• February 10, 2017

    The Trump administration is struggling to fill the role of communications director. Press Secretary Sean Spicer took over the role after Jason Miller, the communications director for the Trump campaign, backed out before inauguration. Steve Schmidt, a former member of the George W. Bush administration and John McCain’s campaign runner, talked to Politico about why the president is having trouble filling a “normally coveted” job. “The communications director job in the White House has always functioned as . . . building and maintaining public approval for the president’s policies,” he said. “When you look at the complete and total chaos emanating from the White House on a number of issues, it’s clear they have no strategic planning function.”

    Former New York Post sports writer Bart Hubbuch is suing the paper for wrongful termination after he was fired for an anti-Trump tweet on inauguration day. After a request by management, Hubbuch deleted the post that compared Trump’s inauguration to 9/11 and the Pearl Harbor attack, but was fired the next week. In its filing, the lawsuit notes that the paper itself often profits from articles and headlines that some have deemed offensive: “Not known for its sensitivity, the Post regularly exploits tragedy, violence and death to sell news. . . . Post readers don’t need, demand, or expect ‘safe spaces,’ or to be sheltered from controversial views.”

    After donations to ProPublica increased exponentially during and after the election, the nonprofit news organization is looking to add up to twenty-five journalists to its newsrooms in New York and Chicago.

    At the Washington Post, Carlos Lozada writes that “Donald Trump is making America read again.” Lozada looks to the numerous books that have found a renewed readership since the election, including Representative John Lewis’s memoir Walking With the Wind, dystopian fiction like George Orwell’s 1984, and J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. According to Lozada, this newly-formed “book club” will continue for at least the next four years. “Every feud, every outrage, every did-he-really-just-do-that episode propels a new literary discussion,” he writes.

    Javier Marias

    The Los Angeles Review of Books talks to Javier Marias about the new US president, growing up under Franco, and his recently-translated novel, Thus Bad Begins. Marias was a young adult when Franco died, and offers some advice to his American readers worried about their own political situation: “You can always survive bad times more than you think you can when they start.”

  • February 9, 2017

    Stephen Sondheim

    Stephen Sondheim has won the 2017 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award, the first lyricist to win the prize in its history. Meryl Streep will present the West Side Story composer with his award in April.

    Wall Street Journal editor in chief Gerry Baker will hold a newsroom-wide meeting, which will most likely be focused on the paper’s coverage of the Trump administration and its policies. Politico notes that “Baker has been hesitant to allow Journal reporters to characterize Trump’s false assertions as lies and has suggested that media ‘elites’ are out to get Trump.” In addition to budget cuts and staff departures, the hesitancy to cover the new administration accurately and critically has led to tension in the office: One editor told Politico that Baker “doesn’t have the support of [the] newsroom. I’ve never worked at a place where the editor in chief didn’t have that.”

    Citing the Daily Mail’s “reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication,”  editors at Wikipedia have voted to remove the paper from its list of “reliable sources.” Articles from Russia Today and Fox News are still acceptable.

    BuzzFeed talks to the team behind Merriam-Webster’s newly-political Twitter account, which has become a social media sensation after it began tweeting definitions of words and concepts that the current administration doesn’t quite seem to understand. “Anyone who spends their life sifting through how language is used also has to sift through history, and how words have been used at various points to harm, erase, or exclude,” said Kory Stamper, an associate editor at the dictionary. “Our job is to tease language out from spin, politicking, rhetoric, and apologetics, and tell the truth about what a word means.”

    At LitHub, Emily Temple writes that we should not send books to the White House in protest, as the “Bury the White House in Books” event plans to do. Instead of wasting novels on a president who sees no value in literature, “why not send a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale—or some other timely book—to a relative who voted for Trump, with a long, heartfelt note inside as to why you think they might enjoy reading it?” Temple writes. “They are much more likely to take you up on it than anyone in the administration.”

  • February 8, 2017

    Salman Rushdie

    Jonathan Cape has announced a new novel by Salman Rushdie that will cover the last eight years of US politics. The Golden House tells the story of an “American filmmaker whose involvement with a secretive, tragedy-haunted family teaches him how to become a man,” and will incorporate numerous recent political events and trends, including the inauguration of Barack Obama, the rise of the Tea Party, Gamergate, debates about identity politics, and “the insurgence of a ruthlessly ambitious, narcissistic, media-savvy villain sporting makeup and coloured hair.” The book will be released in September.

    Senator Elizabeth Warren will write a book about “how corporations and financial institutions have overpowered” the American middle class. This Fight is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America will be published by Henry Holt/Metropolitan in April.

    In response to the White House’s list of “undercovered” terrorist attacks around the world, the New York Times has a roundup of their coverage of each incident. Besides the fact that the list includes numerous highly-covered attacks, like the bombing of the Brussels airport and the truck attack in Nice, France, Max Fisher and Kitty Bennett write, “just as striking was what the list excluded: attacks targeting Muslims, the overwhelming majority of Islamist terrorism victims.” The administration’s list also failed to include attacks committed by non-Muslims. “By focusing on a significant but narrow slice of terrorism,” Fisher and Bennett write, the White House “risks feeding into perceptions that the administration is seeking to target Muslims with other policies.”

    The Times has hired Rebecca Blumenstein as deputy managing editor. Blumenstein worked for over twenty years as an editor and reporter at the Wall Street Journal. The Times is also looking for a full-time theater critic to replace Charles Isherwood, who announced his departure from the paper yesterday.

    Lydia Polgreen, the new editor of the Huffington Post, told CNN that she wants the website to reach out to “people who feel that the fundamental political and economic power arrangements are unfair,” which “includes a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump.” Through new hires and restructuring, Polgreen hopes to turn the website into a publication similar to the “classic tabloid that everybody from the janitor to the CEO would read.”

    In a radio interview with conservative talk show host Michael Medved, deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka said that the White House will not stop referring to negative articles about the administration as fake news until the media stops criticizing the president and his policies. “There is a monumental desire on behalf of the majority of the media . . . to attack a duly elected President in the second week of his term,” Gorka said. “Until the media understands how wrong that attitude is, and how it hurts their credibility, we are going to continue to say, ‘fake news.’”

  • February 7, 2017

    The Guardian and 4th Estate are looking for submissions for the BAME short story prize. The competition aims to highlight the work of black, Asian, and minority ethnic writers in the UK and Ireland. “It is not a shortage of talent and confidence among the UK’s BAME writers that is preventing their work from making it to our bookshelves,” Sian Cain writes.

    Ragnar Jónasson

    Crime novelist Ragnar Jónasson has signed a deal with Minotaur, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press. His first book in his new series will be published in June 2018.

    Michael Luo is taking over as the New Yorker’s website editor. Luo was an investigative reporter at the New York Times until he was hired by the New Yorker in October as the magazine’s investigative editor.

    Susan Sarandon, Nick Offerman, and Diane Kruger have signed on for parts in Butterfly in the Typewriter, a film about the story behind John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces. The movie is scheduled for release in 2018.

    In a speech to the U.S. Central Command yesterday, President Trump claimed that journalists are not reporting on terrorist attacks. Trump referred to previous attacks in Europe, and said that “in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.” Philip Bump explained that the lack of reporting on certain incidents is not because of ulterior motives, but rather the regular and necessary filtering of news. “If your home is burglarized, it may not make the cut,” Bump writes. “This probably isn’t because the Channel 5 news director has a vendetta against you; it’s that there are limited resources.”

    After referring to a fictitious terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway said that she misspoke. But newly released interviews from Cosmopolitan and TMZ show that Conway has referenced the “Bowling Green massacre” at least two other times. On January 29, she told TMZ that “there were two Iraqis who came here, got radicalized, joined ISIS, and then were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green attack on our brave soldiers.” Later that day, she told Cosmopolitan that the two Iraqi men “were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre of taking innocent soldiers’ lives away.”

    Protesters have found a new way to register their dissent with the White House: by sending piles of books. “Bury the White House in Books” hopes to make it clear to the president that the US is “a republic of letters rather than fear.” But the Huffington Post’s Claire Fallon cautions that it’s unlikely Trump will heed any of the lessons found in The Handmaid’s Tale or any of the other titles being sent. “No matter how many times we thoughtfully publish helpful, diverse reading lists for President Trump, and no matter how many volumes of serious presidential biographies are slyly slipped onto his nightstand by more intellectual advisors,” writes Fallon, “Trump almost definitely isn’t going to read any of them.”

    Tonight at Greenlight Bookstore’s new location in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, Vinson Cunningham talks to A.O. Scott about his book Better Living Through Criticism.

  • February 6, 2017

    The New Yorker and Vanity Fair have both decided to cancel their White House Correspondents’ Dinner events. In an email, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter reminded staff that the magazine has not attended the dinner in the past, and that “he planned to spend the weekend fishing in Connecticut instead.”

    A tech firm with ties to Russia has filed a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed for publishing a dossier of unconfirmed intelligence findings related to Donald Trump and his connections to Putin. The document alleged that XBT Holdings, a company owned by Aleksej Gubarev, had assisted the Kremlin in hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s computers.

    A stage adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 will come to Broadway this summer. Described as “willfully assaultive” by a New York Times theater critic during its run in London, the play will open on June 22 at the Hudson Theater.

    In the Times, sports writer Marc Tracy reflects on an encounter with Steve Bannon in an Atlanta airport after the election. Bannon was reading David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest, a “history of the strategic errors and human foibles” that led to US involvement in Vietnam. Though the book makes the case that highly educated generalists were to blame for many of the debacles of the war, Tracy wonders if Bannon understands that the message isn’t anti-intellectual. “If ‘The Best and the Brightest’ is a brief against the East Coast meritocracy, though, its proposed alternative is not pure ideology,” Tracy writes. “It is expertise.”

    Bharati Mukherjee

    Writer and professor Bharati Mukherjee died last week at the age of 76. The author of eight novels, four short-story collections, and numerous works of nonfiction, Mukherjee won the National Book Critics Award for Fiction for her 1988 book, The Middleman and Other Stories. Mukherjee was born in India in 1940 and came to United States to attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the early ’60s. In 2005, she described the writing approach she honed during this period: “I evolved a credo: Make the familiar exotic (Americans won’t recognize their country when I get finished with it) and make the exotic—the India of elephants and arranged marriages—familiar.” She used this strategy to great effect over the course of her career, including in Jasmine—perhaps her best-known novel—published in 1989. That year, she told BOMB magazine that she saw herself as an American writer, whose stories detail a side of the country that is often overlooked in literature: “I’m not writing like a Richard Ford or a John Updike, that’s not the only America. It has many pluralities. I’m writing about an American immigrant group who are undergoing many transformations within themselves. And who, by their very presence, are changing the country. America is not the America that, until recently, has come through in contemporary popular fiction.”

    Tonight at the 92nd Street Y, Rachel Cusk and Chris Bachelder read from their new novels.

  • February 3, 2017

    The Weekly Standard reports that the conservative, pseudonymous writer Publius Decius Mus, who advanced one of the few intellectual arguments in support of Trump during the 2016 election, is now a senior national-security official in the Trump administration. As Decius, Michael Anton wrote numerous articles for the Claremont Review of Books website insisting “that electing Trump and implementing Trumpism was the best and only way to stave off American decline—making a cerebral case to make America great again.” Anton had previously worked for the Bush administration in a similar security role and “unlike most of his colleagues, can readily quote Roman histories and Renaissance thinkers.”

    Colm Tóibín

    Novelist Colm Tóibín has been named chancellor of the University of Liverpool. The Brooklyn author is currently a humanities professor at Columbia University. In a statement, Tóibín emphasized the need to protect the livelihood of academics in the current political climate. “I think in the next few years the connections that universities make will be important,” Tóibín said, “and I hope to be involved in that and to use all my energy to help in any way.”

    Abrams has announced a photo book of images from the Women’s Marches that took place the day after the inauguration. Why I March: Images from the Women’s March Around the World will be released on February 21. Abrams president and CEO Michael Jacobs said the sped-up publication was in order “to commemorate and confirm the energy, hope, solidarity, and strength that millions of people displayed that day.”

    Viet Thanh Nguyen talks to Time about his most recent book, The Refugees. Nguyen highlighted the similarities between the wave of refugees that came to the US after the Vietnam War and the Syrian refugees who are now barred from the US under the Trump administration’s executive order. Nguyen said that he chose the title of the book to point out that the fear of refugees, now focused on Middle Eastern immigrants, is not a new phenomenon. “The majority of Americans did not want Vietnamese refugees in 1975, and yet at this point in time I think that’s been forgotten,” Nguyen said. “Instead Vietnamese Americans are often held up as examples of the positive aspects of immigration.”

    LitHub talks to director Raoul Peck about I Am Not Your Negro, his Oscar-nominated film about James Baldwin that opens in theaters today. Peck says that he is “a total product of Baldwin,” and that the author’s criticism helped shape his worldview. “For a young black man in the 1960s . . . there were not many things around to help you understand your world,” Peck said. “It could be frustrating to read, let’s say Faulkner, and you’re totally in the story, and then at one moment you realize the character that is the closest to you is maybe the fifth, the sixth, or the eighth character.”

  • February 2, 2017

    Hillary Clinton will write a book of personal essays, to be published by Simon & Schuster next fall. The currently-untitled book will include her thoughts on the 2016 election. In a statement, publisher Jonathan Karp said, “For the past 21 years, the Gallup survey has ranked Hillary Rodham Clinton as the most admired woman in the world, and there are at least 65 million people in the United States who agree. We think a lot of them are going to want to hear her stories.”

    Mohammed Tawfeeq

    CNN Money talks to Jeff Jobe, one of the first journalists to attend a White House press briefing via Skype. Jobe is the publisher of several weekly newspapers in South Central Kentucky, and a Trump supporter who has twice run for office himself  Jobe says that his work won’t be affected by his politics, and that his responsibility is to his readers, who he sees as being mislead by the mainstream media. Jobe said that Trump supporters are not the “hate mongers” that they are portrayed as. “We’re good people, we don’t want to hurt anyone,” he said. “This election has been described in a manner that is just unjust.”

    After being detained by Customs and Border Protection at the Atlanta airport on his way back to the US, journalist Mohammed Tawfeeq, a legal permanent resident of the US and the manager of CNN’s international desk, has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s immigration order. Tawfeeq is originally from Iraq and travels to the Middle East often as part of his work. CNN spokeswoman Bridget Leininger said that the lawsuit “is a basic request to clarify and assert his rights under the law.”

    NBC journalist Katy Tur talks to the Washington Post about her experience of being taunted by Trump on the campaign trail and the silver lining of such treatment. Despite harrassment by Trump supporters, Trump’s choice to single out Tur from the rest of the media made her “one of NBC’s most visible reporters, an almost daily presence on MSNBC and a semiregular on the ‘Today’ show, ‘NBC Nightly News’ and ‘Meet the Press,” and got her a book deal before the election was over. Tur said that she thinks Trump’s treatment might be his strange way of showing respect. “I think he can smell weakness and if you show him weakness, he exploits it and he doesn’t respect you,” she said. “If I had rolled over, I think he would have never mentioned my name again.”

    Tonight in Brooklyn, Christine Smallwood moderates a conversation for the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research between Rebecca Ariel Porte and Maureen McLane on how poetry can “speak to our current cultural moment—a moment riven with anxieties about politics, power, and identity.”

  • February 1, 2017

    Political reporter Olivia Nuzzi will become New York magazine’s first Washington correspondent. Nuzzi, who most recently covered Trump’s presidential campaign for the Daily Beast, talked to the Columbia Journalism Review about her new job covering “the psychodrama of the Beltway,” which she says makes her “equal parts excited and terrified.”

    Arundhati Roy

    Arundhati Roy talks about her upcoming  book, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, her first novel in twenty years. Roy says that she has spent the last ten years working on the book, and that the characters she has spent a decade with “have conspired to confound accepted categories and notions—including my own—of identity and gender, nationhood and patriotism, faith, family, motherhood, death—and love itself.” Roy’s book will be published by Knopf in June.

    Robert O’Neill, the Navy SEAL “who fired the shots that killed Osama bin Laden,” has announced plans for a memoir. The Operator will be published by Scribner in April.

    Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerry Baker has asked staff to avoid referring to the countries singled out by the Trump administration’s immigration ban as “majority Muslim countries,” a phrase he calls “very loaded.” Writers and editors have pushed back against Baker’s request, with one anonymous employee telling Politico that Baker’s decision “to go out of his way to whitewash this is unconscionable.”

    Poynter calls on newsroom leaders to clearly define rules for their reporters on what level of political participation is acceptable in the Trump era, when neutral observation can seem like compliance with the more questionable policies and positions of the administration. “Consider a Muslim journalist whose family may be impacted by the ban—can she join the airport demonstrations?” asks Katie Hawkins-Gaar. “Is it political to say that climate change exists? And what about the Trump voter who wants to correct the misconception that all journalists are liberal?” Former Marketplace reporter Lewis Wallace writes about being fired from his job after he wrote a personal blog post questioning the value of neutrality as a transgender journalist. “I believe journalism itself is under attack,” Wallace writes, “and in order to defend it, we need to know what we stand for and perhaps even consider activism as journalists on behalf of fairness, inclusivity, and free speech.”

    On Inauguration Day, Jacobin magazine, Verso Books, and Haymarket Books jointly hosted “The Anti-Inauguration,” an event in Washington DC featuring Naomi Klein, Jeremy Scahill, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Anand Gopal, and Owen Jones. A video of the gathering is available to watch on YouTube, and the speeches have been collected in a free e-book, The Anti-Inauguration: Building Resistance in the Trump Era.

  • January 31, 2017

    In response to the Trump administration’s hostility towards the press, Samantha Bee will be hosting an event on the same night as the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Proceeds from Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner will benefit the Committee to Protect Journalists. Although White House Correspondents’ Association president Jeff Mason told the Hollywood Reporter that the event will happen as planned, Bee told the publication that she suspects “it will either get called off or it will be the most sinister awkward thing you’ve ever seen.”

    Caitlyn Jenner will be co-writing her memoir with Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Buzz Bissinger, who also wrote the Vanity Fair cover story on Jenner’s transition. The Secrets of My Life will be published by Trapeze in April.

    After management voluntarily recognized an employee union last year, the Huffington Post ratified its first union contract yesterday. Changes include across-the-board raises, new minimum salaries, and severance pay. In a statement, the bargaining committee called the new contract an example of “what a newsroom can accomplish when it decides to come together and bargain collectively.”

    Three more journalists who were charged with felony rioting while covering Inauguration Day protests have had their charges dropped. RT America reporter Alexander Rubinstein, Story of America producer Jack Keller, and freelance journalist Matthew Hopard were facing prison sentences of up to ten years, along with fines of $25,000. Freelance journalists Shay Horse and Aaron Cantú still have charges pending.

    At the New York Times, Farhad Manjoo writes that social media is becoming a weapon of the resistance against Trump. Manjoo looks at the “instantaneous” protests that were organized after Trump’s executive order on immigration, and how the media—once Trump’s favorite propaganda machine—is now being used against him. “Throughout the campaign, the bigger a spectacle he created, the larger he loomed in the public consciousness,” Manjoo writes. “What has been remarkable during the last two weekends is how thoroughly Mr. Trump’s own media personage was blotted out by scenes of protesters.”

    Porochista Khakpour

    In the wake of Trump’s executive order, Porochista Khakpour reflects on coming to the US with her family from Iran as a child, her life as an academic, and the possibility of once more becoming a refugee. Khakpour writes of rumors that Trump’s next move will target naturalized citizens like her, and likens the fear to what she experienced after 9/11. Khakpour writes that she spent Friday evening “reading news articles, crying, and wondering: What is going to happen to this country, what will they do to my other country? You can be a refugee once, I’ve always thought, but how to be one twice?”

  • January 30, 2017

    The felony rioting case brought against Vocativ’s Evan Engel has been dropped. Engel was arrested while covering anti-Trump protests in Washington, DC, on Inauguration Day. In a statement, Engel said his “thoughts are with any other journalists who are facing charges for doing their jobs, as well as with journalists imprisoned around the world.”

    Julia Ioffe

    At The Atlantic, journalist Julia Ioffe writes about her family’s experience as Soviet refugees, describing what it is like to be the subject of debates and policy decisions made by strangers many miles away: “They don’t know you. They don’t know the days of your life that you have already lived, and the stuff of your mind and the strength in your hands. To them, you are an abstraction, colored by their fear and their hate, or by their heartrending idealism.”

    The Women’s Prize for Fiction, which has honored an outstanding English-language novel each year for twenty-two years, is looking for a new sponsor. The Irish drink company Baileys has funded the award for the past four years, but, according to the Prize’s website, the company is making way for a new backer because it now has a “need for marketing activities that work across different languages.” In an essay for The Pool, the Prize’s founder, Kate Mosse, frames the sponsorship search within the context of Donald Trump’s election and the recent worldwide women’s marches, writing, “A new sponsor for the WPF will help us take the Prize into a new era. Will help champion women’s stories in the days, weeks and years ahead when, frankly, who knows what might happen.”

    At the New York Times, Caitlin Dickerson looks at anti-refugee articles online, examining the ways in which they spread by preying on readers’ anxieties. Once found mainly on far-right websites, these articles are now beginning to change mainstream perception of refugees and immigrants, as untrue stories (as well as wildly exaggerated ones with a grain of truth) are shared widely. Brookings Institute fellow William Galston tells Dickerson that even if people don’t believe alarmist fake news, its presence on social media still changes the tone of the discussion about immigration: “I think . . . opinions are being intensified because the intensification of contrary sentiments is increasing polarization.”        

    In a profile of Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer, the Times recaps his first week, noting that he was “pilloried as a liar, hammered by journalists, mocked by Stephen Colbert, taunted by the freeze-dried ice cream brand Dippin’ Dots and held up as the poster child for an administration that can play fast and loose with the facts.” Even his boss was unhappy with him: Trump reportedly criticized Spicer’s first press conference, imploring him to wear better clothes and carry himself more confidently, because, as Spicer explains, “He was disappointed with how the overall news cycle was going.” Still, the press secretary appears undaunted, saying of his job:  “You’re not here to be someone’s buddy. You’re here to enact the president’s agenda. . . . And if you think it’s going to be anything bad, then this isn’t the job for you.”