Newsletter: Books: An editor with a vision, the late Denis Johnson and more book news

Books Editor

Hello, book lovers! I’m book editor Carolyn Kellogg with this week’s literary news.


John Freeman’s name is in lights — literary lights, that is, on the cover of the journal Freeman’s. In it, he encourages some of our greatest writers — Mohsin Hamid, Valeria Luiselli, Dave Eggers — to dig into challenging issues like immigration by way of nonfiction, fiction and poetry. Jennifer Vineyard visits with Freeman and discovers what makes this critic-turned-editor-turned-poet tick.

John Freeman
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times )



When Denis Johnson died last year at age 67, the loss was keenly felt by fans of his iconic short story collection, “Jesus’ Son.” Now comes “The Largesse of the Sea Maiden,” a posthumous collection of his later short fiction, which shows similar men, grown older, often contemplating mortality. Critic at large Adriana Ramirez finds the prose beautiful but wonders whether the kinds of stories Johnson told can bear up under contemporary scrutiny: “As in ‘Jesus’ Son,’ Johnson’s men are also sexist and racist, living in the male Baby Boomer fantasy of scrappy and oblivious dudes against the world. Women exist as accessories, the world seems to be universally white and Johnson’s narrators seem uncomfortable with anything that isn’t heteronormative,” she writes in our review. “The argument can be made, of course, that these are the worlds his characters inhabit, but in 2018, it’s a bit more difficult to imagine a landscape without some attempt at diversity.”


Perhaps you’ve heard something about the media men list that circulated last fall — an anonymously authored list of male journalists and literary editors who allegedly committed inappropriate acts of sexual harassment or intimidation. Created in the wake of the initial reports of film mogul Harvey Weinstein’s many alleged misdeeds, the media men list, which quickly was taken offline, seemed to have repercussions — four of the 70 men on it stepped down or were fired, Newsweek reported. This week, a furor erupted when it was discovered that Katie Roiphe, writing for Harper’s magazine, may have planned to reveal the author of the list without her consent. How do I know it’s a her? Because she — Moira Donegan — decided to preemptively come forward as its author. Here’s our story.


Two books debuting on our bestseller lists this week are Robert Crais’ “The Wanted” at No. 3 on our fiction list and Mary Beard’s “Women and Power” at No. 4 in nonfiction. Kate Tuttle talked to the classicist for The Times about her take on misogyny in ancient Greece and Rome.

At the top of our lists, the No. 1 L.A. Times bestseller in fiction is the novel “Manhattan Beach” by Jennifer Egan, now in its 13th week on the list.

The No. 1 L.A. Times bestseller in nonfiction is “Leonardo da Vinci” by Walter Isaacson. The book is now in its 11th week on our list.

See all the books on our bestseller lists here.

Jennifer Egan, whose novel "Manhattan Beach" is an L.A. Times bestseller.
(Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times )


The dystopia “Red Clocks” by Leni Zumas — a complicated literary puzzle in which a professor who wants to get pregnant navigates a world much like our own but where reproductive rights are severely legislated — is reviewed by Joy Press.

In another literary dystopia, “The Transition,” poet-turned-novelist Luke Kennard builds a textually disruptive world full of corporate communications in which a couple find themselves at the mercy of capitalist forces. Idra Novey reviews.

Arthur Miller’s archive is going to the Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin.

“The Stowaway: A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica” by Laurie Gwen Shapiro — about a teenager in the 1920s who desperately wanted to join an expedition to the South Pole led by Cmdr. Byrd — has a terrific premise (but not enough else).


“Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff is the fastest-selling book in Henry Holt’s history, the publisher announced Thursday. Print editions of the book have been sold out pretty much everywhere — the printing has gone up to 1.4 million copies — and audiobook editions and ebook editions were downloaded in record numbers. Jackie Calmes from our Washington, D.C., bureau has this smart analysis of the book, and in a reprieve from last week, here’s my simple quiz to help you decide if you should read it.

"Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" is flying off shelves.
(Erik S. Lesser / EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock )


My favorite part of the “Fire and Fury” story is that President Trump’s attention to it, as Stephen Colbert said, accidentally created a national book club. Are you reading it? What do you think? Tell me via email at