Even as much of the Eastern U.S. is lashed by a massive storm, we have new books this week, skewing mostly to non-fiction, including Kurt Vonnegut’s collected letters, Richard Russo’s memoir Elsewhere, James Wood’s collection of essays The Fun Stuff, and Peter Carlin’s authorized biography of Bruce Springsteen. On the fiction side is Emma Donoghue’s Astray.
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.
“Everywhere you turn, are you surrounded by fools, by boring nonentities, by faceless masses and foes and suckers and, indeed, jerks?” If so–as this insightful if somewhat confidence-shattering piece at Aeon suggests–the jerk may be you.
Elissa Schappell’s quick-witted book criticism now has an online presence with the debut of her Vanity Fair column, Just My Type. First up: a look at new fantasy fiction and a consideration of genre-bending novels, with a winning recommendation of Ann Beattie’s Mrs. Nixon.
The word “cool” has been cool for more than 70 years. At Slate, Carl Wilson examines why this slang stuck, and how it’s evolved from being used by beatniks to smartphone companies. “Cool is an attitude that allows detached assessment, but one that prizes an air of knowingness over specific knowledge. I think that’s why it doesn’t become dated, unlike hotter-running expressions of enthusiasm like groovy or rad.” Pair with: Michael Agger’s essay on why we love the “cool story, bro” meme.