Posts Tagged: The Atlantic

500 Years of Drunk

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How many different words are there for “intoxicated”? Quite a lot, as it turns out—writers have been inventing new words to describe inebriation for just about as long as they’ve been drinking. A new book exploring the history of synonyms of wasted reveals the origins of some five hundred years of poggled language.

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Mr. Difficult, Mr. Easy

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Is Moby-Dick really a tougher read than Fifty Shades of Grey? Noah Berlatsky argues that the distinction depends on the reader:

…”difficulty” seems to hold out the possibility of more objective standards—to assure us that these books, over here, by Joyce and Faulkner, are 1000 pounds of pure prose, while these books over there, by Stephenie Meyer or Tom Clancy, are sniveling 90-pound weaklings of meretriciousness.

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Was Prufrock the First Hipster?

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For the Atlantic, Karen Swallow Prior puts a new spin on the origin story of the “hipster,” arguing that T.S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock was actually one of the first:

Prufrock of the cuffed white flannel trousers cultivates a detached earnestness that isn’t unlike the modern-day adult who is as eager to reject a hollow consumerism as he is to signify that rejection through the material signs of thrift-store chic: the trucker cap, fuzzy sweater, the thrift-store trousers, or horn-rimmed eyewear.

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What’s the Difference Between You and Your Great Great Great-Grandfather?

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At the Atlantic, David Mitchell discusses his new novel, the poem he keeps above his desk, and how to write. He explains that his work involves writing about distance and time, and that requires figuring out how one culture differs from another:

Much of my work involves writing about scenes set far in the future or deep in the past.

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Book With No Pictures

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After publishing a collection of short stories earlier this year, B.J. Novak has just released his first book for children, Book With No PicturesThe title is pretty self-explanatory—as an interview with Novak in the Atlantic puts it, instead of traditional pictures,

…words form statements like, “My only friend in the whole wide world is a hippo named Boo-Boo Butt.” The joke is that the grown-up has to say every outrageous thing on the page, which makes the kid feel like an evil genius.

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Word of the Day: Woofits

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(n.); an unwell feeling, particularly in the head; a moody depression; c. 1918, from Nevil Shute’s The Rose and the Rainbow

The archetype of the mad genius dates back to at least classical times, when Aristotle noted, “Those who have been eminent in philosophy, politics, poetry, and the arts have all had tendencies toward melancholia.”

“Secrets of the Creative Brain,” Nancy C.

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On On Writing

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Fourteen years after it’s publication, Stephen King’s On Writing has become a necessary read for anyone interested in prose-burnishing. Follow this string of red letters for a new interview with King on his book with The Atlantic’s Jessica Lahey.

Jessica Lahey: In On Writing, you identified some phrases that should be excised from every writer’s toolbox: “At this point in time” and “at the end of the day.” Any new irksome phrases you’d be willing to share?

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Despite Scandals, Facts Still Unchecked

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The publishing world has been rocked by numerous high-profile scandals in recent years. James Frey’s memoir turned out to be more of a novel, for instance. Yet despite these mistakes, book publishers are still allowing facts to go unchecked leaving open a major source of potential misinformation, reports The Atlantic:

And reliance on books creates a weak link in the chain of media accuracy, says Scott Rosenberg, founder of the now defunct MediaBugs.org.

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The Novel of Economics

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Following her essay about the influence of Adam Smith’s economic theories in Jane Austen’s novels, writing at The AtlanticShannon Chamberlain gets back to the topic, this time debating what influence fiction had, and in particular the emerging genre of the novel, in Smith’s production:

“Perhaps this sense of turmoil, of progress that could still be undone, explains Smith’s apparent ambiguity about novels.

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The Act of Un-Erasing

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For the Atlantic, Shawn Miller argues that what we decide to erase, through our technology, is often more enlightening that what is kept. Drawing an analogy between Middle Age palimpsests and a 19th-century Italian priest, Angelo Mai, who dedicated his life to finding what past monks had scraped off parchment and written over, Miller wonders what deleted information of ours historians will be interested in examining in the future:

So, the questions we should ask ourselves today: What information are we devaluing now?

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Political Fiction, Without a Capital P

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Political fiction can come across as heavy-handed, but avoiding all politics in writing may overlook the fact that people lead political lives. Over at the Atlantic, author Molly Antopol talks about how reading the fiction of Grace Paley taught her to write about political characters without sounding preachy—as she puts it, political fiction without a capital P:

When political fiction fails, it can be because it manifests a kind of moral certitude, an assured sense that one worldview is better or truer than another.

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Remembering the Blue and the Gray

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Memorial Day is a time of both national reflection and diverse local tradition. In a piece connecting poetry and community storytelling, The Atlantic offers some literary history in observance of this past weekend’s holiday. Two years after the end of the Civil War, the magazine published Francis Miles Finch’s conciliatory poem, “The Blue and The Gray.” Finch, a northerner, was inspired to write the piece by four women in Columbus, Mississippi, who decorated the graves of deceased Confederates and Union soldiers alike in a gesture of nonpartisan respect. Today, students in Columbus honor the event by retelling the life stories of those buried in that cemetery.

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Reading: Still Probably a Good Idea

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We linked to an Atlantic article in January about the recent decline in readers in America. According to the article, 23 percent of Americans went without reading a single novel in 2013.

Now, Time has a summary of a recent study of reading’s effects on the brain. As expected, the activity roughly a quarter of Americans forwent last year is statistically correlated with cultivating social awareness, creativity, and empathy; in other words, pretty good things.

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