Feeling a bit too happy lately? Want to be utterly bummed out? Then read through this assortment of depressing graphs, provided by Rebecca Makkai. They include graphs about MFAs, a bar graph about book clubs, and a pie chart expressing the probability that you are Alice Munro.
College football season is upon us, and I’d be remiss not to highlight the recent flood of fantastic writing on my favorite televised sport. Most striking is Pulitzer Prize-winner Taylor Branch‘s Atlantic article “The Shame of College Sports.” It’s accompanied by several other takes on the issue. In regards to academia, this New York Times piece on the University of Chicago’s football team demonstrates that tension between educators and football fans is nothing new. (A sentiment the paper illustrated in a 2006 piece on Ivy League football.) However, as Gregg Easterbrook notes, major football programs can also demonstrate success in the classroom as well. Finally, and on a purely emotional level, I will always seize any opportunity to share this fantastic ESPN story by Eric Adelson.
Though major publications like The New York Times are still questioning the importance and power of female essayists, Lucy Scholes argues that women are producing “some of the best writing today” and as proof lists several of the best recent essay collections by women in a piece for The Daily Beast. Incidentally, that list includes titles such as The Empathy Exams and The Opposite of Loneliness, both of which were reviewed for The Millions (here and here, respectively).
“Six thousand books is a lot of reading, true, but the trash like Hell’s Belles and Kid Colt and The Legend of the Lost Arroyo and even Part-Time Harlot, Full-Time Tramp that I devoured during my misspent teens really puff up the numbers. And in any case, it is nowhere near a record. Winston Churchill supposedly read a book every day of his life, even while he was saving Western Civilization from the Nazis. This is quite an accomplishment, because by some accounts Winston Churchill spent all of World War II completely hammered.”
Remember that story you were going to write about your neighbor’s dog but never did? When you’re a writer, you have to know when to ditch both the bad and good ideas. At The Atlantic, Bob Brody laments all the stories he’ll never write and concludes: “It’s taken me a long time to learn this—that sometimes the best course of action is inaction.”
Sara Davidson’s Joan: Forty Years of Life, Loss, and Friendship with Joan Didion is an intimate portrait of one of America’s most revered and private writers.