Why Sweden Sucks: On Michael Booth’s ‘The Almost Nearly Perfect People’

When Mashable ran a story on “hygge” in December 2014, it ended up running around my social media feeds as the ultimate way to get through winter: cozy up, just like the Danes do! There’s no direct English translation of how exactly to get the feeling of hygge, but it amounted to, in short, lighting some candles and drinking some mulled wine, in what may be your beautifully minimalist yet folksy outdoor cabin on the water, in the most Danish and Scandinavian embrace of a small, warm place in the middle of winter. … Read More

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30 Best Pop Culture Spinsters

The word “spinster” refers to an unmarried woman, and is most often synonymous with the stereotype of the past-her-prime old maid, a woman who hasn’t made a good match and who’s doomed to live an unfulfilling life. Well, that’s just stereotypes talking, because… hey, what’s wrong with that, exactly? The answer is absolutely nothing. Pop culture has given us some pretty great spinsters (although on average they do fall within a specific, homogenous, moneyed, and white demographic). So here are our 30 favorite writers, artists, and fictional characters who show the freedom that comes from living an unmarried life — female characters who are defined by their wants and desires, and not characterized through the simple scrim of their relationships. … Read More

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Writers, Money, and the Economy: Why Time Is the 21st Century’s “Room of One’s Own”

Ann Bauer’s eye-opening essay about being a “sponsored” writer (actually version of a piece by Bauer that’s been kicking around the writing blogosphere for a few years), published yesterday on Salon, has fostered an intense, multi-pronged online discussion about writing and money. In the piece, Bauer lists several anonymous examples of acclaimed writers who have benefited from an extra financial boost but thrive on the myth of their genius. But her main aim is to admit that she’s accomplished much, much more as writer since marrying a high earner later in life than she did in her years as a struggling mom with financial woes. … Read More

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Sponsored Tweets? Scientology Fights Alex Gibney’s Sundance Hit ‘Going Clear’

Alex Gibney’s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 expose, premiered on Sunday at Sundance… Read More

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Spy Novels, Mice Brains, and the Neuroscience of Pleasure: Ned Beauman on ‘Glow’

There are some go-to mentionables about the novelist Ned Beauman, snippets or shorthand remarks that are true but work to obscure his literary gifts and value. It is often pointed out, for example, that Beauman was the youngest writer on Granta’s Best Young British Novelists of 2013. And it is now a given that his first two novels — Boxer, Beetle and The Teleportation Accident — recall the work of William Gibson and Thomas Pynchon. Both of these are fine things to write or say — and Beauman is unfailingly modest, a writer who is genuinely humbled to hear such things — but for me they don’t quite get at the consistency or quality of his work. Time after time, Beauman is able to capture a milieu, or totally invent one, in fleet, intelligent prose that is somehow analytic, beautiful, and comic all at the same time. When a new novel by Beauman arrives, I open it knowing that I’m going to be swept into an engaging, possibly ecstatic plot. I also know that I’ll be quoting it to all of my friends. … Read More

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50 of the Greatest Literary Moments on TV

It’s probably safe to say that media tends to refer to itself, in one way or another — and referring to literature, as opposed to other forms of pop culture, is one way to make just about anything a little more highbrow. Television, notoriously full of references and allusions, might be the worst/best culprit, and the most fun to hunt through for literary moments — after all, nothing’s more fun than seeing books on the boob tube. Here, you’ll find 50 of the greatest and most memorable literary allusions, shout-outs, cameos, and references on television, as well as real-life author appearances and whole episodes, or even whole seasons, based on… Read More

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50 Essential Literary Biographies

Literary biography is a hugely significant, if often overlooked, enterprise. Today, much of what we know about the authors we admire is filtered through an ocean of online mini-biographies, nearly all of which are copies of copies. The original source of an enormous amount of this information is the literary biography, and in the case of most authors, there are precious few examples of such books. Even exceedingly famous authors are gifted only a handful of quality biographies. With this in mind, I’ve come up with a list of 50 essential literary… Read More

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Is There Hope for Artists? Scott Timberg’s ‘Culture Crash’ Envisions a Bleak Future

In this day and age, it’s difficult to make a living in America as an artist of any kind — or even if you want to write about it. Scott Timberg’s new book Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class (Yale University Press) looks deeply into the state of the culture sphere, and how it’s squeezing out both the middlebrow and the middle class. … Read More

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“All Women Seduce With a Lie”: Real-Life Writing Workshop Horror Stories

We called, you answered: inspired by Lena Dunham’s nightmare vision of a University of Iowa workshop, we’ve collected real-life stories of what happens when MFAs melt down. Readers didn’t disappoint — if there’s anything a workshop’s good for, it’s a lifetime’s worth of cringe comedy. (Good writing is also possible, but by no means a given.) Click through for bitchy blog posts, unsolicited nudity, and of course, a few healthy doses of racism, all helpfully illustrated with canonical examples of side-eye. … Read More

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Sarah Gerard’s ‘Binary Star': A Novel About Anorexia and Outer Space That Transcends Its Own Metaphors

I nearly put down Sarah Gerard’s Binary Star after only a few pages. “We know each other’s sickness”; “I empty myself”; the prose is full of clichés, sentences seemingly ripped from the pop psychology of eating disorders and codependent relationships. The debut novel follows such a relationship, from the point of view of an anorexic young woman: the tale of two pathologically self-destructive lovers, our unnamed narrator and her alcoholic boyfriend John. They go on an extended road-trip, attempting to heal each other and save their delicate romance. It all sounds like a book you’ve read a million times before, or a movie you’ve already seen. But the further you read, the clearer it becomes that Gerard knows this even better than you do, and that she isn’t thoughtlessly recycling worn-out language. Her repetition and deployment of clichés couldn’t be more purposeful. … Read More

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