If you read one piece on early computer scientist Alan Turing that’s come out in celebration of his 100th birthday last Saturday (if you were wondering about Friday’s Google Doodle) you might do very well to make it this one in the Atlantic on how his reading of Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution influenced his work and continues to shape the way we work with computers. It’s also about the limits of artificial intelligence.
Yesterday we noted that The Pale King is now available for pre-order. It turns out another new David Foster Wallace book will be out before the long-awaited final novel hits shelves. In December, Columbia University Press will put out Wallace’s undergrad thesis Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will. From the publisher description: “Long before he probed the workings of time, human choice, and human frailty in Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace wrote a brilliant philosophical critique of Richard Taylor’s argument for fatalism. In 1962, Taylor used six commonly accepted presuppositions to imply that humans have no control over the future. Not only did Wallace take issue with Taylor’s method, which, according to him, scrambled the relations of logic, language, and the physical world, but he also called out a semantic trick at the heart of Taylor’s argument.”
Novelists, poets, and playwrights aren’t the only people who can call themselves writers. Don’t forget the oft begrudged screenwriters. The New York Times highlights 14 of this year’s best screenwriters, including Julie Deply and Seth Rogen, and asks them for writing advice and one original line of dialogue for some excellent short films. Our favorite short film is Robert Redford’s.
A new study out of Stony Brook University employs a complex statistical model to figure out what makes a book successful. Judging books on the basis of Amazon sales, awards won and Project Gutenberg downloads, the scientists determined that successful books have a higher-than-average ratio of self-references, prepositions and coordinating conjunctions. Unsuccessful books, on the other hand? A high ratio of adverbs and location markers.
Recommended reading: a piece for The Toast “In Which Three Adults Discuss A Wrinkle in Time Seriously and At Length.” Related: A Wrinkle in Time may finally become a (good) movie.
Next week, Martin Amis will publish Zone of Interest, a dark new novel that takes place, like his earlier Time’s Arrow, in Nazi-occupied lands during the Holocaust. In this week’s New Yorker, Joyce Carol Oates reviews the book, suggesting that Amis is most compelling when he writes as a “satiric vivisectionist.” You could also read our own Mark O’Connell on Lionel Asbo: State of England.