On August 1st, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia. Also, Franz Kafka went swimming. Moreover, the Metamorphosis author mentioned both events in his diary, writing simply and strangely that “Germany has declared war on Russia — went swimming in the afternoon.” Was this odd phrasing intentional or a sign of the author’s self-absorption? In an article for Open Letters Monthly, Robert Minto reads all three volumes of Reiner Stach’s new biography.
“Reading the Grateful Dead is not a history of the band; it is a study of the landscape they and their fans created, as surveyed from a caravan that crisscrossed the country, Europe, and even Egypt for roughly 2,300 shows over 30 years.” Dead Head Buzz Poole takes a look at “Grateful Dead studies.” (The song that turned him, it turns out, was ‘Scarlet Begonias.’)
"What made The Great Gatsby so great? Does everyone think he’s that great? Why?" Just in time for the back-to-school rush: essay questions from a teacher who didn't finish any of the required reading (a.k.a. McSweeney's).
"I gave up on making a happy ending in the true sense a long time ago." Japanese animator and film director Hayao Miyazaki is something of a legend. Over at The Literary Hub, Gabrielle Bellot takes a look at the expansive literary history of Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli.
If you're eagerly anticipating the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, be prepared to wait until 2034. You can blame the internet for the delay, which has made research easier but also leads to information overload. There are so many new words that the dictionary would be 40 volumes if it ever makes it to print, but expect it to be only online instead. For more on the new OED, read a profile of new editor Michael Proffitt.