Publishers Weekly has gathered some interesting statistics about last year’s book sales. Among their findings: “fiction is the genre of choice for customers who read e-books” and movie adaptations created demand for several titles, including Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
Laura Miller, book critic for Salon, reads a lot of books and usually writes about the ones she recommends. Here she summarizes 8 books she didn’t finish last year, cautioning “what follows are my responses to books you might possibly have heard of, rather than the absolute worst things I read.”
See why she bailed on these books:
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Gun Machine by Warren Ellis
The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates
Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime by Adrian Raine
At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcon
Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas
Truth in Advertising by John Kenney
Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova
Television, music, and video games all compete with books for children’s attention. For this reason the Library of Congress in 2008 created the national ambassador for young people’s literature, a new position dedicated to promoting literature for children. A new ambassador is named every two years.
The next ambassador for young people’s literature will be Newberry Medal winner Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux:
With a warm, lively personality and a boisterous laugh, Ms. DiCamillo would appear a natural fit for the post of ambassador, which asks for an ability to relate to children and an overall contribution to children’s literature. She is the fourth person appointed to the position, following Jon Scieszka (2008), Katherine Paterson (2010) and Walter Dean Myers (2012).
Late Friday (US time) Goodreads announced a change in review and shelving policy, and immediately started deleting readers’ reviews and shelves. In doing this they became censors. Limiting readers’ ability to discuss the cultural context of a book is censorship designed to promote authors’ interests.
Over on Goodreads reader Emma Sea has lashed out against the site’s new policy and has engendered quite a lot of support from commenters. I lead with this entry today because at the heart of the controversy lies the question of exactly what a book review is and what a review should—and shouldn’t—contain.
As soon as I started reading Emma’s post, I knew that the reference to Orson Scott Card’s book Ender’s Game was coming. This very popular book is being made into a movie. Card himself is outspoken in his criticism of gays and gay marriage; as a result, many people have called for a boycott of the movie, even though the book does not deal in any way with gay rights.
So, in terms of book reviewing policy, the question becomes: Is it acceptable to refer to Card’s beliefs in discussions of Ender’s Game?
I have struggled with this very question myself. Ender’s Game is one of the best books I’ve ever read. And I grew up under the school of New Criticism, which holds that literary works should be judged on the basis only of their text, not of their author or of any other external social or cultural context. However, I have reached a point in my life when I believe it’s important for me to stand up and be counted in support of my values and beliefs. I certainly stand by Orson Scott Card’s right to hold and to state his beliefs, but I also reserve the same right for myself.
But the question still remains: Is it appropriate for me—or anyone— to mention a disagreement with Card’s stated beliefs in reviewing a book that does not in any way touch on the subject of those beliefs? I’d love to hear suggestions on how to resolve this dilemma.
Why I Believe I Should Stand Up and Speak Out
Because I keep finding stories, like these, about censorship:
some books are best experienced at a certain age, like, say, “Catcher in the Rye.” If you pick it up for the first time when you’re far beyond puberty, you’ll likely wonder what all the hype is about. Likewise, there are certain books you should read in your 20s, due to the age of the characters or the intended audience — books like Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” or Christopher Hitchens’ “Letters to a Young Contrarian.”
There are also fantastic classics that may not have been assigned to you in school but that you should pick up ASAP simply because you’re missing out — books like Doris Lessing’s “The Golden Notebook” or “A Collection of Essays” by George Orwell.
Check out the 30 books we think you should read before you’re 30:
I’m not sure exactly why the folks at Huffington Post chose 30 as the magic age. I’ve read several of these recommended books in recent years, and I’m well over 30. In fact, I like to think that I probably got more out of reading these books precisely because of my maturity.
At any rate, this is a good list to use when you’re looking for the next book to pick up.
An all-digital public library is opening today [September 14, 2013], as officials in Bexar County, Texas, celebrate the opening of the BiblioTech library. The facility offers about 10,000 free e-books for the 1.7 million residents of the county, which includes San Antonio.
I’ve always been a big fan of ebooks, but I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the idea of a bookless library. Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?
Something about the process of writing (and maybe art in general) pushes us toward the parts of ourselves and the world that we don’t totally understand. Toward the grey areas, the uncertainty, the unsettled.
I don’t write fiction myself, but I’ve heard fiction writers say that sometimes a character will speak up on its own and take over the writing of the story. Here writer Alex Washoe describes how something similar happened to him:
When we read over what we’ve written – if we’ve surrendered ourselves at least a little to the process, to the “vivid and continuous dream” – we often find things we didn’t mean to include. Stray details, odd comments, small actions – things that perhaps don’t seem to relate to the main action of the story. Things that sometimes contradict what we thought we were saying. The first tendency is always to delete these things, the smooth them over, to bring them in line with our plan. And most of the time, that’s probably for the best.
But if we are willing to stay with these things, to hold them in our minds and find where they lead, they can sometimes open up dimensions of character and story – meaning – we never knew were there. These stray details, these odd moments, these irrational tics push us away from what the conscious mind thinks it’s doing toward something a little less neat.
Readers, too, often find these little suggestive details in literature, and those details often deepen and enrich our understanding, whether we are aware of that process or not.
Libraries and library staff continue to respond to the needs of their communities, providing key resources as budgets are reduced, speaking out forcefully against book banning attempts and advocating for free access to digital content in libraries, with a keen focus placed on ebook formats. These and other library trends of the past year are detailed in the ALA’s 2013 State of America’s Libraries Report.
We are an independent group of librarians and archivists who traveled to Palestine from June 23 – July 4, 2013. We come from the US, Canada, Sweden, Trinidad & Tobago, and Palestine. We bore witness to the destruction and appropriation of information, and the myriad ways access is denied. We were inspired by the many organizations and individuals we visited who resist settler-colonialism in their daily lives. We connected with colleagues in libraries, archives, and related projects and institutions, in the hopes of gaining mutual benefit through information exchange and skill-sharing.
Finally, Evan Gottlieb, Associate Professor of English at Oregon State University, describes the challenges and pleasures of reading novels with unreliable narrators:
the unreliable narrator. This narrator almost always speaks to us in the first person, meaning she or he tells the story directly in her own voice and from her point of view. Traditionally, such narrators implicitly gain the reader’s trust quickly; when Jane Eyre, the title character of Charlotte Brontë’s classic Victorian novel from 1847, informs us on page 1 that “I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons,” we have no reason to doubt her. Neither do we initially doubt the narrators’ words in Wuthering Heights (1847), the equally famous novel by Charlotte’s sister Emily. Unlike Jane, however, the more we hear from Mr. Lockwood and then Nelly Dean (whose “narration within a narration” occupies the novel’s central chapters), the more we come to wonder whether either of them truly understands the significance of the events they relate.
Katherine Hill, author of the recently published novel The Violet Hour, admits:
I have a thing for lovers’ quarrels—literary ones that is. There’s just nothing quite so dynamic, so conversant in so many emotional and moral registers, as a face-off between sworn intimates doing whatever it takes to win. It’s the proverbial car wreck, the horrific conflagration we can’t look away from, because the fire is actually kind of grand.
In college, I took a seminar called “Doomed Love in the Western World,” on troubled affairs throughout the ages: “Troilus and Criseyde,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” “Madame Bovary,” “Anna Karenina,” “Tess of the D’Urbervilles,” “The House of Mirth,” “The Satanic Verses,” “The Human Stain.” For years after, everything I read seemed to extend the conversation of that class. Social worlds might change, but love would always find agonizing new ways to die.
So when I set out to write my first novel, I had a tradition in mind. How does doomed love look in today’s affluent America, which wants to have its cake and eat it, too? Lavish weddings and gender equity, marching side by side.
Read her account of lovers’ quarrels in works of literature such as D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night and of how she incorporated this theme into her own novel.
Dismayed by the recent news that Barnes & Noble will no longer manufacture its ereader, the Nook, Nook owner Greg Zimmerman began:
looking at and experimenting with the various e-reader apps available for iPad, Android, and Windows tablets. What I discovered is that they are mostly similar — text and background are all customizable, and they all offer the ability to bookmark, highlight text, and take notes. But none of them is perfect. Each has a quirk or two that would prevent it from being my new go-to e-reading app.
Read his report on the following alternatives to the Nook:
For decades, the label “women’s fiction” has unfairly cubbyholed worthy books. Seattle Public Library librarian David Wright rounds up recent reprints by Penelope Mortimer, E.M. Delafield and Shirley Jackson that showcase the nuance and insight of these novels.
Wright discusses the following books:
Penelope Mortimer’s The Pumpkin Eater
E.M. Delafield’s The Way Things Are
D.E. Stevenson’s Miss Buncle’s Book and Miss Buncle Married
Shirley Jackson’s The Road Through the Wall and Life among the Savages
All have been recently reissued and therefore shouldn’t be difficult to find.
It is striking how closely literary fiction echoes real events. The trenches of the First World War gave us the anti-war novel. The Cold War gave us the golden age of spy stories, on both sides of the Iron Curtain. The West had James Bond and John le Carre’s Smiley while the Russians had their Julian Semyonov. More recent events have given us the terrorist novel, with Tom Clancy straddling the sub-genres of terrorist nukes and terrorist bio-weapons.
But of all the genres, the detective story seems the most durable, perhaps because the tales are less about crime, more about character. For every cunning murder we recall, from death by icicle which melts to leave no traces to tea being stirred with an oleander twig, it is the detectives and the killers who stick in the mind.
From Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty to Hannibal Lecter and Clarice, the dance of detection is part of a dynamic that goes back to the dawn of humanity. The killer starts by being the hunter and then becomes the hunted.
His appreciation of detective fiction also incorporates the importance of setting. Check out his list of favorite fictional detectives, which includes most of the usual suspects as well as some lesser known ones.
The digital revolution has contributed to the dramatic rise in audiobooks:
Once a small backwater of the publishing industry, in part because of the cumbersome nature of tapes, audiobooks are now flourishing. Sales have been rising by double digits annually in recent years. A recent survey by industry groups showed that audiobook revenue climbed 22 percent in 2012 compared with 2011.
And the increased popularity in audiobooks has, in turn, created a need for readers. Here’s the story of how actors are filling this need. Some even make this reading work their primary employment.
new research suggests that thinking about stereotypical and nonstereotypical trait pairings increases social identity complexity, a psychological construct linked to “tolerance of outgroup members.” In other words, the more often we are reminded that not all computer scientists are male, that an insurance underwriter can also be a legendary game designer, and that artists can also be tennis players, the more we internalize the degree to which people belong to multiple, nonconvergent social groups, and the closer we feel to those who are members of social groups that differ from our own.
This article describes how playing games can battle stereotypical thinking, but reading literature can produce the same effect.
Like any enduring cultural experiment, science fiction has evolved its own codes, its own logic. Some of the genre’s most intense and visionary work talks in a shared language of concepts that can be hard for the uninitiated to penetrate – works Samuel Delaney’s Dhalgren or James Tiptree Jr’s Ten Thousand Light Years From Home, for instance, would be a forbidding place to start. But if you want to catch up with the literature of our shared future then where can you begin?
I didn’t grow up reading science fiction, as many people I know did. But recently I’ve realized that good science fiction isn’t really about the futuristic stuff, but rather about the state of contemporary culture. Nonetheless, learning to appreciate the background and tropes of this type of literature can be daunting.
Read why Damien Walter recommends these novels as good places to start:
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin
The Player of Games by Iain M Banks
China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F McHugh
To Walter’s list I’d add a couple of other books that illustrate how science fiction explores social and cultural issues:
Tom Vanderbilt turns to a science fiction movie in answering the following questions:
What actually makes a work of art—a film, a novel, architecture, fashion—seem “dated”? The Web site of Merriam-Webster defines dated as “outmoded, old-fashioned.” And yet, this lacks explanatory power; every historical artifact (not to mention some that are new and “already dated”) could fall under that rubric. Why do some things seamlessly slip from their temporal context? When does something cross from historically appropriate to “dated”? And is there a time window for datedness, a kind of reverse statute of limitations, beyond which things are doomed by their historical patina?
Vanderbilt says that after a recent viewing of the 1979 film Mad Max he found the movie “remarkably fresh,” as if it could have been made last week:
the movie is not moored to any time. It opens with the vague phrase “A few years from now,” and, rather than any trappings of the fetishized future, “Mad Max” looks backward. At the end of the day, with its lone frontier rider trying to preserve order, it is a Western, with muscle cars. The costumes, the soundtrack, the peculiar mutterings of the outlaws (“Joviality is a game of children”) are at once familiar and slightly out of joint.
Vanderbilt goes on to define datedness as “a sort of overdetermined reliance on the tropes, whether of subject or style, of the day—a kind of historical narcissism.” He discusses how director Alfred Hitchcock went out of his way to avoid including things that would make his films seem dated; perhaps this is one reason why Hitchcock’s films remain so effective today.
And the best way for science fiction to avoid becoming dated? “As [writer William] Gibson has written, the best way to write about the future is to write about the present.”
The Pew Research Center offers some encouraging findings about library use among younger Americans:
Younger Americans—those ages 16-29—exhibit a fascinating mix of habits and preferences when it comes to reading, libraries, and technology. Almost all Americans under age 30 are online, and they are more likely than older patrons to use libraries’ computer and internet connections; however, they are also still closely bound to print, as three-quarters (75%) of younger Americans say they have read at least one book in print in the past year, compared with 64% of adults ages 30 and older.
I was particularly interested in these statistics:
Younger Americans are also more likely than older adults to have read a printed book in the past year: 75% of younger Americans have done so, compared with 64% of older adults.
Younger adults are also more likely than their elders to use libraries as quiet study spaces. Moreover, they are just as likely as older adults to have visited libraries, borrowed printed books, and browsed the stacks of books.
A couple days ago, Ann Aguirre wrote a stirring blog exposing the ugly beast that resides in the science fiction field. According to Ann’s blog:
I’ve held my silence when I probably shouldn’t have. But I was in the minority, a woman writing SF, and I was afraid of career backlash. I was afraid of being excluded or losing opportunities if I didn’t play nice.
I don’t care about that anymore.
And she takes this issue very seriously, folks. You go, girl!
Ally of Scoop.it (the curation service that I use for Literature & Psychology) describes how she went about learning to read for deep meaning. She based her strategy on an article by Maryanne Wolf, the John DiBiaggio Professor in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts, and author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.
Although Ally focused on reading nonfiction, the process would be similar for someone wanting to explore a particular topic in literary texts—for example, fiction that deals with the relationships between mothers and daughters.
Also in the category of learning how to read, academic cultural critic Terry Eagleton has a new book out, How to Read Literature.
I haven’t read Eagleton’s book yet, though I have bought it and look forward to finding out what he has to say. But novelist William Giraldi has read How to Read Literature, and in this article he offers an unsympathetic evaluation. In their symbiotic relationship, such clashes between practitioners (writers) and theorists (critics) are often more informative than anything either alone has to say.
And why do we want to read, anyway? One reason might be that literature makes us better people. Or does it?
This question has been another hot topic of debate recently in the literary world. In this article in the Christian Science Monitor Husna Haq recaps the argument and provides links to many of the articles she discusses. She concludes:
Nonetheless, the question remains – does literature make us better?
If we turn to literature itself and the nuanced messages it conveys, we may find that the answer, unlike the question, is not nearly so clear-cut and precise. Literature, after all, deals with the messy, the ambiguous, the muddled, and, we suspect, that’s just what we have on our hands with that deceivingly straightforward question.
Noah Berlatsky tackles the same issue over at The Atlantic:
Art, we’re often told, encourages empathy. By watching or reading about different people, or different situations, we become able to understand and sympathize with a broader range of perspectives. Fiction connects you to other people—or as Chuck Klosterman said, “Art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.” There was even a study last year that found that “experience-taking changes us by allowing us to merge our own lives with those of the characters we read about, which can lead to good outcomes.” Literature broadens you; science says so.
But he bases his argument on recent movies (and, in some cases, on the comics that inspired those movies) rather than on just literary texts. And in those works he finds a bleak message:
What matters are these soulless, hollow, fungible icons, and the assurance that they will continue forever as around them all the mere humans effervesce like ghosts. This art isn’t about empathy or love. Instead, it’s about worship, about pledging fealty to our invented, charismatically uncaring, gods. Our corporate fictions offer the blank joy of not caring, whether about creators, actors, strangers, or ourselves.
Seattle Public Library just set an unusual world record in its incredible flagship building: the world’s longest book domino chain.
Created to launch its summer reading program, 2,131 books were used in the service of this magical video that you can watch above, filmed on May 31st. Our favorite part? The silent summer readers sitting among the books as they quietly fell around them.
Before it became a Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller, McDormand fell hard for Elizabeth Strout’s interwoven collection of vignettes set in a backwater town along the coast of Maine connected by the titular plainspoken protagonist who reveals deep reserves of humanity and empathy (even for the most jagged and broken characters) as the novel unfolds.
Gone Girl has taken the publishing world by storm with its disturbing portrayal of a relationship gone badly wrong. Author Gillian Flynn talks about how she portrays women, her childhood love of horror – and how her marriage inspired the book
The big book event of the last week was the arrival of Bookish. “We know books,” the site declares. Its announced purpose is to allow readers to search, discover, read, and share information about books. Created by publishing giants Penguin, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster, the site will work with USA Today to integrate its content into the paper’s book coverage.
I haven’t had much time to check out the site myself, but others in the publishing world have. Here’s some coverage:
Review of Bookish.com: Book Riot’s Jeff O’Neal concludes “Bookish is an attractive online bookstore with an above-average recommendation engine and the promise of compelling supporting editorial content. I think many book buyers will prefer the experience of browsing Bookish to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but I’m not sure that is enough to change readers’ buying habits.”
In other book-related news, U. K. newspaper The Guardian announced its list of “the hinge points in the evolution of Anglo-American literature.” The list covers the death of Christopher Marlowe (1593) through JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997).
The list concludes:
This catalogue, in conclusion, is highly partisan and impressionistic. It makes no claim to be comprehensive (how could it?). Rather, it aims to stimulate a discussion about the turning-points in the world of books and letters from the King James Bible to the present day.
Over to you.
Read on to see how two writers have picked up the gauntlet.
We note that your books editor, Robert McCrum, has published a ‘partisan list’ of 50 turning points in literature, and that comments have remarked on the low numbers of women (7).
To begin redressing the gender balance, here is another list – even more partisan, in that it consists entirely of influential women writers. (McCrum’s original choices are in red.)
Here are those 50 great, pioneering women.
Kathleen Taylor (science writer) & Gillian Wright (senior lecturer in English literature)
Their list covers Julian of Norwich: Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love (c. 1393; thought to be the first book written in English by a woman) through Hilary Mantel: Bring up the Bodies (2012; women can win prizes. Even the Booker. Twice.).
There are only seven entries common to both lists, which Taylor and Wright highlight in red.
All over Dr. Seuss’s beloved children’s books, his characters sport distinctive, colorful headwear — unless they are the kinds of creatures that have it sprouting naturally from their heads in tufted, multitiered and majestically flowing formations.
So it’s no surprise that the real Dr. Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel, was a hat lover himself. He collected hundreds of them, plumed, beribboned and spiked, and kept them in a closet hidden behind a bookcase in his home in the La Jolla section of San Diego. He incorporated them into his personal paintings, his advertising work and his books. He even insisted that guests to his home don the most elaborate ones he could find.
To keep the Seuss brand current, the Dr. Seuss publisher, Random House Children’s Books, has mounted an exhibit that will for the first time display some of his hats in public:
The show, timed to the 75th anniversary of his book “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins,” will open Monday at the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street and then travel to 15 other locations over the course of the year.
Dr. Beth Tarini has finished a project that began 10 years ago, when she was a medical student:
“I was in my pediatric rotation, and we were talking about scarlet fever,” says Tarini. She remembers commenting that scarlet fever can make you go blind. “The professor said, ‘No …,’ and I said, ‘But Mary Ingalls went blind!’ … So I got on a detective mission of sorts.”
Now an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan, Tarini and coauthors have published an article in the journal Pediatrics claiming that not scarlet fever, but viral meningoencephalitis, an inflammatory disease that attacks the brain, caused Mary Ingalls’s blindness.
Besides settling a 10-year score with a med school professor, Tarini says the purpose of the paper is to remind physicians that their perception of a disease is often very different from their patients’ perception. Even today, Tarini says, if she tells parents their child has scarlet fever, they get really worried: “They look aghast! And in my head, I’m thinking, scarlet fever today is no different than strep throat with a rash. But they say, ‘Oh, scarlet fever! That’s deadly!’ And I’m like, it’s the 21st century!'”
Library Journal reports on how libraries are moving to serve the 1.6 million people in federal or state prisons in 2011 (according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics):
What is changing is a growing realization that more public, prison, and jail libraries can better identify and serve the often significant needs of inmates or those prisoners who are returning to their communities. Not only are some libraries providing books, they are providing innovative programs and services, helping inmates and returnees to learn about work and employment opportunities, the arts (see sidebar, “Arts on the Inside“), and to develop job-seeking skills.
Sherlock Holmes and Watson are lovers, Winnie the Pooh is a mental-illness allegory, and other theories that might forever alter your favorite books.
There was a pretty fascinating article over at Salon earlier this month, in which Greg Olear argues that Nick Carraway, the narrator of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, was gay and in love with the novel’s eponymous character. Though a Google search indicates that Olear’s not exactly the first person to think of this, I admit I’d never considered the idea before, and his arguments are pretty persuasive. The article got me thinking about the other theories and alternate interpretations that are floating around about classic literary characters. Below, an investigation, and perhaps a few sides of characters you’ve never seen before.
Now we all know that I’m a student of the intersections between literature and psychology, but, well, it’s just too easy to get carried away with this kind of thing once you get started.
Joan Didion had it right. In her 1976 essay “Why I Write,” originally published in the New York Times Book Review, she lays out the template in no uncertain terms: “In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions — with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating — but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.”
David L. Ulin, book critic for the Los Angeles Times, describes the newly released Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Writers on How and Why They Do What They Do, edited by Meredith Maran.
See what writers including Mary Karr, Sara Gruen, James Frey, Susan Orlean, Rick Moody, Jane Smiley, Walter Mosley and Armistead Maupin have to say about their craft.
When news broke last week that Dan Brown’s new novel will center on some sort of mystery surrounding Dante’s Inferno, I immediately began hoping that there is a nutty, fun scene of Robert Langdon racing around a library just like he raced around the Louvre in The Da Vinci Code.
And because I am who I am, it got me thinking about great movie library scenes that already exist. At first, I thought the list would be pretty short, but you know what? Hollywood loves a library. Some combination of ambiance, seclusion, hidden knowledge, and the sheer beauty of shelves upon shelves of books make libraries a fantastic film setting.
Jeff O’Neal, the editor of Book Riot, was surprised to find 16—SIXTEEN!—noteworthy library scenes in films.
The blogger at Neurotic Physiology, who says she has a Ph. D. in physiology, discusses some recent research into whether “silent reading” is truly silent to our brains. The study she’s describing involved only four participants (but there are good reasons for the small sample size, as NP explains) and is therefore quite limited. But the results are interesting:
What’s particularly new about this study is that it not only shows that silent reading causes high-frequency electrical activity in auditory areas, but it shows that these areas as specific to voices speaking a language. This activity was only present when the person was paying attention to the task. The authors believe that these results back up the hypothesis that we all produce an “inner voice” when reading silently. And it is enhanced by attention, suggesting that it’s probably not an automatic process, but something that occurs when we attentively process what we are reading. And the next time you read silently, remember that it’s not quite to silent to your brain.
Be sure to read the comments. They’ll have you contemplating the reading voice in your own head.
What would a visiting alien learn from Them!, Godzilla, and Attack of the 50-Foot Woman?
People who want to talk about the jumpy, kitschy, gloriously lurid movie genre we now know as 1950s sci-fi usually start with Susan Sontag. This is not because Sontag is a bug-eyed alien or 50 feet tall but because she wrote, in 1965, the definitive essay on Cold War dystopian fantasy: “The Imagination of Disaster.” “We live,” she claimed in that piece, “under continual threat of two equally fearful, but seemingly opposed, destinies: unremitting banality and inconceivable terror.” The job of science fiction was at once to “lift us out of the unbearably humdrum … by an escape into dangerous situations which have last-minute happy endings” and to “normalize what is psychologically unbearable, thereby inuring us to it.”
In other words, a good horror/fantasy/sci-fi flick provides a healthy dose of escapism, but it also keeps one eye fastened on what we wish to escape from.
Katy Waldman examines some of these classic movies and lists some conclusions we might draw from them:
That science is amoral.
That the universe exists in black-and-white.
That women are scary. And sexy, too, just like the bomb itself.