“What traits make Austen special, and can they be measured with data? Can literary genius be graphed?” The New York Times tackles the question of why, 200 years after her death, Jane Austen is still so popular. (One finding: the author“used intensifying words — like very, much, so — at a higher rate than other writers.”) See also: our interview with Curtis Sittenfeld, whose most-recent novel Eligible is the ultimate literary tribute, an adaptation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
In the Prospect, an essay on anesthesia, 3D printing, teleportation, LSD, and other thought experiments on self-awareness. Also, this line: “If the spectrum of selfhood begins with the roundworm, surely it ends with Proust.”
Think you know your Arthur Conan Doyle from your Agatha Christie? This week, The Guardian quizzes you on the book covers of classic crime novels. In case you missed it, previous weeks featured science fiction and literary classics.
“Aspiring journalists tend to worship at the altar of Joan Didion,” writes Heather Havrilesky (who some of you may know as Polly) in the latest issue of Bookforum. The fact that so many writers look up to Didion as an example necessitates that the lit world find at least one offbeat alternative. In Havrilesky’s eyes, that alternative is obvious: the late Nora Ephron was the anti-Didion, she argues.