Recommended listening: Marilynne Robinson talks with NPR about about her latest novel, Lila, which we covered in our “Great Second-Half 2014 Book Preview” and which Leslie Jamison recently reviewed for The Atlantic.
“An ambidextrous cardsharp, who took losing as a personal insult; a proletarian agitator, who dressed like a dandy; a germ-fearing hypochondriac, smoking 100 cigarettes a day; a lady-killer with rotten teeth, causing a string of abortions wherever he went.” On the Soviet poet Mayakovksy.
How did Herman Melville’s friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne affect the writing of Moby-Dick? It’s a hard question to answer with any certainty, but Patrick James Dunagan gives it a shot, drawing evidence from Erik Hage’s book on the authors’ relationship. You could also read Hester Blum’s argument that Moby-Dick is the greatest American novel.
Why do articles go viral? At The New Yorker, Maria Konnikova traces what makes a popular story all the way back to Aristotle, but today’s clickbait has two features: a positive message or an ability to excite the reader emotionally. This probably explains why we love those articles about puppies. Pair with: Our piece on if book titles were written for clicks.
According to The Guardian, “researchers in Australia have developed a computer program which writes its own fables, complete with moral.” No word yet on whether they’re any good.
In The New York Times Magazine, Heather Havrilesky cautions against “The Divorce Delusion,” or one of modern drama’s most unrealistic tropes. “Infidelity, a love child (or two), dalliances with prostitutes, lewd online behavior; we’ve watched so many spouses bounce back from hell,” she writes, “that maybe we’re beginning to believe that there’s no trauma so great that it can’t be quickly metabolized into a courageous determination to sally forth against the storm.”
If you missed Apple’s “Education Announcement” last Thursday, you can check out Peter Kafka’s play-by-play coverage of the event for AllThingsD. The whole affair made quite a splash because the biggest publishers in the world today are education publishers. The star of the show was iBooks 2, and it has many people talking: some view it as education publishing’s savior, some fear it, and others think its EULA is downright creepy. At least one person believes the whole idea might’ve been the brain child of a lowly intern. And, finally, what should we make of Steve Jobs’ 1996 admission that “what’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology?”