It’s a question that puzzles writers of all stripes: why is so much academic writing so terrible? It’s an issue that’s been a lifelong head-scratcher for the linguist Steven Pinker, who set out to answer the question once and for all. His verdict? It has to do with the meaning of “literary style.”
“'These issues are constantly being brought to the surface in Roman literature, if you have eyes to see them,' Beard said. 'And, of course, having eyes to see them—that’s what the trick is.'” Rebecca Mead writes for the New Yorker about Mary Beard, the Cambridge classicist famous for her BBC programs on Roman life and for her handling of online harassment. For more from Beard, check out her interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books about the importance of the classics, and for more about online negativity, head to Salon's article on "Why female writers get trolled the most."
Recommended reading: elderly sisters contend with the youngest dying, in a quietly wry new story by Allegra Goodman at the New Yorker. "She pretended to sleep, and then she really did drop off. When she woke, her sisters were hovering over her. Some of us have overstayed our welcome, Jeanne thought. And then, with sudden shock, No: I’m the one. That would be me."
It’s not Christmas, but it’s close. It’s time for the Literary Review’s annual Bad Sex Award Shortlist to be released. This year’s finalists include My Education author Susan Choi and famous folk singer Woody Guthrie among others, and the winner(?) will be announced on December 3rd. (Bonus: Their Twitter account is sharing particularly awful excerpts as well.)
Do you want a book with your Happy Meal? McDonald's will replace Happy Meal toys with books for two weeks next month. Don't expect to pull out Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs with your fries, though. The books were created for McDonald's by Leo Burnett and discuss nutrition. Did they miss the irony?