March 20, 2014

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.”

Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin

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.