- Edgar Allan Poe filed for bankruptcy in 1842. Here’s a long list of his debts, with creditors listed in Philadelphia, Richmond, and New York, and orderly columns of numbers that grow large enough to give you a sympathetic panic attack.
- “If ambitious writers work at the boundaries of the written language (as they should), then they ought do it from a path of mastery, not ignorance; broken rules carry no power if writers and readers don’t notice the transgressions. Proper usage shows us where the earth is, so that, when the time comes, we know what it means to fly.”
- Not unrelatedly: “Dickens published an essay on slang, probably by George Augustus Sala. The 1853 article expressed the view that either slang should be ‘banished, prohibited’ or that there should be a New Dictionary that would ‘give a local habitation and a name to all the little by-blows of language skulking and rambling about our speech, like the ragged little Bedouins about our shameless streets, and give them a settlement and a parish.’ ”
- In which Ann Patchett reminds readers of the New York Times that she’s not married to her dog.
- “I found it odd that there had never been a scientist as a Man Booker judge. There have been many non-literary types amongst the judges: a former spy, a former dancer, a Downton Abbey actor—but science, apparently, was a step too far. Until this year, when I joined the judging panel.”
I received my first issue of Mothers News this week—and now I wonder what I’ve been doing with my life. A free monthly broadside out of Providence, Mothers News is hyper, delirious, and weird. And, I now realize, essential reading. The eight-page rag is best known, and rightly so, for its comics—with regular strips by C. F., Michael Deforge, Mickey Z, Brian Chippendale, and others—but all the content is of a piece. This issue manages, for instance, a column devoted to foam (“What do we know about foam?”—quite a bit, it turns out); a top-ten list that includes a brief excursion into the etymology of “hoist by my own petard”; and an announcement that the UN has designated 2014 the International Year of Family Farming and Crystallography (IYFF 2014 and IYCr2014, respectively). There’s also, of course, the Ambrose Bierce Memorial Word Jumble and a coveted ad from the Lon Chaney Society of New England. —Nicole Rudick
I’ve been dipping into T. D. Allman’s Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State, whose bright jacket belies its sharp dressing-down of our twenty-seventh state. In Allman’s telling, Florida is, and always has been, an accursed microcosm of the American dream—from its geology to its politics to its economics, everything about the place invites delusion, violence, and disaster. Some critics found this too apocalyptic, but I think Allman’s gloom is a valuable corrective, and he’s far from humorless; even his bibliography has fizz. (“Where the Boys Are . Groovy LA starlets play beach blanket bingo in Fort Lauderdale.”) You can read Florida, longlisted for last year’s National Book Award, as an erudite complement to Florida Man, a Twitter feed that lists the frighteningly constant stream of follies coming from the Sunshine State. The latest: “Florida Man Arrested for Beating Uncle with Toilet Seat.” —Dan Piepenbring
Over the long weekend I went on a New Yorker fiction binge and read every short story I’d missed in 2013. Among the gems I’d somehow overlooked: Tessa Hadley’s impeccable “Bad Dreams,” Thomas McGuane’s “Weight Watchers,” and “The Christmas Miracle,” by Rebecca Curtis, which is simply the funniest short story I have read in a year. It’s easy to carp at The New Yorker, because it’s an institution, but forget that and read the stories first. From week to week, they are often as interesting, as much fun to read, as anything in the magazine. —Lorin Stein Read More
- Winners of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards.
- Stephen King helps heat Maine.
- The real Tintin!
- The X-Men archive goes to Columbia.
- Penguin takes the self-publishing leap.
- The LA Times pubs its first e-book.
- Meanwhile, authors charge that the Kindle library is “boldly breaching its contracts.”
- In brick-and-mortar news, Ann Patchett opens a bookstore.
- Wordsworth House (#4) opens in the Lake District.
- Salman Rushdie fights Facebook, and wins.
- Writers restock the OWS Library.
- Speaking of public libraries …
- RIP legendary publisher Morris Philipson.
- “We’ve just lost the Norman Rockwell of comic strips.”
- Jane Austen … murdered?