On Thursday, the fiction writer Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize for Literature, which marks the first time a Chinese writer has won the prestigious award. Lauded for his command of “hallucinatory realism,” Yan (whose pen name translates to “not talking” in Mandarin) has drawn comparisons to Faulkner for the complexity of his fictional settings. Back in 2005, John Updike published his thoughts on the writer.
If last year’s The Marriage Plot was too brief a taste of semiotics for you, here’s an interesting essay on Jacques Derrida, “the Samson to tear down the temple of structuralism,” and his seminal 1966 American presentation on “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences.”
“The older I get, the more my own boundaries seem to be fading, which is terrifying and fascinating in equal measure.” For The Paris Review, Lucie Shelly interviewed Lauren Groff about nature, spirituality, and her newest collection, Florida. (Our review called the collection “startling and precious.”)
“I remember LeVar shooting at a zoo and an elephant had a cold and kept blowing snot all over him. He never lost his cool. ‘OK, let’s try it again.’” OMG guys, Mental Floss has an oral history of Reading Rainbow! And let us also never forget the reminiscences of our founder C. Max Magee‘s mom upon learning the show would be cancelled.
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.”)
The Atlantic interviews Erin Gruwell, a teacher whose methods for teaching her students about prejudice became the basis of a book (and subsequent movie) called The Freedom Writers. Named after a group of bus-riding civil rights activists, the students in her classes wrote lengthy journal entries — many of them relating to their own personal traumas — in order to compare them with diaries by historical figures. Writing journals, Gruwell says, helped her students learn to like schoolwork.