Does Literature Help Us Live?

Is literature wise? In the sense, does it help us to live? And if not, what exactly is it good for?

One way into that question might be to look at how great writers themselves have benefited. Or haven’t. The situation is not immediately promising, since the list of writers who committed suicide, from Seneca the Younger to David Foster Wallace, would be long; Nerval, Hemingway, Plath, Pavese, Zweig, Mayakovsky, and Woolf all spring to mind. But I suppose you could argue that there are situations where suicide is the wise decision, or that without literature these talented people might have gone much earlier. The list of those who have driven themselves to an unhappy death would likely be longer still. Dickens, Tolstoy, Joyce, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Henry Green, Elsa Morante, and Dylan Thomas arguably fall in that category. Not to mention those forever frustrated by insufficient recognition and other occupational hazards; the gloom of Giacomo Leopardi would appear to have been oceanic. It is not that there aren’t cases of writers who have approached the end of their lives happily enough—Victor Hugo, Alberto Moravia, Natalia Ginzburg, Fyodor Dostoevsky of all unlikely candidates, even that great pessimist Thomas Hardy—simply that a few moments reflection will suffice to convince us that being a fine writer does not necessarily mean being “skilful” in the Buddhist sense of acting in such a way as to foster serenity, joy, happiness.

Continue @ The New York Review of Books

Lepers, riots and porn: The bizarre life of a travel writer

I’VE had knives pulled on me, become embroiled in a porn scandal, got caught up in an airport riot, and been chased through a leper colony by a drunken gang. And that’s just during work hours — the life of an Asia-based travel journalist is truly strange.

After nine years working for daily newspapers in Western Australia I moved to Thailand to become a freelance travel journalist and photographer. I’ve spent the past five years travelling constantly all over Asia and Europe while basing myself for a few months at a time in each of Bangkok and Ireland.

At 35 years old I’ve visited more than 50 countries for my travel writing and photography work. These are four of the weirdest things that have happened to me during my five years as a roaming travel writer.

The Made-Up Travel Words We Love to Hate, Defined by a Merriam-Webster Lexicographer

Brexit. Snowmaggedon. Twerking. These words were unknown—uncoined even—just ten years ago. By one expert estimate, we add 1,000 new words, or neologisms, to the printed English language every year, The Guardian reports. Compared to most major world languages, English is particularly prone to such coinages, says Kory Stamper, former associate editor at Merriam-Webster and author of Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries. “Unlike French or Italian or Spanish, we don’t have an academy to tell us what’s right and what’s wrong or whether or not something is a proper word,” she says. “We figure that out on our own. It’s very democratic.”

She believes that the new, hashtag-driven era has accelerated this trend even more. No other sector seems to be more susceptible to it than travel. Unfortunately, not all neologisms are as adorkable as, well, adorkable. At Condé Nast Traveler, we admit we’re guilty of using the occasional clumsy new coinage, so we asked Stamper to define and call out the most egregious, sense-mangling examples. Feel free to share the clunkers we’ve omitted on Facebook or Twitter.

Continue @ Condé Nast Traveler

“Homer Odyssey: Oldest extract discovered on clay tablet”

How exciting!

If I could start my life over, I’d either be a photojournalist or an archaeologist. I’m weird that way 🙂

A handout photo made available by the Greek Ministry of Culture shows a clay tablet with an engraved inscription of a rhapsody in Homer's "Odyssey" on 10 July 2018

A clay tablet discovered during an archaeological dig may be the oldest written record of Homer’s epic tale, the Odyssey, ever found in Greece, the country’s culture ministry has said.

Continue @ BBC News

10 innovations in children’s books that kids care about

We ran some data on our 30,000 reviews recently and there were some shocking results.

Actually, I’m kidding; there was absolutely nothing shocking. At least, not for anyone familiar with the industry. 90% of our adult reviewers are female (I love how, when I’m presenting this data to publishers, it’s often to a room where the audience is 100% female). And rather reassuringly, 20% of our readers had chosen to read that book because of its cover. Its cover. Not some fancy gizmo. Not because of the format. The good old fashioned, been around for hundreds of years, cover.


And yet, as an industry, there always seems to be a drive to innovate. That we’re continually waiting for the death of the book as we know it, and some exciting new thing, which is going to blow everything out of the water.

Continue @ The Bookseller

What Is a Southern Writer, Anyway?

From time to time, a debate resurfaces in Southern literary circles about whether there can still be a recognizable literature of the South in an age of mass media and Walmart. The 21st-century South would be unrecognizable to the Agrarian poets, whose 1930 manifesto, “I’ll Take My Stand,” set out many of the principles that still cling like ticks to the term “Southern writer.” Far more urban, far more ethnically and culturally and politically diverse, the South is no longer a place defined by sweet tea and slamming screen doors, and its literature is changing, too. “It is damn hard to put a pipe-smoking granny or a pet possum into a novel these days and get away with it,” the novelist Lee Smith once said.

Continue @ New York Times

Local teen hopes to create a happier world through music, poetry

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — If you’re going to pray, don’t worry. If you’re going to worry, don’t pray. One recent high school graduate truly believes that, which is why it’s one of her favorite sayings. She prays a lot. She writes a lot. She sings a lot, and she smiles a whole lot. People who know her think that’s what makes her a ray of sunshine.

Her name is Ke’J Taylor, and she turned 18 in February. Thirteen years earlier, at the age of five, she says that’s when she started writing poetry.

“As I learned more, experienced more and started to face some of life’s challenges, the poetry got deeper,” said Taylor.

Continue @ WTHR