In 1945 and 1946, the FBI began keeping tabs on Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The Cold War was just around the corner, and the Bureau suspected their new targets were secretly agents of Communism. However, FBI agents who followed the French writers evolved in the course of their spying: they became, in G.K. Chesterton’s phrase, “philosophical policemen.” (h/t Slate)
Happy Hunger Games! To celebrate the release of Catching Fire, read Ben Blatt’s textual analysis of the most popular adverbs, adjectives, and sentences used by Suzanne Collins in The Hunger Games trilogy, Stephenie Meyer in Twilight, and J.K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series. Unsurprisingly, the most popular sentence in Twilight is, “I sighed.” We’re sighing, too. Pair with: Our essay on how teen fantasy heroines need to grow up.
Following the news that The Simpsons will now be available for online streaming for the first time, Myles McNutt makes the case that the world needs a Simpsons Clip Database. He justifies his sentiment by pointing out that “in a world where Simpsons references are a language for a certain generation, the ability to stream this content has tremendous value, and could push use of an app that otherwise would struggle to compete with services like Netflix.”
We are all hungry, she tells us, but we must remember to make choices, not drift to whatever is at hand. Our hunger unites us; our choices, in restaurants and in life, make us individuals.
I confess I’m making the book sound more entertaining than it is. Rarely has a novel about municipal politics so evoked the feeling of municipal politics: the tedium, the needless busywork. On every page Franzen heaves around evidence of his research on everything from St. Louis tax laws to Indira Gandhi’s suppression of civil liberties. On every page is the palpable anxiety—anxiety that feels specifically male—to prove that writing is labor.
As evidenced by the amazing quiz “Jonathan Franzen Gripe or YouTube Comment about Saggy Pants,” a perception exists that the widely acclaimed writer is allergic to new technology. At Slate, Benjamin Nugent argues that Franzen’s new book, The Karl Kraus Project, proves inadvertently that Franzen is less of a Luddite than we think.
The word “cool” has been cool for more than 70 years. At Slate, Carl Wilson examines why this slang stuck, and how it’s evolved from being used by beatniks to smartphone companies. “Cool is an attitude that allows detached assessment, but one that prizes an air of knowingness over specific knowledge. I think that’s why it doesn’t become dated, unlike hotter-running expressions of enthusiasm like groovy or rad.” Pair with: Michael Agger’s essay on why we love the “cool story, bro” meme.
Few people know that Roger Ebert was an ardent Anglophile, so much so that in 1986 he wrote an obscure little book, The Perfect London Walk, in which the lifelong film critic laid out his preferred walking path through the city. Over at Slate, Katie Engelhart reviews the book, which apparently still functions as a guide to a decent stroll.