It’s science — the magazine, and the method.
Emanuele Castano and David Comer Kidd from the New School for Social Research published a study in this month’s Science magazine showing the emotional-intuitive benefits of reading literary fiction. According to the New York Times, the study revealed that:
after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence — skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.
In other words, science has proven David Foster Wallace’s theory that “Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being.” Continue reading
Climate change? Apparently so.
In “So Hot Right Now: Has Climate Change Created A New Literary Genre?” NPR Books explores the growing genre of “cli-fi”:
Over the past decade, more and more writers have begun to set their novels and short stories in worlds, not unlike our own, where the Earth’s systems are noticeably off-kilter. The genre has come to be called climate fiction — “cli-fi,” for short.
NPR starts the discussion with Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow, which people are talking about because it seems to have predicted the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Unfortunately, Exhibit B for “cli-fi” is Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, which is a bad example because — much as I still love Jurassic Park and even The Lost World — it’s garbage. Continue reading
The Roots: “Push pen to paper like Chinua Achebe.”
American public schools, apparently. According to the Washington Post:
New English standards that have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia require that public schools gradually boost the amount of nonfiction taught in K-12, until 70 percent of reading by 12th grade is “informational text.”
These new standards for kids who don’t read good and want to learn to do other stuff good too include the following approved texts:
“Common Sense,” by Thomas Paine
The Declaration of Independence, by Thomas Jefferson
“Declaration of Sentiments,” by the Seneca Falls Conference
“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” by Frederick Douglass
“Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences,” by John Allen Paulos
“Working Knowledge: Electronic Stability Control,” by Mark Fischetti
“Politics and the English Language,” by George Orwell
Count me vigorously in favor of this, so long as the 70 percent requirement is met at least in-part outside of English or literature classes. Certainly a science class with some Richard Feynman would be much improved, as would a government course with Orwell. I do hesitate to give high school kids Thomas Paine, because they are caught in that vulnerable nexus of age, disaffection and chafing under adult authority that leads to the acceptance of stupid ideas from places like Ayn Rand and the Tea Party. Then again, maybe early exposure will help them get it out of their systems before they actually have to face an adult world with real ideas.
- Michael Moats
Matchbook helps you match your beach wear to your beach book — whether you need a confusing strappy thing for considering Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, or are looking for the perfect one-piece to fall asleep in a few pages into David McCullough’s 1776. There are other suit-book combos for Agatha Christie, Brian Greene, Kurt Vonnegut and more, including that guy who said Bob Dylan told him things he didn’t.
Once again: good luck doing this with a Kindle.
Have a great weekend everybody!
- Michael Moats