Saturday, June 09, 2018

I’m A Minor Writer. I’m Okay With That

I wanna talk about what I have learned
The hard-won wisdom I have earned ...

Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration,
I am unconscious of intentional error,
I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects
not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.

The hope that my [law school] will view them with indulgence;
And that after [one year] of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal

Writers learn by reading other writers, and reading Norwich is a masterclass. Spring-heeled in his Gibbonian rhythms, alert for aesthetic and narrative treasure glinting by the side of political and military highways, magisterial in his sweep and subtle in his corrections of earlier historians, and never without a touch of Augustan irony, Norwich was a serious writer. He was also a modest one.

Boris closes the pamphlet with two poems written by Russian émigrés, the second answering the first. Here is “I still find charm. . .” by Georgy Ivanov (1894-1958):

“I still find charm in little accidental
trifles, empty little things—
say, in a novel without end or title,
or in this rose, now wilting in my hands.

“I like its moiré petals, dappled
with trembling silver drops of rain—
and how I found it on the sidewalk,
and how I’ll toss it in a garbage can.”

And a response, “Bouquet,” from Julia Nemirovskaya (b. 1962):

“No, I won’t throw it out, for the sake of that tulip:
still fresh and so white, that satiny curl—
a sea-captain’s collar folded over his tunic,
a theatrical backcloth, like a windowless wall.
Its petals are like cupped and half-turned palms,
Its bloom a head, a gleaming cherry in its mouth.

“. . . if it must go, let somebody else throw it out—
As God will say of me when my turn comes.”

How The New York Times Uses Software To Recognize Members of Congress

Times Open: “Even if you’ve covered Congress for The New York Times for a decade, it can be hard to recognize which member you’ve just spoken with. There are 535 members, and with special elections every few months, members cycle in and out relatively frequently. So when former Congressional Correspondent Jennifer Steinhauer tweeted “Shazam, but for House members faces” in early 2017, The Times’s Interactive News team jumped on the idea….”

I’m A Minor Writer. I’m Okay With That

“There is no shame in being a minor writer. Some of my favorite writers were, in their day, considered minor writers: Nathanael West, Charles Bukowski, Mikhail Lermontov, Blaise Cendrars, Flann O’Brien, and even Gertrude Stein. It is an honorable way to make a living. Certainly I’ve done less damage to the forests of America than my better-selling peers. And while a major writer can be reassessed and reduced in stature in posterity, for a minor writer, there is only potential upside.”

The Science In Shakespeare

Until relatively recently, Shakespeare’s contact with the scientific world has gone largely unnoticed both among scholars and general audiences. Perhaps Shakespeare scholars and audiences don’t notice the way he takes up science because they are unfamiliar with much of the science he was exposed to, while most scientists don’t see Shakespeare as valuable for reflecting on science because they assume he was unfamiliar with it.

What It Means For A Writer To Attain Global Fame

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie “called Americanah her ‘fuck-you book,’ by which she meant she no longer felt that she must be a dutiful literary daughter responsible for her country’s history: she would write what she felt like. Her first two novels had been written in the voices of characters who were younger and more naïve than she; the protagonist of Americanah, a young woman named Ifemelu, would be her equal.” 

Conversations Gone Awry: Detecting Early Signs of Conversational Failure. Justine Zhang, Jonathan P. Chang, Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, Lucas Dixon, Nithum Thain, Dario Taraborelli.
“One of the main challenges online social systems face is the prevalence of antisocial behavior, such as harassment and per-sonal attacks. In this work, we introduce the task of predicting from the very start of a conversation whether it will get out of hand. As opposed to detecting undesirable behavior after the fact, this task aims to enable early, actionable prediction at a time when the conversation might still be salvaged. To this end, we develop a framework for capturing pragmatic devices—such as politeness strategies and rhetorical prompts—used to start a conversation, and analyze their relation to its future trajectory. Applying this framework in a controlled setting, we demonstrate the feasibility of detecting early warning signs of antisocial behavior in online discussions.”