Category Archives: interviews

Extended Play: More from the Jeremy Scahill Q&A

Alex Crowley -- December 5th, 2013

Earlier this week we ran a q&a I did with Jeremy Scahill in light of his latest, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, making our Best Books 2013 top-10 list. Scahill had a lot to say and moving beyond the limitations of print, I continue the interview here, another enticement to read this incredibly important book.


In answering my question about public response to his book, Scahill noted that…

A month after the book came out President Obama, for the first time in his entire presidency, gave an address to the American public at the national defense university and finally admitted that he had authorized US military actions that killed American citizens in drone strikes. So I don’t know if the book had any impact on his decision to do that, but I do think that there is a heightened sense that we need to confront these issues or else we’re going to pay a price down the line.

He also noted how current and former soldiers and intelligence personnel had positive responses to what he revealed about our use of Special Forces around the globe. I asked him why we he thought we haven’t heard more criticism from these quarters…

What’s been interesting in the context of the Edward Snowden story and the revelations about surveillance at home and abroad is that there can sort of be two ways that it can go down. On the one hand, fear that they will be indicted for being espionage agents. On the other hand, courage breeds courage; I’ve heard from a number of people who are potential whistleblowers and they’re disturbed at what they’re seeing inside the machinery of power. And I think for a lot of people who serve in the military, they’re kind of left wondering what the point of it all was. The US is going to leave in the next year, we’ve lost thousands of Americans and have no idea how many civilians have been killed, and I think that the men and women who are left with the conducting of these operations are left saying, “What is the point of everything we risked our lives to do?” Continue reading

Avant-garde in Istanbul: A Chat with Duygu Demir

T Fleischmann -- November 5th, 2013
Artist: Nilbar Güreş

Nilbar Güreş, The Living Room, 2010

Critic and curator Duygu Demir works out of Istanbul, where she is a programmer at SALT. She is also one of twelve curators chosen to represent their home city in Art Cities of the Future, published in September by Phaidon. Below, she talks about the contemporary art scenes that flourish in Istanbul as well as some of the considerations that come along with Western attention and influence.

What was your process for selecting the artists included in Art Cities of the Future? Did you set out to show the broad range of concerns, modes, and styles that they represent, or did that range come naturally as you curated the text?

My process of choosing the artists was guided by a few different concerns. First and foremost, I wanted to reflect the equality between female and male artists here, because I think unlike many other fields in Turkey, in the arts the practicing artists are more or less equally distributed. I wanted my selection to reflect this. Also, I identified while working on my text that there are about three generations of contemporary artists in the city that are still practicing, Gülsün Karamustafa, in her late 60s, represents the oldest generation, Halil Altındere and Esra Ersen, both in their early 40s represent the mid-generation, and the youngest generation, which features the most artists, is comprised of Cevdet Erek, Köken Ergun, Aslı Çavuşoğlu, Ahmet Öğüt and Nilbar Güreş, who are all in their 30s. Another balance I had in mind was to include artists who work in a diverse range of media, the selection reflects artists working in painting, installation, video, sound and performance.

As a curator and programmer, what about Istanbul most holds your attention and keeps you working there, rather than locating your practice somewhere else on the international circuit?

First and foremost, I am from Istanbul, and it is important that I understand its dynamics as best as I can. As I am quite young, I think it is important that my own formative years are spent here, where the city’s art institutions are also in formation. My practice is very much intertwined with what I experience here, and I have been involved with SALT—an interdisciplinary cultural institution which only opened in 2011—from the beginning, which allowed me to think about how to program in a city that has two distinct audiences for its institutions; an advanced but much smaller group of people who are part of the international art circuit, and another larger group, who are curious, but with much less exposure to art. It is an inspiring challenge, and I feel most fulfilled when I am giving tours of exhibitions to the public or high school groups and it does not always click but you sometimes get to see a slight change in sensibility after the encounter. Also, there is a lot of archival research to be done here, many more artists and collectives and exhibition histories to uncover, areas in which even the most preliminary art historical work has not been done, let alone over-studied, of course this is due to a lack of state structures. Here the private sector is trying to fill in those gaps (of course not without their own agendas) but it is a completely different system compared to more established Western European or North American examples and their support structures, and it remains to be seen how it will work. But in short, there is a sense of excitement and curiosity here that fuels dynamism, which is crucial.

What is the working artistic community in Istanbul like? Do these artist socialize together and collaborate, or do you see them more as representing distinct aspects of the city’s artistic life?

One of the key aspects that the editors of the book wanted us to keep in mind while selecting the artists was that the artists played an active role in the city’s artistic community. The artists I selected all know each other and do socialize together. Perhaps due to residencies and travel that is required for their work they are not always present; however, they are all very invested in Istanbul. Since the city’s art circuit is still in its formative stage these artists take on more responsibility than just their own artistic practice; they participate in discussion groups, give tours, teach either at universities or through workshops. They are very involved with the community and outspoken. And since the Gezi protests, I think the artistic community here even got closer and other channels of communication opened up, there is a new sense of urgency for unity.

You end your introduction with a question, wondering whether artists in Istanbul will “continue to look critically at identity formation, unexcavated histories and local complexities, or succumb to the comforts of commercial patronage.” How much did the sometimes problematic implications of commercial patronage and Western influence weigh on your mind while framing Istanbul for the audience of Art Cities of the Future?

Very much so. I keep saying that the art scene here is rather new and still in formation, and it will sound like a contradiction when I say this, but of course things never happen overnight, except perhaps the commercial interest. As I try to explain in my introductory essay, avant-garde practice in Istanbul has a long history, which nowadays gets easily overlooked because of the hype around what is happening now. It was quite a closed-circuit perhaps until the 1990s, but there are figures still working today such as Sarkis, Nil Yalter or Fisun Onur who were all educated in the West. It is not the Western influence but the commercial interest that is worrisome in my opinion.

And finally, are there any upcoming exhibitions to which you’d like to draw our attention?

The very contested Istanbul Biennial this year has just ended, but perhaps selfishly I would like to draw attention to the Gülsün Karamustafa survey at SALT which will be on view until January 5, 2014. It spans 40 years of artistic practice, and the exhibition also reflects the recent political history of Turkey, as events such as the formation of the Turkish Republic, two military coups (1971 and 1980), population in Istanbul jumping from 1 to 15 million over the course of a few decades through migrations from the countryside to the city, are all reflected in the works of the artist, whether through personal memories, family stories or first-hand experiences, such as her Prison Paintings (1972-78), made right after the artist was imprisoned for her political activism.


Phaidon 2013


Comics and Graphic Novels at the Brooklyn Book Festival

Calvin Reid -- September 19th, 2011

The Comics Writ Large and Small Panel at the Brooklyn Book Festival (l. to r.) Meg Lemke, moderator, Craig Thompson (Habibi), Anders Nilsen (Big Questions) and Adrian Tomine (Optic Nerve).

Comics and graphic novels have always been a part of the Brooklyn Book Festival, held this past weekend on a beautiful fall Sunday September 18 at Borough Hall and surrounding sites. But this weekend the Brooklyn Book Festival 2011 seems to have really ramped up the involvement of comics artists at the one-day literary festival, incorporating cartoonists into a wide range of literary panels along with prose authors in addition to all-comics and youth comics panels.

The Quick Draw panel (l. to r.) Laura Lee Gulledge, Dave Roman and Raina Telgemier.

Indeed Meg Lemke, acquisitions editor at Teachers College Press and a member of the BBF youth committee, told PW that the festival worked to incorporate comics throughout the show’s programming. And Lemke was the moderator for one of the hottest tickets at the show, Comics Writ Large and Small, a public interview with three of the most acclaimed cartoonists of the moment about their newest works: Craig Thompson (Habibi, Pantheon); Anders Nilsen (Big Questions, Drawn & Quarterly) and Adrian Tomine (Optic Nerve, D&Q). The event was held at the St. Francis College Auditorium, a block away from Borough hall and one of several additional venues (which included projection capability in order to show off comics and visuals) added to the festival to accommodate the growth in attendence.

And the show is definitely growing. The plaza at Borough hall was jammed with visitors from the time this reporter arrived around 10am on Sunday to moderate—if that’s the word—a  panel on drawing for kids featuring three cartoonists. The panel, Comics Quick-Draw!, was more of a tongue-in-cheek sports event  than a conventional panel—it was a packed outdoor tent full of parents and young kids, who were asked to tell the cartoonists to draw any kind of crazy thing—like, say, aliens eating bagels on the moon!—and the intrepid cartoonists did their best to comply. Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy), Raina Telgemier (Smile) and Laura Lee Gulledge (Paige by Page) were great troopers and expert draughtspeople and the kids were screaming with delight by the end of the session (they also bum-rushed the stage at the end to claim the drawings). Comics aimed at kids were well represented with a combination of panels and workshops throughout the day featuring such cartoonists as Nick Bertozzi and Sarah Glidden.

Continue reading

The PW Morning Report: Thursday, April 7 2011

Craig Morgan Teicher -- April 7th, 2011

Today’s links!

Borders Plan Does Not Impress: The NYT reports that, at a meeting with creditors yesterday, Borders presented a restructuring plan that did not impress.

Borders Mythical 10%: The Consumerist looks for a 10% discount that Borders promised…

DRM = Airport Security: So says Joe Wikert on his blog…

UK Bookstore Spending: The Bookseller reports the worst spending since March 2005.

Malcolm X Book: Malcolm X’s daughters are unhappy about a new bio of their father that alleges his marriage was unfaithful. From AP.

Introducing Poetry: Salon talks to NYT poetry critic David Orr (one of the subjects of our poetry profile) about his new book.

Loving and Losing ‘The Tiger’s Wife’: An editor tells the tale of losing the auction for The Tiger’s Wife. From Read it Forward.

The PW Morning Report: Wednesday, March 9, 2010

Craig Morgan Teicher -- March 9th, 2011

Today’s links!

Goodbye Kodansha International: It’s closing down by the end of April, according to the Japan Times.

Free Kindles?: Technologist Kevin Kelly predicts Amazon will be giving out Kindles for nuthin’ by this November.

Amazon’s UK Share: According to the Bookseller, Amazon has 80% of the online book business.

L.A. Stories: The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse has won this year’s Hemingway Foundation/ PEN Award for short fiction, reports the LA Times.

Assistants Assisting Assistants: The NY Observer writes up a meet up of publishing assistants.

NBCC Finalists Reading: Come see the finalists for this year’s National Book Critics Circle Award read from their work tonight. The awards are tomorrow.

Tea Obreht Interviewed: This week’s buzziest writer talks to the Rumpus.

Poet, Editor, Critic, and now Publisher Max Winter on Jim Shepard’s Gojira, King of the Monsters

Mike Harvkey -- November 3rd, 2010

Cover Design by Michael Kupperman

Jim Shepard’s Gojira, King of the Monsters is out next week from Solid Objects, a New York press recently founded by poet and critic Max Winter and poet and translator Lisa Lubasch.

At 52 pages, the work falls into the murky and, for some reason, often controversial, realm between the “long short story” and the novella.

When I asked Winter how he’d come to be publishing a single short work by Jim Shepard, he said he’d been a fan of Shepard’s for years and contacted him when he and Lubasch decided to start the press. Shepard sent him Gojira, and Winter was “moved and fascinated. One immediate draw for me,” Winter said, “was what you could call the cult of Godzilla [the American-ization of the original Japanese title], an observed, long-standing intense interest in both the Japanese and American versions of the monster and the film. In addition, the movie has always been important historically, as an influence on other movies and as a metaphor for America’s status in the world at the time of its release.”

Set mostly in 1954, Shepard’s novella sticks closely to Eiji Tsuburaya, the real life special effects director of the historic film (known during production as only “project G”), revealing a Japanese man torn, like many, between home and work. “He was falling behind everywhere: in his wife’s affections and in his work’s responsibilities,” writes Shepard. Tsuburaya’s wife, Masano, is unhappy, and seems to shoulder the lion’s share of grief over the loss of their young daughter years before. She’s also not thrilled that Hajime, their 19-year-old son, wants to follow in dad’s footsteps; indeed, Tsuburaya gets him a job working on the film as a camera assistant helping to shoot the miniatures (of which there are many). Continue reading

This Much Approval Means ‘I must be near the end of my career,’ says Franzen

Mike Harvkey -- September 28th, 2010

The author with his shovel.

In an interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Jonathan Franzen opens up about the fallout from his Corrections Oprah incident (for which he blames “the prevailing mood of philistinism”; being reviled set him back a year), the gap between men and women when it comes to books (calling it “a very destructive disconnect between the critical establishment and the predominantly female readership”), and his process, including earplugs, “pink noise” headphones, and blindfolds.

Since the run-up to the publication of Freedom (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and the Time magazine cover, Franzen-mania has taken on a blob-like character, growing ever bigger and devouring smaller books and writers in its path (something Franzen himself has done in the past). It shows no signs of slowing anytime soon, and the military hasn’t been called in to straif the creature yet. Of course frequent profiles, articles (like this one), and interviews help to feed the beast. But in the current climate (“Publishing’s dead! Run, Forrest, run!!”), a beast of a novel isn’t such a bad thing.

The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington sat down with Franzen in his “spartan writing studio in New York’s Upper East Side. The tiny room, furnished with a battered old desk and greasy-looking mattress, resembles a monastic cell. The walls are bare except for a single decorative plate. There is a tiny kitchen with one small saucepan.”

Read the full interview here.

Cover Reveal: Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

John A. Sellers -- September 27th, 2010

Earlier today, Scholastic unveiled the cover of Forever, the third and final book in Maggie Stiefvater’s bestselling Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, which is due out in summer 2011. To mark the occasion, we reached out to Chris Stengel, associate art director at Scholastic, with questions about his distinctive designs for the trilogy’s covers.

PW: How exactly did you decide to go in this spare, monochromatic silhouette direction, as opposed to some other treatment of wolves and forests?

CS: In the beginning, I can remember playing with a number of photos to try and make them feel more abstract, however, things just weren’t quite working. Things were feeling much too bold and hard. I it was clear to me that there was a subtlety missing. I began with the idea of the heart-shaped leaf, created a graphic interpretation of it, and from there, things really began to grow. In order to achieve a sense of depth, I played with the color values of the branches, and felt pretty happy with the outcome. By keeping things a bit stark, I figured it could help set this title apart from others on the bookshelf.

PW: Since this is the third and final book in this trilogy, did that present any particular design challenges? Did you approach this cover with any specific goals?

CS: I definitely knew that I wanted to make the third book red. It seemed logical to me to follow the progression of the seasons. At first, I wasn’t sure how close to Shiver the sequels should be, but once the artwork came together, it felt right to create a variation on the theme. The reversal of positions for the girl, boy, and the wolves relates to the plots of the books.

PW: David Levithan bought four more books from Maggie Stiefvater back in MarchForever, plus three other novels. Will you be working on the covers for any of those? Anything you can say about any of them?

CS: Funny that you should ask, because I’m actually in the middle of concepting the design for a new book by Maggie right now! It’s been challenging to try and emulate the same subtlety that exists on Shiver, Linger and Forever, but I’m sure something will come together soon. Over the weekend, I was able to begin fleshing things out a bit. Hopefully everyone will like the direction!

PW: Any other covers you’ve been working on that we should keep an eye out for?

CS: Half Brother by Ken Oppel (September 2010) hit the shelves recently and I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. Three others I enjoyed working on should also be released pretty soon: Gemini Bites by Patrick Ryan (March 2011), The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman (January 2011), and the sequel to Numbers by Rachel Ward called The Chaos (March 2011). I can’t wait to see how they’re received!

Kobo’s Ami Greko Talks to PWxyz

Craig Morgan Teicher -- September 3rd, 2010

Ami Greko has worked at almost every kind of publicity and marketing job in publishing, and now she’s joined Kobo as senior manager of vendor relations (books).  PWxyz caught up with her to discuss her career, her new gig, and the changing publishing industry.

What was your first publishing job?

Well, there are really about three ways to answer this–for those of you with limited time, the short version is that for a girl from the Midwest, a path to a real, live New York City publishing job is a long one.

There was the fabulous indie bookstore job in Kalamazoo, MI, and after that closed, the Waldenbooks in the mall. I copyedited scientific journals in Boston for a while.

But I always think of my first publishing job as being a publicity assistant gig at Viking Penguin, which I got as a direct result of the Columbia Publishing Course.

What are your duties in your new role at Kobo?

I’m bringing new publishers on board to sell their titles, working with current publishers to make sure we’re selling as many of their titles as we can, and of course, general cheer-spreading about ebooks and the digital future. I’ll be out and about at a lot conferences and events, so I’m really looking forward to meeting a ton of new folks.

It’s going to be a lot of fun, and along the way there may even be some of those drinks with little plastic monkeys hanging from the rim.

Publishing has undergone lots of changes since you started, going digital, losing review space, suffering lots of layoffs.  How have those changes affected your work–obviously, your new job at Kobo is a direct result of those changes.
Continue reading