• March 21, 2019

    Tressie McMillan Cottom

    The New York Times remembers Rachel Ingalls, the recently-rediscovered author of Mrs. Caliban, who died earlier this month. Around the time New Directions began republishing her books in 2017, Ingalls also received a diagnosis of terminal cancer. But according to her sister, Sarah Daughn, “the diagnosis had an unexpected effect” on the author and Ingalls “began to enjoy the recognition that had long eluded her.” “She was so happy,” Daughn told the Times in an interview. “She was getting to say everything she wanted to say.

    Jennifer Finney Boylan has sold a new book to Celadon. Good Boy: A Life in Seven Dogs, “a memoir of masculinity, and an investigation into the relationships between men, women, and dogs,” will be published in April 2020.

    Last night, the Whiting Foundation named the winners of this year’s Whiting Award, each of whom will receive $50,000. Hernan Diaz (In the Distance; Borges, between History and Eternity) and Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Heads of the Colored People) won for fiction; Terese Marie Mailhot (Heart Berries: A Memoir) and Nadia Owusu (Aftershocks) won for nonfiction; Kayleb Rae Candrilli (What Runs OverAll the Gay Saints), Tyree Daye (River Hymns), and Vanessa Angélica Villarreal (Beast Meridian) won for poetry; and Michael R. Jackson (A Strange Loop) and Lauren Yee (Cambodian Rock Band) won for drama.

    At Columbia Journalism Review, Jake Pitre chronicles the boom and bust of queer media. “As gay culture became more widely accepted in the United States, particularly with the passage of same-sex marriage in 2015, producers and advertisers grew more comfortable being associated with queer stories,” he writes. “Soon, that media became exploitable—there was money to be made now that this niche community was palatable as a targeted demographic.”

    At Guernica, Roxane Gay talks to Tressie McMillan Cottom about authority, trauma, and her new essay collection, Thick. “I think when you come out on the other side of trauma, one of two things can happen: You can be more of who you were before it happened. . . . Or you can come out different,” McMillan Cottom explained. “That’s what happened to me. For the first time, I was asking questions of myself rather than responding to how people wanted me to behave. For the first time, I was making affirmative decisions about what I wanted. In a real way, the trauma wiped the slate clean for me mentally. And that’s when I started the process of teaching myself to take myself seriously.”

    “We narrativize our personalities and create our own story arcs because life is so messy and bat shit and mostly incomplete and unsatisfactory that we need to tidy it, to story it, to make it feel full and circular and interesting,” Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls author T Kira Madden tells Electric Literature. “I learned through writing this book that there is no getting your own story right; forget about anyone else’s. When you’re trying to wrangle every version of yourself and harness every refraction of light and shadow from lived experiences — experiences that change color with every subsequent recall — what you get is a mess.”

  • March 20, 2019

    Tommy Orange

    Tommy Orange has won the Pen/Hemingway Award for his debut novel, There There. “The breadth and scope of this novel are matched only by the fierce and relentless intelligence that Orange brings to his characters, who despite tragedy, heartbreak and loss, reside in a remarkable world of hard-earned grace,” this year’s judges for the prize said in a statement. Orange will receive the award at a ceremony in April.

    Anderson Cooper has signed a two-book deal with Harper. Cooper will write both nonfiction books with Katherine Howe. The first is expected in 2022.

    At the Paris Review, Nikki Shaner-Bradford talks to Bryan Washington about community, food, and his new story collection, Lot. Washington credits Chang-rae Lee’s New Yorker essays with helping him understand the connection between food and memory. “But just as often as food can bring us together, it’s also a reminder of the stratification that exists in our cultural contact zones,” Washington continued. “There’s a human cost for the gratification that comes with a meal, and it’s usually on the bodies of minorities in the back of the house—and in Houston, especially, on our Latino communities, who are the backbone of the city.”

    Allison Braden looks at the rise of “alt-alt-weeklies.” As many alt-weeklies have closed over the past few years, some laid-off staff have started their own publications in response, relying on outside investors, non-profit status, or their own savings to help fund the projects. “No one is coming to save us, we have to save ourselves,” Baltimore Beat editor Lisa Snowden-McCray explained. “Nobody has the answers right now, which is terrifying and liberating at the same time.”

    Former New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman is starting a new online food publication at Medium. According to Bittman, the new publication, Salty, will focus on “practical stories that will help people see food in a way they haven’t seen it before.” However, in a Twitter thread, a year-old newsletter of the same name that “amplifies the voices of women, trans + non binary people” pointed out some similarities between the new project’s design and their own. “Against ALL ODDS we have built a thriving, fun, smart, large & important intersectional feminist community & media outlet,” they write. “So when [Medium] invests in and launches a ‘new’ platform called Salty—with an eerily similar logo and led by an old white dude no less . . . something is awry.”

  • March 19, 2019

    Ottessa Moshfegh

    The shortlist for the 2019 Wellcome Prize has been announced. Nominees include Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Thomas Page McBee’s Amateur, among others. “They ask difficult questions . . . they blend personal with scientific research, cultural with historical, they are very creative,” judging chair Elif Shafak said of the six shortlisted books. “And these voices are very honest. They are unflinching, very candid, even when they’re across difficult subjects.” The winner will be announced in May.

    Journalist and The Everything Store author Brad Stone is working on a new book about Amazon. Amazon Unbound, which explores whether or not “Amazon is good for us,” will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2021.

    Columbia Journalism Review explores the funding behind The Intercept, which recently announced layoffs of four percent of its staff.

    Facebook is launching a local journalism project to combat the problem of news deserts in small communities.

    For those of us who “just can’t get enough of this Silicon Valley fraud,” the New York Times offers a reading, viewing, and listening list on the subject of Elizabeth Holmes and her company, Theranos.

    Former CNN contributor and Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile is joining Fox News as a contributor. “I know I’m going to get criticized from my friends in the progressive movement for being on Fox News. My response is that, if we’ve learned anything from the 2016 election, it is that we can’t have a country where we don’t talk to those who disagree with our political views,” Brazile said in a statement. “You can be darn sure that I’m still going to be me on Fox News. I’m going to do what I always do: and dish it out straight, exactly as I see it, with just as much New Orleans hot sauce as folks expect.”

  • March 18, 2019

    Marlon James gay cure

    Marlon James

    The 2019 Windham-Campell Awards have been announced. Danielle McLaughlin and David Chariandy have won for fiction; Raghu Karnad and Rebecca Solnit for nonfiction; Ishion Hutchinson and Kwame Dawes for poetry; and Young Jean Lee and Patricia Cornelius for drama. Each author will receive $165,000.

    W.S. Merwin, the former U.S. Poet Laureate who won two Pulitzers and a National Book Award, has died at ninety-one.

    In an interview at Desert Island Discs, Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf, recalls his struggles growing up gay in Jamaica. When he was young, he wanted to not be gay to such an extent that he sought an exorcism, or a “gay cure,” at a pentecostal church. “Then one day it hit me: ‘What if I got rid of the church?’ And that worked smashingly.”

    Simon and Schuster has purchased Howard Stern’s latest autobiography, Howard Stern Comes Again. When Stern’s first memoir, Private Parts, came out in 1993, it became the fastest-selling book in Simon and Schuster’s history up to that point.

    Publishers Weekly talks with Penguin Random House’s Amanda D’Acierno about the rapid rise of audiobooks. “Honestly, 16 years ago I would have been surprised if you told me that audio would be the talk of the industry in 2019,” D’Acierno says. “It’s been a very exciting development, and great to see the growth of this format that so many people have worked so tirelessly to pursue. Like most of us in publishing, I came into the business very much thinking book, book, book. Then, I really fell in love with taking an author’s work, works that I have so much respect for, and finding the right actors to bring those written works to life in audio.”

    At the London Book Fair, which just wrapped, publishers and writers responded to the political uncertainties generated by Brexit. Ian McEwan said the decision to leave the E.U. is “a national tragedy.” Some publishing houses noted that Brexit is going to cause real problems in terms of supply chain and exports, but also noted that as of yet, it hasn’t affected business in “a major way.”

  • March 15, 2019

    The National Book Critics Circle has announced its 2018 awards. Among the winners are Anna Burns (fiction) for Milkman, Steve Coll (nonfiction) for Directorate S, Zadie Smith (criticism) for Feel Free, and Ada Limon (poetry) for The Carrying. Maureen Corrigan of NPR’s Fresh Air took home the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, and Arte Público Press, the largest publisher of Hispanic literature in the US, was presented with the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

    David Haskell. Photo: Marvin Orellana

    At the Columbia Journalism Review, a podcast featuring Adam Moss, the soon-to-be-former editor of New York magazine, in conversation with David Haskell, a deputy editor at the publication who will be taking over for Moss on April 1st.

    The American Society for Magazine Editors (ASME) announced their national magazine awards last night, with the New Yorker taking home four “Ellies,” and Moss receiving a Hall of Fame Award.

    The Washington Post talks to Madeline Peltz, the twenty-four-year-old employee at Media Matters for America, who recently unearthed Tucker Carlson’s misogynistic, racist, and homophobic remarks on a radio show hosted by Florida shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge. In response to Carlson’s assertion that he is the target of a powerful conspiracy, Peltz says: “I’m not like some high-power-wielding globalist. I’m this kid who’s been on the Internet my whole life and knows how to get around it.”

    Next week, Books Are Magic is hosting the NYRB book club, where participants will be discussing The Pure and the Impure by Colette.

  • March 14, 2019

    Olga Tokarczuk

    The longlist for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize has been announced. Nominees include Annie Ernaux’s The Years, Can Xue’s Love in the New Millennium, Samanta Schweblin’s Mouthful of Birds, and Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. The shortlist will be announced in April, and the winner revealed in May.

    Alicia Keys is writing a memoir. More Myself will be published by Oprah Winfrey’s Flatiron Books imprint, An Oprah Book, in November.

    The winners of this year’s Windham-Campbell Prizes have been announced. Honorees include Rebecca Solnit, Danielle McLaughlin, and Kwame Dawes.

    Lit Hub’s Emily Temple looks into “what exactly turns a writer into a millionaire.”

    Podcasting startup Gimlet Media is unionizing under the Writers Guild of America, East.

    At Columbia Journalism Review, Meredith McCarroll reflects on Appalachia, J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, and who speaks for a region. The film rights to Vance’s book were recently sold to Netflix, with Ron Howard attached to direct. “Can that $45 million draw critical attention to the region,” she asks of the deal, “or will it deflect aid and endorse a narrative of exceptionalism?”

    The Millions founder C. Max Magee details the evolution of the literary website, from a small personal project to a magazine that employs thirty part-time staff. “When it comes to running an online magazine, a lot has changed since 2003. There are things we were able to do in the first ten years that are no longer possible,” he writes. “But more might be possible than the conventional wisdom about online publishing would have you believe.”

  • March 13, 2019

    At Popula, Mik Awake reflects on the inherent disappointment of “owning many books.” After finally purchasing his own copy of The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, a book that he had checked out from his high school library over and over, Awake writes that he instantly felt he had made a mistake. “Owning it could not recapture the electricity of that reading experience, nor deepen my personal claim,” he writes. “Instead of my past, these books only conjure visions of the inevitable future, of the day when I will be dead, and someone else is burdened with the task of executing my will and dismantling the fortress of books separating my body from the world.”

    Namwali Serpell. Photo: Peg Korpinski

    “Stories are one of our oldest technologies. They let us have vivid experiences — beautiful, moving ones, but also horrifying, dark ones — and then close the book, or the laptop, unscathed,” writes The Old Drift author Namwali Serpell on the predictive powers of science fiction. “They give us a kind of perverse pleasure in reverse: not of seeing the worst come true, but of seeing the worst without it coming true.”

    At Granta, Alan Trotter and Daisy Johnson discuss tension, storytelling, and their new books.

    Kathryn Davis, John Lanchester, T Kira Madden, Namwali Serpell, and Bryan Washington all participate in Lit Hub’s monthly questionnaire. If Lanchester weren’t a writer, he would like to be a “constitutional monarch of a rich, stable democracy with strong privacy laws,” while Madden would design “magic tricks and stage illusions.”

    Simon & Schuster is publishing Howard Stern’s first book in over two decades. “F*#k Hemingway!” Stern said in a statement about Come Again, which hits shelves in May. “I put my heart and soul into this book and could not be more proud of it.”

  • March 12, 2019

    Joni Mitchell

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is publishing Joni Mitchell’s book of poems, lyrics, and watercolors. Originally written in 1971, Mitchell published only one hundred hand-made copies of Morning Glory on the Vine for her friends. The new edition will be published in October.

    The Marshall Plan author Been Steil has won this year’s New-York Historical Society’s Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize.

    Layoffs have hit New York Media, with sixteen full-time employees and another sixteen freelance staff being let go.

    Columbia Journalism Review’s David Uberti examines BuzzFeed’s “digital media meltdown” and the future of the company after recent layoffs and unionizing. “The question now,” he writes, “is whether the money-making part of BuzzFeed can carry out [Jonah] Peretti’s vision, and keep news going, as he navigates what’s starting to feel less like a golden age and more like quicksand.”

    The Guardian reports that in the last two years, political book sales have doubled. Although “many of last year’s strong sellers dealt with Donald Trump . . . readers were also seeking more classic fare” like Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto and George Orwell’s Notes on Nationalism.

  • March 11, 2019

    Margo Jefferson

    Margo Jefferson

    Elton John, who is currently on what he says will be his final tour, has announced that he has finished his autobiography, which will be published on October 15. According to John, “My life has been one helluva roller coaster ride and I’m now ready to tell you my story, in my own words.” Henry Holt, the musician’s publisher, is calling the book “no holds barred.”

    At The Cut, Anna Sillman interviews the Pulitzer-winning critic Margo Jefferson, who in 2006 released the critical study On Michael Jackson. Now that she’s seen the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, she has this to say about her critical work about the pop star: “When I think back on my book, I certainly say he’s very damaged and that he clearly can’t quite distinguish between adult and childhood behavior, and that it is all strange. I think what’s missing is my saying in that last chapter: ‘alright, what if he is guilty? Where do we start, what do we think next? Where do our thoughts and feelings go?’” She is currently writing a new introduction for some editions of the book. “It’s difficult because it’s all painful. It’s all excruciating.”

    “Is it time to get rid of the Nobel prize in literature?” wonders Carrie V Mullins at Electric Literature. “At minimum, after 124 years it’s worth reconsidering what it’s adding to the cultural landscape.”

    “I teach creative writing and I think it’s not like making a souffle; you can’t give anyone the steps to follow,” says Bowlaway author Elizabeth McCracken. “It can’t be taught in the way life drawing can. But you can teach people how to notice what the work they admire is doing, and to sit around a table and look at their writing and how to make it achieve what it wants to achieve.”

    According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, nearly one in five Americans now listen to audiobooks, but print books remain more popular than ebooks and audiobooks.

    Gillian Freeman—who wrote novels, screenplays, and scenarios for ballets—has died at age eighty-nine. Her novels included The Leather Boys, and her work, says the New York Times, “dealt with social and sexual distress, in this case a relationship between a middle-class teacher and a sailor of nebulous sexuality.”

  • March 8, 2019

    Akwaeke Emezi. Photo: Elizabeth Wirija

    Lambda Literary has announced the finalists for this year’s Lammy awards. Nominees include Sarah Schulman’s Maggie Terry, Édouard Louis’s History of Violence, and Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater. Winners will be announced at a ceremony in June.

    The Paris Review has announced the winners of this year’s Plimpton and Terry Southern Prizes. Kelli Jo Ford has won the Plimpton Prize for her story “Hybrid Vigor,” and Benjamin Nugent has won the Terry Southern Prize for his story “Safe Spaces.” The awards will be presented at the magazine’s Spring Revel in April.

    The 2019 Bancroft prize has been awarded to David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom and Lisa Brooks’s Our Beloved Kin.

    At Recode, Kara Swisher talks to Laurene Powell Jobs about nonprofit media, journalism as a civic institution, and the future of print.

    “When it comes to journalism, Facebook’s reorientation seems to take it even further away from being the kind of public distribution outlet many media companies have come to rely on,” writes Columbia Journalism Review’s Mathew Ingram on Facebook’s new pivot toward private messaging. “Although the fruit Facebook offered to publishers may have been poisoned, the reach—and, in some cases, ad revenue—it provided has become a staple of many media business models.”