• December 18, 2017

    A new report issued by Arts Council England reveals that sales of books considered to be “literary fiction” have dropped dramatically over the past five years, making it even harder to get by financially as a writer. The report attributes the drop in sales to the recession, smartphones, and the popularity of genre e-books. According to novelist Will Self, himself condiered a literary novelist (his latest book is Phone): “Literary fiction is already being subsidised—think of all of the writers who are continuing to make a living now by teaching creative writing. They represent a change taking place in literature … It’s now more like quilting.”  

    Rupi Kaur

    Rupi Kaur

    Carl Wilson (author of Let’s Talk about Love: A Journey to the End of Taste) ponders the unlikely category of “best-selling poet” in an article about twenty-five-year-old Canadian author Rupi Kaur, whose first book of verse (Milk and Honey) has sold two and a half million copies, whose new book (The Sun and Her Flowers) is on the bestseller list, and who has 1.8 million Instagram followers. “Kaur’s work is often called ‘greeting-card verse,’ but it would be a mistake to reduce her . . . to that. Kaur writes movingly about immigration, domestic violence, sexual assault and other substantial subjects, though she follows quickly with self-empowerment affirmations to alleviate the sting.”

    Kathy Lally, who twenty years ago was a Moscow correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, recalls the tabloid The eXile, an English-language tabloid published in Russia, which was run by the Americans Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi (author of Griftopia and, most recently, I Can’t Breathe). Taibbi has been criticized for his work at the paper, which Lally calls “juvenile, stunt-obsessed and pornographic, titillating for high school boys.” Lally is now telling her own story of her experiences with the publication after she criticized it online, and how Taibbi and Ames set out to ridicule and humiliate her in their memoir The eXile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia.

    Novelist Hilary Mantel talks about what she’s reading, what book had the greatest effect on her, and an author she doesn’t enjoy. That would be Dickens: “There are whole swaths of Charles Dickens that I barely attempt. It just seems such awful stuff—coarse, sentimental, conceited.”

    Susan Straight, the author of the novel Highwire Moon, read more than 500 novels this year, many of them about particular regions of the US, to create what she calls an “epic interactive map of our literary nation.” But, she writes, the best book she read this year was not a novel and not set in North America. It was the memoir The Book of Emma Reyes, set in Colombia.


  • December 15, 2017

    New York Times deputy publisher A.G. Sulzberger will take over as publisher of the paper starting next year. He succeeds his father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., who will serve as chairman of the New York Times Company. The younger Sulzberger, who headed the team that created the paper’s “innovation report” three years ago, said that he doesn’t plan to make any drastic changes in the near future. “I am a unapologetic champion for this institution and its journalistic mission,” he said. “And I’ll continue to be that as publisher.”

    Clarice Lispector

    Gabrielle Bellot reflects on Clarice Lispector’s truth-bending newspaper columns. In the barely-edited crônicas, Bellot writes, Lispector “sought something deep, expansive, and, at times, unsettling, a tugging and ripping at the cartographic corners of truth, which sometimes resulted in a more beautiful fabric, if one that no longer depicted a true map of the world.”

    A Secret Sisterhood authors Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney explain how Jane Austen is a “role model for the #MeToo generation.”

    Actor and Otherworld co-author Jason Segel talks to the Times’s “By the Book” column about inspiration, classic books, and David Foster Wallace. Segel said that reading Infinite Jest as part of a book club “was truly one of the most gratifying experiences” of his life. “A group of four grown men sitting around talking about dissatisfaction and loneliness was far more comfortable than I would have imagined,” he remembered. “I highly recommend it, with or without a book.”

  • December 14, 2017

    On her last day at the paper, New York Times book critic Jennifer Senior reflects on endings and acknowledgement sections in books. Even though they can be “numbingly predictable,” Senior professes her love for these “little Levittowns of gratitude” that expose “how the truth about the wretchedness of book-writing finally comes tumbling out, and the combination of neuroticism and relief, pride and latent terror.”  

    Univision anchor Jorge Ramos is working on a book. Stranger: The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era combines Ramos’s “own story of emigrating from Mexico with a critique of Trump’s policies” and will be published by Vintage next February.

    Mary Gaitskill

    Freelance writers for Nautilus allege that the magazine owes them $50,000 collectively for work they’ve done over the past year.

    Mary Gaitskill talks to Poets & Writers about teaching, unreliable narrators, and why novels are harder to write than short stories. Gaitskill’s first book contract included both a novel and a short story collection. She had already been working on the stories for Bad Behavior, but was overwhelmed by the idea of writing a longer book. “It’s like I was a cat that had been in a house all of its life, and all of a sudden a door was flung open. And I was flooded with sights and smells and was crazily running over in one direction wondering what was going on there and getting distracted,” Gaitskill said. “It was a total feeling of freedom. But I didn’t know what to do with it.”

    Kevin Roose delves into the alt-right’s version of the internet, and says that the poor quality of its websites undermine the group’s perceived political power. After social media sites like Facebook and Twitter began removing hate speech from their platforms, “hard-right activists vowed to create their own versions of these digital services, on which all views would be welcome, no matter how crude or incendiary,” he explains. But Roose writes that the resulting websites hardly compare to their mainstream counterparts. “If the alt-right’s ideology harks back to 1940s Germany, its web design might transport you to 1990s GeoCities.”

  • December 13, 2017

    The Guardian’s US website will be edited by Dreamers through this Wednesday. Itzel Guillen, Irving Hernandez, Allyson Durate, and Justino Mora began commissioning essays, commentary, and photography for the project in October, with the hopes of convincing congress to take action on DACA. “These are inspiring, imaginative and resourceful young adults whose lives are currently being disrupted, and potentially destroyed, by politics,” said John Mulholland, acting editor of the Guardian US. “Our project is an attempt to give them a voice and the power to tell their stories.”

    Sean Spicer is writing a book that will “set the record straight” about Trump’s presidency and campaign. The Briefing will be published in July by Regnery.

    Margaret Atwood. Photo: George Whiteside

    Amazon has released their list of this year’s most read books. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Stephen King’s It lead for fiction, while Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy top the nonfiction list.

    At n+1, Justin E.H. Smith reflects on the work of William Gass, who died last week at 93.

    Shira Hanau asks former public editors and other media critics whether the New York Times’s Reader Center is an adequate replacement for the paper’s public editor. In his memo announcing the job’s elimination, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. reasoned that the direct access to reporters through social media made the role obsolete. But the paper’s first public editor, Dan Okrent, says that social media makes the public editor’s job even more necessary. “When you have a chorus of people, nobody has authority,” he said. “A public editor doing his or her job well has both the authority and the ability to cut through the static.”

  • December 12, 2017

    Simeon Booker, reporter and Washington bureau chief for Jet and Ebony, died last weekend at 99 years old. Booker “was the first black reporter to work full-time at the Washington Post and, as a writer at Jet, was one of the first journalists to cover Emmett Till’s murder.

    Jennifer Szalai

    Jennifer Szalai has been hired as the New York Time’s new nonfiction critic. Szalai is currently an editor at the paper’s Book Review, and will start her new position in January.

    Tina Turner has sold an autobiography to Atria Books. Tina Turner: My Love Story will cover “everything from ‘finding love’ to surviving a ‘life-threatening illness’ she had not previously disclosed,” and will be published next October.

    The Paris Review’s board of directors has released a statement addressing the resignation of the magazine’s most recent editor, Lorin Stein. Managing editor Nicole Rudick will take over as acting editor while a search committee finds the next editor.

    The New Yorker has fired reporter Ryan Lizza after learning of his alleged sexual misconduct. CNN has taken him off the air, and Georgetown University, where Lizza worked as an adjunct lecturer, said he will no longer teach there.

    Former Gawker staff, including founding editor Elizabeth Spiers, have created a Kickstarter in order to raise $500,000 to buy the defunct website out of bankruptcy. If they raise the money but are unable to purchase the website before someone else—like Peter Thiel, who funded Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Media and has considered purchasing the site himself—the group plans “to launch a new publication intended to capture the ‘Gawker ethos.’”

  • December 11, 2017

    Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

    Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor

    New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who published the first articles about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged history of sexual assault, have signed a deal with Penguin Press to write a book on the recent wave of sexual abuse and harassment scandals. “We’re going deeper. Enormous thanks to everyone who has read and supported this work,” Kantor wrote on Twitter. According to Penguin Press president and editor in chief Ann Godoff: “In this moment of attack on their profession, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s investigative reporting on sexual harassment has proven that the discipline, craft and ethics of journalism can truly spark social change. Their book will contextualize and enlarge this important conversation.”

    Mohsin Hamid, the author of Exit West, says he feels “more depressed than I have in a long time about the political direction of Pakistan.” But he also warns that the tribalism that disturbs him is not a problem unique to his home country. “You’ll see Pakistan, basically, all over Europe and North America,” Hamid tells The Guardian. “We are the cutting edge. Pakistan can be viewed as a model for the kind of things that begin to occur when [the idea of] purity is made predominant in your society.”

    The National Book Critics Circle has announced the finalists for the John Leonard Prize, an award given for the best first book.

    At the Washington Post, Lisa Kleypas, an author of romance novels, takes issue with Hillary Clinton for her recent comments about the romance-novel industry, in which the politician suggested that men and women learn abusive behaviors from novels about “women being grabbed and thrown on a horse and ridden off into the distance.” “Your comment, especially pulled out of context, doesn’t represent all romance novels,” Kleypas writes. “It’s a misleading cliche about the genre—like so many misleading cliches about your fabulous trailblazing life.”

    The New York Times has an interesting article about the Mekong Review, a quarterly journal about literature and politics in Southeast Asia. The review was started in 2015, and so far has survived despite frequent censorship in the region’s press. “Supporters say it is a welcome platform for Southeast Asian writers and scholars of the region, as well as a sharp political voice in countries where speech is perennially threatened.”

    PEN America reports that Cameroonian-American writer, poet, and professor Patrice Nganang was detained by police in Cameroon on December 7, just after publishing an article critical of the Biya government.

  • December 8, 2017

    In a Twitter thread, A.N. Devers looks at the erasure of former Paris Review editor Brigid Hughes from the history of the magazine. Hughes took over after founder George Plimpton died in 2003, and was let go in 2004. Devers points to New York Times articles about the magazine over the years—including a 2011 profile of Stein that erroneously refers to him as only the second editor after Plimpton—and notes that mentions of her work are regularly removed from the publication’s Wikipedia page. “One of the most amazing things about Brigid Hughes is that she then started her own magazine and continued to be who she was, an extraordinary editor who did the work with little fanfare,” Devers writes. “But we should still demand her first work be acknowledged.”

    Anne Garréta

    Finalists for the Albertine Prize have been announced. Nominees include Édouard Louis’s The End of Eddy, Anne Garréta’s Not One Day, and Mathias Énard’s Compass.

    MSNBC has reversed its decision to allow journalist Sam Seder’s contract to expire without renewal.

    The New York Times talks to Richard Lloyd Parry about Martin Amis, failing to finish Ulysses, and gendered literature. Parry says that he avoids the genres of “chick lit” and “lad lit” equally. “Anything that hitches itself too closely to a particular readership has failed a crucial test of literature,” he explained. “You’ve got to try to make a broad appeal, or at least not to exclude 50 percent of humanity.”

    Sarah Seltzer explores the ways that scandals are used to overshadow the accomplishments of female authors. Comparing the outing of Elena Ferrante’s identity and the recent plagiarism lawsuit brought by an ex-boyfriend against Emma Cline, Seltzer writes that these incidents both show the ways in which writers’ personal lives are used to detract from their literary success. “Those twin intrusions . . . both attempted to permanently put asterisks on the discussion of these women’s writing,” she writes. “At least temporarily and at least for some readers, Cline is reduced to the ex-girlfriend of the guy suing her. Ferrante became the wife of another novelist.”

  • December 7, 2017

    Kal Penn

    Novelist and essayist William H. Gass, author of The Tunnel and many other works, has died.

    Kal Penn is publishing an essay collection with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2019. The still-untitled book will include pieces on “his ambition as an actor, the challenges of navigating Hollywood,” and his year-long hiatus from acting while he worked as an associate director in President Obama’s Office of Public Engagement.

    Actress Sally Field is working on a memoir. Grand Central will publish In Pieces, which Field has been writing for the last five years, next fall.

    Paris Review editor Lorin Stein has resigned “amid an internal investigation into his behavior toward female employees and writers,” the New York Times reports.

    WNYC hosts Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz have both been put on leave as the station investigates recent allegations of misconduct.

    The Times looks at the complicity of Harvey Weinstein’s colleagues and professional acquaintances in maintaining the environment of silence and intimidation around the former producer. The Guardian reports that six women have filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against Weinstein and other producers at the company. “We are but six women representing hundreds,” the women said in a statement. “Dozens have come forward so far, and many more remain in the shadows, still trying to find their courage. But we will, if we can transform our horror stories into a cultural shift.”

    Pacific Standard’s Jack Denton wonders who exactly is behind Semanal Media and the reasoning for the newly-formed group’s purchase of LA Weekly. After firing three-quarters of the staff, the paper has posted few articles and the new owners have made inconsistent statements about their motivations and plans. “The new owners’ backgrounds notwithstanding, there has been little evidence of a political shift at LA Weekly during the first week,” Denton writes. “Instead, the shift has, at least initially, been one toward incompetence and ignorance.”

    Tonight at the Brooklyn Historical Society, Jennifer Egan talks about her new book, Manhattan Beach.

  • December 6, 2017

    Paul Farhi details the numerous reporting mistakes that ABC’s Brian Ross has made over the years. Erik Wemple explains why suspending Ross is the wrong move for the network: “Suspensions help media companies take the air out of social-media backlash against their mistakes, give the chief screwup artist an anguished exile from the newsroom, and otherwise postpone the reckoning and re-org that the organizations must undertake to avoid the next suspension-worthy gaffe.”

    Kwame Anthony Appiah will lead the judging panel for the 2018 Man Booker Prize.

    Joy Williams

    Joy Williams has won the Paris Review’s Hadada Award. The prize will be presented to Williams next April.

    Rebecca Carroll reflects on her experience working as a producer on Charlie Rose, and explores how even during “this watershed moment of examination and reckoning” the effects of sexual harassment and hostile work environments on black women are still being ignored. “If I pushed back on anything race-related, I was silenced or punished,” she remembers. “It was an environment that all but erased me, while simultaneously exploiting me as a black woman.”

    The New York Times talks to actress Gabrielle Union about her new memoir, We’re Going to Need More Wine. Union said that on her book tour she often had trouble finding copies of her own book in stores, even after it spent three weeks on the bestseller list. Literary agent Kima Jones told the Times that it wasn’t surprising that Union’s book wasn’t receiving attention, but it was disappointing. “I hate to use the word ‘timely,’ because this is something that should have been part of the cultural conversation for a long time—but it is very ripe and very timely,” Jones said of We’re Going to Need More Wine, which deals with Union’s own experience of sexual assault. “There’s actually no reason we shouldn’t be talking about Gabrielle Union’s book beside Roxane Gay’s work or Leslie Jamison or Maggie Nelson’s work or any of the other women who are talking as critics of popular culture.”

    At BuzzFeed, Katie Notopoulos looks at Twitter’s inconsistent policies for dealing with offensive tweets. After one of her posts from 2011 was reported as offensive by alt-right users last month, Notopoulos was banned from the service and spent over a week waiting for a response to her appeal. She compares her experience to that of Trump, who has a history of tweeting highly offensive content and yet has never been banned from the service for varying reasons. “I’m not mad that the system works slightly differently for the president than it does for me. He also gets to drive through red lights on his motorcade and I’m not bitching about that,” she writes. “But the way Twitter decides what stays and what goes seems to be pretty arbitrary.”

  • December 5, 2017

    The Pulitzer Prizes will no longer limit the Breaking News award to local media. According to a press release by the organization, “breaking news entries will now include coverage related to news events of consequence, whether they are produced by a local, state or national news organization.”

    Al Tompkins explores why newsrooms are are more susceptible to sexual harassment than other workplaces.

    Sam Shepard. Photo: Brigitte Lacombe

    PBS is replacing Charlie Rose with rebroadcasts of Christiane Amanpour’s eponymous CNN show.

    Bill O’Reilly is being sued by one of the women that he settled a sexual harassment claim with. Rachel Bernstein, who came to a settlement agreement with O’Reilly in 2002, is suing both O’Reilly and Fox News for statements made to the New York Times and other papers that violate the non-disparagement clause in their agreement.

    The New York Times looks at how Sam Shepard’s writing style changed after he was diagnosed with ALS and how he explored living with the disease in the stories in his final book, Spy of the First Person. The book, out today from Knopf and largely dictated by Shepard after he could no longer type or write longhand, “is an unvarnished, intimate portrait of a man facing the end of his life, as he reflects on his past and observes how his own body has betrayed him.”

    Emily Dutton talks about her new book, Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America, and the difficulties of writing as a new parent. Dutton says that most of the book was written soon after the birth of her first child. “There was a lot of multitasking going on,” she remembered. “I fear that some of that crept into the writing. There are places I wish I could start over again and rewrite more clearly and eloquently, and take away the exhaustion of early parenthood.”