Recently, a Czech linguist named Jakob Murian came up with an estimate of the number of languages your average European speaks. The study is complicated, however, by the question of how much you need to know to really understand a given language. At the LRB’s blog, Glen Newey asks: are you fluent when you can order a beer, or when you can translate Virgil? Pair with: Abigail Rasminsky on learning to speak German.
Roger Boylan at the Boston Review writes about the flourishing posthumous career of Mark Twain: "...more than 5,000 previously unknown letters of Twain’s have surfaced in the last 50 years. This represents an average of two new letters per week, but still only about one-tenth of the 50,000 or so he is believed to have written." And at Slate, Craig Fehrman discusses the "brilliant brand management" behind the handling of Twain's autobiography.
Year in Reading alum Joshua Ferris has a new book on shelves this week, as does Millions contributor Porochista Khakpour. Also out: Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro; The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings; Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore by Walter Mosley; The Orenda by Joseph Boyden; Snow in May by Kseniya Melnik; The Year She Left Us by Kathryn Ma; and Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2014 Book Preview.
Sometimes the most important issues are the most difficult to discuss. While a conversation about diversity in literature has started, The New Republic asks us why socioeconomic status is often left out of the conversation. Our essay on the rise and fall of the creative class pairs nicely.
Haven’t checked out the cartoon Adventure Time? You’re missing out, says Maria Bustillos. The Awl and New Yorker contributor explains why you need to check out this show in an essay-cum-one-off-website. If it helps, The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum feels the same way. (h/t The Paris Review)