Are birds’ tweets grammatical? According to a recent study by Kentaro Abe and Dai Watanabe of Kyoto University, songbirds may communicate using sophisticated grammar.
Last month, while traveling through Des Moines, Iowa, President Barack Obama had the chance to interview one of his favorite authors: Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson. The first part of the conversation was just published in the NYRB and the second part will appear in the next issue. Obama, who is a big fan of Robinson, had recently quoted her in his eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of nine victims in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
The unwritten rules of steampunk declare that in every steampunk story, the Hindenburg never caught fire, the world never lost its desire for blimp travel and the skies are dotted with hot air balloons and zeppelins. As it happens, this element of the genre stems from old utopian narratives, many of which depicted a future of widespread balloon travel. At Salon, Kyle Minor reviews the audiobook of a new history of the hot air balloon, written by Richard Holmes, that shows how the rise of air travel changed the world’s imaginative territory.
Don’t worry, everybody — Anita Thompson, widow of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, has finally returned the prized pair of antlers that Thompson stole from the Idaho home of Ernest Hemingway, himself. The antlers, which he stole while in Idaho on assignment reporting on Hemingway’s suicide, had hung in Thompson’s garage for the past fifty-four years.
“It helps to be nobody if you want to be somebody.” Over at The Daily Beast, Ted Gioia takes a look at what he calls the new cult of the anonymous artist. From the famously infamous graffiti artist Banksy to the enigmatic Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, there is certainly no denying that, whatever the reason, anonymity is “in.” Here’s an older Millions essay that takes a look at Banksy, obsession, and the sea.
“All of a sudden, things that should be banal, like a person’s face—the fact that a person has a face—becomes extremely disorienting. In these moments, I think it’s important to keep those strange commas.” In an illuminating interview for Asymptote, Year in Reading alumna Katrina Dodson talks about the thrills and challenges in translating The Complete Stories of Clarice Lispector. Pair with Magdalena Edwards’s Millions review of the collection.
“How earnest, ironic, condescending, moralistic and simply funny a Tolstoy should the translator inhabit? Perhaps the only way to render Tolstoy’s variable voice is to continue producing ever-varying translations.” Masha Gessen looks at the latest English translations of Anna Karenina and breaks down their nuances of word choice and accumulated meaning for The New York Times Book Review, and along the way she questions the novel’s most famous line: just how alike are happy families? How can we know?