• May 16, 2017

    Gary Younge

    The shortlist for the 2017 Orwell Prize for political writing was announced yesterday. Honorees include Tim Shipman’s All Out War, John Bew’s Citizen Clem, and Gary Younge’s Another Day in the Death of America. The winner will be announced next month.

    New York Times deputy publisher A.G. Sulzberger will now be in charge of the paper’s opinion section, which was previously run by his father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.

    After the tronc-owned Chicago Tribune announced plans to buy the Chicago Sun-Times, the Department of Justice has opened an antitrust investigation into possible acquisition.

    BuzzFeed has revealed Tablet columnist Paul Berman’s “blackmailer” as Eric Alterman, a columnist for The Nation. Alterman maintains that he did not write the emails to threaten Berman. “They arose from a deeply personal matter between us,” Alterman told BuzzFeed. “Paul omits all the relevant details because they reflect so poorly on his character.”

    Politico’s Shane Goldmacher reports on the strategic use of news articles by White House staff. Goldmacher writes that “a news story tucked into Trump’s hands at the right moment can torpedo an appointment or redirect the president’s entire agenda,” and traces Trump’s recent promotion of tax reform to an op-ed in the Times that was mysteriously brought to the president’s attention. In another incident, deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland gave Trump two Time magazine covers, one from 2008 about global warming, and a hoax cover supposedly from the 1970s about the impending ice age. The two magazines had Trump “lathered up about the media’s hypocrisy,” but staffers were able to avoid any ill-informed tweets about them. “The episode illustrates the impossible mission of managing a White House led by an impetuous president who has resisted structure and strictures his entire adult life,” writes Goldmacher.

    At the Times, Jennifer Szalai reviews Republican Senator Ben Sasse’s new book, The Vanishing American Adult. Sasse warns that young Americans have been coddled to the point of helplessness, and “that it isn’t merely the well-being of a younger generation that’s at stake, but the very future of the Republic.” Szalai writes that beyond the “highly specific” suggestions like assigning “your 2-year-old to get your socks every morning,” the strangest aspect of the book “is how it takes the easy way out: Sasse, a Republican senator and history Ph.D. who holds actual power during a particularly fraught moment, decided that now was the time for him to publish what ultimately amounts to a self-help book for well-to-do parents.”

  • May 15, 2017

    The New York Times reports on the literary agents who are vying for former FBI director James Comey’s story. Although most government officials usually move on to corporate jobs or teaching positions, Comey’s firing may make some employers wary of hiring him. But the controversy could land him a lucrative book deal. “I don’t know what his next job will be,” said Trident Media Group chairman Robert Gottlieb, “but I can tell you there is a really big book in Comey if Comey wants to write about the facts.”

    Wikileaks is offering $100,000 for recordings of Comey and Trump’s conversations. Gizmodo Media Group is suing the Department of Justice for any warrant applications that allowed the FBI to monitor Trump campaign officials. The agency previously refused to honor a FOIA request because the existence or nonexistence of said records is still classified. “The problem with that argument,” writes John Cook, “is that the president of the United States has already confirmed that the warrants do exist, by tweeting about them.”

    Jennifer Egan. Photo: Pieter M. van Hattem

    Tomorrow and Wednesday, the Yaddo Foundation, which runs the famous artists colony in Saratoga Springs, will be hosting a series of benefit dinners and events, featuring authors including Jennifer Egan, James Hannaham, Gary Shteyngart, and Andre Aciman.

    John Altman reflects on writing fiction under Trump. While it might seem like the Trump administration’s antics offer rich source material, it can sometimes be too unrealistic for readers. “Using a patio at a Florida golf club as a makeshift situation room during a North Korean missile test—as a guest posts pics to Facebook? Really? An author describing this scene risks taxing suspension of disbelief beyond repair,” Altman writes. “Real and plausible are not the same thing.”

    At BuzzFeed, Charlie Warzel looks at the alt-right media’s unprecedented access to the White House. Pro-Trump bloggers like Mike Cernovich have broken numerous stories in recent months, such as the Syrian airstrikes. “For all the understandable hand-wringing about the legitimization of the pro-Trump media, its rise makes perfect sense,” Warzel writes. “Its people are in the White House. Trump, clichéd as it may be, is an effective troll, and he brought with him a troll press corps.”

  • May 12, 2017

    Samuel R. Delany

    The Associated Press has published a report examining the agency’s coverage of Nazi Germany during the war. The organization has been accused of aiding the Nazis by, among other things, allowing AP photos to be used in German propaganda with altered captions or misleading headlines, employing German photographers with political affiliations (including one described in the report as an “ardent Nazi”), and, as German historian Harriet Scharnberg wrote in March 2016, letting the regime “portray a war of extermination as a conventional war.” The agency is pushing back against the charges: Sally Buzbee, the AP’s senior vice president and executive editor, said the decisions were necessary compromises that allowed them to “maintain access [and] keep the world informed of the ambitions of the Nazi regime and its brutality.”

    At the Barnes and Noble Review, Patricia Lockwood talks about her new memoir, Priestdaddy. The book is about her father, a Catholic priest who got a pass on the celibacy rule from the Vatican because he was a married Lutheran minister before converting (Lockwood calls her existence a “human loophole”).  In a New York Times review, Dwight Garner writes that “Lockwood’s prose is cute and dirty and innocent and experienced, Betty Boop in a pas de deux with David Sedaris.”

    Vice is launching a new project, News Issues, a semi-regular digital magazine that takes on a single subject. The effort represents a turn back toward a print magazine sensibility. As Vice News editor in Chief Ryan McCarthy notes: “Magazines, traditionally, are really good at unifying on a certain topic, bringing you from one story to another, and giving you an overall aesthetic. . . . The web traditionally has been pretty bad at that and I think to some extent readers are underserved by it.”

    Today, PalFest, or the Palestinian Festival of Literature, gets underway in Haifa. Authors appearing at the festival, which runs until May 18, include Solmaz Sharif, Jelani Cobb, Natalie Diaz, Nadeem Aslam, and Eileen Myles.

    A new exhibition at the Morgan Library suggests that Emily Dickinson was less of a recluse than received wisdom would have us think.

    At the Boston Review, Junot Diaz talks with Samuel R. Delany about his memoiristic essay “Ash Wednesday,” which details Delany’s experiences at  gatherings for older gay men called “Santa Sex Parties.” When asked if he considers himself a sexual radical, Delany tells Diaz, “Intellectual radicals, rather than actual radicals, are people who say things where they are not usually said. And, yes, all true radicalism has to begin in the body—so being a sex radical means you have to be ready to act radically and be willing to speak about it in places you ordinarily wouldn’t.”

  • May 11, 2017

    Book Expo America—the publishing-world convention that will take place this year in New York City May 31 through June 2—has announced that Hillary Clinton will appear on its main stage on Thursday, June 1. “An Evening with Hillary Clinton” will showcase the former Secretary of State’s many books, including a new edition of her bestselling book It Takes a Village. Clinton’s next book will be released in September by Simon & Schuster.

    At Vulture, Christian Lorentzen walks readers through Granta’s latest volume in their Best of Young American Novelists series. The collection, the third since the series began in 1996, rounds up writers in their twenties and thirties who Granta consider the best of their generation. The latest crop includes Emma Cline, Garth Risk Hallberg, Ben Lerner, and other familiar names, along with some lesser-known writers like Halle Butler, Jen George, and Sana Krasikov. Lorentzen notes a striking character in many of the stories, a kind of female counterpart to the sad young literary men of years past: “In composite, I started to think of this young woman as the Girl Who Knows She’s Stayed at the Party Too Long. The Party—by which I mean youth itself—isn’t quite over but there’s little fun left to be had, although that doesn’t mean there’s any reason yet to go home and get up early.”

    Kathy Acker. Photo by Michel Delsol.

    Chris Kraus’s next book, After Kathy Acker, a literary biography of the provocative downtown writer, will be published on August 27. The book examines Acker along with the community of artists and writers that influenced, challenged, and sustained her—and, interestingly, Kraus herself. It offers a personal portrait of an unusually radical and productive scene and its most mythic literary star.

    The Washington Post has appended a correction to a story about Sean Spicer’s actions after James Comey was fired. We imagine the editor’s note was the result of an amusingly bitter complaint from someone in the Trump administration: “This story has been updated to more precisely describe White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s location late Tuesday night in the minutes before he briefed reporters. Spicer huddled with his staff among bushes near television sets on the White House grounds, not ‘in the bushes,’ as the story originally stated.”  

    Sarah Jaffe, author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt, continues her “Interviews for Resistance” series with a chat with Adam Gaffney, a doctor and advocate for universal health care. The two discuss the Republican Party’s efforts to repeal Obamacare, the substance of the American Health Care Act bill that just passed the House of Representatives, and the future of health care activism.

  • May 10, 2017

    Emmanuel Macron

    Journalist Adam Plowright is working on a biography of French president-elect Emmanuel Macron. The French Exception: Emmanuel Macron’s Extraordinary Rise and Risk will be published by Icon Books in September in the UK.

    The Times’s David Leonhardt looks at the recent hacking attack on then-candidate Macron, and sees the situation as a lesson for American journalists. Compared to reporting on Clinton’s emails, Leonhardt writes, “France’s mainstream media showed how to exercise better judgement.” Rachel Donadio explains why the email leak didn’t influence the election. She attributes the muted effect of Macron’s email dump to the fact that there is no French version of Fox News, and considers other possible factors, such as the leak’s suspicious timing and questionable authenticity. Donadio thinks that it could be due to “a feeling among the French that, having witnessed how hacking may have altered the American election, they would not fall for the same ploy.”

    At The Awl, Michael Erard reflects on the incoherency of Trump’s interview transcripts, and what we can learn from them. “A transcript offers a chance to make sense of the mud of regular talking,” he writes, “so let’s get the mud of Trump’s regular talking to work against him.”

    An op-ed by the national director of anti-abortion group Human Coalition, “The Problem With Linking Abortion and Economics,” has drawn criticism on social media. At Jezebel, Stassa Edwards questions why the Times has run two separate op-eds from the group in this year alone. “As Bret Stephens’s hiring indicated, the point seems to be the Times’s ability to signal its perception of itself an embodiment the liberal value of the free exchange of ideas,” she writes. “Be it climate change or abortion, it’s the mere articulation of a side is what’s valued not the content of the arguments.”

    On Twitter, readers react to the Times’s new regular feature, in which contributors “say something nice” about Trump. “The president’s flaws are well known to the readers of many mainstream media outlets,” the paper explains, so the Sunday Review column will “present things the president has said or done that are praiseworthy.” Some users have contributed their own ideas, such as “his hands are the perfect size for tweeting on his phone,” and “he hasn’t sexually assaulted any women this week. To our knowledge.”

    Tonight at Books are Magic in Brooklyn, Peter Straub talks to Dan Chaon about his new novel, Ill Will.

  • May 9, 2017

    Bill Clinton and James Patterson are teaming up to write a novel set in the White House. The President is Missing, which will be filled with “details that only a President can know,” is scheduled for a June 2018 release by Alfred A. Knopf and Hachette.

    Curtis Sittenfeld

    Eligible author Curtis Sittenfeld is working on a new novel that envisions Hillary Rodham’s life if she had never married Bill Clinton. The currently untitled book follows Hillary’s story after she turns down multiple marriage proposals from Bill Clinton “once and for all.”

    Lidia Yuknavitch, Michele Filgate, Marcy Dermansky, Melissa Febos, Emily Raboteau, and Sarah Gerard discuss literary misfits and the stigma around confessional writing. Febos calls the idea that personal narratives are somehow less intellectual than other kinds of writing “sexist horseshit”: “If I’m writing something about my period, it doesn’t mean that I’m not an intellectual,” she said. “I can write an intellectual essay about my navel or a whole book about my period.” Yuknavitch also proposed doing away with the word confessional as a descriptor for women’s writing altogether, “because when women [write] about their bodies and emotive states and physical realities, they are being precise.”

    After publishing an article exploring the arguments for “transracialism” last March, Professor Rachel Tuvel “is now bearing the brunt of a massive internet witch-hunt,” writes Jesse Signal in New York. The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf looks at “call-out culture” on college campuses. Friedersdorf talks to undergraduates from colleges across the country, all of whom say that they regularly refrain from expressing opinions that could be seen as controversial in order to avoid being attacked for their ideas. “Today, so many people are declaring so many things problematic on college campuses that the next controversy is almost impossible to predict,” he writes. At Medium, Freddie de Boer remembers his own social media-fueled controversy over his views on the recipients of the New York Time’s David Carr fellowship. De Boer had questioned why a fellowship aimed at unknown writers had been awarded to journalists with numerous bylines in high-profile publications, and critics responded by accusing him of jealousy, or attacking him for calling the fellows unqualified. “This tendency within media — to treat every discussion of structural problems as though it is instead a matter of personalities, to make everything about whose table you sit at during lunch — is part of why journalists are so terrible at correctly identifying what’s happening in their own industry,” he writes.

    In his column for Tablet, Paul Berman recounts a New York professor’s attempt to blackmail him. After participating in a panel at the 92nd Street Y, the unnamed academic told Berman that he had acquired an “erotic correspondence” between Berman and another person, and that he would release it to the press if Berman did not “write a self-denunciation in the style of Augustine or Alexander Hamilton.” Berman writes that he still isn’t sure how the professor found these emails, or if they actually exist at all. “I hope that, if he does publish something and attaches my name to it, the correspondence is well-written,” Berman writes. “Some of my erotic correspondence is quite well-written, I like to think.”

    Tonight at 192 Books in Manhattan, Albert Mobilio celebrates the release of his new book, Games and Stunts.

  • May 8, 2017

    Jessa Crispin

    The De-Canon Project, a “pop-up library” that showcases work by artists of color, has started building a new archive of texts in which writers of color (including Cathy Park Hong, Junot Diaz, and Charles Johnson) discuss craft. As Neil Aitken writes, “A few weeks ago I was thinking about how Junot Diaz often comments on the fact he’s almost never asked to speak about craft, and instead always is asked to talk about race, identity, and the immigrant experience. And it’s true—when I think about all the books on writing craft I’ve read or heard about over the years I’m struck by how few POC-authored books on writing I’ve seen. Are they really that rare? Or are the books and essays out there, but we don’t know where to find them?”

    Jessa Crispin, the author of The Dead Ladies Project and Why I Am Not a Feminist, weighs in on Ivanka Trump’s new book Women Who Work: It reads, Crispin quips, “like the scrambled Tumblr feed of a demented 12-year-old who just checked out a copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations from the library.”

    The Huffpost reports on a new Amazon policy that can further drive down the value of books, punish small booksellers, and “undermine authors.”

    The New York Times Book Review’s Radhika Jones talks with Americanah author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie about her latest book, Dear Ijeawele; Or, A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.

    Author and translator Idra Novey has won the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, and with it $100,000, for her debut novel, Ways to Disappear.

  • May 5, 2017

    Shattered, the recent book about Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, may become a TV miniseries. TriStar Television has purchased the rights to the book, although a network has not yet been found.

    After reporter Chris Villani was suspended without pay for tweeting without editor approval, staff of the Boston Herald staff are boycotting Twitter entirely. According to the paper’s union, the social media policy has been in place since 2013, but this is the first time it has been used to discipline an employee. In a statement, the Guild noted that the policy has put the Herald “at odds with innovative news organizations across the country.” Union members have changed their Twitter avatars to a black screen, and will not tweet until Villani has returned to work.

    Bob Mankoff. Photo: Davina Pardo

    Former New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff has joined Esquire as the magazine’s inaugural cartoon and humor editor. Mankoff had worked at the New Yorker for two decades before announcing his departure last month. “It’s a lot easier picking cartoons than doing them,” he told the New York Times in March. “But it’s not quite as much fun.”

    Some of the authors and entrepreneurs quoted in Ivanka Trump’s new book are speaking out. “Don’t use my story in #WomenWhoWork unless you are going to stop being #complicit,” Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani tweeted. Deepak Chopra, who was also quoted, said, “Ivanka means well. . . . Perhaps she will speak up to her father soon.” At the New Yorker, Jia Tolentino writes that Women Who Work “should put an end to the idea that Ivanka is particularly self-aware.” Tolentino notes that Trump’s suggestions—like asking for flex-time and proving yourself before asking for a raise—are applicable to Ivanka alone. “Wealthy upper managers with families don’t need to be reminded of the importance of setting goals, and Ivanka’s directives are utterly irrelevant to anyone struggling to pay for childcare and housing at the same time,” Tolentino writes. “By the end of the book, she’s basically speaking to no one.”

    Tonight at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York, Tom McCarthy will deliver a lecture about literature, art, and media, followed by a conversation with Hal Foster about his new essay collection, Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish.

  • May 4, 2017

    The first plans for Barack Obama’s presidential library in Chicago were unveiled yesterday. Designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, the library will include classrooms, an auditorium, and a public garden. In his announcement, Obama said that the campus-like design was chosen to “create an institution that will train the next generation of leadership.”

    April Ryan

    White House reporter April Ryan has been named the National Association of Black Journalists’ Journalist of the Year. “In the White House press corps circle, where too few black women have been given an opportunity to report, April has excelled and persevered in spite of the many obstacles she has confronted,” said NABJ President Sarah Glover.

    The LA Times talks to Paula Hawkins about film adaptations, family dynamics, and troubled women. Hawkins said that she is committed to creating complex female characters, but that she tends to gravitate toward the damaged. “If I were writing about happy people it wouldn’t be a crime novel,” she said.

    Carolina A. Miranda remembers Jean Stein, who died earlier this week. Miranda spent a summer working as Stein’s research assistant for an oral history project about Los Angeles. “That summer, Jean and I interviewed cops, lawyers, judges, community activists, small business owners and ministers. We hung out in South L.A. motels and fancy-pants restaurants in Beverly Hills,” she writes. “Jean was at home everywhere with everybody.”

    Hulu announced that The Handmaid’s Tale will get a second season, with a premiere in 2018. In a statement, Hulu head of content Craig Erwich said, “We can’t wait to explore the world of Gilead and continue Margaret’s vision.”

    At Politico, Ben Strauss wonders whether the recent round of layoffs at ESPN were caused by the network’s increasing political coverage. After one critic attributed the company’s financial collapse to the “absurd decision to turn into MSESPN, a left wing sports network,” Strauss examines ESPN’s changing viewer demographics, falling subscription numbers, and historically apolitical nature.

    James Poniewozik analyzes the new prime-time lineup at Fox News. According to Poniewozik, the “fleur-de-sel-of-the-earth” persona of Tucker Carlson might seem at odds with the typical Fox viewer, but common enemies bring them together. “What matters more than policy is your side’s winning, and what matters more than your side’s winning is the other side’s losing,” Poniewozik writes. “So the major product of much conservative news media, to quote a popular postelection souvenir mug, is liberal tears. And Mr. Carlson drinks them like a refreshing chablis.”

  • May 3, 2017

    Tor Books has created a new imprint. Tor Labs will “emphasize experimental approaches to genre publishing.” The imprint’s first project will be an audiodrama, Steal the Stars, that will air in a weekly podcast beginning next August.

    Page Six reports that Tucker Carlson has signed a $9 million, two-book deal with Threshold Editions, the Simon & Schuster imprint. Both books are “current events-oriented, provocative and funny.”

    Even after Sean Hannity called an all-staff meeting to announce that he had no plans to leave Fox News, network insiders are still expecting more organizational turmoil. The New York Daily News reports that Suzanne Scott, who replaced Shine as president this week, “mobilized Fox Newsers to bash Gretchen Carlson amid the ex-host’s sexual harassment claims.” At the Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan analyzes Rupert Murdoch’s memo announcing Bill Shine’s resignation. “In just 56 words, the top dog at 21st Century Fox managed to fudge, obfuscate and—most of all—reaffirm his allegiance to the only values that matter: profits,” she writes.

    The Economist is the latest publication to report a boost in subscribers since the 2016 election. The magazine has seen a nearly 20 percent growth in paying readers since last November.

    Bernie Sanders is working on a political book for young adults. “This book will expose them to an unusual political campaign, the excitement of politics and what being a progressive is all about,” Sanders said. The Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution will be published next August.

    Pamela Paul

    The Millions talks to Pamela Paul about her work at the New York Times Book Review, writing and risk, and her new book, My Life With Bob.

    The Associated Press compares Ivanka Trump’s new book, Women Who Work, to her 2009 debut, The Trump Card, declaring that the first daughter “has gone from sassy to serious.” At HuffPo, Emily Peck contrasts Trump’s lack of awareness of her own privilege to Sheryl Sandberg’s most recent book, in which the Facebook CEO is very upfront over how much help she’s had. “As someone who now has the president’s ear and may help shape policies that affect working families,” Peck writes, “Trump has a responsibility to dig deeper.”

    CNN has declined to run a political ad from Donald Trump that attacks the network as fake news. The thirty-second commercial promoting the president’s first one hundred days includes an image declaring numerous network news anchors, including CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, as “fake news.” In a statement, the network said that they won’t be able to run the ad until all false information is removed. “The mainstream media is not fake news, and therefore the ad is false,” the network wrote. “Per our policy it will be accepted only if the graphic is deleted. Those are the facts.”