The Morning News has announced the judges for its annual Tournament of books. The Millions is represented again this year. The Tournament shortlist has also been announced, so start handicapping!
When Octavia Butler died in 2006, she left behind unseen short stories. Butler's agent has discovered two unpublished stories in the author's papers. "A Necessary Being" features a lonely alien leader, and "Childminder" is about mentoring telepaths. The two stories will be published this summer in the collection Unexpected Stories.
Somewhere along the way, the word "cool" became "the most popular slang term of approval in English." Humanities has a pretty cool (hip, rad, dope, groovy, punk, hot, sweet) theory, tracing it as far back as Zora Neale Hurston's collection Mules and Men, and the time when "cool was black... cool was jazz." (Related reading: the most excellent Hepster's Dictionary (pdf) of 1939 jive talk, and our own history of the slang word "like.")
Let the Great World Spin author (and one of today's YiR2011 writers!) Colum McCann had some inspiring words for this year's crop of Boston College freshmen. "There’s a degraded discourse around the notion of optimism these days that says there is something soft about being an optimist—something wrong," he said. "It claims that optimism has no edge, as if it’s less than complete, less than the full deck of knowledge. The optimist is cartooned into the corner with an idiotic grin. I submit to you that none of that is true."
In the sixties, when he was a student at Cambridge, Stephen Greenblatt came across a book of Persian art. The book inspired a lifelong interest in the region, which in part explains why, after the University of Tehran invited him to give the keynote address at the first annual Iranian Shakespeare Congress, he packed his bags and headed over to the Middle East. In The New York Review of Books, the Harvard professor and Swerve author writes about his experience.