Somewhere along the way, the word “cool” became “the most popular slang term of approval in English.” Humanities has a pretty cool (hip, rad, dope, groovy, punk, hot, sweet) theory, tracing it as far back as Zora Neale Hurston’s collection Mules and Men, and the time when “cool was black… cool was jazz.” (Related reading: the most excellent Hepster’s Dictionary (pdf) of 1939 jive talk, and our own history of the slang word “like.”)
“A book critic working today must contend with a world in which more diverse voices are heard and the traditional gatekeepers have less power to enforce conformity.” LitHub interviewed Kate Tuttle, the president of the National Book Critics Circle, about literary criticism. Read our own Emily St. John Mandel on bad reviews.
Tom Wolfe has a chance to defend (er, ward off?) his 2004 “Bad Sex Award” following Literary Review‘s decision to nominate him for this year’s top honors (er, dishonors?). The UK publication has tapped Back to Blood and seven others for this year’s shortlist — and, despite popular demand, they managed to spare J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. For some revealing passages from Wolfe’s book, check out my review.
You may have heard that Joshua Cohen has a new book out this week. The Harper’s columnist’s fourth novel tells the story of a ghostwriter producing a tech wizard’s memoirs. In BOMB Magazine, Dan Duray sits down with Cohen, who talks about the book, the Bay Area and the cultural production of autism. Related: Johannes Lichtman on Cohen’s Four New Messages.