• August 7, 2017

    Benjamin Moser

    More than a year ago, New York Review Classics announced that it would reissue Norman Podhoretz’s 1967 book Making It, with an introduction by critic and Susan Sontag biographer Benjamin Moser. When the new edition of Making It was published, however, it arrived with an introduction by Terry Teachout. Now, Moser explains why. Podhoretz is notorious for his shift from the radical left to the reactionary right, and in his introduction, Moser tried to show that even though he was interested in Making It, this did not amount to an endorsement of Podhoretz’s current political positions. “Podhoretz saw through this, of course. He was offended by the opening paragraphs, and angrily rejected the preface.

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of Americanah, rereads Albert Speer’s Inside the Third Reich, a book she read as a child. “What could I, at the age of ten, have found so engaging in the memoir of a Nazi, Adolf Hitler’s de-facto No. 2 man?” Adichie asks. As she answers that question, she also finds how the book offers some lessons about the current political moment. “Hitler rose to power because he exploited in Germans that sense of what Speer called ‘personal unhappiness caused by the breakdown of the economy,’ which ‘was replaced by a frenzy that demanded victims.’ He turned history into a reservoir of resentments. And he spoke simply. Speaking simply, in this case, meant discarding complexity and disregarding truth.”

    On August 1, Karen Torres, a VP of marketing at the Hachette Publishing Group, embarked on a refreshingly old-fashioned campaign: She took twenty-six editors and publishers on a tour of independent bookstores in the Northeast. This wasn’t just to pitch forthcoming titles to booksellers. Torres wanted Hachette’s acquiring editors to learn from the experience—to have “an opportunity to get a sense of the marketplace.”

    At Publishers Weekly, Karin Roffman, the author of a new biography of John Ashbery, offers a list of the ten best Ashbery poems.

    Novelist Alexander Chee delves deep into the world of Patricia Highsmith’s character Tom Ripley. “A character like Ripley fascinates because he is one of those protagonists who doesn’t much change—the novel’s transformation is enacted inside the reader,” Chee writes. “You are the one who changes, confronted with the baroque moral surface of a murderer’s loneliness.”

  • August 4, 2017

    Literary Hub talks to Jenny Zhang about childhood, representing the immigrant experience in fiction, and her new book, Sour Heart. While Zhang was a student at the Iowa Writers Workshop, her classmates often said that the language of her stories’ Chinese-American subjects wasn’t believable to them. “I always found that so befuddling,” she said. “How am I, a Chinese person, less knowledgeable about how Chinese people talk than you, a non-Chinese person? Then I realize what they’re really saying is ‘I’ve never met a Chinese person who speaks this way’ and there’s a lot of reasons for that they’re not investigating.”

    Margot Lee Sheerly. photo: Aran Shetterly

    In the New York Times’s “By the Book” section, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden says she has a hard time choosing the last great book she read. “Books are a little like a good meal,” she said. ”You enjoy it and remember it, but you are always looking forward to the next one.” The Library of Congress has released the lineup for the National Book Festival in September, a list that includes Roxane Gay, Margot Lee Shetterly, and more.

    Susie Banikarim has been named editorial director of Gizmodo Media Group. Banikarim will supervise editorial operations on all eight Gizmodo websites.  

    New York Times reporter Nick Confessore notes that the title of Corey Lewandowski’s new book is the same as one in a “book proposal he denied pitching during [the] campaign.” Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency will be published by Center Street in December.

    CNN talks to employees at Fox News, who say that the network has yet to take any action over a story about a murdered DNC staffer that was retracted two months ago. After one of the story’s sources filed a lawsuit against the network over the article, employees are again questioning why the internal investigation into the story has taken over two months, and why the author of the article has continued to write for the site. “It really forces the question, how much journalistic integrity does Fox News really have?” one anonymous employee said. “Because most other news outlets, these situations come up, but they are dealt with appropriately. People are held accountable. People are fired, they are disciplined or whatever. But this is like classic Fox. No one ever gets fired from Fox for publishing a story that isn’t true.”

  • August 3, 2017

    Judith Jones

    Editor and author Judith Jones died yesterday at 93. The New York Times writes that Jones—who pulled the manuscript for the diary of Anne Frank out of a reject pile and published Mastering the Art of French Cooking after it had been passed over by other publishers—“modestly ascribed her success to being in the right place at the right time.”

    Flatiron has bought former FBI director James Comey’s book, but instead of “the tell-all memoir many readers hoped for,” Entertainment Weekly writes that the book will be about leadership. The Wall Street Journal reports that the book sold for $2.5 million at auction, a price well below initial estimates. “The skeptics worried that Mr. Comey won’t dwell on the juiciest material, such as more details on run-ins with Mr. Trump or others in the administration,” Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg writes. “An inside-the-room memoir would likely have brought a bigger payday, suggested publishing executives.”

    President Trump has started his own news program on his Facebook. Hosted by his daughter-in-law Lara Trump, the program offers “updates on news favorable to her father-in-law.” Trump began her newscast with a quick shoutout to the mainstream media: “I bet you haven’t heard about all the accomplishments the president had this week because there’s so much fake news out there.”

    The Freedom of the Press Foundation and Committee to Protect Journalists are launching a U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. The project will use be funded by money donated by Congressman Greg Gianforte, who gave $50,000 to CPJ after body-slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs.

    Poynter is keeping a running tally of all the New York Times employees who have accepted buyouts in recent months. The list includes numerous George Polk and Pulitzer Prize winners, as well as critics like Michiko Kakutani, Andy Webster, and Anita Gates.

    At Literary Hub, Adam Fitzgerald talks to Sarah Schulman about conflict, abuse, and victimhood. Schulman points out that the language of abuse and victimizations is now being used to keep the powerful in their positions, rather than help the less powerful. “We have a president that tells us everyday that he is a victim, that he’s under attack,” she said. “The person with the most power sees literal descriptions of their power as an attack.”

  • August 2, 2017

    Sam Shepard. Photo: Brigitte Lacombe

    Patti Smith remembers friend and collaborator Sam Shepard, who died last week from complications of ALS. “He liked packing up and leaving just like that, going west,” she writes. “He liked getting a role that would take him somewhere he really didn’t want to be, but where he would wind up taking in its strangeness; lonely fodder for future work.”

    At New York magazine, Christian Lorentzen reflects on the current demand for dystopian fiction. From Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne, to Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan, Lorentzen explains how “the present moment, with its dismal politics and cries from both sides of impending catastrophe,” has made dystopian novels more appealing to readers. “When things are bad, we want to hear how much worse they can get,” he writes. “There’s something paradoxically comforting about watching characters live through terrifying alternate realities and collapsing near futures.”

    Macmillan Publishers is moving from the Flatiron Building in Chelsea to new offices in downtown Manhattan. Publisher’s Weekly notes that as the building’s only tenant, “Macmillan has become associated with the skyscraper to the point where Bob Miller chose to call his new imprint Flatiron Books when he joined Macmillan in 2013.” The move will be completed in 2019.

    After numerous scoops by pro-Trump on White House staff shake-ups were confirmed, Axios writes that this access is making right-wing news organizations seem more trustworthy. “The fake stories make it hard to spot the true news, but for others, the true news gives credibility to the misinformation.”

    Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler has filed a lawsuit against the network over a now-retracted story about the murder of Democratic National Committee aide Seth Rich. Wheeler claims that Fox News “intended to deflect public attention from growing concern about the administration’s ties to the Russian government,” and that a reporter “created quotations out of thin air and attributed them to him to propel her story.”

    Columbia Journalism Review talks to former NBC reporter Anthony Ponce about quitting his job, becoming a Lyft driver, and creating the Backseat Rider podcast, which is based on conversations he has with his passengers. Ponce says that the new job has changed his life in many ways, especially financially. “I moved my family back in with my parents. My wife and I are renting out our house, and I also took a job part-time on-air stuff with a company called Dose for a morning show on the CW. The podcast hasn’t grown audience-wise where it could be my full-time gig … yet,” he said. “On the fulfillment side, on a scale from 1 to 10, I’m at a 10.”

  • August 1, 2017

    Mic examines MSNBC’s thwarted evolution into a centrist news channel. Chairman Andrew Lack had been planning to reorganize the network and increase its ratings by cancelling opinion-based programming in favor of more balanced news coverage. “But the election of Donald Trump has complicated that evolution,” Kelsey Sutton writes, “raising the profile and popularity of MSNBC’s liberal hosts just as Lack sought to dial back the network’s liberal identity.”

    Although the White House claims that Anthony Scaramucci’s departure was meant to give the new chief of staff a “clean slate,” that may be an impossible task for the Trump administration. From lies about crowd size at the inauguration, to the resignation of Michael Flynn and claims of surveillance by Barack Obama, Erik Wemple writes that “in light of all that, there’ll be no clean slates at this White House, no matter how many people are pushed out the door.”

    Actor, playwright, and author Sam Shepard died last week at 73. The New York Times remembers him through their reviews of his plays, books, and movies.

    Gwendolyn Brooks

    At the Times, Claudia Rankine reflects on the legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks, as found in two new anthologies honoring the poet. Referring to a reader’s report on Brooks from the 1940s, in which novelist Richard Wright wrote that “America needs a voice like hers,” Rankine writes that Wright’s claim is confirmed by “the hundreds of artists represented in these two new anthologies, poets who have used her work as a prompt or a point of engagement.”

    Poynter talks to Dodai Stewart, the editor in chief of Splinter, the website formerly known as Fusion. Although Splinter has hired a number of former Gawker and Gizmodo Media Group staff, Stewart maintains that the site is not trying to replace Gawker. “Splinter is the new Splinter. Splinter is not the new Gawker,” she said. “I’m looking forward and not back.”

    MTV president Chris McCarthy talks about his plans to revive the network, which include bringing back Total Request Live and abandoning MTV News’s longform project. “MTV at its best—whether it’s news, whether it’s a show, whether it’s a docu-series—is about amplifying young people’s voices,” he said. “We put young people on the screen, and we let the world hear their voices. We shouldn’t be writing 6,000-word articles on telling people how to feel.”

  • July 31, 2017

    Choire Sicha

    Choire Sicha—the onetime Gawker writer, cofounder and former editor of the Awl, and the author of Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. 2009 A.D.) in a Large City—has been named the new editor of the New York Times’s Style section.

    Alexandra Schwartz considers the career and legacy of Times book critic Michiko Kakutani: “A good review brought on elation,” Schwartz writes.  “A bad one incited rage, sometimes despair. Nicholson Baker compared getting a negative Kakutani review to undergoing surgery without anesthesia; Jonathan Franzen called her ‘the stupidest person in New York.’ (She had deemed his memoir ‘an odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass.’)”

    Atlantic Media has announced that it will sell a majority stake in The Atlantic magazine to the Emerson Collective, an organization led by philanthropist and investor Laurene Powell Jobs, who is the widow of Steve Jobs.

    Harper has announced that it will publish What Does This Button Do?—the memoir by Iron Maiden lead singer (and motivational speaker and novelist) Bruce Dickinson—this fall.

    Dan Piepenbring looks at writing style through the lense of Ben Blatt’s new book Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing, which approaches canonical works through the use of statistics. “In ‘literary experiments’ on diction, punctuation, cliffhangers, clichés, and other aspects of style and usage, Blatt uses data to probe the body of conventional wisdom that surrounds creative writing. What if those who allegedly loathe adverbs are actually completely, totally addicted to them? What if it’s quite O.K. to use intensifiers very often, because Jane Austen is rather fond of them? What if I like exclamation points!”

    Happy birthday, John Ashbery.


  • July 28, 2017

    After nearly forty years with the paper, the New York Times’s chief book critic Michiko Kakutani is stepping down. The Times has a round up of the best of Kakutani’s thirty-year years of reviewing. Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo reports that Kakutani accepted a buyout offer, and plans to “branch out and write more essays about culture and politics in Trump’s America.” Known for launching the career of writers like David Foster Wallace and Zadie Smith, “Kakutani’s departure will instantly change the shape of the publishing world,” Pompeo writes. “She wielded the paper’s power with remarkable confidence and abandon.”

    Parul Sehgal. Photo: David Surowiecki

    New York Times Book Review senior editor and columnist Parul Sehgal has been named book critic at the Times.

    Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad has won the Arthur C. Clarke award. The announcement comes one day after Whitehead’s book was included on the Man Booker Prize longlist.

    Novelist Jane Green tells the New York Times’s “By the Book” that Cat Marnell’s How to Murder Your Life taught her a valuable lesson. In the book, Marnell wrote that in rehab she was taught to ignore negative thoughts by imagining “her brain was coated in Teflon,” a technique that stuck with Green after reading the book. “It is utterly brilliant, works like a charm and, given that I have been employing it since I read the book, may have changed my life,” she said.

    Despite a renewed interest in O.J. Simpson, as well as his release on parole, TMZ reports that “major publishers will NOT be scrambling to offer him a book deal after he gets out of prison.” In addition to the fact that his last planned book If I Did It led to a HarperCollins publisher losing her job, Javelin president Keith Urbahn says that “consumers won’t spend 20 bucks on a self-aggrandizing book about how he’s turned his life around.”

    The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza recalls a ranting phone call from the new White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci,  in response to a tweet that Lizza had sent earlier in the evening about Scaramucci having dinner with the president, first lady, Sean Hannity, and former Fox News co-president Bill Shine. After Lizza refused to reveal his source for the information, Scaramucci became convinced that the leak came from Reince Priebus. Referring to Priebus as a “paranoiac,” Scaramucci imitated the chief of staff as he explained a possible motive for the leak: “‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.”

  • July 27, 2017

    Arundhati Roy

    The Man Booker judging panel has announced the longlist for the 2017 prize. Nominees include Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. The shortlist will be announced in September, and the prize will be awarded in October.

    Hillary Clinton has released more details about her upcoming book. Originally planned as a book of essays, it has now become a “full memoir.” What Happened, will “give readers an idea of what it’s really like to run for president, especially if you’re a woman,” Clinton said in a statement. “Ultimately it’s about resilience, how to get back up after a loss.” The book will be published by Simon & Schuster in September.

    Republican Senator Jeff Flake is working on “an ideological manifesto for his own version of conservatism.” Flake was a critic of Trump during the 2016 election, and his book explains the differences between his ideas about governing and those of the president, which he “describes as nationalist and populist in nature.” Flake is working on the book “largely without the knowledge of political advisers,” and anonymous sources say that it is “likely to inflame debate about the direction of the Republican Party.”

    James Patterson and Bill Clinton are in Hollywood this week to sell the film rights to their upcoming book, The President is Missing. Although the novel won’t be released until June 2018, directors and producers, including J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, and George Clooney, have scheduled meetings with the authors.

    Advisers for the bankruptcy estate of Gawker Media are looking into selling the company’s remaining website, Gawker.com. Although the Univision sale of other Gawker Media properties stipulated that the flagship site could not be used until March of 2018, the advisers hope “to give any interested buyers time to come up with a plan for Gawker” before that date.

    The New York Times talks to Max Brooks, the author of the first officially-sanctioned novel based on the video game Minecraft. An avid player, Brooks went to great lengths to make sure that everything in his novel matched the rules of the Minecraft world. “I war-gamed out everything,” he said. “My biggest fear was that somebody tries to play out my book and finds out it won’t work.”

  • July 26, 2017

    Recently appointed communications director Anthony Scaramucci is offering “amnesty” to any staff members who have leaked information to the press, but reserves the right to “fire everybody” if necessary. “I’m committed to taking the comms shop down to Sarah [Huckabee Sanders] and me, if I can’t get the leaks to stop,” he told Politico. The Washington Post reports that after only a few days on the job, Scaramucci is “almost family to the president—in contrast to his predecessor, outgoing press secretary Sean Spicer, who was described more like the help.” According to the same Politico article, “Spicer was in the White House on Monday but spent most of the day alone in his office.”

    Media reporter Gabriel Sherman is moving to Vanity Fair. Sherman was most recently at New York magazine, where he broke the news of Roger Ailes’s sexual harassment scandal last summer.

    Clarice Lispector

    At Literary Hub, Scott Esposito reflects on “the witchcraft of Clarice Lispector.” While working an office job “in one of the most deadening environments that I had ever known,” Lispector’s The Passion of G.H. helped to keep Esposito sane. “Lispector’s mysticism has often been celebrated, and she is indeed a mystic writer,” he notes, “but there is something ironic in the fact that it takes a mystic to put us in touch with the ‘real world.’”

    Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo looks at the mood in the New York Times’s newsroom, where buyouts and a reorganization of the paper’s editing process is “making an entire class of employees feel obsolete.” Though the paper has kept ten more copy editors on staff than originally planned, Pompeo writes that there is “a deep feeling of bitterness” among those who have already left. “I thought we had something special, but it turns out she never really loved me at all,” wrote one editor in a goodbye email. “[S]he’s trying out a new lipstick each week. . . . Today she’s doing a Facebook Live from the Fidget Spinners Convention. . . . And the latest desperate move to run with a younger crowd: She’s having a few layers removed.” The editor also offered some parting advice: “Watch your back—she’s not as loyal as she used to be. Now excuse me while I go cease to exist.”

    At Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, Janelle Brown talks to Jessica Grose about her new novel, Watch Me Disappear.

  • July 25, 2017

    A number of former Village Voice writers have signed an open letter to the paper’s owner, criticizing his attempts to weaken the Voice’s union. Signatories include Hilton Als, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Vivian Gornick, among others. “As writers and journalists, we understand all too well the challenges that face print media today,” they write. “That said, we wish to see this beloved paper continue to produce the highest caliber of work — work that deserves and demands your fullest support.”

    The New York Times talks to the new owners of the Chicago Sun-Times, a group that includes a former city alderman and a labor leader. “The deal not only saved The Sun-Times from possible extinction, but also created a highly unusual arrangement,” the Times writes. “Labor unions now share ownership of a news organization that covers them closely, in what is still one of the nation’s strongest union towns.”

    Hilary Mantel

    Penguin Random House has pulled a book about Nelson Mandela’s final days due to concerns over patient confidentiality and threats of legal action from his widow. Written by Mandela’s doctor, the book “revealed several undignified episodes at the end of Mandela’s life as well as bitter family squabbles over his care and legacy.”

    The Frick Collection will publish the first book of its Diptychs series next April. The short books will “feature one work of art, an essay by a curator and another written piece by an artist or writer.” Authors include novelist Hilary Mantel, filmmaker James Ivory, and author Edmund de Waal.

    Fact-checking website Snopes is seeking reader donations to avoid closing during a lawsuit with a former advertising contractor. Since terminating their contract with Proper Media last spring, Snopes has been unable to place revenue-generating ads on their website. “As misinformation has increasingly threatened democracies around the world (including our own), Snopes.com has stood in the forefront of fighting for truth and dispelling misinformation online,” the Snopes team wrote in a letter to readers. “It is vital that these efforts continue, so we are asking the Snopes.com community to donate what they can.”

    New York magazine profiles Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, MSNBC hosts who were once family friends with Trump and have lately become the target of his aggressive tweets. “At six-foot-three, or eight-foot-nine including the hair, Scarborough looks like Jimmy Neutron in his Lizard King phase or Tucker Carlson after someone put him through a taffy-pulling machine,” while “Brzezinski is five-foot-six and the unusually even color of a vizsla puppy, her blinding hair a cross between Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy’s and Polly Pocket’s,” writes New York’s Olivia Nuzzi. “Together, they achieve a kind of strange aesthetic perfection—the decorative figurines topping the bunny cake that is political media in Trump’s America.”