“The notebook is where our interior world makes contact with our exterior world; where our instinct for creation is first made material. Our notebooks are our first messy attempts at self-expression, and the ways in which we express ourselves are changing every day.” Sarah Gerard explores the life of the notebook in an essay for Hazlitt. Pair with our own Hannah Gersen‘s look at other methods writers use to keep their ideas straight, from calendars to collages.
Writing in the London Review of Books (Reg. Req.), Evgeny Morozov clued me onto how “scientists at UCLA – with funding from the Chinese government – have built an ‘image to text’ system that automatically produces text summaries of what is taking place in captured video.” A similar technology was also developed by NYU student Matt Richardson, whose “descriptive camera” can “automatically describe the scene in a camera’s viewfinder, which, when the image was uploaded, would make it easier to find.” Meanwhile one Twitter is describing typical Instagram shots in 140 characters or fewer.
Modern day celebrities aren’t the only victims of Photoshop. Paula Byrne, a Jane Austen biographer, believes that Austen has been “airbrushed” on her £10 Bank of England note. The portrait makes her look like “a pretty doll with big doe eyes” and diminishes her reputation as an author, Byrne argues.
What inspired Samuel Clemens to change his name to Mark Twain? Was it a Mississippi riverboat captain? Did he earn it by “drinking at a one-bit saloon in Virginia City, Nevada?” Or, as rare book dealer Kevin Mac Donnell now alleges in the new issue of Mark Twain Journal, did the author find his pseudonym in a popular humor journal?
Nowadays, Huck Finn is as a lightning rod for racial issues, which explains why so many schools have banned the book over the years. But in the late 18th century, when Mark Twain published it, the novel was more controversial as a critique of childhood in America. In the Times, Year in Reading alum Parul Sehgal reads Huck Finn’s America, a new book by Andrew Levy that sheds light on the context of the era. You could also read our founder C. Max Magee on reading Huck Finn as a child.
“Even though journalism is a good profession, for me it was very constraining. It focuses on the surface, banalities, events, and I wanted to spend a longer time talking to people in depth, and to ask them about truly important things, like love, death, and war.” This interview with Svetlana Alexievich at The Nation is fantastic. Check out our own profile/interview with Alexievich from earlier this summer.