Friday, March 23, 2012

And Which Part of the Brain Does Fifty Shades of Grey Excite?

The New York Times has yet another article on fiction and the brain, and it's been generating a lot of talk this week. (I blogged on this last year, and most of what the article mentions isn't new, but it's still worth reading.)

Of course the article has to open by dumping on novels, because that's what the cool kids do. As we once bragged about how many beers we could drink as teenagers, we now brag about how little time we have for reading made-up stuff.
the old-fashioned virtues of reading novels can seem faded, even futile
It then mentions the following, which will surprise few readers/writers:
Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Does Language Learning Improve Creativity?

I've praised language learning on here before, and frequently resolved to put more time towards studying languages. (Unfortunately, I'm far better at resolving than actual resolve.) And I know many of you dabble in at least a few languages. A recent article in the New York Times explains "Why Bilinguals are Smarter."
Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.
This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.
I'd heard this worry mentioned by writers as well, though I've always been skeptical. It reminds me of when professional athletes shunned weightlifting because they feared they'd become too "muscle-bound." Not to mention that some of our strongest stylists, like Conrad and Nabokov, were not native English speakers (nor were some of Hollywood's best writers, including Billy Wilder).


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The "Dedication to Productivity"

In Joseph O'Neill's recent profile of Philip Roth in The Atlantic, he comments on Roth's unusual productivity (for a literary writer):
It is hard to contemplate a body of work of such magnitude and grandeur without a little melancholy. Few literary writers younger than, say, 60 have much chance of achieving a comparable yield, and one wonders how many would even want to. The Rothic dedication to productivity seems anachronistic, even uncalled-for, in a culture ever less hospitable to the demands made by a lengthy written text, the most basic being that the reader sit down for hours without some powerful electronic agitation of the senses...
As Philip Roth pushes 80, the writing flows out of him more voluminously and urgently than ever. 
The quality of Roth's work varies greatly, from some of the best novels of the last half-century to books I can't even remember whether or not I've read them. I used to scoff at lesser or failed works ("life is rather short for non-masterpieces" seemed a reasonable excuse), but I've come to think that for interesting writers this productivity is not a "cash grab" or the excrement of a bloated ego, but an essential part of the creative process.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Heal My Ignorance: Pinterest 101 and Internet-Browser's Block

I've mentioned before that I tend to come to things late. But I believe in self-improvement and lifelong learning and such, so I'm working on that. Thanks to this (and perhaps booze), I've joined Pinterest. But I can't quite figure it out, so I thought I'd see what people are using it for.

What's the verdict: waste of time, or worth the time? For some reason I feel that I'll like it, but every time I go to the site I stare at the screen and do nothing. It may be the first instance of internet-browser's block in the modern era.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The New Bestselling Genre?

This is not another post on 50 Shades of Grey and erotica, which I wrote about on Friday. Instead, I'm referring to military memoirs. The NYT reports:
Bookstores have been flooded with first-person accounts that have emerged from the wars... Seeing some of these books rise to the top of best-seller lists, publishers are rushing to sign up similar titles, to be released in the next year.
While books about the military and military history have a long track record in both nonfiction and fiction, some publishers said the genre had never been as visible or popular as it is now.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hangovers, Hangtimes, Hangouts, Hangups, Hangmen

I hope everyone had a fun-filled St. Patrick's Day, and a hangover-free morning. It's the simple things...


How are your NCAA brackets looking? My Final Four teams are still alive... unfortunately that's about it.

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