Recently, a Czech linguist named Jakob Murian came up with an estimate of the number of languages your average European speaks. The study is complicated, however, by the question of how much you need to know to really understand a given language. At the LRB’s blog, Glen Newey asks: are you fluent when you can order a beer, or when you can translate Virgil? Pair with: Abigail Rasminsky on learning to speak German.
RIP Karl Miller, one of the founders of The London Review of Books and an editor of the magazine for thirteen years. Originally meant to fill a vacuum left by a strike at the Times Literary Supplement, the LRB grew into “the liveliest, the most serious and also the most radical literary magazine we have,” in Alan Bennett’s words.
According to the foreword in a 1978 reprint, ‘Agent of Chaos is extremely popular with convicts’ and ‘certain sectors of the radical political left’. But the novel’s libertarian anarchism seems more in tune these days with the mainstream political right. In 1999, Spinrad said: ‘I’m an anarchist – but I’m a syndicalist. You have to have organised anarchy, because otherwise it doesn’t work.’ The real Boris Johnson has said his ideal form of government would be a ‘rules-based anarchy’.
If you enjoy showing the world how much you like to read, you’re in luck: The Paris Review and the LRB are asking people to submit photos of themselves reading either magazine as part of their new contest. All you have to do is post the image on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #ReadEverywhere, and they’ll pick out the top images. The grand prize is one vintage issue of The Paris Review from every decade it’s been around, along with an artwork by Peter Campbell and a vintage LRB cover print.
26. Plants do not actually sleep. Nor do they lie or even bluff. They do, however, expose their genitalia.
He laughs, too – it’s impossible not to join him when he cracks up uttering the phrase ‘waist deep in blood’ in his poem ‘The Howling’ – and occasionally takes breaks to smoke or drink water, or comment on the poems. His voice, with its precise New England R’s and woodwindy vowels, is incredibly rich and arch and funny; he’s got the timing of a great comic actor. Indeed, I think of this tape (I’ve got my own copy now) as one of the greatest comedy albums ever, as infectious and distinctive as the Steve Martin, Bob Newhart and Richard Pryor records I spent my adolescence memorising and mimicking.
In mid-January, ten days after moving to California, Geoff Dyer suffered a stroke while throwing away trash in his new home. At the hospital, he recovered quickly, but the incident left him “conscious that the ground could open Adairishly beneath my feet at any moment.” In the LRB, he writes about the experience. (Related: Dyer wrote two Year in Reading entries for The Millions.)
Rrow itself, let it be sorrow; let him love it; let him pursue it, ishing for its acquisitiendum. Because he will ab hold, unless but through concer, and also of those who resist.
I watch my children grow up as Americans in the same way that I might read about, or create, fictional characters. They are not fictional, of course, but their Americanism can sometimes seem unreal to me. ‘I have an American seventh-grader,’ I say to myself with amazement, as I watch my 12-year-old daughter perform at one of those dastardly school events always held in gymnasiums. Doubtless, amazement attends all the stages of a child’s growth – all is unexpected. But there is also that strange distance, the light veil of alienation thrown over everything.