• March 3, 2017

    At The Atlantic, Adrienne LaFrance explores the timing of the contemporary news cycle, asking, “Why Do the Big Stories Keep Breaking at Night?”

    Tina Brown

    A book based on the diaries Tina Brown kept during her eight years as editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair will be published in November. Brown, who was head of the magazine from 1984 to 1992, says that when she revisited the journals, she “rediscovered how madcap those days were—how chancy, how new, how supercharged.” Henry Holt publisher Stephen Rubin assures readers that the book will have plenty of juicy gossip, promising that Brown will “spill some dirt on some of the flamboyant explosions around her, many of which she ignited herself. This will be a tell-all for the centuries.”

    A lawsuit stemming from BuzzFeed’s publication of the Steele dossier, the unverified document alleging ties between Donald Trump and the Russian government, has been moved to federal court. The suit claims that BuzzFeed libeled Aleksej Gubarev, a tech executive whose name appeared in the document (and which BuzzFeed redacted and later apologized for including).

    At Page-Turner, George Saunders considers the work of Grace Paley, the late author and activist, whose collected writings will be published next month. When you are reading Paley, Saunders writes, “A world is appearing before you that is richer and stranger than you could possibly have imagined, and that world gains rooms and vistas and complications with every phrase. What you are experiencing is intimate contact with an extraordinary intelligence, which causes the pleasant sensation of one’s personality receding and being replaced by the writer’s consciousness.”

    At the New York Times, Ta Nehisi-Coates talks about his Marvel Comics series, “Black Panther,” and the way that politics has always shaped comics: “When you take a book like Spider-Man or Daredevil and the big thing is crime fighting, I don’t think that’s distant from the time when those characters were created. During that period, we had this rising crime, and the city was seen a certain way in a way that Manhattan is not seen today. Even the decision to create Black Panther: It was not an apolitical decision to have this black character in Africa, in this advanced nation, and have him be highly intelligent. All of these were political decisions.”

  • March 2, 2017

    The Evergreen Review has been reborn as an online publication. The legendary magazine, which was started in 1957 by Barney Rosset and folded in 1973, published works by the likes of Samuel Beckett, William S. Burroughs, Susan Sontag and many other notable contributors. The new version is headed by editor-in-chief Dale Peck and published by John Oakes of OR Books. Peck says he plans to make the revived magazine “an international forum for un-sayable things.”

    ABC News president James Goldston has reacted to a petition signed by more than two-hundred ABC staffers, calling on the network to boycott White House press conferences if any outlets are barred from attending: “We’ve expressed our concerns to the White House that it operates in a way that’s open, transparent and fair. . . . And we will continue to stand with our colleagues who cover the White House and to protest when any government official fails to live up to those standards.”

    Katie Kitamura. Photo: Sophie Fiennes.

    Tonight at Greenlight Books in Brooklyn, Katie Kitamura discusses her new novel, A Separation, with Rivka Galchen.

    At the Rumpus, Lauren Elkin talks about her new book, Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London. Describing her subject, Elkin says, “Flânerie is always political, but the flâneuse is more aware of this. She has to be. . . . If you’re born into the center of the culture you can fetishize the margins, but if you’re born on the margins you have to do what you can to get along.”

    Yesterday would have been Robert Lowell’s one-hundredth birthday. At The Guardian, Max Liu makes the case for the poet’s continued importance: “It’s not always easy to feel sympathy for an artist with a trust fund and whose family have their own graveyard. But Lowell knew he was privileged, and the beauty and specificity with which he describes his world creates space for the reader to reflect on their own experience.”  


  • March 1, 2017

    Michelle and Barack Obama

    Barack and Michelle Obama have sold the world rights to their forthcoming books to Penguin Random House. The deal was made after an intense bidding war in which offers from Penguin, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster reportedly went over $60 million, with the times reporting that the number “stretched well into eight figures.” Although the amount has yet to be confirmed, it will likely be a historic amount for memoirs from a president and first lady—Bill and Hillary Clinton’s post-presidency books sold for a combined $18 million. The Times notes that President Obama’s memoir “could provide a chance to reframe and highlight the former president’s legacy, at a moment when a new Republican administration is making an effort to dismantle some of his signature legislation.”

    Ursula K. Le Guin, Junot Diaz, and Ann Patchett were among fourteen new members inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters this week. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Zadie Smith were added as honorary members. The official induction ceremony will be held in May.

    BuzzFeed investigates how “hyperpartisan political news gets made.” After looking at nearly identical articles on Kellyanne Conway’s alleged TV ban from websites Liberal Society and Conservative 101—which are owned by the same parent company—Craig Silverman concludes that “all it takes to turn a liberal partisan story into a conservative one is to literally change a few words.”

    At Der Spiegel Veit Medick profiles Alex Jones, the Infowars host and conspiracy theorist who claims to talk regularly on the phone with Trump. Among other things, Jones believes that gay marriage is a conspiracy “to get rid of God,” and that “the government possesses weather weapons it can use to create artificial tornadoes.” According to Medick, “there is no subject on which Jones does not have his own version of the truth to offer, one supported by no facts whatsoever.”

    CNN has confirmed that they will attend this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The news organization will bring journalism students as their guests instead of celebrities. In a statement, CNN said, “We feel there is no better way to underscore our commitment to the health and longevity of a free press than to celebrate its future.”

    Tonight at Symphony Space, authors and actors pay tribute to Clarice Lispector.

  • February 28, 2017

    August Wilson

    Former Boston Globe theater critic Patti Hartigan has signed on to write a biography of August Wilson. Hartigan talked to the New York Times about the difficulty of capturing all aspects of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright in a single book. “I want it to be a legacy biography and a literary biography,” Hartigan said. “I want it to show him as a human being and an artist. But I don’t have 2,000 pages.” The tentatively-titled August Wilson: The Kiln in Which He Was Fired will be published in 2019 by 37 INK, an imprint of Atria Books.

    The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, whose work lead to the publishing of the Panama Papers, has chosen to separate from its parent organization, the Center for Public Integrity. The decision was motivated by looming staff cuts ordered by CPI. “Our team had achieved what had never been achieved before,” said ICIJ director Gerard Ryle. “And here I was, facing the prospect of having to lay off journalists that were the heroes of this story.” The group is currently gathering funding from a variety of sources.

    The Times travels to Kiev to report on StopFake, the Ukrainian news program where “everything is a lie, from start to finish.” The program has spent the past three years debunking fake news stories being spread by the Russian government, such as false reports of ISIS training camps opening in the country or Russian-speaking children being crucified. In that time, the show’s “headlines have declared what did not happen and what was not said, and the heroism or villainy of people who never existed.”

    At the Paris Review blog, Albert Mobilio surveys an exhibition of poet and composer Jackson Mac Low’s art at the Drawing Center in New York. “Mac Low—whose texts were often meant to be performed and, truly, were best comprehended in that manner—has staged the words on these ‘pages’ as carefully as a director blocks a complex scene,” Mobilio writes.

    Tonight at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, Lauren Elkin celebrates the release of her new book, Flâneuse.

  • February 27, 2017

    The New York Public Library has announced the finalists for this year’s Helen Bernstein Book Award, which honors journalistic works of nonfiction. Nominees include Gary Younge’s Another Day in the Death of America, Jane Mayer’s Dark Money, and Charlotte McDonald-Gibson’s Cast Away. The winner will be announced in May.

    Walter Mosley will release a new novel with Mullholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown. Down the River Unto the Sea follows a Brooklyn private investigator as he investigates “the case of a Black civil rights activist convicted of murdering two city policemen.” The book will be published in February 2018.

    Eileen Myles

    Eileen Myles talks to The Rumpus about her new poetry record, open mic nights, and feminism. Myles discusses the “corralling” that happens to women writers when they are interviewed about their work. “Men are allowed to carry on,” she says, “and women are always asked how they carry on as women.”

    Deadline Hollywood reports that fifty years after it was first published, the film rights to Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has A Cold” have been optioned by Sinatra’s daughters, Nancy and Tina. The siblings plan to have Talese and Nick Pileggi write the screenplay.

    On Saturday, President Trump tweeted that, unlike every president in the last thirty years, he will not be attending the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The news came one day after Bloomberg decided to cancel their afterparty, an event that their usual co-host, Vanity Fair, had already opted out of earlier this year. BuzzFeed reports that CNN is currently debating whether or not to attend the dinner.

    At the New Yorker, Evan Osnos looks at past presidents’ relationships with the press and compares it to our current commander-in-chief’s war against the media. After the president excluded CNN, the New York Times, and other outlets from a press gaggle on Friday afternoon, it Trump’s treatment of the press might be the most extreme of any other president. Even though some have gone to great lengths to avoid the media—Teddy Roosevelt once had a tumor removed on a friend’s yacht in order to keep the news quiet—Osnos writes that “almost every President has adopted a fruitful, if tense, mutual dependence with the press. Each needs something from the other, and both sides know it.”

    Tonight at the Brooklyn Public Library, Finks author Joel Whitney and filmmaker Immy Humes discuss “the notable publishers and authors whose reputations were tarnished” after working with the CIA.

  • February 24, 2017

    Clive James

    Poet and critic Clive James will publish a sequel to his 2015 short-poem collection, Sentenced to Life. Written after a diagnosis of leukemia, his first book was a reflection on death. But James says that his upcoming book, Injury Time, will be much more upbeat. “When I wrote Sentenced to Life, everyone thought I was dying,” he told The Guardian. “But the new drugs are working and the danger now is that I’ll bore everyone to death.” Injury Time will be published by Picador in May.

    Brooklyn Magazine talks to Roxane Gay about success, Twitter, and pulling her book from Simon & Schuster. Gay said that while it “sucks to pay back the advance” for her cancelled book, How to Be Heard, she has since received over twenty offers on the manuscript.

    LitHub offers a literary guide to the Oscars, which will air this Sunday. Over half the nominees for Best Picture this year are based on novels, and Raoul Peck’s documentary on James Baldwin is up for Best Documentary.

    For the first time in a decade, the New York Times has bought TV advertising time in order to launch a marketing campaign “centered around the Times’ pursuit of ‘The Truth.’” The thirty-second ad will run during Sunday’s Academy Awards broadcast.

    Former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta is joining the Washington Post’s Opinions section as a columnist. In a press release, the paper said that Podesta “will provide commentary and analysis on the intersection of politics and policy, the Trump administration and the future of the Democratic Party.” The Post has also hired former Wall Street Journal reporter Devlin Barrett to cover law enforcement and national security.

    USA Today is the most recent news outlet to offer a secure website for government whistleblowers. The newspaper decided to create the new system after President Trump said he planned to investigate recent leaks from his administration. “Investigative reporting is core to our mission,” said Chief Content Officer Joanne Lipman. “This tool will improve our ability to connect sources and journalists to better hold public officials and civic institutions accountable.”

    In the Times’s “By the Book” column, Chelsea Clinton said that she doesn’t have a specific book that she recommends for the president—she just recommends he read any book at all. “In one of Pérez-Reverte’s Captain Alatriste novels,” she remembered, “one of the characters has a maxim: ‘Never trust a man who reads only one book.’”

  • February 23, 2017

    Helen Oyeyemi. Photo: Tom Pilston

    PEN America has announced most of their 2017 Literary Award winners. Helen Oyeyemi’s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours won the Open Book Award, and Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City won for nonfiction. Winners of the other prizes will be announced at the end of March.

    The Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalists were announced yesterday. Nominees include Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, Emma Cline’s The Girls, Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs To You, and Frances Wilson’s Guilty Thing.

    The Daily Beast has hired conservative journalist Lachlan Markay as White House reporter. Markay was most recently a writer at the Washington Free Beacon, and will focus on “Trump’s intermingling of business and political interests” in his new job.

    CNN reports that Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway has been kept away from cameras for the last week after giving false information about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s resignation. Conway denied that the White House was keeping her from television appearances. “I’ve been invited on shows every day,” she said. “I’m trying to focus on other pieces of my portfolio.” White House officials have since denied the report, saying that Conway has been “deeply involved with the joint session speech this week taking up a lot of her time.”

    At The Intercept, Sam Biddle investigates the relationship between Peter Thiel’s company, Palantir, and the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. Biddle writes that although Thiel only became a mainstream political figure after the last election, his company “has worked for years to boost the global dragnet of the NSA and its international partners, and was in fact co-created with American spies.”

    The Russian Foreign Ministry has launched a website to combat fake news stories that they claim are being spread by Western media. Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova noted that the website won’t be able to post every instance of fake news, because then they would “have to upload 90% of the internet.” The first round of articles, including a Bloomberg story about Russian hackers possibly interfering with the French election and a New York Times piece on a secretly-launched Russian cruise missile, are accompanied not by a breakdown of false information in each piece, but by one line: “This article puts forward information that does not correspond to reality.”

  • February 22, 2017

    More than sixty writers and artists have signed an open letter from PEN America to President Trump denouncing his executive order on immigration. Signatories include Zadie Smith, Philip Roth, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, among others. “Not only will such a policy prevent great artists from performing,” the letter states, “but it will constrict the interchange of important ideas, isolating the U.S. politically and culturally.” Most of the writers and artists who signed the letter are less than hopeful that it will have any effect on the president. Novelist Jeffrey Eugenides compared the letter to “shouting into a void.” New Yorker staff writer George Packer said that he doesn’t expect high-level Trump officials to pay attention, “but perhaps it will give heart to officials lower down, and to foreigners who wonder if America is losing what makes it great.”

    Milo Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart yesterday. At a press conference, Yiannopoulos refuted claims that he endorsed pedophelia, but said that it “would be wrong to allow my poor choice of words to detract from my colleagues’ important reporting.” Yiannopoulos said he still plans to release Dangerous with another publisher and is working on an independent media venture of his own. BuzzFeed has collected writers’ reactions to the news, including Roxane Gay, who pointed out that Simon & Schuster don’t deserve praise for dropping Yiannopoulos’s book. “They were fine with his racist and xenophobic and sexist ideologies,” Gay writes. “A great many people were perfectly comfortable with the targets of Milo’s hateful attention until that attention hit too close to home.” At Entertainment Weekly, James Hibberd compares Dangerous to other controversial books—like O.J. Simpson’s If I Did It and Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho—that were seen as “a potential bestseller that’s also considered untouchable.” Polis Books publisher Jason Pinter said, “Never say never—I’d be shocked if the book doesn’t come out one way or another in the next six months,” but also noted that he, “for the record, is not interested.”

    Tom Hanks

    Tom Hanks will publish a book of seventeen short stories, “each having something to do with a different typewriter.” The actor’s first collection, Uncommon Type: Some Stories, will be published by Knopf next October.  

    Room author Emma Donoghue is writing a children’s book. The Lotterys Plus One follows a lottery-winning family and will be released in March.

    The New York Times T Magazine takes a look at Bernard-Henri Levy’s house, where he writes most of his books by hand. Levy says that besides his books, he has few precious possessions. The only object that merits note is a medal awarded to him by Alija Izetbegovic, president of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 1993. “It’s the only medal I’ve ever accepted from a state government, including my own, probably because it’s given to so few people,” Levy said. “And because I thought I really deserved it.”

    Tonight at the Brooklyn Public Library, Andy Tepper talks to Peter Kimani and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o about their latest books.

  • February 21, 2017

    After outrage last weekend over a recent video showing Milo Yiannopoulos speaking positively about pedophelia, the Breitbart editor’s book with Simon & Schuster imprint Threshold was cancelled. Yiannopoulos had already pushed the release date to June so that he could include a chapter on the outrage his book deal generated. In a short statement, the company wrote, “After careful consideration, Simon & Schuster and its Threshold Editions imprint have cancelled publication of Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos.”

    In addition to his cancelled book, Yiannopoulos’s comments might also have put him on the outs with Breitbart. Washingtonian reports that numerous employees are preparing to leave if Yiannopoulos is not fired. “The fact of the matter is that there’s been so many things that have been objectionable about Milo over the last couple of years,” said one anonymous editor. “This is something far more sinister.”  

    Jim Rutenberg profiles Alex Jones and his conspiracy website, Infowars. Rutenberg writes that many of President Trump’s talking points—the evils of mainstream media, voter fraud, and ignored terrorist attacks—come directly from Jones and his videos. Most recently, Jones has been arguing that Michael Flynn’s resignation is part of a “counter coup” from the CIA that wants to oust Trump. “If Watergate had broken in this media environment,” Rutenberg writes, “would President Richard Nixon have had to resign? Would enough people have believed it?”

    At the Washington Post, Paul Farhi wonders if the White House’s refusal to answer press inquiries before deadline is “indifference of a strategy to discredit journalists.” Margaret Sullivan examines whether Trump will use the Espionage Act to force journalists to reveal the identities of administration whistleblowers. Sullivan reminds us that the First Amendment doesn’t cover everything, and that Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to answer questions about what he would do if a reporter was subpoenaed. “When it comes to the so-called ‘reporter’s privilege,’ case law is notoriously shaky,” she writes, “and Justice Department guidelines enacted in recent years are well-intentioned but toothless.”

    Liane Moriarty. Photo: Nic Walker

    The Guardian talks to Liane Moriarty, whose 2014 novel Big Little Lies was recently adapted into an HBO miniseries. Moriarty says that she has only recently become widely-read in her home country of Australia; before that, the majority of her readers were in the US. “Some Australian readers get cranky,” Moriarty said. “They say, ‘We knew her from the beginning’—but I sold well in America first, for sure.”

    In honor of the Mall of America’s twenty-fifth anniversary, the shopping center is offering a five-day writing residency. In addition to a $2,500 honorarium and a hotel stay, the winner will “spend five days deeply immersed in the Mall atmosphere while writing on-the-fly impressions in their own words.”

    Tonight at McNally Jackson in New York, Mary Gaitskill talks to Cara Hoffman about her new novel, Running.

  • February 20, 2017

    Neil Gaiman announced that he is currently working on a sequel to his novel, Neverwhere, twenty years after it was first published. Gaiman said that Neverwhere “was this glorious vehicle where I could talk about huge serious things and have a ridiculous amount of fun on the way.” Now, he says that his work with refugees and observations of the world around him made him feel “that it actually was time to do something.” The sequel, The Seven Sisters, does not have a confirmed release date.

    Neil Gaiman

    The New York Times reports that Michael Dubke has been hired as the new White House communications director. Dubke is the co-founder of the public affairs firm Black Rock Group and has long worked as a Republican strategist. Maggie Haberman writes that “Mr. Dubke was one of the few people who was interested in the job who did not somehow disqualify himself during the campaign or the transition with deep public criticism of Mr. Trump.”

    The Times profiles Jake Turx, the Jewish reporter who was shouted down by Trump at his press conference last week for asking a question about the increase in antisemitism in the US. The paper describes him as “a singular presence in the briefing room: a young Hasidic Jew with side curls tucked behind his ears and a skullcap embroidered with his Twitter handle.” Turx was shocked by Trump’s reaction to his question, which he had padded with many qualifications that he did not believe Trump himself was antisemitic. In a phone interview, Turx said last Thursday “was a day I wish we could have done over.”

    At The Atlantic, Adrienne LaFrance writes that Facebook’s plans to combat fake news and improve media literacy is actually “an expansion of Facebook’s existing threat to the news industry.” LaFrance points out that by asking Facebook users to help train the site’s algorithms and artificial intelligence, Mark Zuckerberg’s is putting the job of editing and curation on readers, rather than employing editors to do the work. “If journalism is an indispensable component of the global community Zuckerberg is trying to build,” she writes, “he must also realize that what he’s building is a grave threat to journalism.”

    BuzzFeed announced a new feature on Friday that will help readers escape their social media echo chambers. The website’s new feature, “Outside Your Bubble,” will appear at the end of popular articles and show curated posts from other platforms. “We’re all living in filter bubbles, on social media in particular,” BuzzFeed editor in chief Ben Smith told Bloomberg in an interview. “Anybody who works in news has spent the last year watching how social media affects people’s views of the world and can close you off to dissenting views.”