And this is only Part I. Julian Barnes sums up 2016: “Is it a sign, or a consequence, of this dreadful year that the best books displayed stern lucidity in the face of darkness and death?”
Colson Whitehead had his idea for The Underground Railroad many years ago, but he says he wasn’t ready to write it until now. “I always have these ideas, and I think, ‘That would be really good; if I was a better writer, I could pull it off.’ And then I try to become a better writer to do it justice.”
Steven Galloway was fired from the University of British Columbia’s creative writing program a year ago, but the unrest on social media came about when Joseph Boyden, Margaret Atwood and other authors wrote a letter asking for due process for him. “There is fallout on both sides. And the collateral damage has been pretty devastating: nastiness among colleagues and strangers, threatened friendships, sorrow.”
“Why on Earth are people still buying a self-help book from 1936? Carnegie’s principles of relentless positivity are right at home in a culture of ingratiation, from the widespread drive to amass online friends by liking their posts (and thence to become an influencer) to the way every interaction with someone in the service industry feels like the prelude to a customer satisfaction survey. His ideas retain a startling currency in a society whose very drives and mores he helped to create.”
The eight-line poem, half of which was copied from a Dutch book of verse, is dated March 28, 1942, shortly before Anne and her family went into hiding from the Netherlands’ wartime Nazi occupiers in a secret apartment in an Amsterdam canal house.
“Shame is one of the central subjects of Giovanni’s Room … But that’s not stating it strongly enough: the whole novel is a kind of anatomy of shame, of its roots and the myths that perpetuate it, of the damage it can do. … That was the balm of the book when I first read it, the sense it gives that the tragedy it recounts is anything but inevitable.”
The online store, which Arunga described as “Amazon for Africa, with fewer payment options,” has now sold a thousand books in Kenya and beyond—a relative handful, but, to Williams, a meaningful start. In order to support a full-time employee, he said, the store only needs to sell fifty books a day. And if that happens it could serve as a proof of concept for literary entrepreneurship in the developing world.
An estimated 100 million people speak Swahili – more than French, Turkish, or Korean. And now enthusiasts are trying to spread use of the language all across Africa. (audio)
They examined 1,327 stories from Project Gutenberg’s fiction collection — all English-language texts between 20,000 and 100,000 words — using three language processing filters. In the end, they found “broad support for the following six emotional arcs…”
Brendan Fitzgerald considers, and questions, the taxonomy: “such labels sometimes reward the writer, who becomes associated with a popular movement. They sometimes reward the reader, who has a new word for what she seeks. … Whether labels like ‘longform’ reward a story is another matter.”
“I am a professional translator, having translated some 125 books from the French. One might therefore expect me to bristle at Google’s claim that its new translation engine is almost as good as a human translator, scoring 5.0 on a scale of 0 to 6, whereas humans average 5.1. But I’m also a PhD in mathematics who has developed software that ‘reads’ European newspapers in four languages and categorises the results by topic. So, rather than be defensive about the possibility of being replaced by a machine translator, I am aware of the remarkable feats of which machines are capable, and full of admiration for the technical complexity and virtuosity of Google’s work. My admiration does not blind me to the shortcomings of machine translation, however.”
None of these six nominees are as bad as the ghastly passage that won Morrissey the trophy last year, but nevertheless … (includes explanation of why Donald Trump was disqualified from the contest)
S. Y. Agnon, the only Israeli writer to win a Nobel, has never broken through to an international audience. Yet even present-day Israelis, who can read his Hebrew perfectly well, no longer have all the common knowledge required to comprehend Agnon’s work – and the ones that do likely avoid it on principle.
“Canada’s literary community punches above its weight. Its achievements are notable, but its numbers are relatively small. People tend to know one another – from school, teaching gigs, the writers’ festival circuit. All of this has now ruptured. Some long, meaningful friendships have dissolved. The program Galloway once led has ugly scars and deep divisions. Some very good people have left, or are leaving.”
“It’s easy to assume that people are reading less because of the myriad options they have to choose from. But is that really the case? What if we redefined what it means to read, as well as what constitutes literature?”
So this team of scientists starts using math to analyze books, and they decide there are six story arcs. But wait: “The book that fit the Icarus arc best was a collection of 196 yoga sutras.”
Basically, yikes: “If a student asks about the point of it all, I ask him why no one else seems to have the same concern. I get louder. I get meaner. I give students points for alerting me to the sources of dissent. Eager to shore up their grades, gleeful at the chance to tweak friends and possibly enemies, a few students furtively hand over notes after classes.”
The prize is a thousand pounds, and British publishers have barely been able to scrape together 50 entries with the deadline two weeks away. “We’ve got loads of stuff from tiny publishers, really tiny ones. But where are the big ones? The fact is that they’re not publishing.”
When an informer turned in a package from the spy, the FBI realized that his misspellings were the key – and there weren’t that many people this could be.
Wow, this is really pretty great: According to Germany’s foreign minister, the house will “be developed into a cultural center for debate over major trans-Atlantic issues, including migration, exile and integration. The house would also offer residency fellowships for artists and intellectuals.”
Start with Laila Lalami, and keep moving on from there to a wide variety of genres and topics. “It’s a small way to understand and empathize with a group of your fellow Americans who desperately need the understanding and empathy of their countrymen and women.”
“The number of audiobook titles increased by nearly 400 percent between 2011 and 2015. E-books, by comparison, are down in 2016, as are adult hardcovers (i.e., printed books from commercial publishers, not including religious or university press titles). Which prompts the question: Do these statistics herald audio as the preferred reading format of the future?”
Collins Dictionaries’ choice was Brexit. Their Oxonian colleagues didn’t opt for Brexit or for any variation on Trump; what they did choose is all too relevant to both.
“China in the early 20th century, my book’s focus,” says historian Christopher Rea (whose book, says the Times, is “hilarious”), “was, to put it mildly, a rough and tumble place. But it fostered a whole industry of mirth populated with cultural figures from hack jokesters to respectable writers slumming it as humorists.”
For several centuries, people have tried to write Fulani – which is spoken across a huge swath of West Africa, from Senegal to Cameroon – with adaptations of the Arabic and Latin alphabets, neither of which can properly represent Fulani’s sounds; neither ever fully caught on. So Fulani remained mostly a spoken language, its speakers taking their school classes in French or English. In 1990, two Guinean teenagers developed a new script, and they’ve spent a quarter-century spreading it.
Here’s a complete list of finalists and winners.
As A.O. Scott insists, the critic’s role is “to disagree, to refuse to look at anything simply as what it is,” and yet in an age in which critics often are forced to set their sights on films like Avengers: Age of Ultron, it appears that the critic can be nothing other than “the vanguard of pointing out the obvious.”Once, critics like Trilling, Sontag, and Kael commanded the attention of a large audience and were expected to shape and challenge a still roughly homogenous public opinion. Today, many critics struggle to find a unified culture to interpret and criticize and a public to address.
Of the four prizes, three – for fiction, nonfiction, and young people’s literature – went to black writers; the winning books deal with slavery, racism, and the civil rights struggle. (Why was the event somber? You know why.)
Dan Nosowitz talked to linguists and voices coaches and eventually found a likely theory: It started out as a particular little trick of pop vocal technique and morphed into a way “to co-opt the signifiers of intensity.” (That’s not academic gobbledygook: when you get to that point in the article, it will make sense.)
Time was that St. Louisans said “good marning” and ate “carn on the cob.” Then along came I-55 and the Northern Cities Vowel Shift.