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.”
Look out, Darwin -- Wolfe's coming for you. Tom Wolfe's new book, The Kingdom of Speech, which we reviewed a couple of days ago, takes aim at Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky: "Like an industrial engineer who also makes bespoke dueling pistols in his shed on the weekends, Mr. Wolfe has made a side career of skirmishing with the eminati (his term) in an array of cultural fields. If fighting enlivens one’s mornings, Mr. Wolfe has had little need of caffeine."
Well-Read Black Girl, a Brooklyn-based book club and online community celebrating "the uniqueness of Black literature & sisterhood," has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its inaugural writers' conference and festival. Past WRBG book club guests include Year in Reading alums Jacqueline Woodson and Angela Flournoy, whom we also interviewed about her debut novel The Turner House.
On International Women's Day the New York Times launched Overlooked, a project that features the obituaries of remarkable women who did not receive the NYT obituary treatment when they passed away. It turns out only 20% of NYT obituaries were about women. Overlooked will seek to remedy this oversight by posting new obituaries of female icons weekly for the rest of 2018. Of particular note to our readers this week; Charlotte Bronte, Qiu Jin, Nella Larsen, Sylvia Plath and Ida B. Wells. But all 15 obituaries are worth reading, whether to learn something new or refresh your memory.