The Hewlett Foundation is offering $100,000 to anyone who can create an “automated essay grader” (and in the process cost thousands of TAs their jobs).
The long-awaited follow-up to Yann Martel’s Booker-winner Life of Pi is out: Beatrice and Virgil. Also new, Elegy for April, a thriller by John Banville alter ego Benjamin Black; David Lipsky’s already much discussed interview with David Foster Wallace, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself; and, apparently hitting shelves ahead of its official release date, a book of philosophy by Marilynne Robinson, Absence of Mind.
One of my favorite Google Easter Eggs was the (now removed) instruction to “swim across the Atlantic Ocean” in order to get from New York to London. Today, however, that joke seems prophetic. Google, in conjunction with The University of Queensland and the Catlin Group, has created the Catlin Seaview Survey or, in other words, “an underwater variant of the Google Street View service.”
In true Seinfeldian fashion, Arthur Martine, the Victorian writer behind Martine’s Handbook of Etiquette, drew up a detailed taxonomy of the various species of bore. These include the Loud Talker, who “silences a whole party by his sole power of lungs;” the Malaprop, who masters the art of inappropriate conversation; and the Life-Sharer, who may be familiar to the Facebook addicts of today.
“On closer inspection, however, the book comes off as something more complicated than a flowering of one eccentric and filthy man’s erotic imagination. Its elaborate descriptions of pleasure given and taken start to seem like scrims for a moral argument about what sorts of sexual behaviors should be ‘forbid’ and which should be encouraged—an argument refined in prison by an author deeply occupied with thoughts of punishment, dissipation, and sin.” On John Cleland’s (very erotic) novel Fanny Hill and the importance of its having been written in prison.