“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.
Out this week: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan; Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides; Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien; A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo; An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon; Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn; Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (whom we interviewed recently); and We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
The Financial Times takes a detailed look at the Financial Computing Centre, home of future quants, where Michael Galas is working to build "a hedge fund without employees" and a crop of PhD candidates are using social media to predict the markets. Could these algorithms one day spill beyond finance, and influence education or social sciences?
Good news! According to Vinson Cunningham’s new essay in The New Yorker, beauty merely “masks and perfumes ... it freezes moral categories in place,” whereas ugliness, on the other hand, “is sometimes the closest thing to the truth.” Wait, is that good news? Bonus: Vinson wrote a Year in Reading piece for us.
"'Tuya' means 'graffiti' in Chinese—the name is recent—and this street, three-quarters of a mile long, may be the longest stretch of public art in the world. It’s also a government-sanctioned 'art district,' centered around the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, which was established in 1940...I noticed that every artist I spoke to referred to 2005 as the year everything changed. 2005 was the year the government became interested in art." Art in Chongqing.