• September 12, 2017

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

    Ira Lightman

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

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

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

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

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

  • September 11, 2017

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

    Ian Buruma

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

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

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

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

  • September 8, 2017

    Roxane Gay. Photo: Jay Grabiec.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • September 7, 2017

    Kate Millett

    Graydon Carter has announced that he will end his twenty-five-year run as the editor of Vanity Fair in December. The New York Times notes the significance of the news: “Mr. Carter’s influence and stature in the magazine and entertainment world is so great that to call his exit a changing of the guard seems insufficient: This is more of a regal passage.”   

    Kate Millet, the feminist author best known for her 1970 book Sexual Politics, has died.

    The New York Times has hired progressive writer Michelle Goldberg to be a full-time columnist. She is one of three women (out of fourteen total writers) to hold the position. Goldberg explained her aspiration for the new column to HuffPo: “One thing I hope to do is to be a voice for the majority of the people in this country who cannot believe what the fuck is going on.”

    Picador has acquired The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven (2014), the best-selling postapocalyptic novel about a group of actors. The new book “begins in 2004 when a young cook named Nicole Stevenson disappears from a container ship off the coast of Mauritania. Four years later, a massive Ponzi scheme implodes in New York, dragging countless fortunes with it. Moving back and forth in time, The Glass Hotel traces the intriguing tangle of lives caught up in both events.” In other book-deal news, Random House will publish Happiness in This Life, the next book by Pope Francis.

    Casey Affleck has been cast to play the title role in the forthcoming film adaptation of John Williams’s 1965 university-set novel Stoner, which has become a cult classic since its republication in 2006 by New York Review Books.

    The Paris Review has announced that it has hired Nadja Spiegelman, the author of the memoir I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This, to be its new web editor.

    Featured prominently on Amazon’s list of 100 books everyone should read: Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

  • September 6, 2017

    In the wake of the president’s order to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), it’s worth revisiting Valeria Luiselli’s November 2016 Lit Hub essay about the consequences of ending the program and the options for resistance. Luiselli writes that sustained daily action is the most effective form of protest and underscores the necessity of active resistance: “I don’t think I can bear hearing one more person declaring any variation of ‘Even though I am not a Trump-target, I am still hurt/worried/ashamed/full-of-guilt.’ When anyone in a society is the target of institutionalized violence, everyone in that society is a target, simply because that is what living in a society means.”

    Job cuts are expected at Conde Nast as they prepare their second restructuring of the year.

    Vanessa Grigoriadis

    Tonight at the Strand bookstore in Manhattan, Vanessa Grigoriadis discusses her new book, Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus.

    Publishers Weekly looks at how Hurricane Harvey has affected some independent bookstores in the Houston area. It hasn’t been pretty. As store owner Lori Koviac notes, “Books do not do well in the rain.”

    At NPR, author and former British intelligence officer John Le Carré talks about his new book, Legacy of Spies. The novelist explains the challenge of writing a spy thriller without the Cold War intrigue he became famous for evoking: “We have no coherent ideology in the West. And we used to believe in the great American example; I think that’s recently been profoundly undermined for us. We are alone.” But as Andrew Meier has pointed out, Le Carré’s craft has little to do with ideology or the technical details of espionage: “To read Le Carré is to be in the hands of an authority on not only tradecraft but also human frailties and self-deceptions, a guide with a moral compass, the kind of man the English of a certain age call ‘sound.’”

  • September 5, 2017

    Chelsea Manning will headline this year’s New Yorker Festival. Other events at the festival include a discussion between Preet Bharara, the New York federal attorney who was appointed by President Obama and later fired by Trump, and legal writer Jeffrey Toobin.

    John Ashbery

    Following John Ashbery’s death this weekend, there have been a number of tributes: Paul Muldoon writes about how Ashbery “changed the rules of American poetry”; the New York Times has published an obituary (coauthored by author Dinitia Smith and poetry critic David Orr) and a selection of Ashbery’s poems; and at Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield took a detour in his obituary for Steely Dan’s Walter Becker to write: “It makes cosmic sense that he slipped away the same day as our country’s greatest living writer, the poet John Ashbery, another American original who struck people as perversely abstract and inscrutable. ‘All things are secretly bored,’ Ashbery declared in 1975’s The Vermont Notebook, an American credo that could have been a Steely Dan line.”

    Khaled Hosseini, the author of the bestselling novel The Kite Runner (2003), has been documenting the lives of refugees. “Everybody knows there’s a war,” he told a reporter at The Guardian, “but once you feel what that war means, I think for most people it’s unfathomable not to act on it, even if it’s in a small way. It becomes that much harder to simply dismiss or move past. It prickles your consciousness.”  

    Novelist Susan Vreeland, whose novel Girl in Hyacinth Blue (1999) traces the history of a painting that is thought to be a lost Vermeer, has died.

    Tom Clancy’s ex-wife and widow are in a legal fight over who owns the rights to Clancy’s character Jack Ryan, who first appeared in The Hunt for Red October (1984) and continues to live on in a series of books written in Clancy’s style after Clancy’s death.

    Salman Rushdie, whose New York novel The Golden House was just published, weighs in on the US’s current political situation: “A lot of what Trump unleashed was there anyway.”

  • September 3, 2017

    The American poet John Ashbery has died at age ninety. “What more is there to do, except stay? And that we cannot do.”

  • September 1, 2017

    Jhumpa Lahiri

    Francesca Pellas talks to Jhumpa Lahiri about language learning, translation, and why it’s never a good idea to write with readers in mind. When Lahiri first started writing in Italian, she says other writers discouraged her from the project, saying that there would be no readers. But Lahiri said she was never worried about whether people needed her book or not. “I think that writing must also be a selfish act,” she said. “A book might reach out to someone else at some point, after years, or maybe never at all, but it is not up to me to write with this idea in mind. Writing is, above all, an internal dialogue.”

    Jesmyn Ward tells the New York Times about her reading and writing habits. Ward says she has no interest in having anyone write her life story. “I did it in Men We Reaped,” she said, “and that was harrowing enough.”

    Jessie Daniels looks at white supremacist websites and reflects on the 2003 Supreme Court decision that defined cross burning as unprotected speech, wondering “what constitutes a burning cross in the digital era?” Daniels focuses on Stormfront, which was recently shut down, and martinlutherking.org, a facade for a white supremacist forum created by Stormfront founder Don Black, that is still online. “The fact that Stormfront is offline but martinlutherking.org isn’t suggests that we aren’t very sophisticated yet in our thinking about what kinds of risks white supremacy poses,” he writes. “While Stormfront is an obvious, overt threat to people’s lives, the cloaked site is a more subtle and insidious threat to the underlying moral argument for civil rights. Both are dangers to democracy.”

    At The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald writes that the New York Times’s decision to hire conservative columnist Bari Weiss as an op-ed contributor reveals the paper’s “understanding of ‘diversity,’ and the range of opinions it does, and does not, permit.” “For the contemporary NYT op-ed page,” he writes, “diversity spans the small gap from establishment centrist Democrats to establishment centrist Republicans, with the large groups of people outside of those factions essentially excluded.”

    Ron Charles reflects on the recently announced all-female film remake of Lord of the Flies. David Siegel, who will be writing and directing the movie with Scott McGehee, said that the themes of “interpersonal conflicts and bullying” make the book “a timeless story.” “So, basically, ‘Mean Girls with pork,” writes Charles.


  • August 31, 2017

    Danzy Senna

    The Rumpus talks to Danzy Senna about 1990s Brooklyn, Jonestown, and why she gave up on another novel in favor of writing her latest book, New People. “There was something in it that wasn’t moving forward. I think I couldn’t quite find the story. Sometimes a character’s problem starts to bleed into the novel itself, the writing, and my character in the other novel didn’t want anything,” she said. “I also, on a practical level, had two children and they were young, demanding, and more interesting to me than my novel at the time.”

    At Mother Jones, Shane Bauer explains what journalists got wrong by focusing on Antifa violence at protests in Berkeley last weekend. “By focusing on scattered violence, reporters glossed over the bigger story,” he writes. “The Bay Area has become the latest target of fascist and other far-right groups promoting disruptive rallies across America, often in cities where they know they are not welcome.”

    Fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett’s unfinished works have been destroyed by a steamroller, per the late writer’s wishes. The Guardian reports that “Pratchett’s hard drive was crushed by a vintage John Fowler & Co steamroller named Lord Jericho at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, ahead of the opening of a new exhibition about the author’s life and work.”

    Medium founder Ev Williams explains the site’s new subscription policy and claps system to Nieman Lab. With no advertising of any kind, the site will be driven by revenue from subscriptions, which will be paid to publishers who have signed up for Medium’s partnership program based on the number of “claps” each article receives from readers. But not all of Medium’s content will earn money for its writers. “We have a ton of writers on Medium, and the majority of them aren’t really our target for our partner program,” Williams said. “We don’t want to suggest that everybody who writes should get paid or try to get paid.”

    In order to “get to know some of Trump’s satellites, both new and old, a little better,” Wired has gone through the Amazon wishlists of Anthony Scaramucci, Sebastian Gorka, and Felix Sater. Items desired by these men include velour sweatpants, Against the State: An Anarcho-Capitalist Manifesto, and Cesar Milan’s Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar’s Way to Transform Your Dog . . . and Your Life. When reached for comment, the men refused to take ownership of the lists. “Are you are kidding me,” Sater asked. “Is Alan Funt from candid camera going to jump out of the bushes now?”

  • August 30, 2017

    Sarah Palin’s lawsuit against the New York Times has been dismissed. Palin had sued the paper over an editorial that linked the 2011 shooting at a Tucson rally for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords to an image from Palin’s PAC that showed crosshairs over certain congressional districts. No link between the shooter and the map had been proven, and the Times corrected the article. “Nowhere is political journalism so free, so robust, or perhaps so rowdy as in the United States,” Judge Jed Rakoff wrote in his dismissal. “In the exercise of that freedom, mistakes will be made, some of which will be hurtful to others.”

    KHOU reporter Brandi Smith

    At The Hill, Brian Klaas argues that the heroic work of reporters covering Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston shows that “President Trump owes journalists and apology.” From local stations that stayed on air as studios flooded, to major national publications that unlocked paywalls on articles about the storm, as well as the journalists who relayed pleas for help found on social media to rescue teams, Klass writes that “it is blatantly obvious that the press saved countless lives this week.”

    Joe Pompeo details the steps that investigative reporters are taking to keep sources safe and receive sensitive information without running afoul of Trump’s campaign against leakers. “The president has toyed publicly with the idea of putting reporters in jail,” Pompeo notes, “so it’s no surprise that journalists and sources are on edge.”

    Actress Vivien Leigh’s library will be up for auction next month in London. The lot, which includes a handwritten poem by Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell and a signed copy of Evelyn Waugh’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, is expected to sell for over £500,000.

    In the New York Times, Thomas Mallon and Liesl Schillinger debate the function of critics, and whether they should be “open-minded” or “pass judgement.” Mallon writes that both aspects are important to a good essay. “Today’s literary reviews too often turn into participation trophies, quiet tour-guide appreciations,” he writes. “Few things, of course, are duller than self-indulgent put-downs; but informed and spirited dismissals are another matter, and they remain in too-short supply.” Schillinger remembers the negative reviews she wrote at the beginning of her career. “A pan is the fledgling critic’s calling card,” she writes, “and the second review I published remains the most negative I’ve ever written.” After receiving a voicemail from the author’s boyfriend defending the book, Schillinger writes that while she didn’t feel bad about what she had written—”the book was truly vile”—the message “strengthened my resolve to never censure without compelling reason—even if it meant that each of my nay votes would earn me a foe.”