To mark the end of the Obama years, the crew at n+1 rounded up their best writing from his presidency. Head on over to read Aziz Rana, George Blaustein, and more.
Say you’re the kind of person who never ends a sentence with a preposition. You’re studious about distinguishing between “its” and “it’s,” and you’re likely to judge a person who says “nauseous” when they should have said “nauseated.” But occasionally, if you’re being honest with yourself, you suspect that a lot of the grammar rules you follow are conditional or even arbitrary. Herewith, Steven Pinker offers ten rules you should break from time to time. (Related: Fiona Maazel wrote an essay for The Millions on good grammar.)
“Yes, yes, it’s truer than true:
The great doctor made fun that was funny!
His creatures are shaggy and splendid and squishy,
In a cosmos uncertain but sunny.”
Incredible interview with the New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson. He tells about the time he was arrested in Guinea and accused of being a spy. Happens to journalists all the time, you say? No, this was when he was thirteen. If he ever writes a memoir, publishers will be lining up. (via Jenny)I thoroughly enjoyed Ed’s account of a near-drink with William T. Vollmann.Golden Rule Jones has a lovely new home. Be sure to update your bookmarks and feed readers.Interesting article about a promotional push by The Economist in Baltimore. A few years ago, I started hearing people talk about The Economist all the time. I wasn’t sure if the magazine was getting more popular or if I was just traveling in different circles. This quote clears it up: “Of The Economist’s worldwide circulation of just less than 1.1 million, Rossi said, North America accounts for a bit more than half, at 569,336, a figure that has increased 47.3 percent since 2001.” Wow, that’s a big jump. They deserve it. It’s a great magazine. If I had more time, I’d read every issue all the way through.
“Many of the most powerful characters in our best-loved stories are orphaned, adopted, fostered, or found. At the same time, many of the most powerless citizens in our society are orphaned, adopted, or fostered children, and the marginalized adults that so many become. Why have so few of us even noticed this centuries-old disparity?” On literature’s most celebrated protagonists, from Oliver Twist to Anne of Green Gables.
“It turned out that the most successful Christmas records tended to have two common qualities: catchy, upbeat melodies and imagined unlikely scenarios for anthropomorphized yuletide characters.” Move over, Frosty! It’s beginning to look a lot like … an unseasonably warm December. Here is a brief history of Christmas songs and of their often-surprising rise from corny kitsch to global sensation.
At N+1, Marco Roth autopsies “the neuronovel” – think Motherless Brooklyn (Tourette’s), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (autism), Lowboy (paranoid schizophrenia), The Echo Maker (Capgras syndrome), and Atmospheric Disturbances (Capgras again?) – and finds “sign[s] of the novel’s diminishing purview.”