In general, fact-checking isn’t the most glamorous part of a journalist’s career, which is why Michael Erard was surprised to find that a recent fact-checking session for an Al Jazeera article turned out to be among the most interesting conversations of his life. Why? His sources were linguists, and their job was to explain to him the workings of brand-new sign languages.
Reading War and Peace was always a challenge, but how much harder is it in an age of constant distraction? At Salon, Mike Harris, a self-confessed distraction addict, writes about his experience tackling the Russian classic. You could also read our own Kevin Hartnett on the book’s effect on perception.
Are critically acclaimed authors really terrible? Is feminism bad for women? New York Magazine runs down the greatest hits of what appears, in hindsight, to have been the Decade of Counterintuition (and, in the process, catalogues many of my personal bêtes noires).
To date, Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie, is the only fictional character to get his own obit in the Times. At the LARB, Rumblr editor Molly McArdle looks back on Poirot, the very long-running TV series that ended on November 13th. (h/t The Rumpus)
"Half utilitarian data visualization project, half absurdist poetic gesture:" a Brooklyn artist is working to turn all of Wikipedia into a print encyclopedia set numbering some 7,600 volumes. But the best part of the project by far is the titles for those volumes, which include such gems as "Hulk (Aqua Teen Hunger Force) — Humanitarianism in Africa."
"Did not really sleep: no Xanax / yesterday, which means I won’t sleep, / then the next night is usually OK, / Xanax or no. It’s Christmas Eve / in Spain, the important day. We’ll / break Dorota’s wafer. My mood / is less good than yesterday when / I would call it ‘normal’." A few new poems by Kathryn Maris at 3:AM Magazine.
"The internet has altered our lives in ways television never did or could, but mainstream literary novelists – by which I mean writers who specialize in realistic, character-based narratives – have mostly shied away from writing about this, perhaps hoping that, like TV, it could be safely ignored." Laura Miller examines how contemporary novels are coming to terms with the internet.