Say you’re the kind of person who never ends a sentence with a preposition. You’re studious about distinguishing between “its” and “it’s,” and you’re likely to judge a person who says “nauseous” when they should have said “nauseated.” But occasionally, if you’re being honest with yourself, you suspect that a lot of the grammar rules you follow are conditional or even arbitrary. Herewith, Steven Pinker offers ten rules you should break from time to time. (Related: Fiona Maazel wrote an essay for The Millions on good grammar.)
In the nineties, when Jack Livings was teaching English in China, he was gathering material for The Dog, his short story collection that recently won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham prize. In an interview in the WSJ, he talks about his research process, Chinese idioms and Uighur-Han relations. You could also read Casey Walker’s syllabus for modern China. (h/t The Rumpus)
I’ve long thought that New Orleans is the greatest city in America and that it’s nigh impossible to make it much better. That was before Tulane University announced that Salvage the Bones and Men We Reaped author Jesmyn Ward will be joining their faculty. Let it be thus known: on July 1, 2014, New Orleans will get even better than I could’ve imagined.
Thomas Hardy was one cold dude. Read some of these excerpts from his letters and find your day ruined. Highlights include a critique of a prime minister’s funeral and his excitement at the hanging of Elizabeth Martha Brown, accused of killing her husband. Here’s a Millions piece on the difficulties of teaching Hardy in 21st-century Florida.