Lev Grossman offers some first thoughts on Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, the David Foster Wallace biography written by D.T. Max due out in September. More interestingly, Grossman wonders whether we’re nearing the death of hysterical realism, that manic, maximalist genre James Wood defined in his review of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth.
In general, fact-checking isn’t the most glamorous part of a journalist’s career, which is why Michael Erard was surprised to find that a recent fact-checking session for an Al Jazeera article turned out to be among the most interesting conversations of his life. Why? His sources were linguists, and their job was to explain to him the workings of brand-new sign languages.
Two years ago, Allison Parrish produced a diary of an expedition through “fantastical places that do not exist.” The twist? The diary was generated by a computer program, which extracted more than 5,700 sentences drawn from Project Gutenberg and later recombined at random by “switching out grammatical constituents.” An extract of the finished work, interspersed with Parrish’s nonfiction essay, can be read here.
Try to define the word “poetry” and you’ll quickly find yourself in a maze of contradictions. It refers, most obviously, to printed verse, but it can also refer to especially lyrical prose, among other things. At The Paris Review Daily, Damian Searls uses etymology to get some answers. Related: Kate Angus on loving poetry but not poetry books.
Several recent novels -- among them Dave Eggers’s The Circle and Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge --tackle the effects of social media on our world. The latest, Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen, may be the best of the bunch, writes Andrew Hulktrans. At Bookforum, he explains why Cohen's depiction of an app-saturated world is unparalleled. You could also read Jonathan Frederick Post on Cohen’s novel Witz.
David Byrne, Talking Heads frontman, sits down with Smithsonian Magazine’s Seth Colter Walls to discuss his life, musical tastes, and his latest book, How Music Works. You can also read an excerpt from the book over here. (Also, you know, just because I have to...)