“Morality… is a slippery slope and nowhere more, perhaps, than in regard to art, to literature, which begins as the expression of a single heart, a single mind. That it becomes more than that — connective, the fiber of a conversation between writer and reader, and between both of them and the world — is not just the point but the miracle… To frame this miracle in moral terms is to misread what art extends to us: a way of joining, for a moment only, across the void.” In an article for the LA Times, David L. Ulin considers the implications of the George V. Hunt, SJ Prize for Excellence in Journalism, Arts and Letters, which will award $25,000 to a writer “of sound moral character and reputation [who] must not have published works that are manifestly atheistically or morally offensive.”
On the occasion of Scribner's publication of the "Restored Edition" of A Moveable Feast, Gioia Diliberto, biographer of Ernest Hemingway's wife Hadley, writes of her discovery of the Hadley Hemingway tapes.Sarah Schmelling's McSweeney's piece "Hamlet (Facebook News Feed Edition)" has spawned a book Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don't Float: Classic Lit Signs on to Facebook, the canon retold in social networking parlance.Speaking of the canon, The Second Pass plays devil's advocate and tells us which of history's most praised books are best avoided. (We will pass over in silence the inclusion of One Hundred Years of Solitude.)Mark Athitakis writes about the National Book Award in 1980, "an interesting time for the prize." The previous year, publishers pulled out of the awards, contending according to an NYT article, "the awards favored little-read books." (This criticism resurfaced in 2004.) After 1980, the festivities ballooned to eight fiction categories before eventually being scaled back in subsequent years. (via Maud)In Slate, Nathaniel Rich wonders why "the most peaceful people on earth [Scandinavians] write the greatest homicide thrillers."The "Significant Objects project," in which worthless trinkets are sold on eBay along with original fiction written about said worthless trinkets, has launched. Participants include Curtis Sittenfeld, Lydia Millet, Matthew Sharpe, Sam Lipsyte, and a few dozen others. The eBay auctions can be found here.
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The popularity of Joshua Katz’s American dialect maps inspired The Atlantic to create their own dialect video. In it, Atlantic staff members call people from across the country, recording them so listeners can hear their accents, and ask them to answer questions from a 2003 Harvard survey.
For its November issue, Wired asks guest editor President Obama for a list of his 10 essential books. The magazine estimates that reading all of them, including James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers, and Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, will take only eighty-nine hours.
Flavorwire has compiled a list of the best literary criticism of the year, ranging from Rebecca Solnit on Lolita to Elena Ferrante on literary publicity. Also check out this year’s most notable Millions pieces, from our star-studded Year in Reading to a literary reader for Lent.