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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Fair Usage, by Elisa Gabbert, The Smart Set

However, in the 15 years that have passed since I completed my linguistics degree, I’ve realized that descriptivism can quickly succumb to its own kind of smugness; it forms its own set of shibboleths and rules. There’s often an insider-y smirk lurking behind the declaration that “language changes.” Yes, language changes — everything changes, Q.E.D. But there’s room in the middle for language moderates who can tell the difference between, on the one hand, arbitrary, baseless, unenforceable rules and, on the other, a refusal to correct even obfuscating or harmful errors.

The Novel As A Tool For Survival, by Arthur Krystal, The Chronicle Of Higher Education

Novels, of course, communicate a lot more in carrying out their design, but what seems to me beyond dispute is that literature, when undertaken seriously, is a celebration not of life but of awareness, an awareness of the human condition, which is both communal and individual and inevitably strikes a balance, palpable or barely perceptible, between the two. Each of us, then, is a fulcrum where the private and the public meet, where inner and other-directed yearnings sometimes clash. Literature gets written because of this, and what we understand and love in it, as Erich Auerbach wrote, "is a human existence, a possibility of ‘modification’ within ourselves."

‘The Secret Life Of The American Musical,’ By Jack Viertel, by Robin Pogrebin, New York Times

Still, it was hard to imagine how Jack Viertel would be able to fill a 300-page book about how Broadway hits get made. Doesn’t every musical have its own particular alchemy? Is there really a recipe for success?

As Viertel lays out in “The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built,” both are clearly true; there is a certain amount of magic that transforms a show into a classic. But there is also time-tested architecture that makes some musicals more effective than others.

Taking Inventory, by Sadie Stein, The Paris Review

At the ninety-nine-cent store, I looked in vain for a bathtub stopper. “Can I help you?” asked a woman, presumably the owner. When I told her what I was looking for, she flew to a seemingly random shelf and began to scan it with a gimlet eye. She tried to give me a drain catch and then one of those flat rubber pads that covers everything, but I really wanted the sort with a chain. “Don’t worry,” I said, “I can just go to the hardware store … ”

On Entropy, by Camonghne Felix