Posts by: Lauren O'Neal

Go Ahead, Break Some Grammar Rules

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It’s actually the opposite. Most people break grammar rules so they can be more precise.

For Full Stop, Catie Disabato writes about prescriptive vs. descriptive grammar, and why “bad” grammar can be a good thing.

Her data points include Burger King ads, John Dryden’s seventeenth-century grammar campaigns, and use of the word “because” as a preposition.

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How Much Coffee Did Balzac Really Drink?

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It has long been a favorite factoid of writers that Honoré de Balzac drank fifty cups of coffee a day.

But is it true? The Airship’s Freddie Moore has put an admirable amount of research into investigating the claim, dividing coffee cups from demitasses and unhealthy doses of caffeine from fatal ones:

I found one webpage that estimated 40 cups a days and another said 20 to 40 cups….[I]n the strange, dark world of Yahoo!

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Lemony Snicket Interviews Newbery Winner

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Parents, kids, and other fans of children’s literature will enjoy renowned YA author Lemony Snicket’s interview with Kate DiCamillo, who just won the Newbery Medal for her novel Flora & Ulysses.

DiCamillo is also the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and has lots to say working with an illustrator, her favorite stage of the writing process, and the warehouse job that got her interested in children’s books:

How do I feel when I look back at prior work?

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TSA Employee Reveals Airport Security Secrets

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…one of the officers in our class asked him to tell us, off the record, what he really thought about the machines.

“They’re shit,” he said, shrugging. He said we wouldn’t be able to distinguish plastic explosives from body fat and that guns were practically invisible if they were turned sideways in a pocket.

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In India, the Onion Is No Laughing Matter

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In India, an onion shortage means more than just a few lackluster dinners. It’s a cipher for a whole dictionary of political and cultural meanings, as Karolle Rabarison found out while living there:

It’s no new trick for political parties to sell onions at deep discounts in stalls across major cities, especially in the capital, New Delhi….Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980 by attacking the incumbent in this way, wielding garlands of onions at political rallies…

Gargantuan stacks of onions, eating onion slices like potato chips—Rabarison’s essay has it all.

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How Toxic Is Online Feminism?

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There’s a heated conversation about online feminism happening—where else?—online right now.

Ignited by a piece in the Nation about Internet toxicity as well as an ill-advised xoJane piece about white privilege in yoga class, the discussion is focusing on intersectionality in feminism, particularly as it regards race.

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Cats Haven’t Changed Much Since the 1400s

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Elegant words from a manuscript painstakingly illustrated by a fifteenth-century scribe: “Hic non defectus est, sed cattus minxit desuper nocte quadam.”

Translation: “Here is nothing missing, but a cat urinated on this during a certain night.”

The blog Medieval Fragments has more on the cats that both bedeviled and entertained the monks of the Middle Ages.

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More Misogyny in Texas

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Last year, we covered Wendy Davis’s heroic attempt to prevent a draconian anti-abortion bill from passing in Texas with two phenomenal essays, one by Callie Collins and one by Amy Gentry.

Now Davis is running for governor of Texas, and you’ll be shocked—shocked!—to learn that conservatives are treating her with as much misogyny as they did during her hours-long filibuster.

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Poetry Is Useful—Or At Least It Can Be

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Poetry is always already revolutionary, then. What it says hardly matters. Poetry is useful because of its useless essence, not because of its individual meaning.

Of course, this is nonsense.

The way Noah Berlatsky sees it, mainstream culture and poets agree with each other that poetry is useless—it’s just that most people see that as a bad thing while poets see it as a good thing.

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Kurt Vonnegut’s Crazy Amazing TV Show

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A seemingly unemployed wannabe poet, Stony secures the opportunity by winning the “Blast-Off Space Food” jingle contest and, despite confused protest from his mother,  is whisked away to undergo an intensive, three-month astronautic crash course.

Would you believe us if we told you the above quote describes the premise of a ’60s TV show that stitched together aspects of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s CradleSirens of Titan, and “Harrison Bergeron”?

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“Black to the Future”

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Black to the future was/is a radical, dangerous, and daring dream—an impossibility. Science fiction and fantasy (sf&f) is a rehearsal of the impossible, an ideal realm for redefinition and reinvention. For Africans and their descendants in the diaspora, decolonizing our mind/body/spirits was/is an on-going sf&f project.

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Ashley Farmer Release Party in SF

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If you live in the Bay Area, you owe it to yourself to make it out to this release party for Ashley Farmer’s book Beside Myself, out from our essays editor Roxane Gay‘s own Tiny Hardcore Press.

THP—and its associated litmag, PANK—are celebrating the new title at the Make-Out Room in San Francisco, where they’ll be joined by our friends at the Believer. Readers will include Daniel Levin Becker, Rumpus contributors Ethel Rohan and Sarah Marshall, and Rumpus pal Matthew Zapruder.

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Trans* Litmag THEM in Print, Accepting Submissions

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Groundbreaking trans* literary magazine THEM, launched online last year, is now re-releasing its first issue in print.

If you missed out on it the first time, this is the perfect opportunity to acquaint yourself with the multigenre journal and its commitment to building a publication where contributors can, as founding editor Jos Charles puts it, “write without being afraid of addressing being trans,* but also where they don’t feel pressure to address their bodies according to cissexist expectations.”

As for their upcoming second issue, submissions are open until April 15, and THEM‘s staff is looking forward to reading and printing more “formally experimental” work that “tells a story we haven’t yet heard.”

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“That Pesky Racism Again”

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For Human Parts, the dazzling collection of essays curated by Stephanie Georgopulos on Medium, Djenab Conde writes about the complexities of eating at a Chinese restaurant with her Chinese mother and Guinean father.

Conde writes about how frustrating it is to never be recognized as Chinese even when she speaks the language, but the really heartbreaking part is the subtle ways she tries to protect her father’s feelings.

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70 Years of Penguin Design

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We all have a few Penguin books on our shelves, with their characteristic splash of orange and that cute little black-and-white Antarctic avian.

But how well do you really know Penguin’s cover design?

On her graphic-design blog Design Context, Lizzy Gosney sifts through seventy years of the publisher’s history to find all sorts of surprisingly interesting information about logos, fonts, and color schemes.

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Prejudice Not Gone from Figure Skating

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We recently blogged about the Believer’s incredible essay about ’90s figure skating and the rivalry between Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding.

At Racialicious, Kendra James talks about her experience figure skating as a black woman, and how her race has elicited much of the same commentary that Harding got for her working-class background:

…I get what it’s like to not be seen as the“‘lovely,’ ‘ladylike,’ ‘elegant,’ and ‘sophisticated,’ one,” and spending the energy trying to conform to a sport standard that’s not necessarily made to fit how the world’s been trained to see you.

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Submit Stories and Songs to New Lit Podcast

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You’ve heard of audiobooks, but what about audio-litmags?

Palaver Press is now accepting submissions of short fiction, songs, and sound works on the themes “piano” and “da capo” for new ninety-minute podcasts that “will feature several narrated short-stories, seamlessly woven together with music, exploring concepts derived from music and compositional theory.”

Basically, it sounds like a delightful mashup of The Organist and Story Tapes.

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Shocking News: Writers are Poor

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If anyone was still laboring under the impression that writing is a lucrative business, a new report from Digital Book World is here to pulverize your hopes and dreams.

After interviewing 10,000 authors at all different points in their careers, DBW found that “the majority of authors make less than $1000 a year” from their writing, and “only 10 percent of traditionally published authors made more than $20,000.”

Read more and check out graphs of the data in this Galleycat post.

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