There are a lot of nipples on the New Yorker’s website, right now.
“The way this propaganda works is you take something insane and wrap it in a little bit of truth, and then all those people swallow it because it’s wrapped in a little bit of truth.” Columbia Journalism Review talks to the victims of fake news, from Sandy Hook parents to election overseers. Also worth thinking about in this context, the American usage of modern English.
Most writers, unless they’re lucky enough to have an ideal place in which to work, make do with the best space available. For Colum McCann’s father, the shed in his backyard, which “always smelled damp inside, as if the rain rose up out of the carpet,” sufficed for the fiction he wrote after coming home from work. At Page-Turner, the National Book Award winner and Year in Reading alum remembers his father’s retreat.
"I wanted to be able to approach the subject from many different angles, not just the one most people think of when they think of war: an infantryman with a rifle killing the enemy. What does one make of one’s moral responsibility for killing when you’re part of a crew-fired-weapon whose rounds strike miles away, when you’re not even sure if you have killed people or how many? What about when you’re a chaplain trying to influence policy, or a psychological operations soldier trying to help shape the battlefield?" Phil Klay, author of the National Book Award-winning collection Redeployment, on modes of storytelling and on the psychological difference between citizens and veterans.
Granta talks to some translators of Russian literature about what they're working on, and we learn that Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, the first couple of Russian translation are working on a 600-page collection of stories by Nikolai Leskov, an underappreciated contemporary of Dostoevsky. Previously: The Millions interviews P&V.
"I'm not a journalist, and I don't pretend to be one, and most of the pieces in there were assigned to me by Harper's, with these sort of maddening instructions of, you know, just go to a certain spot and kind of, you know, turn 350 degrees a few times and tell us what you see." Tom Scocca posts a five-part transcript of a phone interview he did with David Foster Wallace in February 1998. (Thanks, Nick.)
If you thought the English language went downhill when the emoticon was introduced, you can blame a 17th-century poet. Editor Levi Stahl found that English poet Robert Herrick used the first emoticon in his 1648 poem "To Fortune." As Herrick writes, "Tumble me down, and I will sit/ Upon my ruines (smiling yet :)" For more on the potential ruin of language, read Fiona Maazel's piece on commercial grammar.
Jeff Vandermeer's Southern Reach trilogy: a genuinely weird work of ecological fiction, a hyper-object, or a strangely beautiful "glimpse of a whole that’s, by its nature, unknowable"? Joshua Rothman argues for all three in a review for The New Yorker. For more from Vandermeer himself, check out his Millions interview with Richard House, author of The Kills.