“‘Poetry, I feel,” said Sylvia Plath in a radio interview in 1962, the year before her suicide, ‘is a tyrannical discipline. You’ve got to go so far so fast in such a small space, you’ve got to burn away all the peripherals.'” Fifty years after her death, an argument for close reading.
What if I were to tell you that only half of you is actually you? A new book by Ed Yong takes a look at the human body and the microbial stowaways that make up most of us: "Reader, as you read these words, trillions of microbes and quadrillions of viruses are multiplying on your face, your hands and down there in the darkness of your gut. With every breath you take, with every move you make, you are sending bacteria into the air at the rate of about 37 million per hour — your invisible aura, your personal microbial cloud. With every gram of food you eat, you swallow about a million microbes more."
The Atavist has been killing it lately. Last month, I was riveted by Joshuah Bearman's outrageous (and completely true) story of one Brit's attempt to bring a "Baghdad Country Club" to the city's Green Zone. This month, "Mother, Stranger," Cris Beam's account of her abusive mother--a distant relative of William Faulkner--had me on the verge of tears.
"You don’t have to immediately quit your job to become a writer. You need only to start writing." The New York Times transcribes an excerpt from the "Dear Sugars" podcast with Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond. For more writerly advice, see our own columnists Swarm & Spark on whether writing a novel will jeopardize your mental health.
Say you’re the kind of person who never ends a sentence with a preposition. You’re studious about distinguishing between “its” and “it’s,” and you’re likely to judge a person who says “nauseous” when they should have said “nauseated.” But occasionally, if you’re being honest with yourself, you suspect that a lot of the grammar rules you follow are conditional or even arbitrary. Herewith, Steven Pinker offers ten rules you should break from time to time. (Related: Fiona Maazel wrote an essay for The Millions on good grammar.)
The popularity of Joshua Katz’s American dialect maps inspired The Atlantic to create their own dialect video. In it, Atlantic staff members call people from across the country, recording them so listeners can hear their accents, and ask them to answer questions from a 2003 Harvard survey.