• October 10, 2017

    Rafia Zakaria looks at ways in which the 2016 presidential election is “being replayed in Amazon reviews.” Zakaria notes that it isn’t just high profile books like Hillary Clinton’s What Happened that receive politically-motivated one-star reviews. Mark Bray’s Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook received numerous poor reviews after an alt-right Reddit group encouraged its members to lower the book’s rating. Other authors have used these incidents to equate their own detractors with far-right trolls, like Democracy in Chains author Nancy MacLean, who accused academics who questioned her research of being “funded by the tycoons in her book.” “With the truth rendered tenuous, stars on Amazon take its place,” Zakaria writes, “making reviewing a political act for a divided polity.”

    Chuck Palahniuk

    ESPN commentator Jemele Hill has been suspended from the network for two weeks after tweeting that football fans who disagreed with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’s plan to bench players who kneel during the national anthem should consider boycotting the team’s games. Hill recently apologized for a different tweet that called Donald Trump a white supremacist.

    Lewis DVorkin has been hired as the Los Angeles Times’s new editor in chief.

    Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk is working on a new novel. Adjustment Day will be published by W.W. Norton next May. In a statement, Palahniuk said that the book “is to Fight Club what Atlas Shrugged is to The Fountainhead — a bigger package of bold characters and norm-bashing ideas.”

    Axios compares late-night TV hosts’ reactions to Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment scandal with their treatment of the New York Times’s recent report on producer Harvey Weinstein’s own history of settlements and harassment. So far, only John Oliver has directly addressed Weinstein’s actions. Saturday Night Live removed planned jokes about the story from its show last weekend, “simply because the material seemed to fall flat with the show’s studio audience.” Page Six writes that New York magazine was working on a similar story last year, but killed it after Weinstein’s lawyers contacted them. The Wrap’s Sharon Waxman says that she was working on a piece about Weinstein’s behavior for the Times in 2004, but that the paper buried the story after Weinstein came to the newsroom “to make his displeasure known.” Jonathan Landman, the former Times editor named in Waxman’s piece, disagreed with her claim. “Sharon has now had more than a decade to pursue this story unencumbered by me or any New York Times editor,” he told Politico. “Why, if she had the goods on Weinstein in 2004, has she been unable or unwilling to publish something in the Wrap, where she was in charge? Could it be because she didn’t actually have the goods then, now or in between?”

  • October 9, 2017

    Michael Sunderland, a senior writer for Vice’s feminist website Broadly, was fired on Friday after Buzzfeed reported, in an in-depth article that revealed journalists who have provided material to Breitbart writers, that Sunderland urged former Breitbart tech editor and alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos in a letter: “Please mock this fat feminist.” (The letter included a link to an article by New York Times columnist Lindy West.) According to its press materials, Broadly “is devoted to representing the multiplicity of women’s experiences. … we provide a sustained focus on the issues that matter most to women.”

    Sloane Crosley

    Entertainment Weekly gives a sneak peak at the cover of Sloane Crosley’s forthcoming essay collection Look Alive Out There, which features a glove and a bird. Says the author: “You don’t know if that bird is dead, or if it could fly off at any minute.”

    Anne Wiazemsky—the French actor and novelist who wrote memoirs (Jeune Fille) about her experiences with Bresson and Godard (to whom she was once married)—has died.

    Leonard Cohen finished his final book shortly before his death in November 2016. The Flame, which will include poems, lyrics, and also reproductions from the singer-songwriter’s notebooks, will be published next year by Canongate in the UK and by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the US.

    Tom Florio, a former publisher of the New Yorker and Vogue, is reportedly about to purchase Paper Magazine, perhaps best known for its photo of a partially disrobed Kim Kardashian, which was accompanied by the headline “Break the Internet.”

  • October 6, 2017

    Kazuo Ishiguro. Photo: Jeff Cottenden

    Critics reflect on novelist Kazuo Ishiguro winning the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature. At The Guardian, John Mullan writes that “the Swedish Academy has made some dubious – and last year attention-seeking – decisions in recent years, but this year its 18 voters have got it right.” The New York Times’s Dwight Garner praised Ishiguro for creating “worlds that are clear in a sentence-by-sentence way, but in which the big picture recedes against the horizon.” The Washington Post’s Ron Charles observes that the award “looks like a course correction” after last year’s prize went to Bob Dylan. At the New Yorker, James Woods’s wonders whether Ishiguro, who studied under Angela Carter at the University of East Anglia, “may well be the first product of a creative-writing course to win the Nobel.”

    Poetry Will Save Your Life author Jill Bialosky is being accused of plagiarizing parts of her most recent memoir. William Logan, a critic at the Tourniquet Review, said that while working on a review of Poetry Will Save Your Life, he found language throughout the book that was extremely similar to writing found on Wikipedia, Poetry Foundation, and other websites.

    ProPublica is creating new program to fund investigative reporting at publications in smaller cities. The Local Reporting Network will pay the salary of a full-time investigative reporter for one year as they work on a reported project in a city with a population of less than one million.

    The New Yorker has added Masha Gessen and Troy Patterson to its roster of writers at newyorker.com. Gessen will cover politics, while Patterson will write about television.

    At The Millions, Lauren Marie Scovel considers the lack of diversity in Hogarth Press’s Shakespeare project. Scovel notes that all eight authors in the series are white, the majority are men, and only one is under 50 years old. “Although each author did achieve some success within their own adaptation,” she writes, “imagine how rewarding the series would have been had it featured writers whose backgrounds varied more drastically from Shakespeare himself.”

    The New York Times reports on producer Harvey Weinstein’s numerous sexual harassment allegations and settlements. Over the past thirty years, the paper found evidence of at least eight settlements with different women due to claims of sexual harassment and assault. One day before the article was published, the Hollywood Reporter noted that Weinstein had hired a team of lawyers to fight the then-unpublished articles. After the story broke, Weinstein released a statement to the Times stating that though he “came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different,” he now knows that “it’s not an excuse,” and plans to take time off “to deal with this issue head on.”

  • 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.