paper trail

Revisiting the campaign classic What It Takes; Finalists for the John Dos Passos Prize have been announced

Alexander Chee. Photo: M. Sharkey

At the New York Times, Alexandra Alter writes about Cherie Dimaline, Waubgeshig Rice, Rebecca Roanhorse, Darcie Little Badger, and Stephen Graham Jones—“Indigenous novelists reshaping North American science fiction, horror and fantasy.” Dimaline says: “There’s a big push now for the telling of Indigenous stories. The only way I know who I am and who my community is, and the ways in which we survive and adapt, is through stories.”

In Portland, Oregon, around twenty independent journalists have banded together to report on the Black Lives Matter protests, and have been selling their footage to ABC, NBC, and CNN, as well as local news stations. “National networks have used Portland Press Corps footage to underscore the severity of law enforcement actions against protesters, or to counter efforts to tell a different story,” writes Deborah Bloom at the Columbia Journalism Review. The group, which has set a payscale (charging between $250 and $500), has been “a vital resource,” Bloom writes. “With the COVID pandemic and a looming recession, news organizations everywhere have been forced to more carefully scrutinize their budgets.”

The finalists for this year’s John Dos Passos Prize—which is meant to honor a great and underappreciated writer—have been announced: Alexander Chee, Aleksandar Hemon, Gish Jen, Dana Johnson, Hari Kunzru, and Valeria Luiselli.

For her latest column, author Jennifer Senior reread Richard Ben Cramer’s book about the 1988 presidential primary, What It Takes, calling it “catnip to prose snobs” and a “New Journalism masterpiece.” Right now, she says, there’s another good reason to revisit the book: for its portrait of candidate Joe Biden. “During this pandemic season, when the former vice president only periodically heaves to the surface before sinking away from public view, it is awfully powerful to see him not just on the campaign trail, but also on the campaign trail while still in the prime of his life.”

Print-book sales are up (with a 24.8 percent jump in the first week of August). But bookstores are still struggling due to COVID-19: sales in June were 35 percent lower than sales in June 2019.

On Thursday at 7 PM EST, Rick Perlstein will participate in a virtual conversation of his new book Reaganland, the final installment of his four-book popular history of American conservatism, with New Republic editor Chris Lehmann (author of The Money Cult). The event is free. You can register here.