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Archive of posts filed under the Literature category.

A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia

I happened to come across this excellent Paul Dickson-like compilation from Jeff Miller, a teacher at Gulf High School in New Port Richey, Florida. I’m also reminded of Tim Krabbé’s chess records page.

David Leavitt and Meg Wolitzer

Staying at a friend’s place, I saw on the shelf Martin Bauman, a novel by David Leavitt published in 2000 that I’d never heard of. I read it and it was excellent. I’d call it “Jamesian”: I’ve never read anything by Henry James, but the style seems to fit the many descriptions of James that […]

My review of Ian Stewart’s review of my review of his book

A few months ago I was asked to review Do Dice Play God?, the latest book by mathematician and mathematics writer Ian Stewart. Here are some excerpts from my review: My favorite aspect of the book is the connections it makes in a sweeping voyage from familiar (to me) paradoxes, through modeling in human affairs, […]

Top 5 literary descriptions of poker

Yesterday I wrote about Pocket Kings by Ted Heller, which gives one of the most convincing literary descriptions of poker that I’ve ever read. (Much more so than all those books and articles where the author goes on expense account to compete at the World Series of Poker. I hope to never see that again.) […]

Pocket Kings by Ted Heller

So. I’m most of the way through Pocket Kings by Ted Heller, author of the classic Slab Rat. And I keep thinking: Ted Heller is the same as Sam Lipsyte. Do these two guys know each other? They’re both sons of famous writers (OK, Heller’s dad is more famous than Lipsyte’s, but still). They write […]

Some Westlake quotes

Clint Johns writes: I’m a regular visitor to your blog, so I thought you might be interested in this link. It’s a relatively recent article (from 7/12) about Donald Westlake and his long career. For my money, the best part of it is the generous number of Westlake quotations from all sorts of places, including […]

Of book reviews and selection bias

Publishers send me books to review. I guess I’m on the list of potential reviewers, which is cool because I often enjoy reading books. And, even if I don’t get much out of a book myself, I can give it to students. A book is a great incentive/reward for class participation. For any book, if […]

Why I Rant

Someone pointed me to an over-the-top social science paper that is scheduled to be published soon. I then wasted 2 hours writing some combination of statistical commentary and rant. I expect that, once the paper is published, there will be major controversy, as its empirical findings, such as they are, are yoked to political opinions […]

Knives Out

Since I just ran a post without the 6-month delay, I might as well do another, this time to recommend Knives Out to you. We saw it a few days before Christmas, and it was our most enjoyable time at the movies since . . . actually, I can’t remember the last time we had […]

Science is science writing; science writing is science

Meehan Crist writes: There is a belief, particularly prevalent among scientists, that science writing is more or less glorified PR – scientists do the intellectual work of discovery and writers port their findings from lab to public – but [Rachel Carson’s 1962 book] Silent Spring is a powerful reminder that great science writing can expand […]

Oscar win probability as a function of age. And many other things . . .

I received the book “Oscarmetrics: The Math Behind the Biggest Night in Hollywood,” by Ben Zauzmer. I liked it; it was a lot of fun, a good mixture of stories and graphs: This one is my favorite: Also this: I also passed the book over to a student to review:

Should we mind if authorship is falsified?

In a typically thought-provoking piece, Louis Menand asks, “Should we mind if a book is a hoax?” In his article, Menand (whose father taught the best course I ever took at MIT, in which we learned that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty) focuses on imaginative literature written by white people but attributed to […]

“I’m sick on account I just ate a TV dinner.”

I recently read “The Shadow in the Garden,” a book by James Atlas that’s a mix of memoir about his experiences as a biographer of poet Delmore Schwartz and novelist Saul Bellow, and various reflections and anecdotes about biography-writing more generally. I enjoyed the book so much that I’m pretty much just gonna have a […]

When did “by” become “after”?

This post is by Phil Price, not Andrew. I just did a Google News search for “injured after”, and these are some of the headlines that came up: 16-year-old bicyclist seriously injured after being hit by car in Norfolk At least 1 injured after high-speed crash in Bridgeport Teen injured after falling off rooftop Driver […]

Alternative titles for Regression and Other Stories

– A Book Called Regression – What to Expect When You’re Regressing Any other good silly ideas out there ???

Perspectives

“Bellow began seeing a psychologist, a man named Paul Meehl.” Or as we might say it, “Meehl began seeing a patient, a writer named Saul Bellow.”

Poetry corner

Ray Could Write Statistics Be What has happened down here is the winds have changed Spin The Paper of My Enemy Has Been Retracted Imaginary gardens with real data A parable regarding changing standards on the presentation of statistical evidence Laplace Calling Thanks to W. B. Yeats, Young Tiger, Randy Newman, W. H. Auden, Clive […]

Automation and judgment, from the rational animal to the irrational machine

Virgil Kurkjian writes: I was recently going through some of your recent blog posts and came across Using numbers to replace judgment. I recently wrote something about legible signaling which I think helps shed some light on exactly what causes the bureaucratization of science and maybe what we can do about it. In short I […]

“Boston Globe Columnist Suspended During Investigation Of Marathon Bombing Stories That Don’t Add Up”

I came across this news article by Samer Kalaf and it made me think of some problems we’ve been seeing in recent years involving cargo-cult science. Here’s the story: The Boston Globe has placed columnist Kevin Cullen on “administrative leave” while it conducts a review of his work, after WEEI radio host Kirk Minihane scrutinized […]

The uncanny valley of Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell is a fun writer, and I like how he plays with ideas. To my taste, though, he lives in an uncanny valley between nonfiction and fiction, or maybe I should say between science and storytelling. I’d enjoy him more, and feel better about his influence, if he’d take the David Sedaris route and go […]