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.
Hollywood is romanticizing the Beat Generation in its recent adaptations of On the Road (trailer here), Big Sur (trailer here), and Kill Your Darlings, and you can blame Millennials. “In casting the authors as eternally and fundamentally adolescent, the recent revival tones down their behavior—both revolutionary and repulsive—as a sort of passing teenage phase,” Jordan Larson argues for The Atlantic.
In her scathing, yet utterly necessary, review of Steve Jobs and its subject, Maureen Tkacik writes that “with any luck future generations will saddle Steve Jobs, the brand, with the blemish of all the jobs (small ‘j’) a once-great nation relinquished because of brand-name billionaires like Jobs.”
“Even weeks after its publication, no one agrees on What Happened and Clinton’s ability to assess her own past. But in post-truth America, the truth that becomes history may well be decided by star-rating.” The Guardian considers how Amazon reviews became the new battlefield of US politics. Namechecked in the piece: Nancy MacLean, whom we interviewed about her new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, here.