Fiction, Teju Cole, Language, Litigation, Healthcare

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Short Cuts: The Bestseller Code

Nick Richardson | London Review Of Books | 9th November 2016

Insights gleaned from The Bestseller Code, which claims to explain by computer analysis why some novels sell well and others do not. The key thing is to stay on message. “Sex doesn’t sell after all, and takes up twice as much space in non-bestsellers as it does in bestsellers. What matters isn’t so much the subject itself as the proportions in which the subject appears. A third of John Grisham’s paragraphs are about ‘the legal system’. A third of Danielle Steel’s are about ‘domestic life’” (1,400 words)

A Conversation With Teju Cole

Adam Fitzgerald | Literary Hub | 7th November 2016

Intelligent and interesting throughout. PG-13 for language. Topics include free speech, political correctness, James Baldwin, law-breaking, Schubert, Naipaul. “I can’t look into Yoruba history and say ‘Oh, we have a free speech tradition’. We have an egalitarian tradition, but not a free speech tradition. Being here helps me understand that I’m African in specific ways that are invaluable to me. It also helps me understand that I’m an American in ways that I’m eager to preserve” (5,900 words)

War And The Treacheries Of Taxonomy

Tim Feist | War On The Rocks | 7th November 2016

“Particular images spring to mind when someone says ‘War’ — uniforms, bugles, tanks, explosions. Wars that fit this model are familiar, expected, typical. Yet a lot of wars fail to match this image. These are wars that we find strange, even outrageous or baffling, depending on the level of cognitive dissonance. We don’t like to be disoriented, don’t like to think we could miss something as obvious as war. So we have names that help us tie them back to our basic image of what war really is” (2,210 words)

You Will Not Get Your Day In Court

Jed Rakoff | New York Review of Books | 7th November 2016

Despite Americans’ love of litigation, relatively few cases reach court. Almost all criminal cases — 97% of federal cases and 95% of state cases — are settled through plea bargaining. Only about 1% of civil cases go to trial, down from 19% in 1938, mainly because lawyers have become so expensive. Most individuals in state courts represent themselves — which makes them more likely to lose. “In a mortgage foreclosure you are twice as likely to lose your home if you are not represented by counsel” (3,500 words)

How Game Theory Can Improve Dating Apps

Uri Bram | 1843 | 8th November 2016

“Matches, unlike fish, are not remotely interchangeable. And yet, on many apps it’s difficult for one user to signal to another that he is deeply interested in her specifically and not merely trying his luck with everyone. Sending messages is too cheap: it costs nothing monetarily, and, in contrast to real-world dating, it requires vanishingly little time or emotional investment. Not only are women inundated with messages, but receiving a message becomes a very weak signal of potential compatibility” (920 words)

Tent Revival

Amy Woolard | VQR | 8th November 2016

A visit to the weekend pop-up clinic at the Wise County Fairgrounds in West Virginia, which provides free medical care to uninsured Americans. “Those seeking care are given entry numbers based on the order in which they arrive, so many camp out for as long as two days before the gates even open. You’ve seen the photos of people in pup tents in line to buy Hamilton tickets or a newly released iPhone? It’s like that, but these campers are hoping to get cavities filled and lungs x-rayed” (7,200 words)

Video of the day: Jaula Nerviosa

What to expect:

The sound of modified birdcages, with help from a table, strings, piezos, transducer, amp, motor and macaw feather (1’03”)

Thought for the day

The business of the novelist is to make small events interesting
Arthur Schopenhauer

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