Some book- and writing-related stories for the weekend:
“Waterstone’s are now Waterstones. They’ve decided to drop the apostrophe.”
My position is that the apostrophe is on the way out. It’s an inconsistent item anyway; it was invented by printers – not grammarians or linguists – and like a lot of other ‘rules’ of punctuation is modified by use. No bad thing.
Read the rest: The Politics (and lies) of the Apostrophe.
My opinion: I suspect he’s right — the apostrophe is doomed. And you know what? Things will be all right.
As part of the state-mandated termination of its ethnic studies program, the Tucson Unified School District released an initial list of books to be banned from its schools today. According to district spokeperson Cara Rene, the books “will be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage.”
“[A] notable text removed from Tucson’s classrooms is Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest.’ In a meeting this week, administrators informed Mexican-American studies teachers to stay away from any units where ‘race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes,’ including the teaching of Shakespeare’s classic in Mexican-American literature courses.”
I presume that all chapters mentioning the Civil War will now be torn out of history textbooks as well.
“In a school district founded by a Mexican-American in which more than 60 percent of the students come from Mexican-American backgrounds, the administration also removed every textbook dealing with Mexican-American history.”
Because nothing promotes literacy and good citizenship like government-enforced ignorance.
I’ve been a devoted, even fanatical reader of fiction my whole life, but sometimes I feel like I’m wasting time if I spend an evening immersed in Lee Child’s newest thriller, or re-readingThe Great Gatsby. Shouldn’t I be plowing through my in-box? Or getting the hang of some new productivity app? Or catching up on my back issues of The Economist?
“Wasting time” reading The Great Gatsby? You poor, depraved, emotionally stunted woman.
That slight feeling of self-indulgence that haunts me when I’m reading fake stories about fake people is —
And that’s where I nearly stopped reading. I would have skipped the rest of the article, from the Harvard Business Review, if not for its title. Back to it:
That slight feeling of self-indulgence that haunts me when I’m reading fake stories about fake people is what made me so grateful to stumble on a piece in Scientific American Mind by cognitive psychologist Keith Oatley extolling the practical benefits to be derived particularly from consuming fiction.
Apparently, “fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness.”
Shorter version: Reading fiction improves the reader’s empathy. It makes us better human beings.
But don’t worry, Harvard Business School grads — the author of the article assures us that reading great novels “has an effect on the bottom line.” That’s the real reason she thinks it’s semi-permissible.
Me, I think I might spend the rest of the weekend with Jack Reacher. And I will love it.