One thing would be not to pretend that everything was perfect before. “Ms. Eltahawy expressed exasperation at the end over the number of people during the event, most of them white, who made claims of exhaustion and asked the panelists for advice on how to keep up unflagging opposition. Ms. Eltahawy suggested in the firm tone that she used all night that those people realize how privileged they have been to have not felt besieged by politics before now.”
Anthony Lane: “Although – or precisely because – Sanditon was composed by a dying woman, the result is robust, unsparing, and alert to all the latest fashions in human foolishness. It brims with life.”
Simon Reichley tells the odd story of The Book Beat in Oak Park, how its Facebook page and all the content on it disappeared without warning, and how the page was restored.
In response to the well-known quip that “Using Comic Sans is like turning up to a black-tie event in a clown costume,” Lauren Hudgins argues that “hating Comic Sans is ableist.” Drake Baer explains why.
Of the Oxford English Dictionary’s 231,000 entries, at least a fifth are obsolete. They range from “aa”, a stream or waterway (try that in Scrabble), to “zymome”, “that constituent of gluten which is insoluble in alcohol”. That is surely an undercounting.
“What does an artist do, mostly? She tweaks that which she’s already done. There are those moments when we sit before a blank page, but mostly we’re adjusting that which is already there. The writer revises, the painter touches up, the director edits, the musician overdubs.”
“Language is a tool used to describe the world in which we live. However, don’t confuse the map with the territory! There is one major difference between the world we live in and language: Whereas the real world is free of contradictions, the man-made linguistic descriptions of that world can have contradictions.”
Even though it’s largely accepted that our spoken languages don’t completely determine what we think, they do influence how we think (and feel and behave) in subtler ways–including how and when we experience empathy.
“The sheer volume of sales substantiates that readers respond powerfully to memoirs. McCourt’s work has been dismissed all too glibly as misery memoir, and deemed to be commercially driven or aesthetically and politically naïve by his detractors. Meanwhile, his supporters have responded to the emotional impact of the texts rather than discussing the complex set of diverse materials upon which McCourt has formed his narrative: namely Ireland itself, the status of the memoir genre, and Irish-American identity.”
Starting today, the poetry bot, available on Twitter and Facebook Messenger, will send out a poetry excerpt at random every day for the next ninety-two days.
Around this time last year, Dan Nosowitz told us about the City of Brotherly
Shove Love’s all-purpose word, jawn, which can stand in for any noun, abstract or concrete, proper or common. Since then, readers have alerted him to an even more flexible term, one that can function as noun, verb, adjective or adverb: da kine.
Sure, it’s easy (and safe) to presume that Twain would have mocked the 45th President mercilessly. Yet, argues Jeffrey Wasserstrom, “Twain would have found Trump the showman – the pre-2016 version – a fascinating figure.”
“I have been drawn, almost against my will, to notice the intensifying politicization of the literary world and, hand in hand with that, a predilection for melodrama, for prose that stimulates extreme emotions — in good causes of course. The cause justifies the melodrama. The melodrama serves the cause.”
Blue Bunny, a children’s bookstore about a mile up the road from Amazon’s big new Boston-area bookstore, isn’t worried. The owner: “At first my heart sort of sunk a bit, but I realized quickly the response from our friends was what you have in your independent bookstore is very, very different than what Amazon is providing, and I think that we’re going to be OK.”
“I’ve known for a long time that as a black person, some white people expect a performance from me, something that might confirm what they think they know about my identity. … What surprised me was that these questions took up so much imaginative space, and did it so quickly, and were in fact so large and puzzling that they stopped me from writing anything.”
Saunders, whose novel Lincoln in the Bardo just came out and is on many bestseller lists: “We often discuss art this way: the artist had something he ‘wanted to express’, and then he just, you know … expressed it. We buy into some version of the intentional fallacy: the notion that art is about having a clear-cut intention and then confidently executing same. The actual process, in my experience, is much more mysterious and more of a pain in the ass to discuss truthfully.”
The book, which was written from 1989-1995 and hidden away until a chain of strangers had the chance to smuggle it out, is a series of stories that “are a frank look at the life of regular citizens trying to get by under a repressive regime. Many of the characters fail to grasp the reality of the world in which they live, either through ignorance, stubbornness, or a misguided hope that the regime is more reasonable than it really is.”
Fortunately, Bob Mankoff is going back to drawing for the magazine. “It’s a lot easier picking cartoons than doing them,” he says. “But it’s not quite as much fun. … Those are muscles that can atrophy, but I think they’re still there.”
“A healthy library, like a healthy habitat, is diverse and dynamic. Like species in a rainforest or fishes on a reef, the books on the shelves shift and change, with time and season, so that every week there is something new to discover. A healthy library invites the eye and mind to wander round. This book habitat does not happen on its own – it is created by librarians.”
The voices of some of literature’s more memorable characters have a way of staying with you, long after their stories are over. Many readers — every reader? — could’ve told you that. For some people, though, this idea is a little more literal. According to a new (and truly delightful) psychology study — published in the March edition of the journal Cognition and Consciousness — about a fifth of readers “hear” the voices of fictional characters in their heads, long after they’ve closed the books.
Computers and human readers can identify Shakespeare’s writing through “plus-words”—such as “gentle”, “answer”, “beseech”, “tonight”—which he uses frequently. This method becomes less accurate, though, when writers ape one another’s style as they often did in Elizabethan theatre-land. Early modern playwrights were a close-knit bunch and 16th-century audiences do not appear to have placed a high premium on novelty.
“In an age of texting and tweeting, these folks are trying to keep the mother tongue healthy, and their presence constitutes a refreshing renaissance for a profession that is generally underappreciated and rarely noticed – until, of course, a mistake shows up in print.” Thomas Vinciguerra looks at Mary Norris, John E. McIntyre, and other usage mavens who’ve been getting noticed online.
“How much of this [success] is the movie? How much of this is [Black] Panther’s improved profile right now? How much of this is Between the World and Me? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. What I want people to feel ultimately is that this is part of the entire oeuvre that I put together. I don’t want it to be ‘Ta-Nehisi just took a break and did comics.’ It is not a break for me.”
The current model — big-name writers sharing wealth with unknown counterparts who enjoy the prospect of MFA employment — is a more cooperative arrangement that, while not ideal, has a better chance of ushering into existence quality literature by writers who have a shot at being able to change our lives with words.
Turns out soldiers really did read it for the articles. (Well, not only the articles.) “In fact, it’s hard to overstate how profound a role Playboy played among the millions of American soldiers and civilians stationed in Vietnam throughout the war: as entertainment, yes, but more important as news and, through its extensive letters section, as a sounding board and confessional.”
Last year, the Federal Republic’s supreme court ruled that publishing houses weren’t entitled to up to €300 million in copyright payments they had kept since 2012, and the houses are scrambling madly to get together the cash they must now pay to their authors. The general counsel of Germany’s Publishers and Booksellers Association explains the situation.
The “badass librarians of Timbuktu” aren’t the only ones rescuing irreplaceable old documents from violent destruction. “Soft-spoken, dressed in flowing black robes, [Father Columba Stewart] has spent the past 13 years roaming from the Balkans to the Middle East in an effort to save Christian and Islamic manuscripts threatened by wars, theft, weather – and, lately, the Islamic State.”
The magazine had abandoned print in 2010 but stayed online. But print now seems a viable strategy again. “This isn’t a return to Paste Magazine. We’re not reliant on getting 200,000 people to be part of our rate base so we can go sell ads to Ford, BMW and Jack Daniels. Though we do have some advertising in the quarterly, it’s a small portion of our model. We’re reliant on our subscribers to foot the bill for what we do.”
“The online OED now allows the reader to click on citations from Shakespeare and Milton to get the extended passage they’re drawn from, and readers can easily go online to do the same with citations from other writers. Online dictionaries like Wordnik already use algorithms to construct citation lists on the fly; at the limit, you could think of an online dictionary as simply a lexicographical web interface… The advent of online historical corpora has also altered the lexicographer’s method. Word sleuthery has become a game that anyone with access to a search engine can play.”
“‘I told my students, ‘Be in love with the process, not the result,’ ‘ Jenkins said — but admitted he did like the result.”