paper trail

Unveiling the New York Times's redesign; media power couples; famous last words

Christopher Isherwood and Dan Bachardy, circa 1976

The New York Times’s redesign, unveiled yesterday, has lots of white space, minimal clutter, and embedded multimedia and comments. The Times also now features sponsored articles (“advertorials”), which are conspicuously marked (the public editor has posted info about how these “native ads” work). Behind the scenes, the new site has an advanced analytics system, which will track and tag data about readers, and Times’s web designers are said to be monitoring users’ reaction to the site and making adjustments.

A new book of love letters by Christopher Isherwood and his boyfriend Dan Bachardy is sweet, gossipy, and, as the TLS notes, more than a little twee: “When Kitty [Bachardy] signs off a letter to Dobbin [Isherwood] ‘with basketfuls of furred love and musical purrs’ your response may be a shudder, or a snort, or something more emphatic. But archness aside (and there’s archness aplenty), this volume is rewarding in all sorts of unexpected ways.”

The British National Archives has for the first time posted online the last wills and testaments of a number of famous writers, including William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and William Wordsworth, who was careful to specify that the entire content of his liquor cabinet should go “absolutely” to his widow. However, as The Guardian points out, “Not every writer gets his or her way in death: literary history would be the poorer without the disobedience of Kafka's friend Max Brod, who couldn't bring himself to burn his friend's work, or Hemingway's widow, who ignored her husband's request, in a document written three years before his death, that none of his letters should be made public.”

Like a cross between a trainwreck and internet porn, the New York Observer has issued its annual list of media power couples, replete with stats, stories, and a slide show.

Sixteen novels from Morocco to Iraq have made it to the long list of the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, otherwise known as the Arabic Booker. Three Percent, the University of Rochester’s blog about international literature, has synopses of them all, from Ibrahim Abdelmeguid’s Clouds Over Alexandria, set in the 1970s, to Khaled Khalifa’s No Knives in this City’s Kitchens, about the breakdown of the state in Syria, as told through the story of a single family.