A great deal has been written recently about the frustrations of publishing a book with Julian Assange, mainly in a widely discussed, marathon article for the London Review of Books by Andrew O'Hagan. O'Hagan relates his experiences when working as a ghostwriter on an autobiography of the WikiLeaks leader that ended up being published in opposition to its subject's wishes. I'm the co-publisher of Assange's most recent book (Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet) and I, too, have found the experience frequently exasperating. Let me give an illustration. It's June of last year and I'm at a party in New York when a friendly, youngish man with a beard and a beer engages me in conversation. He tells me he is a journalist on one of the city's listings magazines and asks what I do for a job. I reply that I'm a publisher and he asks whose books I'm working on. I pick the one writer of whom I'm pretty certain he will have heard. "Well," I say, shouting to make myself heard above the music, "I've just published Julian Assange." The young man's demeanour changes abruptly and he fixes me with a sneer. "Assange," he echoes, "he's a bit of a cunt isn't he?"
I've become wearily accustomed to this over my time working with Assange: the vituperation heaped on my author, the scorn directed at me for giving him a platform. I know the general script that will follow. And, sure enough, here it so often comes, as if read from the page: "I mean, he's a weirdo isn't he? That massive ego. And the sex offences in Sweden."
Read the full piece in the Guardian.
“Out of respect for the artist, we ask that you not make video recordings of the performances you are about to witness.” These are difficult instructions to follow when David Byrne is on stage in overalls singing Biz Markie's "Just a Friend." And apparently some may not have heeded the request.
At the Artists’ Pay for Radio Play Rally at Le Poisson Rouge in New York on Tuesday night (Feb. 25), Byrne joined hosts musician Marc Ribot and "Freeloading" author Chris Ruen as well as a slew of other artists, including Tift Merritt, REM's Mike Mills and Rosanne Cash (via video) as well as the Future Music Coalition's Kevin Erickson to perform and/or rally for performance royalties for terrestrial radio airplay.
Read the full post at Billboard.
Jason Schwartz’s John the Posthumous (OR Books, 2013) is a luscious work of fiction. I am not sure if I can call it a novel. I am sure that I do not care whether it is or is not. The book is the product of a uniquely intelligent, elegant writer.
It is full of possible stories. None of them are developed. We are granted no more than hints of the narrator’s life and relations to others. Perhaps the narrator murdered his mother, his father, or both. Perhaps he merely witnessed their deaths. His brother, or perhaps his son, seems to have died, either by neglect or premeditation. Now the narrator appears to have returned to the family home after a long time away. Over the next year, or perhaps years, he learns how to maintain this rural property. Sometimes he offers advice on the folding of sheets or the trapping of mice. He describes the rooms and the land, recounts local history, catalogs the native ants, and indulges in etymology. His phrasings convey menace: “bedsheets, according to that old saying, are the knives of the bed.” The exact nature of the menace is never quite specified. Someone betrayed someone else. Someone, perhaps several people, are dead. But we never learn who did what to whom or even what the narrator’s position in the family really was. Different details point us in different directions.
Read the full review at Green Mountains Review.
Last month, the Federal Reserve confirmed the ominous news. The decline in US household debt from sky-high 2008 levels has halted, and the figures are on the rise again – up by $241bn (or 2.1%) in the fourth quarter of 2013, following a smaller increase in the third quarter. Unlike auto loans, mortgages, and credit card balances, student debt never fell at all, and is fast approaching $1.2 tn. Economists seem to have decided that the “debt overhang” from the crash has now been resolved; not only is it safe to start borrowing again, it’s a must if we are to get back on track with GDP-driven growth. With aggregate debt still at a staggering $11.5tn, this is bad analysis and bad advice. As for reviving GDP business as usual, all the evidence suggests this kind of growth is a recipe for eco-collapse.
Confronted with these exorbitant numbers, it’s natural to gripe that debts of such magnitude will never be paid off in our lifetimes. But that’s to miss the point. In a creditocracy – the kind of society we now live in – debts are not supposed to be paid down entirely, for the same reason that credit card issuers don’t want us to clear our credit card balance every month. Those who diligently pay up are derided in industry circles as “deadbeats”. The preferred customers are “revolvers,” who can’t quite make ends meet but who pay the monthly minimum along with penalties or late fees, ensuring a steady flow of revenue to banks. Creditors’ profits depend on keeping us in debt for as long as we live, and even beyond the grave in the case of parental co-signers for student debtors who die before they have performed less than an average lifetime of debt service.
Read the full op-ed at the Guardian.
No matter what you think of his work, his persona, his gusto in making or breaking literary comers when he was in a position to make or break them, no matter what you think of the writer, you have to admire the man Gordon Lish. He just turned eighty, but there he was last night at McNally Jackson Bookstore, holding forth at a reading for his new book Goings with more enthusiasm and earnest intent to entertain those of us who had come out to see him, than I've witnessed at readings by those younger and haler, which is to say readings by anyone else.
Read the full piece at Ad Broad.
Few journalists have impacted the international dialogue as much as Glenn Greenwald has over the last year. Greenwald’s reporting on Edward Snowden and the NSA has dramatically changed the way the world understands the power of the Internet as a means of government surveillance.
Greenwald has served as a columnist for The Guardian US and for Salon. He has authored four books including “With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful” and “How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok.” His newest volume “No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State" is scheduled for release in April 2014. Greenwald has received awards including the first Izzy Award for Independent Journalism, in 2009, and the 2010 Online Journalism Award for Best Commentary. Recently he was the first non-Brazilian to win the Prêmio Esso for reporting--Brazil's highest honor in journalism.
See the full event listing at SXSW.
How can you take the stuff of life and make it into something worth writing and worth reading? As a successful journalist and much-awarded writer, Raja Shehadeh understands the process of writing for publication as well as the personal benefits it brings. In part, his Occupation Diaries and Palestinian Walks were written to help him process some of the challenges of his own experience. We all have a story to tell and this session might be a chance for you to turn your own personal story into written material.
Read the full event listing at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.
After officially launching on Feb. 13, a Russian language book titled Gay Propaganda: Russian Love Stories has gained global attention in the face of Russia's extreme crackdown on its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
A collection of original stories, interviews and testimonials in both English in Russian, the e-book's text aims to accurately capture the lives and love of LGBT Russians living both in the country and in exile. Edited by Russian journalist Masha Gessen and American activist Joseph Huff-Hannon, the Russian language version of Gay Propaganda: Russian Love Stories has already been downloaded more than 10,000 times since its release.
Read the full story on Huffington Post.
Watch the full panel discussion on Youtube.
In August 1961, Secretary of the Treasury C. Douglas Dillon and Che Guevara faced off at an Interamerican conference in Punto del Este, Uruguay. Dillon, scion of the founder of the Wall Street investment bank Dillon, Read & Company, outlined the Kennedy Administration’s Alliance for Progress to a meeting of Latin American finance ministers. Dillon called it a blueprint for “a decade of democratic progress.” He noted that Latin American countries would have to reform their semi-feudal agricultural policies and backward tax systems in order to participate in the Alianza para el Progreso.
Dillon, elegantly attired in a dark pinstripe suit, promised that the United States would provide $1 billion in economic aid within six months, and another $20 billion in private and public capital over the next ten years. The infusion of aid and capital would spur economic growth. Economic growth would create jobs and money for housing, education, and public health, and lift Latin America out of poverty.
The Latin American finance ministers endorsed the Alliance for Progress in the Declaration of Punta del Este, but with little enthusiasm. White House aide Richard Goodwin recalls, “There was ... no outpouring of pledges to specific measures of social reform.”
Read the full excerpt at the History News Network.
The event on Tuesday will feature staples like “Respect,” which, when played on the radio, make money for their writers (in this case, Otis Redding) but not their most famous performers (like Aretha Franklin). Others scheduled to appear include the singers Tift Merritt and Jennifer Charles; the bassist Melvin Gibbs; and Chris Ruen, the author of the book “Freeloading: How Our Insatiable Hunger for Free Content Starves Creativity.” Laws passed in the 1990s guarantee royalties to performers from online streams, but the United States remains almost alone in the world for not paying this “performance right,” as it is known, on terrestrial radio.
Read the full piece at The New York Times.
Gordon Lish's 1983 novel, Dear Mr Capote, begins: "This is the twelfth start of the letter I am writing. Here is the reason it's the twelfth start. The reason is to try out voices!" This gag – the narrator is, or is pretending to be, a serial killer boasting to Capote about his crimes and inviting him to help monetise them – is not only an oblique gag about the writing process itself, it's a gag about the teaching process.
Lish's chief fame resides in being the man who, as an editor at the publishing house Alfred A Knopf, cut out up to 70% of Raymond Carver's short stories – if anyone should have been called "carver", it was him. He is also known for his punishing but remarkably successful creative writing course (no one allowed to go to the loo, but a potty in the corner for those in extremis, according to one account). Last year the Guardian website published a piece about him listing, in the piece itself and readers comments, about 50 writers whom he has helped; and if it is true that he licked Ben Marcus into that strange shape, then that alone is testament to his talent, influence and worth.
But Lish is also a prose writer. After all, at some point, you have to get up and show that you can walk the walk. He took his time, though. Dear Mr Capote was his first novel, published when he was nearly 50. And although there have been more novels since then, he has become known mainly for short, fragmentary fiction, reminiscent in tone of the more strangled meta-fictions of Samuel Beckett and Thomas Bernhard, which wrestle with the problems of language and narrative.
Read the full review at the Guardian.
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I sat down to read Gay Propaganda but I certainly wasn’t expecting to be so affected by it. It’s a book of Russian gay love stories told by the men and women in them, some are still living in Russia and others have been forced to leave.
The book is funny, moving, familiar in some ways and shocking in others. Yet the feeling that stayed with me the longest is anger; anger that this could be happening in the 21st century; anger that that this is happening so close to us; anger that I don’t know what I – we – can do to help. I do know that rainbow logos, gay adverts and mocking Putin for holding the “gayest games” ever aren’t enough though.
Read the full review at Lesbians North London.
Read the excerpt at The Guardian.
One of the best things to come out of this anti-gay bullshit in Russia is Gessen's elevated platform. This is wonderful not necessarily for her—Vitaly Milonov, author of the anti-gay propaganda bill, frequently uses her as an example of the kind of "pervert" his law is supposedly protecting children from; feeling at risk, Gessen eventually left the country—but for the world. She is a brilliant woman. She helped put together OR Books' recent moving collection of LGBT Russian narratives, Gay Propaganda.
Read the full essay at Gawker.
On Sunday June 13, 1971, a story was published on the front page of the New York Times under a three-column headline: “Vietnam Archive: Study Traces 3 Decades of Growing U.S. Involvement.” I thought it was the most boring headline I had ever read; no one would read this article.
It was the first installment of the series of articles that became known as the Pentagon Papers. When we published it, my colleagues at the Times and I had been expecting all hell to break loose. It was the first article in a planned series based on leaked Defense Department documents showing decades of deception and duplicity: how the American people had been misled about our involvement in Vietnam. But with this boring headline, I wondered if all our expectations of a huge explosion following publication would be wrong. All that day, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it didn’t.
Read the full excerpt at Salon.
Watch the full stream of Asylum After Sochi on Youtube.
Widely acknowledged as perhaps the most influential editor since Maxwell Perkins, Gordon Lish has worked closely with Harold Brodkey, Don DeLillo, Sam Lipsyte, Ben Marcus, Anne Carson, Cynthia Ozick, Raymond Carver, Will Eno, Barry Hannah, Amy Hempel and others. But, as Delillo writes, Lish who may be " famous for all the wrong reasons," has also "written some of the most fascinating American fiction of the last ten years.” In the new story collection, Goings, Lish wrestles with memory, self-knowledge (or the lack of it), friendship, mothers, sons and lovers in language which leaps off the page as only Lish can make it.
See the full event listing at McNally Jackson.
Reading Gay Propaganda feels like getting to know a bunch of new friends at an intimate dinner party, listening to the revealing sort of stories that give you a true sense of someone’s spirit—and Gessen and Huff-Hannon’s fine editing allows the unique personality of each person interviewed to shine through on the page. Particularly personable are the couples’ courtship narratives, capturing the “No, no, you tell it!” quality of every meet-cute tale.
Read the full piece at Next Magazine.
Ross contends that we are in the cruel grip of a creditocracy – where the finance industry commandeers our elected governments and where the citizenry have to take out loans to meet their basic needs. The implications of mass indebtedness for any democracy are profound, and history shows that whenever a creditor class becomes as powerful as Wall Street, the result has been debt bondage for the bulk of the population.
Following in the ancient tradition of the jubilee, activists have had some success in repudiating the debts of developing countries. The time is ripe, Ross argues, for a debtors’ movement to use the same kinds of moral and legal arguments to bring relief to household debtors in the North. After examining the varieties of lending that have contributed to the crisis, Ross suggests ways of lifting the burden of illegitimate debts from our backs. Creditocracy outlines the kind of alternative economy we need to replace a predatory debt-money system that only benefits the 1%.
Read the full posting at the Institute for Public Knowledge or attend the event March 13.