• January 9, 2018

    Michelle Alexander

    The New Jersey prison system has lifted a ban on Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow after the ACLU called for the book to be made available to inmates. In a statement, New Jersey ACLU director Amol Sinha noted that the state incarcerates black residents at disproportionate rate. “The ratios and percentages of mass incarceration play out in terms of human lives,“ he said. “Keeping a book that examines a national tragedy out of the hands of the people mired within it adds insult to injury.”

    Los Angeles-based PEN Center USA is merging with New York PEN. Suzanne Nossel will lead the newly-formed PEN America in New York, while Michelle Frank will continue to oversee all programming in Los Angeles.

    Irish publishers are now able to submit books to the Man Booker Prize.  

    Condé Nast has hired Samantha Barry as editor in chief of Glamour. Barry was most recently CNN Worldwide’s executive producer of social and emerging media.

    Tin House talks to Tayari Jones about family, the effects of mass incarceration, and her new book, An American Marriage.

    Milo Yiannopoulos’s lawyers have filed a motion to withdraw as his counsel due to “a breakdown in the relationship” and “irreconcilable differences.” Yiannopoulos will now represent himself in his lawsuit against Simon & Schuster, a move he claims is necessary in order to access documents that had been for “attorneys eyes only.”


  • January 8, 2018

    Zia Haider Rahman

    Zia Haider Rahman

    “Should the demise of the literary novel trouble us?” asks novelist Zia Haider Rahman. “I think the answer is ‘yes,’ but not nearly as much as some literary novelists would have you think.” As she points out, we now have better television.

    Even amid ample evidence of Donald Trump’s megalomania, Michael Wolff’s Trump book Fire and Fury continues to shock. As Jack Shafer points out: “President Donald Trump could have saved himself a lot of grief if he—or one of his people—had read Michael Wolff’s 2008 book, The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch, before permitting the writer seemingly unfettered access to the White House and his underling Steve Bannon.” The Times notes that Wolff is well-known as a “prime piranha,” raising more questions about why the author was given so much access to the White House.

    In a blog post, Twitter explains why it won’t block any world leaders. It did not mention any leader by name, but to most, the figure being referred to was obvious.

    Bird-loving author Jonathan Franzen tells the New Republic that he hopes Trump’s extreme anti-environmental stances will help spur conservation projects, and lays out his view of meaningful environmentalism: “I can devote myself to reducing my carbon footprint, or I can devote myself to going down to the local wetland and pulling out invasive weeds and trying to restore a degraded natural space. If I reduce my carbon footprint, there is zero practical effect. No one could ever measure it because it is meaninglessly small. Whereas if every Sunday I go down and pull weeds at that little half-acre scrap of land, the next year I will see fewer invasive plants. And suddenly a bird that has not nested here since it became degraded is back. I made a difference to that bird. And that is intensely meaningful.”

    At Book Riot, Nancy Snyder expresses her anger over the recent lawsuit brought against Emma Cline, author of The Girls, by her ex-boyfriend, who is claiming, among other things, that Cline plagiarized him. Snyder points out that the ex’s lawyers, Boies Schiller Flexner, has also recently represented Harvey Weinstein.

    In memory of Fred Bass, Tom Verlaine of the legendary rock band Television remembers working at the Strand Bookstore, where he got a job in 1968. “I never saw him lose his temper,” Verlaine says of Bass, “even with his dad, who was an incredibly loud, impatient, insulting porcupine of a man…though no workers took him seriously. He was a source of comedy—a book of anecdotes about him would be very funny.”

  • January 5, 2018

    The New York Times has announced that Gregory Cowles will become the Books desk’s senior editor. Tina Jordan of Entertainment Weekly will be taking over Cowles old role as a fiction preview editor and Inside the List columnist, while Emily Eakin, formerly a senior editor at the New Yorker, will become the Books section’s preview editor.

    Aharon Appelfeld

    Israeli novelist and Holocaust survivor Aharon Appelfeld has died at age eighty-five.

    Los Angeles Times employees voted yesterday on unionizing the newsroom. The results will be available on January 19.

    Lawyer Charles Harder has issued a letter on behalf of Trump to Henry Holt, the publisher of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, requesting that the company “immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the book.” But after the book rose to the top of Amazon’s charts, the publisher announced they would release the book today, four days before it was scheduled to hit shelves.

    An Odyssey author Daniel Mendelsohn tells the New York Times’s “By the Book” column that he has “a Dantesque fantasy” that Donald Trump would be “forced to read ‘The Art of the Deal’ over and over again, throughout eternity.”

    Literary Hub lists the many literary film adaptations to look forward to in 2018, including Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower.

  • January 4, 2018

    Roxanne Gay. Photo: Kevin Nance

    Roxane Gay has an advice column at the New York Times. In her first installment, Gay encourages two writers who are worried that they’re too old to make a career out of it. “There is no age limit to finding artistic success,” she writes. “Sometimes it happens at 22 and sometimes it happens at 72 and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all.”

    Fred Bass, owner of New York’s Strand Book Store until his retirement last November, has died at the age of eighty-nine. Bass began working at the store, which his father owned, at age thirteen and took over the operation in 1956. In a 2015 interview with NY1, Bass reflected on his life’s work: “My dream was to get a big bookstore, which I’ve achieved. I’m very happy about that.”

    Laura Jakes has been hired as a deputy editor at the Washington bureau of the New York Times. Most recently the bureau’s night editor, Jakes has previously worked as the managing editor of Foreign Policy and the Baghdad bureau chief for the Associated Press.   

    Time Inc. has sold Essence magazine to outside investors led by Richelieu Dennis, the founder of Shea Moisture.

    Page Six reports that new Today anchor Hoda Kotb’s salary is $7 million per year, $18 million dollars less than former anchor Matt Lauer’s $25 million-a-year salary. One anonymous source noted that while the numbers “underline the huge wage disparity at NBC News,” Lauer’s pay “reflected the long time he was on the show—25 years. If things go well, Hoda could ask for more next time if she re-ups her contract.”

  • January 3, 2018

    Vice has suspended two executives following a December report in the New York Times detailing allegations of sexual misconduct at the company. Andrew Creighton, Vice Media’s president, and Mike Germano, its chief digital officer, have both been placed on leave pending an investigation into charges against the two men. Sarah Broderick, Vice’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer, announced changes on Tuesday to address the issues reported in the Times article, including hiring a new HR head, instituting mandatory sexual harassment training programs, and creating community and mentoring initiatives. As the Times reports, Broderick also told employees that Vice Media was “committed to 50/50 male/female at every level across the organization by 2020 and pay parity by the end of 2018.”  

    Helen Dunmore, 2014. Photo: Caroline Forbes.

    Poet Helen Dunmore has posthumously been awarded the Costa prize for her last collection, Inside the Wave.   

    The Washington Post is launching two new newsletters on technology and cybersecurity.

    A new biography of Richard Avedon has been criticized by the Avedon Foundation, which is asking publisher Spiegel & Grau to withdraw the book. The foundation claims that the book has factual errors and untruths, and that the book’s author, Norma Stevens, based some of her research on an unfinished manuscript by Avedon that mixed fact and fiction, though the foundation has not pointed to specific examples of this. Adam Gopnik, a friend of Avedon, told the Times, “It would be a source of grief to Dick to find himself the subject of a posthumous tell all, a genre he loudly, and often, despised.”   

    At Hazlitt, Haley Mlotek writes about women writers and self-loathing.

  • January 2, 2018

    The New York Daily News has yet to hire a new editor after the December 31 retirement of Arthur Browne, who was also serving as publisher. Though parent company Tronc knew of Browne’s impending resignation, they have not named a permanent or temporary replacement for either position. “I’ve never heard of a paper functioning without at least an acting editor in chief for any period of time,” said Jim Rich, the paper’s editor before Browne. “At a moment where local coverage is teetering on the brink of extinction, it’s depressing to think that this is the state of affairs at what was once a stalwart of local journalism.”

    Fred Moten

    Former President Barack Obama has decided to continue his tradition of sharing his lists of the best books and music from the past year. Favorite books included Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, and Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing.

    The Foundation for Contemporary Arts has awarded $40,000 grants to poets Lisa Robertson, Anne Boyer, and Fred Moten.

    The Rumpus talks to Joshua Clover about protests, riots, and the differences between the two. “The protest has a logic I identify as discursive. It wants to communicate with people. . . . And then there’s the other half, which I refer to as the practical half, which is trying to take care of certain practical goals, things like destroying the power of the police,” he explained. Rioters don’t make demands. Rioters take care of business. But the protest side makes demands, and as we saw in the Civil Rights Movement, they were able to win some limited gains.”

    BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman reflects on his part in popularizing the term “fake news,” a phrase that now makes him “cringe.” Silverman had been researching and reporting on hoaxes and plagiarism in the mainstream media for years, but says that the 2016 election changed the way these stories were viewed. “I should have realized that any person, idea, or phrase—however neutral in its intention—could be twisted into a partisan cudgel,” he writes. “After the 2016 election, shocked US Democrats, looking for explanations, adopted the concept as an easy answer to the puzzle of Donald Trump’s election. And in response, Trump and his supporters saw the term as a threat and an insult — and a weapon.”

  • December 29, 2017

    Jamil Smith

    The full manuscript of Milo Yiannopoulos’s cancelled autobiography, including editor comments, has been made available in court filings by Simon & Schuster. Editorial comments range from questions about sources to requests to “DELETE UGH.” Though some have praised the editor for calling out Yiannopoulos’s bigotry, Jamil Smith pointed out that editor and publisher were not necessarily motivated by any moral concerns. “The editor’s brutal comments are somewhat entertaining,” he writes, “but none of this should distract from the fact that they sought to make his bigotry both digestible and marketable.”

    BuzzFeed examines the top fifty fake news stories from Facebook in 2017, which were shared two million times more than similar stories from last year.

    HuffPost editorial director Howard Fineman is moving to NBC. He’ll be working on stories about national politics.

    At the New York Times, Jim Rutenberg reviews Steven Spielberg’s The Post, and details the ways in which the movie fails to give the Times enough credit for their own articles on the Pentagon Papers.

    Margaret Sullivan reflects on her summer spent talking to residents of Angola, New York about their attitude toward the media. Rather than finding outright distrust of journalists, Sullivan said that she found more evidence that, more disturbingly, people are increasingly “indifferent” to current events. “Take the nail technician in her 20s who told me that she follows current events only glancingly,  mostly on Facebook. National news, she said, doesn’t seem relevant to her life,” Sullivan recalled. “Like so many others I interviewed — about half — she didn’t vote in the presidential election. I left the salon with a great manicure and a heavy heart.”

  • December 28, 2017

    Paul Yoon

    Literary Hub contributors detail the books published over the past year that they wished had gotten more attention. Claire Messud recommends Paul Yoon’s The Mountain, while Tracy K. Smith recommends Alicia Suskin Ostriker’s Waiting for the Light.

    BuzzFeed White House reporter Adrian Carrasquillo has been fired after an investigation into inappropriate messages he sent to a coworker.

    Crooked Media talks to NBC correspondent and New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow about his reporting on Harvey Weinstein and the movement against sexual harassment and assault that followed the story’s publication. “It’s understandable and I think mostly a good thing that we’re having hard conversations about those issues now, but I do think in the end we’re going to need to separate out the different types of behavior we’re talking about,” he said. “As we cope with this initial and completely appropriate moment of anguish about these issues, start to then find equilibrium in how we respond to each of the different variants we’re talking about.”

    The Wall Street Journal talks to Facebook contractors about their work monitoring the site for violent, sexual, or otherwise banned content.

    Over the past year, Fox News has increased the staff of its website to more than one hundred employees in an effort to compete with conservative news sites like Breitbart and the Daily Caller. As a result, the tone of its reporting has changed: Politico’s Jason Schwartz writes that “a website that has been more closely identified with Shepard Smith’s brand of reporting has now moved closer to the mold of Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.”

    Longtime celebrity reporter George Wayne reflects on Donald Trump’s changes over the past three decades. “It’s like watching an ogre metastasize. I’m just thinking a lot of us knew the man who was so fun and so charming, he always had his quirks,” he remembered. “Who knew that he would become this Islamaphobic, homophobic racist?”

  • December 27, 2017

    In the wake of the New York Times story on Vice’s “degrading and uncomfortable” workplace culture, in which more than two dozen women reported that they had been subjected to, or witnessed, sexual misconduct at the office, Vice founders Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi apoligzed: “Listening to our employees over the past year, the truth is inescapable: from the top down, we have failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive. Cultural elements from our past, dysfunction and mismanagement were allowed to flourish unchecked. . . . It happened on our watch, and ultimately we let far too many people down. We are truly sorry for this.”

    The Library of Congress has given up on their quixotic plan to archive all tweets. Beginning next year, the LOC will save tweets on “a very selective basis.”  

    A. G. Sulzberger

    On the New Yorker’s Radio Hour podcast, David Remnick talks to A. G. Sulzberger, the Times’s new publisher. The job won’t be an easy one, as Sulzberger admits: “It’s definitely an honor and a privilege—and a daunting one. Maybe the best note I got from a colleague was, “Congratulations/Sorry!” Which I think is probably a statement of the pretty profound challenges facing journalism in this moment.”

    The Times reports on unionization efforts at digital media companies. Vox Media employees announced that they were planning to form a union last month, following successful labor-organizing campaigns at companies such as Vice Media, ThinkProgress, and HuffPost. The article quotes Kim Kelly, a reporter for a Vice music site, Noisey, about the decision to unionize: “People were fed up and broke and anxious about the future, and the union gave them a way to take control and force things to change.”

    Literary Hub recaps the best reviewed fiction and nonfiction of the year.

  • December 22, 2017

    In Bill de Blasio’s first formal interview with journalists from the now-shuttered local news sites Gothamist and DNAinfo, the New York mayor said that he would be open to using public funds to support independent media. “What’s happening now in New York, if it were to continue, will undermine democracy,” he said. “I’d be open to actually seeing the city invest in [local journalism]. . . . The BBC model, not always a perfect example, but in the best sense — there’s definitely a place for that.”

    Jacqueline Rose

    Journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas is working on a memoir about his life as an undocumented immigrant. Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen will be published by Dey Street.

    Jacqueline Rose, Val McDermid, Leo Robson, and Leanne Shapton will join Kwame Anthony Appiah as judges for the 2018 Man Booker prize.

    The PEN America Foundation has released their 2018 Literary Awards longlist. Nominees include Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart, Wendy Lesser’s You Say to Brick, and Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse. Finalists will be announced in January.

    Photojournalist Alexei Wood was one of six defendants found not guilty yesterday in a trial stemming from their arrest during protests of Donald Trump’s inauguration. HuffPost reports that the case “was seen as a bellwether that could determine whether the government will proceed with the prosecutions of many of the nearly 200 other defendants who have trials scheduled throughout the next year.”

    Politico’s Jack Shafer mourns the slow death of the alt-weekly. Quoting a nineteenth century Chicago journalist—”It is a newspaper’s duty to print the news and raise hell”—Shafer writes that “at their best, alt-weeklies subscribed to this quotation like a mission statement. With their passing our cities become duller, hell-less places.”