• July 11, 2016

    Last year the Washington Post began Fatal Force, a database that provides information about American civilians who have been killed by police, providing, when the information is available, the victims’ gender, race, and age. As of July 11, 512 deaths have been recorded. In about 40 percent of the cases, Fatal Force also identifies the officers who killed. The Guardian is maintaining a similar database devoted to Americans killed by police; its list puts the number of deaths at 571.

    Claudia Rankine—whose award-winning book Citizen: An American Lyric pointedly meditated on racism in America and violence against people of color such as Michael Brown in Ferguson—spoke to NPR in the wake of the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Asked if she will write about this, she responds: “I might. You know, I don’t know. But the thing that struck me deeply was that child in the back seat who said, It’s OK, I’m right here with you, to her mother when the shooting occurred in the car. And why a policeman would send a bullet in a car with a 4-year-old child, I’m not sure, when no one was firing at him. But that child—that black child – now has to behave and perform like an adult and negotiate a trauma for the rest of her life.”

    Brooklyn Magazine has published an article about Emily Books, the excellent literary project run by Emily Gould and Ruth Curry, which since its founding in 2011 has showcased a number of innovative titles by women including Eileen Myles, Renata Adler, Heather Lewis, and Paula Bomer. Emily Books has become a publisher, too, having recently teamed up with Coffee House Press to release Problems, the debut novel by Jade Sharma. The imprint’s second title, Chloe Caldwell’s essay collection I’ll Tell You in Person, is due out in the Fall. Says Gould: “It’s starting to feel like we’re at this really exciting moment, where there’s this new cultural openness to radical honesty [and] mostly female subjectivity.”

    Sidney Schanberg

    Sidney Schanberg

    Journalist Sydney H. Schanberg, whose coverage of Cambodia’s fall to the Khmer Rouge and the genocide that followed earned him a Pulitzer Prize, died on Saturday. He was eighty-two. In 1975, when Pol Pot’s guerrillas were close to taking over Phnom Penh, Schanberg’s editors at the New York Times urged him to leave the country, but the reporter, along with the photojournalist Dith Pran, stayed put, were captured, and almost killed. He was “a risk-taking adventurer who distrusted officials, relied on himself in a war zone and wrote vividly of political and military tyrants and of the suffering and death of their victims with the passion of an eyewitness to history,” says the Times obituary. Schanberg’s war correspondence became the inspiration for the film The Killing Fields, and was later collected in the book Beyond the Killing Fields.

    Gabriel Sherman—the author of The Loudest Voice in the Room, a biography of Fox News founder Roger Ailes—writes that Ailes, who has shown a “remarkable talent for self preservation,” may finally be mired in a career-ending scandal that even he cannot evade. Following Gretchen Carlson’s sexual-discrimination suit against Ailes, 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, released a statement that it was taking Carlson’s accusations “seriously.” Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch and his sons have decided to bring in an outside lawyer to investigate.

    At the Paris Review, Charles Curkin explains his impatience with people who can’t handle spoilers. “Knowing the twist should give us comfort,” he writes. “It promotes greater appreciation in the midst of discovery—and the best things in life will excite whether you know what’s going to happen or not. It’s the form that draws and leaves the indelible impression.”

  • July 8, 2016

    “There has been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement,” President Obama told reporters this morning. Last night, protests over the shootings of two black men by the police erupted into violence in Dallas, where a gunman carried out a sniper attack on a dozen police officers, five of whom died. “The shootings, only a few blocks from Dealey Plaza, where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, transformed an emotional but peaceful rally into a scene of carnage and chaos, and they injected a volatile new dimension into the anguished debate over racial disparities in American criminal justice,” reports the New York Times. Protests flared across the nation in response to the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. In Baton Rouge, LA, Sterling was shot dead by police after they wrestled him to the ground outside a convenience store. Outside of St. Paul, MN, Castile was shot four times at point-blank range during a traffic stop and died soon afterward. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said he was appalled by Castile’s homicide, and stated that it would not have happened had Castile been white. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, was taken into custody with her four-year-old daughter, who had been sitting in the back seat of the car when the shooting occurred. Narrating a video of the incident she was streaming to Facebook Live, Reynolds remains steady, responding politely to the officer’s panicked demand that she keep her hands where they are. “I will, sir,” she tells him. “No worries. I will.” Reynolds told reporters she kept calm on behalf of her daughter. “My daughter told me stay strong, and that’s what I had to do. My daughter told me, ‘Don’t cry,’ and that’s what I had to do.” Reynolds’s post mysteriously disappeared from her profile as it was spreading virally across the Internet, an absence Facebook called a “technical glitch”; Reynolds said it was the police who deleted it after confiscating her phone. “My heart goes out to the Castile family and all the other families who have experienced this kind of tragedy. My thoughts are also with all members of the Facebook community who are deeply troubled by these events,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post on Facebook.

    “I had come from a majority-black country in which no one was wary of me because of my skin color,” writes Garnette Cadogan on LitHub, describing his shock at the racism he encountered when he moved to New Orleans from Kingston, Jamaica, to attend college. “Now I wasn’t sure who was afraid of me. I was especially unprepared for the cops. They regularly stopped and bullied me, asking questions that took my guilt for granted. I’d never received what many of my African-American friends call “The Talk”: No parents had told me how to behave when I was stopped by the police, how to be as polite and cooperative as possible, no matter what they said or did to me. So I had to cobble together my own rules of engagement. Thicken my Jamaican accent. Quickly mention my college. “Accidentally” pull out my college identification card when asked for my driver’s license.”

  • July 7, 2016

    Graywolf Press announced the winner of its latest Nonfiction Prize: Esmé Weijun Wang’s The Collected Schizophrenias, a collection of essays that “cogently breaks open the social, historical, medical, and spiritual aspects” of mental illness, to be published in 2017. The book was chosen by a committee of Graywolf editors and Brigid Hughes, the editor of A Public Space. Weijun will receive a $12,000 advance. She joins an illustrious group: Previous winners include Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams, Eula Biss’s Notes from No Man’s Land, and Kevin Young’s The Grey Album.  

    Scandal rears its ugly head over at Fox News, where Gretchen Carlson, an anchor who joined the network in 2005, has filed a harassment suit against fearsome network chairman Roger Ailes. Carlson claims that Ailes moved her from the popular morning show “Fox and Friends” in retaliation for calling it a boys’ club, and for rebuffing Ailes’ sexual advance: “‘I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago,’” Carlson recalls the chairman telling her, “‘and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better.’” Ailes denies it: “Gretchen Carlson’s allegations are false. This is a retaliatory suit for the network’s decision not to renew her contract, which was due to the fact that her disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup.” In Getting Real, a memoir published a year ago, “Celebrity news anchorwoman Gretchen Carlson . . . offers important takeaways for women (and men) about what it means to strive for and find success in the real world . . . she takes readers from her Minnesota childhood, where she became a violin prodigy, through college at Stanford and her in-the-trenches years as a cub reporter on local television stations before becoming a national news reporter. . . . Carlson addresses the intense competitive effort of winning the Miss America Pageant, the challenges she’s faced as a woman in broadcast television, and how she manages to balance work and family as the wife of high-profile sports agent Casey Close and devoted mother to their two children”; she also thanks Ailes for his support of her career, calling him “the most accessible boss I’ve ever worked for.” According to Carlson’s lawyer, a number of other women have come forward with complaints about Ailes’ conduct in the workplace. One former employee had this to say: “He told me that if he was thinking of hiring a woman, he’d ask himself if he would fuck her, and if he would, then he’d hire her to be on-camera. He then said if it was a man he’d think about whether he could sit down for a baseball game with him and not get annoyed of [sic] him. If he could, then he’d hire him.”

    A Scottish actress and author named Louise Linton, whose tone-deaf, factually inaccurate account of the time she spent volunteering in Zambia (“‘Find a bolt-hole as soon as you get there,’ my father pleaded. ‘Somewhere to hide, just in case.’ I’d laughed and assured him I’d be fine but now here I was on the jungle floor, in a fragile minefield of vines crawling with potentially lethal creatures—including the dreaded rain spiders, up to twelve inches across”) went viral after The Telegraph excerpted a portion of her book In Congo’s Shadow: One Girl’s Perilous Journey to the Heart of Africa, is romantically involved with Donald Trump’s chair of finance. “What do we do with this information?” asks Jezebel. “Can we draw any inference here? About love? About Donald Trump? About Louise Linton and what one British tabloid termed her “heart of daftness” memoir?” It might be a match made in heaven: self-described “skinny white muzungu with long angel hair … a central character in this horror story” meets self-described friend of Trump, a banker named Mnuchin who made gobs of money foreclosing on people of color; or else it’s “a beautiful and yet deeply meaningless coincidence.”

    Jared Kushner, the husband of Ivanka Trump, writes a heartfelt essay in the pages of his own paper defending his father-in-law against accusations of anti-Semitism.

    Hilde Lysiak

    Hilde Lysiak

    Max Blumenthal, the son of Clinton fixer Sidney Blumenthal, hopes Elie Wiesel rests in purgatory. A few days after Wiesel’s funeral, Blumenthal, an outspoken critic of Israel, denounced him as a traitor of sorts. “Elie Wiesel went from a victim of war crimes to a supporter of those who commit them. He did more harm than good and should not be honored.”

    Here’s a happy story about a nine-year-old Harriet the Spy-type teaming up with her journalist father to investigate murders and scoop the competition: They’re writing a book together. Hilde Cracks the Case: Hero Dog!, the first in a series of four gumshoe stories, will be published by Scholastic in September 2017.

  • July 6, 2016

    Libraries—New York City and nationwide—are booming, reports the New York Times. At a moment when one might expect membership to be declining due to the atomizing effects of the Internet, libraries have expanded their mission to meet a range of needs in the populations they serve. They offer exercise and coding classes; Internet access, which the U.N. just designated a universal human right; air-conditioning in the summer; entertainment for toddlers; and a safe space for the homeless. “In the 2016 fiscal year,” New York City libraries “received $360 million for operating costs, $33 million more than the year before — the largest increase in recent times. For the 2017 fiscal year, which began on Friday, city financing for the libraries increased slightly to $365 million. But in a more significant victory, city leaders agreed to preserve past increases in future budgets, the difference, say, between getting a one-year bonus or a permanent raise.”

    Also in the Times: “Some of the most creative thoughts develop during periods of so-called procrastination,” writes Andrew Ross Sorkin, an insight gleaned from Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, a recent book by Adam Grant, the youngest-ever tenured full professor at the Wharton School. Grant looks into “what it takes to be a shoot-the-moon, Steve-Jobs-like success. Many of his conclusions are counterintuitive and based on deep research.”

    Jonah Lehrer

    Jonah Lehrer

    An author cut from the same Gladwellian cloth and disgraced for shoddy research and self-plagiarism is hoping for deliverance in the form of a book about love. A Book About Love, a new work of nonfiction by Jonah Lehrer, comes out next week and contains a contrite author’s note: “I broke the most basic rules of my profession. I am ashamed of what I’ve done. I will regret it for the rest of my life.” Lehrer, the young New Yorker staff writer who flew too close to the sun, saw two of his books, How We Decide and Imagine: How Creativity Works, yanked from the shelves after it was revealed that he had recycled material and fabricated quotes.

    “My cousin Nick Pileggi was married to her, I knew her,” Gay Talese says of Nora Ephron. “This guy Richard Cohen is the only guy who could have written this book. It is a terrific book, and I knew Nora, I’m her cousin-in-law.” Talese tells New York Magazine that his summer reading also includes Nutshell, by Ian McEwan. “I usually read books before they are published. . . . Manuscripts. Do you know what it is like to read manuscripts? You are in your bed, and you are trying to put your pillow right, and there are manuscripts, they get lost and the dogs eat the fucking pages.”

    Miles Davis, walking the High Line in New York and looking into people’s apartments, drinking bad coffee on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village, the Arab Spring, Edward Snowden” are some of the things that inspired I Am No One, a new novel by Patrick Flanery.

    If you’re in New York City and interested in “The Other Side of Genius: Interdisciplinary Artists in the Jazz Age,” head to the Strand this evening for a discussion about not being hemmed in by one’s métier. “Hemingway was a connoisseur of contemporary art, Gershwin and cummings exhibited paintings, Leger made films, Pound wrote an opera, and Picasso was spending more time backstage at the Ballets Russes than in the studio.” And you, what have you done with your life?

  • July 5, 2016

    Octavia Butler

    Octavia Butler

    Elie Wiesel, who survived Auschwitz and won the Nobel Peace Prize, died in his Manhattan home this weekend. He was eighty-seven. The author of Night and many other books, Wiesel, writes Joseph Berger in the New York Times obituary, “more than anyone else, seared the memory of the Holocaust on the world’s conscience.”

    Paul Kingsnorth’s Beast, the second book in his trilogy of novels about our unfolding ecological disaster, is about to be published in the UK. The first installment, The Wake, was set during the Norman conquest and was written in a dialect partially based on Old English. Beast, which will be published in the US by Graywolf next year, is set in the present (the third novel will be set a thousand years in the future). The New Statesman has published a profile in anticipation of the new book, and shows Kingsnorth as an uncompromising environmentalist, living in rural Ireland with a compost toilet. One of his political positions in particular is raising some eyebrows: He voted for England to leave the EU. “There’s a green radical case to be made for leaving Europe,” Kingsnorth says. “I’m instinctively in favour of small groups of people running their own affairs, close to the ground. Democracy only works when it’s close to the people.”

    A new movie based on Eileen Atkins’s play Vita and Virginia will offer a fictionalized account of the friendship and love affair between Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf.

    Donald Trump says that he coined “Make America Great Again” about a year ago, but he isn’t the first person to use the slogan. In author Octavia Butler’s Parable of Talents, a dystopic novel published in 1998 (but set in 2032), a xenophobic and authoritarian Texas senator running for president uses the slogan “Help Make America Great Again.”

    George Saunders, author of Tenth of December and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, among other books, employs his gifts for presenting absurd spectacles in a new essay detailing his experiences at Trump rallies. Steadfastly empathetic, Saunders goes on to do something most reports about the presumptive Republican candidate don’t do: He tries to understand what led so many people to support Trump. “In the broadest sense, the Trump supporter might be best understood as a guy who wakes up one day in a lively, crowded house full of people, from a dream in which he was the only one living there, and then mistakes the dream for the past: a better time, manageable and orderly, during which privilege and respect came to him naturally, and he had the whole place to himself.”

  • July 1, 2016

    Gay Talese’s latest book, The Voyeur’s Motel, comes out July 12 and recounts Talese’s correspondence and encounters with a motelier named Gerald Foos, who tells Talese he spent more than two decades spying on his guests’ amorous activities through specially constructed ceiling vents. In an excerpt in the New Yorker, Talese visits Foos and dips his toe in the muddy pool of voyeurism—or rather his tie, which he claims, quite incredibly, slipped between slats of a louvered vent and nearly blew his and Foos’s cover. For his part, Foos supplied Talese with elaborate diary entries in which he details the mostly lackluster sex acts, poor personal hygiene, and ugly behavior of people under his roof—including a murder, unrecorded by the police, he says he witnessed and probably caused. How much of this happened, and how much is a figment of the motel owner’s fantasy life, or, for that matter, the author’s? Talese’s tone in the piece struck a queasy balance between skeptical and rapt—he is the unabashed voyeur of an unabashed voyeur—which inflects but does not negate the fact that it was published as non-fiction and ostensibly fact-checked. At the time of the excerpt, the Internet was ablaze with praise, indignation, and jokes about the story—Leah Finnegan did an amusing annotation for Genius, while the feminist Twittersphere scolded Talese for a remark he made on a panel about women writers being of little inspiration to him. The Washington Post followed up and found, via property records, that for much of the ’80s Foos did not own the motel, which casts doubt on many of his recollections. Talese now seems eager to distance himself from the whole thing. “I should not have believed a word he said,” the 84-year-old author told the Post. “I’m not going to promote this book. How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet?” “Gay talese so wrong he gotta change his name to straight talese,” Finnegan tweeted.

    Gay Talese

    Gay Talese

    The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, a new book by Lionel Shriver, imagines the US in a not-too-distant apocalyptic future in which the currency has collapsed. “With basic survival on the line,” writes the New Yorker’s Alexandra Schwartz, “‘vanities’ like lactose intolerance, allergies, and A.D.H.D. simply cease to exist.” Shriver, who divides her time between Britain and Brooklyn, has a libertarian streak. She tells Schwartz she’s unfazed, even pleased, by the prospect of Brexit, comparing the E.U. to “homeopathy. It’s so dilute, like a drop of iodine in the Pacific ocean.”

    Adnan Syed, whose culpability in a 1999 murder was hotly debated in the first season of the popular podcast Serial, has been granted a retrial. “WE WON A NEW TRIAL FOR ADNAN SYED!!!tweeted his lawyer, C. Justin Brown, who replaced Syed’s original lawyer, Maria Cristina Gutierrez. A judge ruled that Gutierrez’s failure to question a witness “created a substantial possibility that the result of the trial was fundamentally unreliable.” Gutierrez was disbarred for financial impropriety in 2001, and died of a heart attack in 2004.

    The BFG, by Roald Dahl, is “a touching, episodic chronicle, illustrated with whimsical line drawings by Quentin Blake,” writes A. O. Scott in the New York Times. “Not as dark and nasty as some of Dahl’s other work for children — it doesn’t have the sinister undertones of “James and the Giant Peach” or the rebellious anarchy of “Matilda” — it is touched with sadness as well as with wonder. Mr. Spielberg tries to replicate this delicate mood.” The movie, starring Mark Rylance as the eponymous giant and Ruby Barnhill as the orphan Sophie, opens today—just in time for the weekend’s tall fireworks.

  • June 30, 2016

    Facebook announced that it would rejigger the algorithm of its most lucrative product. The News Feed, recently in the news itself after its editors were accused of behind-the-scenes tinkering and liberal bias, will privilege content that has been re-posted—i.e. pasted in afresh—by friends and family in your social network, over links supplied by publishers and news sites.

    Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, now a pundit for CNN, is said to have forfeited a $1.2 million book deal with HarperCollins when he refused to divulge the specifics of a nondisclosure agreement he signed to work for Trump. Lewandowski would seem to be a born multitasker, or else a cynic with an exit strategy: he began shopping his book idea, an insider’s take on election season drama, while still employed by Trump and juggling the duties of the campaign—mostly manhandling the press, literally and figuratively.

    Jezebel’s Jia Tolentino takes on #BeckyWithTheBadGrades, aka Abigail Fisher, the disgruntled white student whose complaint was dismissed by the Supreme Court in last week’s ruling upholding affirmative action. Tolentino writes, “Years ago, I helped Abigail Fishers get into college in Texas. . . . Specifically, and ominously for my later life, I taught them to write a convincing personal essay—a task that generally requires identifying some insight, usually gained over some period of growth. And growth often depends on hardship, a thing that none of these 18-year-olds had experienced in a structural sense over the course of their white young lives. Because of the significant disconnect involved in this premise, I always ended up rewriting their essays in the end.” In hindsight, the gig makes Tolentino feel guilty, and her essay delves into thorny legal and ethical territory with energy and candor. Tolentino’s tone, less aggrieved than Fisher’s, is still tetchy. For good reason: “I was salutatorian at my high school; I had perfect SATs. I was a cheerleader, the editor of our yearbook, cast in every musical, an officer in every club. And still, when I got into colleges, I felt lucky. I never felt like I’d simply gotten what I deserved. . . . I have never had a case for any sort of admission . . . because even when I opened my Texas acceptance letter I knew some Abigail Fisher would think that if anyone was coasting on race here, it was me.”

    Alvin Toffler

    Alvin Toffler

    Lena Dunham thinks Kanye’s “Naked”—his new video streaming (for a fee) on Tidal, featuring nude wax figures of celebrities including Donald Trump, Amber Rose, Kim Kardashian West, Taylor Swift, and Bill Cosby lying in bed together—is distasteful. “Now I have to see the prone, unconscious, waxy bodies of famous women, twisted like they’ve been drugged and chucked aside at a rager?” she asked rhetorically in a post on Facebook. Dunham is no stranger to baring it all on camera. “It didn’t occur to me that in the first season, TV critics and people on the Internet would be seeing this,” she said a few months ago, of the nudity in her HBO show Girls. “Now, for better or worse, when I take my clothes off, I already can hear the din of the reaction.”

    The world’s oldest library, at the al-Qarawiyyin University in Fez, Morocco, reopened to the public after four years of renovations overseen by the architect Aziza Chaouni.

    Alvin Toffler, who “foresaw the development of cloning, the popularity and influence of personal computers and the invention of the internet, cable television and telecommuting” in his best-selling book Future Shock, died at the age of 87.

  • June 29, 2016

    On June 19, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a mock syllabus for a college course called Trump 101. This in turn inspired a number of professors to write a letter, calling the Trump syllabus “highly objectionable,” “intellectually dishonest,” and “irresponsible.” The letter points out that the CoHE syllabus has no books by writers of color, and that it “fails to include works on sexism, racism, whiteness, immigration, xenophobia, Islamophobia, or nativism.” Now, at the Public Books website, historians N. D. B. Connolly and Keisha N. Blain, who sought out advice from more than 100 scholars, have posted a far more thorough Trump Studies syllabus, which acts as both a response to the CoHE syllabus and an invaluable tool for anyone interested in “the past and present conditions that allowed Trump to seize electoral control of a major American political party.”

    In a piece of fiction for—wait for it—the New York Times, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie imagines a day in the life of Melania Trump. Melania has the hots for her Pilates instructor (a black woman who Donald thinks should be teaching hip hop) and hates but bravely tolerates the prissy, scheming Ivanka. Donald struggles to get it up: “He kissed her, eager and dramatic and sweaty as he often was . . . and then fumbled and shifted and suddenly got up and said he had a phone call to make. Only then did she understand what had happened. They did not talk about it, but for a few days he had sulked and snapped, as though it were her fault.”

    Amy Schumer

    Amy Schumer

    “The disconnect between the bluster, the bravado, the bombast, and this insecure, thin-skinned, hyper-reactive child” also interests the writer Mark Singer, whose 1997 New Yorker profile of Trump was an understated coup. VICE interviews Singer about his interactions with Trump and shares this excellent anecdote: “When the profile was collected in a book of Singer’s work, Trump denounced the writer in a letter to the New York Times Book Review, a piece of publicity that boosted the book’s sales. In gratitude, Singer sent Trump a thank-you letter and a check for $37.82, and Trump replied with a missive that called Singer a ‘TOTAL LOSER’—but the self-proclaimed billionaire also cashed the check.” Read the repackaged profile, and Singer’s fresh insights about the candidate, in his new book Trump and Me.

    Upending expectations, Amy Schumer bares her entirely ink-free back on the cover of her forthcoming essay collection, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, for which she received an advance of $8 million.

    Gizmodo presents a richly illustrated book review of Dark Night, a memoir by television and comic book writer Paul Dini. Best known for his work on Batman: The Animated Series, Dini faces real-world demons in this graphic account of a long-ago mugging.

  • June 28, 2016

    An algorithm built to predict which books will become bestsellers has awarded a perfect score to Dave Eggers’s The Circle, a dystopian novel about a sinister Google-like company that hijacks the time and free will of its employees and the wider world. Using “cutting-edge text-mining techniques” developed by Jodie Archer, a former publisher, and Matthew Jockers, a co-founder of Stanford University’s Literary Lab, the model trawled through 20,000 novels to isolate elements of plot, character, and style that appeal to the broadest segment of the reading population. Archer and Jockers expected the algorithm to nominate Lee Child, John Grisham, or Nicholas Sparks; Eggers, whose Circle was not a bestseller, would seem to indicate machine-bias. “The algorithm appears to have winked at us all,” said its creators. “We weren’t sure whether we should take a sledgehammer to it, or buy it dinner.” Read more about their quest in The Bestseller Code, which comes out in September.

    In the wake of Omar Mateen’s shooting of forty-nine people at the Orlando gay club Pulse, poet-novelist-essayist Eileen Myles demands that we take a good look at America’s gun problem and who is most endangered by it. “When we talk about gun control I think we need to put the focus explicitly on protecting us from us and not from ISIS. We have guns, we live here, we find it so easy to kill,” she writes. “Something is so very wrong with America when the right to bear arms is not a freedom but a curse. We are killing ourselves, and we are killing the most vulnerable ones among us.”

    Suki Kim

    Suki Kim

    “In 2011, armed with a book contract, I went undercover to work as an ESL teacher at an evangelical university in Pyongyang,” writes Suki Kim in the New Republic. Kim’s 2014 book, Without You, There Is No Us: My Time With the Sons of North Korea’s Elite, was a daring work of investigative journalism—“As I taught, I lived in a locked compound under complete surveillance: Every room was bugged, every class recorded. I scribbled down conversations as they happened and buried my notes in a lesson plan. I wrote at night, erasing the copy from my laptop each time I signed off, saving it to USB sticks that I carried on my body at all times”—marketed as a memoir, a bit of chicanery more often inflicted on women writers than on men. “I was being moved from a position of authority—What do you know?—to the realm of emotion: How did you feel?

    Translator Susan Bernofsky points out that most authors who are translated into English and published in the US are white.

    In a new video featuring Alexis Bledel of Gilmore Girls fame, Michelle Obama discusses the education organization Let Girls Learn and chooses a book to read during her upcoming travels: Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend.


  • June 27, 2016

    Lydia Davis

    Lydia Davis

    Jonathan Coe—author of What a Carve Up!, The Rain Before It Falls, and The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim—has been named “France’s favourite British author” and an officer in France’s Order of Arts and Letters. Coe is calling the honor “bittersweet,” following the Britain’s vote to leave the EU last week: “Yes, it’s a bittersweet feeling to have had this recognition from France in the week that Britain has turned its back on the rest of Europe,” says the novelist. “But it’s more important than ever, now, that British writers build a close relationship with their European readers, and try to remind them, among other things, that the views of those who voted to leave the EU . . . don’t tell the whole story about the UK and its people.” Meanwhile, other authors have shared their feelings about Brexit on Twitter. Neil Gaiman: “Dear UK, good luck. I’m afraid you’re going to need it.”

    Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti—the ninety-seven-year-old founder of City Lights Publishing who championed many Beat writers—has finished the first draft of To the Light House. It’s not a straightforward memoir, but according to the poet, it’s “the closest thing to a memoir” he’ll ever write.

    Bill Cunningham, the New York Times photographer and the subject of the documentary Bill Cunningham New York, has died. At the New Yorker, Hilton Als remembers Cunningham, writing, “His camera made black beauty and female beauty democratic. Through his lens, we were not anthropological artifacts so much as part of the life of the city he made his home, a place where he could be privately open about his interest in most things, but I think especially men of color, who still rarely get to be memorialized without it becoming a big deal, a statement.”

    Editor and author Blake Eskin (A Life in Pieces: The Making and Unmaking of Binjamin Wilkomirski) has penned a response to a photo of Amy Schumer’s photo shoot in the May issue of Vanity Fair. In one of the shots, the comedian is wearing a t-shirt that says “No Coffee No Workee,” which, as Eskin points out, is “an old caricature of Chinese immigrant speech.” She also appears in a Vogue magazine video that features “sound effects from a kung-fu movie” and ends with a gong. Eskin notes: “I would like to see Amy Schumer acknowledge her participation in reinforcing these stereotypes, even if it wasn’t her idea. Beyond that, I wish the folks over at Condé Nast could create an editorial environment that can save them from making jokes that they don’t fully understand.”

    At Words without Borders, Lydia Davis considers some of the thornier questions faced by translators. For instance, does she think it’s a good idea to correct mistakes that exist in the original. “There are errors in Proust,” she responds. “I forget the specifics now, but he refers in one spot to four friends on a trip to Italy together and in another spot specifies three. But I believe it is very important not to tamper with the content of the original in that way, much as one might be tempted. One of the obligations of a translator is to try to reproduce something like the way the text is experienced by a native reader. Mistakes and all . . . I would, though, want to say something about the mistake in an endnote.”