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Dan Piepenbring: “Writers like to emphasize the psychology in their work, their strenuous labor toward depth and verisimilitude; they’re less inclined to talk about how few decent synonyms exist for ‘good.’ The stats speak a cold truth: there are dozens of prosaic choices behind every artful sentence. […] Even in great books one word follows another, all of them slaves to grammar, sequence, and probability.”

People who swear tend to be more honest than those who don’t. A 2016 study found “a consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty; profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level, and with higher integrity at the society level.”

“The kind of people who say swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary usually have pretty poor vocabularies themselves.”

When it comes to swearing, as with everything else, grammar matters.

David Adger: “In English, when we ask why, we do not distinguish between different kinds of reason. This is not true for all human languages. In Pitjantjatjara, an Australian aboriginal language, one asks: nyaaku (for what purpose?), nyaanguru (from what cause?) or nyaangkatawara (to avoid what?).” 

Sven Birkerts: “When I was in my late teens, the time when the words of other writers blazed most brightly for me, […] I made all kinds of vows to myself, solemn vows precluding conventional paths, vows of the ‘If I ever grow up to become ______ [fill in the blank here], I hope I have the guts to _____ [and fill in that blank as well] …’ How do we finally live with ourselves? Or, rather, how cruelly — with what rationalizations — do we end up repudiating our arrogant younger selves?”

On the regional distribution of swearwords in America: “Hell, damn and bitch are especially popular in the south and southeast. Douche is relatively common in northern states. Bastard is beloved in Maine and New Hampshire, and those states – together with a band across southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas – are the areas of particular motherfucker favour. Crap is more popular inland, fuck along the coasts. Fuckboy – a rising star* – is also mainly a coastal thing, so far.”

From Language Log: “The unspoken assumption behind masking taboo words is that they’re invested with magical powers—like a conjuror’s spell, they are inefficacious unless they are pronounced or written just so.”

Zadie Smith, Paul Auster and Arundhati Roy are on the Man Booker prize 2017 longlist. Colson Whitehead has won the Arthur C Clarke award. And The Commuter’s Pigkeeper has won the Diagram prize for oddest book title.

The London Review Bookshop’s most stolen authors are, in order, Baudrillard, Freud, Nietzsche, Graham Greene, Lacan and Camus.

Roxane Gay doesn’t want to watch “slavery fan fiction”: “We do not make art in a vacuum isolated from sociopolitical context. We live in a starkly divided country with a president who is shamefully ill equipped to bridge that divide. I cannot help worrying that there are people, emboldened by this administration, who will watch a show like ‘Confederate’ and see it as inspiration, rather than a cautionary tale.”

Sonny Hallett: “I know next to nothing about Thailand, my grandmother’s birthplace, and it slightly amuses but also depresses me that there are people who’d vehemently defend my right to police how others want to experience Thai culture, should I so wish. Saying that only certain people, largely based on appearance and/or parentage, can do or wear or eat certain things, or become experts in them, not only implies ingrained differences between peoples where there essentially are none, but also leaves no room for those who are caught in between, those who are a mixture, or adopted, who maybe pass for only half or a quarter of their cultural identities but none of the others, and who are uncategorisable.”

It’s that time of year again. Who should be on the Man Booker prize longlist?

From Shannon Burns’ compassionate (but ultimately wrongheaded) defence of the “bad, white working class”: “The willingness to expose your wounds is another sign of privilege. Those for whom injury has a use-value will display their injuries; those for whom woundedness is a survival risk, won’t. As a consequence, middle-class grievances now drown out lower class pain. […] Those who cannot afford to see themselves as disadvantaged are instinctively repulsed by those who harp on about disadvantage.”

On the excellence of TV opening titles.

Ann Powers: “The process of canonization is always controversial. Many musicians despise lists and other anthologizing efforts that threaten to freeze their work within hierarchies. This is doubly true for many women, who fear that being honored as the best within their gender simply marginalizes them further. […] Being ‘lumped in with the women’ can feel like winning a plastic trinket that, in the real scheme of pop history, feels like second place.”

“Publishing is a business, not an art. If the agent or editor thinks he can sell your idea or manuscript, he’ll buy it.”

Peter E. Gordon: “If we pause to consider what it has meant in the past for political regimes to mobilize the distinction between the normal and the pathological, we confront the unsettling fact that this distinction has nearly always been used against the weak and the infirm.”

“Much American psychotherapy aims not to explore the unconscious but to transpose the genre of the patient’s life, usually from a tragedy to a domestic comedy.”

What do women want?

Jesse Singal: “There’s an intriguing area of behavioral science known as mind-set research, and one of its tenets is that the relationship between stress and humans’ response to it is partially mediated by how people expect stress to affect them. […] If you tell students over and over and over that certain variants of free speech — variants which are ugly, but which are aired every moment of every day on talk radio — are traumatizing them, it really could do harm.”

Woolf:  “Anybody who has had the temerity to write about Jane Austen is aware of two facts: First, that of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness; second, that there are 25 elderly gentlemen living in the neighborhood of London who resent any slight upon her genius as if it were an insult offered to the chastity of their aunts.”

Wars come and go, but my moustache stays eternal.

“If you can judge a man by his enemies then Wyndham Lewis ranks highly: Sacheverell Sitwell called him ‘a malicious, thwarted and dangerous man’ and Ernest Hemingway described him as having ‘the eyes of an unsuccessful rapist.’ E M Forster was more nuanced, discerning in him ‘a curious mixture of insolence and nervousness.'”

Chuck Wendig’s guide to staying motivated in this era of epic stupid.

Rachel Bowlby: “Alongside Shakespeare, Woolf is a literary celebrity, to be found in every corner of cultural consciousness and public or private space: from mugs to T-shirts to films and plays. On the purely textual front, as with him, there is a steady output of Woolf books and articles. No other non-male writer has received anything like this degree of recognition and attention. It is not clear whether this is more of a consummation or an irony, but without a doubt Woolf has herself become Shakespeare’s sister.”

A look inside James Baldwin’s FBI file.

Emily Harnett: “What does the myth of relatability really do, then, besides sell us things? One answer is that it embroiders our own self-image as much as the celebrity’s. The famous are never relatable when they’re abandoning their pet monkeys or chucking their cell phones at secretaries—that is, when they exhibit the deeply relatable quality of human unkindness. It’s only when they’re being funny on talkshows or cute with children that we wish to see ourselves reflected in the surface of fame.”

How many habitable planets are there in the universe?

“It is hard not to feel some sympathy for the BBC, the only major broadcaster that has to name those earning over £150,000 in a hugely competitive market in which its rivals tend to pay more.”