• October 16, 2017

    Richard Wilbur—who won two Pulitzer Prizes and a National Book Award and served as the second US Poet Laureate—has died at age ninety-six. In 1957, the poet and critic Randall Jarrell wrote that Wilbur’s poem “A Baroque Wall-Fountain in the Villa Sciarra” was “one of the most marvelously beautiful, one of the most nearly perfect poems any American has written.”

    The National Book Foundation has announced that Bill Clinton will be one of the presenters at the National Book Awards ceremony on November 15.

    The October 1 vote on Catalonian independence has reportedly led to a dip in book sales in Spain, and publishers, particularly those in Barcelona, are contemplating what they will do if the region does in fact secede.

    Hilton Als

    Hilton Als

    What inspires Hilton Als, the New Yorker critic and the author of White Girls? Deadlines, for one thing. “I always have a deadline that I have to honor in some way, and that helps me,” he tells the Creative Independent. “It not only grounds me, but it also frees the imagination in a certain way because you have to be creative in a certain limited amount of time.”

    Publishers Weekly has profiled Becky Saletan, vice president and editorial director of Riverhead Books, who has worked with a number of authors who are up for awards, including Mohsin Hamid (who is shortlisted for the Booker Prize) and Masha Gessen (a nominee for the National Book Award). She is also working with a number of celebrated debut authors, such as Lesley Nneka Arimah, author of the story collection What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, which was nominated for the National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35 award. Of Arimah, Saletan notes: “Her stories are unusually structured. That’s the kind of thing that gets me excited as an editor. Is somebody doing something unexpected on the page? I’m bored as a reader if a book just seems to be telling me something I already know. I am a sucker for a beautiful sentence, but I really get excited when I feel like a book is taking me someplace I haven’t been before, if I can’t see around the corners and know what is coming next.”

    The New York Times has posted a memo to its staff, which lays out new guidelines and a “tougher policy” regarding how reporters use social media. The main point is that reporters need to maintain their objectivity, despite the current political moment. “In social media posts, our journalists must not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times’s journalistic reputation.”

  • October 13, 2017

    Slate’s Isaac Chotiner talks to New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor about her work on last week’s article exposing Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment and abuse. Though Kantor was happy to discuss the reporting process and why her sources chose to come forward, she was less willing to speculate on how the women felt about having their stories ignored for so long. “You’d have to ask them that,” she said, “but honestly I think a lot of them were more consumed with their own feelings.” In regards to Sharon Waxman’s assertion that the Times killed her story about Weinstein in 2004 after pressure from the producer, Kantor said that in her own experience, “there was a tremendous amount of pressure, but the pressure was to get the story, not to abandon the story.”

    Hachette Book Group has closed the Weinstein Books imprint. Staff and in-progress titles will be moved to Hachette Books.

    Poynter talks to Jessica Bennett, who was recently hired as the Times’s first gender editor.

    Jennifer Egan. Photo: Pieter M. van Hattem

    Seventy-two authors—including Claire Messud, Jennifer Egan, and Louise Glück—have signed a letter addressed to the New York Times in defense of Jill Bialosky, who was recently accused of plagiarizing parts of her new book. “Given the trust that is assumed between a writer and her readers, this mishandling is not something to shrug off,” they write. “Yet it bears saying that Ms Bialosky’s inadvertent repetition of biographical boilerplate was not an egregious theft intentionally performed. . . . It would be a terrible disservice to Ms Bialosky and to your readers if the article kept people from appreciating her substantial contributions to American letters.”

    Quartz’s Zheping Huang looks inside the world of Chinese news assistants, who do much of the work for foreign correspondents but, due to Chinese law, cannot take any of the credit. Employed by the Chinese government, news assistants report stories, translate interviews, and arrange travel and accommodations for journalists at foreign news outlets, but are not allowed to have a byline. After publishing a story under the name of his news assistant, former Washington Post China correspondent Keith Richburg received a phone call from the government, “asking him why he wasn’t following Chinese rules.” “It’s gutting not to be able to give them a byline or real credit for the amount of work they’ve done, when in fact 90% of it is their work,” Richburg said.

    In an interview with Axios editor Mike Allen, Sheryl Sandberg denied that Facebook is a media company. “At our heart we’re a tech company,” she said. “We hire engineers. We don’t hire reporters. No one is a journalist. We don’t cover the news.” Business Insider’s Steve Kovach notes that the company, “which distributes media and makes money off it by selling ads is, by definition, in the media business.”

    Actor Andrew Rannells is working on a book. The Book of Mormon and Girls star’s memoir will be published by Crown Archetype in 2019. “Being an author has always been a dream of mine and I am incredibly honored to be given this opportunity,” he said in a statement. “I am excited to share these stories and I will try my absolute best not to embarrass my family. Too badly.”

  • October 12, 2017

    Jesmyn Ward

    The MacArthur Foundation has announced the recipients of their 2017 “Genius” grants. Winners include novelists Viet Thanh Nguyen and Jesmyn Ward, as well as New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.

    Axios rounds up the “dirty old men exposed in sex scandals” over the past year.  At The Awl, Silvia Killingsworth sends a message to the Harvey Weinsteins and Bill O’Reilly’s of the world. “Every industry, from food service to the art world to the field of Antarctic geology has its own Harvey Weinstein, and we’re not keeping quiet about it anymore,” she writes. “So let this serve not a vague threat but rather an explicit notice: the whisper networks have officially become shouting conference calls. Our truth is that your power is no longer as great as you think it is. It’s not over exactly, but everything is different now.” New York Times editor Dean Baquet responds to Sharon Waxman’s charge that the paper killed her article about Weinstein’s behavior after pressure from the producer. “I’m sure Ms. Waxman believes she had a story,” he said in a statement to the Times’s Reader Center. “But if you read her own description, she did not have anything near what was revealed in our story.”

    After being contacted by the Times with legal concerns, BuzzFeed has removed its slogan “All the news too lit for print” from its new morning show, “AM to DM.”

    The Columbia Journalism Review talks to the victims of fake news, from parents of the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School to business owners affected by Pizzagate. Nina Berman compares the current media landscape to 1938, when Orson Welles broadcast The War of the Worlds. “The morning after the broadcast, Welles owned up to the hoax and apologized for any harm it might have caused. Today, the most outrageous spinners of hateful, horrific, and fake stories show absolutely no evidence of regret or remorse for the damage they do,” she writes. “On the contrary, refusing to exhibit civil decorum or own up to their lies even when confronted with irrefutable facts often bolsters their reputations.”

    In an excerpt from her new book, NBC journalist Katy Tur remembers her first interview with Donald Trump and his personal attacks on her during his campaign. Yesterday, Trump threatened to challenge NBC’s broadcasting license for reporting that he “wanted a tenfold increase” of the country’s nuclear arsenal.

    Tom Hanks talks to Maureen Dowd about his childhood, having his writing critiqued by the late Nora Ephron, and his new story collection. Hanks’s first piece of writing, an essay in honor of a retiring makeup artist, was published by the Times after rigorous editing by Ephron, who advised that “it shouldn’t be in the Sunday Styles section but maybe in the Thursday Styles section.” Dowd notes that after a decade of writing, directing, and producing, Hanks is “still going to be in Thursday Styles.”

    In his introduction to Know That What You Eat You Are, a collection of food writing from Harper’s Magazine, Nick Offerman compares our relationship with food to a marriage: “In our perpetual wedlock with our daily grub, there are certainly moments that might be likened to a honeymoon, e.g. a bountiful sweet corn harvest or the arrival at table of a sizzling rasher of bacon, just as there are patches of stormy weather (most salad courses).”

  • October 11, 2017

    The New Yorker has published their own expose of Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment and assault. Writer Ronan Farrow had originally pitched it to NBC, where he is a contributor, but the network turned it down due to “concerns related to the story’s sourcing.” After Mika Brzezinski threatened to cancel a three-book deal with Harvey Weinstein’s publishing imprint, parent company Hachette Book Group reiterated that they will be honoring all contracts from Weinstein Books. “We will consider all our options going forward,” a company spokesperson said, “keeping support for our authors foremost.”

    Attica Locke. Photo: Jenny Walters

    Attica Locke talks to The Millions about black life in rural texas, racism, and her new book, Bluebird, Bluebird. In one chapter of the novel, Locke writes from the point of view of a member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. “I’m always interested in getting at the psychological wounds around racism—be they the wounds of the victims of racism, or be they the psychological wounds of the perpetrators of racism,” she said. “I’m always looking to somehow find out what’s going on at the level of the psyche. Yes there are sociopaths or people who are off the rails crazy. But people come in clean, out of the womb, and there are life experiences that begin to shape your thinking about things. I don’t know that human beings’ first fundamental impulse is hate. It doesn’t mean that you don’t circle around and get there, but what I’m interested in is how the fuck did you get there?”

    Wired senior writer Ashley Feinberg is moving to HuffPost, where, according to editor in chief Lydia Polgreen, she will cover the “grotesques of the Trump era, weird stuff on the internet, Ted Cruz.”

    The New York Times looks at the lack of diversity in publishing through the lens of romance novels after a recent report showed that less than 10 percent of the genre’s 2016 books were written by non-white authors. “It has to be a good read,” one editor said to explain the discrepancy. “You can only publish what you get.”

    Vintage Books is releasing the latest installment in the “50 Shades” series next month. Darker: 50 Shades Darker as Told by Christian  tells the story of 50 Shades Darker from Christian Grey’s perspective. “The inside of Christian Grey’s head is a fascinating place to be,” author E. L. James said in a statement. “Writing this novel has been a journey of discovery, and I hope readers will find what I’ve learned as compelling as I did.”

    Tonight at the Strand Bookstore in New York, Esther Perel talks about her new book, The State of Affairs.


  • 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.”