• March 11, 2015

    Finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award include Jenny Offill, for Dept. of Speculation; Emily St. John Mandel, for Station Eleven; Atticus Lish, for Preparation for the Next Life; Jennifer Clement, for Prayers for the Stolen; and Jeffery Renard Allen, for Song of the Shank. The winner will be announced April 7.

    In other awards news, the longlist for the Baileys women’s prize for fiction, which has been awarded for twenty years, was just released. According to the chair of this year’s judges, Shami Chakrabarti, literary accomplishment by women still goes under-recognized: We’re still  “still nowhere near where we should be,” she told The Guardian. Emily St. John Mandel is also on this list, along with Rachel Cusk, Sarah Waters, Ali Smith, and many others.

    Jimmy Wales

    Jimmy Wales

    Yesterday morning, the ACLU—along with the Wikimedia Foundation, Amnesty International, and the PEN American Center—filed a complaint against the NSA for its wide-reaching data-collection practices. The lawsuit argues that the NSA’s “upstream” surveillance, as it’s often called, violates the Fourth Amendment and the First Amendment. In a New York Times op-ed, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales explains: “The harm to Wikimedia and the hundreds of millions of people who visit our websites is clear: Pervasive surveillance has a chilling effect. It stifles freedom of expression and the free exchange of knowledge that Wikimedia was designed to enable.”

    The tech news site Gigaom is shutting down. Founded by former Forbes columnist Om Malik, the site has been around for nine years, and reported an average of 6.5 million monthly unique users. A statement said that the company ceased operations because it was unable to pay its creditors. It does not, however, intend to file bankruptcy.

    At the New York Times magazine, a personal account from the novelist Marlon James, the author, most recently, of A Brief History of Seven Killings (which Emily Raboteau reviewed for Bookforum in our fall issue). A Brief History was also featured yesterday on the Morning News’ Tournament of Books, winning against Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing.


  • March 10, 2015

    The Morning News Tournament of Books has commenced. In the opening round, David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks faces off against Ariel Schrag’s Adam (and wins).

    Now that James Patterson has finished giving away a million dollars to independent bookstores around the country, he’s moving on to libraries. He has plans to distribute $1.25 million. Applications for the grant ask for a 200-300 statement of what the recipient would do with the money, and are due May 31 of this year. (Is it petty of us to suggest that $1.25 million won’t be that much when split among numerous libraries?)

    David Firestone is to be managing editor of FiveThirtyEight. He recently took a buyout from the New York Times after working there for twenty-one years.

    The Times has launched an Instagram account, which you can find @nytimes, as part of its strategy to become more social-media savvy.

    Kazuo Ishiguro is “on the side of the pixies and dragons,” he said, in response to Ursula K. Le Guin’s recent suggestion that he, well, wasn’t. At Electric Literature, Lincoln Michel reminds us that in this latest iteration of the genre wars the terms we’re using mean different things to different people: “Part of the problem is that both the genre and literary worlds have incoherent and contradictory definitions of the words ‘genre’  and ‘literary.’ This often leads to a pointless game of appropriation, where literary critics and readers say that the best genre writers have ‘transcended genre’ and should count as literary fiction, while, at the same time, genre fans declare that famous literary writers belong to genres they never considered themselves a part of. Raymond Chandler is ‘really’ literary fiction while Italo Calvino is ‘actually’ fantasy.”

    China is sending a large delegation of writers, publishers, and government officials to BookExpoAmerica in May. The country will be considered a guest of honor at the conference’s Global Market Forum.

  • March 9, 2015

    At the Page-Turner blog, Jelani Cobb contemplates the Justice Department’s investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department. “The release of the report, just days before the first black President attended the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday, in Selma, made this week feel whipsawed by progress and stagnation.”

    Laura Albert

    Laura Albert

    In 2006, novelist Stephen Beachy revealed in New York magazine that teen-hustler-turned-novelist JT Leroy—whose fans and supporters included Lou Reed, Mary Gaitskill, and Michael Chabon—was in fact a woman named Laura Albert. Following a flurry of discussions about the fraud, interest in Leroy’s work dwindled. But two new films are about to shed new light on Albert and the people she conned. Jeff Feuerzeig’s new documentary, which will feature extensive interviews with a number of authors who believed Leroy, is currently in production. And this week Marjorie Sturm’s The Cult of JT Leroy will open in San Francisco. Sturm lost contact with Albert in 2003, but a friend was able to shoot additional footage of the author by pretending to be a fan.

    The National Book Critics Circle will announce the winners of their 2014 awards on Thursday night at the New School. They NBCC will also present Toni Morrison with a Ivan Sandrof lifetime achievement award. On Wednesday, finalists will read brief selections of their nominated work.

    A study has linked at least 46,000 Twitter accounts to the Islamic State.

    Simon and Schuster has announced that it will publish Jimmy Carter’s memoir A Full Life: Reflections at 90 on July 7.

    After years of operating at a loss, hemorrhaging more than $40 million in the two years before the Washington Post sold it for $1 in 2010, Newsweek is reporting a small profit.

  • March 6, 2015

    Jerry Saltz

    Jerry Saltz

    In response to complaints, Facebook has suspended New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz. Saltz has 55,000 followers (on Twitter and Instagram, he has more than 150,000) and frequently publishes what you might call “provocative” pictures and posts to his feed. One of the more recent pieces that he wrote that gained him a lot of attention was an article complaining about the conservatism of the art world, illustrated by images of penises, martyrdom, and defecation. He wrote, in response to Facebook’s move: “To all the purity police who complained that my medieval and ancient pics were ‘sexist,’ ‘abusive,’ and ‘misogynist’: congratulations!! You got me axed from Facebook. You pay in blood, but not your own. xxo.”

    Andrew Solomon has been named president of the PEN American Center. He’s the author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, and Far From the Tree, about the families of children affected by cognitive, physical or psychological disabilities.

    The New York Post is launching a comedy site, Internet Action Force, that features short (supposedly funny) videos about stuff in the news.

    Guardian and Observer staff have voted for Katharine Viner, the current editor in chief of the US Guardian, to succeed Alan Rusbridger, the current editor in chief of the entire operation, after he steps down. The vote will make sure that Viner is on a short list of three candidates being considered for the position. (The Guardian is the one of the only papers that allows employees to help determine who will be in charge.)

    Finalists for the LA Times Book Prize have been announced. The fiction list includes Donald Antrim, Jenny Offill, Jesse Ball, Helen Oyeyemi, Eimear McBride, and Diane Cook, among others.

  • March 5, 2015

    Emily Gould and Ruth Curry

    Emily Gould and Ruth Curry

    Coffee House Press is launching an imprint with Emily Books, the hybrid e-book publishing project started by Emily Gould and Ruth Curry. In the spring of 2016, the Minneapolis-based publisher will begin publishing two Emily Books titles a year, for which Gould and Curry will do the acquisitions and editing. The focus of the list will be on “transgressive writers of the past, present and future, with an emphasis on the writing of women, trans and queer people, writing that blurs genre distinctions and is funny, challenging and provocative.”

    The Baffler, which is in the process of opening an office in New York, has recently brought on a handful of new people and named Noah McCormick as publisher. Kim Stanley Robinson is the new fiction editor; Edwin Frank is the new poetry editor, and Rick Perlstein will write regularly for the print edition. The Baffler has also hired four new bloggers: Jacob Silverman, Scott Beauchamp, Sady Doyle, and Helaine Olen. Both Noah and his father, Win McCormick, the publisher of Tin House, have supported the magazine in the past.

    Seventeen hundred copies of The Communist Manifesto sold in the first week of the printing of a recent bargain edition, called Little Black Classics, put out by Penguin. Nietzsche’s Aphorisms on Love and Hate is also not doing too badly.

    The LA Review of Books is starting an online literary magazine, The Offing, that features poetry, fiction, essays, memoir, and art. The website will launch March 16.

    Vanity Fair is launching in Mexico, with an initial print run for the first issue of ninety thousand copies. Other international editions of the magazine appear in France, Spain, Italy, and the UK.

    In January, SkyMall filed bankruptcy. Now, however, there are plans in place to revive the brand with a revolutionary new business model: “We’re going to include items in the magazine that people actually want to buy,” says Scott Jordan, CEO of ScotteVest, who plans to purchase the publication.

  • March 4, 2015

    In the Paris Review’s interview with Elena Ferrante—the first-ever interview with the writer in person—Ferrante describes the crisis of confidence she experienced while working on The Days of Abandonment: “The hand was the same, the writing was the same, there was the same choice of vocabulary, same syntax, same punctuation, and yet the tone had become false. For months I felt that the preceding pages were beyond my abilities, and now I no longer felt equal to my own work. It made me bitter. You’d rather lose yourself than find yourself, I thought. Then everything started up again. But even today I don’t dare reread the book. I’m afraid that the last part has only the appearance of good writing.”

    Jenna Wortham, who covers tech for the New York Times, thinks something is changing in our experience of technology:  “There’s a slow collective awakening happening right now. With the Sony email leaks, the message is that you should never email something you don’t want other people to potentially read. Other countries have been faster to realize that the notion of privacy is not as ironclad as we like to believe or tend to think. Nothing is actually private. Nothing is actually secure.”

    Gawker offers to buy the New York Daily News for $5000.

    Ursula K. Le Guin and Kazuo Ishiguro are in a dust-up over his new novel, The Buried Giant. At the Times, Ishiguro asked: “Will readers follow me into this? Will they understand what I’m trying to do, or will they be prejudiced against the surface elements? . . . Will they say this is fantasy?” “Well, yes, they probably will. Why not?” Le Guin responded. “It appears that the author takes the word for an insult. To me that is so insulting, it reflects such thoughtless prejudice, that I had to write this piece in response.”

    A new edition of the Trollope novel The Duke’s Children restores 65,000 words cut from the 1880 edition.

  • March 3, 2015

    At the New Republic, Jamil Smith discusses the New York Times’s coverage of race, specifically its reassignment of Tanzina Vega from the race beat, which she had suggested herself, to the metropolitan section, and the more general tendency of papers across the country to shutter their race beats. Smith quotes Cord Jefferson, who wrote a piece for Matter last summer in which he described his exhaustion writing stories exclusively to do with race. Don’t “assign [minorities] to specific stories that go along with their minority group,” Jefferson wrote. “Give them jobs in your company.” But, Smith argues, “the race beat does not ghettoize race coverage. It embeds it in the body of the publication and makes it an essential part of its mission.”

    Marina Abramovic

    Marina Abramovic

    The performance artist Marina Abramovic will publish a memoir next year, to coincide with her seventieth birthday.

    At the Columbia Journalism Review, a piece on plagiarism: “Journalists are so fragile right now, so damaged by years of newsroom cuts and diminishing impact, that we’re more intent than ever on proving our purity, to ourselves and to our readers. We will therefore land ferociously on any miscreant who borrows even four or five words from another source. We will turn ourselves into the plagiarism police, vainly straining to show that our work is original, when, in fact, nearly all journalism is second-order—that is, we discover, report, and interpret the ideas and actions of others.”

    Graywolf has bought Fiona Maazel’s third novel, What Kind of Man.

    The New York Times has terminated the Home section of the paper, saying that its content “would fit best in other parts of the Times, including Food and Real Estate.”

    Wired has redesigned its website for the first time since 2007.

  • March 2, 2015

    When the New York Post reported Jill Abramson’s new book deal with Simon and Schuster last week, it noted that some at the New York Times might be “nervous” about the book (Abramson was “abruptly dismissed” from her position as the paper’s executive editor last year). The Times has now run a story about the book deal. The story is fairly straightforward, but it does conclude with some skepticism about how much Abramson was actually paid for the book. After interviewing Alice Mayhew, who will edit it, the Times reports: “Ms. Mayhew declined to disclose what the publisher paid for the book in an auction, but said that the rumored figure of $1 million that was reported by The Post is “not accurate.”

    Turkish novelist Yasar Kermal died on Saturday. A many-times contender for the Nobel Prize, he was also known as an outspoken critic of his country’s government and supporter of Kurdish rights, and his bravery was hard-won: According to the Times, “when he was five years old, he saw his father murdered, which left him with a severe stutter for years.” There are no records of his birth, but he was thought to be ninety-two or ninety-three when he died.

    Bruce Wagner

    Bruce Wagner

    In the movies: Novelist Bruce Wagner discusses his screenplay for David Cronenberg’s new  LA satire, Maps to the Stars. Richard Linklater is hoping to direct Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, based on Maria Semple’s 2012 bestseller.

    Vice Media’s creative officer Eddie Moretti said last week that the company is moving away from its male-centric point of view and sensibility. In its quest to court a larger female audience, the media company is launching Broadly, its first women-focused channel, this spring. Tracie Egan Morrissey, who left the Gawker blog Jezebel to join Vice last year, will be Broadly’s lead editor and director of content.

    The Princeton Poetry Festival, which takes place on March 13 and 14, will feature US poets Major Jackson, Maureen McLane, and Michael Robbins, as well Tomasz Rozycki (from Poland), Kwame Dawes (Ghana), Ocean Vuong (Vietnam), and others.

    At The Atlantic, Caner K. Dagli responds to a Graeme Wood’s article (also in The Atlantic) that argued that ISIS members “follow the texts of Islam as faithfully and seriously as anyone.”

  • February 27, 2015

    One of Kim Gordon’s favorite novelists is Mary Gaitskill. (Ours too.)

    Tonight, at the Met, a “poetry parade” cosponsored by the Artist’s Institute. Reading aloud texts that respond to artworks in the museum will be Eileen Myles, Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Hammer, and others. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. in the gallery of Egyptian art and concludes at 8:00 in the exhibition Madame Cézanne.

    Former New York Times editor Jill Abramson has sold her book to Simon & Schuster for a sum believed to be around $1 million. ““I’ve been a front-line combatant in the news media’s battles to remain the bedrock of an informed society,” Abramson told the New York Post.  “Now, I’m going to wear my reporter’s hat again to tell the full drama of that story in a book, focusing on both traditional and new media players in the digital age.”

    Marie Kondo

    Marie Kondo

    The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by the Japanese writer Marie Kondo, has sold over two million copies worldwide. Kondo urges people to have “tidying festivals,” in which they ask her signature question: “Does it spark joy?” If not? Into the bin. The Wall Street Journal reports that “one of her clients . . . even jettisoned her husband.”

    The FCC has approved new “net neutrality” rules, to the dismay of broadband companies and the delight of pretty much everyone else. The new rules will prevent broadband providers from blocking content, prioritizing certain kinds of traffic, or indeed discriminating in the provision of any of its services.

    Back in June, the New Inquiry started a clever roundup called “This Week in Art Crime” documenting crimes against art and, sometimes, artful crimes. Then Artnet News started paying attention to similar exploits. Now Hyperallergic follows suit with “Crimes of the Art.” Does three make a trend?


  • February 26, 2015

    More from Jenny Diski, whose serialized memoir we can’t get enough of. In this installment, someone asks, about Diski’s complicated adolescence, “Why didn’t you just do what you were told?” Diski doesn’t know how to answer. “Doing what I was told simply didn’t have a place in my story of myself. It was perfectly clear that no one had any idea what to do, so they couldn’t very well tell me. And that to do as I was told would have been to listen to people who were completely out of their depth, without a clue what to do except wait until catastrophe knocked at the door. . . . No one very much did tell me what to do because they didn’t know what they themselves ought to do for the best. . . . It was however also true, as the question suggested, that I was in general contrary-minded and had been for as long as I could remember.”

    Since the financial crisis, the New York Times reports, the number of independent bookstores in the US has risen by 27 percent. Britain has not seen a similar trend: There, the number has fallen by nearly the same amount. In France, where the price of books is regulated, the number of bookstores has neither increased nor decreased.

    Jill Abramson, the former editor of the Times, is shopping around a book that will likely interest all the major publishers and may result in a bidding war. The book is about the future of the news business—and is not, reportedly, to do with any “score-settling” with the paper’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., who fired Abramson in May.

    For the Times Magazine, Karl Ove Knausgaard has written about his experience traveling across North America, with typically exhaustive detail: “The toilet was clogged. I flushed again, thinking perhaps that would increase the pressure sufficiently. Instead, the water flowed over the top of the bowl and ran down on both sides, spilling onto the floor. I mopped it up with a towel, put the towel in the tub and looked around for an implement of some kind.”

    The 2015 Howard Zinn Award will go to two writers, Johnetta Elzie and DeRay McKesson, who covered the protests in Ferguson.