• April 16, 2018

    Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

    Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

    The PEN World Voices Festival opens tonight, with events featuring Colson Whitehead, Chelsea Manning, Leila Slimani, Dave Eggers, and others. The festival will take place all week, with panel discussions featuring Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Colm Toibin, Jenny Zhang, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Hillary Clinton, and many others.  

    Anticipating high book-buyer demands, Flatiron books has printed 850,000 copies of James Comey’s book A Higher Loyalty (the initial print run of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury was 150,000). As of Friday, the book (which is scheduled to be released on Tuesday) had already pre-sold 200,000 copies. Comey and Donald Trump are now in what the New York Times calls an “all-out war.” Comey writes in the book that “Donald Trump’s presidency threatens much of what is good in this nation.” Trump has said on Twitter that Comey’s book has “many lies,” and that “when someone attacks me, I always attack back . . . except 100x more.”

    USA Today names five books you should know about this week.

    Poet-essayist Melissa Broder, whose novel The Pisces is out in May, has made a poster for her reading tour.

    Mexican author and translator Sergio Pitol has died. His novels include Mephisto’s Waltz, and he translated many English and Polish authors—Jane Austen, Henry James and Joseph Conrad, Kazimierz Brandys, Witold Gombrowicz—into Spanish.

    Tayari Jones—author of the novel An American Marriage, which was selected by Oprah Winfrey for her book club—has been hired as a professor in the MFA program at Emory University.

  • April 13, 2018

    J. D. McClatchy. Photo: Geoff Spear

    At the New Yorker, Alexandra Schwartz remembers her time studying poetry under Yale Review editor J. D. McClatchy, who died earlier this week at the age of 72. Schwartz writes that McClatchy “was a towering, booming presence, commanding, elegant, initially fearsome, later endearing, witty, sharp, amused. He broke his favorite poems down for us, exposing their layers and devices, revealing to us his own admiration for their art.”

    The 2018 Man Booker International Prize shortlist has been announced. Nominees include previous winners Han Kang and Laszlo Krasznahorkai, as well as Virginie Despentes, Ahmed Saadawi, Olga Tokarczuk, and Antonio Muñoz Molina.

    Eileen Myles talks to Paul Holdengraber about David Bowie, book blurbs, and the hatred of poetry.

    In a Twitter thread, Call Your Girlfriend podcast host Aminatou Sow detailed her experience of being misquoted in CNN commentator Sally Kohn’s new book, The Opposite of Hate. The two discussed Kohn’s project in a shared Uber ride last summer, but Sow says that there was no understanding that she would be quoted.

    The Daily Beast reports on a ninety-minute meeting between Univision’s digital media head Sameer Deen and the editorial staff of Gizmodo Media Group, which was held after CEO Raju Narisetti announced his departure and a Wall Street Journal article reported that the company may face budget cuts of up to 35 percent. Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo writes that the discussion left staff “wondering which is the more attractive uncertainty: sticking it out with Univision and potentially being gutted, or possibly being sold to new overlords and facing down the unknown yet again.”

  • April 12, 2018

    Michelle Dean. Photo: John Midgely

    Michelle Dean talks to Hazlitt’s Anna Furman about the economics of being a writer, not using the first person, and white privilege in her new book, Sharp. Furman noted that, besides Zora Neale Hurston, all the women in Dean’s book were white. “The book is predicated on the idea that not only do these women sort of sound alike, but they also had concrete personal connections. Renata Adler was engaged to Mary McCarthy’s son; Nora Ephron met Dorothy Parker as a child,” Dean explained. “The problem with social segregation, and, frankly, intellectual segregation, is that I couldn’t make those connections exist where they didn’t exist. You know, racism poisons everything.”

    Staff of the Chicago Tribune are preparing to unionize, a move that NPR calls “a historic move at a paper that, for decades, had taken a hard-line stance against unions.” Although parent company Tronc recently sold the Los Angeles Times after that paper’s staff unionized, Chicago Tribune employees feel that their concerns outweigh their fear of potential consequences. “They have looted the company, and the Tronc executives have paid themselves outsized salaries,” home page editor Charlie Johnson said. “The motivation [for unionizing] was the idea that the newsroom would finally have a voice and say in how things operated.”

    On his return to the US from a vacation with his family, columnist Shaun King was detained at JFK Airport and questioned about his involvement with the Black Lives Matter movement. The Miami Herald’s Leonard Pitts Jr writes that “one is hard-pressed to explain what happened Monday as anything other than a clumsy attempt at political intimidation, the government’s unsubtle way of letting a critic know that Big Brother is watching.”

    Matthew Lacombe discusses his research on NRA editorials in American Rifleman magazine and how they’ve impacted gun owners’ views on gun laws.

    Splinter’s Hamilton Nolan proposes a radical idea for funding journalism: Take back the money that Facebook, Google, and other tech companies have made by siphoning away print-ad dollars and give it back to publications. “It has always blown my mind that big, successful tech companies do not directly fund journalism,” he writes. “It’s cheap, it’s good for the country, and it helps to perpetuate the demonstrably successful business model that has gotten the companies this far already.”

  • April 11, 2018

    Yesterday, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg testified before congress. As The Ringer writes, he’s very sorry for the company’s recent missteps and misdeeds, including the improper sharing of personal data with Cambridge Analytica. He’ll be back testifying today. The Atlantic points out the thirteen strangest moments from the first day of hearings, while at the New Yorker, Adrian Chen considers what was missing from Zuckerberg’s remarks: “Facebook’s business model and leadership structure are still there. The company is still, as Tim Wu recently pointed out in the Times, a machine for ‘maximizing the harvest of data and human attention.’”  

    Mark Zuckerberg

    HarperCollins has announced a new posthumous J. R. R. Tolkien book edited by the late author’s son, Christopher, to be published in August. The novel, The Fall of Gondolin, was written during World War I while Tolkien was recovering from fighting in the Battle of the Somme. John Garth, author of Tolkien and the Great War, describes the new work as  “a quest story with a reluctant hero who turns into a genuine hero—it’s a template for everything Tolkien wrote afterwards. . . . It has a dark lord, our first encounter with orcs and balrogs—it’s really Tolkien limbering up for what he would be doing later.”  

    Graywolf Press is offering the Citizen Literary fellowship to encourage diversity in the publishing industry. The position is a part-time paid gig with mentoring and coaching in both editorial and marketing. Applications are due by May 4th.

    The Millions has announced the longlist for the Best Translated Book Award in fiction and poetry.

    For National Library week, The Paris Review Daily has a paean to the “strange magic” of libraries. Stuart Kells, author of The Library, reflects on the transcendent happenstance of the stacks: “The history of libraries is rich with stories of chance encounters with priceless manuscripts, lost letters, rare editions, and scandalous memoirs. Less illustrious discoveries are part of the everyday experience of libraries. There is a magic, too, of creation.” 

    Cassell books will publish a book of Morrissey photos by Kevin Cummins titled, fittingly, Alone and Palely Loitering. The volume will be published in the US in October.  

  • April 10, 2018

    The family of Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin has filed a war crimes case against the Syrian government. The suit claims that in 2012, Colvin, alongside photographer Rémi Ochlik “was assassinated by government forces of the Syrian Arab Republic as she reported on the suffering of civilians.” The Intercept looks into the evidence submitted with the lawsuit, including a video of her final moments and “nearly 2,000 pages of documents” that “provide detailed and unprecedented evidence to support the claim that Colvin was deliberately hunted and killed as part of a policy by the Assad regime to eliminate journalists.”

    Lorrie Moore

    Malala Yousafzai’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai will publish a memoir with Little, Brown. What Love Teaches Me will be released next fall.

    Rights to Michelle McNamara’s true-crime book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, have been bought by HBO. The network plans to adapt the late author’s work into a docuseries.

    Three members of the Swedish Academy have resigned following sexual abuse allegations against Jean-Claude Arnault, “a cultural figure with close ties to the institution,” the New York Times reports.

    Gizmodo Media Group CEO Raju Narisetti is leaving Univision, which the Daily Beast attributes to the parent company’s “plans to get more directly involved with its flagship digital media property as it weighs deep cuts.”

    Progressive news site AlterNet has been bought by RawStory. In a statement, the company explained that the move was “part of a long-planned transition that will ensure the stability and future of the AlterNet brand.”

    Lauren O’Neill-Butler talks to See What Can Be Done author Lorrie Moore about personal essays, working with New York Review of Books editor Robert Silvers, and not being motivated by FOMO. “I just had to look up FOMO. I never write anything out of fear,” Moore said. “And certainly not fear of missing out. Does FOMO stand for something else? Feelings of malaise offset?”

  • April 9, 2018

    Tom Wolfe

    Tom Wolfe

    This week, New York Magazine is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. To celebrate, it’s running an oral history, with quotes from editors and contributors, including Tom Wolfe, Gloriam Steinem, Gail Sheehy, Michael Wolff, and Frank Rich. In the first issue, which came out on April 8, 1968, Tom Wolfe wrote about accents and status, and Arthur C. Clarke wrote about Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    William T. Vollmann’s new books about nuclear- and carbon-based fuels should “scare the hell out of you.”

    Amazon’s TV adaptation of the Lord of the Rings could wind up costing more than $1 billion to make.

    In the wake of the rapid departure of controversial right-wing columnist Kevin Williamson—who written, among other things, that “the law should treat abortion like any other homicide”—the Atlantic says it will be more thorough in its vetting of future hires.

    In January, the New York Times Book Review announced its plans to stop publishing the Bestseller List for graphic novels. But the review is continuing to take comics seriously: It recently hired Ed Park and Hillary Chute to write a new column about graphic novels, which will start this month.

    Novelist Anthony Marra, author of The Tsar of Love and Techno, has won the 2018 Simpson Family Literary Prize, which supports mid-career authors.

  • April 6, 2018

    Emily Nemens. Photo: Jeremiah Ariaz

    The Paris Review has chosen Emily Nemens as its new editor. Nemens was most recently the co-editor of the Southern Review. “Her literary tastes, her accomplishments, the combination of her work ethic and her sense of collaboration—both with her writers and her staff—make her a really unique package of talent,” one board member told the New York Times. “This is someone who is on a steep trajectory, and The Paris Review is going to benefit from that.”

    The Atlantic has fired columnist Kevin Williamson “after it became apparent that his belief that women who get an abortion should be hanged was more than just a single tweet,” the Daily Beast reports.

    Penguin Random House has named Madeline McIntosh as CEO and Allison Dobson as president.

    Literary Hub has a round up of this year’s literary Guggenheim fellows, which includes Teju Cole, Roxane Gay, Rachel Cusk, Deb Olin Unferth, and more.

    NiemanLab’s Laura Hazard Owen explains the backlash to the WNYC revival of Gothamist, the local news website that was shut down by its billionaire owner after employees decided to unionize. After WNYC acquired the website through donor funding, Gothamist began a Kickstarter campaign for $100,000, something critics say is unfair to their previously unpaid contributors and underpaid employees. “From this angle, the Gothamist Kickstarter, and WNYC putting out its hand to readers to relaunch the site when WNYC already received money (including from one unidentified source) to acquire it, feels . . . weird,” Owen writes. “Like, use the money you already have.”

  • April 5, 2018

    The Man Booker International prize has reversed its decision to change Taiwanese author Wu Ming-Yi’s nationality from Taiwan to “Taiwan, China.” Wu, whose novel The Stolen Bicycle is on the longlist for the prize, was previously listed as being from Taiwan, but The Guardian reports that “following a complaint from the Chinese embassy in London last week, his nationality was changed on the prize’s website.”

    Sloane Crosley

    Look Alive Out There author Sloane Crosley talks to Hazlitt about how living in New York affects her writing. “I grew up in White Plains, which is a commuter town thirty minutes outside of the city. So, while I’m not from New York, it’s not exactly the same as moving to New York from Florida or England. . . . I’m invited to the party, but I don’t feel totally comfortable,” she said. “But you have to be slightly uncomfortable to be able to walk down the street and notice things. It’s hard to observe something if you’re the life of the party or the white-hot center of it.”

    Roxane Gay is editing a pop-up magazine at Medium, where twenty-four writers respond to the same question: “What does it mean to live in an unruly body?”

    Fast Company details the history of abuse, trolling, and fake news on Twitter, and the company’s struggle to find a solution to it. BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel writes that the recent shooting at YouTube shows that the social media platform is no longer a useful resource during breaking-news events. “Twitter has long been a vital service for following along with current events as they unfold in real time,” he writes. “But in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, Twitter’s usefulness is offset considerably by a growing chorus of trolls, hoaxers, and irresponsible commentators. It’s loud and reactive at a time when restraint is most necessary.”

    Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo goes “inside the woke civil war at the New York Times,” where staff are split on generational lines over issues like sexual misconduct and the paper’s opinions writers. “The olds feel like the youngs are insufficiently respectful of long-standing journalistic norms, or don’t get that things are the way they are for a reason,” one younger employee told Pompeo. “The youngs feel like the olds are insufficiently willing to acknowledge the ways in which the world and media landscape have changed, and that our standards and mores should evolve to reflect that.”

  • April 4, 2018

    The city of New York has announced another round of its One Book, One New York program. James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk, Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach, Hari Kunzru’s White Tears, Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, and Esmeralda Santiago’s When I Was Puerto Rican are all in the running, with the winner to be announced in May.

    Kevin Young

    The winners of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards have been announced. Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing won the fiction category, while Kevin Young’s Bunk has won the nonfiction prize.  

    So Many Olympic Exertions author Annelise Chen says that she’s noticed one thing she and other autofiction writers have in common: their “unexplained revulsion” at writing pure fiction. “It’s not something we can explain — the moment we feel like we’re making something up, we feel disgust. So autofiction might be the logical end result when a fiction writer can’t stomach fiction.”

    Condé Nast says that there’s no truth to the rumors that Anna Wintour is leaving the company.

    Conservative columnist Kevin Williamson’s first piece for The Atlantic claims that the Democratic party is “dreaming up excuses to sue or jail people for their views on climate change, and the United States is for the moment left with two authoritarian populist parties.” However, neither of his two cited sources for the lawsuit claim—one of which is a four-year-old Gawker opinion post—back it up.

    Sinclair Broadcast Group executive chairman David Smith tells New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi that he does not trust any print media. “The print media is so left wing as to be meaningless dribble which accounts for why the industry is and will fade away,” he wrote in an email when Nuzzi requested an interview. “For a pundit or a far-right politician, statements like Smith’s have become expected in the Trump era,” Nuzzi notes. “But from one of the most powerful media executives in the country, they’re not.”

  • April 3, 2018

    Viv Albertine. Photo: Michael Putland

    Slits guitarist and memoirist Viv Albertine talks to The Guardian about her childhood, female rage, and her new book, To Throw Away Unopened. Albertine says that her newest book “is essentially about rage and being an outsider.” “Female rage is not often acknowledged—never mind written about—so one of the questions I’m asking is: ‘Are you allowed to be this angry as you grow older as a woman?’ But I’m also trying to trace where my anger came from,” she explained. “Who made me the person that is still so raw and angry? I think that it’s empowering to ask that question.”

    The New York Times looks at the South China Morning Post, which was bought by Alibaba last year, and wonders whether the acquisition has softened the paper’s criticism of the mainland Chinese government.

    At the Village Voice, Roy Edroso examines conservative media’s persecution complex.

    “All of the biggest issues right now that we’re reckoning with—economic inequality, the expansion of the criminal justice system, attacks on immigrants—also touch on sex workers’ lives,” said Melissa Gira Grant in a discussion of why and how the media should report on sex work. “Those are all entry points into covering sex work that aren’t about identity per se, but about power, influence, and money.”

    LA Weekly has started a #SpeakTruth campaign to repair their reputation and fight back against a boycott that they say is based on “lies and half truths.” The Outline’s Ann-Derrick Gaillot calls it “a frankly creepy attempt to delegitimize” the boycott, which was started by former writers and readers of the paper after its new owners made drastic staffing and editorial changes. “Considering the transparency of the effort, and the alt-right-esque language meant to appeal to its longtime readers, who theoretically used to read the alt-weekly for its progressive values, the #Speaktruth website comes off as nothing but a pathetic and weird joke,” Gaillot writes.

    Tonight at Books are Magic in Brooklyn, Jia Tolentino talks to Meg Wolitzer about her new novel, The Female Persuasion.

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