paper trail

Isabel Wilkerson on the US caste system; David Varno named president of the National Book Critics Circle

Isabel Wilkerson. Photo: © Joe Henson

Simon & Schuster has released the financial report for the second quarter of 2020—the first such report released since Jonathan Karp took over as CEO of the publisher. The report shows that revenue fell 8 percent, compared with the same quarter in 2019, but that earnings were up 9 percent, due to “lower production and distribution costs” (digital sales, for instance, are way up). The company, says Karp, “picked its shots” in promoting books that had bestseller potential, namely John Bolton’s The Room Where It Happened and Chris Wallace’s Countdown 1945. As for the rest of the year: Mary Trump’s breakout Too Much and Never Enough will factor in the third-quarter report. And in September, the publisher will release Bob Woodward’s new book on the Trump administration. Asked whether he fears a legal battle over the Woodward book (the Trump administration tried to stop the publication of both Bolton and Mary Trump’s books), Karp responded: “In Bob we trust.”

The National Book Critics Circle has sent a letter to its members announcing that David Varno will be the new president of the organization. The NBCC has been in crisis since June, when fifteen of its twenty-three members, including president Laurie Hertzel, resigned after internal emails by board member Carlin Romano, who questioned a letter written by the board to address Black Lives Matter, were made public.

At NPR, Isabel Wilkerson talks about her new book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, a history of the caste system in the US. Oprah, who chose the title for her book club, is sending copies to five-hundred CEOs, political leaders, and professors. At the New Yorker, Sunil Khilnani examines Wilkerson’s history, looking at the ways in which racism in America, as well as caste systems in India and Nazi Germany, figure into Wilkerson’s study.

Sonia Chopra, formerly of Eater, will join Condé Nast’s Bon Appétit as executive editor. The announcement comes on the heels of the decisions of three of the food-media brand’s “Test Kitchen” stars to no longer appear in videos, citing failed negotiations for equitable compensation.

At The Nation, an interview with Ottessa Moshfegh about her recent novel, Death in Her Hands. For more on the book, see Lauren Oyler’s review in Bookforum’s Spring 2020 issue.

In 4Columns’s latest summer missive, a look back at coverage of “Crime and Punishment,” including Johanna Fateman on Teresa Margolles, Tobi Haslett on a biography of Chester B. Himes, and Sasha Frere-Jones on The End of Policing.

This Saturday, San Francisco’s City Lights Books is partnering with Wooden Shoe Books of Philadelphia to host Hilary Moore, James Tracy, and Dr. Edward Onaci. The panel will discuss Moore and Travy’s book No Fascist USA!, a history of grassroots anti-fascist groups in the Reagan era. The event will be streamed for free via Zoom at 3 PM EST.