In a Simpsons episode from the late nineties, Lisa Simpson, concerned that her mental skills may be deteriorating, manages to finagle her way onto a local TV news broadcast, where she urges the residents of Springfield to read two books: To Kill a Mockingbird and Harriet the Spy. At first glance, the two novels might not seem to have that much in common, but as Anna Holmes argues in a blog post for The New Yorker, the books share “ideas about the complexity, sophistication, and occasional wickedness of young girls’ imaginations.” (You could also read our own Garth Risk Hallberg on Malcolm Gladwell and To Kill a Mockingbird.)
The term “academic writing” is controversial, not least because it implies that academics have an odd and persnickety way of writing. In a blog post for The New Yorker, Joshua Rothman examines the genre, looking back on his time in grad school to argue that academic writing is a “fraught and mysterious thing.”
As the lone mental hospital in The Magic Mountain referred to by its real name, the Hotel Schatzalp is a holy site for many Thomas Mann scholars and fans. At Page-Turner, Sally McGrane writes about the modern hotel, which employs a staff trained to deal with the occasional “literary fanatic.” (It also might be a good time to read Matthew Gallaway on Death in Venice.)
When did Twitter turn into a place of public shame, outrage, and apology? Alexander Chee examines the changing culture in an essay for Dame Magazine. “Oh, Internet, place of the ultimate writerly paradox, where things you write quickly for little or no money last forever.” Our own Mark O’Connell explored something similar in his New Yorker essay on the public humiliation of regrettable tweets.
"If one-sentence stories are as common as snowflakes, one-sentence novels are as rare as white ravens." At The New Yorker, Brad Leithauser writes about the one-sentence novel or the point when the story builds to a particular sentence. To give you an example, here’s one of his favorites from Lolita: “I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art.”
The Corrections might never make it to screen, but Jonathan Franzen’s New Yorker essay on songbird poaching, “Emptying the Skies" (behind the paywall), is already a documentary. The film follows a group of bird lovers trying to save the endangered animals and even includes an interview with Franzen. Although the documentary just found a distributor, there is no word on an official release date. Until then, here’s the trailer.
How does Karl Ove Knausgaard delve into some of the oldest parts of his memory for his writing? “I remember every single room that I have been in from the age of seven. What I did was to place myself in those rooms, and when I started to write about them it was like unlocking a thousand small doors, all leading further into childhood,” he told Cressida Leyshon at The New Yorker. Knausgaard also has a story, ”Come Together" (behind the paywall), in the current issue. Pair with: Our essay on My Struggle.
In her new book The Sixth Extinction, New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert makes the case that we’re living in the sixth massive die-off of species in our planet’s history. Corraling evidence from zoologists, environmentalists and more, Kolbert argues that human activity is the cause of this latest event. In a review over at Vulture, Kathryn Schulz writes that Kolbert “makes a page-turner out of even the most sober and scientifically demanding aspects of extinction.”
Thinking on this peculiar fact, the Minister got stuck on a sentence: I am further from my village now than I have ever been. Italicized just like that, in his mind.