• June 26, 2017

    For Pride week, the New York Times has assembled a twenty-year timeline of LGBTQ lit.

    Karen Rinaldi, a senior vice president of Harper Collins and the author of the novel The End of Men, ponders the difference between writing and editing. For years, editing was her profession, something she saw as a service to writers: “The task is both monastic and intimate—we edit in silence in order to listen to the voice of the writer—and the skilled editor must suspend not only ego, but inner voice as well, to make room for another’s.” But when she became a writer, she gained a deeper sense of the editor’s role: “Only by being on the receiving end of the editing process could I see editing as an act of generosity and love.”

    Publishers Weekly has posted its Fall 2017 announcements for Literary Fiction and Essays & Literary Criticism.

    Chuck Klosterman

    Chuck Klosterman—who has written about music, movies, sports, and ethics, among other things—says of his new collection, Chuck Klosterman X, that rereading his old writing is “the worst kind of time machine.” “I’m just compelled to want to rewrite everything I’ve ever written. My dream life would have been if I could have written my first book forever and never have it come out … but be rich. Every time I go back and I read something that I’ve written before, I see things that could have been different.” Still, some things he got wrong the first time around turn out to be right in the long run: “Sometimes you accidentally say something that becomes meaningful, even though that wasn’t the original intent. There’s an essay in there about Tim Tebow, and at one point I’m writing about the 2012 election, and Obama running against at the time whoever he would face, the unknown candidate. And I pose this hypothetical about a candidate who comes forward and has no plan, and basically just tells people to have faith in him. I framed it and set it up as an implausible, irrational scenario – and that actually happened four years later!”

    Jonathan Coe recently suggested that satire will face difficulties in the age of Trump; now, at the Washington Post, Joseph Finder says that the president is also posing challenges for thriller novelists. “In an age of the surpassingly strange—possible election meddling and business favor-peddling and the firing of a real-life director of the FBI—how can a writer like me hope to compete? What are we supposed to write when we’re living in a thriller?”

    Victor LaValle, the author of the new novel The Changeling, ponders the books that have shaped him as a writer: “The first book I ever loved, like walked around with it and never let it go, was probably Stephen King’s It.”

  • June 23, 2017

    Chris Kraus

    Former United States Attorney Preet Bharara is writing a book. Bharara, who was fired by Donald Trump earlier this year, said the book will be “about integrity, leadership, decision making and moral reasoning.” The still-untitled work will be published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2019.

    MIT Press is partnering with the Internet Archive to digitize their backlist titles. The e-books will then be available at any library that already lends physical copies of the titles.

    The Millions talks to Lidia Yuknavitch about her 2011 memoir, The Chronology of Water.

    At the Paris Review, Albert Mobilio reflects on the nature of art books, and how they require more than simply turning the page. “This sort of book—at least in its mass-market edition—is meant to be handled and read, its images checked against our own visualizations,” he writes. “When the art part of the book—the possessive in artists’ book is telling—becomes increasingly salient, the experience of the text can become subordinate to the experience of visual and even end up almost incidental.”

    At The Cut, Ann Friedman talks to Chris Kraus about feminism, politics, and writing I Love Dick. Kraus said that while her writing does have political elements, she doesn’t necessarily see her work as affecting “any particular pragmatic change.” “If I had another life to live I might be a politician or I might be an activist. . . . But I went another way; I decided to become a writer,” she said. “What books and what culture can do is change the zeitgeist, right? That’s all that you can help.”

  • June 22, 2017

    Simon & Schuster imprint Gallery Books is publishing a new memoir by a former White House writer for Barack Obama. Pat Cunnane’s West Winging It: An Unpresidential Memoir will be published in June 2018 and has already been optioned for television.

    Slate’s Jessica Winter has been hired as the New Yorker’s website executive editor. Other new hires at the site include Public Books’s Liz Maynes-Aminzade as senior web manager and the New York Times’s Soo-Jeong Kang as executive video producer. At the Times, University of Pittsburgh professor and MacArthur fellow Terrance Hayes has been hired as the New York Times Magazine’s poetry editor.

    The Wall Street Journal’s chief foreign affairs correspondent was fired yesterday after business deals he had made with his sources came to light. According to the Associated Press, Jay Solomon was involved in “prospective commercial deals—including one involving arms sales to foreign governments—with an international businessman who was one of his key sources.”

    BuzzFeed reports on the rise and fall of Guardian US, which recently cut 30 percent of its staff. A Pulitzer Prize for the site’s reporting on Edward Snowden and their many talented hires couldn’t make up for years of financial setbacks and mismanagement. “Guardian US, five years after delivering a defining American political story, became anonymous during the most chaotic election in decades — though it wasn’t for lack of trying or reporting talent.”

    Emma Straub

    Novelist Emma Straub describes the time and effort that went into opening her Brooklyn bookstore, Books Are Magic. Besides buying shelving and finding the perfect space, other concerns included finding the right contractor and fielding customer opinions about what books should be available. “I try not to be offended by these suggestions from people, even when I have OF COURSE already ordered several books by whichever author someone is suggesting, because they don’t know that. Retail is egoless,” she writes. “Plus, sometimes I actually have forgotten to order someone, and then I am eternally grateful.”

  • June 21, 2017

    The New York Times has hired Kathleen Kingsbury as deputy editorial page editor. Kingsbury was most recently the digital managing editor at the Boston Globe, and will start at the Times in August.

    BuzzFeed has released a secret government report that shows Chelsea Manning’s intelligence leaks were “largely insignificant and did not cause any real harm to US interests.”

    Sue Halpern reviews Risk, Laura Poitras’s new documentary on Julian Assange. Although the film was initially conceived as a “hero’s journey,” in the end Assange’s many contradictions turned the film into “something more critical, complicated, and at best ambivalent about the man,” Halpern writes. “Yet ambivalence is the most honest thing about the film. It is the emotion Assange often stirs up in those who support the WikiLeaks mission but are disturbed by its chief missionary.”

    Zadie Smith

    At Harper’s Magazine, Zadie Smith reflects on Jordan Peele’s Get Out, the artwork at the Whitney Biennial, and being a biracial in modern America. “To be biracial at any time is complex,” Smith writes. “Speaking for myself, I know that racially charged historical moments, like this one, can increase the ever-present torsion within my experience until it feels like something’s got to give. You start to yearn for absolute clarity: personal, genetic, political.”

    Lorraine Berry talks to Julia Fierro about the election, cultural appropriation, and her new book, The Gypsy Moth Summer. The novel follows a woman who returns to her white, upper-class hometown on Long Island with her black husband and biracial children. For Fierro, who is white, this felt like a risky but necessary choice. “I don’t think that we can talk about class without talking about race and the intersection of the two,” she said. Fierro also spoke about the need for authors writing from the different perspectives to be open to critique. “We need to write what we need to write,” she said, “but we should be aware that we are going to be criticized for it and be open to the criticism.”

    At The Guardian, Jake Nevins tries to learn something about the current administration from Newt Gingrich’s new book, Understanding Trump. Unfortunately, Nevins writes, while the book doesn’t “exactly help us ‘understand Trump,’” it does “offer a look into the rhetorical acrobatics one might employ to defend the indefensible.

  • June 20, 2017

    Marlon James. Photo: Jeffrey Skemp

    Marlon James reflects on racism in Minnesota after the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile was found not guilty. James refers to an article in Ebony by Dick Gregory, in which the comedian wrote, “Down South white folks don’t care how close I get as long as I don’t get too big. Up North white folks don’t care how big I get as long as I don’t get too close.” “I should have known that a man as wise as Gregory meant so much more. And I did not realize until just now, that big can mean literally big, and close can mean 20 feet away, and how 10 years of living in Minnesota as a ‘big, black guy’ has led me to a gradual though futile ‘reduction’ of myself to get closer,” James writes. “Get big but don’t get close can mean that even a thin black man complying with the law can still be seen as a justifiable threat.”

    The New York Times reports on the Mexican government’s use of spyware to surveil journalists and activists. Although the tools are only supposed to be used to keep an eye on suspected terrorists and members of drug cartels, the spyware “has been used against some of the government’s most outspoken critics and their families, in what many view as an unprecedented effort to thwart the fight against the corruption infecting every limb of Mexican society.”

    Three Turkish journalists were brought to court yesterday in the first trial of alleged supporters of the country’s attempted coup last summer. According to The Guardian, two of the journalists—Ahmet and Mehmet Altan—”have been held without trial since September, and face possible life sentences, along with fellow journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government and acting on behalf of a terror organisation.”

    At Politico, Joe Pompeo chronicles the “not-so-bitter rivalry” of New York Times editor Dean Baquet and Washington Post editor Marty Baron.

    Claire Cameron talks to novelists Julie Buntin and Gabe Habash about the perks and perils of being a literary couple. Although the pair enjoy having an in-house editor available at all hours, it can get overwhelming. “Sometimes we get home and we’re eating dinner and we go from talking about our books to talking about books that he’s reading or assigning for review to talking about books on submission at Catapult or something I’m editing,” Buntin said. “We have a moment where one or the other of us snaps and is like, no more books. Please, enough.”

  • June 19, 2017

    The literary organization PEN has announced that it will grant novelist Margaret Atwood—author of more than forty books, including The Handmaid’s Tale—a lifetime achievement award.

    The Brooklyn Book Festival, which will take place on September 17, has released a partial list of authors who will participate this year. Among the writers who will read from their work or participate in roundtable discussions are: Colson Whitehead, Elif Batuman, Chris Hayes, Jacqueline Woodson, Lois Lowry, Erna Brodber, Santiago Gamboa, Young-ha Kim, and Hisham Matar. According to organizers, this year’s festival will pay special attention to topics such as reporting on refugees.

    Andrew O’Hagan

    Novelist and critic Andrew O’Hagan wonders how social media—in particular the ways that it has changed or eradicated our old ideas about private life—will affect the future of the novel. “Private life, in the sense that it meant something to Henry James, has ceded to the internet, and how we watch, are watched and how we self-watch are hot-wired to digital code. The interior life, let us say, used to be about who a person was inside themselves, and such alterations as could be detected were the stuff of literature. Nowadays the interior life means something else: it refers to who are you inside the web.”

    Publishers Weekly reports on last week’s Association of American University Presses annual meeting in Austin, Texas, and argues that university presses are “more vital than ever.”

    The New York Times interviews David Grossman and his translator, Jessica Cohen, who both won the 2017 Man Booker Prize for the English translation of Grossman’s novel A Horse Walks into a Bar. Much is lost in translation, but as Cohen points out, jokes present especially difficult challenges. “There were a few examples of jokes—not so much because of pacing or sound but because of cultural knowledge a non-Israeli reader wouldn’t have—that just weren’t going to work in English. Obviously if you have to explain something, it’s not funny. There were some cases like that where I managed to come up with a kind of equivalent. Some things we just had to drop.”

  • June 16, 2017

    CNN has filed a lawsuit against the FBI in order to obtain copies of James Comey’s memos on his meetings with Trump. Although the documents are not classified, the FBI has yet to answer the network’s FOIA request.

    At Literary Hub, Marc Leeds looks to Kurt Vonnegut for hope during the Trump presidency. “Kurt Vonnegut tells us that the game will always be stacked against the individual, and that everyone deserves common decency simply for making an effort at living,” he writes. “When Trump and his regressive minions retreat from the scene, we will all have to take up [Timequake protagonist] Kilgore Trout’s mantra and realize this was not our America. However, ‘You were sick, but now you’re well, and there’s work to do!’”

    Victor LaValle

    At Signature, Lorraine Berry talks to Victor LaValle about monsters, technology, and his new book, The Changeling. Even though the effects of technology in our life is a major focus of The Changeling, LaValle says that he thinks humans corrupt it as much as they adapt to it. “The vast majority of us most of the time use almost anything and everything for selfish nonsense. That’s certainly been the case for religion, and it’s the case for the internet,” he said. “I can’t think of any people who would claim that the comment section has changed. That’s easily a mob. Whether it’s fifty years ago, 150 years ago [or] Neanderthals when they were just learning language.”

    In the New York Times’s “By the Book” column, Defectors author Joseph Kanon debates who to invite to his literary dinner party. “I know I should say Henry James and Proust and George Eliot, but the great and the good can be really heavy going at a dinner party,” he notes. “Let’s go for a fun evening instead. Say, David Sedaris, Oscar Levant and Mel Brooks. Or, fun in a different way, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, if he promises to behave.”

    The Star Tribune checks in on Mall of America writer-in-residence Brian Sonia-Wallace, who is spending the few days “somewhere between the giant Lego models and the Nickelodeon roller coaster” writing poems on a typewriter for passing shoppers. So far, visitors have included mall employees in search of Father’s Day dedications and children who have never used a typewriter before. The paper asked whether Sonia-Wallace will “go crazy” inside the mall, to which he replied, “Probably.”

  • June 15, 2017

    Tracy K. Smith. Photo: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

    Tracy K. Smith has been named poet laureate by the Library of Congress. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said that Smith was chosen for her ability to make weighty issues accessible through poetry. “These aren’t simple poems,” she said, “but they are direct, and you can get into them based on your experience.” In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Smith said that she hoped to use the role to transcend the country’s political polarization. “We’re so much more important to one another as individuals . . . than we are as social categories,” she said. “It’s important to think about those sources that are saying, wait, you have a mother, and this is your relationship with her, this is what you wish could be different, and this is what you wish you could return to. I have a mother too, and she looks nothing like yours, but we can have something to say to each other. Those are the kind of conversations that art fosters.”

    Margaret Atwood offers an annotated guide to season one of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

    HuffPost laid off nearly forty employees yesterday, including military correspondent David Wood, who won a Pulitzer in 2012 for his work on the site. On the same day, Vocativ laid off its entire text-based editorial staff. The website now plans to focus exclusively on video content.

    The Intercept is conducting an internal investigation into the link between their publication of a classified NSA document and the arrest of alleged leaker Reality Winner.

    In the New York Times Book Review, Adam Kirsch explains why the world needs critics and why politicians, like writers and artists, need to accept outside critiques—even if they don’t agree. “In politics, as in art, the right to criticize is really the right to make an independent judgment of reality,” he writes. “Democracy relies on a citizenry informed and active enough to make such judgments; in a democracy, we are all critics.”

    Gabriel Sherman reports that Fox News has decided to change their network’s motto. Instead of “Fair & Balanced,” Fox will now be marketed as: “Most Watched. Most Trusted.” Sherman writes that the new tagline, which was coined by founder Roger Ailes, is “like the New York Times giving up ‘All the News That’s Fit to Print.’”

  • June 14, 2017

    Bob Dylan

    The New York Times offers a thoughtful response to Delta Airlines and Bank of America’s decision to pull financial backing from a new Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, which bestows the title dictator with Trumpian qualities. In withdrawing their financial support, the two companies “have proved more sensitive than even Queen Elizabeth I. ‘I am Richard II, know ye not that?’ she famously remarked around 1601. Yet the queen pointedly refused to pull her support for Shakespeare’s company, which continued to perform at court, or even for that play, though Richard II had been staged on the eve of an uprising against her near the end of her reign.”

    Ed Victor—the Bronx-born, London-based literary agent and man about town—has died. Over the years, his client list has included Erica Jong, Iris Murdoch, Edna O’Brien, John Banville, Carl Bernstein, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards.

    Did Bob Dylan use Sparknotes to compose his Nobel speech? As author Ben Greenman recently observed, the singer seemed to have “made up” a quote from Moby-Dick during his Nobel lecture. Now, Slate’s Andrea Pitzer says that the quote wasn’t invented. “I soon discovered that the Moby-Dick line Dylan dreamed up last week seems to be cobbled together out of phrases on the website SparkNotes, the online equivalent of CliffsNotes.”

    At Vice, Christian Lorentzen talks with novelist Michel Houellebecq about his new show of photographs.

    Time Inc. is eliminating about 300 jobs.

    The Australian website Mamamia has apologized for disparaging comments it posted about author Roxane Gay, the author of Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. In remarks posted alongside a podcast interview with the author, the website asked: “Will she fit into the office lift? How many steps will she have to take to get to the interview?” Gay tweeted in response: “I am appalled by Mamamia. It was a shit show. I can walk a fucking mile.”

  • June 13, 2017

    Actor Leslie Odom Jr., who won a Tony award last year for playing Aaron Burr in Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Hamilton, has signed a book deal with Macmillan imprint Feiwel & Friends. Failing Up: How to Rise Above, Do Better, and Never Stop Learning will be published in March 2018. Manuel-Miranda’s musical has been a reliable producer of robust book sales: Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton, which the show was based on, and Hamilton: The Revolution, the musical’s libretto and a behind-the-scenes look at its creation, have both spent long stretches on the best-seller list.

    Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte has been fined $385 for assaulting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. Gianforte will also be required to complete forty hours of community service.

    Parents of Sandy Hook shooting victims are criticizing Megyn Kelly’s upcoming interview on NBC with Infowars host Alex Jones, who believes that the massacre was a hoax carried out by opponents of second amendment rights. Kelly believes that the interview will help “shed a light” on Jones, whose website has been praised by Trump and now has White House press credentials. But the families, who have continually been harassed by conspiracy theorists for evidence of their loved ones’ deaths, say that Kelly and NBC should not be offering another platform for Jones to spread misinformation. “Alex and his followers have done nothing but make our lives a living hell for the last 4 1/2 years,” read a post on a memorial page for a teacher who was killed. “This incessant need for ratings at the cost of the emotional well-being of our family is disgusting and disappointing.”

    Julie Buntin

    The Rumpus talks to Julie Buntin about her new book, Marlena. Although the novel’s plot overlaps with Buntin’s past, she stresses that the events are fictional. “There’s this presumption of autobiography, which sometimes feels a little gendered to me, when women write in the first person—and in this case, because I have written publicly about the loss of a formative friend from adolescence,” she said. “I’ve noticed it at every turn, from my publisher to close friends from adulthood, who eye the drink in my hand a different way, having read Marlena.”

    At Pacific Standard, Ted Scheinman explains why Delta and Bank of America should have waited before dropping their funding for the Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar. Scheinman notes that the authenticity of the outrage over the play can be measured by “how many of these same malcontents were displeased by Ted Nugent’s repeated death threats against President Barack Obama, or how many of them denounced the 2012 New York production of Julius Caesar where Caesar is portrayed as a stylish black politician in the Obama mold. (Spoiler: They stabbed the Obama figure many times onstage.)” Scheinman also wonders what hope other cultural products have if Shakespeare can be discarded so quickly. “The same people howling about the decline of Western civilization are the ones hastening it,” he writes, “and their greatest strength is that they are impervious to real irony.”