In the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Pankaj Mishra and Daniel Mendelsohn discuss canon formation. “How do we know what’s ‘the greatest’? . . . [I]s the agenda always somehow political?” Meanwhile, Jason Diamond agrees with Natasha Vargas-Cooper that the novelist Denis Johnson deserves more recognition. Is Johnson “the most influential living fiction writer in America today”? Maybe, maybe not: over at The Millions, Matt Seidel satirizes the whole business of classification. In Seidel’s host of nonsense categories, novelists are “arthritic” or “lithe”; “robust” or “insinuating”; “hypoallergenic” or “shedding”; and, like their characters, “flat” or “round” —at least when “said novelists become pregnant.”
At the Chronicle, Eric Banks reflects on the life of Walter Benjamin, with the help of a new 700-page biography of the writer.
An argument for teaching linguistics to all college students.
Leon Wieseltier criticizes Nate Silver’s data-driven journalism: “Neutrality is an evasion of responsibility, unless everything is like sports.”
David Frum joins The Atlantic as a senior editor.
The New York Observer isn’t pink anymore.