paper trail

Jia Tolentino reviews Christine Smallwood’s debut novel; Lovia Gyarkye on bookstores and curation

Christine Smallwood. Photo: New York Institute for the Humanities

A new study surveying journalists from Virginia, Missouri, Arizona, and Texas alongside published coverage of anti-racism protests in those states between 2018 and 2019 shows gaps “between how journalists thought they covered protests, and actual published protest coverage.” Summer Harlow, one of the researchers behind the study, breaks down how mainstream news can delegitimize social movements.

For Columbia Journalism Review, Akintunde Ahmad interviews Michael Tubbs, the former mayor of Stockton, California, about governing in a news desert. Tubbs was the target of a disinformation campaign by a local news site called the 209 Times; the founder of the site takes credit for preventing Tubbs’s reelection. “This disinformation wasn’t just about an election campaign, but indeed, it was a four-year campaign that only works in a news desert,” Tubbs said. “It only works when the algorithm rewards racism and bigotry and bias. It only works when there’s no check, there’s no certification.”

Elizabeth A. Harris reports on how the merger between Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster could affect smaller bookstores and how book deals are made.

At the New Yorker, Jia Tolentino reviews Christine Smallwood’s debut novel, The Life of the Mind. Writing about the unlikeably relatable protagonist, Tolentino notes, “Like many of the people who will love this novel, Dorothy is either tremendously depressed and dysfunctional or completely ordinary and doing pretty well. ‘Was she tired? How should a person feel?’ she wonders.” For more from Smallwood, see her Bookforum archives, including her classic essay on John Updike’s Couples.

FSG has announced a posthumous work by the late anthropologist David Graeber, The Dawn of Everything, cowritten with David Wengrow. The book, which will be published in October, is said to offer a radical rethinking of human history.

In Ssense magazine, Lovia Gyarkye writes about the Instagram accounts of For Keeps Books, BLK MKT Vintage, and The Underground Bookstore, which highlight Black bookstores, ephemera, and libraries. As Gyarke observes, “These accounts conjure the rich and textured legacy of Black bookstores in the United States—an inquiry into language, aesthetics, history—and hold that responsibility close. They are extensions of the real, experiences unto themselves. They are where an artist’s mind meets a reader’s heart to create an encounter.”