• July 10, 2017

    Colson Whitehead

    While he was at Fox News, Bill O’Reilly was an unflagging promoter of his own books. Since his unceremonious departure from the network on April 11, his book sales have dipped significantly, the Washington Post reports. O’Reilly’s Old School, which he cowrote with Bruce Feirstein, opened at number one on the New York Times Bestseller list when it was released in March, and more than 67,000 copies were sold in April. But in June, the book’s sales plummeted to around 2,400.

    Novelist Margaret Atwood has proclaimed on Twitter that she would like Drake to make a cameo in the second season of the TV series based on Atwood’s dystopian classic The Handmaid’s Tale.

    The controversial right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos has filed a $10 million lawsuit against Simon & Schuster, which planned to publish the former Breibart News writer’s memoir Dangerous, but dropped it after Yiannopoulos made public comments that seemed to defend sexual relationships between men and boys. The author says that the publisher caved under political pressure, and that “they have to pay.” Simon & Schuster lawyers say that the publisher will “vigorously defend itself against any such action, and fully expects to prevail in court.”

    The Los Angeles Review of Books has joined forces with USC to offer a summer program to help people break into the publishing industry. Although most publishing jobs are currently in New York, LARB editor in chief Tom Lutz says that many of those in the program are hoping to work on the West Coast. The five-week workshop, says Lutz, encourages “entrepreneurial possibilities and innovation,” and most of the students are hoping “to join an entrepreneurial venture here or start their own.”

    “Why not treat writers more generously? In a society growing mingier by the day, writers seem to rank low on the list of those with claims to assistance. Yet entire societies are degraded and destroyed when hacks and liars are rewarded: Kellyanne Conway recently bought an $8 million house.” Benjamin Moser devotes a short essay to the question: “Do grants, professorships and other forms of institutional support help writers but hurt writing?”

    Colson Whitehead explains why he had to wait to write his Pulitzer-winning book The Underground Railroad, a novel he first started thinking about in 2000: “It was daunting in terms of its structure, and to do the research as deep as it needed to be done, and to deal with the subject with the gravity it deserved, was scary. And then, a couple of years ago, I thought maybe the scary book is the one you’re supposed to be doing.”

  • July 7, 2017

    In the New York Times’s new “Reader Center,” executive editor Dean Baquet addresses questions about changes to the copy editing system at the paper. Noting that the decision is not based on financial concerns, Baquet points out that the previous editing system at the paper was not designed with the internet in mind. “We have to streamline that system and move faster in the digital age,” Baquet explains. “If the Supreme Court issues a major ruling at 10 a.m., our readers expect to hear about it within minutes. And they’d like an analysis not too long afterward. And maybe a video on the history of the case that led to the ruling. Or a multimedia analysis of what the ruling says about the court’s leanings so far.”

    After receiving an unprecedented amount of donations during the 2016 election, Mother Jones has hired seven new employees, including The Nation’s Ari Berman.

    The Upshot graphs and analyzes Jane Austen’s use of language in an attempt to explain the author’s “endurance in the Darwinian struggle for literary immortality.”

    Rebecca Entel. Photo: Elizabeth McQuern

    At the LA Review of Books, Maxine Case talks to Rebecca Entel about her new book, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, and the difficulties of writing from different perspectives. Entel said that she avoided connecting her own life and struggles to those of her characters. “Maybe something that leads us to write fiction in the first place is an inclination to imagine others’ pain or to find personal connections to it,” she said. “But I’m also weary of when seeing someone else’s life only through the lens of your own isn’t quite appropriate—or is even pretty disturbing if it’s the only way you can come to care.”

    Science fiction author Daniel Price reflects on how listening to critics of his first book made his second book better. After receiving an email from a reader that detailed the sexism found in Price’s descriptions of his female characters, he decided to rewrite the sequel. “At the end of the day, this isn’t about appeasing critics. It’s about becoming a better writer,” Price explains. “In a story with flying cars and forcefields, it’s vital to have three-dimensional characters who act realistically and relatably. And in a literary genre that’s been historically wrought with misrepresentations and underrepresentations, it’s not too much to ask an author like me to think a little bit harder about the readers who aren’t.”

  • July 6, 2017

    The Moscow Times is releasing its final print issue today. The paper will continue to publish on the web, and many employees have been let go. The paper “has played a unique role in covering Russian affairs and politics from the inside,” editor Mikhail Fishman said. “I hope it will continue to stick to these principles throughout the future.”

    Abby Ohlheiser attempts to explain the alt-right backlash against CNN after the network supposedly blackmailed an anonymous Reddit user into apologizing for a GIF he created of Donald Trump wrestling CNN to the ground. Although the user apologized before CNN wrote the article, other Reddit users are threatening to “track down” the family and friends of CNN employees. “It’s a particularly threatening version of an inversion that is common on the Internet today: keep reporting on the Trump Internet, and the Trump Internet will decide it’s ‘reporting’ on you,” Ohlheiser concludes. “And many mainstream outlets are still struggling to contend with it.”

    The New York Times looks at a recently-publicized stipulation in playwright Edward Albee’s will that requires his executors to destroy any unfinished works. It is unclear whether any manuscripts have been destroyed already, and some wonder if the rule applies to early versions of plays that were later completed. “Am I disappointed? Yes, because every tiny bit of everything that a writer has written provides insight into that writer’s creative process,” said Edward Albee Society president David A. Crespy. “But am I surprised? No. He maintained very strict control over the materials that were available to the public.”

    Teju Cole

    Angela Chen talks to Elif Batuman about success, growing up, and her novel, The Idiot. Batuman had originally been working on another autobiographical novel set in 2010, but felt that she needed to write The Idiot in order to better understand the character’s background. “The book that I was trying to write, that I didn’t, is about an older person in her thirties, so her ideals have taken various hits in the course of her professional and personal life,” she said. “And something about going back to The Idiot, which I hadn’t looked at in all that time, and seeing the moment before she had taken those hits and seeing that this was the same person that she would become—I saw how this would be a person who would end up making a lot of compromises despite being idealistic and kind of uncompromising in a way that doesn’t really jibe with the world.”

    At The Millions, Steve Paulson talks to Teju Cole about photography, writing, and his new book, Blind Spot. Cole reflected on how a bout of temporary blindness changed his work. “I was already looking intently, but I started to look more intently, more patiently. My photography got a bit more meditative and mysterious. I began to pay attention to the ordinary in a more focused way,” he remembered. “Having eye trouble made the ordinary glorious.”

  • July 5, 2017

    The final installment of Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” trilogy will likely be delayed, according to the novelist. The Mirror and the Light was originally scheduled for 2018, but Mantel told an audience at her most recent BBC lecture that it was “increasingly unlikely” that the book would be published by then. But Mantel says that the delay has nothing to do with the end of the series. “People ask me if I’m having trouble killing off Thomas Cromwell,” she said. “No, why would I?”

    The Wall Street Journal has closed eight of their website’s verticals, including China Real Time and Speakeasy.

    Joan Didion

    At The Guardian, Rafia Zakaria looks at which writers are termed “Didion-esque” by the publishing industry, and how the category ultimately represents the book world’s lack of diversity. “The writers praised as being Didion-esque are all white and all female—and so somehow all Didion,” she writes. “It could all be brushed off as slightly annoying marketing, were it not for the requirements of being Didion-esque: the truth is that it is far harder for a writer to ‘sell someone out’ if they don’t belong to that large white swathe.”

    The New York Times profiles Emma Allen, the new cartoon editor at the New Yorker. Editor David Remnick said that Allen first caught his eye as the editor of Daily Shouts. “She was bringing in people and things that I hadn’t heard before,” he remembered, “and sometimes you need to reinvigorate parts of the magazine.” Allen explained what she looks for in order to keep cartoons feeling fresh. “I like things that are witty. I also like dumb fart jokes,” she said. “The high-low spread is much more interesting than trying to mummify a thing and keep presenting it all over and over again.”

  • July 3, 2017

    Gregory Pardlo

    The progressive online news organization ThinkProgress has plans to expand its staff and to start publishing its content on WordPress, the site it used before moving to Medium in 2016. ThinkProgress is one of many publishers that have left Medium this year. Poynter explains the exodus: “At issue for most publishers was the decision made by Medium to discontinue its ‘promoted stories’ native advertising program. That program was a lynchpin for agreements between Medium and publishers that guaranteed them revenue based on the amount of readership they were able to draw. Without promoted stories—and an ad sales staff on Medium’s side—there was no basis to keep the money flowing.”

    The Virginia Quarterly Review has hired Gregory Pardlo to be its new poetry editor. Pardlo is the author of Digest, which won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and the forthcoming Air Traffic, a collection of personal essays.

    Although his first six months in office have been marked by turmoil and lack of clarity, Trump has remained consistent on one topic: what he calls the “fake news” media.

    Junot Diaz talks with Margaret Atwood about The Handmaid’s Tale—both her 1985 dystopian novel and the new TV series based on it.

    Melissa H. Pierson revisits the novels of Mary McCarthy, once derisively described by Norman Mailer as “lady books.”

  • June 30, 2017

    MTV News has announced that it will be shifting its focus away from reporting and longform essays and toward video. The company laid off several writers and editors—many of whom had been hired from Grantland when that site folded in 2015. At New York magazine, Brian Feldman explains why media brands “pivot to video” and what that trend means for the future of writing online: “The lesson of MTV News and its similarly pivoted peers may simply be that profit-seeking start-ups and enormous publicly traded conglomerates like Viacom, which owns MTV, are poor patrons of ambitious, sophisticated, politically driven journalism.”

    New York Times staff members staged a protest against cuts to the copy-editing department yesterday afternoon. Carrying signs that read “Copy Editors Save Our Buts” and “Without Us, It’s the New Yrok Times,” writers and editors gathered outside the Times building chanting, “They say cutbacks, we say fight back!” The protest follows an open letter decrying plans to cut the department from more than one hundred employees to about fifty: “We only ask that you not treat us like a diseased population that must be rounded up en masse, inspected and expelled.”

    Liu Xiaobo

    Liu Xiaobo, the human-rights activist and Nobel laureate, is being denied permission to leave China to receive cancer treatment.

    Authors including Margaret Atwood, Jacqueline Wilson, and Philip Pullman have raised more than £150,000 for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in London. Pullman auctioned off the chance to have a character in his next book named after the winner and raised more than £30,000 for the cause. The winning bid was a collective one, made up of contributors who wanted the character named after a student, Nur Huda el-Wahabi, who died in the fire.

    The New York Times looks at famous writers’ fashions, considering Terry Newman’s new book, Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore. Newman examines what Virginia Woolf called “frock consciousness” in fifty writers, including Woolf, Joan Didion, John Updike, George Sand, and Zadie Smith.

  • June 29, 2017

    Columbia Journalism Review looks at the breakdown of the wall separating news and advertising at the New York Times. In examples that range from Times articles about conferences that don’t mention the paper’s financial interest in them, to weekly meetings between section editors and the advertising department in order to find mutually-beneficial projects, Jeff Gerth explains why some journalists are concerned about the changing culture at the Times. Gerth notes that the publication’s 2014 “innovation report” recommended keeping advertising “walled off” from editorial. “Today, the paper is actively ignoring some of those recommendations,” he writes, “amid increasing signs that one of the last remaining firewalls in journalism is crumbling.”

    Copy editors at the Times have written an open letter asking executive editor Dean Baquet to increase the amount of jobs that will be left after a reorganization of the copy editing department. “We are, as one senior reporter put it, the immune system of this newspaper, the group that protects the institution from profoundly embarrassing errors, not to mention potentially actionable ones,” they write. “We are one of the crucial layers of review that you seem so determined to erase, as the sudden removal of the public editor role shows. We are stewards of The Times, committed to preserving its voice and authority.” Baquet responded with a letter of his own, stating that only one element of copy editing is being eliminated, and that most of the employees will find new work. “After this restructuring, we will continue to invest far more in editing than any of our competitors do,” he writes. “That is because we value meticulous editing.”

    Michael Bond

    Michael Bond, the author of the Paddington Bear series, has died at the age of ninety-one.

    ProPublica examines Facebook’s secret internal rules governing what gets classified as hate speech on the site. On one Facebook training slide, a quiz asks “Which of the below subsets do we protect?” with three options: “Female Drivers,” “Black Children,” or “White Men.” Because of an arcane rule about “subsets,” the correct answer is that only the “white men” category is protected. As Monika Bickert, a global policy manager at Facebook points out, “The policies do not always lead to perfect outcomes.”   

    At Lithub, Victoria Redel recalls working as an assistant to Adrienne Rich in the 1980s: “Among the many gifts of those Wednesdays, I learned a lesson that has served me well: I learned to be careful, especially with efforts done for others.”

    Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz has officially signed on as a contributor at Fox News. His new job will start July 1, one day after he resigns from Congress. At Vanity Fair, Tina Nguyen points out that besides offering a larger paycheck, the new job “will also give Chaffetz the opportunity to finally return to what he did best: make Hillary Clinton’s life a living hell.”

    Tonight at 192 Books in Manhattan, Nicholas Fox Weber will read from and discuss his new book, Freud’s Trip to Orvieto

  • June 28, 2017

    Liveright has announced plans to publish two volumes of Nelson Mandela’s correspondence from prison. The first volume, with 250 selected letters and a foreword by Mandela’s granddaughter, will be published in July 2018, and a second volume will be published in 2019.

    Sarah Jessica Parker has acquired the first manuscript for her literary fiction imprint, SJP. A Place for Us, a debut novel by Fatima Farheen Mirza, “tackles issues of belonging and tradition, delving into the complex experience of an immigrant family in the United States.”

    Zinzi Clemmons

    BuzzFeed has an excerpt of Zinzi Clemmons’s hotly anticipated debut novel, What We Lose. In a recent profile in Vogue, Clemmons discusses her book, which is, in part, a semi-autobiographical story about her mother: “From the time I first started writing, I was writing about my mom, and about the experience of having an immigrant parent who was very much at odds with the culture that I grew up in. . . . Mother-daughter relationships can be fraught anyway, and in our case, all of these different issues—race, gender, politics—were sort of were wrapped up in her.”  

    At Fusion, Hamilton Nolan details StoryCorps employee’s efforts to unionize and the not-so-subtle ways the company is trying to discourage the move. Nolan writes, “As a wave of unionization has swept through the media over the past two years, it has become de rigueur to see allegedly liberal news outlets twisting themselves in knots to explain why a union is actually a bad idea for them.”  

    Sarah Palin is suing the New York Times over a recent op-ed that linked the 2011 mass shooting by Jared Lee Loughner in Arizona to a flyer put out by a Palin political action committee. The handout allegedly showed Democratic politicians underneath crosshairs, and the Times op-ed stated that “the link to political incitement was clear.” However, the flyer actually showed targeted districts, not politicians, and the lawsuit claims that the paper knew that Loughner was not influenced by Palin’s PAC. The Times has changed the the op-ed and issued a correction, but editorial-page editor James Bennet won’t discredit the article’s premise: “We made an error of fact in the editorial and we’ve corrected it. But that error doesn’t undercut or weaken the argument of the piece.”

    Tonight at Greenlight Bookstore’s Prospect Lefferts Garden location, Yuri Herrera discusses his new novel Kingdom Cons.  

  • June 27, 2017

    Daniel Weiss, the president and chief executive of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has sold a book to Public Affairs. The still-untitled work examines “America’s experience in the Vietnam era.”

    Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman is working on a memoir for Little, Brown. Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything will be published next november.

    Jailed literary critic and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo has been transferred from prison to a hospital after he was diagnosed with liver cancer. Activist Hu Jia called the news “a political murder” and noted that Liu’s eleven-year sentence likely contributed to the seriousness of his disease. “I’ve been to prison in China,” Hu said. “The medical care is terrible and I’m sure China’s leaders were hoping for this outcome.”

    As part of an auction to support victims of London’s Grenfell Tower fire, Philip Pullman has pledged to name a character in his The Book of Dust trilogy after Nur Huda el-Wahabi, a sixteen year old who died in the fire.

    After deleting and retracting an article about the Senate investigation into the Trump administration’s ties to Russia, CNN is requiring reporters to get approval from two separate editors before publishing anything on the subject. Three employees who were involved with the story have resigned.

    Sherman Alexie. Photo: Chase Jarvis

    Sherman Alexie talks to BuzzFeed about not being “the kind of Indian that’s expected.” After publishing his first book of short stories, he said that he was treated “as a miracle.” “It was like, ‘You came out of nowhere, you’re a star child!’ ‘Look at his storytelling tradition, the oral tradition, it comes from his grandmother!’” he remembered. “Nah, I just did debate in high school, and stand-up in college.”

    At the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin profiles David Pecker, the chief executive of American Media Inc. who also oversees the company’s flagship tabloid, the National Enquirer. Since Pecker took over the company in 1999, the Enquirer has continued to specialize in covering “the foibles of public personalities,” but made an exception for Donald Trump, Pecker’s long-time friend. The decision to publish only positive stories on Trump during the 2016 election confused some employees. “We used to go after newsmakers no matter what side they were on,” one former staffer said. “And Trump is a guy who is running for President with a closet full of baggage. He’s the ultimate target-rich environment. The Enquirer had a golden opportunity, and they completely looked the other way.”

  • 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.”