The rules come so naturally to us that we rarely learn about them in school, but over the past few decades language nerds have been monitoring modifiers, grouping them into categories, and straining to find logic in how people instinctively rank those categories.
Posts Tagged: slate
People have taken to using the terms “book” and “novel” interchangeably, but non-fiction books are not novels, Ben Yagoda explains over at Slate. The shift might be attributed to the post-modern zeitgeist that blends fact and fiction into a fuzzy truth, or it might come down to language:
I tend to view it more pragmatically.
Notably, there are a few verbal tics that we mistakenly think index insecurity, even though they don’t. These (mostly feminine) quirks—uptalk, vocal fry—are often subtle expressions of power, innovativeness, or upward mobility. In fact, Adam Gopnik recently wrote about how verbal fillers like “um” and “you know” underscore a speaker’s conscientiousness, her sensitivity to the details she must, for reasons of economy, leave unsaid.
“Kipling,” says a psychiatrist friend of mine, “was always pretending to be something other than he actually was—which was a 10-year-old boy.” His work, the best of it, has a boy’s barbarism and a boy’s conservatism. “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” succeeds so spectacularly because it is, in a sense, written by that 10-year-old boy—by little Teddy, the quietest character in the story but the one with whose special boyish loves and terrors the narrative is saturated.
In an excerpt from her book The Shelf, Phyllis Rose illustrates the systematic dismissal of women writers through the imagined figure of Prospero’s Daughter: wealthy and educated yet burdened by the demands of a family life whose quotidian challenges, having monopolized her time, become central concerns in her work....more
Sandwiched between fictions on one side and instructions on the other, a woman is often denied the breathing room necessary to find her individual sexuality. In a conversation at the Nervous Breakdown, Rumpus contributor Ashley Perez and author Cris Mazza discuss sexual pain (both mental and physical) and the damaging standards fabricated by literature and expected in life:
I want every woman who wrote [an unrealistic sex scene] to sit in a therapy group with me and describe her own sexual experience, so I can gauge these fictional ones.
Jennifer Weiner’s recent claim that a serious author photos indicate serious literature is submited to scientifically unsound empirical testing over at Slate. Comparing the head shots of “Women’s Lit” writers to those of “Literary Fiction” best-sellers, Eliza Berman discovers an unexpected trend in the process: the mysterious middle ground of the indecipherable author smirk....more
You think your mom was a harsh critic? Slate published an excerpt of criticism about Mansfield Park from Jane Austen’s friends and family. Austen compiled the criticism in an 8-page document, which just shows that even successful novelists are insecure....more
Peter van Agtmael “has no desire to be at war.” But he spends his life documenting it with his camera, in all its manifestations: from the barracks to the homes of veterans. In the introduction to his recent book-length collection, Disco Night Sept....more
Sweny’s, the pharmacy made famous in Joyce’s Ulysses (when Leopold Bloom visits the Dublin shop to purchase lotion and soap for his wife Molly), opened more than 167 years ago and has remained more or less unchanged for most of that time....more
In his newly published The Novel: a Biography, Michael Schmidt takes some time to study how the wars of the 20th century shaped the great American novel, citing Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, and Joseph Heller among those that best dealt with the subject....more
Jill Abramson, the first woman to head the New York Times as executive editor, was abruptly fired Wednesday and replaced by managing editor Dean Baquet.
The New Yorker attempted to explain why, with the leading theory being Abramson’s discovery several weeks ago that she earned less than her male predecessor....more
Author Joshua Ferris is about to release his third book, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, and Reagan Arthur, his publisher at Little, Brown, has been with him from the very beginning.
After more than 8 years of collaborating, the two talk over at Slate about the writing and editing process—and how changing this new novel’s genre led Ferris to cut a whole 200 pages from the manuscript....more
This past week was National Library Week! Still imagine all librarians as the curmudgeonly figures you encountered in elementary school? Think again. Slate has a photo project representing the diversity of librarians—showcasing their personalities, appearances, and many vast fields of study....more
If you loved Jerry Stahl’s essay “Bad Moments in Parenting” as much as we did, be sure to check out the beautiful, devastating account of of one woman’s experience with dementia by Gerda Saunders. Her deeply personal essay gives insight to how a person reckons with keeping her identity as she struggles to remember her family, how to take care of herself, and even who she is....more
Alphabetically? By Genre? By read or unread? Or perhaps maybe by color? Does the last method make you feel like a weirdo? Well Kristin Hohenadel wants to let you know that arranging your books by color is not a moral failing....more
Much is being said of the Oxford comma recently and if it is really needed but what if the comma is going the way of the Dodo bird? Is the prominent punctuation mark becoming completely unnecessary? Matthew Malady at Slate seems to think so....more
At Slate, computer-science professor Philip Guo discusses an odd side effect of stereotypes about Asian men: when he was first learning to code, they actually worked in his favor.
Even when Guo was a novice, people gave him the benefit of the doubt, which allowed him the time to learn everything he needed to learn....more
We like to think mass hysteria about black magic in the US died with the Salem witch trials, but 300 years afterward, starting in the 1980s, childcare providers across the country were accused of “Satanic abuse.”
One such case involved Fran and Dan Keller, who ran a daycare center in Austin and went to jail after being accused of using children in outlandish “Satanic rituals” involving murder, cannibalism, grave robbery, and sexual abuse....more
In a recent post about newly discovered undeveloped photos of a Shackleton expedition to Antarctica 100 years ago, we mentioned that Riverhead Books publicity director Jynne Dilling Martin is currently an artist-in-residence in Antarctica, and that she had written a splendid essay about penguins for Slate....more
Ronald Reagan’s anecdotal speech about a “welfare queen” who bilked taxpayers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars has largely been discredited as racist demagoguery, but it turns out that particular woman did exist—and welfare fraud was the least of her offenses....more
For Slate, Amanda Hess examines yet another first-person confessional: sexual assault victim Jenny Kutner’s essay “The Other Side of the Story,” published in Texas Monthly.
The power of Kutner’s story is that it lends insight into a particular type of victimization—the kind that happens when the victim doesn’t see herself as one.
We didn’t know there was one until Slate‘s Matthew Malady pointed out the limitations of English punctuation.
Look, I’m the last one to encourage the excessive use of exclamation points. But if we are going to use them—and they do come in handy from time to time—we should at least do so in a way that makes good sense.
A University of Chicago survey found that fewer men are paying for sex—or did it?
In an interview with Slate‘s Amanda Hess, Post Whore America blogger Melissa Gira Grant takes a second look at the survey results and challenges the idea that “reducing the incidence of sex work is a good thing”:
I think what too many people mean when they say they want to reduce sex work is that they don’t want to drive by a motel where they think sex work happens, or they don’t want to come across sex ads online….They’re letting how sex work makes them feel override reality, and they’re missing the point.