Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Barton Gellman has signed a deal with Penguin Press to write a book about the expansion of government surveillance programs in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Gellman recently co-authored an article for the Washington Post about the NSA security leak and the existence of a massive internet surveillance program called Prism.
Marie Calloway sits down for the Nervous Breakdown’s Six Question Sex Interview and talks about Silvia Federici, childhood masturbation, and the relationship between social anxiety and unfulfilling sex.
Neil Gaiman is taking a “sabbatical” from social media. Speaking to the Guardian, he announced that he’ll be taking six months off to ”concentrate on my day job: making things up."
The words “tweet,” “e-reader” and “crowdsourcing” are now in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Avril Danica Haines, recently appointed to be the second-in-command at the CIA, may have worked in the White House counsel’s office, but the Daily Beast saw fit to highlight another aspect of her professional history: As Laura Miller succinctly put it at Salon, “If by any chance you were heartened by the news that the new No. 2 official at the CIA is not only female but also used to co-own an independent bookstore (and therefore might harbor some flickering belief in civil liberties), the Daily Beast is on hand to harsh your buzz.”
Greece has shut down its entire public broadcasting system, the ERT, allegedly in response to EU demands to shed 2,000 civil servants by the summer’s end. But as protesters flanked the corporation’s headquarters in Athens, TV and radio journalists refused to go quietly: as of last week, many have continued broadcasting online and on digital frequencies.
Philipp Meyer's comic book for the blind
After going broke on a previous book tour, Colombian poet Raffael Medina Brochero has offered to sell his testicles for $20,000 to fund a “Poetry for Peace” tour through Europe.
Bookforum contributor and newly-minted YA book publisher Lizzie Skurnick has announced the fall list for Lizzie Skurnick Books, which includes re-releases by “Y.A. greats Lois Duncan, M.E. Kerr, Ellen Conford, Lila Perl, Sandra Scoppettone and Berthe Amoss, and MacArthur 'genius' award-winner Ernest J. Gaines."
To celebrate the release of Tao Lin’s latest novel—which landed him a five-figure book deal—New York Magazine’s Rachel White decides to stay up all night and watch the author do adderall: ”Lin sits at a vanity turned desk, decorated with melted candles and lightbulbs covered in wax. His eyes are glimmery, and his DIY haircut is fuzzy and discordant. He is pushing around the 120 milligrams of Adderall he will take at some point tonight.”
A Copenhagen-based interaction designer has created the first comic book for the blind.
New studies find that high schoolers are reading less challenging books than their predecessors did.
The Daily Beast wonders whether big publishing houses still put money behind splashy debuts, or if they just use "independent presses as a farm league to scout for talent."
"The fiction read in summer is almost altogether of the light sort,” a Massachusetts librarian wrote in 1894. “Standard authors and serious writers of modern fiction are rarely called for.” The Boston Globe Ideas section traces the history of summer reading.
New Yorkers: Today is the final day of the amazing exhibition "Jane Freilicher: Painter Among Poets" at Tibor de Nagy Gallery. The show examines Freilicher's pivotal role among the poets of the New York School, particularly John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara, along with Kenneth Koch and James Schuyler." In addition to paintings, videos of and correspondence by the artist and the authors are on display.
Sotheby’s held a literary auction on Tuesday, and a handful of sales exceeded the auction house’s wildest expectations. Among the notable transactions, a first edition of Montaigne’s 1595 collection Les Essays went for $125,000 (it was estimated to sell for between $10,000 and $20,000); a little-known F. Scott Fitzgerald book, Flappers and Philosophers, went for $118,750 (far more than the anticipated $60,000); and a lot that included an early short story and twenty-one letters by David Foster Wallace went for $125,000—well above the predicted $10,000 to $15,000. One of the rare items that didn’t sell was William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize, was was expected to go for anywhere between half a million and a million dollars.
James Franco has signed on to star alongside Rachel McAdams, Benicio del Toro, and Paul Giamatti in an adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's 1943 children’s classic, The Little Prince.
Even though sales of George Orwell’s 1984 have spiked dramatically since news broke that the government is collecting vast amounts of citizens’ personal data, legal scholar Daniel Solove makes a subtle and convincing argument in favor of reading Kafka to fully understand the dangers of unchecked government bureaucracy.
In what could very well be a monumental decision on unpaid internships, a Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled on Tuesday that Fox Searchlight had broken the law by not paying production interns on the set of the movie Black Swan. Under federal law, internships can only be unpaid if the work is similar to vocational training, if the intern actually benefits from the work, and if the intern’s role doesn’t displace that of regular employees. So is this the beginning of an intern-rights movement? Perhaps: Responding to the news, Intern Nation author Ross Perlin tweeted, “HUGE victory for interns across America.”
On the occasion of New York Review Books releasing a new Sartre collection, Michelle Dean reflects on the philosopher’s legacy as it relates to mansplaining college boyfriends.
Lou Li, founder of Qidian
“The rich kids have better gas masks”; “pepper spray is good for your skin”: as protesters camp out in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, novelist Elif Shafak heads to Gezi Park to read the revolutionary writing on the walls.
“We are entering a new golden age of magazine publishing,” trumpets the summer issue of Port Magazine, though to judge that issue by its cover, very little seems new about either the magazine or our current age of publishing. Of the six editors featured, none are women, and there are only two female contributors in the entire magazine.
Meanwhile, the Atlantic adds to its growing list of ridiculous gender trend stories with a piece on how successful female writers have managed to balance their personal and professional lives by only having one child. “It was only when I was working on a book investigating what it means to have, and to be, an only child that I realized how many of the writers I revere had only children themselves,” writes Lauren Sandler. “Alongside Sontag: Joan Didion, Mary McCarthy, Elizabeth Hardwick, Margaret Atwood, Ellen Willis, and more.” More interesting than the article itself is the comments section, which has already attracted responses from Kate Bollick, Jane Smiley, and Zadie Smith, who argues that “the idea that motherhood is inherently somehow a threat to creativity is just absurd. What IS a threat to all women's freedoms is the issue of time, which is the same problem whether you are a writer, factory worker, or nurse.”
Lou Li, the founder of China’s largest literary website, has been arrested. The site, Qidian, works by allowing writers to post their stories, and to sell them if they become popular enough. It’s still unclear why Lou was arrested, but some sources have said that he was illegally selling copyrighted materal, while others suggested that he was illegally accepting bribes.
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Review of Books, here's an interview with New York Review of Books founder Robert Silvers.
Scarlett Johansson has filed suit against a French author for publishing a book featuring a Scarlett Johansson-like character. The Independent reports that “the book in question, The First Thing We Look At... concerns a mysterious woman who looks just like Ms Johansson, who asks for help at the house of a car mechanic in a village in the Somme, in northern France.” The author, Grégoire Delacourt, told the French paper Le Figaro that he is “stupefied” by the suit, and that he’s disappointed about the way things turned out: “I was hoping that she might send me flowers because this book is, in a way, a declaration of love.”
At the London Review of Books blog, Charles Hartman reflects on what it feels like when a poet discovers that one of his poems has been plagiarized.
The Library of Congress is expected to announce this week that Natasha Trethewey will spend another year as the national Poet Laureate. According to the New York Times, in addition to working on a memoir and also serving as the poet laureate of her home state of Mississippi, Trethewey will spend the year travelling around the country and writing "a series of reports exploring societal issues through poetry that are to appear on 'The PBS NewsHour.'"
In an essay for Vogue, Sheila Heti writes about the particular role Judy Blume played in her childhood.
Tin House has run an excellent conversation between Parul Seghal and Americanah author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who talks about writing fiction in the U.S. versus Nigeria, and why discussions about race make Americans so uncomfortable.
In case you haven't been following the NSA leak case, here's a roundup of recommended reading. In the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald has a long piece about whistleblower Edward Snowden (who's currently camping out in a hotel room in Hong Kong), while the Washington Post wonders, "Has the US become the type of nation from which you have to seek asylum?" To learn more about the machinations of government spying vis-a-vis technology, we also recommend Sarah Resnick's interview with privacy advocate Jacob Appelbaum for the OCCUPY Gazette; and for a general overview of the Obama administration's complicated relationship to transparency and spying, read Sarah Leonard on the subject in the New Inquiry.
Philip Gourevitch worked as a bear-skinner, Cynthia Ozick at an accounting firm, and Tobias Wolff as a farmhand—New Yorker contributors reflect on their summer jobs.
Kevin Barry has won the International Dublin IMPAC Award for his novel City of Bohane. Barry beat out Michel Houellebecq, Karen Russell, and Haruki Murakami for the $130,000 prize.
Documentarian Ken Burns has announced that he is going to film a six-hour adaptation of Siddhartha Mukherjee’s book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Burns was inspired to do the project by the memory of his mother, who died of cancer when he was eleven. The documentary is slated to air on PBS over the course of three nights in 2015.
American Psycho star and fictional serial killer Patrick Bateman makes his literary debut with a write-up of M.E. Thomas’s Confessions of a Sociopath in the Slate Book Review: “On the day [Confessions] arrives, a doorman I haven’t seen before hands the package to me as I return to my building at 1 a.m. I take the elevator up to my apartment and wash my hands and sit in my cream leather chair and chase an Adderall with a J&B and read the book in one sitting.”
Small Canadian press Coach House Books gets some love from Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper.
If you are somebody who constantly finds yourself arguing over whether TV shows have any literary value, here’s some new fodder for discussion: The Writers Guild of America has selected their top “101 best written TV series of all time.” The Sopranos leads, followed by Seinfeld.
Library in Istanbul's Gezi Park
Taking a cue from Occupy Wall Street, more than fifteen Turkish publishers (including Sel Publishing House, which has previously faced obscenity charges for publishing books by William Burroughs) have stepped up to donate books to an impromptu library that’s being assembled in Gezi Park—the site of Turkey’s peaceful anti-government protests.
The manuscript of Samuel Beckett’s novel Murphy has only been seen by several people other than the author himself, but it’s expected to sell for over a million dollars when it goes up for auction next month. In addition to notes and “extensive corrections,” the six-notebook manuscript includes “lively sketches of [Beckett’s] friend and mentor James Joyce, of himself, and of Charlie Chaplin.”
Joyce Carol Oates gets The Onion treatment: “As an author with a half century of literary success behind me, I can assure you the only way to make it in this industry is to meet as many publishers as you possibly can and then fuck them.”
Kurt Vonnegut thought Little Red Riding Hood was “too simple, too well-known, and too stupidly brutal” to work as a musical, and instead, in a letter to Jed Feuer, proposed setting an adapted version of it in a “backwoods, fundamentalist village run by a Jerry Falwell and vigilantes under his direction.” H/T Maud Newton.
In an opinion piece for the New York Times, Aussie cultural critic Clive James argues that while “America does polite literary criticism well enough,” because it’s a country where “consensus is considered normal and controversy is confusing,” the U.S. could never match “the bitchery of British book reviewing and literary commentary.”
Amazon has announced that it will produce Alpha House, a TV show about a handful of “misbehaving senators living together as Washington DC roommates.” The show was written by Doonesbury creator Gary Trudeau and will come out later this year.
Mary McCarthy and Hannah Arendt
A.M. Holmes beat out Kate Atkinson, Hilary Mantel, Zadie Smith, and a handful of other worthy contenders to win the Women’s Prize for Fiction yesterday at a ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall in London. After receiving the £30,000 prize for her novel May We Be Forgiven, Holmes noted that this was “the first book award I've won." This might also be the last time the award is given under this name: Beginning next year, the prize will be known as the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, thanks to a three-year sponsorship from the liquer company.
Contrary to the way it is depicted in the new film Hannah Arendt, the friendship between Mary McCarthy and Hannah Arendt, argues Michelle Dean, was forged not in their discussions of “men and love” but in their sparring over ideas, and in their contentious relationships to the “circle of men who explain things.”
Investigative news outfit ProPublica has launched a Kickstarter campaign to pay an intern $22,000 to spend a semester researching paid and unpaid internships.
The Awl is hiring an editor-in-chief.
Amazon has launched launched a new site in India, though you won’t find any Amazon products on it. Because Indian laws don’t allow online multibrand retailers to sell their own wares, amazon.in will be merely a platform for third-party sellers.
According to Slate, disgraced journalist Jonah Lehrer (Proust Was a Neuroscientist) “is now shopping around a book proposal on the science—and perhaps the redemptive power—of love.”
Kenji Fujimoto, Kim Jong-Il's personal chef
In 1936, James Agee, accompanied by Walker Evans, took a commission from Fortune to write a long essay about sharecroppers in the rural South. The piece came in late and long—it ended up being around 30,000 words—and was never published, though it became the basis for Agee’s 1941 classic Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. After being lost for decades, the manuscript was discovered, and is being published this week in its entirety by Melville House. For more on the book as a literary and journalistic artifact, read John Jeremiah Sullivan’s masterful essay on Cotton Tenants in the summer issue of Bookforum.
Military sniper and former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was killed by another veteran while at a shooting range last February, but that hasn’t stopped the release of Kyle’s second book, American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms, which was released this week. For more on Kyle’s death, and his trajectory from military hero to bestselling author to gun-rights icon, read Nicholas Schmidle’s essay on him in the New Yorker.
Alexander McCall Smith, the bestselling author of “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” mysteries, has purchased a small chain of islands off the coast of his native Scotland. The author discovered the islands, known as the Cains of Coll, while on a sailing trip, and paid roughly $460,000 for them. "I intend to look after them and do nothing with them," Smith said. "I am going to protect them for what I hope will be forever."
Only six months after The Millions launched its digital publishing initiative, Boing Boing, the blog and “directory of wonderful things” has announced its own e-book imprint. The first Boing Boing title will be cultural critic Mark Dery’s All the Young Dudes: Why Glam Rock Matters.
This summer, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento will host a show about San Francisco Renaissance men Robert Duncan and Jess Collins (a/k/a Jess, no last name), highlighting Duncan’s poetry, Jess’s visual art, and the poets and artists that surrounded them in the Bay Area during the '50s.
The new sponsor of the Women's Prize for Fiction.
For the next three years, Baileys liquor will sponsor what used to be known as the Orange Prize. The British-based prize awards nearly $46,000 to the year’s best female fiction writer. This year’s prize will be announced on Monday, and though Hilary Mantel is rumored to be the favorite, she’s up against stiff competition: Zadie Smith, Barbara Kingsolver, Kate Atkinson, and A.M. Holmes are also in the running.
Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda died nearly forty years ago. His body was exhumed about two months ago, and yesterday, a Chilean judge ordered police to find the man who may have poisoned him. The ruling is the culmination of a nearly two-year investigation into the poet’s death, and may confirm suspicions that Neruda was murdered by operatives working for then-dictator Augusto Pinochet. According to the Guardian, though Neruda’s cause of death was officially listed as prostate cancer, the story was cast into doubt when testimony surfaced suggesting that a CIA operative working with the Pinochet government may have been at the poet’s bedside when he died.
It’s a paradox: Why, at a moment when there is very little money to be found in writing and publishing, are MFA programs and writing tutorials booming like never before? At the Atlantic, Jon Reiner attributes the shift to the internet, and an unprecedented demand for content—even if there’s no money to support it.
The Justice Department will face off against Apple in court this week in the latest installment of the e-book price-fixing trial. And despite the best efforts of government lawyers, Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson won’t be required to testify against Apple.
The New Yorker runs an excerpt of Gary Shteyngart’s forthcoming memoir, Little Failure, and aptly titles it “From the Diaries of a Pussy-Cake.”
Courtesy of The Medium, here’s a little eye candy: an excerpt of Two Rivers, a photo book about Central Asia by Carolyn Drake, with text by Elif Batuman.