People laugh when I tell them: everybody’s born right-handed, but the best overcome it. But now, take heed my Southpaw brethren. Science may be on our side. One recent study indicates that left-handedness may lead to “a boost in a specific kind of creativity—namely, divergent thinking, or the ability to generate new ideas from a single principle quickly and effectively.”
In the Boston Review, Jess Row wades – slowly, interestingly, not always coherently – into the perpetually roiling waters of Theory of the Novel, taking on the canon wars, realism vs. the avant-garde, etc. Is it really “a safe bet that your average well-informed critic today has never read a single work of criticism by a writer of color?” Probably not, even granting Row’s exception. But possibly worth arguing about. If you like that sort of thing.
We are all by now familiar with J.K. Rowling‘s elaborate, hand-drawn outlines for the Harry Potter series, but what if all plots could be simplified further? Down to, let’s say, graphs? And not even an infinite number of graphs, but just six? The Paris Review considers the work of Matthew Jockers, a literature professor who studies “the relationship between sentiment and plot shape in fiction.”
Jessica Love writes for The American Scholar about some recent psychological studies on the art and perspective of storytelling. Of particular interest is the way “the first person does seem to encourage us to identify with the narrator, especially when that narrator is a lot like us.” Not that identifying with narrators is the primary purpose of reading, as the New Yorker reminds us in a piece against “relatability,” but it’s something to consider the next time you pick up a novel and find a character who seems to be just like you.
Two years ago, Allison Parrish produced a diary of an expedition through “fantastical places that do not exist.” The twist? The diary was generated by a computer program, which extracted more than 5,700 sentences drawn from Project Gutenberg and later recombined at random by “switching out grammatical constituents.” An extract of the finished work, interspersed with Parrish’s nonfiction essay, can be read here.
“The hijacking of public language, as is happening now, is a way to shift perception—to bend and control thought—and must be resisted.” Summer Brennan pens a powerful first entry for her twice-monthly column about language and power at The Literary Hub. Read also our own Lydia Kiesling, who tells us, “I have to believe that literature can be a weapon of a sort — it explodes comfort even while it delivers comfort; it reveals hypocrisy in a way that the mere presentation of facts often cannot.”