Who has a bigger vocabulary: Shakespeare or André 3000? It’s actually Outkast. Data scientist Matt Daniels created an infographic that charts 85 rappers’ unique vocabulary in their first 35,000 lyrics. Outkast uses 5,212 unique words; whereas, Shakespeare only uses 5,170. But Aesop Rock beats the Bard by more than 2,000 words with a count of 7,392 unique words.
The L Magazine features an interview with poet/multi-genre artist Claudia Rankine, whose performance piece The Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue -- a Rankine-written-and-recorded narrative that accompanies a bus ride through the South Bronx -- will run for two months beginning Labor Day Weekend.
“Perhaps postcards best capture a nostalgia inherent to the passerby.” Our own Bruna Dantas Lobato writes about literary postcards and how we imbue images with our own meanings for Ploughshares. You could also read about images that inspire authors from another one of our staffers, Edan Lepucki.
"A neck cannot be modern. A neck is in time, belongs to time, but is not formed by it. My guess is that even photos of Neanderthal necks would not differ significantly... [They are] in a certain sense, pure nature. Something that grows in a certain place, the way tree trunks grow, or mussels, fungi, moss." Recommended reading: Karl Ove Knausgaard on the sanctity of bodies, the nature of truth, and the back of the neck. The third volume of Knausgaard's bestselling My Struggle hit American bookshelves last week. (Check out our own review of Knausgaard's previous volumes.)
“I have learned to consume them in secret, in my own home, reading them the way you would eat a bag of M&M’s that you keep stashed behind the kale chips.” Jake Tobin Garrett for Electric Literature about the allure of self-help books. See also:“Unleashing the Essence of Self-Help Books in Three Simple Steps.”
“Maybe I [felt] a shift in responsibility when I had kids. I wanted the work I was doing, whatever it was, to be something that could be meaningful to them one day. That’s where the germ of the memoir came from. I thought that perhaps writing about my parents and where I came from would one day be helpful for my kids.” For Guernica, Christopher Kondrich interviews Tracy K. Smith about writing a memoir, the presence of David Bowie in her Life on Mars, and her reverence for the cosmic. Also check out Sophia Nguyen’s Millions review of Smith’s memoir, Ordinary Light.
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.
Slate books and culture columnist Laura Miller looks at what this year's bestseller list tells us about 2017. One of her conclusions, "2017 was the year that the very concept of a best-seller became even more dubious." After reading her analysis, check out our Year in Reading lists, whose authors found joy in reading and viewed it as one of the few good things of this year, even if the bestsellers of the year didn't reflect those feelings.