At Vox, a group of writers read and evaluated all twenty of the National Book Award finalists for 2017. (The winners will be announced on Wednesday night.) Some of the assessments are mixed: Elliot Ackerman’s Dark at the Crossing is a “compelling if uneven novel.” Frances Fitzgerald’s The Evangelicals is “written dryly, which renders it a little exhausting at times.”
At the New Yorker, Nathan Heller captures the editorial flair and era captured in Tina Brown’s Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992. “That time was filled with famous people, endless parties, comic misadventure. But it’s Brown’s reports on editing that offer an illuminating thrill. Brown calls herself ‘a magazine romantic,’ and, reading her diary, you see why: she collects old magazines the way some people collect baseball cards, and her entries flutter with the joy of conquest at a time when glossies were reaching a glamorous peak. Her narrative is juicy in the mold less of a chophouse steak than of a summer peach: a little tart, a little sweet, mostly refreshing.”
Amazon has announced plans to produce a new tv series based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
Jessica Hopper, the author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, and music writer Oliver Wang have joined the editorial team of the American Music series, which is published by the University of Texas Press. “There are so many incredible music journalists, critics, poets, academics, amateurs, and musicians writing right now whose perspectives and curiosities can serve to enlighten our own,” says Hopper. “My hope is that in this new phase of the series we can publish work informed by both fandom and scholarship, delve into regional scenes, and raise up marginalized sounds and ideas, contemporary and historic.”
Atria Books will publish the first novel by actor Sean Penn. The book, titled Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, will be released on March 27.
Poet and critic Stephanie Burt, author of Advice from the Light and Close Calls with Nonsense, reads new poems by Taylor Swift, and concludes that the pop star’s verses “are emotionally interesting ways to think about her life and her self-image and her emotions.” And yet: “I just don’t think they stand up on their own in the way that my favorite poets do.”