Over at Electric Literature, John Freeman profiles Year in Reading alumnus Ben Lerner, newly minted MacArthur genius and author of two novels in which “the political opens a path for the personal, just as the personal urges him to engage the political.” Freeman writes, “This blending—of perception and politics—comes right out of how Lerner sees the world in real life.” Pair with Christopher Wood’s Millions review of Lerner’s 10:04.
J.L. Galache wanted to honor the recently deceased Iain Banks in a way befitting the man’s memory. So of course he named an asteroid after the author. With the help of Dr. Gareth Williams of the Minor Planet Center, Galache successfully lobbied the Committee for Small Body Nomencalture of the International Astronomical Union for Asteroid 5099 to be officially dubbed Iainbanks. (Bonus: John McIntyre honors Banks’s memory by reading through some of his best work.)
In 1969, Random House’s Book of the Month Club offered members an edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dalí. (You can view the full collection here.) Forty-three years later, the publisher had a mail delivery experience that was almost equally surreal.
Didn’t find the latest New Yorker cartoon funny? Take it up with The New Yorker‘s cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff, who discusses the magazine’s “idea drawings” and humor in his TED talk, Anatomy of a New Yorker Cartoon. Bonus: check out Mankoff’s favorite New Yorker cartoons.
“Art isn’t a footrace. No one comes in first place. Greatness is not a universally agreed-upon value. … America isn’t one story. It’s a layered and diverse array of identities, individual and collective, forged on contradictory realities that are imbued with and denied privilege and power. Our obsession with the Great American Novel is perhaps evidence of the even greater truth that it’s impossible for one to exist. As Americans, we keep looking anyway.” Cheryl Strayed and Adam Kirsch discuss the Great American Novel in this week’s New York Times Bookends. For a slightly different take, consider the 9 novels our experts chose as the Greatest American novels, from Moby-Dick to The Godfather.
Sick of getting corrected for tiny grammatical mistakes? Turns out you may not be a forgetful person after all. According to a cognitive psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, our brains have a tendency to fall into bad grammatical habits, even when we know the rules we’re trying to follow. In The Washington Post, Andrew Heisel investigates. You could also read Fiona Maazel on the specter of commercial grammar.