Has the pop-statistics nonfiction genre reached a tipping point? One where the need to package statistical studies as amazing counter-intuitive revelations has outpaced the scientific method itself? In Scientific American two statisticians say yes: “We and others have noted a discouraging tendency in the Freakonomics body of work to present speculative or even erroneous claims with an air of certainty,” write Andrew Gelman and Kaiser Fung, two fellow statisticians who have dabbled in nonfiction. “Considering such problems yields useful lessons for those who wish to popularize statistical ideas.” Read More
Christopher Hitchens died yesterday at the age of 62 after a long illness with cancer. The Observer was lucky enough to have his byline grace our pages, including this book review of Michael Isikoff’s Uncovering Clinton, (note how he calls Mr. Isikoff’s prose “Capitoline” — “’rising stars’ intersecting with ‘insiders’ all the way”) and Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others.
“I never met him, and spoke with him on the phone only rarely, but from our slender contact I can tell you that he was an absolute professional: On time, spot on, and spotless. Every editor’s dream,” remembered former Observer books editor Adam Begley. “I would have used him constantly if I’d had the budget.”
“His writing leaves an enduring and inspiring legacy to readers everywhere,” said his book publisher, Cary Goldstein of Twelve, in a statement. “We are proud to have played our part in sharing it with the world. He will be missed.” Twelve is publishing a forthcoming memoir, Mortality.
It’s such a long list! And it doesn’t even include HBO, the vacuum of literature/possibly the single biggest financial backer of writing in New York City. Publishers Weekly has compiled the round-up, which includes everything from Gillian Anderson in Great Expectations to Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax (which was depressing enough in picture book form, thank you very much.) Read More
George Whitman, the owner of the legendary Paris bookstore Shakespeare & Co., died yesterday at the age of 98. Known for extending hospitality to writers on Parisian sojourns, Mr. Whitman’s bookstore carried on a literary dream long after that dream died. Alexander Nazaryan remembers his stay there at Read More
Courtney Maum, a fiction writer who usually lives in a small town in the Berkshires, made a temporary move to New York City in search of a community of writers. To find these writers, she went to readings — more than 200 of them by her count. At Tin House, Ms. Maum explains what she learned. Read More
Yesterday marked ten years since the untimely death of the German writer W.G. Sebald. The New Yorker‘s Book Bench blog commemorated the occasion with a post about Sebald’s work, where Mark O’Connell noted his influence on the writers Teju Cole, Will Self and Geoff Dyer, who “have been inspired by Sebald’s figurative and Read More
“When I was born, my parents and my mother’s parents planted a dogwood tree in the side yard of the large white house in which we lived throughout my boyhood,” wrote John Updike. “This tree I learned quite early, was exactly my age, was, in a sense, me.” Updike might now be gone, but the dogwood tree is still outside his boyhood home in Shillington, Pennsylvania, and the house where the author spent his first 13 years is now for sale on Ebay. Read More
If publishers could collage a portrait of their ideal consumer of novelty gift books, it would probably look something like this: begin with a hapless urban 20-something whose life is “out of control” (Fuck! I’m in My 20s). She has an iPhone and sends a lot of text messages (Damn You, Autocorrect!). She continues to Read More