“When the French would go to serve, they often said, Tenez!, the French word for ‘take it,’ meaning ‘coming at you, heads up.’ We preserve this custom of warning the opponent in our less lyrical way by stating the score just before we toss up the ball. It was the Italians who, having overheard the French make these sounds, began calling the game ‘ten-ez’ by association. A lovely detail in that it suggests a scene, a Florentine ear at the fence or entryway, listening.” Whether it’s David Foster Wallace or John Jeremiah Sullivan writing about tennis, I’m reading it. Another three-namer, Jonathan Russell Clark, reviewed The David Foster Wallace Reader for The Millions.
Zadie Smith’s On Beauty takes home the Orange Prize.Map of the New Yorker caption contest winners. (via emdashes)Abebooks has put together some special pages celebrating its 10th anniversary. Check out Powers of 10 – which includes the list of most expensive books ever sold on the site – and the timeline, which shows what the site looked like at its humble beginnings. (thanks Laurie.)
The correspondence of Vladimir Nabokov and the critic Edmund Wilson suffered from Wilson’s inability to appreciate Nabokov’s work. But by the spring of 1950, illness had affected both men to the point where a skilled correspondent in the ways of the U.S. mail became “a panacea to pain.”
In the late fifties, an old flame of Samuel Beckett, Ethna MacCarthy, fell ill and died of throat cancer in Dublin. Around this time, female voices began to enter Beckett’s work, which up until that point had featured almost exclusively male characters. Was there a connection? In a review of a new edition of Beckett’s letters, Fintan O’Toole suggests that there was. You could also read Elizabeth Winkler on the author’s bilingual oeuvre.
Shakespeare invented more than 1,000 words when he was writing, and now we might be able to find out how. Two New York booksellers believe they have found Shakespeare’s annotated dictionary, John Baret’s An Alvearie or Quadruple Dictionarie. Although scholars aren’t quite convinced, you can read the dictionary in full to decide for yourself.