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.”
“Russia’s most celebrated writers – including Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Nabokov, Bulgakov, Solzhenitsyn and Mandelstam – are often depicted as solitary geniuses. But many of their works were the fruits of creative partnerships with their wives. Far from being passive typists, they served as editors, researchers, translators, publishers and more.”
J.K. Rowling’s new play will not, as everyone had imagined, be a prequel to the Harry Potter series. Instead, it will be a sequel, with the main action taking place 19 years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and focusing on Harry’s youngest son, Albus Severus. Here’s a self described “jaded, contrarian” take on Rowling and the series as a whole from The Millions.
Alright, time to fess up – who keeps buying all these Mein Kampfs? This piece from The Daily Beast takes a look at Hitler’s 800-page tome and questions why people continue to buy it despite the fact that “it might be dull as one of those many lunchtime monologues that bored Frau Goebbels cross-eyed.”
What did we read in the Obama era? Christian Lorentzen has some answers. Apart from individual books like The Flamethrowers and The Art of Fielding, he comes up with some genres that have dominated the past eight years, including autofiction, works of trauma and fables of meritocracy. (You can probably guess where Leaving the Atocha Station ends up.)
The literary archives of Gwendolyn Brooks – the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize – are headed to the University of Illinois Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The haul amounts to more than “150 boxes stuffed with manuscripts, drafts, revisions, correspondence, scrapbooks, clippings, homemade chapbooks in which Brooks neatly handwrote her earliest (unpublished) poems, and heavy bronze awards ensconced in velvet-lined boxes collected later in her career.”