Facing the “aberration” of gender-inclusive styles, the French language is henceforth in “mortal peril.” (Yes, it says that.) Adaptations such as écrivaine for female writer, or la ministre for a female minister, will end in a “disunified language, disparate in its expression, creating a confusion that verges on illegibility.” The new spellings and syntactical signs will burden teachers and complicate reading. The dream of a coherent francophonie – the international community of French speakers – will be annihilated by the additional spellings and complexity “to the benefit of other languages that will profit from this confusion to prevail around the world.”
“English and German have common origins, Anglo-Saxon, or Old English. There’s a lot of overlap, but there are also some crucial differences. English is a left-leaning language, meaning that relevant information tends to be clustered on the left side of a sentence. German, on the other hand, is a right-leaning language. (We are a generally a right-leaning people.) As a result, German sentences can surprise you with an unexpected verb or participle at the end of a sentence.”
Michael Erard: “Immediately after the election, Masha Gessen … called for a ‘language beat’ to track the erosions [in the meanings of words in the current climate]. But here’s a reality check that I hope isn’t merely pedantic: language consists of more than words. This gives the writer interested in politics, language, and the shifting of realities many topics to tackle beyond lexicography and semantics. As someone who’s been writing about language and linguistics for a long time – I consider myself a ‘language journalist’ – here are some that I have my eyes on.”
The association’s Job Information List — a proxy for the tenure-track (or otherwise full-time) job market in English and foreign languages — included 851 jobs last year in English, 11 percent (102 jobs) fewer than the year before. The foreign language edition list included 808 jobs, or 12 percent (110 jobs) fewer than the year before.
One force behind the rise of these fairs was Shannon Michael Cane, an exuberant, heavily tattooed Australian expatriate and autodidact book aficionado who in 2013 took over the Printed Matter book fair in New York, the granddaddy of such gatherings. He proceeded to transform it into a radically inclusive affair, attended by venerable rare-book dealers alongside obscure zine makers so scrappy that they could barely afford the plane fare to participate.
“Found in Chandler’s archives at the Bodleian Library in Oxford …, the story, “It’s All Right – He Only Died,” opens as a ‘filthy figure on a stretcher’ arrives at a hospital.”
“A new study suggests that the few words infants know are structured in their minds the same way as an adult’s vocabulary, in a complex web of related concepts. The evidence: When words have similar meanings, babies can get confused. That confusion hints that babies know more about language, at a younger age, than scientists have found before.”
On becoming a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters: “To paraphrase Mary Godwin’s line about the vindication of the rights of women, it’s a vindication of the rights of science fiction. To have my career recognized on this level makes it a lot harder for the diehards and holdouts to say, ‘Genre fiction isn’t literature.'”
Whew, what’s up with but and butcher? Or cheesy? But there are deeper differences: “Germans read and speak differently; we scan to the end of the sentence, then we go back and parse it. Understanding this, in my view, is crucial to understanding how English speakers and German speakers think differently. English speakers make it up as they go along; German speakers have to know where they’re going.”
Follow this: “In the very first episode of Jane the Virgin — the hit show about a young woman who is accidentally artificially inseminated during a routine visit to her gynecologist — viewers learn that Jane wants to be a writer. Over the course of the show, she attends graduate school, obtaining her Master’s degree in creative writing and working with an adviser to hone her manuscript. She gets a job at a publishing company, eventually getting discovered at a reading for emerging writers. In the episode airing on Friday, her book is finally published.”
Ann Patchett thinks she’ll win the Nobel Prize someday. She’s published 30 books – nonfiction, children’s novels, and more. Sherman Alexie says she writes entertaining hyperrealistic literary fiction. And she owns a bookstore. “In a strange way, Louise Erdrich is perhaps our least famous great American writer; she is not reclusive, but she is reticent, and her public appearances give the impression of a carefully controlled performance. But Erdrich has also shared many of her most intimate emotions and experiences, in some form, in her novels.”
There are protests, of course, but the library in New York says there’s no other way to keep going: “The nine works to be sold Tuesday are an assortment of 19th-century creations by artists like Giovanni Boldini and Emilio Sánchez Perrier that the auction house has estimated could bring in a total of as much as $1.2 million. A sale in October by Sotheby’s, of another six paintings from the library, brought the institution more than $300,000. More are scheduled to be sold in 2018, Sotheby’s said.”
“At one minute past midnight on July 19, 1975, my father was hanged. For twenty-seven years, I told no one about it. Then I published a memoir. I have lived with the aftermath of that decision ever since, as does anyone who has published their own story, who has unwrapped what had previously been concealed: the skinned inner self dragged out and, shrinking in the light, placed beneath the bright hot gaze of strangers.”
“The teachers’ objection was not just philosophical; it was philological. The rule, they said in the French version of Slate, was a parvenu (it was enunciated in the 17th century and became widely taught only in the 19th century) and politically motivated (it buttressed French laws that denied women equal rights). … In its place, the teachers suggested using ‘the rule of proximity,’ in which the adjective matches the gender of the noun closest to it, which was common practice for centuries.”
“Opening with a quote from Paul Monet, ‘Grief is a sword, or it is nothing’, [David] France’s book chronicles how the activist community fought to develop the drugs that would turn HIV into a largely treatable condition. … [The book] beat titles including Simon Schama’s Belonging and Christopher de Bellaigue’s The Islamic Enlightenment to win the £30,000 award,” the Baillie Gifford Prize.
“The $317 million plan, approved by the board on Wednesday, will be the largest renovation in the history of the [system’s flagship] building, which opened in 1911. … [The plan] does not dictate any specific future for the most hotly disputed unused historic space in the building: its seven football-field-size floors of stacks, which have been largely empty since 2013.”
“At a glitzy gala in New York City on Wednesday night, four writers emerged with one of the world’s most illustrious literary prizes, the National Book Award: Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing, won for fiction; Masha Gessen’s The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, for nonfiction; Frank Bidart’s Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016, for poetry; and Robin Benway’s Far from the Tree, for young people’s literature.” (includes video of complete ceremony)
“Bibliographical analysis, involving patient collation and comparison of printed texts, and the identification of the distinctive ornaments with which printers enlivened otherwise blank spaces, flourish. They remain the bedrock on which, over the last thirty years or more, a ponderous superstructure of interpretation has been erected. Local and national pride have sustained enquiries: a specific town or state is shown to have been in the vanguard of printing and book production; their products exhibit superlative skills in the quality of paper and type-faces, layout, design and binding; the titles are marked by intellectual precociousness or boldness.”
“With the historic complacency of having the leading world language for a mother tongue, we lag behind many other countries in translating. But numbers are not the only indicator. The ways English expression is changing reflect the flourishing throng of writers using it who are in one way or another not from England. This isn’t the start of something, but a development: there has been a marvellous chorale of voices from five continents for decades. New Englishes are instruments to make a new music.”
“Kundera, now 88 years old, left Communist Czechoslovakia in 1975 after he was dismissed from his teaching position and had seen his books banned. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting was published in French in 1979. Two years later it was released in Czech by a Canadian publisher – but it has never actually been published in Kundera’s homeland. It is reportedly hard even today to obtain in the Czech Republic.” That, at last, is about to change.
“Although less well known in Europe, Hamilton achieved such popularity in the United States that, when I tell people that I study Classics, most people over the age of fifty who are familiar with the subject tell me that Hamilton was their entry point.” Now that her The Grrek Way (1930) and The Roman Way (1932) are being republished, Donna Zuckerberg considers how Hamilton’s view of the ancient world has, and hasn’t, held up over the decades.
“At Vanity Fair and then at The New Yorker, she expanded readerships. Her editorial appetites were fierce; she raked in news and new writers and cash. Some people found her style unsettling, and her victories did little to alter that judgment. Brown’s legacy remains controversial not because her success is in question but because, for some, too much was lost in her kind of success.”
As anyone who’s studied French knows, there’s no neuter: every noun and adjective is either masculine or feminine, most words for occupations have different forms for men and women, and if there are both, “the masculine prevails over the feminine” (as the rule has it). Now a group of teachers and a publishing house grammar guide are arguing for an end to this rule and its corollaries. Naturally, the Académie Française is not having it.
“Ramparts was by no means a hippie magazine, but its rebellious spirit, flair for publicity and professional design would all leave their mark on Wenner and Gleason’s fledgling magazine.”
Jacques Pauw’s The President’s Keepers, an account of corruption, coercion and violence at the heart of Jacob Zuma’s administration, has become the fastest-selling book in South Africa since Nielsen began tracking sales there – thanks in no small part to the government’s Streisand-Effect attempts to suppress the book. Now the country’s State Security Agency has reportedly filed criminal complaints against Pauw for “unlawful publication of classified information.”
Now, we’re all going to reread literally every Dickens novel, not to mention J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books and, of course, Mary Poppins: “In addition to a vast array of sexual clues and cues, John Bowen has found Dickensian brollies masquerading as ‘weapons and shields . . . birds, cabbages and leaves.’ And whether they’re in the right place or the wrong place (like the umbrella in Quilp’s eulogy), there is some intangible but undeniable facet of umbrellaness that has captured the human imagination for centuries.”
Jennifer Tseng, whose The Passion of Woo and Isolde just won a poetry prize, on the urgency of writing under the current U.S. president: “This is an ongoing dilemma for me as a writer. How can I take pleasure in the beauty of language without obscuring meaning; can I allow myself to be dazzled by words without losing consciousness? How do I cultivate ambiguity and possibility without endorsing neutrality? Can I let my work be led by complexity without losing sight of simple, urgent messages?”
Jones is currently the editorial director of the books department at The New York Times and has worked at Time and The Paris Review as well. “Her deep familiarity with celebrity, journalism, art and publishing were probably big draws for Condé Nast, whose editors are often expected to mingle among influential people in the disparate spheres covered by their publications.”
Ward, author of Savage the Bones, The Men We Reaped and the new Sing, Unburied, Sing, says that she and George Saunders (author of the Booker-winning Lincoln in the Bardo) may both be writing about the spirit world right now for similar reasons: “Many people in power are attempting to rewrite the past and the present to fit their narrative. Writing about spirits is a way to counteract some of that, because the people of the past are allowed to be present in the moment and tell their own (true) stories, and often, there is a reckoning between the living and the dead.”
“Many of those surveyed reported incidents where younger, more junior colleagues were harassed by men in more senior roles. Sixty-six percent of publicists, who often work closely with authors outside the office while on promotional tours, reported harassment, with 61% of booksellers reporting abusive behaviour from customers, colleagues or visiting authors.”