If you thought the English language went downhill when the emoticon was introduced, you can blame a 17th-century poet. Editor Levi Stahl found that English poet Robert Herrick used the first emoticon in his 1648 poem “To Fortune.” As Herrick writes, “Tumble me down, and I will sit/ Upon my ruines (smiling yet :)” For more on the potential ruin of language, read Fiona Maazel’s piece on commercial grammar.
If you didn’t make it to BEA this year, first be thankful that you didn’t have to eat any of the food around the Javits Center. Then, check out some of the highlights from the comfort of your desk chair. I recommend Ami Greko and Ryan Chapman’s perennially excellent 7x20x21 panel, which this year featured Nate Silver, Dan Wilbur, and Sheila Heti among others.
In 1817, the painter Robert Benjamin Haydon invited several guests over for what he called an “immortal dinner.” Why the bombastic name? The guests included Keats and Wordsworth, whom Haydon wished to introduce to each other. In the WaPo, Michael Dirda takes a look at The Immortal Evening, a new book about the event by Stanley Plumly.
“[I]t’s important that people begin to understand that whiteness is not inevitable, and that white dominance is not inevitable.” Claudia Rankine talks to The Guardian about her plans for the Racial Imaginary Institute, a think-tank-cum-gallery that she’s founding with all that MacArthur Genius cash. See also: why Americans love poetry, but not poetry books.
Are you familiar with JT LeRoy (or rather, Savannah Knoop … or wait, Laura Albert), perpetrator of one of the greatest literary hoaxes in recent memory? Author: The JT LeRoy Story is a new documentary by Jeff Feuerzeig that asks questions about whether or not existence is predicated on real-world physicality — LeRoy’s books exist, so doesn’t LeRoy exist by association?