A new study out of Stony Brook University employs a complex statistical model to figure out what makes a book successful. Judging books on the basis of Amazon sales, awards won and Project Gutenberg downloads, the scientists determined that successful books have a higher-than-average ratio of self-references, prepositions and coordinating conjunctions. Unsuccessful books, on the other hand? A high ratio of adverbs and location markers.
Last week, we discussed how Teju Cole has mastered literary Twitter, and that was before we knew that he tweeted a 4,000-word essay on immigration. "A Piece of the Wall" is composed of 250 tweets written during a seven-hour period and starts with: "I hear the sound of faint bells in the distance. It is like a sound in a dream, or the jingling at the beginning of a Christmas song."
We all spend way too much time in airports this time of year, but Brad Leithauser searched for a metaphor about his journeys through BWI. As he writes for The New Yorker, "There was a piquant pleasure on the night when I first put these two experiences—morning churchgoing, evening airport-going—side by side. I’d been idly and only semi-consciously asking myself what these nocturnal intervals at B.W.I. reminded me of, and now, suddenly, I’d located my metaphor."
The 2012 Best Translated Book Award long list has been announced. Among the contenders in the fiction category are Edouard Levé for Suicide, reviewed on The Millions here; Mathias Énard's Zone, which our own Garth Risk Hallberg described as "the kind of book that can tie a critic in absolute knots"; and Jean-Philippe Toussaint's The Truth About Marie, which The Millions Staffer Mark O' Connell called "a strange and unsettling novel that upholds its author’s status as one of the most exciting figures in contemporary fiction." One of Chad Harbach's year in reading selections, Dezso Kosztolányi's Kornél Esti, also made the list.