February 22, 2016

At the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin, whose most recent book is the Supreme Court study The Nine, looks back at the career of Antonin Scalia. Toobin points out that Scalia—unlike “the great Justices of the Supreme Court,” who “have always looked forward”—always “looked backward.” The author has some advice for Obama as he considers who might fill the empty seat: “Belligerent with his colleagues, dismissive of his critics, nostalgic for a world where outsiders knew their place and stayed there, Scalia represents a perfect model for everything that President Obama should avoid in a successor.”

Colm Toibin explains how Henry James’s family “tried to keep him in the closet.”

Rob Sheffield, the Rolling Stone regular and the author of Love Is a Mix Tape, wrote one of the most powerful tributes to David Bowie following his death. Apparently he didn’t stop there. On Twitter, Sheffield writes: “over the past month I’ve written a book on David Bowie. ‘On Bowie’ will be published in June by Dey Street Books.”

“James Franco wants to buy the rights to your memoir.” Those are the first words of the very funny trailer for author-director Stephen Elliott’s new movie, After Adderall, which stars Elliott and is loosely based on the author’s experiences after his memoir, The Adderall Diaries, was optioned by James Franco, who gave the film project to director Pamela Romanowsky. Elliott has not been shy about his feelings regarding the film version of The Adderall Diaries, which screened at the Tribeca Film Festival last year and will be in theaters this Spring. At New York magazine, he wrote: “Almost nothing in the movie is ‘true’—in terms of both the source material, as it was published, and my life, as it has been lived.”

Punctuation in Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (left) and in Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (right)

Punctuation in Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (left) and in Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (right)

At Medium, Adam J. Calhoun has posted a fun and fascinating look at punctuation in novels. “I wondered,” he writes, “what did my favorite books look like without words. Can you tell them apart or are they all a-mush?” As it turns out, you can. He presents graphs that show how often authors such as Jane Austen, James Joyce, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, and others use commas, periods, question marks, etc. In the most striking visual, he removes all the words, but leaves the quotation marks, from passages in Blood Meridian and Absalom, Absalom! The resulting pages, as you’ll see, look radically different.

 

In what is probably his final column for Al Jazeera America, Chris Lehmann notes that “Al Jazeera America’s pending closure is but one dismal entry in a long-running journalistic dance of the dead.” Equally alarming, he points out, are the ways that the pockets of journalism that have survived are compromising and “adapting to new market conditions.” Lehmann writes: “The polite euphemism for such rampant self-prostitution in our brave new digital media world is ‘sponsored content’—i.e., writing that’s made to look, feel and read like actual journalism while promoting a paid-for commercial agenda.”

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