The Empathy Exams, a new collection of essays by Leslie Jamison, gets its title from a piece about medical acting that was published in The Believer. On the Harper’s blog, you can read an interview with Jamison, who calls her collection “a refusal to choose between these approaches — criticism, confession, journalism.” (Michelle Huneven interviewed Jamison for The Millions a couple of years ago.)
“I’ve been hailed as a hero (hipster poets love me), gotten the rock star reception (by research librarians), and been dismissed with derision, thought possibly to be deranged,” says Jon Danzinger. So what’s his job, you might ask? He’s a researcher for the Oxford English Dictionary.
"Directly you are in motion you will feel quite helpless, and experience a sensation of being run away with, and it will seem as if the machine were trying to throw you off." The bicycle was little more than a confusing craze back in 1877. The London Library has just uncovered some fascinating and hilarious vintage educational pamphlets on everything from 'The Gentlewoman’s Book of Sports' to 'Cycling As a Cause of Heart Disease.'
What would happen if you had a clock to countdown the exact number of days until you died? Our own Mark O'Connell discovers the paranoia of having the Days of Life app measure his mortality at The New Yorker. "Days of Life functions like a reductio ad absurdum of the logic of personal productivity. The pie chart becomes a special way of being afraid: an image of the self as a micro-economy of numbered days." For a more uplifting version of O'Connell, check out his 2013 Year in Reading post.
Parentheses aren't just the mark of a lazy or verbose writer. They can also bracket personal pain in a narrative. At The New York Review of Books, Christopher Benfey explores the power of the parenthetical detail, such as Lolita's "My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three." Pair with: Vulture's "The 5 Best Punctuation Marks in Literature."
In the latest Baffler, Evgeny Morozov argues that Silicon Valley, in typical fashion, has taken to “hacking” our language. Old, trusted words don’t mean what they used to mean, and complex ideas have been stripped of subversive implications. “Complexity,” he writes, “is not particularly viral.”