• October 5, 2017

    This morning, the Nobel Prize committee announced that Kazuo Ishiguro has won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature. Ishiguro is best known for his 1989 novel, The Remains of the Day, a book that exemplifies one of his maxims: “As a writer, I’m more interested in what people tell themselves happened rather than what actually happened.” His latest novel is The Buried Giant, published in 2015. 

    The National Book Foundation has released its list of finalists for the 2017 National Book Award. Honorees include Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing; Masha Gessen’s The Future is History; David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon; and Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties. Winners will be announced next month.

    Staff at the Los Angeles Times are pushing to unionize the newsroom. According to unnamed members of the organizing committee, nearly two hundred employees have signed union cards. After organizers left an unsigned letter on staff desks detailing the goals of the union, parent company Tronc distributed a memo warning employees of the dangers of organizing that “featured a clip-art drawing of a person standing on two dice.”

    Crooked Media, the company behind podcasts like Pod Save America, is launching a website. Crooked.com will feature written editorial content designed to promote “an honest and productive debate about American liberalism and how the Democratic Party should represent it.” The site will be helmed by Brian Beutler, currently a senior editor at the New Republic.

    Stephanie Danler’s novel Sweetbitter is being adapted for television. Starz has ordered six half-hour episodes of the series.

    Anuk Arudpragasam

    At Paste magazine, Emmett Rensin reviews Hillary Clinton’s memoir, What Happened, from the point of view of someone who has no memory of Clinton or the 2016 election cycle: “Indeed the strangest element of What Happened is the widespread belief, both within and without the Clinton campaign, that she would win. I can only take her word that this was widely believed, but it is difficult to fathom. The Clinton I discovered in these pages was a radical. From the moment she left her position as President of Wellesley’s Republican club (a detail she mentioned, much to my shock, in the book’s final pages), Clinton fought relentlessly against the entrenched, reactionary forces of her nation.”  

    Tonight at the Center for Fiction, Leslie Jamison talks with Anuk Arudpragasam about his novel, The Story of a Brief Marriage.

  • October 4, 2017

    John Cook

    Special projects editor John Cook is leaving Gizmodo Media. According to a memo obtained by Business Insider, Cook decided to take a cue from other Gawker staff who took a break after the company’s court battle with Hulk Hogan. “I’ve watched with envy in recent months as various friends — including the occasional former colleague — have taken some time away from the news grind to clear their heads and get their bearings,” he wrote. “After the last year and a half — even with the distance we’ve been able to put between ourselves the the Troubles — I could still use some head-clearing.”

    The New York Times looks at the Russian-backed Facebook pages turned over to federal investigators earlier this week. The pages represented both ends of the political spectrum, from groups like “Defend the 2nd” to “LGBT United,” while some avoided politics altogether by appealing to “animal lovers with memes of adorable puppies.” BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel examines the company’s failure to weed out fake news stories on its crisis page for the Las Vegas shooting this weekend. At New York magazine, Max Read ponders the many forms of Facebook—“from the birthday-reminder mundane to the liberal-democracy significant”—and wonders how to understand a company that “has grown so big, and become so totalizing, that we can’t really grasp it all at once.”

    David Friend talks to the New York Times about his book, The Naughty Nineties. Friend began writing the book long before the 2016 election, and had assumed that it would be published under another Clinton presidency. “I wrote an afterword about how the really logical thing the ’90s led us to was le grand orange,” he recalled. “It’s the only silver lining to Trump being elected; it made the whole book make even more ghastly sense.”

    At the New Republic, Alex Shephard—who erroneously predicted that Bob Dylan would not win the Nobel Prize in Literature last year—offers his best guesses for this year’s winner based on betting site Ladbrokes’ odds. Shephard predicts that popular authors like Margaret Atwood and Haruki Murakami are less likely to win after two years of famous recipients. However, he writes, “I am as convinced that perennial favorite Haruki Murakami will not win the Nobel Prize as I was that Bob Dylan never would, so take this with a grain of salt.”

    The Hill reports from the launch party of the Scaramucci Post, created by former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci. Scaramucci told reporters that the post is a social media–driven, “millennial-first media company” that has no plans for a website but will “eventually hire reporters” and fact checkers. “We have no idea what the Scaramucci Post is and neither do you,” Scaramucci said. “But, we launched it today and we launched with great fanfare and so we’ll have to see how the whole thing unfolds.”

    Tonight at Kings Theater in Brooklyn, Ta-Nehisi Coates presents his new book, We Were Eight Years in Power.

  • October 3, 2017

    CNN was impressed by Trump’s remarks in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting, with no fewer than three pundits calling the president’s words “pitch perfect.” At the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik was disturbed by a telling discordant note: Trump offering “warmest” condolences to the victims’ families. As Gopnik writes, “President Trump, deprived from birth by some genetic accident of all natural human empathy . . . speaks empathy as a foreign language and makes the kinds of mistakes we all make in a second language. . . . Who sends warmest anything to the families of murder victims?” Also at the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza reports on the predictable responses to mass shootings, which have become a kind of grim ritual in Washington. Lizza notes that there have been 338 mass shootings in the US so far this year and the aftermath now runs on a familiar script: The NRA stops tweeting; many Republicans offer “thoughts and prayers;” many Democrats offer outraged tweets. Still, that’s about all they have to offer, as Lizza writes: “Near the end of his speech, Trump said that ‘even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope.’ If your hope was that Washington would start to grapple with a response to the crisis of mass shootings, the President didn’t offer a single ray.” Think Progress reports that Facebook and Google’s algorithms prominently linked to conspiracy theories and misinformation in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. They, too, seem to be running on the same old script: Facebook “deeply regret[s] the confusion this caused,” while Google promises that they’ll “continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future.”

    Zeynep Tufekci points out the flaws in Mark Zuckerberg’s assertion that “running a platform for all ideas” means that “both sides [will be] upset about ideas and content they don’t like.” “Are you bothered by fake news, systematic misinformation campaigns and Facebook ‘dark posts’—micro-targeted ads not visible to the public—aimed at African-Americans to discourage them from voting?” she asks. “You must be one of those people ‘upset about ideas’ you disagree with.”

    Ismail Muhammad

    The National Book Critics Circle has announced its inaugural class of Emerging Critics. Fellows include Ismail Muhammad, Summer McDonald, and Zack Graham.

    BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman reports on the outsourcing of online content writing. Beyond right-wing fake news writers in Macedonia, Silverman reports on people in Kosovo and Vietnam who have cornered the Native American news niche, and a Pakistani man who owns two hundred health news domains that publish plagiarized articles.

    Poynter looks at the new Pew Research Center study of the media coverage of Trump’s first one hundred days. The organization found that articles about the administration published by sites with left-leaning audiences were ten times more likely to be negative, and “even in the media with a right leaning audience, only 31 percent were positive.”

  • October 2, 2017

    S. I. Newhouse Jr.—who once owned the Random House publishing company and later went on to buy the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and a number of other magazines—has died at  age eighty-nine.

    The Hollywood Reporter is already asking Lena Dunham if she plans to adapt Hillary Clinton’s new memoir, What Happened, for TV.

    Lou Reed

    An excerpt from Anthony DeCurtis’s new biography of Lou Reed recalls how the legendary musician came to interview playwright, dissident, and later president of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel. Rolling Stone, which originally commissioned the interview, killed the piece. “It was definitely terrible,” said one critic who read the interview at the time. (Eventually, after Reed added to the article, the magazine Musician ran it.)

    “I’m always returning to the question of language and what happens when I claim a language that ancestrally isn’t mine, and historically was a language of dominion, of dominance. Something there is contradictory.” Jamaican poet Ishion Hutchinson talks to The Believer.

    Hugh Hefner might have published work by Updike and Nabokov in Playboy. But, Ross Douthat argues in the New York Times, “his good deeds and aesthetic aspirations were ultimately incidental to his legacy—a gloss over his flesh-peddling, smeared like Vaseline on a pornographer’s lens.” At Current Affairs, Nathan J. Robinson details Hef’s tyrannical and abusive behavior, stating that “Hugh Hefner was not a good person.” “‘Liberty,’ while essential, is meaningless unless it is also coupled with a set of standards for how people should actually behave toward one another.” Susan Brownmiller, author of Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, has this to say about the Playboy founder’s legacy: “Are we really O.K. with the reality that our girls are being raised in a world that Mr. Hefner made? I’m not.”

    Siva Vaidhyanathan, the author of The Googlization of Everything, writes of Trump’s response to storm victims in Puerto Rico: “W might not have cared enough about black people to handle Katrina with competence. But Trump is actively hostile to brown people.”

  • September 29, 2017

    Edward St. Aubyn

    Edward St. Aubyn talks to the New York Times about Dunbar, his new adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Rather than a politician or a monarch, St. Aubyn chose to remake his Lear as a media mogul. “I wanted to deal with the permafrost of power, the people who are always there,” he said. “Administrations come and go and prime ministers come and go. I think that [a media titan] is the modern analog to a king.” St. Aubyn said that while he didn’t base his character on anyone in particular, readers have come up with numerous ideas as to who Durban resembles. “Someone in California said, this is obviously Sumner Redstone, but I had never heard of Sumner Redstone, so in a sense they can’t be right. Someone thought it was Trump, but I finished it before Trump became president. Someone thinks it’s Murdoch,” he said. “This is the miracle of reading . . . the text merges with the imagination and experience of the reader and becomes something slightly different in every mind. So just choose your favorite media mogul.”

    Jennifer Egan tells the Times about what she read while working on her latest novel, Manhattan Beach. Besides true stories of survival at sea and fiction like Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep, there was also a 1942 edition of the Merchant Marine Officers’ Handbook, which earned her “some quizzical looks on the elliptical machine.”

    The Columbia Journalism Review collects the best articles from Playboy, whose founder Hugh Hefner died Wednesday at the age of 91. The Times rounds up Hefner’s most memorable interviews.

    Carly Lewis talks to Lauren McKeon about her new book, F-Bomb, a study of the women who lead the anti-feminist movement. McKeon says that people were curious as to why she would set out to humanize these women. “If you think these movements are just full of monsters . . . well, monsters don’t exist. It’s very easy to dismiss a monster and think that the ideas of monsters won’t connect, that they won’t gain traction and won’t infiltrate policy or thinking or media,” she noted. “It’s harder to grapple with the fact that these people go to their kids’ soccer games and go to book clubs and go to work.”

    WNYC looks at the write-in candidates from the New York City mayoral primary earlier this month. Alongside former mayors, Donald Trump, and Beyonce, “writers Fran Leibowitz (sic), Emily Gould, Choire Sicha, Colsen Whitehead (sic), Kurt Anderson (sic), and Shaun King each scored one write-in vote.”

    In the New York Times Magazine, Sam Anderson profiles John McPhee. He recounts the numerous ways in which McPhee has avoided the limelight during his career—never publishing author photos on his books, ignoring the news of his Pulitzer win until after he was done teaching class, turning down birthday parties. “As I spoke to people about McPhee,” Anderson writes, “I got the sense that they had all been waiting, respectfully, for decades for the chance to gush about him in public.” One such gush comes from New Yorker colleague Mark Singer, who said that the sight of McPhee fishing on their semiannual trips makes him “want to tell this guy how much you love him.”

  • September 28, 2017

    Marlon James is writing a television adaptation of his novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, for Amazon. The show will be directed by Insecure director Melina Matsoukas. “It’s been my dream to bring this story to life onscreen since reading the first line of Marlon’s book,” Matsoukas said in a statement. “I am deeply honored to be entrusted with this tapestry of stories so entrenched in roots, reggae, race, mysticism and politics, while working alongside Marlon to ensure an authentic portrayal of his words.”

    Jennifer Palmieri, a former aide to Hillary Clinton, is writing a “book of lessons” for female leaders. Palmieri says that Dear Madam President will “provide all women with advice and lessons learned the hard way to help them lead in their communities, flourish in the workplace, and literally run the world.” The book will be published by Grand Central Publishing next March.

    Jenny Zhang

    Jenny Zhang talks to the Los Angeles Review of Books about the complexity of motherly love in her new story collection, Sour Heart. Zhang points out that caring for children, something usually portrayed as a virtuous task, can also be about domination. “In these stories there’s real tenderness and love that these mothers show their daughters. But there’s also manipulation,” she said. “There are these power dynamics: ‘You are forever beholden to me, because I gave birth to you, and I kept you alive.’”

    New York Times book critic Parul Sehgal talks to the paper about her reviewing process, tradition, and criticism as a necessary part of keeping language alive. “In scientific fields, there’s this established idea that you’re always standing on the shoulders of giants—that every discovery pushes the whole enterprise forward,” she said. “I like to think of literature and criticism as an act of pushing something forward, of mapping new terrains, internal and external, of doing things with language that reveal something about what it means to read and to live.”

    Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman takes a close look at the Wenner family’s sales pitch for Rolling Stone. Sherman writes that the company is “pitching an austere business plan” that relies on a editorial budget reduction of 30 percent and a switch from biweekly printings to monthly. “Ultimately,” he concludes, “the numbers suggest Rolling Stone will sell for a fraction of what the magazine might have commanded in its heyday, when the cover of Rolling Stone had the power to create stars out of the musicians, actors, and politicians that graced it.”

    CNN’s Oliver Darcy examines former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s first interview with the network since he resigned last year amidst a sexual harassment scandal. O’Reilly was ostensibly there to promote his new book, but interviewer Sean Hannity encouraged him to appear on the program in the future. “The fact that Fox News executives would permit O’Reilly to return to the network’s air and let him use it as a platform to sell books only months after firing him struck some observers—including people inside the network and at least one of the women who accused him of harassment—as peculiar.”

    Tonight, Minna Proctor presents her new book, Landslide, at Books Are Magic in Brooklyn.

  • September 27, 2017

    James McBride. Photo: Chia Messina

    James McBride talks to the Washington Post about humanity, how music affects his writing, and his new book, Five-Carat Soul. “Music . . . gives you the capacity to hear different voices in different keys in different settings,” he said. “Any good writer can do it, but maybe music allows you to hear it and instill it with a little more zing and punch and humor.”

    Lauren Williams has been named editor in chief of Vox, replacing Ezra Klein, who will serve as editor at large. The company is also launching a new podcast, and planning an “explanatory journalism” show for television.

    At Electric Literature, Tobias Carroll looks at the literary lives of animals. From books like Can Xue’s Vertical Motion to Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne, Carroll curates a list of a dozen works “that memorably explore the lives of animals — some to mysterious effect, some focusing on their interaction with humans, and some using them to counterpoint the foibles or challenges of humanity.”

    In the wake of one of Trump’s tweets being taken as a “clear declaration of war” by North Korea, Twitter has decided to update its policies on when a tweet can or cannot be removed by the platform. According to the social media site, Trump’s tweet that North Korea “won’t be around much longer” did not need to be removed because it was “newsworthy.” The Verge’s Jacob Kastrenakes writes that this new policy “basically implies that Trump’s account will never be censored.”

    The New York Times Magazines’s Caitlin Dickerson heads to Twin Falls, Idaho, where a conspiracy theory about the town’s refugee residents gained national attention due to coverage by alt-right outlets like Breitbart News and InfoWars. Although the local press tried to refute rumors and stop the spread of false information, local officials were afraid to condemn the story in public for fear of losing their jobs in the right-leaning town. “Behind closed doors, they would all tell you they were pro-refugee, and we wanted them to step forward and make that declaration in a public arena, and it just never really happened,” Times-News editor Matt Christensen said. “That was frustrating to us especially at the beginning because it really felt like the newspaper was out there all alone.” Christensen also said the interest from national news organizations made it harder for the paper to get the real story out. “There were days where we felt like, Godammit, what are we doing here? We write a story and it’s going to reach 50,000 people. Breitbart writes a story and it’s going to reach 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 million people,” he said. “What kind of a voice do we have in this debate?”

    Tonight at Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, Melissa Febos talks to Sarah Perry about her new memoir, After the Eclipse.

  • September 26, 2017

    Zinzi Clemmons. Photo: Nina Subin

    The National Book Foundation has announced its 5 Under 35 honorees, all of whom are women. Lesley Nneka Arimah, Halle Butler, Zinzi Clemmons, Leopoldine Core, and Weike Wang will each receive $1,000. “At a moment in which we are having the necessary conversations surrounding the underrepresentation of female voices, it’s a thrill to see this list of tremendous women chosen organically by our selectors,” National Book Foundation executive director Lisa Lucas said. “These writers and their work represent an incredibly bright future for the world of literary fiction.”

    The New York Times’s Jim Windolf is moving from Men’s Style to Business Day. Windolf will be the section’s new media editor. Former TheAtlantic.com editor J.J. Gould has been hired as the editor of the New Republic. Gould will replace Eric Bates, who will stay on as editor-at-large.

    The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has acquired Michael Ondaatje’s archives. Ondaatje’s files take up nearly one hundred boxes and include notes on his novels, address books, scripts, and letters between the author and actors in the film version of The English Patient.

    Jennifer Egan talks to The Guardian about Victorian novels, Trollope, and how journalism helped her write her latest book, Manhattan Beach. “Fiction is my deepest love, but I love journalism, too. It keeps me thinking vigorously, and it reminds me that there is a world out there,” she said. “It has taught me how to distil enormous quantities of information, and I wouldn’t have been able to write Manhattan Beach without that because I have never scuba dived. Actually, I’ve barely been on a ship.”

    On the premiere of Megyn Kelly’s new NBC show, Megyn Kelly Today, the anchor told her audience that she’s “kind of done with politics for now. Instead, she wants to help viewers “get yourself through the day, to have a laugh with us, a smile, sometimes a tear—and maybe a little hope to start your day.” At the Washington Post, Erik Wemple writes that the show’s main features, like “serial in-house promo segments, other corporate tie-ins and a pre-noon boozing exhortation,” were less enjoyable than her previous work on “cable news, with its cyclical rehashing of topics, shallow analysis and unforgivable distortions.”

  • September 25, 2017

    Showtime has announced that it will run a TV series based on The President Is Missing, the forthcoming thriller co-authored by Bill Clinton and James Patterson.

    Joe Hagan

    Joe Hagan’s new biography of Jann Wenner, Sticky Fingers, comes out in October, and the Rolling Stone founder is apparently “furious” about it. The biography was written with Wenner’s full cooperation (after canceling two other biographies), but he was apparently displeased with Hagan’s portrait: “the book details Wenner’s creative skills but also his cocaine-fueled editing sessions, his cavalier treatment of many of the editors and executives who helped him over the years, and the tortured bisexuality that he only came to terms with publicly in the late 1990s.” After reading an advance copy, Wenner disinvited Hagan from an event they were both scheduled to appear at at the 92nd Street Y.

    “They wouldn’t like me saying this, but no one knows what Styles is or is supposed to be. That was really attractive to me.” Choire Sicha talks about his plans as the editor of the New York Times Styles section.

    Dana Canedy, the former New York Times reporter who became the administrator for the Pulitzers in July, suggests in a recent interview that she plans to bring a “fresh perspective” to the prizes: “I came into this role with a short-term and long-term strategic plan and have some very concrete ideas about changes I want to make.”

    Luc Sante pays homage to John Ashbery: “Ashbery’s [style] was marked above all by a calm, discursive voice, going along at a walking pace, often seeming to have been caught in midstream, maybe half-heard from outside through the curtains. That voice could occasionally sound explicitly poetic or expressionistically fractured, but more often—and more consistently as time went by—it sounded conversational, demotic, mild, even-toned, deep-dish American.”

    “I’m so bored with arguments against memoir,” says Wild author Cheryl Strayed. “They’re almost always simple-minded and ignorant. . . . Yes, there are memoirs that are narcissistic and awful! Just like there are novels that are narcissistic and awful and there are poems that are narcissistic and awful and there are plays that are narcissistic and awful. Narcissism and awfulness has absolutely nothing to do with the genre itself.”

  • September 22, 2017

    Orion is publishing an anthology about Brexit this November. Goodbye, Europe, will include works from forty-six contributors, including a short story by Lionel Shriver “about a relationship ending in the wake of the referendum,” a reflection by Jessie Burton “about her first visit to the continent,” and an essay by Robert MacFarlane “about the flight paths of the migrant bird species that the UK shares with Europe.”

    Shaun King has been hired by The Intercept as a columnist. Most recently, King was a columnist at the New York Daily News. The website has also added Vanessa Gezari as national security editor, Aída Chávez as a political reporter, Maryam Saleh as associate editor, and Kate Aronoff and Rachel M. Cohen as contributing writers.

    Carmen Maria Machado. Photo: Tom Storm

    Booker-winning novelist Michael Ondaatje is working on a new novel. Warlight will be published by Knopf next May.

    Annie Proulx will receive a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation. The prize will be presented at a dinner ceremony in November.

    Carmen Maria Machado talks to Hazlitt about bodies, fabulism, and why women writers tend toward uncanny subjects in their work. “Being a woman is inherently uncanny. Your humanity is liminal; your body is forfeit; your mind is doubted as a matter of course,” she said. “You exist in the periphery, and I think many women writers can’t help but respond to that state.”

    Laura Kipnis tells the New Yorker’s Jeannie Suk Gersen that she was investigated for Title IX violations again last summer after the publication of her book, Unwanted Advances. Kipnis said that the complaint was brought by four Northwestern faculty members and five graduate students, including the unnamed student in her book who has also filed a defamation case against Kipnis and her publisher, HarperCollins. “These complaints seem like an attempt to bend the campus judicial system to punish someone whose work involves questioning the campus judicial system,” Kipnis said in a statement to her investigators. “In other words,” Suk Gersen writes, “the process was the punishment.”

    Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo reports on the fight between Blurred Lines author Vanessa Grigoriadis and critic Michelle Goldberg over Goldberg’s review of Grigoriadis’s book. The argument began after Grigoriadis responded to Goldberg’s review, which claimed that the book contained several factual errors. On her Facebook page, Grigoriadis responded to each supposed error, writing that “not one charge [Goldberg] makes in her review is correct.” The Times issued a correction, but the conflict is complicated by the fact that both Goldberg and Grigoriadis work for the paper: Goldberg was recently hired as a columnist for the Op-Ed page, while Grigoriadis is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine. Pompeo notes that the mistake not only calls editorial page editor James Bennet’s decision-making into question, but also reflects poorly on the paper’s recent restructuring of the copy desk, in which “strong editors” handle both copy editing and fact checking. “If anything, the response to this controversy may simply underscore a sense of unease within the halls of 620 Eighth Avenue as the Times undergoes important and necessary changes,” he concludes. “Change is hard for any company—but especially for a 165-year-old institution where tradition is so deeply embedded in the D.N.A.”