Or really, more than one revolution – and constant revolutions: “Art isn’t easy. It’s not just that we need a revolution in style but also a revolution in audience, distribution, circulation, performance, perception and, indeed, motivation. These revolutions are never a question of being marked as ahead of the times. … Rather, the issue is staying in and with the times and not letting the times drown you.”
While the population of the U.S. is 38 percent people who identify as African American, Latino, Native American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander, books written or illustrated by people from those categories clocked in at just 427 out of 3,400 children’s books published in 2016.
“To accept my definition of style is to concede that for it to assert itself, a number of pretty unusual characteristics have to coexist in one individual. As such, a gifted writer’s style is as irreducible and arbitrarily conferred as any talent; amenable to practice and refinement, sure, but at base as God-given and inimitable as Federer’s touch or Picasso’s hand. Here lies the existential challenge faced by the style guide or writer’s manual: beyond the nuts and bolts of usage and basic writerly manners, they are attempting to teach the unteachable.”
That novel was Trilby (you may recognize that name as well), which was written as a serial for Harper’s Monthly by George du Maurier (Daphne’s grandfather) in 1894. The title character was a tone-deaf working-class girl whom the conductor-pianist Svengali hypnotized and turned into a world-famous opera singer. As Emma Garman recounts, both of those characters got as far beyond their creator as the monster did with Victor Frankenstein.
In 1950, Margaret Wise Brown wrote, and put away, two fragments that Sarah Lyall describes as “part variation on, part expansion of” her 1944 children’s book , which later became a worldwide bestseller. Lyall tells how those two fragments were found and combined by an editor and will be published this year.
“To enjoy the library’s collection and atmosphere, you have to pay a ticket of just under £100 for a four-hour reading session – a markedly different experience to the free access readers can enjoy in Russia’s public libraries.”
When Facebook fired the human editors of its Trending module last year and let an algorithm curate the news, the world soon learned (falsely) that Megyn Kelly had been fired from Fox News. “Will there be controversy when the bot thinks this is important, and humans say this is important, and they’re the exact opposite thing? It’s going to get interesting.”
“Wikipedia’s role in beating back the post-truth age doesn’t rest with blacklisting certain sources as perpetually unreliable (as the website did with the Daily Mail) or preventing congressional staffers from meddling with their boss’ bios. An elder statesman of the content ecosystem in Internet years, Wikipedia has been combating misinformation by thoughtfully and purposefully iterating on strict guidelines of verifiability that Wikipedians (active editors in the Wikipedia community) both refine and enforce information transparently in open channels.”
Is this in Saudi Arabia or Dubai? No, it’s in Russia – in a new Gothic-style building in St. Petersburg erected and operated by the publishing house Alfaret. A four-hour visit costs 7,000 rubles, just over $120.
Roy’s twenty-year turn to nonfiction makes a compelling case for the need for new forms of writing in conditions of social emergency, forms that remain resistant to commodification.
In the summer of 1953, Christopher Strachey, a colleague of Alan Turing at the University of Manchester computer lab, wrote a program that made the lab’s Ferranti Mark 1 mainframe churn out love letters according to a template (e.g., “you are my [adjective] [noun]“). Beginning eight years ago, artist David Link constructed a model of the old computer and started running Strachey’s software (if that’s the word) once more.
Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happpen Here is on the list, as is Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. (They didn’t need to include The Handmaid’s Tale.) But there are also titles by Mario Vargas Llosa, James Baldwin, Katie Kitamura, Hari Kunzru, Rachel Kushner, Jean Brunner, Antonio Tabucchi, and Viet Thanh Nguyen.
Police officers raided the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow in October 2015 and arrested its director, Natalia Sharina, for distributing “extremist” literature and “anti-Russian propaganda.” She’s been under house arrest ever since and was put on trial last fall. Now Sharina is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
“The voices of Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker and Benjamin Franklin still feel electrically alive to us because they managed to bake their personas into their brief observations. While proverbs and adages (cousins of the aphorism, to be sure) often lose their authorship and become orphaned—think about how many times someone has mentioned “an old Irish saying” without knowing anything about its actual provenance—aphorisms stay tethered to their creators, dragging their voices along through history.”
The haul may be a bit challenging for them to sell on the open market. They stole 160 rare books, including “a 1566 copy of De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium by Copernicus, worth an estimated £215,000, as well as works by Galileo, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci and a 1569 edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy.”
Christine Hyung-Oak Lee could only remember 15 minutes at a time. “I couldn’t plan for the future. I couldn’t think of the past. I had no regrets. So it’s literally living in the moment. I was experiencing something that people go to yoga and Zen retreats to achieve. So it was quite pleasant. It was not pleasant for the people around me.”
Fifty years “after Forough Farrokhzad’s sudden death, the reclusive Ebrahim Golestan has finally broken his silence, speaking out about the seriousness of their relationship. … Farrokhzad, one of Iran’s most loved literary figures of the past century who was largely overlooked in the west, was known for her candid writings challenging the patriarchal limits of Iranian society and has been compared to Sylvia Plath.”
Édouard Louis, author of the new book “The End of Eddy,” about growing up gay in a conservative small town: “However different Baldwin’s childhood was from De Beauvoir’s, mine was like neither of theirs: in my childhood, there were no books. My parents have never read a book in their lives; there wasn’t a single book in our house. For us, a book was a kind of assault: it represented a life we would never have, the life of people who pursue an education, who have time to read, who have gone to university and had an easier time of it than us.”
Viet Thanh Nguyen, who won for “The Sympathizer,” says that “Sometimes people have said that I give voice to the voiceless Vietnamese. If you know anything about Vietnamese people, you know they are not voiceless. They are quite loud, whether it is in Vietnamese or English. Here is a reading list of some of the most important writing by Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans, just to prove that we have not been voiceless. Most of the time we are just not heard.”
Some Austen scholars say that the standard for male beauty has changes since Pride and Prejudice was first in front of a reading public. “I mean, we all know that Austen wasn’t actually thinking of Colin Firth when she wrote the book.”
“No level of affluence will ensure that you write a worthwhile book. Consider the laws of the literary few: Having lots of money confers status but having very little confers legitimacy, which offers a different kind of status; having too much is unseemly yet so is having none. The rich and the poor collude in believing that the amount of money you inherit or make means something about your moral fiber, the quality of your art. What will we do when we find out it doesn’t?”
Yes, the usage exploded in the 1970s and ’80s, but it didn’t originate with Valley Girls or even hippies – it goes back at least to the 1770s. In this Lexicon Valley podcast, John McWhorter and sociolinguist Alexandra D’Arcy talk about the history and (yes) grammar of “like.”
Joan Acocella, reviewing two new books on the subject, considers the benefits of dirty words: their “analgesic effect,” their “cathartic power,” their “barrier-crossing function,” their role in bonding.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you’ve ever attended a poetry slam, you probably already hate ‘slam voice.’ … As an outsider, it’s an easy thing to make fun of, but unfortunately for our cold, dead hearts, it’s always been hard to articulate exactly why it annoys us.
“Now some libraries are deciding that the money isn’t worth the hassle – not only that, but that fining patrons works against everything that public libraries ought to stand for.” Ruth Graham explains the reasoning and the results.
Perhaps the ultimate tribute? Places invented in literature that become so famous that real places name themselves after them. It’s a tribute, of course. And there are a lot of them…
A judge sentenced the teenagers to read the books, as well as watching 14 films, visiting two museums and writing a research paper to encourage “a greater appreciation for gender, race, religion, and bigotry” (sic) after they were caught vandalising the Ashburn Colored School in Virginia.
“Started in 1990 by a small group of linguists, Word of the Year has spread like a video of an anarchist punching a Nazi that’s been set to music.” Stefan Fatsis explains how it happened.
“[Margaret] Atwood’s foreboding tale of a society that regresses into religiously driven totalitarianism took the top spot from Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ Dangerous.” (Guess the Super Bowl ad worked.)