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.


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