The real origin of the Mark Twain pen name might be a burlesque sketch in the 19th century humor magazine Vanity Fair. If you’re still trying to come up with the perfect nom de plume, Bill Ferris has some advice.
Carolyn Kellogg rounded up a great list of “Terrible Beach Reads,” and it serves as a nice companion to Rachel Meier’s list of “Burnt-out Summer Reads.” However, if you’re looking for a few more titles that’ll keep you out of the water, allow me to suggest my all-time favorite shark-centric books: Susan Casey’s The Devil’s Teeth, Michael Capuzzo’s Close to Shore, and Doug Stanton’s In Harm’s Way.
The deadline for DIAGRAM's essay contest is October 31, but mostly I just wanted an excuse to link to previous winner Cheyenne Nimes' "SECTION 404 OF THE CLEAN WATER ACT AND THE SANTA CRUZ RIVER SAND SHARK, SUBTITLED 'THIS TROUBLESOME REGULATORY CONSTRAINT'."
Jonah Lehrer may not have exactly “self-plagiarized” his own work, but he certainly did recycle a good amount of his writing in a misleading way. And while many have criticized this kind of lazy writing, it’s worth revisiting Tim Requarth and Meehan Crist’s critical review of Lehrer’s book, Imagine, which plays a central role in this entire scandal.
James Gleick talks to one of the software engineers behind autocorrect, that "impish god" responsible for turning our ids to I'ds and moviestars to Natalie Portmanteaus. In response, Jen Doll wonders whether we love to hate autocorrect "because when it messes up we're happily reminded that phones and computers are not actually smarter than people."
Chances are you’ve heard that in a recent interview, Claire Messud responded to a patronizing question about one of her characters -- “I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you?” -- by giving her interviewer a smackdown that resonated across the blogosphere. At Page-Turner, several authors (including Rivka Galchen, Jonathan Franzen and Year in Reading alumna Margaret Atwood) offer their own takes on the matter of "likeability." (There's also this piece by our own Emily St. John Mandel to consider.)
In the latest issue of The Boston Review, Elaine Scarry reviews Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature. Pinker argues that literature, by bolstering man's empathy, has lead to huge reductions in worldwide violence, a thesis that sounds dangerously close to the absurd pop-science of Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal.