Simon DeDeo writes for AGNI about the first line of Paradise Lost, John Milton’s first disobedience. As he explains it, “The line is a syllable too much. In Milton’s blank verse epic—iambic pentameter, five sets of two-syllable feet—the opening has eleven syllables, not ten.”
When our own Mark O’Connell reviewed Edouard Levé’s Autoportrait, he wrote that the book compels you to keep reading because “the more Levé says, the more facts he sets down, the more you realize he hasn’t said.” But what if at the end, you’re meant to reread the book, too? Over at Words Without Borders, Jan Steyn says “the only way to get a better idea of how [these sentences] fit together is to keep reading, and reading, until the end, and then perhaps to read the book again.”
Do you ever find yourself skimming novels looking for exciting words and hyperlinks? You aren't the only one mixing up the digital and print reading worlds. Neuroscientists believe we are developing new brain circuits for skimming online information that are rewiring how we've approached reading for centuries. Pair with: Our essay on how writing is also changing to fit our fragmented attention span.
Jane Austen is a rare figure. Acclaimed as one of the most brilliant authors in modern history, she has a popularity that few of her peers can match, as evidenced by her posthumous sales and huge numbers of dedicated fans. How did her work hit the sweet spot of broad appeal and scholarly fame? In the WSJ, Alexander McCall Smith provides a theory. (h/t The Paris Review Daily)
"By the time Mr. Bass bought the building for $8.2 million in 1997, the Strand had become the largest used-book store in the world." Fred Bass, the owner of the Strand, has died at the age of 89. Bass — who bought used books with panicked fervor, opened up satellite kiosks, and created the fabled literary quiz for prospective employees — turned his father's used bookstores into a New York City literary landmark.
“Raymond Chandler did not invent the private eye — Dashiell Hammett and a few others got there first. But his vision is the one that caught the public eye and stuck most indelibly in the imagination, like — in one of his aromatic metaphors — ‘a tarantula on a slice of angel food.’” On a new biography of the man behind Phillip Marlowe.