It’s a question that puzzles writers of all stripes: why is so much academic writing so terrible? It’s an issue that’s been a lifelong head-scratcher for the linguist Steven Pinker, who set out to answer the question once and for all. His verdict? It has to do with the meaning of “literary style.”
“She didn’t even want to be anything. She just wanted to be able to sit in a room and not feel tortured by it, which is sort of the human condition in general. Eileen isn’t dreaming of leaving home and making it in the big city on Broadway. She just wants to go and eat a banana, you know?” Ottessa Moshfegh on her new novel, Eileen, for The Rumpus.
Allan Gurganus commemorates the 100th anniversary of his teacher and friend John Cheever’s birth. “Cheever, now unfairly known as the gloomy, sodden satyr of suburbia,” Gurganus writes, “was at least rarely gloomy. Fact is he was more fun per minute than is legal in a nation this Republican.”
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.