• November 3, 2015

    Both ways is the only way they want it: After helping put who knows how many others out of business, Amazon open their own physical bookstore.

    Mary Gaitskill

    Mary Gaitskill

    For the New York Times magazine, Parul Sehgal profiles Mary Gaitskill, whose new novel, The Mare, is reviewed in the next issue of Bookforum. In person, Sehgal describes her as “wary in the way of habitually truthful people trying to stay out of trouble. . . . She feels misunderstood, which, of course, she is.” No easy feat to interview a writer who specializes in evoking “the hidden life, the life unseen, the life we don’t even know we are living.” Occasionally, you wonder how the profile got written at all (but lucky for us that it did): “At some point in our conversation, I discovered that Gaitskill had figured out how to turn off my recorder, which was lying between us on the table. She’s fond of talking off the record, and she batted at the machine with a quick, sure motion, like a cat. Only then would she talk about her family, say, or go deeper into her past.”

    Meanwhile, fans of Gaitskill’s earlier novel Two Girls, Fat and Thin may be interested to know that a veteran producer (after trying and failing in person “while sitting on a small couch in New York” in the 1970s) has finally got the rights to make Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged for television.

    On Novara Wire, an essential first-person account of homelessness, policing, and public space in London.

    Max Read, formerly of Gawker, introduces New York magazine’s new temporary offshoot about internet culture.

    Among the many recent books by musicians are Carrie Brownstein’s memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl and The Hollow of the Hand, P. J. Harvey’s first book of poetry, a collaboration with the photographer Seamus Murphy, with whom she traveled to Kosovo and Afghanistan.

    The latest issue of the Lana Turner journal is now available, and includes work by Jorie Graham and Anne Boyer, as well as new translations of César Vallejo.

  • November 2, 2015

    Lou Reed

    Lou Reed

    ESPN has pulled the plug on its sports, pop-culture, and news website Grantland. This comes about a month after editors Sean Fennessey, Juliet Litman, Mallory Rubin, and Chris Ryan left Grantland to work on an unknown project led by Grantland founder Bill Simmons. Many have mourned the loss of the site. As for ESPN, the company itself did not seem have its heart in Grantland: “We’re getting out of the pop culture business,” a senior ESPN source told CNN.

    Howard Sounes’s biography of Lou Reed was released in the UK on October 22. Reed was always considered to be cantankerous, difficult, drug-addled, erratic. But according to Sounes, he could also be far worse—paranoid, racist, and emotionally and physically abusive. Now, Reed’s former wife Sylvia Reed (now Ramos) has broken eighteen years of media silence to rebut Sounes’s book. Many of the people interviewed for the book, Ramos says, “were not capable of remembering anything they did in any given six-month period during that time, much less come back all these years later and say, ‘Oh, yes, I was there, this is what was going on.’ ” For those who are hoping for a less sensationalized portrait of Reed, both Luc Sante and Will Hermes are currently at work on biographies of the musician.

    Editors Haley Mlotek and Alexandra Molotkow have announced that they are leaving the Hairpin, the website launched by the Awl in 2010.

    The New York Times announced a $9 million profit in its third-quarter annual report—a profit driven significantly by digital subscriptions.

    On Tuesday, November 2, at Cambridge’s Brattle Theatre, A. S. Hamrah will be introducing a screening of Orson Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons. We are particularly excited about this event after Hamrah’s September Bookforum essay, which challenges the Hollywood mythology that has cast Welles as an example of failure. “That Welles pursued his original vision, even as he worked in a state of hand-to-mouth auteur financing, into the ’80s looks from our vantage point like a sign of strength and integrity,” Hamrah writes.

  • October 30, 2015

    Raif Badawi

    Raif Badawi

    Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger imprisoned for the past few years and soon to be flogged again as part of his sentence, has been awarded the European Union’s Sakharov prize for human rights.

    This week in conflicts of interest: There seems to be some disagreement as to whether it’s acceptable to assign a piece on tech entrepreneurs, including Airbnb, to a writer whose husband is one of Airbnb’s biggest investors. T magazine’s Deborah Needleman tells New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan she doesn’t regret commissioning Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, though perhaps there ought to have been some disclosure of the connection. Needleman also says: “I say this not as an excuse, but she is, separately from her husband, a billionaire (making her through marriage a billionaire twice over) and for that reason I think I failed to consider any monetary conflict in her case.” Isn’t this the same reasoning that suggests a billionaire is usually the best and least corruptible candidate for public office?

    NPR suffers a suitably genteel, understated plagiarism scandal in its music coverage with the resignation of WQXR reporter and online editor Brian Wise.

    In the UK, the publisher Virago and the New Statesman are together launching a literary prize for women writing about politics or economics.

    Who can afford a pseudonym nowadays? Sloane Crosley, author of the new novel The Clasp (and the popular essay collection I Was Told There’d Be Cake), has just outed herself as the coauthor of another book published this year: The hope is that more people will buy Read Bottom Up, a digital-age epistolary novel, now that they know its provenance.

    A 688-page book of previously unpublished writings by Frantz Fanon has come out this week in Paris, including political texts, theoretical work on psychiatry, and two plays.

    You may not yet have experienced Jonathan Franzen reading Stephen Colbert a hard-hitting bedtime story about the book business.

  • October 29, 2015

    For those who couldn’t bear to watch, CNN names “winners and losers” in last night’s Republican presidential debate.

    In the age of the internet, your juvenilia often comes back to haunt you. So you’re well placed to sympathize with Truman Capote, whose stories for his high-school newspaper, after languishing for years in the archives of the New York Public Library, are now reappearing for all to see.

    Marlon James

    Marlon James

    A bit of glory for writers is always welcome: You may not have known, but yesterday was proclaimed Marlon James Day by both the mayor of Minneapolis and the governor of Minnesota, in honor of the Booker-winning novelist who usually teaches there, at Macalester College.

    And Gawker is once more offering to help freelance writers take revenge on publications who have failed to cough up the money they owe them.

    Writers are sticking up for other people, too: after the New York Times stopped crediting anyone but directors, writers, and cast members in its theater reviews (leaving set and costume designers and the rest out in the cold), a group of eighty playwrights, including Tony Kushner, Tracy Letts, Sarah Ruhl, Annie Baker, and John Guare, wrote to ask them to reconsider.  

  • October 28, 2015

    Alex Pareene

    Alex Pareene

    Gawker has a new editor-in-chief, and “despite talk of making [the site] ‘20 percent nicer,’” as Re/Code puts it, they’ve picked one of their old guard, Alex Pareene, former editor of Wonkette and a survivor of First Look Media’s ill-fated Racket. John Cook, Gawker Media’s executive editor, proclaimed his excitement that Pareene would take over in time to make the most of a 2016 presidential race that “promises to be nothing short of a terrifying circus.”

    Vox and Buzzfeed have seemingly helped embarrass the SXSW festival’s organizers into reinstating and expanding its planned discussions about online harassment (which they’d tried to cancel after a brief burst of targeted online harassment).

    A writer explains why “experience” isn’t what it’s cracked up to be (after all, staying in bed and writing was good enough for Proust).

    Blob-like, The Atlantic is expanding and taking over National Journal’s former turf in Washington, DC. Among other things, this news gave Erik Wemple the chance to journey down memory lane, recalling the good old days of Washington political coverage, when cash was everywhere. National Journal was once one of several subscription services, and an employee of one such told Wemple that, in the late 1990s, “Everyone at Roll Call got $20,000-plus bonuses. People were crying in the hallways.”

    Things sound pretty bad for both literary journals and the floods of writers who now pay for the privilege of submitting work to them.

    McNally Jackson Live, a regular “highbrow variety show,” begins tomorrow night, when Jeanette Winterson and Vivian Gornick will be on hand to entertain you—and every week from now on promises “someone unexpected doing some unexpected thing.”  

  • October 27, 2015

    Lisa Jardine, “the leading British female public intellectual of our times,” is the subject of an impressive and very moving collaborative obituary that honors her as a scholar, teacher, and friend: She showed “generations of women who came after her that it was both possible to succeed at work and at many other things as well.”

    Junot Díaz

    Junot Díaz

    The Dominican Consul General has stripped the writer Junot Díaz of his Order of Merit award for speaking out against what the Dominican Republic has been doing to Haitians and those of Haitian descent.

    PEN’s website has hosted an unusually thoughtful and detailed roundtable discussion between editors (many of whom are also writers) about publishing, followed by a collection of useful resources: “What I dislike about so much of the way people deal with diversity,” Alexander Chee says, “is that they treat these explorations as hygiene, when it is about finding new and exciting work that blows down the doors of your mind.

    Scholars are still fighting over Sylvia Plath and her personal life.

    You can now read the second half of President Obama’s conversation with Marilynne Robinson (or listen to a recording): “I think that in our earlier history—the Gettysburg Address or something—there was the conscious sense that democracy was an achievement,” Robinson says. “It was not simply the most efficient modern system or something. It was something that people collectively made and they understood that they held it together by valuing it.”

    On her nightstand alongside Edward P. Jones, Anthony Marra, Mary Karr, and Saul Bellow, Stacy Schiff has Donald Antrim’s The Verificationist, which she says “it’s time to reread”—and indeed, it almost always is.

    It’s nearly time for this year’s NaNoWriMo to begin.

  • October 26, 2015

    Germaine Greer

    Germaine Greer

    Why did Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign recently pay HarperCollins $122,252.62? According to the New Republic, the candidate (whose literary agent, Keith Urbahn, was Donald Rumsfeld’s chief of staff) was probably buying up copies of his new book, A Time for Truth. (The bulk purchases led the Times to leave the book off of its best-seller list.) He’s not the only candidate who is boosting his own sales: Earlier this year Ben Carson spent $150,000 buying up copies of his book A More Perfect Union, the centerpiece of his recent author tour.

    Harriet Klausner—a former librarian who wrote more than 31,000 reviews for Amazon and was at one time that site’s “#1 reviewer”—died last week, just three days after the appearance of her final online writings.

    Students at Cardiff University are collecting signatures for a petition to cancel an upcoming lecture by the author Germaine Greer (who wrote The Female Eunuch). The protesters are attempting to block Greer’s appearance because of comments she has made about trans people (“Nowadays we are all likely to meet people who think they are women, have women’s names, and feminine clothes and lots of eyeshadow, who seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn’t polite to say so”). But Cardiff says that, despite student resistance, the lecture will take place.   

    Neil Strauss, who celebrated pickup artists in his bestselling book The Game, has a new book The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book about Relationships. He’s not so enthralled by the pickup-artist scene anymore: “But now I am in the camp that any manipulation is not a good thing. And anytime you’re trying to get esteem or validation from outside yourself is not a good thing.”

    Slate has created an interactive, annotated “Bartleby, the Scrivener.”

  • October 23, 2015

    Paul West, the novelist and critic (and former Bookforum “First Novels” columnist), has died. “As a stylist,” the New York Times notes in its obituary, he “pulled out most if not all the stops” in books whose protagonists might be astronauts or aliens, Jack the Ripper or von Stauffenberg (who gave his name to the plot against Hitler). “The impulse here,” West wrote in his 1985 vindication of purple prose, “is to make everything larger than life, almost to overrespond, maybe because, habituated to life written down, in both senses, we become inured and have to be awakened with something almost intolerably vivid. When the deep purple blooms, you are looking at a dimension, not a posy.” West believed in giving the world back its intensity and “showing—showing off—the expansive power of the mind itself”: In his view, a writer who’s “afraid of mind, which English-speaking writers tend to be, unlike their Continental counterparts, is a lion afraid of meat.”

    Shane Smith

    Shane Smith

    Vice media continues its bid to take over the world (this time via a number of television networks).

    Larry Kramer has expressed his impatience with the reviews of his latest book in the New York Times, which he says is “famous among gay writers for ignoring us, or trashing us. Straight critics just don’t get us. Just like straight historians don’t get us.”

    If you’ve ever wondered why American readers are so deprived (relatively speaking) of literature in translation, you may be curious about the tribulations of Chad W. Post of Open Letter Press—this sort of publishing, it seems, is a tough business.

    Finally, the conversation we’ve been waiting for between one writer and another, where “another” is the infamous Guy in Your MFA.

  • October 22, 2015

    Eileen Myles

    Eileen Myles

    Who wouldn’t want to eavesdrop on a conversation between Alexander Chee and Eileen Myles? But this one especially seems designed to cheer the rest of us up: “I feel there’s a revolution going on,” Myles says, “like the road saga of the 50s and 60s for boys might be writing poetry for females right now. And I just love how poetry seems to be totally. . . the notebook is open—girls, and girlboys, young people and older people and all kinds of people are writing in it. Something special, mortal, cheap and fun, a new way of being smart and fast—it coincides with texting, and social media—it’s a leaky, glittering sort of form.”

    Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey claimed at a conference recently that the company “stands for speaking truth to power”—which wouldn’t be of much interest except that he simultaneously implied that Politwoops, the delightful service that until earlier this year allowed us to track politicians’ deleted tweets, might be allowed to return.

    The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas has just opened its Gabriel García Márquez archive to researchers and will hold a symposium next week.

    Juliet Jacques recommends the beginnings of a library of books by trans-identified authors.

    Yet more praise for the unaccountably modest critic George Scialabba.

    Tonight at NYU, there’ll be a conversation about Michel Houellebecq’s Submission between Emily Apter, Lorin Stein (who translated it), and Bookforum’s former editor Eric Banks (who reviews it in a forthcoming issue).

  • October 21, 2015

    Henry David Thoreau

    Henry David Thoreau

    Responding to what he calls Kathryn Schulz’s “devastation of Thoreau’s character, style, and mental health” in her latest New Yorker essay (which is also fun to read: “No feature of the natural landscape is more humble than a pond,” she writes, “but, on the evidence of Thoreau, the quality is not contagious”), Jedediah Purdy mounts a spirited defense of “a genuine American weirdo.”

    Futuristically enough, we’ll all soon be able to experience New York Times stories through virtual reality.

    Meanwhile, Twitter has hired a Times editor at large as editorial director of its currently-not-compelling-enough Moments section.

    And Gawker hones its Spiderman sensibility: John Cook, now officially hired as executive editor of Gawker Media, where he’d been acting as interim chief after this summer’s troubles, feels bound “to operate this place in a way that is cognizant of the power it has, and uses it judiciously.”

    Advice for writers: Prolific freelancer (and author of the forthcoming A Floating Chinaman) Hua Hsu reports that he rewrites his assignments constantly till the last minute, often at night. “I’ve tried to alter my approach over the years,” he tells Full Stop, “but the only seemingly useful advice I’ve ever gotten about becoming a highly efficient, daytime writer is to have a child.”

    Likewise, Jill Bialosky, novelist, poet, and executive editor at W. W. Norton, finds it “incredibly sustaining . . . to carry on a full-time job and also be a writer. My books build over time. I sometimes work on two or three projects at once, different forms, and this takes the pressure off each project.” It’s almost as if writing gets easier the less time you have to actually do it.

    Tonight the bookish carnival that is Lit Crawl NYC will take over Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. There’ll be games of Exquisite Corpse and Nerd Jeopardy (the latter run by BOMB magazine), and music will be provided by the Farrar, Straus and Giroux house band—yes, they have one, and it features Sarah Crichton, publisher of Sarah Crichton Books, on lead vocals.