paper trail

Viet Thanh Nguyen on cultural appropriation; David Remnick on BuzzFeed

Viet Thanh Nguyen. Photo by BeBe Jacobs

Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer, maps the current fight over cultural appropriation and outlines the myriad ways—acknowledging history, accepting criticism, taking responsibility—that writers can advance the argument over who gets to write about what. “If all of this seems too difficult, then you understand why people would rather fight over things like food, and why building walls may seem easier than building bridges.”

The New Yorker’s David Remnick has written a paean to BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith. Calling the site “an entity that is hard to define,” Remnick admires Smith’s ability to combine “mind-vacation” listicles and quizzes with enterprising investigative journalism. “The truth is, I have no idea what BuzzFeed is going to be in a couple of years . . . but it is fascinating to witness Ben Smith & Co. trying to figure it all out. Dull is the last thing it’s going to be.”

Jill Soloway’s adaptation of Chris Kraus’s novel I Love Dick has been picked up by Amazon for a full season. The show will be available on Amazon Prime in 2017.

At Gizmodo, Matt Novak details his struggles to obtain information on Guy Sims Fitch, a fictional writer invented by the United States Information Agency for propaganda purposes. Fitch’s articles were written by a number of unidentified employees of the now-defunct agency “to promote American economic interests abroad” during the Cold War, and have been found in archived newspapers worldwide. Novak filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA for documents regarding the invented journalist, but was denied by the CIA over privacy concerns. The organization has asked Novak to provide the verified identities of every USIA employee who wrote under Fitch’s name, as well as proof of consent for their information to be made public. The CIA has also requested death certificates for any of the Fitch writers who may have died in the meantime. “The short version? They’re toying with me,” Novak writes.

Truman Capote’s ashes were sold last weekend for $43,750 to an anonymous buyer. The cremains had been given a starting price of $2,000. Other items sold in the auction included the clothes Capote died in ($6,400) and “two lots of his prescription pill bottles” ($9,280).

Tonight in Harlem, the Schomburg Center hosts a conversation between Negroland author Margo Jefferson and Kia Corthron, playwright, writer for The Wire, and author of The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter.