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.”
Tony Tulathimutte offers advice on lowering word count: Merge scenes, murder characters, quit writing altogether: “merge scenes, murder characters, ‘start as close to the end as possible’ (Kurt Vonnegut), quit writing altogether.” Pair with this Millions piece on writing slowly and by hand.
Three Percent is organizing a “World Cup of Literature” to coincide with the international soccer tournament’s June 12th beginning. The rules are simple: literature from each of the 32 countries in the actual World Cup will be put into a “32-book knock-out tournament,” and “each ‘match’ will pit two books against one another and will be judged by one of … fifteen illustrious judges.” Who’s your early favorite? (Bonus: “What happened when 10 European poets were asked to portray their home country in verse ahead of the European elections?”)
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.”