• October 11, 2018

    Colson Whitehead. Photo: Dorothy Hong

    Colson Whitehead is working on a new novel. Inspired by the real-life story of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, The Nickel Boys follows two black teens sent to a reform school in 1960s Florida. “It was emblematic of so many injustices that go on every day that you never hear about,” Whitehead said of the school. “The survivors are never heard from and the guilty are never punished, they live to a ripe old age while their victims are damaged for life. It seemed like a story worth taking up.” The Nickel Boys will be published next summer by Doubleday.

    The National Book Foundation announced the finalists for this year’s National Book Award yesterday. Nominees include Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend, Jeffrey C. Stewart’s The New Negro, and Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights. Winners will be announced in November.

    A new study finds that heavy Twitter use may be affecting journalists’ judgement of what is newsworthy.

    Teen Vogue has hired Lindsay Peoples Wagner as its next editor in chief. Peoples Wagner was most recently fashion editor for The Cut and New York magazine.

    “How do we think about the fact that so many boldface names in publishing and literature are female, that feminist reworkings of ancient myths constitute an industry trend, that spiky, honest meditations on motherhood make for another trend—and, still, we live in a world that hates women?” asks Katy Waldman at the New Yorker.

  • October 10, 2018

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    The Guardian’s Alison Flood reports from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s acceptance lecture for the PEN Pinter prize yesterday. “Art can illuminate politics. Art can humanise politics. Art can shine the light towards truth. But sometimes that is not enough,” she said. “Sometimes politics must be engaged with as politics. And this could not be any truer or more urgent today. . . . We must know what is true. And we must call a lie a lie.”

    Maggie Gyllenhaal is writing, producing, and directing a movie based on Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter. Gyllenhaal says she spent a “few weeks” writing a letter to Ferrante about possibly adapting the book into a film. “She came back and said, ‘You can have the rights, but you have to direct it. I’m only giving the rights to you to direct.’”

    In the New York Times Magazine, Angela Flournoy profiles director Barry Jenkins, who is currently working on a movie adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk.

    Vulture has ranked all twenty-two of Haruki Murakami’s books that have been published in the US.

    Tana French talks to CrimeReads about gaslighting, whether women writing crime fiction is a feminist act, and her new book, The Witch Elm. “A lot of the books I’ve seen described as ‘feminist’ seem to me to be about universal issues, dealt with through the experience of female characters. If I define that as intrinsically feminist, I’m defining the character as first and foremost a woman, rather than a human being,” she said. “If a book deals with a universal issue from a male character’s standpoint, we assume that it says something to and about all humanity; his gender only becomes a defining element of the discussion if he’s dealing with something that’s heavily male-specific.”

  • October 9, 2018

    Barbara Kingsolver. Photo: Annie Griffiths

    At The Guardian, Lidija Haas talks to Barbara Kingsolver about conflict, the end times, and her new book, Unsheltered. “What do people do when it feels like they’re living through the end of the world as we know it? Because that’s what it seems like we’re doing right now, and almost nobody disagrees,” Kingsolver said. “And maybe people said that 10 years ago, but now they’re really saying ‘WTF?’”

    Alexandra Alter explores why women are channeling their anger and anxiety over the current political moment into writing dystopian fiction. “I felt like I didn’t need to invent a disaster, because there was already a disaster happening,” said The Water Cure author Sophie Mackintosh, whose Man Booker-nominated novel imagines “if masculinity were literally toxic.”

    Former White House communications director Hope Hicks will join New Fox as head of corporate communications after 21st Century Fox finalizes its sale to Disney next year.

    “At a certain point, when certain kinds of stories in our current moment, one has to ask oneself whether the access is helpful to the story or hurts the story,” Vanity Fair editor Radhika Jones told Recode. “Does having access to Donald Trump get you closer to the truth about Donald Trump? Or is the write-around really the way to get at the truth about him?”

    New York Times Book Review editors Pamela Paul, Gregory Cowles, and Barry Gewen explain how the section minimizes conflicts of interest in its reviews. “The hardest reviewers to find are those who are intellectually honest and independent,” Paul said. “In the current polarized environment, it’s particularly difficult to find people who are willing to let go of their agenda and assess a book on its merits. That’s what makes it a book review, not an Op-Ed.”

  • October 8, 2018

    Anne Carson Mile Long Opera

    Anne Carson

    Tonight is the final performance of David Lang’s immersive Mile-Long Opera: A Biography of 7 O’Clock, which is being performed on the Highline. The audience wanders among the one-thousand performers, who are singing words composed by the poet-essayists Anne Carson and Claudia Rankine.  

    Fiction writers Kelly Link and John Keene, poet Natalie Diaz, and playwright Dominique Morisseau have been awarded MacArthur Fellowships, aka “genius grants.”

    In the latest installment of “Ask Greil,” Greil Marcus explains why Charles Manson wasn’t interesting and answers a number of reader questions, such as: “have you ever considered writing a novel?” And: “Could you suggest a few of your favorite essay collections and/or authors who would be helpful for a young writer to read?”

    At Lithub, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, author most recently of the novel Sketchtasy, offers a list of books that both look at the 1990s and correct the problems of nostalgia. “The opposite of nostalgia is truth. Here are five books that may offer just that.”

    Thomas & Mercer, the crime-book imprint of Amazon Publishing, has paid seven figures for three forthcoming novels by T.R. Ragan.

     

  • October 5, 2018

    Julia Turner

    Slate editor in chief Julia Turner is leaving the website for the Los Angeles Times. Turner will take over as the arts and entertainment section deputy managing editor, replacing Mary McNamara, who will go back to writing. Turner will continue to co-host the Culture Gabfest podcast from Los Angeles.

    At the Paris Review, Idra Novey looks at the “open secret” of sexual assault in American literature. Novey points out that novels about sexual violence often leave out details of the attacks altogether. “Instead, the story gives primacy to the sensorial memory that is the legacy of the assault, the images and words that will haunt [her] the rest of her life,” she writes.

    At Lithub, read Sarah Nicole Prickett’s introduction to Gary Indiana’s Gone Tomorrow.

    “Hemingway is at once kinder and more lost than we give him credit for. He has an excellent sense of humor,” writes Mikaella Clements on the subtle queerness of Ernest Hemingway’s work. “He is often very emotional. His portrayal of women is certainly misogynistic, but it is also complicated, mixed with longing and terror; very often, his women are the most nuanced characters on the page.”

    “I am reluctant to name any particular book or author whom I feel is overrated, etc.; it is so very difficult to write a good book that I find myself always giving writers credit for even trying,” Andre Dubus III tells the New York Times By the Book column. “That said, I do despise writing that is a clever reflection back on the writer, writing that makes judgments of characters to make the writer look cooler or more hip or world-weary and wise in some way.”

  • October 4, 2018

    New York Times opinion columnist Bari Weiss has signed a book deal. The New Seven Dirty Words will take “a deep look at our new culture of censorship and censoriousness and makes the case for reviving the virtues that are essential for an open society.” The book will be published by Henry Holt in 2020.

    New York Times deputy Metro editor Amy Virshup is taking over as the paper’s travel editor.

    Caitriona Lally

    The Washington Post reports on Caitriona Lally, who just won the Rooney Prize for literature from Trinity College Dublin. Lally, who also works at the college as a janitor, was surprised when she got the news that her book, Eggshells, had won the coveted award: “At that moment, I couldn’t figure out what a Rooney was.”    

    Wesley Morris argues that culture is now judged more for its correctness than its quality: “The real-world and social-media combat we’ve been in for the past two years over what kind of country this is—who gets to live in it and bemoan (or endorse!) how it’s being run—have now shown up in our beefs over culture.”

    Rumaan Alam profiles Diane Williams, the short-story writer and editor of NOON, who has a comprehensive new collection of work coming out. Williams is reluctant to explain her stories, which are often no more than a couple pages long, telling Alam: ““I’m not willfully trying to be obscure or difficult. Maybe I also am. At the moment I said it, I thought, ‘Is that a lie?’ So there’s something to think about.”

    The Atlantic reports on Ross Goodwin, a writer who has created an artificial-intelligence machine that generates poetry, screenplays, and is now in the process of “writing” a travel novel. Goodwin is driving from New York to New Orleans with the computer, a laptop with a receipt printer attached. As Brian Merchant reports, “Along the way, the four sensors—the camera, the GPS, the microphone, and the computer’s internal clock—would feed data into a system of neural networks Goodwin had trained on hundreds of books and Foursquare location data, and the printer would spit out the results one letter at a time. By the end of the four-day trip, receipts emblazoned with artificially intelligent prose would cover the floor of the car.”

  • October 3, 2018

    Nicole Chung. Photo: Erica B. Tappis

    Victoria Namkung talks to Nicole Chung about transracial adoption, motherhood, and her new book, All You Can Ever Know. “Even though it wasn’t the whole truth, I was so comforted and so attached to this origin story I was given. I remember how difficult it was to start challenging that in my own head and reconsidering my own adoption story,” Chung said. “The story I had was never enough and I’ve just been telling it ever since, mostly within my family and to my kids, and now it’s changing with this book about to be out there.”

    The Washington Post has relaunched its magazine.

    GQ’s Joel Pavelski details the newfound expectation that political print journalists be camera-ready. “Journalists from old-guard print publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post who once toiled in relative obscurity—working the phones and appearing in public mostly through their bylines or Twitter profile pictures—have vaulted to nationwide prominence as on-call talking heads for networks like CNN and MSNBC,” he writes.

    “When Republicans say ‘elite,’ they don’t mean ‘rich.’ They love rich people. They mean ‘smart,’” Fran Lebowitz tells The Believer. “There has always been a real strain of anti-intellectualism in this country, but I’m not even talking about intellectualism. I’m talking about normal intelligence and lack of ignorance.”

    Rebecca Traister lists the books she read while writing Good and Mad.

    Who in the world is only waking up to their anger now?” asks Jessa Crispin as she reviews two recent books on women’s anger. “I wonder how long we’re going to have books like this for women, books in which we sing only a song of our own oppression and tell ourselves we are special and brave for having suffered for so long.”

  • October 2, 2018

    Former ESPN broadcaster Jemele Hill is joining The Atlantic as a staff writer. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Hill addressed her departure from the sports network, social media, and being a black journalist in the sports world. “Mike (Smith) and I specifically were called political, way before any of the Trump stuff ever happened,” Hill recalled of her experience hosting SportsCenter with Smith. “And I always thought that was a very interesting label, because frankly, I think that most of the time it was said because we were the two black people.”

    Myriam Gurba. Photo: David Naz

    A Stockholm district court has sentenced Jean-Claude Arnault, whose sexual misconduct led to the postponement of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, to two years in prison after he was convicted of rape.

    Anne Elizabeth Moore has been hired as the new editor in chief of the Chicago Reader.

    At The Guardian Ben Fountain and Malcolm Gladwell discuss Trump, vulnerability, and Fountain’s new book, Beautiful Country Burn Again.

    At The Believer, Nikki Darling talks to Myriam Gurba about whiteness, sexual violence, and trauma in her book, Mean. “It was important for me to write a narrative about trauma as an unlikable narrator. I wanted not to include unlikable victims or survivors, per se, but victims and survivors . . . who are more ‘fully human,’ as opposed to angelic, creatures,” she said of the women who’s stories of sexual assault and trauma are included in her book. “I frequently emphasize my meanness and my pettiness and my bitchiness throughout the narrative, almost to sort of challenge the reader. Did I deserve this even though I’m a fucking bitch? No, of course not. And did it correct my bitchiness? No. I’m still a fucking bitch.”

    Tonight at the New York Public Library, Aminatou Sow talks to Rebecca Traister about her new book, Good and Mad.

  • October 1, 2018

    deborah eisenberg

    Deborah Eisenberg

    Sarah Hepola, the author of the memoir Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, considers Brett Kavanaugh’s claim during his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week that he has never blacked out from drinking (Hepola calls Kavanaugh’s claim that he has “gone to sleep” after drinking a “semantic dodge”). She also delves into a memoir by Mark Judge, whom Christine Blasey Ford says attacked her with Kavanaugh. In Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk (which is reportedly extremely hard to find), Judge describes the behavior that led him to get sober, including “a wedding rehearsal dinner where he got so blasted he doesn’t remember the evening’s end. A friend informs him the next day that he tried to take off his clothes and ‘make it’ with a bridesmaid. Mr. Judge’s response cuts me. ‘Please tell me I didn’t hurt her,’ he said.”

    At Politico, Bill Scher reads Stormy Daniels’s new memoir Full Disclosure, and compares it with other memoirs about alleged presidential mistresses, from Nan Britton’s The President’s Daughter (about Warren Harding) to Gennifer Flowers’s Passion and Betrayal.

    Literary scholar Peter Conrad looks at how Shakespeare’s plays offer insight into the age of Trump and Brexit.

    Farrar, Straus and Giroux’s Eric Chinski has purchased the North American rights to Leah Redmond Chang’s Young Queens, a novel about four royals of the Renaissance: Catherine de Medici, Mary Stuart, Elizabeth Tudor, and Elisabeth de Valois.

    Giles Harvey profiles Deborah Eisenberg, the magnificent story writer and “chronicler of American insanity.”

  • September 28, 2018

    Margo Jefferson

    At The Millions, Raksha Vasudevan talks to Margo Jefferson about feminism, whiteness, and combining criticism and memoir in her 2015 book Negroland. “I’d spent my writing life as a critic. My initial feeling was that those kinds of tones and voices had to go; this was memoir,” she said. “But then, I realized, no, that was as much a fixed part of my identity as other things. I realized I had to include the critic who is diagnosing, who is assessing, who is judging against a kind of backdrop that is aesthetic, cultural, political.”

    PEN International and VIDA: Women in Literary Arts are collaborating “to monitor gender disparities in literature” worldwide through the PEN VIDA count.

    The New York Times Magazine profiles Deborah Eisenberg.

    New York magazine’s Boris Kachka examines the “backlash to the backlash at the New York Review of Books.”

    Kristinn Hrafnsson has taken over as editor in chief of WikiLeaks. Julian Assange, who has been stuck in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 and had no access to the internet or visitors for the last six months, will stay on as publisher. “I condemn the treatment of Julian Assange that leads to my new role,” Hrafnsson said, “but I welcome the opportunity to secure the continuation of the important work based on WikiLeaks ideals.”

    The New York Times opinion section has apologized for posting a Twitter poll asking if users found Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony to be credible, calling the format “insensitive in light of the gravity of this hearing.”

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