While working with Australia’s Lajamanu Aboriginal population in remote sections of the Tanami Desert, linguist Carmel O’Shannessy identified “a [new] language system, independent of … other languages” spoken by about 300 people. Since her initial discovery in the late 1990s, O’Shannessy has studied the language and its grammatical structure, and now her findings have been published this month in the journal Language (PDF).
Pacific Standards profiles Ken Layne who quietly started the popular quarterly literary magazine, Desert Oracle for a town of 8,000 people. Now it has gained far more readers than that as it highlights works related to the American desert. "The reason that the Oracle works is that it's always trying to elicit that feeling, the awe and wonder that the desert reveals to you when you listen hard enough. Layne believes it's not an accident that religious awakenings, UFO sightings, walkabouts, and other revelations occur in the desert. It's a consequence of solitude, stark beauty, and the tenacious life that only the desert has."
The New York Times' executive editor Bill Keller caused an uproar three months ago when he railed against Twitter and, specifically, how it was making us all dumb. (Or, after being challenged, was it for some other reason?) This month, he rails against his staff of reporters because they want to write books.
“These writers project a mythos of healing. Their work says to the world, ‘Yes, we go on in spite of the troubles and we heal. Our stories are stories of braveness and healing. We got this.’ But I don’t got this! I’m trying to affect a calm tone. I’m losing my shit.” Luke B. Goebel reflects on anxiety, medication, and creativity at Catapult. Gila Lyons, similarly, writes on how medication affected her creative life.
Last week, I pointed readers to a speech by the late James Salter, reprinted by The Paris Review Daily in tribute to the writer after his death. For a fan appreciation, you can read Kevin Lincoln in Hazlitt, who leads his piece with the observation that Salter “wrote sentences you could unfold into paper lanterns.” Pair with our own Sonya Chung’s review of Salter’s All That Is.
Out this week: Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg; Muse by Jonathan Galassi; The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida; Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave; The Unfortunates by Sophie McManus; The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein; A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay; I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them by Jesse Goolsby; The Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes; A History of Money by Alan Pauls; Land Where I Flee by Prajwal Parajuly; and Bitter Bronx by Jerome Charyn. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2015 Book Preview.