• March 6, 2014

    The n+1 editors weigh in on Ukraine, Putin, and the West: “There’s a reason Ukraine is at the heart of the most significant geopolitical crisis yet to appear in the post-Soviet space. There is no post-Soviet state like it.”

    Fifteen years ago, John le Carre revealed that his recurring character George Smiley was based on John Bingham, who, like leCarre, was a real-life spy who worked for Britain’s intelligence agency MI5 and later went on to become a writer. A critic recently claimed that “Bingham detested Mr. le Carre’s opinions of the espionage game.” In a letter to the Telegraph, le Carre has expresses his admiration for Bingham, and then admits that Bingham “may indeed have detested” his own attitude toward MI5. “Where Bingham believed that uncritical love of the Secret Services was synonymous with love of country, I came to believe that such love should be examined. And that, without such vigilance, our Secret Services could in certain circumstances become as much of a peril to our democracy as their supposed enemies.”

    After best-picture Academy Award went to 12 Years a Slave, which is based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, the New York Times corrected an 1853 article, which misspelled Northup’s name.

    This week’s New Yorker features an excellent short story by National Book Award winner Denis Johnson. Johnson says that “The Largesse of the Sea Maiden” took him “seven or eight years” to finish, and that his new novel (due out this fall) is still under way, adding, “I believe it falls into the category of ‘literary thriller.’” (Elsewhere, he has said that the book is in the tradition of Graham Greene.)

    Heather Havrilesky

    Heather Havrilesky

    What’s wrong with Jonathan Livingston Seagull? Heather Havrilesky explains on the occasion of a new edition.

    XIndex has announced the nominees for its 2014 Freedom of Expression Award, who include the journalists Abdulelah Haider Shaye, Dina Meza, Laura Poitras, and Glenn Greenwald.

  • March 5, 2014

    Matt Buchanan

    Matt Buchanan

    The Awl has hired two editors—John Herrman, who currently works at Buzzfeed, and  Matt Buchanan, who currently works at the New Yorker—to run the site. “We’ll introduce them in more detail down the road, but they’re really lovely, thoughtful, curious and smart—and also they’re total weirdos.”

    Tom DeLay, the former House Majority Leader, has been hired as a columnist by the Washington Times.

    Listen to Jennifer Egan read Mary Gaitskill’s story “The Other Place” in this month’s New Yorker fiction podcast.

    Brian Eno has put together a reading list of his “20 Essential Books for sustaining civilization.” Along with War and Peace is The Illustrated Flora of Britain and Northern Europe.

    For the first time in almost 20 years, Calvin & Hobbes creator, Bill Watterson, has drawn a new cartoon. Web cartoonist Dave Kellett commissioned Waterson to draw the poster art for Stripped, his forthcoming comics documentary; “Dave sent me a rough cut of the film and I dusted the cobwebs off my ink bottle,” said Watterson.

    The Tribeca Film Festival announced the first half of its 2014 lineup on Tuesday, including Nancy Kates’s in-depth documentary Regarding Susan Sontag.


  • March 4, 2014

    On Friday, one Mark Ames posted a story on PandoDaily in which he investigated Pierre Omidyar’s contributions to Ukraine revolutionary groups. Omidyar, the founder of eBay, is bankrolling the much-talked-about First Look Media. What does this say about First Look? Not much, says Glenn Greenwald, one of First Look’s top editors. Greenwald responded that the activities of the Omidyar Network “have no effect whatsoever on my journalism or the journalism of The Intercept. That’s because we are guaranteed full editorial freedom and journalistic independence.”

    The New Yorker takes a look at a 1979 novel that foresaw the Russian invasion of Crimea.

    Ansel Elkins

    Ansel Elkins

    Carl Phillips has chosen Ansel Elkins as the winner of the 2014 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. Yale University Press will publish Elkins’s book, Blue Yodel, in April 2015.

    In a long interview with the Times, Philip Roth says that he’s enjoying his retirement (sort of): “The horror of being caged has lost its thrill. It is now truly a great relief, something close to a sublime experience, to have nothing more to worry about than death.”

    Tomorrow, the NYPL will begin this season’s “Books at Noon” series at the 42nd street library, where PJ O’Rourke will give a lunchtime talk about his work. Future writers include Joyce Carol Oates, Colm Toibin, and Michael Cunningham.

    The Paris Review has interviewed a TV writer for the first time (Mad Men’s Matthew Weiner) in their  “Art of Screenwriting” feature. Also in the Spring issue, a new Zadie Smith story, and a Francesca Woodman portfolio.


  • March 2, 2014

    David Remnick has posted an article about the upheaval in the Ukraine, and about Putin’s invasion of Crimea, at the New Yorker’s website. “Putin’s reaction exceeded our worst expectations. These next days and weeks in Ukraine are bound to be frightening, and worse.”

    Juliet Macur

    Juliet Macur

    Yesterday, the Sports section of the New York Times ran an excerpt of sportswriter Juliet Macur’s new book Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong, which will be released this week. The excerpt states that by 1993, Armstrong was preparing for his races by using “the blood booster EPO, human growth hormone, blood thinners, amphetamines, cortisone, painkillers, and testosterone.” John Hendershot, whom Macur calls a “mad scientist,” administered these drugs and others to cyclists in groups, and likened it to having a “team dinner.”

    In 2008, after the Lehman Brothers collapsed and the government had to bail out the American International Group, Amit Chatwani decided to stop writing his parodic Wall Street blog Leveraged Sell-Out. But now, after five years of silence, Chatwani’s blog is back.

    The New Republic’s longtime literary editor, Leon Wieseltier, recently circulated a letter in which he called New Republic senior editor John Judis’s new book, Genesis: Truman, American Jews and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict, “shallow, derivative, tendentious, imprecise and sometimes risibly inaccurate.” Now, some are questioning whether the magazine’s owner, Chris Hughes, and its editor, Franklin Foer, have Wieseltier “under control.” “Is there an editor at the New Republic capable of preventing this kind of vicious anti-collegial invective?” Andrew Sullivan asked. “Not when it comes to Wieseltier, it seems. Chris Hughes and Frank Foer seem to answer to him, and not the other way round.”

  • February 28, 2014

    In light of the controversy about The Observer’s recent piece about New York attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman (considered a Trump-ordered takedown by many), Jack Shafer writes: “If an editor can’t commission a hatchet job, or at the very least encourage a reporter to take a preferred direction, what’s the point of being an editor? Excessive fairness provides only one path to truth, and one man’s smear is often another man’s exuberant truth-telling.” Meanwhile, Gawker has uncovered emails showing just how the story developed, concluding that it was motivated, at least in part, by Schneiderman’s hostility toward Trump.

    As the New York Times points out, “paper is a star of this year’s Whitney Biennial,” which opens next Friday. In addition to a series of short books that has been created by Semiotext(e) specifically for the event (contributors include Lynne Tillman, Eileen Myles, Gary Indiana, Dodie Bellamy, and many others), there will be exhibits featuring the diaries of editor-artist Etel Adnan and the spiral notebooks of author David Foster Wallace.

    Matthew Zadrozny, whose picture on the blog Humans of New York has become a meme, has a serious message: He’s trying to stop the NYPL’s ominously named “Central LIbrary Plan.”Bhe3y9lIAAAUhww

    Yesterday, Al Jazeera announced a “Global Day of Action,” in which journalists from around the world advocated for the release of three Al Jazeera reporters—Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed and Mohammed Fahmy—who have been imprisoned in Cairo since December. As part of the protest, many of the prisoners’ supporters have been posing with signs reading #FreeAJStaff.

    Blake Bailey has written the definitive biographies of John Cheever and Richard Yates, and, most recently, of Charles Jackson (who wrote The Lost Weekend)—all writers, and all of whom struggled with addiction. Now, he’s telling his own life story, and that of his troubled brother, Scott.

    “Please cable 2000 dollars in pounds to me”: George Prochnik, author of the forthcoming book Impossible Exile, has posted a photo of a message that Stefan Zweig sent to Viking Press, his American Publisher, in 1933.


  • February 27, 2014

    Leon Wieseltier

    Leon Wieseltier

    The New Republic’s literary editor Leon Wieseltier is no fan of New Republic senior editor John Judis’s book Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict. Wieseltier praised a negative review of Judis’s book, calling it “tendentious, imprecise, and sometimes risibly inaccurate” (among other things).

    A movie of Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn starring and directed by Edward Norton will begin filming in New York later this year.

    March Madness for bookworms begins next week, with the Morning News Tournament of Books. The brackets will be judged by novelist Jami Attenberg, novelist-critic Roxane Gay, and lead Mountain Goat John Darnielle, among others.

    Fifty Shades of Grey has now sold more than 100 millions copies.

    For those of you at AWP in Seattle, we recommend tomorrow (Friday) night’s Tribute to William S. Burroughs, which will feature Chuck Palahniuk, Anne Waldman, Alex Dimitrov, and Elissa Schappell. Ira Silverberg will moderate.


  • February 26, 2014

    Late last month, the Goldman Sachs employee behind the Twitter account GS Gossip—which publishes comments overheard in the firm’s elevator—sold his insider’s account of Wall Street culture to Simon & Schuster for six figures. The book, tentatively titled Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance and Excess in the World of Investment Banking, is scheduled to be released in October 2014. But there might be a problem. At the Times, Andrew Ross Sorkin reports that the author, John Lefevre, “doesn’t work at the firm. And he never did.”

    The Observer defends its recent piece about New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman against claims that it’s a hit piece ordered by one of Schneiderman’s enemies, Donald Trump. Trump is The Observer publisher Jared Kushner’s father in law.  

    According to a Swedish newspaper that has been granted access to the papers of Stieg Larsson, the novelist and bestselling novelist believed the he knew who organized the assassination of Swedish PM Olof Palme, who was shot in 1986. Larsson believed the organizer was a Swedish ex-military officer with ties to the South African government, of which Palme was vocally critical. As The Guardian reports, “It is a compelling story and only slightly undermined by the fact that Larsson probably appears to have been wrong.”

    Stieg Larsson

    Stieg Larsson

    At The Baffler, Alex Pareene looks at the evolution of the New York Times’s DealBook site. Run by Andrew Ross Sorkin (see above), the site is, according to Pareene, a “reliably market-prostrate, counter-informative—and immensely profitable—online clearinghouse of financial news and commentary.”

    The AWP conference starts today in Seattle and runs through Saturday (this last day, the fair is open to the public, after an outcry from exhibitors). Roxane Gay offers a guide to the conference.

  • February 25, 2014

    The VIDA count for 2013 has been released.

    Carl Van Vechten

    Carl Van Vechten

    Carl Van Vechten was a New York socialite, a “best-selling writer of scandalous novels,” connoisseur of American literature, and a champion of writers of the Harlem Renaissance, including Nella Larsen and Langston Hughes. He was also a photographer, and shot portraits of thousands of cultural figures. At the FSG blog, Edward White, the author of The Tastemaker, posts and writes detailed captions for fifteen Van Vechten photographs—of Harry Belafonte, Gertrude Stein, Henri Matisse, W.E.B. DuBois, and others.

    At Bookslut, the shortlist for the Daphne award, a reconsideration of the best book of 1963, was announced on Friday.

    Tonight at Housing Works, Keith Gessen, Emily Gould, Carla Blumenkranz, Eli S. Evans and Mel Flashman join Chad Harbach for the launch of MFA vs. NYC: Two Cultures of American Fiction.

    In the New Yorker, Jhumpa Lahiri remembers her 2009 meeting with Mavis Gallant in Paris, saying of the writer (who passed away last week at the age of 91): “The defiant choice she made, to live as an expatriate, without family, and solely by means of her writing, was and remains a revolutionary act. Both in life and on the page, she blazed a trail no one since has dared follow.”

  • February 24, 2014

    Writer Alexander Chee recently said that he found trains to be great places to write. “I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers,” Chee remarked. Amtrak is now granting his wish. Amtrak has plans to offer some writers free round-trip tickets. In fact, the program has already started: Jessica Gross has taken the “test run” residency.

    Jessica Gross

    Jessica Gross

    When New York magazine announced that it would become a biweekly last December, a press release promised a more “ambitious” print publication. At the New Republic, Isaac Chotiner takes a look at the first issue of the new New York, and finds it more or less the same.

    “Is it possible to read a piece of literary writing without imagining that the author has a gender (perhaps an unusual gender, or maybe two gender or three genders, but at least one)?” In an open letter to VIDA, critic and poet Stephen Burt poses thirty-one thoughtful questions about gender and identity.

    Two longform pieces of note: At the LRB, Andrew O’Hagan’s publishes an epic and engrossing essay on Julian Assange; at the Oxford American, John Jeremiah Sullivan considers the life and legend of Junior Braithwaite.

    Tonight at McNally Jackson books, Jenny Offill reads from her new novel, Dept. of Speculation.

  • February 21, 2014

    Matt Taibbi

    Matt Taibbi

    First Look Media, the online journalism company funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has hired Matt Taibbi to head a new magazine about politics and finance. Earlier this month, First Look founded its first digital publication, The Intercept, which will produce stories based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

    The Wikipedia Books Project is raising money in hopes of printing the online encyclopedia in book form, a project that will reach 1,000 volumes of roughly 1,200 pages each.

    Over the weekend, Anne Rice, the bestselling author of vampire novels and books about Jesus Christ, used Facebook to congratulate Ellen Page for coming out as a lesbian. When others started posting nasty comments, Rice “smacked the homophobes down.”

    Joyce Carol Oates says that Twitter is characterized by a “lynch mob mentality.”

    At Bomb, Dodie Bellamy discusses two new projects, Cunt Norton, and TV Sutras: “One of the things I learned by being involved in the avant-garde is that you don’t need realism to move people. Think of Kathy Acker. Her stuff can be boring as hell, but when it comes together, it is so intense. It’s like your mouth is gaping open by her weird manipulations. No one is trying to make this believable, but we are still moved by it.”

    The AWP conference in Seattle will now be open to the public after an outcry from exhibitors.  

    Tonight in Silver Lake, Triple Canopy and the LA Review of Books are hosting a party, “Are you Sure You Want to Unsubscribe?”