Why do articles go viral? At The New Yorker, Maria Konnikova traces what makes a popular story all the way back to Aristotle, but today’s clickbait has two features: a positive message or an ability to excite the reader emotionally. This probably explains why we love those articles about puppies. Pair with: Our piece on if book titles were written for clicks.
In the mid-90s, David Foster Wallace published a scathing review of a John Updike novel, Toward the End of Time, that became a key text for critics of the celebrated author. Now, at The New Republic, David Baddiel argues that Updike gets a bad rap, while Jeffrey Meyers backs up DFW’s position. It might also be a good time to read James Santel’s review of Updike’s Collected Stories.
“It took me ten years (four of writing, six of rewriting) to complete The Listener. Now ‘trans is trending,’ and the book has been published into this particular cultural moment, one I could never have envisioned twelve years ago.” Rachel Basch discusses writing in the context of social change at Lit Hub. Pair with our own Sonya Chung’s piece on literary activism.
To commemorate the book’s 75th anniversary, WNYC and WQXR Radio will present a live radio play of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. New Yorkers will be able to catch the broadcast on February 29th and March 1st, and then the rest of the nation can hear it in September.
Simon DeDeo writes for AGNI about the first line of Paradise Lost, John Milton’s first disobedience. As he explains it, “The line is a syllable too much. In Milton’s blank verse epic—iambic pentameter, five sets of two-syllable feet—the opening has eleven syllables, not ten.”
Out this week: The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante; Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg; Marvel and a Wonder by Joe Meno; The Hundred Year Flood by Matthew Salesses (who recently wrote for us); Dryland by Sara Jaffe; and Purity by Jonathan Franzen (which we reviewed). For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview.