• August 16, 2016

    Nick Denton. Photo: Grace Villamil

    Nick Denton. Photo: Grace Villamil

    Gawker goes on the auction block today, and will sell for at least $90 million (less than half of what owner Nick Denton thinks it’s worth). Possible buyers include Univision, New York magazine, and Vox. Peter Thiel thinks that Gawker is not the last battle in the fight to keep the media out of people’s sex lives. In a New York Times op-ed, he writes about the now-retracted Daily Beast article that outed athletes in Rio, praises Republicans at the RNC for accepting him as a gay man, and promotes the so-called “Gawker Bill,” which would punish third parties for profiting from a sex tape. “As for Gawker, whatever good work it did will continue in the future, and suggesting otherwise would be an insult to its writers and to readers. It is ridiculous to claim that journalism requires indiscriminate access to private people’s sex lives.”

    The Times profiles Michael W. Ferro Jr., the elusive chairman of “the company formerly called Tribune Publishing.” Although Ferro was not interviewed, the article goes in-depth into the Tronc chairman’s life: “Once a teenager who outsourced his house-painting jobs to others, Mr. Ferro, 50, has never been afraid to push boundaries.”

    Colson Whitehead talks to Vulture about his new book, The Underground Railroad. Whitehead found that writing a novel set in the 1850s simplified his writing style: “You know, a sentence that comes easily to me is, ‘The street was busier than a 7-Eleven parking lot on free meth day.’ I could make a weird modern joke, and that’s a long sentence. But when you try to make a simile or a metaphor out of the nouns of 1850s, simplicity and clarity make more sense.”

    J. K. Rowling has taken to Twitter to defend her fans after a UK wand shop refused them service for not being “real wizards.”

    Anita Thompson, Hunter S. Thompson’s widow, has returned a mounted elk skull with antlers to the Ernest Hemingway estate, which Thompson stole in 1964. Hemingway had died three years prior, but Thompson himself began to feel guilt about his pilfered treasure. In an Instagram post, Anita told the Aspen Times, “Hunter and I planned to take a road trip back to Ketchum and quietly return them. But we never did.”

  • August 15, 2016

    Tsehai Publishers is launching an imprint in honor of Harriet Tubman, publishing fiction, nonfiction, and academic works focused on African American issues in the US. The imprint, a joint effort with Loyola Marymount University, will publish its first book, Voices From Leimert Park, this fall.

    Shannon Paulus writes about the lack of independent fact checking in book publishing, after an excerpt of Luke Dittrich’s Patient H.M. in the New York Times called the accuracy of Dittrich’s book into question: “I’ve long wished that fact-checked material would carry some kind of stamp on it noting if it had been independently and thoroughly fact-checked. (Internet articles included—this one wasn’t.)”

    William Gibson. Photo: Fred Armitage

    William Gibson. Photo: Fred Armitage

    Science fiction writer William Gibson—known for creating the term cyberspace, as well as for his books Neuromancer, The Peripheral, among others—talks to Matt Rosoff about Twitter, Armageddon, and the sci-fi author as prophet. When it comes to writers predicting the future, Gibson says he’s “always been intensely uncomfortable with the idea.”

    Elizabeth D. Samet reviews Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman’s novel about living through World War II in Russia. “What Grossman observes in “Life and Fate” about the psychological state of the individual in war might also be said of nations—perhaps of the United States, enmeshed in resurgent violence in the Middle East and lingering still in Afghanistan after 15 years of conflict.”

    Carey Purcell writes about her time at Trump magazine, where she worked as the receptionist for publisher Michael Jacobson. During her six months at the job, Donald Trump did not come to the office once.

    A Daily Beast article about sex at the Olympics in Rio has been removed from the website after being called out by gay athletes and LGBTQ-rights organizations. The article focused on mobile dating apps, particularly Grindr, and although it did not name names, many readers objected to the fact that there was enough detail to identify the athletes, some of whom were representing countries that outlaw homosexuality.

  • August 12, 2016

    Arianna Huffington. Photo: David Shankbone

    Arianna Huffington. Photo: David Shankbone

    After Arianna Huffington’s announcement that she will be leaving her Post, the media is speculating on whether AOL-owner Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo contributed to her decision. Business Insider has a good run-down of what Thrive Global, Huffington’s new start up, will do: “Thrive wants to move Huffington’s wellness brand beyond books into other Thrive-related products—think pillows, candles, and food supplements.” Fortune says, “Despite the many slings and arrows the company has taken over the years—some of them justified, others not—there is little question that Arianna Huffington was and is a media pioneer.”

    BuzzFeed speaks to ten former Twitter employees, all of whom say that abuse on the social media site “is not just a bug, but . . . a fundamental feature.” One interviewee recounts a meeting about whether the site should allow ISIS beheading videos to stay posted: “‘You really think we should have videos of people being murdered?’ someone who attended the meeting recalls [former CEO Dick] Costolo arguing, while [former head of communications Gabriel] Stricker reportedly compared Costolo’s takedown of undesirable content to deleting the Zapruder film after objections from the Kennedy family.” Twitter said in a statement that “there are inaccuracies in the details and unfair portrayals but rather than go back and forth with BuzzFeed, we are going to continue our work on making Twitter a safer place.”

    After a British woman was stopped by airport police for reading Syria Speaks: Art and Culture From the Frontline, the publisher has ordered a reprint of the book due to rising sales.  

    PEN America is resurrecting the PEN/Nabokov Award, focusing on international writers. In their announcement, president Andrew Solomon called the award “a welcome counterbalance to rampant xenophobia and increasingly jingoistic provincialism,” and highlighted the Lolita author’s “cross-cultural legacy.”

    Muhammad Ali Unfiltered will be released in October by Derek Jeter’s publishing imprint. The book will include “both famous and obscure” photos of the boxer and text by Ali and his widow, Lonnie Ali. It is the second in Jeter’s Unfiltered series, following Jeter Unfiltered.

    Amy Schumer tells the Times, “I read everything by Elena Ferrante, whoever she is. But not right before bed, because I have furious nightmares.” She also admits her inability to get through Fifty Shades of Grey, “I only made it three pages in. That feels mean . . . but I truly felt so alone. Everyone loved that book, and I couldn’t wait to get on the ride with them, but it was unreadable to me. I loved the movie, though, and have watched it several times.”

    Former Gawker editor in chief A. J. Daulerio is the last defendant in the Hulk Hogan suit that has not filed for bankruptcy. Daulerio was in court yesterday, where Hogan’s lawyers asked to be allowed to search for more of Daulerio’s assets. “As of Monday, Daulerio had just $1,505.78 in his checking account, according to a screenshot of his bank statement submitted to the court.”

    On Usher’s “Snapchat, you might find him tearing a new Ducati through the night or enjoying a contemplative moment in the steam room, his abs on display, his junk tastefully concealed by an oversized emoji. But in private Usher is researching the Yoruba Diaspora. … And he reads: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me (2015) and Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost (1998), an excoriating history of Belgian colonialism in the Congo.”

  • August 11, 2016

    Village Voice editor in chief Will Bourne will be leaving the publication. A statement from the paper said that Bourne “stepped down,” but a tweet from the former editor suggested otherwise: “Actually I was fired. If we’re being honest with ourselves/your readers.”

    After eleven years, Huffington Post co-founder, president, and editor in chief Arianna Huffington is resigning from her namesake website. Huffington tweeted that though she “thought HuffPo would be [her] last act,” she’s leaving the site to focus on her new project, Thrive Global, “which will work with companies to improve the well-being of their employees.”

    Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Jeff Gottlieb has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times, his former employer, accusing the newspaper of ageism and of withholding his prize money. Gottlieb won the Pulitzer in 2011 along with a handful of other LA Times reporters and editors for their investigation into widespread corruption in the city government of Bell, California.

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Photo: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Photo: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was in London last weekend for a celebration of Half of a Yellow Sun’s tenth anniversary. BuzzFeed has a transcript of quotes from the hour-and-a-half conversation, which covered topics such as female sexuality and writers as perpetual outsiders. Of one of her narrators, Adichie said, “Ugwu is me, in that Madame Bovary way. . . . Ugwu is the character in the novel who . . . sees feelingly, and I like to think that I do.”

    Annie DeWitt talks to The Rumpus about her new book, White Nights in Split Town City, and how she discovered the brutality of nature through the butchering of her family’s cow: “Beyond turning me onto vegetarianism at the age of six or seven, this highlighted an important lesson for me. Nature is both fragile and prophetic.”

    Researchers have found “‘an astonishing degree’ of variance” between the UK and US versions of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. In interviews with the author, researchers discovered that “they occurred because the manuscript of Cloud Atlas sat unedited for around three months in the US, after an editor there left Random House. Meanwhile in the UK, Mitchell and his editor and copy editor worked on the manuscript, but the changes were not passed on to the US.”

  • August 10, 2016

    Amid rumors of a coming settlement between Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media, employees are urging their prospective new owners to abide by their previously negotiated union contract. “We look forward to building a constructive relationship of mutual respect with the new owners,” read a statement released by Gawker staff. “This can only happen under the terms of our union contract.”

    Former co-founder of The Verge Josh Topolsky continues his attempts to explain just who the readers of his new project, The Outline, will be. “They live in urban areas. They’re really tech-savvy. They fund Kickstarter projects. They eat farm-to-table food. They care about politics, they’re engaged.” Topolsky plans to focus his new project on “power, culture and the future.”

    George Orwell

    George Orwell

    The BBC will again be graced by the presence of disgruntled former employee George Orwell, who called his work there a waste of his “own time and the public money.” The broadcasting company had originally rejected a statue of the writer, a gift from late Labour MP Ben Whitaker, because Orwell was still “too provocative a figure.” Four years later, The Guardian reports that “he will be warmly welcomed back.”

    “Wi-Fi- and coffee-free” bookstores are “among London’s hottest hangouts.” The Times is on it: “The internet-free bookshop campaigns for the days of haughty glances over the tops of reading glasses, gentle tutting at noise, and hours spent simply considering the words on the page.”

    The New York Public Library’s new app, SimplyE, offers 300,000 books in one digital location, available to anyone with a NYPL library card. But electronic reading won’t get rid of the hold list: Limited numbers of book licenses mean that some books, like Emma Cline’s The Girls, already have hundreds of people waiting to download.

    Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen and David Szalay’s All That Man Is, both recently longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, have made the Gordon Burn Prize shortlist for 2016.

    Penguin Random House offices in downtown Manhattan will be relocated to the Broadway headquarters, saving the company $20 million each year. The move is scheduled for 2019 and “will not cause our organizational structure to change in any way.”

    A report on diversity in science fiction writing found that “38 of the 2,039 stories published in 63 magazines in 2015 were by black writers,” which equals just under 2 percent. Jean Ho writes about shifting the burden of solving the diversity problem from authors to the publishing industry, drawing attention to the role of marketing and publicity departments. “For writers of color, the lack of diversity . . . can feel like a death knell.”

    In honor of Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson’s birthday yesterday, Emma Lawson penned a tribute to Jansson’s best known creation, the Moomin family. “Round, white trolls with big snouts and small arms,” the mouthless creatures first appeared in a 1943 illustration and now have a museum and theme park dedicated to them.

  • August 9, 2016

    The George R. R. Martin–edited series “Wild Cards” is getting a TV adaptation. The show is being developed by Universal Cable Productions, responsible for Mr. Robot and 12 Monkeys. Martin will not be involved due to fealty to HBO’s Game of Thrones and the pressure he’s under to finish Winds of Winter, the final installment in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. Martin writes that assistant editor Melinda Snodgrass and producer Gregory Noveck, who will be working on the TV version, “know and love the Wild Cards universe almost as well as I do.”

    Women's epee. Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen

    Women’s epee. Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen

    At Recode, Edmund Lee writes that NBC’s decision to “stream more than 4,500 hours of competition” isn’t as great as it sounds. Lee calls sports like women’s fencing “mystifying” without Bob Costas’s on-air commentary: “It was a single-camera longshot of two people in masks pointing and screaming. . . . bizarre to watch and unsatisfying.”

    The Chicago Tribune congratulated Olympian Corey Cogdell on her bronze medal in women’s trap shooting with the headline “Corey Cogdell, wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein, wins bronze in Rio.” 

    At The Daily Beast, television news producer Shelley Ross recounts a story of sexual harassment at the hands of former Fox News president Roger Ailes. While a producer at NBC’s The Tomorrow Show, Ailes invited Ross to lunch. “Roger was very persistent as he continued to explain how much he believed in loyalty and how much he believed the best expression of that loyalty comes in the form of a ‘sexual alliance.’” At The XX, Nora Caplan-Bricker attempts to explain why lawyer Susan Estrich, “who helped make the case, in the early 1990s, that sexual harassment was a serious problem,” has joined Ailes’s defense team: “No one gets a fair trial in the court of public opinion, and even the guilty deserve a good attorney.”

    The New York Times has released the test version of “Watching,” a site for film and television recommendations. “For instance,” NiemanLab explains, “if you choose “Joke-Heavy” and then genre “Comedy,” skipping out on subgenres, you get 68 recommendations … (If you want a joke-heavy drama, Watching recommends only The Bob Newhart Show, which one presumes is a bug.)” Although the beta version is closed to the general public, select subscribers have early access, and there’s a waitlist for those who want in.

  • August 8, 2016

    New York Times public editor Liz Spayd explains the paper’s new Metro section, which will cut back on local news (which is “of no interest to readers in Beijing or London”) and focus more on “stories with larger, more consequential themes.” Using the story of a fire in the Bronx that killed two young children as an example, Spayd and Metro editor Wendell Jamieson argue that “when 90 percent of your audience lives outside New York, it makes sense to skip the small stuff and write stories with the kind of wattage that attracts attention from a farther distance.”

    After twenty years with the paper, music critic Ben Ratliff, author of books including Coltrane: The Story of a Sound and Every Song Ever, will be leaving the Times to focus on teaching and writing.

    James Baldwin. Photo: Allan Warren

    James Baldwin. Photo: Allan Warren

    James Baldwin’s home in Southern France is being torn down to make way for luxury apartments. Paris-based author Shannon Cain is attempting to convince the French government to protect the property, which has already been partially demolished. Baldwin lived in the home near Cote d’Azur from 1970 until his death in 1987.

    The French embassy has selected Ta-Nehisi Coates as the curator for this year’s Festival Albertine, a showcase French-American cultural exchange. The event will focus on black identity in France and the US, and feature artists Kehinde Wiley, New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb, and more.

    Olive Kitteridge author Elizabeth Strout talks about taking a risk and making the protagonist of her new novel, My Name is Lucy Barton, a writer. “I just don’t think that writers are that interesting on the page. But it was when I was going back over different drafts, and I realised that Lucy stays behind at school and she reads,” Strout told The Guardian, “And I read what I had written–‘that brought me the world’, Lucy says–and then I realised, OK, all right then, let’s make this girl a writer. And so I went for it. I figured I was already up to my eyeballs in risks, I might as well go the whole hog.”

    Gawker Media is nearing a settlement with the parent company of the Daily Mail, Mail Online, over an article by a former Mail Online employee alleging that the British media outlet allowed plagiarism and published stories that were known to be false. In a recent bankruptcy filing, “Gawker asked the bankruptcy court for permission to pay the five different law firms that are representing it in various lawsuits.” The company will reportedly be paying the firms at discounted rates.

  • August 5, 2016

    A British woman was stopped by airport security after a crew member on her flight home to the UK reported her to police for reading Malu Halasa’s award-winning book Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline. “Ironically, a part of my job is working on anti-radicalisation,” Faizah Shaheen told The Independent, “assessing vulnerable young people with mental health problems [who] are at risk of being radicalised.”

    In the latest n+1, Nikil Saval asks: “Why is the question facing the left always, Is it good for the left? What about everyone else?”

    “I am romantic about reading, not about carbon byproducts,” New Yorker writer and American Heiress author Jeffrey Toobin tells the Times, to explain his iPad habit. He also mentions that “musical rights to” his senior thesis on Samuel Adams “are still available.”

    Haruki Murakami. Photo: wakarimasita

    Haruki Murakami. Photo: wakarimasita

    Italian journalist Tommasso Debenedetti keeps spreading death rumors about still-living writers, this time targeting novelist Haruki Murakami. Murakami’s publishers confirmed yesterday that the 1Q84 author is alive and well, much like Cormac McCarthy, who was Debenedetti’s previous mark for a Twitter death hoax.

    Tronc—formerly Tribune Publishing—is splitting into two separate entities: troncM and troncX. M is for print media, while X denotes digital and stands for “exchange.”

    Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine are set to publish Stronger Together in September. The book will focus on policy.

  • August 4, 2016

    George R. R. Martin. Photo: Henry Söderlund

    George R. R. Martin. Photo: Henry Söderlund

    The Forbes list of 2016’s highest-paid writers notes that “the written word isn’t dead—although television and movie adaptations often help drive sales.” James Patterson, whose novel Zoo was adapted into a TV series that’s now in its second season, topped the list. Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney came in second, most likely thanks to the slew of movies made from his books. George R. R. Martin placed twelfth with $9.5 million, but Forbes worries that his slow writing pace and the end of the HBO version of Game of Thrones may keep him off the list next year: “His reign may be near its end.”

    New York Magazine’s book critic Christian Lorentzen has a dad who voted for Bernie in the primaries and will now vote for Trump. This conversion is the inspiration for the writer’s latest “Diary” on the DNC for the London Review of Books. Unable to convince the elder Lorentzen to “vote for the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, or not vote at all,” he reflects on why Clinton has been unable to win over Bernie Sanders supporters who refuse to vote for “the lesser evil.” 

    Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt intends to finish his late wife Michelle McNamara’s final book. A true-crime writer, McNamara was working on a book about “The Golden State Killer” before her sudden death last spring.

    Gabriel Sherman, who made headlines with his story of Roger Ailes’s harassment lawsuits and subsequent resignation from Fox, talks to the Washington Post about the “deep sources and dogged persistence” it took to break the story. Sherman, who was previously Ailes’s biographer, “doesn’t think for a minute that the story has run its course.”

    Novelist and activist Mahasweta Devi has died at 90. Devi was best known for her political fiction, including The Queen of Jhansi and Mother of 1084.

    Employees of the trade news site Law360 announced plans to unionize last month, but unlike VICE, Gawker, or Salon, they are facing intense backlash from their employer. The Huffington Post spoke with a number of unnamed employees, who say that pay is not necessarily the highest priority in their organizing effort: unfair non-compete clauses and “pressure to write uncritical articles about big law firms and their partners” were some of the problems they hope forming a union could address.

    Gossip columnist Liz Smith reflects on what it means when Donald Trump tries to blacklist you. After breaking the story of Donald and Ivanka’s divorce, Smith remembers, “He said he would buy the New York Daily News in order to fire me. It was the greatest thing. He made me world famous.”

  • August 3, 2016

    Colson Whitehead. Photo: Larry D. Moore

    Colson Whitehead. Photo: Larry D. Moore

    Colson Whitehead’s new novel, The Underground Railroad, was released yesterday, one month early, in a surprise move to coincide with the announcement of its inclusion in Oprah’s book club. For now, the book is only available in the Oprah-approved format. This weekend, the Times will feature a 16,000 word excerpt of the book, but only in print.

    The Times might be the next news outlet to find itself on the Trump media blacklist. After insinuating as much at a campaign event, the candidate sat down with Sean Hannity to call out the newspaper for being sub-literate: “They don’t know how to write good. … I call it ‘The Failing New York Times,’ because it won’t be in business for probably more than a few years.”

    VICE is becoming a template for digital publishing, at least when it comes to TV. Websites like Ozy, Vox, and BuzzFeed are looking to the HBO partner for inspiration. “‘It’s a lot of freaking work,’ said Chad Mumm, VP of Vox Entertainment, which is working on a show about prefabricated homes for the FYI network.” The publisher Atlas Obscura is also considering a TV spin off, while “building the ‘Nice Vice’” in the meantime. Founder David Plotz currently “travels to the headquarters in Brooklyn three days a week to commune with the company’s 19 employees, but he takes the slow train and stays with his in-laws in Queens.”

    Not everyone thinks VICE has the right idea. CNN president Jeff Zucker tells Variety, “I don’t think Vice and BuzzFeed are legitimate news organizations,” calling them “native advertising shops.” Zucker, who “has 11 TVs mounted on the wall” of his office and “displays a framed tweet by Donald Trump complimenting CNN,” went on to explain his decision to bring on former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as a commentator: “I think it’s really important to have voices on CNN who are supportive of the Republican nominee. It’s hard to find a lot of those.”

    Novelist Jay McInerney, whose new book Bright, Precious Days hit bookstores yesterday, talks to The Guardian about his struggle “to find a balance between his affection for his characters and his desire to satirize the woes of these affluent, liberal Manhattanites.” Adelle Waldman writes that “nobody has a more exquisite appreciation than McInerney of the morbid, hypervigilant sensitivity we tend to harbor about our place in the world, especially when we’re feeling down.”

    At the Strand tonight: WWBD? (What Would Buffy Do?)