• April 18, 2017

    The New York Times’s Jim Rutenberg reports on the post-fact media from Russia, which he nicknames “the land of Alternative Truth Yet to Come.” After Trump launched an airstrike against Syria in response to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons, some right-wing media figures in the US suggested that Assad’s attack was a “false flag” operation, instigated by rebel groups to trick the Trump administration into attacking the Syrian government. In Russia, Rutenberg writes, that conspiracy theory “was the dominant theme throughout the overwhelmingly state-controlled mainstream media.”

    At BuzzFeed, Nitasha Tiku looks at Mark Zuckerberg’s years-long campaign to make himself more likeable. After rebranding his minimalist outfit choices and working to become more personable in interviews, the Facebook founder and CEO now plans to travel to every US state this year, accompanied by a communications professional and Barack Obama’s former photographer. Some onlookers seem perplexed by Zuckerberg’s evolution. “I don’t understand why he sounds like a senator in his fourth term,” said former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett. But Tiku writes that his new persona makes more sense “if you think of him as the head of a 14-year-old nation-state called Facebook.” “The listening tour and manifesto are an opportunity for Zuckerberg to strengthen his relationship with his 1.8 billion constituents,” she explains.

    Lindy West

    Lindy West tells the Huffington Post that her book Shrill, published last May, would probably have been “less idealistic” had she written it during the Trump administration. “I feel like I’ve been writing about men being horrible and Republicans being oppressive nightmare people for my whole career,” she said. “And every day under the Trump administration I understand it afresh. Like, oh, I didn’t realize it could actually be this bad.”

    Matteo Pericoli reimagines Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend as a piece of architecture. His design incorporates two buildings that push and pull against each other. “It is evident that if one of the two elements were to be missing, the other would have no reason to exist,” he writes. “Without Lila there would be no Elena, and vice versa.”

    Tonight, Albertine bookstore hosts the Albertine Prize Book Battle, in which three members of the New York literary community defend one of three finalists for the prize. Kaiama L. Glover advocates for Ananda Devi’s Eve Out of Her Ruins, Sam Sacks argues for Maylis de Kerangal’s The Heart, and Tom Roberge defends Antoine Volodine’s Bardo or Not Bardo.

  • April 17, 2017

    Joseph O’Neill

    The novelist Joseph O’Neill (Netherland) has helped set up a school for Syrian refugees, and he’s asking for help to keep it running.

    A number of authors including Colm Toibin and George Szirtes have signed an open letter decrying a new Hungarian law that could lead to the closing of Central European University, which was founded by the philanthropist George Soros. The letter argues that the act is an attempt by Hungarian prime Minister Victor Orbán “to close out democratic institutions in the country, including press, media and NGOs.” They added: “If [closure] should happen it would be a serious blot on the EU’s conscience to have permitted this act of the Orbán government to pass without response.”

    Pamela Paul—the editor of the New York Times Book Review and the author of the forthcoming My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues—explains why you should read books that you hate.

    Thomas McGuane—the author of 92 in the Shade, Panama, and most recently Crow Fairreflects on his career just before receiving the The Los Angeles Times’s Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement.

    AmazonCrossing has become the biggest translator of foreign books into English.

    There are still spaces available in John Ashbery’s Home School, which will take place in late July and early August in Hudson, New York. This year’s faculty include Brian Blanchfield, Adam Fitzgerald, Douglas Kearney, Myung Mi Kim, and Harryette Mullen.

  • April 14, 2017

    Adam Haslett

    Adam Haslett talks to the LA Times about Imagine Me Gone, which has been nominated for the LA Times Book Prize. Haslett notes that the book drew on events from his own life, which made the writing process both painful and liberating. “Dwelling inside the minds of people that I knew that are suffering like that is not easy,” he said. “There’s just no question in my mind that I had a deeper sense of catharsis that I’ve ever had.”

    PBS Newshour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff will receive the 2017 Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism. She will be honored at an event in November.

    At the Washington Post, Erik Wemple reports on the National Rifle Associations “obsession with the New York Times.” The organization takes issue with the paper’s coverage of Benghazi, crime in the city of Chicago, and criticism of the Trump administration. In a video, the NRA asserts that it plans “to fisk the New York Times and find out just what deep and rich means to this old gray hag, this untrustworthy, dishonest rag that has subsisted on the welfare of mediocrity for one, two, three more decades.”

    In the Times’s “Bookends” feature, Adam Kirsch and Liesl Schillinger examine whether elitism or populism causes more harm to the arts. Kirsch points out that writers are not intentionally choosing one or the other; rather, their writing reflects their different views on the era in which they live and work, and their reception will reflect that. “A popular writer is one at home with the conventions and expectations of his moment,” he writes. “An ‘elitist’ writer, on the other hand . . . is one whose vision of the world and style of expression are defamiliarizing, who does not reproduce the world in words but transforms it.” Schillinger writes that it’s not only the artist’s mindset that creates the distinction, but the audience’s. “I believe that both populist and elite mind-sets yield bad art and good,” she writes, “and that the collision of the two opposed forces can bring new vitality to creative work.”

    The Hollywood Reporter’s Kat Stoeffel looks at the decline of the New York Observer under Jared Kushner’s watch, and asks the city’s media figures who should buy it when Kushner decides to sell. Suggestions include Michael Bloomberg, former US Attorney Preet Bharara, and Jeff Bezos. Times editor Dean Baquet and New Yorker editor David Remnick both hope that the buyer will be someone who wants the publication to survive. David Rhodes, president of CBS News, responded, “They still charge for that?”

  • April 13, 2017

    Bana Alabed, the seven-year-old Syrian girl known for tweeting about her life in Aleppo, will publish a memoir with Simon & Schuster. Dear World will be released next fall.

    James Baldwin. Photo: Allan Warren

    The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has acquired James Baldwin’s archive. Director Kevin Young announced the news last night. “Even though it’s taken 30 years, it’s the perfect time,” he said. “It’s like he never left.” Baldwin’s drafts, manuscripts, and notes are all available to researchers, but his letters will not be available for another twenty years.

    Journalists at DNAinfo and Gothamist have decided to unionize with the Writers Guild of America East. The decision comes after Gothamist was sold to DNAinfo, who then began initiating layoffs and deleted articles that were critical of the new owner.

    Dark Money author Jane Mayer talks to the LA Times about her book, reporting, and political polarization in the US. Mayer remembered the highly-partisan backlash to her second book, Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas. “We were kind of early canaries in the coal mine in seeing what it’s like and how rough it can be when political partisans come at you,” she said. “We thought we were just documenting the facts.” Now, twenty years later Mayer says the media has become a scapegoat for America’s increasing polarization. “It’s become a kind of information warfare, and it gets the press completely caught up in the middle of it,” she said, “when all you’re trying to do is be a reporter and tell the country what’s going on.”

    After recently unearthed letters written by Sylvia Plath alleged physical and emotional abuse by her husband Ted Hughes, writers are debating whether the revelations will change anything about how Plath’s poetry is read or affect Hughes’ reputation. Sarah Churchwell writes that “these letters are set to become one of the only sources of Plath’s voice we may have from the end of her life, apart from her poetry,” and may offer more insight into Plath’s marriage. Rafia Zakaria writes that even though the allegations may be true, they’re unlikely to change the way Hughes is viewed in the literary world. Zakaria offers numerous examples of other male literary figures who have had their behavior ignored, from Byron’s treatment of his wife to Robert Lowell’s violence toward Elizabeth Hardwick. “At least where male poets are considered,” she writes, “what may affectionately be called “rakish”, but is simply misogynistic and abusive, is entirely excusable.”

    Tonight at Metrograph, Durga Chew-Bose hosts a screening of Barbara Loden’s 1970 film, Wanda.

  • April 12, 2017

    The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson links United Airlines’s violent ejection of a passenger to failing American infrastructure. “Our ability to rely on getting from one place to the other,” she writes, “seems poised on a knife’s edge.” At Gizmodo, Adam Clark Estes calls for a boycott of the airline, citing their track record of poor customer service and public relations blunders. “Do you want to get beat up by a mercenary on your next flight? Of course you don’t,” Estes writes. “So stop flying United.” At Paste, Shane Ryan notes that United is just a manifestation of a larger problem. “They are a cruel agent, without a doubt, but they are not some lone wolf,” he writes. “They are a product of an indifferent system that increasingly devalues individual life, and that system is called America.” After running a highly-criticized (and later updated) article about the passenger’s decade-old criminal case, the Louisville Courier-Journal defended their decision to highlight Dao’s past. “His original case was pretty high profile. It’s a name that doesn’t come out of the blue,” said Executive editor Joel Christopher told the Columbia Journalism Review. “To not acknowledge that history and context would be unusual, frankly.”

    Sarah Ryley, who won a Pulitzer Prize this week for her criminal justice reporting at the New York Daily News, has joined The Trace as a staff writer. Fusion editor at large Alexis Madrigal is heading to The Atlantic, where he’ll cover Silicon Valley and the tech world.

    Hasan Minhaj

    The Daily Show’s Hasan Minhaj will host the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner later this month. CNN notes that “Minhaj is not as well-known as those comedians were when they performed, indicating that the correspondents’ association may have had trouble booking a huge star this year.”

    In her debut book advice column for the New York Times, Nicole Lamy suggests titles for a former bookworm who is now too distracted by kids and social media to read and a grandmother of well-traveled preteens who could use a book with a female protagonist once in awhile.

    At Deadspin, Lindsey Adler examines New York Times public editor Liz Spayd’s column on the paper’s sports section, writing that Spayd “consistently manages to convey a totally warped perception of the Times’ (many) weaknesses to its readers.”

    At Eater, Helen Rosner highlights Lucky Peach’s influence on the art and design of glossy food magazines. “Lucky Peach looked like nothing else out there,” she writes. “That is, until everything else out there started to look like Lucky Peach.” The magazine, which relied more on illustration and snapshots than highly-composed food photography, was praised by David Carr for looking like it was “conjured in a tattoo parlor.” Although Rosner notes that some of the images crossed the border between edgy and offensive, its work changed food media for the better. “It doesn’t really matter if other magazines were already starting down the same path, or if Lucky Peach just hit a sweet spot of doing their thing early, and doing it loud, and doing it right,” she concludes. “It made for a really, really cool magazine.”

  • April 11, 2017

    The 2017 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced yesterday. Winners include the New Yorker’s Hilton Als for criticism, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water. BuzzFeed news was a finalist in the competition for the first time, for an expose of arbitration strategies used by international companies.

    At the New Yorker, Rebecca Mead profiles Margaret Atwood. The two discuss witches, feminism, and why the 2016 election would make terrible fiction. “There are too many wild cards,” Atwood said. “You want me to believe that the F.B.I. stood up and said this, and that the guy over at WikiLeaks did that? Fiction has to be something that people would actually believe. If you had published it last June, everybody would have said, ‘That is never going to happen.’”

    Margot Lee Shetterly. Photo: Megan Mendenhall

    Hidden Figures author Margot Lee Shetterly has signed a two-book deal with Viking. Titles and publication dates for Shetterly’s forthcoming books have not been announced, but both works will highlight “extraordinary ordinary African-Americans whose contributions to American history have, for one reason or another, been untold, unseen, or overlooked.”

    Ron Howard will produce and direct a film based on J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. Imagine Entertainment president Erica Huggins said that the book has illuminated “the plight of America’s white working class, speaking directly to the turmoil of our current political climate.”

    Business Insider reports that Breitbart employees have been told to stop publishing articles that criticize Jared Kushner. The request comes after the New York Times detailed the animosity between Kushner and former Breitbart editor and current chief strategist Stephen Bannon. The Washington Post investigates how Bannon relied on dozens of nonprofit and private companies “to advance his conservative, populist agenda and bring in millions of dollars” through the production of conservative documentary films.

    The New York Times profiles publisher Adam Bellow, who recently left his job as editorial director of the conservative HarperCollins imprint Broadside and created a new, bipartisan imprint at St. Martin’s Press. The son of author Saul Bellow said that the move does not mean he’s renounced his neoconservative views, but that he wants to foster cross-cultural dialogue. “Both sides need to re-examine their assumptions,” he said, “and I want to sponsor that process.”

  • April 10, 2017

    Sam Lipsyte

    Almost immediately after the results of the 2016 US Presidential election were announced, Howard Jacobson, the British author whose book The Finkler Question won the Booker Prize, started writing a satire about Donald Trump. The novel, titled Pussy, will be released in England on April 13, and in the US in May. The Washington Post’s Ron Charles calls the novel a “ribald” and “grotesque fairy tale.”

    At Granta, Elif Batuman notes the importance of remembering the power imbalance that is often involved in travel writing (especially when the writer is from a “world-dominating superpower”), but also posits that “travel writing is a microcosm for all writing, and the counterintuitive landscapes and stories one finds in other cultures are just another version of the unexpected and counterintuitive landscapes and stories we all find in the world outside ourselves.” The goal is to do it with awareness: “In describing and moving through these landscapes, the only real recourse we have against charges of exploitation or tone-deafness is to bring as much empathy and as wide a consciousness as we can manage.”

    The novelist Susan Choi relates the fascinating story of how Donald Barthelme’s first novel, Snow White (which first appeared in the New Yorker in 1967), has finally made its way to the stage. It might not have happened: Barthelme threw away the script he wrote. But his wife had fished an early draft, written in 1974, out of the trash. Last Friday, the Catastrophic Theatre company brought the play to the stage in Houston.

    A bill sponsored by Arkansas Representative Kim Hendren, which would have banned all books by Howard Zinn (and all books referring to Howard Zinn) in the state, has been stopped by the Arkansas House’s education committee.

    On Thursday, novelist Marlon James (A Brief History of Seven Killings) joined the National Book Foundation director Lisa Lucas for a public discussion titled “Can Literature Make a Damn Bit of Difference?” The answer came quickly: Yes. Elsewhere, in Bomb, Sam Lipsyte talked with George Saunders, and recalled someone asking “how publishing a story in the New Yorker is going to fight the oppression of the moment.” His response: “You can respond to the moment, but you can’t guarantee that whatever good might come of what you write will happen now. Your work may not be relevant or useful for a while, so don’t worry about it not meeting present needs.” Saunders agrees: “Yeah, writing is not necessarily a short-term tool.”

    Brian Evenson, Fiona Maazel, Samantha Hunt, Phil Klay, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Marisa Silver are among the fiction writers who have been named 2017 Guggenheim fellows

  • April 7, 2017

    Maggie Nelson. Photo: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

    After a hiatus last year, the Folio Prize has returned with a new sponsor. This year’s shortlist includes Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing, CE Morgan’s The Sport of Kings, and Hisham Matar’s The Return. The winner will be announced in May.

    Twitter has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration. The suit comes in response to Department of Homeland Security requests for the identity of the person behind the @ALT_USCIS account, which has been critical of the administration’s immigration and border policies. The company said that the demand impinges on its users’ rights to free speech and “would have a grave chilling effect on the speech of that account,” as well others that criticize Trump’s policies.

    Facebook has rolled out a new tool to stop the flow of fake news. The social media site will now offer a guide to identifying fake articles at the top of users’ news feeds. Academic publisher De Gruyter is teaming up with Columbia, Princeton, and Harvard University Press on a “Rights, Action and Social Responsibility” initiative. The program will offer free books and journal articles on topics like immigration, climate change, and Islamic studies.

    A Little Life author Hanya Yanagihara has been hired as the new editor in chief of T: The New York Times Magazine. Yanagihara was previously the deputy editor of the magazine.

    At the New York Times, Katherine Rosman looks at how the children’s publishing world has responded to the Trump presidency. Children’s nonfiction has become a more lucrative genre for publishers due to Common Core requirements, but the books rarely deal with public figures that have a background as complicated as Trump. Some publishers have included sections about Trump’s racist campaign statements and policies, while others have decided to hold off on writing anything about him. Jane O’Connor, an author for Penguin Young Readers, says there are no books planned on Trump’s presidency in the next year. “I don’t think Trump’s life beforehand is all that interesting,” she said. “To have a book that is just about him winning the presidency, we think it’s not warranted.”

    The Chicago Tribune reviews one of Amazon’s first physical bookstores, calling it “a deeply, unsettlingly normal place,” with “the personality of an airport bookstore and . . . all the charm of its stone floor.”

    Tonight, the Brooklyn Public Library continues their Vision and Justice series, which explores how photography has impacted the African-American experience.

  • April 6, 2017

    John Berger

    At n+1, Annie Julia Wyman reflects on the timelessness of John Berger’s writing. “He was a monument, a world of his own,” she writes. “His thinking and his art—which are the same thing—address themselves at once to the past, the present, and the future.”

    Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, have each signed deals with Flatiron Books. The reportedly $8 million deal includes two books from the former Vice President and a third that will be co-written with Jill Biden. Biden’s first book will be a memoir of the challenges he faced in his last year in the White House, including the death of his son Beau.

    Megyn Kelly has finished negotiating her leave from Fox, and is now able to appear on NBC. Her new programs at the network will begin later this year.

    After a New York Times article reported that Fox News has paid $13 million to settle multiple sexual harassment lawsuits on behalf of Bill O’Reilly, dozens of advertisers have dropped The O’Reilly Factor. Both the network and O’Reilly remain silent on the issue, and viewership has increased since the article first appeared last weekend. Donald Trump told the Times that he believes O’Reilly is a “good person” who should not have settled his lawsuits. Jim Rutenberg writes that even though the network pledged to change its ways after the Roger Ailes scandal last summer, most of the people responsible for hiding Ailes’s misbehavior are still on the payroll, and company culture has stayed the same. According to Rutenberg, the impact of this lack of change reaches far outside the newsroom. “The wildness that allegedly permeates Fox News’s office culture has extended to its reportage in ways that have at times helped President Trump create his famous alternative reality,” he writes.

    Tonight, the Center for Fiction celebrates Grace Paley, whose work was recently collected in A Grace Paley Reader. Karen Olsson writes that our current political moment is the perfect time to read (or re-read) Paley’s stories and essays. “To remain open to what you don’t understand, to take a real interest in life, to put yourself on the line. She lived and wrote like that,” Olsson writes. “If today’s newspapers seem not always up to the task of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, this book did the trick.”

  • April 5, 2017

    Gabriel Sherman reports that a third employee has joined the racial discrimination lawsuit against Fox News. Credit collections manager Monica Douglas said that the company knew about former comptroller Judy Slater’s behavior, but was told that “Slater will not be fired, because she knows too much.” Sherman’s TV miniseries about Fox’s Roger Ailes scandal, co-written with Tom McCarthy, has been picked up by Showtime.

    Naomi Klein is rushing to publish No Is Not Enough, her new book on the Trump administration, which she began writing last February. Although she usually spends “at least five years” on research and writing, Klein will have the book ready for sale in June.

    Imbolo Mbue. Photo: Kiriko Sano

    The PEN/Faulkner Foundation has announced Imbolo Mbue as the winner of the 2017 Pen/Faulkner Fiction Award for her book, Behold the Dreamers. Mbue will receive her the prize at a ceremony in May.

    At Out Magazine, Aaron Hicklin talks to Lydia Polgreen about her childhood, her new job at the Huffington Post, and her long career at the New York Times.

    The Atlantic’s White House correspondent, Rosie Gray, has signed with HarperCollins to write a book about Breitbart News. Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, who has profiled Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, and other members of Trump’s administration, is working on a book about conservative populism and its effect on the 2016 election.

    In the New York Times Magazine, Jonathan Mahler profiles CNN president Jeff Zucker, and explains how the Trump campaign helped him reinvigorate the once-struggling network. “Trump’s foray into reality TV gave Zucker a prime-time hit when he badly needed one; now, Trump’s foray into politics has given Zucker a big story when he badly needed one,” he writes. “It’s a symbiotic relationship that could only thrive in the world of television, where the borders between news and entertainment, and even fantasy and reality, have grown increasingly murky.”