The CIA was known for unorthodox espionage techniques during the Cold War, but using Doctor Zhivago to undermine the U.S.S.R. is one of the strangest. The CIA helped print and distribute the banned book because it would make Soviets wonder “what is wrong with their government, when a fine literary work by the man acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even available in his own country in his own language for his own people to read.”
Over at The Washington Post, Jeff Guo makes a case against periods. As he puts it, “When we get excited, the pauses between our sentences shrink. We speak in run-ons. […] A period feels too weighty.” Also check out this Millions piece on the benefits of excising quotation marks.
Anwen Crawford reflects on newly published letters from Sylvia Plath; “The belief among many of Plath’s devotees seems to be that if we can get clear of other people’s fingerprints on her texts, allowing Plath to ‘fully narrate her own autobiography,’ as the editors here describe it, we will at last solve the riddle of her. The extremities of her poetry will balance against the circumstances of her life; the latter will equal the former. But her griefs were ordinary; it is what she did with them that wasn’t. Plath turned her common sorrows—dead father, mental illness, cheating husband—into something like an origin story for pain itself, as if her own pain preceded the world.” In the New Yorker
Out this week: Bed-Stuy Is Burning by Brian Platzer; Gork, the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson; Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong; A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma; Knots by Gunnhild Øyehaug; Pages for Her by Sylvia Brownrigg; and Moving Kings by Joshua Cohen. For more on these and other new titles, go read our just-published book preview.
Medievalist Elaine Treharne teaches a course on Beowulf at Stanford, and one of her primary theoretical questions for her students is, “What is (the) Text? … What constitutes Beowulf?” So she got to thinking. She wondered what she and her students would do “with a social media version of the poem.” What ensued is a distillation of the great epic in 100 tweets, which you can read over here.
We showed you ours, and you showed us yours. Here’s a Storify of the 60+ responses we got when we asked you to invite us into your #writespace. Peep our Tumblr this weekend, where we’ll be featuring some of our favorites. And of course, keep ’em coming: tag a picture of where you write with #writespace on Twitter or Tumblr and we’ll be sure to take note.