• November 29, 2017

    Dodai Stewart

    Amazon’s publishing company is launching a new imprint. Amazon Original Stories will focus on books of both fiction and nonfiction “that can be read in a single sitting” by authors like Joyce Carol Oates, Dodai Stewart, Eddie Huang, W. Kamau Bell, and more.

    NPR announced that executive editor Edith Chapin will take over the duties of news editor David Sweeney, who left the company yesterday after three women filed sexual harassment complaints against him.

    Margaret Sullivan explores how attacks on the media—like the sting operation by Project Veritas against the Washington Post—could end up increasing trust in journalism. Sullivan writes that the continued attacks on the credibility of “the reality-based press” has required journalists to become more transparent about what and how they report. “Newspeople used to joke that readers should never be allowed to see how the sausage is made. Now we need to show that messy process as clearly as possible,” she writes. “Our very credibility depends on it.”

    At The Atlantic, Julia Ioffe writes that the Trump administration’s block of the AT&T/Time Warner merger, which is rumored to be over Time Warner’s ownership of CNN, “should be a wake-up call for American journalists.” Ioffe looks to Russia, where the journalism of independent news organizations like TVRain and RBC have been shut down through financial pressure rather than physical intimidation. “The death of independent Russian media . . . was achieved by applying subtle political pressure on large businesses whose media properties, or the advertisements they placed in the media, were just a small, dispensable part,” she writes. “And though Time Warner and AT&T are going to contest the Trump administration’s decision in court, who knows if the next media owner will decide it’s too expensive—and exposes the rest of his assets to too much risk?”

    Politico reports that CNN will not attend the White House’s Christmas party this year. “In light of the President’s continued attacks on freedom of the press and CNN, we do not feel it is appropriate to celebrate with him as his invited guests,” a spokesperson said. “We will send a White House reporting team to the event and report on it if news warrants.”

  • November 28, 2017

    Better Homes and Gardens publisher Meredith Corporation has bought Time Inc. with a “passive financial investment” from the Koch brothers. Politico talks to skeptics of the brothers’ claims that they won’t be involved in the company or use their newly-acquired publications to spread their conservative agenda. “They could influence coverage without lifting a finger, basically,” said Koch biographer Daniel Schulman. “If the staff of these publications are aware that the Kochs are significant financial backers of Time Inc, they may not go out of their way to be critical of the brothers or the company.”

    Keith Olbermann

    Keith Olbermann is “retiring from political commentary in all media venues,” including his GQ webseries, “The Resistance.” “I am proud of it, and I repudiate none of it. It has been my privilege to do it,” Olbermann said in the show’s final episode, which aired yesterday. “But frankly, I have not enjoyed one minute of it. As I’m certain it has also been for you, for me, it has been unadulterated pain, revulsion and horror.”

    Margaret Sullivan explains why an upcoming Supreme Court case on warrantless access to cellphone location data could negatively impact journalists.

    The Rumpus has announced the nominees for the 2017 Pushcart Prize.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates talks to SF Gate about the influence of hip-hop on his writing style. Coates says that although artists like Mobb Deep inspired him to write poetry, hip-hop influences his journalistic writing as well. “One of the things people don’t give hip-hop enough credit is—I’m talking about the great ones—the amount of weight they put on each line, how much energy is actually put into each line and how that has a cumulative effect,” he said. “For me, the way I do that is—even though the lines are written a certain way—they’re facts. If I say something poetic about Trump, it’s going to be facts after that.”

    The New York Times took to its Reader Center to explain its recent profile of white nationalist and Nazi sympathizer Tony Hovater, which many critics felt normalized Hovater’s racist views. At Splinter, however, Anna Merlan and Brendan O’Connor still have some questions. Among other things, Merlan and O’Connor note that the paper did not require Hovater and his wife to use their legal names. “It’s unusual for any newspaper, let alone the Times, not to say when their subject isn’t using their real name,” they note. “A paper that insists on noting Snoop Dogg’s legal name can probably do the same for a Nazi, no?”


  • November 27, 2017

    In a study published in the journal Scientific Study of Literature, two English professors, Chris Gavaler and Dan Johnson, seek to prove that readers approach science fiction more “stupidly.”

    Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

    Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

    The New York Times profiles a new generation of Nigerian writers, including Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, author of the award-winning novel Season of Crimson Blossoms. “A new wave of thematically and stylistically diverse fiction is emerging from the country,” writes Alexandra Alter, “as writers there experiment with different genres and explore controversial subjects like violence against women, polygamy and the rise of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.”

    Jamelle Bouie, the chief political correspondent for Slate, ridicules the New York Times for “running a profile of a Nazi as if he’s just an odd curiosity and not part of a violent and dangerous movement.”

    Pulitzer-winning author Jeffrey Eugenides, whose book of short stories Fresh Complaint has just been released, tells The Guardian that he does not, as a writer, feel obliged to match the baroque oddness of our current political situation. “It’s not my main worry: trying to compete with the outrageousness of Trump with something outrageous of my own. Right now, I think we’re in need of a certain amount of calm and tranquillity, and that’s what I try to provide with writing. I’m more and more interested in clarity and thoughtfulness in fiction, rather than in spectacle or gimmickry. Just a voice that’s companionable and speaking to you on some reassuring level.”

    O, the Oprah Magazine has released its list of the best books of 2017.

  • November 22, 2017

    The New York Times 100 notable books of the year list has been published. Time magazine and Publishers Weekly have also announced their picks for best books of 2017.

    The Los Angeles Times Guild (a unionizing effort at the paper) has published an op-ed saying that their parent company, Tronc, has plenty of money to fund the benefits and raises that the union is pursuing. The Guild dug into Tronc’s finances, singling out the high salary of CEO Justin Dearborn and other top brass, the cost of one executive’s private jet, and the excessive amount of money the company spends on tickets to sporting events. The Guild writes, “If executives were paid more in line with their industry peers, the savings alone would finance thousands of dollars in annual raises, lower out-of pocket healthcare costs, accrued vacation (that was taken away unilaterally), and perhaps even lower parking fees.” For more on the Los Angeles Times’s unionizing effort, read Shaya Tayefe Mohajer’s recent article “The LA Times flirts with unionization, defying its history” at the Columbia Journalism Review.

    Corey Robin

    At the New Republic, Sarah Jones reviews the new edition of The Reactionary Mind,  Corey Robin’s 2011 study of conservatism. Jones writes that Robin’s book explains figures like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump—who are usually viewed as outliers—as firmly in the mainstream conservative tradition.

    Dr. Edward Herman, who coauthored the influential media manifesto Manufacturing Consent with Noam Chomsky, has died at the age of ninety-two.

    Vladimir Nabokov’s 1964 dream diary, in which he recorded sixty-four of his nighttime visions on index cards, will be published next Tuesday. In the journal, Nabokov tested a curious theory—which he had picked up from philosopher John Dunne—that dreams were a place where time ran backwards so that future events caused earlier dreams.  

  • November 21, 2017

    Anthony Scaramucci has been shopping around a book proposal about his torrid ten days in the White House. The Mooch now says he won’t go through with writing the proposed volume, because publishers are only interested in a tell-all, something a “facts guy” and true “team player” like himself just won’t do. However, the proposal, obtained by Business Insider, seemed to promise dirt: “With a sense of nothing to lose, Scaramucci will take you exclusively behind the scenes in his first tell-all book. . . . Scaramucci was under an intense spotlight in those final days, but not everything got leaked to the press. There’s still a lot the public doesn’t yet know. Find out here how strange things really get in Washington.” Over the weekend, BuzzFeed News reported that Sean Spicer is also having a difficult time selling himself after his Team Trump stint.

    Errin Haines Whack

    At the Columbia Journalism Review, Karen K. Ho interviews the Associated Press’s Race and Ethnicity writer, Errin Haines Whack. Whack is part of a team created in 2016 to write about issues of race and to collaborate with reporters on other beats. Whack talks about how helpful data is in proving systemic racism, the stories she thinks will be important in the coming days, and some lesser-known writers to read.

    Charlie Rose and Glenn Thrush are the latest media men accused of sexual misconduct. Both have been suspended.

    Novelist Zinzi Clemmons has quit writing for Lena Dunham’s site Lenny Letter and called on other women to do the same. Clemmons posted a message on Facebook saying she would no longer work with Dunham after Dunham initially defended Girls writer Murray Miller, who has been accused of sexual assault.

    Literary Hub has posted two of Kathy Acker’s intricately detailed “Dream Maps,” which the author included in Blood and Guts in High School.

    Tonight at McNally Jackson Books, Ugly Duckling Presse will host an evening of literature from Argentina and Uruguay.      

  • November 20, 2017

    Liz Phair memoir

    Liz Phair

    Liz Phair, the musician who brought us the indie-rock classic Exile in Guyville, has signed a two-book deal with Random House. The first book, a memoir titled Horror Stories, will apparently detail her “experiences with fame, heartbreak, motherhood, and everything in between.”

    Garth Risk Hallberg, the author of City on Fire and a self-identified “unreconstructed geek,” explains how and why he updated his debut novella, A Guide to the North American Family, which is being released in a new edition by Knopf.

    The Meredith Corporation is currently in discussions over the purchase of Time Inc—the publisher that owns Time, Sports Illustrated, and numerous other periodicals—and the influential conservatives Charles and David Koch have “tentatively agreed to back” the deal. In the New York Times, one associate of the brothers notes: “Knowing the Kochs, I think they’d have to see it as a business that could at the same time further their political interests.”

    Shannon Michael Kane, who in 2013 took over and revitalized the Printed Matter Book Fair, has died.

    “The idea that I love is that a story is kind of a black box, and you’re going to put the reader in there, she’s going to spend some time with this thing that you have made, and when she comes out, what going to have happened to her in there is something kind of astonishing. It feels like a curtain has been pulled back and she’s gotten a glimpse into a deeper truth.” In a short video, George Saunders describes what makes stories bad (they condescend), and what good stories do for us.


    In a short roundup titled “3 Books that Help Make Sense of Climate Change,” the New York Times includes Nigel Lawson’s An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming. Lawson’s book approaches climate change with skepticism, and some critics are charging that the Times was careless to suggest that it “makes sense” of the topic.

  • November 17, 2017

    Radhika Jones

    Anonymous staffers at Vanity Fair and Condé Nast are worried about incoming editor Radhika Jones’s plans for the magazine and its employees. According to the Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove, some worry that Jones’s arrival will be accompanied by layoffs and budget cuts, while others wonder how she’ll handle “the gossip-driven Condé Nast corporate culture” as she works to make the magazine more relevant in the digital age. “If you fail everybody will know it,” one unnamed editor said. “It’s not like you’re failing at some obscure web site in Seattle. This is like the Yankees.”

    David France’s How to Survive a Plague was awarded the Baillie Gifford prize for nonfiction yesterday.

    The Washington Post has hired Sarah Ellison as a staff writer. Ellison was most recently a writer at Vanity Fair, and will cover “media and its intersection with politics, culture and technology.”

    The New York Times profiles Chinese author Xue Yiwei, whose 2010 novel Dr. Bethune’s Children was recently translated into English. Xue, who moved to Montreal nearly two decades ago, is “in an unusual position: He is neither completely banned, nor completely accepted in his native country.” Although Xue has written about controversial subjects like the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, he has so far avoided the direct scrutiny of the Chinese government, a situation helped by his move to Canada. “I marginalized myself,” Xue explained. “Voluntarily. But I remained an essential writer on the literary scene in China.”

    The Martian author Andy Weir says that he’s over the dystopian fiction trend. “I tend to avoid fiction that’s too dark or serious or has a political message,” he said. “For me, fiction is a form of escapism. I want to leave the real world, not sit around and stress about it.”

    Supporters of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore are attempting to impersonate Washington Post reporters in an effort to discredit the paper’s reports about his past encounters with teenage girls. “People down here are pushing back against The Washington Post, the moderate liberal Republicans and the Washington establishment that thinks we’re all stupid,” explained Dean Young, one of Moore’s political advisers. “They’re pushing back every way we can.”

    Tonight at St. George’s Church in Manhattan, Michael Robbins discusses his new book, Equipment for Living.

  • November 16, 2017

    Ha Jin

    The winners of the 2017 National Book Award were announced last night. Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing won for fiction, Masha Gessen’s The Future is History won for nonfiction, and Frank Bidart’s Half-light won for poetry.

    Touchstone is publishing a new short story collection featuring the work of Louise Erdrich, Ha Jin, Walter Mosley, and more. It Occurs to Me That I Am America will be published next January and, according to editor Jonathan Santlofer, “aims to address the anxiety many Americans are feeling about losing the freedoms for which we’ve fought; to remind us of America as an international symbol of hope; and considers the most basic notion of all: what it means to be American.”

    Jane Hu examines the “unusually detached” voices found in some works of fiction by Asian-American writers, and why these voices, usually belonging to a character with no specified race, “are often later reattached, by critics and other readers, to the authors themselves.”

    Two journalists arrested during protests at Trump’s inauguration are still facing charges, the New York Times reports. Freelance photojournalist Alexei Wood’s trial started yesterday, and Santa Fe Reporter staffer Aaron Cantú’s trial is scheduled for October.

    Former New Republic editor Peter Beinart reflects on the system of “affirmative action” at the magazine, in which Ivy League-educated white men hired more Ivy League-educated white men.

    Maer Roshan talks to Tina Brown about working with Harvey Weinstein, celebrity culture, and the other recently-unearthed memories from her just-published diaries. The unedited diaries from her time at Vanity Fair contained over 350,000 words. “I savagely cut anything that wasn’t either vivid, funny or self-revealing,” Brown said. “I usually decided to keep in those candid observations. . . . It was fun to come across entries like the one I wrote after visiting a bunch of Oxford friends. ‘This person Boris Johnson is an epic shit and I hope he ends badly!’ I still adhere to that view.”

  • November 15, 2017

    Doubleday has announced that it will publish Jeffrey Toobin’s next book, which will investigate the scandals of Donald Trump, focusing in particular on the probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and on the Congressional inquiries into Trump’s possible collusions with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. Toobin, whose previous books include The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court and American Heiress (about Patty Hearst), says, “We’ve been telling this story in bits and pieces for the past year, but I’m hoping to pull it together in single narrative that tells the tale in all its bizarre glory.”

    Louise Erdrich. Photo: Paul Emmel

    Rumaan Alam talks to novelist Louise Erdrich about climate change, Faulkner, and her new book, Future Home. Erdrich’s work has long been compared to that of Gabriel García Márquez and William Faulkner, connections that she’s no longer excited about. “I’m getting tired of this,” Erdrich replied after Alam mentioned Faulkner. “It was a great compliment in the beginning . . . but it’s over for me.” “A compliment like that ends up being both a constraint and a misunderstanding,” Alam reflects. “To be fair, there really isn’t another writer like Márquez, or like Faulkner. And there may never be another writer like Erdrich.”

    At the New York Review of Books, Marilynne Robinson reflects on democracy, respect, and Trump’s first year in office.

    After announcing that Disney had banned the paper from covering its films, Los Angeles Times employees tell the New York Times that they were discouraged by recently-appointed editor in chief Lewis D’Vorkin from using social media to share the investigative journalism that had led to the blacklisting. Some staff felt that the request was meant to avoid angering Disney further, but D’Vorkin told the paper that “the warnings about social media were intended to remind the staff to ‘stay away from opinion and stay away from drama.’”

    Tonight at the New York Public Library, Rebecca Mead talks to Daniel Mendelsohn about his latest book, An Odyssey.

  • November 14, 2017

    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.”

    Tina Brown

    Tina Brown

    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.”