Whorfianism — the idea that language shapes thought, and each language creates a distinct worldview — is an appealing idea. But there's one problem: Whorfianism, at least dogmatic Whorfianism, is a huge load of bunk, at least according to John McWhorter's new book The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language.  Continue reading...
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In 1911 Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was a thirty-year-old British writer living both in England and America. His upper-crust background and boarding school education had given him a knack for turning out satires of high society. Yet Wodehouse hadn't found his voice as a writer: what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it.  Continue reading...
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As Black History Month comes to a close, we are proud to feature a fantastic new reference book: Bartlett's Familiar Black Quotations. As Henry Louis Gates, Jr. states in the foreword, it is an "impressively researched and documented collection of the finest thought produced by writers throughout the African diaspora." Here we present an excerpt from the preface by the book's editor, Retha Powers.  Continue reading...
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"Try reading books by your favorite writers in the order they were written, and you'll find the effects of time on each writer's spirit," says Michael Lydon, who considers how time shaped Leo Tolstoy into a mature prose stylist.  Continue reading...
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Wit lovers rejoice! There's a new edition (the fifth) of The Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations. Gyles Brandreth has taken the editorial reins from the late Ned Sherrin, and the new edition fine-tunes what was already an impressive and entertaining reference work.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

The Best Punctuation Marks in Literature

On New York Magazine's Vulture blog, Kathryn Schulz has compiled what she considers the five best uses of punctuation in the history of literature. From the colon in Dickens's A Christmas Carol ("Marley was dead: to begin with") to the ellipses in T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," it's a fascinating list. Read it here.
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The single most valuable thing an aspiring writer can do to improve his or her work may be stated in three words: Read good books! Unfortunately, the statement begs the question, what makes a good book? The book you prize I may scorn; the book that thrills me may bore you.  Continue reading...
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