• May 5, 2014

    The novel is dead (again). It will still be “be written and read,” Will Self argues in the the Guardian, “but it will be an art form on a par with easel painting or classical music: confined to a defined social and demographic group, requiring a degree of subsidy, a subject for historical scholarship rather than public discourse.”

    Hassan Blasim

    Hassan Blasim

    Twitter is dead too, the Atlantic’s Adrienne LaFrance and Robinson Meyer held last week: “Its users are less active than they were before.” Twitter says that this reflects “a more streamlined experience”; LaFrance and Meyer think its a sign of Twitter’s “twilight.” Maybe the problem with Twitter was that the idea was “so good, and so perfectly fit such a large market, that they never needed to go through the process of achieving product market fit”? Either way, Will Oremus at Slate isn’t worried. Twitter is more like YouTube than Facebook, he suggests, and is only likely to become more that way: “Don’t be surprised to see Twitter…[turn] its home page into a real-time news platform accessible to anyone, whether they’re logged in or not. That would expand its potential user base to include, for the first time, the majority of Americans. . . . If and when that happens, I doubt we’ll be hearing much about Twitter’s growth problem—let alone its demise.” Shares of Twitter ended on Friday at $39.01, and could drop toward $30. But it’s still over-priced, Reuters points out.

    An interview with Hassan Blasim, author of The Corpse Exhibition, a collection of stories about Iraq. “I still write in literary Arabic but I try to rid it of the rhetoric, the symbolism, and the stuff that ordinary people don’t understand,” Blasim says of his style.

    The new magazine Modern Farmer is getting a lot of attention after winning a National Magazine Award.

    What was it like having Philip Roth as a professor?

  • May 2, 2014

    Buzzfeed took down a post after Maria Popova complained that the site had reposted images that Popova had herself scanned for one of her own articles, about a rare 1995 edition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, illustrated by Ralph Steadman. According to Popova, Buzzfeed had represented the images out of context, leading her to call the site “the vermin on of the internet–or, for a more context-appropriate metaphor, the pigs of the internet.”

    The musician and Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein has been cast to perform with Cate Blanchett in Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel Carol. Published in 1952, just two years after the release of Highsmith’s debut novel Strangers on a Train (famously adapted by Hitchcock), Carol was originally titled The Price of Salt. The book’s lesbian love story was considered controversial enough at the time that Highsmith used a pseudonym: Claire Morgan.

    Eileen Myles

    Eileen Myles

    We’re excited to attend “Eileen Myles and Friends” at the Poetry Project on Saturday, which will feature poet-novelist Myles, novelist Sheila Heti, critic and essayist Hilton Als, and the music duo Body/Head (a k a Kim Gordon’s new band).

    An anonymous poster on Pastebin claimed yesterday that Google has been encouraging its employees for five years to steal money from publishers through AdSense. Gawker points out that the leak offers no evidence of the alleged theft, however, “aside from the lengthy description.”

    Another Ellen Willis essay from the new volume of her collected essays is available online, this one (“Up From Radicalism”) at Guernica. Willis was, among many other things, the first rock critic for the New Yorker. Bookforum also has an excerpt. (We can’t get enough.)

  • May 1, 2014

    Rebecca Lee

    Rebecca Lee

    The 2013 Believer Book Award goes to Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat and Other Stories. Karen Green’s Bough Down wins for poetry.

    The Academy of American Poets has a new website, which highlights their refurbished Poem-A-Day feature and has the nice option of isolating the poem on the page, uncrowded by boxes or menus or sidebars. Yesterday’s poem was Catie Rosemurgy’s “Star in the Throat, Fire in the Cupboard.”

    The PEN World Voices festival opened on Monday in New York with a lineup of short, politically focused talks by Noam Chomsky, the Tanzanian political cartoonist Gado, the Syrian poet Adonis, and Judith Butler, among others. This evening at 7 p.m., Bookforum editor Albert Mobilio will be speaking on a PEN panel at the New School about war writing, along with Phil Klay, Nadifa Mohamed, Roxana Robinson, and Joanna Scutts. Our next issue, as it happens, takes a special look at war.

    Salon has hired Jim Newell to blog about politics full-time for the site. We look forward to seeing more Newell, whose most recent piece for Bookforum was about Malcolm Gladwell and Amy Chua: “What gap in the rubble-strewn culture of the American meritocracy is the Gladwell franchise filling? For starters, his appeal seems to be existential. In much the same way that he defends his slipshod intellectual method as mere storytelling, with a self-evident and universal allure, he tells readers that their stories matter.”

    Here’s the trailer for a documentary about the late internet activist Aaron Schwartz.

    The Onion offers a sneak preview of Clickhole.com, a new site that will take on the eminently take-onable Buzzfeed and Upworthy. The New York Business Journal gives the details.

  • April 30, 2014

    A survey of 2,234 adults, published yesterday, finds that not much has changed since the poll was last conducted in 2008: apparently our favorite book is still the Bible and we still like Gone with the Wind second-best. There’s some good news: Atlas Shrugged has disappeared from the top ten.

    Alex Pareene, formerly of Gawker and Salon, joins First Look’s still-unnamed second vertical as executive editor. Pareene will oversee political content for the new magazine, which will focus on politics and finance.

    Martin Heidegger

    Martin Heidegger

    Heidegger’s recently published notebooks reveal an anti-Semitism more deeply seated than suspected. At the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog, Joshua Rothman reflects on the flaws of the philosopher he loves. “It’s . . .  impossible to set aside Heidegger’s sins—and they cannot help but reduce the ardency with which his readers relate to him. . . . Even if his philosophy isn’t contaminated by Nazism, our relationship with him is.” But Heidegger’s own philosophy provides an out, as Rothman notes: after all, “being wrong” is an “irreducible part of being a person”: “human beings are not calculators, but conjecturers.”

    The Webby awards honor Lawrence Lessig for “lifetime achievement.” The new publishing website Medium wins for Best User Experience and Best Visual Design.

    The Wellcome prize goes to Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree.

  • April 29, 2014

    “Net neutrality” describes a state of affairs in which the companies providing internet act like utilities, delivering service without favoring or blocking particular content. In the name of preserving this ideal, the FCC has recently unveiled a proposal that will in fact degrade it, according to many, in part by allowing internet service providers such as Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T to create what amount to fast and slow lanes. At the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal and Adrienne LaFrance offer a primer on the new proposal, and the Columbia Journalism Review suggests five ideas for reinventing internet policy.

    Check out this discussion at Music and Literature between two translators of Clarice Lispector and two writers who love her work. Rachel Kushner wrote about Lispector for Bookforum last year.

    Ellen Willis

    Ellen Willis

    Watch a trailer for The Essential Ellen Willis, a new book that collects the late writer’s essays on politics, music, and society. “The big revelation to me about women’s liberation was not that women were discriminated against, but that this was a political condition that you could actually do something about,” Willis says in the video. “What the left needs to do is to affirm a commitment to democracy in both spheres, and realize that whenever they’re talking about economics they’re also talking about sexual politics. What this involves is people becoming more radical, not compromising.” Read an excerpt of the book here at Bookforum.

    The New York Times’s “verified” commenters—the 478 people who can submit comments without their being vetted, like the rest of the comments, by Times staff—are selected algorithmically according to commenters’ history: ”We require a certain number of total submissions,” the deputy editor of interactive news explains, “and we also require a certain number of submissions over the past few months. Then, in both of those categories, we require a very high percentage rate of comments approved by our moderators versus those rejected.” By the way, the Times has a new video section. And the paper is getting excited about Jake Silverstein, the new editor of the magazine.

    The Los Angeles Review of Books is looking for part-time, “volunteer” copyeditors to join their ranks.  Does “volunteer” mean unpaid?


  • April 28, 2014

    Dustin Rowles writes about Salon’s decision to rewrite the headline of his recent and well-read think piece about “how we treat violent and sexual crimes differently.” As he points out, the new headline clashes with the actual intentions of the article. “Now, when I saw that headline, I didn’t even realize it was my piece at first, and I was pissed before I’d even read it.”

    Alice Goffman

    Alice Goffman

    The University of Chicago Press is hoping that Alice Goffman’s On the Run, a work of sociology that follows a small group of young black men in a Philadelphia neighborhood for six years, will reach more than an academic audience. UCP acquired the book, which they praise as an ethnography with “novelistic qualities,” when Goffman was only twenty. Goffman is the daughter of the late, celebrated sociologist Erving Goffman, author of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959). Whatever influence the elder Goffman had on his daughter could not have been transmitted personally; he died in 1982, soon after she was born.

    The Rumpus interviews Leslie Jamison, author of the recent essay collection The Empathy Exams. You can read “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain,” an excerpt of Jamison’s excellent book, at the Virginia Quarterly Review. “The wounded woman gets called a stereotype, and sometimes she is,” Jamison writes. “But sometimes she’s just true….The possibility of fetishizing pain is no reason to stop representing it. Pain that gets performed is still pain. Pain turned trite is still pain.” Over at Salon, Jamison joins Roxane Gay in conversation.

    A Google map showing every bookstore and library across the US.

    Instead of reading, we’re fetishizing the bookshelf.

  • April 25, 2014

    Franco Moretti

    Franco Moretti

    At Salon, Laura Miller interviews the literary theorist Franco Moretti, whose methods are largely quantitative and whose work avoids focusing on a few universally approved texts. “I’m interested in understanding the culture at large, rather than just its best results,” he explains. “I have no doubt that canonical books are best—although we can spend days arguing what ‘best’ means. But it’s not enough for me to understand that. I want to understand the broader conventions, the field of attempts and failures, hoping that that may tell us something significant about the culture we live in or that others have lived in.”

    Full Stop appreciatively reviews Benjamin Kunkel’s play, Buzz, just released by n+1 books.

    The Associated Press has issued a new style guideline: no more abbreviations of state names in stories.

    The American Academy of Arts and Sciences inducts 204 new fellows into its ranks. The new fellows include the novelists Annie Proulx and John Irving, the short-story writer George Saunders, and the historian Jill Lepore.

    Vice News reporter Simon Ostrovsky, who was detained in eastern Ukraine, was released on Thursday.

    Two booksellers have unveiled what they claim is Shakespeare’s annotated dictionary. The scanned book is available for readers to peruse online (once they sign up for the privilege, that is).

  • April 24, 2014

    Writing that draws on lived experience and real people never merely reflects, argues Leslie Jamison in the New York Times Bookends column: It distorts, inverts, reinvents; it offers “a set of parallel destinies.” The “peril” of using real people is two-fold: ”what it will do to your work, and what it will do to your life.”

    Pavel Durov

    Pavel Durov

    Pavel Durov, the founder of Russia’s most popular social networking site, VKontakte, has been fired from his position as CEO. Durov claims that VKontakte is now under the “complete control” of two close allies of Putin. Russia “is incompatible with Internet business at the moment,” he told Techcrunch on Tuesday.

    The Digital Public Library of America, which is trying to provide free online access to the material in the nation’s libraries, archives, and museums, has tripled in size over the past year, adding seven million items from more than 1,300 institutions.

    How much gay sex should a novel have? Caleb Crain answers this “deeply silly” question at the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog: “As much as it takes to tell the story.” Meanwhile, gay Christian activist Matthew Vines argues, in God and the Gay Christian, that the Bible’s ostensible prohibitions against homosexuality don’t prohibit same-sex marriage. The book’s publisher, Convergent Books, houses several evangelical imprints. “It is a sad and shameful day when a major Christian publisher releases such a book and claims that it is a solid evangelical publication,” squawks the Christian Post’s Michael Brown. “This is abhorrent, disgraceful, and terribly misleading.” At the New Republic, Marc Tracy finds it notable that “the chief question stirred by the book is not whether evangelical and other religiously orthodox Christians can reconcile same-sex marriage with their faith, but whether evangelical and other religiously orthodox Christians can reconcile their social conservatism with the free market.”

    Charles Simic remembers a 1968 fistfight between a bunch of hungover poets at a poetry conference at Stony Brook. Looking on, from a porch, were the Chilean writer Nicanor Parra and the French writer Eugène Guillevic, both “delighted by the spectacle.” Was this “how American poets always settled their literary quarrels”?

    The copyright on Mein Kampf runs out at the end of the year.

  • April 23, 2014

    Gillian Flynn

    Gillian Flynn

    Gillian Flynn took to Reddit on Tuesday for an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”), reassuring fans that the Gone Girl screenplay will not stray too far from the novel. Flavorwire compiled a list of things they learned from the Q&A, including Flynn’s reading list, the process behind the “cool girl” speech, and why she is okay with unlikeable characters: “I think you can forgive a lot if a person makes you laugh (even if you know you shouldn’t be laughing).”

    Speaking of adaptations, relatives of David Foster Wallace say they do not endorse the upcoming movie The End of the Tour, which is based on David Lipsky’s 2010 book Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace. The estate says they want Wallace to be “remembered for his extraordinary writing.” In the movie, Jason Segel will play Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg will be Lipsky.

    Author and illustrator Jonathan Emmett told the Times of London that he believes boys “are being deterred from reading because the ‘gatekeepers’ to children’s literature are mostly women.” He said women editors don’t include violent narrative elements that keep boys interested in books—for example, battling pirate ships.

    Thomas Piketty’s 700-page book about the state of modern capitalism, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, is number one on Amazon. Piketty has recently been called a “rock star” by New York magazine, the New York Times, and the New Republic. Read Doug Henwood’s review of Piketty in Bookforum.

    Vice News reporter Simon Ostrovsky has been detained in Ukraine by pro-Russia separatists.

  • April 22, 2014

    Publishers Weekly looks ahead to the best books of the summer, including John Waters’s hitchhiking memoir; an updated Philip Marlowe novel from John Banville (writing as Benjamin Black); another Bolaño; and NYRB classics from Jean-Patrick Manchette and Alberto Moravia.

    Elon Green talks to Adam Begley, whose biography of John Updike was just published, about writing the book’s vivid deathbed scene.

    Leslie Jamison

    Leslie Jamison

    An interview with Leslie Jamison, author of the The Empathy Exams: “I think shame is a powerful signal—like a fever—of some internal struggle. I mean, shame comes attached to many things—often traumatic things, and I would never want to reduce those traumas to mere sites of interest—but there are kinds of shame that are like arrows pointing to something tangled and subterranean, a faltering defense of self or an ache that hasn’t yet figured out its origins.”

    Felix Salmon considers Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s new Kindle short about a Silicon Valley startup.

    Claudia Rankine has been awarded Poets & Writers’ Jackson poetry prize.