“Directly you are in motion you will feel quite helpless, and experience a sensation of being run away with, and it will seem as if the machine were trying to throw you off.” The bicycle was little more than a confusing craze back in 1877. The London Library has just uncovered some fascinating and hilarious vintage educational pamphlets on everything from ‘The Gentlewoman’s Book of Sports’ to ‘Cycling As a Cause of Heart Disease.’
Someone’s finally done it, and it’s our own Emily St. John Mandel, to boot: over at FiveThirtyEight, Mandel crunches the numbers on books with the word “girl” in the title, concluding that we may not have reached peak girl yet. (Also 65% of the time, the girl in question is actually a woman.) Nonetheless, if you’re looking to go rogue, check out our guide about how to title every book you ever write.
Nowadays, we take it as a given that Tolstoy’s fame was guaranteed by his talent, but many of his contemporaries thought he’d never get a readership outside his native Russia. Why? His writing, as Rosamund Bartlett puts it in a comparison with Turgenev, was “unpolished, more uncompromising and altogether more Russian” than his peers’. If you generally prefer Dostoevsky, you’ll appreciate our survey of scholars on which author was greater. (h/t Arts and Letters Daily)
Leigh Stein‘s writing has appeared in places such as DIAGRAM, H_NGM_N, and Dzanc’s Best of the Web 2010. She also has a weekly column for The Faster Times. Her debut novel, The Fallback Plan, will be released next January by Melville House. Publisher’s Weekly thinks pretty highly of it.
This week in Fascinating Archive Picks: The New Statesman dug up a Philip Larkin essay from 1962. Kicking off with an eccentric fantasy of hearing Shakespeare’s voice on vinyl, the essay delves into the importance attached to a poet’s voice, which impels Larkin to regret that early record producers didn’t think to record Thomas Hardy. Related: Leah Falk on reading poems aloud.
“I say peel back the immediate surface layer and let’s see what’s actually underneath, if it’s possible to find that out. As a child, of course, I grew up looking under dead logs to see if there might be a newt. Most of the time there wasn’t a newt. Sometimes there was.” Margaret Atwood talks newts and skepticism in a new interview over at Hazlitt. Atwood’s newest, The Heart Goes Last, is out now.