Say you’re the kind of person who never ends a sentence with a preposition. You’re studious about distinguishing between “its” and “it’s,” and you’re likely to judge a person who says “nauseous” when they should have said “nauseated.” But occasionally, if you’re being honest with yourself, you suspect that a lot of the grammar rules you follow are conditional or even arbitrary. Herewith, Steven Pinker offers ten rules you should break from time to time. (Related: Fiona Maazel wrote an essay for The Millions on good grammar.)
Now that NPR has begun fact checking his work, it’s come to light that David Sedaris is a liar. Or, he sort of embellishes. His work is ‘realish.’ So basically, he tells stories. On NPR. Which is feeling pretty sensitive abut the line between truth and truthiness after the Mike Daisey upset.
Joe Fassler interviews recent MacArthur Genius and Year-in-Reading alum Viet Thanh Nguyen on the myth of overnight success, balancing an academic career while still finding time to write novels and the sacrifices all writers must make. Over at Electric Literature.
The New York Public Library has named five finalists for its inaugural Harriet Tubman prize, which recognizes non-fiction books that explore the topic of slavery. You may also want to revisit our own Edan Lepucki‘s essay from a few years back on slavery in fiction.
Out this week: A Good Family by Erik Fassnacht; Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb; A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan; You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman; The Fall of Princes by Robert Goolrick; and a limited edition of Neil Gaiman’s The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview.
Implicit in a lot of the discussions about how negative a book reviewer can be is a question of utility: is a book review an act of public service or a work of art in itself? In the Times, James Parker and Anna Holmes debate the purpose of the review. Sample quote: “I’d argue that a majority of the reading public doesn’t necessarily benefit from the sorts of reviews for which artistry is the point.” You could also read our own Matt Seidel’s hypothetical worst review ever.