Out this week: A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua; Flights by Olga Tokarczuk; Severance by Ling Ma; Pretty Things by Virginie Despentes; Attention: Dispatches from a Land of Distraction by Joshua Cohen (which you can read an excerpt of here at The Millions); and Night Soil by Dale Peck.
The word “cool” has been cool for more than 70 years. At Slate, Carl Wilson examines why this slang stuck, and how it’s evolved from being used by beatniks to smartphone companies. “Cool is an attitude that allows detached assessment, but one that prizes an air of knowingness over specific knowledge. I think that’s why it doesn’t become dated, unlike hotter-running expressions of enthusiasm like groovy or rad.” Pair with: Michael Agger’s essay on why we love the “cool story, bro” meme.
Hyperallergic has excerpts from Rokudenashiko’s graphic memoir What Is Obscenity? The Story of a Good For Nothing Artist and Her Pussy, which Michael Melgaard recently reviewed at The Millions.
Our review of A Widow’s Story took Joyce Carol Oates to task for not mentioning that she had remarried not long after the death of her husband. In the New York Review of Books, Julian Barnes recently made the same point. Responding to the Barnes review, Oates defended her choice, but diplomatically added, “In retrospect I can see that I should have added something like an appendix.”
John Jeremiah Sullivan has a new essay about animal consciousness – and specifically our understanding thereof – in Lapham’s Quarterly. This effort is more serious and decidedly less terrifying than Sullivan’s last essay about animal agency, “Violence of the Lambs.”
For everyone who harbors a deep and mildly-embarrassed love for GIFs in the significant, non-linguistic part of their brains that finds repeated facial expressions far more memorable than words: Ploughshares’ series on classic novels (1984, The Catcher in the Rye, The Scarlet Letter, The Hobbit) will have you laughing and building your cocktail-party knowledge all at once.