Word Processing, Death, Scott Adams, Greatest Hits, Aubrey Beardsley, Childbirth

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

Word Perfect

Josephine Livingstone | New Republic | 2nd May 2016

Another entertaining review of Matthew Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes, a literary history of the technological shift from typewriters to computers which began in the late 1960s and was largely completed by the mid-1980s. As a rule of thumb, genre-writers embraced “word-processing” as a means of writing faster. Highbrow writers resisted it, for much the same reason. “Mistakes and revisions were the sign of true creativity. Perfect copy was for the typist, not the genius” (2,600 words)

Death At Sixteen

Max Edwards | Guardian | 19th March 2016

Astonishingly accomplished writing from a teenager diagnosed with terminal cancer, who died a week after this was published. “It’s surprisingly easy to adapt to this kind of news. After all, while I’m not going to deny its personal significance, it doesn’t really change anything important. I don’t feel I need comforting. The initial shock wears off very quickly, and after that, life seems to become quite ordinary. The satisfaction of daily routines is enough in the way of comfort” (1,600 words)

How To Do Persuasion Wrong

Scott Adams | 4th May 2016

Now that Donald Trump has locked up the Republican nomination without a serious policy agenda, his critics are reduced to arguing that he is too risky a person to be elected president. That won’t work. Risk is what people want. “The entire reason that Trump is so popular is that the public sees the system as broken and also sees no standard/normal way to fix it. When things are broken, and trending in the wrong direction, that’s exactly the time you want to introduce risk” (630 words)

The End Of “Greatest Hits”

Stephen Thomas Erlewine | Pitchfork | 2nd May 2016

Greatest hits collections and other compilations “have essentially disappeared” as a result of the music industry’s shift towards streaming and playlists. Old tracks still sell, but they don’t get re-marketed in new collections. Which is more of a loss than it might seem. “Over time, those greatest hits albums—purchased as a package, repeated incessantly on the radio—formalized each act’s conventionally-accepted canon and, in turn, cemented their enduring public personas” (3,000 words)

Lines Of Beauty

Matthew Sturgis | Literary Review | 3rd May 2016

A “monumental” new two-volume catalogue raisonné confirms the enduring reputation of Aubrey Beardsley, who died in 1898 at the age of 25 after a career lasting just six years. Linda Zatlin’s catalogue collects more than 1,100 drawings, almost all done for publication. Beardsley influenced Art Nouveau, the Austrian Secession and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. His publisher, John Lane, “complained that he had to look at the works upside down to check them for hidden improprieties” (1,200 words)

Laboured Prose

Pamela Erens | Slate | 2nd May 2016

Scenes of lavish bloodshed and suffering are otherwise commonplace in modern literature, but scenes of childbirth are almost entirely absent. Why so? “The reason surely is, in part, that childbirth has to do not just with blood and suffering but with blood and suffering down there.” Even Elena Ferrante, “celebrated for her visceral and detailed accounts of female experience”, dispenses with childbirth in a few allusive lines. Women writers should be bolder: “Every birth crackles with possibilities” (1,580 words)

Video of the day: Aurora Borealis From Space

What to expect:

Ultra-high-definition footage shot by NASA from the International Space Station (5’10”)

Thought for the day

Doubt grows with knowledge
J.W. von Goethe

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