• March 8, 2016

    The opening round of the Tournament of Books begins tomorrow.

    Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling that refused its appeal, Apple will now be forced to pay out $400 million to ebook buyers who were affected by its illegal price-fixing.

    There is a funeral mass today for Pat Conroy, bestselling author of The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, who died on Friday.

    Michael Bloomberg

    Michael Bloomberg

    Michael Bloomberg, in a Bloomberg column, has ruled out a run for President, for fear of aiding the candidacy of Ted Cruz or Donald Trump: “I have known Mr. Trump casually for many years, and we have always been on friendly terms. I even agreed to appear on ‘The Apprentice’—twice. But he has run the most divisive and demagogic presidential campaign I can remember, preying on people’s prejudices and fears.”

    Personal letters from a recently unsealed archive offer new insight into the life of the novelist Doris Lessing.

    Staff at Verso and New Left Review compiled a reading list for International Women’s Day that includes everyone from Angela Y. Davis to Virginie Despentes to Audre Lorde to Claude Cahun.

    And the first episode of a new podcast, Left/Liberal, features a discussion with Rebecca Traister and Sarah Leonard on feminism and the Democratic primaries.

  • March 7, 2016

    Roxane Gay

    Roxane Gay

    Bill McKibben, the author of Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet and the founder of the environmentalist organization 350.org, laments the lack of attention paid to last week’s news about global warming: “Thursday, while the nation debated the relative size of Republican genitalia, something truly awful happened. Across the northern hemisphere, the temperature, if only for a few hours, apparently crossed a line: it was more than two degrees Celsius above ‘normal’ for the first time in recorded history and likely for the first time in the course of human civilization.”

    Last week, Roxane Gay, the author of Bad Feminist, spoke at St. Louis University. Before the talk, the Jesuit university’s assistant vice president requested that she not discuss abortion. She promptly rewrote her speech—and made abortion rights one of its main topics.

    PEN America has launched the PEN Equity Project, which will seek to address “the lack of equity in publishing for writers and publishing professionals of color.”

    Following Nancy Reagan’s death this weekend, Wonkette counteracts some of the hagiographic remembrances by digging up some gossip about the first lady from Kitty Kelly’s “very unauthorized biography.”

    Horror writer Peter Straub names his six favorite books.

    Novelist and professor Marilynne Robinson makes an eloquent plea to “save our public universities.” “From the perspective of many today,” she writes, “the great public universities (and many of them are very great) are like beached vessels of unknown origin and intention, decked out preposterously with relics and treasures that are ripe for looting, insofar as they would find a market, or condemned to neglect and decay, insofar as their cash value is not obvious to the most stringent calculation.”

    Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter is reportedly looking into becoming a Broadway producer.

  • March 4, 2016

    Poet and professor Matthew Zapruder is taking over as poetry column editor for the New York Times magazine as of this week. He takes pleasure in the idea that a poem placed in the magazine can “follow up on, refract, amplify, reconfigure, the language of culture and news. . . . The poem gets a chance to exist in a place that is not isolated or rarified. It gets to be a part of life, and we get to read it that way, too.”

    Adam Johnson has won this year’s Story Prize for Fortune Smiles, the collection that also won him the National Book Award (Johnson is the first to win both prizes for the same book).

    Edmund White

    Edmund White

    A new book collects the thoughts of memoirists about memoir, including this delightful insight from Edmund White, quoted in the New York Times: “In general, I try to be very honest in my memoirs. If I lose the friendship, so what? . . . On the other hand I sometimes say the best way to keep a secret is to publish it, since no one reads. My books aren’t indexed. So anyone who wants to know what I wrote about him has to read the whole thing.”

    An only ever so slightly chilling look inside People magazine’s dedicated Snapchat operation.

    And in his Baffler column, Chris Lehmann marvels at Vice Media’s new cable network and some of the “mind-stretching Borgesian glory” to be found therein.

    Some researchers have helpfully both identified the graffiti artist Banksy and, in the process, raised a few questions about the techniques apparently used to unmask serial killers.

  • March 3, 2016

    Longlists have been announced for the Orwell Prize for Journalism, and for the much more enticingly named Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils.

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan’s archives, which are much more extensive than you might expect, have just been purchased by several institutions in Oklahoma. The New York Times writes: “Classics from the 1960s appear in coffee-stained fragments, their author still working out lines that generations of fans would come to know by heart. (‘You know something’s happening here but you,’ reads a scribbled early copy of ‘Ballad of a Thin Man,’ omitting ‘don’t know what it is’ and the song’s famous punch line: ‘Do you, Mister Jones?’) The range of hotel stationery suggests an obsessive self-editor in constant motion.”

    Technology site CNET has begun publishing new fiction monthly under the oddly chosen rubric Technically Literate.

    It’s to be assumed that, despite his withdrawal last time, Donald Trump will make an appearance at tonight’s Fox News Republican debate, and the New York Times has been speaking with the moderators beforehand: “I’m a fight fan, and when you watch a referee in a match, even if the fighters are tangled up, if they’ve each got a free arm and are still punching, the ref will let them keep fighting,” Chris Wallace said. He’s also quoted as saying: “I thought that if you could see someone acting like a president on the stage, you have better eyesight than I do. . . . Having said that, in the end, if the candidates want to act like damn fools, I’m not going to stop them.” Fox boss Rupert Murdoch, on the other hand, seems all ready to rally behind Trump.

    Another heartwarming image: Apparently a group of Republican legislators have their own book club, where they invite lobbyists and donors to discuss the merits of Ayn Rand and the like over lunch.

    Melissa Harris-Perry, “an African American scholar in an industry that has diversity problems [and] a host whose topical focus for four years on MSNBC has been race and gender,” has refused a parting deal with the network that would have prevented her talking about the problems there via a “non-disparagement clause.” “They wanted us to cover politics in the narrowest sense,” CNN Money quotes her as saying. “I told my team, we can’t allow our own show to go off air and then provide racial cover by having me continue to host the show so people see the little black girl up there.”

    Ahead of International Women’s Day next week, journalist Melissa Gira Grant lists her recommended reading on sex work and reproductive labor, including Kathi Weeks’s The Problem with Work and Samuel R. Delany’s Times Square Red, Times Square Blue.

    And you won’t want to miss these previously unpublished early works by Annie Dillard.

  • March 2, 2016

    The New Yorker’s long-serving managing editor, Silvia Killingsworth, will be taking over as editor of the Awl, and while she’s at it, will be in charge of a relaunch of the Hairpin.

    Nine writers, including Helen Garner, C. E. Morgan, and Hilton Als, received one of Yale’s Windham-Campbell Prizes this week: Always good, as the program director Michael Kelleher points out, to get a call “out of the blue” offering you $150,000.

    Young Jean Lee

    Young Jean Lee

    Among the winners is Branden Jacob-Jenkins—who said ”I only wish everyone alive could get a phone call like the one I just received”—who has also received one of this year’s PEN literary awards, as has the brilliant playwright Young Jean Lee. And Toni Morrison has been given PEN’s Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.

    After a false start a couple of years ago, Hachette Book Group is now to buy the publishing section of Perseus, increasing by half the number of new books it brings out every year.

    Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah’s beautiful essay on James Baldwin, taken from a forthcoming anthology, The Fire This Time, is up at BuzzFeed.

    The latest issue of Words Without Borders is out, featuring an intriguing range of Moroccan writing and some Uyghur poetry.

    After Super Tuesday, you may want to revisit John Oliver’s take on Donald Trump.

  • March 1, 2016

    Buzzfeed reports that the New York Times has off-the-record tape of Donald Trump, who hopes to consolidate his lead in the race for the GOP nomination today, suggesting that his views on immigration may be less rigid than those he has expressed in public. Rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are asking that the recording be released.

    Melissa Harris-Perry

    Melissa Harris-Perry

    And election season seems the worst time for cable news to be losing Melissa Harris-Perry, whose MSNBC show has mysteriously collapsed, or in her words, been “effectively and utterly silenced.”

    If you haven’t yet read Joshua Cohen’s piece on Bernie Sanders, Super Tuesday may be the day to do so.

    Staff at Gawker have negotiated the first union contract at a digital media company, securing minimum salary levels, a guaranteed annual pay rise, and, unusually, an agreement on editorial independence: A union rep said that “Any decision on editorial content has to be made by the editorial side – not by business decisions or advertisers.” Writer Hamilton Nolan expressed the hope that the contract would serve as an example to “some of the other places in the industry that screw their writers a lot worse than we do.”

    And in other cheering news, a report on feline fiction and its controversies.

  • February 29, 2016

    Seamus Heaney

    Seamus Heaney

    Donald Trump, who feels that he has been mistreated by the media, says that if he becomes president, he will weaken First Amendment protections so that it will be easier to sue journalists for libel.

    Douglas Wolk has announced that he’s working on a book about having read 25,000 superhero comics, which will be edited by Ed Park and published by Penguin Press.

    This week at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, author Alexander Chee will discuss Max Ophuls’s lavish 1953 movie The Earrings of Madame de… and sign copies of his new novel, The Queen of the Night, which, like Ophuls’s film, is set in Belle Epoque Paris. “The narrative structure of the story—the pair of earrings that move with their own magical life through to the end—has an excellent, fable-like simplicity, and became a model for the eventual structure of The Queen of the Night,” Chee writes.

    At The Awl, Eva Jurczyk explains why she has decided, from here on out, to review only books by women. “Male writers don’t receive critical attention because they are good; they get coverage in the New York Review of Books because they are men,” she writes. “And women’s books should be talked about not because they are literary geniuses and men are witless scribes, but because they are creating art from the point of view of fifty percent of the citizens of our planet.”

    The late poet Seamus Heaney’s final translation, Aeneid Book VI, will be published in March.

    Novelist Darin Strauss is dismayed by the ways that some politicians are currently discussing the first Gulf War, which ended twenty-five years ago. Ted Cruz and John Kasich have held up the first Gulf War as an unmitigated victory, and perhaps a model for how the US should confront ISIS. Donald Trump and Michael Dukakis have also praised the way that President George Bush handled the war. “Yes, of course: a victory,” Strauss notes. “But of what kind?” He adds: “Our having waged that war is precisely what first inflamed the region’s zealots against us.”

  • February 26, 2016

    Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has announced that he has sold the New Republic to Win McCormack, the publisher and EIC of the literary magazine Tin House. McCormack has named Hamilton Fish, the publisher of the Washington Spectator (and the former publisher of The Nation), to be TNR’s new publisher and editorial director.

  • Gloria Steinem

    Gloria Steinem

    Land’s End has issued an apology for including excerpts from an interview with Gloria Steinem in its spring catalogue. “We understand that some of our customers were offended by the inclusion of an interview in a recent catalog with Gloria Steinem on her quest for women’s equality. We thought it was a good idea and we heard from our customers that, for different reasons, it wasn’t. For that, we sincerely apologize.” As Jezebel points out, the apology was issued shortly after anti-abortion activists flooded the Land’s End Facebook page with angry comments.

    Time magazine’s list of the women authors whose books are most read (or assigned, at least) in college courses was disturbing for at least two reasons: First, it ranks Barbara Bush at number 19 (just below Susan Sontag, and above writers including Hannah Arendt, bell hooks, and Edith Wharton); second, the list included Evelyn Waugh.

    This week, a number of fiction writers have weighed in on the Democratic presidential campaigns. At the New Republic, novelist Joshua Cohen examines, with critical insight and historical context, Bernie Sanders’s speeches, his relationship to Judaism, his references to Dante, and more. Meanwhile, in a contribution to Buzzfeed’s ongoing series about Hillary Clinton, Lynne Tillman expresses her support of Clinton in an eloquent and wide-ranging essay about, among other things, the art of writing, trust, disagreement, reason, and why being a “woman with a past” is different from being a “man with a past.”

    The Village Voice, which recently has been adding to its editorial staff, has hired Bilge Ebiri to write about film. Also, Genius has hired former Gawker features editor Leah Finnegan to manage its News Genius site, a community of Genius users who annotate news articles and other web pages.”

    Yesterday morning, Al Jazeera America, which is about to close its doors, posted an article titled “Six Hot Media Startups to Watch in 2016.” The piece, clearly satirical in nature (Al Jazeera itself was one of the six startups listed), was soon taken down, and replaced by an editor’s note: “Al Jazeera America has removed the satirical piece originally posted on this link, which included commentary on our company that we believe was not appropriate given its imminent closure.” The “author,” “Professor Jeff Jarvis” (a pseudonym based on a parodic Twitter account), responded: “We have self-driving cars. Will we now have self-censoring global news outlets?” Gawker has posted a link to the archived article.

  • February 25, 2016

    The new miniseries about the O. J. Simpson trial has provided an opportunity to look back at some of the bestsellers that emerged following the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Vulture revisits the lowest of the lowlights in Faye Resnick’s Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted, while prosecutor Marcia Clark (herself now a novelist) says Jeffrey Toobin’s American Crime Story, on which the TV series is based, “has glaring inaccuracies.” According to Clark: “Toobin got a lot wrong because he’s not behind the scenes. He’s not there. And so he has third-party sources he talks to that don’t care about getting it right, or deliberately lie.”

    After a long financial struggle, St. Mark’s Bookshop, the legendary independent East Village store, is closing.

    Tony Tulathimutte

    Tony Tulathimutte

    Brooklyn magazine has a round-up on the state of diversity in publishing, with statements from fifty people from the literary world. Novelist Tony Tulathimutte says, “ Even when you get to write about your own experience of being a minority in America—you know, even that can be turned against you. Are you going to be used later on as leverage against an accusation of racism? Will you then be seen as a collaborator? In most cases the answer is yes.”

    Tonight at the Strand in Manhattan, novelists John Wray and Colson Whitehead will discuss Wray’s new book, The Lost Time Accidents.

    President Obama has nominated Dr. Carla Hayden to be the United States’ fourteenth Librarian of Congress. The Librarian of Congress is in charge of caring for, and making available, the library’s 162 million items. In Hayden’s words, the Librarian is also responsible for making sure “people realize that they have this treasure right here in Washington, DC.” Obama cites Hayden’s work “revitalizing Baltimore’s struggling library system,” and points out that her “understanding of the pivotal role that emerging technologies play in libraries will be essential in leading the Library of Congress as it continues to modernize its infrastructure and promote open access and full participation in today’s digital world.” If confirmed by the Senate, Hayden will be the first woman and the first African American to hold the position.