• September 9, 2014

    Jenny Diski

    Jenny Diski

    Jenny Diski, one of the London Review of Books’ best critics, has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. The lovely and devastating first installment of what will be a regular diary about her illness describes the “pre-ordained banality” that comes along with the diagnosis, and the difficulty of writing about a subject whose outlines are so oppressively familiar. “I can’t avoid the cancer clichés simply by rejecting them,” she realizes. “Rejection is conditioned by and reinforces the existence of the thing I want to avoid. I choose how to respond and behave, but a choice between doing this or that, being this or that, really isn’t freedom of action, it’s just picking one’s way through an already drawn flow chart. They still sit there, to be taken or left, the flashing neon markers on the road that I would like to think isn’t there for me to be travelling down.”

    Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavitz, and Leanne Shapton talk about the book they’ve recently edited, Women in Clothes, which, as Julavitz explains, originated in a simple premise: “Clothing is a daily fact we can’t avoid. That being the case, how do women decide what to put on their bodies?”

    Former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has a book deal. The as-yet untitled memoir will come out in Fall 2015, and will include Kelly’s “thoughts on the challenges faced by law enforcement.

    The American Reader has announced that it will cease publishing online. The magazine, which began in 2012, will devote all its resources to its bimonthly print publication. This decision has something to do with the low traffic the website receives—about 75,000 unique monthly visitors, which is not enough to merit measurement by certain analytics firms. The print run is 6,000.

    The executive editor of Politico has resigned, citing disagreements not about the publication’s goals but about the right strategy to achieve them.

    Twitter is testing buttons that will allow users to directly buy products through the app, the New York Times reports. The buttons will be available first only on mobile versions of the app and will be incorporated more widely later. Facebook introduced a “buy” button in July. Pinterest, too, is trying to make it easier to buy through their website.

  • September 8, 2014

    Benny Johnson, the Buzzfeed staffer who was fired for plagiarism this summer, has been hired as a social media director at the National Review.

    At the New York Review of Books blog, Masha Gessen has posted an interesting essay about Russia’s recent population dip. In the past two decades, the number of people has fallen by almost seven million people (5 percent). The main cause is lower life expectancy. But why are Russians dying at an earlier age now than they were during Soviet rule? Is it violence, vodka, “lack of hope”?

    Poynter points out an error in the New York Times’s Joan Rivers obit. Romanesko (and the St. Peters Blog), in turn, points to an error in a Rivers obit run by the the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times.

    In the American Reader, William J. Maxwell writes about the FBI’s attempts, in the 1950s, to discourage bookstores form carrying titles that criticized the agency. The Bureau at the time apparently had significant influence over some of the big publishing houses, and kept files on a number of authors, particularly African-American writers such as A Raisin in the Sun playwright Lorraine Hansberry.

    Margaret Atwood

    Margaret Atwood

    Margaret Atwood is the first author to agree to contribute to the Future Library project, which will collect 100 titles, all of which will be locked away for 100 years and released in 2114.

    Ian McEwan reflects on the court cases that inspired his latest novel, The Children Ace, including a 2000 case regarding the proposed separation of Siamese twins.

    The winners of this year’s Rona Jaffe Awards, granted to emerging women writers, have been announced.


  • September 5, 2014

    Teju Cole

    Teju Cole

    Teju Cole, the author of Open City and a 4,000-word essay about immigration (composed entirely of Tweets), talks with Foreign Policy magazine about US drone policy, Nigerian corruption, and “hashtag activism.”

    Vice Media, which has announced that A&E networks has invested $250 million in the company, has announced another $250 million investment, this one from a venture capital firm called Technology Crossover Ventures.

    The New Republic celebrates its centennial this fall, with a gala, an anthology, and a special issue; the publication’s website is also featuring one-hundred notable articles from its history.

    The Paris Review considers the wit, wisdom, and poetry of spam comments: “the best spam coalesces—with its typos, its competing voices, and its gloriously infelicitous phrasings—into a sort of nauseous goulash.”

    Tao Lin interviews Ben Lerner about his new novel, 10:04 (for more on the book, see Christian Lorentzen’s review in our fall issue).

    Good news for New York Francophiles: Albertine Books in French and English, which takes its name from the Proust character, will open in the city on September 27. The bookstore and reading room will also host readings, debates, and other literary events, including a six-night festival in October organized by Greil Marcus.

  • September 4, 2014

    USA Today has laid off between 60 and 70 staffers—about half of them editors and writers, according to Jim Romenesko. “Today is my last day at USA TODAY, after 30 years,” Edna Gundersen, the paper’s longtime pop critic, tweeted yesterday. “I was laid off this morning, along with several great colleagues. Onward.”

    David Remnick has responded to environmental activist Vandana Shiva, who recently fired off a harsh rebuttal to Michael Specter’s profile of her in the August 18 New Yorker. “Part of the problem is that after encouraging Mr. Specter to travel with you both in Italy and India, you apparently changed your mind, and stopped replying to his interview requests (or emails.)”

    Inc. profiles Dao Nguyen, who, after being fired from Le Monde, went on to become the head of data and growth at Buzzfeed, where she has become a key player in the company’s ongoing surge in traffic.

    Chris Kraus

    Chris Kraus

    At the Believer, Chris Kraus writes about a mid-’90s email exchange between Kathy Acker and cultural theorist Mackenzie Wark, which will soon be published by Semiotext(e): “In some ways, Acker and Wark’s correspondence amounts to a cautionary tale against casual sex, but, in a larger sense, they’re trying to forge a brave friendship that includes sexual and intellectual intimacy aided by total disclosure. Comfort matters less to them than knowledge.”

    Andrew Sullivan considers the problem with every web outlet thinking they need a “take” on the latest trending news (or “news”) story: “The Takes wouldn’t be produced if they weren’t profitable—or at least aspirationally, potentially profitable—to the publishers, but the defining feature of modern web publishing is that the Takes are ruining the Brands. When your worst, laziest, least-polished writing is also the most frequently published content at your publication, that writing defines the voice of your site.”

  • September 3, 2014

    Yesterday, Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos announced that Frederick J. Ryan Jr.—a onetime Reagan-administration staffer and currently Politico’s first chief executive—will be replacing Katharine Weymouth as publisher of the paper. This is the first time that the Post will not be headed by a member of the Graham family since 1933, when Weymouth’s great-grandfather Eugene Meyer bought the paper.

    John Updike

    John Updike

    At The Atlantic, a story about Paul Moran, who systematically dug through and took items from John Updike’s trash for three years, beginning in 2006. Moran has blogged about his finds at The Other John Updike Archive, and says of his pursuit: “It was disgusting. . . . The immediacy made it seem so wrong, but longterm, if you flash back on virtually any major author or historical artist, you would think, ‘I wish I had Mark Twain’s stuff or Andy Warhol’s stuff.’”

    Simon Reynolds, author of music studies such as Rip It Up and Start Again and a Bookforum contributor, has written an ode to “inkies,” British weekly music newspapers like NME, Melody Maker, and Sounds. “Imagine, if you can, or remember, if you’re old enough, a long-ago time when music fans had to wait. Wait for news about music. Wait for reviews that were really previews of music you’d wait even longer to hear.”

    Emily Bazelon and Dave Weigel are both leaving Slate. Bazelon will join the New York Times Magazine, as part of their in-progress redesign, and Weigel is moving to Bloomberg Politics.

    A&E Networks is rumored to be in negotiations with Vice Media to pay $25 million for a 10 percent share.


  • September 2, 2014

    Our fall issue is out now, with Christian Lorentzen on Ben Lerner’s 10:04, Christopher Caldwell on Rick Perlstein’s The Invisible Bridge, Emily Gould on perfume nerds, and more.

    Amazon angers Japanese publishers.

    Clive Thompson on the benefits of taming “the tyranny of 24/7” email.

    Tillie Olsen in the 1940s.

    Tillie Olsen in the 1940s.

    At the New Yorker, an essay about Tillie Olsen focuses on her 1934 piece The Strike (written when she was named Tillie Lerner), which aligns her struggles as an author with the battles that Great Depression workers fought. Olsen was influenced by the work of modernists like Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf, and in her journal entries from the 1960s, she discuss the enduring challenge of juggling writing with her day job and her “second shift” of domestic duties: “Compulsion so fierce at night / brutal impulse to shove Julie away from typewriter /  voices of kids calling—to be able to chop chop chop like hands from the lifeboat to leave me free … My conflict—to reconcile work with life.”

    Martin Amis’s German publisher has declined to bring out his new novel, The Zone of Interest, which is set in a Nazi concentration camp.

  • August 29, 2014

    New York magazine rounds up the books to look forward to this fall, including Ben Lerner’s much-anticipated novel, 10:04, which publishes next week, Lena Dunham’s memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, as well as new fiction from Martin Amis, Marilynne Robinson, and Denis Johnson.

    Cover of an Arabic edition of Georges Simenon's "The Corpse."

    Cover of an Arabic edition of Georges Simenon’s “The Corpse.”

    Rene Steinke runs down six great books about Texas that go beyond “cattle and cowboys.”

    Jonathan Guyer on pulp fiction and graphic novels in Egypt: “When President Hosni Mubarak breezed off . . . the police dusted, too, leaving behind a Wild West.” Now, in Cairo, “as authorities attempt to restore law and order, the crime genre is making a comeback.”

    Looking back at ten years, and nearly a hundred titles, of the book series 33 ⅓, which lets obsessive music fans hold forth on their favorite albums.

    At the London Review of Books, Jenny Diski binges on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, and wonder why hardly anyone comments on how racist it is: “All the other groups—the Latinas, the lesbians, the poor white trash (just the one tiny grumpy Asian lady)—have their dramas and morality tales, but only the African Americans are shown to be arrogant bullies relying on and rejoicing in brute force and fear to maintain their hegemony.”

  • August 28, 2014

    Following the sale of the Canada-based scientific publication Experimental & Clinical Cardiology to New York buyers who turned around and sold it to a group in Switzerland that nobody can seem to identify, the journal is “now publishing anything submitted along with a fee of $1,200, packaging spurious studies as serious scientific papers.”

    At the New Yorker, Cambridge classicist Mary Beard responds to her sexist detractors. On Twitter trolls and online commenters: “The more I’ve looked at the details of the threats and the insults that women are on the receiving end of, the more some of them seem to fit into the old patterns of prejudice and assumption.”

    For those anticipating Lena Dunham’s memoir, the New Yorker has an excerpt.

    You’ll never guess what Facebook’s new algorithm will do to clickbait offenders like Buzzfeed and Upworthy. Click here to find out.

    At the National Book Festival, E.L. Doctorow will receive the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.

    David Mitchell

    David Mitchell

    At Vulture, Kathryn Schulz profiles David Mitchell: “Mitchell himself views his novels as “chapters in an Über-book”—which, to one degree or another, he has been writing all along.”


  • August 27, 2014

    Zaha Hadid

    Zaha Hadid

    The architect Zaha Hadid is suing the New York Review of Books for libel in response to an article by the critic Martin Filler. The article quotes her incorrectly, in such a way that implies that Hadid ignored the deaths of construction workers on a building in Qatar she designed. The building in question was not yet under construction; NYRB “regrets the error.”

    Robert Hass has won the Wallace Stevens award, which comes with a $100,000 cash prize.

    The National Book Foundation will collaborate with NPR’s Morning Edition to reveal the 2014 National Book Awards finalists on October 15th.

    At the New Yorker, Steve Coll discusses the kidnapping of journalists, the Anglo-American government policy against paying ransom, and the tendency to blame kidnapping victims for their fate. In a recent NPR show, for example, the host asked a colleague of the journalist James Foley whether Foley was “reckless.” That’s not the right question: “There is training that can help prepare a correspondent to work in a hazardous place for the first time, and there are tools—phones, cars, security consultants—that can help to keep them safe around the margins. But most of the great correspondents who have worked in hard places and walked away again and again have idiosyncratic methods for making judgments about which road to travel and which to avoid. And only the arrogant among them will say that they are not very lucky.”

    In light of Hachette’s feud with Amazon, The Guardian discusses potential “irreversible changes” in the publishing business model, in which publishers—bolstered by social media relationships with its audience— may attempt to move towards direct sales.

    New York Times writer David Itzkoff will write Robin Williams’s biography.

  • August 26, 2014

    Michael Brown

    Michael Brown

    Michael Brown has been buried in St. Louis. In Monday’s funeral service, attended by Al Sharpton and Spike Lee, Brown’s family members memorialized the teenager. The eighteen-year-old unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, on August 9, sparking outrage and protests across the nation. Yesterday, the New York Times public editor apologized for reporter John Eligon’s having called Brown “no angel” in a recent story: “That choice of words was a regrettable mistake. In saying that the 18-year-old Michael Brown was ‘no angel’…The Times seems to suggest that this was, altogether, a bad kid.”

    The Columbia Journalism Review describes the media controversy over whether to publish graphic images from the video of journalist James Foley’s execution. “There is no journalistic value to my mind of showing what a beheading looks like,” said Dean Baquet, executive editor of the Times. On Twitter, Vox’s Max Fisher criticizes Reuters for overstepping.

    Laura Ingalls Wilder (the author of the Little House series) has a memoir coming out this November with the South Dakota Historical Society Press. The autobiography, originally written in 1930, reportedly contains stories of pioneer life that “would not be appropriate” for children. “Wilder’s fiction, her autobiography, and her real childhood as she lived it are three distinct things, but they are all closely intertwined, and readers will enjoy seeing how they reflect one another,” said Nancy Koupal, the press’s director.

    A forthcoming book by English professor Sue Vice argues that fake memoirs shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed; they may have “value in literary or psychological terms that exceeds their truth value.”

    The third volume of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, appears next week. At T Magazine, three writers speculate on the real identity of Ferrante, who has never been photographed or made a public appearance. She did, however, recently give an interview to Megan O’Grady at Vogue, to whom she explained her work as “a battle to avoid lying”: “If it seems to me not that I’ve won but that I’ve fought with all my strength, I decide to publish.” The Guardian calls Ferrante “a master of the unsayable.” And last year, James Wood noted that her public restraint seems “wisely self-protective”: ”Her novels are intensely, violently personal, and because of this they seem to dangle bristling key chains of confession before the unsuspecting reader.”

    The 6.0 earthquake that rattled northern California wine country this weekend also sent hundreds of books to the floor of the Napa Public Library. All Napa County libraries were closed on Monday for cleaning. In Lakeland, Florida, a bookless library avoids similar messes. Florida Polytechnic University budgeted $60,000 to give students access to over 135,000 ebook titles.