We are all by now familiar with J.K. Rowling‘s elaborate, hand-drawn outlines for the Harry Potter series, but what if all plots could be simplified further? Down to, let’s say, graphs? And not even an infinite number of graphs, but just six? The Paris Review considers the work of Matthew Jockers, a literature professor who studies “the relationship between sentiment and plot shape in fiction.”
Looks like our robot overlord is going to be a 13-year-old boy: the Turing Test has been passed for the first time by a bot simulating a preteen, making history for artificial intelligence research and teenagers alike. “Our main idea was that he can claim that he knows anything, but his age also makes it perfectly reasonable that he doesn’t know everything,” researchers explained.
Millions staff writing appearing elsewhere: At In Character, my essay about Derrick Borte’s The Joneses and the idea of the American impostor (ECW).
Writing for n+1’s City by City series, Moira Donegan remarks on the “self-defeating contradictions” of working at a nonprofit in New Orleans. It’s a town, she writes, where most arrive to either “perform charity or to party,” and where, she feels, “many of the people who … come to help the city [are] also hurting it.” In certain ways, the piece can be read as being in conversation with Duncan Murrell’s 2012 essay for Oxford American about authenticity, preservation, posterity, and the Big Easy.
What if a treasure hunt in a book crossed over into the real world? Author Kit Williams buried a prize and left clues to its location in his novel, Masquerade. The search drove England crazy. Our own Hannah Gersen maps the imaginary in her essay about how authors organize their manuscripts.
Sudoku getting too easy, you say? Try making (or, rather, writing) one instead, like this nine-paneled comic that works across, down, or on a diagonal.
Time is running out! If you’re still dragging your feet on a Valentine’s card for your significant other, go check out these hilarious monstress valentines from Madeline Gobbo at The Toast. Her “Valentines for the Indifferent” from last year can still work, too.
David Orr investigates the day jobs of some modern poets, and notes “the university job is a relatively recent development in Anglo-American poetry.” Indeed, as this playful illustration from Incidental Comics makes clear, poets have engaged in a wide array of salaried jobs – from pediatricians to bank clerks to diplomats. Previously, we took a look at writers and their day jobs, too.