• April 21, 2017

    The Man Booker International Prize shortlist was announced yesterday. Mathias Enard’s Compass, David Grossman’s A Horse Walks Into a Bar, Roy Jacobsen’s The Unseen, Dorthe Nors’s Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, Amos Oz’s Judas, and Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream are all finalists for the award. The winner will be announced in June.

    HBO is developing a TV movie of Fahrenheit 451. Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon have signed on to star. No release date has been set.

    Director John Waters answers questions for the New York Times’s “By the Book” column. When asked what he reads “for solace” and escape, Waters pointed to Philip Short’s Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare. “I feel so lucky I didn’t have to live under his rule,” he said. “I don’t want to ‘escape’ when I read a book; I want to enter a new world that disturbs me.”

    At The Hollywood Reporter, Michael Wolff analyzes the power struggle between the members of the Murdoch family at 21st Century Fox. Wolff credits the firing of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly to CEO James Murdoch’s dislike for Fox News and its employees, who he considered “thuggish neanderthals.” Wolff writes that the turmoil at Fox News is a sign that James has effectively taken over the company from his father, Rupert. “This means that Fox News, that constant irritant in James’ view of himself as a progressive and visionary television executive, will begin to change,” Wolff writes.

    In a hearing for a custody trial, Infowars’s Alex Jones said that his website is “90% hard news,” and compared his videos to John Oliver and Stephen Colbert. Jones, who is under a gag order for the remainder of the trial, also showed his impatience with the heavy media coverage of his custody battle. “During one break in the proceedings,” Charlie Warzel reports, “Jones walked past a corral of reporters in the hallway and muttered, ‘Lotta famous fiction writers out here!’”

    Ijeoma Oluo. Photo: Julia-Grace Sanders

    For The Stranger, Ijeoma Oluo spent a day with Rachel Dolezal. Oluo writes that she had hoped to never think about Dolezal again, but accepted the assignment after learning about her’s book, In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World. By the end of their time together, Oluo realizes that Dolezal’s decision to pretend to be black represents “the ultimate ‘you can be anything’ success story of white America.”

  • April 20, 2017

    Co-owner of Washington, DC’s Politics & Prose Bookstore and former Hillary Clinton speechwriter Lissa Muscatine will write a book about working with the Democratic presidential candidate. Hillaryland, which will be published by Penguin Press at an unspecified date, will detail “the 25-year journey of Hillary and her closest advisors at the intersection of politics and gender dynamics.”

    After a series of sexual harassment lawsuits came to light, Bill O’Reilly has been let go from Fox News. The New York Times writes that “his abrupt and embarrassing ouster ends his two-decade reign as one of the most popular and influential commentators in television.” At the Washington Post, Callum Borchers wonders, after losing Roger Ailes, Megyn Kelly, and Greta van Susteren in less than a year, “how much turmoil can Fox News handle?” Variety reports that Tucker Carlson will replace O’Reilly, beginning next Monday. The Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel remembers being followed and bullied by one of O’Reilly’s producers after writing a negative article about the former Fox News host. “Despite O’Reilly’s attempt to ruin me,” unlike him, I still have a job today,” she writes. But the National Geographic cable channel and publisher Henry Holt, who are both working on projects with O’Reilly, plan to continue working with him.

    Elif Shafak

    The Huffington Post’s international site, The WorldPost, spoke to novelist Elif Shafak about the recent presidential referendum in Turkey.

    Communism for Kids, a book by Bini Adamczak that explains the system of government to children, has sparked a backlash from conservative media. Breitbart took issue with the fact that MIT was profiting off the book, rather than giving it away for free. “Surely they wouldn’t argue they don’t have the ability to distribute it for free as widely as Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book?” The American Conservative confirms that the book is real, but “cannot presently confirm suggestions of such possible future MIT titles as Sure, Johnny, You Should Take Candy From the Guy in the Van.” Alex Jones released a YouTube video titled “MIT Pushes Plan To Literally Teach Children Communism,” while his website Infowars was surprised that “an engine of entrepreneurship” like MIT would publish the book. “I guess no school is safe from the blathering madness of leftist academics,” they write. “Oh, how nice, leave it to the intellectuals to once again, make lemons out of lemonade—freedom out of Communism,” wrote the Washington Times. The website also suggested a sequel: “Dictatorships for Dummies.” MIT Press director Amy Brand told Publisher’s Weekly that the reaction to the book has been “a revealing experience” that has reminded her of “the swarm mentality fueled by social media.”


  • April 19, 2017

    Grace Paley. Photo: Dorothy Marder

    The New School has created the Grace Paley Teaching Fellowship. The recipient will teach a semester-long essay-writing seminar for a select group of freshman students and receive a $20,000 stipend. “Grace Paley presents a challenge for the teacher of young writers,” writes Scott Korb in his announcement. “We can expect in their work the abstract quality of beauty, sentences that are pleasing and satisfying to the mind for reasons that may remain inexplicable, that reveal sources of drama that arise, or arose, in the streets and friends and homes of our students, and not in our streets or among our friends or in our homes. That reveal something specific and shameless about their lives and minds and say a thing we, their teachers, might never say, despite all we think we have to teach them.”

    Citing the work of Svetlana Alexievich and Scholastique Mukasonga, Scott Esposito reflects on literature that observes history as it happens, and why we need it in the US now more than ever. “We must also have a witness-bearing literature of this period that goes beyond the journalistic facts to give a literary understanding of the massive forces that have brought us to this point, and that now determine our politics. We must have our own Alexieviches [and] Mukasongas . . . to document the lives of this nation and the upheaval that we are going through.”

    David Grann talks to Lit Hub about crime reporting, watching his books be turned into films, and his most recent work, Killers of the Flower Moon.

    The New York Times profiles Shannon Donnelly, the Palm Beach journalist who has covered Donald Trump since he purchased his Mar-a-Lago estate. Donnelly and Trump seem to share a mutual respect, although Trump’s animosity toward journalists can sometimes be taken out on Donnelly as well. After one unfavorable article, Trump wrote to her in 1996 with a deal: if she reigned in her coverage of him, he wrote, “I will promise not to show you as the crude, fat and obnoxious slob which everyone knows you are.” In a response, Donnelly wrote in her column, “Crude, fat and obnoxious I can’t argue with. But slob, no.”

    At The Guardian, Danuta Kean laments the rise of political satire books composed of empty pages, after Donald Trump recommended one in a tweet. “The only laughter I hear around blank books is that of the publishers, as they pocket the profits from books as subtle and revealing as a blow to the head,” she writes. “Perhaps the funniest thing to emerge from all of this is that Trump has yet to recommend a book (apart from his own) with words in it.”

  • April 18, 2017

    The New York Times’s Jim Rutenberg reports on the post-fact media from Russia, which he nicknames “the land of Alternative Truth Yet to Come.” After Trump launched an airstrike against Syria in response to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons, some right-wing media figures in the US suggested that Assad’s attack was a “false flag” operation, instigated by rebel groups to trick the Trump administration into attacking the Syrian government. In Russia, Rutenberg writes, that conspiracy theory “was the dominant theme throughout the overwhelmingly state-controlled mainstream media.”

    At BuzzFeed, Nitasha Tiku looks at Mark Zuckerberg’s years-long campaign to make himself more likeable. After rebranding his minimalist outfit choices and working to become more personable in interviews, the Facebook founder and CEO now plans to travel to every US state this year, accompanied by a communications professional and Barack Obama’s former photographer. Some onlookers seem perplexed by Zuckerberg’s evolution. “I don’t understand why he sounds like a senator in his fourth term,” said former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett. But Tiku writes that his new persona makes more sense “if you think of him as the head of a 14-year-old nation-state called Facebook.” “The listening tour and manifesto are an opportunity for Zuckerberg to strengthen his relationship with his 1.8 billion constituents,” she explains.

    Lindy West

    Lindy West tells the Huffington Post that her book Shrill, published last May, would probably have been “less idealistic” had she written it during the Trump administration. “I feel like I’ve been writing about men being horrible and Republicans being oppressive nightmare people for my whole career,” she said. “And every day under the Trump administration I understand it afresh. Like, oh, I didn’t realize it could actually be this bad.”

    Matteo Pericoli reimagines Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend as a piece of architecture. His design incorporates two buildings that push and pull against each other. “It is evident that if one of the two elements were to be missing, the other would have no reason to exist,” he writes. “Without Lila there would be no Elena, and vice versa.”

    Tonight, Albertine bookstore hosts the Albertine Prize Book Battle, in which three members of the New York literary community defend one of three finalists for the prize. Kaiama L. Glover advocates for Ananda Devi’s Eve Out of Her Ruins, Sam Sacks argues for Maylis de Kerangal’s The Heart, and Tom Roberge defends Antoine Volodine’s Bardo or Not Bardo.

  • April 17, 2017

    Joseph O’Neill

    The novelist Joseph O’Neill (Netherland) has helped set up a school for Syrian refugees, and he’s asking for help to keep it running.

    A number of authors including Colm Toibin and George Szirtes have signed an open letter decrying a new Hungarian law that could lead to the closing of Central European University, which was founded by the philanthropist George Soros. The letter argues that the act is an attempt by Hungarian prime Minister Victor Orbán “to close out democratic institutions in the country, including press, media and NGOs.” They added: “If [closure] should happen it would be a serious blot on the EU’s conscience to have permitted this act of the Orbán government to pass without response.”

    Pamela Paul—the editor of the New York Times Book Review and the author of the forthcoming My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues—explains why you should read books that you hate.

    Thomas McGuane—the author of 92 in the Shade, Panama, and most recently Crow Fairreflects on his career just before receiving the The Los Angeles Times’s Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement.

    AmazonCrossing has become the biggest translator of foreign books into English.

    There are still spaces available in John Ashbery’s Home School, which will take place in late July and early August in Hudson, New York. This year’s faculty include Brian Blanchfield, Adam Fitzgerald, Douglas Kearney, Myung Mi Kim, and Harryette Mullen.

  • April 14, 2017

    Adam Haslett

    Adam Haslett talks to the LA Times about Imagine Me Gone, which has been nominated for the LA Times Book Prize. Haslett notes that the book drew on events from his own life, which made the writing process both painful and liberating. “Dwelling inside the minds of people that I knew that are suffering like that is not easy,” he said. “There’s just no question in my mind that I had a deeper sense of catharsis that I’ve ever had.”

    PBS Newshour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff will receive the 2017 Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism. She will be honored at an event in November.

    At the Washington Post, Erik Wemple reports on the National Rifle Associations “obsession with the New York Times.” The organization takes issue with the paper’s coverage of Benghazi, crime in the city of Chicago, and criticism of the Trump administration. In a video, the NRA asserts that it plans “to fisk the New York Times and find out just what deep and rich means to this old gray hag, this untrustworthy, dishonest rag that has subsisted on the welfare of mediocrity for one, two, three more decades.”

    In the Times’s “Bookends” feature, Adam Kirsch and Liesl Schillinger examine whether elitism or populism causes more harm to the arts. Kirsch points out that writers are not intentionally choosing one or the other; rather, their writing reflects their different views on the era in which they live and work, and their reception will reflect that. “A popular writer is one at home with the conventions and expectations of his moment,” he writes. “An ‘elitist’ writer, on the other hand . . . is one whose vision of the world and style of expression are defamiliarizing, who does not reproduce the world in words but transforms it.” Schillinger writes that it’s not only the artist’s mindset that creates the distinction, but the audience’s. “I believe that both populist and elite mind-sets yield bad art and good,” she writes, “and that the collision of the two opposed forces can bring new vitality to creative work.”

    The Hollywood Reporter’s Kat Stoeffel looks at the decline of the New York Observer under Jared Kushner’s watch, and asks the city’s media figures who should buy it when Kushner decides to sell. Suggestions include Michael Bloomberg, former US Attorney Preet Bharara, and Jeff Bezos. Times editor Dean Baquet and New Yorker editor David Remnick both hope that the buyer will be someone who wants the publication to survive. David Rhodes, president of CBS News, responded, “They still charge for that?”

  • April 13, 2017

    Bana Alabed, the seven-year-old Syrian girl known for tweeting about her life in Aleppo, will publish a memoir with Simon & Schuster. Dear World will be released next fall.

    James Baldwin. Photo: Allan Warren

    The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has acquired James Baldwin’s archive. Director Kevin Young announced the news last night. “Even though it’s taken 30 years, it’s the perfect time,” he said. “It’s like he never left.” Baldwin’s drafts, manuscripts, and notes are all available to researchers, but his letters will not be available for another twenty years.

    Journalists at DNAinfo and Gothamist have decided to unionize with the Writers Guild of America East. The decision comes after Gothamist was sold to DNAinfo, who then began initiating layoffs and deleted articles that were critical of the new owner.

    Dark Money author Jane Mayer talks to the LA Times about her book, reporting, and political polarization in the US. Mayer remembered the highly-partisan backlash to her second book, Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas. “We were kind of early canaries in the coal mine in seeing what it’s like and how rough it can be when political partisans come at you,” she said. “We thought we were just documenting the facts.” Now, twenty years later Mayer says the media has become a scapegoat for America’s increasing polarization. “It’s become a kind of information warfare, and it gets the press completely caught up in the middle of it,” she said, “when all you’re trying to do is be a reporter and tell the country what’s going on.”

    After recently unearthed letters written by Sylvia Plath alleged physical and emotional abuse by her husband Ted Hughes, writers are debating whether the revelations will change anything about how Plath’s poetry is read or affect Hughes’ reputation. Sarah Churchwell writes that “these letters are set to become one of the only sources of Plath’s voice we may have from the end of her life, apart from her poetry,” and may offer more insight into Plath’s marriage. Rafia Zakaria writes that even though the allegations may be true, they’re unlikely to change the way Hughes is viewed in the literary world. Zakaria offers numerous examples of other male literary figures who have had their behavior ignored, from Byron’s treatment of his wife to Robert Lowell’s violence toward Elizabeth Hardwick. “At least where male poets are considered,” she writes, “what may affectionately be called “rakish”, but is simply misogynistic and abusive, is entirely excusable.”

    Tonight at Metrograph, Durga Chew-Bose hosts a screening of Barbara Loden’s 1970 film, Wanda.

  • April 12, 2017

    The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson links United Airlines’s violent ejection of a passenger to failing American infrastructure. “Our ability to rely on getting from one place to the other,” she writes, “seems poised on a knife’s edge.” At Gizmodo, Adam Clark Estes calls for a boycott of the airline, citing their track record of poor customer service and public relations blunders. “Do you want to get beat up by a mercenary on your next flight? Of course you don’t,” Estes writes. “So stop flying United.” At Paste, Shane Ryan notes that United is just a manifestation of a larger problem. “They are a cruel agent, without a doubt, but they are not some lone wolf,” he writes. “They are a product of an indifferent system that increasingly devalues individual life, and that system is called America.” After running a highly-criticized (and later updated) article about the passenger’s decade-old criminal case, the Louisville Courier-Journal defended their decision to highlight Dao’s past. “His original case was pretty high profile. It’s a name that doesn’t come out of the blue,” said Executive editor Joel Christopher told the Columbia Journalism Review. “To not acknowledge that history and context would be unusual, frankly.”

    Sarah Ryley, who won a Pulitzer Prize this week for her criminal justice reporting at the New York Daily News, has joined The Trace as a staff writer. Fusion editor at large Alexis Madrigal is heading to The Atlantic, where he’ll cover Silicon Valley and the tech world.

    Hasan Minhaj

    The Daily Show’s Hasan Minhaj will host the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner later this month. CNN notes that “Minhaj is not as well-known as those comedians were when they performed, indicating that the correspondents’ association may have had trouble booking a huge star this year.”

    In her debut book advice column for the New York Times, Nicole Lamy suggests titles for a former bookworm who is now too distracted by kids and social media to read and a grandmother of well-traveled preteens who could use a book with a female protagonist once in awhile.

    At Deadspin, Lindsey Adler examines New York Times public editor Liz Spayd’s column on the paper’s sports section, writing that Spayd “consistently manages to convey a totally warped perception of the Times’ (many) weaknesses to its readers.”

    At Eater, Helen Rosner highlights Lucky Peach’s influence on the art and design of glossy food magazines. “Lucky Peach looked like nothing else out there,” she writes. “That is, until everything else out there started to look like Lucky Peach.” The magazine, which relied more on illustration and snapshots than highly-composed food photography, was praised by David Carr for looking like it was “conjured in a tattoo parlor.” Although Rosner notes that some of the images crossed the border between edgy and offensive, its work changed food media for the better. “It doesn’t really matter if other magazines were already starting down the same path, or if Lucky Peach just hit a sweet spot of doing their thing early, and doing it loud, and doing it right,” she concludes. “It made for a really, really cool magazine.”

  • April 11, 2017

    The 2017 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced yesterday. Winners include the New Yorker’s Hilton Als for criticism, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water. BuzzFeed news was a finalist in the competition for the first time, for an expose of arbitration strategies used by international companies.

    At the New Yorker, Rebecca Mead profiles Margaret Atwood. The two discuss witches, feminism, and why the 2016 election would make terrible fiction. “There are too many wild cards,” Atwood said. “You want me to believe that the F.B.I. stood up and said this, and that the guy over at WikiLeaks did that? Fiction has to be something that people would actually believe. If you had published it last June, everybody would have said, ‘That is never going to happen.’”

    Margot Lee Shetterly. Photo: Megan Mendenhall

    Hidden Figures author Margot Lee Shetterly has signed a two-book deal with Viking. Titles and publication dates for Shetterly’s forthcoming books have not been announced, but both works will highlight “extraordinary ordinary African-Americans whose contributions to American history have, for one reason or another, been untold, unseen, or overlooked.”

    Ron Howard will produce and direct a film based on J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. Imagine Entertainment president Erica Huggins said that the book has illuminated “the plight of America’s white working class, speaking directly to the turmoil of our current political climate.”

    Business Insider reports that Breitbart employees have been told to stop publishing articles that criticize Jared Kushner. The request comes after the New York Times detailed the animosity between Kushner and former Breitbart editor and current chief strategist Stephen Bannon. The Washington Post investigates how Bannon relied on dozens of nonprofit and private companies “to advance his conservative, populist agenda and bring in millions of dollars” through the production of conservative documentary films.

    The New York Times profiles publisher Adam Bellow, who recently left his job as editorial director of the conservative HarperCollins imprint Broadside and created a new, bipartisan imprint at St. Martin’s Press. The son of author Saul Bellow said that the move does not mean he’s renounced his neoconservative views, but that he wants to foster cross-cultural dialogue. “Both sides need to re-examine their assumptions,” he said, “and I want to sponsor that process.”

  • April 10, 2017

    Sam Lipsyte

    Almost immediately after the results of the 2016 US Presidential election were announced, Howard Jacobson, the British author whose book The Finkler Question won the Booker Prize, started writing a satire about Donald Trump. The novel, titled Pussy, will be released in England on April 13, and in the US in May. The Washington Post’s Ron Charles calls the novel a “ribald” and “grotesque fairy tale.”

    At Granta, Elif Batuman notes the importance of remembering the power imbalance that is often involved in travel writing (especially when the writer is from a “world-dominating superpower”), but also posits that “travel writing is a microcosm for all writing, and the counterintuitive landscapes and stories one finds in other cultures are just another version of the unexpected and counterintuitive landscapes and stories we all find in the world outside ourselves.” The goal is to do it with awareness: “In describing and moving through these landscapes, the only real recourse we have against charges of exploitation or tone-deafness is to bring as much empathy and as wide a consciousness as we can manage.”

    The novelist Susan Choi relates the fascinating story of how Donald Barthelme’s first novel, Snow White (which first appeared in the New Yorker in 1967), has finally made its way to the stage. It might not have happened: Barthelme threw away the script he wrote. But his wife had fished an early draft, written in 1974, out of the trash. Last Friday, the Catastrophic Theatre company brought the play to the stage in Houston.

    A bill sponsored by Arkansas Representative Kim Hendren, which would have banned all books by Howard Zinn (and all books referring to Howard Zinn) in the state, has been stopped by the Arkansas House’s education committee.

    On Thursday, novelist Marlon James (A Brief History of Seven Killings) joined the National Book Foundation director Lisa Lucas for a public discussion titled “Can Literature Make a Damn Bit of Difference?” The answer came quickly: Yes. Elsewhere, in Bomb, Sam Lipsyte talked with George Saunders, and recalled someone asking “how publishing a story in the New Yorker is going to fight the oppression of the moment.” His response: “You can respond to the moment, but you can’t guarantee that whatever good might come of what you write will happen now. Your work may not be relevant or useful for a while, so don’t worry about it not meeting present needs.” Saunders agrees: “Yeah, writing is not necessarily a short-term tool.”

    Brian Evenson, Fiona Maazel, Samantha Hunt, Phil Klay, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Marisa Silver are among the fiction writers who have been named 2017 Guggenheim fellows