January 28, 2016

If the work of Franco Moretti so far represents the limit of your understanding of the statistical analysis of literature, get ready for the denizens of Poland’s Institute of Nuclear Physics, who have been busy discovering fractals and multifractals in most of our major works. Though, perhaps a little churlishly, they note that the “fractality of a literary text will in practice never be as perfect as in the world of mathematics.”

The Washington news director for Bloomberg Politics, Kathy Kiely, has resigned because she feels the company would be severely hampered in any serious attempt to cover a presidential run by its multibillionaire owner Michael Bloomberg: “You can’t cover the circus,” she pointed out, “unless you can write about one of the biggest elephants in the room.”

The Intercept wonders whether The Onion will tone down its Hillary Clinton coverage now that her “biggest fan and financial supporter” effectively has a controlling stake in it.

Rebekah Brooks

Rebekah Brooks

And here’s yet another heartwarming media tale: Rebekah Brooks, back at the helm of Rupert Murdoch’s British operation after losing a few years to the vast phone-hacking scandal, has now appointed Angus McBride, the lawyer who managed to get her cleared of all criminal charges, as in-house counsel for News UK. It’s unusual, of course, for a criminal defense lawyer (apparently one of Britain’s best) to take on such a role at a company—but, to each according to his need.

It’s really a shame for those sharing this kind of news on Facebook that Reactions, the new “like” button that will “expand the range of Facebook-compatible human emotions from one to six,” isn’t quite ready yet.

Powerhouse Books is being sued by the New York Times over its use of cover images for David Shields’s War Is Beautiful, a book that attacks the Times’s aestheticized war photography, and it seems the publisher is now suing Shields himself. Several people have criticized the Times’s decision to bring this lawsuit (or “hissy fit,” as one law professor described it). And they’re not the only ones questioning the paper’s priorities: Its public editor has written disapprovingly about news going underreported when “enough Times firepower somehow has been found to document Hillary Clinton’s every sneeze, Donald Trump’s latest bombast, and Marco Rubio’s shiny boots.”  

Still, we’re glad the Times found room for the story of the windmill-tilting theater director who has coaxed Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 (“It would take 45 minutes,” he points out, “just to explain what the novel is about”) into a five-hour stage play.

Meanwhile, the latest translation by Natasha Wimmer, the translator of 2666 who has become, the Times notes, “something of a tastemaker in contemporary Latin American literature,” is of Sudden Death, a novel by the prizewinning Mexican writer Álvaro Enrigue in which Caravaggio and Quevedo play tennis with a ball made from the hair of the executed Anne Boleyn. Asked about the book’s period setting, Enrigue, who notes that he’s spent the last few years (turbulent ones for Mexico) in the “protective womb” of New York City, said: “We live in a world that demands explanation. And fiction has the capability to offer explanations for things. I work with history because I come from a country that has a tremendous thirst for reality. It is desperate to understand what the hell happened in recent years.” Tonight at the New York Public Library, Enrigue will be in conversation with Rivka Galchen.

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