“There are people who believe that readers and writers—at least the right kind of readers and writers—are special snowflakes, existing on a more exalted plane than mere mortals. Book people are educated. They are privileged. They are brave enough to speak out when the emperor shows up naked. They sup on nectar from flowers grown on the sunny slopes of Mount Olympus, harvested by chiton-wearing MFA candidates.” Jennifer Weiner responds to bad Amazon reviews, book blogs, and elitist ” book people” in an essay for The New Republic. We especially enjoy the line about the chitons.
“Reading the Grateful Dead is not a history of the band; it is a study of the landscape they and their fans created, as surveyed from a caravan that crisscrossed the country, Europe, and even Egypt for roughly 2,300 shows over 30 years.” Dead Head Buzz Poole takes a look at “Grateful Dead studies.” (The song that turned him, it turns out, was ‘Scarlet Begonias.’)
Over at The Washington Post, Jeff Guo makes a case against periods. As he puts it, “When we get excited, the pauses between our sentences shrink. We speak in run-ons. [...] A period feels too weighty.” Also check out this Millions piece on the benefits of excising quotation marks.
Out this week: Thomas Murphy by Roger Rosenblatt; The Deep Sea Diver's Syndrome by Serge Brussolo; Weathering by Lucy Wood; Remains by Jesús Castillo; and What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell (which we reviewed). For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2016 Book Preview.
We cover a decent number of literary awards here at The Millions, but we, like most magazines, have a tendency to focus on the present. At the LARB, Andrew Nicholls makes up for this by recounting the very first book awards, in which Mooluu’s “The Beast Attacked” goes head-to-head with Kurtan the Elder’s “Why Half My Face is Missing.” You could also read our own Mark O’Connell on why we care about literary prizes to begin with.
The Science Genius Initiative is a pilot project organized by Rap Genius, science teachers from ten New York City public schools, and GZA. Together, the group hopes “to change the way city teachers relate to minority students, drawing not just on hip-hop’s rhymes, but also on its social practices and values.” Indeed, as the Wu-Tang Clan emcee – who’s been working with Neil DeGrasse Tyson and MIT physicists for his new album – believes science is worth studying because it “unlocks the key to the universe, and the mysteries we don’t know.”
"It’s a critical dilemma in my reading and writing but also a real-life dilemma in a family like mine, with Alzheimer’s in our genes: How do you locate the personhood in someone who is, for neurobiological reasons, no longer the person you knew? Is there a way to be true to medical fact and still find something that is transcendently human?" Stefan Merrill Block writes about the literature of Alzheimer's and Matthew Thomas's We Are Not Ourselves, which Lisa Peet reviewed for The Millions.