The idea of having to diagram a sentence still gives us nightmares, but Pop Chart Lab has diagrammed opening lines of famous novels, including those as simple as Slaughterhouse-Five and as complex as Don Quixote.
Out this week: Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran; A Mother’s Tale by Phillip Lopate; Huck Out West by Robert Coover; Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin; The Midnight Cool by Lydia Peelle; The Antiques by Kris D’Agostino; Lotus by Lijia Zhang; and Collected Stories by E.L. Doctorow. For more on these and other new titles, go read our latest book preview.
It’s a question that puzzles writers of all stripes: why is so much academic writing so terrible? It’s an issue that’s been a lifelong head-scratcher for the linguist Steven Pinker, who set out to answer the question once and for all. His verdict? It has to do with the meaning of “literary style.”
Seeing as yesterday was Donald Barthelme’s birthday, it’s as good a time as any to remember the short fiction icon. At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova reads Barthelme’s essay “Not-Knowing,” which you can find in the author’s collection of essays and interviews. Sample quote: “Art is not difficult because it wishes to be difficult, but because it wishes to be art.”
This essay by Mensah Demary for Electric Literature on Nas and the literary legitimacy of hip-hop is the best thing you’ll read this morning. “Nas is a world-class storyteller and practitioner of the narrative form,” Demary writes, “I don’t understand why there isn’t more discussion around hip-hop’s literary value among today’s millennial-and-boomer intelligentsia.”