• September 21, 2017

    Lillian Ross

    Lillian Ross, who wrote for the New Yorker for sixty years, died yesterday at 99. The New York Times writes that Ross “preached unobtrusive reporting and practiced what she preached.” At the New Yorker, Rebecca Mead reflects on working with Ross, who was still writing for the magazine when Mead joined the staff in 1997. “Lillian was a generous champion of younger writers at the magazine, especially younger writers who sought, like her, to chronicle New York’s human comedy,” she writes. “In them—in us—she surely recognized her mischievous, enduring, shit-kicking self.” The magazine also offers a selection of Ross’s work, chosen out of her archive of over five hundred pieces. 

    Finalists for the Kirkus Prize have been announced. Nominees include Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, Hari Kunzru’s White Tears, and Patricia Lockwood’s Priestdaddy: A Memoir.

    Alex Neason looks at the cover of the Village Voice’s final print issue, which features Bob Dylan. “In arguably the most important year in generations for the type of scrappy, nobody-is-safe news reporting the Voice defined, featuring a long irrelevant (albeit a Greenwich Village icon) music star on the cover seems at best a missed opportunity,” he writes. “At worst, safe.”

    Chelsea Handler and Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards will be presenters at the PEN Center USA’s Literary Awards Festival in October. Handler will give the Freedom to Write Award to the New York Times’s Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt for their reporting on Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment settlements, while Richards will introduce Margaret Atwood as she accepts her Lifetime Achievement Award.

    Politico talks to Joe Lindsley, a one-time protege of Roger Ailes, about his new book, Fake News, True Story. Although many books about Roger Ailes and his time at Fox News have been bought by major publishers, Lindsley is self-publishing his book after pitching it to publishers without success. One reason for that might be that the book, which Lindsley bills as a memoir, “lands somewhere between memoir and roman à clef”—written in the third person, Lindsley uses aliases for many characters and represents himself through the protagonist, Jack Renard. “When people read the story, I want them to feel as paranoid, as crazy, as disturbed as I felt,” he said of the book’s structure. “I want the reader to feel that sort of frenzy and to understand deeply what this world is like, this world that has affected all of us.”

  • September 20, 2017

    Zadie Smith

    Zadie Smith says that staying off of social media allows her to reserve the right to be wrong. “I have seen on Twitter, I’ve seen it at a distance, people have a feeling at 9 a.m. quite strongly, and then by 11 have been shouted out of it and can have a completely opposite feeling four hours later,” Smith told the New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino at an event earlier this week. “I want to have my feeling, even if it’s wrong, even if it’s inappropriate, express it to myself in the privacy of my heart and my mind. I don’t want to be bullied out of it.”

    Franklin Foer talks to Literary Hub about technology, monopolies, and his new book, World Without Mind.

    Margaret Sullivan explains why ESPN commentator Jemele Hill should not have been reprimanded for her tweet that referred to Donald Trump as a white supremacist. “It is tragically inappropriate for media behemoths to tout the diversity of their workforce and then hush what those diverse voices want to say on the most important matters of the day,” she writes. “That’s especially a problem when those staffers are encouraged to opine and engage on social media.”

    At The Guardian, Sam Jordison reflects on the newfound relevance of Salman Rushdie’s 1983 novel Shame, “a book about a corrupt class of billionaires and ‘badmashes’ hellbent on distorting reality and attacking the rule of law.”

    Youtube star Hank Green is working on a novel about going viral on the internet “and the anxiety and awkwardness it can bring.” An Absolutely Remarkable Thing will be published by Dutton next fall.

    Times reporter Kenneth P. Vogel details the lunch meeting that led to his accidental scoop about how Trump’s lawyers are dealing with the investigations into the campaign’s relationship with Russia. “I’ve picked up all manner of tantalizing nuggets—from U.S. senators, billionaire donors and influential operatives, among others—by positioning myself within earshot of those conversations while nursing a beer at the bar,” he writes. “But I’ve never overheard a conversation quite like the one I accidentally encountered last Tuesday.”

    The New York Times wonders if Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment settlements and subsequent firing from Fox News will affect the sales of his new book. The paper notes that while O’Reilly’s previous books have topped best seller charts upon release, Killing England, which was released yesterday, debuted at number ninety on Amazon’s best-seller list. “By comparison, the latest entry in the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, which won’t be released until November, is already No. 15.”

  • September 19, 2017

    Paul Farhi reflects on why crime journalist Kevin Deutsch’s numerous instances of unidentifiable sources and possible fabrications were overlooked until the recent publication of his second book, Pill City. “One possibility is that Deutsch’s questionable sources were merely peripheral to his stories, providing ‘color’ about widely reported events,” Farhi writes. “But it’s also possible that a journalist dealing with people on the fringes of society faces less accountability than one reporting in the center of the public square.”

    Michelle McNamara. Photo: Robyn Von Swank

    Harper Collins will publish Michelle McNamara’s final book, which she was working on when she died suddenly last year. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer will be published in early 2018.

    Jann Wenner plans to sell his controlling stake in Rolling Stone. Wenner and his son Gus, who is the current president and CEO of Wenner Media, told the Times that they “hoped to find a buyer that understood Rolling Stone’s mission and that had ‘lots of money.’” The paper also looks at the magazine’s legacy on its fiftieth anniversary.

    Thomas Frank, who resigned from CNN after the network retracted an article he wrote about Anthony Scaramucci, has been hired as BuzzFeed’s first national security and counterintelligence reporter. Frank will focus on the investigations into the Trump campaign’s relationship to Russia.

    The Associated Press looks at the trend of government agencies suing public records seekers in order to keep information from being released. Though the lawsuits don’t request damages, they enable public offices to avoid paying legal fees that they would normally be accountable for if sued by records seekers.

    At CNN, Brian Stelter looks at the last-minute preparations for Sean Spicer’s Emmys sketch and wonders why Stephen Colbert and the Emmys are helping Spicer rebrand. The Times talks to Spicer about the cameo, which they call “his latest attempt to ingratiate himself with the largely liberal coastal entertainment and news elites he so acidly disdained as Mr. Trump’s alter-ego spokesman.” At The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber writes that “when opponents of the president talk about ‘normalizing’ an abnormal administration, they are talking about the sort of thing that took place onstage sunday night at the Emmys.”

  • September 18, 2017

    NBC plans to create a new hub dedicated to the coverage of the media industry, and has hired Claire Atkinson, the former media reporter for the New York Post, to head the project. Other new hires include former Buzzfeed news editor Ben Smith and Recode editor Kara Swisher.

    David Carr

    David Carr, who died in 2015, was known as many things—recovering addict, media columnist for the Times, author of the bestselling memoir The Night of the Gun. He was also a tough and generous mentor to many younger writers. Now, at The Atlantic, more than a dozen authors remember the role Carr played in their careers. Says Ta-Nehisi Coates: “Before I got to The Atlantic, I was bombing out of all these jobs. It was tremendously hard, and there were a lot of times when I really wanted to give up. Every time something bad happened, Carr would tell me, ‘It’s them, not you.’ I never knew David to be soft on me—he was the most difficult boss I’ve had—so when he gave encouragement, it had to be true.”

    The National Book Awards has announced its longlist of contenders for its 2017 prizes in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

    In response to gripes last week that Britain’s Man Booker Prize had become too interested in American authors, Alex Shephard has written an opinion piece titled “Americans Didn’t Ruin the Man Booker Prize. Book Publishers Did.”

    The New York Times adds to the speculation about who will replace Graydon Carter as the editor of Vanity Fair.

    Martin Amis says that comparing Trump to Hitler is off base. The US President, the novelist says, has more in common with Mussolini.

    Nathan Heller considers Harvard University’s “dishonorable treatment” of Chelsea Manning and Michelle Jones. Manning was granted a fellowship by the university but saw the offer revoked after protests from former deputy director of the CIA Michael Morrell and current CIA director Mike Pompeo. Jones, who served twenty years in prison for the murder of her child, was admitted into Harvard’s history Ph.D. program, but was also disinvited after protests, suggesting that the university has been basing decisions on a wish to avoid controversy. “The Jones decision,” Heller writes, “shirks an opportunity to define what the twenty-first-century university is.”

  • September 15, 2017

    The nominees for the 2017 National Book Award in nonfiction have been announced, and include Kevin Young’s Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News, David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the F.B.I., Masha Gessen’s The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, and James Forman Jr.’s Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America. The longlist for fiction will be announced later today.

    New York Times reporter Mike Isaac is writing a book about Uber, which will be published in 2019 by Norton. If Issac’s past reporting on the company is any guide, the book won’t be boring. Isaac hopes the book will be able to raise larger questions about Silicon Valley and the sharing economy, as he told Recode: “Can I take lessons from the disasters that happened at Uber and say what it says about Silicon Valley—like how founders have been given total control of their companies and how that’s maybe a mistake?”

    Edward Felsenthal has been named Time’s new editor after Nancy Gibbs, who worked at Time for thirty-two years, announced her departure earlier this week.   

    Amazon has deleted more than nine hundred one-star review of Hillary Clinton’s new memoir, What Happened. The reviews were deemed to be an illegitimate, concerted effort to bring the book’s overall rating down, and were from unverified accounts: According to Quartz’s reporting of the story, only 22 percent of the overall reviews were from readers who had actually purchased the book from Amazon. If you can’t get enough of memoirs from presidential runners-up, The Guardian has a list of ten books by other failed presidential candidates, including God, Grits, and Gravy by Mike Huckabee, Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey by Carly Fiorina, and Why Not Me: The Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency by Al Franken.

    Junot Diaz

    On the On Being podcast, Junot Diaz makes the case for what he calls “radical hope” in dark political times: “When I look over what my community has done to make democracy possible, when I look at what my community has taught this world about justice and about humanity, in the face of abysmal inhumanities, well, I’ve got to tell you, that alters the calculus of hope. And it gives me hope.”

    As part of Brooklyn Book Festival tonight, Greenlight Bookstore is throwing a party; Poets House is hosting Los Angeles–based indie publisher Red Hen Press; the Brooklyn Public Library is celebrating poet Marianne Moore; A Public Space has a launch party for John Haskell’s new book, The Complete Ballet; and the Asian American Writer’s workshop presents “Searching for Home,” a reading and discussion with fiction writer Dina Nayeri and journalist Alia Malek.

  • September 14, 2017

    The shortlist for the 2017 Man Booker Prize has been announced. Not everyone is happy with it. At the Washington Post, Ron Charles thinks the list is “too American.” And at The Guardian, Claire Hynes wonders: “How many Man Bookers must writers of colour win before they’re accepted?”

    Are Democrats nervous about Hillary Clinton’s widely publicized book tour? As some have suggested, What Happened doesn’t skimp on critiques of the party: “In the book, Clinton is less than flattering in her assessment of her primary election opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders. She even complains about decisions her old boss, President Barack Obama, made that she says hamstrung her during the primary season.”

    How faithful is the new film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel It? According to Joshua Rothman, the movie is missing a crucial sense of strangeness. “It is a stranger novel than most people remember. The new film version, directed by Andy Muschietti, which premiered this week, is, by comparison, more wholesome and sane. It’s a likable but slight movie.”

    Former Esquire editor Mark Warren has been named VP and executive editor of Little Random, an imprint of Random House. In his new role, Warren will “acquire and edit a wide range of nonfiction, with a focus on politics and history.”

    Curtis Sittenfeld

    What would Alice Munro do?” wonders novelist Curtis Sittenfeld. “This is a question that, in all seriousness, I sometimes ask myself.”

    Melville House Publishing has announced a new project that allows readers to send copies of one of its latest titles, A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment by Barbara Radnofsky, to all members of Congress. The book, according to the press release, is a “straightforward and non-partisan guide.” As an incentive, Melville House is lowering the book’s price to eight dollars, will handle shipping costs, and keep a list of which congresspeople have received a copy. “Melville House’s intention in this project is to ensure all 535 member of Congress have the knowledge they need for a potential impeachment, and to illuminate how important the issue of impeachment is to their constituents.”

  • September 13, 2017

    Thomas Beller, author of J. D. Salinger: The Escape Artist, writes about his experiences working for the Cambodia Daily, and reports on that paper’s abrupt closing following threats from the government last week. “There were many news items about the threat to the Daily and the authoritarian turn away from democracy. On Sunday, September 3rd, the leader of the opposition party was arrested in the middle of the night, charged with treason, and taken to a remote prison. The following edition of the paper carried the headline ‘Descent into outright dictatorship,’ above the fold. At the bottom was an article titled ‘Cambodia Daily faces immediate closure amidst threats.’ That was the last issue.”

    Maggie Haberman

    Random House has announced that it will publish a book about the Trump administration by New York Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush. The book, which has not yet been titled, will be, according to a press release, “a comprehensive, deeply reported look at a history-making president.”

    “What’s So Funny?: An Investigation” by Lorrie Moore. “Animals” by Jonathan Lethem. “Apocalyptic Storytelling” by Junot Diaz. “Imaginary Countries” by Alexander Chee. “Shadow Narration” by Jeffery Renard Allen. “Constructions of Whiteness” by Claudia Rankine. These aren’t new books or essays. They’re creative-writing courses.

    According to a new report, Amazon pays eleven times less in corporation taxes than “traditional” bookstores in the UK.

    The Brooklyn Book Festival will take place this weekend, on Sunday, September 17, but its “Bookend” events are well under way. Tonight, you can see James Hannaham read, hear a new generation of writers discuss “What Happened to the Public Intellectual,” or attend a dinner inspired by Akhil Sharma’s new story collection, A Life of Adventure and Delight.

  • September 12, 2017

    Lani Sarem’s YA novel Handbook for Mortals debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list when it was released in August. Quickly, however, questions were raised about the book’s legitimacy on the list: Did the author, who most people in the YA community had never heard of, somehow game the system? The Times quickly pulled the book from the list. Now, the author is trying to make her side of the story known. “While I am not selling the books through traditional channels established by the book industry,” she writes, “the sales of my book are quite real.”

    Ira Lightman

    According to poet Ira Lightman, plagiarists are serial in their thefts. They “never do it once,” he states. And he should know: Not just a poet, Lightman has become a “poetry sleuth.” His specialty: busting plagiarists.

    The Brooklyn Public Library has announced the shortlist for its annual book awards. Finalists include Moshin Hamid’s Exit West, David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon, Kim Phillips-Fein’s Fear City, and Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law.

    “Like a recumbent sloth jolted into a panicked flight response, David Brooks has belatedly noticed the rancid politics of right-wing racial confrontation.” Baffler editor and The Money Cult author Chris Lehmann offers a scorching assessment of the New York Times columnist.

    Viking will publish William Trevor’s story collection Last Stories in May 2018. As the title suggests, Trevor, who died in 2016, intended this to be his final book.

    Tonight, McSweeney’s is celebrating the launch of its fiftieth issue with a party at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn. Contributors scheduled to read their work include Matthew Sharpe, Daniel Levin Becker, Haris Durrani, Dan Kennedy, Aparna Nancherla, and Sean Wilsey.

  • September 11, 2017

    Emily Temple explains why Rebel in the Rye, Danny Strong’s new feature film about J. D. Salinger, is “bad for writers.” “A while ago, I wrote a piece about why every aspiring writer should see Paterson, Jim Jarmusch’s excellent film about a young poet living in Paterson, New Jersey. This movie is the other side of the coin. Writers should not see Rebel in the Rye. I mean, do what you want, but if Paterson was a realistic evocation of the life of a creative person, Rebel in the Rye is the utter opposite. Not only is it filled with platitudes and lame advice, but it’s a sentimental monument to being precious about your work.”

    Ian Buruma

    The Times profiles Ian Buruma, the author (Murder in Amsterdam) who recently became the editor of the New York Review of Books. He is not interested in trying to fill the shoes of his predecessor, the notoriously dedicated and much-loved Robert Silvers. Says Buruma of the NYRB under Silvers: “It was a monarchy.” Now, Buruma says, “perhaps it will be a slightly more democratic operation. Certainly I think I’ll be more collaborative. One great strength of The Review at the moment is that it has a number of very, very bright young editors who know more about certain things than I do.”

    Most descriptions of the writing life are dull, but novelist Roddy Doyle has written an evocative and entertaining essay about his habits of writing over the years. “My office is in the attic. I bring a mug of green tea up with me. It used to be coffee but the coffee I drink in the early morning is so strong it’s possibly illegal, so green tea it is—good for the cholesterol, bad for the self-respect. When I was a teacher I used to meet hundreds of people every day. A bell would go every 40 minutes; the day was full of human noise. Then, after June 1993, I was alone. I was happy enough but the working day yawned; the silence wasn’t eerie but I didn’t like it. A friend suggested music. That seems odd now, that someone had to persuade the man who wrote The Commitments that he might enjoy listening to music while he worked.”

    “Have Nobel prizes gone to known gay aesthetes before,” writes Eileen Myles in a tribute to John Ashbery. “Ones who make light of it, and that it is pretty much everything. That was John’s great subject. Everything. Subjectivity itself.” And at the Library of America website, writers Star Black, Jed Perl, Charles Bernstein, Anne Waldman, Marjorie Perloff, and others remember the poet.

    Village Voice alumni organized a reunion party in New York City this weekend, bringing together editors and writers including Susan Brownmiller, James Wolcott, Toure, Michael Tomasky, Robert Christgau, Jennifer Gonnerman, James Hannaham, and many others.

  • September 8, 2017

    Roxane Gay. Photo: Jay Grabiec.

    Yesterday on Facebook, Roxane Gay announced that she has been hired to write an advice column for the New York Times.

    Bestselling author James Patterson donated $1.75 million to public-school teachers to help improve their classroom libraries.

    The Portland, Oregon, book festival Wordstock has released the lineup of this year’s event, which will take place on November 11. Author who will participate in the festival include Mac Barnett, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Carson Ellis, Jeffrey Eugenides, Adam Gopnik, David Grann, Jenny Han, Daniel Handler, Claire Messud, Tom Perrotta, Danez Smith, Lidia Yuknavitch, and many more.

    In response to the announcement of Graydon Carter’s retirement, The Awl promptly came up with a list of replacements, naming “10 women who should edit Vanity Fair.”

    Novelist and poet Ben Lerner has written an eloquent and moving tribute to John Ashbery: “The obituaries seem intent on noting that he ‘aroused controversy,’ that he has his detractors. I can’t even muster feelings of partisanship about his poetry; I just feel pity for those who haven’t, for whatever reason, been able to accept the gift of his work.”

    John Steinbeck’s stepdaughter has been awarded more than $13 million in a lawsuit arguing that other family members had prevented film adaptations of the author’s work.