• April 21, 2016

    The winners of this year’s Lambda Literary Awards, which honor excellence in LGBT literature, include Eileen Myles and Hilton Als. At the June 6th ceremony, winners in twenty-five categories will be announced by a stellar cast of writers, performers, and activists including actor Cherry Jones (who played a Myles-like character on Transparent), editor Tavi Gevinson, comedienne Kate Clinton, and many other stars.    

    Bret Easton Ellis

    Bret Easton Ellis

    The New York Times accompanied Bret Easton Ellis on a night out to see the Broadway musical version of his novel American Psycho. After some initial trepidation, Ellis appeared to enjoy the show, as the paper describes: “Pretty soon, Mr. Ellis was reveling in the punch lines, most of them lifted straight out of the book, and silently congratulating himself, thinking, ‘That’s mine, that’s mine,’ he said later.” Still, Ellis doesn’t want to seem too gratified that his controversial novel—with its laugh lines at Trump’s expense—has found unexpected resonance twenty-five years after it was first published: “Vindicated is too strong a word, because that would mean that I care too much. . . I would say, I’m mildly surprised.”

    At Page Turner, Joshua Rothman considers the fifth and penultimate volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle (out this week), using its publication as an opportunity to look back on the project. Rothman notes that one of Knausgaard’s preoccupations across the series has been “auditioning routes to freedom” that never really pan out, including music, drinking, and sex. In the fifth volume, we see Knausgaard finally finding something that frees him from his abiding sense of being trapped—a selfless way of writing that explores what the novelist has called the space between reality and ideas. This is what’s so mesmerizing about the novel, Rothman writes, arguing that the author doesn’t quite fit the “solipsistic” label that’s so often applied to him: “Knausgaard writes beautifully about landscapes, and he describes his inner life the way he describes a landscape, simply noting, with tender exactness, what is there. . . . The inner and outer landscapes are united. He’s invented a new kind of narration: he chronicles the minute details of his own existence, but not from the perspective of himself.”

    The pathologically modest critic Michael Dirda bemoans the plainness of his own prose style: “I have no flair for similes and metaphors,” he writes. “Nothing ever reminds me of anything else.” Dirda revels in some of the discoveries to be made in Farnsworth’s Classical English Metaphor, from the simple but devastating (from the novelist Ouida: “Moralists say that a soul should resist passion. They might as well say that a house should resist an earthquake”) to the bizarre and unforgettable:Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once compared human existence to an unlikely vegetable: ‘I wax impatient sometimes to think of how much time it takes to do a little fragment of what one would like to do and dreams of. Life is like an artichoke; each day, week, month, year, gives you one little bit which you nibble off — but precious little compared to what you throw away.’”

    From Duke University Press comes a definitive new series of the writings of Stuart Hall, a founding member of the British New Left and one of the twentieth century’s greatest cultural theorists. Alongside edited volumes on themes from race to popular culture to photography, the series will include the first US edition of Hall’s memoir, Displacements: Lives and Ideas in Two Black Diasporas, due out next year. The first volume in the series will be published this October, but in the meanwhile, you may want to watch John Akomfrah’s moving tribute to Hall, which is full of fascinating archival footage.

    Tonight at McNally Jackson, Dan Fox, Asad Raza, and Christian Lorentzen will celebrate pretentiousness, in honor of Fox’s new book on the subject. Pretentiousness is, Lorentzen says in his review, “something I crave, in myself and others. Authenticity is overrated — give me a perfectly struck pose.”

  • April 20, 2016

    Kevin Bacon

    Kevin Bacon

    A few readers of Chris Kraus’s groundbreaking epistolary novel I Love Dick have expressed concern that publishing it was unfair to cultural critic Dick Hebdige, her sometime crush and the book’s unwilling subject. It should come as some comfort to those people (and, who knows, perhaps even to Hebdige himself) that the delightful Kevin Bacon is likely to play Dick in Jill Soloway’s upcoming TV version.

    Bill Cosby’s lawyers are pressing New York magazine to release all unpublished material from the interviews for its cover story on his many accusers.

    In the latest issue of Harper’s, Elaine Blair very gently dispatches John D’Agata—and David Shields, for good measure.

    At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Elizabeth Schambelan reads Donald Trump and our current moment via Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies, a thousand-page “psycho-political investigation of authoritarian manhood in extremis.”

    A note on the often-porous line between media and politics: BuzzFeed tells us that Trump’s campaign last year paid Sebastian Gorka, Breitbart’s national security editor and a frequent guest on Fox News, as a policy consultant; Gorka’s wife Katherine, also affiliated with Breitbart, advises Ted Cruz on national security. (Mr. Gorka, BuzzFeed also notes, is said to have tried to go through airport security with a handgun earlier this year.) Moving closer to the center aisle, it seems that CNN for a long time nursed hopes of hiring Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

    Meanwhile, the New York Observer’s restaurant critic, after the paper’s endorsement of Trump (whose son-in-law-to-be owns it), felt moved to resign his cushy post: “It’s not quite falling on my sword,” he writes, “more like leaning gently on a butter knife.” The prospect of continuing to write for the Observer, even about “crudités and deconstructed borscht,” had grown too much. And Jennifer Ashley Wright, another Observer writer, has announced that she is tiring of some of its contents, too: “Now, you can defend statements about female journalists being skanks by saying, ‘It’s provocative!’,” she notes, but “most people reach an age at which their actions should provoke a response other than outraged wonder—and most publications do, as well.”

  • April 19, 2016

    Kathryn Schulz

    Kathryn Schulz

    This year’s Pulitzer Prize winners were announced yesterday, including Kathryn Schulz, who’s being rewarded one more time for scaring us more than any magazine writer should.

    Hilary Mantel describes her days writing fiction, which “makes me the servant of a process that has no clear beginning and end or method of measuring achievement. . . . A book grows according to a subtle and deep-laid plan. At the end, I see what the plan was.

    Lenny, Lena Dunham’s new Random House imprint, is publishing Sour Heart, the first story collection by poet and essayist Jenny Zhang. (“The good thing about having so many genres to work in,” Zhang told The Stranger not long ago, “is that I can go back to an old one and it feels new again. Distance made my heart grow fonder for fiction.”)

    Ryan McCarthy has left the New York Times to become editor in chief of Vice News, replacing founding editor Jason Mojica, who will be moving to Vice’s soon-to-be-launched nightly HBO show as head of international coverage—which makes sense, as Mojica is the man who brought the world the spectacle that was Dennis Rodman in North Korea.

    Curtis Sittenfeld, whose new book is a reimagining of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is in trouble for suggesting in an interview that “most romances are badly written.”

  • April 18, 2016

    Mary Beard

    Mary Beard

    Jonathan Franzen is editing the next edition of The Best American Essays. The contents haven’t been revealed yet, but rumor has it that Alexander Chee’s “Girl” is one of the selections.

    The New York Times style section features a profile of the classics scholar Mary Beard, the author of SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award) and Laughter in Ancient Rome. Laughter, it turns out, plays a significant role in the piece. A. A. Gill once said that Beard, who appears regularly on TV in the UK, was more fit for the British reality-TV show The Undateables. Discussing the incident at the recent Women in the World Summit, which was organized by Tina Brown, Beard, who originally responded to Gill in a column titled “Too Ugly for TV? No, I’m Too Brainy for Men Who Fear Clever Women,” noted: “It’s about having a laugh about it. A bit of outrage is good, but having your only rhetorical register as outrage is always going to be unsuccessful. You’ve got to vary it. Sometimes, some of the things that sexist men do just deserve to be laughed at.”

    Elizabeth Gilbert has been hired to be a columnist for O Magazine, and her debut, “The Kind Gesture that Helps Elizabeth Gilbert Find the Light on Her Worst Days,” will appear in the next issue.

    Penguin Press has released the cover image for Zadie Smith’s new novel, Swing Time, which will be released on November 15. The novel, which is set in London and West Africa, is, according to the publisher’s description, about two girls who want to become dancers: “One . . . has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free.” Readers of Smith’s criticism will recall that she wrote eloquently about the career of dancer Fred Astaire in an essay collected in Changing My Mind.

    The editorial staff at Vice Media, which unionized last summer, has reached its first contract agreement with the company’s management. Sources say that the contract will increase most salaries by 30 percent over the next three years, and that annual salaries for editorial staff must now be at least $45,000.

    Gawker is reportedly talking with Univision about starting Spanish-language versions of the sites Gizmodo and Lifehacker.

  • April 15, 2016

    The New Republic’s editor in chief Gabriel Snyder is leaving the magazine after seventeen months in charge. His departure comes on the heels of the recent sale of the publication to Win McCormack. “We published some damn fine work, sometimes under difficult circumstances,” Snyder said in a memo, with admirable understatement.

    Yan Lianke

    Yan Lianke

    The shortlist is out for this year’s Man Booker International Prize, and contenders include Orhan Pamuk, Yan Lianke, and the elusive Elena Ferrante.

    The New York Times is investing $50 million in a new team called NYT Global, which hopes to dramatically expand the publication’s international audience.

    New York Post editor in chief Col Allan, a longtime friend of Rupert Murdoch and a News Corp stalwart of forty-two years standing, is retiring and will be replaced by the paper’s Sunday editor, Stephen Lynch.

    In The Baffler, Chris Lehmann considers Gay Talese’s “The Voyeur’s Hotel,” a New Yorker piece set to be published as a book this summer. It’s about Gerald Foos, a hotel owner who constructed a crawlspace that allowed him to look down on his guests in their rooms, thus fulfilling his self-assigned destiny as the world’s foremost freelance sex researcher. Talese met Foos, read his copious notes on the hotel-room hijinx, and once even joined him spying—the dapper Talese’s necktie drooped through the viewing vent and appeared mere feet above a (distracted) copulating couple. Lehmann takes issue with Talese’s flimsy “chin stroking” premise that all journalists are, to some extent, voyeurs, and argues that the story is hardly newsworthy: “If it weren’t for Talese’s unarticulated belief that Foos’s antics bore some larger public significance, we wouldn’t know anything more about what Foos thinks and believes than we would about the inner life of, say, the roving Seattle masked masturbator, or that of any other dreary sex offender on any major metropolitan police blotter.”

    At the Poetry Foundation, Win Bassett writes of his time as a chaplain in a Virginia hospital, and of the importance of verse to him and the patients: “After a few weeks of confidence-boosting patient encounters, I realize poetry might . . . be helpful. . . .  The patients don’t know the poems I carry in my pocket the way they know their hymns, but they quiet nonetheless. I chalk up these powers to poetry’s economy of words. When you know you don’t have much longer in this life, why not make every word you speak and hear pack as much meaning as possible?”

    In May, the Brooklyn Institute will run a day of reading, lectures, and discussion on Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Early enrollment is open until this Sunday.

  • April 14, 2016

    Nesrine Malik

    Nesrine Malik

    The Guardian has surveyed the seventy million comments left on their website since 2006, looking for patterns in abusive commenting and trolling. They found that the ten most abused writers were eight women and two black men (despite the fact most of the site’s writers are white men). The article includes videos of the journalists (including Jessica Valenti, Nesrine Malik, and Steven Thrasher) discussing the effect of the abuse, as well as interactive data breaking down the survey, and a feature where readers can play moderator, deciding if various comments about feminists should be blocked. Despite all the abuse, Malik says, “I think it is a worthy venture to keep comments open, even if you don’t like what readers are saying or how they are saying it. Journalists need to be challenged.” And then, let’s not forget the admittedly faint possibility that your next encounter with an online troll might eventually make for a heartwarming radio segment (click through to “Ask Not for Whom the Bell Trolls”).

    Page Turner examines the recent Marianne Moore renaissance (“the freedom is new,” William Carlos Williams wrote of her work in 1924, “the unbridled leap”).

    Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP leader who self-identifies as black despite being from a white family, is writing a book about race that will be published next March. On the Today show, Dolezal gave a preview of what we’re likely to get: “Race didn’t create racism, but racism created race. . . . So I think it’s important to really think through a lot of those topics and questions that people have, and that’s why this became so visible, because it really challenged people to think about identity. . . . Is there one human race? Why do we still want to go back to the worldview of separate races?”

    The New York Times media reporter Ravi Somaiya is leaving the paper in order to join Vice’s HBO show.

    This weekend at the Whitney, poet Anne Carson will perform her poem Lecture on the History of Skywriting as part of a series organized to accompany Laura Poitras’s exhibition “Astro Noise.” After the reading, Carson will have a conversation with Yemeni engineer Faisal bin Ali Jaber, who had family members killed in a 2012 drone strike (a video of the strike is included in the Whitney show). If Carson’s appearance at the 92Y earlier this week is an indication, she can expect the kind of welcome usually reserved for rock stars.


  • April 13, 2016

    The Beach Boys’ resident genius Brian Wilson will be publishing a memoir in October. I Am Brian Wilson, co-written with Ben Greenman, covers the songwriter’s life and career and will be released shortly after Wilson’s masterwork, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. In an excerpt from the book on Pitchfork, Wilson writes, “when I think back across my own life, there are so many things that are painful. Sometimes I don’t like discussing them. Sometimes I don’t even like remembering them. But as I get older, the shape of that pain has changed.”   

    The New York Observer, whose publisher is Donald Trump’s son-in-law, has revealed its huge endorsement for president. It’s a guy from New York not named Bernie Sanders.

    Marlon James

    Marlon James

    The shortlist for the International Dublin Literary award, a lucrative prize nominated by libraries across the world, includes Jenny Offill, Marlon James, Javier Cercas, and Mary Costello, among others.

    The New Yorker Today, an iPhone app featuring the magazine’s online content and some 8,000 cartoons—presented in a gallery that encourages Tinder-like swiping—was released yesterday and is free for one month. Online editor Nicholas Thompson says of the app, “Our instinct is that for a brand like ours that has a lot of loyal readers that are reading all the time, it’s very important to give them an extremely quick way to read everything.” They’ve also made it a quick way to subscribe—it takes just two taps to sign up for a digital subscription from the app.

    Tonight at apexart in Manhattan, Bookforum editor Albert Mobilio presents the latest installment of the “Double Take” series, in which authors, editors, and artists converse on a range of topics. This evening will feature discussions including Donald Breckenridge and Johannah Rodgers on Saratoga Park in Brooklyn; Stephen Tunney and Peter Wortsman on insomnia; and Colin Dickey and Lauren Walsh on photography and perception.

  • April 12, 2016

    Maggie Nelson

    Maggie Nelson

    This week’s New Yorker includes Hilton Als’s moving profile of Maggie Nelson. Als proposes one answer to the question of why Nelson’s latest book, The Argonauts, about her experiences in queer family-making with her fluidly-gendered partner Harry Dodge, has resonated so widely: “What . . . fans responded to most viscerally, perhaps, was the fact that it’s a book about becoming, both mentally and physically—about what it takes to shape a self, in all its completeness and disarray.” Nelson’s 2007 memoir The Red Parts, about the trial of a man accused in the unsolved 1969 murder of her aunt, was republished last week by Graywolf, and she will be appearing at the New York Public library tomorrow night to discuss the book with Wayne Koestenbaum.

    The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) shortlist has been announced.

    Chris Jackson has been selected to revitalize Random House’s One World imprint as its new vice president, publisher, and editor in chief. A New York Times magazine profile of Jackson earlier this year noted that he has steered important work by authors such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, Victor LaValle, and Mat Johnson into print: “He stands between the largely white culture-making machinery and artists writing from the margins of society, as well as between the work of those writers and the largely white critical apparatus that dictates their success, in both cases saying: This, believe it or not, is something you need to hear.”

    New Yorker cartoonist William Hamilton died last Friday in a car crash at the age of seventy-six. Hamilton had contributed cartoons to the magazine for more than fifty years, and its tribute to him includes a selection of them (“I’m nothing,” someone tells the barman, “and yet, I’m all I can think about.”).

    Jacob Brogan of Slate takes a look at Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Marvel comic, Black Panther, which he says reflects Coates approach as a comics scholar for both better and worse: “These aren’t Coates’ stories except insofar as they’re all our stories. They belong to the corporate lore of Marvel comics, emerging wraithlike from the dense fog of its decades of narrative continuity. That same fog blankets the issue as a whole, and only those who know the terrain well will manage to negotiate it with ease.”


  • April 11, 2016

    Last week, Gay Talese faced much criticism after saying at a Boston conference that he had not been influenced by any women writers of his generation. At Slate, Isaac Chotiner points out that Talese’s recent article in the New Yorker, about a hotel owner in Colorado who spied on his guests, reveals “an even darker side” of the author. The article is, Chotiner states, “a failure of journalistic ethics and a revealing window into Talese’s character,” not least because Talese, in writing the piece, joined the hotel owner and spied on people himself. Meanwhile, Washington Post editor Marisa Bellack has written a story about why she quit her job as Talese’s teaching assistant: “because of his sexism.”

    Gawker’s newest media columnist, William Turton, is an eighteen-year-old high school senior. Turton, who writes about cybersecurity, was previously a contributor to The Daily Dot.

    Jelani Cobb

    Jelani Cobb

    Historian Dr. Jelani Cobb, a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress, has joined the faculty of Columbia’s graduate school of journalism.

    In response to a critical editorial in the Boston Globe, which ran in the same issue that featured a front-page satirical piece imagining what would happen if Trump became president, Donald Trump called the paper “worthless” and “stupid.”

    Bylines by women writers are apparently on the rise, but women writers are, according to a study of more than 10,000 book reviews conducted by theNew Republic, still limited by stereotypes. The data from the study points to significant differences in the ways that books by men and women are covered. “Book reviewers are three or four times more likely to use words like ‘husband,’ ‘marriage,’ and ‘mother’ to describe books written by women between 2000 and 2009, and nearly twice as likely to use words like ‘love,’ ‘beauty,’ and ‘sex.’ Conversely, reviewers are twice as likely to use words like ‘president’ and ‘leader,’ as well as ‘argument’ and ‘theory,’ to describe books written by men.”

  • April 8, 2016

    In a rare move for him, the New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet has harshly criticized a story the paper ran on Wednesday, which detailed Gay Talese’s online trials after he made some unfortunate remarks about women journalists at a conference. Baquet takes issue with a Talese quote in the article in which he used the word “duplicitous” to describe Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Times journalist to whom Talese had reportedly made another insensitive comment. Baquet writes, “Yesterday’s story was flawed and Nikole was treated unfairly. But this incident is larger than the exchange between her and Gay Talese. Too often, we are clumsy in handling issues of race and gender and this story was another unfortunate example.” The publication’s public editor concurs: “To put it simply, the story about Gay Talese that went online Wednesday wasn’t ready for prime time.”

    In the Harvard Business Review, John Geraci describes another Times misstep, namely, the “resounding failure” of the two years he spent “trying to innovate” at the paper. Geraci’s takeaway is that the Times (and other large media companies) are “like a bear stuck in a swamp. All around them swirls new kinds of life interacting with itself, evolving, transforming, and they’re there with their fur and claws trying to swat at it all.” Rather than behaving like a big dumb animal, Geraci suggests, the Times should strive to be an “ecosystem,” like the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz: “The entire firm is organized to function as a series of inputs and outputs, permeable membranes with the outside world around it.” Reading this, we had a few questions, but mainly we just wondered why the Times staff had listened to this guy for two years.   

    Philip Roth

    Philip Roth

    This was also the week that the Times, in a piece on John Colapinto’s new novel of “heterosexual male lust” (out this month from the independent press Soft Skull after apparently being turned down by some forty other publishers), seemed to mourn the era of Updike, Roth, and Mailer run rampant, suggesting that our “more tentative” age has mostly got the timid male literary novelists it deserves: “When these creatures of the workshop do manage to summon up the courage to test their descriptive powers against the most basic of human drives and activities, it is often to chronicle male sexual hesitation, confusion or inadequacy.” A shame.

    The New Yorker’s Page Turner blog has a profile of the Whiting Award–winning poet Ocean Vuong, whose first book of poems, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, was published this week by Copper Canyon Press. Vuong’s family was illiterate when he was growing up, and he didn’t learn to read until he was eleven years old. He describes the effect that had on his experience of language: “For an American who was born here, the mundane might be boring, but for me colloquial English was a destination.”

    Tonight at Columbia University, there’s a panel discussion on the recently published book Roland Barthes’ Cinema.