• September 23, 2016

    PEN America has released a new report on media censorship in China. The nearly eighty-page report found foreign journalists have had an increasingly difficult time doing their job since president Xi Jinping took office in 2012. The organization points to Chinese citizens’ wariness of being a source for foreign journalists due to increased crackdowns on and arrests of activists, writers, and others who question the party. Journalists have also found it more difficult to apply for and receive work visas, and foreign news outlets have shied away from publishing critical articles on their Chinese-language websites in order to avoid retaliation.

    Charles Harder, Hulk Hogan’s defense lawyer in the case that bankrupted Gawker Media, tells the Hollywood Reporter that he’s “anything but the enemy of a free press.” The entertainment lawyer once defended stars in “reputation protection” cases, usually against a retailer misusing a celebrity’s likeness to sell goods. “Now the simple act of him sending a warning letter makes news.” Although Harder was happy to talk about Hulk Hogan, Nick Denton, and Peter Thiel, he was less interested in expounding on his possible case against New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman. The attorney refused to confirm that he was defending Ailes, even after being reminded of the leaked warning letter to the magazine, responding with a question of his own: “If someone sends a private letter, is it public?”

    Jay McInerney

    Jay McInerney

    Bright, Precious Days author Jay McInerney tells the LA Times that his fictional character Russell Calloway “would have to finally make good on his threat to move to France” if Donald Trump is elected president. “I fear we may be moving toward a post-factual world. Yeah, I’ve certainly thought of this as the start of a new book.”

    The New York Times reports on the fashions of the New York Art Book Fair, held last weekend at MoMA PS1. As one attendee clad in all white tells the paper, “I realize it’s a controversy because it’s after Labor Day, but I’m pushing boundaries.”

    President Obama presented the 2015 National Medals of Arts and National Humanities Medals yesterday. Winners include Mel Brooks, Terry Gross, James McBride, and others.

    Graeme Macrae Burnet, whose novel His Bloody Project was included on the Man Booker shortlist, is outselling the other books on the list: Since the announcement of the finalists on September 13, Burnet’s book has sold over 10,000 copies. But Contraband, the book’s Glasgow-based publisher, has only two full-time employees and is struggling to meet the demand. Contraband founder Sara Hunt called the book’s popularity “fantastic and an utter surprise.”

    Tonight at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, poets Janine Joseph, Solmaz Sharif, and Ocean Vuong read their work.

  • September 22, 2016

    Greg Tate

    Greg Tate

    Maggie Nelson and Claudia Rankine have been awarded MacArthur Fellowships, also known as “Genius Grants.” Robert Caro, author of The Power Broker and an epic multivolume biography of Lyndon Johnson, will receive the National Book Award medal for lifetime achievement.

    Gizmodo Media group—the company formerly known as Gawker Media—has named Raju Narisetti as its new CEO. Narisetti, who is currently a senior vice-president at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., will begin his new gig in October.

    Publishers Weekly reports some bleak book-sales numbers: The first quarter of 2016 saw a 10 percent drop in print-book sales and a 19 percent fall in e-book sales. On the bright side, downloadable audiobooks saw sales rise by 36 percent, and trade-paperback purchases nudged upwards by 1.5 percent.

    Drew Magary, author of the novels The Hike and The Postmortal, sends a heated message to anyone planning to vote for Trump in the upcoming election: “Screw you.” Meanwhile, Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, imagines what Trump, if elected, would do in his first term.

    At the New Yorker, music critic Hua Hsu (A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific) has penned an appreciation of critic Greg Tate, who recently published a collection of essays, interviews, and short takes titled Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader. Tate, a former staff writer for the Village Voice, is known for his unmistakable style, critical engagement, and revelatory juxtapositions: “His best paragraphs throbbed like a party and chattered like a salon; they were stylishly jam-packed with names and reference points that shouldn’t have got along but did.” The Reader compiles thirty years of Tate’s work, including conversations with Ice Cube and Miles Davis, essays on artist Kara Walker and Kehinde Wiley, reviews of Eminem and Azealia Banks, and obituaries for Amiri Baraka and Richard Pryor. As Hsu writes, “For a generation of critics, Tate’s career has served as a reminder that diversity isn’t just about a splash of color in the group photo; it’s about the different ways that people see, feel, and move within the world.”

    Tonight in New York, the Red Ink reading series will present its second event, “Writing the Body.” Participants include Eileen Myles, Alexandra Kleeman, Porochista Khakpour, Ruth Ozeki, and others.  

  • September 21, 2016

    Kirkus has announced the finalists for its annual book award, who include Annie Proulx, Colson Whitehead, C. E. Morgan, and others. The three winners—each of whom will receive a $50,000 prize—will be announced on November 3.

    Cave Canem, the group dedicated to furthering the work of African American poets, was awarded the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award. The $10,000 prize “for service to the American literary community” is being awarded to an organization (rather than an individual) for the first time.

    The New York Times will partner with Jigsaw, a technology branch of Google’s parent company Alphabet, to speed up their comments review process. Currently, the paper’s online articles receive 11,000 comments per day, which are sorted through by fourteen moderators. The partnership hopes to increase the number of approved comments, which is currently around 10 percent.

    At the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik uses lines from Alexander Pope’s poem “An Essay on Man” to shed light on the rise of Donald Trump.

    Eduardo Galeano

    Eduardo Galeano

    Nation Books will publish journalist and novelist Eduardo Galeano’s memoir. The book combines older autobiographical writing with the author’s reflections on mortality, written in the months before he died in April 2015. Hunter of Stories will be released in the fall of next year.

    Laura Poitras, one of the founding editors of The Intercept, is leaving the site to build Field of Vision, a web platform dedicated to film journalism. Poitras announced the new website, an intriguing lineup of films premiering on the site in the coming months, and a system for sources to securely contribute videos, images, and audio.       

    Tonight at Desert Island Comics in Brooklyn, New Yorker cartoonist Emily Flake talks with Glen Baxter about his new comics collection, Almost Completely Baxter.

  • September 20, 2016

    David Marcus, formerly the co-editor of Dissent magazine and also the co-editor of a forthcoming collection of writings by Marshall Berman, has been hired to be the new Literary Editor of The Nation.

    Poynter reports that the Dallas Morning News’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton may have cost the paper subscribers. “We write our editorials based on principle, and sometimes principle comes at a cost,” news editor Mike Wilson said. Last week, Donald Trump supporters demonstrated in front of the newspaper’s office to protest the endorsement.

    Andrea Wulf

    Andrea Wulf

    Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature has won the Royal Society Insight Investment science book prize. The book details the life of Alexander von Humboldt, the nineteenth-century naturalist and explorer who “has more things named after him than anyone who has ever lived, including an ocean current, a six-foot squid and a breed of penguin.”

    Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Daniel Golden will be joining ProPublica as a senior editor next month. Meanwhile, the news site’s Electionland project, which began by partnering with one-hundred local news outlets to monitor obstacles to voting on election day nationwide, now has 250 participating news organizations.

    Betting is now open for the Nobel Prize in Literature, which will be announced on October 7th. According to the betting site Ladbrokes, Haruki Murakami (odds: 5/1), Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (7/1), and Philip Roth (8/1) are among the authors favored to win, while Bob Dylan (50/1), Joan Didion (66/1), and Don DeLillo (66/1) are considered longshots.

    The Guardian has a roundup of some of the panels at Sunday’s Brooklyn Book Festival, noting that the speakers often talked of “an America that is riddled with anxieties” in the face of the upcoming election. A Necessary Trouble author Sarah Jaffe worried about the stories going unreported “because we’re busy hanging on every word Trump says,” while The Nation’s Mychal Denzel Smith said that for Trump’s backers “democracy is in full force.” The previous evening’s IED explosion in Manhattan was mentioned only briefly at the “Terror, Threats and Fear” panel featuring Masha Gessen, Amitava Kumar, and Moustafa Bayoumi. Gessen, the author of a book about the Tsarnaev brothers, noted that while it’s impossible to find a root cause for a terrorist act, “nobody is going to blow people up if they’ve had a great life.” Of the frightening possibility of a Trump presidency, the Ottawa-born Margaret Atwood seemed to read many of the attendees’ minds, joking that “Canada is not big enough to come to the rescue. . . . But you’re all welcome. We’ll set up cots.”

  • September 19, 2016

    Wired examines The Bestseller Code, a book written by English Ph.D Jodie Archer and Stanford Literary Lab co-founder Matthew L. Jockers, based on their computer algorithm that can predict whether or not a book will be a bestseller with 80 percent accuracy. Key features of bestsellers, according to the program, include “young, strong heroines who are also misfits. … No sex, just ‘human closeness.’ Frequent use of the verb ‘need.’ Lots of contractions. Not a lot of exclamation marks. Dogs, yes; cats, meh.”

    The 2016 Online Journalism Awards were announced this weekend at the Online News Association Conference. Honorees include Quartz, AJ+, and the New York Times for “general excellence”; The Intercept for “The Drone Papers”; and New York Magazine for their feature “Cosby: The Women.”

    Joseph Kahn

    Joseph Kahn

    The New York Times is resurrecting the managing editor role and has appointed international assistant editor Joseph Kahn to the position. Executive editor Dean Baquet, who cut the job in 2014, said that without a managing editor, enacting changes in the newsroom was too difficult: “I thought that I really needed a partner in it, if we were really going to pull it off.” The paper also announced that Susan Chira, currently a deputy executive editor, will now be reporting on gender issues for the Times.

    The Gray Lady is also adopting a more aggressive stance towards Republican candidate Donald Trump’s false statements to the press, a move that Kahn supports. Reflecting on a recent headline—”Unwinding a Lie: Donald Trump and ‘Birtherism’”—Kahn said that the usual headline that would “let the reader decide for himself or herself … didn’t feel quite right.”

    Alex Thompson, a Vice News reporter, was arrested in Houston when he attempted to access a Trump event as a member of the press. Thompson has since been released.

    Vice, Gannett Media, and the Associated Press have filed a lawsuit seeking access to FBI documents pertaining to the agency’s access of the San Bernardino attacker’s phone. The news organizations had previously requested information on how the phone was accessed and how much the process cost through the Freedom of Information Act, but were denied. “FBI Director James Comey intimated in April that the price had been more than $1 million. He later said the security exploit was ‘well worth’ the high price.”

    The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald calls out the Washington Post for their demand that Edward Snowden, coverage of whom won the paper a Pulitzer, “accept a measure of criminal responsibility for his excesses.” The Post’s editorial board argued this weekend that the exposure of the NSA’s metadata collection was justified, but revealing the “clearly legal” PRISM program’s inner workings was not. Greenwald writes, “What did the Post editors forget to mention? That the newspaper which (simultaneous with The Guardian) made the choice to expose the PRISM program by spreading its operational details and top secret manual all over its front page is called . . . . The Washington Post.”

  • September 16, 2016

    The National Book Awards longlist for fiction is here. Finalists chosen by Jesmyn Ward and other judges include Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone, Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You, and more.

    The Dayton Literary Peace Prize has released shortlists for its fiction and nonfiction prizes. Honorees include Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, and Wil Haygood’s Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America. Winners will be announced in October.

    Jon Day, one of the judges for this year’s Man Booker prize, explains the panel’s shortlist choices and reflects on the selection process. “Being a judge for the Man Booker prize has at times felt like being part of a team of archaeologists excavating some vast buried city. Once the dust has settled—after nine months of reading—you stand back to survey your labours and realise all that’s left is a small pile of gleaming fragments.”

    rafi-zakaria-portrait.jpg.size.custom.crop.415x650Rafia Zakaria weighs in on the hypocrisy of terrorism reporting. Comparing the coverage of Dylan Roof, the white supremacist who murdered nine people in a church and has been dubbed a “domestic terrorist”—a meaningless designation under US law—to reporting on attacks by muslims, Zakaria writes: “Journalists are deeply committed to the First Amendment freedoms that permit them to do their jobs. Yet they have failed to explore how First Amendment protections are being disparately applied, exacerbating the threat posed by one group and underplaying another.” The paper is the first in a series of three by the Columbia Journalism Review.

    Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, a collection of George W. Bush’s paintings of veterans and soldiers, will be published next February.

    The Brooklyn Book Festival starts this weekend—see all of Sunday’s events here. Tonight’s Bookend events include the New York Review of Books’s Darryl Pinckney and the New Yorker’s Vinson Cunningham in conversation at the Weeksville Heritage Center; a panel moderated by n+1’s Nikil Saval on political reporting; and writers Rivka Galchen and Heidi Julavits on motherhood and writing.

  • September 15, 2016

    The National Book Association has chosen the finalists for its nonfiction award, including Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, and Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, among others.

    Suki Kim

    Suki Kim

    After meeting with a small group of writers over drinks at a conference this weekend, author Suki Kim was shocked to find her comments quoted in the New York Times. Rod Nordland’s article on Lionel Shriver’s controversial keynote at the Brisbane Writers Festival included a quote by Kim naming an author she felt was unfairly praised. Kim is not happy about seeing what she thought was a private conversation in the paper of record: “This is so unethical. It’s not acceptable what he did. . . . I would never talk about another writer in public. It’s so ungenerous and tacky.” The Times’s public editor Liz Spayd agreed that Nordland’s reporting was “outside the bounds of good journalistic practice,” but says it’s too late to remove the quote.

    Reagan Arthur—the publisher of Little, Brown—has bought Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s debut novel, Heather, the Totality. Inspired by Weiner’s observation of an Upper East Side teenager that he sensed was in “animal danger,” the “dark fable set in contemporary Manhattan” will be published in Fall 2017.

    Vice News has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the IRS in a bid to publicize Donald Trump’s tax records after the agency ignored Vice’s requests for expedited processing. They have also filed suit against the FBI for ignoring requests to release documents—”if any exist”—relating to the Republican candidate’s appeal Russia to track down missing emails from Clinton’s server and his allusion to assassinating the Democratic nominee. Vice has also delayed the premiere of their nightly news show Vice News Tonight by two weeks.

    Hachette Books will publish The Most Beautiful, a memoir by Prince’s first wife, Mayte Garcia, in April 2017.

    Tonight in the lead-up to the Brooklyn Book Festival, Teddy Wayne reads from his new novel Loner at Book Court; members of the National Book Critics Circle “discuss the art of writing about books” at the Center for Fiction; and Patti Smith celebrates the release of M Train at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope.

  • September 14, 2016

    Ohio University has decided to remove alumnus and former Fox News president Roger Ailes’s name from a student newsroom at the school, and will return the $500,000 donation Ailes made in 2007. Scholarships awarded in Ailes’s name will continue.

    The Man Booker Prize shortlist has been announced. Finalists include Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk, Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen, David Szalay’s All That Man Is, and Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing. At a press conference, the prize’s literary director Gaby Wood responded to criticism of the longlist’s lack of diversity.

    The National Book Awards poetry longlist has been announced. Finalists include Solmaz Sharif’s Look, Monica Youn’s Blackacre, and Kevin Young’s Blue Laws.

    Rupi Kaur’s initially self-published poetry collection Milk and Honey has now sold over half a million copies. First released in 2014, the book made it onto the New York Times’s bestseller list earlier this year. Kirsty Melville, publisher and president of Andrews McMeel Publishing, said, “Poetry, as short form writing, fits with how people are reading today.”

    Lionel Shriver. Photo: Andrew Crowley

    Lionel Shriver. Photo: Andrew Crowley

    Novelist and keynote speaker Lionel Shriver has been disavowed by the Brisbane Writers Festival for her speech that “belittled the movement against cultural appropriation.” Shriver wore a sombrero during parts of her speech, and responded to criticism of her choice to write a black woman character “kept on a leash by her homeless white husband” in The Mandibles. Links to Shriver’s speech were removed from the festival’s website, although information about a response by writers Suki Kim and Yassmin Abdel-Magied remains.

    Tonight in Brooklyn, Bushwick Book Club presents “new song, dance and film inspired by Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude” at the Archway Under the Manhattan Bridge; Michelle Tea talks to Isaac Fitzgerald about her new book Black Wave at Powerhouse Arena; and Mara Wilson, better known as Matilda, reads from her memoir Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame.

  • September 13, 2016

    On September 10, the Turkish government arrested and detained novelist Ahmet Altan and his brother Mehmet Altan, a writer and professor of economics. According to a letter of protest, the two men have been accused of “somehow giving subliminal messages to rally coup supporters on a television panel show broadcast 14 July, the night before the coup attempt.” A group of writers including Salman Rushdie, Elena Ferrante, and JM Coetzee have signed the letter demanding the Altans’ release.

    Fast Company takes a long look at Jack Dorsey’s plans for the future of Twitter, “a kaleidoscopic quest featuring looming adversaries, bedeviling trolls, and artificial intelligence.” Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter is embracing its role as a media hub, and even recategorized itself last spring on the App Store under “News.” “You may have come in here assuming you’re going to see baby pictures from your friends,” Dorsey said. “What you’re going to see is what’s happening in sports and politics and the world around you.” For those still trying to understand the site, Dorsey recommends reading Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories: “It reminds me of Twitter.”

    Nation Books will publish a book of advice by Eleanor Roosevelt. It’s Up to Women, featuring an introduction by the New Yorker’s Jill Lepore, hits shelves next April.

    Isabel Allende

    Isabel Allende

    Bill Maher will receive the PEN Center USA’s First Amendment Award later this month at the group’s annual Literary Awards. Other winners include Jeff Nichols, who won a screenplay award for his film Loving; Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American journalist who will receive the Freedom to Write Award; and novelist Isabel Allende, who will be presented with a lifetime achievement award.

    To commemorate Slate’s twentieth birthday—”a tender age in human years, and well past dead for dogs”—the site has created a digital, searchable archive of the 152,734 posts published over the past two decades. They’ll also spend the next week celebrating “the Next 20” by looking at the future through an analysis of its past reporting.

    The 2016 election is setting up The Onion for a 38 percent traffic increase to its website compared to the 2012 election. After sending staffers to both presidential conventions this summer, “its convention videos outpaced those from major news outlets such as The New York Times, ABC, NBC and CNN” on Facebook.

    At the New Republic, Kelsey Osgood asks what Jeff Feuerzeig’s documentary fails to answer: “Is JT LeRoy’s Fiction Any Good?” Osgood herself is undecided, calling LeRoy’s second book, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, “virtually unreadable,” but finding LeRoy’s first book, Sarah, “very enjoyable to read.”  

    Bookend events preceding the Brooklyn Book Festival continue tonight. Ann Patchett will talk to J. Courtney Sullivan about her new novel, Commonwealth, at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn. Nearby, at the ISSUE Project Room, Steve Buscemi and composer Elliott Sharp create “a collage of sound and words from texts by William Burroughs” to celebrate the centennial of Burroughs’s birth. At Revolution Books in Harlem, author Clara Bingham will read from her new oral history Witness to the Revolution: Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year America Lost Its Mind and Found Its Soul.

  • September 12, 2016

    Jeffrey Toobin

    Jeffrey Toobin

    Univision, which bought Gawker Media in auction last month, has voted to remove six posts from still-running sites like Jezebel and Deadspin, saying that the posts are legal risks. John Cook, the executive editor of Gawker Media, wrote to his staff that deleting the articles, such as “Wait, Did Clowntroll Blogger Chuck Johnson Shit on the Floor One Time?,” was “a mistake”: “Disappearing true posts about public figures simply because they have been targeted by a lawyer who conspired with a vindictive billionaire to destroy this company is an affront to the very editorial ethos that has made us successful enough to be worth acquiring.”

    After Norwegian author Tom Egeland’s was suspended from Facebook for posting the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph “The Terror of War,” Norway’s largest newspaper posted the photo, which depicts children fleeing a napalm attack in Vietnam, on their own Facebook page. Although Facebook gave them the option to delete the photo or pixilate then-nine-year-old Kim Phuc’s naked body, the social media giant removed the photo before the newspaper could respond. Now, Aftenposten has published an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg about the editorial decisions of a company that still maintains that it is not part of the media. “Dear Mark, you are the world’s most powerful editor. … I think you are abusing your power, and I find it hard to believe that you have thought it through thoroughly.”

    On the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, young-adult novelists struggle to adapt the story of that day for the readers who weren’t yet born. Writers worry about exploiting the event, balancing real details with what young readers can handle, and about the quality of their work. David Levithan, who wrote Love Is the Higher Law in 2009, told the New York Times, “Writing a bad book is O.K., but writing a bad 9/11 book, that was terrifying.”

    Rich Juzwiak talks to Laura Albert, the author formerly known as JT LeRoy, and Jeff Feuerzeig, the director of the recent documentary Author: The JT LeRoy Story, about making the film, the nature of identity, and how her former selves affected her career. While writing for Deadwood, Albert says her many personalities confused producer David Milch: “I’d started out as JT and then I went to Speedie. Then I’m Emily Frasier, because I didn’t want everyone else to know. Then I’m Laura. He comes in and the rest of the staff still didn’t know. He’s standing there and he has to talk to me because there’s crazy shit going on. I see it on his face—what to fuckin’ call me? He’s just like, ‘…You!’”

    American Heiress author Jeffrey Toobin talks to Hazlitt about paying for source material, Patricia Hearst’s unwillingness to participate, and the state of the nation in the 1970s. “I was completely flabbergasted and amazed at what a wreck the country was back then. A thousand bombings a year, two hijackings a month, Watergate, the energy crisis, economic decline, the Yom Kippur War, and nowhere was it worse than in the Bay Area.”

    The BBC talks to Brian Bilston, the “unofficial poet laureate of Twitter.” Bilston says he never aspired to be a poet: “A poet to my mind was someone of intensity, a serious type, the kind of person you wouldn’t want to get trapped in a kitchen with at a party (if poets received invitations to parties at all, that is).”