• August 10, 2015

    Vice’s editorial staff has voted to unionize, following quickly in the footsteps of writers and editors at Gawker media and Salon. In a statement, Vice CEO Shane Smith responded to the vote with grandiose paternal affection: “I’m so proud of all my perfect diamonds here at Vice. Every single day your ideas and work continue to blow me away. I am proud to support all of you—and as an old grey-haired man all I want is for my beautiful Vice family to be happy—those writers who voted to unionize and those who did not. I love you all, and together we will conquer the world.” The Writers Guild of America will represent the Vice editorial staff.

    John Darnielle

    John Darnielle

    The Film Society of Lincoln Center has announced that it will soon restart its “Print Screen” series, which invites authors to introduce films that have influenced their work. First up on the schedule is John Darnielle—the singer-songwriter mastermind behind the Mountain Goats and the author of the novel Wolf in White Van—who will appear at a screening of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Medea on August 31. Other authors who will appear in the series include novelists James Hannaham (Delicious Foods) and Garth Risk Hallberg (the forthcoming City on Fire) and essayist-poet Susan Howe (My Emily Dickinson).

    We know that Esquire is a men’s magazine, but do they really think that men don’t read books by women? Their new list of “80 Books Every Man Should Read” suggests as much: It includes only one title by a woman author, Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find. Did they pick that one because it has “man” in the title?

    The New York Times currently has more than 1 million paid online-only digital subscribers. This figure should help reduce the worries expressed when the paper put up its paywall in 2011. But according to Wired’s Julia Greenberg, the paper of record still has a way to go. “The question remains for the Times, as print advertising revenue and print copies sold continue to drop, whether the gains in digital subscriptions will be enough to offset its traditional revenue base.” The majority of online readers still do not pay, and the paper recently reported that only a third of its ad revenue comes from digital advertisements. “Even if one million is a nice number,” says Greenberg, “the Times still needs millions more.”

    Carol Brown Janeway, a longtime editor and executive at Knopf, has died. In addition to her accomplishments as an editor, Janeway was also a lauded translator who produced English translations of books including Bernard Schlink’s The Reader, Thomas Bernhard’s My Prizes, and Daniel Kehlmann’s F.

    Essayist and novelist Tim Parks, author of the new book Where I’m Reading From: The Changing World of Books, was recently asked, “Do writers—and readers—overstate the importance of literature?” Parks responded: “Of course they do…. Needless to say, I love literature and feel it offers all kinds of opportunities for heightening and refining mental life. But it’s worth remembering that for thousands of years the vast majority of humanity neither read nor wrote. We have no proof that this made them stupid or unhappy.”

  • August 7, 2015

    Rand Paul

    Rand Paul

    It’s not easy to out-drama-queen Donald Trump (whose unexpected success in the presidential race has inspired publisher Thomas Dunne to hurry a new biography into print), but Rand Paul and Chris Christie seem to have managed it at last night’s debate.

    You probably noticed that Melville House has brought out the Pope’s encyclical on climate change as a book. But you may not know that Pope Francis is now also a Verso author. You can get hold of his latest work, hailed as “an urgent call to action,” here for free—and you won’t want to miss it.

    Clickbait with a cause: Gaza gets the Buzzfeed treatment.

    Ilan Stavans, author and publisher of Restless Books, which recently launched an annual prize for New Immigrant Writing (fiction submissions will be open September through December), describes his ambitions for the venture: “I’m not just looking for realistic, socially conscious literature. That would be a mistake. I’m hoping for a David Foster Wallace with an accent.”

    Ninety-nine-year-old George Braziller, of the eponymous publishing company, has written a memoir-in-vignettes, mostly about writers, books, and so on (though he does also manage to make out with Marilyn).

    The University of East Anglia (whose Creative Writing MA is the UK’s answer to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop) has created a new archive. You can see some of the Doris Lessing material online, and you may also be able to profit from her agent’s advice (given while Lessing was trying to publish her first novel): “Don’t be a prima donna till you are one.”

    Authors worried about lackluster book sales should simply go back in time and marry Jon Stewart. His brief plug for his wife’s book apparently took its Amazon ranking from 244,740 to seven (above Ta-Nehisi Coates; only just below Dr. Seuss and Harper Lee) within a couple of days.

    Joanna Coles, the editor under whom Cosmopolitan has somewhat changed direction, is deftly handling a recent attack on the magazine from Victoria Hearst (heiress to the company that owns it), who wants to protect America’s children from its corrupting cover lines.

    Everybody’s sad about Brazenhead Books, evicted at last not long ago—but it looks like there might be a new secret location come September.

  • August 6, 2015

    Thanks to a lawsuit by the Guardian, more information has now emerged about the “off-the-books interrogation compound” in Chicago’s Homan Square—we now know that more than 3,500 people have been detained there, “82% of whom a Guardian independent investigation found to be black,” and there have been “only three documented visits from lawyers to the building since September 2004.”

    The New Yorker seems to be bringing out the big guns on TMZ, with a long report by Nicholas Schmidle, better known for his pieces on bin Laden and war crimes in Kosovo. TMZ employees (former and current) were warned not to talk to him, although it seems fair to say discretion isn’t exactly TMZ’s USP.

    Only one more dose of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show to go.

    The Coen Brothers have signed on to write and possibly direct an adaptation of Black Money, one of Ross Macdonald’s celebrated California crime novels.

    Reddit’s new “content policy” just went into effect. Lots of denizens of unnameable-here subreddits will be sad, and presumably on the lookout for a new online lair.

    In the UK, where there is increasing pressure on teachers to report on any students they feel may be at risk of “being drawn into terrorism,” Homegrown, a National Youth Theatre production exploring why young people join ISIS, has been cancelled just before its opening. The director had been told beforehand that police wanted to look at the script and place plainclothes officers in the audience at the east London school where it was to be staged.


  • August 5, 2015

    Robert Conquest

    Robert Conquest

    The historian Robert Conquest has died. Best known for his work on Stalin’s purges, he was also a Movement poet who edited sci-fi anthologies and collaborated on a novel with his friend Kingsley Amis—and apparently now and then got credit for one of Amis’s “jokes.”

    The political cartoonist Ted Rall, dropped by the Los Angeles Times after the LAPD disputed his account of being “roughed up” by an officer in 2001, has had an audio recording of the incident cleaned up and is considering a lawsuit (against both the Times and the police).

    Note to redditors: Apparently doxxing is OK as long as you do it to Donald Trump.

    Gather around and shudder at the tale of the female novelist who decided to try posing as a man when sending manuscript queries. She began to fear she was being “conditioned like a lab animal against ambition,” because agents doubted she could pull off the big book she had in mind. Oh, and she discovered her male alter ego was “eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book.”

    Elle.com, as part of the magazine’s “Shame” issue, is publishing some true confessions, including that of a recovering clickbait writer.

    Meanwhile, the Guardian seems to be hemorrhaging journalists (now including their head of news, Stuart Millar) to Buzzfeed UK.

    Is it just us or does the following seem unbearably poignant? From the man who runs BooksbytheFoot.com (which is pretty much what it sounds like), on people who buy books based on spine color, to decorate their homes: “We had many books that nobody would buy to read. This re-purposes books we can’t sell for reading or collecting. This gives a lot of books one more chance; many would otherwise be sent to a pulper.”

  • August 4, 2015

    Jason Fine, the current editor of Men’s Journal, will be the new managing editor of Rolling Stone, taking over from Will Dana, with whom publisher Jann Wenner says he has had “a conscious uncoupling” after the magazine’s difficulties over its retracted UVA article.

    The once-scrappy Charlie Hebdo doesn’t know what to do with all its money.

    F. Scott Fitzgerald

    F. Scott Fitzgerald

    The new venture from veteran entertainment journalist Nikki Finke (she of Deadline Hollywood) has gone live. “Once you get past F. Scott Fitzgerald and John O’Hara,” she told Jezebel, there are not nearly enough short stories about Hollywood, so she’s decided to rectify that by providing pay-as-you-go fiction from movie industry insiders.

    On the other hand, there might still be more Fitzgerald to be had.

    No wonder Nick Denton’s envious: Some advertisers now see Vox, supposedly due for an investment from NBC Universal that would value it at $850 million, as a “modern-day Condé Nast.”

    Witness the Sisyphean travails of a fact-checker on social media.

    Tonight at St. Mark’s Bookshop, the Shrinks Are Away reading by local authors promises to soothe any Manhattanites suffering without their analysts this month.

  • August 3, 2015

    Etger Keret

    Etger Keret

    Etger Keret’s new book, The Seven Good Years, is a collection of personal essays about life in Israel, but there are currently no plans to publish it in Hebrew, or in his home country. Keret—whose previous work has consisted mostly of short, whimsical, and surreal fiction—recently told the Guardian that he wrote the book for people outside the country. He explains: “If I talk about going to a maternity ward with my wife and all the medics are with people from a bombing, for an Israeli person that is so normal that it hardly merits any attention.”

    Ta-Nehisi Coates lists the ten books he couldn’t live without. Among them is C.V. Wedgwood’s The Thirty Years War. Says Coates: “God, I love this book. It’s the history of an utterly depressing war with no real nobility that ultimately descends into cannibalism. Right up my alley.”

    Yan Lianke is China’s most censored fiction writer. Some are calling his latest novel, The Four Books—which is set during Mao’s attempts to transform the country from an agrarian model to a socialist one—his “riskiest book yet.”

    Jason McBride recounts the death of novelist Kathy Acker in 1997. Acker, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, had refused chemotherapy, and for a long time had refused to see a doctor. As her health declined, she sought treatment in an experimental health clinic in Mexico. She was, as the article points out, “as uncompromising in death as she was in life.”

    A number of writers contributed to New York Magazine’s “How to Be Alone” story, among them Darin Strauss (who writes about Film Forum), Eileen Myles (the Staten Island Ferry), Vivian Gornick (Walking), James Hannaham (Coney Island), and Joshua Cohen (libraries).

    A debate between the New York Times and the New York Review of Books has been escalating over the past week. After Richard Bernstein criticized the Times’s recent expose of labor exploitation at nail salons, the Times issued a rebuttal. And now the NYRB has responded to the rebuttal.

    From the archives: Rachel Kushner’s 2012 essay about Clarice Lispector.


  • July 31, 2015

    Emergency staff take over at Gawker: Leah Beckman steps up as editor-in-chief, Hamilton Nolan steps in as her deputy, and John Cook has agreed (apparently after some hesitation) to be the new executive editor. The International Business Times got hold of Cook’s reassuring memo to the troops: “I’m not going to blow smoke up anyone’s a– and say we’ve weathered the storm and hop on board we’re headed to victory. But we are all still here . . . and we have at our disposal—right now, at your fingertips—an immense and powerful machine for illuminating, skewering, praising, and changing the world around us.” So there you have it: At least in theory, Gawker’s still skewering.

    If you missed the first installment this week of the New York Times Magazine‘s Disenfranchised, a series on attempts to roll back the Voting Rights Act, don’t let it happen again.

    The week of his memorial, Mary Norris, the New Yorker’s Comma Queen, remembers the writer James Salter as someone who had “very strong feelings about punctuation,” even if Norris herself “thought some of his commas were unnecessary” and said so in public.

    Hillary Clinton is hiring from Buzzfeed now: her new social media director, Julie Whitaker, has just been poached from a position as managing editor of BFF.

    Meanwhile, seems there’s a lot more to style website Refinery29 than we thought.

    Claudia Rankine’s Citizen is now a play, opening tomorrow at the Fountain Theatre in LA. One of the cast, Tina Lifford, describes the first day’s table read: “Everyone at the table knew we were signing on to dig into our own racist conditioning.”

  • July 30, 2015

    Ted Rall's cartoon for the LA Times

                 Ted Rall’s cartoon for the LA Times

    Political cartoonist and author Ted Rall—who has written books about Afghanistan and Edward Snowden—has announced on his blog that he has been fired by the Los Angeles Times, where he has been a regular contributor since 2009. The reason for the firing, says editorial-page editor Nicholas Goldberg, is a cartoon that Rall published in the paper in May, in which the artist recalled being handcuffed and roughed up by the LAPD after he was stopped for jaywalking. According to Goldberg, the LAPD has provided evidence that it did not mistreat Rall: “An audiotape of the encounter recorded by the police officer does not back up Rall’s assertions; it gives no indication that there was physical violence of any sort by the policeman or that Rall’s license was thrown into the sewer or that he was handcuffed.” Rall responds that the “evidence,” an audiotape, is “mostly unintelligible garbage,” and responds to what he calls a “disgusting example of journalistic cowardice in the face of a violent and corrupt police department willing to lie to protect itself.”

    NBCUniversal are close to a deal to invest $250 million in BuzzFeed (valuing the company at 1.5 billion) and are also negotiating to increase their stake in Vox Media.

    Will Dana has announced that he is leaving his post the managing editor of Rolling Stone, a position he has held for nineteen years. The New York Times wonders if the move is a result of the controversy that erupted following the magazine’s publication of the now-discredited article about sexual assault at a University of Virginia fraternity. Publisher Jann Wenner replied through a spokesperson: “Many factors go into a decision like this.” But it’s hard to imagine that Dana’s departure isn’t directly linked to the defamation lawsuit that three ex-fraternity members filed against the magazine on Wednesday.

    Not to be outdone by Gawker and Salon, staffers at the Guardian US have voted unanimously to unionize under the News Media Guild, which is in talks with other digital types too. Next up: Politico?

    When the Booker Prize decided to let Americans in two years ago, English-language writers elsewhere were scared they would take over (English novelist Philip Hensher predicted US writers would dominate “simply through an economic super-power exerting its own literary tastes, just as the British empire imposed the idea that Shakespeare was the greatest writer who ever lived throughout its 19th-century colonies”). Some say it’s beginning to look that way.

  • July 29, 2015

    The Booker Prize longlist has just been announced.

    The New York Times rebuts the New York Review of Books’s rebuttal (by a Times journalist turned day spa owner) of their nail-salon exposé.

    Amazon—or Relentless, as it was originally to be called—now has plans to reserve a two-hundred-foot slice of airspace for its drones.

    Edwidge Danticat

    Edwidge Danticat

    As migrants cross the border from the Dominican Republic, Edwidge Danticat writes from Haiti.

    Ursula K. Le Guin has started an online forum for writers of fiction, where she plans to answer questions about craft (or open them to the floor) every other Monday. She claims not to have the “vigor and stamina” to write novels or teach offline classes any more, but she clearly has no intention of going easy on anyone. She won’t allow questions about how to get published: “We won’t be talking here about how to sell a ship, but how to sail one.” And, continuing the nautical metaphor, she assures would-be participants she will “use the lash only when forced to it.”

    It’s hard not to get big-headed when the Onion launches a whole new web series just to parody you, but then Vice isn’t known for its modesty anyway. Regardless, EDGE starts August 3.

  • July 28, 2015

    For those who like their New York Times corrections as baroque as possible, this piece about Hillary Clinton’s email account (and the phantom “criminal” investigation of her) is a gift. Executive editor Dean Baquet said the slow screw-up here wasn’t staffers’ fault, but Talking Points Memo disagrees.

    CK710AcW8AAIENl.jpg-largeIt’s hard to look away from New York magazine’s cover story on thirty-five of Bill Cosby’s accusers, but some hackers did their best to help with that.

    Anyone who doesn’t like the idea of a softened-up Gawker has been invited to take the money and get out: William Arkin, former national security adviser to the New York Times and founder of Gawker’s national security spin-off, was asked to go and had some things to say about it. Leah Finnegan—also ex-NYT—is leaving too.

    “Artists are assaulters in a lot of ways and the viewer is complicit in that assault. In the same way with the book. I hope readers feel a sense of entanglement in these lives; they are bearing witness to them but there is also something quite intrusive about that.” An interview with Hanya Yanagihara, the author of A Little Life.

    A collection of twenty previously lost Pablo Neruda poems, discovered last year in boxes in Chile, will be out in English translation in the spring.