• November 26, 2018

    Victor LaValle

    Victor LaValle

    Karen Joy Fowler, Elizabeth McKenzie, Laurie R. King and Jonathan Franzen recently served as bartenders at a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood organized by a bookstore in Santa Cruz, California. Publisher’s Weekly reports on how bookstores are “balancing politics and business.”

    Victor LaValle, the author of The Changeling, talks with Ayize Jama-Everett about craft, parenthood, and much more: “What can’t be taught, I think, is personality, a point of view. Teaching writing, as I see it, is no different from teaching painting or teaching sculpture or music. In all those other arts people know you have to take lessons, or if you’re self-taught you have to practice a hell of a lot before you get good. But somehow people think that writing is meant to just come to you. It doesn’t. One way or the other, you’re going to have to apprentice to someone and learn.”

    Ricky Jay—the magician, actor, and author of books such as Jay’s Journal of Anomalies—has died.

    Barry Levine, a former editor at the National Enquirer, is writing a book for Hachette about Donald Trump. According to a Wall Street Journal article about the relationship between Trump and Enquirer owner David Pecker, the Enquirer has actively avoided and allegedly suppressed stories that “could paint [Trump] in a bad light.” But now that Levine is free of the tabloid, it’s possible that he will be able to report freely about the allegations made against the president. Levine, who helped expose VP candidate John Edwards’s affair, told New York magazine in 2010: “I dream of an office in Washington where aides to senators and congressmen come in on their lunch hour and tell us stories.” In more Trump-publishing news, Cliff Sims, former special assistant to President Trump, has sold a memoir about his experiences with the president to St. Martin’s Press. It will be released in January 2019.

    On Friday at Bluestockings bookstore, Amy Scholder and Douglas A. Martin will join other writers to present Kathy Acker: The Last Interview, which is being released next week by Melville House Press.

  • November 21, 2018

    Lit Hub publishes a special recipe from Alice B. Toklas’s 1954 cookbook: “Haschich Fudge” (ie, hash brownies). As Toklas explained, “This is the food of Paradise—of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR.” Happy Holidays!

    The New York Times has released its list of “100 Notable Books of 2018.” The group will be whittled down to ten at an event the morning of November 29th. Among the selected titles were Sigred Nunez’s The Friend (which also recently picked up a National Book Award), Amitava Kumar’s Immigrant, Montana, Rachel Cusk’s Kudos, Eliza Griswold’s Amity and Prosperity, Wesley Yang’s The Souls of Yellow Folk, and Casey Gerald’s There Will Be No Miracles Here.

    Rachel Cusk. Photo: Adrian Clarke

    The publisher and CEO of the Washington Post, Fred Ryan, has released a response to President Trump’s comments on Saudi Arabia and slain Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi: “President Trump is correct in saying the world is a very dangerous place. His surrender to this state-ordered murder will only make it more so. An innocent man, brutally slain, deserves better, as does the cause of truth and justice and human rights.”

    Newly discovered stories by Egyptian legend Naguib Mahfouz (who died in 2006) will be published next month.    

    The New Yorker talks to Rachel Cusk about Kudos, creativity, and the writing life: “Essentially, I think all the problems of writing are problems of living. And all the problems of creativity are problems of living. They are all problems which we all share.”

    Tonight at McNally Jackson Books, Wendy Lesser will be in conversation with art historian T. J. Clark about his book, Heaven and Earth: Painting and the Life to Come.

  • November 20, 2018

    Ron Chernow. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

    Grant author Ron Chernow will headline the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner next year. “Freedom of the press is always a timely subject and this seems like the perfect moment to go back to basics,” Chernow said in a statement. “While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promise that my history lesson won’t be dry.”

    Former White House aide and Trump campaign staffer Cliff Sims is writing a book about the Trump administration. Team of Vipers, which reportedly received a seven-figure advance from publisher Thomas Dunne Books, will be available in January.

    New York Times Paris bureau chief Alissa J. Rubin will take over the paper’s Baghdad bureau for six months.

    In her first column for New York magazine, Jill Abramson looks at how the Republican party is attempting to exploit the #MeToo movement for its own benefit.

    At LitHub, Alethea Black, Esme Weijun Wang, Michele Lent Hirsch, Sonya Huber, Julie Rehmeyer, and Abby Norman discuss the process of writing women’s pain. “I think pain can be as ineffable and mysterious and internal as love,” Black said. “How to let someone else know what this sensation is like when I don’t fully understand it myself? How to make concrete what is so abstract—yet simultaneously concrete?”

    “He was an ambassador from the ‘silent generation,’ whose young men harbored dreams of writing the Great American Novel, to the ‘film generation,’ which wrote the mythology of the New Hollywood,” writes A. O. Scott in his remembrance of novelist and screenwriter William Goldman, who died last week at the age of eighty-seven. “His insider-outsider books at once affirmed and debunked the myths, skewering movie-industry hypocrisy, venality and pretension even as they celebrated the hard work, scrappy creativity and helter-skelter deal making that allowed the movies to flourish. His skepticism stopped short of cynicism, and he never seemed to stop having fun.”

  • November 19, 2018

    Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming sold more than 725,000 units on November 13, the day of its release. This is the biggest release-day sales total for any book published in the US in 2018.

    Maya Jasanoff, the author of The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World, has won the 2018 Cundill History Prize.

    Ann Powers, the author of Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music, is working on a book about Joni Mitchell, title TBD.

    The Pulitzer board has announced that fiction writer Junot Diaz will remain one of its members. A law firm recently reviewed allegations of Diaz’s sexual misconduct, and “did not find evidence warranting removal” from the board.

    Time has released its list of the ten best novels of 2018, putting Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room and Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry in the number 1 and 2 spots.

    Authr Harry Bingham says there’s a problem with the argument that there’s been a decline in sales for works of fiction: it doesn’t consider self-published books. Bingham, who himself has self-published novels, looks new approaches in publishing, particularly on Amazon, and argues that fiction is “doing just fine.”

  • November 16, 2018

    For PEN International’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer, Arundhati Roy has written a letter to photographer Shahidul Alam, who was arrested for criticizing the Bangladeshi government. “How is it possible for people to defend themselves against laws like these?” Roy writes of the charges. “It’s like having to prove one’s innocence before a panel of certified paranoiacs. Every argument only serves to magnify their paranoia and heighten their delusions.” Alam was released on bail shortly after the letter was published.

    Javier Marias

    “One of the problems with novelists is that we never learn the job,” Javier Marías tells Garth Risk Hallberg at The Millions. “A professor goes to give his lesson after 40 years . . . and the teacher knows he will give a good lesson, or at least a decent one. And he will do it with ease. And the carpenter who’s been making tables for 40 years or whatever knows he will succeed with the next table. But a novelist doesn’t know that at all!”

    Hamilton Cain reviews Tommy Orange’s There There, which is under consideration for the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize.

    Columbia Journalism Review’s Karen K. Ho talks to Sunny Dhillon, a former Globe and Mail reporter who resigned from the paper after his bureau chief discouraged him from writing about the lack of diversity on Vancouver’s city council. “You fight and you fight to raise these other perspectives, to draw attention to blind spots, but how many times are you prepared to do it, and lose, and feel like you’re not being taken seriously? How many times do you want to flag something of concern for an editor or an reporter and not see it changed? Dhillon said of the struggles of being a journalist of color. “How many battles do you have in you?”

    Godsend author John Wray tells The Atlantic that he couldn’t have finished his book “if he hadn’t stumbled across a technical manual on bear attacks, abandoned on a Brooklyn street.” In Stephen Herrero’s Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, one hunter’s description of grizzlies— “he is man’s food and he makes food of man”—helped Wray find perspective on his writing. “For a novelist, writing is the one reliable source of creative nourishment, not to mention our financial bread and butter,” he explains. “Yet there’s a sense, at times, that the work is somehow pursuing you—and it’s a quarry dangerous enough to disfigure you forever, or pick you clean, down to the bones.”

  • November 15, 2018

    The 2018 National Book Award winners were announced last night. Sigrid Nunez received the fiction prize for The Friend, Jeffrey C. Stewart won the nonfiction prize for The New Negro, and Justin Phillip Reed won the poetry prize for Indecency. Yoko Tawada and Margaret Mitsutani won the first translated literature award for Tawada’s novel The Emissary.

    Fox News is joining several other news organizations in filing amicus briefs in support of CNN’s lawsuit against the White House. ”Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized,” said Fox News president Jay Wallace in a statement. “While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the President and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.”

    After finding that only 21 percent of quoted sources were women, the Financial Times has created a bot to warn writers when they quote too many men in their articles, The Guardian reports.  

    Jonathan Franzen

    Penske Media has bought ARTnews and Art in America from owner Peter Brant.

    National Book Award “5 Under 35” winners talk to LitHub about self-criticism, planning, and writing a second novel.

    The Guardian talks to Jonathan Franzen about climate change, nature, and the connection between birds and books. “Something in my character makes me sympathize with threatened things, the same way that people don’t read novels like the way they used to,” Franzen said. “It makes me want to advocate for literature. And birds in trouble makes me want to advocate for them. I love them. The two things I love most are novels and birds, and they’re both in trouble, and I want to advocate for both of them.” Tonight at the 92nd Street Y, Franzen reads from his new book, The End of the End of the Earth.

  • November 14, 2018

    CNN filed a lawsuit against the White House yesterday after Jim Acosta’s press pass was revoked last week. The Columbia Journalism Review rounds up opinions on the case from Knight First Amendment Institute director Jameel Jaffer, the New Yorker’s Masha Gessen, and CJR writer Jonathan Peters. “When a political leader puts journalists in a position of choosing between loyalty and access, he always wins, and journalists always lose,” Gessen said at a recent Columbia Journalism School event. “We can talk about how to minimize the loss, but it is certainly a net loss.”

    Wesley Yang. Photo: Rich Woodson

    At the New York Times, Jennifer Senior takes back her “mostly kind review” of Jeff Flake’s Conscience of a Conservative. “When his book came out last year, I saluted Flake for doing something politically contraindicated and Rubicon-crossing, establishing himself as the first Republican senator to call President Trump the domestic and international menace that he is,” she writes. “But . . . Jeff Flake’s book couldn’t even convince Jeff Flake. As of this writing, he has voted with Trump 84 percent of the time.”

    Wesley Yang talks to New York magazine’s Intelligencer about pain, identity, and how he came up with the title for his new book, The Souls of Yellow Folk. “The title is a kind of very irreverent and dry joke. . . . The point is that these are the essays that launched my career, and they did so by foregrounding the Asian-American identity and using it as a foil and proxy for the larger set of themes I wanted to deal with,” he explained. “I knew there was a risk that the book would be straw-manned by its critics. . . . The people who get it, get it, and they’re supposed to get it. And the people who don’t, don’t. I don’t want them to get it, and they can straw-man me in the pages of our major newspapers and magazines, which they have done.”

    “I think that we like to embrace the gonzo and that Gawker was an inheritor of that gonzo spirit that didn’t originate with Gawker, but that they carried that mantle for a little while,” Daily Beast editor in chief Noah Shachtman tells Recode about the website’s style. “We really like the gonzo. We really like the weird. We really like the fun and we don’t give that many fucks. We don’t give zero fucks, but we don’t give that many fucks.”

    Tonight at Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, Alice Sola Kim talks to Jonathan Lethem about his new book, The Feral Detective.

  • November 13, 2018

    The New York Times’s Jim Rutenberg asks various political operatives how the press should respond to Trump revoking Jim Acosta’s press pass. “It isn’t my habit to ask political operatives to weigh in on journalistic matters,” Rutenberg writes. “But in bringing a reporter’s notebook to a knife fight, the White House press corps has seemed overmatched in parrying attacks from a man who flummoxed rivals with catchy sobriquets like Low Energy Jeb, Lyin’ Ted and Crooked Hillary.”

    Lauren Groff

    New York magazine is instituting a paywall at the end of November. The new system will not affect nonprofit local news site The City.

    White House correspondent April Ryan talks to the New York Review of Books about how social media has changed journalism, her professional relationship with Trump, and having to hire a bodyguard at her own personal expense.

    “It is without doubt that social media has allowed this to happen,” Not All Dead White Men author Donna Zuckerberg told The Guardian of the current political moment. “It has created the opportunity for men with anti-feminist ideas to broadcast their views to more people than ever before – and to spread conspiracy theories, lies and misinformation. Social media has elevated misogyny to entirely new levels of violence and virulence.”

    At the New Yorker, Katy Waldman looks at the burgeoning genre of climate-change fiction.

    Lauren Groff talks to LitHub about writing advice, Floridian literature, and being included on the National Book Award shortlist for her short story collection Florida. Groff says that her dog Olive was the first to hear about her book being shortlisted. “She heard about it first because my husband didn’t answer the phone,” Groff explained. “She yawned and went back to sleep; he eventually called back.”

  • November 12, 2018

    Publishers Weekly has released its latest annual publishing survey, which looks at racial diversity pay compensation by gender, and salary increases. The survey also asks employees if they have been sexually harassed in the workplace, and looks at how many companies have sexual-harassment policies.

    Juris Jurjevics—the novelist and editor who founded Soho Press—has died. While working at Dial Press, he edited James Baldwin’s final novel, Just Above My Head.

    Following the death of book critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt last week, the Times has posted some of his most memorable reviews—of Portnoy’s Complaint, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Our Bodies, Ourselves, and more.

    In a new editorial, Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, writes about the disturbing biases embedded in the technology of recent criminal justice reforms: “Under new policies in California, New Jersey, New York and beyond, ‘risk assessment’ algorithms recommend to judges whether a person who’s been arrested should be released. These advanced mathematical models—or ‘weapons of math destruction” as data scientist Cathy O’Neil calls them—appear colorblind on the surface but they are based on factors that are not only highly correlated with race and class, but are also significantly influenced by pervasive bias in the criminal justice system. As O’Neil explains, ‘It’s tempting to believe that computers will be neutral and objective, but algorithms are nothing more than opinions embedded in mathematics.’”

    Bookforum contributor A.S. Hamrah’s new book of film criticism, The Earth Dies Screaming, which is being published by n+1, is out now.

    Heather Chavez’s debut novel, No Bad Deed, was a buzz book at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. This week, William Morrow purchased the novel for a rumored mid-six-figure price. According to Chavez’s agent, the book is a thriller “in the vein of Harlan Coben” about “a mom who’s on the hunt for her missing husband while she’s trying to protect her kids from a killer who knows too much about her own dark family history.”

    The Holocaust diary of Renia Spiegel—who was shot in Poland days after her eighteenth birthday—is being published in English for the first time.

  • November 9, 2018

    Nicolas Mathieu

    The 2018 Goncourt Prize has been awarded to Nicolas Mathieu for his novel Leurs Enfants Aprè Eux. The book, “a portrait of teenagers growing up in a forgotten, hopeless region of France in the 1990s,” will be published in the US by Other Press late next year. “It is quite a vertigo moment. . . . Writing is a lonely activity, and suddenly I am in the middle of the spotlight,” Mathieu told the New York Times in an interview. “It’s quite disturbing, but it’s good for the book.”

    Later this month, Vintage Books will republish Fletcher Knebel’s Night of Camp David, a 1965 political thriller about “an unhinged American president who falls prey to his own paranoia and conspiratorial fantasies.”

    “It was startling to see the issues around power imbalances and assault I had been writing about every day suddenly all over the news,” Those Who Knew author Idra Novey says of publishing her new book, which she began writing in 2014. “I started this novel long before a man who bragged about groping women became president and the silencing of victims of sexual assault became an international conversation.”

    David Simon’s six-episode miniseries based on Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America will air on HBO, Variety reports.  

    Vice Media has instituted a hiring freeze and is hoping to reduce staff by 15 percent, the Wall Street Journal reports. The company will also consolidate its numerous vertical sites.  

    Two upcoming panels at a Hong Kong cultural center that featured exiled Chinese writer Ma Jian have been canceled, the New York Times reports. The events were part of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival. Along with the recent shut down of the one of the city’s last bookstores to sell banned books, the cancelation is seen as “the latest sign of eroding freedoms in the city.” “Before, Hong Kong was a haven for arts and literature — a place where we felt like we could hide from China and find true freedom of thought,” Ma said. “But now that era is slowly disappearing.”