    Amazon’s latest publishing imprint, Waterfall Press, will focus on Christian books, both fiction and nonfiction. “Waterfall Press nonfiction will aim to provide spiritual refreshment and inspiration to today’s Christian reader, while fiction will include stories in the romance, mystery, and suspense genres,” Amazon said in a press release.

    A Charlie Chaplin novella from 1948, Footlights, has just been published.

    On Monday night, the 92nd Street Y hosted a discussion between Gary Shteyngart and Elif Batuman. Shteyngart joked about the extensive travel he’s undertaken for his latest book tour: “The things I’ve seen outside of New York, you don’t want to even know. It’s not just Canada. I’m never leaving this island again, I think.” Later, he spoke more seriously about life outside of New York—particularly his experience growing up in Soviet Russia, the subject of his new memoir, Little Failure. He recalls his childhood battle with asthma, which ultimately made his parents decide to move to the US: “In 1974, we didn’t have any [steroid inhalers]. You really got to see mortality up close as a child ’cause you were always about to die.”

  • February 4, 2014

    JK Rowling claims in an interview that it was a mistake to pair off Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Hermione, Rowling claims, should have wound up in love with Harry Potter. “Am I breaking people’s hearts by saying this?” she asks. Maybe not, but some fans are apparently “outraged”: “”Well thanks Jo for kicking down 10 years of what I consider to be the most beautiful, unconditional & bare bones real relationship that could ever exist between 2 people,” writes one Harry Potter fan on the Leaky Cauldron site.

    The NYPL invited author and translator Susan Bernofsky and others associated with the PEN American Center to tour the stacks at the 42nd Street Library. Library officials hoped to convince the visitors that plans to demolish the stacks is “necessary and a contribution to service and scholarship,” but according to Bernofsky, “what I saw convinced me of the opposite.”

    Zadie Smith

    Zadie Smith

    Zadie Smith talks about her story “Moonlit Landscape with Bridge,” which appears in this week’s New Yorker. The story takes place in an unnamed country in the aftermath of a terrible storm, focusing on the Minister of the Interior as he flees. Smith says of her protagonist: “The Minister is a character I’ve been thinking about for a while. Discreet, efficient, ruthless. You can spot him between the lines of a lot of different news stories.”

    The Believer has posted a 2004 interview with Philip Seymour Hoffman, in which he mentions some favorite authors (Richard Yates, Richard Ford), and discusses the George Saunders’s story “Sea Oak” in depth.

    Orhan Pamuk gives a tour of Istanbul.

    Tonight at McNally Jackson bookstore in New York, Jesse Ball will discuss his artfully whimsical new novel, Silence Once Begun.


  • February 3, 2014

    Rene Ricard—the artist, critic, and poet—has died. Ricard appeared in films by Andy Warhol and wrote influential Artforum articles about Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Francesco Clemente; his poetry collections include God with Revolver.

    Rene Ricard

    Rene Ricard

    At Hyperallergic, Morton Hoi Jensen reports on Triple Canopy’s third annual marathon reading of Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans.

    When the FBI arrested the man who founded Silk Road on drug-trafficking charges, many people who frequented this online black market were faced with a crisis: Where to continue their book club? In a trend worthy of Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, literary discussions are thriving on the Deep Web.

    The literary magazine VQR has a spiffy new website, and to celebrate, they’ve suspended the paywall for the next two weeks, freeing articles that are well worth a read, including Jeff Sharlet on Harry Belafonte, Richard Nash on the business of literature, Francine Prose on the hindu deity Sri Ganesh, among many others.

    Jacket Copy has a slideshow from this weekend’s LA Art Book Fair.

    A conversation with Adam Klein on his new anthology, The Gifts of the State: New Writing from Afghanistan, which emerged from a writing class Klein taught in Kabul. Klein says of the importance of fiction to the country’s rebuilding: “Imagination is central for post-conflict cultures: they have to change the narrative. This is never done by agreeing on one national hero or one specific aspect of the history, but by providing a voice for the many local and ethnic perceptions.”


  • January 31, 2014

    Author Alain de Botton is leading a new news organization—run entirely by philosophers. The Philosopher’s Mail claims to have bureaus in London, Amsterdam, and Melbourne, and is “committed to bringing you the latest, biggest stories, as interpreted by philosophers rather than journalists.” Check out the homepage, which currently offers philosophical takes on tabloid-ready topics such as “Anne Hathaway takes her chocolate labrador Esmeralda for a walk.”

    Susan Sontag

    Susan Sontag

    Susan Sontag wrote 17,198 emails. Benjamin Moser, who is writing a biography of Sontag, recently read them. At the New Yorker, he describes the “feeling of creepiness and voyeurism” he experienced while going through the e-mails—a feeling that “struggled the unstoppable curiosity that I feel about Sontag’s life.”

    In Portland, Oregon, a federal judge has sentenced arsonist Rebecca Rubin to read Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants“in order to teach her more about nonviolent protest.”

    The Harvard Kennedy School has announced the six finalists for the 2014 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Journalism. The prize has a $10,000 reward for finalists and $25,000 for the winner.

    Rae Armantrout

    Rae Armantrout

    For those of you in New York, we recommend two poetry events this weekend: Rae Armantrout (Just Saying) and Mark Bibbins (poetry editor at the Awl and the author of the excellent new collection They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full) read at NYU tonight; and on Saturday, Daniel Nester will launch his new anthology The Incredible Sestina at Poets House.

    The second annual Los Angeles Art Book Fair starts this weekend.

  • January 30, 2014

    Following the Washington Post’s decision to not fun Ezra Klein’s new online venture (a decision that publisher Katharine Weymouth has defended), the paper has announced in a memo to staffers that it plans to hire a new bloggers and redesign the website.

    Sappho Poem

    Poetry by Sappho

    Oxford papyrologist Dirk Obbink has determined that two poems written on a tattered piece of papyrus were written by Sappho. One of the poems refers to the author’s family; the other is addressed to the Greek goddess Aphrodite.

    Since it launched 13 years ago, Inside.com has been “part of a Steve Brill mashup, a dead domain, a planned flagship brand that didn’t happen, and a dormant asset waiting to be exploited.” For years, publishing entrepreneur Jason Calacanis has wanted the site himself. Now that he has acquired it from Guardian News & Media, he hopes to revolutionize the way we get news on our mobile devices. “I see this as the next CNN,” Calacanis says of his new mobile app.

    Billionaire entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar has released a video explaining the goals of First Look Media, which will cover politics, foreign policy, sports, and entertainment. The venture is set to launch later this year.

    Blogging is now 20 years old. To mark the occasion, Guardian has asked three blogger trailblazers to reflect on the early days and the evolution of the medium.


  • January 29, 2014

    Jimmy Carter

    Jimmy Carter

    Former US president Jimmy Carter is writing “an impassioned account of the human rights abuses against women and girls around the world, particularly in religious societies,” according to Simon & Schuster, which is planning to publish the book in late March.

    The MIT Media Lab is teaching a class this semester that aims to make science fiction real. Emphasizing “pataphysics,” or the science of imaginary solutions, the class is taught by Sophia Brueckner and Dan Novy and features William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age, and Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? on the syllabus, alongside films such as The Matrix, an essay by Donna Haraway, and short stories by Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, J. G. Ballard, Samuel Delaney, and Ray Bradbury, among others. Students are encouraged to use science fiction as the inspiration for “the ethical and thoughtful design of new technologies.”

    According to an annual survey, first editions of Madonna’s 1992, spiral-bound, metal-covered book of erotica, Sex, topped the list of the one hundred most sought after out-of-print publications for 2013. Also in demand and hard to find: Stephen King’s My Pretty Pony (illustrated by the artist Barbara Kruger), Salvador Dali’s The Jerusalem Bible, Gary Winogrand’s Women Are Beautiful, and Nora Roberts’s Promise Me Tomorrow (a book said to be so bad that its author once promised it would never be reprinted).

    Employees are apparently readying themselves for an imminent round of layoffs at Time Inc.

    It’s not exactly The Wolf of Wall Street, but the subject of Martin Scorsese’s next film is…the New York Review of Books.

    Bookslut has launched a new prize for old books. The first round of the Daphne will be awarded not to the best of 2013 but to an unjustly overlooked title published fifty years ago, in 1963.

  • January 28, 2014

    kathy acker

    Kathy Acker

    Four out of twelve writers named the late, great Kathy Acker among the authors of “books that changed my life,” for a project by n+1 that grew out of an index for the magazine’s “No Regrets” series. Acker is cited for the novels The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula by The Black Tarantula (1973), Kathy Goes to Haiti (1978), Great Expectations (1983), and Don Quixote: Which Was a Dream (1986). Dennis Cooper, Mary Shelley, Virginia Woolf, and Frank O’Hara also received multiple mentions.

    Egypt’s National Library and Archives, in Cairo’s Bab al-Khalq neighborhood, suffered structural damage on Friday when a car bomb tore through the city’s central police station, located across the street. It was one of four explosions in Cairo on the third anniversary of the protest movement that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak. Rare manuscripts and scientific scrolls were damaged, along with furniture, lighting, and ventilation systems.

    The demolition, recycling, and salvage tycoon Chen Guanbiao arrived in New York recently declaring himself “the most influential person of China” and announcing: “I Intend to Buy the New York Times, Please Don’t Take It As a Joke.” New York Magazine on the man who badly wants a media property.

    Was Emily Dickinson radical or restrained? The New York Review of Books on the divisions in her oeuvre, her estate, and a new online archive of her work.

    Al Jazeera America is moving to better real estate in the Time Warner neighborhood of cable news channels.

    Pierre Omidyar of First Look Media is planning to launch a family of digital magazines to “bring back to journalism what’s been lost—the critical but expensive support that’s often neglected in the digital age,” he says. “We’ll give our journalists everything they need to do their jobs well.”

  • January 27, 2014

    As Jonathan Mahler points out, our current journalistic environment is one that fetishizes longer articles—“even high-metabolism sites like BuzzFeed and Politico are producing their own long-form content.” But does a higher word-count mean higher quality? Mahler’s assessment of the latest long-form trend is too measured to say that it’s all bad, but he does note what’s missing from a lot of immersive journalism today: empathy.

    Nixon didn’t talk much about contemporary American authors, but as Jon Wiener writes, he anxiously wanted to discuss Philip Roth. “Roth is a bad man,” the president told Charles Colson in 1971. “He’s a horrible moral leper.”

    Philip Roth

    Philip Roth

    Media Matters considers the controversial New York Times Magazine “Planet Hillary” cover image by comparing it to the magazine’s past cover images of politicians such as Biden, Cuomo, Bill Clinton.

    Jarhead author Anthony Swofford will judge this year’s Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans, a creative-writing contest open to all veterans and active-duty soldiers.

    In an article about Ezra Klein’s departure from the Washington Post, John Cassidy, a staff writer at The New Yorker, wrote that “BuzzFeed and Upworthy aren’t really news sites.” He later backpedaled, admitting that sites such as Buzzfeed do have news, but still claiming that lists and shorter celebrity items drive most of their traffic. As Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon points out, this statement applies to most publications: “‘Lighter fare’ drives a lot of Internet traffic at publications like The New York Times, where a quiz on accents published at the end of last December was the most-viewed story of the year, attracting more readers than news coverage from months before.”

    Bavaria has just ended its legal block on publications of Mein Kampf.


  • January 24, 2014

    richard nash

    Richard Nash

    Richard Nash has joined the staff of Byliner, the digital reading service that delivers long-form journalism and fiction to subscribers. Nash, once the publisher of Soft Skull Press and currently the publisher of Red Lemonade, is leaving his position as VP at Small Demons, the company that indexed every cultural reference in Infinite Jest. Last fall, Small Demons reported that without a buyer, it would have to close shop.

    According to the Financial Times, CNN has laid off forty senior staff members, “including a pregnant producer who was two weeks away from giving birth to twins.”

    Another day, another interesting defection: Matt Yglesias is leaving Slate to join Ezra Klein’s new media venture.

    As interest in high-literary thrillers, mysteries, detective fiction, and suspense continues to rise, Penguin Books and Penguin UK announced this week that they are jointly publishing new English-language translations of the French writer George Simenon’s Inspector Maigret series. There are seventy-five books in all; eight are set to be released this year.

    In an interview with Aljazeera.com, Jill Abramson describes the world view and reportorial style of the New York Times as “cosmopolitan” as opposed to “left-wing” or “liberal.”

    After all the noise of #readwomen2014—the many recent New Year’s resolution-like efforts to make 2014 a year of reading women—two bloggers have weighed in with their own respective wish lists for twelve months of books by Arab and South Asian writers (who, yes, happen to be female).

  • January 23, 2014

    Binyavanga Wainaina

    Binyavanga Wainaina

    In response to anti-gay laws recently passed in Nigeria and Uganda, Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina, author of books such as One Day I Will Write About This Place and editor of the Nairobi-based journal Kwani, has revealed that he is gay.

    Triple Canopy has announced the lineup for its third annual marathon reading of Gertrude Stein’s novel The Making of Americans. The event will start this Friday at 5pm and conclude sometime Sunday night, and readers will include Amy Sillman, Lynne Tillman, Charles Bernstein, and many others. If you can’t make it to Triple Canopy’s Brooklyn space, you can tune in to the livestream here.

    An illuminating film about the late internet activist Aaron Swartz premiered at Sundance this week. At the New Yorker, Tim Wu considers what makes The Internet’s Own Boy, by Brian Knappenberger, so revealing: “The film confirms what everyone has said about Swartz,” writes Wu, “that he was difficult, foolish, and self-important in a way that is particular to smart young men, and that he was smart, idealistic, and vulnerable.”

    Library Journal suggests a dozen books we should read this spring.

    For the first time in twenty years, the venerable Oxford English Dictionary has a new editor. Read what he has to say about his neo-Victorian enterprise here.

    Speaking of Gertrude Stein, a new translation of an old novel by Hassan Najmi considers the lives of Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, from a Moroccan perspective, upending some of the myths of Tangiers (think Paul Bowles and William S. Burroughs) along the way.