We take it for granted that our language will grow and change. But one thing we think less often about is that our alphabet is subject to the same forces. Herewith, Carlos Lozada reads Michael Rosen’s new book Alphabetical, which delves into the origins and future prospects of our writing system.
In general, fact-checking isn’t the most glamorous part of a journalist’s career, which is why Michael Erard was surprised to find that a recent fact-checking session for an Al Jazeera article turned out to be among the most interesting conversations of his life. Why? His sources were linguists, and their job was to explain to him the workings of brand-new sign languages.
“There is one rule [to writing biography] that all who try their hand at it come to know: until the protagonist reveals his or her character—his or her inner self—what the biographer produces is less a life than a report, an autopsy rather than the record of a séance.” David Levering Lewis writes for The American Scholar about biography and writing “the lives of African-American figures, and [finding] in them the story of our times.”
New this week: The Secret Place by Tana French; 10:04 by Ben Lerner; Barbarian Days by William Finnegan; Wittgenstein, Jr. by Lars Iyer; The Emerald Light in the Air by Donald Antrim; and The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview.
Happy almost-Thanksgiving to our American readers! To celebrate, why not whip up a nice bowl of Everyone Get the Hell Out of of the Kitchen Right Now Before I Kill All of You Cranberry-Orange Dressing and pray that none of your other recipes have mistakes in them.
Surprising news emerged today about This American Life‘s Mike Daisey episode on Apple’s Foxconn subcontractors (previously mentioned on The Millions here, and later here). Apparently portions of Daisey’s visit to Chinese Foxconn factories were fabricated, and TAL‘s producers failed to ensure factual accuracy because he misled their efforts. As a result, the show has retracted the broadcast (PDF), Daisey has issued a statement of defense, and the next TAL episode will cover the entire fiasco.