Scientists confirmed recently that writers are more likely to struggle with mental illness (sometimes, as recently noted, due to syphilis). Since we’re so used to our alcoholic literary greats, and a smattering of suicidal ones (Plath, Woolf, Thompson, Wallace–and many more), this comes as no great surprise. On a happier note, a new study using fMRIs and MFA students has found that writers show different brain patterns than “normal people” just writing: in fact they resemble “expert” thinking patterns of all professionals doing what they’re best at–musicians, athletes, competitive Scrabble players. I don’t know if I’m happier to learn the fMRIs found no gaping black holes, or that MFAs do in fact teach you something.
Recently, both Batgirl and the Norse god Thor (as conceived by Marvel) have been updated to suit the times. While DC Comics simply gave Batgirl sensible, combat-appropriate clothing, inspiring happy fan art; “female Thor” has met a mix of excitement and bewilderment. Fittingly, a new piece out at Aeon explores our conflicted desire to see male protagonists in fiction — the Harry Potters and Bilbo Baggins’ of the world — reimagined as women. (Also, because no roundup of imaginary characters is complete without fake social media updates, here’s Thor lamenting the loss of his hammer on Facebook.)
“In the aftermath of tragedies, people become obsessive, do strange things. As the tragedy recedes and is sewn up into the past, these strange things appear increasingly weird to casual observers.” At The Rumpus, our own Lydia Kiesling reviews Donna Tartt’s new novel The Goldfinch, which centers around a fictional bombing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.