“Kerouac told The Paris Review in 1968 that poet Allen Ginsberg loaned the letter to a friend who lived on a houseboat in Northern California. Kerouac believed the friend then dropped it overboard.”
Haruki Murakami: “In the face of the dark, violent and cynical reality in which we live, this might seem at times like a powerless and fleeting hope. But the power that each individual has to imagine is found precisely in this: in the quiet yet sustained effort to keep on singing, to keep on telling stories, without losing heart.”
“Kindle did launch a public notes feature in 2011, which allows people to make their notes and highlights available to others, but some still worry digital marginalia won’t be preserved as technology advances, leaving future historians without the kind of marginalia penned by people like Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Austen, and other historical figures. Others wonder whether there’s a point in trying to preserve marginalia at all.”
“Former Marine Phil Klay took home the [award] for fiction, winning the prize for his debut short story collection Redeployment. … Journalist Evan Osnos won the National [award] in nonfiction for his impressively subtitled book, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China.” Louise Gluck’s Faithful and Virtuous Night took the prize for poetry.
“Ah, genre. A word only a Frenchman could love. Well, you ask how I decide which genre to write in, and I have to answer, mostly I don’t. My mind doesn’t work that way. … I didn’t follow the sf rules and conventions unless I felt like it; essentially I went on writing what I wanted to write, and they could call it what they liked.”
The world’s best-selling author, who gave out $1 million in grants to independent bookstores this year, strongly believes that the practice of reading for enjoyment is in danger in the U.S., especially among the young. In a Q&A, he talks about how he’s trying to help turn that tide, and what Jeff Bezos could do for the cause.
Linguistic family trees; languages maps of China, India, and Ukraine; how well various EU nationals can converse in English; the most common second language in each U.S. state; a graphic timeline of the history of the English language; a graph charting the rise and fall of the semicolon … a treasure trove for language and graphics geeks.
Plenty of scientific linguists have debunked the sillier rules espoused by language pedants – those proscribing split infinitives, ending a sentence on a preposition, and so on. But Steven Pinker wants to go beyond that, “to offer guidance, based in evidence from actual use of language, for how people can improve their prose without recycling these superstitions”.
“Like a marathon watching of Sex and the City, a sustained reading of Styles reveals more about both the culture and New York City than you might think from a look at a single issue. … The Styles section may well be pretty stupid sometimes. It’s also a richer and more complex entity than any of us would like to believe.”
There are challenges, of course – getting machines to understand a plot arc, let alone metaphor or irony. But scientists are working on three programs – Scheherazade, the What-If Machine, and Metaphor Magnet – to tackle these problems. Tom Meltzer talks to the creators, while Nicholas Lezard reviews the stories.
“[The novel] comes in two different versions, enabling its readers to experience its two parts – one about a Renaissance Italian fresco painter, one about a contemporary teenager whose mother has recently died – in a different order.” The award, now in its second year, recognizes fiction that experiments with or expands the novel form.
“Neither side gave details of the deal, but both pronounced themselves happy with the terms. Hachette, the fourth largest publisher, won the ability to set the prices for its e-books, which was a major contention in the fight.” Instead, Amazon gets to offer “specific financial incentives for Hachette to deliver lower prices.”