Why We’re Still Fascinated By Jane Austen

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“What explains the continued popularity of Jane Austen and the handful of novels she wrote? It is, after all, rather remarkable that a woman who spent her life in quiet provincial circumstances in early 19th-century England should become, posthumously, a literary celebrity outshining every author since then, bar none.”

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Reading Shakespeare In Tehran

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Professor Stephen Greenblatt on his lecture at the first Iranian Shakespeare Congress: “Most of the questions were from students, the majority of them women, whose boldness, critical intelligence, and articulateness startled me. Very few of the faculty and students had traveled outside of Iran, but the questions were, for the most part, in flawless English and extremely well informed.”

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The English Language Stinks At Describing Smells

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For instance, observes linguist Asifa Majid, there’s a Southeast Asian language that has a dozen different words that denote specific odor characteristics. Leaving aside words that refer to specific substances with particular scents (e.g., cinnamon, sulfur, burning rubber) English has – “musty”.

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Why Would Anyone Start A New Literary Magazine? (But Then…)

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“Demand isn’t fixed or finite; it has the opportunity to surprise us. In strict consumer terms, people can’t demand what they don’t know about. The introduction of a service​, a product or an idea is what ultimately drives demand. One of the things the LA Review of Books proved was that the demand for smart writing is larger than anyone expected, and what we’ve found in recent weeks is that there does seem to be demand for what we’re supplying.”

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Princeton Review Gives Taylor Swift An “F” For Bad Grammar (But…)

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In a Princeton test paper, a section headed “Grammar in Real Life” told students: “Pop lyrics are a great source of bad grammar. See if you can find the error in each of the following.” Taylor Swift’s song Fifteen was then cited as containing the line “Somebody tells you they love you, you got to believe ’em.” A fan posted her sad reaction online: “I was just having an amazing time studying for the SAT and now I feel attacked.” Then Swift herself responded on Tumblr: “Not the right lyrics at all pssshhhh. You had one job, test people. One job.”

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How English Has Corrupted Indian Literature

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India has had languages of the elite in the past — Sanskrit was one, Persian another. They were needed to unite an entity more linguistically diverse than Europe. But there was perhaps never one that bore such an uneasy relationship to the languages operating beneath it, a relationship the Sanskrit scholar Sheldon Pollock has described as “a scorched-earth policy,” as English.

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French Police Widen Net In Manuscripts Investigation

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“The scandal in France involving manuscripts’ dealer Gérard Lhéritier and his company Aristophil is growing daily. Earlier this month, he was charged with fraud, money laundering, creating false accounts and embezzlement. Bail was set at €2m. … Experts have started to inventory the company’s huge collection of around 135,000 documents, and two legal firms have begun registering complaints from the company’s 18,000 clients.”

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The Time Police Investigated Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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“Newly discovered documents show that the Staffordshire police fabricated evidence to try to discredit Arthur Conan Doyle’s investigation into the curious case of George Edalji, a Birmingham solicitor accused of maiming horses and sending poison-pen letters at the turn of the 20th century.”

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Can One Web Site Be A Hub For Everything Literary On The Internet?

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“Billed as a ‘go-to daily source for all the news, ideas, and richness of contemporary literary life,’ Literary Hub promises curated and original content such as interviews, profiles and essays.” Its founder, Grove Atlantic president Morgan Entrekin, wants LitHub.com to be “salvation rather than competition for the numerous literary Web sites already grasping for eyeballs.”

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My Work Is Not “Confessional,” Argue Memoirists

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“Now that amateur autobiography and its detractors are everywhere, autobiographical writers are increasingly invested in defining and defending the value of their work. How can it escape the gravitational pull of solipsism? For a growing number of essayists, memoirists, and other wielders of the unwieldy ‘I,’ confessional has become an unwelcome label—an implicit accusation of excessive self-absorption, of writing not just about oneself but for oneself.”

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When “Bitch” Is Not An Insult

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Bitch is, of course, one of the oldest ways to insult a woman in English: an 18th-century slang dictionary called it ‘the most offensive appellation that can be given to an English woman, even more provoking than that of whore.’ And yet, the word has evolved in unexpected ways, ending up with some strangely positive connotations.”

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Is There Yet Another Harper Lee Manuscript Stashed Somewhere?

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Beginning in 1978, Lee visited Alexander City, Alabama to research the case(s) of Reverend Willie Maxwell, suspected in the death of five different family members but never convicted – and ultimately shot by another relative. Lee told Maxwell’s lawyer that she was working on a big In Cold Blood-style book and collected huge files of material; now the lawyer’s family wants to know what’s left of it, and where.

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Tired Of The Grammar Police? Here’s Ammunition

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“Instead of having some rule book of what is “correct” usage, they examine the evidence of how native and fluent nonnative speakers do in fact use the language. Whatever is in general use in a language (not any use, but general use) is for that reason grammatically correct.”

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