• July 1, 2014

    Noviolet Bulawayo

    NoViolet Bulawayo

    The New York Times on a “new wave” of African writers that includes Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dinaw Mengestu, Helen Oyeyemi, NoViolet Bulawayo, Teju Cole, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, and Taiye Selasi. “Some writers and critics scoff at the idea of lumping together diverse writers with ties to a diverse continent. But others say that this wave represents something new in its sheer size, after a long fallow period.”

    Now a decade old, the online literary magazine Guernica, which has so far relied on unpaid contributors, is hiring a new publisher, Lisa Lucas, and making plans to expand into print.

    Novelist and onetime Magnetic Fields cohort Daniel Handler—aka Lemony Snicket—will host the 2014 National Book Awards ceremony.

    The Carnegie Medals have been awarded to Donna Tartt and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

    According to Poynter, the AP plans to begin using “automation technology”—read: robots—to write stories about earnings reports.

    Email newsletters aren’t dead, says the Times. (And the paper of record is on it once again.)

  • June 30, 2014

    Publisher’s Weekly’s annual report on the global publishing market has the education publisher Pearson in the top spot, with over nine billion dollars in revenue, and Random House as the world’s largest trade publisher, making around three billion dollars in 2013.

    The Obama administration is deciding whether to continue pursuing charges that could send author James Risen to jail. In State of War, Risen used an anonymous source to describe a failed CIA operation in Iran. The Bush Administration demanded that Risen reveal his source, but the author has refused. According to the New York Times, “Whatever the Justice Department chooses to do will send a powerful message about how far it is willing to go to protect classified information in the digital age. And journalists and press freedom activists are watching closely for the precedent the decision will most likely set.”

    Francisco Goldman

    Francisco Goldman

    Tonight at 192 Books in New York, Francisco Goldman reads from his new book about Mexico City, The Interior Circuit.

    The “future of reading,” according to New York magazine, will be on smartphones and tablets rather than on dedicated e-readers (or print books): “Books are becoming just another app, and the publishing industry’s glorious e-reader future seems to be fading from view.”

    An excerpt from Marilynne Robinson’s forthcoming novel, Lila.

    Paul Kozlowski, a booklover who had a long career in publishing (including gigs as a bookseller, as the director of marketing at Pantheon and Knopf, and as an associate publisher at Other Press) died last week at the age of sixty. At MobyLives, Dennis Johnson remembers Paul, and expresses his deep sadness that Paul was unable to start the next chapter of his publishing career at Melville House, where he was due to start soon.


  • June 27, 2014

    On KCRW’s Bookworm, Michael Silverblatt talks to Edmund White and his husband, Michael Carroll, about their recent books.

    John Green

    John Green

    Sarah Polley will be writing and directing an adaptation of the YA book Looking for Alaska, by John Green.

    The June/July issue of the Atlantic Monthly is out. In an article about the effect of autocorrect on punctuation, Joe Pinsker quotes a linguistics professor who points out that the devices that are usually blamed for corrupting conventions may, with the autocorrect function, ultimately be responsible for preserving them. Meanwhile, Sarah Boxer writes about the dead-mother trope in animated children’s movies. “Mothers are killed in today’s kids’ movies,” she argues, “so the fathers can take over.”

    Also at the Atlantic, read Part 3 of Ta-nehisi Coates’s “narrative bibliography” accompanying the long, excellent article, published last month, in which he makes a case for reparations. In the bibliography, Coates explains that what was most  disturbing in the books he read was the overwhelming evidence of intent: “Government policy toward African-Americans is not an argument for the ineffectuality of government, on the contrary it is an argument for just how effective government can be.”

    A survey suggests that journalists today check their facts after publishing their stories instead of before.

    Wallace Stevens’s Connecticut home is for sale. The 1920s Colonial, which is in Hartford, is listed at $489,900.

  • June 26, 2014

    Anna María Matute

    Ana María Matute

    The Spanish writer Ana María Matute has died. She was 88. Matute was the third woman to receive the Cervantes Prize. Her last novel, Family Demons, is due out in the fall.

    John Cheever’s Westchester house is on the market. The three-bedroom, three-bathroom house, which was built in 1795, is for sale for $525,000.

    The New York Times ends “The Lede” blog. Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told Poynter that the paper has been “moving away from blogs in the past year.” In fact, “almost half” of the paper’s blogs will soon close or merge.

    Twitter is trying out a new feature that will allow users to control the content of their retweets.

    The Atlantic explains how to write in shorthand.

    Over the weekend, Pando fired two editorial staffers, David Sirota and Ted Rall, apparently in response to concerns from investors that the site featured “not enough tech and too much politics.”

    Jack Shafer considers the future of Vice Media, which is valued right now at somewhere between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion. Vice’s niche—”frank and exploitative takes on drugs, murder, sex, war, jail, violence, disaster and the crazed” —isn’t exactly new, as Shafer points out. It’s been doing well “since the invention of media in the 16th century.” But the closest comparison to be made for the company is the “flash press,” which in the mid-19th century “competed for the attention of the young, urban male audience with outrageous and libidinous tales.”

  • June 25, 2014

    At the New Inquiry, an animated map tracks the shifting prominence of American cities in novels over the past two hundred years, drawing on Google Ngram data.“More than anything,” write the map’s creators, the data “shows the enduring dominance of New York City, towering over the cultural landscape in a way that the map, with its pseudo-logarithmic scale, can’t even do justice to.”

    The Tumblr “Last Night’s Reading” offers drawings of writers doing readings in New York, along with quotations from the writer’s remarks. (Geoff Dyer: “You can’t do it without talent, but you can’t do it without confidence either.”) At least in the hands of this artist, Kate Gavino, all the writers look weirdly alike.

    The New Yorker interviews Rebecca Curtis about her most recent story in the magazine, “The Pink House,” which features ghosts. Curtis says, “There’s something lively about ghost stories—ha!—because the story contains built-in excitement and horror. Of course, you still need to create conflict and a plot, if you’re a traditionalist, but you’re starting on stilts, maybe, because you have a dramatic element that a normal, two-people-drinking-coffee-and-complaining-about-their-bunions story doesn’t have.”

    Joel Johnson

    Joel Johnson

    Gawker Media wants to double its staff by the end of 2015, editorial director Joel Johnson said in an April meeting. This week it brought Rachel Rosenfelt on as Executive Producer, and Gawker.com has hired a number of new staff writers, including Allie Jones, Aleksander Chan, and Andy Cush, as well as a senior editor, Jason Parham. As Capital New York reports, Johnson also aims to increase the monthly average of unique visitors from sixty-eight thousand (where it is currently) to eighty thousand.

    Buzzfeed quizzes are mining your personal data, says the Daily Dot. The website logs whether your Facebook account is connected to the website, what your home country is, and what your age and gender are if that information is available. It also records and archives quiz responses, which, depending on the quiz, can be very personal. The April quiz “How Privileged Are You?” asked questions about sexual orientation, whether you’ve ever been a victim of rape, and whether your parents help with living expenses.

  • June 24, 2014

    People taking office are swearing in using e-readers. “A Kindle is not a beautiful object,” Hannah Rosefield notes at the New Yorker. But this may be partly the point. “As cool as a copy of the Constitution from the eighteenth century would have been,” says Suzi LeVine, the American ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, “ I wanted to use a copy that is from the twenty-first century, and that reflects my passion for technology and my hope for the future.”

    Also at the New Yorker, Caleb Crain reviews a new biography of Stephen Crane. “Existential compromises fascinated Crane. Does an alcoholic choose to drink? Is a soldier blameworthy if he flees an attack that scatters half his regiment? . . . In narratives of the hopeless and the near-hopeless, of human beings experiencing powerlessness and self-delusion, [Crane] managed to record a new kind of consciousness, giving the reader glimpses of the self as an opaque and somewhat mechanistic thing.”

    Will media rivals Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone become business partners? “Historically, a deal between Redstone and Murdoch would have been considered anathema by both men,” Buzzfeed points out. But it may become necessary, now that they face “digital disruption, declining advertising, and the impending mergers of distributors Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV.”

    Nicholas Wade’s recent book about genes and race, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, is about as racist as it sounds, argues Phillip Cohen at the Boston Review. “In Wade’s telling, the Caucasian and East Asian races comprise the richest and most powerful nations in the world because they are genetically better adapted to success in modern capitalist systems than are Africans and the other racial groups, who remain steeped in tribalism, the ‘default’ human condition.”

    Emily Gould

    Emily Gould

    Emily Gould, whose first novel, Friendship, is forthcoming in July, has left her position at 29th Street Publishing.

    Sunday’s US-Portugal World Cup game was the most-watched soccer telecast ever, drawing a total of at least 24.6 million viewers.


  • June 23, 2014

    The New York Times and Elle profile Emily Gould, whose first novel, Friendship, comes out July 1.

    A study examining the brain activity of experienced and novice writers showed differences in the two groups of subjects: the caudate nucleus, which figures in skills that come with practice, was active in experts; in novices it wasn’t. As Carl Zimmer explains at the Times, “the inner workings of the professionally trained writers in the bunch” resembled those of “people who are skilled at other complex actions, like music or sports”: “When we first start learning a skill — be it playing a piano or playing basketball—we use a lot of conscious effort. With practice, those actions become more automatic.”

    Rachel Rosenfelt

    Rachel Rosenfelt

    Rachel Rosenfelt, formerly Editor-in-Chief of the New Inquiry, is joining Gawker as Executive Producer. Buzzfeed reports that the position will entail helping Gawker leadership on “strategy, recruitment, and special projects.” Rosenfelt will remain publisher of the New Inquiry, which she co-founded.

    At the New Republic, the Norwegian novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard celebrates the Argentine soccer player Angel di Maria, noting, among other things, his “fantastic” resemblance to Kafka. “Soccer is the antithesis of literature, because the magic spell it casts has no consequences; when the match is over, it is forgotten, and the unexpected which opens up reveals nothing other than itself. In this way soccer is closer to life, which literature is always seeking to give depth to, to imbue with meaning, but which presumably only has depth and meaning there, in literature.”

    A Martin Scorsese documentary starring Robert Silvers, the editor of the New York Review of Books, showed at the Sheffield Documentary Festival this month.

    The renowned Spanish literary agent Carmen Balcells will be forming a new venture with Andrew Wylie, the Balcell-Wylie agency, that will bring her writers under joint management with Mr. Wylie. Balcells, who is 83, represents Mario Vargas Llosa, Isabel Allende, Javier Cercas, and the estates of Carlos Fuentes and Pablo Neruda. She told the Times that she “never wanted to be important.” “I wanted to be independent, autonomous at a time when a woman without a rigorous education, without a powerful family, couldn’t choose what to do on her own.”


  • June 20, 2014


    Pablo Neruda

    Pablo Neruda

    Twenty previously unknown poems by Pablo Neruda have been found among his papers. The poems were discovered in a box of manuscripts at the Pablo Neruda Foundation in Santiago, Chile; the earliest dates from the mid-1950s. At El Pais, read an excerpt in Spanish.

    At the Paris Review Daily, the poet Rowen Ricardo Phillips is blogging the World Cup.

    First editions of Haruki Murakami’s new novel will come with a sheet of stickers designed by five Japanese illustrators, the Guardian reports, shaking its head over the increasingly frantic publicity efforts of publishers.

    Penguin Books published an astonishing 125,000 copies of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, a debut novel by the French writer Joël Dicker who is in France exceedingly famous and in the United States not so much. Since May, only thirteen thousand copies have sold, in spite of the book, which is set in the US, seeming “almost cynically designed to be popular in the United States,” as Alice Gregory writes at the New Yorker blog, “a thriller for people who don’t think of themselves as people who read thrillers.” But the book is “wooden” and formulaic. Perhaps it “did well in France because the French . . . are too French for themselves.”

    The governor of South Carolina will not veto a measure that penalizes two universities for assigning books with gay themes, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports. “The College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina-Upstate will have to spend $52,000 and $17,000, respectively, to teach the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents, ‘including the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals.’” The punishment was a response to the colleges assigning Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, edited by Candace Chellew-Hodge and Ed Madden.


  • June 19, 2014

    Hanya Yanagihara

    Hanya Yanagihara

    The 2014 PEN shortlists have been announced. In the running for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham prize, which grants $25,000 to a debut novelist, are Anthony Marra, Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, Ian Stansel, Shawn Vestal, and Hanya Yanagihara; competing for the Art of the Essay award are Janet Malcolm, David Sedaris, Rebecca Solnit, and James Wolcott.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has reached a settlement in a civil class-action lawsuit over the price of e-books. The terms of the settlement haven’t yet been released, but the plaintiffs were demanding $840 million from Apple on grounds that the company had overcharged e-book consumers by a third of that amount, or $280 million.

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has published George Will’s syndicated column for years, but yesterday the paper announced that it is replacing Will with columnist Michael Gerson. The Post-Dispatch says in a statement to its readers: “The change has been under consideration for several months, but a column published June 5, in which Mr. Will suggested that sexual assault victims on college campuses enjoy a privileged status, made the decision easier. The column was offensive and inaccurate; we apologize for publishing it.”

    The New York Times company has shrunk by more than half in the past eight years, but the salaries of the paper’s top three executives have held steady, says Reuters. In 2013, the total compensation (including stock awards and incentive payments) of Chairman and Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., CEO Mark Thompson, and Vice Chairman Michael Goldman was, added together, $11.9 million.

    1Peter Mendelson has posted the jacket design for Tom McCarthy’s novel Satin Island, which will be published by Knopf in February 2015.

    At the Baffler, Jacob Silverman reflects on YouTube’s recent threat to block the videos of independent labels if the labels don’t agree to YouTube-set terms. The company’s “rough tactics clash with its self-generated populist aura,” Silverman observes.

    An interview with Barbara Cassin, the author of the Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, which appeared originally in French and has been reworked and rereleased in multiple languages. “The term untranslatable is itself difficult to translate,” Cassin says. “I might translate it into English, as—this is not a real word—“un-translated-able,” that is, unable to be finished being translated.

  • June 18, 2014

    Charles Barsotti and his cartoon dog

    Charles Barsotti (and his cartoon dog)

    The cartoonist Charles Barsotti died yesterday, at the age of eighty. Barsotti drew nearly 1400 cartoons for the New Yorker over the course of fifty years.

    Gawker Media graduated the first class of its “Recruits” program, which trains new writers and pays them a $1500 monthly stipend, plus extra money based on how many clicks they can generate ($5 for every 1000 “uniques,” or unique visitors). Eight of the first eighteen recruits will be hired on full-time.

    “The written word has been dying for so long!!” Rivka Galchen exclaims at the New York Times. “You’ve read this argument before. Then we say that kids these days, they never read—they never read!—or, kids these days, they heart reading, and their tweets are Wildean epigrams, and Kanye West is a god of language . . . although that’s not written language, it’s . . . sometimes we get lost, it’s difficult to stay on point in conversation, especially because a terrible death blow was dealt to conversation, by literacy.”

    At the Guardian, Olivia Laing on alcoholic female writers, whose numbers include Jean Rhys, Jean Stafford, Marguerite Duras, Patricia Highsmith, Elizabeth Bishop, Jane Bowles, Anne Sexton, Carson McCullers, Dorothy Parker, and Shirley Jackson.

    An informal association of female writers and editors has sprung up on Facebook and Twitter, gathering under the aegis of a “binder full of women writers.” Want to commission or pitch someone in the binder? You’ll find a Twitter list here.