Joyce, Wallace, Woolf and More Wrote in Fractals

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For writers who never did well in math, you might be surprised to learn that literature contains fractals.

Fractals are geometric figures made of small components that have statistical characteristics identical to the whole. If you zoom in on a fractal, you see the same shapes again and again no matter how far you zoom in.

In the world of math, fractals are used to analyze and describe snowflakes, crystal growth, galaxies and coastlines.

It seems they can describe language as well. Continue reading

The Year of Reading Women

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There’s an important essay going around that, if you haven’t read it yet, you should read now before finishing this post. It’s called On Pandering by Claire Vaye Watkins, who is known to me by her fantastic 2013 debut collection of short stories, Battleborn, which won five literary awards.

The essay is actually a speech Watkins gave as a lecture during the 2015 Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop. Either way, the content rattled me.

Continue reading

Literary Fiction is a Mental Workout

Just when I was getting worried about the waning interest in fiction comes this little piece of research from a professor at Stanford University. Joshua Landy, an associate professor of French and Italian, found that literary works of fiction offer “a new set of methods for becoming a better maker of arguments, a better redeemer of one’s own existence, a person of stronger faith or a person with a quieter mind.” Continue reading

Your E-Book Is Reading You

I don’t have a Kindle or any other kind of e-book. I prefer paper to plastic when it comes to a “screen.” I’ve said it before in other forums, but the ideal electronic book for me would be a paperback-like object — one that was bendable, smelled like paper and had 200 or so pages — but that worked like an e-book. You could download your favorite novel or story collection to this little gadget, enjoy it’s bookiness and still have all of the advantages of an electronic book. Continue reading