Poet turned playwright Sarah Ruhl’s latest stage production, Dear Elizabeth, is based on the correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. She recently spoke to Ruth Graham about her inspiration, and whether other writers’ letters could be adapted for the stage as well. (As an aside: you really should read The Clean House if you haven’t already.)
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.”
For everyone who likes typography and arguments, New York Magazine has a story up that covers the type designers Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones and follows the pair through their success to their ultimate rift. For those who prefer debates with more immediate impact, Mental Floss has a breakdown of the best shots fired in the fight over the Oxford Comma.
Want to be as brilliant as Jonathan Swift? Try reading Latin for ten hours a day. As this New Statesman review of Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World makes clear, the satirist went through a backbreaking classics regimen at Kilkenny College in Ireland. (There’s also the fact that he wrote constant letters to a sickly female confidante.)
For those of you who won’t rest until you find out the truth about how Chris McCandless died, know that neither will Jon Krakauer. His recent discoveries appear in the afterword to a new edition of Into the Wild, released in 2015. Also check out this Millions essay on extreme survival books.
Ahead of its mid August movie debut Kevin Kwan talks about the real life inspiration behind his Crazy Rich Asian trilogy. “But the people who know me, who have read the books, and who are also in that world in Singapore, Hong Kong, and other parts of Asia, don’t get it.” Refinery29 has more.
Out this week: The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies; Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch; Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy; The Revolutionaries Try Again by Mauro Javier Cardenas; Perfume River by Robert Olen Butler; Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil; Words on the Move by John McWhorter; The Pigeon Tunnel by John le Carré; Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly; The Art of Waiting by Belle Boggs; Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild; and Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview.