Posts Tagged: The Atlantic

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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The Elusive Happy Ending

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Happy endings are hard to come by in great literature, especially in stories that center on affluent American suburbs and their inhabitants. Over at the Atlantic, writer Ted Thompson looks at the hopeful and redemptive (but still believable) dramatic climax of John Cheever’s “The Housebreaker of Shady Hill”:

This is one of the things that’s so apparent when you’re reading Cheever: his openness to redemptive beauty.

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The Decline of Punctuation?!…

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We live in a heyday of punctuation. “Call this what you will—exclamatory excess, punctuation inflation, the result of the Internet’s limitless expanse—it is everywhere,” writes Megan Garber at the Atlantic. But perhaps not for long—with the rise of image-based expression like emoji and gifs, we are finding new ways to express ourselves, and we’re leaving exclamation points and question marks out of it.

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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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