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In recent years, a new genre of fiction known as the Officialdom novel has become increasingly popular in China. Fans claim that the novels offer rich entertainment while providing valuable insights into the byzantine system of manners and etiquette that is the key to success at white-collar jobs in China, but the trend might signal a much more significant shift in the culture—one that goes beyond matters of literary taste. –“A New Genre in Chinese Fiction,” Stephen Morison Jr., Poets & Writers
Inside the U.S. government’s head, a tragic monologue about mass killings echoes. It goes something like this: “Genocide is evil. It must be prevented before it starts, and, if it starts, it must be stopped. But it is not really my problem. I will do something significant only if the alternatives become even more costly than taking action.” And since the risks of acting appear immediate while the full costs of inaction accrue over time—even as tens or hundreds of thousands are killed in the interim—U.S. efforts to halt genocide have been embarrassingly rare. –“Do the Right Thing: A genocide policy that works,” Sarah Sewall, Boston Review
Roman Polanski raped a child. Let’s just start right there, because that’s the detail that tends to get neglected when we start discussing whether it was fair for the bail-jumping director to be arrested at age 76, after 32 years in “exile” (which in this case means owning multiple homes in Europe, continuing to work as a director, marrying and fathering two children, even winning an Oscar, but never– poor baby– being able to return to the U.S.). Let’s keep in mind that Roman Polanski gave a 13-year-old girl a Quaalude and champagne, then raped her, before we start discussing whether the victim looked older than her 13 years, or that she now says she’d rather not see him prosecuted because she can’t stand the media attention. Before we discuss how awesome his movies are or what the now-deceased judge did wrong at his trial, let’s take a moment to recall that according to the victim’s grand jury testimony, Roman Polanski instructed her to get into a jacuzzi naked, refused to take her home when she begged to go, began kissing her even though she said no and asked him to stop; performed cunnilingus on her as she said no and asked him to stop; put his penis in her vagina as she said no and asked him to stop; asked if he could penetrate her anally, to which she replied, “No,” then went ahead and did it anyway, until he had an orgasm. –“Reminder: Roman Polanski raped a child,” Kate Harding, Salon.com
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”