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Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s plans for a book series on Black artists and thinkers; “The Believer” magazine loses funding

Henry Louis Gates Jr. Photo: Stephanie Berger

The College of Liberal Arts at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas has decided to cut its funding of The Believer magazine, which is operated through the college’s Black Mountain Institute. The bimonthly literary magazine was started in 2003 by Ed Park, Heidi Julavits, and Vendela Vida, and was published by McSweeney’s until 2014. The February/March 2022 issue will be the last published with the Black Mountain Institute. On Twitter, writers and readers are sharing some of their favorite pieces from the magazine’s archive: Dustin Illingworth recommends Christopher Beha on John Hawkes; Jane Hu calls attention to “the one redeeming article on phish”—an interview by Ross Simonini with the band’s guitarist and lead vocalist Trey Anastasio.

For the New Yorker, Brandon Taylor reviews Karl Ove Knausgaard’s new novel, The Morning Star. The book is “attuned to the uncanny,” Taylor writes, at the quotidian and existential level. It’s an unsettling read, not just for “the creatures stalking the woods, nor the peculiar star in the sky, nor the man running through the streets screaming for his life. The novel’s revelation is not that something terrible is coming for us all but that it is already in our midst, and it has only been waiting for its signal to begin in earnest.”

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is planning a series of books “on Black thinkers and artists, each by a leading contemporary author,” which will be published by Penguin Press beginning in 2023. The idea, Gates told the New York Times, was inspired by the Fontana Modern Masters series, edited by literary critic Frank Kermode in the 1970s. So far, the series will feature two dozen authors, including Farah Jasmine Griffin on Toni Morrison, Brandon Terry on Malcolm X, and Imany Perry on Stevie Wonder. “My goal is for these thinkers and creative artists to become part of the world’s canon,” said Gates, who will contribute a book on W. E. B. DuBois.

At the New Republic, Lidija Haas considers Wes Anderson’s latest film, The French Dispatch, which follows the editorial staff at a fictional magazine modeled after the New Yorker and, to a lesser extent, the Paris Review. “Anderson’s ever-playful tone can make it hard to tell who the joke is on,” Haas writes, “but the cumulative effect is a relentless nostalgia for the midcentury good life and the cultural products through which it advertised and celebrated itself—which from the present feels both seductive and a little too much.”

A lawsuit has been filed against the author Jennifer Bickel Cook by cosmetics company Mary Kay Inc., alleging that Cook used copyrighted material without permission in her book Pass It On: What I Learned from Mary Kay Ash. As Walker Caplan notes at LitHub, “If successful, this suit could pose lasting problems for employees and former employees writing about work.”