Jonathan Dent offers a fascinating look at one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s most challenging assignments for the Oxford English Dictionary. Apparently as a young philologist, Tolkien was tasked with tracing the etymology of “walrus” – a tricky word “of disputed origin that had all but entirely replaced the earlier English name morse since its first appearance in English in the late 1600s.”
“Say surrender. Say alabaster. Switchblade. / Honeysuckle. Goldenrod. Say autumn. / Say autumn despite the green
in your eyes. Beauty despite / daylight. Say you’d kill for it. Unbreakable dawn / mounting in your throat. / My thrashing beneath you / like a sparrow stunned / with falling.” Last week, Ocean Vuong published his newest collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds. This week, it seems to be all anyone can talk about (because it’s fantastic). Here’s a piece from The New Yorker on Vuong and his designs for the English language.
Want to wean yourself off gin, recover from tuberculosis, and work on your novel? Don’t go to Asheville, North Carolina. NPR reports that F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda spent two tumultuous summers in the town, where Zelda was in a psychiatric hospital and Scott was suicidal. For more on the unhappy life of Zelda, read our review of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.
New in fiction this week: Benediction by Kent Haruf and Ten White Geese by past IMPAC winner Gerbrand Bakker. In non-fiction: Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Michael Moss’s food industry exposé excerpted in the recent Times Magazine. From the other side of the food spectrum is Issue 6 of Lucky Peach. And it’s a big day for baseball fans: the 2013 Baseball Prospectus is here.
Charles Yu’s new collection of stories, Sorry Please Thank You, is out today, and so is Tana French’s novel Broken Harbor. Both were on our Great Second Half of 2012 Books Preview. Leigh Stein’s new book of poems, Dispatch from the Future is also in stores today, alongside Ali Smith’s There But For The in paperback.