At the New York Times Magazine, poet Victoria Chang discusses with Malia Wollan the art of the obituary poem, as seen in her newest collection, Obit, a memorial to the dead and a reflection on grief. “’There’s a lot of humor and oddity, strange tensions and funny stuff about people and the things they do together,’ Chang says. Obituaries, even simple ones, remind us of our briefness. After watching her mother die, Chang understood in a visceral way for the first time that she, too, would die. She thinks that if people spent more time acknowledging their mortality they’d live differently — kinder, more present. Writing an obituary can be a wake-up call. ‘This person is dead,” Chang says. “You’re alive.’”
“Once certain hurdles are cleared (a bit of talent, years of work), being a writer is like flying a kite in a storm in a field full of people flying kites in a storm.” Garth Greenwell on writing his first novel, the importance of failure, and giving oneself privacy to make mistakes. Pair with Meredith Turits’s Millions piece, featuring six writers looking back on their first novels.
Shakespeare conspiracy theorists might still wonder who the real playwright was, but we do know what he would’ve sounded like. Linguist David Crystal and his son, actor Ben Crystal, demonstrate the original pronunciation of the Bard’s best. Bonus: An interview with Ben on the research behind the pronunciation.
Before he was Michael Chabon the novelist he was Michael Chabon the punk musician. Now recordings of his work with The Bats are available online as part of Mind Cure Records archival series.
A new study out of Stony Brook University employs a complex statistical model to figure out what makes a book successful. Judging books on the basis of Amazon sales, awards won and Project Gutenberg downloads, the scientists determined that successful books have a higher-than-average ratio of self-references, prepositions and coordinating conjunctions. Unsuccessful books, on the other hand? A high ratio of adverbs and location markers.