• July 12, 2018

    Michiko Kakutani

    Michiko Kakutani returns to the New York Times books section, this time as an interviewee. Kakutani tells the “By the Book” column that leaving her job as a book reviewer has given her more time to binge read. “Not reviewing all the time has also meant that I can at least sometimes turn off the analytic part of my brain — which makes mental notes about things like narrative structure, language and tone — and recover the innocence of reading for the sheer pleasure of it.”

    At the Los Angeles Review of Books Blog, Nathan Kalman-Lamb looks at the problems of modern fandom and its entanglement with capitalism.

    Twitter will start removing all blocked or suspicious accounts today, the New York Times reports. The deleted accounts will lower the number of followers by six percent.

    At the New York Times, Margaret Renkl examines what exactly makes a Southern writer. “What if being a Southern writer has nothing to do with rural tropes or lyrical prose or a lush landscape or humid heat so thick it’s hard to breathe?” she asks. “What if being a Southern writer is foremost a matter of growing up in a deeply troubled place and yet finding it somehow impossible to leave?”

    At Hazlitt, Sarah Hagi reflects on getting—and losing—her dream job at an online media company and the struggle of making a career out of writing. After years freelancing, Hagi finally landed a permanent position as a staff writer. “Before my job, when people would ask me what I did and I’d tell them I was a writer, I felt like a fraud,” she writes. “The ebb and flow of the job left me too scared to even call myself a writer out loud to other people. Yes, I had been published—but that didn’t mean I would continue being published or that the people who’d publish me would even have jobs in a month.”

    Wired has hired several new editors and writers. NewYorker.com’s Anthony Lydgate and Vice’s Caitlin Kelly have joined the magazine as editors, while former Wired editor Emily Dreyfuss returns as a senior writer after a year as a Nieman Foundation fellow.

    Columbia Journalism Review’s Mathew Ingram explains how Elon Musk became “the poster child for bad billionaires” and Twitter’s favorite target for criticism. “When he was still a plucky, little-known entrepreneur, Musk’s try-anything attitude and somewhat wacky and combative Twitter persona seemed endearing,” he writes. “But now that he is running several billion-dollar enterprises and dating a celebrity . . . the way he shoots from the lip on almost any topic makes his Twitter account a target-rich environment for anyone wanting to cut him down to size.”

  • July 11, 2018

    Univision has formally announced that is is exploring a sale of both Gizmodo Media Group and The Onion. In a statement, the company explained that selling the properties “further strengthen [Univision’s] position as the No. 1 media company serving U.S. Hispanics, while enabling both GMG and The Onion even greater opportunities to grow under new ownership.”

    Emily Nemens. Photo: Jeremiah Ariaz

    The New Yorker has chosen to voluntarily recognize the magazine’s editorial union. The union noted that the deal was still being finalized. “We’re in this together,” editor David Remnick said in a statement. “The work we set out to do every day is more important than ever.”

    Vanity Fair talks to Paris Review editor Emily Nemens about returning to New York, the history of the magazine, and her plans for its future. “Looking through the archives of the interviews in particular just really highlights how white and male the history of the magazine has been,” Nemens said of a recent foray into the archives as staff assembled an upcoming Women at Work anthology. “So I’m being mindful—the language, the story, the poem are first and foremost, but I need to read against that history and do what I can to make it a more inclusive environment.”

    Incoming Los Angeles Times executive editor Norman Pearlstine announced new additions to his editorial team yesterday.

    At Literary Hub, Samantha Hunt reflects on neighbors, the mafia, and Brooklyn gentrification.

    Ottessa Moshfegh says that she wishes Whoopi Goldberg would read her new book, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, in which the main character repeatedly watches movies starring the actress. “Her particular talent to poke through every scene of fictional film as a real live human being, therefore undoing the illusion of cinema, was a powerful influence on me as an artist back before I even knew I was a writer,” she said. “I would love for her to read my book simply because it is a message of appreciation.”

  • July 10, 2018

    Recode editor at large Kara Swisher is joining the New York Times as an opinion contributor. “The power and influence of the tech companies is among the most important and complex stories of our era, and we are very excited at the prospect of having Kara bring her experience, intellect and courage to bear for Times readers,” the company said in a statement.

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks to Vulture about raising children, feminism, and Philip Roth. “There was a humanity in Philip Roth’s work that is often overlooked when we talk about his misogyny. I read his women and roll my eyes but there is a truth there, because there are many men like his men,” she said of the concerns over the late novelist’s work. “Maybe there are people who want Philip Roth’s misogynists to die at the end of the novel so that they’ll know misogyny is bad. But that would be a little easy, wouldn’t it? The world is complex.”

    Maggie Nelson talks to the Los Angeles Review of Books about the Gowanus Canal, past selves, and the recent reissue of her first book, Something Bright, Then Holes.

    Maris Kreizman looks at Rona Jaffe’s The Best of Everything, a sixty-year-old novel that focused on workplace sexual harassment, and sees a connection to the current #MeToo movement. “I finally had confirmation that what I’d tolerated as ‘just the way things are’ might actually not be okay at all, in my own career and beyond,” she writes of her first time reading the book. “Just like the women readers who saw themselves and their own experiences mirrored back to them in The Best of Everything, I found #MeToo was a way to begin to articulate all of the things I’d repressed.”

    Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient has been selected as the public’s favorite Man Booker winner. “Not for a second do I believe this is the best book on the list, especially when it is placed beside a work by VS Naipaul, one of the masters of our time, or a major work like Wolf Hall,” Ondaatje said when he accepted the award at the Man Booker 50 festival. “I suspect and know more than anyone that perhaps The English Patient is still cloudy, with errors in pacing.”

  • July 9, 2018

    The New Republic reflects on Barnes & Noble’s recent firing of its chief executive Demos Parneros, the company’s fourth CEO in five years. Once the “most disruptive company in publishing,” B&N has been long a high-profile failure, with store closings, sluggish Nook sales, and diminishing revenue. Some argue that the company, still important to the US publishing community, is “too big to fail.” But the company is currently dealing with many hard-to-solve problems, including its own “chaos.”

    John Lanchester

    The Bookseller is excited about The Wall, the forthcoming novel by John Lanchester, the novelist (Capital) who also writes about economics for the London Review of Books and the New Yorker, among other places. The Wall, which is due out in Britain in January 2019 and in the US in March, is about an island nation that has built a wall to keep out the “Others.” According to Lanchester’s publisher Faber, the book “arrives with its own world of ideas and concerns, woven into a compelling and accessible narrative.”

    Editor and writer Nicole Rudick is leaving her position at the Paris Review.

    Keith Gessen, the author of the new novel A Terrible Country, describes what it has been like to see Russia become such a hot topic in the US. “So what is it like for a longtime Russia watcher? I guess it’s like having your favorite obscure band become famous for some stupid act, like destroying a hotel room — the hotel room being, in this case, the postwar global order.”

    In a story about increasing diversity in the romance-fiction genre, the New York Times profiles Helen Hoang, whose popular new romance novel, The Kiss Quotient, is a “multicultural love story centered on an autistic woman who has trouble navigating the nuances of dating and courtship.”

    On Saturday, a customer in a Richmond, Virginia, bookstore walked up to Steve Bannon and called him a “piece of trash.”

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Mary Beard, Pankaj Mishra, Geoff Dyer, and many others pick the best summer books of 2018.

  • July 6, 2018

    Former Fox News co-president Bill Shine has officially joined the Trump administration as a presidential assistant and deputy communications chief of staff. “The loudest voices opposing Shine’s appointment are not coming from progressive activists and women’s groups,” notes BuzzFeed News. “They’re coming from within the conservative media world.”

    Lauren O’Neill-Butler talks to philosopher and artist Adrian Piper about the intersection of her two fields, resisting oppression, and consciousness.

    Priscilla Gilman

    “Our reach is so much greater, but people’s attention span is so much shorter,” says Priscilla Gilman on the life of a critic in the age of social media. “Reviews can be shared with and disseminated to many more people, but how many readers take the time to read longer reviews or literary essays that don’t immediately or easily offer a sound-bite or capsule take on the book?”

    Chicago Review Press will publish the posthumous memoir of Gilbert Baker, LGBTQ activist and rainbow-flag creator, next June on the Stonewall riots’ fiftieth anniversary.

    The Atlantic has hired former Politico writer Todd Purdum as a California correspondent and staff writer. Purdum will also oversee the magazine’s newly-opened Los Angeles bureau.

    The New York Times looks to acting coaches for their feelings on Brazilian soccer player Neymar’s theatrical reactions to injuries. Though some have been impressed with his “commitment”—”When your choice as a player is, ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever walk again,’ you can’t go halfway,” said NCIS: Los Angeles acting coach Peter Kelley—others feel that Neymar’s behavior “diminishes the art form” of acting. “If you have a response that doesn’t correspond to the event, we won’t empathize, we won’t believe you, and we’ll start to question why,” said London acting coach Phillipa Strandberg-Long. “Either you are lying or you’re psychologically ill.” n+1 writer Alejandro Chacoff said that the problem is not unique to Neymar. “People call Neymar the actor, but I think it’s just that he’s the worst actor out of all the others.”

  • July 5, 2018

    The 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing has been awarded to Makena Onjerika for her short story “Fanta Blackcurrant. A graduate of New York University’s MFA program, Onjerika now lives in Kenya where she is working on a novel.

    Sheila Heti

    At Granta, Sheila Heti and Tao Lin interview each other about their books, chemical detoxing, and the difficulties of writing. “When I was younger I sort of resented that just writing wasn’t enough – that it also had to be completed to be an object of use for the world,” said Heti. “But now I think that it doesn’t even serve any internal function for myself if I don’t bring the writing to a point of finish. Only when it’s finished does the writing become a reliable friend you can count on. Until then, the writing is just like a friend who wastes your time in uninteresting texting.”

    Literary Hub rounds up a list of Great American Novels written by authors who were not born in the US. “While I’d certainly agree that it would be difficult to write a novel addressing the American experience without at least living here for a while, sometimes it takes an outsider to really see the truth of something,” writes Emily Temple.

    After an internal investigation into her relationship with a potential source, New York Times federal law enforcement reporter Ali Watkins is being transferred to a new beat in New York.

    Hamilton Nolan implores non-union employees at the Washington Post to join the union after their dismal contract negotiations were made public. “To the half or more of Washington Post staffers who have voluntarily chosen not to be members of their own union: Look in the mirror,” Nolan writes. “Staring back at you is a person who is getting fucked by one of the richest men in the world.”

    Facebook’s new commitment to be more transparent about political advertising has started to affect business owners as well as publishers. Bloomberg’s Sarah Frier reports that ads for a waxing salon, a lawn-mowing company, and a Walmart sale on baked beans have all found their way into the social media site’s political advertising archive for using the word bush. “This is a new policy and process. . . . Review and enforcement won’t be perfect,” a company representative explained. “In the meantime,” Frier notes, “it will archive and later block ads like the one that celebrated fifth-grade graduation at Barack H. Obama Elementary Magnet School of Technology in Atlanta.”

  • July 3, 2018

    In response to the Nobel Prize’s hiatus due to sexual misconduct at the Swedish Academy, The Guardian reports that “more than 100 Swedish writers, actors, journalists and other cultural figures have formed the New Academy, which will hand out its own award this autumn.” In a statement, the group explained that they founded the organization “to remind people that literature and culture at large should promote democracy, transparency, empathy and respect, without privilege, bias, arrogance or sexism.” The prize will be awarded in December, and the group will disband afterward.

    Emma Cline

    Emma Cline (Credit: Megan Cline)

    Atlantic Media is selling Quartz to a Japanese media firm. Uzabase Inc. will pay up to $110 million for the business-news website. Columbia Journalism Review writes that the deal is no cause for celebration, since “Atlantic Media has been shopping the site around to potential buyers on and off since 2015, and it wound up being sold to a little-known Japanese media startup not much older than itself.”

    A federal judge has dismissed the copyright infringement lawsuit against The Girls author Emma Cline. “I’m extremely gratified that a judge has dismissed the meritless claims against my novel,” Cline said in a statement to The Cut. “As deeply painful as it has been to bring this dispute into the light, I’m glad I did not capitulate. My book is and always has been my own.”

    Junot Díaz has given his first interview since being accused of sexual misconduct and harassment. The author denied all allegations against him, and said that the accusations don’t sound “like anything that’s in my life, anything that’s me.” Díaz’s accusers spoke out against his denials. “Why would we be doing this if we weren’t telling the truth,” said Monica Byrne in a tweet. “We have nothing to gain and everything to lose. I’d rather be doing anything else.”

    The Society of Professional Journalists has named former Associated Press editor Rod Hicks as its inaugural Journalist on Call. In a statement, SPJ explained that the role was created to help journalists “understand why the public doesn’t trust them and what they can do to re-earn more trust.” “We are at a critical time in our democracy — a time when citizens more than ever need to understand the need for an aggressive free press,” Hicks said in his own statement. “I will work to help them understand why this is so vital to every individual in our country.”

  • July 2, 2018

    Joy Press

    Joy Press

    Joy Press, author of Stealing the Show: How Women Are Revolutionizing Television, has written a new piece for Vanity Fair about novelists’ shifting attitudes toward writing for TV. They used to scoff at the prospect, but now most writers dream of writing for the small screen. “If you eavesdrop on any gathering of serious writers, they’re as likely to be discussing Killing Eve or Better Call Saul as they are the latest book by Zadie Smith or Rachel Kushner,” Press writes. “Even the University of Iowa is launching TV-writing programs this fall.”

    In the UK, the Society of Authors has issued a angry letter addressed to major publishers, responding to a new study showing that the median income for writers dropped to 10,500 pounds a year. “What concerns us is that during the same period that we see authors’ earnings plummet, the large publishers are seeing their sales rocket,” says Society of Authors chief executive Nicola Solomon.

    It is rumored that Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep will star in Greta Gerwig’s new film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

    Dennis Lim, the author of David Lynch: The Man from Another Place, compares the points of view of the Blue Velvet director and Donald Trump. “While Lynch did not vote for Trump, you can see how the mind behind the grotesque screaming baby of “Eraserhead” and the sociopathic id-monster that is Blue Velvet’s Frank Booth (“Baby wants to fuck!”) would regard the President with a detached aesthetic fascination,” Lim writes. “And therein lies the problem with Lynch’s comments. They are irksome not because they endorse Trump—as numerous headlines falsely declared—but because they represent the privileged position of distance.”

    Bomb has published four new poems by The Argonauts author Maggie Nelson.

  • June 29, 2018

    On Thursday, Jarrod Warren Ramos open fired in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis Maryland, killing five people. Soon after, the publication’s official account tweeted, “Yes, we’re putting out a damn paper tomorrow.” In today’s edition, the opinion page is left almost entirely blank, and the Gazette has published remembrances of the five victims: Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Wendi Winters, and Rebecca Smith.

    A biography of Anthony Bourdain will be published in fall 2019. Bourdain: The Oral Biography will be edited by Laurie Woolever, who collaborated often with the chef.

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

    Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan reflects on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez surprise win in the New York Democratic Primary, and the media’s failure to adequately cover the candidate. On Tuesday, the Times ran the headline “Who Is Ocasio-Cortez?,” while sites like the Intercept and  web networks such as The Young Turks had been reporting on her for months. The Young Turks’s Cenk Uygur told the Post, “The traditional media pay attention to one metric—money—but there should be other considerations: number of volunteers, social-media engagement, small-dollar donations . . . She was through the roof on all of those metrics.”

    At Gizmodo media, a round of buyouts has allowed the company to avoid layoffs. Forty-four employees reportedly took the severance package as Univision, which acquired Gizmodo Media Group in 2016, mandated budget cuts.

    The science-fiction author Harlan Ellison has died at the age of eighty-four.

    At the New York Times, veteran obituary writer Margalit Fox is retiring after twenty-four years at the paper. For Times Insider, Fox reflects on her career and takes a crack at penning her own epitaph: “At times she wrote obits with tears in her eyes, but far more often she wrote them from joy. It was the joy that sprang from the extraordinary privilege of tracing the arc—in sweet-smelling newsprint, damp with ink—of lives well lived.”

  • June 28, 2018

    Tommy Pico. Photo: Niqui Carter

    Literary Hub talks to poet Tommy Pico about karaoke, plants, and Feed, his recently-recorded soundscape for the High Line in Manhattan. Pico says that he saw the collaboration “as one of reconciliation”—”reconciling ‘nature’ with ‘the city,’ the city’s past with the park’s future.” Pico also had a more personal reason to be interested in the project. “I just so happened to be reconciling with an ex with whom I’d had many, many dates at the park itself,” he explained. “Just vibes all around.”

    Lauretta Charlton has been named editor of the New York Times Race/Related team. Charlton was most recently assistant news editor at the New Yorker.

    “It is not necessary to agree that ‘How to Write an Autobiographical Novel’ is itself a kind of novel in order to appreciate that Chee has written a moving and personal tribute to impermanence,” writes J.W. McCormack on Alexander Chee’s new essay collection.  

    At Slate, Will Oremus looks at the news site’s sharp decline in referral traffic from Facebook and what it means for online publishing. After Facebook decided to prioritize individuals’ posts over content from news outlets last winter, Slate’s traffic from Facebook dropped by 81 percent. “Facebook’s waning influence could help to reverse some of the trends that the social network stoked: pandering headlines, overt partisanship, filter bubbles,” Oremus concludes. “It has certainly already forced many publications to prioritize the loyalty of their existing readers over chasing the wider but more fickle audiences available on social platforms.”

    Sources tell the New York Times that former Fox News president Bill Shine is in the running to be the next White House communications director. CNN reports that Sean Hannity has “been pushing shine for the position . . . behind the scenes ‘big time’ over the last several months.”

    “Technology platforms, both big and small, must grapple with the reality that they are now powerful instruments in an increasingly toxic political and cultural battle,” writes BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel on use of sites like Yelp and Twitter for political revenge. “After years attempting to dodge notions of bias at all costs, Silicon Valley’s tech platforms are up against a painful reality: They need to expect and prepare for the armies of the culture war and all the uncomfortable policing that inevitably follows.”